Monday, August 10, 2009

The Week After National Simplify Your Life Week: Order in the House

Still life with blocks.

National Simplify Your Life Week was last week. Had my life been simpler, I would have found this out last week by opening the email telling me that last week was National Simplify Your Life Week. So time to get simple, belatedly.

I love the whole simplicity deal so much that I spend a lot of time on it – and by “on it” I mean reading about it on the internet. On occasion I will try to actually employ some simplifying principles into my life. A few of my simplicity experiments have been great like the filing system thing, and that whole deal with the garage organization, and inbox zero. I am realizing that I do pretty well with the simplification systems that I can control myself. When it comes to getting the other mammals in the house on board, the simplicity gets complicated. I must adjust my expectations accordingly.

Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project listed the 27 most important rules for keeping your house in order. I couldn’t get 27 deep into the simplicity (it’s only day 1) so here are nine of the rules in action (or inaction).

Never buy “souvenirs.”
I suppose our daily outings to the park where we return with every rock, leaf and feather that can be jammed into the pocket of the jogging stroller might qualify as souvenirs. Once transferred to the backyard, they are then defined as “landscaping.” On travels outside of the neighborhood, we call souvenirs “instruments of persuasion” and would be lost without them. (One overpriced magnet trucks set bought at an LAX gift shop = eight uninterrupted minutes of quiet 3 year-old in Alaska Airlines coach row 14.)

Somewhere, keep an entirely empty shelf or drawer.
This seems like an interesting concept but I don’t understand what it will really buy me. Perhaps it's some type of feng shui principle? Also an empty drawer is just college roommate speak for, “Jason and I broke up.”

Strive to keep surfaces bare. Put away kitchen appliances you don’t use every day; don’t cram stuff onto every ledge.
On my kitchen counter, sits my Kitchenaid Mixer Pro 450. I use it twice a year, on average. It weighs close to 30 pounds. It looks super cool and makes me feel like I can cook better than I can just because I have one, like the guys that drive the giant trucks to convince you of how large they are in the masculinity department. It will stay where I have planted it. The other stuff crammed onto my ledges I like to think of as “still lifes.”

Get rid of newspapers and magazines as soon as possible. Never keep a newspaper overnight, and never keep a magazine for more than two months—unless you find a positive joy in keeping an orderly collection.
There is no positive joy, nor orderliness to the teetering stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines that I have shoved in the bottom of the china cabinet. Their express purpose is for intermittent perusal to inspire me to feel like a failure in the homemaking department. Maybe these can go. I also possess 2 years worth of back issues of Real Simple. Yes, I get the irony.

Use dimmer switches.
I’m not sure how this relates but if I can hide the emptied contents of the giant Legos basket by dimming or even better, turning off the lights and handing our guests tiny flashlights to get around the house with, we might be on to something.

Storing a thing means you don’t need to use it. So before you squirrel something away, ask yourself, “Do I really need to keep this?”
I will take this advice as permission to leave the Christmas/Hannukah/Easter decorations up all year. We’re going to be that house. Merry Sukkot/Halloween everyone!

Keep your keys in the same place each day.
This one we do. Keys are always by that deal on the thing by where the phone is. Unless they are in that rock-filled pocket in the back of the stroller, or inside the piano bench or in the dog’s bed or in that purse I haven’t used since Tuesday or in the kid’s playroom at the YMCA.

Every night before bed, do a tidy-up to put away everything that’s out of place.
On many days that, pre-night night tidy-up would be an all-nighter.

Don’t hoard huge quantities of things that you could never use up: binder clips, rubber bands, clay pots, florist vases, plastic grocery bags. Give the rest away.
Ok, so who wants my stash of plastic grocery bags?


  1. Your writing never ceases to amuse me.

    I stopped ordering Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping and Parent magazine because of the failure issue.

  2. Thanks Lady.

    Avoid "Cookie" magazine at all costs. It is a self esteem squasher unlike any other.

  3. These are actually pretty good suggestions, I think, though I don't understand the one about the empty shelf. Is it like a Zen thing or some kind of exercise in self control? I love/hate Cookie. And Domino Mag, may she rest in peace. Domino kind of made me feel all sparkling and full of creativity but also kind of made me want to throw my whole house in the garbage.

  4. My mother wanted me to put my Kitchen Aid mixer in a closet when I moved here. If that happened I would go from twice a year use to zero.

    One good thing about being unemployed for seven months (8 on Tuesday) is I didn't have to think very hard about letting my Martha Stewart Living subscription expire. I'm about five years behind in indexing them.