Organizing Maintenance- What Staying Organized Looks Like

As we’re nearing the end of GO month, let’s talk about maintenance. We may tackle getting organized in project phases, but really, staying organized is a PROCESS. It happens over time, over and over again.

Organizing Maintenance- What Staying Organized Looks Like

“I cleaned out the linen closet last year, but it just got disorganized again.”

“My kids put away the dishes, but they don’t know where things go, so it never stays nice.”

“Every time I come home from a trip, I just dump stuff on my desk and walk away.”

“Laundry. Uhg. It never ends.”

You might see yourself in some of these quotes. I hear them every single day. Expecting to get organized and be organized forevermore is like brushing your teeth on January first, and expecting to get a good report from the dentist at the end of the year.

You’ve been working on organizing projects all month. So what should you expect the rest of the year?

Over a year ago, I was working with a client on her kitchen. We organized the pantry and some cabinets, and then we moved on to other projects. We went from this:

organizing kitchen drawer items

to this:

organize the plastics drawer in the kitchen(Photo courtesy of Jo-Lynne Shane.)

Pretty impressive, right? Not really. We just threw stuff away, since she said she didn’t want to use plastic anymore, and we put the glass bowls she wanted to use in there, along with their lids.

Well, a year and a half go by, and some of the glass bowls break. Friends bring over plastic bowls and leave them. And at some point, mom remembers how convenient those plastic bowls were for lunches, and buys a few more. Here’s what the drawer looks like this month.

organizing maintenance example

What happened? Did the organizing fail? Was the client bad? Were we wrong? No, of course not. This just happens to be one of those spots that needs constant attention. Oh, and since mom isn’t actually putting dishes away in here (the kids empty the dishwasher), maybe we need some way to remind them how it is supposed to look, like this, which only took 5 minutes to get to.

quickly organize a kitchen drawer

This time we DIDN’T throw anything out. In fact, we added the mason jars, which they use for salad-in-a-jar. But we matched up all the lids with bowls, and stacked them, and everyone thinks that it looks instantly organized. Maybe the solution is for the kiddos to put the lids on the bowls when they are unloading the dishwasher. It’s worth trying!

I recommended that we take this picture and tape it to the bottom of the drawers, which is a form of delegation. Instead of mom always having to shout out the steps to putting things away, she can say, “Just put things away like they are on the picture.” It probably won’t happen here, but we did label some of the cabinet shelves. Mom doesn’t need the reminder that this is the shelf where bowls go, but the kiddos do.

label kitchen shelves for better organization

Another kitchen cabinet, however, stayed completely organized! This was before we started over a year ago:

organize under kitchen sink- before

This is the day we organized over a year ago…

organize under kitchen sink- after

And this is what we found this year…

organize under kitchen sink- maintenance

If we were grading, this would be an A+! So what happened? Why did this cabinet stay organized while the other drawer didn’t? Well, the two-tiered riser kept small things contained. The biggest reason for going in this cabinet, the dishwasher packs, is right up front and too large to get lost. And the family has done a good job of not over-buying cleaning supplies shown on the right, or at least not overloading this cabinet with them. We don’t need to label or draw a treasure map or hold a family meeting or anything. This cabinet works, and will until something changes in this family’s life. But we made a few changes and investments in order to get to this little oasis of organization.

What Staying Organized Looks Like – Organizing Maintenance

Organizing maintenance is not a once-and-done event in your life, any more than brushing your teeth today (and only today) will keep you from cavities. So when things that you feel like you JUST ORGANIZED (yeah, I use that voice, too) get disorganized again, remember…

You brush your teeth twice a day.

Take a breath, set your organizing timer, and give it 5, 15, or 30 minutes of organizing maintenance attention. If you need encouragement, or someone to talk you down from the ledge, come join us over at our Clutter-Free Living Facebook group.

New Year's resolutions, organizing goals, 31 day organizing plan


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Susan

    Love this and love your sense of humor. The tooth brushing analogy is great!

    1. Darla

      Thanks for reading, Susan.

  2. Pat Young

    oh gee, what do you mean “not once and done”, LOL. Pat in SNJ

    1. Darla

      🙂 Unless we’re dismantling the “temporary” card table. Then hopefully it is just once. Thanks for reading, Pat. I really appreciate it. Coffee or tea on me the next time I’m in your neighborhood!

  3. Kathy

    When i start a decluttering project i get a box or clothes basket and putneverything in there then i can go through the mess at a later time. It works like a charm!

    1. Darla

      I’m glad you have a system that work well for you. Finding that system is really important. Thanks for sharing.

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