Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Organized Chaos

What my closet looks like when everything is put away....
aka, about once or twice a week.
Did you read the Sweet Valley High books as a child? On our weekly trips to the library, I took out one after another, blowing through the series and feeling very grown-up. My father considered these to be the equivalent of trashy TV, so a compromise was struck -- I was allowed to read them if I also took out a science or history book. I was required to present an oral report on the science or history book, and in return, he would hand over the Sweet Valley High book I had borrowed from the library.

One of the scenes that still sticks with me is when Elizabeth is searching (again) for something Jessica has borrowed, and cannot find it, but Jessica goes directly over to one of her many piles and pulls it out. Jessica may look disorganized, but she actually knows where everything is located.

Staying organized is an important part of being frugal, because if one can't find something, she can't use it, and sometimes that means she spends money she would not need to spend if she could simply find everything she owns. Staying organized in a NYC apartment, however, takes some creativity.

I find it very bothersome to not be able to find my things, so I try to be one of those people who has a place for everything and keeps everything in its place. But then life happens, and I find myself creating piles until a free hour and enough energy coincide so that I may put everything away.

In order to create some amount of Jessica-style organization even when I'm too busy to actually be organized, I've come up with a system that works for me -- piles go into multiple baskets and bins. This not only makes our home look neater, but it also means that when I'm searching for something, I know which basket or bin it will be in, and can find it pretty quickly. As an added bonus, it makes putting everything away at the end of the week a bit easier too.

Here's my system, if you'd like to see...

Oddly enough, I've never had trouble putting my shoes in their spots right away. Maybe it's because I know their correct places are the only spots where they will not get scratched, the dog won't touch them, and they won't accidentally rip or soil something else. Or maybe I just love them more. But for everything else, there is a system to my chaos.

Full disclosure: This picture is a total lie.. On more days of the week than not, the bin on the left is overflowing. This bin holds clothing I'm too rushed to put away -- that sweater that doesn't look good with that skirt, that dress that's a little shorter than I thought, maybe even the other dress I ended up wearing to work, but tossed in there instead of putting it away so I could quickly change and head out again. When I'm in a hurry, I just toss any clothing in there, and "re-set" it at a later date.

The other bins and bags in the closet exist so that "putting away" some of my stuff requires nothing more than tossing it in the correct bin. The extra large L.L. Bean bag holds "play" clothes (clothes to wear around the house) and to the right is my trusty tool box / step stool someone in my family got for free at the bank over a decade ago. It's so weird how many NYC apartments have strangely high closet space, and this step stool comes in handy every day so I can reach my heels. On top sits a bin that holds everything I need for the pool -- swimsuits, flip-flops, toiletries, etc. Further to the right is yet another bin, which is where I stash bags.

While clothing goes in the bin below, hangers go on this bar so that they do not snag and ruin anything I haven't yet put away. The bar is an old towel bar I re-purposed to hang headbands on, but the headbands kept slipping off, so now it is a home for empty hangers. As a bonus, it makes putting away clothing a little easier -- I'm never searching for an empty hanger between dresses and shirts.

And this last basket exists for the same reason the hangers have their own spot -- anything that could snag clothing goes here instead. Playbills, water bottles, even a couple eyeglass cases are dropped in here. While I started separating non-clothing out to protect my clothes, I now find that having these different piles make it so much easier to find what I need on my way out the door.

Using bins, and baskets, and bags, and bars makes it so much easier to stay sane when busy. Any system that gets me out the door faster makes me just a little happier in the morning.

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