How to Create Systems

This is the second article in this Sustainable Systems series.  For the first article, You’ll Never Be Organized Unless You Can Create Systems, click here.

What can Systems Do for You?

office-deskAs a Holistic Professional Organizer, I help my clients learn what I had to learn myself 25 years ago: how to create systems for running a home efficiently.

The word system comes from the Latin systema, which means a set of interacting and independent components forming an integrated whole.  It derives from the more ancient word sunistemi, a verb denoting union.

When you create efficient, effective systems for your home, it’s like you are setting up your home to be what I call your “success partner,”  and your home is then able to serve the full measure of it’s creation.  I believe our homes can do more than shelter us and provide structure for our activities.

When you have systems in place, your home will support you to live your dreams, to become the most successful versions of yourself.

How to Create Your Systems

When you create systems for your home, you deliberately decide:

  1. the functions you want each room to fulfill (e.g., meal prep in the kitchen)
  2. each step of those functions (e.g., mixing, cooking, baking)
  3. the equipment you need to support each step (e.g., pots, pans, bowls)
  4. the most efficient way to arrange the items for best work flow

You’ll need to create a system for every household task.  When I had my systems in place, I found I didn’t need all those built-in storage units I’d been dreaming about!

Below are some highlights from some of the systems I created in the early 80’s that I’m still using today:

  • Meal Prep: We clean as we prepare the meal, so that by the time we eat, the counters are clear.
  • Dishes:  We use the left side of the sink for dirty dishes, the right side of our double sink serves as a place to drain and dry everything we wash by hand.  When we start the dishwasher, we flip the “Dirty” card magnetically clipped to the front of the dishwasher to the “Clean” side, and we all take turns emptying the clean dishes.
  • Laundry:  We installed shelves and hanging rods in the laundry room.  Dirty clothes go into the laundry basket in our closet.  Once a week, I gather up the empty hangers, put them on top of the dirty clothes and carry the basket to the laundry room.  After sorting, washing and drying the clothes, I pull them out of the dryer and hang or fold them immediately.  Delicate items hang dry.
  • Bathrooms: I keep old washcloths under each sink, along with spray cleaner.  Each evening and morning when I use my sink, I wipe it down with the washcloth.  Each bathroom gets a complete cleaning once a week.
  • Our Bedroom: We own the most luxurious bed linens we can afford, and I love to walk into our room when the bed is made, so I take a few minutes each morning to create that loveliness for myself!

About Storage Containers

You’ll notice that buying lots of storage containers is NOT part of creating your systems.  I’ve seen people spend hundreds of dollars on plastic bins they didn’t need once we’d de-cluttered and created their systems.  I’ve also seen people spend thousands of dollars on built-in shelving and garage systems to store items they really didn’t use or need.

To save your money, I recommend against buying storage containers until after you’ve:

  • completely released everything you don’t use, need, and love
  • gone through the 4-step Creating Systems decision process above

I’ll share more about when and where to buy storage containers in my next blog post.  If you’d like my expertise as you create your systems, I’m offering a special $200 May Savings on my Mess to Success HomeStudy course.

  1. Find out more:
  2. Click to register and, in the Coupon Code box, type MaySavings to receive this $397 course for only $197… only until May 31!

You’ll Never Stay Organized if You Can’t Create Systems

Having a “Place for Everything” Doesn’t Keep You Organized!

closet-newYears ago, when I was getting rid of clutter and trying to get our home organized, the quote “have a place for everything and everything in its place” was the only organizing advice I could find.  So, it became my motto.

Our family had grown quickly: at age 21, I had our first child.  When she was in kindergarten, our fourth child was born.   Baby clothes, cloth diapers, toddler toys, Big Wheels, puzzles, dolls and trucks filled each room—and the garage, which also included the baby carriage, folding stroller, picnic basket, pool toys, soccer balls, and bikes with training wheels.

At first, I believed that if I could just buy enough bookshelves, cupboards, dressers and file cabinets, my organizing dilemmas would be solved.  I would have “a place for everything!”

I dreamed of being able to line the walls in the garage and family room with built in shelves and cupboards and drawers.

Thank goodness I couldn’t afford built-ins—because more storage wasn’t what I needed!

I Needed Systems!

At a parenting conference I found a brochure about organizing that explained systems, and I began to realize that I lacked a system for all my routine tasks:

  • laundry
  • dishes
  • cleaning the house
  • washing the diapers
  • tidying up toys
  • preparing meals

The biggest reason why my home was chaotic: I didn’t have a system for any of these routine tasks.  Before children, I’d been able to get everything done in my own meandering “when-I-feel-like-it” way.  But when my life got crazy-busy, that didn’t work.  After a sleepless night up with a sick baby, coming downstairs to dirty dinner dishes and a toy-strewn kitchen, with unfolded laundry on the table was a depressing start to my day.

The Business Dictionary defines a System as “a set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.”  I needed to start thinking of running my household like a business, with a system for each activity.

If you want to learn more about creating systems, stay tuned for more of my of Blog posts and make sure you’re signed up for my email newsletter.  I’ll be covering systems each week during the month of May!

Connecting The Dots: The Relationship Between Clutter and Emotion

itsnotthestuff_postIt’s more than just “the stuff” that’s the problem

If you have physical clutter in your home, you’ve probably experienced what I call “mental clutter.”  You’re so distracted by the piles, especially when you can’t find what you need, that it’s harder to focus and get things done.  


You may also have what I call “emotional clutter.”  You might feel shame, sadness, or depression because the rooms you live in don’t reflect your ideal.  These emotions sometimes correspond to negative emotions you felt during childhood.    


Here’s the truth:  physical, mental, and emotional clutter go together.  


And, their relationship may not be what you think.  Most people assume that they feel the shame and hold the limiting beliefs BECAUSE of the clutter.  But, it’s more complex than that.  


As Within, So Without

You see, the reverse is also true:  we have clutter because we’re holding onto limiting beliefs and negative emotions.  


In ADDITION to CAUSING mental and emotional “clutter,” the physical clutter is a mirror for that inner stuff we’re holding onto that isn’t serving us.  It’s a white flag waving, calling our attention to something that needs to be integrated and healed within.


What if the Clutter is Serving You, Somehow?

What if the clutter in your home is like a cold, trying to alert you, to motivate you to better self care?  


Experience teaches us that if we push our bodies too hard, ignoring it’s cries for help, the physical symptoms will intensify and become more serious. 


Perhaps the clutter in your home is trying to get your attention in a similar way.  


In my experience, it’s WAY harder to get rid of the physical clutter until you become aware that it’s trying to serve a powerful purpose for you.


My clients who are ready and willing to look squarely at this cause/effect and effect/cause between inner and outer clutter ALWAYS get their de-cluttering done faster, with more ease and grace.


What might your clutter be trying to get you to see? Tell us in the comment below or share your thoughts with us on our Transforming Space Transforming Self Facebook Page.