The Secret to a Home That Stays Organised
Updated: 2 days ago
Let’s be clear here. A house that stays organised is not one that is neat and tidy all the time.
I’ve been to immaculately spotless homes where the cupboards are filled with all kinds of things. They might be stored nicely and neatly but they are so packed full that it’s hard to access and there’s no space for anything else. In other words, they may be tidy but they’re not functioning well.
A house may look a mess, but if it’s properly organised, when it comes to clean up time it’s so much faster and easier. Even if clean up time is only happening on Friday afternoon!
The key to a home that stays organised lies in one super important concept:
How things are stored
This is because the secret to an organised home is in the putting things away. Setting up a space so that things are easy to find makes a home easy to use, putting it back where it belongs ensures things stay that way.
And making it as easy as possible to put things away all boils down to how they’re stored.
Here’s an example:
It’s hay fever season and it’s time to dig out some allergy medication. Before Pesach you sorted through your medicines and categorised everything, stacked them neatly into boxes in the hallway cupboard and labelled them. So finding the cetirizine took seconds.
But now the bottle is lying around on the kitchen counter. And while you’re quickly tidying things away you head over to the hallway cupboard. But the box with allergy medications is at the bottom of your neatly stacked pile and you can’t be bothered unstacking, taking off the lid and putting everything back together now. Besides, you’re running out the door to work so you don’t have time.
So you dump the cetirizine in front of the stack of containers and will put it away later.
Later that day when your husband fishes out the Nurofen he dumps it in the front together with the cetirizine. Before long, there’s a collection of medicines in front of your perfectly organised system.
What went wrong??
Making things easy to put things away means you need to consider:
1. Where it's kept
2. How accessible it is
3. How obvious it is
WHERE IT IS KEPT:
Here are a couple of reasons why where things are kept is so important:
1. Storing items close to where they’re used means that there’s no traipsing around to put things away. This means there’s a lot less effort involved in putting said item away and it’s therefore more likely to happen. (In fact, in the scenario above I was being generous. The fact that the medicines weren’t stored in the kitchen might mean that the collection of bottles would in fact be grouped in a corner of the kitchen counter rather than in the hallway cupboard….)
2. Keeping regularly used items within easy reach is again going to require less effort than having to shlep over a stool every day to put the water bottles away. It’s usually those items used every day that get left lying around anyway. Make it easy to put those items away by keeping them within reach.
PS: If this is starting to sound like we’re treating everyone as if they’re so lazy then you could be onto something. Lazy may be too strong a word but let’s be honest here. Most people do NOT enjoy tidying up properly and so we’re trying to minimise the effort required to make it more likely that it WILL get done.
HOW ACCESSIBLE IT IS:
More than just keeping it within easy reach, the products you use to store the items make a difference. In the medicine scenario above, the problem was that maintaining a pile of stacked boxes is more fiddly and time consuming then just being able to toss it back into an open container. The less steps need to be taken to put things away, the more likely it is to happen.
I’m not saying to never keep anything in stacked boxes. But choose the items you’re keeping in there carefully.
HOW OBVIOUS IT IS:
You know what I’m going to say here. Labels! Labels, labels, labels.
I promise this isn’t a gimmick. I’ve experienced it myself and have had clients say the same thing. As soon as the labels went on, everyone in the house was able to pitch in and help without all asking Mummy for direction. It became obvious where things go and there were no more excuses.
The other thing with labels is that it cuts out any extra thinking. When it’s staring you in the face, you don’t need to use any brain cells to recall what goes in which section. Yes, even in a clear container, seeing an item and recalling its category takes more energy than reading a label. It makes it that much easier to put things away.
Now, a word here about human nature.
You can set up a system that is slick and easy for anyone to use.
What you can’t do, is make someone actually do it. That’s all on them.
Your kids won’t automatically clean up just because things are clearly labelled.
Your husband won’t necessarily put his stuff away just because it goes in the drawer right next him.
And yes, even you won’t always be bothered tidying everything away, no matter how easy it is.
(Hence my opening line about your house not always being neat and tidy just because it’s organised.)
This doesn’t necessarily mean the system doesn’t work.
This involves a completely different system of communication and responsibilities that is not my area of expertise and won’t be addressing here.
But with the right systems in place, it will make it a lot easier to train your family in what’s expected of them and how to do it.