I must confess. I wouldn’t know what organized meant; even if it smacked me ‘up alongside the head'!

My sewing room is a real good example of my so-called organizing skills, which are, none. Piles of ‘stuff’ heaped everywhere and the closet is stacked high–just like the family room just down the hall. I think I know where everything is, but to anyone foolish enough to go upstairs and take a look themselves, it’s probably a nightmare. Someday, I will find bottom in the mess!

Our great grandmothers had an old rhyme they used to keep on track with household chores:

Wash on Monday,

Iron on Tuesday,

Mend on Wednesday,

Churn on Thursday,

Clean on Friday,

Bake on Saturday.

This rhyme worked pretty well for them.  Even the kids knew that Mondays meant hauling water into the house in pails and heating it on the stove. Running water back then meant "run and get it" from the well or cistern out back. With no modern conveniences like electricity or any appliances in homes back then, day to day living was hard work.

As I sit here at my table on a cool, early spring day (I wrote this column in mid-March) I've decided to get a few areas of this old house better organized.  First on my list of projects is clearing out a closet that has needed a good ‘digging out’ for quite a while now.

There are several books and even web sites available to help one get organized, and many of them have some really good ideas on how to control the clutter. I’ve also discovered that many of them are selling fancy wire racks, clear storage bins, spinning hangers for neckties and belts, etc. That’s fine if the expense of these fit your budget; in mine, no so much. Living on a ranch means the critters always come first, and their comfort is at the top of the heap. I may need those extra dollars to pay the vet bill when one of the cows needs help birthing a calf. (A healthy calf takes priority over a fancy wire rack in the closet.)

Using cardboard boxes, I make a list of ‘what's in here’ with a black marker and cover it with some wide tape. Cheap, and easy for me to do. I can get the boxes at the grocery store, and by listing the contents in black marker on the box, I can tell at a glance exactly what's in it. I find it easier to do one section of a closet at a time so I don’t lose track of where I am and what I’m doing. I use the same approach when clearing out dresser drawers, and can usually make pretty good headway in a couple of hours.

I start by taking everything out of the space, and then sort according to categories.

My categories are:


Anything that can be donated to a charity like the Salvation Army, the local CAP office or a church. (If you want the tax deduction, you need to follow their rules and be sure to get a receipt to file with the taxes.)


Some folks hold yard sales every spring and fall and I’ve learned a few ‘tricks of the trade’ by asking questions. As you sort, take the time to mark a price on each item before you box it up. I've been told this saves so much time in the long run. Sort, mark and box the items as you go and just stack the containers in a storage area or a section of the garage until sale time. All you have to do then is put up the signs, set the tables out and lay out the items to be sold.


This is what goes back in the closet or on shelves, if you have them. Stacked boxes work pretty well.


These are the family heirlooms that you may want to pass on to other family members. Pictures of the great-grandparents, a wedding dress, Christening gown, or maybe great-granny’s dishes.


This is always my biggest pile of ‘stuff’. Old gloves with no mate, shoes with the toes worn out, toys that cannot be fixed, clothing that is beyond redemption (covered with paint, ripped beyond my ability to patch, you get the idea).


This is for the stuff you are unsure you need to keep or not. I find that if I put it away for a few days or a week or so, I usually end up ‘pitching’ 90% of what I’d saved.

Things like old socks can be cut up for cleaning rags. An old broken laundry basket can cut down and use as a place to put muddy boots or shoes when someone comes into the house as to avoid bringing some ‘barn’ with them. If something can be used or recycled, it goes without saying that it should be; and only items that are truly past any usefulness should be put in a landfill.

Have a ‘cleaning good time’ until next month.



by Paula Vogelgesang

Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory.

Email her at [email protected]

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