A Neat Freak's unlikely guide to basic organization
Your space, Your Rules. What matters most is what works for your life.
I worked as a wardrobe stylist and consultant for eight years, organizing and re-designing people's closets. I've also been an anal retentive stickler for order since I was a child, and organization is in my fiber. My mother was a neat-freak when my sister and I were kids. Now she has six pets and doesn't fuss too much about the mess, but when my sister and I were children she beat those cleaning up habits into us well. I always loved (and still admire) how we could ask our mother for anything, and she would know exactly where to find it. Even now, I pride myself on the same superpower I got from her. I know where everything is. When I have to find something, I go directly to its place. If it's not there, I assume it ran away and no lo longer exists. I never look in two places.
But that's me. And this is about you.
The main thing I've learned over the years of color-coordinating shirts and labelling pantries to my heart's content, is that everyone has different requirements. Everyone lives differently. Everyone is unique. How you are, and how you live is the most important thing to consider when arranging your space. Where things are placed has everything to do with what you reach for, when and whether you need to keep it hidden or reachable for the other people you're sharing with.
Things To Consider Before You Start Re-organizing:
- How tall you and everyone else in the space is
- What is your daily routine
- How much space you have
- How good your memory is
- Do you like color or neutrals
- Are you maximal or minimal
- Why are you even organizing?
These questions help to create your own guide. I could have come here to teach you about finger spacing hangers, and decluttering in three categories: Donate, Fix, Keep, but before you even get there you need to lay your foundation.
Because we need to know what you can reach on your shelves. What are you grabbing for most often in the kitchen? Do you even cook? The things you need handy should literally be arranged for your hands. What about your bedside table? Are you a midnight reader, or do you need your phone close by at all times? Consider your habits and needs, and keep the necessities near. So whether this is in the garage or the closet or the pantry, the things you need most often should be at a level that is accessible. Keep them where they're not too high or too low. How are those knees of yours? If bending and stooping are uncomfortable then you know the majority of your sorting is not going under the bed in those nifty under-the-bed-organizers. Those are for bendy people.
Mansion or Mini Home?
Before you go running to the container store take some time to measure your space. I don't necessarily mean with inch tape, although that would come in handy when you're ready to get trays and boxes and cubicles oh my! (Sorry, these things make me very giddy) But I mean look at your space with your eyes and estimate what you have room for and what you do not. An integral part of organization is scale. Does the size of your furniture fit your home? Most times people have oversized couches and dining tables. These large pieces can crowd a space and make it appear more cluttered than it is.
Also consider how much stuff you can store in your space. Smaller spaces hold less than bigger ones, obviously, but also they require more creative storage solutions. Smaller spaces tend to benefit from vertical storage solutions. Layout can change lives here. So really examine the space and see where you can free up some room to feel more balanced.
How's that memory?
A pretty universal organization tip is to keep all your stuff in a place where you can see them. Fold your clothes in the drawer Marie Kondo style so you see all the pieces you have and none go forgotten. Keep the pantry items to the front to avoid expiries. Butttttt this useful tip has exceptions. There maybe things you want to keep hidden for personal reasons. Privacy. Safety. If you have little children running around the space, then this would be one of those situations where most of your things would be hidden away. So you're going to have to remember where you put these things. Whatever reminder method works for you, do it. A chalkboard, phone alerts, post-it notes. Record where you put things so that when you need them you don't have to be guessing for half and hour. And yes, I'm talking about 'dem keys.
Is More More or Less?
Style is the way we do things. It's the way we live. Everyone has their signature style. When it comes to the style of your home, it is absolutely important that you put your mark on it. If you love lots of color and texture and mixed prints, then don't force yourself into getting sterile clear bins. Get pink ones! Fluffy ones. It can be whatever you want. If you have a more minimal style, and you like uncluttered table tops and all white everything, then do you! Drawers will be your best friend. Make use of desks or other cabinets that have drawers where you can neatly tuck away everything and keep your surfaces bare.
And finally, Why Are You Organizing Anyway?
Are you Spring cleaning because someone told you to? Maybe it is an annual habit you have. Or perhaps you heard some tips in a podcast and you feel like it is your April duty. Let me tell you, if your organization system is already working well for you, don't feel pressured to make any big changes.
Chances are that if you always replace what you use, and put things back in their designated spot, you probably don't need to change much at all. There might be small things that can use some updating or reconsidering. Perhaps you have some clothes or old toys that can go to charity. Other than changing out those heavy winter coats and replacing them with lighter Spring jackets, consider what you really need. It's your home, and your rules. Once you're happy and comfortable then you're set.
About the Creator
A Trinidadian writer based in Brooklyn, writing about what it's like to exist between the Caribbean and USA, in the form of essays, articles and fictional short stories.
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