Can You Find It In the Dark? My Organizational Litmus Test

posted by Andrea | 08/30/2016
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find it in the dark

Two weeks ago, a fairly destructive tornado passed through our town… just about a mile from our home. There were many trees down, some flooding, and a bunch of homes without power for a couple of days (Dave’s parents were without power for a bit).

Thankfully, nothing happened to our home or yard… but since we had several friends and family members without power, I started thinking about finding things in the dark, and how often I get something out of a closet, drawer, filing cabinet, kitchen cabinet, or toy bin in the dark.

There are so many times (usually when kids are sleeping) that I’ll put laundry away in the dark, pick up toys in the dark, find something in a room without turning the light on, find my way through our house in the middle of the night, pull another pair of PJ’s out of the drawer when someone pees through their clothes in the middle of the night, etc. etc.

If I were a betting person, I would bet you that I could find almost anything in my entire house (even the basement, the storage closet, and the garage) in the dark.

This is not because I have a photogenic memory or because I spend endless hours organizing, re-organizing, and labeling everything in our house. But rather, it’s because we have an organizational system that works for our home and for our family. We have designated “homes” for all of our things, and (for the most part) we do a pretty good job putting all our things back into their homes every day.

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You might say that my ability to find any given object in the dark is my “organizational litmus test”.

If you look up the definition of a “Litmus Test”, you’ll most likely read something about Chemistry and the use of litmus paper to test acidity or alkalinity of a solution. However, you will also find the following definition: a crucial and revealing test in which there is one decisive factor (source)

In a way, the “crucial and revealing test” is if I can find what I need in the dark  — and the “decisive factor” is if our home is neat, clean, and well-organized.

Of course, I don’t walk around in the dark just to see if I can find things, but as I’ve been thinking about this post for the past week or so, I realized that it really is a great test of how organized I am.

If we didn’t put the toys and books away every night, there’s a pretty good chance someone would step on them, hurt their foot, or trip and fall at some point during the night (I swear, Nora gets up and walks around in the middle of the night without us knowing!)

If we didn’t have our clothes neatly organized in the closet or in the drawers, I would never be able to put laundry away in the dark.

If our kitchen cabinets weren’t organized, there’s no way I could quietly make breakfast or clean up the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning with only a very dim light on.

If we didn’t have a designated home for various items like flashlights, candles, batteries, etc. I might have a difficult time finding these items if our power actually did go out.

These are just a few of the many examples I could list… but I think you get the idea.

If I can easily find what I need in the dark, I know my organization system is working well… if I can’t find something in the dark, I know I should probably revisit that area to come up with a better, more efficient way to keep it organized.

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The point of this post is certainly not to encourage you to worry about a power outage or to clean your house in the dark 🙂  but rather to simply stop and think about how organized you are based on what you can or cannot find in the dark (without tearing the entire house apart.)

If you can find what you need, you probably have a decent system for cleaning and organizing your home. If not, it might be a sign that your current system isn’t working well for you.

And again, your home does NOT need to be perfectly organized to “work well” for you and your family — you don’t need fancy labels, color-coded bins, or expensive storage containers… you just need a simple system that works for you, your family, your home, your stuff, and your lifestyle.

Obviously, finding that system is the tricky party (and unfortunately, I don’t have a magical answer that will work for everyone).

In the meantime, I use my simple “can I find it in the dark” litmus test to gauge whether our current organizational systems are working well for us.

What do you think… could you find what you need in the dark?

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24 comments

  1. Jennifer

    10/16/2016

    Brilliant! What a practical way to think about each area in my home. This has made me feel really good about a few spaces, and has Directed me to a couple of spaces I need to work on.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah! happy purging!

    [Reply]

  2. Weekend reading: October 15, 2016

    10/15/2016

    […] Can You Find It In the Dark? My Organizational Litmus Test | Andrea Dekker […]

  3. Pat Harris

    09/10/2016

    We just finished “remodeling” our small galley kitchen. We didn’t change the footprint but we did shift the position of several things. For instance the stove moved about 2 feet west, the dishwasher is on the other side of the sink and there is now a trash pull out where the dishwasher was. The cabinets are very different from what was here before. Much better cabinets, look a lot like yours, but certainly different. I’ve had the worst time finding homes for everything. I’m still moving things around so I would have to say that right now I can’t even find much in full daylight! It will get better and I’m finding there are some things that will need to be purged to make it all work. I really need to find a place for my favorite appliance, our Stir Crazy popcorn popper. We don’t like microwave popcorn so that is not an option.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I know how that goes! I think I moved things around 4 or 5 times before I finally started to feel like things were in their “new homes”. Even now, I will still tweak things to make them function better for our family. You’ll figure it out eventually!

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  4. Julia K

    09/01/2016

    This will make you cringe Andrea ….

    Lately we’ve had a very stressful time and the fallout has been that I haven’t been putting stuff away.

    I got a huge payback yesterday morning. I had to get up for an early shift at work and walked into the living room and straight into the ironing board which I had left up from the day before. Having regained my composure after that – I rounder the corner into the hallway enroute to the bathroom and tripped over the vacuum cleaner which I’d left lying in the hallway.

    Yes – I GOT THE MESSAGE and put these items away. I don’t know why I do things like that – it only takes a few minutes to pack something away but I keep thinking – I’ll get back to that later – and invariably I don’t. I just need to be more self-disciplined I guess.

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  5. Donna

    08/30/2016

    Not only could I find anything in my house, I could also find anything in my purse.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, me too!

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  6. janet

    08/30/2016

    Great post.

    I often need to find things in the dark, so I’m pretty careful to keep things in their home. One thing I thought of as I read this, though, is flashlights!! My husband and grandkids use them all the time and would have a hard time finding one in the dark. However, I could have a candle lit in a matter of seconds, so that would help me find a flashlight! ha!

    I think I might buy a flashlight of my own to store with the candles.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, get your own flashlight! Our kids play with the flashlights all the time too, so I definitely have my own where they can’t get to it!

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    Pat Harris Reply:

    I keep a small flashlight in the pocket of my robe. If I get up in the middle of the night and the power is out I’m good.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well aren’t you smart! I guess I do always keep my phone at my bedside table and my phone has a flashlight on it 🙂

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  7. Debbie

    08/30/2016

    This is a good post! It does make me think through if our home is organized enough to find things. What I do know is I also like having a home for everything, and things must be put back where they came from. When I can’t find something it means the hubby used it and he can’t remember where he left it. It only happens once in a while and mostly it’s the nail clippers, but oh boy does that bug me. I think I would still be able to find things in the dark but I’m definitely not comfortable looking for things then for fear of stubbing my toe or hitting my shin on furniture. The other day before the husb left for work, in the dark and I was still half asleep, he asked me if we had cheese cloth. I mumbled it’s in the 2nd drawer with all the baking tools. I came home that afternoon and we had fresh home made almond milk. Yes, I was proud he made almond milk, but secretly I was more proud of myself for being able to tell him where the cheese cloth was in my sleep. It’s an item I rarely use and had been tucked in it’s designated home for quite a long time. Haha!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — love that he made you almond milk!

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  8. Katy

    08/30/2016

    So glad your family and home were ok after the storm! We were not so lucky last year and our home was leveled after taking a direct hit from a tornado. I think your post has some very valid points, because while our home was reduced to piles of rubble…there were several times where we were able to find things because we could identify where certain areas of the house came to rest. For example, we found several items from the kitchen together and were able to find additional items that we knew were stored close to them. I hope that makes sense! Everything was a huge mess, and we weren’t able to find much, but we were able salvage a few things just because we had a good idea where things were stored beforehand.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — that sounds awful! I’m glad you were able to save a few things!

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  9. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    08/30/2016

    This is interesting to think about. I could definitely find most things in the dark. I often get cold in the middle of the night and get up to put more layers on in complete darkness. If only I could get our dog to put his toys away. I step on those in the middle of the night all the time!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — those dogs! One of the many reasons we don’t have a pet right now 🙂

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  10. Bonnie'sMama

    08/30/2016

    I think about this, too, especially when I stay up later than my husband and need to get my jammies on in the dark without waking him or the baby. I like to fold my jammies the same way every time as well, so that I don’t put them on backwards or inside out.

    But as I reflect on certain areas of my home, I know there are spots that definitely need more work. Little by little, I’m getting to those areas. I’ve got to be patient with myself as my energy returns after having a baby.

    And speaking of energy, Andrea, I’ve often wondered–do you just power through fatigue? I’ve read lots of your posts about the hows of getting a lot done. But haven’t you been super exhausted sometimes, with Nora’s sleep issues, pregnancies, nursing, and having three small children close together? How do you get yourself to keep accomplishing things when you’re physically really, really tired?

    These are the sorts of things this mommy brain wonders about wistfully in the quiet moments. : )

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well I don’t fold my PJ’s the same way every day, but I do fold other things the same way each time 🙂

    Also, as for your energy question — I would say “yes and no” to this! For the most part, I push through the tired feelings, but then every couple of weeks, I go to bed nice and early and scratch my to-do list. Keep in mind that Dave is quite helpful around the house AND he gets home every day at 3:30 so I have at least an hour before dinner to “regroup” and cross a few things off my list. Then our kids are in bed around 7:30 so I have a few more hours to work uninterrupted.

    When I think back to when Nora was under 2 and I was pregnant, sleeping with her EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, and so so SO tired, I honestly don’t know how I did everything I did. I think I’ve blocked that all from my brain (honestly!) I do remember regularly locking both Nora and myself in her bedroom with a bunch of toys. I would lay on her bed and fall asleep while she would sort of entertain herself with her toys and books. I knew she couldn’t go anywhere, and she really couldn’t get hurt since it was a small room with a bed, a changing table, and toys 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. Mara

    08/30/2016

    Love this!! My husband and I have talked about similar concepts before, and everything back in its place is SO important! It has also helped us realize where we might need a duplicate item in another room…we hate buying more than 1 of something we already own. But, by putting things back in their place, it shows you which room you really use something in and where to store it. Turns out, we need a pair of scissors, Sharpie Marker, and a screwdriver (to name a few) in more than one place throughout our home/garage! If things are always floating around in random places, it makes it harder to decide how and where to store/organize things in your home! It’s a habit that you have to practice and reevaluate 🙂 Fun post!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I love this comment!

    I also don’t like having duplicate items… however, we definitley have more than one set of tools, and office supplies. We have a spot for office supplies in the kitchen and the office, and we have a spot for tools in the kitchen, the garage, and the basement. We use them all regularly so it pays to have multiple sets.

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  12. Denise

    08/30/2016

    I grew up in the Detroit area, and don’t remember tornadoes. But lived in Nebraska for several years and spent plenty of time in the basement during tornado warnings. I DON’T miss that. To answer your question, YES! I think I can navigate my way around in the dark and find what I need. . And I can definitely find the flashlights if I can’t! LOL! Good post, made me stop and think!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, our old house actually has a real “tornado shelter” in the basement — it’s solid concrete, so we’ll hopefully be safe if a tornado ever does come our way. Obviously, we’re thankful it didn’t hit us this time though!

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