So my mom is going to kill me for writing this -- well, not really kill me, I did give her a heads up, (I'm not that mean) -- but she'll probably be a bit... annoyed, let's say.
I'll start this off by saying how much I love my mom. She is one of my best friends, we talk every day and there are about a million and a half things she does super well. Keeping her closets, drawers and space organized just isn't one of them. It was therefore of very little surprise to me when she "lost" a small pouch a few months ago containing various membership cards. Nothing too important, nothing of significant value, just some stuff that was annoying to replace.
I was thrilled for her when she recently told me she found it... in one of her dresser drawers. Then she sheepishly looked up and handed me a note card with a cheque inside and a bite saying "I'm sorry, Alli."
It is important that we know what is in our homes, that we have a mental stock of our inventory. Otherwise, what's the point?
It was a note from my husband's late grandmother, our beloved Nonnie, written more than six years ago, just before my first child was born. The intention of this note was to apologize for not being able to attend the baby shower and she wanted to contribute to a gift for my son.
Six years. Six years it sat in the drawer. Untouched, unappreciated. I looked at my mom and said, "I think it's time we deal with your drawers." She agreed.
Let's be clear here: I'm not upset about this. This stuff happens. What strikes me the most in situations like this isn't the uncashed cheque or the unacknowledged gift. It's the missed opportunity. It's the unknown. If this note sat in your drawer for six years and you didn't even know it was there, what else are you missing?
It's not just with my mom that I see this. I can't tell you how many clients are beyond elated when they find the ring they thought was lost, the letter they were sure their husband had thrown out or the $100 bill they had hidden in a jewellery box and forgotten about long ago.
It is important that we know what is in our homes, that we have a mental stock of our inventory. Otherwise, what's the point? Our homes should be for the pieces that we really love or really need. Why have things if not to enjoy them. And on that note, if you're holding onto things that don't' "spark joy" (as Marie Kondo would say), then maybe it is time to just let it go.
I'm kind of glad we found Nonnie's note. It made me think of her on a day that I may not have. It made my mom realize that maybe having me help her declutter her drawers wasn't such a bad thing after all. It made me pause and reflect on the real reason that I do what I do and that I love it so passionately.
I help people. I help my clients regain control of their lives and their homes. I help them declutter and free their space so that their minds are then free to think about all the things that are truly important: their family, their friends and themselves; NOT when they're going to get around to finally cleaning out their junk drawer.
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If you're stuck, start by setting a small goal, like tossing expired items found in your bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and closets. Not only are expired items the main thing Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves, the founders of NEAT Method, see their clients overlook, but they find getting rid of them encourages people to do more. Begin by checking the usual items, such as sunscreen and cosmetics, but don't forget about maple syrup, dish detergent and motor oil. (Use Real Simple's handy guideline for more surprising household staples that have expiration dates.) Once these items are gone, you'll see what you really need to organize.
In order to maintain a clutter-free home, you need to get to the root of why things pile up in the first place. The NEAT founders believe that most people fall into the following clutter personalities: Too Busy = Too Many Extras: You buy items you already own because you don't have a system in place for where to store them or the time to search through all possible storage spots. Constant Worrier = Must Save Everything: You're concerned that you "might" need something in the future, so you save everything, "just in case." Overwhelmed in Life = Overwhelmed at Home: You don't know where to begin—so you just live with the chaos. By identifying which category you fit into, you can avoid your weak spots. If you think you don't have time, start by carving out just 15 minutes a day to complete a small task like going through the mail (try using this coffee mug for inspiration). If you're a constant worrier, take inventory of your stuff to remind yourself that you have everything you need—for right now. And if you're overwhelmed in life, empty just one drawer, clean just one shelf; when a small task is completed successfully, that will inspire you to do more.
The NEAT duo has found that when most people shop for organizational solutions, they tend to overbuy plastic storage bins, to stow large things they don't use often, and small baskets, thinking they've got a lot of similar little items that need a home. But if they haven't first done a thorough purge, they end up with bins that don't fit their space and with fewer longterm storage needs and less itsy-bitsy clutter than they imagined. Ashley and Molly abide by this bedrock organizing principle: First, make piles of what you have, then shop with measurements-in-hand of the specific places in the home where the stuff will go. And don't forget to buy enough hangers and files; the two other items people underpurchase. They'll come in handy when you need to hang up costumes and put away cards -- which the organizers discovered are two of the most commonly hoarded items among men and women respectively.
If you're in awe of meticulously marked kitchen pantries but don't want to spend the time or money labeling, then Ashley and Molly recommend clear organizers, which do the same job. Whether you're storing linens or desk supplies, see-through containers make it obvious where everything goes.
If you've spent months unable to find a cutlery holder that fits, or a drawer caddy for your desk, it might be because you're not accurately measuring. Ashley and Molly kept running into this issue until they realized they needed to measure protruding screw heads, hinges and rounded sides or corners instead of just the width, length and height of the drawer. They suggest investing in a soft tape measure. Another hard-won tip? Carry a picture of what's inside the drawer with you while you're shopping, since they've found it easy to forget what items will go in the organizer.
Garment bags are a great way to move off-season clothes out of your small closet—but experts recommend avoiding plastic. Plastic garment protectors can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew in humid environments. Instead, make sure yours have linen on one or both sides, which lets clothes breathe. (Ashley and Molly suggest one like this.)
Follow Allison Weigensberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/organizer_alli