My mother was an amazing woman loved by all who knew her. She was spontaneous, fun, compassionate to a fault, caring (a nurse!), gentle, kind, and able to laugh at herself...which was a good thing because she was also pretty klutzy and quite often found herself in some pretty - er - “unique” situations. (Someday I’ll share with you the Mom-in-a-manhole story.) She’s been gone for over 20 years now and I still miss her every single day. Although I didn’t embark on my organizing career until after she died, she continues to be the inspiration for a lot of the tips and advice I share with my clients and followers to this day. That’s because “organized” is not a word often associated with her. Let's just say, I didn't learn most of these tips and tricks from her, but I would have loved to have shared them with her. Many times, my blogs are written with her in mind as my audience.
Now don’t get me wrong...she maintained a pretty clean and tidy home and insisted my sisters and I do our part, including keeping our rooms picked up and our beds made. But I'd be lying if I told you that I was an organized kid or that everything was in its place in our home. Far from it! There is a big difference between a house that’s tidy and one that’s organized, as I will explain.
A tidy home, like the one I grew up in, is where everything looks neat at first glance. There is minimal surface clutter, laundry (both clean and dirty) is kept out of sight, coats and purses are hung up, and common areas look respectable enough to host guests on the spur of the moment. You are unlikely to find dirty towels littering the bathroom floor or toys strewn everywhere in a tidy house. However, many tidy homes harbor a secret stash of clutter and disorganization behind those closet doors. Growing up, my bedroom was tidy enough to pass Mom’s inspection...as long as she didn’t look under the bed, where all manner of chaos reigned. Or in the jumbled up drawers. Or risk the hazard of opening the closet doors. And you know what? She almost never did! I think she knew she wouldn't like what she'd find, so surface tidy was good enough. It isn’t really a mystery why I and other members of my family frequently misplaced items, as is often the case in many a tidy home.
Even in tidy homes, it can be difficult to find specific items quickly. That's because, just like untidy homes, they often contain way too much stuff for its occupants to navigate smoothly on a daily basis, leading to frustration. Too much stuff means it takes more work to put things away where they belong. That, in turn, leads to putting them away somewhere they don’t belong simply because it’s easier to access and thus quicker in our rush to get them out of sight, out of our way, and to keep things looking tidier. But this makes it harder to find later...which, my friends, is a main symptom of disorganization. If left untreated, disorganization will ultimately turn your tidy home into an untidy home when the time and effort to tidy up just becomes too great. Perhaps some of you have already discovered this.
My mother owned no less than twelve (12) muffin tins. Let me say that again. She had a dozen pans that made a dozen muffins all at once. A dozen dozens. (And no, she was not a commercial baker.) When asked why she needed to keep that many muffin tins in the teensy kitchen of her tiny mobile home, she responded that she liked to have some ready to go in the oven, some in the oven already baking, and some cooling on her (overly-crowded) counter...all at once. Because they took up a substantial percentage of her limited cabinet space, she was constantly having to move things around to make space for other kitchen items. This frustrated and annoyed her, yet it never seemed to dawn on her that the little bit of time all those muffin tins saved her on those rare occasions that she needed to make 144 muffins at once (which was probably never) was squandered many times over on her daily quest for more room in her cabinets for the things she used each and every day. If you find yourself regularly having to “reorganize” a shelf, drawer, or cabinet just to create enough room to put things away, you - like my mother - have TOO. MUCH. STUFF!
Fortunately, the remedy for too much stuff is simple...purge it! Purging is always the first step in getting organized and probably the one most people dread until they do it. That’s because they focus on what they lose by the process instead of on what they gain by it. Here’s what’s in it for you to purge your excess stuff:
In next week’s blog post, I’ll tackle why many people find it so difficult to get started letting go of their belongings and how to get over the most common hurdles people face along the way. The week after that I’ll give you suggestions for what to do with all the items you decide to eliminate from your home. But for now, let’s just focus on how to get started without feeling overwhelmed by the prospect.
First of all, there’s great news: Purging does not require you to set aside a huge chunk of time. You can accomplish a great deal in as little as 15-20 minutes per day. The key is consistency. If you don’t have a stretch of two hours to devote to purging this week (who does?), do 20 minutes each day and take a day off on Sunday. Or just decide to tackle one drawer or one shelf or one cabinet each day if that’s all the time you have. Either way, put it on your to-do list until it becomes a habit.
Here’s what you do:
Now I have even better news: Even if you don’t have any time to devote to the process described above, you can still begin purging right away! All you have to do is set up a box or bag in a designated spot in your home. Every time you encounter an object that:
And that's it! Like I said, I'll be sharing strategies for what comes next right here in this blog over the rest of this month. Be sure to sign up to get each new blog post emailed directly to you if you aren't already a subscriber so that you don't miss out.
So what makes a home organized? Having a designated spot for each item you own that’s easy to access and with a bit of extra breathing room. As I said, you can have a tidy home that’s disorganized, but can you have an organized home that’s untidy? Yes, you can. The difference between an untidy, organized home and a tidy, organized home is about 15 minutes!
For more tips and advice on purging and on organizing in general, follow @EasyPeasyLiving on Facebook. May is Purging Month, and I’ll be sharing strategies all month on how to rid your home of excess stuff and keep it that way. Plus, you’ll find out how to participate in the May 1-Day EasyPeasy Challenge. Hint: it will help you get your purge on!
Until next week, keep it easy peasy!
*If you’re on a purging roll and don’t want to wait until my future posts to get stuff out of your way, the quickest, easiest way to get rid of it is to schedule a donation pickup or drop your items off at a local charity that accepts what you are eliminating. Visit www.easypeasyliving.com/donatingrecycling for more information and some suggested recipients for your castoffs.
Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.