What My 5-Year Old Taught Me About Organization

The following post is from Joshua of Becoming Minimalist:

source: becoming minimalist

If you had told me three years ago I’d be writing for a blog dedicated to organizing, I would have said you were crazy. No, seriously.

As a matter of fact, if I didn’t have the chance, my wife would have told you for me. We had been together for too many years… she knew me too well… and organizing just wasn’t in my blood. It was painfully obvious.

I’ve lived most of my life as a terribly disorganized person.

And to add insult to injury, I’m a bit of a packet by nature and way too forgetful for my own good.

Every morning, if I wasn’t searching for my car keys, I was looking for my shoes, my belt, or my watch. Chances were, they were never in the place they belonged… and even if they were, fighting through the clutter in my closet and drawers to find them was always a time-consuming chore in and of itself.

But then, a light-bulb clicked, and everything changed.

And now, not only do I write about organization on this blog and my own, but even better, I stand as living proof that anybody can become an organized person.

For me, it all started with one incredibly important lesson that I learned one morning from my 5-year old son…

I remember it well. It was a beautiful spring weekend in Vermont. I woke up early that Saturday with one goal in mind: clean the garage. After the long, cold winter, I knew it was going to be an all-day project so I set my alarm early to get a good start.

My wife and I had decided to spend our spring weekend cleaning the house from top to bottom. After all, that’s what disorganized (and organized) families do in the springtime, right? And we were, by definition, just your standard, run-of- the-mill, middle-class family of four living in the suburbs.

It all started harmlessly enough that Saturday morning as my son and I set out to begin cleaning the garage. I invited my son to help me not because I thought he’d be super-helpful, but because I wanted to spend some time with him after working all week. For some reason, I thought he’d enjoy pulling out everything from the garage, hosing it down, and moving everything back in. Boy, was I mistaken.

If I recall correctly, he lasted about four minutes (and that may be on the high side). Actually, to be fair, he pulled out one blue bin full of summer toys. But while reaching for his second blue bin, he noticed his baseball bat and whiffle ball. And it was over. He grabbed his bat and ball, looked me in the eyes and said, “Can I go in the backyard and play with this?”

Reluctantly, I agreed as I headed back into the garage to grab some more stuff to pull out into the driveway. I lamented the fact that the quality time I had hoped to spend with my son only lasted four minutes.

Nearly three hours later, I was still working on the same garage… my son still in the backyard, swinging on the swing set. My neighbor, who happened to be outside working on her home as well, noticed my frustration with the project. She turned to me and said sarcastically, “Ahh, the joys of home ownership.”

I responded by saying, “Well, you know what they say, ‘The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you’.” Her next sentence struck a chord with my mind, heart, and soul, and changed the course of my life forever.
She responded, “Yeah, that’s what my daughter keeps saying. She keeps telling me that I don’t need all this stuff!”

And in that moment, everything started to make sense.

My son… my neighbor…  my frustration… it all came together and pointed to one incredibly valuable, life-changing lesson: Living life is TOTALLY WAY MORE fun than managing and organizing stuff!

It was the lesson that my 5-year old son knew far better than me and tried to teach me when he ran into the backyard. But it didn’t make sense until that moment. Life would actually be better with less stuff to manage and organize.

We immediately began going through each room, closet, and drawer in our home; removing as many unneeded items as possible. And from that day forward, rather than seeking to live with more and more stuff in our home, we have tried to live with less and less.

As a result, we have found organizing to be far easier… cleaning to be far easier… finding time to be together far easier… and living life far easier as well.

Suddenly, organization didn’t seem so difficult.

Drawers had plenty of room. Closets had space to breathe. Countertops were less crowded. Clean-up was a snap. And the house almost always looked cleaned.

I became an organized man. And my 5-year old son held the secret all along… Living life is TOTALLY WAY MORE fun than managing and organizing stuff!

Are you tied down by clutter? Just think how it would feel to clear your clutter and create more time to live life!

Joshua Becker inspires and encourages others to live with less on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has also authored two e-books, Simplify and Inside-Out Simplicity. But more importantly, he loves his wife and two small children.