Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making a Treasure Chest

He says

Hoy! Me Hearties! Let's make a treasure chest!

Sorry, couldn't resist a little pirate nonsense. Pirates and Buccaneers were not reputed to be the most hygienic of lots, but they did have a reputation for collecting what's important and putting in a safe spot. I've found that a good practice to emulate in organizing a house too.  

When you have many people living in a house, it has a tendency to get cluttered with all kinds of stuff. One of the great challenges in cleaning is having or finding a place for that stuff. Sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of a day is always made easier when you have a place for things. 
  • Books in a case 
  • Keys on a hook 
  • Hats on a shelf 
  • Spoons in a drawer 
  • You get the idea
That being said there are just some things (a lot of some things if you have kids) that just don't have a place. 
  • Party favors
  • Random game parts 
  • Little cute things you just can't throw out 
  • Beads 
  • Dominos
  • Marbles
What to do with all this stuff? If you kept it all, it would eventually overrun your house. If you throw it all out, there's a good chance you'll be kicking yourself when you remember what that little bronze screw was actually for ... or your spouse does. 

My self imposed solution for items like this is to create a treasure chest. Making a treasure chest is one of those sow's ears into a silk purse kind of cleaning techniques. It gives you a place for things that don't have a home and keeps them under control. Think of it as the island of misfit toys for household junk.  

I use a small box or basket, no bigger than a medium sized moving box, to collect these items. I never let the contents of the treasure chest exceed it's size. When you reach the brim, it's time to rethink the contents and discard with the oldest members. When you can't muster the gumption to do this yourself, it's time call a family cookie, milk and treasure sorting meeting. 

These events are best saved for a rainy day or cold winter night. I find it's best to set rules for a treasure sorting meeting: 
  • Everyone can pick a certain number of items for keeps. 
  • Eye patches and rubber parrots are encouraged. 
  • The remaining items get sorted into two piles: keep and discard. 
  • Every member of the party gets one veto. 
  • Every member of the party gets one override. 
You can also use the party to decorate the treasure box with crayons, stickers, paint, etc... it's your party. 

I've included a picture of our current treasure box and some of it's contents. Please feel free to share your own treasure sifting, hunting, partying experiences here. I'd be interested to know what you think. 

Good luck buccaneer!

She says

My husband is a rare breed of man who organizes meticulously. He can sort heroically through piles of mail, laundry, debris, insurance claims, you name it, and all with infinite patience and marked expertise.  When he is done, everything is reorganized, cross categorized, and exceptionally efficient.  So much so that he is the only person who can find anything in our house.  

When we first started dating I would jokingly call him the 'loser', because I could never find anything once it fell into his hands.  He indignantly reminded me that he is a 'finder', the one who can find anything.  This is true, because he is the only one who knows where anything is, ever.

"Honey, where's the 12 containers of dish detergent I ordered? Oh, on the third floor where we have no plumbing/2 flights from the kitchen?  At the top of the closet where I can't reach without a fire ladder? OK, thanks."

On the other hand, if left to my own devices I would eventually drown myself and my family in the inevitable mess I leave in my wake.  I am the kind of person who puts the old milk back in the fridge and opens the new one without pause.  It is not unusual to find catalogs from 2005 by my bedside table.  I have no problem buying new underwear when I run out of clean unmentionables.  

When it comes to organizing, I am great at solutions, horrendous at maintenance.  I can take apart a closet like nobody's business, but it will all have shifted into a state of entropy three days later.  This dynamic is OK with me, but it makes my poor husband crazy.  He walks around muttering and in disbelief that I am not going to put the whatever it is today away right now, that I can happily let it go a while longer.  

Sometimes I give in and even clean pre-emptively before he comes home.  The kids take it apart 10 minutes later, leaving me with a sense of futility as well as anxiety for husband's well being.  That is when I go to my room, open the computer, and play Bejeweled Blitz for a while.  I am not much of a gamer, but I really enjoy blowing things up after days like this.  

And so his catch all solution is a great idea for us not just because it is simple, fun, and creative, but because I don't have to throw anything out and he can't be blamed for losing things.  It's really the perfect solution for us. I also love how earnestly my wonderful husband writes about his idea - he really tries so hard to make our house a home, shelter from the storm.  He is the most valuable jewel in our treasure box. 

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