Do you get organized all at once, dumping every drawer and getting into every nook and cranny, exhausting yourself? Or do you try to do a little every so often but find that it’s really easy to backslide and never quite get a handle on your space or move the needle very far forward? Are you an “innie,” stuffing things into cupboards, closets and drawers or an “outie,” with organized (or even empty!) cupboards and lots of piles and disorder out in plain sight? It might be time to take the best of each style and find some middle ground for longer lasting results.
All or nothing organizers often resist organizing because their experience has been that it is hectic and tiring. Bit by bit organizers might resist it because their experience is that their organizing efforts don’t really last. The easiest way to find middle ground between these two styles is to go all out but only on one area at a time. Instead of turning the whole house upside down, try just one room. Or instead of one whole room, take just one closet or one cupboard and thoroughly sort and organize it.
What often happens when we sort and organize one smaller storage area or one room is that we see how connected it is to other parts of the house. But just because you find a jar of cinnamon in a bedroom drawer doesn’t mean that you have to stop organizing the drawer to take the cinnamon into the kitchen and organize the spice cupboard. Just put the cinnamon in a box with other items that don’t belong in the space you’re organizing and distribute them later. If you’re trying to get in your 10,000 steps for the day, go ahead and take it to the kitchen and leave it on the counter, just don’t start another organizing project until the first one is completely finished.
When “bit by bit”-style organizers find they aren’t making enough progress, it is usually because they don’t take on a big enough “bit.” For example, if you are organizing your books, don’t organize just one shelf and expect to get much bang for your buck. If you can’t take a look at the entire collection due to time or energy constraints, at least look at all novels or all poetry or all biography. Only then will you be able to decide what stays and what goes and can move on to another classification the next time you’re able to organize. Similarly, in a closet, if you can’t look at all your clothing at once, at least do all pants or all dresses and skirts in the same session.
As a way to shift their organizing style, “innies” might try to decide what each storage area should hold. You might still stuff things away but be more strategic about it: stuff things away in a location that makes sense so that you can find what you need when you need it. Stack all mail and papers that haven’t been handled in a basket in one cupboard. Put all your pens and scissors into a kitchen or office drawer where they can easily be located. Stick children’s art work in a bin on a shelf in another cupboard, and so on. When you hide things away but start to “hide and sort” instead of “hide and seek,” you might even be tempted to make the insides of your storage spaces look as sane and tidy as the outside areas.
“Outies” tend to label themselves “visual” types and complain that if it is behind a cupboard door or in a drawer, they will forget about it. The truth is, things get lost in the stacks and open baskets of stuff anyway. It helps an outie to use clear containers and a labeler. Go ahead and take the clothes piled on the Peloton that have been collected to go to consignment and put them in a clear bin labeled “consignment” and put it in a cupboard, the garage or a guest closet. Keep the categories a little larger and looser.
Outies also tend to try to keep everything in their heads instead of writing things down. To remind yourself where things are, start a note in your phone or a document on your computer and list where you are storing things. Pretty soon it will be second nature to check a certain drawer for unpaid bills, a bag in the closet for dry cleaning or a file labeled “Receipts” for all those receipts you need to collect for potential returns, taxes or other reasons. Lists are your friends!