November 12, 2008

The Balancing Act: Organization

Continuing my thoughts on balance...

The key to enjoying peace and simplicity in my home has been organization. I've had a love/hate relationship with organizing my home. I would start out with great plans and visions of grandeur. Being an all-or-nothing gal, I'd have an elaborate plan to get everything just so, only to find I couldn't keep up. So, I'd do the next best thing...and shut down. I justified my lack of organization by telling myself that I was doing the best that a woman with two jobs and a shift-working husband could do.

I was wrong, and God called my bluff.

Trying to find things, scrounging around for clean clothes to wear, and never having enough storage were wearing me down. I realized the need for change, and started reading books about simplifying. I got good ideas from several sources, and started to implement them. Some worked and some didn't. I finally determined to organize my home in a way that made sense for my family. These are a few of my favorite ideas. Maybe one will work for you, or lead you to finding something that will work for your family.

Plasticware - My containers threatened to overtake my largest cabinet. Putting the left-overs away was such a chore, because it took 5 minutes to find the matching lid. I pulled everything out and immediately threw away bowls with no lids (and vice versa). I looked at what was left, and kept ONE container of each size and shape for food storage. (I do have quite a few mini-bowls, because they work well for packing condiments, applesauce, etc. for lunch.) I put everything I kept in 2 inexpensive baskets on a shelf. One basket holds containers for leftovers, and the other holds the pieces we use to pack meals for school & work. Finding a container & matching lid takes 10 seconds. I don't spend much time stacking them either...the baskets do a great job of keeping everything in one place & hiding the mess!

Honestly, at first I worried that I would miss all those extra containers, but I haven't. In fact, I find we throw fewer leftovers away. When I had so many containers, it was easy to just store everything in the fridge. Some things would get shoved to the back, forgotten. Now, I realize when my available containers are getting low.

Paperwork - my primary nemesis! I tried organizing bills very specifically. It didn't work for me. I found a solution that I blogged about here. I don't keep up with it as much as I should...but even three months of filing only takes me an hour using this system.

Laundry - I could devote an entire post to how I tamed the laundry beast. In fact, I will later in this series. For now, I will just say that it started with a clothing purge. Getting rid of extra clothes has made it easier to keep up with the laundry, find the things I really love to wear, and store what we have.

Calendar - I cannot function without a calendar. I've tried several different things (but nothing as detailed as Joanne's!) before finding what works for my family. It's similar to what Joanne & Lisa use. I use the Palm program on my computer for our calendar (including R's work schedule), my "to do" list, and our menus. I print it out & put it on the side of our fridge, so we can check it throughout the week. There's always enough space to write in anything that pops up. We're color-coded on the computer & the Palm, but the colors don't show on the printout. I use different highlighters for each of us.

I like my Palm because I can set alarms for my tasks, which is great when I forget to check the calendar. The only tasks I put into the Palm are big things, like deadlines & due dates. For the day-to-day errands, I still use index cards. I don't have the time or energy to put every single thing into my Palm. Besides, I still like to check things off.

Finally, I can't say enough how important it is to establish a place for everything. Be sure everyone understands where items should be stored. I've saved a lot of time (and earned a lot of brownie points!) by being able to find things quickly and easily.

The bottom line is that the organization of your home should be practical for your family. Don't feel intimated by someone else's meticulous method! Consider your personality, as well as your family's. Be realistic. It may take a while to find what works, but don't give up. I promise you, it's worth the effort.

*Next up: making the most of your comfort zone


His Girl said...

aaaah! this looks like just the post i am going to want to read... as soon as i get back from this next trip.

bookmarking it and coming back for sure!

Joanne : The Simple Wife said...

Preach it, sister!

Yes, yes, yes! and Amen! to doing what works for your family. I think so often what we try doesn't work because it's tailored to someone else's family.

It's always helpful to see what works for others, but then to tailor it to your real life.

Have a great day, friend,


secondofwett said...

Good Heavens! I think I could have written your post...sounds just what I've been going through...looking forward to reading about the comfort zone!

Leah said...

Great ideas, Melissa! I'm so proud of you for being obedient to the Lord in this area. Tackling the projects you have really gives me hope. Keep it up!

~ Leah

Jill said...

This was wonderful to read. I always like reading tips and tricks from others. Those darn plastic containers were taking over my cabinets, too, and I basically did the same as you. I've also got sippy cups with all their parts to contend with and they have their own tub in a different cabinet. For some reason my husband thinks that's also the place his travel mugs belong, which causes some fumbling and grumbling on a certain someone's part. ha!

Heather C said...

We sure could use some organization around here as well. We do purge once a year, one year even renting a dumpster and parking it in the drive! It hasn't needed to be quite that drastic since then, but still... there's always more to go. I'm proud of you and looking forward to reading more of your journey to simplify. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Kim@Seasons of My Heart said...

Ah...a post after mine own heart!!! I'm a huge ORGANIZER.....and you shared some GREAT...GREAT..thoughts.

Praying sweet blessing on you and your home friend.

Lisa Spence said...

What? No post-it notes? :-)