Does anyone else have a major problem keeping things neat and organized?

I don’t know how other people do it. Without someone to nag me to tidy up my place looks like a tornado hit it most of the time (I’m single, and live alone now–my brother got married and moved out in May). Now I’ve gone and lost the receipt and the certificate they sent me for my high-efficiency gas furnace I had installed in October, and I hope I can get another copy of both or else I’m out a $500 tax credit.*

This is starting to concern me about myself. I do fine usually and rarely lose things, but if my memory ever starts to go I’m gonna be up sh*t creek, in a major way.

*Whew, after a quick email search it looks like they sent me PDF attachments of both, but for the life of me I have no idea what I did with the hard copies–I’m fairly certain they sent some along.

Yes, yes he does.

  • sharaleo’s wife.

It’s a priority thing. There are very real benefits to having an organized home. On the other hand, there are very real costs. I usually find the former outweighs the latter for me, but it doesn’t always.

I’m pretty bad at keeping my desk neat.

As for how it’s done, astronomy taught me two things: it’s about having a definite place for every object, and about putting it away right now. It was a major revelation to me that my observing sessions went much better if I put every eyepiece, cable, and adapter away immediately before getting the next one. Delaying even a little meant that I forgot to put things away, and that things got in the way because they hadn’t been put away.

When I look at all the crap on my desk right now, most of them aren’t put away because I don’t really have a place for them. Where do those headphones go? I dunno. How about those two tape measures? One of the desk drawers, I guess. I have several sets of labeled drawers in my office, and the stuff that goes in them does get put away. It’s the stuff that doesn’t fit into a labeled category that doesn’t.

As for receipts, I have a hanging folder labeled “2013 bills.” Receipts that matter - very few - go in there. Which reminds me, I need to toss the 2006 receipts and relabel the folder 2014.

I just have designated areas for certain kinds of things. For example receipts for house related items go in this box, manuals (washer, dryer, counter-top oven, etc…) go on that shelf, small tools go in this closet, etc… Then if I am looking for said thing, I know, in general where to look.

I have a specially designated place for my clutter. It’s called my office.

The pack-rat gene runs in my family. When my grandmother passed in the early 90s, my grandfather wanted to sell the house, and my mom & siblings pitched in to clean the house. It wasn’t a messy house, but there were closets like time capsules with generations of strata back down to the Eisenhower administration when the house was built, and perfectly preserved carpet at the bottom. There were closets with Christmas toys bought with a grand-child in mind, but forgotten before they could be wrapped. I used to love going there as a kid and reading MAD magazines from the 50s and 60s and paperback collections of the old, good Peanuts strips.

So yeah, unless I’m actively fighting the war against clutter, I’m losing it. Going digital with a lot of things has helped.

Digital orderliness is easy for me. On the physical side, I have to accept the order imposed by biweekly maid visits, who tidy everything up according to their own ideas about where things should go. If I didn’t have them, I’d have to get rid of 90% of my stuff to find the other 10%.

I was starting to get pretty good at this as I have aged, at least until the toddler showed up - now everything is back to chaos. I still take care of my stuff but fail at cleaning up after the localized tornadoes that repeatedly hit around the house.

I don’t have a problem with it, I’ve come to terms with the fact that clutter is part of my life.

At some point in my 20’s I became a neat person. I also learned to like yard work. I have no idea what happened to me at that time.

Papageno, I know it sounds boring, but get a small filing folder. You can find them at Staples, or Walmart, or a million other places. Go to the office section. One of the accordian types or hard sided bucket types that have separated folders built in. They will usually come with folders but you may have to buy some. That will take care of any and all paperwork. Make sure to categorize it a bit or it will just be a mess of papers. Thing like “Receipts”, “Invoices”, “Medical”, “Insurance”, “Financials”, etc. Something like this, your tastes may vary for the exact style:

As for all around clutter, become a fan of bins. Get some cube shelves/storage at Target or Walmart or whatever is cheap around you. Right next to them will be bins that fit in them. Like this:

Throw all your crap in the bins, again hopefully sorted a bit somehow. It will get everything off the floor/counters/sofa and make the place look organized.

I personally can’t stand clutter and have always been organized like this, so it comes naturally to me. But recently this bin/storage cube trend has become popular and it’s really taken off and considered semi-trendy now. You can also get all kinds of baskets, bins and chests to store other things. The modular nature of them makes them all match and look like it’s thought out and part of the design of your home plus it takes up way less room than having everything strewn about.

To give you an example, one of those bins may hold all of my videogame controllers. Another may hold cleaning products. Another may have my binoculars and cameras, another full of bags of cords, adapters, etc. I’ve actually incorporated these cubes into my closets now to divide the shelves and give me a really nice looking, organized linen closet. Towels go in one cube, washcloths another, etc. The top of the cube serves as another built in shelf. The other advantage of bins is that it takes next to no time just to toss something in a basket or a bin, and makes looking for stuff easier as well. As I tell my wife: Bins! Bins! Bins!

I could go on and on about organization but to me it’s the difference between being a kid and an adult. When I see people’s house strewn about with crap I lose a little respect for them and see them as disorganized and a little off. If you are in the dating scene at all I guarantee women will look favorably on an organized house as well. You don’t have to be anal about it, but it really does make you look and feel more adult to be organized. I can’t stand clutter.

My two cents, YMMV, etc. But to me, an organized home is an organized mind.

You know what annoys me? Old desks. I have some antique desk that would be worth XXXX$ refurbished but whose drawers can’t even fit letter sized files, not to mention legal files, and sitting underneath which is annoying/impossible. I’m thinking hard of converting my whole home office to Ikea Galant despite my hatred of all things Ikea as those desks have adjustable height.

I used to be awful at organization. My idea of organization was to throw all receipts and manuals and whatnot in the “Paper Drawer”, all my bills, check stubs, etc. into the “Finances Drawer” and anything that didn’t fit either description that I thought might be worth saving (coupons, business cards, phone numbers, tools, batteries, etc.) into the “Misc. Drawer”. That’s if stuff made it to drawers at all and wasn’t just scatered around my home office desk and shelves. Needless to say whenever I needed to go back and reference something it was a nightmare.

Then one day years ago the place where I work was getting rid of a bunch of old filing cabinets. I snagged one, took it home and went to Staples and bought a box of hanging file folders and a box of 11.5x13" manilla clasp enveoples. A system was born. In the top drawer I have a hanging file folder for each type of record (i.e. pay stubs, VISA bills, Discover bills, cable bill, water bill, etc.), and hanging files for health insurance receipts, bank statements, insurance statements, etc… I don’t file things there as soon as I write/receive them, but I have a little inbox on my home office desk, and when that fills up with papers it means it’s time to take 15 minutes, sort them, and file them all into the appropriate folders. At the end of the calendar year I then prune the folders, taking out all the 2013 health insurance receipts and forms for example, put them all into a manilla enverople labeled “2013 Health Insurance” and move that envelope down to one of the two lower file drawers where it will live until I deem it no longer needed.

Since starting this system I’ve had several instances where I’ve needed to produce old recrods to prove I;d paid something or prove I was owed money still, and the small victory that comes with being able to say “look, I have the paperwork right here you bastards!” effectively makes the entire thing worthwhile.

I do have two whole rooms of my house unusable because they’re filled with stuff :/. Old bed frames, drums, misc stuff, all sellable and somewhat valuable. In my defense it’s mostly “other peoples” stuff and I’m not using the rooms, so it’s essentially like climate controlled storage, but my families present to me this year is to sort out and sell/donate all the boxes of unwanted stuff.

You’re in good company:

I’d check in the mirror for a little “X” on the back of my neck if I were you.

I used to have a huge problem with neatness and clutter, until a few good friends told me I basically lived in a pigsty. One good friend pretty much taught me how to clean and keep my place uncluttered (my grandparents, with whom I grew up, never taught me such things, as their house was horribly cluttered), and I’m forever indebted to him. Sometimes it takes the right person to push you in the right direction. Until then, the container store is your friend. ;) Good luck!

My wife is like this with clutter and housekeeping in general (and paperwork). From what I can tell, the difference between us is that she puts off doing things immediately. When I finish with something, I make sure it goes back immediately (or if it is something new, I find a proper place for it). If something has been sitting out for too long and I know I’m realistically not going to finish it, I pick it up and put it away. (So every couple of days, for example, I take the papers that I was “going to get to” from my desk and make sure that I do something intelligent with them, rather than just leave them sitting out on my desk.)

My wife, on the other hand, is very much the type of person who will start knitting something, go off to cook something and leave the knitting right where she was doing it, finish cooking something and leave the flour and salt sitting out on the countertop because she went off to read a book, leave the book sitting in the middle of the floor next to the beanbag where she was reading it when she gets up to go pick up a kid from practice, etc. So in just a few days, couches are covered with half-folded laundry that didn’t get put away, floors have beads from some beading project she was working on when she got up half-way through, etc.

That’s how I’ve found that we get clutter. Unfortunately, she has taught the kids the same habits (partially my fault for not being more aggressive in trying to teach the kids a better way, but that’s one of the delicacies of parenting).

My wife does pretty much the same thing. She lets coffee mugs pile up on the desk in her office and it drives me nuts. Projects sit out on the dining table for weeks at a time (we typically eat at the kitchen table). Dead plants languish on the kitchen window sill (I offer to pitch them and she says no, she’ll get to it). And so on.