Home Sweet Home for Your Stuff

Home made of tiny icons of household items. Home sweet home for your stuff.
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

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:

  1. Designate a home for everything you own. (e.g., keys will hang on the hook by the door).
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Safety

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.

Predictability

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.

Comfort

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.

Belonging

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.

Welcoming

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.

*     *     *

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?

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20 thoughts on “Home Sweet Home for Your Stuff”

  1. This is a foundational part of being organized. So glad you shared the best ways to make this easy!

  2. Like you, Seana, I talk about finding homes for things with my clients but I have never thought to drill it down this way. I like the idea of defining safety, predictability, comfort (making it easy to use) and belonging, I’m going to use this idea going forward. Thank you for that!
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…Mother’s Day RemembrancesMy Profile

    1. I know fellow organizers resonate with this metaphor. The more I thought about it, the deeper the various aspects of home seemed to come to life! Just goes to show there is always to learn more and sharpen my thinking!

  3. What a beautiful take on “home.” You brought me back to my childhood with your description of waiting for the “Wizard of Oz” to play once a year. Me and my sister used to watch it together. My mom let us put a tablecloth on the floor in her bedroom and eat TV dinners as we watched. This was not the norm, so it always felt special. The flying monkeys used to scare me, so my sister would turn off the sound during that part, making it less scary.

    I love your analogy that only “residents” should be allowed to live in their designated homes. The other aspect is deciding IF the thing is home-worthy. While it’s helpful to establish spots (temporary or permanent) for our stuff, it’s also worth asking if they have overstayed their welcome and if it’s their time to exit.

    1. I was also totally afraid of the flying monkeys!

      An excellent addition to the home analogy is determining up front what is home-worthy. Like houseguests, most things shouldn’t stay around forever. 🙂

      Don’t waste time organizing what you should be shedding, right?

    2. When I first saw the Wizard of Oz in a movie theater around 1945-46, I was so scared of those flying monkeys. I got down on the floor and tried to get under my seat. I still don’t like them, but I do stay in my chair,.

  4. This one hits for sure! We used to just have a basket in the kitchen that was a “catch all.” Everything would get lost in it. It wasn’t good. Then we designated a “home” for anything that was regularly leaving or coming into the home (pens, keys, snacks, gadgets, whatever). It really does feel so good, doesn’t it?
    Tamara recently posted…And I Laugh at Myself, While the Tears Roll DownMy Profile

  5. In my posts and during my presentations I always use the word home. I don’t say house because whatever people live in is their home. Homes take on many styles, shapes and sizes. That also applies to storing items. Some need small spaces and others large. Anything can be a home.
    Julie Stobbe recently posted…To Pinterest or not to PinterestMy Profile

    1. I completely agree, Julie. Home can be in a variety of settings. This very day I worked with a man who lives in an assisted living residence. This is now home, and the same principles apply. We spent time giving everything a home. 🙂

  6. I totally agree. Knowing where things are is so important when we need to be able to access something in a hurry. It also helps to keep us from losing things because they have a place to live and we know they will be there. You always inspire me to rethink how I am managing my home. Always room for improvement.

    1. Knowing where to find things is one of the main benefits of assigning homes. I think I would waste a lot of time (and go a little crazy)if I didn’t know where to find things in my home!

  7. When I was very little, my mom anthropomorphized possessions to get across the point that things had homes. If I left my shoes in the middle of the floor, she’d pretend they were whispering to her that they were lonely for their shoe friends and shoe family and wanted to “go home” to be with them. That stuck with me to adulthood. But yes, so many people fail to realize that things are supposed to have permanent homes (where they can be found again without depending on memory) unless they are actively “on vacation” (as I like to think of it) while visiting with you. You’ve laid out the PERFECT elements for figuring out where things should be; I’m very “at home” with your descriptions. 😉
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll Suggests What to Watch to Get More Organized and ProductiveMy Profile

    1. I love that your Mom’s technique stuck with you so long. Those kinds of images are powerful for all of us, but especially with children. What a wonderful way to teach your children organizing principles. Thanks for sharing!

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