Getting Organized


Whether you participate in spring cleaning, post-holiday cleaning, or the old standby of the pre-PCS purge, getting organized is often a huge part of our lives in the military.

There are a lot of ways to get organized, and a ton of books out there. Do you #konmari? Prefer hygge or lagom? Maybe you teeter more towards the hoarding end of things?

Wherever you fall on the organizing spectrum, here are some useful tips when deciding what can stay and what can go.


Visual clutter becomes mental clutter. In my family, it often starts harmless enough. A pile of laundry will appear here, some dishes will manifest there, toys will spill out of this bin, pieces of mail that need sorted will stack- but what starts as a slow creep into chaos always ends in the same pattern of behavior. People start to get a little more irritable. Kids have a harder time falling asleep at night. We all just feel a little bogged down with life without being able to exactly articulate why.


So my default has become to clean the house out when moods start to shift. And it almost always works to ease short tempers and encourage productivity. Because, at least for us, visual clutter becomes mental clutter.


When I have to visually process a messy room, it slows down my ability to process other aspects of my life, and truly feels like it clutters up my mind. Cleaning and organizing has become one way that I remove something from the long list of things I am dealing with at the moment. If I don’t have to worry about a messy house, then I can concentrate on more pressing matters.


Remember that getting rid of the thing does not mean getting rid of the memory. Whenever I have helped anyone (civilian or military alike) clean out or move, this has been the biggest hurdle. It is natural to associate memories with objects. Everyone does it. But holding onto something that no longer serves a purpose within your home just because of a special memory is not the best policy.


Passing along board books when your children have outgrown them does not take away the hours spent reading to your children. Donating your wedding dress to charity does not negate your wedding! (By the way, I totally did this and just have a small piece of my wedding dress in a glass locket. I still love my husband and I love our wedding photos, but I did not want to cart that thing around the country).


If you struggle with holding onto items because of the memories associated with them, remember that your memories are your own. Regardless of your personal possessions, what you keep or don’t keep, you will always keep the memories. If you need to take a picture of a favorite book, or a child’s favorite outfit, or even snip an inconspicuous piece off your wedding dress, do it. But know that it is okay to cherish the person who gave something to you, or the experiences you had while wearing that clothing, or the closeness you felt with your children while reading those books, and still pass them onto others to enjoy.


More is not better. It’s just more. Whether it is cultural, or just a natural human tendency, the phrase “more is better” is pretty prevalent in our thinking. Especially so when it comes to personal belongings. But that just is not true.


Sometimes more IS better (I always tell my kids you can never have too much toilet paper), but most of the time, it’s just more. It’s more to clean up, more to move, more to manage. Scaling things back to what you actually need and actually use is usually the much better route to take.


If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. For me, this started with a pile of clothes in my closet. They were beautiful clothes: silk, wool, cashmere - pieces I had found at outlets and clearance bins in high-end stores. And none of them fit. They HAD fit when I purchased them, but three kids and an autoimmune disease later, and there was no way I would ever be the shape that those clothes had been bought for again. But I kept them. They were pretty, and maybe if I worked hard enough I could squeeze into them eventually. So every single time I opened my closet I would see them and be utterly discouraged.


But, friend, there is just no reason for this. Keeping items that might work someday in the future because they worked sometime in the past is not necessary if it causes constant shame and discouragement. Not to mention all the room that extra clothes require. If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. And don’t feel bad or discouraged that bodies and needs change.


Your home is for your family. Organizing can look so different for every family, which is exactly how it should be. Every family is different, with different dynamics, different stages of life, and different levels of comfort. My family no longer has anyone who wears diapers, drinks bottles, or takes naps, so there are a lot of accessories that we had when our kids were younger that we just don’t need anymore. But maybe your family does need those useful items still - so keep them! Becoming conscious of what your family actually uses on a daily basis can help you realize what you have lying around that you just don’t need to hold onto anymore.


Your home is for you. It truly is no one else’s business how you organize or what you keep or donate. Methods that work for your next door neighbors or your best friend might not work for you. Find your own method! Discover where your family feels most at home, which is the whole point anyways.


Laura saw a guy with a cute haircut her first week of college, married him a couple years later, and has been involved in this whirlwind of a military life ever since. A Pacific Northwest native, she has spent most of her time as the spouse of an active duty Marine on the East Coast. Between homeschooling and writing, she loves to spend her lazy days working on household projects, quilting, and reading.


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