When you think of a peaceful start to the new year, do you imagine deep cleaning your closet? Well, you should! Science actually tells us that we function better physically and mentally in a well-organized space. Tackling that pile of junk mail by your fridge may not seem like the logical fix for serenity in 2021, but you might be surprised. Here are a few of the trickiest organizational dilemmas, and some tips to help tackle them.
Dilemma: Our inner struggles are sometimes mirrored by physical disorganization. People often create piles of clutter around their living spaces when they are simultaneously letting unresolved mental issues sit neglected. Sometimes these are obvious like the passing of a loved one. Dealing with the possessions of a loved one brings up emotional memories. Other times, the issue is deeper-rooted. Maybe you feel out of control on a very personal level, and your closet can’t seem to remain organized. If you are generally a neat person but chronically struggle with the same few areas of clutter, this could be your problem.
Solution: Consider asking yourself, Why do I put off dealing with this particular space? Most of the time, procrastination has roots. I recently realized I put off cleaning out the fridge because I feel guilty for wasting any expired food. Unearthing the emotional motivation behind disorganization can be super helpful.
Dilemma: Lack of space. This is a more obvious reason for disorder. If you are attempting to squeeze one-hundred-twenty-three pairs of shoes into a closet meant to hold thirty, the shelves will never know peace.
Solution: The best remedy for this situation always comes in the form of an edit. In the world of organization, we refer to the art of pairing down (removing junk or putting together a Goodwill bag) as editing.
This is a gentle way of saying, “You own too many shoes.” By now, most people have heard such phrases as, “Do these mud-caked sneakers bring you joy?”, and, “Is this pair of hot pink eight-inch heels still serving you?” The concept of sorting one’s belongings and asking hard questions doesn’t sound too bad, but where most people fall into trouble is the overwhelming sight of all one-hundred-twenty-three pairs of shoes in one place—and the realization that they must ask these questions one-hundred-twenty-three times.
My advice is to gather all the shoes, take them out of the closet, pick out your most worn pairs, and then begin to fill the closet with your favorites. Immediately stop when the space feels comfortably full. Survey this lovely shoe collection. Would you be happy if these were the only shoes you had access to?
Keep in mind, we are psychologically happier when we have fewer choices. When I did this recently, I realized most of the shoes that were not fitting in the closet were primarily worn on special occasions. So I purchased an under-the-bed bin for shoes, and I tucked my “I’m-a-bridesmaid flats” and my “annual-family-canoe-trip sandals” out of sight.
Some items, especially in a closet, may be items that you used to frequently wear but have since been replaced with an item you enjoy using even more. These items can be the hardest to get rid of because when you look at them, you visualize all the good use the item brought you—but in reality, you would be content to utilize the newer alternative. Force yourself to ask the hard questions about the remaining shoes.
Dilemma: Poor choice of materials. This is one of the most common reasons I encounter a disorganized space. Let’s be honest, not all of us have the money to enjoy a shopping spree at The Container Store®.
Solution: The best way to outfit a space with ideal materials? Get creative! One of my favorite tricks is to determine the organizational item you require and find it on Amazon. Next, scroll down to the bottom of the description where there are usually options to click “Buy new” or “Buy used.” These options allow you to purchase the product for a reduced price. Oftentimes, the products are perfectly good open-box items that were returned.
You may have to be flexible with the products you choose, but organizing materials generally lend themselves to options and flexibility. A can of spray paint and the wicker basket section of Goodwill came through when I was a broke college student. There is really no end of ways to creatively organize your home on a budget if you keep an open mind. Maybe your children’s Easter baskets would look cute to corral their endless collection of Legos!
When choosing the ideal containers for your projects, ask yourself three questions. First, Does this allow for necessary growth? When storing T-shirts, you will undoubtedly add a few more in the coming years, and it will only cause chaos if your basket to hold them overflows.
Next, Will the container look aesthetically pleasing in the space? Depending on the area of the home, this question proves more or less crucial, but I have always found that I am more inclined to keep tidy when the end results of my efforts are beautiful.
Lastly, Does the solution feel convenient? Sometimes something as simple as an ill-placed lid will dissuade a child, or man-child, from putting dirty laundry in its hamper.
Gabri Goodwyn received her Bachelors of Fine Arts from Harding University. She was born in France, but she calls Middle Tennessee home. She adores her job as a home organizer for A Fresh Space in Nashville. In her free time, you can find her cuddling her Yorkie-poo, painting anything other than a canvas, or taking a barre class.