Although this phrase is sometimes credited to Benjamin Franklin, the Oxford Book of Quotations dates it back to the 17th century. No doubt you heard it as a child, probably as your mother encouraged you to clean your room. I can still hear the Sisters of Mercy at St. Apollinaris singing it over and over as we students tidied up our desks and the classroom. It’s such a simple, logical, healthy, and beneficial notion, no wonder it has lasted throughout the ages.
Over the years, I’ve written several columns advocating the idea of surrounding yourself, your home, with things that you love, use, or have special meaning.
This not only makes your environment more pleasant and attractive, it makes daily life easier. You can select your wardrobe more quickly, prepare meals more quickly, pay your bills more quickly, and find whatever you’re look for more quickly.
You’ve not only decreased needless stress and aggravation but have increased cherished time in your day. But, like a diet, such an ideal circumstance can be difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain.
My hunch is that most people declutter and donate once or twice a year. It always feels good to lighten one’s load. But there’s a subsequent step to this process. It’s where Benjamin Franklin’s wise words come into play. In order to sustain all that you’ve just achieved, what remains should have their own space. Their place.
In many cases, this means designated rooms, closets, shelves, drawers, bins, and cubby holes. But creating storage is more than just making room for your belongings. It’s an art. It should be designed carefully with the thought of organization, timely routine, function and usage in mind.
Key ingredients to this art are categorizing and grouping like items together. That is, instead of stacking books on desks, coffee tables, and bookshelves, create a single library. Instead of separating jewelry in boxes and baskets in dressers, bathroom counter tops, and nightstands, designate a single drawer or two (with inserts and dividers in specific sizes) for all your pieces. Instead of scattering cleaning supplies in bathrooms, kitchen, and the garage, store them all in one place.
Why does this strict, and possibly uncomfortable, strategy work? Because it ends the guessing game. When looking for a book, a bracelet, or a broom, you’ll know exactly where to go instead of searching in various locations.