I read a lot of organizing blogs. I see a lot of great advice, and a lot of beautiful/useful/brilliant products and ideas on the internet on a daily basis. There is so much enthusiasm, and so much ingenuity, that it would be really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what works for someone else, will automatically work for me. Having lived with the results of that mistaken assumption often enough, I’ve become a tiny little bit wiser.
I live on a ranch, in a sparsely populated area, in a climate that is often harsh, with garden soil that leaves a lot to be desired. I’m cheap, I have a tendency toward laziness, and I have kids. In contrast, I’m also a perfectionist that likes pretty things and hates things that are mismatched.
Consider something as simple as an empty cereal box:
For many people, using that empty cereal box to contain magazines would be a brilliant, free way to control some clutter. For those people, getting some order is the most important thing, and the fact that it was done at no cost would bring great personal satisfaction.
Unfortunately, that isn’t me.
I wouldn’t see the order, the simplicity or the bargain price. I’d see that ugly cereal box sitting on the shelf, mocking me. Now sure, I could plan to cover the cereal box in fabric, contact paper, or pretty scrapbook paper. Or I could just put the cereal box into my compost pile and save the few pages from the magazines that are actually important to me, while getting the rest out of my house. I know that I won’t make the time to turn a cereal box into an organizing tool that I can live with, so it’s headed for the compost pile, where it can help enrich my crummy soil. I’d much rather spend my time crocheting, reading a book with my children, watching a movie with The Husband, or de-crappifying some part of my home that needs it.
Fortunately, I found these for $1 apiece at Target last week, so I have something cheap, that matches, that took me less than 5 minutes to assemble and put to use. I’ll call that a win!
I have tried lots of different methods of organizing my girls’ toys. The toy box was a total disaster. They had a mess of shoes, bread crusts (not crumbs, crusts), papers, and they’d rather scatter the toys all over the floor and sit in the toy box. I tried using some lidded totes, but Boodie quickly discovered that they could be stacked up to make a stairway to reach whatever I had tried to put out of her reach. One bruised child, one shattered tote, and one crabby mother resulted. Either one of these methods might work for my nephew (though I’ve been told that he thinks that all of his toys need to be on the floor where he can see them) but for my little daredevils, they were complete failures. In hindsight, I should have known they would be. I know Boodie is a climber who lacks impulse control, and I know my girls have very active imaginations.
What has been working for us, is a set of canvas cubes and a ClosetMaid shelf from Target.
I put a picture label on the front of each cube with a zip-tie, and the top of the shelf holds bigger items. They can’t climb the cubes (after one failed attempt, in which the handle was completely torn off a cube, they haven’t tried again), and they are too small to climb into. It helps that there really isn’t anything tempting stored above the shelf. I still have to go in their room and direct the picking up, but things are a lot less frustrating this way.
The toy box got passed on to a thrift store, and the lidded totes that survived the climbing incident are now, ironically, holding first-aid supplies.
As I de-crappify my house, I find a lot of things that I could sell, rather than donate. A little extra cash is always nice to have, but I have realized that it isn’t worth the effort to me. If I decide to sell something, I have to clean it up, take a picture, protect it from my children, list it for sale somewhere, and then wait around for somebody to buy it. I live 17 miles from the post office, and 100 miles from a town with a population larger than 1,500. Arranging to meet somebody on a trip to town is a hassle, and nobody is going to drive 200 miles for free stuff, let alone something they had to pay for. I don’t particularly want a bunch of strangers coming to my home anyhow.
The whole point of de-crappifying for me, is to not be owned by the stuff I don’t need or love. If I’m still messing with it, it still owns me. Once I decide to part with something, I need the instant gratification of having it gone. So I donate usable items to charity thrift stores instead. Yes the money would be nice, but we don’t need it in order to pay the bills. Giving away what I don’t need blesses me more than the money (which I can comfortably live without) that I might make from selling it. It also benefits countless people in ways I’ll probably never know.
Please don’t think that I’m knocking frugality, or trying to discourage anyone from selling things when they need the money to pay bills. I am all about saving money, spending wisely and doing whatever is possible to avoid debt.
What I am saying is this: Know who you are, and what is important to you. When you read or hear about the latest, greatest whatever-it-is, remember who you are, and use that as a yardstick to determine whether that thing is the best option for you.