Friday, July 03, 2009

Organization Friday-Putting Things Away, The Stumbling Block

Recently, while watching the reality show “Kendra” on E!, Kendra stands in her the living room of her house with clothes all over the living room floor. Lots of them. She wants to get the place cleaned up before her fiancé comes over. She looks at the clothes and she says that she wants to get the place cleaned up so he really doesn’t see the real “her”. And that’s when it gets interesting. She has this look on her face that I have seen many times before. It’s a look of total frustration and total honesty. She really does want to get the place cleaned up but she has absolutely no clue on how to get there. It’s probably one of the most honest moments in the show and one I see a lot.

More often than not, most of the people I work with have no clue how to get there. They know what they want: a clean and organized space. We look at the magazines and they are filled with beautiful pictures of beautiful spaces. They make it look so easy. And then they say things like, “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” But the truth of the matter, it’s not always easy if you don’t know what you are doing. Add to that, all of the messages that you have programmed in over the years from your mother, your family and whoever, it’s no wonder people get depressed when they think about getting organized.

Kendra’s situation is not unlike many of the people I work with. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes or paper and more often than not, most of my projects start with the home office. But at some point, regardless of whatever project we start, we get the space organized and at that time, I put a routine in place for the client. A routine is a series of steps that is the absolute shortest way to get from point A to point B. We all want everything fast and easy today but it’s surprising how many people get caught up in one simple step: putting things away. So often, many women are so used to not knowing where to put anything that once they have a spot, they don’t follow through with the last step of putting items away. It is the single obstacle that must be overcome or you will always be spending more time and energy trying to keep up your home. If you are not in the habit and don’t make it a priority, you will never maintain your space. Any space.

Probably the one time of day where I see a lot of homes drop the ball, is the after work or after school routine. During those times, everyone is tired and most things are just dropped right inside the door, the nearest counter or the nearest flat surface. On top of that, add the mail and all of those papers from school, all of the electronic devices and you have one big mess. Once that is done, everyone is hungry, dinner is started or picked up on the way home, and another mess is underway.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few simple changes, you can keep your space organized and beautiful. And here’s how. I’ll talk about my own routine to illustrate the concept.

The first step once you get in the door is to put your keys away. I place mine in a pretty wrought iron, nature inspired dish. You can use a dish, like the one in the photo, a plate or simply a gorgeous hook. Whatever it is, make it both functional and beautiful. By making it beautiful, you are more often to use it and keep it nice. Now you know where your keys are for tomorrow. If you have multiple drivers, create a space near the door for each person. I might suggest a chest of drawers near the entry giving each person their special place in a drawer for keys and such or something on the wall that can handle multiple sets of keys.

Hang up your coat and remove your shoes. I have a series of hooks near the door to hang our coats however notice I didn’t say hang “all” of your coats. Just the coat you wear. I place gloves in the foyer closet near the door so they don’t sit out. Ditto for shoes.

As you create your space near the door, I would like you to think of this as a bit of a sanctuary. When you come home, it’s the first thing you see. Keep it uncluttered and beautiful. You don’t need to see every coat and every pair of shoes the family has. This is especially important if you want to feel peace and serenity when you walk through the door.

Next, remove your electronic devices and charge them. You should have a special place to charge them, preferably near your keys however if there isn’t room for a charging station, select another spot. Just make it consistent.

Unpack your bags. If you carry a bag of sorts, empty everything in your bag and put it away. I carry a bag with my business supplies and a client notebook. I put the notebook in the office and file the bag. At this time, I stock the bag with anything that is needed so I can get out the door easily the next time. If I worked that day, I take a moment to record any income and expenses for that day, add items to my supply list and add any clients tasks to my weekly planner (to do list).

If you have groceries, put all of the groceries away. Do this before you do anything else.

Next, check for phone messages. I keep a spiral notebook for all phone messages near the phone. It doesn’t have to be formal, just pick one spot. I try to return my calls right away or if it’s late, the next morning. I delete the message immediately. You can also check your voice mail on-line. If you do, then make the call or add it to your to do list, whatever that might be.

For mail, I open it all and toss out the envelopes and extras. Bills are place in the bill notebook in the file drawer. Invitations are noted on the calendar and rsvp noted on the to-do list as well as dates to get gifts/cards, etc. I file the invitation in my HOME manual (Home Organization Manual for Efficiency-this is a Dream Organizer product/concept.). (When the time comes, I just pull the invitation.) If there are action items, I put them in my in box and try to manage them that evening or early the next morning. I try to keep my desk free of any paper.

Once Dear Son arrives, I unpack his wheelchair-his lunch pack, his backpack and his clothes. I re-pack his backpack and lunch pack for the next morning. This takes all of five minutes. He is now ready for the next day. I sign any papers and put them in his backpack for the next day. Since he needs a feeding pump that is sent to school, and since I need to use it that evening and the next morning, I place a reminder sheet that I have in plastic on the seat of his wheelchair as a visual reminder to place it in his backpack.

And that’s it. The key here is putting things away before starting another project or before starting dinner. You can’t expect to keep your home clean and organized if you never put things away. And you also may not be able to find things when you need it. I thought of a silly analogy to drive the point home. Imagine for a moment that instead of parking your car in the garage every evening, where it belongs, that you parked it in any one of a dozen spots near your home instead. Say, one day, you had a meeting at school so your parked it there. Another day, you watched a soccer game so you parked it at the field. If I told you to do that, you would tell me I am absolutely insane. You would tell me that it doesn’t make any sense. You would argue that the best place to park would be your garage where it would be every morning making it easy for your to leave home. You would tell me that you waste a lot of time every morning trying to remember where you left your car or that it took too much time to get there.

And that is why you need to make it a habit to put things away. It’s the shortest and fastest way to find anything you need the next day. So the next time you are tempted to leave your stuff out, just remember the garage analogy. If nothing else, you’ll get a laugh.

Note: I am a Professional Organizer and Home Stager. I own my own business called, “Dream Organizers”. My motto is: “Keep it simple. Get organized. Make it beautiful.”
...The "Organization Friday" feature is back by popular request!


Erica said...

I LOVED this post. Thank you. I hope you will continue to post more about organizing.

Mary said...

Such a fantastic post! I know you're telling my story, right? LOL! I'm sure it fits many people. Thank you for having the knowledge, expertise, and creativity to help us disorganized people become better organizers, so we will enjoy our lives more!

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