Help Me Expand My Home Organization Realization
July 17, 2011 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm slow. It took me many years to have this revelation re: home organization: "If an object is not frequently used and is not decorative, it should be put away" (unless, of course, you have incredibly little storage space). So what's the next revelation? Or some corollaries of this one which might flesh out this basic idea?
posted by Quisp Lover to Home & Garden (65 answers total) 177 users marked this as a favorite
"The longer it sits, the more it looks like furniture." So, put it away right away.
posted by peagood at 2:32 PM on July 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

"If you want storage space to put away those useful things, you need to periodically get rid of things you never use."
posted by salvia at 2:35 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get rid of all unnecessary horizontal surfaces. They accumulate stuff almost invariably. This has been a HUGE part of getting our clutter problem under control.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

"Never leave a room with empty hands." Helps keep things picked up and put away right away. :)
posted by likeso at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

decorations collect dust.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

To put it away, you must have a place for it that is 'away.'
posted by SLC Mom at 2:38 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

If objects not frequently used are always lying around in your house, maybe this is a sign that you don't have enough storage.

If you have enough storage, but things are STILL lying around your house, maybe this is a sign that the storage for the things is not near enough to the places where you normally use the things.
posted by emilyw at 2:39 PM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Know exactly where you are going to put it before you buy it." Meaning have a spot you know it can be put away in before you bring it into your home. This helps with both tidiness and superfluous spending.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:42 PM on July 17, 2011 [25 favorites]

1) It is inefficient to spend time organizing objects one rarely uses. {A single box for all receipts} is a better system than {a rigorously-organized filing cabinet you never resort to}.

2) For any given object:
- will you have a specific use for it soon?
> YES: keep it.
> NO, AND IT'S CHEAP: throw it away or (if you have the space) stash it somewhere.
> NO, AND IT'S EXPENSIVE: sell it (and rebuy it when the day comes that you need it again).
posted by foursentences at 2:43 PM on July 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

When you move, if you have boxes packed from your last move which you never opened since, throw them away without looking inside.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:45 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Don't bring in any new item--clothing, decor, media, technology--without also removing an item via recycling, thrift store donation, eBay, or gift.
posted by Kronur at 2:45 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Is there someone who would be able to use this before I need/want it again?" If so, pass the item on and buy another one when you need it again.
posted by catlet at 2:46 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep your stuff where (or near where) you use it. If your stuff is right there when you need it, it's easy to find. Plus, it's easy to put away instead of leaving out.

It's okay to have two (or more) of the same item if you use it in two places. For instance, I keep a pair of scissors both in my desk and another in the box with my wrapping paper (along with the clear tape, ribbons, and bows), since I use them both places regularly.
posted by immlass at 2:49 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

The level of awayness with which you put something should correlate with the level of use of that something.
Use several times a day? Leave it out.
Use once or so a week? Leave in a drawer, bin, basket, bowl...
Use once or so a month? Stashed away but easy to get to.
Use once or so a year? Stashed away good but identifiable.
Use never really but maybe one day? Stashed deep away.

Your living space is just a larger version of any organizational space, so just make the frequently used X (files, cutlery, cds, tools, clothes, etc etc etc) easy to get to.

Thinks trickle in faster than they trickle out so always keep rotating to the back.
posted by Jezebella at 2:53 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Bundle together Things That Go Together. We have a bin in the closet with those little folded paper giftbags, gift tissue, wrapping paper, ribbon, scissors and tape. In seconds we can "wrap" a gift and we always know where, say, another pair of scissors are. Best tho? I know exactly what to do with that scrap of leftover wrapping paper or that used-but-still-good giftbag.

someone anyone....please help me organize my garage
posted by Jezebella at 3:02 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you haven't worn it in 2 years, give it away.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:07 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Try to touch each piece of mail only one time after you bring it into the house. Bill? Pay it now or if you can't pay it right then, put it in the place that bills go. Junk mail? Recycle it right now. Something that needs to be filed away? File it right now, even if that means going to the basement.
posted by cooker girl at 3:10 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's no such thing as "too little storage space." You have exactly the space that you need.
Store items near where they're used; e.g. coffee filters in the drawer nearest the coffee maker.
Decorative items suck. Think of them as vampires who want to drain away your visual space and life energy. I'll make an exception for framed photographs. All other knick-knacks or craft junk—out!
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:14 PM on July 17, 2011

A thing probably belongs in the first place you think to look for it. This might mean scissors belong in the pencil cup, or they might belong in the desk drawer in the office. Same for coffee scoops, measuring spoons, lint brushes, serving platters, and shoe polish.

Also, if a home has 2 toilets, I believe it should have 2 toilet plungers and scrubbers. (if I use your toilet, I don't want to have to tell you it needs a swish after I've used it. Let's call this a polite fiction: we both know I poop. If rather not advertise the, um, quality of my outputs)
posted by bilabial at 3:21 PM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Like items get stored with other like items.
posted by jbenben at 4:01 PM on July 17, 2011

Mixed floor dressings (eg wood floors and a rug) add a significant amount of time to cleaning.
posted by b33j at 4:02 PM on July 17, 2011

The Shakers (because they had to maintain communal households with 100 or more people) developed a complex set of rules, the Millenial Laws governing the minutae of daily living and household organization, right down to things like, "Liquids that would deface buildings should not be thrown out at the window openings." But the one that has best stood the test of time and answers your question is: "Everything in its place, and a place for every thing." Once you contemplate this long enough, you understand, for example, that leaving your clothes on the floor is not a good idea.
posted by beagle at 4:17 PM on July 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

Right away is the easy way!
posted by jgirl at 4:19 PM on July 17, 2011

Realize that the phrase "I might use it one day" most often means "useless junk"

If you only use something once a year (or during a particular holiday season) store it "far away or deep". Case in point: large platters only used for turkey & stuffing during Thanksgiving & Christmas. Those suckers are stored in an air-tight bag under a bed because they are used, they just don't need to be sucking up valuable kitchen space 11 months of the year.

Even if you have a closet the size of Colorado, always change out & store your seasonal clothes. This will give you two chances to verify that you a) still wear something & b) can still get away with wearing it (a 50 year old man in a 'Hot Tamale' t-shirt can either be ironic or pathetic). If you didn't bother getting that Christmas sweater out of the box one year, donate it by Easter.

Always, always have a donation box or bag in your house (mine is in my coat closet) and take it to Goodwill or Salvation Army or where ever every month or two. Don't wait until you have "enough" stuff to donate -- you can donate 1 book, 1 shirt or 1 dish at a time if need be.

One item you absolutely, positively do not need to keep is old paint in cans. Yeah, so you just painted an object, room or whole house and you have some paint left over. Keep just enough to do small touch ups and to match the color if you need more paint later but get rid of the rest (in an environmentally responsible way of course).
You always tell yourself "but I'll need this later" but you'll end up working around those cans for years, always moving them around and 99% of the time, you'll be throwing that paint away 5, 10, 20 years from now anyway without ever having touched a drop of it.

(I've cleaned out enough garages in the last 20 years and there's always these half-empty untouched for years paint cans sitting on a shelf somewhere. People have gone a little nuts when I suggest throwing away these paint cans but if you've ever come across the paint can marked "baby's room" and you realize that that baby now has grandkids of his own . . . .)

And on that tangent - beige interior walls, white ceilings & the same trim color throughout your house may be boring but it certainly makes life easier down the road if you've got to paint over a leak in the ceiling/wall or paint trim for new windows or whatever. Realizing that you've painted the window trim Navajo White and the rest of the room trim is Antique White means you either have to live with the slight (but apparent to you) difference or you bite the bullet and paint the window trim again. You most certainly do NOT tell your spouse or relative about the difference or you might not hear the end of it until you repaint.
posted by jaimystery at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

Open your closets. Arrange your hangers so that all your clothes face left. When you wear something, put it back facing right. At the end of the year, give everything facing left to charity.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:35 PM on July 17, 2011 [15 favorites]

If you forgot you had it, you won't miss it if you throw it out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mess nucleates. That one dirty spoon you leave on the draining board now will have been joined by half a dozen unwashed cups, a stack of unwashed plates, a coffee press with the grounds in, a pan full of congealed fat and a crusted cupcake tray by this evening. Also, the coffee press and the pan will have conspired to gunk up the bench.

The more people using a space, the faster mess will nucleate within it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

My rule? One doesn't need holiday decorations. Okay, maybe Christmas (two bins). But no Halloween, no Valentine's Day, etc. No special dishes you use once a year. No "seasonal" towels and soap dispensers. A Thanksgiving tablecloth? No thank you. A fall-colors tablecloth that can be used the entire autumn? Sure! I'm not a humbug about it; we do seasonal crafts every year and display them. The difference is that we throw them out when we are done with the holiday. They are more special than store-bought anyway.
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you are the kind of person who does enjoy living with a bunch of randomly collected stuff that might come in handy one day, you need a workroom containing open shelves specifically devoted to keeping that stuff on. Putting any of it in boxes or drawers or in the back shed or otherwise out of sight is a surefire way to end up with an out-of-control mountain of useless crap.

If your entire random resources collection is kept in plain sight on your shelves o' plenty, then not only can you easily browse for stuff that will help with whatever you're working on, but you will reach a point where the amount of stuff going on the shelves falls into balance with the amount of stuff coming off them.

If you forgot you had it, you won't miss it if you throw it out.

This rule works fine when you're trying to create shelf space for your latest acquisition. It fails miserably if the reason you forgot you had it is because it's been stuffed in a box in the shed for two years.
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 PM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

: "If an object is not frequently used and is not decorative, it should be put away"

The obvious corollary is from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Seconding storing things near where they are used, and storing infrequently used items in less-convenient places, giving over prime real estate to heavily used items.
posted by ambrosia at 5:08 PM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

If it's not easy and convenient to put away, it won't be put away. Try to make things as easy on yourself as possible. I have two sets of bathroom cleaning supplies. One in the upstairs bathroom, and one in the downstairs bathroom. One less 'hurdle' in the way of cleaning the bathroom. I don't have to grab the toilet scrubber out of the upstairs bathroom, the windex from the kitchen and the rags from the laundry room, etc, and then put everything back. Everything I need is together in one bin. Just pull it out of the cabinet and go. If your shoes always end up by the door, you need to be storing your shoes by the door. If the laundry ends up on the bedroom floor, you need a hamper in the bedroom.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:22 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Store additional trash bags / bin liners in the bottom of the waste receptacle, so that when you remove the full bag, a fresh one is right there to hand.
posted by mumkin at 5:28 PM on July 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've gotten rid of an unbelievable amount of clutter / unwanted stuff (would you believe a very used twin-sized mattress? old light fixtures? rusty bicycle frame? broken garden hose box?) by putting it at the end of my driveway with a "FREE" sign.

NB: I do not live in a neighborhood anyone would call "poor."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:31 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not super short, but short enough that the back of the top shelf of my cupboards is pretty useless without a stool, but I can reach the front without too much effort. To remedy that, I bought cupboard sized rubbermaid containers, that I put everything in for that shelf. If I need something from the top shelf, I can just pull out the container.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:32 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

We just downsized to a house 50% smaller ... I have filled two 26 foot trucks with donations, I have thrown away a pile of trash the siz of three SUVs.

Lesson learned. Stuff "stored" is stuff to throw away.
posted by tomswift at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's easier to do something (cleaning, straightening, dusting, whatever) for five minutes every day than it is to do it for two and a half hours once a month. And you will get more of it done the former way. And you won't even notice that five minutes.
posted by Etrigan at 6:33 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Useful things can also be beautiful, and then they can be "stored" in open display. For example, this is my kitchen broom, pretty enough it can hang on a hook in the kitchen (it even coordinates with the room!) instead of hiding in a closet. I sweep a lot more often. And people compliment my broom.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:36 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

A good suggestion is to buy a bunch of small coloured stickers & stick them to things like your kitchen utensils, bottles of stuff in the bathroom cabinet, and so on.

Remove the sticker when you use an item. After a period of time (say, a year) give anything with a sticker on it to charity.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:00 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

(or throw it out. nobody wants your half-used tub of hair gel from 1987)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:05 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

make sure you remember where "away" is when you put something away. for some people, "away" means "out of sight." for other people (me included), "away" means "a place where i will think to look for it when i need it again." so get organized from the ground up first.

i also try to abide by the "one thing in, one thing out" principle. if you buy something, throw or give something else away. obviously there will occasionally be unique or frequently consumed items that this won't apply to--yes, get the bulk pack of toilet paper if it's on sale since you will use it eventually, or a gadget that really will improve your quality of life (yes, you can justify a stand mixer if you cook a lot)--but for clothes, towels, magazines, makeup, etc., it's a great way to keep the clutter down.

the apartment therapy home cure is a quick read and a good way to manage your clutter. some of the ideas you can skip--you don't really need fresh flowers every week or to take a bath every morning, although both are nice--but the sorting system for objects is very handy. you identify things you definitely want to keep or get rid of, and then create a "maybe" box. if you haven't used what's in the "maybe" box in a week or a month, get rid of it.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:23 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Plastic storage is tempting, but it will look terrible in a few years. Buy wood, ceramic, glass, metal, or other natural materials whenever you can.
posted by amtho at 7:41 PM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Organize first then purchase the organizing items. Not the other way around. Then you only purchase what you need.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 8:03 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it isn't used, put it away. If it's put away for a while and you've forgotten about it, put it in the trash, give it to a thrift store, or a book store, etc., or leave it on the sidewalk.
posted by carter at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2011

Don't buy those hideous huge plastic Rubbermaid bins unless they are for storing something very specific like Christmas decorations. My mother has about 20 of them filled with old electronics, old craft projects, miscellaneous cables and a/c adapters, random cleaning products, etc. This is not organization - this is hoarding!
posted by gatorae at 8:25 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Keep a box (or however many you need) for the things that you are placing on notice of extraction. The someday-useful things that you can't quite manage to get all the way out of the house, or the ugly, tacky, or broken things towards which you have a slight sentimental attachment because someone nice gave them to you or you've had them since you were five. Fill the box, mark it with an expiration date, seal it up, and set it in a place you'll remember. When the expiration date arrives, six months to a year later, the entire box goes unopened straight to the donation drop-off spot.

Random purging strikes: get a plastic grocery bag, and go through the house filling it with things to give away. If you limit yourself to one bag per session, you may find yourself looking forward to the next one.
posted by notquitemaryann at 9:56 PM on July 17, 2011

"One on, one out" rule - anytime you bring something new into your home, donate/throw out something else.
posted by illenion at 12:50 AM on July 18, 2011

Don't collect.

Don't be one of a million people to put that same stupid piece of plastic on their shelves. Don't collect stuff just because you feel like you want to have them all. Don't collect shit just to add to your shelves of shit. Resist the urge to complete collections. Buy one thing if you really want to enjoy that one thing, but never buy more shit just to complete a set of shit.

If what you're already collecting isn't a serious investment -- something a real financial adviser might allow as a reasonable investment when compared to stocks or gold -- don't collect it. Stop now.

And if you have collected shit in the past, dump that shit now. If you can't sell it, give it to some little kids, preferably other people's little kids so the stuff will be out of your storage space forever. Dump the porcelain miniatures, the paperweights, the Pokemon cards, the comic books, the Star Wars figurines, the dragons, the Lego kits, stamps, coins, books, records, DVDs, anything that has become a collection of crap you used to like (finding, acquiring, enjoying once, and then shelving) rather than something you actually use and enjoy now.
posted by pracowity at 1:16 AM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

It's easier to do something (cleaning, straightening, dusting, whatever) for five minutes every day than it is to do it for two and a half hours once a month. And you will get more of it done the former way.
I hear this all the time but find that it isn't true for most cleaning tasks. I can vacuum my living room in 5 minutes. If I don't do it for a whole week, it is much dirtier, but it still doesn't take me 35 minutes to vacuum, at most 10. Same goes for cleaning the stove, bathroom, etc. For some things the time doesn't really increase at all, in my experience. Washing windows: doesn't really matter if I do it once a month or every six months, it takes about the same amount of time.

I do agree that spending five minutes adds up, and that that's a good thing. I find that cleaning the kitchen while I am waiting for something (the water to boil, the pasta to cook, those kind of things) works well.
Another tip: measure how much time things you dread doing actually take. Sometimes household chores can seem like they take much longer than they do. When you know that you can vacuum an entire floor or do the evening dishes in only five minutes, it is a much less daunting task.
posted by davar at 2:57 AM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Strive for clear surfaces -- countertops, coffee table, kitchen/dining table, dressers, night tables. Before I leave for work, I do a walk-through and put stuff that's accumulated the previous evening away. It really does make coming home more pleasant at the end of the day -- uncluttered and inviting -- when the remains of the previous day are gone. Oh, and the bed -- probably the biggest surface you've got -- make it!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's easier to do something (cleaning, straightening, dusting, whatever) for five minutes every day than it is to do it for two and a half hours once a month. And you will get more of it done the former way.

I hear this all the time but find that it isn't true for most cleaning tasks. I can vacuum my living room in 5 minutes. If I don't do it for a whole week, it is much dirtier, but it still doesn't take me 35 minutes to vacuum, at most 10. Same goes for cleaning the stove, bathroom, etc. For some things the time doesn't really increase at all, in my experience.

Not to be defensive, but you're looking at it the wrong way. No, the time it takes to vacuum one room doesn't increase -- but if it takes you an hour to vacuum the entire house, then odds are it'll be easier to do it in five-minute bursts every day -- today the living room, tomorrow the dining room... you'll probably end up doing each room more often than every twelfth day, and it won't seem like such a chunk of your time is being eaten up by vacuuming.
posted by Etrigan at 6:19 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

For me, it was cookbooks and books. I quickly realized i was collecting more than I would ever use in my lifetime, so I've put a limit on myself - no new cookbooks until I work through each recipe in every one, and the same for books. I have to read the stack of books on my nightstand, and once I do that I'll be allowed to get new ones ( but only after I have donated those books to good will - because how often will I want to re-read books? Probably never). It has helped me cut down immensely and use what I have.
posted by elisebeth at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

When possible, go digital. I love recipes, for example, but I have replaced many of my newspaper cut-outs of recipes with digital copies preserved on an external hard drive.

One Year Rule: if I've had it one year, and I've not used it in that year, then I either don't need it like I thought, or I have something else that serves the need just as well. Either way, it goes.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm back to say, also, that some jobs are worth doing badly. For example, it's better to give the main parts of your bathroom a quick swish and swipe as often as you can, rather than to hold off on everything, waiting until you can clean the entire room perfectly.
posted by peagood at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]

The library. There, I've said it. Sorry I'm not doing my part to support the economy, but every time I hear of an interesting novel, cookbook, dvd, etc., I log in and put it on hold at the library. Limiting my book purchases means not having to make any keep/sell/donate decisions in order to declutter, and let me tell you, what a time saver!
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Everything needs a place, even those "in transit."

You need to make space for, for example:
- purse/bag/briefcase when you get home
- clothes to donate
- library books to return
- clothes like jackets and jeans that aren't "clean" but aren't "dirty" (I like over-the-door hooks for this
posted by radioamy at 1:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bored? Try on those clothes that are shoved in the back of the closet, or never leave the bottoms of your drawers. If you have a second thought about keeping them, give them away. If they don't feel good on you, because of the material or your current fitness level, give them away. If they're too short or too long, give them away.

Another practice: get rid of one thing every day, and keep doing that. Start big, start small, start anywhere, but just start.

Helpful tip: evaluate your collection with someone who likes you and understands you, but shares none of your fond thoughts to your things. If you'd like, work out some thresholds that this person would help you to keep (50% less items in your closest, only keep x pairs of shoes and y pairs of pants).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. In storage, there are some things you only remember to use if you see them regularly.

This means that for random items, unless there's a reason to dig them out (Christmas decorations, camping gear, etc), unless you can visually *see* it while it's in storage, you might as well throw it out.

2. If you're not using it - like a sweater you really want to wear but don't, or a set of cables to hook up your old stereo - give it a fixed amount of time then donate it to Goodwill.

3. It's trivially easy to do thirty seconds of tidying. It's a royal pain in the ass to have to do significant clean-up work *ever*, but that's what you wind up with if you don't occasionally tidy as you go.
posted by talldean at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Slightly off topic: the irrational reasons why people keep things

I seem to have inherited from my family the notion that you should never throw away something that someone gave you as a gift. We're also not very social, or the house would be piled to the ceiling with other people's gifts.

Believe me, the people who gave you the ugly vase ten years ago will not suffer telepathic twinges of agony when you throw the vase out. If they're still keeping score ten years later, or even a few years later, they're petty, emotionally grabby people whom you don't want to know.


None of us want the bottle of root beer liqueur that someone gave us as a present (I don't think they knew that it's a notorious Maine backwoods staple).

Engagement rings and true heirlooms excepted, I suppose.
posted by bad grammar at 5:24 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

late to the party and this will likely be a very unpopular answer with the lo-fi hipster crowd here at MeFi but for us the simple answer was: go digital.

we no longer buy books, we both read on the iphones and ipad. We kept the few really nice books we have (vintage hardbacks, first editions, national geographic editions, coffee table books, maps). We donated all the paperbacks and pulp and college textbooks and the seven dozen cookbooks I got from well meaning friends/colleagues/family that I never even opened. The only cookbook I kept (since it's the only one I ever actually reference) is my mom's old 60's Joy of Cooking. Every recipe known to mankind is available online anyway. And because my iPad has a stand, I don't even have to worry about holding it open to the right page with the cleaver like I have to with the JoC.

We no longer keep stacks of CDs / DVDs / media, we ripped everything and stored it (with redundancies) to a set of media drives.

We don't print out anything or keep receipts or even bother to do our taxes on paper. Everything that possibly can be is done electronically. We don't have, and refuse to buy, a physical printer for the house. If something *must* be "printed" we print to PDF and file it electronically and/or email it wherever it needs to go. We don't have a landline, cancelled all our physical magazine subscriptions (iPad FTW) do all our bills and banking online, and don't get junk mail (yep you can "unsubscribe" to physical spam just like you can digital spam). Our house is virtually paperless.

Since we're not collectors-of-"things", and are pretty disciplined on the clothing front, the only mess we had to cut down was the paper / media clutter, which I'll freely admit was HUGE. And taking back our house from the piles is not only very liberating, it dramatically cuts down on cleaning time, since we no longer have to pick up / sort / file / shelve stacks and stacks of shit before we can vacuum/dust/sweep.

I'm sure that Come The Apocalypse we'll be first to succumb, mainly cos well, no tinder, but *shrug*. The house has zero piles of crap anymore, at any rate.

your mileage may vary.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've only just in the past 2 years or so gotten the hang of maintaining a semi-organized living environment. Much of what has helped me has already been suggested by others (e.g., resist the urge to collect plastic thingies in order to complete your set of plastic thingies, keep horizontal surfaces clear, etc.) but some other things I don't *think* have come up yet in this post (apologies for any unintended egregious redundancy) include:

- If you are ever in the process of renovating/remodeling your kitchen or other space with lots of cabinets, I highly recommend getting drawers (or at least roll-out/sliding racks) installed in the cabinets *that pull out all the way*. At my last apartment I had a huge problem with stuff festering in the back of the kitchen cabinets. Now that very rarely, if ever, happens.

- Unless you're really scrounging to be able to provide dinnerware for large groups of people on a regular basis, you probably have more dishes/silverware/cups/storage containers than you need. If at all possible, donate (or put in deep storage if you absolutely cannot bear to get rid of them yet) any non-matching pieces and try and maintain "stackable" collections. When I last moved I got rid of a TON of those reusable plastic food-storage containers and only kept those I could easily stack with others of their kind. This totally eliminated the "tupperware avalanche" problem I had for years previously.

- Get a cat (or preferably two cats that enjoy running all over the house and leaping across any available surface). Of course this only applies if you like cats and don't already have any, but I figured I would mention it because honestly, "cat-proofing" my house has gone a HUGE way toward helping me maintain organization. I literally CANNOT have clutter on my shelves or precarious stacks of things because the cats would knock them over. I can't leave clothes in piles on the floor unless I want them to become nests of cat hair, thus, I don't leave piles of clothes on the floor. I don't leave food out because, well, scavenging happens. And so on. Seriously! It works!
posted by aecorwin at 12:30 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: aecorwin,

Re: your cat ownership suggestion, something similar I do is make sure to invite guests over at least once every couple weeks. This forces me to clean up, and I never fail to amaze myself with my ability to 1. suddenly, clearly see sprawl that previously was invisible to me and to 2. clean it all up at whirlwind speed.
posted by Quisp Lover at 6:23 AM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another perspective: Sure, it's great to be streamlined and dust-free. I tossed most of my kids' stuff as they grew older - clothes to Goodwill, most art and toys pitched. But allow yourself to keep a "curated" collection, okay? Maybe one small box in the attic. There will be a day when your kids aren't little anymore, and it will come sooner than you think. You'll be looking for something else and you'll come across that box. Then you can spend some time with the memories, the joy, maybe even the pangs of sadness that you get from looking at that receiving blanket, that first pair of sneakers, that ratty old baseball cap. It's worth the occasional cobweb.
posted by tizzie at 6:27 AM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

QL: oooh yes, not to invoke the spectre of chatfilter by responding to your response in this way (I'm a noob here, hopefully doing this occasionally is allowed), but I completely concur with the "having guests over" thing. For me that tends to, if nothing else, have the effect of making me break out the arsenal of lint rollers and Dyson sucking products in order to rid the sofa and window seat of all the cat hair that suddenly becomes glaringly apparent when I'm expecting an allergic visitor!
posted by aecorwin at 11:32 AM on July 21, 2011

If in doubt about whether to keep or toss something, put a post-it note on it that says something like "If this hasn't been used by [insert date 2 years from now], THROW IT OUT!" and initial it. Something about having that specific date sufficiently far into the future seems to make it very easy for me to pitch it two years later.
posted by webhund at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm kind of surprised by SO many suggestions (like that last one) offering ways to identify items that are seldom-used. Are such measures really necessary? I think most people can estimate this easily/honestly with a glance.

The problem isn't recognizing that an item is seldom used. It's realizing that seldom-used items should be put away. For me, at least, that's where the work needs to be done.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2011

« Older tell me where to live!   |   aircare confusion Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.