Wikipedia defines homeostasis as “the property of a system [to] regulate its internal environment and tend to maintain a stable, constant condition.”
Well, my home’s constant condition was chaos. I didn’t want to be a slob; I was very ashamed of it. Yet it seemed no matter how many times I cleaned and organized my apartment, it was only a matter of time — usually hours — before it looked like a disaster again.
I hated living like this, so I would invite friends over because it would force me to clean. I now realize much of that cleaning was merely moving the mess around. The table by my entryway became a dumping ground for random detritus and deal-with-it-laters, until out of exasperation I’d finally sweep everything into a bag to stick in the corner to deal with THAT later.
If someone dropped by unannounced, I’d hurriedly shove the piles to the perimeter of the rooms, close the door to my bedroom, and throw a towel over the pile of dirty dishes that hadn’t been washed in a week… or two…
I looked with envy upon organizing blogs, home improvement magazines, and friends with clutter-free homes. I would try some tips, but they would often result in purchasing organizational tools I’d forget to use, or one tiny island of organization in the sea of chaos. And really, who cared if my tupperware lids were organized if you could barely see the floor among the sea of clothes?
Then one day I came home with something in my arms and paused. Before setting it down, I asked myself, “Where does this belong?”
It seems so simple, but that one question changed my home.
Those blogs and magazines always talked about “putting things away,” and I didn’t understand. Huh? “Away”? Suddenly, it was so clear. The reason I couldn’t keep things clean and organized was that everything didn’t have a place it belonged. And even if stuff did have a place, it was so much easier to just set it down in the pile of homeless stuff.
My old question when coming home after work or when trying to tidy up had often been “Where can I set this down?” or “Where can I put this so it’s out of my way?”
But armed with this new question, I was a woman possessed. I disciplined myself to intentionally CREATE places for each thing that I owned or that came into my home. Remotes live in the drawer by the couch. Library books live on the coffee table when not in the process of reading. All hair-holding doodads go in the box by the mirror. The scotch tape lives on the hall bookshelf (weird, but it works for me!). I finally trashed/recycled/sold/donated stuff that I realized no longer BELONGED in my home.
I only bought one thing in my organizing spree: 3M hooks to hang up my coats. Turns out I don’t need a tupperware lid organizer; I just needed a designated place for my tupperware lids.
I call it organizational homeostasis. If something is out of place, it’s so obvious that I deal with it immediately which prevents the piles building up.
It took me a few weeks of gradual work, but I finally got to a point where everything I own has a place where it belongs. And for the first time, not only is my home organized, but it is STAYING organized.
I call it organizational homeostasis. If something is out of place, it’s so obvious that I deal with it immediately which prevents the piles building up. (Even at this moment I’m aware that I’ve finished drinking my tea, which means that the cup now need to be rinsed and BELONGS in the drying rack in the kitchen. But first I’ll finish writing this.)
Finally, I can sit on my sofa and look around the living room with a feeling of peace rather than clutter anxiety. Cleaning no longer feels like a monumental task in futility. When the cable guy came today, I wasn’t ashamed to let him in. And for the first time EVER, I do not have dirty dishes piled in the sink.
Next step: seeing if I can get my desk at work to organizational homeostasis…