Organizing vs. Simplifying

January 31, 2012

Here is my biggest problem with most home organization books:  they want to help you organize what you have, without regard to truly simplifying and cutting down.  One of my pet peeves is the idea that you have to buy something else to get yourself organized. “All you need is this system and you’ll be on your way!”  Wrong!  I’m getting agitated just thinking about it.  You don’t need to buy a bunch of new “stuff” to organize all your “stuff;” that just perpetuates the problem.  What do you have once you buy that fabulous system?  More stuff!  I would venture to say that 99% of the time, buying organizational supplies is not the solution.  Only by looking critically at what you have, recognizing if it’s useful to you, and getting rid of it if it’s not, will you truly become free of the clutter.

We recently moved our “home office” (I use the term loosely) from an upstairs bedroom to an area of the kitchen.  Absolutely no amount of organizational supplies would have eased the transition from an entire room, plus closet, down to only three cabinets.  We had to get rid of stuff.  That was the only way to make it work.

I am someone who has helped clean out homes of three grandparents; an excellent exercise in recognizing the meaninglessness of most “stuff.”  “Stuff” in basements and attics, in closets and cupboards, in drawers and desks and chests and trunks…..and when your life is over, what does all that “stuff” get you?  Absolutely nothing.  He who dies with the most toys still dies.  The only thing that happens is the family you’ve left behind is forced to deal with it:  to sort it, pile it, trash it, donate it, and maybe…keep it, so the cycle can begin again.

I have vivid memories of our sprinkler system breaking during our basement finishing; water pouring out of the box at the side of our house, into our poor neighbors’ yard.  I had to turn off the water at the shutoff valve inside.  All the “stuff” in our basement was crammed into the part that was to remain unfinished: stacked and stuffed into a space one-quarter of which it would eventually occupy.  And the water shutoff for the sprinkler system?  You guessed it.  Behind all the “stuff.”  As I inched my way to the back of the room, crawling over and under the piles, it occurred to me that some basements looked this way all the time.  Our basement, by virtue of being a basement, could end up looking this way permanently someday, not simply because we were in transition.  Any time the unfinished part of the basement starts to get out of control, I imagine crawling through those piles to get to the water line.  That visual works wonders.

Maybe your stuff is hidden stuff, in basements and closets.  Maybe your stuff has started the slow but steady creep out of hiding, and is piling on counters and tables.  I want to help you look at each room in your home and guide you into seeing each space, simplified.

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4 Responses to “Organizing vs. Simplifying”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Are you talking about *my* basement? 😉 I know you’ve seen it. And it is in need of a serious decluttering. Finding the time to do it is one of the biggest issues I face.


    • Ha! At this point, I’m back to talking about MY basement. 🙂 Truly, grab a timer and do ten minutes or fifteen minutes (a la Flylady) or do FIVE minutes….I figure that five minutes of work is five minutes worth of better. Some things you just can’t do all at once.

  2. cawhittle Says:

    I don’t have a basement, which is why certain other areas of my house have so much stuff. I agree with you so much about getting rid of unnecessary stuff! Now if I could just find the time to do it. 🙂


  3. We were basement-less for seven years, and we made it work for seven years…..but now that we have kids, I’m truly not sure where we’d put stuff–specifically, seasonal decorations. We were using bedroom closets for that storage before. I guess the garage ends up pretty full?? 🙂

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