Friday, April 13, 2012

The Value of Organization

          Before we had kids I had most things well organized.  My address book was complete and orderly. My files were all in order and I could find the warranties to anything we had, including the tires on the cars. I knew where most everything we had was located, and the maintenance to everything got done.  When the first two kids were born, it didn't take me long to realize that I either had time to keep everything obsessively organized, or I had time to raise great kids. I probably couldn't do both.  I also realized pretty quickly that although kids don't want things to be a mess, that the things they will remember when looking back at their childhoods will not be that my recipe file was alphabetical, or that I could access all our receipts in just a moment.  They would remember that I made time for them and that they were important to us. So, I made the adjustment from an immaculate house to simply an orderly one, and I kept my bill file the center of my obsessive compulsive neurosis with regard to paperwork and files.  When the third and fourth children arrived, it became hard even to keep the house simply orderly, and sometimes when they were small it went from orderly to disorderly periodically.  I think perhaps that the only time it was immaculate with four children, was just before a house was to be sold and we were to head to another.

This child's closet was inexpensively organized using items from a dollar store.  (Photo:  No, this isn't our Daniel, but it certainly does look like him at about four.

          Now, we enter a new chapter in our lives.  Most of our children are ostensibly grown.  Only one child  below eighteen is a our home. It's time to reclaim the order which made me comfortable and made it possible for me to be economical about purchases.  I am probably one of the only people who have claimed to both Pyrex and Corelle when a dish was broken.  No one but me keeps the lifetime warranty these items have, and then if they do recall them, they can't find the paperwork OR their receipt.

This is not your objective, but this can happen faster than most of us realize. (Photo:

           There are many advantages to keeping an organized home.  First, most of us can think more clearly when we know where everything is located.  Secondly, an orderly home probably eventually breeds a more orderly and organized child. (Although I will admit here, that it can take awhile.) A home where there is an assigned place for most everything enables a child to clean up for himself, and not to require your input while doing most of it.  Thirdly, I believe that creativity is nurtured by keeping supplies of all kinds in accessible areas and then allowing areas where these supplies can be used, and can be turned into a mess, at least initially until the project is complete.  Fourth, an organized home makes photographing everything you have easier.  This is useful when documenting your possessions for homeowners insurance.  They are unlikely to replace everything you have in a total loss situation, but whatever you can demonstrate to them will help you to get as close to reasonable reimbursement as possible. An organized home also makes it easier for you to decide the best places for your evacuation kits, medical supplies, and emergency supplies for sheltering in place.

Offices can be tight and small, but organized so that you can find, bills, paperwork, or anything else. (Photo:

Being organized can also allow you to get a great deal more done than if you are disorganized.   When I realize that just a few years ago, I was a wife and mother raising then four children, a college instructor teaching between four and five classes in one semester (some semesters, nor all), a nurse occasionally working at a clinic to keep clinical skills fresh, and writing nursing and medical articles for publication on a schedule, I wonder how I did it all.   I did it by being feverishly organized.  I had a desk for college related work, and a computer for test creation and for class related functions.  I had another desk for homeschooling related paperwork.   I had a section of my desk arranged for continuing education for nursing, which is necessary for continued licensure for some of the states in which I still retain one.  I found that creating "stations" for certain activities, much the same way that my mother had a sewing station at her sewing machine for clothing repairs, and a desk for paying bills, and a table for canning, etc. helped me to shift gears and use time more efficiently.    I also learned that multi-tasking is not all that it's cracked up to be.  Rather than multi-tasking, I prefer to list what I have to do in a given day.  Then, I select first the two items I would like to do the least, and I complete them first.  This way, the list gets completed that day, and it seems downhill after the first two items or so.  In addition, I do one thing at a time, rather than three.  I have found that I am simply more efficient completing one item at a time with my full attention.  There are simply fewer errors, and less time spent later on correction, or the embarassment of needing correction on something in the first place.

An organized garage. (Photo: )

This is one of my own garage areas.  This bay has evolved to be overflow storage to some household and survival supplies, a metal cabinet for household chemicals, and an area for maintenance supplies for my car.

This corner of this particular garage bay stores paper towels and toilet paper for the house on top, cleaning supplies for my car on the second shelf from the top, and the rest of the metal shelving unit is car maintenance and repair related. The little cart allows me to load what I need and then take it to the part of the outside of the car where I will use it.  It makes car detailing (which I really do myself) much faster.  Over the last few years we have found we do much more of the maintenance on my diesel car ourselves.

        Organizing your home and your life, is not something that can be done in a weekend, unless of course, you have just a few things.  (And if that is true, part of me envies you, as you have much less to maintain !)  Organizing is a one-thing-at-a-time task.  It takes some time to assess how your organization needs will best be served.  For years I kept a rolodex, only to find that the specific cards I always needed were the ones which children had either pulled out, or that I had lost myself.   For a time, I kept addresses and information in a computer, only to have the data lost when the computer crashed, and everything had been backed up but that.   Now, I keep a nice sized address in leather, and I keep addresses and e-mails written in pencil for easy and quick updates.   I still keep a few contacts in my computer, but mostly e-mail addresses.  It took TIME to figure out which method would work best for ME.    The same is true of filing system, and other organizational issues.
           This post is meant to be an encouragement toward Spring organization.  Don't let it overwhelm you.  Like any major daunting job, take it apart into more manageable parts and then break those down into more manageable "bites".  Happy Spring and best wishes.


kymber said...

another excellent article, Jane! organization is sooo important. back in the city, we had a sprawling open-concept bungalow with custom-made drawers and cabinets throughout - very organized! now that we have been at the Manor for a little over a year, i am finally getting our stuff organized, finding and building places for things to have a permanent place, and slowly getting everything in order! it really has taken a while but the freedom that comes with finding a place for everything and knowing where everything is - is wonderful!

your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Kymber ! It takes time to organize a new place, especially in a new setting. Our first home in the city was a brick apartment which had a lot of great closets. Imagine my chagrin when we moved to a little house, with just a small fraction of the storage space. It takes some adjustment, and some reorganization. Preparedness also eats space, particularly if we let it ! Thanks for your comments, and I think of you both often.