I am a little weird, and used to have a list of phrases that I liked and signified happiness. For example “baby’s first Christmas”, “homemade birthday cake”, and “trip to the strawberry patch”. But the greatest phrase of all is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Beautiful.
I think most of us are fairly adept at the second part. Or we at least don’t need to be told how do it. But the first part…yikes. A place for everything is actually a huge challenge. And the answer is very rarely more space. The answer is also not expensive crates, files, labeled stuff, or shelving. It is simply: own fewer things and store them in a way that makes sense.
There are a few ways people decide where to put things in their home, but it is usually one of the following organizing philosophies.
- Store at point of use
- Like with like
- Put it where it looks good
They are all useful. Most people use a combination of the three. I use them in the order listed above. So my number one factor in finding a home for something is: WHERE IS IT USED?
Let’s take cleaning supplies for example.
This is a page from a Martha Stewart organizing magazine. (Better write that phrase down in my notebook.) This cleaning station follows the principle of “like with like”. All cleaning stuff together. It also is attractive, so it follows “put it where it looks good” as well.
However, it is a TERRIBLE idea because it completely ignores principle number one, the MOST important principle.
Who is going to run down to their “cleaning station” every time the bathroom needs to be cleaned? No. This is just awful.
Put a bottle of glass cleaner, an all purpose cleaner, a Soft-scrub type deep cleaner for toilets and stains, paper towels, rags, and a toilet brush in EVERY bathroom in your home. Keep them there. If your powder room has no storage then that one can be the exception. But let’s get powder room sinks with vanities in the future. And magically, you will find that your bathroom is always clean. It is no trouble to clean it quickly once every day or so because everything is right there, because you have organized that one element of your home in a way that makes sense.
Another example, from the same magazine.
Yes! Wonderful! A closet at the back door for all the things you might need at that location! With a stepstool, where it is needed! Now within this beautiful closet/ cabinet, things are organized by the secondary principles, like with like, and put it where it looks good. But the first principle, store at point of use, is the overarching theme of this closet, and it will be functional forever, even though its contents will change as the inhabitants of the home change.
So let’s keep these principles in mind as we decide where to store our belongings. Let’s do it once, in a way that makes sense and won’t have to be redone next year. Let’s put our trash cans next to the sink, our coats by the door we use the most, our kid’s craft supplies by the table they color on, our laundry baskets where we get undressed. If it looks good there, all the better. But let’s make it function first.