Getting Organized ≠ Buying More Stuff

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is picking up a trashy magazine or two for an airplane ride.  So, this past weekend, for the quick trip to Palm Springs with some girlfriends, I happily hit the newsstand.  And immediately realized I’m getting older, because instead of heading for Glamour I went straight for Martha Stewart Living!

Let me be clear: I love me some Martha.  She has great recipes (this salted caramel chocolate cake is finicky – let’s talk about layers slip-sliding away – but phenomenally delicious), great ideas, and one of the most powerful, well-positioned brands the world has ever known.  I bow down to her.

However.  Sometimes magazines publish articles to encourage you to buy more things rather than to truly solve a problem, and even my beloved Martha Stewart Living is no exception.  As an example, this month’s issue featured the headline “Cut the Clutter: 47 Simple Organizing Solutions.”  As you might imagine, I was eager to read more!

An article on creating order in the bathroom starts with a photo of some shelving in what appears to be a pretty standard sized bathroom.  It looks beautiful – of course!  In order to re-create this for yourself, you’d need to go purchase at least 4 storage bins ($25 each at Crate and Barrel) and assorted bamboo trays.

But imagine trying to use this bathroom, especially if you’re a particularly visual person.  Opaque storage containers are stacked such that you’d need to lift either one out of the shelf to even see what’s inside it.  Small, breakable items are stored in front of said opaque storage containers you’d need to be moving around frequently.  And loose items are stored vertically above eye level, so you can’t see the colors or labels on the bottles.

You’ve bought some pretty boxes, but you might not actually be organized due to the difficulty of locating and actually using the items you stored!  Now, those boxes are ripe to become additional clutter in your home.

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Moving out of the bathroom, a following page recommends various products designed to contain clutter.  Again, beauty is paramount here!  But I find myself asking: how much clutter are you containing with these items, and how much are you creating?  The long lidded spice box, for example ($160 at thesecretcouk.com): it’s the rare person who would use spices often enough to prevent them from going stale in an unsealed container like this.   Plus, many home cooks will keep many more than 10 spices on hand at a time!  By taking this purchase recommendation, you likely still have the myriad little bottles elsewhere in your kitchen.  That pretty little box didn’t help you get organized at all.

Organization is personal, and I always recommend that my clients carefully consider the way they think about and use items before we decide how to organize and store them.  What works for Martha may not work for you – and that’s ok!  As with all things media, use a critical eye when reading over organizing tips, and pick and choose those things that will actually help you get organized, rather than create more clutter for you to deal with.

LMW