Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Organization Games

I'm not a big fan of household chores. I do what I need to do to keep things running, but tend to put straightening things up near the bottom of the list. Consequently, I tend to tidy in spurts, and in sneaky little ways.

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Last week's magazine-a-day campaign is a perfect example of one of those sneaky little tricks. The magazines were (once again) taking over more than their fair share of space, so it was time to take action. The action I chose to take was hardly efficient (get rid of one magazine a day for a week), but it worked. In retrospect, I realized that I used the basic behavioral principle of pairing a pleasurable task (reading the magazines) with a necessary one (reducing the clutter). When it comes to theories, behaviorism isn't one of my favorites, but I have to admit that in this case, it worked. By the end of the week, I'd gotten rid of eight magazines -- painlessly -- and jump-started the desire to keep going. I'm aiming slightly lower this week (reading all those magazines took a bite out of my book-reading time), but hoping that going deeper into the pile will mean uncovering outdated issues I can toss without reading.

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One of the women in the organizing class I taught last spring has an even better system -- her junk mail never makes it into the house. She picks up the mail and sorts it in her garage, dumping the junk before she even walks into the house. Lacking a garage, I've never been able to adopt that strategy, but am working to adapt it instead, sorting the mail immediately instead of dropping it onto to a pile and moving on to the next thing on my list. Because I am by nature a drop and run kinda girl, this is more challenging than it sounds.

This drop and run style often leads to more than just magazines and mail piling up, and has served as -- ahem -- inspiration for another one of my pick-up tricks. Since much of the clutter in my house tends to accumulate on my dining room table, which is centrally located on the first floor of my house, I use a simple strategy of picking up one thing and putting it away each time I pass the table. Simple. Easy. Immediate reinforcement.

Oops. There's that sneaky behaviorism again.

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While adopting the Nike slogan ("Just do it!") would probably make things happen a whole lot faster, my silly little methods end up making an unpleasant task more pleasant. I'm sure my naturally organized
friends -- the ones I've affectionately dubbed "Type A Organizers" -- are shaking their heads at my silliness as they sip their iced beverages in their spotless houses, but the rest of you -- the ones, like me, who struggle to keep up with the clutter that seems to be an inevitable part of life -- know just what I mean.

Please, join me in the games. And if they work at your house too, please let me know by commenting below or contacting me on Facebook. I'd love to hear about it.

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