Closet System Decisions

Let me say it and get it out of the way: buying a closet system will not solve organization problems. Nope. Nor will any number of bins, containers, cabinets, or shelves. However, if you are committed to working at increasing your level of organization, these things can be useful tools, if they are used correctly.

It makes me sad how many times I’ve seen someone install a closet system that doesn’t meet their needs, or buy the perfect bins for organizing, which end up in the basement, piled up with all the other stuff.

If you are considering a closet system, there’s some important considerations you need to take into account.

First, you need to figure out what you need. Do you like to hang almost everything or do have a fair amount of things folded? How many shoes do you have and do want a system that contains them? Do you want room for purses, jackets, belts, or ties? What do you currently have in your closet and what you realistically want in your closet? Do you want to use for something other than clothes?

Second, consider whether you will want drawers, baskets, or one-purpose holders for those purses, belts, or ties? What happens in five or ten years from now, will you still want those things? These can be useful though a more generalized system is more modifiable. Closet systems often have various shoe gadgets built into them, some are really clever, yet I cannot help thinking that it limits the use of the space. What if someone suddenly decided that they would have a shoe rack by the door for their shoes? That nifty area in the closet suddenly is useless. Shelving is wonderfully versatile, holding purses nicely displayed or stacks of clothing. One thing that is universal, large, deep drawers or baskets are not as useful as they appear. Anything kept at the bottom of these disappear and if you need to actually get at them, you mess up the things above it. Stay away from deep drawers or baskets, maybe one if you insist for large purses which can be lined up and equally accessible.

Third, how easily can the system be modified? Although you might hang almost everything right now, things can change down the road, so can shelves replace part of the hang area? If you want to have a system that works well for your child right now, that may not be good when they become teenagers. Some companies are constantly revamping their product line, will the closet system you get become one of those? If they might be, it could be challenging to get different parts if you want them. As with the specialty features, a system that can easily modified is ideal, allowing the system to benefit and conform to you and not trying to force you to adapt to it.

Fourth, what is the design of the shelves? There seem to typically be three types of materials used: wire, laminate, or metal. Wire shelving comes with serious drawbacks: things can topple, fall through, or get things caught in them. They do make a plastic covering you can buy separately, though these are made for specific shelves and cannot be used on every wire shelf. The laminate or metal at least are solid and will hold things evenly.

Fifth, how sturdy is it? There are so many systems out there these days that you can go to Walmart and pick up a system to put into your closet. How long will it last? The unit itself needs to be sturdy as well as the part that attaches to the wall. Although price is rarely not an issue, going for the least expensive will probably waste your money in the long run.

Finally, are you willing or able to install it yourself? There are companies that specialize in closets that will offer a do-it-yourself option with a minor price cut. The Container Store‘s Elfa system is mostly a do-it-yourself system though they are providing an installer for some areas, but they offer extensive phone support for installing the Elfa system. Some companies only have the professional installation option. Interestingly, I found that the professional installation does not always add up to costing more.

These are the major points that I have come across when people have or need a closet system. I would not wish the bad closet design on anyone, so if you decide that you want to have a system for your closet, consider these points, or maybe even consult with an expert who will know what questions to ask to get you the system that will fit your style and needs. As with any tool, you need it to benefit you and not end up making you change to use it.

Is a closet system the thing for you? Not necessarily. It is not the simple, easy answer to all problems. If used correctly, it can assist you in your efforts at getting organized. This is what matters most, finding ways to help yourself, which means that a system may not even be useful to you.

An Organizing Mission for You: Make a List of Things That Inspire You

Your organizing mission this week, should you choose to accept it – make a list. I hope your stomach didn’t just drop to your knees. This is a special list, one that will give you pleasure and one that you will refer back to regularly. The list I want you to make is of the things that inspire, motivate, and rejuvenate you. It needs to be compiled of things that touch your very being, excluding things that are mindless or allow you to zone out.

This list is important for several reasons. One is that, once it’s done, in moments of need (more on this later), you will not need to take time to think of things that motivate you. Second, the items on the list can be used before beginning a task or as a reward for completing an arduous task. Third, this list also tells you the things that you need to make time for even if you do not need a pick-me-up at other points.

A while back I was preparing a presentation and was thinking about the things women stereotypically report wanting time for, the luxurious bubble bath, time to label and organize photographs, or time to bake, yet everyone has their individual ultimate in relaxation. For me, the greatest contentment I can imagine happened for me one New Year’s Day, when I spent the majority of the day lounging on the couch reading. I spent the next several weeks feeling light and free, motivated to get things accomplished. Therefore, this is on the top of my list, though there is not always time for a day of lounging and reading.

There are three moments when having our personal list of motivating and inspiring things is helpful, times when a concrete set of choices that will benefit us. First, we all end up facing situations where our motivation is lacking some oomph. Second, there are times when our skills at procrastination reveal themselves more fully. Third, life sometimes seems even more overwhelming and we look up and see no end to the demands on our time, energy, or money.

Without a list, without that fast and easy way to remind ourselves of what helps us, it is easy to dismiss the things that benefit us. When we find that we are procrastinating or feeling overwhelmed, it is often a clue that we need to take time to care for ourselves. It is often the hardest time to stop and re-direct our energy inward. Having the list means that we can pull it out and refer to it, and we recognize the importance of self-care, and even that we are willing to try it.

Doing something off that list then can help revitalize us; sometimes we need to energize ourselves to work on the next task. Having a list that is comprised of the things that inspire and motivate us is useful in rejuvenating our energy to accomplish what we need to. Sitting on the couch and zoning out to the latest television program does not result in our feeling more energetic.

On the other hand, knowing the things that benefit your state of mind can also be a great “reward” after completing a project. Out of curiosity, I took an online procrastination quiz and many questions dealt with the idea of treating yourself to something nice after getting a dreaded task accomplished. The list that you create would be the ideal place to turn for any reward you want.

There is a fine line between using this list to motivate yourself and abusing it by avoiding the tasks you need to accomplish. Yet the benefits of recognizing the things that benefit your state of mind are immeasurable. This list might offer ways of combining unpleasant or dreaded tasks with things that also motivate you.

Is there music that touches you deeply or one that makes you bounce around with energy? There is no reason that you cannot put that music on while you work on something else. A while back there was a television show on during the day that I was inspired by, so I combined my watching it with my daily stationary bike ride.

The things that rejuvenate you are the very items that need to be on your list. They are things that hold meaning for you and therefore deserve to be done regularly. It is too easy to get caught up in all the things that demand our attention and energy, neglecting the things that can help keep us going. By making time to do some of the things on this list we decrease the burnout that life can bring our way. Doing things for ourselves from this list can also benefit our friends and family for we have more patience and energy by making caring for ourselves a priority.

So I challenge you to make a list of things that inspire, motivate, and rejuvenate you. You can choose to share it or not, but make sure that you can refer to it easily. Make sure that you do not forget about it, use it, remind yourself that you are important and deserve some pampering.

Organizer Problem or Personal Problem?

I have been exploring planners and date organizers lately, being dissatisfied with my current setup and wanting to find something that accommodates my preferences and limitations. In talking with my husband about my personal pros and cons of different systems, he brought up his struggles and said, “I don’t have an organizer problem, I have a personal problem.” I knew exactly what he meant. There are systems and organizers aplenty out there, yet they are not the answer to all our problems. Finding the perfect one is not going to solve the struggles we have in using them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are personal preferences and different ways that we all process and function, so there are organizer systems that will work better for some people than for others. Yet, some people can bounce from one organizer to another searching for the one that will somehow “fix” the ways we manage ourselves.

I could argue that most planners are all relatively the same concept with slight differences. The market continues to keep producing variations, offering more selections and in some ways propagating the idea that there is a perfect solution for everyone. The temptation is to try the newest, latest versions. This is further complicated by the ever-growing electronic choices. Now we need to choose between paper or electronic, or find a way to work with both.

When I was in high school, my dad was quite persistent about getting me to use a planner, and he was (and he still is) a huge advocate of the Franklin Covey system. Due to the price of getting started and possibly due to my resistance, I began with a DayTimer planner. After using the DayTimer and even liking it, he moved me to a Franklin planner. And for most of that time, it worked for me – in fact, for the past 20 years, I bought purses so I could carry that good-sized Franklin around with me, to the point I was getting shoulder and back pain.

In recent years, I found myself using aspects of the organizer, but there were facets of the system that I was resisting. I find the month at a view crucial for tracking my schedule and I use it consistently. Yet, the daily task list was either empty or it was overloaded with items. I was either significantly overestimating what I could accomplish in a day, or avoiding listing anything so I would not feel bad at the end of the day. In using the task list, I ended up doing the very things I encourage others to avoid: underestimating the time you think a task will take and overestimating how much you can get done.

Attempting to compensate for my resistances to daily task lists, I started making a general list of tasks on a blank sheet of paper, referring to it periodically where I would pick and choose what I was going to work on. The problem with that was it was a huge list, had varying degrees of importance, and could easily feel overwhelming just to look at.

Recently I have begun making weekly lists, working at keeping them relatively short and limited to the important tasks I want to accomplish in the next week. Finding myself processing things in this way I started thinking about the PlannerPad system. It has a two-spread page with a section at the top for the task list, under it the tasks can slide into specific days, and finally at the bottom is the schedule with time slots.

Despite my struggles with certain aspects of planning, I recognize that I have slipped in my own discipline. I was feeling overwhelmed with all the things I wanted to get done and overestimating how much I could do in a given day. This is the very reason I have talked about being careful in our thinking about how long things take us.

We need to stop looking outside ourselves for the answer to the difficulties we have.

As I have been looking at and considering different systems, I am focusing on what would benefit me, the aspects that will assist me in the areas where I am struggling. There is no telling how long the planner I choose will work for me and I will need to re-evaluate its functionality regularly. I have identified how the monthly view and concrete schedule continues to work, but the area where I have faltered is the tasks. Now considering where I slipped into being more lax, I want something that will help me strengthen those skills again. It will not happen overnight, and no organizer will cure that problem. Nevertheless, there is a system that will support me while I improve my techniques.

If you are struggling with a planner or day organizer, step back for a moment and consider: is this a planner problem or a personal problem? If it’s a planner problem, there’s plenty of alternatives to choose from and try out. However, if it’s a personal problem, no amount of money spent on planners can help. It takes discipline, attention to the areas where you are struggling, and most of all, a commitment inside yourself that, no matter what, you will work to be more organized.

Loving What You Own

When was the last time you looked around your home with a critical eye? Do you truly love and value the things that you have out in your home? What about the items that you have in boxes?

The things that you keep take up valuable space, whether they are out where you can see them or if you put them into containers and rarely look at them. Too often, we become blind to the items around us, they fade into the background and we do not even think about them.

It is challenging to take that emotional step backwards to evaluate your belongings. Yet, if they are not dearly loved, is there a good reason to keep them?

You deserve to be surrounded by things that make you happy and content. The items that you decide to store need to be valuable to you, worth the space that they require for storage. More and more people are renting storage units as their homes are getting too filled with stuff. Do you want to be one of those people?

I have a memory box for some well loved items from childhood and adolescence. I actually review it periodically and make sure the things are still important enough to keep. It needs to stay a reasonable size though, and I make sure things are worthy enough to be in there.

It can be helpful to think of your things deserving love. This is anthropomorphizing, attributing personality to inanimate objects, yet if you think of it in this context, you could discover how much you are willing to part with. Someone out there would be thrilled to have this or that item from your home and actually need or appreciate it. Thinking about your belongings in this way can help determine whether it is something that is worth saving.

There are so many different options for finding new homes for your things, ways for them to be valued by someone else.

Charities and shelters are often grateful to receive items to support people who are struggling. There are many varieties in each city with their own policies and what items are most needed. You can check out the ones I’ve bookmarked for Milwaukee on my delicious site under donating.

Swap parties are growing in popularity as a way to share and help others in your community. I spoke at the Holistic Mom’s Network and they had arranged one, where the focus was children’s stuff, and toys and clothes were exchanged. Of course, if the goal is to not bring more stuff home, this may not be the way to go about it!

One of my favorite ways to give items away is FreeCycle. Their mission is about reusing and to help keep things out of our landfills, and who does not appreciate that! You need join (free) and make the effort to post your things, but the person you select is responsible for picking up the items. You choose who receives your things and it is obvious that your belongings are going to people who could use them and also likely that they can be re-posted later to go on to someone else who will appreciate them.

I challenge you to try to reevaluate the things you have in your home regularly since our feelings and thoughts about things are constantly changing and evolving. If someone you knew said they would really like such and such, would you mind giving it to them? If so, you likely do not need to keep that item and finding a better home for it would clear up your space in the process.

What are you going to find a better home for?