Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is there a monster under your bed?

Besides cleaning the bathroom, mopping seems to be everyone's least favorite household chore. Perhaps it has something to do with all the stuff we space deprived New Yorkers cram under our beds, sofas, tables, desks, and- if all else fails- under nothing (just a huge pile-o-stuff in our living space).

I say this not from a pedestal, but from experience. I absolutely love mopping most of my floors, but when I get to my bedroom I often lose steam. Yesterday, I stopped to think about why I feel this way. I realized it's because I have to spend at least 5 minutes pulling under bed storage containers from beneath my bed, another 5 to 10 minutes dusting those damned things, and then another 5 minutes putting them back once I've cleaned under the bed. Ugh! Wouldn't it be nice to just be able to clean under the bed and be done?

Here is how I've attempted to tame the monster under my bed. These steps are based on those outlined in Laura Leist's book, Eliminate chaos : the 10-step process to organize your home & life. (Check out her book for yourself. It's available at the Brooklyn Public Library. Leist makes the home organizing process so easy to do and understand.)

  1. Identify goals. That's easy: Get this mess from under my bed!
  2. Identify what is under the bed. In my case it's two long containers of bath and bed linens, a long container of fabric scraps, a hair grooming caddy, a "toy" box, a container of random household crap and non-crap, a box of tools, a clothes drying rack, and a balled up Kleenex (ha!). 
  3. Dedicate time. I give myself from 8 to 10pm.  A nice clear deadline to hasten the decision making process.
  4. Gather supplies. Trash bags? Check! Dusting cloth? Check!
  5. Establish staging area. The area at the foot of my bed and the top on my bed works fine. I will not get up to put stuff in another room. I repeat: I will not get up to put stuff in another room.
  6. Sort. The good news is most of the stuff was already somewhat sorted by nature of being in well-organized containers. Well, everything except that scary box-o-stuff. Okay. Deep breath. I decide to sort the things by where they generally seem to belong-- bedroom, outside bedroom, trash, recycling, or free box.
  7. Purge. Some stuff is too meaningless or redundant to keep-- even shoved away under my bed. Imagine that?! This becomes amazingly clear once I see it all out in the open and sorted like this. Now is the time to get rid of all the things I don't need like a single mysterious white lace curtain (how did I even end up with this?) and a t-shirt I was planning to turn into leg warmers 5 years ago when I was obsessed with Generation-T (if it hasn't happened yet, it's not going to).
  8. Group like. Now that I know what I'm keeping I am going to pull the similar stuff together (towels with towels, sheets with sheets) so that I can store it together. So easy!
  9. Examine space. At this point, I am wondering where in my apartment to put this stuff that used to be under my bed. Three questions that help me find sensible places to put things:  A. Where will I use this? B. How will I use this? C. Where is there (or could there be) space for this? Using imagination when answering helps tons! Turns out my closet has a lot of vertical space that could be better used. Richard's nightstand really doesn't need to have our space photo frames in it, so that opens two shelves of space.
  10. Shop. I prefer to first scour my house for things that can be re-purposed or re-assigned. I find a blue mesh box that was my WTF Box (a holding zone for items I need to make a decision on). I'll make a decision on those items now. (Organizing fun leads to more organizing fun!) Now I can use the container to hold my purses, which were taking up valuable horizontal and vertical space when they were just swimming around on top of a low shelf divider in my closet.
  11. Install. Put the stuff in its new place! A container of towels goes in my closet atop my seasonal clothes storage box. The hair caddy-- complete with the blow dryer that was previously in a container with my towels (at one point it made sense), and container of useful household stuff all go on the newly-freed space in my closet. My purses are still in my closet, but better organized. Fabric scraps are go into a box with my other fabric scraps in my crafts area. My "toy" box goes in Richard's nightstand. The tools go into Richard's office, along with the other tools. The picture frames go into a box in my "kitchen attic".  Only one container of bed linens, along with the drying rack atop it, goes under the bed.
  12. Maintain. I'm super committed to keeping under my bed tidy. I promise to resist temptation! 

Purses, hair stuff, misc. home stuff-- I can get to & find everything!
Towel container sandwiched between laundry and off-season clothes. Not attractive, but it works.
Under bed, mostly clear. Lucy the cat's "secret" crawlspace is maintained!
Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 
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