Monday, October 19, 2009

A Finite Number

Sometimes when I am taking people through the organizing process, they want to know how many of something they should have. The answer is a finite number. ( A definite number. Not infinite. In other words it could be measured, or given a value.) The quantity can be determined easily depending on the item in question. Enough math, already? Not quite yet. Just set a quantity that gets you through the wash cycle, a quantity that fits in the allotted space, and is in good condition. Here are a few of the items people have asked me about in the last few years.

Coffee cups are one of those cupboard breeders that left unchecked can fill several shelves in a few years. I find teacups that came with the set of dishes, gifts, commemorative, and themed coffee mugs stacked high in the back. Start with your favorite cup- most of us have one, and set that aside. Then ask yourself how many times will you drink a hot beverage until you do the dishes or run the dishwasher. One day? Three? Multiply times the number of people in your household drinking coffee and there is the number. Choose the ones without chips or cracks because you can do better. So it turns out that you really don't need thirty mugs. If thirty people come over for hot chocolate, odds are you will use disposables.

Underwear - just dump the drawer out. Weed out those that are stretched, torn, holey, stained, and don't fit, and toss them. How often is laundry day?- Even washing every two weeks, that is fourteen pairs. Give yourself a few more if it is worn under a particular outfit like shapewear or thongs. Even if you went on a three week vacation, you would most likely do laundry at some point.

Magazines- God bless Oprah Magazine for running an ad lately that asked people to recycle magazines. (Reuse, of course, is better so share with an art teacher, doctor's office or other waiting area). People save piles and piles because they haven't read them and they believe they must read them. The simple truth is if you had the time to read a few magazines at 100 pages per issue, you would have by now. After a while, the pile grows and now you have read 1500 pages or more. More homework? Be reasonable with yourself. Tear out the pages of extremely important information like recipes, and articles on organizing and file them away. Set a quantity rule like three issues per title and keep the piles in check.

The same principles apply for the other things that fill your cupboards, closets, drawers and cabinets. You only need a finite number of staplers, and other office supplies, cords and cables, toys, magazines, sheets, holiday decorations, greeting cards and craft supplies. Toss. Donate. Recycle. Never lose the function of your spaces because you have too many of anything.