I spent a lot of time on airplanes this week. My airline reading brain candy of choice — for those moments when it’s tough to work — is books on decluttering and organization.
I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t know what I’m looking to gain from these books. I just find them vaguely pleasant and not terribly demanding.
Anyway, when I read the books with pretty pictures (or follow such accounts on Instagram) I have a realization. My stuff almost never looks anything like that. But my stuff is organized. One is quite possible without the other.
For instance, my kitchen is now set up in such a way that you can empty 90 percent of the dishwasher without moving more than a step or two from the dishwasher. The only items that require a walk are the mugs. It made more sense to locate them in the cupboard above the built-in coffee maker than a cupboard farther from the coffee maker but closer to the dishwasher. Do the mugs all match? No. They do not. But they’re in the right place.
The pantry, likewise, does not feature snacks organized by color, nor are dry goods decanted into clear canisters. But the cereal is in one place. The snacks for lunches are in another, where the kids can grab them.
The shoes in the mudroom aren’t lined up. The backpacks tend not to get hung up. But they are all in there.
You can organize for function without worrying too much about the aesthetics. My general sense is that you can make yourself crazy trying to get other people to buy into the aesthetics. But if you have a big family, it is highly unlikely that everyone is going to be equally enamored with systems that look pretty but require extra effort. Why decant cereal into other containers when cereal comes in a perfectly useful container — namely, the cereal box? The net result of such a system is that you — or whoever cares most about the aesthetics — is going to spend your time decanting. It will be your job.
Whereas if the system is just that the cereal goes on a certain shelf, then other folks will put away the cereal after the grocery run. So that is the system you need.
Where is your cereal hanging out these days?
In other news: I was excited to see Tranquility by Tuesday mentioned on Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog! Check out his post about building in a back-up slot and creating enough space to work.
I’m also excited that Eric Barker’s Plays Well With Others was chosen as a Next Big Idea Book Club selection. He’s had me on his podcast before and he is always great to talk to. Be sure to check out this book, which is full of counterintuitive insights that will help you navigate relationships.
(Tranquility by Tuesday made the nominee list for October!)
Photo: We eat a lot of Cheerios around here