Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live everyday with less clutter and more life. We’re in the midst of a series. It’s basically, “How do I?” I’ve got Tonya Kubo here, who’s our fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy and Clutter Free for Life. Hey, Tonya!
Tonya – Hey, Kathi!
Kathi – So, she’s asking me the most frequently asked questions over at Clutter Free Academy. So, this is number three in the series, so let’s do it.
Tonya – So, this one is, “How do I know where stuff goes?”
Kathi – So, this isn’t the most frequently asked question at Clutter Free Academy. This is the most frequently asked question from Tonya Kubo.
Tonya – Maybe?
Kathi – So, go into this. Where’s the struggle?
Tonya – Other people ask it too. So, for me, I’m pretty honest with our listeners in that, I grew up in a studio apartment, with a mother who was a hoarder. So, when you live in 500 square feet, there’s not a lot of places for things. Then, when you live with a hoarder, there is stuff everywhere. I have lived in homes, since then, of varying sizes, but I really struggle with figuring out where things should go. What makes sense? So, I have a tendency to move things around a lot. Nothing ever seems quite right. Yet, when I go to other people’s houses, I don’t seem to have this problem.
Kathi – Okay, but you’re not trying to accomplish things in other people’s houses, for the most part.
Tonya – For the most part, but I can stay with somebody for a couple of days and go, “Oh, this is where the cups go. This makes sense.”
Kathi – And you’ve stayed here at The Red House quite a bit. You’re able to find your way around here. So, have you ever worked in a restaurant?
Tonya – Just in the front of the house.
Kathi – So I align a well-organized house with a well-organized kitchen. The flour always goes in the same place, but it’s figuring out where that goes. Here’s what I know about cluttery people. We are creative, so we’re always trying…
Tonya – To recreate the wheel.
Kathi – Yes. We always want to do something new. We always want to be innovators. We want to come up with the solution that makes the most sense and is going to change our lives. We’re the people who buy the air fryers, even though we don’t really know what they do. We do all those things. So, we tend to not want to stick with a system, ‘cause we’re always trying to find the short cut; the easy way. That kind of thing. So, I want to talk a little bit about ‘how do we do this?’ So, when you were struggling with “Where does something go?” my first question is, “Where will it be used?” We just talked about oil, so explain that.
Tonya – So, I lived in an older home, so I have some cabinets, but I don’t have a pantry, so we bought a pantry. But the only place for the pantry is clear across the kitchen. Almost not in the kitchen any more. In my brain, all the food belongs in the pantry. That’s where food goes. But that’s 20 steps, 30 steps away from where I cook.
Kathi – Let’s also say, you are on DEFCON 3 right now, when it comes to cooking. Explain that.
Tonya – So, I have a daughter with food allergies, so we have to cook 90% from scratch.
Kathi – Roger would starve. I’m just going to let you know. If I had to cook 95% of my stuff from scratch, it would be bad around here.
Tonya – We’ve all lost a little bit of weight. Not going to lie. We’re working on it. Part of it is a space thing. If I buy oils at Costco, they’re too tall to fit in the cabinet that’s by the stove. So, I’m doing a lot of back and forth. I’m grabbing a lot of specialty flours, a lot of specialty oils. I do have a lot more stuff in my kitchen than I’m used to.
Kathi – I’m on a new eating plan, too. First of all, the stuff is expensive, and there’s a lot of it.
Tonya – Amen.
Kathi – A couple of things. One of the questions I like to ask is, “Where will it be used?” Yes, it’s in your kitchen, but it’s not convenient. I’ll tell you, I’ve had my own issues with oils. Because we have a lot of people here at The Red House, we buy the Costco olive oil. First of all, there’s no place for it in my kitchen. Also, the Costco one costs as much as the Safeway one, but it’s ten times as big. So, one of the things I’ve done is, I’ve got a little place. I’ve got a few oils in my kitchen, but what I’ve done is, I’ve got a squeeze bottle for that oil. First of all, I love using a squeeze bottle for my oil. That makes all the difference in the world. I’m putting it in a smaller container that works for me. Now, I don’t care that I store my oil out in the garage. Why are you laughing hysterically?
Tonya – Kathi, this is the perfect illustration of the challenge of most of us with clutter. It has never occurred to me that I could put something in a container different than the container I bought it in.
Kathi – Fascinating.
Tonya – It’s like, if I buy the oil at Costco, it has to stay in the Costco container. So, frequently, I will spend the money to buy the tiny little Safeway one, because that fits in my cabinet. The idea that there’s someplace that sell squeeze bottles never crossed my mind.
Kathi – Amazon. I’ll put the link in here.
Tonya – I’m not trying to be ridiculous. I promise I’m not overplaying this. This is not rehearsed. This is the truth.
Kathi – No today, when you were saying “What’s in your see through container?” I’m like, “Oh, that’s the shake you gave me.” You were like, “Oh. I’ve never taken it out of its container.”
Tonya – Do you know how annoyed I get with all those resealable zipper bags that have to sit on the top and they’re ugly and they fall over and they spill powder on your head? It has never occurred to me that I can put them in a different container.
Kathi – That’s so interesting. The oil thing has been new for me within the past five years.
Tonya – You’ve changed my life. I want to type this out, but I’m trying to be focused on the conversation.
Kathi – So I need the right size, right where I am, doing the thing. So, I have oil, salt, and pepper right where I need it to be, but the refills are in an inconvenient location, but they’re not as inconvenient as Costco. So, that’s how I like to think about it. I don’t have to keep all those giant containers within reach, but I will have everything I need within reach.
Tonya – Okay.
Kathi – Yay! I’m glad I could change your life.
Tonya – I’m stupefied.
Kathi – Here’s the other thing. When you are in the middle of cooking, and you’re like, “The thing that I need is not here.” Think about, “Is there somewhere I could put this so it would be right here?” I love a little tray that I can put my oil, my salt, my pepper, that kind of thing on, so it looks cute in my kitchen, but it’s not the giant thing. So, I think about it that way. The dog collar. Where do you keep the dog collar? We have a special dog collar because Moose is a runner and we have 32 acres.
Tonya – That’s a lot of running.
Kathi – Please do not call the SPCA. We have a buzz collar. We have never buzzed her once, but it makes a little beeping sound when we say, “We want you to come back.” So, we have a little bowl where we keep our keys and our buzz collar, so we know where it’s at all the time. I also have little jars of treats around the house, because we’re trying to train her. So, it’s like, “Where do you keep the treats?” Well, I have a treat bucket that’s put away, but I have little containers of treats throughout the house in cute little containers, so things are where we use them. That’s my most important criteria.
Tonya – Right. So, we’re here at The Red House together, and I’m just looking around your kitchen as we’re talking. You have dishtowels. Now, I remember, this was one of those life-changing things for me, the first time I came here. You have a basket, to the left of your stove that has all your dishtowels. Often times, you’re at the stove and you get your hands dirty and you need to wipe them off. Now, you could keep those in a drawer across the way, but then what mess would you make?
Kathi – Most times, I keep a dishtowel on the oven, so it’s right there. I also keep all of our hot pads and that.
Tonya – Yeah. Potholders. Everything is right there, where you would typically need to use it.
Kathi – Right. So, I try to keep things right where I’ll use them, then, the backups are in the inconvenient locations. Either our pantry, which is in our laundry room, or we have a bigger pantry in the garage. Like we said, we have retreats here and if we get snowed in? We always have to have two weeks’ worth of food here. It’s not even an option.
Tonya – That’s just your reality.
Kathi – Okay, so the first question is: Where will it be used? With the asterisk of, “You can put it in a smaller container.” That’s okay. The second question is: Where is my first impulse to find it? So, where would I go looking for the salt? Where would I go looking for my blue jacket? Where would I go looking for the extra garbage bags? So, the garbage bags, for a long time, I kept them in a pull out drawer underneath our stairs. But I realized I used them in the sink, so I have now moved them over to the sink. It takes me about a year to really figure out a house. I haven’t spent a year here, yet. We’ve only spent portions of a year. You are allowed to make the house work for you. I think some people find it surprising that we have all of our glasses over on a different wall in our kitchen than right by the sink, or right by the fridge. Here’s the thing: I keep two mugs and two glasses right conveniently located for me and Roger. That’s all that lives here 90% of the time. Then, I keep the bulk of them someplace else. It seems a little weird, but the first place I would look is in the cupboard by the sink. That’s where we keep a lot of our short term things. So think about, “Where would be my first impulse to look for scissors?”, “Where would be my first impulse to look for my glasses?” those kind of things. Then, my third point, and I think that this really important: Label everything. So, make it a giant kindergarten room. I’ve got labels on the insides of all my cupboards, so that people know where things are. Now, there will be some people in your family, (you know I love him, Roger) who it doesn’t matter that I’ve had the scissors in the same place in this house since we bought it. I’ve had a label there that says, “Scissors”. Every day I get asked where the scissors are. I love him deeply. So, you label things. Here’s the thing: If you don’t want to label it, ‘cause “I’m not 100% sure this is where it’s going to go until Jesus comes back.” I want you to label it anyway. Labels are cheap. You can pull it off and you can move that label someplace else, if you decide that you need to do it.
Tonya – So, really, what you’re saying is, I could make the wrong choice.
Kathi – I want you to make the wrong choice. About 25% of your choices are going to be wrong and I want you to have the freedom to say, “This didn’t work. I’m going to go try something else.”
Tonya – I’m just going to believe you on that one.
Kathi – One hundred percent. This is how I did it the entire time the kids were growing up. “I’m going to try something here. I’m going to commit to it for a month…two months.” But if I’m like, “Oh, no. It shouldn’t be here, it should be over here.” I can only make that decision after I’ve committed to that one spot. You don’t believe me.
Tonya – No. What you don’t realize is that my whole life is playing like a movie in my brain right now. So, I’m going, “Oh, Abby, who’s five, would love that, because that fits with how her classroom is organized at school.”
Kathi – Right. Exactly.
Tonya – Abby is a systems person. It’s very hard for her when things are different, in different locations. It’s hard to have different rules at home than there are at school. It’s hard to have different organization systems at home than there is at school. So, I think of how much she would appreciate having a label, even if she can’t read. I can put a picture, right?
Kathi – You can put a picture.
Tonya – And she would know where things went.
Kathi – Right. I think that is so important for kids to have a sense of stability in their house. It’s important for adults, too. One of things we just did: On top of our fridge we have this bowl. It’s got tomatoes on it, and peppers and everything. It’s a big bowl. For a long time, what was making me lose my Jesus on a regular basis is, we’d go to Costco. We’d buy the thin pretzels. Roger would take some thin pretzels, then I had the backup bag, ‘cause we were having people over, so we had the backup bag. He would open the fresh bag while the other one still had 3/4ths of the content in it. Nothing makes Jesus weep more than two open bags. So now, when a bag gets opened, it goes on top of the fridge.
Tonya – So now you know where the open bag is.
Kathi – I know where the open bag is. Roger knows where the open bag is. Now the world knows where the open bag is.
Tonya – It’s on top of the fridge, guys.
Kathi – Right, so you better check the top of the fridge before you go opening a brand new bag. It’s just simpler to have those systems in place so it reduces our decision fatigue. If I know the scissors go in the same place in the drawer, I don’t have to decide every day “Where is the best place for the scissors?” The best place for the scissors is the place where we’ve designated. We can do that every single time. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single day.
Tonya – Alright. This is good.
Kathi – So, guys, to recap. One, figure out where it will be used. You can do smaller containers. You can do whatever is going to make it work for you. Number two: Where’s my first impulse to find the thing? Number three: Put it in the wrong place. You get to make the decisions, even if they are bad decisions. If you don’t decide, you can’t change the decision. If you make a decision, you can change a decision.
Tonya – I like that.
Kathi – Okay, so I want to know what our listeners’ biggest struggles is where to put things. Is it kitchen items? Is it office supplies? For two of you, we’re going to send you a copy. We’re going to randomly choose from those comments and we’re going to send you a copy of the Get Yourself Organized Project. That’ll be fun. Some people do not have that book. We want them to have that book, because it helps you with all those systems. Tonya, thank you for asking the good questions.
Tonya – Well, thank you for answering the good questions.
Kathi – I can change your life. I love that.
Tonya – Is it rude to just pull up Amazon right now?
Kathi – No, I think you can do that. We will put that in the comments, and we’ll put it with an affiliate code, so a little bit of that money goes to support this podcast. People have asked how they can support the podcast. Clicking on the affiliate links really helps. Guys, thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.