You get two posts in one day!!! You’re so lucky :)
Yesterday I slept in a bit to recover from a night up with the kids at various points, and I think it was enough to not only bring me around the sickie corner, but it also must have given me my second wind because somewhere between finishing my eggs and drinking my coffee I decided to tackle a big organization project.
I should back up a second though…
I’ve mentioned that we’re staying in Haiti this year for Christmas. With that in mind, and a few things filling up the calendar, and MY PARENTS COMING TO VISIT (!), I decided to put together a holiday planner/organizer. You know, something to keep gifts sorted, plan certain get togethers and meals, etc. When we have to order things in and plan for several bigger events where I might have to take advantage of trips to Port au Prince, I need to be organized. I just looked around on Pinterest for some ideas, then put together my own pages, printed them on card stock, and stuck them in a binder with dividers for each month. It’s already been really helpful! For example, for the Thanksgiving party, I was able to plan out who was bringing what, what was needed etc, all on one page. Then I could pop it out and carry it around with me as I was getting stuff ready.
In that overall planning process I saw a pin on Pinterest called “50 things to do to organization your home before Christmas”. Or something like that. I pinned it because while we try to keep things fairly organized, sometimes we get busy and there are little things that nag away and we don’t give them the attention they need. I’m also not a spring cleaner, I think because we don’t get that “new” season coming where we want to throw open the windows, air everything out and get the dust bunnies out of the corners. The windows are open every day, and the dust bunnies get attacked regularly. Also, I find September/October is when I seem to want to do most of the organizing tasks around here. I think the coming back from vacation, it’s starting to get cooler, going back to school thing feels like a new season to me, and I tend to have more energy than in the spring when it’s starting to get hot.
I got the idea to take the list as a jumping off point and make an organizing, then upkeep page for each month. Each month has the same tasks on it. October would be the month where any major organization that needed to be done, would get done, then the coming months would just mean quickly revisiting each item to check up on it. If it needs some tidying, it gets tidied. If the organization of the previous month wasn’t working, it can get adjusted. You get the idea. I basically went through each room and thought of what wasn’t typical cleaning and was more of an organizational thing. For example, organizing the kids drawers. This needs to be done monthly. They both get in there and mix things up, and sometimes when Yonese puts clothes away things don’t go where I would put them. So about once a month I take 30 minutes and go through and sort things. It’s also a good time to move anything out that they don’t wear, has stains beyond hope, or doesn’t fit. Anything needing to be moved into rotation does.
One of the biggest, most procrastinated about and complained about projects was the storage room. When we were planning this apartment Otto, our engineer friend who did the designs, added the storage room in. Chris wanted to take it out. I told him it was a non-negotiable because the other house had zero storage built in and I was done with making due. Now we have everything from pantry stuff to fuel conditioner for the Santa Fe in there. Office supplies? Check. Computer parts? Check. Toys and books out of rotation? Check. Craft and sewing supplies? Check. We seriously have a little of everything, and it had gotten to the point where we were just sort of finding a spot and filling it. Things weren’t together, and stuff kept falling on me when I’d go in. I would buy extra things, like ketchup, because I couldn’t see that we already had two in the pantry. I think it had been about 2 years since I’d done a good overhaul. It was time.
So, I started with the stuff closest to the door and went shelf by shelf. Professional organizers say the best thing you can do when organizing a space is to empty everything out, go through it, toss what needs to be tossed, donate what needs to be donated, and decide if what was there and where it was works for you. If not, change it.
I tossed 3 garbage bags of stuff. A lot of it was packaging from consolidating items, or stuff that was broken, outdated, etc. I think when you’re a missionary it’s easy to hold onto things because you might need it “one day”. Things like broken electronics or stuff that’s outdated. Because maybe you’ll need a backup. But then you remember that the reason you got a new router was because they old one didn’t work anymore. Ahem.
So I did it. I went through every section of the room. Took everything out, wiped shelves, sorted, tossed, donated and then reorganized things and even labeled stuff! I realized that the two shelves we have for pantry stuff needed some adjustments. I have a lot of things in baskets already, they just needed some cleaning and sorting. The biggest thing I realized though was that I needed to put the baskets down a shelf and put the stuff that just sits loosely, like cans etc, up a shelf. It’s easy to look down into a basket and see what’s there. I was buying multiples of things, like ketchup though, because I would have had to bend over to see all the way back to the shelf the loose stuff was on. Now that it’s at eye level I can see what we have and what we need easily. The rest of the room saw like being put with like and just basic editing down. Now all the office supplies are on one shelf. The stuff we use the most is closer to the door. Things like that. It’s nice to walk in there and not have things fall on me!
That whole process led to tidying up the cupboard above the linen cupboard, behind our bedroom door, the office shelves (gah!) and our closet. They were all things on the task list, I just wasn’t anticipating doing them all in one day. I realized though, that I’m not one of those people that does 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there like most pro-organizers recommend. I like to take a day and tackle a lot. I feel freer when I do that because I don’t feel like I have another job nagging at me. I LOVE crossing things off the “to do” list. Because of that I literally knocked out half of the list yesterday. I still need to go through my kitchen cupboards and do some tidying and sorting in the kids room, but for the most part I’m done. For the next few months I can go over the list, put things in their places and just stay on top of things.
What always strikes me too, when I do this, is how much was all let out a deep breath. I sometimes think I’m the only one that feels claustrophobic when these things need to be done, but I think it’s because Chris just isn’t as vocal about it. He’s also realizing that what might bug him, like a very full storage room, he’s contributed to. Yesterday as I was going through everything, he was making comments of appreciation. When it was done, he just said thank you, and I knew he meant that he felt like there was breathing space too. I wasn’t going crazy and throwing stuff out, but rather asked him about consolidating and moving some things around so it wasn’t just my project, but something we could both get behind, even if I was doing the work. A few things he just shook his head and said something about not being sure why we even still had the item. I concur. I think we’re both wanting to live more simply, and that means asking ourselves if we really need or use certain things. As our kids get older we’re able to pass on a lot of the stuff that has cluttered our small house. One of the next things to go is our kids dishes. We already use melamine dishes every day, so having extra kid dishes in the house is feeling redundant. Alex is big enough now that he can use regular small forks like Olivia and eat off the same dishes we do. He doesn’t need special cutlery. The only thing we’ll hold on to are sippy cups.
As I’m working through this the thing I keep in mind (or maybe the thing that pushes me?) is the upcoming holidays. I know it might seem crazy since it’s two months until Christmas, but it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas here in Haiti, even though I’ll miss the typical things we would enjoy back home. I want the time to be fun and restful. I don’t want to feel bogged down by stuff or things that are nagging at me. I can use this time to be going through our house to simplify things so the work load is less. The less you have, and the more organized it is, the less work you need to do. Did you know that I rarely do housework on weekends? I want my weekends to be a time of rest, not a time to get stuff done. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever do it, or that I don’t do projects around the house. I do, but I don’t save it up and do it on the weekend. I think over time as we’ve simplified things and there’s been less work to do, well, there’s been less work to do. When I do find myself doing something, it’s usually sweeping and mopping because the floors are a disaster, or maybe a load of laundry because one of the kids had an issue. We don’t have a dishwasher, so dishes are obviously on the list. My point is, I want to make time to relax and look forward to the holidays, and one of the ways for me to fully do that, is to know that our house is in order.
Do you do any organizational projects in the fall to get ready for holidays?