Organize Your Life Like You Would Your Closet

Your perfect closet.

I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you something about yourself that you probably already know: You can’t do your best work, your best thinking, your best anything if your world is a cluttered, chaotic shambles. I know it makes a good story to say that you are the kind of person who can create brilliance out of a maelstrom, but, frankly my dear…

…pull the other one.

I don’t care what it is you’re doing: baking a cake, writing a chapter, digging a flower bed or compiling data in a spreadsheet, you need a tidy, everything-in-it’s-place platform from which to work, or the result will not—repeating here—will NOT be the best it could be. I am as bad as anyone for dining out on how I used to do flash cards with my five-year old, write a scintillating inciting incident for my mystery series and roll out the dough for a cherry pie all at the same time. Today? I can only imagine how good that chapter would’ve been if I’d just had TEN DAMN MINUTES TO MYSELF. Oops, didn’t mean to yell.

The five-year old is now sorting through college offers so he no longer serves as any kind of excuse for not doing my best work. But the point I’m trying to make is that an organized mind, an uncluttered desktop, and a quiet work environment really do make a difference to your end result.

It is worth the extra fifteen minutes it takes to pick up the dirty clothes, tuck the breakfast cups in the dishwasher, sweep up the kitty kibble and put all your (metaphorically) sharpened pencils in their  cup before you tackle whatever work you have on your schedule. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s directly related to your real work you, the sensation of an organized world will prompt an ordered clarity in your thinking that can only enhance whatever it is you’re trying to do.

I once read an article that said people who tidy up after themselves and put away their tools when they’re finished are actually more relaxed and chill than the Oscar Madisons of the world. Let’s face it. It’s one less thing to worry about if you already know where that overdue gas bill is or if you can fling open the front door to an unexpected visit from the minister’s wife without embarrassment. These kinds of people are much more serene than the slovenly of the world. I don’t care how much someone brags about being a slob, when they walk into their apartment and it’s a disaster, they die a little bit. If nothing else, just the thought of not knowing  where the remote control is would make anyone churlish.

You might want to check out Maria Menounos’ very stylish and not-a-bit anal “The Every Girl’s Guide to Life.” Ignore the dorky name, it’s really got lots of great tips in it, like:

  1. Keep only what you need (now that’s a concept we could all use)
  2. Buy only what you need
  3. Make sure everything in your closet has its own place
  4. Get a toolbox. Stock it. Return tools to it.
  5. Get a label maker. Label scissors, tape dispensers etc with “Return to kitchen” or “Return to Susan’s office”
  6. Skip one major vacation and have a hot tub installed instead. Then enjoy mini-rejuvenations and spa experience on a daily basis!
  7. Do the laundry before it’s overflowing
  8. Tape inventories to pantry doors so you know what you have
  9. Do all errands and grocery shopping on ONE day each week (this cuts down on grocery bills big time)
  10. Keep all your favorite cleaning supplies (what?! You don’t HAVE any favorites?) all in one place, in a handy bucket

Before you know it,  these habits will have gelled into a tidy house, a straightened desk and an orderly mind. All of which are absolutely essential to creating magic every day—whether that’s mothering, writing or anything else you do that defines who you are.

Step one to an awesome life?

Pick up your clothes.

Anybody else got any tips on how to straighten and tidy your life fast and effectively? Love to hear ’em…!

17 thoughts on “Organize Your Life Like You Would Your Closet

  1. Thanks, Mom, but this 70something congenitally disorganized person has managed to raise two children to adulthood and launch a late-blooming career as a writer while the dishes were still in the sink, the dust piled higher, and the checkbook remained unbalanced. And my closet isn’t organized either. But my writing is, and that’s all that counts. Some people work exceptionally well in the middle of “chaos.”

  2. I can leave the dirty dishes in the sink, but the tidiness of my desk helps be be more productive, I’ve discovered. Call it Feng Shui, or whatever. If my area is uncluttered, I don’t get distracted.

  3. When I left work, my home did not resemble my nice, orderly, tidy lab! Sick of the chaos, I’ve been working on getting some order in my life.
    1. Put things away in their allotted place, don’t put them down on the nearest flat surface when finished with them.
    2. I put a small bowl on the hall table. Keys go in there immediately I come in (saves hours looking for the darned things!).
    3. Every day I’m home I start with an energetic hour of ‘house’ jobs. Then I write. If I sit down after breakfast without that hour, I go to sleep.

    Shopping once a week is something I’ve stopped doing. Walking across the village to the shops and back every couple of days with a backpack keeps me fit and I meet people to chat to.

  4. There are two ways to handle the clutter problem. (1) Save and label everything (2) get a bigger trash can, maybe a dumpster, maybe two.
    Of course there is a third path, be you. I save everything that’s a part of me, my grandfathers china cabinet he built for my grandma in 1910, scraps of paper with scribbles, ideas and names on them, and pictures and movie’s taken years ago, and memories, all tucked or piled here, there or under. I’ve been scribbling for a living for most of my 75years and a good part of it is still tucked neatly or piled not so neatly on top of, under or stuffed somewhere in this old house. it’s me, there’s a CLIO nomination somewhere under the bed, the chess set my father turned on the lathe and a fishing pole that my father gave me during one of our camping trips long, long ago, and an idea I kinda liked that didn’t sell maybe thirty years ago, all pieces of me, memories and someday dreams. neat I ain’t, happy I am…and also productive. look at all the stuff I’ve done, wait I’ll show you it’s here somewhere.

  5. In our household we have a co-operative approach to clutter. My wife makes it. I tidy it up. Works quite well… More seriously, though, I think it’s true that an ordered environment helps organise the mind. A good approach for life generally, and (for me at least) especially important when writing – distractions really don’t help. Not everybody thinks that way, of course; I know of some people who surround themselves with avalanches of junk. Then write. I can’t. Nor, I believe, can Jonathan Franzen. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    Matthew Wright

  6. Thank you for this post! It inspired me to clean out a closet I’ve been stuffing things into for two years. It feels so good to find out what’s really in there, and I feel empowered to tackle the rest of the house now. 🙂
    (New follower, and loving the blog!)

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