On Organization & Stuff & The most important lesson I’ve learned about what goes on behind closed closet doors

IMG_3052

I’m completely obsessed with self-improvement. Always have been and always will be. And I don’t mean aesthetic self improvement. I mean having to do with efficiency and productivity, and I don’t mean related to business or jobs or ambition. My particular interest is all about the self/ home. Organization, money, health (internal), overall effectiveness having to do with personal habits and the upkeep of ones home/possessions and just like….the general organization/management of objects/memories…..like possession management — managing clutter, having organized closets, desk drawers, mail, files, documents, photos, kitchen cabinets, winter things (hats, boots, sweaters) etc.; and also having to do with non-objects like….remembering to get your annual doctor’s appointments, paying bills on time, blah blah. The whole just…general idea of being good at life. Lest you have read wrong, I am not saying I am GOOD or have historically BEEN good at these things, all I said is that I am obsessed with & perennially interested in learning about ways to do these things better, and attempting to improve myself in these areas.

IMG_3463

^^^The last time I gathered a bunch of stuff to give away^^^

I am constantly throwing things out and I go through phases (really we should call them…spurts of….insanity…or…impulsiveness….) where I just don’t care about ANYTHING I own and want to get rid of all of it.  I look at my closet and think: literally fuck all of this. Fuck everything. I am not attached to possessions. I am (I do care about what I own, I love the things I own) but I just get in these moods where I’m like YOU’RE WEIGHING ME DOWN. I DONT’ CARE. I WANT TO THROW EVERYTHING I OWN OUT. (And not at all because I don’t like what I have — it’s not a mood that strikes because I’m “over” the things I own or my taste has changed or I don’t like the particular style or color or look, like when girls say “I have nothing to wear!” because they’re sick of the same stuff.  It has nothing to do with being sick of the things I have & wanting new or different things – it’s the polar opposite of that. It’s that I’m sick of ALL things. I want NO things. I want to be free of EVERY/ALL things).  I look at the clothes hanging on their hangers, as though they’re humanized, and I’m like….I could burn all of you right now. I want to rip you off the bar you’re hanging on and throw you out the window because of how zero fucks I give about you. Like, I can wear the same tank top, jeans, and boots every day. I DON’T CARE I JUST WANT TO BE A HIPPIE AND wear grey tank tops and jeans with holes in the knees and be happy.

IMG_3441

Sometimes I think about selling/giving away / throwing out 80 percent of what I own in my closet. I have assessed (and constantly re-assess) every single item in our living and dining room and everything is either functional or serves a clear decorational purpose without which there would be a gaping hole. Like…..is a horse photograph functional? Well, no, not like the way a couch is, but there would be a gaping white wall without it and I love it and it’s beautiful and art serves its purpose. There’s no junk just sitting around in living or dining room…no piles or unfinished corners…it’s all just….exactly what it should be and nothing superfluous. Art in the right proportions, no empty white walls. A couch. A coffee table. A desk. A bar console. Lamps. Coasters. Books. Candle holders. Bar ware. And not multiples of each. There are two candle holders and if I threw them out we’d have zero. Our barware fits on one standing shelf, and doesn’t overflow into any other area. We have 4 whiskey glasses that Alex and his friends use, and 4 wine glasses and champagne glasses, (from Ikea / CB2). We are very good about editing / not over-accumulating to begin with that there isn’t anything living/dining/kitchen-related that I could give away / throw out if I tried. I do try and it never works.

Closets are always different. Sweaters, pants, we have multiples of almost everything but still could pick out the select few that we’re life-or-death passionate about. So sometimes I fantasize about downsizing to literally those select things but then I think about how it would be kind of pointless because they aren’t taking up any space that they’re not supposed to be taking up. Like..we have a closet, and the closet is a certain size, and our things fit into the designated closet space, and there’s no overflow. I’m not keeping shoes in kitchen cabinets so why NOT have the shoes I have as an option to wear if all they’re doing is sitting on the shelf of the closet harming no one. They’re not doing anything. They’re not in the way. They’re not costing money/time (the shoes at least, since you don’t wash or fold shoes). It’s just sometimes that their very existence irks me but when I’m not in that “fuck -everything” mood described above, I recognize that unlike clutter sitting on your dining room table that prevents you from using the dining room table for its intending purpose as an eating surface, the stuff that is taking up 80 percent of my closet is not in the way of anything…..except maybe my needing to grab the 10 things I love most as quickly as possible in a fire. I COULD pare everything I own down to 10 items if I had to. We all could. There are 10 items in anyone’s wardrobe that are their very most favorite, prized, special, perfect, practical, etc. And if I had to I could pick those 10 and get rid of the rest.

But unless that happens,  the stuff actually serves a visual purpose even if I only wear it 15 % of the time. Giving away half or more of my shoes /clothes would in fact make the closet look bad. There are giant shelves and it would look weird, sad, sparse, and visually-wrong if they were only 60 or 50 or 80% full of shoes and hanging things. And OBVIOUSLY I didn’t buy things TO fit or not ‘fit’ the closet, but….it does. So in that sense I’m like, OK I could give away this…. meh blue sweater that I wouldn’t take with me in a fire and don’t REALLY have any attachment towards or real use for (x 20) ……..but until I move across the country to California, all it’s doing is hanging here. So I might as well have it as an option than not because what’s the point if the racks have the space. I think it has more personal value as a potential thing to wear than as 1 of 75 things I give away because I wanted to keep only 10 things. The closet is going to be an architectural space carved out in the home regardless of whether there are 10 things or 100 in it and the things are already there.

That’s why moves are always such great life cleanses because if I were moving to California I WOULD get rid of that blue sweater that I’m basically indifferent towards.

That said, I am constantly assessing what I own and packing up giant trash bags to sell or donate. It’s just that sometimes I want to go crazy and literally keep 0 things.

IMG_1681

Oops I bought a blender I’ll never use. JK

Anyways, I am generally the kind of person who gets excited, goes in full force, buys the necessary shit to accompany the particular improvement initiative at hand (to a certain extent), and then gives up 3 days into it. I’m so classic. C-L-A-S-S-I-C. Like I’ll get the mood/inspiration, buy the flax and frozen spinach and spirulina protein powder, make the meal plan, stock the fridge with raw honey and ground chia seeds, and then stop making smoothies after day 3 of it and go back to iced lattes and croissants. Literally I’m a joke. This always makes me crack up and think of my friend Cait who is the same way, like when she decided she wanted to be a bike-rider, and bought the bike, the lock, the dog basket, the water bottle holder, the whole fucking bike shebang; and then 4 days later was like, this is a nightmare I hate biking. And there is zero chance that dog has ever ridden in that dog basket. But I’m so the same way. If I had ever decided I was going to be a bike rider, I’d have bought the same unnecessary shit with the best intentions.

But actually…..having just written that…..when it comes to machines and technology / gadgets I’m pretty honest with myself. I get carried away at Whole Foods with food,  but I’ve never bought a juicer or a mixer and never seriously entertained the idea of either because I know that I’ll get sick of using / cleaning them. I will use the juicer like one time, and let the machine parts sit with rotting carrot rind until I just throw the entire machine out instead of cleaning it because it’s gone too far and disposing of it altogether becomes a legitimately more viable option than cleaning it. Like, I want to a be someone who juices, I want to get into it, but no. I know enough about myself to not spend money on one because maintaining it will wear me down after one try. I’m easily worn down.  Same with mixing. I occasionally like baking, but up until literally TO-DAY I just hand-churned dough with a wooden spoon. Nothing that plugged-in or buzzed, just my arm-power. Then I went to Bed Bath and Beyond today and spent 19.99 on a standard electric hand mixer. It’s fucking perfect and I don’t intend to upgrade ever because it does the job.

{Until MAYBE one day when I have a legitimate kitchen with counter space and a dishwasher. Oh yeah, those two things certainly help keep me grounded about the practicality of fancy gadgets. We have no counter space, no dishwasher, —and no garbage disposal either. So making juice would involve me plugging the juicer in in the dining room, hand-washing everything and disposing of fruit guts and vegetable skins in a plastic bag I’d probably forget about. Did you know that when you have soup or cereal and don’t finish it, in a house with no garbage disposal, you have to pour them down the toilet. Even just like, spaghetti. THERE’S NOWHERE ELSE TO PUT IT!!!! It will clog up the kitchen sink. Alex and I always feel so humbled and demeaned every time we have to take semi-solid food and dump it down our toilet because our kitchen is from 1842 and the size of Alex}.

Also this is the same for me and a nice DSLR camera. If I ever bought one, I’d get worn down by its maintenance and go back to the iphone within a week. I can’t deal with things. Lenses and cords and pieces and parts. I hate things. I just want everything to be simple and basic. I don’t think it’s lazy, I think it’s simple. I don’t need bells and whistles, just anything that is direct and simple and works. Like….strip yourself of your bullshit layers and do your function and I respect you.

Which brings me PERFECTLY to my point about organizing our hallway closet. Which I did last December and then re-did this October.

IMG_3452

To get really organized with the THINGS that exist in homes (batteries, cords, warranties, product boxes, etc etc) , really the only thing you need are cheap, clear, plastic boxes and a label-maker. OK IT’S TRUE you don’t even need the label maker –a sharpie and sticker-labels would do the same thing but not look as good. That’s it! No bells and whistles. Nothing but plastic made in China ya’ll. Simple, basic, no B.S.

IMG_3468

IMG_3453

The day that I went to The Container Store to buy the vestibules to organize our hall closet, I was at least OPEN to buying fancy shit. Like I was open to the idea of being commercially swayed to buy cloth bins with fucking chevron horses on them for $37.99 each, that also massage your shoulders and tell jokes because why the fuck else are they that much money. But what I was most drawn to because they made the VERY most sense and were the very very very cheapest most basic thing that the container store sells were the plastic stacking bins with lids on them for like 99 cents. I joked at the time that the container store is DESPERATELY trying to get these loser bins off their hands. They put them at the front of the store practically out the front door BEGGING you to buy them because they’re so “not cute” / not Pinterest-worthy that I think the own container store is embarrassed of their stock of these items.

IMG_3456

But these stacking, see-through boxes are your BEST. FRIEND.

IMG_6705

In a nutshell, to organize the S-H-I-T that you have in your home, into an accessible sensical way, you need to be able to see the items (yes, even with a label saying what they are SEEING is still essential), and they need to be contained. Items can’t not be contained. That’s what I have learned.

IMG_3159

Take this for example: A bottle of sunscreen. Or….TWO bottles of sunscreen. In and of themselves— those bottles can stand up. They can stand on a shelf, and exist on their own. At least that’s what you THINK. You think you can trust objects to just sit on shelves and be OK. But any time you have objects just hanging out on shelves that aren’t CONTAINED, they will eventually end up in an orgy. Knocked down, horizontal, laying out, legs spread, caps off, touching every other thing that was sitting on the shelf, and everything is probably naked, on the floor, and a half-version of its former self.  Items can’t be trusted to just sit around, free, because NO MATTER how careful you are, no matter WHAT YOU DO, those items will end up in chaotic orgies.

First of all, things just get knocked over and knock over other things, period.  So the chaos is going to ensue whether you fight it or not. But at some point, you will be in a rush, or stressed, or confused about where something is, and you SWORE you’d put the extra car key behind the bottles of sunscreen on that one shelf in the closet, and you’ll be scrambling and looking, and as you reach, one bottle of sunscreen knocks another one over, and then you’re pulling shit out even more frantically, desperate to find that one thing you need in that moment, and the lotions have knocked over the razor and the tampons and the random baseball that was sitting on the shelf, and one teetering shoe box is on top of a bunch of loose photos and the photos slide free underneath and pepto bismol has fallen 3 levels and knocked over the tylenol bottle and starts to leak open and the tylenol bottle’s cap wasn’t quite on all the way so the  little white tylenol pills have just spilled all over the place and are now bathing and soaking in the pink liquid like the sluts that they are,  and you can’t find SHIT because everything is having sex with everything else and there are loose power cords that have gotten wrapped up around batteries and lightbulbs and then you you’re about to set fire to the entire closet, you find the spare car key with dry pink acid reflux medicine caked to it. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS  ON SHELVES / IN CLOSETS WHEN YOU DON’T CONTAIN THE THINGS YOU OWN.

IMG_6704

But would that have happened if you’d had a clear plastic box marked with the label “SPARE CAR KEY”, that you could SEE into, and see the label and see the car key, and the box wasn’t next to a bunch of free-standing bottles of lotions that could fall over at any time, but instead was stacked upon and underneath OTHER clear plastic boxes, neatly stacked so that if you needed to remove the box of lotions to retrieve the spare car key, nothing SPILLS, FALLS, OR GETS LOST?

You need to keep these things contained and separate because otherwise it’s like the Indian In The Cupboard. And The Velveteen Rabbit. Basically all children’s tales about inanimate toys / things that come to life when you’re not around. The objects have lives / parties with one another when you’re not looking. And even worse, they conspire – the objects will get together and CONSPIRE to make it so that nothing is EVER where you left it and nothing can EVER be found. Least of all not in a pinch. Like when you are running out the door and you need to grab that spare USB cord — the objects in the closet sense that that’s what you’re looking for and every single odd item in there works together to hide the USB cord so you can’t find it because the USB cord is one of their own and you’re the enemy. I don’t know if you’e every tried to find anything that you weren’t sure where you last put is, but this is the secret lives of objects in closets. Shit’s fuckkkked up.

IMG_6701

Point being: the best decision I ever made was to organize our hall closet this way.

#1 – it looks really good. {RELATIVELY speaking ok. Is it glamorous, no, but it’s a fucking closet. The door is closed. No one sees it unless they’re looking for something, and in that case, they’re impressed as fuckkkkkkkk}.

#2 – it’s SO effective /efficient. When you need a battery, you don’t have to expend that mental energy that people normally do when they’re like “fuck WHERE did I last see a battery, I think there are some in that third drawer of the kitchen?” And then you go look in the kitchen and the batteries aren’t there, so then you look in the desk drawer, or you rack your brain and THINK you remember seeing a box sitting in the mail tray in the hallway, but aren’t sure, etc. etc. Nope. Doing this means there is only one place batteries ARE. Not even “could be,” but are. Because if you organize your home, take the batteries, and put them into a clear plastic box labeled “batteries”, then when your remote runs out of batteries / any time you need one, you know EXACTLY where to go, and go directly there, and you don’t need to wonder IF there are batteries in the house or even in this specific box because you know as a matter of FACT that there are. That is until you use every single last one but that probably won’t happen for a really long time.

#3 – it’s just really really effective. There is nowhere else in our ENTIRE home where an extension cord could be but in the clear plastic box labeled “extension cords.”

So, I made the labels based on the things I have that I am constantly using and/or looking for.

IMG_6705

I know this sounds REALLY random but “sun products” was one of those. I have nearly-full bottles of all kinds of SPFs -45, 50, 60, 15 – lotion, oil, sport spray, aloe for burns, etc. And this sounds strange since summer is only 3 months out of the year but I constantly found myself WONDERING where my bottle of this SPF or that SPF was. Like I’d have moments where I’d need to reach for one of those products, but would think, “WHERE is that spf 30 I have…under the sink? the closet? the top shelf of the other closet? My desk vanity area?” And when I couldn’t find it, I never wanted to just go buy another bottle because sunscreen is expensive, it’s like $12 a bottle. So when you’ve accumulated a lot of sunscreens, it’s helpful to have them all in one place. Putting them all into one box was so helpful one thousand separate times this summer. I’d want to reach for a certain SPF based on the day/occasion, like for example, it’s really hot and I plan on spending the whole day in the sun so I want the 45, and I didn’t need to waste any time being like, “Ok I found the SPF 5 tanning oil but that’s useless right now because it’s scorching and I will die if I use 5 so WHERE THE FUCK IS THE 45″ because…. EVERYTHING IS IN THE “SUN PRODUCTS” BOX. So I go to it, pop the lid off, grab the 45 and go.  Maybe very random to you, but something that I actually identified a legitimate need for and proved to be immensely useful.

IMG_6705

This was the same for shoe bags / travel containers. I go to NYC constantly and every time I go I need to put my jewelry in and shoes and make-up into the various bags/pouches I’ve accumulated for this purpose, either intentionally or by way of purchase (i.e. lots of shoes COME with bags for them so that either they don’t get scuffed up in travel, or their pointy parts don’t hurt the delicate clothing items you’ve packed). Finding those bags/pouches was ALWAYS an issue before. One would still be left in the suitcase, 2 would be in my desk drawer, 4 were straight-up missing in action, one was on a shelf in the closet.And I’d end up putting shoes in plastic bags and make-up in ziplocks. Which is fine but if I already HAVE the bags/containers to use, I should be using them over ziplock bags, but I wasn’t, because I could never find them when I needed them. Utility is about accessibility and organization. You don’t use what you can’t find / see.

So I corralled all of these travel containers into separate clear labeled stackable containers and now EVERY time I travel I know e-x-a-c-t-l-y where to go to get the protective bags that carry all of my non-clothing items on trips, and when I unpack from the trip, they go back into their little clear plastic labeled boxes. Because once you’ve created that home for these things; where ELSE could they go??!! Once you’ve bought and labeled that beautiful perfect little 99 cent see-through box, where the fuck ELSE are you going to put the shoe bags you unpack your shoes from after a trip — your desktop? NO, they’re going right back to their rightful home which isn’t just laying free on some shelf because as I counseled before, when things are FREE on shelves, they WILL find ways to walk off and disappear so that you can never find them when you need them, let alone ever again. You can’t just lay empty travel bags/pouches (whether they’re shoe or jewelry or make-up) on a shelf, you’ll never find them again. They’ll fall. They’ll fly.

Also, although we have a medicine cabinet, I still created a “Pharmacy box” for those items we don’t access as frequently but still need / are useful to have on hand. Such as………big bulk bottles of tylenol, rubbing alcohol, boxes of band-aids, pill-cutters, etc. Everything pharmacy related is pretty much corralled into that box. Our medicine cabinet has like….toothpaste and face wash. Our PHARMACY box has the pepto bismol and alka seltzer. And do you know HOW useful that pharmacy box has been? How many times Alex or I have needed something and gone straight to the pharmacy box.

IMG_6702

Basically what it does is eliminate the wondering. It eliminates those frustrating moments of, “do you know where ____ is? I think it’s in the kitchen? maybe it’s under the ___ in the ____?” When you have the pharmacy box, if something isn’t in the pharmacy box YOU KNOW YOU DON’T HAVE IT. There’s no QUESTION. There’s no driving yourself mad pulling your hair out wondering where the tylenol is. If it’s not in the pharmacy box it’s not in the house. Period. Ad there’s also no chance that the tylenol ever ends up in the “ballet gear” box. Once you do the initial delegating of objects into boxes with lids, nothing EVER isn’t in its box. Not even a barbarian could fuck it up. I’m serious. Under no circumstance on earth do you un-hook the lid of the “extension cord” box and accidentally put the rubbing alcohol there. It doesn’t happen. Ever.

We used the boxes for:

  • Extension cords
  • Warranties
  • Batteries
  • HDMI cords
  • Extra chargers
  • Headphones
  • Gift stuff (wrapping paper, bags, etc.)
  • and other random things

Other things we have in this closet in easy-to-find ways but were too big for plastic boxes:

  • Clear plastic linen bag for guest comforter/ linens (I forgot that we also grabbed this at The Container Store the same day as the plastic boxes because I was sick of having our spare comforter &  linens for when guests sleep over UN-contained). Because just like the other objects, the comforter would slowly slowly start to ooze out of it’s “fold” and just like….creep and sprawl and never stayed all nice and contained so I bought one of those plastic box/bag things and it helped so much with keeping the space contained/organized/neat! Like this – this is what it looked like before

IMG_3447

Versus after (down below)

IMG_3459

  • Sports stuff like football, basketball, baseball, for those days when Alex & his friends are throwing a ball around at Meridian Hill Park or wherever, that stuff is all in its own open bin – that plastic black one at the bottom there
  • Photo albums – are on the top shelf just lined up like books since they’re thick and study and stay pretty solidly planted

And some other random shit that I don’t feel like addressing cause I’m tired and over writing this blog post.

I have way more to say about improvement, organization, simplicity, the 2 blogs that are my FAVORITE because of their perfect coverage of these topics I care so much about, and the cookies I made tonight that are supposed to be my breakfast for the next week – saving time, $, and being healthy. Oh and my reaffirmed thoughts that eating out at restaurants is the stupidest exercise ever. After eating out at restaurants all weekend. IT’S NEVER WORTH IT. Unless it’s Tabard Inn donuts or a Bareburger milkshake, or oysters or Takorean tacos, or the entire menu at DGS, or the pastries at Room 11. I’m so. over. paying money to eat food that is mediocre and/or LESS delicious than what any of us can make at home, even me. Pancakes, waffles, french toast, whether they have pear compote or apple preserves or peach bourbon drizzle, or lemon ricotta filling, IT’S ALL THE FUCKING SAME. Pizza is pizza is pizza. Pasta is pasta.  You’re all the same.  Everything is always the same. I’m only ever eating at home for the rest of my life. 

5 Comments

Filed under Blog Essays, Inspiration

5 responses to “On Organization & Stuff & The most important lesson I’ve learned about what goes on behind closed closet doors

  1. This is so me. Everything must be contained! Bins for everything! I have been coveting a label maker for years and haven’t bought one yet. Like, who covets a label maker? But I love labeling shit, man.

    Also, I just moved out of a ridiculously old apartment without a disposal and it NEVER ONCE occurred to me to flush leftovers. I painstakingly strained shit into the trash. The flushing thing is genius.

    xx, Katrina

  2. TenleyKate

    Lol, we do the toilet flush at our place too! For a compact, cheaper, absurdly easy alternative to a juicer/vitamix, may I suggest the nutribullet? I toss in frozen kale, carrot, banana, frozen berries, chia seeds, basically anything fresh or frozen and some yogurt/or almond milk/ or water and pop the cup on the base to blend for a minute. It emulsifies everything! Unscrew the cup and drink the smoothie out of it, rinse the blade, and you’re furnished! Ps, I don’t work for nutribullet. PPS, your blog is a true gem!

  3. Lena

    Indian in the Cupboard Alina??? The Velveteen Rabbit? LOL. You. Are. Hilarious.

  4. tell us the 2 blogs you dig! I’m so into efficiency. It’s all about the streamline, and how streamlined can you be when you can’t find the batteries?!

  5. Melissa

    Okay, it’s totally genius that you flush things (what a weird sentence). But yeah, I’ve been just throwing it all in the trash like a savage. A leaky- garbage-bag-having savage.

    p.s. is it completely ridiculous that I cried after one of my college roommates stole my label maker? probably. but I NEED another one + can’t find a reliable one anywhere. What brand do you have?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s