A quick look at designing order in the house.
I’ve discovered early in my life, that good design is a wide definition. A functional beautiful space, can easily loose these characteristics by the invasion of mess regardless of how well it was designed initially. And some spaces can get an exclusive make over just by reorganizing them and providing appropriate lighting.
For some people controlling mess is easy, a second nature. For others- mission impossible. I’ve always been a passionate organizer. It is a way of life, a character trait more than anything. I’ve developed a few rules that help me keep things neat, even with a passionate “keeper” husband and 3 young kids…
My husband often likes to remind me of the 3rd law of thermodynamics- which states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium—the state of maximum entropy. Basically, if we don’t do anything (aka, we don’t organize) entropy (aka, mess) will increase.
My basic rule is “If you don’t know where it is, or how to find it- it’s the same as if it didn’t exist. You can get rid of it”. This goes for EVERYTHING! Why have a basement full of stored things if you can’t remember what you have stored there. Don’t just pile things without thinking if you can find them there later on.
Every item needs a “home”– this is the place to which that item always needs to return to. If one of my kids asks me where to find their school library book which is due tomorrow, there’s one shelf in our family room for the circulating library books. When they are not read, they should be there. I teach my kids to always place items back at their “home”.
A helpful rule to help bring items “home” is that there are no stops on the way. Don’t just place that library book on the table because you need to grab something to eat, and then forget it, and from there who knows where it can go by itself….bring it immediately to its home, then move on.
Group all similar items together in one place. Letters, books, dolls, electric cables whatever it may be. If you follow this rule, next time you’re looking for that DVD you will only have one drawer to go through, instead of a whole house. Sometimes, this rule doesn’t work. You need to have those books downstairs and upstairs. OK, just have a few designated places for them and make sure they return to these places.
We have so much stuff. We accumulate without control, and then our belongings get their revenge by closing in on us. Don’t despair. What you don’t need on a regular basis can go to the basement and still be found and brought into use. Basement storage should be done in closed transparent (only in basement!) plastic boxes to preserve the freshness of the items. In each box place a list of contents facing out so you can check for your item without having to open unnecessary boxes. Boxes can be stored on top of one another and besides one another as long as when you stand you can view all lists at once, without having to shift and move heavy items around.
Paperwork. Even in the computer era we’re still drowning in papers. Kids school papers, snail mail, receipts, bills etc. All school stuff should be filtered on a daily basis – if not needed- “home” is trash. If needed- goes to filing in each kids school folder. School art work- can stay around for a couple of days, than we decide together if we want to save or discard. Saving- we take a picture of it and put it in our virtual art album. Only the really best works are kept and stored in a box in the basement. Household bills, mail, etc- is all filed into binders by subject. These binders are stored in an easy to reach but hidden from eye place.
Dealing with clothes is easy. If you didn’t wear it in the last year- it can go. (there are many organizations that collect used clothes donations and even pick it up from your house). Otherwise, separate by season, then order by color (even the hanging dress shirts and dresses). When you return the folded laundry to the closet- make sure to place back where it belongs by color and sleeve length to make it easy to find. With kids stuff it’s a bit more difficult since we store and reuse. All unused clothes can be stored in the basement in large plastic boxes categorized by size so when they become relevant they can resurface to bedrooms. The plastic boxes help keep the clothes clean but if they’ve been stored for more than a year wash them before putting into use.
Another helpful rule is that if it doesn’t have a function or you’ll never use it, you probably don’t need it. There are many beautiful objects, that don’t have a function. True. But you should learn to enjoy them without having to own them. Save the space in your house for those beautiful objects that you actually use. Souvenirs have a sentimental value. OK. Have a designated place, and keep them small (refrigerator magnets?).
Even when everything is organized, categorized, and filed, storage creates visual clutter. Can you put it behind closed doors? Inside drawers? In nice decorative baskets? Those nicely placed books you see in a home design catalog shelving unit- those aren’t part of their real book storage, you know. They have a whole book storage somewhere else, these are placed for decorative use, and no they don’t just match each other in size and color by chance… the nature of storage is that it is varied, non-uniform, and takes up large space. But if it’s not affecting our perception of the space, because it’s closed off, then that’s ok. And if we can find what we need within it, than we accomplished our mission.