Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. – Willian Morris
Even if you haven’t seen this quote, chances are you’re not sitting at home buried in ugly, useless stuff. So why are you still frustrated by your stuff? I see this frustration every day with my clients. Clients hire me because their homes and offices aren’t working for them. They hire me because they seem to have a lot of stuff but can’t find the stuff they are actually looking for. These clients often don’t have a clutter problem so much as they have an INVENTORY problem. If you think you fall in this category, read on for powerful tips to better manage the stuff we use, love and need.
How do we end up with too much inventory? We buy stuff ‘just-in-case’. It doesn’t feel like an impulse purchase if we know we will find it useful at some point. It’s easy to grab this ‘useful’ stuff when we are already in the store buying something else. Marketing gurus know this about us and attractively display this stuff on end caps and check-out lines. We aren’t making the mistake of buying stuff we don’t have a use for, BUT we are buying TOO MUCH of what we use. The irony is this extra inventory actually leads to disorganization. We can’t ever seem to find what we are looking for, so we buy more of these things the next time we are shopping. Break the cycle of disorganization by following my key tips.
Know what you Have (Like with Like)
One of the key tenants of organizing is putting like with like. If you don’t store the same stuff in the same place, it’s impossible to know how much stuff you actually have. Sorting into like categories reveals how many scissors, rolls of tape or granola bars we own. It was during this sorting process that one client discovered she had 6 soup ladles. We couldn’t help but laugh when she confessed to me her family almost never eats soup.
Know what you Need (Minimal Effective Dose)
This is a great tip from Joshua Becker of the Minimalist that he took from the medical world – Minimal Effective Dose. Doctors don’t give you medicine plus extra pills ‘just in case’ those extra pills might be helpful. Medical drugs are extensively tested so doctors know the minimum amount to give a patient to cure them without creating harmful side effects. Your stuff is the same; you may need 4 black t-shirts but if you own 14, you’ll feel overwhelmed by the very things you use and need.
Understanding minimal effective dose or the right inventory level means we understand how many bottles of ketchup or rolls of paper towels or black t-shirts are needed for our household to run efficiently. Anything over that number creates more work to maintain order and contributes to clutter.
Know what not to buy (Don’t Buy List)
At this point, we understand what we own and we understand how much is too much. How can we be sure to not repeat past mistakes of over purchasing? I help my clients create a Don’t Buy List. When we identify excess inventory, we add it to the DON’T BUY LIST. Make sure the list is with you in some form when you shop (paper, phone or app). It can be as simple as taking a photo of your pantry with your smart phone to remind you that you already have 4 unopened boxes of gallon ziplocs. Reference this list when in the store and tempted to buy more ziplocs because you know they are useful but you aren’t sure if you have enough. The Don’t Buy Lists gives us the comfort that we have enough.
Bottom line – effective organization means we know what we have, where to find it, and how much we need. The time we invest in the organization process will be paid back with improved efficiency, less stress and better purchasing decisions. It means our house is less warehouse and more home.
Organizewell to Live Well!