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JLeslie's avatar

How disorganized or organized are you, and how much of the organizing is work?

Asked by JLeslie (46138 points ) August 14th, 2012

This question is inspired by keobooks recent Q about her new blog regarding getting organized and uncluttered.

I am trying to figure out some of the differences between the neat and organized people and the messy unorganized people. My hypothesis is the neat people don’t view all the tasks it takes to keep things neat as neatening tasks. I know there is more to it then that, but that is what I am interested in on this Q. On keobooks’ Q we talked about keeping a house/apartment neat by doing a half hour of organizing actvities a day. Well, that is what I said my aunt had told me. Keobooks mentioned her organizing specialist said it is just 5 minutes.

So, here is what I would like to know:

How do you rate yourself at home on a scale? Disorganized/messy being 1 and organized/neat being a 5.

Next, tell me if the activities listed below in your mind count as organizing activities if you were adding up how much time a day you spend organizing and keeping things neat. Putting away something means in its proper place. For instance, putting shoes away means in the very spot they should be if you did a massive clean up. So, if shoes are supposed to be on the top shelf in your closet, kicking them off in the closet and leaving them there in the middle of the floor does not count.

Putting away shoes or coat
Sorting new mail
Putting away laundry
Filing paperwork
Clean up after eating or cooking
Emptying the dishwasher
Putting away hair products, hair dryer, and cosmetics
Put away new purchases

Any thoughts or advice on the matter I would love it to hear. Thanks in advance for taking my quiz.

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29 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

I would say I’m a 1.5. I have no natural tendencies toward neatness and it is a constant battle. All of the activities you listed, I would consider straightening up work. I have actually been thinking lately about hiring someone to get my house organized, but I don’t know if it would help, I think we probably just have too much stuff and need to get rid of some of it.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia I highly recommend hiring a professional organizer. They help you throw things away also, and put in systems to keep things neat. Neater. Just two visits can be magical in my experience. Usually 3–4 hours each.

marinelife's avatar

I am very organized in some ways and very disorganized in others. For example, I am a really efficient and organized packer.

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife Me too, I am organized in some realms and not in others, that’s why I specified maintaining the home.

prasad's avatar

May be 2. When I am alone, I try to follow Toyota’s way: Everything in place, and place for everything!

It’s the way I grew up, and whether I wanted or not, I learned some of the techniques in Industrial engineering. There are some really amazing techniques, while some are common sense like 5S at home.

tom_g's avatar

I’d say I’m about a 4. But living with people (especially kids) requires a level of flexibility here. I can’t/don’t expect everyone in my house to have the same priorities, but I have found some level of balance by targeting particular areas that I can control in a way that eases my mind.

@JLeslie: “Next, tell me if the activities listed below in your mind count as organizing activities if you were adding up how much time a day you spend organizing and keeping things neat. ”

Work is work. It doesn’t disappear if you put it off or pretend it isn’t. For example, my kids refuse to put their shoes in the mudroom where they have their own shoe buckets. It’s understandable because they are kids, but they seem to think that putting their shoes where they go is “work”, but kicking them off at the back porch or outside or leaving them in the car is easier. But they invariably need to scramble around searching for their shoes whenever we go somewhere.

Clean up after eating or cooking

If there is one system I could implement in my house, it would be this. I proposed the “clean your bowl” idea to my family, and they all laughed at me. It’s simple – and it’s something I do when I am alone. Any dish that I have dirtied in preparing, cooking, or eating my meal is cleaned immediate after consuming the meal. The entire process is considered a transaction, and it’s not complete until all steps have been completed. It hurts my head to see dirty pans sitting in a sink or being loaded into a dishwasher. Dramatic me sees this as symbolic of our inability to stay focused long enough to complete anything. We tuck our mess away in the dishwasher or throw them in the sink because we’ll deal with it “later”.

Anyway, yes – I have some “tendencies” to be ridiculously organized (or some might say “crazy”), but they are tempered by the reality of living with 3 kids and a wife who is probably a 1.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g Ok, but as a neatnick, if I asked you how much time do you spend a day neatening and organizing, how many minutes is it? And, what are you counting? Are you counting rinsing your plate? Are you counting putting your shoes in the right place? Or, are those in your mind just standard household things that of course are done?

Sunny2's avatar

I think of myself as an organized person, but I’m really not. I don’t care much about a mess if I know what the components are. I’m very good at organizing, but doing it on a regular basis escapes me.

cookieman's avatar

How do you rate yourself at home on a scale?
Me = 5
Wife = 1
Daughter = 4
As a Household = 3

Putting away shoes or coat
Sorting new mail
Putting away laundry
Filing paperwork
Clean up after eating or cooking
Emptying the dishwasher
Putting away hair products, hair dryer, and cosmetics
Put away new purchases

I do all of the above on a regular basis. Everything in its place as you described. I also organize drawers, wash & windex most surfaces, wash floors, etc. My wife does very little to none of this, so a LOT of my time is spent re-doing these multiple times per week.

On average, I spend about 5–8 hours a week cleaning and organizing. If I lived alone (or my wife was organized), I’d probably spend about three hours a week. I know this because when she’s gone on week-long business trips, and it’s just me and my daughter, I’ve spent only about 3 hours on it.

cookieman's avatar

Oh, and I have a system.

2 to 3 days a week, immediately after work, I spend an hour cleaning and organizing before dinner.

Every Saturday morning, as soon as I get up, I spend three hours cleaning and organizing before breakfast.

Sunday’s I do nothing.

I’m worried this week as my wife is taking a stay-cation and will home far more than usual. Much more opportunity to make messes. I may total out at ten hours this week.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite Thanks for the detail. See, I think it really does take time to be neat. I know @tom_g tried to say it is less time to do straightening as you go, but if you are inclined to just leave things a mess, it overall is less time “working” on cleaning. But, the place is disorderly. Eventually, things might need to get cleaned up, and then it is a lot of hours to do it at once.

tom_g's avatar

@JLeslie: “Ok, but as a neatnick, if I asked you how much time do you spend a day neatening and organizing, how many minutes is it? And, what are you counting? Are you counting rinsing your plate? Are you counting putting your shoes in the right place? Or, are those in your mind just standard household things that of course are done?”

I’m not counting. They’re just standard household things. I can do them now (which provides me a sense of order and calm) or I can do them later.

@JLeslie: “I know @tom_g tried to say it is less time to do straightening as you go,”

Sorry. I didn’t mean to say it takes less time. Rather, it takes the same amount of time. It’s just a matter of when to deal with it. I suppose it’s merely preference, but I can sleep a lot better knowing that I am attending to what needs attending to, rather than tricking myself into believing that it’s all done.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g I should say I agree with the idea that doing work as you go keeps things neat, and is about the same amount of time (maybe a little less) than doing it all at once. But, let’s say I just kick off my shoes and have a pile of shoes I use often by the door. That is less time than putting them away, because I am almost never putting them away, they might be there for three months until I have people visit. I don’t do that, but it is just an example.

Very interesting those things named you are not counting. This is what I had assumed, but didn’t know. So, in a way they aren’t “extra” work to you.

tom_g's avatar

@JLeslie: “Very interesting those things named you are not counting. This is what I had assumed, but didn’t know. So, in a way they aren’t “extra” work to you.”

Yep. In a way, the work that is the result of – but disconnected from – the source seems like “extra” work for me, however. I don’t enjoy doing dishes if they are from a meal we ate yesterday. That’s challenging to get through. If I am working on a project and do not clean up before going out, the cleanup feels very draining and tough – physically and emotionally. But if I clean up immediately, the same exact amount of work might just flows.

YARNLADY's avatar

I used to be very careful about putting things away, and I knew where everything was. In my four bedroom house, one bedroom was my sewing room and one bedroom was a computer room. Now the bedrooms are all full of people, cats and dogs.

My sewing things are scattered around on shelves and closets in nearly every room in the house and I don’t know where anything is. The living room is now the computer room and all our books are stacked on shelves in piles. They used to be in alphabetical order by author and the reference books were in Dewey decimal order.

My dining room table is stacked with clothes, towels, sheets, blankets and toys. My two car garage is stuffed with storage items, and no car fits in it at all. I had a shed built in my back yard for use as a playhouse/work room, but it is stuffed with storage and spiders.

The only thing that is still neat and ordered is the kitchen and both pantries. By ordered, I mean I know where everything is, and that includes the counters, where I store a lot of things.

From what I have read, professional organizers advise throwing away at least half of the clutter, and installing expensive closet systems to store the rest.

Coloma's avatar

I’d say I am a 4. I don’t mind letting things go some now and then, but, overall I am more neat and organized than not. I also do not have a hoarding bone in my body, I am very much out with the old and in with the new, or, at least, out with the old.
I’m the type that will look at your card for a minute, and throw it away a few hours later. lol

Bellatrix's avatar

I am about a 1.5. I can be exceedingly organised with my work but at home – not so much.

Putting away shoes or coat – I stick them in the corner of my bedroom and shoes I am wearing a lot are (being honest) on the hall table by the front door. I put them on the shelf under the table the dog chews them!
Sorting new mail – urrm… sorting… I read it it and stick it in the mail dohicky or a drawer or if it is tax related in a slot in my desk.
Putting away laundry – eventually. It might spend some time in the basket or on the top of the chest of drawers. However, when I wash I hang things on hangers so they go straight back in my wardrobe.
Filing paperwork – terrible. I have so much work related paperwork it is a never ending task. I do go through my work stuff fairly regularly and bin things. I also have a few piles around I just never get to.
Clean up after eating or cooking – I love my husband. That’s all I can say.
Emptying the dishwasher – Ditto – I do do it occasionally but my husband is much more efficient at emptying the dishwasher.
Putting away hair products, hair dryer, and cosmetics – I have a basket or it goes in a cupboard. I do this.
Put away new purchases – Eventually. They might sit there for a while though.

[Going back to re-evaluate my original assessment of 2.5…]

It’s funny because people at work would say I am very organised. My desk isn’t tidy but I know where everything is and I am very careful about managing things like my diary, paperwork that relates to students, working to deadlines etc.

@nikipedia, want to go halves on a house organiser?

SuperMouse's avatar

I would rate myself at 5 at getting organized and about a 1.5 at staying organized. I am really, really good at organizing things. I can set up filing systems, put things away in perfect order that makes absolute sense, I can clean the heck out of any room in the house and arrange stuff like nobody’s business. The only problem is that it never stays that way. So I get my system all set up, slack off, then a couple of months later get it straightened out and back in order.

I consider all of the tasks you listed, with the exception of putting away new things, neatening type tasks and not organizing type tasks. When I lived alone with my kids I did most of them once a week or so. I have never been bothered by a messy house. Mind you, my house was messy, but never dirty. I have always scrubbed kitchens and bathrooms regularly. However, it is incredibly important to my husband that the house in neat and clean, so now that we are living together I try to do all the things you listed (that he can’t do) daily. I am also very fortunate that my kids are old enough not only to clean up after themselves, but to pitch in to help keep the house in general clean and organized.

keobooks's avatar

It’s hard to stay organized if it’s not organized well. I hope this makes sense. Let me give examples.

Putting your shoes and coat away could be a 5 on your scale if you forced yourself to put your shoes in the attic every night and you had to get the little ladder and climb up and go to the back of the attic and put them in the special shoe spot. It would be a 0 on the scale if you put a shoe bin next to your door and all you had to do was take your shoes off and throw it into the bin.

Organizing isn’t just about making things tidy and neat looking. It’s about putting things in places that make sense. If you make a nice neat space in your closet in the kitchen for your coat, you’re probably not going to succeed in putting up your coat consistently. If you put a coat rack in the place you seem to constantly throw your coat, you’ll have a much higher chance of putting it up.

This is what I meant about things being less work. You don’t make up a cool organizing system and then force yourself to stick with it. You try to build an organic system that’s going to be centered on how your mind works and how you live in your environment.

This is why I wanted to blog about working with an organizer. Too many people think it’s about getting out the old label maker and buying tons of bins and containers and then forcing yourself to keep that system in place. The organizer works on helping you figure out how and where things should be so that when you haphazardly toss something, it’s going to practically land exactly where it’s supposed to be.

My organizer came in and we worked on half the kitchen. Next week, she’s going to see what I managed to keep clean and what got wrecked. I will NOT be scolded for the messes. The messes just signal that the organization system we set up today isn’t working. So maybe things need to move around to a better location or put away in a different manner.

Oh and btw, my second post is up, but it’s just a “wait for the next post” post.

Earthgirl's avatar

JLeslie You asked for it. This may be more that you asked for!
Starting with specifics:

Putting away shoes or coat
I tend to let several pairs of shoes pile up in my living room in assorted locations and then on the weekend I make a sweep, collect all of them and dump them on the floor of my closet. I tried to be organized when I got my walk in closet. Oh! I thought it was going to change my life and I was going to be soooo organized. I was going to turn over a new leaf. I bought these stackable clear lucite shoe boxes and we put in a closet shelving system with a shelf on top to hold them. Now the shoeboxes are filled with all of my nice shoes with heels that I never wear and the floor is cluttered with the everyday sandals I wear all summer and the collection of boots I wear all winter!
I also have a coat collection. I love how a jacket or coat completes an outfit. I think I am crazy over coats like some women are crazy over shoes! My husband complains that I buy new things and the problem is, I never get rid of the old. I do give things away to Goodwill and other such organizations but I am sort of a fashion collector. Believe it or not I still wear some things that I’ve had for over 10 years. I take good care of my clothes and so when I buy new ones I use the old ones with them and it all looks new again. I love playing with all the combinations. But of course, having a lot of clothes means they are spilling out of every closet!!!

Sorting new mail
I let it stack up and periodically go through it and decide what to keep what to throw. Even my fashion magazines can sit for a couple months before I look at them. Hardly my intention when I bought my subscriptions but sometimes I have fashion aversion and I think of it as work and I just can’t get up the motivation to look at it. But throw it out? NEVER!!! Not only that, I have to look through everysinglegoddamnpage before I throw out a magazine to rip out pictures for my photo morgue that I have been keeping (as per my high school art teachers advice) since high school. Ah me!!!

Putting away laundry
My husband says that I don’t seem to understand the purpose of laundry baskets. He tries to tell me that they are not garment storage facilities. Nuff said.

Filing paperwork
I am very careful about saving things that I need for official reasons. One thing I am very organized about.

Clean up after eating or cooking
I cook, he cleans up. It works perfectly.

Emptying the dishwasher
There’s only 2 of us and although we have a dishwasher we rarely use it. My husband is the ipso facto dishwasher!

Putting away hair products, hair dryer, and cosmetics
I am so totally organized about this. My cosmetics are organized into bamboo Container Store stackable trays. My every day cosmetic items are organized into a decorative container and go straight back into it as soon as I use them. Hair products-some store under the sink, some in the shower. Very organized. In fact I buy in duplicate so I never run out. I am very choosy about what I use on my hair, of necessity. My hair is very temperamental.

Put away new purchases
Groceries-yes and no. Depends. Obviously perishables get stored right away. Beverages and canned goods seem to clutter counter space way too often.
New clothes-They get hung up right away.
New books-They get added to one of the piles of books in every room of the house.
Miscellaneous-generally get put in their proper place right away.
The funny thing is that I have loads of unused storage space and cabinets in my house. I need to utilize them more. I think I am afraid that I will forget where I put things if they are out of sight. It needs to be an established place for keeping them, OTW i’m lost. When I’m looking for something I ask myself, now where would I have logically put that according to my “system”? Sometimes the system works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I don’t spend much time during weekdays organizing. All of my organizing is done on weekends for the most part. (I am not counting basic maintenance and cleanliness, that’s an every day thing.) I get home at 8:00 every night and then I cook dinner. so I don’t have time to do it. (mmm, tonight I had store bought crab cakes with homemade Pineapple salsa!)
I like to differentiate between dirt and clutter. I think it’s important to keep the bathrooms clean, keep clean sheets on the bed, sweep the floors, and dust and vacuum. I have to have clean and neatly pressed clothes. But I have a good tolerance for various types of clutter. I also hate to throw out things due to sentimental value. I have a general stash place for all sots of things like photos, sentimental things, letters, cards journals and poetry. But I wouldn’t say those things are organized by any stretch of the imagination!
On to prasad ‘s link. I liked a lot of what it said but this:
“Then, for accomplishing it, they take out everything that is needed to finish up that job within the time available. For example, take cooking. You have pressure on you of completing the cooking in time since you, you spouse and children have to start for their work places on time. You pick out from the cupboards all the needed utensils, all the gadgets, all the raw materials and spread all of them around you, all at a time on your kitchen platform and island thinking that placing everything around you would allow you easy access to them. But the very clutter around you really becomes an obstacle in efficient working. Plus, you are compromising on safety due to the clutter. It looks untidy and loses aesthetics.”

I totally disagree!!!
When I am cooking the first thing I try to do is take out all my ingredients and gather all my tools. It’ makes everything go quicker. I think that is organized and efficient. It seems totally silly to take things out one by one and put them away as soon as you use them! I believe in batch processing! Not as the term is used in computer lingo. I think of it as doing things in batches. Way more efficient. I love the idea of work, work, work! Coooooooasst!!!!

“Do you find following things within fifteen to twenty seconds after they are needed?
• A particular medicine; say antacid tablets, pain killers, your daily medicines doctor prescribed, sprain cream etc.
• Postage and related material: say stamps, envelops, inland letters, post cards, glue, gem clips, stapler, staple pins, stationery etc.
• Bank documents; like pay-in-slips, check books etc.
• Income tax related documents; like papers related to your investments, previous years’ income tax returns etc.
• Electricity/power bills, telephone bills, water bills, corporation tax bills etc.
• Telephone numbers and addresses of your particular relative or friend or your or your spouse’s particular colleague.
• Writing pad and pen/pencil to take down the messages over the telephone.
• Locks and keys of your house, scooters, car(s), cupboards, safe deposit lockers, office, the keys and locks of your suitcases, brief cases etc.
• Desired pair of shoes/footwear, matching clothes, hairpins, kerchief, nail polish, lip stick etc.
• Children’s school bag, books, notebooks, their shoes/footwear, socks, progress cards, i-cards, date of birth certificate, their particular toys, ink bottles, pens, pencils etc.
• The stitching kit like pairs of scissors, sewing needles, threads of particular colors and types, buttons of various types, measuring tape, knives etc.
• Towels, toothpaste, tooth brushes, soaps, detergents.
• Candles and match box when the light/power goes off suddenly.
• The tong, the gas lighter, the hand mixer, right kind of serving bowls, right kind of cutlery, cups and saucers.
• The cooking recipes you so diligently took down from a TV program, or copied from a magazine or web site.
• A particular novel or book/magazine you wish to read today, now.
• Your housecoat when suddenly some guests arrive and you have to receive them at your door.
• The money or change you kept some where.
• Your or your spouse’s i-cards, credit cards, pass ports, club membership cards etc.
• Shoe polish of various colors and types, shoe brushes, shoe laces etc.”

This is where I excel. I am disorganized about so many things. But totally organized about the important stuff!

It’s impossible to score myself because I am very organized in some areas
and terrible in others. I am one of those people who have perfected the art of the “organized mess”. I enjoy organizing but I’ve been the same since I was a kid. My sister that shared a room with me always complained that when I was cleaning the closet I would get too sidetracked. I would sit down and look at things and it would slow me down. I would be like “oh look! here’s that report I did in 3rd grade on
Springs and Geysers that I got an A on!!! (BTW, I still have that report, lol)

For another example, my basement is a shambles since we had a water “situation” a few months ago. I made a stab at organizing and sorting. But this past weekend I needed to find a wire comb that I bought years ago. I looked in my tool box, not there. But then I looked in another box right next to it and found it. I haven’t used it in about 5 years at least. But it didn’t take me long to track it down.
As far as cleaning I am consistent with everything else in my personality. I am a combination of polar opposites. That is how I’m best understood.Yin/Yang.

keobooks's avatar

My old ADHD self didn’t stop to think about what the 1 – 5 scale was. To me it was scale of difficulty of the tasks you mentioned. On a scale of 1 – 5 for neatness, I am a -3. I am seriously the most explosively sloppy person I have ever met. I can be standing still and messes will appear. 10 minutes after the organizer left, there were apple slices and some laundry on the kitchen floor and I have no idea how they got there.

BBawlight's avatar

On a on to five scale of neatness, I am a 1.
I don’t like to see clutter and messiness, but I don’t like to clean it up either.
All of those tasks (if I were to do a massive clean up) would be considered organizing activities because I’m putting it all in it’s rightful place instead of clothes on the floor and papers askew. I put new purchases on my computer desk and kind of forget about them until I need them.

YARNLADY's avatar

To answer the rest of your question, to me all organizing is work. My house is currently in a state of 2. I can quickly find most of the things on the list above by @Earthgirl so it’s not a total disaster.

Bellatrix's avatar

On @Earthgirl‘s list, I am a 5. I like her list. I shall spend the rest of the day preening about my organisational skills.

Earthgirl's avatar

@YARNLADY and @Bellatrix I loved that list too because those are the thiings I’m good about keeping organized. I guess we sort of have our priorities when it comes to this stuff! But I cannot take credit for the list. The list came from @prasad ‘s list. I don’t agree with all of the advice on the site he linked to but some of it is great and it is very exhaustively thought out! It’s like a whole entire organizational philosophy.
Here is the complete list.

keobooks's avatar

I just wanted to say that after having the organizer set up my kitchen on Tuesday, I have not had to clean my kitchen (except for spring cleaning type stuff that I will have to do to make up for the fact I’ve never cleaned cabinets and stuff like that before) When I wake up lin the morning, it’s cleaner than my best clean sweeps that I was doing an hour a day every day up til last week.

I think people think of organized as having things neat and tidy, but it’s not like that. Organized means you don’t have to work to keep it clean. Some people are naturally tidy, so they don’t need to organize as much to keep things clean. But if you are naturally sloppy, organizing helps a lot.

Once again I’ll say, you shouldn’t need will power or stamina to keep things organized. If they are well organized to fit the way you live, you will not have to work to keep things in order.

Earthgirl's avatar

@keobooks That’s great! It sounds like hiring the organizer is really paying off.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am going to check to see if we have organisers in Brisbane!

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks My organizer, especially the first one I worked with many years ago, was exactly how you described, she was sure to ask if I really thought a system she suggested would work for me. She helped me with my office. She said people tend to either like to put everything down in a file with everything out of sight, or be terrified to file everything away liking everything in sight, even if it is in the bottom of a pile. I’m the latter. She was good at suggesting organizing systems that I was comfortable with once she got a hang of what I was comfortable with and what I would most likely maintain. She changed drastically how I file and organize my desk.

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