Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Key to Organization - Margin

What is the key to keeping a house organized?

No, it is not a maid, though maybe that would work.

It is de-cluttering.

I can clean and polish but if I have too much stuff it will immediately become disorganized again. I like to think of this principle of home organization as margin.

We are all familiar with the margins on a page. The margin is the white space around the text which makes a book easier to read. A dictionary defines margin as "an amount beyond what is needed."

Somehow, by default, my home can become crowded with items. And just like a page filled to the edge with words, a house without margin is overwhelming. It is difficult to clean and impossible to keep orderly.

Just because I know this to be true doesn't mean it is easy to live. I enjoy organizing a closet, bookshelf, or drawer - fitting each item in a neat manner like a puzzle. But if I wedge them together closely, with no margin, the organization may not last a day.

Margin is the difference between crammed and comfortable, overload and order.

I can't expect my children to replace a book when the shelf is wedged so tightly with books that not even a magazine can squeeze in. And the art drawer is in a constant state of disaster when three items need removed to find the scissors.

It is easy for me to think that I just need more shelves, more containers, or some other organizing gizmo. But the real problem is that I have too much stuff. I have seen very tiny homes that are orderly because the homeowners limited their belongings to what would comfortably fit the space.

But margin never just happens. I need to plan and fight for it. The Scripture says to do all things "decently and in order." (1 Corinthians 14:40) And often it seems like an impossible goal.

I have a lot of room for growth in creating margin in my home. While deep cleaning these next few weeks, I'm planning to carry some items out of my home and create some more space.

(And no, this doesn't mean I'm getting rid of any of the mess-makers that reside in my house.)

Want to join me? I'd love to hear your hints on how to de-clutter your home.


  1. The warm fireplaceApril 28, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    I am with you on the de-cluttering, i find it helpful to remove all the things that are not needed and have boxes ready one for charity, recycle and keep/re home, after living here for 27 years and most of the children gone we have decided to go through each room/loft/shed/garage and have a good sort out, it will save so much time in cleaning and for my husband time looking for tools etc outside if all is in order. Thank you for the verse from 1 Corinthians, it will help me with all the hard work of sorting through so many years of memories.

  2. I started on the upstairs today(I mentioned it yesterday),but we were surprised by an old co-worker of my husbands. It was nice because they are both retired now. I hope to get back at in the morning..I wanted to accomplish more today,but I think the visit did hubby good. He retired in August and the change has been taking some getting used to! I like your idea of margins. I like all things to be neat and orderly..with margins!

  3. I can relate here on so many levels.My home is suppose to be a place of comfort and yet somehow it overflows with stuff...Last year due to a huge family crisis, I downsized. We went from a 5 bedroom/3 bathroom home to a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home. Prior to the move I was determined to get organized and decluttered. So as I started going through things, I asked myself: Have I used/worn this item in the last year. The things I hung on to were books and craft items. This even works in the kitchen. We often accumulate things were not using in the kitchen.

  4. I recently deep cleaned my home. It's amazing how "relieved" I am from not having so much stuff around. As we are in the process of remodeling our home, I've decided this time around to only bring in things that are functional and bring us joy. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Shontele TorkelsonApril 29, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    I'm all ears! We have baby #5 coming this summer and our house is small now! I love to organize but like you said you can organize all day long and if you have to much stuff it doesn't last! I've been purging things but at the same time there is just a certain amount of stuff needed for 7 people, Plus a large extended family who visit often. My best advice is labels...totes, small drawer units etc...if I send a child to find,or put something away things stay neater if they know where it is or needs to be put back at.

  6. For serious accumulation, attack each closet or cupboard or room with four labeled boxes in tow: 1)Arrange Here, 2)Put away elsewhere, 3)Give away (or yard sale) and 4)Throw away.

    You may need a fifth. My aunt used to stow what she didn't use but wasn't ready to part with, in a box or boxes. She dated and taped the boxtop and put the whole thing out of sight. If two years passed and the tape was still intact, out the door went the box, hauled away to Good-will--without looking inside.

  7. I don't like being crowded with stuff so we keep things pretty sparse. It helps to have a dry basement with plenty of storage and a 3 car garage also with storage. Lots of storage is great but you have to make sure it is not just being filled with things you don't really know what to do with.

    Have you read the book MARGIN by Richard Swenson? We heard him speak at a conference about 15 years ago.

    I don't have any hints except that I don't like to shop so I am not acquiring things ...I like to use family things that have been around for years.

  8. It's spring cleaning time at my house so I am in the purging mode. Clothes don't get me, knick knacks don't get me, kitchen gadgets don't either.....it's BOOKS! How many books do you own, and how do you downsize/get rid of books?


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