Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Papers to HOLD

Discovering the idea of the "To Hold" file might have been the single most important discovery I have made in my quest to really accomplish dejunking and organizing in my home.  As we have talked about before, papers are a BIG problem when it comes to keeping homes looking neat, clutter-free and organized. There are just so many of them. And one of the mistakes a lot of people make when it comes to papers, is not having any kind of system to deal with papers. Another mistake people make is they might have a "system" for where to put bills to pay or things that need to be filed but what about papers you need to keep on a short-term basis?  They don't require action at this time and you don't need to keep it long term--they just need to be held on to for a bit. 
That is where the beauty of the "To Hold" file comes in.
In my previous post I talked about how, at my house anyway, the top file is for supplies, next is the "to file" tray, 3rd down is the "Action" tray and the bottom is the "To Hold." 

Most everyone knows what "to file" and "action" would be for 
but you might be asking 
"What kind of papers are your talking about that just need to be held?" 

So here are just a few real-life examples from our home:

Recently I found an offer for carpet cleaning that was too good to pass up. The offer required pre-payment and then when the services were rendered, this paper was to be presented to the company that came to clean the carpets. I printed out the paper, called and made the appointment for a couple of weeks out and then needed a place to put the paper where I knew it would be safe and I would be able to find it again.
Ta-dah....the "to hold" file. This is a perfect example of a paper that needs the "to hold" file. The other option is for this paper to be just sitting out on your kitchen counter or desk, floating around and getting wet, dirty, lost or ripped. PLUS, it's in your way and making your spaces look cluttered! Right?  The "to hold" file is the best way I have found to keep papers out of your prime spaces. It gives you a place to keep things that need to be kept short term but don't require any action at this point.

Here's another example...

In our house, we trade the kids' chores or household jobs around every six months to help give variety and make it so everyone learns different skills and doesn't get too bored or feel too picked on (bathroom jobs are everyone's least favorite). When we trade jobs, we have found it to be imperative that we write them down so that everyone is clear and in agreement on what their responsibility is. Otherwise serious arguing ensues and we are going off of people's memories (never a good idea). This paper is kept in the "to hold" and can be referred to any time its necessary. Then back in the "to hold" file it goes until it gets replaced in 6 months with a new list.

And here is yet another example:
Medical bills are a pain in the neck and a lot of it is because we are dealing with three different entities--the medical provider, the insurance company and our flexible reimbursement company (they keep and disperse pre-taxed money that is set aside for medical expenses). Often, but not always, a bill is being disputed and all of the paperwork involved needs to be kept out until the dispute is resolved. Or the situation might be that when I use the flexible reimbursement card to pay a bill, chances are the flexible reimbursement company will want to see a copy of the bill to okay the expenditures. Both of these kinds of things belong in the "to hold" file. They are in limbo....not needing action but not ready to be filed away. Make sense?

Several years ago I was teaching a class on Household Papers and Organization and was talking about this concept of the "to hold" file. One of the students (Pam) in my class was a little older than me and had teenage and even college-aged children while mine were quite young. She shared that she kept a "to hold" file for each of her children so that when papers came in and couldn't be given to them right away (i.e for the college-kids) or if papers came in for any of her kids that needed to be kept for a while, she had a specific place for each person to put them in. I was really excited about this idea and started thinking about it. A couple of years later my children were old enough to start implementing this same concept in our home and now I am constantly praising Pam's name!
Here is our "to hold" file for each family member.  It sits right out in prime space on the kitchen counter. Why? Because it deserves to be there!
 It is used just about every day, usually multiple times a day!

You can see that each person in our family has a file...even my children that are grown and gone and married. Why? Because just like Pam told me would happen, there are occasional papers that come into my home for my older children. And to have a place for those to go until I see them next is really handy.

Just so you get the idea of what kinds of papers go in these "to hold" files, here are some examples from our files.
My youngest daughter is a huge fan of "The Cupcake Diaries" book series and as she started buying and reading each book she printed out a list of the books available and started checking off which ones she owned as she awaited buying the next one. This list will eventually not be needed, right? As in it doesn't need to go into long term files. And it doesn't require any action right now, right? It just needs to be "held" in a specific place where it can be found again when birthdays, Christmas, or other special reward opportunities come around for her. So this list is in the "Carly" file for when we need to refer to it.

Need some more examples?  Well, due to the personal nature of some of the info on the paper I can't include a picture of every one but here are a few:

* A copy of my child's class schedule that he receives at the beginning of the year goes into their individual file so that if I need to know which class they have during which class period, I can know.

* A print out of the ticket my son needs to take the ACT test in a few weeks. When you register to take this standardized college readiness test, they have you print out a paper that HAS to be taken with you on the day you take the test. You register several weeks to months in advance and where do you put the paper? In that child's "to hold" file? Exactly.

And just in case you need a few more examples, how about these:
The list of possible date ideas my then 16 year old son and his siblings and friends came up with to help with the always-present problem of "what should we do on our date this weekend?" 

A gift certificate my son received for his birthday to go sky diving that needs to be kept until he redeems it.

A copy of the receipt for the graduation tassel I bought my Class of 17 graduating senior. (Did you know that you have to order these in the fall and they aren't delivered until April of the next year?!  Well, it's true. And in the meantime, where are you supposed to keep it so you can find it in April?) 

Last but not least....
This new debit card and pin number came in the mail for my married daughter last week. I knew she was coming home for Thanksgiving and would be able to pick it up then. As I mentioned, even though some of my kids have flown the nest, it is nice to have a place to put their papers that need to be held onto for just a little while. Another example for another daughter was the recent Proof of Insurance card that came in the mail for her car. She will be here too, in a few days, and that card is safely tucked away in her file as we speak.

Remember your goal? To have EMPTY and CLUTTER-FREE spaces?!  My counters don't always look like this but, for me, this is the goal. And I have found that the best way to keep papers out of my prime spaces PLUS be easy to find when I need them is a "to hold" file.  It helps you give a home to those papers that are in limbo. Give it a try! It will change your life for the better!

Next post:  Creating a filing system that can really work

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Papers that need ACTION

In our journey to win The Paper Chase so far,
we have talked about how to minimize the number of  papers that come in (aka The Mail Game)
and how we really should be doing all we can to keep as many papers as we can OUT!

We've also talked about how if a paper does make it into the house, we should always try to give the needed information to our Secretary and then immediately throw that paper away.

But there are some papers that really do need to find a place in our homes--usually NOT permanently but for some given length of time. These papers have three futures, in my home at least--and they are either

In this post, I am going to be talking about the first on the list, papers that need "ACTION." (The "to file" and "to hold" topics both need some serious time and explanation so they will be addressed in the next few posts.)

When a paper comes in (as in you played the mail game and it made it into the house) and it wasn't something that could just be recorded on the BIG calendar and then thrown away, it usually requires some sort of ACTION. 

Some examples might be: a bill that needs to be paid, a wedding invitation that a card or gift needs to be sent for, a letter that needs answered, a notice that needs to be called about, or maybe a bank statement that needs to be reconciled. Speaking of bank statements though, we are enjoying life in the 21st century now and one of the great things about that is there are many pieces of mail that we used to get on paper via "snail mail" that are now easily accessible on line ... like bank or credit card statements, utility bills, phone bills, etc. As with just about anything, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to keep unnecessary items from coming IN to your home...and that especially includes paper. So if you haven't already, contact your bank, lending institutions, and utility or phone companies (or ANY other place that sends you paper on a regular basis) and ask about receiving your statements, notices and bills on line. (Then, for heavens sake, when you do get them online, DON'T print them out!)

In your quest for management of your papers that do need to come in, something like this little "contraption" is a must.  Some call it a file tray. I call it a "Paperwork Processing System."
I keep mine in the closet in our den/office.
But in order to really show you what it is and how to use it, I'm going to pull it out and put in on the desk for a minute.
 A "Paperwork Processing System" can be set up in all sorts of ways. It does not need to be in a file tray format. It could look something like this:

or this

or this
or this....just to name a few

 The possibilities are endless really....just go to any office supply store and look around. 
The key though is it needs to be something that your papers can easily be placed into.
So, nothing with drawers or lids like these:

Why? you ask
Because anything like that could easily stop you from putting the paper where it goes and instead invites you to place the paper(s) ON TOP of the file holder instead, of course with the wonderful intent of putting it away "at some future time." (Which we all know how that turns out.)

So whatever it is, it needs to be something that is open and easily accessible and helps you put that paper away quickly.

When a paper comes in (it passed the MAIL GAME test) and the info it contains can't just be given to the SECRETARY (and then thrown away), then it comes here to your ACTION file. When I put something into my "Action" folder or slot, it means it needs to be specifically acted upon in some way.  We'll talk even more about examples in a later post  but just know that it's a general category....things that need ACTION.

And that ACTION will occur on Paperwork Processing Day....a key ingredient in your paper chase success story.

Paperwork Processing Day is always Wednesday for me. But it can be any day of the week for you. And don't let the "Day" in the title scare you really is about 15 minutes at most if you are the least bit consistent with it. On your Paperwork Processing Day, you simply take a few minutes and ACT on anything in your ACTION folder. You pay the bill, send off the card, make the phone call to ask the question or solve the problem, etc. Once the action is completed, if the item needs to be kept long term, it goes into the "To File" folder or space.
Important side note:  When you look at my files, you might notice that they aren't labeled. Which one is "Action" and which one is "To File?" And what are the other two for? Good job! Those are good questions. I am really big on labeling everything (just read here if you don't believe me) and yet you caught me today with something not labeled. Let me explain...up until about 2 months ago I had a black file tray that was labeled but eventually died (it was 16 years old after all and got cracked a few too many times) and that file tray was labeled. In all of those years, my husband and I (who are really the only two who use this Paperwork Processing System with any regularity at all--OK, let's face it, EVER) have been trained through the years by the previous file tray that was labeled to know which was which and now just know beyond any doubt that the 2nd from the bottom is "Action" and the next one up or 2nd from the top is "To File."  Always the top file is "Supplies"--so you can see blank paper, blank file folders, blank envelopes and blank cards. And always the bottom is "To Hold" which, like I said earlier, will be the topic of our next discussion.  Hope that helps.

One last word about Paperwork Processing Day...
when you take the time every week to address your paperwork, you are much more likely to stay on top of things and not be caught late or without. I really believe in this step. It's a must and, like I said earlier, only takes a few minutes out of your day. Choose a specific day and keep it consistent each week. And after just a few weeks, your paperwork will be trained and you will be too!

Next Post:  The papers to HOLD
In future posts, we of course will delve into filing and filing systems--such important topics on our quest to conquer papers! So stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Secretary

One of the biggest struggles with managing the papers in our homes and one of the reasons people are so hesitant to get rid of papers is because of answer #2 to the question:
"Why don't we throw them out?"
2-Because I am worried about being caught without some piece of information we might need if we did get rid of a certain paper so we don't throw any of it out.

In other words, people are afraid to get rid of anything for fear they might actually need the information on it. And that's a valid concern.

In reality, what everyone needs is a personal secretary, right?
Wouldn't that be great?
Someone who we could walk into the house to and just throw all of our papers at and then they can tell us when and where we need to be doing on any given day.
Sound dreamy? 
Well, what if I told you, you can have a secretary and it can be at your service 24 hours a day/7 days a week, wouldn't talk back to you or ask for days off and would only cost you about $7 per year?

Meet your secretary...

(otherwise known as a BIG CALENDAR.)

Let me give you three simple rules about the big calendar and how to make it work best for you:

First, it needs to be BIG. As in, it needs to have BIG spaces to write in. Why? So it can hold a lot of information--really ALL of the information you can possibly give it.  If you make sure your calendar is BIG enough, you can put in information you might not even think you need at the moment but would be in the "nice to have" category.

Second, it needs to hang in a prominent place in your home--preferably right out in the open, so it can be seen and used multiple times a day. Technically the one you see above is a desk top calendar but I would never recommend using it for that. Leaving it out on the desk top or kitchen counter will really contribute to a the messy/cluttered look you DO NOT want. Do whatever it takes to hang it up.

Third, you need to write on it IN PENCIL and in TIME ORDER. "Why? and What? you might ask.  It's vitally important that your big calendar be as accurate every day as possible. And let's face it. Our lives and schedules are constantly changing. What might have been a "for sure" a week or two ago is suddenly not happening. And what was once starting at 1:00 at this place could easily be switched to 4:00 at this other place. ALWAYS write in pencil and train your family to do the same thing. And when adding anything to the calendar it works so much better to have the things that are happening first thing in the morning written at the top of the date box and then down through to noon, late afternoon, evening and late evening. This makes it so when you check your calendar, you can easily see what needs to happen/what commitments have been made in what order.

My last piece of advice when using your secretary is: USE IT. Just like all of us, it is so much happier when it is feeling useful, helpful and needed. We will talk a little more about this in the future but just trust can get a lot farther in your quest to win the Paper Chase when you allow your secretary to do it's job.  That means that you bring papers into your home and immediately see if your secretary can "take care of it" and then you can quickly toss that paper. Imagine how much less paper you could have in your home if lots of papers were thrown at the secretary who recorded them and then threw them away! Lots and lots!  When I get a paper coming in--something like a birthday party invitation or newsletter with specific dates of important events, I make it a priority to stop and record the specific information (including date and time of course but also phone numbers, addresses and any other information--that's why you have a BIG calendar) and then immediately throw that paper away.  It's one of the ways your secretary helps you--it keeps every bit of information in once place and allows you the freedom to let go of the paper that is constantly coming in.

Next post:  Papers that need ACTION

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Mail Game

Papers are the issue and we're attacking the problem starting today! Who's with me?

In my last post I said that one of the biggest reasons papers take over our homes and spaces is because we come up with excuses of why we can't get rid of them. Today we're starting with excuse #1 of

"Why I can't get rid of papers"

1-Because there are so many papers coming in that I don't feel like I can get rid of them fast enough. In fact, I'm pretty overwhelmed and sometimes even paralyzed by it.

To begin to see the problem of how we get too many papers in our lives, all one really has to do is go to the mailbox and pick up that one big pile of papers. Sheesh! Isn't it a bit crazy?!
One way I have found to deal with this extremely large pile of papers that keeps wanting to come into my house is something I call The MAIL GAME.

The Mail Game is a game I play every time I go to the mailbox.

Our mailbox is in a neighborhood lock box like this,
so I only stop and pick up the mail about once every 4-5 days. Why? Because I only want to have to play the MAIL GAME once or twice a week instead of every day. ;)

This is how you play the MAIL GAME:
Before I ever even take this pile of mail into my house (that is so important! Once it enters, it's harder to get rid of!), I sit in my car and do this: (or, if I or someone in my family walks up to the mailbox, the same game happens right on the kitchen counter IMMEDIATELY )--

If you can't tell from the pictures, what I do is
1) open up every piece of mail
2) remove every piece of paper including envelopes and small ad-ins or fliers
3) make a pile of the things that have to be saved or dealt with (usually, on any typical, that is less than 1/4 of the pile)
and then
4) make a pile of every piece of packaging, paper, envelope, postcard, ad, and catalog that is not necessary, wanted or needed and put them in the garbage pile

And when I pull into the driveway and get out of the car to walk in, I stop at the beloved big green garbage can and release.....

(There are some people out there who are more paranoid than I am and refuse to just throw things away with their names and addresses on them. I'm not going to argue with you on that one--to me it is a personal choice. I have never worried about it and have never had any issues. I do open all mail and don't just throw away whole envelopes with our name and address blaring right there for everyone to see. But if someone is going to go through your gross garbage to dig for your name and address?  Well, they can find ours in the phone books so.....

But if you do, all I ask is that you don't let that stop you from your main task--which is getting rid of the papers that come in as QUICKLY as you can.) So the rule is, if you don't just toss those papers, they go into another bag or box that is equivalent to the garbage where they eventually go to a shredder or something equivalent.)

The key to THE MAIL GAME is that it is done immediately, preferably before you EVER GO INTO THE HOUSE and all things belonging to the garbage get there on your way in to the house. This is war after all. You are fighting to protect your spaces from things that just don't deserve to be there! And unnecessary papers is definitely one of them.

The Mail Game is just the kind of challenge I takes such little time but reaps huge rewards!  You will notice a difference as you play it for the next few weeks.  Try it and let me know how it works!

Next Post:  The Secretary

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Papers, Papers, Papers

If I had to pick just one thing that I have found gives people more grief than anything else in their quest to become organized and keep their homes clutter-free, it would have to be


They're EVERYWHERE!!!!!
We're drowning a bit, right?
The truth of the matter is, the AMOUNT of papers that is coming in to most of our lives is staggeringly large. There really isn't a day that goes by that a
or list
doesn't come in...and usually they arrive in multiples.

And that's not even mentioning up larger items like kids' school work, magazines and newspapers.
Yet how many papers get THROWN OUT???! (Exactly. No wonder we're drowning. There's that darn Law of Ecology again.)

In reality, we actually can't do much about the amount of papers that come in--they are just going to come.

But we can do something about how many go out, right? But usually we don't.
Why don't we throw them out? 
There are a few different answers to this question but here are just three that I've come up with:

1-Because there are so many papers coming in I don't feel like I can get rid of them fast enough. In fact, I'm totally overwhelmed and sometimes even paralyzed by it.

2-Because I am worried about being caught without some piece of information that I might need if I did get rid of a certain paper so I tend to not throw any of it out.

3-Because there are some papers I really do need to keep but for just a limited amount of time so I can reference them again. Where should I keep those instead of all over my counters and tables and floors?

As we delve in and really talk the "nitty-gritty" about how to handle papers, you are going to find it is actually a lot easier than you might think. The key to getting the best of your papers is to HAVE A SYSTEM....a "paperwork processing system" that gives you specific ways to deal with, handle, and then either keep or discard the papers in your life.


1)  A secretary (no really...stay tuned and I'll show you how you can have one of your own!)
2)  An "Action/To File" file
3)  A "Hold It" file (for each member of the family)
4)  A File Cabinet
5)  A large always being emptied garbage can
6)  A "paperwork hour" once a week!

There you go......6 little things that will END your paperwork problems and help keep you sane and your spaces clear.

I'm excited to teach you a little about what I know about handling our household papers and I'm anxious to hear from you as well. There are lots of ways of doing things and, by all means, mine is not the only way. So feel free to share and let's share some of your ideas as well!

Papers are important but keeping papers under control is even more important!~  It feels good to have them out of your prime spaces and in a place where you can find information when you need it.

Next post:  The Mail Game

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rule #10 Have a specific place to keep things that need to go

Here we are at the last of the Top 10 Dejunking Rules.....thanks for joining me on this journey so far! It's been amazing!

But don't worry. I still have a LOT more to say! (haha...were you honestly worried about that?)

In the upcoming months we are going to delve into the how to's of dealing with all sorts of things like papers (that's a HUGE one), storage units, yard sales, organizing kitchens and laundry rooms, kids keepsakes, books, photos and scrapbooks, knick knacks and collections, and holidays....just to name a few.

I'd also like to hear what YOU would like to "talk" about so feel free to send me your suggestions via comments or email.

But before we get ahead of ourselves...

here we go with

Rule #10 Have a specific place to keep things that need to go

One of the mistakes people make in dejunking and organizing their spaces is they believe it is a huge one-time "life event."

The bottom line is STUFF IS ALWAYS COMING IN so it needs to constantly be going out.  We talked a little bit about this in my blog about when something new comes in, something old goes out. The truth of the matter is, we are too affluent and stuff is way too easy to acquire. If things are coming in, other stuff just HAS to leave. Otherwise drowning occurs :) And none of us wants that.

This makes sense to most people and they generally agree that things need to be leaving. But one problem they usually have is they don't have a place in their home to specifically hold things that need to leave. Instead, they start making piles. And guess what? Piles are really just ugly clutter mountains that make our homes look disheveled and us grumpy. To put it mildly, piles should really be avoided at all costs.

Instead, a "get rid of'" container is a much better way to go.

Let me show you what I mean:

One of the things I have found we are constantly needing to get rid of at our house is articles of clothing (jeans, shirts, socks, and shoes) Why you ask? Because with active, growing children things never stay in great shape or fitting their bodies for very long. So I have discovered that having a specific bin in my laundry room for things to go out (labeled "Goodwill" here) is an absolute necessity.  Why you ask? Because in our house the laundry room is upstairs and I found that if my only "get rid of" pile was out in the garage, there were piles laying around upstairs (in the bedrooms and the laundry room) for the time it was convenient to get it to the box in the garage. Capiche?

Having this bin upstairs near the bedrooms really makes a difference in my ability to "corral" that
pile of clothes, socks, headbands, little knick knacks and even books and bags that I come across that need to be gotten rid of.

And when it gets full (like you can see here), then I take the time to pull it out and take the whole bin downstairs to the garage.

Meanwhile, this is the garage area where I keep those larger boxes that hold things that need to go. There are a lot of ways to deal with this. I'd love to hear what you do.  Here is what I do.

The bin with the green lid used to hold my charity items and when it was full I would transfer the items over to bags or boxes and take them to the local Goodwill. Then a couple of things changed. First, I was getting tired of having to transfer everything over to other containers when it got full and thought "why not just have "disposable" boxes to hold it in the first place?" And second, I started realizing that I was donating enough stuff that if I could store it for several months I could make some good money at a yard sale.  So between those two ideas, that's when I started picking up apple boxes from my local grocery store's produce department and filling those boxes instead.  For me, when a box is totally full, my husband puts it up in the rafters of our garage and it stays there until June when my neighbors and I host a multi-family yard sale and get rid of it all. (Putting on a yard sale is not for everyone but I love it and will be telling you all about how to do it successfully in a future blog post.)  If putting on a yard sale is really not for you, this system still totally works because when the box is full you can simply put it in your car and drop it off at any number of charitable organizations who gladly accept such things (yet another future blog post idea!)
So now what I use the large Rubbermaid bin with the lid for is to store "keepsakes" for my children. Remember my laundry room bins?
The one labeled "storage" is meant for two things. Clothes that come through that are not the correct size for my children currently and thus need to be stored away for when they grow a bit OR it holds clothing items (mostly) that my children really want to keep as a memento of their childhood or something wonderful in their life. An example might be a tee shirt from 5th grade graduation or a scarf from youth camp or a sweatshirt from a sports team. We don't keep a lot of those things but occasionally something is special and needs to be kept as a special keepsake.
And so that is what I keep in the big "green lid" bin. And then once a year, when that box gets full, we pull down each child's keepsake box (kept up in the rafters of the garage) and put things in it. Of course, just like we talked about here, bins force you to make decisions about what to keep and not. And it is the exact same thing here. When we pull down the keepsake bins and start evaluating what is already in there and what we have ready to put in, tough decisions sometimes have to be made. Remember our mantra "We wish we could keep everything but we can't?" Yes, that is used in full force here. And it works. (Keepsakes are another topic I am going to really delve in to at some point on this blog so stay tuned!)  So that is what the "green lid" box is for. And the two apple boxes are for selling at a yard sale or hauling off to the charity of your choice.  Hope that makes sense?

The bottom line is this:  things are constantly coming into our homes and they need to be constantly leaving. When you have a specific place (or two) to keep items that need to be said good-bye to, it keeps your prime spaces clear and your house less cluttered. Remember the goal is to have a place for every keeper and put every keeper in it's place, and that includes things that won't be a keeper for much longer. Have a place for them and you'll be much happier with the way your home looks and feels.

Until next time...happy shoveling!

Next blog post: Managing the Paper Chase Part 1

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rule #9 People are more important than things

I am a very religious person who truly believes in a loving God that watches over us and directs our lives. I believe He wants us to learn and grow and become more than we currently are and so He allows there to be challenges and struggles in our lives. I also believe that our loving Heavenly Father has a wonderful sense of humor. And that is why there exists, among other things, a certain phenomenon in marriage called the OPPOSITE LAW.

What is the Opposite Law you ask? Simply put, the Opposite Law is that amazingly universal rule that says that if any two people come together in marriage, one of them must be a frugal, miserly, worry-constantly-about money person and the other must be a free-spirit spender who can't keep a dime in their pocket to save their life. The Opposite Law also states that if two people are married, one has to be extremely cold blooded (or, as I like to call it, a Polar Bear) that would be perfectly happy to have the thermostat set at somewhere around 66 degrees and the other one is completely warm blooded (as in snakes and lizards body temperature) that has to wear a ski parka and winter hat around inside their house, even during the summer months when the AC is on, just to stay warm (hypothetically speaking, of course. I probably don't know anyone who has to do that?) And for sure this Opposite Law of the Universe says that if two people are married, one of them has got to SAVE EVERYTHING (just in case you might ever need your notes from your freshman college chemistry class or every nail and screw that you ever come across) and the other has to be the "why is there so much crap laying around here" kind of person who would throw away the kids' pet gerbils (we've had them for a week and they smell) and the wedding photo album (after all, that was a long time ago and really all it shows is lots of of  bad hair styles and embarrassing outfits).

The bottom line is the Opposite Law exists. It is real and a part of almost every couple's lives I have ever met. Thanks to our Heavenly Father's wonderful sense of humor, you can't escape it. SO, the time has come to realize it, embrace it and deal with it.

Without pointing fingers or naming specifics, my husband and I are 100% completely healthy and normal if the existence of the Opposite Law in our marriage is the gauge. We love each other completely and perfectly and, after 26 years of marriage and 2 years of dating, have come to appreciate and yes, even laugh at the fact that we are OPPOSITE in a lot of ways.


in the early days, it wasn't quite that easy (if you know what I mean?)

While we could go on discussing all sorts of different ways we are opposite and how we have worked on appreciating those differences, this blog is about the accumulation of STUFF and dealing with that so we're going to focus on the last part of the Opposite Law previously mentioned--the one that says that every couple is going to have one person who likes to keep everything and another person who wants to get rid of everything!  It's a real problem...and it's time we delve in and talk about it.

Let's start with a story....(see if this sounds at all familiar?)

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young gentleman named Craig and his lovely, adoring wife Kim and they married, started their family, graduated from college and got a job in Washington State. They rented a small duplex and began living their dream life. It was at about this time that they really started accumulating things. They had received many generous wedding gifts that helped get their new household established and, as poor college students, they really had no resources to buy much of anything else besides the necessities. Until they started earning a monthly paycheck that was suddenly bringing in a lot more money than they had been used to. In an effort to be responsible, Craig and Kim sat down and budgeted their new paycheck and realized they had a bit of extra fun money each month to spend on things they wanted. They made a list of items they would really like to have like a new stereo, a new computer, new bikes and bike cart for the kids, etc. and slowly they began to acquire things.

About this time, Kim was enjoying establishing her new home and organizing it and decorating it in cute ways. And one thing she began noticing was that Craig was not like she was. He had grown up in a large family of 9 children and had been taught to not throw anything out because at some point it might become useful again. Kim had been raised by good parents who had much of the same philosophy but she also had a strong phobia of having too much stuff. To her, if you haven't used it in the last year, you don't need to keep it. This was a mind-boggling concept to Craig and he wasn't quite sure what to do with this crazy wife of his! And, not to be out done, Kim was wondering how in the world she was going to live her dream minimalist, no junk life with a guy who wanted to keep EVERYTHING?! It was a real problem.

About this time, Kim started reading books on the subject of home organization. She heard a new phrase called "Dejunking," which sounded like a wonderful concept to her. Her most favorite book on the subject was called It's Here Somewhere by Alice Fulton and Pauline Hatch, who were two women who actually lived in her same town!  This book was revolutionary because it taught the reader exactly how to dejunk, in simple steps and also explained well the concept of organizing after dejunking (in fact, it's where the phrase "a place for every keeper" comes from.)  About a year after Kim discovered It's Here Somewhere, she heard that the authors Fulton and Hatch were teaching a class for a local community group and she was excited to not only meet them but to ask her a most important question. You see, Kim had loved the concept of dejunking and getting rid of things that don't add anything positive to your life. BUT, Craig was against it. And so as much as she wanted to jump in and live a more minimalistic life where you only kept things that truly were used and appreciated and necessary, Craig was not on board. What to do?  Kim went to the class to find out. She enjoyed the class and what Fulton and Hatch had to say but specifically waited to ask her question at the end of the class. After all, she was really wanting to solve the problem.

When the question/answer time finally arrived, Kim raised her hand and asked her profound, well-thought out question "WHAT do you do if you want to streamline your home and only keep keepers, but your spouse does NOT?"

And do you know what those two ladies said? (It wasn't at all what Kim was expecting.)

They said
"Nothing is worth ruining a relationship over. Stop nagging and fighting him about it and just streamline your things and the things you have jurisdiction over. We predict that eventually your husband will see that keeping everything is not only stifling but completely unnecessary. And if he doesn't, you can still enjoy a happy life together if you choose people over things."


There, ladies and gentlemen, lies the answer to most every marriage conflict. But especially this one.

So, let me "show and tell" you how I have worked to resolve this in my marriage.

First, let it be known....I don't do junk drawers. Or junk closets. Or junk spaces. Ever. Anywhere.
But when I found that my husband needed that, I eventually realized it as a need and obliged.
Here is one of his many "junk" spaces in our home that he uses to collect stuff. This one is in our bedroom closet and he tosses things in at his discretion. I don't touch it. It's not how I choose to live or what I would love to see in my closet, but it's his closet too, right? Enough said.

And this would be the shelves on his side of the closet. In my "ever-so-dejunking" opinion, there are WAY too many pairs of pants here that NEVER get worn. He keeps old jeans for "work pants" even though he has a lot and only needs one or maybe two pair a week (I DO do laundry after all).  Keep in mind that these are not his "going to work" clothes. Those slacks are all hanging up. These are extra and if it were up to me, I'd get rid of at least half of them. isn't up to me really. So, as long as there is some space for me to put clean "work pants" away, I make it work.

This is a picture of his section of the closet for shirts. For me, and my dejunking brain, there are WAY too many shirts here. He wears some of them most of the time and the rest just sit.  But I've learned that he's not as comfortable with getting rid of a shirt once it comes to reside in the closet. Maybe he's worried about hurting it's feelings? (I don't know...just pulling at straws trying to figure it out.) But, in the end, it's the way it is. So, I have learned to just let it go. It's his closet and he deserves his space. (Except....I do do this. On my birthday, Mothers Day and Christmas when he asks me what I want for a gift and I say "I want you get rid of 5 shirts out of your closet :) He usually doesn't but it's worth a try!)

This is a picture of our kitchen drawer. If it were entirely up to me, that box of "junk" next to the rolodex would be much less full and a lot more clean and organized. Hoewver, it's not entirely up to me and that is the hubby's spot in the drawer. He puts miscellaneous tools, screws, nails, plastic parts and pieces and who knows what else in there. It's never clean. He rarely gets anything out of it. But I have learned to just let him have his space and be OK with it.

And this would be the shop in the basement. I have attempted at times to help in the organization of the place. But.....

I've learned you can buy containers and such and even label them....but when a person likes a little chaos or mess in their lives, you have to let them fly a bit.

And that's not to say that my husband doesn't take care of things or like to be able to find things. He would say that his shop is a mess partly because we have 3 sons who like to work in here. I would say that that counts for a bit but probably not even half of the disorganzation in the room. Nevertheless, I shut the door and let it be....unless he asks me, on a Saturday afternoon "What should we do now?" Then I might have been known to throw in "Let's go clean your shop!" which doesn't ever work (but a girl can try.)
I know that to some of you these places don't look so bad. And granted, it could be much worse. But I really, really like an organized clean space and the post is to hopefully explain that

people really ARE more important than things

and you can work with those you love to find balance and compromise in the way you handle the management of your things.

Next post:  Rule #10  Have a specific place to keep things that need to go.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rule #8 Organize into categories and then use clear, labeled containers to hold smaller things.

In some of my previous blog posts, but specifically in the one called "Organizing After a Junk Raid," (which you can read again here) I talked a lot about the basic organizing principles of putting things together in like categories and then labeling them.  Here are some examples around my home of where and how and why this works:

This is a picture of my kitchen pantry. You can see here that because I have used containers to hold like things, that all of my spaces, clear to the back of each shelf, are used to their maximum efficiency. It makes it so even the very top shelf that is hard to reach is totally usable.

See? The top shelf, even though it is barely reachable, is completely usable. All someone has to do is reach up and pull a container down, get the item they need out and then put the box back. It makes every inch of that space completely usable.
When you are organizing your spaces, always keep in mind the super important principle of SPACE PRIORITIES (have you forgotten what that is or are new to this blog and don't know?  If so, read about it here).  Which means that the things that you use the most deserve to be in your most easy-to- get-at spaces. So here, you can see that I use our medicines and bandages more than I use batteries or extra light bulbs. These are all things we need to keep (they are keepers!) but are used in different amounts and in different frequencies.

As far as figuring out how to group like items together and pick a container to use, you can see on the shelves in my pantry that what I have done is determined a general category or "grouped like minded things together" -- things like bandages and creams and internal medicines -- and then put them together in one medium sized clear box. Some people make the mistake of grouping items together in such SMALL groups that it overwhelms them. So, for example, I wouldn't have a specific container for pain relievers, and another one for antihistamines, and another one for anti-acids.  One big one for every type of medicine that goes INTO your body was good enough for me.

The same thing is true for's an overkill to have one box for AA and AAA batteries and another for C and D batteries. If I had rechargeable batteries and a charger I would keep it in here too.

One of the things I love about using containers for all sorts of items is, not only is it easy to pull out the box and reach the item clear far in the back (as opposed to having to climb up there and try to reach clear far back to get at it) but it sets a limit for you on how much of that thing you can hold before it's time to go through and dejunk again or figure out what you really don't need.  I talked a lot about setting limits in a blog post recently that you can read here and it comes up again when talking about how to use containers and labels to keep your home organized. I LOVE that containers give me the option of keeping things up to a certain point but then force me to "limit the chaos" and keep things under control.  Which brings up another good point. Every few months or so, when you see a container reaching capacity or feel a sudden "this is a mess" feeling, take just a minute and pull a few things out to get rid of. This especially happens to me in the "internal medicines" box when medicines expire and need to be discarded or when one medicine is almost gone and can easily be combined with another of the same kind. Your containers do not need to necessarily be super organized as in all things lined up, alphabetized or neatly stacked (a good example of that is my batteries container you can see above). As long as it contains what the label says and you can reach in and find things fairly easily, you are doing great!

Another thing I love about using containers to organize is that it makes things really easy to see....for you and for your family members. Especially if you use clear containers, which I think is best if you can make it happen, it's pretty easy to see what the box is holding, how much you have of it, and it makes it very accessible to get at the item you want. Take, for example, this container of match box cars. Not only does it set a limit for my boys and how many cars and trucks they can have but it is also really easy to pull these containers down (one at at time is usually my rule) and my boys or their friends can reach in and find what they are looking for, usually without having to dump the whole thing out.
One of the places I have loved using the labeled containers idea is this area next to our family room.
It has a mud room feel with the hooks for backpacks and coats but the use of all of the clear containers makes it be able to hold so much more. In our home we have a basement that has a play room with lots of toys. But, especially when my children were young, all of the toys like these you see here that have lots of pieces were just NOT going to work down in the play room. Why? Because for some strange reason, one of the things kids love to do the very most is to dump well organized bins out. Have you ever noticed that? Did you think it was just the children in your life that did that? Well, it's not. Its pretty much any child anywhere in the world. The best solution I found was to have these containers hold the toys with lots of pieces AND put them up high where just an adult can get to them. If my children or children visiting would ask to play with the wooden blocks, for example, I would get the bin down and let them play right there in the family room. Then when they said "Now I want to play with the trains," I would say "Okay! Sure thing. Just pick up the blocks first and then we will put them away and get the trains down."  Every once in a while, the kids had big plans to make a fort out of blocks and then use the army men and dinosaurs. If that was the case, I would definitely make an exception and let more than one bin down. I love creative play like that!  But most of the time, the one bin at a time rule worked just fine and definitely helped in the management of messes.

Here are a few close-ups so you can see better:

As a side note, I really liked the method of storing children's books, like you can see here. I found that kids can pull out the bin, file through one at a time and find the book they want, pull it out and read and then put it back in and get another without making any mess at all. I liked having one bin for learning books (basically non-fiction) and then one bin for little board books (for babies who like to chew on books and tear pages) and then another for large fiction books. Like I said earlier, part of organizing is figuring out how to break things down into reasonably sized like items and this one for books really worked for me. I also liked how it limited the number of books we can have. I know that might sound like heresy to some of you but truly....just because books are "printed material" doesn't mean they are made of gold. AND, in this day of total affluence, they have basically no monetary value at all. You might disagree with me if you buy your books at school book fairs or Barnes and Noble but, as a frequent yard sale shopper, I'm telling you that really nice kids books cost 25 cents to 50 cents each--less than a candy bar or pack of gum. So, I'm giving you permission to buy a few, send a few out, and only keep a large but limited supply of your favorites. (You're welcome ;)

Another place I use labeled containers a lot is in this closet in the den.  In my next post I am going to be talking all about how to deal with a spouse who wants to keep everything (and the top shelf in this closet is a prime example of that :) and how to compromise and still maintain some order in your home.  So stay tuned for that.  But, as for organizing this closet with labeled containers, I think it's a good example of using different types of containers to get maximum efficiency out of a space and still be able to find everything pretty easily and quickly.  In a future blog post, I am going to be talking all about PAPERS but suffice it to say here that the middle shelf is where I spend the majority of my time here in this closet and thus it gets the middle shelf PRIME SPACE. My scrapbooking paper is up top which I use quite a bit and then family games are reachable for the rest of the family.

After you have dejunked and are ready to start finding PLACES FOR YOUR KEEPERS, organizing your keepers into reasonably-sized categories and then storing them in preferably clear, and for sure labeled containers in the way to go! I'd love to see pictures of the ways you have found to store your items and please send me questions of specific spaces in your home you are wondering how to organize. I might not know the answer every time but I'd love to give it a shot!

Next blog post:  Rule #9  People are more important than things.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rule #7 Have a place for "extras" and "errands"

This rule is a direct result of Rule #1 Learn to Love Empty which you can read about here as well as one of the most important organizing principles Space Priorities which you can read about here.

The problem we have, in dealing with stuff and spaces is that
we might LOVE empty but have a hard time achieving it.
We might really WANT to protect our prime spaces but have a hard time doing it.

Rule #7 is going to really help you with both of those.

Let me explain.

As you go about your day to day life, things are constantly coming into your home (and hopefully going out too :) And when you are protecting your PRIME SPACES and wanting them to be EMPTY, it is hard to do with so much in between stuff coming and going. What I mean by that is the stuff that really doesn't deserve to be in your prime spaces but can't be gotten rid of and needs a semi-permanent place to reside...sometimes for a while and sometimes for only a few days.

Let me show you what I mean

Do you have any of these things in the prime spaces in your bathroom?

In my post about space priorities, I specifically talked about the bathroom's prime spaces.
Remember these pictures of my master bathroom?
Remember how we talked about that the counter tops and even the drawers are your prime spaces. Only things that you use every single day deserve to be in those spaces, right?  But those aren't the only things you own and want to keep, right?

Consider these things again and ask yourself:

What do you do when you buy a pack of combs and only need ONE in your drawer?
What do you do when you buy extra razor blades in a pack of 5 and you only need ONE?
What do you do when you buy a package of emery boards,
or an extra pack or two or teeth flossers?
or a package of 2 pairs of shoe laces and you ONLY NEED ONE?

Do you know what most people do? They put all of them in their prime spaces.
Because they don't know any better.
And then their prime spaces fill up and they get grumpy and overwhelmed and embarrassed.

What's the solution?  Have an "extras" container. Have a specific place, kept fairly close to your bathroom (not a total necessity but it is nice) to keep your extras that don't deserve to be in your prime spaces.

My extras container for the bathroom is in the closet in my shower/toilet part of the master bathroom. It's down on a lower shelf, kind of out of the way, and having it has helped a lot with keeping only the things we use every day in our prime spaces.

The job of this "extras" container is to simply hold those things that do need to be kept and keep them away from the prime spaces in the bathroom.

 If you are wondering what is on the floor in that closet, it is another container of what you might call "extras" which are our travel supplies. There is a time and place when it's nice to have travel size toothpastes, deodorants and shaving cream. There is a time and place where it is nice to have toothbrush covers and toiletry bags and travel size shampoo and conditioner containers. But they DEFINITELY don't deserve to be in your prime spaces. That's why I strongly encourage anyone who is trying to get control of their spaces and stuff to consider having an "extras" container. It's the best way to protect your prime spaces.

Ready for another example?
How about the kitchen? Perhaps my most favorite place to try to protect prime spaces and one that I think, in my kitchens, is housing way too many things that don't deserve to be there.  Let's talk about it by looking at the example from my kitchen extras box.

In trying to run a household and be a frugal, responsible, happy homemaker, I find it completely necessary to buy some things in bulk or from yard sales. There are just some great deals out there! So, one of the things that I keep in my kitchen extras box is things like extra Bosch Mixer parts that I randomly/luckily find at yard sales or thrift stores. Do you see the metal whips in the middle of the box? That is a $25-30 part that I found at a yard sale for $1. 

How about the Pampered Chef corn butterer you can see in the bottom left?  During the summer months (June-September) we love to eat corn on the cob and I think this invention makes buttering your corn amazingly convenient and mess free. But during all the other months of the year (this picture was taken back in March 2016) my corn butterer does not deserve to be in my prime spaces.

What about the bag of chop sticks you can see in the top right area?  This big bag was a funny gift from a brother to his little sister who LOVES eating with chopsticks. Before Christmas, she would get my shish-ka-bob sticks out in order to eat her Ramen noodles with them. So one of her brothers bought her a package of her own wooden chopsticks as a Christmas gift. I thought it was so sweet! And she was thrilled! But there were 50 pairs of chopsticks in that bag. And she uses one pair at a time, usually more than once, before they get thrown away. What am I am going to do? Well, I'm certainly not gong to keep all 50 pairs in my prime space in my kitchen. I will keep 1 or 2 but not 50. So they get to reside in my kitchen extras box too.

I hope these three examples help give you an idea about what I'm talking about when I say a box for extras is really helpful in protecting your prime spaces.

Another way to protect your prime spaces is to have a specific "out of the way" space to keep things that need to go somewhere else soon.  A couple of specific examples of what I am talking about are things that need to be returned to a store or things that need to be returned to a specific person. Maybe you borrowed something and need to return it or maybe a friend was over and left something at your home that needs to be returned.  In most cases, I try to put the item right in my car and take to them right away but occasionally there are extenuating circumstances that make that impossible. And it is really nice to have a place to put it that you know where it will be and that is still a bit out of the way.

This is what I'm talking about. I call these hooks that are in the front entry closet "the errands hook" and sometimes refer to them when someone in my family says something like "Mom, do you know where that swimming towel is that Bailey left here? She's here to pick it up." And I answer "It's hanging in a bag on the errands hook."  Boom. They know where that is and the item is easily retrieved. Hope that makes sense.

In the end, having spaces that hold things for you away from your prime spaces and that help you protect those spaces is a real help. Take advantage of it and have a place for "extras" and "errands" in your home too!

Next blog post:  Rule #8 Organize into categories and then use clear, labeled containers to hold smaller things