The trick to organizing flat surfaces

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The trick to organizing flat surfaces

Category : Home Organization


The Trick to Organizing Flat Surfaces

The last thing I saw before I closed my eyes every night was a mound of papers, books and products piled high on the dresser next to my bed. This buildup of unfinished tasks and excess junk was also the first thing that greeted me in the mornings.

It’s no wonder that I felt chronically stressed. There was a nagging reminder of life’s chaos staring me in the face at the start and end of every day.

I would periodically clean out the mess that ended up there, but I lacked an efficient system of preventing it from accumulating in the first place. Given the limited space on top of a dresser, it was a good candidate for a low-investment, high-payoff organization project. I called Lisa Bianco, with Picture It Organized in St. Louis, to assess the problem and help to find a solution.

The first thing she did was to completely clear off the dresser and sort all the like objects together. So all the papers went on one section of the floor, all the makeup in another, the books and offices supplies had their own spots. Then, she told me to figure out which of these items I truly needed to use or wanted to look at every single day. That was a fraction of what was actually lying on the floor in front of me.

“We know we don’t need all this stuff,” she said. “We just need some guidance to get it out.”

The remaining items needed to be thrown out or stored in a way that made sense, somewhere else. Bianco brought a tray to corral the daily-use cosmetics and products and a cylinder to store taller objects, such as a hairbrush.

It’s helpful to think of one’s home (or office or bedroom) as a cycle, she said. Things are constantly coming in and need to be going out at a similar pace. When the cycle of in and out is out of balance — that’s where the clutter starts. She homed in on a huge pile of lip glosses and forced me to pick out one or two. The rest went inside a box labeled “extra lip gloss” and into a drawer.

Then came the real talk.

“My recommendation for you is not to buy any more lip glosses until these are gone,” Bianco said. It certainly made sense when she said it.

A lot of our attachment to extra stuff comes down to unresolved anxiety, she explained. We fear will need something later and miss it if we’ve gotten rid of it. That explains my penchant for keeping all those free samples that come with cosmetic purchases that I rarely (if ever use) but couldn’t bring myself to throw away or donate.

“We think there’s a shortage of stuff,” she said. But there’s no shortage of boxes, supplies or samples in our lives. The key is to look at the source of those fears.

The trick is to visualize your daily routine and set aside only those items. Thinking about the flow of your mornings and evenings will help set up the flow of things around you at those times. The other key is to know your own aesthetic preference. Do you like clear containers so you can see everything available to you in one glance. Or does visual noise weigh on your mind? In that case, you want to use opaque containers.

I checked with several other organizers to find out what they store on their dressers and why.

Patsy Bieg, of Heartful Home Solutions, said she only keeps a lamp on her dresser. She stores her cosmetics in a travel bag that lies flat on her dresser when she opens it to use and then folds up and is put away when she’s done.

“I don’t like seeing a lot of things on surfaces,” she said. She advises displaying only items that genuinely make you happy when you see them.

Meghan Rathert, with Courage 2 Organize, says she keeps an enclosed jewelry box, a few family photos, a basket with daily use products such as lotions and deodorant and a couple of inspirational sayings around the mirror. She suggests having the same spot for frequently used items such as keys, a watch and jewelry to create a habit over time. It’s important to find a location that is easy to get to and just as easy to return an item to, she said. Repetition creates order.

That was the case for my small project. Two months later, the dresser is just as neat and tidy as when we set up the system. We ended up moving all those stacks of files and papers I had next to my bed to another room. They are still separated into stacks but not in a proper filing system yet.

That’s another project for another day.


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