March 21, 2021 – Like with Like

If you want to know what the key is to getting organized, it’s putting ‘like with like’. When the pandemic hit last year, I got plenty of practice. I went through nearly every drawer, cupboard, cabinet, and closet that we have in our home. I spent one day going through all of the junk drawers and separating out all of the pens and pencils Yes, I know it sounds insane, but I did. What else was I supposed to do? After getting laid off, I had to find something to do with my time. Anyway, once I had the pens separated from the pencils, I proceeded to put ‘like with like’. There are so many kinds of each, so it took some doing. Of course, before I even started the process of dividing up the pens into categories (regular markers, permanent markers, ball point pens, highlighters, dry erase markers, and such), I had to test all of them first to make sure they actually worked. What’s the point of hanging onto a bunch of dried-out writing instruments? They serve as nothing but an annoyance when you need to write something down in a hurry.

The process is slow and painstaking but once it’s over, it’s incredibly gratifying. No matter which room you’re in, to know that any single writing instrument you choose to jot a note down with or sign a card with or fill out a check with, it’s actually going to work! I was actually shocked at how many ‘bad’ pens I had stashed away in drawers throughout my house. I think I filled nearly half of a 13-gallon garbage bag with them. I kept most of the pencils. Some of the ones worn down to a ‘nub’ did end up in the trash, and some were donated (how many #2 pencils does one need?); however, many were just reunited with their kin (charcoal with charcoal, colored with colored, etc.) and stored in my art studio. Were they all sharpened to a fine point before being neatly placed in a drawer? Yes, of course! Just like with my pens, when I pick up a pencil, I want it to be ready to use. I don’t want to have to schlep around the house, looking through countless drawers, wasting time trying to find one that actually writes.

Today was more of the same, but instead of pens and pencils, I was organizing all of the crap I had stored in my laundry room. This is no ordinary laundry room, mind you. There is a washer and dryer in the space but most of the room is dedicated to shelving. A lot of the things I want to have access to, that I don’t want to have to retrieve from the garage or the shed outside, is stored in this room. We keep all of the paint in there as well (to prevent it from freezing). How we ended up with 28 1-gallon containers of paint and 6-7 5-gallon containers of paint is a riddle I have yet to solve. Just like with #2 pencils, how much paint does one need? I don’t even know where a lot of it came from. I want to get rid of most of it but it’s hard to find ‘takers’. The Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store used to accept paint as a donation but they don’t any longer, so until I find someone (or several someones) that can use it, on the shelf it shall remain (just like the two containers of grout sealer that I no longer need).

Do you need to organize a space in your home? I have learned a few tricks over the years that you might find handy. Along with keeping ‘like with like’, there is something else that I recommend that will make your life much easier (and save your back), light on top, heavy on bottom. Yes, if you have heavy things to store, like dog food or 5-gallon containers of paint or leftover boxes of flooring or tile that weigh a ton, put them on or under the bottom shelf. Light items, like furnace filters and empty boxes, should go on the top shelf. Anything toxic (i.e.; insect spray) should also be stored on the top shelf (away from pets and little people). For some strange reason, I had mind stored in a box on the floor. They had a plastic bag over them, but it made no sense whatsoever! Neither did placing a cardboard box containing archived files on the floor. I wasn’t thinking too hard when I thought to do that! All it would take is the washer to fail one time and flood the room with lots of sudsy water, and all of those records would have been destroyed.

I actually know someone whose grandfather (or great uncle) was a famous artist and she has all of his paintings (from throughout his career that didn’t sell) stored in her basement. Bad idea! I’ve lived in a couple of houses with basements and what I have learned is that basements tend to flood, it’s just a matter of time. All it takes is the combination of a tree root (to plug the line) and a failed hot water heater to achieve this result. She learned the hard way not to store the paintings directly on the floor after several were completely destroyed from water damage. Such a shame! I obviously had a lapse of judgment when I put cardboard boxes containing paper records directly on the floor. I highly suggest installing shelving; however, if you don’t have any other option than to store things directly on the floor, at least put the items into plastic tubs with lids (to protect them from moisture). Water is a wonderful thing under the right circumstances. This is not one of them.

What happens if you get overwhelmed when midway through a project? When that happens to me, I do the very thing I used to do when taking a test. Get the easy questions/answers out of the way first. I didn’t have any trouble sorting through all of the paint stuff (paint, paint additives, paint brushes and stirrers and rollers and sandpaper and every kind of doo-dad you can dream up), along with everything affiliated with drywall (tape, more sandpaper, a ridiculous amount of spackling tools and spreaders, joint compound, plaster of paris), as well as ‘all things tile’ (tile spacers, adhesives, tile cutters); however, when I came across a plastic tub and two different boxes filled with what-appeared-to-be electrical and/or plumbing items, I took a pause. Both of those trades are out of my wheelhouse. I’ve worked plenty with paint and drywall/sheetrock and tile but I have not once tried to install an electrical outlet or hook up a faucet.

Too many things can go wrong in either circumstance and I prefer to leave anything plumbing-related or electrical-related to the experts (i.e.; my husband). While organizing, if you come across something that you find so completely foreign that making any attempt at ‘organizing it’ would prove a lesson in futility, put it aside and save it for another day. Better yet, put it aside and tell whoever does happen to know what all of those odd gadgets and mechanisms are that they can organize it (if they choose to). I knew I was out of my league when I couldn’t decipher half of the stuff I was looking at. I could identify a few things (PVC pipe and electrical boxes) but most of it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. I’m leaving all of that stuff for my husband to sort through (if he chooses to). What else did I want to mention? Oh, yes! Before you get started, there are a few items you should have handy. I have found that several things prove useful when organizing.

Are you ready? To be fully prepared, a Sharpie Pen (medium or bold point), some Ziploc bags of assorted sizes, labels with adhesive backing, masking tape, rubber bands, several medium-sized clear plastic containers, a couple of garbage bags, a garbage can, disinfectant wipes, a ‘donate’ box, and a vacuum cleaner (with a hand tool) are great to have on hand. A lot of energy will also be necessary, so make sure you get plenty of rest before you decide to clean out all of your junk drawers or laundry room or garage or shed. Oh my gosh, sheds are the worst! So many spiders!! Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. Well, that and a sore back. I managed to tweak it while I was going gangbusters moving heavy queen-size blow-up air mattresses and 5-gallon containers of paint around. That’s the ‘lovely’ part about organizing, especially when it involves heavy stuff, I usually wind up at the chiropractor’s office. Ugh. Thanks so much for stopping by! If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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