What’s holding you back from organizing your home?
Have you ever thought “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have enough money to organize my home? Well, I have a secret. Organizing has nothing to do with spending hours setting up elaborate, complicated systems with micro-labeled baskets. That, my friends, is the beautiful icing on the structurally sound organized cake.
Today’s episode was inspired by an Instagram post I made back in June. I showed a picture of a client’s closet with very detailed labels and asked the question if it was possible to be over-organized. It started some great discussions about expectations and maintenance. I figured it could get some wheels turning over here too. Especially for those of you stalling on your organizing projects because you don’t have time to find the perfect containers. Or you haven’t bought a Cricut machine to make the perfect labels.
THE DEFINITION OF ORGANIZING
Webster defines “organizing” as “forming into a coherent unity, functioning whole, or setting up an administrative structure for.” Synonyms include arrange, classify, order, or systematize.
So when it comes to this definition…organizing your things means putting them in order. Creating a system. Setting up a structure or routine. It means you are able to put your hands on what you need when you need it because you have created a system, put things in order or set up a structure to make your life easier. What you do NOT need in order to organize is lots of fancy labels or expensive boxes.
WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK FROM ORGANIZING?
But so often I see people caught up in the “I can’t be organized because I can’t afford the bins.” Or they create what they to believe are organized spaces with over-complicated systems that are difficult to maintain. Sure these systems look amazing on Instagram or Pinterest…but grocery shopping is hard enough without needing to color code the items in your cart to match your pantry.
Now let me state right now, I find absolutely nothing wrong with these beautifully decorated pantries, closets or bookshelves. In fact, I’m super inspired by them too! I just want you to know that those pictures are not the starting point of organizing or even organizing at all in some cases. Many times, that would actually be considered decorating.
Because we have to go back to what the definition of organizing is. Setting up a structure. Forming a unit. Grouping like items together and giving them a specific home. Finding what we need because we have done the groundwork to set ourselves up for success.
CREATING ORGANIZING SYSTEMS
I honestly hate creating a system for a client that will be hard for them to maintain. I want them to succeed when they put the time, effort and money into creating a system.
Here’s a story about how I learned an important lesson about over-organizing. A client sent me a picture from Pinterest and asked if we could recreate it. She wanted a pantry full of Oxo Pop Top Canisters and all the other items in baskets to hide the labels. It was truly lovely.
She asked me if we could do this. I said “of course.” I was actually really excited to create this space. In my naivete, I didn’t even think to ask her about the amount of time she had to maintain a space like that. About why she felt like her pantry wasn’t working.
After well over a thousand dollars in products and labor, we got that pantry looking mighty fine. But few months later when I was in the house for another project, I asked her about the pantry. She frowned and said it wasn’t really working out but she had spent the money.
I peeked inside…flour and sugar in bags not canisters, overflowing baskets with extra cans and boxes sitting on the shelves. Because along the way, the maintenance of the space took more time than she had anticipated and therefore the system wasn’t working. The baskets served the purpose of making the space look clean but it made creating a grocery list a headache. She had to take every basket out and check for inventory before shopping. It was just easier to buy another one “just in case.”
And she remembered my suggestion of rotating the contents of the canisters…basically you need to dump out the old flour, sugar, pasta. Put the new in, then put the old on top of the new. This way you aren’t piling new stuff on the old stuff while the old stuff goes rancid at the bottom of the canister. After a day of work, parenting four kids and grocery shopping, decanting dry goods seemed like way too much effort.
Needless to say, we simplified the system. We lost the baskets except for single-serving snacks. We created zones with the boxed and canned goods so she could see the items easier and keep track of what she needed and what she had. And we bought a couple of extra canisters to make decanting easier. It didn’t look nearly as pretty when we finished the second time, but it functioned much better for this client.
This experience is part of the reason I preach to start with the simplest form of the system to see if it is going to work for you and your family. It’s not the products or the detailed labeling that make you organized, it’s the system that allows you to retrieve the information or item easily. And that may not require fancy bins or vinyl labels.
KEEP YOUR ORGANIZING SIMPLE
I have another client who so excited to show me the elaborate filing system he had set up between our appointments. I mean, this system was so detailed with folders like “Priority A,” “Priority B,” etc. He even created a guide to finding things. It was like a card catalog for his filing system. All brand new folders, perfectly labeled.
But you know what he didn’t do? File any papers. His story was he was waiting for me to help him. Honestly, I’d have been happy if he had canceled our appointment because he had done all the filing work rather than just working on the products and micro labeling.
And within 2 months of setting up this system, we revised it to a much less complicated one. It was so hard to figure out what went where. Or remember where something was when we need it. The “Priority A B C & D” folder became “Do Now”. Individually labeled statements grouped by date went into a folder marked “Statements”. He was now able to take action on his to-dos because he wasn’t spending time figuring out where to put something or where he had put it.
Are there instances when detailed organizing is helpful? Of course! Each family has different situations and needs to retrieve items and information.
Maybe you have someone working in your home that puts away your groceries or your laundry. Maybe you use paper statements to balance your checkbook by hand. I’m not saying you can’t have a super detailed system. Just don’t let setting up a complicated system hold you back. Don’t let your family’s inability to maintain an organizing system stop you from trying.
Just start simple. Remember WHY you organize. To retrieve items and information together when you need them. Sort like items together. Give them a specific place. Return them to that place when you’re done. Label that shelf, cupboard or folder so you and others remember what goes there. And that’s it! That is an organizing system.
And once that is second nature, feel free to add some fancy boxes, additional categories handwritten chalkboard labels. 😉
Apple Gin Mules
- 4 oz Apple Cider
- 4 oz Gin
- 12 oz Ginger Beer
- Apple sliced for garnish
- Crushed Ice
- Pour Apple Cider and Gin into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake gently to combine.
- Strain mixture out into copper mugs over fresh crushed ice.
- Top with ginger beer and garnish apple slices. Enjoy!
New episodes of “Cocktails and Containers” are available every week.
You can find past episodes “Cocktails and Containers” here.