Saturday, August 22, 2015


"Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you."
~Doctrine & Covenants 90:18

I have a strange relationship with organization. If you could come to my house, you'd see what I mean; it's a sort of melding of absolute order and absolute chaos. Granted, a lot of that chaos is created by another member of the family, but even leaving her messes out of the equation, it's there in the details.

Adult movies, alphabetized, with BluRays separate -- and my shelf of random stuff.
If you asked my parents or siblings if I was an organized person, they would probably find a polite way to say that I'm a pack rat and a slob. Ask my husband or the ward ladies who occasionally come over, or anyone who cleans at my house, and they would probably tell you that I am meticulously organized. And they'd both be right -- partly.

I was never very good at cleaning, growing up. I don't mean things like washing and sweeping and dusting -- I had those skills -- but ask me to pick up a messy room, and I just got stuck. I know there were many factors involved: a generally low energy level, a strong preference for reading over almost any activity, a tendency to daydream, and a habit of setting things down, intending to put them away later, and having them accumulate into piles. But I eventually realized that often, I was paralyzed by my ideal of order. The way I wanted to have it seemed like such a huge amount of work, that I was overwhelmed at the thought, so I avoided it instead.

I come by it honestly. My mother has four tall filing cabinets, filled with resources for kids' parties and church lessons, all in alphabetical order by topic. We had three or four portable cases full of cassette tapes, with each case containing a particular genre. As part of our chores, we were expected every day to clean mirrors, vacuum, and use Scrubbing Bubbles on the bathroom counter, sink, and toilet. I thought all families did it that way, until I had the experience of roommates and mission companions.

All of the kids' and young adult books at my parents' house (and there are hundreds) have a little label on the bottom of the spine with the first letter of the author's last name, and readers are expected to keep those in alphabetical order, too -- although with multiple toddler grandchildren, they've gotten more relaxed with the picture books in recent years. But the picture books are kept in one bookcase, and the novels in another two. The baby books and the big books of stories each have their own sections; the picture books related to holidays (e.g. Arthur's Thanksgiving) are all on a separate shelf, ordered by holiday; science and history books have their own bookcases, as do religious works.

So, was our house always pristine? No. Actually, most of the time it was fairly messy. But it was a mess on top of a very orderly foundation. :) Now that I'm a homemaker, I find myself in a similar situation.

Neatly alphabetized Young Adult fiction -- with random stuff stuck on top of and around it because people didn't know or bother where they went.
I really like to organize things, and I'm also really good at fitting a lot of things into a small space. I like everything to have its own proper place, but I also have a lot of stuff -- more stuff than places, as it happens. And yes, I hate to get rid of things that could be useful or that have sentimental value. So for the last several months, I've been establishing my authority over my domain, piece by piece. I started with Sunbeam's room, and I'm very proud of it. Everything has a place, so cleaning goes fast because I don't have to pick up a thing and then try to decide where to put it.

That's the thing I always hated about cleaning, growing up. I started off fine, putting away the books and movies and dishes and such. Those had definite homes, so they were easy to put away. But then there was always leftover stuff that either didn't have a place assigned, or it belonged to someone else and I didn't know where they kept it (and I didn't want to clean up after them).

Now that I'm the mom, I don't want to be bogged down by that dilemma, so I've been going from one organizing project to the next, taming the food storage, the dish cupboards, my clothes, the hallway closets, and so on.

I got rid of six trash bags full of clothes that didn't fit me, plus the ones on hangers.

Dishes, sorted. Note the illustrated labels on the back of the shelf.

Well, last week I tackled my craft supplies, which were stuffed into the tops of both bedroom closets and heaped onto a folding table in the corner of the living room. I got a new storage cabinet and put it up, then I went to Walmart and bought a cart-ful and a half of storage containers large and small. I'm still not quite done, but the end is in sight, and it is beautiful! It makes me happy just to look at it and admire the neatness of it all.

My new and improved craft corner!

Plus, it will forestall a lot of the kind of messes that Sunbeam used to make, because everything is locked up now. No more embossing powder dumped on the easy chair, no more "incidents" with the fabric paint, no more straight pins strewn about the house, no more glue used as lotion. Best of all, no more getting out of my chair three times a minute to take something away or chase her out of "Mommy's corner".

I also did the cooking utensils and the spice cupboard in the kitchen.

Next up is the one I've been putting off for two years: books. I have five tall bookshelves, four and a half of which are filled with books. The kids' and young adult books in the living room are pretty well in hand, but the rest of them, in my bedroom, are not.

They've been like this ever since we moved here.  :-/

Wish me luck! You saw above the "library" system that I'm used to. ;)

I feel confident in approaching it now, though. The clutter and mess has been a perpetual source of stress to me, but with our lovely hired cleaning help and with so much of the house under control, everything feels lighter.

"Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion."
~Doctrine & Covenants 132:8