Getting Organized for Simplicity’s Sake

This piece originally appeared in my Green and Simple column on the Old Town Alexandria Patch.

Want to simplify and de-clutter your life? Take cues from constructions sites and kindergarten classrooms.

Construction projects have always fascinated me, especially large-scale projects, like the National Harbor project or the Woodrow Wilson bridge project. I marvel at how a plan evolves, one step at a time, one day at a time, into a finished project. How are so many individuals, machines, and materials brought together in such a way that a slab of raw earth or body of water takes shape as a construction site and eventually into a building (or bridge), series of buildings or whole community before our eyes?

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of deconstruction and new construction on the north end of Old Town. I enjoyed the process of watching the new recreation center being erected and anticipating the impact on the neighborhood. As the construction of new townhomes and condos edges closer to our home from Wythe street headed north, I’ve been captivated by the destruction of the homes that served as the haunted alley this past fall, juxtaposed with the sparkling new homes diagonally across the street, where parking spaces are still being broken in.

When I look at a site, like the two on Madison St., both just a few blocks from our house, I’m reminded of a comment that my seven-year-old daughter made while I was in the midst of one of my major purging episodes: “Mom, you’re not cleaning. You’re making an even bigger mess!”

When buildings are first being taken down, a site also looks like a great big mess. I love to witness how a masses of shingles, bricks, cables, crumbled cement evolves into neatly organized piles of like materials that are eventually taken away. Before long, what remains is a clean slate of earth, ready to be shaped and structured.

It reminds me of a tip I learned from organizing guru Julie Morgenstern who advises us to think like kindergarten teachers when it comes to organizing. She describes how all kindergarten classrooms have clean up time and a place for everything. By organizing our time and space the way a kindergarten teacher organizes her classroom, we create a model for organizing: “clearly labeled, simple systems, with a particular place for everything. And you can’t shortcut cleanup time. You need to build it into the pattern of the day.”

January is National Organizing Month and, while it is not usually on my radar, it coincides nicely with my organizing efforts on the home front. Fortunately for my family, we are passed the disaster stage that comes when I embark on an organizing spree and everything is a mess. Now that we’ve cleared most of the clutter, including everything from candle sticks to random electronics, I’ve enjoyed the process of organizing what remains. Here is where the kindergarten class analogy comes in really handy: creating simple systems to steer clear of clutter by either creating a home for things or letting them go.

The result … a much neater home that’s quite simply more enjoyable for all!

The kindergarten analogy is useful not only for organizing physical objects and spaces, but also our time, our ideas, our passions, and more. One can sort and group all manner of things:

  • Shopping and errands: to reduce travel time
  • People and passions: get your favorite people involved with your favorite activities and see what happens
  • Activities: designate a time to deal with all household administrative duties (phone calls, internet research, bill payments, etc.)

How do you group, sort, and organize your time and space?

Filed Under: ConsumerismReduce-Reuse-Recycle

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.