The Sunday’s Bread Organization Journey

If you caught yesterday’s post, you know I took the week off. Did I jet off to Paris, Greece or maybe a resort in Cancun? No, far more exciting I decluttered and organized our home (HA!). Maybe it was not so glamorous, but it sure did feel good!  It was an especially great feeling coming back to a decluttered, organized office. I also became very motivated to share my organization journey as it has been a journey!

I have always tried to maximize life and minimize drudgery (my definition of drudgery includes endless, repetitive housework). Learning and implementing organization strategies has improved my life immensely. It can help you too. Are you sick of not being able to find items? Are clothes, papers (fill in the blank) bursting from drawers. Laundry overflowing? Or maybe 5 comes and you have no idea what dinner will be?  I have been there and I can help.

I plan to share those same strategies that took me from overwhelmed to a much calmer existence (and a home that the entire family enjoys). So onto the journey…you may recognize yourself somewhere here.

Organization growing up

I never had an issue with organization in school or work.  Home, even my childhood home was a different story. My mom good naturedly called me Messy Mimi from time to time.

But at school and work I was the organized one. At my very competitive graduate school I had fellow students who said I was the most organized person there.  I also had a professor tell other students they should emulate my organization strategies. No frantic all nighters for me…work was generally always done well in advance.   

Truthfully when it comes to my work/school I am organized. Partly because school/work has been such a priority for me.  My mind just over compensates for any messiness, clutter or disorganization in my surroundings. That said, it is still easier to be organized in all (or at least most) facets of life.

Young, single and organized

Second, when you are a single person staying organized is just not as hard.  If you move frequently as I did back then, you also just can’t hang on to that much stuff (unless you want to pay to move it!).

And I moved frequently as a single woman in my twenties. I lived in Boston, New York City and then off to business school and some time in California.  When my husband and I married we lived in Montreal, and then moved back to New York City.  What does all that moving do?  It makes you constantly sort through your stuff.   As we lived in rentals we did not invest too much in home décor either.  As a single or newly married woman without kids, I was lulled into thinking that being an organized person with a tidy home was really pretty simple.

Organization post children

Moving into our first home in CT from a small one bedroom in Manhattan changed our lives in more ways than one.  All of a sudden we had space!  Four bedrooms and two thousand square feet seemed like a mansion.  

We also had two babies born two years apart.  An entirely new shopping category was added – baby stuff!  At the time I was working full time with a 45 minute commute one way, caring for an infant, and as our home was a fixer upper we remodeled it.  Oh boy I was busy…at least I thought I was busy.  

Then our second daughter came along (I was even busier!).  I was full on Mom and enjoying every minute (at least for the most part).  I worked part time at this point.  So my days off were spent taking the girls to the aquarium, children’s museum, beach and library and doing all of that fun mom stuff I could not do while in the office.

In other words organization was not my priority…and frankly I was and am still OK with that thinking. Although if I had known a few strategies I would have lived a more organized and enjoyable life – but I was not there yet.

And the stuff just accumulated.  Babies grow and clothes that fit two weeks ago no longer do.  No one ever told me there could be so much stuff with two little kids. 

Our girls are also the youngest of 10 other children from our extended families.  The hand me downs started – everything from a full play house, at least 50 Barbies (with all of the little shoes and outfits), endless toys to dozens of clothing items.   I also worked in children’s publishing so had access to free books!  I am a book lover and was so happy to have all of these books for our children.  Before you know it, our house that seemed big, was stuffed to the brim.

Selling our first home

At some point, we decided to move into a larger home.  We were busting at the seams so the answer was a bigger home right?  Now as I look back a larger home to move more stuff is usually not (almost never!) the answer.  You have to live with what space you have. In our defense we had hit a remodeling wall.  It just was not worth it money-wise to put more money into that house so we called an agent.

I remember the day the real estate agent came, toured our house, and then when he arrived in the basement he said, “now it all makes sense.”  Basically we had made the basement a dumping ground.  We never had time (nor did we make time) to deal with the excess stuff so we just stuck it in the basement.

To sell the house, we started some serious decluttering, sorting and organizing.  After an exhausting few weekends and the realization that we had accumulated so much in a short period of time, I vowed that in my next house, I would not let a year go by without at least cleaning out all closets at least once.  At this point I realized that taking care of me versus taking care of a family and a home was something I knew little about.  This realization was really step one on the organization journey.

Being a successful professional does not mean organization at home is second nature

Here I was a successful business professional known for being efficient and organized at work, yet at home it was a different story.  If you are at this point, do NOT be ashamed.  No one really teaches you these skills now. Home economics was either eliminated or barely covers how to run a household.  Along with teaching personal finance to women and girls, it is a major reason and passion for starting this blog!

Another notable change has contributed to our difficulties managing our belongings. We entered the decades of stuff somewhere in the eighties and nineties.  Cheap exports from abroad and “fast fashion” have made it so easy to buy stuff and more stuff (and then there is an entire industry devoted to organizing it!).  We are also marketed to constantly on social media, email, TV …you name it.   Americans are drowning in stuff!

Nature versus nurture

It is worth mentioning that I had also mistakenly thought there are “neat” people out there, and that I was simply not one of those people.  Sort of like how some people tend to gain weight while others have problems keeping it on – organization was just not in my genes.  While it is true that being neat with your stuff may come naturally to some, I would argue (as a convert) that you can absolutely learn the habits and skills to become a neat, organized person.

To start solving a problem you need to realize you have a problem

Our second and current house is larger.  It has a finished basement/rec room and a walk up attic which have been blessings and challenges.  A blessing as it has been so nice to have some extra room (and ability to hide the mess).  A challenge as at some point, you need to face all of that stuff you “stored.”

I remember the day the realization came that our second home, while so much larger and with better storage, this home had also become terribly disorganized.  

We are fortunate enough to have someone help clean our home every other week.  One day, I saw her go into our rec room with the vacuum and come out almost immediately.  The room had so much stuff in it that there was only a tiny area to vacuum and clean.  Stuffed animals were everywhere. Toys the girls had grown out of were still there long after. Even my beloved children’s books were so overwhelming that no one really read them. Bells went off.  And, that is when I started Project Organization or Project O as I refer to it.  

I started reading books, searching on Pinterest for organization ideas and came upon some excellent blogs.  After some trial and error, I developed my steps to organize just about anything.  I spent all of my weekends one winter tackling the mess and getting to a really great place.  And, Project O as I still call it continues.

While I have entered more of a maintenance phase, I also have times where I still occasionally become overwhelmed (including the last 3 months). However, now I have the tools and inspiration to tackle it.

So check back in as my next post will share some great books, blogs and influencers who have helped me come up with my own strategies.

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