When I was a young girl, I would wait all year for the annual broadcasting of “The Wizard of Oz” on television. Like many people, I loved the magical story, artistry, and songs woven through the movie. At the same time, I loved the fact that Dorothy was simply a regular girl, and for her, there was “no place like home,” – so much so that she spends the entire movie trying to get back there. While this idea seems fairly natural for human beings, is there really such a thing as home sweet home for your stuff?
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a client about putting things away, and this word “home” kept popping up. We were discussing the importance of assigning a “home” for every item in her space. “Every item?” she asked. “Yes, every item,” I reiterated. I told her that unless she was literally consuming something in real time, it was important to decide where each and every little thing would live. Admittedly, in some cases, this would be a temporary home; more like a park bench upon which something could perch for a few hours or days. In other cases, possessions might need longer-term living accommodations, like a house or apartment. Importantly, just like people, every now and then things will need to be relocated. It is helpful to periodically review the living situation, assess current needs, and make any necessary adjustments.
To keep things simple, here are three “house guidelines” for storing stuff:
- Designate a home for everything you own. (e.g., keys will hang on the hook by the door).
- Items should be returned to their homes on a regular basis. (e.g., every day, every week). Avoid the temptation to stash items anywhere but where they live for more than a couple of hours.
- Only “residents” should be allowed to enter the home. (e.g., if there is a dish for bobby pins, then only bobby pins should be placed inside).
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Depending on your personal story, “home” might have either a positive or negative association. I acknowledge that “home” might be a loaded word for some and may not resonate as a metaphor for how to get and stay organized. However, ideally, home is a place that encompasses some beneficial characteristics:
Home should be a place where we are safe. Once we are tucked into our home, we should be able to let down our guard and relax, without fear of anyone or anything coming in to displace or disturb us.
Unlike the chaotic world into which we daily venture (either physically or virtually), home is often the place where our lives are most predictable. We see people we are expecting to see, eat foods we know and enjoy, move through rooms that are familiar, and access possessions we need.
More than anywhere else, home can be a place of comfort. This is where we can shed uncomfortable clothing, adjust the thermostat to our liking, sink into a cozy chair, and otherwise relax in a setting the feels just right.
The world can be a cold, judgmental, and cliquey place, but home is hopefully a place where we belong. Whether we belong by birth, adoption, marriage, or other relationship, home represents a place of connection, both to people and pets. This can also be extended to a hometown, for which we may feel an affinity with others who cheer the same teams, eat the same specialty foods, and frequent the same local hot spots.
Whether we come home to a hug, a friendly greeting, the wag of a tail, a thirsty plant, or even just a space that feels empty without us, we should feel like we are entering a space that is happy to have us.
On any given day, or even during challenging seasons of life, we may not feel like our home represents these things. Overall, though these are ideals which are universally appealing. As such, these attributes can guide us as we set up “homes” for our belongings. When choosing homes for your stuff:
1. Select places where items will be safe.
Especially for valuables, delicates, and breakables, be sure to designate spaces where they won’t get damaged.
2. Choose locations that are predictable.
One definition of being organized is being able to find what you need, when you need it. A simple way to do this is by being specific about where things go. Rather than keeping something, “in the desk,” determine instead to keep it, “in the right top drawer.” When establishing new locations, don’t hesitate to speak out loud to yourself when you are putting things away. This helps you remember where things go.
3. Select storage locations that are comfortable.
Especially for items you frequently use, choose places you can easily access. For instance, if you are height challenged (like I am), consider storing plates and bowls in a kitchen drawer instead of up high on a shelf. If it takes a lot of effort to reach a storage location, you are likely to avoid using it.
4. Store items where you think they belong.
When figuring out where to store things, ask yourself, “Where would I think to look for this?” Keep like items together, in logical spaces. Don’t be afraid to use any cues or tricks that help you remember. For instance, for one client who was losing track of bills, we decided to place all bills into an elephant-shaped letter holds, since “elephants never forget.”
5. Keep your storage spaces welcoming.
Putting things away should feel familiar and easy. Don’t block cabinet doors by putting things in front of them. Don’t overstuff your drawers so that they can’t be smoothly opened and closed. Install hooks on the wall if family members resist using hangers.
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Homes come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have the opportunity to choose how we will organize and maintain it. Does this metaphor help you think about how best to store your stuff?