The Neat-tionary

Language allows people to understand and be understood. This is why whenever we visit a city or country that speaks a language different from ours, we try to learn at least a few of their key words and phrases.

A little backstory: I didn’t have a name for The Neat Obsessions’ organizing process until I had to write the book. The three steps have always been with us – sort, detach, rehome – but we had no umbrella term for them. 

I started to write the book at a time when my weeks are fully booked with Neat Projects. When it was time to name the Neat organizing process, I remember spending hours in traffic with a pen and scratch paper on hand. I’d list down words and phrases that I hoped would lead me to the right name. 

Why did I have to sweat it out? I could have just pulled out a word from the dictionary! But I didn’t, and here’s why:

Neat Obsessions is very personal to me. You know by now that I did not intend it to become a business, hence “A Mom’s Passion for Everything Neat.” It all started with me just baring my heart out in my blog and on Instagram. So, at a time when I needed to name the Neat organizing process, it was important for me that it would not just sound right. I needed it to feel right. 

The word homeward felt so right to me because the word home always had two meanings: physical and emotional. The organizing process I designed for Filipinos begins with the home (physical) and ends right where it started – the home (still physical). When we look at it more deeply, at the end of the process, the owners come back to a feeling of home (emotional) that they might not have felt for a long time. 

Looking for a name for The Homeward Technique feels like a lifetime ago. Since then, I’ve always been on the lookout for words that would rightly capture the subprocesses we keep discovering as part of the Neat process. Since the list keeps getting longer, I thought of compiling them so I could share them with you.

Introducing the Neat-tionary, the Neat Obsessions Guide on organizing terms that strengthens the Homeward Technique. This “dictionary” looks different as the words are not necessarily arranged alphabetically. In true Neat Obsessions fashion, the words are sorted according to the part of The Homeward Technique you are in.

Part One: Sorting

Sorting is placing your things in general categories. A general category is a classification that will allow you to itemize your things without having to think too deeply. The key to forming general categories is relying on what your eyes see. General categories for clothes are tops and bottoms, while general categories for shoes are flats and heeled. Remember that the outcome of sorting is an inventory of what you own.

Season is the current period in your life. Identifying your season means you have assessed all your roles and sorted your priorities. One of the most important things that you should note about your life’s season is that it changes. Honor the season you are in right now, because that will serve as your guide in organizing not just your home, but also your daily schedule. 

Part Two: Detaching

I always say that the process of elimination becomes easier when your things are sorted. 

When your things are already in their general categories, you create subcategories through detaching. When you subcategorize, you ask an objective question such as, “Do I need this item to support my life’s current season?” 

In detaching, there are two highly emotional, equally important subprocesses that happen: de-owning and re-owning.

De-owning is understanding that an item does not support your season, so you either find a new home for it if it’s still functional, or you discard it if it’s not. 

Re-owning is rediscovering the purpose of an item that you might not have seen for a long time. It is about seeing the item again, and using (or displaying) it from now on because it regained its meaning through your clearly-defined season.

Part Three: Rehoming

Rehoming is accepting the items which are left after detaching, and putting them in their rightful places. If you’ve ever wondered how to achieve “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” this part will greatly help you.

First, identify which among your items are used daily, occasionally, or seasonally. 

Then, identify your home’s active and inactive areas. An active area is the space you can access and reach without exerting too much effort. These are areas from your eye level to your waist level. An example of this is your kitchen counter that you use everyday for preparing and serving your food. Place your everyday items in your active areas.

Your inactive area is a hard-to-reach space, such as an overhead cabinet that requires a step stool, or a below the waist drawer or shelf that requires you to bend for access. Place occasional and seasonal items in inactive areas, but make sure there is an efficient system in them so when you need to get something, you wouldn’t take too much time in looking for it.

When you place occasional and seasonal items on active areas, you deactivate the area because it becomes dysfunctional. The only way to make it functional again is to reactivate it, or to bring back its use by only placing items needed on a daily basis.   

Since rehoming is all about connecting to a feeling of home and happiness, you may create an active specialty station. This station still has a lot to do with your season. Think art station, coffee station, or supplies station! Build and grow a space that is entirely your own inside your home through your station. 

It’s also possible to have an inactive area that showcases things that you don’t use but are important to you. Clustering is putting together items that tell a story, usually done with items on display in open shelving. Think about color coordinating your books or arranging them by author or genre. Think about proudly displaying your wedding or travel memorabilia. You don’t necessarily use these items daily, but putting them on display reminds you of the different happy seasons you had in your life.   

Speaking of happiness, there’s nothing happier than a place with an established system. Neat Labelling is the establishing a system through placing efficient labels. Here, you come up with words and phrases which are easy to understand and identify. Remember, it’s possible for you to label bins and containers with either too general or too specific categories, that may not be efficient on a day-to-day routine. Find the system that will work for everyone through the Neat Labels. 

Beyond the Homeward Technique

I always believed in the value of growth and improvement. This is why I keep rearranging areas in my home. I’m not really the kind who buys a lot of things for our home. I’m more of the homemaker who rearranges items and reorients the furniture to give a space a fresh look.

Whenever I do it, I look for this feeling of accomplishment, my #NeatWin. Of course, my parameter here is not an outside force but an inner joy and calm. It’s a feeling that considers not only me, but the people who live with me, too – my husband and my kids. I’d like to note that #NeatWin also considers the greatest value for money. Plain rearranging and reorientation without any purchase is an ultimate #NeatWin! 

Having the humility to accept that learning is a process, and acknowledging that organizing is not a one-time big time event, we mark small, daily wins with #NeatImproved. There’s always a room for improvement. If today you felt like the way you organized your kitchen does not really work the way you wanted it, then continue finding what feels right, and celebrate it once it’s found. 

Take a step back, take it all in, breathe in and out. Congratulations! Your work is #NeatApproved.

Here’s a recap of the concepts in this blog: Sorting is creating general categories, or categorizing without feelings.Detaching is creating subcategories, or de-owning and re-owning your items with respect to your life’s current season.Rehoming is clustering and putting up stations, or appreciating that feeling of being at home.

Thank you for reaching this part of the blog, and welcome to your own Neat journey! I hope that these words will help you get into the mindset of organizing, productivity, and happiness every day, from this day on!

Stay Neat, everyone!