The tidiness issue was, for once, not mine; rather, it had to do with a bad habit of my daughter's. The three of us share one main bathroom, and so when she leaves her stuff out on the bathroom counter (as she often does when she's in a hurry), it creates a problem for everyone else who needs to use the space. Though she has a bin that belongs exclusively to her on the shelf in the linen closet, the various beauty products were not making it back into that space on a regular basis. But, oddly enough, everything that was stored in the bathroom drawer got put away with an acceptable degree of regularity.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it has everything to do with creating an organizational system around the style and habits you already possess. My daughter is not a slob (at least not most of the time). Her school things are in order. She cleans her room without being asked. Her spaces are usually reasonably tidy, and yet, when it comes to using the system I put in place in the bathroom, some days are an epic fail. Other days, she dumps her stuff onto the bottom shelf of the closet, one shelf below the bin meant to house her things.
So, let's take a look at the pattern that has emerged: Mom created the system. System is only
occasionally used. When it isn't used, stuff ends up on the counter (easy); in the drawer/on the counter (medium); in the drawer/in the "wrong" place in the cabinet (complex).
Solution? Move the bin to the default space. If she already dumps her stuff on the bottom shelf, why not put the bin there? Keeping the bin on the middle shelf only frustrates everyone and leads to a mess on the counter.
Basic organizational principle #1: House it where it makes sense. It's both fruitless and frustrating for me dig my heels in, remind her that I'm the parent and I've set up a perfectly good system, so why isn't she using it? (I know. I've tried). By simply moving the bin to where she automatically puts things, I've avoided an argument over something trivial (in the scheme of things) and created a solution.
This is not always possible. Putting an empty laundry basket in the middle of the living room floor because that's where your kids dump their stuff after school creates a new problem, not a solution. But, in the case of the neglected bin, the solution was both easy and obvious. Working with your style (or in this case, my daughter's style) creates the foundation of a system that will work not just for a few days or until the New Year's resolutions wear off, but for the foreseeable future.
As I finalize this post today (Wednesday), the new plan still needs a few tweaks since many things besides my daughter's bin are stored in the linen closet and moving one thing has created a domino effect. But when it comes to the stuff left on the counter, the new placement is working. I haven't had to nag her or clean up after her since I put the bin in the place where she naturally puts her things, so I'm happy to make a few more adjustments until we get the plan just right.
Basic organizational principle #2: Taking your personal and organizational styles into account when creating systems leads to long-term solutions, rather than temporary fixes.
to answer just that question.