One of my five basic organizing principles is “Keep like with like”. In my clients’ homes, I see over and over again what happens when this principle is violated.
I often hear the anguished cry, “I had no idea I had so many of these!”
When you don’t keep like with like, one of two results is likely to happen: (1) you run out, or (2) you overbuy. You may be asking yourself, how can one behavior result in two completely opposite outcomes?
Here’s how. Let’s use the example of a commodity that is very precious to all of us: toilet paper. Say you have two bathrooms and you keep extra toilet paper in both. When you run out of toilet paper in one bathroom, you may neglect to add it to the shopping list because you are certain you have more in the other bathroom. But in fact, you’ve forgotten that you have also run out in there as well. The end result: you find yourself up in the middle of the night with no toilet paper.
And now the opposite. You are in the supermarket and you see a sale on toilet paper. “How fortunate!”, you think, since you just used up the toilet paper that very day in one of your bathrooms. You buy several packages (it is, after all, on sale) and when you get home and go to put it away, you realize that you did the very same thing last time you saw a toilet paper sale, and the cabinet in the second bathroom is absolutely stuffed with packages of toilet paper.
The solution, in this instance, is to have one central place in your home where you keep toilet paper. You can still keep an extra roll or two in each bathroom, but the storage location of record is this common place that feeds both rooms.
“Keep like with like” goes hand-in-hand with another one of my five basic organizing principles, “Every item must have a home”. Once you’ve figured out where the home is for a particular class of items, then all of those items should go there. My clients sometimes contact me and ask me if I remember where we put a particular thing that they cannot find. I don’t always remember the item in question, but I almost always remember where we would have put it if we did indeed handle it while I was there. I advise them to look in that “home”, and in 95% of the time, that’s where it is.
I also see a lot of overbuying when my clients’ have put items away in random places, rather than truly deciding on a home for those items. If they’ve put something away in a random place then can’t find it again, they end up having to rebuy it.
Before you put things away, take the time to figure out a logical “home” for them. Then be consistent with putting it away there, as well as all items like those. Taking that little extra bit of effort will save you a lot of time and agony later.