Organizing Makes Life Better
by Dianne Barker
A minor disaster can be a good thing.
I opened the door to our downstairs den and detected a musty odor. Note to self: find the source.
My office occupies a corner of the den, and the day’s agenda immediately distracted me. Investigating the musty issue didn’t cross my mind until a few hours later.
Why, yes! Opening a closet door, I discovered a water-heater hose spewing like a water pistol. During the hours before I’d detected a problem and the hours I’d ignored it, the spewing hose had drenched the carpet and created puddles atop half a dozen large plastic storage tubs containing paperwork related to my writing.
A phone call to hubby at work gave me info I should have had earlier—how to turn off the water supply and stop the spewing.
Next step: sop up all the puddles and carry the tubs to a safe place. Thankfully, no water had reached the contents. James arrived soon and made the repair quickly, but I’m still cleaning up the aftermath. Did I mention this happened a few days before Christmas? Not a convenient time to begin a massive reorganization adventure.
But I’m viewing my little disaster as a good thing. It motivated me to tackle a project I’d been procrastinating—sorting and discarding worthless paperwork. The water heater made the decision, forcing me to address the mess.
I began skimming the files, saving only what’s still valuable and making sure labels are updated and easy to read. Some of the storage tubs are back in the closet and others are stacked, waiting for my attention.
Don’t wait for a minor disaster to trigger your motivation. Now’s a good time to plunge in and conquer the clutter. The first thing needed is a desire to make life better. Getting rid of stuff is freeing. Organizing what’s left is empowering.
Clutter spreads like an infection through the entire house. Over the years, I became so accustomed to clutter that I didn’t notice it until unexpected guests rang the doorbell.
Tired of living in chaos, I decided to launch a whole-life makeover, organizing my space, my time, my family life, and myself. I even wrote a book about organizing for the maximum life. The water-heater incident led me to a familiar place—dealing with stuff.
To conquer clutter, we only have three choices.
Let’s discuss those in reverse order.
Discard. Seriously…what are you going to do with that heirloom lamp that shattered into a thousand pieces? If you had time to glue it back, it will never be a treasure. Trash it! Filling garbage bags gives me a sense of accomplishment…and extra space. Be ruthless as you sort.
Donate. I don’t do garage sales anymore. The preparation was time-consuming, and my profit wasn’t amazing. I’d rather give good, useable items to friends who can use them or to a church or other organization that ministers to people in need. How can I feel okay keeping things I don’t need when major disasters have left multitudes without even the necessities of life? Invigorated by my den/office reorg, I assaulted the overflowing basement and found a container filled with tablecloths that I hadn’t used in years. Although in excellent condition, they no longer fit my color scheme. Into the donate pile. Someone can put my good stuff to good use. Be realistic as you sort.
Keep. Criteria for keeping: the item is usable (not necessarily daily) or it’s an heirloom to display and enjoy. How can I enjoy a treasure hidden in a storage container? Get creative—or ask a friend to suggest ways to incorporate heirlooms into your decorating scheme. To store necessary items used occasionally, I rely on stackable plastic bins and covered baskets. Labels make items easily accessible. Be reasonable as you sort.
If you have limited storage space, let me suggest discreet ways to hide stuff in plain sight.
A barrel trash container stores out-of-season clothes and blankets. Make a table-top by cutting a round piece of plywood about two inches larger than the rim. Cover wood and barrel with a tablecloth, a sheet or three yards of inexpensive fabric, puddling the material around the bottom. Decorate with family photos and flowers. Home-improvement stores have two-by-two plywood squares for a few dollars. No one will suspect the attractive table is helping solve a storage problem.
Make a night stand by stacking boxed books. Cover with a sheet and a lace topper. This sturdy “table” holds lamp, alarm clock, tissue and a book.
Wicker chest serves as a coffee table and storage for party trays and serving dishes.
Square picnic basket with lid holds a twenty-four can soft-drink carton.
Large covered basket serves as a portable wrapping center with gift bags, wrapping paper, bows, all-occasion cards, pen, tape and scissors.
Rectangular basket in kitchen organizes urgent/to-do stuff and keeps the counters clear.
Tip: When I can’t find a covered basket for a certain purpose, I buy two identical baskets and turn one upside down over the other to make a lid. Sometimes I create a lid by cutting cardboard to fit the basket and covering it with fabric.
If you’re organizing the basement, hooks and hangers will help you get large items off the floor. And shelves are your friends for storing boxes. Label containers according to specific needs:
Kitchen (special pots and pans rarely used)
Mementos (children’s keepsakes)
As you organize, donate as much as you can. And fill those garbage bags with stuff nobody wants. You’ll find organizing can become addictive. And it saves time as you no longer have to search for misplaced items among the clutter.
Remember the three choices to conquer clutter: keep, donate, discard.
Organization simplifies life and increases joy. You’re off to a great start!
Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the bestselling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary and blog coordinator for Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.
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