This Old House Editor Scott Omelianuk applying labels to a cluttered shelf
Photo: Ian Spanier
March, 2013

Once every three months or so, like now, at the change of season—or, you know, when company is coming over—my wife and I decide we have to organize our lives. I've been known to even take vacation days from work to do it. This is not because I do such a thorough job. It's because, well...look, it's no secret that I'm a hoarder.

No, not like on that TV show—not of empty cereal boxes, old newspapers, and burned-out lightbulbs with the date of their expiry written on them. To their credit, those people have used—or think they will use—the piles of junk that tower toward the ceilings of their homes. I can say with certainty that I collect things that I have not and will never use. An old enameled sink I found at the curb, rugby shirts last worn when Ronald Reagan was president, the Wii we bought because we just had to play Rock Band (once, apparently).

My wife is not much better, with her love of both books and, oddly, action figures. And so our basement, her office, and every built-in we have is overflowing—sort of like Phineas J. Whoopee's closet in those old Tennessee Tuxedo cartoons.

Sometimes I think the best thing to do would be to back a Dumpster up to the door, unload everything, and start fresh. But then I see stories like we have in this issue and realize that there are paths through the jumble. Take "Read This Before You Organize Your Garage." If I had a garage, it would be the perfect primer on setting such a space straight. Or there's "Order in the House," a story in which the homeowners remodeled their small house with clutter-busting in mind. If I were remodeling, there'd be terrific advice to follow. But that's the rub; without a garage or a remodel, I'm at a loss.

Which is why I've decided to start out small. With my liquor cabinet. Each shelf gets a different label. Not "Scotch," "Rye," "Whiskey," and so on. My labeling system is escalatory. It starts on the bottom shelf with "Bad Day" and goes on up through "Real Bad Day" and "Don't Want to Get Up in the Morning Day." And then there's the top shelf's label: "It's That Time of Year Again. Steel Yourself, and Let's Organize the House!"
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