This is the first post in a new series on How to Organize Your Home. The series will focus on what it really takes to organize your home so you and your family members are happy with the end results. Enjoy!
A basic organizing principle is to sort and store like items together. Using a child’s room as an example, this principle tells you to sort Legos with Legos, transformers with transformers, and toy cars with toy cars. Makes sense, right? Sure…until you have a child who doesn’t play with just Legos, just transformers or just toy cars, but instead plays with all of them at once. I had a child like that.
When my son was young, he was fascinated by garbage trucks. We would chase real garbage trucks around town whenever we saw them, hoping we’d get to see the garbage truck pick up and dump a dumpster. Back at home, Collin’s room turned into a virtual junk yard. He spent hours using dump trucks to push “garbage” around his bedroom floor, scooping it into his garbage trucks to haul off to the landfill. What was that toy garbage? It was Legos, transformers, toy cars and any other small toy he could get his hands on.
The moral of the story is this: Sorting like with like in my son’s room—Legos with Legos, and toy cars with toy cars—actually made life harder for both of us.
I believe the underlying goal when getting organized is to make life better and easier, to free up time and space for more important stuff—the people and activities that make your life worth living. Spending hours and hours resorting Legos, transformers and toy cars into arbitrary like-with-like categories was actually moving my family away from this goal.
The solution was to sort based on real world use. For a period of time, all of the toys in Collin’s room were “garbage.” Storing all of his small toys in a single container made a ton of sense, even if his bedroom didn’t look organized from the outside looking in.
Organizing ideas abound on the internet and Pinterest today. These ideas suggest what it means to be organized and, even more, how it looks. For example, Legos should be stored with other Legos (possibly even separated by color). For some children, this system will work great. For others, the families will spend countless hours sorting Legos by color because it looks organized, even though no one plays with these items this way.
When organizing a space, you can sort like with like, but first take a step back and really understand what “like” means in the space you’re organizing. How do you and your family members use this space? Which items are truly similar based on how you use them? If Legos, transformers and cars are really “garbage,” give yourself permission to sort and store them together, even if it doesn’t look like the Pinterest definition of picture perfect organization.
When your organizing systems are set up to support how you really use a space, your spaces will be easier to use, saving you time and frustration on an ongoing basis. It sure made my son’s days more enjoyable. In my mind, that’s the real reason for getting organized in the first place.