old dog with white and brown fur

Customized organizing for the way things really are saves you time and energy

Organizing for the way you actually live saves tons of time and exasperation. A furry example.

It started when he was about eight. “He’s a big dog, who knows how long he really has?” my husband said, tucking Baxter’s doggy ibuprofen into an egg, sunny-side up. “At this stage, cholesterol is the least of his worries.”

Turkey bacon joined the morning eggs and five years later, Baxter’s still motoring along. Being a good, smart, highly food-motivated dog, he’s also trained my husband to give him a snack each and every time he goes out into the back yard.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of coming and going.

Put things where you really use them

Time efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth wouldn’t pass judgment on pampering a very old dog (I would hope), but they would be appalled at how long all this takes. People oughtn’t to feed their old dogs snacks all the time. But they do – why not make it easier and more efficient?

Putting a box of the treats right by the back door would acknowledge reality and save time. Hiding them in the pantry as if you only occasionally award them a treat for exceptional behavior isn’t fooling anyone.

Put the cans of dog food you only use occasionally – “Dogs like pizza crusts, everyone knows that.” – in the pantry because that’s what the pantry’s for, back up supplies. Organize for the way things are, not the way they “should” be.

READ MORE >>> What’s behind your pantry problem?

Customized organizing works best

When you look at your whole house like this, organizing gets more intuitive and a whole lot easier to maintain. Don’t put things where you think they ought to go or where you’ve always kept them because that’s how you set up the house when you moved in twelve years ago.

Take 20 minutes to look at something you have, asking yourself if you’re keeping it where you use it. If not, where would be a better place?

READ MORE >>> How to declutter and organize

If the only place it goes is where it’s always gone, and that place is inconvenient and out of the way, I’d put good money that you don’t use that thing. Either because it’s too inconvenient to use it and put it away, in which case move it somewhere more logical, or because you’re keeping it but don’t need it. In which case, off it goes.

READ MORE >>> Best places to donate

Need help organizing your dog treats? I can help.

by Lucy Kelly


  1. This is the essential reality check every professional organizer and every DIY organizer should bear in mind. Organizing for the “ideal” version of ourselves just sets everyone up for failure. Acknowledging our reality isn’t giving up; it’s creating opportunities for success. Great job!

  2. This is a nice, gentle reality check. I always try to ask clients about general routine and how they physically move through a space. If there’s a lot of zig-zagging, it’s time to reimagine. Many times, the space isn’t available and I can help the purge instead!!

  3. You have nailed the objective in becoming organized. You never want to organize your home according to the way someone else lives or wants it to be. The whole point is to simplify and make finding things in your home as easy as pie! Love this Lucy!

  4. Intuitive organizing! That should be your tagline. Life gets so much easier when the things we use are where they ARE used. Dog treats near the backdoor makes sense to me. One of the things that’s most fun is helping clients figure out the puzzle pieces of life so that things flow better. It can mean thinking differently, but with listening, observing, and asking some good questions, so many improvements and small tweaks can happen. And they make a HUGE difference.

  5. I love this customized organizing approach! It’s mindful and creates awareness of our current habits and routines, what is working and what is not. Great ideas especially about taking 20 minutes to review or process in your home. Well done!

  6. Love this post! Acknowledge the reality – so good! I had a client with a similar situation. I suggested a Montana jar for the space near the door. Might as well embrace what is actually happening and make it work for you, right?

  7. Organize for the way things are, not the way they “should” be.
    Wise words indeed. And, I think, probably the answer to most of life’s problems!


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