Family life

What's your organization IQ?

Tracy realizes that her comfort with clutter isn't her fault — it's in her DNA.

By Tracy Chappell
What's your organization IQ?

My house is almost always messy. I used to beat myself up over cluttered countertops and dusty baseboards and too much stuff everywhere. But I’ve stopped. Much of my guilt was sparked by worry about what others thought of me based on the state of my home. But if they judge me on fingerprints and footprints, so be it (and, as I’ve learned, most don’t).

But this spring, I have this strange, unexpected desire to downsize — everything. Opening all the windows hasn’t helped to clear the air. I feel like I’m suffocating among all the stuff. This may be a metaphor, but for now, I’ll make it literal and embark of my first all-out spring clean.

The issue is that I’m comfortable with clutter. To others it’s mess, but I realize I’m a “visual organizer” (I might have just invented that term to make myself feel better) and I function better when I can see where everything is and what needs to be done. I'm actually very organized, I swear. But once it’s all put nicely away behind closed doors, it also slips right out of my mind. I like Post-Its. I often tape permission slips and to-do lists to my kitchen cupboards. Organizing my life on my phone is just not possible. At least not right now. I need to embrace this, rather than try to conform to other people’s standards of proper organization. I think it’s important for everyone to recognize how their mind and life work best.

I have also always been able to keep a lot in my head. But this year, I stopped being good at this. It’s like my brain was full and the overflow just spilled out into a great abyss. With Anna in grade one and in an after-school program elsewhere, and Avery at a different school for JK, plus hockey and Sparks and swimming and Anna’s baptism prep class and what have you, there were a hundred papers flowing though my kitchen and different calendars to keep track of and deadlines and fees. I had never felt so disorganized.

I knew the perfect solution: I needed to turn a portion of our kitchen wall into a chalk wall like everyone does on Pinterest. Then I would have room to write and post everything in one spot. I desperately needed it all in one spot. But Sean was not on board with the chalk wall. I have a white board for the kids downstairs and I knew it was a viable solution, but I don’t like the look of it for the kitchen.

Then I came across the most ridiculously large calendar at Crate & Barrel and I had to have it. And I had a gift card. I was with my mom when I first spied it and she tried to discourage me. “I need that,” I told her. “No, you really don’t,” she said. (It is humongous — it could be half the size and still be awesome). But I got it and I am in love with it, even though everyone has endless fun mocking me for it. I can write my to-do lists on it, I can tape all my notes, use my Post-Its, we can draw and decorate on it, not to mention practise letters and have this great central place that all of us know to consult (maybe can’t help but consult!) every day. My house may not look more organized because of it, but it totally is.

I also found an amazing day planner at Crate & Barrel (I don’t normally shop there, but clearly it employs some kindred spirit in its idea-generation department). I always buy a day planner with good intentions for using it, but instead, I cart it around and never use it. But this planner has the left page divided horizontally into the weekdays and the right side is — drum roll please — blank! I can write all my general weekly notes and somehow, this works perfectly for me.

I think I’m onto something with my strategy for staying organized and on top of things in my own way. I am so inspired that I’ve decided to dedicate April to taking on several problem areas of my home and make them work better. I was also motivated by our March "Get Organized" issue, because it’s clear that little changes can make a big difference. So I’ll start small with the linen closet and move to our biggest clutter-collectors, my office and the basement (aka the kids’ playroom). Hopefully by May, I’ll have reconciled my need for visual organization with the need for things to have a proper place.


What kind of organizer are you? Do you have tried-and-true strategies to stay tidy and organized (especially in regards to kids' stuff)? I’d love to hear them.

This article was originally published on Apr 02, 2013

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