Put it away. Deal with it.

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend! My sister was here for the weekend, and we packed a lot of visiting in, a cookout with friends, and other various activities. It was great and we are all worn out. The good kind of worn out, you know what I mean? I feel like I need a weekend to recover from the weekend, but here we are on Tuesday and the week is walking right on, so I may as well move along with it!

Anytime I come off a big weekend like this, there are a lot of extra things laying around my house. It seems that taking the weekend off does not bode too well for the status of my home. Today while I try to get us all back into the groove, I am focusing on one thing: put things back in their place. I often find myself picking things up and transporting them to other areas of the house before actually putting it away.

I grab a dish from the table and set it on the counter instead of just washing it right away. I pick up something from the bedroom, and set it on the dining room table instead of putting it away. I have even been known to walk by the same object in the hallway all day long, never stopping to pick it up and put it away.

Or, I have the opposite dilemma. I am going through some paperwork, see something I think I need to deal with, and immediately start working on that. Before I know it, I have forgotten what my original task was.

In either scenario, I have the same problem. I have failed to accomplish tasks that needed to be accomplished. There are two ways to go about putting things away and dealing with things in a timely manner.

Touch It Once

The basic idea of this principal seems rather obvious. You simply get in the habit of touching things only once. If you get it out, you use it and put it away. If you dirty something, you wash it. If you walk by something out of place, you pick it up and take it to its rightful home. When you check email, you respond, archive, or delete the email. Done. (Hmmm, I think I should practice that one a bit more.)

The essential part of this is just being aware. I find that when I am conscious of this throughout the day, there are fewer things to put away at the end of the day. Things do not get out of hand.

While in many cases this is the most productive way, sometimes it can actually make you lose time.

Deal With It. Later. (Or, the pile method)

If your house is large, you may lose time running across the house each time you need to put an item away. If there is paperwork involved, it may be better to sort and pile things logically. Then, later, you can focus on one thing at a time.

1. Take Action folder: I have one folder that I put any paperwork that needs to be dealt with in the near future. If I have stray papers, I put it there for my next available time to deal with business. When I have some time to work on that, I quickly go through it and pile things in logical piles. I put all the bills to be paid together in order to save me time. I use bill pay, so I can quickly pay all my bills at once. That is much more efficient than dealing with one bill, only to find out a few minutes later that I had another bill to pay.

2. Laundry basket: For stray objects around the house, using a laundry basket is one of the best things. If something does not belong in that room, throw it in the laundry basket. When you have a moment, take the laundry basket to another room and remove and put away anything from it that belongs in that particular room. Go from room to room in this way, and you will have things put away much more quickly and with fewer steps. If you have a two-story house, put everything that needs to go upstairs in the basket. The next time you go upstairs, grab and put all the the things away at once.

This is not just piling things to avoid dealing with it at all. This is making a conscious decision to put it in a place to deal with it later, in order to maximize your time.

How do you deal with your stuff? Do you touch it once, or do you pile it logically first? And, how was your Memorial Day?


  1. I love using a basket at the bottom of the steps for all those things that need to go up! :)

    • Johanna says:

      I love that you have a two-story house! I don’t know why, but that is on my list of ‘wants’ when/if we ever get a house. :)

  2. Thanks, Johanna! I needed this push today to get things back where they go after having company over the weekend too (okay, that wording was really awkward, but I’m too tired to fix it :-) ) And, I tend to use the logical pile method since we’ve been living in 2 story homes for the last few years. I also like to use a working file box that’s similar to your “Take action” folder. I got the idea a few years ago from a book on organization (can’t even remember the title right now or I’d give credit where credit is due). Anyway, the idea is to use a hanging file box or accordion file and put paperwork that needs to be dealt with in different folders with post-it tab labels so you can re-use the folders. Whenever you put something in a folder with a new post-it label, you immediately write on your calendar the day to take action on that item. When the day roles around, you complete the action on that item so you don’t have to deal with it again. It’s been really handy for non-bill, non-repetitive type items (for bills or other regularly repeated things, separate folders probably aren’t very efficient–just one folder for each of those types of things works). Anyway, don’t know whether that made sense, but it’s been a handy system for me.

  3. Glad you had a good time with your sister. I zone clean. I pick a spot and make sure everything in that area is picked up before getting distracted by everything else I need to do. This helps encourage me to keep going because at least one spot looks great.

    • Zone cleaning is a great idea…thanks for the pointer!

    • Johanna says:

      Zone cleaning! I do that when I am feeling completely overwhelmed with my house. I should do it more, though, because I often lose time going from one thing to another. Thanks for bringing that up. You are so right, the satisfaction of having one spot clean is great motivation!

  4. Great post for me today…we just said goodbye to our company a few minutes ago. I was a little too overwhelmed with the state of the house and not knowing where to start that I sat at the computer instead..hahaha!!!

    • Johanna says:

      Well, yay! You stopped at the computer and got some inspiration, so it was worthwhile! :) I am always a little overwhelmed right after company leaves, too.

  5. I’ve been trying a lot of what you talked about here. I’ve especially been working on the “Touch it Once” method, as the “pile method” has resulted in a house full of piles– some of them older than our youngest child. (Not that the pile method doesn’t have it’s place, and I certainly do use it. I just found that if a pile didn’t have a high priority to it, it just got lost in the shuffle). I also use the basket (or to be honest “pile”) in the stairs for things that need to go up or down. I remember my Mom using that method with us as kids, too. And, I have strategically placed totes and laundry baskets for toys that seem to struggle to find their way home.

    Our Memorial Day Weekend was nice, and I’m glad you had a good one, as well. We saw lots of family, also. And, our oldest (6 y/o) was in the Parade for the first time, so that was quite exciting :) Thanks!!

    • Johanna says:

      I agree! I use the pile method for some things, but you are so right. You have to be extremely careful to not let it get out of hand. Been there, done that. :)

      How cute that your son was in the parade! What a fun Memorial Day!

  6. Seeing as I’m your sister and you know me well…I don’t like this post! 😉

  7. josh gargalione says:

    When you are done with something put it away. This is the best way to clean. Its easier to maintain cleanliness than to clean up a weeks worth of mess.

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