House of order

I have decided that I could probably become a professional organizer if I so chose. But I don’t choose that, so I am strictly staying in the amateur leagues. I go on tears of ultra-organization in my house periodically. Over the course of a couple of months in the fall, I must have gotten rid of 15 medium-sized boxes’ worth of stuff. Well, probably more. And that’s after I’d already gone through and gotten rid of a bunch more stuff in the spring. And that was after going through and getting rid of stuff after we first moved in to this house 3 1/2 years ago, and that was after getting rid of a ton of junk before we made the cross-country move here. I keep asking myself how it’s possible that I have all this junk if I keep getting rid of it. Does it sneak back in to the house like the ants we keep killing off? Or like our female cat, who keeps insisting on going back out? It’s a mystery.

I must admit that I impose order on everyone in my house, my husband and daughters all. I have brought in some boxes from the garage and plunked them down in the office and/or bedroom and instructed my husband that he must go through them and sort and organize them within a short amount of time. He grudgingly obliges. I tell my girls it’s time to sort through their rooms and piles of accumulated stuff every six months or so. When they give me drawings or other doodads, I duly admire and ooh and ahh and then remind them that I will recycle most of them but keep a select few in their special folder. Otherwise, we’d be swimming in pencil and crayon artwork, drowning, really.

I’ve been reminding my husband and daughters, “_____ doesn’t belong there. Please put it where it lives.” Everything must have a place to live that makes sense for its use and for our need for it, and I insist on it going back to its domicile as quickly as possible after our temporary need for it has ended.

When I get better organized, I always must show off my new setups. For instance, I did this last week with most of the electronics cords and little gadgets that had become tangled up in the small canvas bin they had previously occupied:

As always, I was pleased as punch with the result and made sure my husband had seen it, and that my 15-year-old, who’s old enough to really appreciate these things, had seen it as well. “Doesn’t it look great?” I asked like a child with a freshly-drawn piece of art for the fridge. “It looks so neat and tidy now, doesn’t it? So much better than before, right?”

I cleared out a drawer in my office credenza that previously was a holding bin for stuff I didn’t know what to do with and used the divider that came with that drawer and another drawer, which I didn’t really need to divide. I had thought about using a store-bought utensil divider or something similar, but this worked just fine in the end without a trip to the store. Yay, me!

I also thought I’d add in here my fancy-schmancy way of planning meals. Well, about a third of the time. I decided to print up a list of dinners I make on a regular basis. I put several line spaces between each and made each dinner item in big print. Then I laminated them, cut them into little rectangles, and put magnets on the back. I put them into zip baggies (I decided it would be easier season-wise to separate soups into a different baggie) and placed them in a drawer in my kitchen. I had a small whiteboard that’s magnetic, so I (try to) plan a week’s meals at a time by just going through my baggies and sticking meal magnets onto my white board. Then I can get an idea at a quick glance of what I plan to make for the week, what to shop for, etc. I think it’s pretty clever. Here’s what it looks like:

My husband likes to stop by garage sales when he passes them on a Saturday errand. When he brings things into the house, I have a hard time not snapping at him. “What?? I just gave away a bunch of stuff to the band rummage sale, and you’re bringing in more junk?” I moan. A couple of weeks ago, he managed to get a few things that were fairly useful, but he also got a board game we will likely never use; I just got rid of about five or six we never used. Argh.

Don’t mess up my neat house. Darn. Too late.

Author: Cathy Carmode Lim

I'm a copy editor, writer, and book reviewer with three decades of experience. My book review website is I'm a mom of four and grandma of three.

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