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Claudia Myers column: How to finally put everything in its place

First of all, it's impossible to organize your entire life all at once. It's too enormous an undertaking for anybody. You’ll just give up.

Boxes, baskets and containers of various shapes and sizes
Organizing consultant Marie Kondo's storage boxes, containers and baskets with different sizes and shapes for tidying up a wardrobe.
Kostikova / Getty Images / iStockphoto
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I love to organize things. You’d never guess that if you could see into my workroom at this very minute. In fact, you’d probably laugh yourself silly. “Who does she think she’s kidding?” you would say. “That’s the messiest room I’ve ever seen."

Claudia Myers.jpg
Claudia Myers

Au contraire, says I. Being unorganized and being messy are two very different things. Being unorganized means you haven't figured out a place to put each and everything you own and so you just leave it on the kitchen counter or on top of your computer desk. Being messy means everything you own does have a place, but right now, everything is all out and being used.

I ask you: What’s good about having a bunch of really cool stuff if it’s all neatly packed away and you never get it out and use it for fear of messing up your organizing?

“Yes, but I know where everything is and can lay my hands on anything I need at the drop of a hat.” (Even if it looks like the Al Capone gang has been through and "tossed" the place?) How many mouths have you heard that come out of?

I suppose it could be true, but have you ever said to that person: ”OK. Find me the left-handed pinking shears that I gave you for your birthday four years ago.” If they hold them up within four minutes, I stand corrected.

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There is a procedure for getting organized. It’s not a secret. No special passwords or handshakes. Same as most things. Be realistic, divide and conquer.

First of all, it's impossible to organize your entire life all at once. It's too enormous an undertaking for anybody. You’ll just give up. I know you will. How about picking the thing that most aggravates you at the moment? What would make you happiest if it could be neat and tidy? Sorry! No children, pets or relatives on the list!

Now, give yourself three days to deal with this thing, but make a limit of only two hours each day to make it happen. You can do this.

Day 1 is planning, gathering and sorting. Let’s say you've decided to take on your collection of shoes, that huge pile that makes it impossible to close your closet door. You know, shoes — the ones you trip over, every day.

Think about how you would love to have your shoes arranged. Check out Pinterest and Amazon. Maybe Google "shoe storage.” Give yourself a half-hour to decide, no more. This could be the rabbit hole that dooms you before you even start. Make a category list on scratch paper, for instance: "work shoes, dress shoes, athletic shoes, warm boots, dress boots” and the ominous "get rid of" pile.

This is fun, right?

Find a corner of your home where you can make a pile of shoes that you won't fall over for the next two days. Even better if it has a door to close.

Now, go into your best "It's them or me" persona. Maybe growl a couple times to get into it. For the next hour, gather up all your shoes, remembering to look under your computer, and put them in your chosen corner. Only, here's the secret: As you put them there, categorize them, trying to keep the favorites near the top. You can even give them a little wipe-down with a damp rag.

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When you've got them all corralled, take a "non-forgiving" look at the bottom of the piles. Show no mercy. Bottom feeders don't deserve a nice, new storage place, right? Oookay, keep one yucky pair for working outside or going fishing.

Right now, put the rejects in a garbage bag and take it out to your car. You know if you leave that pile there, you'll sneak in about midnight and rescue some of them. Shut the door. You're done for today. Well done! Go walk the dog or finish your mystery novel.

Day 2 is shopping for whatever you need to make your shoe dream come true. Maybe a shelf with clear boxes, maybe a couple under-bed plastic wheelie bins. Hint: You can divide those with used or inexpensive plastic food containers, if you store your shoes in an upright position, on their toes, sole-to-sole, no lid on.

Maybe use hanging storage with baggy slots to stick your shoes into. Remember to put your favorites at eye level, just like they do at the grocery checkout area for the impulse buyers.

Day 3 is for assembling your new storage and putting everything into its new place. Yay, you! Pat yourself on the back. Your closet doors close. You haven’t fallen over a single pair of shoes. You did a great job.

What’s next? Sitting down with a glass of wine while you ponder which aggravation to tackle next and next and next, until, eventually, you have conquered the mass of roadblocks in your life? You feel like Wonderperson. You have persevered!

Everything in its place. Aaaahhh. Until you open the refrigerator to get the wine and see two paperback books, a couple screwdrivers and a pair of hand-knitted socks inside. That's a whole different problem.

Next time: Whaddya say?

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Read more from Claudia Myers
So much for learning life’s lessons from others. What about stuff you learn from your own experiences, trial and error, good or bad?

Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.

Related Topics: FAMILY
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.
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