The Organization Trap

As I was perusing through YouTube, I saw one of the people I follow showing how she was transforming her pantry with labels and containers. It looked beautiful, but it also made me cringe. Why would something so simple make you cringe, Karla? Well, because it is extra work.

My family and I are definitely not minimalists but we like to keep things simple. Simple truly does it for us because:

  • it requires less prep
  • it requires less work to perform the task
  • it makes the chore lighter to do, and thus there is a higher probability of it being done on time
  • it involves less money

I believe that this is the result of my upbringing. My mother absolutely looooves to entertain, and when she does, she spares no accouterments. She enjoys having all the extra plates and making all the extra dishes and using all the different glasses. She really enjoys being a hostess. Yet, she absolutely despises doing dishes. Can you see where I am going?

After the party was over, my sister and I would be stuck with the mountain of dishes. We would do our best and start cleaning right when the guests finished eating so we would have less to do when they would be gone. This was all before we had a dishwasher. To this day, my sister and I work that way but with the aid of the amazing invention of a dishwasher. It still takes a lot of time.

My mom also has a china cabinet that, when we were younger, she would have us pull everything out of and clean the dust from. The nicest stuff was always sitting there, mostly unused. I resolved that when I had my own place, I would use the nicest things and not have additional items that were not used regularly. I didn’t want to do the upkeep. For this is the thing: if you have it, you need to clean it. You don’t want to have cobwebs on dishes. You don’t want your decor to be white from the dust. You want it all looking good, all the time. I don’t want to put the time into it.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

This is what Home Goods doesn’t tell you after they’ve trapped you with their bright lights and white and aesthetically-pleasing shelves. The items that you don’t touch still need some love from you every now and then. You might not be bothered that it is occasional, but once you start thinking what you might be losing because you are storing and cleaning these items, you might be a bit shook.

Let’s go back to the example of the pantry. You buy plastic boxes into which you place your cereal. You get mason jars for your baking supplies. You get the little glass bottles for all your spices. Have you thought of the investment on those? Probably around $100 at minimum. What about all the little labels you’ll have to create? At least twenty. Above that, every time you come from the store you will have to empty your cereal box into the container, and when the container is nasty from your hands touching it, it will need some cleaning, inside and out (since you are already at it).

If you are being sustainable and don’t buy your food in containers, having separate ones is probably a need for you. That’s a different story. However, for me, there is no need to pour my husband’s cereal box into another container every three days after he has consumed the previous one. I don’t want to invest that time into passing things. A Pinterest home is pretty to look at but not always to live in.

I believe in organization and own containers myself for things like flower and sugar to avoid the catastrophe of it spilling all over the floor because of a rip of a paper bag. We also own a few additional towels and a set of plates for nicer occasions. We have the space and I won’t buy any more because we don’t need it. I don’t however, believe that organization is a cure for it all. Many times, the problem we have is that we own too much. Too many dishes, too many towels, and too many sheets that we won’t use. They take room in our closets and take our Saturday afternoons for organizing because they start overflowing or we need the space for something else and have to make it all work. What does it leave us with? Stress and less time to do what we would like to do. It is not worth it.

I avoid buying baskets and containers and try to use up what I have in excess. I continuously move things that we don’t use out of our home. Sometimes it is something that has been sitting untouched, or something that has been replaced. I might have thought of removing it before, but decided to keep it, and after another period of time of not using it, move it out.

The nicest spaces are the clearest spaces. Bins can many times hide things instead of making them more available to you. If the items are perishable and you regularly consume them, try to use those and not purchase any new ones. If they aren’t perishable and you don’t use them, keep one or two for backup and donate the rest. Organizing them will only ensure their oblivion.

Don’t fall into the trap of the stores that only want your money, not your well-being. If you want to have additional things in the house, go ahead! However, calculate that the investment is not only monetary but also involves your time, your space, and your energy for upkeep.

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