I wrote began a long series about my TOTAL INABILITY to have tidiness be a regular guest in my home/car/life. It started with AN OPEN LETTER TO THE EVANGELLICALLY ORGANIZED and ended, well, nowhere, and never because of my aforementioned TOTAL INABILITY TO BE TIDY.
Now? I am a very organized person, in a tidy house that could welcome visitors shamelessly with 0 – 10 mins prep time. I am HAPPIER. I am CALMER. This WORKED for me. Warning: It is a BUTT PAIN. And it may not work for you. *shrug* But if it helps even ONE PERSON who wants to burn their own house down and let the cat poop in the ashes…worth it.
Okay so, to understand if my solution will work for you, you need to know WHY I could not be organized. It is because at any second, I can stop being aware of a physical object, EVEN IF THE OBJECT IS IN MY HAND. I have no control over this phenomenon.
I can be on a mission to go PUT THE REMOTE on the SHELF BY THE TV, a mere four steps away. Two steps in, a THOUGHT will occur to me and my eyes will flip inward and I will go to a Made-Up Place.
Ten minutes later, I’ll find myself in the kitchen, washing an apple I didn’t know I had, with no memory of where the remote went. (Hint: probably inside the bag of apples. Or in the bathroom that I don’t remember visiting. Or on the floor midway between the couch and the shelf.) And I don’t even LIKE apples.
And here I must channel Der Arnahhhllld, because that may sound worrying to some of you:
It really isn’t a toomah unless I have had brain cancer for 40 years. I have ALWAYS been this way. The cost of the FLEET of retainers I left on my lunch tray in High School and threw away could have covered my children’s impending college educations. Does this sound like you?
SO! Systems guaranteed to make folks like us organized do not work, because we cannot reliably pick up an object and take it directly to a designated area and set it down. Like the system where you are supposed to put your keys in the same place every day when you get home—-yeah. I have TRIED to form that habit, but I so often forget my keys exist between USING THEM and stepping inside.
Scott has found my keys in my underwear drawer, in the pet supply cabinet, in the piano bench, and ONCE, after three days of irritating keylessness, in the freezer, under a bag of peas. Twice in the last six months, people have found my YMCA ID scattered like a single petal on the hiking trail I use when I walk over to work out. I forgot I had it in my hand. Now I have to take a bag and sling the bag over my shoulder, where I can forget it exists with no consequences.
My other handicap to organization is that, if I do not PHYSICALLY SEE an object for a few days, it ceases to exist. At my old house, there were cabinets and closets, basement storage rooms, and a 2 car garage with NO ROOM for a car. These areas all sat behind doors I never opened, and I GENUINELY had no clue about what might be in them. In that house, I forgot I owned an air popper so often that at one point we had FOUR of the dern things. Does THIS sound like you?
So, how did I become organized? It was a two-pronged approach.
1) Move to a smaller space. Our new house is just over half the size of our old house, and it has ALMOST NO STORAGE. No garage. No basement. A small closet in each bedroom, a linen closet, and a pantry. A single small attic room for seasonal things like CHRISTMAS deco and my books. It has TONS of built in shelves and glass-fronted cabinetry, so I can SEE most of what I own.
In fact, as we house shopped, our realtor brought us to a house that she believed was perfect for us. It hit almost everything on my list, but I turned it down, immediately. “Too much storage,” I said, and she boggled, sure she had heard me wrong. I eventually chose a house so storage-free that if I buy a new pair of shoes, I have to give a pair away. No room. Which leads me to prong the second.
2) I got rid of 80% of the things I owned. Since I had NO storage in the new house, and since if I PUT a thing in storage, I would forget it existed ANYWAY, this was a no brainer. It was hard to clean out and pack up and reduce—- I found things I LOVED, but then I would say to myself, “SELF, you have had this beloved thing in this box in this room for NINE years and you did not remember it existed until today…You wil be sad to put it in the charity pile, but be at ease – in two weeks, you won’t remember that you gave it away. In three, you won’t remember that you ever owned it.”
Now, after seven months in the new house? The THREE LARGE TRUCK LOADS OF STUFF we gave away to charity, the small truckload of stuff we gave back to my mother, AND the enormous vat of trash we used to ruin earth by putting it all into a landfill—it is all a misty PILE to me.
I can’t have sorrowful nostalgia for that which has ceased to exist for me.
It’s brutal, but if you have the kind of brain I have, and you are tired of chaos and sturm and drang, if you feel like your house owns you instead of you owning it…
THIS. METHOD. WORKS.
Downsizing = Peace, for folks like me. If you stay in your same area, you can save money, even, moving to a smaller home, and all the stuff you give to the Salvation Army will go to people who need it, and it’s a tax deduction.
If you are ALREADY in the smallest space humanly possible, you can skip the move and just get rid of 80% of your belongings.
BONUS: My house looks so NICE—-since the area is so small, we only kept our most favorite pieces of furniture and art. All the “filler” pieces and hand me downs are GONE.
Yes, I still lose things out of my hand, but I find them very quickly, often without help, as there are VERY FEW PLACES they could be that I can’t see just by looking around with my eyes.
And as for the things I DO have put away in closets? Well…
Soon after we moved here, Scott came up to me and said, “Do you know if we have any safety pins?” and then he caught himself and started laughing because I NEVER KNOW what we have and where it might be.
I turned to him and said, “My closet, left side, top shelf, sewing box.”
His jaw dropped so far, his chin hit his knee.
When he could speak, he said. “How on earth…?”
“Baby,” I told him, “I only own 126 things. I know where all of them are.”