Hello again from the MidWest! I wrote this article last year a few months before we moved. At the time we didn’t know how close we were to moving ourselves! It is interesting and so cool that this was on my mind before we went through a huge purging and organizing of everything we had owned. I hope this is a blessing to you.
Thank you to my sweet friend who still had this and sent it back to me today, after I accidentally deleted it awhile ago!
If you are anything like me, you would love to have all the areas of your life more organized. After all, it feels better to be in an organized environment. The Scriptures talks about doing things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40) and looking well to the ways of our homes (Proverbs 31:27).
However, in order to be organized, we have to manage ourselves, our families, and our lives. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Entropy happens, where things gradually fall back into disorder and chaos, and then it can get so very overwhelming. Both things and people call for our attention, contributing to the chaos. We can easily feel overwhelmed, with thoughts that we will never get out from under it all.
What if I told you that you do can do it? It’s not as hard—or as taxing—as you might think!
I have been there. Even though I am naturally organized and neat, for more of my life than I would like to admit, staying organized was a struggle for me. Sure, at times I could get things better in my home, and it felt GOOD! Inevitably, the clutter would come back, a little here and little there—and the overwhelm would start again.
I simply did not know how to manage the many things I felt it would take to actually see success. I remember standing in my home, looking at all the clutter I wanted to tackle, thinking, “Am I forever doomed to not measure up to those perfect women who have it all together in their perfect homes?”
Would you like to know what I figured out? I used to think I had to do everything like “those perfect women.” Even if a few tips initially worked for me or if I was able to do a portion of what I imagined those women doing, it didn’t stick for me. I had not been taught how to do many basic household tasks. Well into adulthood, I had to figure things out “on the run.” This was not an easy task! It would be an understatement to say I was overwhelmed.
I had to learn that I did not have to do things exactly like other women, and this is true for many things in life. We can honor our Father while not being a carbon copy of the woman next to us. Learning to be both realistic and practical made a huge difference for me.
We learned to purge our possessions, and I found it to be a good heart exercise. In our home, we go through our possessions every six months, usually right before the Spring and Fall Feast seasons.
While seasonally purging, I came to understand that our things do not always have the value we may unconsciously place on them. For instance, I did not need to save fifteen pictures of the same thing or every piece of artwork our children made. Where I used to save everything, with clutter filling our closets, drawers, and every other secret place I stuck things into, I came to realize I did not actually need five of the same-sized vase if we only displayed one or two flowers at a time. I began to ask questions before buying pretty artwork, evaluating if it would be useful and edifying, or if it would just create unnecessary clutter.
• Could my decor serve a necessary purpose and add to our environment, rather than just being clutter to dust and move from time to time?
• Did I keep old clothes, books, toys or anything else just to fill up the space? Sometimes empty spaces invite us to fill them up with stuff. Empty closets can do this, too. Do we really need five colors of the same sweater? Do we really need a pair of shoes for every occasion, simply to fill empty spaces in a shoe holder?
• Children’s artwork can be emotionally tough. Over the years, I have learned to downsize here, even though I still have quite a bit. Duplicates or crafts that weren’t useful did not all have to be saved. I learned the idea of taking pictures of my children’s artwork, so that I could save the memory. It is great to look back on the picture (not twenty pictures!) of the projects my kids made when they were young, and someday I plan to make a scrapbook for myself and each child.
• Instead of having a collection of cookbooks that sit on a shelf, I have learned to store only the recipes we enjoy. I have started making recipe binders, so that it’s convenient to save our favorite dishes. Over time, I am getting my index-card recipes organized and into decorative storage boxes as well.
It can be difficult to go through items and make decisions about what to purge and what to keep. It is okay to put things into a tote or box, to revisit at a future time. While you wait, you may realize they were not needed during their months in the “decision box,” or you may realize that not having the items did not affect you like you thought it would. I do not recommend throwing things out in anger or at any other emotional moment. You may regret it, as I have done before, wishing I had not acted so quickly.
Sometimes we have emotional attachments to things that have nothing to do with the items themselves. I have found that evaluating my emotions was a big factor in overcoming my organizational struggles. For example, if a woman did not have many possessions as a child or early in her marriage, did acquiring things fill an emotional gap in her heart? Or was there a period of time when she had no pictures of important events, so now she takes fifteen pictures of the same thing? I am not saying multiple possessions or pictures are necessarily bad, but excessiveness can be a symptom of a deeper emotional hurt.
Figuring out your personality and the needs of your schedule also makes it easier to set up a system and maintain it. For example, buttons—I have so many of these! I used to think I should separate my buttons, right down to colors, sizes, and types. This sounds nice for a professional seamstress, but it did not fit my personality or needs. It was far more involved than I needed. I am perfectly content with my jars of buttons. However, I keep my other crafting materials, such as yarn, more organized. (I prefer to separate yarn by type, but I don’t bother organizing by color.)
Other examples include games (I like to organize by size, placing similar kinds of games together, keeping them all neat) and homeschool materials (I separate books and binders by subject and usage, keeping student and parent materials together and using cloth totes in cubbies for the materials we use daily).
Figuring out how neat you like things makes it easier not to compare yourself to other women. Do you feel more comfortable with a lot of empty space left over, or would you prefer to fill your shelves with books and other things? As I get older, I realize I prefer fewer things filling up a space—but your decision might be different.
If you don’t like to dust and clean, or if you don’t enjoy seeing clutter, or if the thought of purging your possessions every six months sounds overwhelming to you, then you should avoid having a lot of knickknacks. It will just stress you out—and in turn, it will be harder for you to feel motivated to organize it all.
What are your priorities for the atmosphere you’d like in your home? If clutter creates a worse atmosphere for you, then reducing it will bring peace. As I realized, every family has a different idea of what constitutes clutter. Your family will have to evaluate what works for you. For instance, some people can’t handle an extra item on a counter or table, while others can tolerate it just fine. Writing down your priorities for your home—and even what purpose each room will serve—can help with the purging and organizational process.
Sometimes possessions serve a purpose and you want to keep them, but they could be stored in a place that isn’t convenient. There are no rules here. Try moving the games, as we once did, out of the dining room and into the living room. They served us better there—at least for now. We tried it and liked it, but in another season, we might move them again.
If you would like to save things for your children’s future or another purpose later in life, boxes and totes come in handy. However, you’ll need to find a space to store these boxes and totes. You may evaluate and find the attic is the best place for now. Storage spaces have limits, which helps us remember not to save every little thing but only those that serve a purpose or are meaningful.
Even when choosing storage devices, don’t feel you have to be like other women. Totes might be frustrating for you. Maybe you prefer Mason jars to organize things instead. I love using them in my kitchen and craft room, or even for things like pens. You can make jars pretty by adding stickers. Get creative if that fits your personality, as it does mine.
Maintaining your systems is another important point. If large messes stress you out, start small—just a single shelf or drawer. Pull one box out to go through, then move on to a second box after that. Sometimes a big mess can motivate me to get serious—and at other seasons, it’s just too overwhelming. Baby steps are still steps. Making small dents feels amazing, however small. Just keep going!
As you think on ways to purge and organize your life, you’ll find that spiritual lessons and introspection happen. These can be the times when I have a big Aha! moment. Perhaps as we do the physical things in life, the Father brings us much-needed spiritual growth as well. Sometimes the spiritual breakthroughs were exactly what we needed to get past struggles in the physical.
Understanding our unique personalities, learning strategies to purge and organize, and then applying little actions—step by step—can help us achieve more peace in our lives. Creating a lovely atmosphere is worth it! “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Happy purging and organizing of anything you set out to do so.
To read this and many other articles and blog posts, check out my blog at torahwoman.com