Basement, garage, clutter, rummage, junk pile, storage area, mess

Help For The Organizationally Challenged

Have you caught an episode of Marie Kondo’s new binge-worthy Netflix series, Tidying Up? It debuted on Jan. 1, and I’m kinda’ obsessed.

My husband and I have a huge task ahead as he’s getting ready to finish our basement. Right now? It looks more like a horribly organized storage unit coming soon to an episode of Hoarders than the beautiful new living space I see on his plans.

vintage rummage junk pile storage area mess.

No this is not my basement; it could be but mine is not nearly this organized!

Getting organized is like dieting. Everyone knows how to do it. The problem is getting around to it and then maintaining the results.

Lose what you don’t use

Back in 2002, when we redecorated our California kitchen I emptied every cupboard and drawer. When it was time to put everything back, I decided to put things away only as I used them. I quickly realized why it was such a problem to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. We had too much stuff we never used. Getting rid of the unused left so much space to organize the essentials.

Face it. If you don’t have enough closet, drawer and storage space to comfortably handle your possessions, you probably own too many things. Give away, pare down let your rooms closets and drawers appear serene and controlled—kept. Eliminate and concentrate.

Make it yours

There’s no single right way to organize your possessions and home. The way you organize has to fit your style, your energy, and your schedule. Find a system that functions best for you and your family. 

Getting rid of the clutter is a good place to start. Personally, I’m fond of the Paper Bag Method for instant results—something that works wonders especially when you are at your wit’s end over clutter and chaos.

Brown Bag Method

Take one (more as necessary) large brown paper grocery bag or box and fill it with all of the stacks of extraneous papers, magazines, mail—your basic clutter. The purpose here is not to throw anything away, just to get it out of visual range until you have time to go through and separate, sort and file. At least that’s what you tell yourself.

If within say 48 hours or so, no one in the family has mentioned missing something of importance, it is probably safe to throw the whole thing out. While this may be a method of last resort, I guarantee it works.

Salami Method

A more preferred way to get organized may be the Salami Method. You wouldn’t think of eating an entire salami at one sitting, would you? You’d eat it in slices over a period of time. Think of your project as one big salami. Start with one thing, one room, one closet. Tomorrow is another day; another drawer, another attic. Soon you’ll be in control.

I’ve learned that gaining control over the stuff in my life has an amazing effect on my attitude. When everything’s in its place I’m less stressed, more able to think clearly and basically a happier person. Order brings calm, clutter results in chaos. 

I have found some kind of comfort in knowing that I’m not the only organizationally challenged person out there. Why just the other day I was reading that the ratio of naturally-born neatniks to messies is about one in a million. 

Not everyone has a severe case of the messies, but if you think you might, take a look at Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley (Bantam Double Day, 2002). Cilley, aka “The FlyLady” to the thousands who log onto her website, reaches into every person’s home to help make housecleaning more fun and life more organized. Beginning with Shiny Sink 101, Cilley explains how a spotless kitchen sink can direct even the most discouraged housekeeper onto the path of well-ordered domesticity.

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14 replies
  1. Pat Goff says:

    We don’t get netflix but I do unclutter my house every three months or even daily. I take my (free) magazines to work and read them at lunch and then share with others at work or even donate them to the VA. Every month I clean a room top to bottom and donate things to a thrift store that helps the elderly. I try to find a use for all my vintage finds during the month to justify buying it. I use an old wooden ice bucket for coffee filters, another one for koolaid drink mixes etc. I cook with my vintage pyrex etc, If I don’t have a use for it I try to talk myself out of buying it. When the kids outgrow their clothes I give them to friends or family or donate to the thrift shop and get a write off for it. I use coupons and have learned to make my food from scratch from your website. Thanks for a wonderful 2018 and I wish you all a fabulous 2019.

  2. Chris says:

    I took the week of New Year’s Day off work and worked on kitchen cabinets and laundry room shelves. Cleaned everything really good and took several box fulls to the local thrift store. I bought airtight storage containers for boxed and bagged items and labeled everything and threw out all my old stained plastic and bought glass containers for leftovers. It looks so nice! I need to continue with other rooms over the winter.

  3. Shelly Alvine says:

    I watched 3 episodes on Netflix last night and am just finishing my clothes. The pile on my bed was big but not overwhelming. I don’t think I’ll miss a thing I’m disposing of. Now to talk my husband into doing it!

  4. sadnana says:

    My basement looks just like the one in the photo. It’s the only spot in our house that isn’t organized and clutter-free. As we brought up, then put away, our Christmas decorations this year, we realized what a mess our basement has become. We made a plan to declutter and organize and the first step was to replace the light bulbs down there with LED bulbs that provide more light. They not only make it easier to see what we’re doing; they save money on our power bill. Two birds, one stone.

  5. Ellie Dee says:

    I’m a minimalist by nature but live with a houseful of people who tend to be packrats. So no matter how much paring down and organizing I do, it never stays that way. I’m hoping that will change, eventually!

  6. Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    FLYlady is amazing! She has turned my world around and made it much more manageable. And because of her I found you and Debt Proof Living which has turned my personal finances around and made it possible for us to retire at 55 in 2 years!


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