Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Organizing your space to clean itself

Wouldn't it be nice if your home automatically cleaned itself up?  Mine doesn't, but after I read (and re-read, and devoured) the book "Organizing from the Inside Out", my house got a lot easier to keep neat.

Here's an example.  My teenaged daughter's room was the disaster-zone you'd expect for a kid her age.  It's not just that *I* was frustrated with it, though; she was frustrated, too.  She wanted it to be clean.  (This is a distinct difference between her and my sons, sigh).  So, armed with the tips I'd gotten Morgenstern's book, I walked around my daughter's room with her asking, "What kinds of things do you do in here?  Where are you when you do it?"

One of her answers was "read books" -- she was and still is a book-aholic.  Where does she read?  In bed.  But her bookshelf was on the complete other side of the room: no WONDER her books were in piles all over her floor near her bed.  We rearranged her room with the shelves near the bed, making a reading nook.  Problem completely solved.  Seriously, it was amazing how completely this changed the floor of her room.

A week or so later, I came in for a follow-up visit.  Her hairbrush was still always in the wrong place, never on the dresser.  "Why do you leave it over here all the time?" I asked.  She said, "That's where the mirror is, so that's where I brush my hair."  I moved the mirror over her dresser, and all of a sudden her grooming supplies stayed where they were supposed to.  Amazing.

We often think, when we are surrounded by our own mess, that it's entirely our own fault.  Morgenstern's book shows how the spaces we live in can work against us -- and she also gives lots and lots of examples of how people make simple transformations to their spaces that make organization and neatness almost automatic.  (She's a professional organizer; the link above is to her business web site.  So she's worked with professional clutterers!)

The idea of organizing things by how you use them -- and not by what they are -- allowed me to organize my pantry shelves in a way that everyone in our highly eclectic, coming-and-going family can understand.  The top shelf in my pantry is "dinner fixings".  Next down is "lunch stuff".  Down from there is "after school snacks".  The bottom shelf is "beverages".  This way, the kids know which shelf they're allowed to eat from -- they don't take food that I'm saving for dinner.
As you can see, Morgenstern is a fan of labeling.  Once I got over the idea of labels being a little too anal, I realized that this was actually a huge help to the family, and even more so to our guests.

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