Monday, June 23, 2008

Organization Magic

(I WISH I had a before picture! Imagine the floor strewed with stuff and the bed was a loft bed but we cut off the legs and there were about 20 stuffed animals on the bed, etc...etc...)

You have probably figured out by now that I LOVE organizing things. But as I always say in my seminars on organization: "Organization is a point of balance you come back to but life is always changing. It is impossible to be organized all the time."

As I looked at my house two months ago this certainly looked very true to me. My organized house that usually took a brief run-though to clean, and usually looked in order was looking like a tornado hit it. And it wasn't that is was never organized. It was often organized...but it took a lot of work to get it to that point again every few days.

Something had to be done. So I looked into the first rule of organization. Did everything have a place and was everything in its place? It turns out part of the problem was that not everything had a place or the place was too small or not convenient so a lot of the things that were laying around were "homeless". And somehow homeless items always seem to invite company so...the cycle had begun.

So I looked at the things that did not have a home and realized that many of them we did not even use that often. So I went to the second rule of organization - do I have things that need to be thrown out? It turns out this was our main problem. And this is the hardest problem to solve because it involves taking everything out of drawers, shelves and rooms and putting back only what is still used and sorting the rest.

So we started the project. I thought it would take a week but it dragged on for 6 weeks. What kept me going was that I had a goal in mind and although there were boxes all over it was being done in an "organized" manner.

What we did was this:

1. We tackled five rooms at once - livingroom, art room, Suni's room, Mosi's room and Sofi's room. All these rooms were joined by a common hallway (or if not joined, at least near the hallway). I placed the boxes there.

2. I provided an endless supply of boxes with labels - garbage, Goodwill or charity clothing (each box was labelled with sizes so they were organized according to boy, girl and size), Ebay items, memory box items (old photos and art projects to keep), art supplies from bedrooms (so we could integrate them with the art room), and various other boxes as the topics came up. At one point we even had a box for memory album things because the kids had been working on them in their rooms and left supplies in there instead of the art room.

3. We dumped everything section-by-section in each room into the middle of the floor and the children and I sorted it all together (everyone did their own stuff and then I did a final sort after they sorted...because some things ended up in the wrong boxes LOL). We had boxes piled in the livingroom for 6 weeks. My friends were starting to give me strange looks and my kids were embarrassed to invite anyone over. I started wondering if I had made a BIG mistake!

4. Finally one day all the boxes were sorted. We had 40 boxes of things to go to Ebay, Goodwill, friends or storage. I put the boxes in the garage to deliver/sort later and we all re-claimed our space.

That was 5 weeks ago. Since then some major changes have shown up in our lives and they look like they are here to stay (after 40 days of something you can assume it is here to stay unless you work to change it...that is an old adage that runs true for many things)! Of course, I KNOW that having too much stuff causes clutter and makes it hard to clean, but I didn't realize the depths to which that goes (having moved so much in the past 20 years I never lived anywhere long enough to gather that much clutter) until I saw the change in myself and children.

Without the overload of extra stuff the following changes have happened:

1. Sofi, who has never had a clean room in 9 years suddenly is obsessed with keeping her room clean. Because she does not have an overload of stuff (but still plenty - whew!) she is able to clean her entire room in about 15 minutes which makes the time span more manageable for her. After she has things straightened up she has taken to 'redecorating" and moving things around - having fun with her new space.

2. Suni, who has always been organized, but has had trouble keeping things in place the past year, has had a meticulous room for the past 5 weeks. He reduced everything he owns to one shelf and 4 bins that fit under the bed and is quite happy.

3. I have not had to spend more than a few moments every day straightening up the house (of course deep cleaning takes extra time) and have been astounded at this change. It seemed that for a while I was always picking up things and putting them where they belonged. What helped the most was making sure all the art supplies, crafts and scrapbooking supplies were back in ONE ROOM. So now, they all have a place and they are all together in one room. This means that instead of having colored pencils all over the house they are only "all over" one table now. And the kids have been using the craft supplies much more frequently now as well.

Now I just have to list those four boxes on Ebay....sigh...

The other 36 have already been distributed to the appropriate homes.

I hope this inspires someone else to try the same thing. It really was difficult and seeing that mess in my house for 6 weeks was "painful" but in the end the results are something I can certainly live with for a LONG time! And like I said, I have never lived long enough anywhere to acquire so much so I really didn't realize what a gigantic impact all this extra stuff had on our lives and our state of being. Not only did the space change, but the Feng Shui changed too. Our entire lives are "lighter".

If you are interested in seeing any of the organizational videos I have done you can check out the "Homeschooling" link at

Blessings & Health,


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