Sometimes organizing requires a little trickery

One of my best friends from college called last week and told me of the nightmare she’s living in California.

Her husband, who is in the Marine Corps, remains stationed on the East Coast, while she moved ahead to their next destination. She spent roughly a month without any of their belongings, sleeping on an air mattress in an empty place.

One day, a moving crew showed up, unannounced, and spent the day unloading all their belongings and dumped them in piles around their new home.

Apparently it’s common practice during a military move to have your things dumped out of every box, not necessarily in the room they belong in, or in any sort of order whatsoever. What wasn’t strewn about on the floor was shoved randomly into cupboards and left in piles on countertops, for her to deal with. She couldn’t even reach her bed to sleep on it, because of all the stuff in the way. “I’m living in a ‘Hoarders’ house!” she complained.

I imagined what our house would look like in the same situation. Then I realized that we have plenty of piles to organize in our house, too.

Part of the problem is, I have piles of stuff all over the house and I don’t have a good excuse for it. Sometimes I don’t notice them until we’re going to have people over. If I don’t have time to disperse the pile, it goes into a room we’ve actually referred to as the “crap room,” which is kind of like a terrifying, 
10- foot by 10-foot junk drawer.

Most of the time, I’ve noticed that the stuff in these piles are things I don’t really need.

In a pile of clothes in the bedroom, there’s a shirt that needs a button, a pair of pants that doesn’t really fit, a shirt with a suspicious-looking stain, and mismatched socks which long ago lost their mates. Honestly, if someone took these piles away, I probably wouldn’t miss the stuff.

Other times, piles consist of unfinished projects, junk mail and whatnot. I’ve realized I don’t do well with projects that have a lot of pieces and leftovers, like scrapbooking, because of all the organization involved.

Some people LOVE to organize. I’m not that person, so I have to make weird little games to trick myself into doing the job. I have three games that help me out in these situations, and I’ll share my neurotic tendencies in the interest of helping you, dear readers.

Game 1: You touch it, you do something with it.

This one is fun. It’s good for sorting things or putting them away. It’s self-explanatory. If you touch something, it goes in its place. Now. Don’t put it down anywhere else. If it belongs in the trash, do it.

Game 2: Ten-minute scramble.

I set a timer for 10 minutes and see how much I can get done. Pick a pile. You can do anything for 10 minutes, right? Then reward yourself with something you’d rather be doing.

Game 3: The walkabout.

I do this one if I’m walking aimlessly around the house instead of being productive. If I enter a room, I have to put something away. If that item belongs in another room, well, I put that thing away and then find something to put away in that same room. You’d be surprised how much stuff gets scattered around your house.

I’d better get on these piles. I don’t want to look at them all winter.

If I need motivation, I can just turn on an episode of “Hoarders” and sicken myself into organization.

If you have any great motivating ideas for organizing, please email me, and I’ll include them in a future column.

Erin McIntyre is a writer, apprentice master gardener and owner of the gourmet pickle company, Yum Pickles. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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