December 22nd, 2017

Organizing takes time

I’m puzzled by the number of things-to-do on my things-to-do list. Many of the tasks are large (“re-do blog template”; “plan vacation”; “write book”) and some seem smaller but end up taking a lot of time anyway (“get present for X”; “do laundry”; “buy a tenkeyless keyboard”—and no, I’m not a gamer, but that sort of keyboard is most comfortable for me).

And there are many, many more things on that list. One of them—“get new fridge”—I’ve taken care of. But like many such tasks, that turns out to not be the end of it. The fridge continues to be great, and it’s much fuller now—

—and I still like it, although every now and then it makes the odd groaning noise that I’m informed is normal, and I’m still getting used to its stylish-but-annoying lack of a handle. However, the acquisition of this wonderful fridge has led to the need to organize the innards of that fridge better, which yesterday led to a trip to Target to get some innards-organizing stuff (you can see the lovely carousel on that top shelf, for example, one of yesterday’s purchases).

This all takes not only money and time, but thought. You may laugh at that—how much thought can it possibly take? But organization of my spatial surroundings doesn’t come naturally to me, although I crave it. I tend to let things accumulate for years, ignoring the clutter which isn’t on a hoarder scale but still is more than I like to see. I’ve got a small place, and my closets and cupboards are brimful of stuff that I put in there long ago and no longer need. I have no idea what at least half of it is—it’s been in there and up there so long, untouched, that I’ve forgotten.

I’m on an organizing kick now. It’s taking far longer than I thought it would, although I’ve been hard at work. But I get up on a stepstool and pick up an object and then stand there, pondering. Do I really need this? That takes a while. Then, if I think I still might want to have it around, where best to put it? That takes a lot longer, and often involves going through a whole other bunch of stuff in another cupboard, in an organizing chain-reaction.

The upshot is that it’s taking more time to do this than I ever thought it would, my place is a mess at the moment and has been for a week or two, and yet my cupboards and closets are looking a lot better. And all this despite the fact that I haven’t even touched the stuff—mostly photos and scrapbooks and paper—I brought to my place when my mother died five years ago. I did some preliminary weeding and filing back then, and after that I just shoved the remnant into a few boxes where they still sit in an obscure and difficult-to-see corner.

I’m in awe of people who are always organized and whose homes are always clean. How do you do it, folks? And yes, I’ve read how-to-declutter books. But clutter isn’t really my problem; I don’t have so much stuff, I just have a small space and not that much storage.

38 Responses to “Organizing takes time”

  1. Gary D. G. Says:

    “I’m in awe of people who are always organized and whose homes are always clean.”
    I think that’s called OCD

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Gary D. G.:

    Yes, but…there are two basic forms OCD can take. Very neat or very messy. Compulsively neat people often have OCD, but certainly not always. Very messy hoarders almost always have OCD.

  3. parker Says:

    We walk the middle road. We each have a space for our sprawl, and the rest of the house is well ordered. The frig is another matter. Wife is the frig commander, I dare not follow her rules.

  4. steve walsh Says:

    “I’m in awe of people who are always organized and whose homes are always clean. How do you do it, folks?”

    Making sure it doesn’t become disorganized and cluttered in the first place. My sainted mother’s motto was: a place for everything and everything in its place. Take the time to put things away when you are done with them. The effort to do so is small and minor. You really aren’t in that big of a rush to do something else that you can’t take less than a minute to put the thing away. No clutter, no disorganization, no need to spend hours cleaning and organizing.

    Or it could just be as Gary D. G. says: OCD.

  5. David Aitken Says:

    A friend of mine got me started on cleaning up my office at home. I wound up shredding about 8 13-gal bags of paper. Clothes are next. Ask yourself: what would the executor of your will do with this?

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    David Aitken:

    I think what the executor of my will would do is irrelevant, although I understand your point. But what I need to do is what I would like to do with it—whether I might need it or want it, whether it’s worth it to me to have it take up space. My executor would probably have no interest in at least 98% of the things I have—maybe even more. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving all those things away to live in a yurt, squat on the floor, and cook over a fire with one pot.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    steve walsh:

    I’m not sure you understand what I’m saying. Things are not usually strewn all over the place where I live, although there’s always a small pile of papers. But the thing is that I no longer have enough space to store things properly that are already in storage. The closets and cupboards are jammed and it’s hard to find things. The reason so many things are out right now is that I’m re-organizing, and it’s taking time to figure out what I’m going to do with things. First step is to empty things out, though, and create the space.

  8. Richard Says:

    Good luck!
    I’m always re-organizing and never get it done. I forget to do things, but even worse i sometimes forget to do things while I’m doing them.
    Need a new fridge for a narrow space…..can you post the make?
    Merry Christmas!
    Richard

  9. AesopFan Says:

    steve walsh Says:
    December 22nd, 2017 at 5:38 pm
    “I’m in awe of people who are always organized and whose homes are always clean. How do you do it, folks?”

    Making sure it doesn’t become disorganized and cluttered in the first place. My sainted mother’s motto was: a place for everything and everything in its place.
    * *
    I understand and approve that motto, but never found it entirely compatible with actual living, due to the number of items and moving parts, as described below; I substituted the more attainable, though also less complete maxim: at least, don’t put something where it doesn’t belong.
    In other words, don’t put the fishing tackle in the coat closet, or the extra dishes in the kids’ room, etc.

    We had 5 kids, lots of hobbies and church callings (synonymous for the most part), and a house & yard to care for.
    I read just about every home-organizing book on the market, most of which had a few useful tips but were 90% useless (my favorite, though, was “start by shooting the husband”).
    However, what I have found is that the “things that have a place to which they can return” is not really the core of the problem.
    It is the (a) things which could, logically, be in either of 2 (or more) places — no one ever knew to which they should be returned; and (b) things which came in and had no “natural” place in the existing organization, requiring either a new “home” to be carved out of the crowded domicile, or were simply dropped in the “pending pile” until the final disposition was determined.

    Paper is the worst because it follows a somewhat normal distribution (the famous bell-curve) where (a) the tail on one end = things that you have to keep and can therefore file in a permanent location; (b) the tail on the other end = things that you know right now that you don’t need and won’t ever need (political ads and begging letters go straight to the trash); and (c) the huge central hump of the curve = things that you need to do something with sometime fairly soon and can discard afterwards, but not until then.
    Keeping that pile straight is a nightmare, and I still haven’t developed the BEST plan, but am reasonably happy with my current fairly workable solution, although it involved buying and finding space for 7 rolling 10-drawer craft-storage cabinets.

  10. AesopFan Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    December 22nd, 2017 at 6:20 pm
    …My executor would probably have no interest in at least 98% of the things I have—maybe even more. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving all those things away to live in a yurt, squat on the floor, and cook over a fire with one pot.
    * *
    Hear, hear.
    On my good days, I promise to take care of it myself so my kids won’t have to.
    When I’m feeling less charitable, I threaten them with having to clean out everything when I die.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    AesopFan:

    And that in-between pile gets renewed on an almost-daily basis, through the mail, for example.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard:

    This is the fridge. I got it for 10% less than that, but it’s also available at some other stores. It’s worth it so far, though. Very efficient use of space—surprisingly so.

  13. steve walsh Says:

    Neo, I see now, you have an accumulation of stuff problem. There are just two solutions: purge “excess” stuff or move to a larger space. In my experience the former is more difficult.

  14. Cornflour Says:

    Keeping things, neat, uncluttered, and organized is a lot of work, and it never ends. I got tired of it, and turned to a technological solution: the VR (virtual reality) headset
    (https://tinyurl.com/y9fpgx6w).

    When I feel the urge to re-organize, I put on the VR. Instead of playing games, I go to a clear, clean, organized place. It looks a lot like a small library. After a little while, I calm down, take off the headset, and go back to my messy life. I will absolutely never show anybody a picture of my refrigerator’s insides.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Cornflour:

    That’s funny.

    And I’m showing photos of my fridge’s insides now, before it starts degenerating to its more usual state. Then again, with my spiffy new more-efficient fridge, and my spanking new carousel and other marvels, maybe it will always stay organized.

    A person can dream, right?

  16. Griffin Says:

    But where’s all the mustard? Has it been alphabetically organized on the door?

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Griffin:

    On the door. Not alphabetically.

    I try to strike a happy medium.

  18. Griffin Says:

    Well, any true organizational obsessive knows things must be organized alphabetically or by size so you aren’t too far gone, yet!

  19. AesopFan Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    December 22nd, 2017 at 7:35 pm
    AesopFan:

    And that in-between pile gets renewed on an almost-daily basis, through the mail, for example.
    * * *
    Yep.
    Sometimes I wish the government shut-downs would include the Post Office.
    Sigh.

  20. AesopFan Says:

    Griffin Says:
    December 22nd, 2017 at 9:54 pm
    Well, any true organizational obsessive knows things must be organized alphabetically or by size so you aren’t too far gone, yet!
    * * *
    I’ve seen designer magazines which recommend organizing books by size, and even color, so that the shelves look nice — but that’s clearly for people who use books as an accessory, not a necessity.
    I gave up alphabetizing our books when we hit 4000 – now they all have spine labels with Library of Congress numbers.
    Am I officially OCD?

  21. Tom Says:

    Potemkin villages. That’s how they do it.

  22. The Other Chuck Says:

    Thank you so much Neo for letting me know that I have a bonafide affliction, that all the clutter and hoarding means OCD. Now when relatives and friends tell me I’m a slob, I can claim genuine victim status. You made my day!

  23. Donna B. Says:

    Steve Walsh “There are just two solutions: purge “excess” stuff or move to a larger space.”

    The larger space doesn’t necessarily work without the purging. I recently moved from 1600 sq ft to 2200. In addition to that sq footage, I’ve now got a 3 car garage instead of a 1 car garage.

    The arrangement of rooms and closets in the new space is not as convenient as in the old. As in, what used to fit in one room now takes two. Lots of wasted sq footage in entry hall (yeah, it looks nice…) and huge bathrooms which are not more useful.

    And the garage — wow, so much space! But much of what I want to keep is temperature and humidity sensitive, so the garage isn’t that useful for storage of photographs, for example.

    Purging is still the best solution. Part of my problem is that in addition to being recently widowed, I’ve inherited furniture and other items from 5 deceased relatives in the last 7 years. And at least one other relative has asked me to “keep” things for her until she may or may not claim them.

    The garage space is the keeper of my sanity right now. The weather is not conducive to sitting on my patio or front porch, but the garage is more protected. I can spread out there with a couple of folding tables and sort out what needs to go and what can stay. And there’s enough empty space that I don’t feel crowded. I can relax there.

    I’m old enough that change doesn’t come easily, but I’m trying. I’m also trying not to complain because I know I’ve got it really good. But… there’s always something.

  24. Sharon W Says:

    About 12 years ago I made a commitment to only have what I can store in my cabinets/closets in such a way that I don’t need to take things out to get to what I want. I live in a home that was built in 1957, originally 1400 sq. ft. to which we added about 200 sq. ft. (in the kitchen) as well as a room and bath above the detached garage. I love dinnerware/glassware so I have 4 different sets of service and serveware as well as a lot of linens. About 10 years ago I had California Closets come out and design my hall closet and office closet. My husband recommended a portion of the hall closet include a pole for hanging tablecloths and there are 3 large drawers and upper and side shelves (that can be adjusted according to changing needs). Cupboard space is essential and I have quite a bit especially relative to the size of my home. Now photos–that’s another story. I have 10 large boxes stored under the pool table and bed upstairs. I bought everything I need to organize them, but surprisingly I found I didn’t enjoy the task–so procrastination–for years now.

  25. Yann Says:

    Well, I’ve dealt with ADHD for years, so I’ve read quite a bit about decluttering. After trying different systems, I developed my own that works quite well and it’s very very easy to maintain.

    It’s quite simple:

    1 Pick some plastic bags from the supermarket, the ones used to store food in the freezer. Size matters: too big, and it becomes messy, too small, and it’s useless.

    2 Pick some self adhesive white mailing stickers.

    3 Decide what’s the use for each bag and write it in the sticker. And then stick it to the top right of the bag. For example, I have bags named “xmas lights”, “stationery”, “batteries”, “usb2 to usb3 cables”, “candles”, and so on and so forth.

    4 And then put the bags inside boxes. This way, you can pick the box and you can go through the bags quickly until you find the one with the right label. It takes half a minute to find or to store anything.

    Additionally, I have an excel file showing the location of each bag. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have ADHD, though 🙂

  26. Philu Says:

    Our problem is my wife hasn’t accepted that downsizing means getting rid of stuff. Especially if it’s still good, even though we have no use for it.

  27. MnJack Says:

    NEO…
    Since your new fridge is stainless steel and probably non-magnetic, what do you do with all the refrigerator magnets?
    And… why is there a ‘d’ in fridge and not in refrigerator?

  28. stu Says:

    You could teach my wife a lesson or two. I do think your refrigerator is a reflection of one’s mind. Yours is very orderly.

  29. vanderleun Says:

    Once more I note that your refrigerator contains only the food that my food eats.

  30. Emmett Fitz-Hume Says:

    Not sure if you’ve ever heard of her but after years of trying to organize a house (the Ball and Chain, myself, a son and a daughter and a dachshund) I finally found a book by a woman named Marie Kondo.

    Look her up. She wasn’t so much about organizing as about learning to let go and get rid of the things you don’t need anymore.

  31. neo-neocon Says:

    MnJack:

    Some of the magnets are now on the side of the fridge. But only a few. I had too many before, but it was okay because I wanted to cover up my refrigerator. Now I want to keep it more pristine. 90% of what I had up there with the magnets wasn’t necessary.

    We’ll see how long this lasts.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    Sharon W:

    But I envy you your storage space. I don’t have anything even remotely like that space.

    Of course, in the past, I learned that things tend to expand to fill the space available. That’s when I was married, though, and my husband was very much a pack rat.

  33. AesopFan Says:

    Donna B. Says:
    December 23rd, 2017 at 3:32 am
    Steve Walsh “There are just two solutions: purge “excess” stuff or move to a larger space.”
    ..
    The garage space is the keeper of my sanity right now. The weather is not conducive to sitting on my patio or front porch, but the garage is more protected. I can spread out there with a couple of folding tables and sort out what needs to go and what can stay. And there’s enough empty space that I don’t feel crowded. I can relax there.

    * * *
    Collecting is easy, because most everything arrives at your house for a purpose (good, bad, or indifferent) and doesn’t really require any expenditure of brain power other than “will this do the job?” — whether immediately or in the future — and the rest just appears because there are holes in the fabric of time and space.
    Purging is hard, because you actually have to think about: Do I still need it? Do I still want it? Will someone else I value need/want it enough to store it for them?
    We now have four out-buildings storing the stuff that doesn’t belong inside the house or is specialized (tools, camping).

    My widowed mother had a 2-car garage (they moved to a BIG house after all us kids left home). After disposing of most of my father’s tools and hobby items, and with only one car, she kept a couple of large tables up on one side and ran the oldest floating garage-sale in town.

    She would drag things out of closets and cubby-holes, add things other family members or friends were tired of, and price them. When the tables were full and the weather was nice, she just opened the doors and put up her signs.

    She never made much, but enjoyed the socializing.

  34. AesopFan Says:

    Sharon W Says:
    December 23rd, 2017 at 5:48 am
    About 12 years ago I made a commitment to only have what I can store in my cabinets/closets in such a way that I don’t need to take things out to get to what I want.
    * *
    I’ve added your post to my “renovation” file.

  35. AesopFan Says:

    Yann Says:
    December 23rd, 2017 at 7:01 am.
    ..

    Additionally, I have an excel file showing the location of each bag. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have ADHD, though
    * * *
    Twins separated at birth!
    Except my files are always out of date, and I forget where I stashed the folder and start new ones.
    But other than that, the system works really well.
    For me, it’s mostly that the kinetic act of sorting and labeling helps me remember where things are.
    That, and not storing dissimilar items together; zoning is the only thing that saves me sometimes.

  36. AesopFan Says:

    Emmett Fitz-Hume Says:
    December 23rd, 2017 at 11:57 am…I finally found a book by a woman named Marie Kondo.

    Look her up. She wasn’t so much about organizing as about learning to let go and get rid of the things you don’t need anymore.
    * *
    Kondo had some good ideas, but her view of “don’t need” did not mesh with mine. I’m way too paranoid to throw out all the financial papers she blithely discards, and BTW — she has no spouse, kids, grandkids, or church activities that come with tangible assets, and is ruthless about heirlooms and keepsakes.

  37. Sarah Rolph Says:

    Refrigerators drive me crazy, I am always looking for things that I know are in there somewhere (where the heck is the soy sauce?), and I am always finding things I forgot about after they have spoiled.

    I finally started making a list, adding as I go. (Leftovers are the worst for hiding, although I have managed to lose whole loaves of bread…)

    What works the best is to make it a visual map. I draw a rough approximation of the shelves with simple drawings of a few things that stay in the same place, like eggs and milk, then when I add, say, a round container of soup, I draw a circle on the map, on that shelf, and write Soup on it.

    That works for a while, both as a reminder of what’s in there (did I save that half cup of mashed potatoes?) and for finding things.

  38. Eve M. Says:

    For the fridge and for kitchen pantries too, I think in terms of “workflows”. For the tea-making workflow, or for making typical dish X or Y, what are the sorts of items I need to grab and in what order? Sometimes the results end up being counterintuitive. For the drink-getting workflow, I realized that in many cases there are a few of many different kinds of cups and glasses, so I mostly stack them in the cabinet “deep” instead of “wide” for easiest grabbing and putting away. And I ruthlessly got rid of extras we really don’t need (so I mostly only kept one “column’s” worth).

    Also, there’s a recipe and food shopping app called Paprika that has a Pantry feature so you can keep track of stuff you already have and not re-buy it — though I’m not good at keeping it up to date.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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