Everything (almost) In Its Place: Control Chaos, Conquer Clutter, and Get Organized the Buttoned Up Way

Everything (almost) In Its Place: Control Chaos, Conquer Clutter, and Get Organized the Buttoned Up Way

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Everything (almost) In Its Place: Control Chaos, Conquer Clutter, and Get Organized the Buttoned Up Way by Alicia Rockmore, Sarah Welch


Busy lives can be messy – bills, mail, and catalogs pile up; appointments, school activities, and kids' sports events need to be scheduled and attended; the endless clutter of clothing, toys, and belongings can threaten to take over any home. To the rescue come Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch – with a system that will get you organized without having to make everything perfect.

Everything (almost) In Its Place presents a new approach to organizing that is adaptable to any home. It is flexible and effective but you are not required to color-coordinate your closets or be able to eat off of the kitchen floor. You will learn to let go of perfection, keep things neat enough based on what's important for you and your family, and get other people (husbands and kids) to pitch in so everything isn't always on Mom's shoulders.

Loaded with effective strategies, Everything (almost) In Its Place will teach you to get organized enough to get things done, get to where you (and the family) need to go and still have time for some rest and relaxation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429946704
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/22/2008
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,086,074
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch are the founders of Buttoned Up Inc., a company dedicated to helping busy women 'tame the chaos' in their lives. Their products are available in Target, The Container Store, online, and more. They have been featured in Parents, Readers Digest, Quick&Simple, Women's Day, The Wall Street Journal and many more publications. They live in Los Angeles, California and Tarrytown, New York respectively.
Alicia Rockmore is a founder of Buttoned Up Inc,a company dedicated to helping busy women ‘tame the chaos’ in their lives. Their products are available in Target, The Container Store, online, and more. Buttoned Up has been featured in Parents, Readers Digest, Quick&Simple, Women’s Day, The Wall Street Journal and many more publications. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Sarah Welch is a founder of Buttoned Up Inc., a company dedicated to helping busy women ‘tame the chaos’ in their lives. Their products are available in Target, The Container Store, online, and more. Buttoned Up has been featured in Parents, Readers Digest, Quick&Simple, Women’s Day, The Wall Street Journal and many more publications. She lives in Tarrytown, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Everything (Almost) in its Place

Control Chaos, Conquer Clutter, and Get Organized the Buttoned Up Way

By Alicia Rockmore, Sarah Welch

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4670-4


Button 1

Ditch Perfection

Over the past few years we have spoken to quite a few women across America about organization, disorganization, and every state in between. They have invited us into their homes, spoken to us at length on the phone, and patiently filled out surveys. Thank heavens organization is a topic that seems to be as much fun to talk about as it is to research. Women are absolutely effusive about the subject!

One refrain we heard more than anything else was, "I worry I'm not organized enough." In fact, a staggering 80 percent of women agree with this statement. Just think about that for a second: your neighbor or friend who you believe is supremely organized is just as likely to believe she's not organized as your friend who is, well, struggling a little bit with the concept. How is that possible? We weren't sure.

It got us thinking and asking more questions. What exactly does it mean to you to be Buttoned Up? Does it mean having all the things in your house, like the items in your makeup drawer, meticulously categorized and contained? Does it mean having a floor you can eat off of? A workspace that's utterly free of clutter? A to-do list with every single item crossed off by the end of the day? Anticipating every number your boss will need before she asks for them? Being able to throw an impromptu, but warm, gathering of family and friends at 7:00 P.M. on a Tuesday without breaking a sweat? Paying the bills on time? Your family photos organized into albums by year? Never failing to send a friend a birthday card? Making sure your child always has a cheering section at their soccer games? Having the time to exercise every day?

Your response may be all of those things or none of them. It all depends because organization and the benefits it brings is a very subjective and personal concept. It means different things to different people and it looks different at age thirty-five than it does at twenty-five or sixty-five. It looks different for singles and couples, moms of toddlers and empty nesters. But even though there are thousands of different definitions, for the most part all of us feel like we're at least a little shy of where we really need to be or should be in our lives. Somehow we all feel we could be more Buttoned Up. Why is that?

As we culled our notes, synthesized and summarized findings, and discussed our own struggles with the concept, we realized that we all have, somewhere in the dark recesses of our minds, an "organizational yardstick" against which we measure ourselves. This organizational standard is probably not something you actively, consciously put there. Most of us don't even realize we have one. But it is there, and until you realize it, you are at its mercy.

Our friend Amy Keroes, mother, lawyer, wife, founder of the company MommyTrackd.com, and all-around amazing person, summarized the dilemma simply and elegantly. She said, "I think we all have tape recordings in our head telling us what it means to be organized without even realizing it. Mine loops the message: 'a messy room is a messy mind.' My father used to tell us that all the time when we were kids. He was probably just trying to get us to do our fair share of the housework, but I subconsciously picked it up, and like it or not, here I am thirty years later living that mantra. I don't function unless things are neat and tidy. So, whether or not I have the time, I feel compelled to spend some part of my day tidying up. Sometimes I wish I could just let it go."

That internal yardstick has the potential to make you a little crazy. It also has the potential to make you suffer.

Let's start with the crazy. Sometimes, our internal yardstick, much like Amy's, makes us feel compelled to do things — and do them in a certain way. It's like we're powerless to change the routine and often unable to get moving on anything else until that thing is done just the right way. Liz, another incredible (and incredibly busy) mom we spoke to, joked about her compulsive bed-making habit. "Every morning, I absolutely, positively must make the beds before I can leave the house. And they have to be made just so. No wrinkles, no lumps, corners tucked in, top sheet folded over ... you get the picture. My six-year-old twins try to help me by making their beds before school, but I often find myself sneaking in to 'fix' the beds after the kids catch the bus. I don't know why, but the beds have to be made, and made the right way, before I can relax and face the day."

Sarah's a little crazy too, by her own admission, when it comes to doing the laundry. Her "thing" is folding the clean clothes. "For some reason, I feel compelled to fold everything just so. Shirts must be faceup, free of all wrinkles, and 'balanced,' with the sleeves equidistant from in the center. Towels need to be folded in half, then half again, and only then can each side be folded in toward the center. If someone else has thoughtfully folded the clothes for me as Liz remakes the beds, I often refold at least the shirts before I can put things away. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this, but I do."

Ann, a New Hampshire mom juggling two children under the age of three, is militant about the way the dishwasher must be loaded. "It's a mystery to me how I got to be so strict about loading the dishwasher. But I'm totally guilty of unloading, re-rinsing, and reloading it if my husband or a house guest does it the wrong way. I guess food particles on plates and cutlery that are supposed to be clean really gross me out."

"I don't know why, but ..." is a big clue that you've got a little crazy problem. Whether it's remaking beds, refolding clothes, or redistributing the dishes in the dishwasher, if you feel compelled to do something even if you know there are other, more productive things you could be or should be doing — you're at the mercy of an organizational yardstick.

Sometimes an organizational yardstick creates more of an intimidation than a compulsion. Often we set such an impossible standard for ourselves that we never even attempt to reach it. For example, you know you should be doing something, like getting your important information organized in case of an emergency, but you just can't ever seem to get yourself over the hump to do anything about it. Every time you walk past your filing cabinet, you shudder, your brow furrows, or your shoulders tense up — but you keep walking, unable to overcome your organizational inertia.

Deb from Michigan, a wife, mother of two, and professional writer, told us how she suffered over her messy desk. "I'm the kind of person who likes to spread my papers out so I can see everything. It looks messy, but I can only work when everything is at my fingertips. I try to neaten up when I'm done by making piles, but I never have the neat desk or office I'd like. I have a huge backlog of random papers that I don't want to spend time filing and don't want to toss. I've got a block."

Alicia's sister Nancy, has a block about filing photos. "I'm so embarrassed. I love taking pictures of my kids, so I have stacks of them. I really want to put them into scrapbooks with things like pieces of their artwork, and I get inspired when I look at my friends who have beautifully organized and displayed albums. But for some reason, I just don't ever seem to find the time."

"I know I should, but ..." is another clue that you're suffering. It indicates that there is a gap between what you believe you are supposed to be and who you actually are.

What is it about these organizational yardsticks that causes craziness and suffering? Well, it's not the yardsticks themselves. You can't accomplish much without some definition of what you want to achieve. So, yardsticks are necessary; but if you are beating yourself up trying to live by your particular yardstick, that is a problem. The key is to find a yardstick that matches your lifestyle and goals.

How Seeking Someone Else's Version of Perfection Keeps Us from Getting Buttoned Up

The real question is who defines these yardsticks? If you aren't actively choosing what it means to you to be Buttoned Up, then who is? Well, as with all things (for example, weight loss), there is no shortage of experts who are more than happy to step into the breach and answer the question for you.

For starters, there are always our parents. Often we pick up on and repeat the organizational standards that our parents have set. We live with them for nearly twenty years, and have it drummed into our heads that "this is the way we like it, so that's the way it's going to be done, thank you very much." It's no wonder that we adopt their organizational tics and habits as if it's our genetic destiny. The problem is, you're not your parents! You're you: a marvelous combination of both, but greater than the sum of the individual parts. Don't assume their definition of organization is right for you. On this same note, when you create a new household it is likely that you and your partner will have different opinions of what it means to be Buttoned Up. We suggest you work to reconcile them rather than working to live up to one another's unrealistic expectations.

Then, there's a little something we like to call "Org Porn." Org Porn, in a nutshell, is that glossy, airbrushed, fantasy world where everything is pristine, serene, and perfectly in order. It's everywhere you look: magazines, coffee table books, advertisements, and TV shows. We have to admit, it's soothing to meditate over those beautiful photos of meticulously organized things and consider taking on a few of the "bite-sized" projects that are typically illustrated. We love those TV shows where professionals convert clutter disasters into paragons of order. While it may be titillating and spur us to take some action, be clear: ultimately it is pure fantasy. Measuring yourself by that fantasy yardstick will not only ensure that getting organized becomes yet another full-time job, it's guaranteed to make you feel like a failure. Why? Because that airbrushed land of perfect organization cannot be sustained in this messy, unpredictable world called real life.

Finally, there are those people (friends, family, and experts) who are just so darn good at staying on top of it all. Most of us have at least someone in our lives who has more than one of these qualities:

• Never forgets to send a birthday card on time (and who picks out the really funny ones, too)

• Always has a tin of home-baked cookies on hand

• Has a home that looks picture-perfect

• Seems to reply to your e-mail before you even send it

• Exercises more than you do

• Decorates beautifully for every holiday

• Cooks fresh, delicious meals

• Maintains lush green houseplants or a glowing garden

• Can find anything she needs in her house in five minutes or less

• Has never missed an opportunity to be with or watch her children perform (whether she works out of the home or not)

• Is the queen of community involvement as a room mother, PTA president, board member, or synagogue/church volunteer

• Sends out her holiday cards by December 10 — and everyone in the family photo is wearing matching outfits

• Contacts you more than you contact her

• Always looks chic and stylish

• Makes more money than you do

We admire these paragons of organization and togetherness, and we're a bit jealous too, because they seem to be doing something we're not. Clearly, they are winning the secret competition that every woman knows exists, even though no one ever talks about it: there is an evaluation committee, somewhere, we're pretty sure, who is rating every woman on her productivity. At the end of every day, the committee holds up scorecards from 1–9, like in an ice-skating competition. We worry that we're the one who is left sitting on the ice — is it possible to score a perfect 0?

Look carefully at who is defining your yardstick. Do you have a little case of the crazies? Are you suffering from the should-do syndrome? Those are the telltale signs that you're trying to measure up to someone else's standard. The first step in getting Buttoned Up is to take charge and create a yardstick for yourself.

Your Goal

The goal is for you to feel in control and to be in control. The two are inextricably linked: Buttoned Up is both a state of mind and a state of being.

In that respect, getting Buttoned Up is a lot like getting to a healthy weight. The trick to getting and staying that way is to let go of others' yardsticks (it's 124 pounds, it's a BMI of 19, it's having six-pack abs, it's fitting into a size 6, it's a closet categorized by color and style, it's a pristine desk, it's never being late, it's making the beds the right way) and define your own. Says Pam, "As soon as I stopped defining my 'ideal weight' as a single number, a static goal, and instead defined it first as a positive state of mind (being happily fit) and then as an acceptable range of numbers (no, I'm not telling), staying trim became much easier. Sometimes my figure is leaner and more outwardly perfect, and sometimes it's a little rounder and softer. But I never feel like I'm failing. And that's what keeps me on track. The same holds true for getting organized."

How you feel about what you do affects what you do. The only way to feel and be in control is to actively define what being Buttoned Up means to you. Let go of those definitions set by others. Let go of the illusion of perfection and the tyranny of rigid rules. Stop reacting. All that does is make you crazy, make you suffer, or a little of both.

You might just be scratching your head and thinking, "I'm sorry, how is this going to help me find my passport lost in a stack of papers somewhere in my house?" The answer is simple: letting go of others' yardsticks and replacing them with your own will get you unstuck. It will enable you to change the way you file important documents, keep your calendar, keep your lists, prioritize your time, and keep track of your stuff. Better yet, it'll help you stay Buttoned Up over time in an Imperfectly Organized way.

Using someone else's organizational yardstick, like an umbrella over our heads on a sunny day, darkens our feelings about how organized we are, no matter how well we're actually doing.

Stop Chasing Someone Else's Idea of Perfection

We want to help you set your own yardstick. One that makes sense for you and will help you stay Buttoned Up over the long haul. The ultimate goal is to help you have more time and energy to do the things you want, not to do more organizing.

It's time to let go of some of those tasks that don't really matter in the long run. These are the tasks that won't really improve the quality of your life or make getting tasks completed any easier. They mostly instill a tyranny of perfection that keeps you stuck trying to achieve it or stuck because you can't. Of course, you're the only one who knows what it is that you can truly let go. Some common perfection "ideas" (usually inspired by Org Porn) to get you thinking:

1. Arranging clothes closets so that like items (e.g., skirts, pants) are all hung on exactly the same type of hanger

2. Organizing your linen closet so that it is color coordinated and grouped according to size and shape (e.g., twin green fitted sheets, queen white flat sheets)

3. Alphabetizing your CDs and DVDs

4. Making sure that two cars can actually fit in your two-car garage

5. Taking food staples like flour, cereal, and sugar out of their original packaging and putting them in matching canisters

6. Making a complete fancy scrapbook for every child and for every holiday

7. Cataloging and dating every piece of your children's art

8. Cataloging via Dewey decimal system all of the books in your house

9. Being able to fold T-shirts like you are a Gap employee

10. Having a completely clear desk

Again, you may not suffer from trying to achieve any of the particulars of the above, but we're willing to bet you have some unrealistic goals that may be getting in your way.

Why Get Buttoned Up?

One way to clarify your objectives is to simply ask yourself: why did I buy this book?

Please take a minute to write your reason here. Don't think about it too long. Just think about what was exactly in your brain when you picked this book up off the virtual or actual shelf of your bookstore.


Excerpted from Everything (Almost) in its Place by Alicia Rockmore, Sarah Welch. Copyright © 2008 Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Our Story,
Button 1 Ditch Perfection,
Button 2 You Don't Have to Do Everything on Your List,
Button 3 You Don't Need to Do Everything Yourself,
Button 4 Pick a Room and Get Started,
Button 5 Set Up a Control Center,
Button 6 Put Technology to Work for You,
Button 7 File It Away,
Button 8 Write It Down ... Cross It Off!,
Button 9 Happily Buttoned Up,
Button 10 Take the Buttons to Work or School,
Frequently Asked Questions,

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