Yesterday, I spent some time tidying up my living room. I hadn’t planned to spend my morning that way, but I came downstairs and saw the ever-growing pile of papers on the table that serves as a catch-all, and I just couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. This is usually how cleaning goes for me. I have no set schedule for it, no weekly cleaning routine; it happens in bursts when I feel the urge.
I’ll be the first to admit that my house is not the cleanest. It’s also not the messiest. It’s perfectly livable, but definitely lived-in. Certain zones of my house are always neat and tidy. Other zones always seem to collect miscellany, the things for which I haven’t yet found a permanent spot or that I just haven’t taken the time to put away.
I love the idea of minimalism, but I am definitely not a minimalist. I’ve tried to pare down my belongings in recent years, but I’ve always had a hard time getting rid of things that are useful. It just seems wasteful to me. This was one of my biggest criticisms of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Donate or trash something just because it doesn’t immediately bring me joy? That’s ridiculous – I might need it someday! Or I might want it or be able to use it rather than spending my hard-earned money to buy something new in its place. As a result of this attitude, I probably hold onto things longer than I should, which leads to the need for greater storage and organization. This is one aspect of minimalism I totally get: having a lot of stuff can be a real burden, in terms of time and money.
I did borrow some of Kondo’s organizing advice, such as how to fold socks and clothes in a dresser drawer and how to store handbags. I’ve maintained these changes since I read the book about a year and a half ago, and they’ve been beneficial. Other suggestions, though, just don’t work that well for me. I understand the concept of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” and I know that if I just put things in their place immediately and without fail, I won’t have to spend time cleaning up clutter later. And yet, I don’t do it. I have an old-school filing cabinet with alphabetized Pendaflex folders for storing bills, financial documents, medical records, and other important papers, but rather than putting the papers in the folders as soon as I finish opening the mail, I put them on a pile on the table and pledge to deal with them later. It’s a bad habit I just can’t seem to break, despite reading plenty of self-help books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
With a kid on the way, and the knowledge that a lot more stuff will probably be making its way into my home soon, I feel like I should get serious about keeping my own belongings organized and in their proper places. But while spending an occasional Saturday morning straightening up a room can be therapeutic, I don’t want to dedicate regular chunks of time to the task. So I’ll ask you, friends: What are your best tips for getting and staying organized? If you aren’t a naturally neat and tidy person, what techniques have helped you to change your ways? Comment below with your advice.