I have been spending the past week or so cleaning out and reorganizing all the cupboards in the bus and so my brain is on spring cleaning.
I read once in an organization book (because sometimes reading about cleaning leaves me feeling just as satisfied as actually cleaning and requires much less effort) that a well-organized home is never truly messy.
I understand the idea behind this: if everything has a place to go, it’s just a matter of putting it there; “a place for everything and everything in its place,” and all that. So often the messes that are the most overwhelming for me consist of new things being brought into our home that require figuring out a place for them, or things that never really had a home to begin with and have just been floating around, undealt with, for so long I want to throw them away simply because I’m tired of looking at them.
When space is tight this sense of overwhelm is heightened; throw a few children into the mix it and gets exponentially greater. They (well, mine at least) have little to no respect for established organizational systems, but are great at developing their own that make no sense to me and that change all the time and, funnily enough, look a lot like unmitigated chaos.
It is a fine line between allowing my kids the autonomy and responsibility of organizing their own spaces and going in and making things over so they look the way I think they should. There are certain structures they have to adhere to (their room must be picked up daily and messes in common areas get cleaned by whoever made the mess, which is usually everybody, etc.) but there are a lot of variables within those structures that I’m always trying to figure out.
Do I give them their own allotted area in the cupboard for arts and craft stuff and let them shove their paper and crayons in however they please so long as the door closes, or do I enforce structure and get after them to put things back exactly where they belong? Is it okay that part of their room cleaning involves creating little totems to certain books and toys along the walls or should I insist on having everything put away out of sight? One set of options involves a lot more effort on my part and usually results in nagging and consequences, the other requires me to frequently second-guess myself and have faith that they will eventually learn to take care of their things without my voice always ringing in their ears. I think allowing them a certain creative license is a part of the process to helping them figure out a real system that works for them.
For now, a lot of my decisions depend on what will keep me the sanest in the immediate future. If their creative organization of their room means that time will be wasted trying to find cuppies at bedtime or slippers in the morning, it’s a no, but if they want to keep a conglomeration of treasures in a box near their bed or line up the books they’re currently reading on the windowsill, fine by me. It makes sense to them because those are the things they want to have easy access to, which is the heart of organization, really.
Likewise, I have been trying to find a balance when it comes to maintaining the rest of the bus. When we first moved in I had a vision of perfectly organized simplicity with lots of clear spaces and cupboards filled with neatly-packed bins of useful items.
The reality, however, is that with six people in about 200 square feet downstairs (not including the porch) in which to live and work and play, every inch of wall and counter and cupboard and floor space matters. While I do want things to look nice, it is ultimately more important that our space is useful – function over form, in this case.
So, I am trying to look at our space with new eyes and figure out what’s working, what’s not and what doesn’t matter.
What works: We moved our (mine and Noah’s) clothes from upstairs in our bedroom to the closet in the bathroom downstairs. These pocket organizers from Ikea that I originally tried to use in the kids’ room are now hanging on the back of the bathroom door to hold socks, pajamas and what have you. This has made a huge difference when getting dressed and putting laundry away.
What doesn’t: In the kitchen, it’s difficult for me to see and access our most-used spices that are in a high cupboard without a stool. I’m thinking a small rack on the wall next to the stove would solve that problem, even though it means less white-space. It would also leave more room in the cupboard for food.
Where the heck is the salt?
Perfectly useful space being underutilized!
What doesn’t matter: the coat hooks. I have tried a million times to find some kind of system so that our coat rack doesn’t seem so… overwhelmed. The fact of the matter is, this is one of the most highly-used areas of our home for storing things. Jackets, library bags, my purse, head-lamps for going outside at night, keys and hats – tons of day-to-day necessities call this spot home. As long as we know that this is where they live and can find them with relative ease, it’s not super important to me that it doesn’t look exactly pretty.
I’m awfully curious to know if you have the same kinds of issues trying to figure out how to organize your kids’ spaces and your own and how you deal with them. Do tell.