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While there may not be a quick fix for a dysfunctional family, I have to believe there’s hope for a dysfunctional home. My own surroundings continue to experience brief periods of neatness, at least on the surface, only to return to the same old mess again.

Lately, my favorite reading materials have become stressful reminders of how I seem to have fallen behind in everything around the house, even one of my favorite pastimes.

Some days seem to be more productive than others when I manage to make a dent in my piles of newspapers and magazines only to have a new stack appear a few days later. But that’s not the biggest issue.

For me, having an organized home means being able to find what you’re looking for when you need it without much effort. While there are many items I can locate no matter what my house looks like at the moment, there are pieces that continue to elude me to this day, like some travel souvenirs I’d like to display that I keep expecting to turn up at any moment.

I distinctly remember putting them somewhere if only I could remember where that somewhere might be.

While half-watching a Lifetime movie one night, I noticed a character open a large drawer that held three big containers inside. Of course she was able to find what she needed in no time.

This reminded me of my desire to divide some of my belongings into more manageable portions.

For instance, I have a drawer filled with stationery and greeting cards that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality it only solves part of the problem.

I may be able to find the category without any trouble, but I can’t always find the right card. A portable file box with labeled folders for blank cards, birthday cards, etc. might ease future searches.

The same goes for the sorry state of my coupon drawer. By the time I find the one I’m looking for, it’s often past the expiration date. I’ve learned that clutter clearing doesn’t always make life easier. Sometimes one piece of paper clings to another only to be misplaced.

My friends who keep their homes super neat and clean often toss important documents by accident and delete emails too quickly, so keeping a spotless home doesn’t always mean you have a flawless system. One friend admits to inadvertently throwing away her daughter’s math homework on more than one occasion and it hasn’t always been in the recycle bin when she tries to retrieve it.

So I guess the lesson is that you can be neat or messy – it doesn’t really matter as long as you know where everything goes.

For now, I tackle my lack of an ideal system a little at a time. If I make enough progress, I might just come across those missing souvenirs somewhere along with a few other pieces I never knew I had.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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