“You’re probably completely organized, aren’t you?” I get this question frequently. And sometimes I cringe. My home goes through stages, much like most people’s homes. It is certainly not uber-organized at all times, and I have a tendency to have a project or two going at any given time. If you’ve worked with me, you’ll probably have heard stories of some of my own organizational struggles – I am not perfect, gasp! Yet, perfection is not necessary to achieve organization in your own home and life.
What does it require?
First, you need to recognize what areas need help. If you don’t “see the mess,” you aren’t going to be able to fix it. If an area has become a “dumping ground,” a place you easily drop various things, this is a good example of where you can start. It might be an area you avoid or a space you dread dealing with.
- This was the case with our utility closet. You can see that it had gotten bad and I was reluctant to retrieve anything from there, let alone return anything to the chaos. (See how far from perfection I can be?)
Second, you need to assess what is wrong and develop a plan for what you want it to be. This is also the step to stay with until you have an idea. You can always work on sorting and purging the area, but nothing more significant. If you race ahead, you can easily discover that you’ve made more work for yourself.
- One of the problems with our utility closet was the odd shape, under our stairs, and my desire to maximize all that space. Also, the narrowness of the entrance complicated the shelving options. The shelving we’d chosen was still a little too deep for easy access to the closet. Also, it was wire, despite the wires being spaced close together, bottles had a tendency to tip, and smaller items too frequently found a way to fall through those wires. Interestingly, it took years of living in the house and getting past the duct (not visible in the pictures) as a reason to avoid putting shelving on that side of the closet. By switching the sides of the shelving, it works better with the way the door opens (also considering the floor stops the door from opening completely) and allows considerably better access to the closet.
Third, you need to plan for the necessary tools, time, and energy to tackle the task of creating organization. The tools are specific – the large pieces of furniture and containers to collect the trash, recycling, and items that belong elsewhere. I recommend waiting to buy other tools – containers for the space – until after you’ve completely sorted and organized. You need to set aside time to work on the project and coordinate with others if it involves them. You also need to have energy to deal with the space and items – this can be frustrating and draining, depending on what you are dealing with.
- In our case, we needed to buy the shelving I had found and liked for this space – it has solid shelves, is narrow enough to work in the closet, and required assembly. I have not yet bought any other containers, though I am considering a couple, and just need to find the right size. We wanted to work on this together since it’s a space we both use. Also, we wanted to not have too many others projects going on at the same time. We contemplated replacing the linoleum tile and painting as part of the process, but decided that could wait and would be easy enough to do at a later point.
Fourth, simply doing it. Sometimes it’s not that simple. When you delve into an area that has been a dumping ground, especially something hidden, you’re likely to find any number of oddball things. You need to go through everything you find and make decisions about it. You might even get a little dejected at the level of chaos that you are discovering. Then there’s the frustration that can happen from the items you don’t know what to do with. We all have those types of items – you want to keep it, but where exactly does it go, logically? Or those items that don’t fit well into another category.
- We worked together; he began assembling the shelving while I began pulling all the stuff out of the closet. I tried to group obviously similar items together on the floor for easier organizing later, although this became challenging with the amount of things that had been living in the closet. Then we talked about each thing and category we came across – was this something that we even wanted? Did we want it in the utility closet? A large number of items were moved to the basement (more painting supplies!); then we assessed the things that remained – how would we categorize them? How frequently do we use them – in order to decide if they needed to be more or less accessible. Then finally we began to put the items back into the closet, beginning with the highest used items.
Fifth, you need to see how it is working with time. If things are organized according to how you use them and how you function, the new system should work for you. The biggest challenge for some people is not getting dejected because it’s not working for them. I encourage you to examine it closely and figure out what pieces are working and then work on ways to tweak things so that the parts that aren’t working can be. Although I wish being organized didn’t need discipline, it does – and maybe it’s time to focus on one area to be disciplined about, to make it habit.
- Our utility closet seems to be functioning well almost 2 months with the new organization, though time may tell a different story. On a different front, a challenging room to keep organized as the systems fall apart before long. I’m in the process of re-doing that, so stay tuned and it will end up in the blog too.
As a professional organizer, I’m sometimes embarrassed that I am not more organized. My husband reminds me, “The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” And I realize that I have the skills to make things organized when I make time and energy to do so. I believe that you can to (and if not, you know how to get a hold of me for help). 🙂