Martha+Tom

Organizing in Small Bites

I’ve been backsliding in my walking habit for much of this winter, and part of me is blaming the cold. As I write, it is -14ºF (feels like, -40°F!), with a side of: “Dangerous wind chills. Limit outdoor exposure.” I suppose I should cut myself some slack here. While that may be true, it’s still easy to feel guilty for dropping the habit I’d worked to build. To combat that, I try to use the time in other ways. I might knit for 20 minutes, mend a pair of pants, or organize in a particular area for a set time. Today it was the latter.

Like walking for 20 minutes, organizing for 20 minutes is really manageable. Yesterday it was one cupboard in the kitchen. Today it was one drawer in our dresser*.

wrapping paper storage

By approaching organizing with a very small goal in mind (and a short time-frame too), I feel a sense of accomplishment after—well—not doing very much. In the process of tackling these two spots, I got rid of a few things and am now better able to answer the question, “What is in there?”

In the dresser I learned that what I thought was the wrapping paper drawer was actually holding very little wrapping paper along with a handful of large portfolio pieces and several prints that had been rotated out of being framed and on display. No wonder it was hard to open, hard to close, and difficult to find anything. Looking at some of the prints, I decided to pass them on, realizing they aren’t my style anymore. Likewise, most of the larger portfolio pieces are old enough that I would no longer consider them representative of my best work. Out they go! In the kitchen I found 3 reusable coffee mugs that haven’t been in service for months. I love the one I bought this fall and don’t need more than one, so I said goodbye to the extras. For me, organizing isn’t just rearranging or neatening, it needs to be conscious decision about each item: keep here, store elsewhere, give away or throw away.

The whole process wasn’t 100% complete after 20 minutes, to be clear. I’ve set aside the give away, throw away, and store elsewhere items to be dealt with tonight or sometime later this week. But, the drawer does close and open without a struggle and I can see what’s inside with a quick glance. Progress. Hey, you can even see the bottom toward the front. That’s pretty good for 20 minutes, I’d say.

*I should note that we do not use this dresser for clothing, but rather for storage of blankets, wrapping paper, table linens, etc. That seems abnormal to me (and therefore demands an explanation), but perhaps it’s not?

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4 comments on “Organizing in Small Bites”

  1. Amy 29 January, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    An inspiration, Martha. Today the refrigerator, tomorrow under the sink! My house and spirits would definitely benefit if this could be made habitual.

  2. Linda 29 January, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Well, Martha, this post makes me want to hum. Inspiration overflows from you. Keep writing. And organizing.

  3. Amy 30 January, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Yes! Today under the sink and since that wasn’t too involved the baking cupboard as well! Now on to trying to get out in the latest heat wave, 28 degrees–

  4. Cassie 31 January, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Good jobby-do! Maybe I can learn something here! As my 3 dresser drawers are stuffed with God knows what? Thanks for the inspiration! Who knows maybe I’ll find some hidden Swiss cake rolls?