We are a family of six that lives in just a little over 300 sq. ft.. Organization is an absolute MUST for our lifestyle. However, I’ve been a student of living an organized life for many years. Long before we downsized to living small. When I was in highschool, I would happily stay home on a weekend and rearrange and organize my bedroom. I loved the feeling of an orderly and beautiful space. I still do.
Over the years of having my own home, I’ve read many books on organization. I’ve tried many different methods and bought many different systems. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. And now I would say that, for the most part, we live an organized life.
Since January is usually when we start thinking about organizing our stuff/life again, I thought I would share with you the three organizing lessons I’ve learned over the years that have been the most helpful to me in the long run.
- Live with less stuff.
I promise, you can do this. Did you know that we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time, and 80% of our stuff only 20% of the time? That means that 80% of our stuff only gets used 73 days out of the year. And did you know that most of the things we do with that 80% of stuff could be done with the 20% we are already using. OR we could just not do it. Seriously.
My life has been so much lighter without all the stuff I used to keep “just in case” or because I was sure I would eventually get around to using it. RC and I were both so surprised how light we felt the day we left Gainesville with everything we needed to live directly behind us in a tiny camper.
If it scares you to get rid of something I totally understand. We actually make emotional attachments and connections with things, not just people or animals. Here’s my suggestion: Take the things you haven’t used in awhile, but are afraid to let go of, and but them in a box in the attic or in a corner of the garage where you won’t see it. Then, after 6 months if you have genuinely missed anything in the boxes go ahead and keep it. However, if you haven’t missed anything, or if you can’t even remember what is in the boxes, then simply take them to Goodwill or Salvation Army or wherever it is you take things you no longer want/need. Enjoy being free of more stuff.
2. Store things where they are most used.
This one literally changed how I set up my home. It is amazing the difference it makes in keeping a picked up house when you keep things close to where you actually use them. It also makes a difference in how regularly things get used, when you can easily retrieve and put away items. For example: I love to paint my nails. I don’t love wearing chipped nail polish, though. Because it was such a chore to get out my nail stuff I rarely painted my nails. Then, I started storing my nail stuff in the dining room. Yes, the dining room. It is crazy easy to get to and put away. My nails are painted much more often now, and when they’re chipped I can handle it easily.
This lesson plays a big part in living small. Since the kids have to make out their beds every night I knew that we needed to store their bed stuff in the living room where they sleep. I needed to find a place for four sleeping pillows, sheets, blankets, and stuffed animals. The daybed not only created a place for someone to sleep, but it also is a place for the kids’ pillows to live during the day. The cabinet above it holds the sheets, blankets, and stuffies. Two bed mats are kept under the gray sofa.
Two other examples in our fifth wheel are keeping the kids’ shoes right by the door and the coffee cart. Shoes are taken off as soon as we get home and put away. We don’t have to hunt down shoes when it’s time to go somewhere, nor do we have shoes all over the place all the time. We keep our coffee in containers, filters right next to them, and mugs on shelves above. The only things not on the cart are water and creamer in the fridge. Making coffee is super easy, which is really important at 6:30 in the morning.
When we lived in a sticks and bricks we never had a designated home school space. We simply schooled where we lived. This meant we kept our school stuff in the living room and dining room where we schooled. Our books have been kept in the china cabinet drawers and TV cabinet drawers and on bookshelves behind curtains; as close to where we use them as possible. When you’re having a tough day, and home schooling is harder than usual, it is very helpful to have what you need as easy to get to as possible.
Now we keep home schooling stuff in the desk and the cabinet above it. All in one place and easy to get to and use.
3. Organization is not a destination.
Organization is always an on-going endeavor. We are consumers. New (or new-to-us) things are always coming into our homes, even if we try to be mindful about consuming. This is why it is just as important to also have a system in place for allowing things to leave our homes. The system that has worked best for me is to have a bag in the trunk/back of the car that is where the things we are done with go. Once it is full and I’m in the area of a Goodwill, the stuff gets dropped off. For example, when a kid tells me that a shirt or pair of pants is too small, I have them take it out to the bag in the car. (Unless it can be passed on to a younger sibling.) When I buy a new pair of pajama pants, I take my old pair out to the bag in the car. No need to keep 3 pairs of pajama pants. (This is an example of lesson #1) We also do a whole house decluttering fest every January and every August. When you live in roughly 300 sq. ft, it doesn’t take long at all. And when your kids are old enough to go through their own stuff it goes even faster.
If you are expecting to get organized and then never have to think about it again, you will be disappointed. Different seasons in life will call for different organizing systems, and the constant influx of new stuff in our homes means that organizing will forever be an on-going concern. Before we really paired down our belongings, I felt like a “stuff manager”. Like I spent a ridiculous amount of time managing six people’s stuff. Not cool. Now that we live with less, adapting to new seasons, and keeping our stuff working for us, rather than us working for it, has gotten so much easier. Life has definitely gotten better.
Do I think everyone should live small. Heavens, no. Living small isn’t the answer. Honestly, I would love to be able to host overnight guests and big dinner parties again, but even if I could, we would still live with less, we would still store things near where we used them, and we would regularly check our organizing systems to make sure they are still working for us.
Here’s to an even more organized 2017!