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

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rule #6 Set limits for yourself and others

lim·it  noun
1. a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass.
  1. 2. a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible.
Why is setting limits such an important part of managing stuff?

Ummmmm...because we have TOO MUCH OF IT!

What exactly do I mean when I say "set limits?"  Let me show you in the form of a common problem at our house (and maybe yours)

Take a pile of Barbie dolls. 
Did you know, back in the day (said in an annoying old person voice) when I was a little girl no one had more than ONE barbie doll. My parents weren't rich but we weren't wanting for anything either. When I was a girl (which was not that long ago, really) ONE Barbie doll was enough. I had one beautiful long-haired blonde Barbie and her husband Ken and I played and played with them. My mom made me little small Barbie and Ken outfits that I would change around constantly as they went to various activities and dates. It was a great life.

One generation later, my husband I were in a similar financial situation as our parents. We weren't rich but we had enough and then some and were living a good life. ONE GENERATION later though...the entire Barbie scene had changed. Barbie dolls must have gone way down in price relative to income because my two daughters started receiving Barbie dolls for every birthday and Christmas. Before you know it, with two little girls and plenty of opportunities to GET and BRING IN, we had a big 'ol pile of Barbie dolls! It got to be ridiculous honestly. 

That's when I started implementing the rule of LIMITS.  

The conversation I had with my 4 and 6 year old girls went something like this:

"Now girls, I know you have a pile of Barbies and I'm sure you would like to keep them all. But we just can't keep everything, even though we want to. So here is a clear, labeled box that says "Barbies" on it. We can keep as many Barbies and their clothes as you can fit in this box. After that, the ones that don't fit will get to go to some other little girls that don't have any Barbie dolls."

This idea worked so well that I started using it on everything. Setting limits starts with the line (and sometimes you are saying it just to yourself) "We wish we could keep everything but we can't."

And then you decide on a reasonable size box or container to hold that/those particular item/s (how big? when in doubt challenge yourself and make it smaller rather than bigger!)

That is your limit.

Whatever you can fit in there can stay. The rest has to go.

AND, remember this.....the established limit stays the same as new things come in (and they will come). That means that tough decisions have to be made.

For example, here is the limit we have put on the DVDs at our house. Here are the G-rated and PG-rated DVD's including TV shows (the ones I don't mind anyone of any age watching):
(The movies are two deep because our shelves are that deep and you can see on the top shelf that we have our special collection of Harry Potter movies to one side and Star Wars movies to the other. They are stacked on the back.)

And here is the smaller collection of what I call "teen" movies. These are the ones that are rated PG-13 that I am fine with the older kids and their friends watching when the younger kids have gone to bed. 
As a family, we have determined that this is a reasonable amount of space for movies and that is the limit. That means that if a new DVD were to come in to our house, one of these here would have to leave. 

Remember my last post about being careful when you shop? This "limits" idea really helps with that too. If we know the DVD shelf is already full then we go to the store and see a new movie we want, one of us says "if we buy Zootopia today which movie at home are we getting rid of?" Sometimes it's worth it to still get the new one, sometimes it's not.

This same principle applies to just about anything...but here are a few more examples around my house.

My daughter Carly is a big Littlest Pet Shop fan. I have picked up most all of these toys at yard sales and have seen a lot more that I could have bought. But this space is the limit set aside for these toys. When/if she gets a new, more amazing Littlest Pet Shop toy, she has to decide which one is leaving. The same holds true for the smaller pieces that go in the drawers. The drawers are the limits for those and when they are full and cannot be shut, choices have to be made and things have to be discarded.

This is the space I have set aside as the limit for my recipe box and recipe books. I am a fan of new recipes, I really am, so it is a very good thing for me to have limits set. Otherwise, this shelf could be four times as big and I would have it full. Sometimes I will acquire a new recipe book and slide it in there, try it out for a few weeks and then determine if it gets to stay. Not many of them do, honestly.  And that means that every one of these are truly awesome!

Keepsakes are the treasures from your life and they can be hard to get rid of. But having limits for things like keepsakes makes it so much easier to decide what to keep. Remember: We wish we could keep everything...but we CAN'T! Fit what you can in your limited space and be grateful you have some mementos for your future posterity to know you by.
This rings true for your children and their keepsakes too, by the way. Each one of my children has a keepsake box or drawer where they get to keep whatever they want. Once it's full though, tough decisions have to be made. "Would you rather keep that rock or that Popsicle stick collection?" or "Would you rather keep all 28 of your drawings from the 1st Quarter of Kindergarten or would you like to keep your 3rd grade report on China?" In my opinion, it's really good for kids to understand the concept that we can't keep everything. Let's teach them early to make those tough "what to keep" decisions so maybe they will be better at it than we are!


and then set limits for the amounts we keep.