As someone who loves-loves-loves organizing time, and space, and closets, and . . . well . . . and everything, I just want to do a rant against "Closet-Beautiful" type magazines. Because the kind of "beautiful" these closet magazines show isn't even normal, it's airbrushed and unhealthy. (Sort of like other kinds of beauty magazines, I hear, but I don't even look at those).
The unhealthiness comes also from the way these so-called-organized photos interact with our things, rather than with us. To get the belongings to conform to space, their owners often use lots of plastic boxes. Stacked, full plastic boxes are my least favorite "glam" shot: how the heck are you going to get the gold scarf out of the middle of the box that's third from the right on the next-to-bottom row? This is a format archival storage, not for actual day-to-day use.
Okay, but I don't just want to rant. Underneath this, there are some guiding principals that help to make a messy place look (and possibly even actually be) more organized. Two keys to the aesthetic sense are symmetry and space. So to get a good-looking space, you should (a) declutter, (b) group like objects together, and (c) use containers -- not only to group things, but also to make them appear more similar.
Here's a quick example: the before (left) and after (right) photos are those of a proud person who has gone through a very satisfying bout of organizing a garage workspace. What makes this feel so successful is that the after looks so uniform -- there are red containers (well labeled) on one side, and big gray containers (again, well-labeled) on another shelf. Symmetry and space in action.
Here's another before-and-after. I know I'm missing a larger part of the kitchen, so I'm not judging this particular effort, but these pictures make me twitchy. What makes the "after" below look so good is the uniformity -- the absence of commercial containers, for example. But where did the tomato sauce go? And (the Miser) part of me asks, how much does all this plastic container cost the owner, and the environment?
At the same time, I admit that I'd rather look at a pantry like the one on the right than on the left. I mean, pretty.
So I did a little experiment with my husband's dresser, one afternoon when he was out bike riding. (Fortunately for this experiment, I have a husband who conveniently sports a mildly cluttered habitat and who also doesn't mind if I play around with his stuff).
Behold the "Before". It looks disorganized because there are a variety of objects, and there is no space between them. Indeed, the things overlap and heap up.
Even from this other angle, the dresser top is really a pile-o-stuff:
Of course, I did not purchase a host of plastic storage bins for this experiment, but it just so happened that I have a stash of canning jars on hand. (You knew I'd have to bring up canning jars at some point, right)?
And lo-and-behold the "After"!
There are several take-aways from this experiment. One is that grouping things together, especially if you can get them into similar-looking containers, really does make thing look nicer.
But the boost in appearance often comes at the expense of practicality. I mean, you might not want your mouthwash in canning jars, and it's a dangerous idea to keep your medicine there.
|Don't put medicine in glass jars, especially if they're unlabeled!|
Much less dangerous, but no less ridiculous, is the idea of keeping bike gloves and important papers in a jar. I mean, even *I*, who love canning jars, don't do that.
And what you don't see in the photo is just as important. To get everything to fit in the containers, I had to get rid of a bunch of stuff, some of which was clutter, but some of which really belonged. Here, I've added that back in: there is packaging (because commercial labels ruin the "after"photo) and trash, and also a few things like a calculator that are actually useful, but don't fit into my particular containers.
In other words, caution is advised when deciding how successful the "after" is compared to the "before".
So the organizational enthusiast in me wants to close with one more example of why things that look like a mess (different sizes, different shapes, different colors, different markings, overlapping and unevenly spaced) might actually be a better way to be useful and organized.
Which of these two objects below is less cluttered? Which of the two is easier to use without even thinking hard about it?