When I work with someone for the first time, we usually run into something I call the "Pivotal Object". If a client is eager to organize and get rid of their excess, they are usually pretty amenable to the idea that we need to dig in and make some decisions right off the bat. We'll be humming along, tossing old magazines or setting aside boxes of whiteboard markers for donation, when suddenly we uncover IT. This is the item that causes them to stumble, to look at me with the beginnings of "Oh s___!" dawning in their consciousness.
It can be something sentimental, or it can just be something that makes them feel foolish, either for wanting to keep it...or for even buying it in the first place. So the decision-making process slows, and we have to work through some baggage to get to the best resolution with questions such as: "How did you come to own this object? What does it mean for you? Do you feel good when you use it or look at it? Who do you associate with it? Do you have the space and the means to store it properly? When was the last time you used/remembered/thought about it? Does it help you to be a more successful you?"
They are often surprised (and relieved) that I suggest they keep this Pivotal Object. And I am surprised that they are surprised. I've had people ask me, "Do you keep things like this?" Well, of course. Organizing is not the same thing as pitching everything you own, after all. Once we've gotten over the hump with that initially uncomfortable decision, we usually make even faster progress.
So with that sentiment in mind, I proudly present to you some of the Pivotal Objects I Keep (along with my reasoning behind the retention, logical or not).
1. Category: Sentimental.
Item: The last birthday card my grandmother ever gave me.
She was the only one of my grandparents that I knew, and she passed the winter after my 18th birthday. Note that I didn't keep EVERY card my grandmother ever gave me. Frankly, I think that would lessen the importance of the one I did keep. It resides in my senior yearbook, and I do pull it out from time to time and smile.
2. Category: Sentimental/Practical?
Item: Our firstborn's first Halloween costume.
Somewhat practical, because it was also our secondborn's first Halloween costume. I think it is impeccably adorable, and I have visions of a future grandchild being carried around to a house or two (or maybe a fall festival) in it one day. See how much stress I will save the kids by providing them with a vintage costume that I'm sure NONE of the other stylish babies will have?
And because I plan ahead, anticipating the possibility that our two dear children will argue over this item, I have also kept...their second Halloween costume:
3. Category: Might Use This Someday.
Item: The book Day Hikes In Ventura County by Robert Stone (2nd Edition).
If I have an Achilles' heel in the acquisition department, it's books. I have a lot, and despite my resolve to utilize my local library regularly, I still get a little weak in the knees when I enter a bookstore. I have not visited Ventura County (where we used to live) in over 11 years, and some of the information may be out of date, but one day I'll go back. And I'll hike. Using this book.
4. Category: Have Space For It.
Item: A 24-pack box of wine glasses from Costco.
These have been used exactly twice in the 10 years we've owned them, and they rarely enter my consciousness from their spot on a dusty shelf in the garage. But when I have used them, they sure fit the occasion. No re-washing glasses right before dinner is served, no resorting to red plastic cups. Two important points about these glasses: I like them, and I have space to store them. And clearly, I need to have parties more often.
5. Category: Hanging On To Just-Because, With a Side Of Irrational Guilt.
Item: My taekwondo training bag.
This is perhaps the most troublesome of the POs for me. I used it a ton when I was getting ready for my black belt test, and now...almost five years later (sigh), it stands like a lonely sentinel guarding the north end of our bonus room. Over the years, it has served as an occasional corner post for indoor tent-making, as well as a handy way for anyone in the house to get some frustrations out. On the other hand, it is not attractive, is not getting regular use, and serves as a constant reminder that I gave up taekwondo shortly after the black belt. But because I think our son might want it someday (oh geez did I just type that?), for now it stays.
You can see that I am far from being a minimalist, but I do have an awareness of what I'm keeping, and why. I think that may make the difference (at least I'm telling myself it does). Is it clutter? Is it all in the eye of the beholder? What sorts of things are you keeping?
Are you an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of person? In other words, if the scissors, pens, screwdriver, whisk, brushes, or other tools you need aren't right in front of you, they might as well not even exist? For you, perhaps, putting things in a drawer means never seeing them again (and you end up going out and re-purchasing said things because you forget you already own them). And for you, perhaps, I have a solution: pegboard. It's not just for garages anymore.
I actually became re-enamored with pegboard recently when I helped a client organize their garage. This one already had pegboard installed - ceiling to cinder block - on every single wall. It was the walls, essentially. And when it came time to put away the items that were retained after our big purge, it was a piece of cake. All we had to do was shop for a variety of hooks, and everything from shovels to sleds to hoola hoops was hung up and out of the way. I had serious pegboard envy. It got me to thinking that this could be a great idea for many different items other than tools.
I'm SO not crafty...
I had an opportunity to test out my storage theory when I helped a very sweet lady make over her craft closet for an upcoming episode of Living Inspired (check out the show - it'll be premiering in September). She sent me pictures of her space, and as a cancer survivor, she loves to make pretty things to give to other cancer survivors and those going through treatment. She has a lot of pink in her craft room, for breast cancer awareness. She's also fond of butterflies. Hmmm. To say thank you for allowing us to invade her home for a whole day (cameras and all), I decided to play with a piece of pegboard and see what I could come up with to help her organize crafting items.
I must tell you, I'm not particularly talented in the creation department. I'm not very Pinterest-y, and although I own a hot glue gun, it generally collects dust in a labeled bin in the laundry room. But this project was unbelievably easy, even for a non-crafter like me. I made this thing up as I went along, but I think I lucked out...stay with me.
Materials: Pegboard, wood strips, glue, spray paint, pegboard hooks, Command™ strips.
1. Head to the hardware store. Select pegboard (at mine it came in 2'x4' or 4'x4'. Your mileage may vary). This stuff is really economical, too. Ask the nice hardware store person to cut it to the desired size.
2. Select spray paint. I went with a high gloss pink, because, you know, PINK. 4-5 coats did the trick.
3. You'll need something to make the pegboard stand out from the wall (so the hooks fit), so I used 1/2" x 1/2" basswood strips (available at craft stores) on the back of the board. I used a little wood glue and clamps to keep them in place.
4. Embellish as desired. This one got a little butterfly treatment.
And voila! I think it turned out pretty nice.
Pegboard for teenagers...
My DD thought so too, because when she saw it she immediately started campaigning for her own custom-designed pegboard. Hey - easy birthday gift! Here's hers:
Items include medals, markers, scissors, hair stuff, and keys. And yes, that's a dreamcatcher.
I hung ours up with Command™ picture hanging strips, but you could also use drywall screws to attach them. Much depends upon what you'll be hanging on your finished pegboard. Pots and pans? You might want to screw the board into at least one stud. Hair accessories or scarves? The Command™ strips will probably work fine (just check the package for weight limits).
What you hang is limited only by your imagination. Just think of whatever you typically have to rummage through a drawer to find. With the advent of pegboard accessories like little jars and trays, you can even put multiples of things like paperclips or buttons. It can work in an office space, pantry, workshop...you name it. Happy hanging!
(And hey, if you give this project a try, I'd love it if you shared your ideas below, or post a pic on the Facebook page).
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?