The conversation goes something like this:
“Hon, where’re my glasses?”
“On the table next to the phone under the magazine you were
“Oh. Yeah. Where’s the Phillips screwdriver?”
“On the washer where you left it after you put up the outlet
“Oh. Yeah. Have you seen my travel mug?”
Not every member of your family is going to be motivated to put
things back where they belong, and after you’ve installed some new
organizing systems, it might be even more of a challenge to get
them into the habit.
My husband, who has never been a fan of the laundry basket, gave
up on it completely when I went to three bins to separate
delicates, whites and colors. The more-organized partner needs to
be either willing to both install and maintain the systems or
devise something so logical and simple that even a chimp might
manage to get his banana peels into the proper receptacle.
Label. Many clients don’t want to label because it can look a
little tacky in a summer-camp, back-to-school kind of way. But in
most instances, and with a Brother PT Touch labeler, labels look
clean and provide guidance to those getting to know your systems
(spouse, kids, cleaning lady, guests). You won’t need them for
obvious things — if there is a stack of dinner plates in the
cupboard and your daughter needs to put away one, she is not going
to need a label to figure out where it goes. But for shelves
housing lots of miscellaneous items, such as in a laundry room,
garage, media center or storage closet, labels are sanity
Go with the flow. Don’t fight a natural inclination in a family
member. If they always put an item — the remote, eyeglasses,
hairbrush, shoes — in a certain place, try to find a way to make
that spot THE SPOT for that item in an aesthetically pleasing way.
For example, I hate to see dirty shoes inside the front door. But
that is where my husband comes in and takes them off. So I’m
designing a wooden bench that he can slide them under. I like to
put my pj’s in a drawer, he likes his stuffed under his pillow. As
long as it’s consistent and tidy, it can work.
I have friends who stock up on inexpensive reading glasses and
have a pair at every potential reading site in the house; by the
phone, near lamps, on bedside tables. Same with scissors. It’s
great to have a pair in every room of the house. Having multiples
is a natural way to flow with the way we live and relieves a lot of
stress and time wasted with searching for often-used, relatively
Compromises are part of organizing a household so that
everyone’s styles are honored. I often compromise on what I see as
an ideal organizing solution to allow my clients to find what works
for them. But I insist that once you find a place for something,
the key to organizing is to put it back consistently. It’s the only
way you will trust your system and begin to relax.
Furthermore, when you put something back, make sure it is ready
for its next use. A soiled sweater shouldn’t be put back in the
closet until it’s been cleaned. An empty Sigg bottle can’t go back
in the car or by the treadmill until it’s been refilled. Same with
travel mugs — bring them in, wash them, and return them to the car
for the next trip to Peet’s.
It sounds painfully simple, but it is amazingly effective. There
is no better organizing tip I can give than to Put Things Back
Where They Belong. And if you can get your husband to put his dirty
socks in the hamper, you’re my hero.