Getting organized - if not now, when? Five Baby Steps

I have a dear friend that is very, very sick right now. She has lots of friends and family helping her. I’m the back-up help - I’m local and can come on short notice when no one else can be there. I’ve been in her house a bizillion times. Her house, her family, everything is familiar to me. We used to talk about going through her house room by room to create more space and getting rid of what wasn’t essential. We never did it.

Now, she has all kinds of people tromping through her house and trying to figure out her “method.” We all have a “method.” Sometimes our method works, other times, our methods are just a way of fooling ourselves into believing we’re in control.

Picture your kitchen. (Give me a minute to get the Prince song out of my head . . .) If someone who had only been in your house as a guest suddenly had to come in to make a meal or just unload the dishwasher could they figure it out? Would they be able to find things? Would they be able to put things away? What about your counters? Is there a rhyme or reason to what is sitting on their surface?

Yes, this is a stark way to imagine things. But, for my friend, it’s a reality. She can’t suddenly say, “Hey, let’s get me organized!” For me, it’s been a wake up call. This is my list to get me started AND to get you started. No one is ever prepared for the worst but it never hurts to try.

  1. PAPER - Do you have a plan for your paper - mail, receipts, school stuff, advertisements? Flipping them on the counter is NOT considered a plan. Get a few accordion files - one for household stuff, one for medical/vet stuff, one for school stuff and one for coupons and miscellaneous. Keep them in an easy to reach cupboard in your kitchen or on a shelf in your office if you’re lucky enough to have one. Just do that.

  2. CABINETS - Take a weekend morning, put on an audio book or some music. Empty your cabinets. Yes, you heard me. Empty them. All of them. Wipe them out once emptied - baby wipes are handy for this. Look at what you’ve unloaded. Is there a better way to group things? Are there things you can’t ever remember using? Donate or toss them. I keep dishes in one cabinet, glasses in another, items for baking in one, items for cooking in one, spices, you get the idea. It’s like Sesame Street - one of these things is not like the other. Just put stuff back into cabinets in a way that makes sense to more than just you. What would Elmo do?

  3. PETS - We all love our furry friends. That doesn’t mean they have to take over our homes. Do you have a designated spot for feeding your pets? Do you have a designated spot for storing their food? Do you have rules for your pet? Do they have free range of the furniture, bedding and counters? Are your pets on a schedule for walks, meals, meds or anything else? Make a quick chart - just write it out - put it in a page protector and stick it on the inside of one of your cabinet doors. That way, if someone else has to come in unexpectedly, they’ll know the drill.

  4. GROCERIES We all grocery shop. What is your usual routine? Do you have a set list? If you have a set list - take a minute and type it/print it out. This is particularly true if you have young kids at home. If things are brand-specific, put it on the list. Put it in a page protector and stick it on the inside of one of your cabinet doors. That way, if someone else has to come in unexpectedly, they’ll know the drill. If you have extra time - list 5-7 of your favorite meals (for you or your family). It might help you avoid well meant gifts of food that you will never eat.

  5. BATHROOM - See #2. Empty everything. Toss the old. Toss the unused. Toss the questionable. Make a space for everything - group like objects together. Cleaning supplies, skin care, first aid, medicine, prescriptions, etc. Again, think outside your head. What would make sense to the simplest person? Organize things for that simple person. If you take many prescriptions or have allergies, make a list, put the list in page protector and tape it inside your medicine cabinet - just in case.

Odds are you will never benefit from these measures because you are terribly ill. But, they won’t hurt you. And, should something dreadful happen, the strangers romping through your house will have a clue.

PS - If you don’t have one - make a Living Will. If you do have one, update it.