Thursday, August 17, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Injecting Style into Your Organizational Process

Dodgerton Skillhause via MorguefileWhen 
When it comes to organizing, there's STYLE, and then there's style. The first one is a process, one that takes personal styles (I need to see it, I love stuff and I love to be busy) and organizational styles (cram and jam, drop and run, I know I put it somewhere) into account. The second refers to a certain flair, one that takes organizing from mundane to interesting and fun.

In yesterday's post, I touted the importance of the second kind of style -- the one whose partners are form and function.

Wondering how to bring a little flair to your organizational process, while still keeping it functional? Here are a few ideas.

  • Add a pop of color, a coordinating pattern or a hint of texture. Color, pattern and texture are functional staples for those with an I need to see it personal style and they can be used to brighten up a space as well. Just as a throw pillow adds life to a neutral sofa, a bright or patterned container can be more than just a place to keep things. The addition of colorful, patterned or textured containers to a space can also be helpful for those with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style, providing them with a visual reminder of which somewhere serves as storage for which things.
  • Keep it neutral. Color is great, but sometimes we want our storage to blend into its surroundings. Perhaps the colors in the space are loud enough, the patterns busy enough or the texture a key feature in the furnishings. In these cases, choosing organizers that blend may be a more stylish option. If monochromatic and neutral don't work for your personal and/or organizational styles, look for other ways to distinguish what goes where. Labels (a visual reminder of what's inside the container) and location (keeping all similar items in a set of containers that go together and are stored together) can be helpful for folks with an I need to see it personal style or an I know I put it somewhere organizational style, and these same strategies play right into the strengths of those with a cram and jam or drop and run organizational style. No matter the style, minimizing the number of steps involved is key to the success of the organizational system.
  • Make it unique. One-of-a-kind containers are not only great additions to a room, but also great visual reminders. A strong argument against the idea that storage has to be utilitarian, their visual appeal contributes to one form of style, while their visibility is a key element in organizing by STYLE. Unique, distinct or unusual boxes, baskets and bins can dress up the concepts of open storage, one-step storage and visual attention-grabbing that underlie the organizational styles and look good doing it.
If you keep these concepts in mind when setting up or revamping your organizational systems, there will never be a need for one kind of STYLE to run roughshod over the other. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcoming Style

Photo: Pexels via Pixabay
Lately, I have been loving my office. It all started when the white lights I'd had for a couple of years breathed their last, and I had to replace them. The string of new lights was long enough to allow a new configuration, one that added more light to the room, brightening up the small space. Soon after, I found myself spending more time in my tiny office. Nothing had changed but the lights, and yet the room felt more warm and welcoming. 

The same is often true with a new organizing tool. One small change can start a domino effect. Suddenly, not only is there an improvement in the look of the space, there's an improvement in how the space feels as well. We become excited about the possibilities again and, instead of avoiding a space that was once in need of an upgrade, we feel motivated to expand outward, bringing improvements to other areas as well. 

While it's important for our organizational tools to function well, the form they take and the style they embody matters as well. We're more motivated to use a tool that hits all of these three key concepts. A tool needs to be functional, fitting our styles and working with them, not against them. Its form -- the size, shape and physical attributes of the tool or container -- needs to fit into our physical space, or, in the case of something like a planner, the parameters of our life.

But often, it's the style of the tool that brings us back to it again and again. When we like the look of the container or tool, we're more likely to use it. The more we use it, the more habit-forming its use becomes and soon, we've developed a smooth, workable process that keeps us organized.
So, the next time you're tempted to dismiss a purchase as frivolous, put it through the attribute test.

Alexas Fotos via Pixab
  • Form: Will it work in your space and in your life?
  • Function: Will it fill a need and/or serve a purpose?
  • Style: Do you find it appealing?

When you find something that does all of these things, you've hit the container jackpot and you're well on your way to organizing not only by STYLE, but with style as well.

And that not only looks good, but feels good as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

From So-So to Spectacular

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday's post left me with a lingering question:
What other storage habits do I need to reconsider? 
Unless you've recently moved, renovated or redecorated, you probably haven't updated your organizational set-up recently. Like the squeaky wheel, organizational systems typically get attention only when they aren't working.

Still, as my flag storage plan reminded me, we sometimes settle for "good enough" when one small change could make a big difference. And, we sometimes don't even know we're doing it.

Often, the first sign that we need to make a change is that things aren't getting retrieved or put away in a timely manner. While we often point to ourselves (or someone else in the house) as the problem, there's often a deeper issue at work. Three simple questions can be the key to turning so-so systems into storage solutions.
  • Is the system easy to use? An overly complicated storage system is sometimes as bad as none at all. When putting things away is difficult, we choose the path of least resistance, putting things down instead of away (drop and run organizers), putting them wherever there is space (I know I put it somewhere organizers) or stuffing them somewhere (cram and jammers). When we do this, we exacerbate the problem, creating a retrieval issue. Drop and run organizers must retrace their steps and dig through piles. I know I put it somewhere organizers race around frantically trying to remember which safe place they put the necessary item in and cram and jammers attempt to retrieve things from overstuffed spaces, hoping the thing they're searching for won't be crumpled, torn or broken when they find it. In the process, we waste time, frustrate ourselves and often create chaos. Often, however, it's this process that reveals the answer to the questions behind this problem: what's stopping me from using this system and how can I fix that?
  • Is it in the right place? Similarly, if we have to climb ladders, move piles or take a cupboard apart to find something we use with any degree of frequency, it's in the wrong place. While it makes sense to store things we use only occasionally in out-of-the-way locations (especially when space is an issue), the things we use more often need to be easier to access. Store it where it's used, store frequently used items in easy-to-access places and store similar items together.
  • Do I like it? Although this might not affect how well the system works, it can affect how likely we are to use it. If it's fantabulously functional (a worn accordion file with just the right number of labeled sections, for example), we might not care how it looks, especially if we tuck it away in a drawer or closet. But, if you're taking your system from so-so to spectacular, the aesthetics of containers and systems are worth considering.
In the best of all possible circumstances, a simple change in location makes a big difference, as it did for my garden flags. Other times, some shopping, sorting and re-organizing is required, but if these steps create a more efficient system, the time to put it all together is time well spent. Not only will it reduce your clutter, as sorting often does, but it will also save you time.

Best of all, you'll be too busy taking pride in your new system to have time to point the finger of blame at anyone, including yourself.

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Saga of the Naked Flag Holder

Rehoboth Toy and Kite Company
My husband took a vacation day early last week and, as is often the case, my schedule for the day changed as well. It's not his fault. We've been married long enough that he knows to give me my space when he's home on a day that I'm not planning to use as a vacation day and I know not to expect business as usual.

Still, the very presence of someone else in the house tampers with my routine, tenuous as it is. I started out okay, making sure to post my blog, but then, before I got much further, I got sidetracked by house stuff. The shower head that wasn't working. The empty space out front where a garden flag was supposed to be. The bed linens that needed to be changed.

As is often the case, one thing led to another. In this case, it was the garden flag that led me simultaneously astray and in the right direction.

We have a spot in our garden that's too shady to sustain much plant life. Consequently, that's where the garden flag and chimes go -- one way of adding a little beauty to what might otherwise become an extension of the front lawn.

But the flag holder has been empty for months now. I notice it when I pull into the driveway, but once I come inside the house, I get sidetracked by what has to be done there.

And another day with a naked flag holder draws to a close.

For whatever reason, my husband's day off became the day I was determined to replace the flag. Doing this necessitates going into our crawlspace to pull the seasonally appropriate flag out of one of the drawers in the unit that houses seasonal decorations.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you are probably already asking the question that didn't occur to me until that day.

Why are the flags in the crawlspace?

Um...because that's where I've always kept them?

There is a certain logic to putting the flags there, even if I'm not an I know I put it somewhere organizer. The flags are an extension of the seasonal decorations I need to get at only once a year. Therefore, they aren't stored in prime real estate.

If it weren't for the saga of the naked flag holder, I probably wouldn't have realized my tactical error.

I change these flags more than once a year.

Or at least I would if I used one of the cardinal rules of location: put it close to where it's used.

Two hours later, the flag holder bore a summer flag. The rest of its companions had a new home in a drawer in the mudroom -- right inside the door I use to enter the house from the driveway. To free up the drawer, I needed to sort through three others so I could consolidate their contents.

Tackling the drawer unit in the mudroom had not been on the day's to-do list, yet the unexpected task left me with a sense of accomplishment. I'd put like items together, tossed things that were no longer useful and put aside some things to donate. Location logic had won out over habit, and I'd emerged victorious, setting up new a system that would work much better than the old one.

It was an organizational victory worth savoring, yet I was dogged by one nagging thought.

What other storage habits do I need to reconsider?

A question for another day.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Managing Big, Rectangular Spaces

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Our homes are full of big, rectangular spaces. Planned well, these spaces -- closets, drawers and even refrigerators and chest freezers -- can be a storage dream. Left unattended and unplanned, they can quickly become a storage nightmare -- the dumping ground for all things homeless.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of them (my refrigerator). Even if I don't label my refrigerator shelves (the jury's still out), there are plenty of strategies to help to keep large spaces manageable. 

Store like with like. While every home has a junk drawer, no home should have a collection of them. The contents of each rectangular space (drawer, closet, etc.) should be related in some way that makes sense to you. Whether you cluster clothing by color, style, season or occasion, your closet should be set up in a way that not only makes retrieving the item you want easy, but also lets you see your options at a glance. Last week, I set up a drawer that now contains "stationery items and sticky things." Hardly a category I'd recommend on a regular basis, but I now know where to find mailing labels, Command hooks and oversized index cards.

Divide and conquer. As an I need to see it person, I value organization that lets me see things at a glance. When I open a drawer, I want to be able to see its contents without pawing through it. When I open my closet, I want to see what my choices are. Depending on your style, you may not need to see everything, but dividing large spaces into smaller ones makes retrieval easier. A simple drawer organizer can help you separate dark socks from light ones, pencils from paper clips and stationery from sticky things.

Let your style lead. Standard issue isn't always standard. Do you need to ditch the rod? Add another one below it for shorter hanging things? Add more shelves? Roll in some clear drawer units? Trade in your file cabinet for a cart that stores hanging files or open-top file bins? Trade in your binders for accordion files? Don't assume that whoever designed your closet, appliance or piece of furniture knows best. Only you can make it work for you.

Trust your instincts. With a little time and a lot of STYLE, you can make those rectangular spaces the organizing boon they were meant to be. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

If I Label the Refrigerator Shelves, Am I Crossing a Line?

Photo: W. Carter via Wikimedia Commons
In my mind's eye, there is a map for the inside of the refrigerator. Beverages go in one spot, leftovers in other, meat in a third. That is, to my way of thinking, why refrigerator manufacturers create separate compartments.

In my family's mind's eye, it's all a haphazard game. As long as the food gets into the fridge, they are satisfied.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm grateful that the food makes it into the refrigerator. I'm less grateful, however, when I end up throwing away once lunch-worthy leftovers because they got shoved to the back behind the applesauce which, by the way, belongs on a different shelf.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my house is by no means perfect. I am an organizational work-in-progress and my house has multiple hot spots -- places where clutter gathers to have a little party at my expense. I respect other people's right to organize differently than I do, but when my husband's I know I put it somewhere style meets my I need to see it style in the refrigerator, I spend a lot of time muttering under my breath and searching for solutions.

Last week, after I neatly re-stacked the leftovers and replaced the cut fruit on its shelf (the one where it belongs, not the one where it was), I seriously contemplated getting out the label maker and labeling the shelves. There's a good chance, after all, that what's in my mind's eye is different from what's in my family's mind's eye. I see shelves filled with food that can be categorized for easy retrieval. They see a large rectangular space that keeps things cold.

Photo: Morguefile
As I type this, I'm still considering my labeled shelves idea. The only thing holding me back is the ever-changing nature of refrigerator contents. The shelf that works for leftovers stored in stackable plastic containers might not work for the leftover pizza. Cut fruit needs more storage space in the summer than it does in the winter when we have less of it. Will constantly changing labels that are likely to be ignored cause more annoyance or amusement?

For now, I'm opting to leave well enough alone.

But the next time I throw away perfectly serviceable cold chicken, I just might change my mind.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Managing Stuff While Time Works its Magic

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I posted about the role that time plays in the organization process. While this is a great idea in theory, the practice sometimes gets us into trouble.

Take my pile-up on the step for example. That is not a procedure I'd recommend. If we need to employ time as part of the process, we need to use a few strategies when we set aside our "maybes" to ensure that time is a tool and not simply an excuse.

  • Store it intentionally. Whether you box it up and stash it out of sight or leave it where it lives until you make a decision, put your collection of maybes somewhere on purpose and mark it accordingly. Label the box, tag the clothing or use some other method to remind yourself that the item is in limbo. Otherwise, you've made the decision to keep it -- at least until the next time you get to that pile or location.
  • Set a deadline. If you box up your maybes and store them out of sight, make sure to mark them with an expiration date. Write it on the box in permanent marker or on a sticky note in pencil -- either way, determine at which point it moves from "maybe" to "keep" or "find a new home for." Or, consider the change of season your decision point. Unless you're a snowbird or going on a tropical vacation, there's no better time to get rid of those clothes you didn't wear all summer than at the beginning of fall.
  • Decide whether to view or not to view. I'm a big fan of not viewing things a second time. If they're a maybe when I put them in the box and I haven't opened the box by the time the deadline rolls around, opening the box again is only an invitation to a new dilemma. It's important to make this decision when you put things in the box, however. You need to know you've made a promise to yourself that the box leaves your house with its contents uninvestigated before you put things in the box, especially if your personal style is I love stuffIf you know you shouldn't look, but think you won't be able to help yourself, make a list of the contents and tape it to the outside of the box. Reading a list of contents is much less emotionally evocative than going through the items one last time.
When used strategically, time can be a valuable part of our organizational process. Employed as a thinking tool instead of an excuse to hang on to things past their prime, time allows us to thoughtfully separate trash from treasure. Then, when we are finished, we are left with the things we use and enjoy enough to care for and store appropriately.