Easy organizing tips from a basket case

tiny duck basketI’ve never been known for my homemaking skills. We are not what you would call disciplined people. But we have made a positive change in what our house looks like this summer. You’ll hear our story and find out how we made it happen using a party, a plan and prizes.

I don’t possess natural or learned talent at running a household. After you read my upcoming memoir, you’ll understand why I never got basic household skills. To make a long story short, I’m someone who prefers poetry to picking up. The result? People have described my home through the years as “lived in” or “cozy.”

My husband worked in a bookstore for years and he told me that the people who buy yachting magazines are not yacht owners. They’re the people who dream about owning a yacht.

Who do you think are the people who buy organization books? I have so many books on getting organized that they clutter up my bookshelf. Some take a feng shui approach (“chi needs to flow”), others a hard line (“don’t be lazy—scrub that toilet with a toothbrush!”). Some suggested “easy tips” that I failed at following, either proving that they weren’t as easy as promised or that I am incapable of doing easy things. “I’ll take the hard way, please, full chaos.”

A case for baskets

We live in a singlewide trailer that is 16 feet across by 66 feet long: 1,056 square feet for three people (who have clothing, shoes and toiletries) plus two dogs (who need toys, blankets, beds, food and treats) and two cats (with their six-foot-tall cat tree, toys, food and catnip. Need cat organizing tips?).

Just all this everyday stuff might give our house a “pleasantly plump” feeling but on top of that, we’re collectors. We collect comics, books, board games, plastic horses, magazines, electronic devices, Playstation games, craft items, mismatched tea cups and plastic Shakespeare’s/Heidelberg cups. (I reached my goal of 100 plastic cups a while ago but just added one more today. Why do we do it??)

I also collect baskets. At last count, 48. Because, as you can tell, I need someplace to put things.

beet pulpAlthough most of the stuff for the horse and pony is in the barn, we keep the saddle, bridle and beet pulp in the house. Don’t you have a bag of beet pulp by your front door?

Holding onto so much stuff means that we’re living in the future or the past. Part of our stuff is memorabilia. This was a gift from so-and-so. I went on a trip and brought back this mug. My iMac G3 was the coolest computer ever (also by our front door).

Then we hold onto things we might need for the future. I have 190 skeins of yarn because all the yarn stores in the world might DISAPPEAR WITHOUT WARNING. I need to be ready for the yarn apocalypse.

In the middle of all this stuff, I know I’m not living according to my beliefs. So much clutter shows that I’m putting fear before faith, materialism before transcendence.

I believe God works in the present. If I am aware and my space is open, God has room to move in my life. I can let go and trust that God will provide my daily bread. And yarn. And baskets for me to put my bread and yarn in.

A party, a plan and prizes

How did we turn it around this summer?

First, a party. A party motivated us to move the dozens of shoes out of the foyer so we could open the front door for guests.

Second, a plan. We found a book with a weekly checklist of household chores divided up throughout the year. Who knew we were supposed to vacuum under the couch cushions? I love a good checklist almost as much as a nice basket.

Third, prizes. Using the checklist in Stephanie O’Dea’s Totally Together, we give ourselves a prize for making our cleaning goal five out of seven days. We decide each week at our family meeting what our upcoming prize will be. It might be a visit to a store we like to (window) shop (like Itchy’s Stop and Scratch) or to a café for a boba drink.

How has our new way of neatness affected our lives? We come home and it feels like a sanctuary, not a storage shed.

I used to think cleaning was a burden. Now I see keeping the house clean is a kindness to us. We wake up to open space. We find things when we need them. We have room to move. At night, we climb into a made bed and the covers welcome us.

If you would like more order in your life, whether in your home, your office, your shop or your barn, try the party, plan and prize method. The party can just be one friend stopping by. The plan can be as simple as 10 minutes a day picking up. The prize might be a pack of gum.

We have a long way to go. But if we can make a good start, then I know you can too. Leave your tips and troubles in the comments. Let’s get organized and get energized together!

11 thoughts on “Easy organizing tips from a basket case

  1. The first two sentences of your essay, “I’ve never been known for my homemaking skills. We are not what you would call disciplined people.” are such a great way to sum up our “family of origin.” I told someone today that I didn’t learn left from right until I went to school at age 6. There are so many ways in which I am still “catching up” but you make it all seem so “amusing and upbeat” in your essays and I love that! Thank you, thank you. Helpful, practical, well-written and I LOVE baskets!

  2. I bet Feng Shui and organization books get a few extra sales from people who lose them in the clutter and buy a second copy.

  3. I’m not the most organized person when it comes to household clutter either. You would think living in a very small space would force me to be organized — so far that hasn’t happened.

    1. I know what you mean. I’ve always lived in small homes and managed to fill them quickly. I hate to think what I would do with 3 or 4,000 square feet! Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. Love this post, as I feel the exact same way. I’m going to have to get that book for sure. A checklist of what to do and when to do it would work wonders for me. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to make my home more of a sanctuary!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! Our new effort has made a visible difference in our home. Daily life (animals, work, commute, etc.) can be overwhelming so just having someone else provide us a simple to-do list makes running the household easier. I wish you well with making your home into even more of a sanctuary! 😀

      1. I have the book in my possession, and I love it already! It’s easy but awesome. You should get some kickbacks for helping sell the book. 🙂

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