Getting organized is big business. Companies that sell nothing but bins and boxes are doing very well. Marie Kondo, the world’s first real tidiness celebrity, has sold millions of books about getting organized. Minimalist living is a thing. There are TV shows about it—and shows about the opposite: Hoarders.
But what if you just can’t get on this train? What if you feel your brain is simply wired differently? Believe it or not, there’s a behavioral pattern called “Chronic Disorganization.” It’s a term coined by author Judith Kolberg. Some people feel they simply aren’t cut out to be orderly.
But before you embrace this as your forever excuse, let’s remember revelation from the Lord himself, on this topic: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God…” (D&C 88:119)
Yep, you saw it: A house of order. Yet this is the thorn in many people’s sides, the sticking point, the shame-inducer for those who have no idea how to make their homes orderly. I’m going to offer you some ideas that might finally help you create the kind of home you truly want.
First, if someone in your life is naturally messy, be gentle with them. There are dozens of causes, including high intelligence, inventiveness, extreme focus on other tasks, stress, perfectionism, the tendency to see everything at once, pain, depression, bi-polar disorder, ADHD, autism, PTSD, Alzheimer’s and more.
Next, if you’re the one struggling, don’t feel you must adopt someone else’s organizational style. Someone else might alphabetize. Or label. Or file. Or keep their shoes on high shelves. Maybe that feels OCD to you. But just because you don’t like some of the tidy tricks that are going around doesn’t mean you can’t find a fresh way that suits you. So keep an open mind.
Having someone come in and organize for you is a great way to start anew with a fresh slate. But if you don’t have the skills to maintain it, eventually the clutter will take over again. Here are some ways to finally break through and have a sparkling home you can be proud of:
Enlist all who live there. No, you don’t need to become neatness freaks. You just need to gather everyone and talk about how you’d like your home to be. You can assign small tasks, establish a date for tackling them and a reasonable time for the work, and then a reward.
Open the blinds or curtains. When bright light pours in our mood lifts, our energy level perks up, and we are more energetic about sprucing the place up.
Let’s say your garage is a mess. Or your pantry. Or your closet. Tackle just one small area at a time. The best way to clean is to make it worse—temporarily. Haul everything out. It will look like giant mess. Sweep and clean the space.
Now decide which objects you want to keep and which ones you want to donate or toss. This is a hard moment for true hoarders because they want to keep everything, even duplicates. It can actually be traumatizing. There are many causes (will I ever have enough money to buy another whatever if I give this one away?) It can reveal an addictive or compulsive behavior and it may require counseling. That’s okay—counseling can work wonders to solve the underlying causes, and free you to truly enjoy your living space again.
One way to begin is this: Instead of feeling you have to part with a huge number of belongings, just put them in bags or boxes and store them in the garage. You haven’t given them away; they’re still there. But you aren’t going to put them back just yet. You’re going to see what it’s like to live with less. You’re going to discover how big your rooms look, how bright, how inviting.
Okay, from the “keep” pile, decide which items are essential. Do you have adequate shelving or drawers? If not, establish a different place for those items. Begin to put things back in place. Getting someone else to help is a great idea because they’ll see the space differently and help you consider whether you really and truly need something or not. They can ask such questions as “When did you last use this?”
Don’t forget the option of selling some of your stuff on ebay or in a yard sale. Kids often get very excited to earn extra money this way, too.
Of course you can keep your dad’s war medals, your mom’s photography, your uncle’s favorite hammer. But create a display that honors these things—a shadow box or a treasure chest for posterity. Include notes of explanation so it’s a tribute, not a pile.
See the task of getting organized as a nurturing gift to yourself. You’re improving your quality of life. And remember that this is a spiritual exercise as well. Do it to honor what the Lord has told us, to make our homes orderly. See it as something you are consecrating to Him. Pray for His help and inspiration, then go forward with faith that He will help you. You might just be amazed at the new, orderly home you actually have.
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.