Keeping your space organized

Oops, I forgot to post last Friday on my regular schedule, so I’m just skipping it and moving on to what I was going to talk about today: room organization! I love looking at pinterest posts with nice looking rooms, but those are more of an ideal. A lot of them are staged rooms and stuff. But still, I do love an organized room, especially if I have to live in it. Unfortunately, I’m also very lazy and don’t like cleaning or putting things away properly. So I thought I’d share what I do to be as efficient and low-effort about organization as possible. (Head on over to the very end of the post for a TL;DR that contains an abbreviated list of advice and tips I learned from my experience, though I can’t guarantee that you haven’t read similar things before.)

I don’t have before pictures, but all through middle school and high school, my rooms (a bedroom and an unused bedroom I commandeered as my study room; I’m an only child :P) were kind of a mess. I mean, you could see the floor (mostly) and I never had much trouble finding stuff, but it was definitely not a very nice space to be in. Especially my study room. I had bookshelves full of books, art projects, board games, and various trash that I was keeping for “sentimental value,” and I ran out of room, so I started piling up books on the floor. Yeah, everything was in neat piles, but it was taking up a lot of floor space and made it difficult to vacuum. Over the years, I went through several “cleaning sprees” that made my rooms cleaner and more organized, but somehow not quite organized enough. You see, I’ve since figured out that while I’m not very good at being clean and organized, I’m pretty good at keeping a space as clean and organized as it was before. So basically, the best solution would be to do an really super ultimate deep clean and make the “base level” a level of organized and clean that I could use as a benchmark to go back to.

And so, one winter break during my second year of college, when I came back home, I did just that. It’s really hard, because you have to mercilessly force yourself to just throw away things you don’t need. Before, on my previous “cleaning sprees,” I was mostly just rearranging things to look neater. After reading a bunch of online articles and blogs, I finally came to terms with the fact that it’s exponentially easier to keep your space clean and organized if you just have less stuff. So yeah, I forced myself to throw away old art projects from 3rd grade that were falling apart. I tossed the old notebooks from middle school that I had been saving “for reference.” I did keep the truly sentimental things, like yearbooks with my friends’ well-wishes, photo albums, and a folder of certificates. I threw out old binders with warped covers and tiny little notebooks meant for 6-year-olds. I kept that small vase I made in high school because it holds pencils well. At the end, I finally got rid of everything on the floor, and I cleaned out a giant portion of my closet, and had like 5 large trash bags to throw out. But this was not the end.

When I graduated two months ago, I came home with no set future plans yet. I needed to do something productive to occupy my time outside of the job search. So I decided that it was time for another deep clean. I had just brought back a bunch of stuff from my college apartment, and I needed more space (that I didn’t have) to put everything. I was even more merciless than last time. I stopped lying to myself about clothes that did not fit properly anymore. I let go of childish, costume jewelry I hadn’t seen in five years. If I wouldn’t notice the thing gone, then I threw it out or donated it. Again, I ended up with three large bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories to donate. I threw out a bunch of smaller bags of trash and other items I was finally ready to let go of. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty satisfied for the time being. I still kept a few things that I logically know I should really throw out. But hey, I’m young and still trying to cling to childhood a bit before growing up completely, so I’ll give myself some leeway in this case.

The biggest problem area was my desk. My parents bought me this giant L-shaped desk back in middle school, and I had been using it all this time. Because it’s so big, it holds a lot of stuff, and so it’s very easy to let things gather. I finally got my act together and just moved everything off so that I can see the surface more clearly and only put what I needed in reach. This is what it currently looks like:

IMG_20160706_210640.jpg

It’s not perfect, but I can work on it with no problems.

I also had some trouble with this bookshelf shown below. It’s the way I want it now, but I had to throw out years of sketchbooks (I scanned the drawings I wanted to keep), old art supplies that were expensive and still not finished but were unusable, and a bunch of other only slightly sentimental paraphernalia. I managed to clear out one entire shelf that I moved all my (very) old manga and other otaku stuff into. (The Amnesia gift box is new, a gift from a friend from college.) IMG_20160718_163355.jpgThe box on the top shelf is my “memories” box, filled with things that represent memories but don’t take up too much rooms. It’s got things like old ticket stubs, plane tickets, birthday cards and other congratulations cards, brochures and flyers from trips I’ve been on, etc. On the right side is a folder containing larger items that don’t fit into the box, like the program from my college graduation, the program of my first national conference, etc. I also have my high school and college diplomas there. On the second shelf are my art supplies, and on the last shelf are some games and other random stuff that I can’t make myself throw away yet. At least they’re not taking up too much room and are put away. I’ll deal with them later.

IMG_20160718_163602My closet was a big, huge, giant endeavor that took two days to sort through. My bedroom closet is pretty small, and I tend to keep old clothes even if I can’t wear them, so I quickly expanded into the closet in my study room and partly into the hall closet as well. Plus, I was coming back with a full closet from my college apartment. Thus, a dilemma. I basically just donated 3/4 of my wardrobe, and the picture below shows almost all my clothes, except the bulky winter coats, which are in storage because it’s July. Even my winter sweaters and stuff are in the clear boxes in this closet. I also have a 3-drawer dresser that holds underwear and pajamas, but everyone has that. It’s so freeing, because I wasn’t wearing any of the clothes I donated. Plus, I tend to lounge around in pajamas or comfy workout clothes at home anyways, and only dress properly when I have to go outside, so I don’t really need that many clothes.

Finally, the last room I had to tackle was my bathroom. It’s not connected to my room because multiple bedrooms share it, but since I’m an only child, I’m the only one who uses that bathroom. There are two sinks with cabinets underneath, and somehow I had filled all of them over the years. Most of the mess was jewelry. I found out I was holding on to stuff that were from like 2nd grade, so it was definitely time for a clean-up. I had been into jewelry-making in high school, so there were a bunch of pieces that I had made myself that I was hesitant to throw away. But they weren’t all that pretty, and I never wore them regularly, so into the bin they went. IMG_20160718_163702There were also pieces that were uncomfortable to wear, like heavy earrings, so I had to toss those too. The nicer-looking ones were all donated. I finally figured out how to hang my necklaces so that I’d wear them from time to time; they now live hanging from an old canvas that I’ve hung on the bathroom wall. I’m not a big jewelry wearing person, but I do like them, so I try to minimize what I kept. Earrings and other stuff are in boxes in the cabinet (not the best way to keep them, but I don’t have counter space for a jewelry rack).

IMG_20160718_163637I also had a bunch of random stuff I was keeping in the cabinets, and some of it was expired makeup, so I just buckled down and only kept what I really needed. That resulted in a few bags to trash and a few bags to donate as well. So now the cabinet only holds a box with all my makeup, a bag with extra toothbrushes, and extra toiletries (like face wash, lotion, dry shampoo, things like that). Plus there’s room for my curling iron/straightener thing that I very rarely use anymore and my toothbrush charger. I’ve seen people do the whole shelving unit thing in their bathroom cabinets, but to be honest, I don’t have enough stuff to warrant that since it’s just me using the bathroom. I also don’t have a lot of products that I use, and the ones I use everyday are just on the counter anyways.


TL;DR/Final advice/tips:

  • Be merciless in throwing away or donating things. I was holding on to a lot of stuff “just in case” for “for the memories.” Instead, be realistic in whether you’ll wear that pair of jeans from 5 years ago, and try to condense your memories into something smaller and more easily stored.
  • Clear out or take out EVERYTHING from a space first. Then sort through those things (see previous bullet point) and plan out how you’ll organize the remaining things before putting them back. This can be done on a smaller level like a drawer, or a larger level like an entire closet.
  • Take breaks. Cleaning and organizing takes more time and effort than you think. Try to time the breaks reasonably (like after finishing up a bookshelf, rather than in the middle of clearing out a shelf). No one really likes organizing that much, so it’s better to get it done all in one go, but that’s kind of impossible, depending on the size of the project. Treat yourself after accomplishing something.
  • I’m not the biggest fan of the KonMari method, because the whole “does it spark joy” thing sound sort of strange to me. Like, not, my calculator most certainly does not spark joy in me, but I keep it anyways because I need it to take care of my finances. Same for recent receipts. My glasses don’t spark joy, but I kind of need it to see. Instead, try taking each item, and imagining life without it. Would you notice? Would your life be exactly the same without it? Can you remember where you got it, and how you’ve used it in the recent past? If you can let go of it, do so. If not, keep it. Be very, very truthful to yourself.
    • However, I do like the one giant clean (a “reset”) because I did that.
    • Since there are a lot of other cleaning and organizing systems out there, I generally just recommend taking elements from each that work for you. For example, some people simply do not have a time or ability to do a big clean-up, so just take it one step at a time.
  • Everything is a process, so it’s important to keep a mindset of “what can I do to make my life even more organized and streamlined than before.” Keep trying to constantly improve, and you’ll be fine.

Cheers (ง ˙o˙)ว

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