We all know what it means for a person to be in great shape. But what does it mean for a home? In my mind, it involves pride of ownership—when someone new visits with you, you’re actually keen to give them a house tour rather than shuddering inside. That’s because deep down, you know that there is not one area you would be embarrassed to show off, including your medicine chest and closets.
During week one of the Twenty-One-Day “Get Organized” Home Diet, we cleared your domicile of paper—the stacks of documents, newspapers, magazines, and Post-it notes that weighed it down. That was a beautiful start, but now it’s time to delve a little deeper. Let’s closely examine the niches in your dwelling—the insides of cabinets, the surfaces of shelves, and even your closets.
In the words of the old Star Trek TV show, let’s acknowledge that space is the final frontier. And now let’s boldly go where no woman has gone before!
Day 8: Banish Aunt Zelda’s Knick-Knacks. Is a treasured item chipped? Splintered? Cracked or broken beyond recognition? This includes, but is not limited to mugs with broken ears, ornaments with missing pieces, and anything once treasured but now looking more and more like a piece of junk. Take note: Glue will not rescue it! “What about the sentimental value?” you ask. If you truly feel like you’ll miss that old, chipped, yellow cup, why not take a photograph of it and upload it onto Facebook, where you can hold onto it forever. Today there are so many hi-tech ways to keep memories alive without having to store them in your kitchen cabinets.
Day 9: Be Less Bookish. Dust off your Shakespeare and other esteemed members of the Dead Poets’ Society. Gather your unread volumes and port them to a thrift store so you can claim a tax deduction. Are you ambitious? Why not become an Amazon reseller and make some money while you’re busy reclaiming your shelves. Your bookshelves will look spiffier when there are fewer books on display. Adopt a new mantra: “Less is more.”
Day 10: Stage an Imelda Marcos Day. When I was younger I used to believe that shoes were a fantastic investment. If I took loving care of them, I reasoned, then they would last a lifetime. Sadly, Father Time thought otherwise. Feet continue to grow and widen, and numerous pairs of pumps that were very pricey no longer fit my sublime, albeit wider feet. If you too find yourself in this situation, you can either bring your footwear to a thrift store or donate it en masse to a charity. Another option is to just give your chicest high heels to a friend who will treasure them. But step on it. Do not allow those old shoes to dominate your closet’s floor where space is at a premium.
Day 11: Bribery Is Next to Cleanliness. Spend the day convincing anyone you happen to live with (husband, boyfriend, significant other, roommate, kids, or any combination thereof) that you’re on a mission to get your home into the best shape of its life. Bribe them to join your cause if necessary so that you can delegate certain rooms to their care. Consider adding a competitive element to it (girls vs. boys, for example) complete with prizes. Politely coerce all family members to embrace the task.
What if a particular child has an attachment to a toy? What if she wants a certain purple dinosaur to watch cartoons with her in the TV room? What if she even built a bed for that dinosaur just under the cable box so that your TV room would never be without him? First, don’t panic! Just because you have to employ subterfuge doesn’t mean you will condemn your daughter to a life of therapy. If she hasn’t played with the beast for a week or two, consider tucking it back in her bedroom deep inside the toy chest. If she hasn’t played with the dinosaur in six months or longer, try hiding it in further afield—perhaps in a closet or attic to determine if she misses the object of her affection. If you’re really lucky she will not bemoan its absence. (Several parents who have tried this insist that out of sight really is out of mind.)
Day 12: The Antidote to New Age Remedies: Eviction. Cast away your old prescriptions, your vitamins, and your New Age formulas. Nothing makes you feel worse than seeing bottles and bottles of medicine and feel-good minerals that you never take (or took once upon a time and have long since expired). If you can’t remember why you even purchased a particular Omega mixture, it’s time to let it go. Free up the space for a higher purpose—air!
Day 13: Variety Is the Spice of Life but Spices Are the Bane of Kitchen Cabinets. If you happen to be a professional chef, feel free to take today off and move on to day fourteen. But if your vision of cooking is really ordering in, then conduct an inventory of the spices you’ve used in the last two months. Save only those and chuck the rest. Consider investing in a cheap spice rack to display your remaining spices in bottles of the same size, marked with uniform labels. At least when you deign to cook you won’t have to spend an hour tracking down the parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Day 14: Put on Your Grocer’s Hat. What? You don’t have one? Pity—mine is blue. Pretend that you’re a grocer for today and organize your kitchen cabinets. Like-minded items belong together: cereal with cereal, spaghetti with fusilli, and sugars with the sugar substitutes. Place soups near the cream sauces and dips. Move coffees and teas next to the powdered cocoa. Jelly and jam go together like an old married couple. They don’t enjoy getting lost in the sauce, even Paul Newman’s. Give all tomato-based products their own special section. Is this a tad compulsive? Not really. We haven’t talked about alphabetizing them yet, have we?
By the end of week two, your home should feel rather proud of itself. It has reclaimed some pristine areas that were formerly forbidden to outsiders. As a happy homeowner, you can now display these oases of cleanliness to all. Whether or not you choose to give your friends a tour of your kitchen cabinets is your prerogative. But at least you can now find everything you’ve stored with ease—not to mention your sanity. Still, our work together isn’t quite done. Please stay tuned for the third and final week of Twenty-One-Day “Get Organized” Home Diet.