My best friend, who would be the first to admit she is what we could kindly call organizationally challenged, gave me a copy of the book Confessions of An Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield. I had leafed through her copy on one of my visits to her house, and (after a bout of organizing) she decided to pass it on.
I love this book. Of all the books on organizing that I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot, this is by far the best. What I most appreciate is that she does not impose her system but rather encourages the reader to develop a system of his or her own. There are tips on organizing, as would be expected, but more importantly she asks you to think differently about how you organize. The book is divided into five parts. I’ll take a look at each one and discuss what I found to be the most important take away information for me and my lifestyle.
Part One: Organization as a Way of Life This was the most interesting section for me and there’s a great thought in it which applies as much to organizing as it does to any other aspect of our lives: “We tend to see ourselves at our worst, while we see others at their best.” Schofield begins chapter two of this section with a discussion of her six basic organizing principles: think before you act, discard and sort, group, be motion minded, practice preventive maintenance and use your accrued benefits. Of these six principles the fourth, be motion minded, was by far the most useful thing I took away from this book.
Schofield says that “(m)otion-mindedness doesn’t necessarily mean moving fast. It means moving smoothly, steadily and rhythmically.” I often find myself stopping and starting, picking up one thing and then putting it down only to pick up something else. The other concept that really transformed the way I organize my home and my life is the idea of one-motion storage. This means that it should only require one movement to get something out or put it away.
For example, my children’s toys are stored in plastic boxes inside cabinets with doors. They never picked their toys up after scattering them across their room and it used to drive me nuts. It was a major source of stress for me and thus for them. The problem was that putting their toys away required six motions: sorting the toys into many small groups, opening the cupboard doors, taking the lids off the boxes, putting the toys into the boxes, putting the lids back on the boxes and finally closing the doors. When everything was tidy the room looked great but that didn’t happen often. Even I didn’t like putting their toys away! Not to mention that when they pulled the toy boxes out and left the cupboard doors open it became difficult to maneuver in their room.
So I went through their toys and pulled out two big bags of things they never played with to give away. I put some things with lots of tiny pieces (Candyland) on a higher shelf, so that I am in control of when they play with it. Then I grouped toys together (playmobiles in with legos; skateboards together with race cars) giving them fewer things to sort. Finally I took the lids off the boxes and moved their favorite boxes away from the door; I can still enter the room even when the cupboard doors are open and the boxes are spilling off the shelf. I’ve taken two steps out of the equation and made the crucial first step of sorting much easier. Instead of taking thirty minutes every evening to clean their room, I now take five minutes.
In the first section, Schofield also discusses things like calendars and planning notebooks, schedules and applying the theories to real life. I found all of these chapters to be interesting and I took away ideas from each. For example, I have found that things run much more smoothly now that I have put a large monthly calendar on the door to the toilet. My husband is much more aware of our family’s schedule and I have to remind him of planned activities less frequently. I also recognize the benefits of scheduling chores like changing sheets and towels; as it stands, I tend to forget how long it’s been since I swapped them last for clean sets. With a schedule I would change them automatically.
Part Two: The Kitchen My kitchen is so small that I apply all of her suggestions by default- there is simply no other way to store things or work! But this could be interesting for people with big kitchens that serve multiple purposes.
Part Three: Other Rooms, Other People In this section Schofield talks about toys and kid collections, hobbies like crafts) that might spill out into many areas of the house, junk drawers and other people’s collections. I found this to be quite useful. First, it helped me with the practical applications of dealing with the previously mentioned toy issue; I am also a crafter whose stuff can get out of control. My husband is a musician and his stuff can get out of control as well; two out of control hobbies in one small house is a recipe for disaster. Chapter 16, ‘How to Organize Another Person’, was especially interesting!
Part Four: Storage This section deals with, you guessed it, storage. Again, I think this might be more interesting for someone with more room. My storage options are limited to shelving in the kids’ room and the living room, my sheltered porch outside and a shed. Not a lot of choice, not a lot of storage. But, everything is in bins and clearly labeled, and as Schofield explains, that makes all the difference.
Part Five: Conclusion The conclusion is the shortest section in the book, with two chapters: ‘Where Do I Start?’ and ‘The Beginning’. Both are fairly self-explanatory. Her most useful advice? Start with what bothers you most and work in small blocks of time.
In my opinion, this book is best suited for people who aren’t buried under piles of clutter, but instead manage to mostly keep most of their house clean, most of the time; people who need to look outside the box as it were. People who really have no idea of where to start probably won’t get the best use out of Confessions of An Organized Homemaker, but they should definitely put it away in a safe place (if they can find one) for the day when they need that extra push to go from somewhat together to truly organized. I’ll be giving it away next month, so stay tuned for details, or better yet, subscribed!