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Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy organizational season!

Happy organizational season! Yes, folks, it’s time once again for a boost in the butt, a shot in the arm (does not contain mercury or aluminum, don’t worry, I’m not down with that) in the area of…bum ba da dum – ORGANIZATION!

The word strikes fear and panic in some and causes others to swoon with gleeful anticipation – how could a little (or okay, big. Ish.) word cause so much widespread emotion? However you feel about it, let’s jump in and see what we can do to help you out.
I am happy!  Oh, so happy!

I am freaked, oh so freaked!
I want to attack a philosophy first off because that’s where we get the guts of it. People who are considered organized are actually…well…get ready for it – a little lazier than the rest of the population. WHAT? LAZIER? What are you TALKING ABOUT? Okay, okay, okay, I know, it sounds weird. I was talking to my friend about this very thing. When it comes down to it, I am a pretty organized person – I have an organizational business where I like to go in and tear up peoples homes (and offices, whatever you’ll let me get my hands on) and mainly get you to simplify your life and make your stuff work better for you. So what’s with the lazy? Okay, total secret. (Apparently not for long anymore.) People who are organized actually take things as they come and plan ahead so that they have LESS work when the fun hits the fan.

Visualize: You put an important paper inside of a cardboard box because you 1) didn’t take/have the time to file it and 2) don’t have a home for it anyway. Your hubby calls you and wants that paper. You now spend five hours looking through a box of papers for the right one. You just did five hours of work. That is not lazy, that is INTENSE for one sheet of paper.

Let me give you a few examples so you can understand the depths of the recesses of my bubbling mind – when I first got married, I hated (this is an understatement: picture – near slumping down onto the floor, writhing and halfway to seizure-imitation) 4:30 p.m. Why? Because it meant I had to make something for dinner. OH GOOOOOSH DINNER, NOOOOO!! So it would be like this: open fridge. Shut. Open freezer. Stare. Shut freezer. Open cupboards. Shut them. Walk in a circle in the kitchen. Look out the window up to the sky and ask God why-for must I make dinner, can’t we just have cereal or pb&j for dinner!? And then, because time was getting closer for the hubby to come home, I would grab some pathetic lump of frozen meat out of the freezer and try to come up with something that I had enough ingredients with to make. When it was finished, it was like a gigantic weight was lifted from my mind. Until I went to bed, woke up the next day and then nasty 4:30 came back to murder my life once again. (Did I not see it coming? I’m not sure how that escaped me…)

Did you miss me?  I'm back.  I'm Martha.
I am a genius!  Don't hate.
At some point (I don’t know when – I think it was about 4 or 5 years ago) I started attacking dinner on the front end. I sat down on a Sunday evening with my Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazines and would flip through them. (She is my hero and a genius, don’t hate.) I would write down what I was going to make that looked good out of those magazines (because hey – whenever you are flipping through recipes you’re always saying, “OOOH, I should make that sometime, that looks good!” And then you never do. Because you didn’t actually plan it. Then you lose the recipe and your life is just plain sad.). I would pick five or six recipes and plan it for my upcoming week. And then, something else happened. I thought that while I was doing this, I could scratch down a grocery list so I could go to the store and get exactly what I needed (thus saving some time and some money – no wasted food, etc.). Then my anal self took over and I ended up with a spreadsheet of my grocery stores in order of aisles – but HEY – you don’t have to go OCD on it, it’s just an example. What, pray tell, is my point in all of this? Now I am up to doing menus for the month and so I sit down for a couple hours (or less) on a Sunday afternoon, flipping through magazines and recipes I’ve collected throughout the month and what do I have to gain for this? NO TORTURE AT 4:30!! I don’t hate 4:30 anymore! The frozen block of meat is now defrosted and I know what I’m making for dinner. I know that you will think I am mental for having such an issue with this, but whatevvvvvs! I am just being honest.

This applies in other areas – clean up as you go when you cook; pick things up throughout the day. I am going to give you examples from my life because that’s the only life I get to live, so yes, I am OCD and sometimes a little O.T.T. but it’s fine. That’s how I roll. I have established times in my day that are considered full-clean-up times – that is – points in the day where my whole house is cleaned up/picked up. This helps me to move on to the next thing without mind clutter. It also makes it VERY easy to clean everything up because I do it so often throughout the day. How often? (You don’t have to copy me, as I said, I might have issues…) Before a meal, before we leave the house, before the hubby gets home from work, before bed (and when the kids were little – before they took a nap). Doing things often made it so there were not so many things to deal with and it only took a few minutes to get me back to ground zero.

One of the things that I have noticed is that sometimes people do not have an exact (read: reasonable) grasp of how long it takes to do something AND they do not factor in the clean-up of that activity to do such things. How long does it take you to get ready for church on Sunday morning? Did you plan time in there to clean up the breakfast dishes, sweep the floor, and pick up the whole house before you leave? If you have goals to have your house clean (and often), this is a factor you need to take into consideration. A little work on the front will save you in the end.

Sometimes I am asked to give organizational talks and a point that I’d love everyone to adapt into their lives is this: if you can do it in 30 seconds, DON’T wait to do it later. Just do it. (Nike. Rawrr.) If you leave all of your 30-seconders (not a word) for the end of your day, guess what, homegirl/homeboy? You’ve got an hour of piddly junk to do! How utterly unpleasant! I’d rather read, crochet, imagine ways to be a hippie/farmer/anti-Monsanto activist or do something to help me the next day (like pack my swim bag for the next morning).
The moral of the story is this – do a little now and save yourself a lot of time later. It is the principle I live by and when life attacks, you have a couple things laid out so you are less likely to flip your lid (just picture that Reach toothbrush commercial from 15 years ago where they suggest you get a flip-top head).

Get on top of your things: do your laundry before you lose a child in it, swish out the dishes before they need to be chiseled out with a crowbar, sweep the floor before the dog hair piles grow legs and start reproducing and demanding food, stuff like that.
Have you had enough philosophy? Do you just need a list? Let me break down some things you can do to make your life easier.

1. Make your bed as soon as your feet hit the floor. Your bed takes up a lot of visual space in your bedroom and visual clutter is like an ever-multiplying to-do list bashing your head like a frying pan.
2. Bring in your mail ONLY when you are 1) standing over a garbage can and 2) have a minute or two to deal with it. Pitch the junk. If you seriously keep stuff (for ANY amount of time) like those newspapery advertisement crapola they send on Mondays, you have a problem, call Sam.
3. Make a meal plan for yourself. Start off with a week and if you want to make it longer in between, work up to that.
4. Clean up your life as you go. Clean up the kitchen as you cook. Pick up the toys/clothes/hairballs as you pass them.
5. Purge. If you don’t have the philosophy of having a grasp on your finite space, you may run into problems. When you are standing at the store and you’re about to buy something (and you use your charge card and Dave Ramsey cries an elephant tear), know 1) where it will fit in your home and 2) what thing is going to move out of your home because something new is coming in. New in, old out. You are the owner of your things but when they hide around in spaces and reproduce themselves, they start to look more like an army and start owning you. Don’t let the inanimate objects suffocate you and your life.
6. Keep an inventory list of things that are difficult and/or odious to navigate. For me, it is my chest freezer and my cellar. I HATE being cold. I am not going to go freezer diving to see if I have a whole chicken. It makes me die to be so cold and for such an unrewarding prize. I stopped that madness with a simple yellow legal pad duct taped (don’t hate on my glam) to the top of the chest freezer. Each page has a category and I do something very advanced and complicated: tally marks under the “in” and “out”, yes, I know, high tech and remarkable. Running a home is like running a business, you should know what you have so you don’t waste money.

Side note: If you are a hoarder (you have cats, collect bags, collect wrapping paper like you’re about to open up your own Hallmark, etc.), you need to get help. People can come and help you clean up but until you find out what is going on in your mind that makes you want to do things the way you do them, your home will always regress to the state that it is in. Don’t call an organizer unless you’re also speaking to a counselor or a psychologist. (And I like to joke and stuff, but for real, I am not mocking and I am not looking down on you, I am encouraging you to get help.)

Side note 2: If you are a frozen perfectionist and can’t do anything unless you’re doing the WHOLE thing and doing it perfectly, you need to take a look and see that you are hindering yourself. It is not a valid excuse for you not to do anything because you can’t do it all. That is like saying you’re not going to try that 5K because you haven’t run a marathon yet. That is something you need to work through in order to be successful. A lot cleaned up seldomly vs. some cleaned up often: think about it, you will be closer to your goal in trying to approach the latter.

One more thought: I sometimes ask my clients this question while standing in the doorway of one of their rooms – if someone came and pushed a magic button and everything in this room evaporated, what would you miss? Your answer to this question will reveal what is really important. The rest of the stuff may no longer have the purpose it once did, it may be time for it to go.

At any rate, live simply. Plan ahead. Your tomorrows will thank you.


  1. Great article my friend! Now, if I can just heed your sound advice! I am trying, and I guess as the old adage goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."-sheeja

  2. Girrrrrrrrrlfriend, you are rocking it out. I know with these upcoming months and weeks you are going to tear it up at new levels. You go, girl! <3