Container Theory

Everytime I look in a home decorating magazine, I am amazed at how beautiful the homes are.  It’s hard not to be envious of the beautiful spaces! Perfect lines, gorgeous colors, not one flaw in sight – and in the past few years I’ve noticed that the homes have also transformed from sterile showroom spaces to personal spaces – a person’s books, collections, and pictures have made their way to the cover of “Better Homes & Gardens” within the neatly designed rooms.

It took someone else pointing it out for me to realize the truth – a big reason that these homes are so beautiful  is because they are clean and uncluttered.  Kids toys are neatly put away or not even in the room and books are lined on the bookshelf instead of just being thrown up there.   Sure, the paint job is nice, and the furniture looks incredibly comfortable, but the fact that you can see the floor is a major issue, too.

This was  an especially significant revelation for me because we live in a society of clutter.  We mistake the acquisition of things to be a step on the path toward the “American Dream.” More clothes, more toys, more books, more games.  But those things soon leave us with drawers so full of clothing they wrinkle and garages so full of junk we can’t put our cars in there – I’m guilty of the cluttered garage!   We have to buy more organizational bins, shelves, and accessories to attempt to make sense of it all.  Some Americans rent storage units to store all this stuff – or even buy a bigger house!

This is crazy.  Not only do we not need all this stuff, but we couldn’t find it if we did need it!

So my challenge to you, dear readers, is that if you are tired of trying to find new places to put things – tired of your home looking more like the “before” photos on HGTV’s “Mission: Organization” – to try living by Anne Heerdt’s “Container Theory.”  The basic idea is that material things have limits – money only goes so far, objects can only take up so much spaces, food can only give so much energy, and your “container” – or home – has it’s limits, too.

It’s time to get rid of the excess stuff.  You will find that your home will feel more peaceful, you will be able to find what you need quickly, and you won’t miss all that extra clutter!

This can be really overwhelming, but Heerdt suggests something in her article that I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a project – I break it down into smaller, manageable parts.  When the house looks like a tornado has made it’s way through the living area, I focus on cleaning one area at a time.  If I don’t, it feels so overwhelming that I continue to put it off until the situation becomes desperate.

In the same way, even if all you do today is go through one drawer or one box, you should be pleased with your accomplishment.  Organization is much more taxing on the mind than cleaning!

I do want to make a distinction here:  many people see organizing as simply moving the things they have around so they look neater.  That’s not what we’re talking about here – our organization has more to do with streamlining and simplifying life and getting rid of the excess stuff that drags us down mentally and physically.

Step-by-step: 

1.  Choose an area to organize – a cupboard in your kitchen, or a drawer in your bedroom, for instance.  I would recommend you do an easy area first!

2. If possible, remove everything from the cupboard or drawer.  Wipe it down with a damp cloth (You might as well multi-task and clean while it’s empty!)

3. Neatly put back anything that you use on a regular basis.

4. Anything that’s left outside the cupboard needs to be sorted – get rid of anything you don’t need or that is a duplicate of something you already have.  If you use it enough to justify keeping it, then do keep it, but try not to justify keeping things just because you can’t bear to get rid of it.  Place it neatly back in the drawer or cupboard.   If you can think of something else that would substitute for a rarely used item, then get rid of it.  The idea is that you are streamlining your life.  You are getting rid of the unnecessary stuff!

If you are really struggling with whether or not to keep something, put it in a box and stick it in an inconvenient closet or basement for a few months.  After that few months, anything that’s still in the box needs to be donated!

And if it doesn’t fit?  Don’t keep it!  Make do! You may not want to go to such extremes, but Heerdt mentions how they didn’t have room in her tiny kitchen for a coffee maker – so they just used the stove.  The quickly realized that the simplicity of warming coffee on the stove slowed their busy day and was a pleasurable way to go about the morning.

Not only that, but having a clean, organized house saves money – you can find what you need when you need it.  And when your house is organized and everything has a place, you are more likely to think about where you are going to put  new  items.  When your house is cluttered, it’s easy to just add new things to the piles.  So if your house is neat, it may actually stop you from buying things you really don’t need!

I’m going to start with my dresser drawers.  How about you?

Advertisements

New Books!

I excited today – I received two new books in the mail!

One is Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.  One of my desires is to figure out how to live simply.  I’m simply amazed at how much stuff we amass in our house, even when we are trying not to bring new things in the house.  Hopefully this book will contain some good, practical information that will help me streamline our possessions and let someone else have the things we won’t use or don’t like.

The other one is called The Prosperous Peasant by Tim Clark and Mark Cunningham.  I actually won this one over at the Get Rich Slowly blog.  If you haven’t read what J.D. has to say, you ought to take a look.  He gets into many more technical financial issues than I tend to – things like investing and retirement.  Almost always a very interesting read!

I did want to mention that if you like to read, PaperbackSwap is an excellent resource. That is where I got the first book I mentioned today.  It’s really simple, and it’s basically free!

The basics:

1. You register on the site with a valid mailing address and valid email address.

2. When you post 10 books you would be willing to give to someone else, you will get two free credits.  The books must meet certain requirements – they can’t be written in or missing a front cover, they can’t be in poor condition, but “well-read” is okay.  Individual members may require more – for instance, I have a requirement that there not be an obvious cigarette smell on the book since I have asthma and the smell may exacerbate it.

3. When someone else requests one of the books you’ve listed, you package it and ship it to them.  When you ship it, it takes one of the recipient’s credits away and holds it in “stasis” until the recipient gets the book.  When the book arrives, the recipient marks it as received and you get their credit.

4.  If you find a book you want (and it’s pretty easy to find one!) you request it.  One of your credits is taken and held until you get the book, and you then mark it “received” and the sender gets the credit.

5.  Books are always worth one credit.  Audiobooks are worth 2 credits.

6. The book you want isn’t available?  You can “wish list” it.  The site works on a “first-in, first-out” basis – if you are the 27th person in line, then you will wait until the 27th copy is posted to get the book.  It’s really not too long before you get the book, since there are usually multiple copies floating around!

There are a lot of other features on PaperbackSwap, but I don’t want to mention everything here.  I’ve been on PaperbackSwap for 2 years now, and I’ve saved so much money on books I wanted to buy – and because it’s so cheap (the cost of shipping a book out is usually $2.13) I’ve been able to read books I wouldn’t have bought, but may have gotten from the library.

Speaking of the library, it’s also a great resource, obviously!  My previous library was very small, and the other branches were also small.  They didn’t carry many books in the genres I was interested in.  My local library here in Ohio is actually connected to the Cleveland branches.  Not only do they carry many books that pique my interest, but they can order pretty much any books since they are part of a large city system!

Of course, used books and library books save money, but they also save our houses!  Fewer books reside on my shelves now, and more valuable credits exist in my PaperbackSwap account.  Less clutter, more organization!  And though I’m the type that gasps at the thought of throwing away a book, I know there are people that do it.  Perhaps reusing will keep some books from ending up in the landfills!

It’s going to be -2 degrees tomorrow, and I know our temperatures aren’t unique.  This week will be a great week to snuggle up under a blanket and dive into a great book!