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How to put things where you won't lose them and other tips for naturally messy people

McKinley Valentine — 3 min read
How to put things where you won't lose them and other tips for naturally messy people
Photo by Jozsef Hocza / Unsplash

"If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it."

That should be its home, because that aligns with your natural instincts. (This piece of advice is from Recomendo, a newsletter that's just... recommended things. Sometimes advice, sometimes apps, sometimes products. I bought a really comfy pair of sandals on their advice as well. Subscribe here.)

My biggest disorganised-person tip is to make your systems work for your own idiosyncratic brain, instead of trying to get your brain to be sensible. Store your glasses in the fridge next to the milk if that's the only way you can stop losing them. Stop telling yourself you "should" be able to train yourself to leave them in the Sensible Glasses Spot.

Tip 2: Lots of small drawers (use drawer inserts or cardboard package boxes to make big drawers smaller). That way every category of item has its own drawer. My clothes drawers are all tiny. (If you have a wardrobe: put some cheap bookshelves in there and then put open shoeboxes on the bookshelves.) They have between 2 and 4 items in them each. So it's impossible to struggle to find something in a drawer, because I go to the tank top drawer, and there's two black ones and a grey one, and that's easy. Or the "midi skirts that work with tights" drawer (contains 2 skirts). And if you don't pull everything out of the drawer because you're in a rush, then you don't end up with clothes all over the floor, starting a messiness death spiral. (If your clothing messiness death spiral starts because of taking off clothes you wore that day, you need a basket or drawer just for those, in addition to a laundry hamper.)

It also means that putting your clothes away stops being overwhelming, because everything has an extremely obvious place it belongs. It's a no-brainer, so you can do it when your brain is not co-operating.

Tip 3: Label everything. I mean every container and drawer and jar.

It's basically about making a system that will work for you when you're incredibly tired and stressed, that is just an absolute no-brainer. When you're folding and putting away clothes - that's when you're at your most tidy-minded. (If you weren't, you wouldn't be folding clothes, you would be leaving them in the washing basket another day.) And your tidy mind likes things to look nice but really is terrible at imagining what it will be like for future rushed-and-stressed you.

This stuff has massive flow-on impacts. If your stuff is messy - you're late because you can't find stuff. You start getting dressed but you can't find the top that goes with that skirt, so you have to wear a different skirt and then figure out what top would go with it, and it quadruples the cognitive load of getting dressed. You break things because you step on them because you didn't see them. You don't exercise because you can't find your workout clothes, or when you do find them you realise they need washing. And each one of those mistakes makes you feel more stressed, and being stressed makes you clumsy and forgetful so you make more mistakes. You feel weird because you're not wearing what you originally planned to, and because you're focused on that, you forget to bring the Crucial Item you needed for work that day.

People who think unpunctual people are overly laid back and relaxed about time should see me in the 10-20 minutes before leaving the house. I imagine it's anxiety-inducing just to watch. I have an app on my phone that says the time out loud every 2 minutes to help keep me on track. (Speaking clock: recommended if you're easily distracted and have a poor sense of time. You can change the intervals.)

Tip 4: What would make it childishly easy for you? Like just really overkill (see above: labels).

Tip 5: “Get rid of things or you'll spend your whole life tidying up” — Marguerite Duras

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #90 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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