Thursday, November 10, 2005

organize away!

Ok, so when I said I had a problem with spilling, I failed to admit that I have more than just the one problem. I also have major organizational problems (among other things). Recently, the organizational situation has gotten worse.

For the past year, I've chosen to believe that my organizational dilemmas stem from major changes in my (and Josh's) lives, such as moving to Boston, living out of a suitcase for 4 months until we closed on our house, purchasing a new home, changing jobs, Josh quitting his job and starting school, increased workload, and a myriad of insignificant changes that add up over time.

I have hit a few low spots of feeling totally and utterly overwhelmed, particularly when Josh left for Costa Rica. It seems to be the little things that set me off, like a messy closet or a pile of bills. I used to be fine with massive amounts of disorganization, but that was when I was studying, and somehow, school seemed so much more manageable than work.

As I've realized what makes me feel better, I've tackled the little things before they upset me. For months the linen closet made me crazy. I was in it several times a day, pulling out towels or sheets or Advil or tampons. Each and every time, I'd cringe at the mess. Every time Josh needed something I'd have to come upstairs with him to hunt through the baskets because nothing was orderly or made sense. I finally took one evening and dumped everything out on our bed, catalogued it, and took a trip to the Container Store. Geez, I love that place. Walking in gets me excited these days. This is what resulted:

Oh, the pure unadulterated joy when I open the linen closet now... the satisfaction I feel when I can yell up to Josh precisely what (labeled) box he should look in to find his desired item. I'm telling you, I'm euphoric. My disorganized ways are over. I am a believer.

But, the problem is that the linen closet was an enclosed place. I had all the items right there in front of me. I knew I had hair products and over the counter medicines, and contact solution and deodorant- I just needed the boxes and the labels.

What about the rest of my house? I am at a loss! We have a few problems areas that need desperate attention, and I am in desperate need of suggestions.

1. Our entryway- we have a tiny entryway where we throw our shoes into a little ugly plastic tray and (hopefully) put our coat and gloves and scarves into the closet. Is there another solution? In a snowy climate, is there any way to not have to stick your wet shoes into your closet but not have them hanging out in the entryway? For a while, we put our wet shoes into the basement, but they ended up rotting and moldy. No more of that. Ick.

2. Our mail, especially the bills- our office is just across the living room, but somehow the mail ends up scattered on the floor, or on the dining room table, or in one basket that sits in the living room, and hence, bills are unpaid, rsvp cards are unanswered, junk mail piles up. Does anyone have a solution that works?

3. Food storage- does everyone have enough room for their food in their kitchen? We don't have a pantry so we end up with food overflowing onto the counters or I try to devise storage solutions where there are none. Right now we have food in the garage, but someday the spiders are going to notice it's there and then BLECH.

4. Random items- our bedrooms are upstairs but the living areas are downstairs, and inevitably we have books, clothing, etc. in the living room and dining room. How do you get everything upstairs?

5. And most importantly, what about the division of labor? I feel it is unfair for me to have to do all the grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking (although rare), organizing while I also work a full-time (and a half) job. What does everyone else do? Should I make lists for Josh? I've tried that, but I never know what to put on the list! I need some kind of system of weekly tasks. Do you have suggestions?

I'd even take suggestions for books or magazines or websites that are helpful to you. Anything would be welcome!


labibliovore said...

Hi, Halloweenlover! I've been lurking on your blog for a while - (I think your dogs are so adorable) - I think I might have some advice for your mail problem. I find it is a lot easier to deal with if it never becomes a gigantic, terrifying pile so I separate it into three piles as soon as I take it out of the mailbox (while I'm still standing outside my front door). Pile one is things that can be shredded immediately (the dozens of credit card offers we get every week); pile two is things that can be recycled immediately (any junk mail that doesn't have our names on it) and pile three (bills and personal letters). Then, as soon as I walk in the house, I take the three piles to their separate places in the house: the identity-theft-waiting-to-happen junk mail to a little basket near the shredder in my study (I wait till I have a big pile and then shred it all while watching television); the corner of the laundry room for the recycling; and my desk for the bills/correspondence. It's really simple but effective - it's actually taking a lot more time to write out than it is to actually do it! I hope this helps. I think that your linen closet is lovely and I am now lusting after clear plastic orginization boxes.

ccw said...

Love the linen closet. Our linen closet is really big and that was great when we bought the house, but now it has turned in to a deposit site for everything. I need to copy you and get some tubs and labels.

We have food in our garage, too. So far no spider problems, but raccoons did manage to get in and eat everything a couple of times.

Mail at our house goes: recycle stuff, burn/shred pile, magazines on the ottoman tray, and bills in a basket near my desk.

As for the division of labor, you and Josh should talk about it b/c it isn't fair for you to do it all or the majority; especially since it obviously isn't giving you joy. I think if you tell him he has to do x,y, and z he might be put off, so I would talk to him and work out a schedule that suits you both.

Gawdessness said...

That closet is a thing of beauty1
Yay you and anyone who can do that to a closet can do that to the rest of their house, only slowly and one bit at a time.

I have the wooden/ plastic stackable shoe racks and I try and put them right over a heating vent. Nice toasty footwear to put on and no mould in sight.

The tv show clean sweep has a book out. I liked the show, what I saw of it and I am interested in seeing the book. said...

It's funny that you posted this today because just this morning a little avalanche of toiletries fell out of my disorganized bathroom cupboard for about the 1,000th time as I was searching for Q-tips, and I vowed to organize it this weekend. Now I am definitely inspired after seeing your tidy linen closet!

The only thing that I have truly organized at my house is papers. Like other commenters, I have made a habit of sorting my mail every single day as soon as I take it out of the mailbox, and I make 5 piles: things to shred, things to recycle, magazines and catalogs, bills that need to be paid, and social invitations that need a reply. Then I immediately shred or toss in the recycling bin or the magazine basket as appropriate. I have a special basket designated for bills to be paid and another one for social invitations or correspondence that requires a reply. I keep the shredder, the baskets, and filing cabinets in a spare bedroom with a desk.

I also have a filing system for bank statements, pay stubs, paid bill stubs, etc. I keep them for a year in labeled folders in a filing cabinet and as I file the most recent month's paper in the front of the folder, I take the least recent paper out of the back of the folder and shred it. That way, I always have one year's worth of records, but no more, and it's easy to find everything.

A good book for taming paper clutter is called "Taming the Paper Tiger." I can't remember the author's name.

Alas, although my papers are organized, my closets and cupboards are disaster areas that are crammed to overflowing with a plethora of random crap. I live in an old house with small closets and very little storage space, but that's no excuse. I really need to use organization to maximize the storage space that I do have, but so far that has fallen to the bottom of my "to do" list. I eagerly anticipate reading other commenter's suggestions.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Hah. Now that you've seen how I live, I've forfeited my right to give organizational tips. But I do love the container store.

If you and Josh aren't naturally settling into a division of labor that works for you, then you probably are going to have to sit down and talk about it. Ideally, you could shed the responsibility for the things that are most distasteful to you, or most incompatible with your schedule.

Frankie said...

The scribbler is right. You guys are going to have to talk about it and divvy up the chores.

I am terrible about organization too. My brief moments of clarity have helped me set up "places" for things. Like, an organizer for my bills/mail, a little key hook for my keys.

I read somewhere that a pretty basket at the edge of the stairs is a good place to dump stuff that is destined for upstairs.

blackbird said...

I could just smack you for that perfect linen closet.

May I make a suggestion for #3?
If you use what cabinet space you have for food (take the dishes out of the cabinets) you could put the dishes on open shelves...better to look at than the boxes of cereal.

halloweenlover said...

Oooh, these are all very good. See? Jill's filing system is precisely what I need. I guess I just have to sit down one day with Josh and decide what a filing system will be and then start doing it. The problem is that I get totally overwhelmed with the paper situation. Bills, mail, magazines, etc. Plus, we get SOOO many magazines, I hardly know what to do with them.

I think this weekend I will pick a spot to put mail and find some way to divide it up as you have suggested. And then TRY to do it when we first walk in the door. I have been getting home at midnight every night, so it is hard to motivate at that hour to sort mail. Ugh.

I am going to try and find "Taming the Paper Tiger" this weekend. I also ordered some organizational books from Amazon and hopefully they are helpful. I'll let all of you know.

As for the division of labor, I can't decide if it is Josh feeling overwhelmed with his first semester of school or just being lazy. I'll need to think about it more.

And as for the linen closet, it was sooo easy in the end! Our problem is that we have TONS OF STUFF (or really, I have tons of stuff). Josh counted once and I had 11 different deodorants. Different TYPES! Container Store, baby, they are my one true love.

Running2Ks said...

Of course, everyone has great ideas, but I follow 2 philosophies:

1. TPO (touch paper once)--when you have an item, put it in its home. Make piles until you know what the containerizing needs are.

2. Make sure things are kept around where they will be used. For example, if you handle bills, filing, and mail by the computer, put stuff there. But if you do it all in the kitchen, keep it there.

Around tax time, I pitch most of the paper I saved in a file box all year.

Certain times of the year, I attack certain closets.

I am the queen of plastic storage in the kitchen, and I post-it note on the containers when I bought them (or when they expire).

As for shoes, we keep a shoe tree by the door, and we kick them off there. Keeps the house so much more clean, and then I can just shove the shoe organizer over to clean under it.

Peggy said...

love your closet!!! for your entryway go to this blogsite:
and scroll down to catagories and find frugal tips. click on that and find august 30th post where she shows cheap tricks to decorating. she has a picture of what she did to her entryway and other parts of her home for storage. check on back in august and july for some great storage around the home ideals. she has some good pics to show her ideals. I used some of them and they work for me.

Girl said..., wow, wow...your closet just made me drool and get all warm and fuzzy inside.

Seriously...I make a travel binder for everytime we go anywhere...I have a binder of magazine clippings that are separated into categories like; beauty, fashion, meals, projects, health, etc.

It is a sickness...but I don't have sole control over the closets where I live since I have roomies...someday, though...someday.

A girl can dream, right?

Yankee T said...

Love your linen closet.
We have three baskets on the table in the entry way that hold:
1. catalogs/magazines that we WILL get to
2. bills to be pad
3. Things to be dealt with (soccer registration, drivers license renewal, etc)
Everything else? recycling bin or in the shredder container until I sit with the shredder.
Best of luck.

Piece of Work said...

Oh! How I covet your linen closet! And after reading these posts, I guess I better get myself a shredder.

Sorry I don't have any advice for you but truly you are better off without it!

Kristin said...

We're usually good about sorting mail, but lately it's been piling up. So many holiday catalogs!

Usually, we trash the junk mail right away. I put the bills next to my purse (I also have a spreadsheet where I keep track of when bills are due and whether I've paid them yet. I keep a budget of our expenses in the same spreadsheet). Where we have trouble is the magazines and catalogs. I had a subscription to Atlantic Monthly this year and hardly read any of them. They're all still lying around the house in one place or another.

Hmm, that wasn't very helpful, was it?

Christine said...

There's a great show on HGTV about storage in small spaces (I know THAT is not the title, but it's something like that). Anywho - I get some good ideas from them occasionally. There are five of us in our tiny little abode. I have to get creative!

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