Tuesday, July 5, 2016

{Organisation} 30 Chic Days – The Fourth Series: Day 28

Image from Aerin Lauder's Instagram

I love to find effective solutions to keep me on track with my goal of living a simple and beautiful everyday life.  I enjoy a neat, orderly and clean home but I don't want to feel like I can't relax or that I have to spend every spare minute tidying up.

Organising experts such as Peter Walsh and others always talk about keeping horizontal surfaces clear.  Basically, once you have lost control of a horizontal surface, you've lost control of your home.  Okay, that may sound a bit dramatic, but think of the difference it makes if you don't do anything more than clear off all tabletops, kitchen and bathroom counters and the floor, putting away anything that shouldn't be there.  Your home is instantly transformed!

It seems like it would be an easy thing to keep all tabletops, desks, kitchen counter and dressers clear on a daily basis only leaving on them what I want there, and it is.  I don't have to think 'the whole house needs tidying', I only need to tidy off the main surfaces and the whole room looks better.

Our dining table is right inside our front entrance so it's the first thing you see when you arrive home.  It's so nice to have a tidy tabletop with a vase of flowers and our placemats and coasters.  When I don't do this, the table can have on it headphones, iphone cables, magazines and newspapers, items to take to work... it's an endless list.

The same with our coffee table, it looks really nice with my tableaux of a set of trays on top of a decorative cloth, two vintage Penguin books stacked with a metal fleur de lys on top, a candle and my beloved Italian wooden miniature globe.  If I don't clear it each night we will have salt and pepper grinders, bits of salt and pepper scattered all over, crumpled napkins, a nail file, handcream...

My home office desk is the same.  When I come in to write, it's such a pleasure to have only my computer screen and keyboard, the lamp, pen holder and notepaper.  At other times, notebooks and notes can build up, blank cds, iphone or Kindle cables, a tea cup or glass.  I have a drawer for the cables and I always know where to find them (I keep my noise-cancelling headphones in there too), and the notebooks either are stacked neatly if I'm using them or are put where I find them handy.  They actually move around a lot - by my bed for journalling, in my office, in my bag to take to work.

My dresser upstairs with my makeup on top is another area that it's nice to keep clear and move away everything that is 'temporary' (and can end up sitting there for weeks).

There are many benefits to doing this daily, and as I notice items where they shouldn't be:

  • Daily tidies means nothing will get out of hand
  • It will bring me peace of mind
  • It looks nicer
  • It will flow into other areas of my life, showing areas I have been tolerating and am choosing not to address
  • I will know where to find things
  • Nothing will get forgotten or out of date (such as a letter that needs something doing by a certain time)
  • I will be showing care and appreciation for my home
  • It's a step in the direction of my ideal self
  • I am treating my home exactly as I would if it was my dream home in the country
  • It's a good habit to cultivate
  • It will be nice for my husband as well
  • He will probably do the same (it's usually me that leaves stuff lying around though)
  • It won't be embarrassing if someone pops around and our dining table is a mess of stuff

Do your surfaces stay clutter-free for long?  Are you constantly fighting a losing battle?  Looking around right now, what can you see that shouldn't be there?  Extra points for the funniest/strangest item!

I'll go first - I can see a toy mouse with the stuffing come out of it near our dining table on the carpet.  I am constantly putting the cat toys back into their basket because our girls love fishing them out and playing with them.  The craziest thing about this mouse toy though, is that I didn't buy it.  One of our cats brought it home one day so they must have stolen it from another cat's house.  I checked with the neighbour closest to us and it wasn't theirs... kleptocat!


  1. I love tidy surfaces but they are hard to achieve - I can be certain of one thing: the moment I put something down which doesn't 'belong', for example my handbag, the newspaper, car keys, on our hall desk, before long they will have been added to ... another set of keys, a tape measure, the post/mail ... and before long there's a whole raft of things needing putting away.

    Mind you, I don't want every the horizontal surfaces clear as Peter Walsh suggests - well, he's a chap and perhaps likes things totally clear (I've not yet read his book so I can't be sure on this!) whereas I like what the late designer, David Hicks, called Tablescapes: items which look attractive and nicely arranged. But there must also be space for tea and coffee cups and my reading or distance glasses.

    My desk is my own problem area - there is nothing there I do not need, but so many items which I do need, so for these I keep a large basket (an old Fortnum & Mason hamnper-style basket) and put most things into that, e.g. research papers for articles I'm working on, copies of letters to friends (until I think I don't need the copy!), magazines from which I need to remove my monthly articles and file them ... Indeed, I have two baskets, a miniature nest of drawers for stamps and Abel Labels (with address on to affix to envelopes, etc), a large disused mug (it has a crack in it) for pencils and pens, and a little freebie note rack from Farrow & Ball suppliers of paint and wallpaper) in which I keep note cards and envelopes. But there are then rulers, stapler, magnifying glasses, notepad, notebook, tissues, calculator, Sellotape ... But then I remind myself: this is a working office, provided I keep these things tidy, they are what one would expect to see in an office.
    I've not even embarked on the books that are in the office/study! That's another story!
    Margaret P

  2. I love this post! This is something I strive to maintain on a daily basis...but it is difficult with 10 and 11 year old boys in the house, especially now that they are home for summer. One of my sons is super creative and is always making projects in little corners of the house. I can never tell what is garbage and what is a key component to his inventions (toothpicks, batteries, Lego bits, straws..etc) We talked about how it is challenging for the family that his stuff is "invading" the living room, kitchen, bathroom...etc. He suggested he have an "in basket" in his bedroom. I'm free to put everything in his "in basket" if I'm tidying and he can sort through it later to determine what is a keeper and what can go. Ideally he would be putting these things in his own in-basket, but this is a baby step I suppose. I'll take what I can get!! It at least gives me a designated spot to move his clutter.

    I am loving your book so much Fiona....so much good food for thought and a fresh perspective on one of my favorite topics.

  3. PS I agree with The Wool Fairy, I am loving your book, too, Fiona. But things change with the generations - you advocate complimenting people, such as "you're looking well," or "that's a pretty dress" when a generation or three ago we were taught that it was rude to remark on a person's appearance, even if it was complimentary (it was perhaps thought that if we said someone looked nice today, that it would be assumed that they didn't usually look nice!) but I think today it's lovely to be told you are looking nice or a dress is pretty or a scarf or necklace looks great with the outfit you are wearing.

    Wool Fairy, I think that's wonderful that your son has suggested a basket for is bits and pieces - certainly a step in the right direction!
    Margaret P

  4. I am constantly working on clearing horizontal surfaces. The apartment looks better and is easier to dust. My dining table seems to collect papers and books. Tomorrow I have neighbours coming to visit so I will be clearing once more.

  5. Thank you for a great post ! Yes...I love a clean surface, and right now I am trying to get to that. I am always good about "cleaning up the desk" before bed, not letting things sit out on the coffee table, etc. - and my special pet peeve - getting everything out of the dish drainer and into the proper place. But I have just returned from a 10 car trip with my husband to to the American Library Assoc. Conference in Orlando, Florida. VERY much fun, great speakers, LOTS of free books, and I won an award which will give lots of new books to my school library. I picked up everything I thought my colleagues might find useful. For this reason we drove to the conference from Pennsylvania - so we could fill up the car! Then, we drove home slowly through the states on the coast looking at 55+ places to retire in a few years....picking up more flyers, books, floor plans, etc. Add to that all the backed up mail when we arrived home. EEEEEK ! I am attacking the clutter now - including getting a big bag of books to take into school today so I can "clear the decks". So yes, I agree with all you say about how it makes your day better, you can think clearing, and it is very freeing to have a clean, uncluttered landscape.
    Really enjoying your posts - thanks for a great site. OK..back to the clutter!!!

  6. David Allen, author of "Getting Things Done" and a well-known and respected personal productivity consultant, recommends that if a task takes less than two-minutes DO IT NOW! I have been trying to beat my horizontal surfaces into submission by following this rule for the last few months and it is amazing what a difference it makes!

    I am notorious for thinking, "I'll just set this letter/pen/cup/magazine/newspaper/octopus here for right now, and I'll put it away later." This is also my theory as to how Mt Everest came about, and apparently my home supports that theory. At least, until the Two-Minute Rule.

    I'm still not perfect, but it IS amazing how, when I ask myself "will it take less than two minutes to put this where it should go?" the clutter stays (mostly) away. I always think it will take longer than it really does to just deal with it in the present moment. On the other hand, a mountain of clutter to sort, file and otherwise deal with WILL take forever!

  7. Hi Fiona, thank you for another great post. I struggle with tidy because of my self-appointed role as the family historian/curator. It's the dark side of my love for the personal history that formed us. I upgraded my computer system this week and the first task was shifting 18" of stuff that had accumulated on the desktop. It filled 3 laundry hampers. I buckled down over the weekend and reduced it to one. I admit it is nicer to sit down to the cleared surface, but dealing with that last basket will be a beggar of a task. There are cartridges of old slides to assess and have digitalized, rolls of a crumbling poster-sized family tree that an uncle created (the info doesn't exist together anywhere else) and I don't know how to conveniently digitalize it for sharing. That single basket contains a year's worth of spare time needed. And that's one horizontal surface! I can think of 4 similar spots in the house. Flylady calls these "hot spots" and they are the main reason I drift away from the programmes she and Peter Walsh and their ilk all promote. Walsh in particular is a "throw it out" man. I'm so glad I don't have to live with him!
    I have too much stuff. I know it, but I love having not just a nice vase for a bouquet of flowers, but the perfect vase. It's probably one of Gran's. For me, I think the trick will be on keeping at the hot spots, so that their load doesn't become a permanent part of the landscape. The effort will release the reward trapped in the junk. Last Christmas, I gave my sister a copy of a home movie from our girlhood. It was her favourite gift. It cost $10 to have copied, once I found a local firm that could do the job. The whole family watched and rewatched that little film; Sis made it the focus of one of her most popular blogposts. What had been clutter for years was transformed by a little effort into a treasure that enriched us all.
    So, to end this long comment. For me, chic must lie, not simply in the spareness of a clear horizontal surface, but also in the disorder of an active and creative working space. A space that is drawing love and value out of overlooked material objects. Thank you for a thought- provoking post, Fiona. I think I'll take a few minutes to see what should be done with that family tree. A bientot!

  8. I dislike clutter....I find it makes me feel stressed so i am always picking things up and putting them away.
    You are wise to keep on top of things Fiona.
    it is a domestics day here in The Humble Bungalow and I am going to reward myself with a relaxing at home facial after I get my chores done.

  9. I'm currently dealing with several piles. When I get them cleaned up, it seems like more have materialized. Sigh. Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  10. Kleptocat, love it Fiona!
    My issue is untidy kitchen worktops. I have dreams about tidying them. Really!
    I find myself mentally clearing them when I go into people's houses.
    I cannot settle if I see a lack of a system, good workflow and general messiness on countertops.
    I sometimes offer to clear up after dinner at friends, just so that I can clean and subtly reorganise their worktops. It's kinda embarrassing!
    The thing is, I am not an obsessive cleaner or tidier. I am quite relaxed about housework. But I cannot control my need to tidy worktops.
    There. My truth is out!

  11. Dear Pouting (if I may call you by your first name),
    Please come visit me in coastal North Carolina (USA)! My surfaces have been waiting for you forever! We need you and will show you a great time. Give Southern hospitality a chance and my kitchen counters reason to live. Thank you for your consideration!
    Wistfully, Gail

  12. Margaret, I love tablescapes too, and I love that they are achievable for everyone - i.e. they can be very simple (in my own home for example), or quite complex marvels of design such as in home magazines.

    Wool Fairy, haha, that is so cute about your son and his treasures, and very clever of him to suggest an 'in basket'. I'm so glad you are enjoying the book :)

    Margaret, that's an interesting perspective and I can see how it would have been different with previous generations.

    Madame, yes, horizontal surfaces are veritable magnets for papers and books :)

    Ann, my pleasure and congratulations on your award! I love that you planned to drive rather than fly so that you could collect and bring back all your booty :)

    Gail, I like that advice too!

    Kerry, if all your possessions mean something to you and make you happy, then don't worry about the experts, it's your life! You're so right when you say that it takes effort to get the diamonds out of the clutter. That's what a lot of clutter-experts such as Fly lady and Peter Walsh say too, I think. Not so much to throw out everything, but to keep only that which is precious. The gems shine brighter when they are not surrounded by the stuff you don't care about. I too have struggled with stuff becoming part of the permanent landscape :)

    Hostess, me too, I find clutter and piles quite stress-inducing (low-grade stress, but it still affects your health).

    Grammy, you can do it!

    PP, yes, kleptocat! I do love your 'confession' about your ulterior motive when you offer to clean up after dinner. I'll bet you are a very popular dinner guest!

    Gail, haha, so good!

  13. Tidying makes everything right with the world again. It's such a good habit to get into and always makes me feel productive and pleased with my surroundings when I keep up with it.

  14. I agree, Stephanie, when I feel unsettled or restless, it's because there is 'stuff' around, just little bits here and there, it doesn't take much to affect us.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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