Your Organization Questions Answered: Part 1 (Systems, Labels, and Kid's Artwork)
People ask me questions all the time.
All. The. Time.
As soon as someone figures out what I do for a living, one of two things happen. Either the questions start rapid fire or they slowly back away, first murmuring and then shouting words that sound a whole lot like “She can never come to my house. NEVER COME TO MY HOUSE.”
Now, those questions I get asked? Sometimes they’re just straight up curiosity about the things I have seen, and OH SWEET MOTHER, you should see some of the things I’ve seen. I have seen some STUFF, lemme tell you. Rarely, if ever, do I run screaming and crying in the opposite direction though. Okay, that’s a lie. I actually never run screaming and crying in the opposite direction as long as someone is open for a little bit of help.
If you’re sitting there shaking your head thinking “This chick hasn’t been to my house yet!” Lemme tell you a little secret. There’s always going to be someone who’s in better shape than you are, and there’s always gonna be someone who’s in worse shape than you are. And let’s get this straight right up front- There is no shame in my organizing game.
Those other types of questions people ask me? The ones inquired with a hint of long repressed hope overshadowed by years of despair? I love those questions! And as a matter of fact, here are a few of my favorites!
FAQ #1: Why should I even try to get organized? I mean, it’s not like it’s gonna stay that way.
You know what? You’re exactly right. It’s NOT gonna stay organized. It IS gonna get messy. IT’S SUPPOSED TO GET MESSY. Y’all, life IS messy. We can try to deny it all we want, but that doesn’t make it any less true. See, you’ve been going about this ‘getting organized’ thing all wrong. The goal isn’t to never have a mess. The goal is to be able to clean up your mess within a reasonable amount of time. Like fifteen minutes instead of three days.
The key to making this work? Any system you put in place in your space HAS to work when you’re lazy. (Or tired. Or sick. You get the picture, right?) Because if it doesn’t work when you’re lazy, then it flat out doesn’t work. This means that any system you put into place works even when- ESPECIALLY WHEN- you expend the bare minimum amount of energy to maintain it.
Let’s talk about paperwork for a second. Good ole’ paperwork. Here’s how it works in my house.
ANY paperwork that comes into my home goes into the mail bin. (The mail bin is just a cute, appropriately sized container that lives on my bistro table.) It doesn’t end up on the counter or on the floorboard of my car. It doesn’t find its way to the bottom of the closet or, even worse, the bottom of my purse. Paperwork goes from my hand into the mail bin. Does it matter if I throw it in there from across the room? Heck no! If it ends up in the bin, then I’ve been successful!
Once a week, I go through the mail bin. This means I weed out the crap I don’t need from the stuff I do while I watch TV.
Everything that is kept falls into one of three categories- To Do, To Pay, and To File- and goes into designated (i.e. labeled) paper trays on my desk.
I try to take care of the To Do and To Pay stuff in a timely matter but the To File tray? I only file once the tray is full.
Super easy system that sets me up for success with not much effort required. If I’m feeling super industrious one evening, maybe I’ll go ahead and deal with something right then and there, but if I’m feeling like a slacker? There’s a system in place, so I don’t have to feel bad about myself!
Just a little side note? As I sit here and type, my wonderfully mischievous kitten is pulling every single thing out of my paper trays. Business cards, receipts, lists--they’re all flying around like crazy. See? Life is messy. Gotta be able to clean up fast.
FAQ #2: What’s the big deal about labels? You talk about them like they’re magical.
Um, that’s because labels ARE magical. There’s a fine line between a system that actually works and a system that folds faster than a shirt on a Flip-n-Fold. And that line, my friends, is a label.
A label takes away any guesswork, any room for error, as to where something belongs. Sure, you can peek inside your bin or basket and see what should go in there, but let’s face it, you’re not gonna take the time to do that when you’re in a hurry or when you’re lazy or when all you wanna do is run away and hide. You’re also not going want to look through ten bins when all you wanna find is that stupid Lego man, so your kid will stop screaming. If your bins are labeled, right to the Legos you go.
Absolute truth time.
In my experience, any bin/basket/box/tray that isn’t labeled just becomes a junky home to a whole mess of crap. Instead of using a container to help calm the chaos, all you did was disguise it and make it even more difficult to find what you’re looking for.
Labels should be cute. Yup, I said it. They. Should. Be. Cute. That means have some fun with them! Make them match your décor. Add pictures to them if you have non-readers in your house. Laminate those bad boys, so they withstand the zombie apocalypse. Go beyond the label maker! (Side note: I hate label makers. Whew, that feels good to get off my chest!)
Labels make it unfailingly clear to ANYONE and EVERYONE in your home where an item can be found and where it should be returned. This will help teach your kids and other family members to clean up more effectively as well as take the burden off of you as the recipient of some of the most hated words on the planet- “I CAN’T FIND IT! FIND IT FOR ME!”
FAQ # 3: My house is overrun with my kids’ artwork, school papers, weird statue-like objects… How do I keep from drowning?
Okay, I’ve gotta admit something. I giggle every time someone asks me this. The giggle is partly because if I had a dollar for every time I heard this question, I’d be One RICH Organized Girl and partly because I can feel the desperation radiating from the body.
Let me tell you what my mom did for my brother and sister and me. It was sheer genius. Each one of us had a box. Anything she wanted to keep for us went into that box. When each one of us moved into our first home, she gave us our box and said, “Don’t tell me if you throw anything away.”
I told you it was genius. And here’s how you apply the same concept to your own situation.
Anytime your kid brings something home or creates something that you can’t bring yourself to part with, here’s what you do.
- Write the date on the back of it.
- Put it in your mail bin.
- When you clean out your mail bin, put it in your To File paper tray.
- When your To File paper tray gets full, file it in his or her ‘box.’ This can be a plastic bin or a cardboard bankers box.
- When the box gets full, go through it and see what’s actually special enough to store for the next twenty years or so.
You’ll probably have three categories of stuff:
- What The Crap Was I Thinking Saving This? It’s a Piece of Macaroni Stuck to a Sheet of Paper with a Booger!
- Awww! This Is Really Sweet!
- It’s a Keeper. No Questions Asked!
Now, what do you do?
Toss the items in the first category. You know you’re gonna have to smuggle it out in a black trash bag, so just be prepared.
Those “Awww! This Is Really Sweet!” items? Take a picture of ‘em. There are several websites/apps that you can use to store the photos and even print out photo books. ArtKive, one that I suggest often, actually has a service where you can just send them everything and they’ll even take care of photographing it!
Put the items in the third category back in the box. They’ve made it until the next round!
The good news is that the older your kids get, the less stuff they’ll bring home like this, so you won’t have to wade through it forever. The bad news? You can’t keep twenty boxes of stuff for each kid. You just...you just can’t! I’d shoot for one, MAYBE two boxes. You want the stuff you keep for them to really have meaning because if you keep too much, it’ll overwhelm them, and they’re not going to care about any of it.
Well, there you have it! Three of my favorite questions I get asked on the regular!
I’d love to know what questions you’ve got on your mind! Ask ‘em right down there in the comments!
(Not sure where to start? Here's the SECRET to organizing when you don't know where to start?
Also, don't forget to grab your free printable for sorting categories below.