A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

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As u201CHeading Out on Your Own: 31 Basic Life Skills in 31 Daysu201D draws to a close today, we'd like to use the final post in the series to discuss a saying your grandfather was probably quite fond of: u201CA place for everything and everything in its place.u201D

Your great-grandfather likely used that maxim too, and his grandfather as well. It actually first appeared in print way back in 1640. The saying was born among sailors, who needed to both keep things orderly in the tiny galleys and cabins below deck, and to make sure all their tools and ropes were placed and secured properly up above, so that things didn't wash overboard when the ship was rocked by storms and waves.

“First then, while you are little boys, let there be order in everything. Try and have a place for everything and everything in its place. If your father has things in that way, see that you place everything back after using it. Hours, days, yea, months and years, are wasted by too many in hunting tools and farming implements; time thus wasted is time needlessly lost, precious time that will never return…I mention this first because it is first in importance. It governs your every act through life. If you start life thus and have a place for everything, you cannot fail to make good farmers.” -Report of the Secretary of the Iowa State Agricultural Society, 1865

u201CA place for everything and everything in its placeu201D came ashore in the 19th century, and was adopted most rigorously by farmers, who owned and used a wide variety of tools and pieces of equipment, and who couldn't afford to leave them to rust in the rain or exposed to elements during winter. Keeping track of their tools ensured they could get to work when they needed to, and there was always plenty of work to be done.

The maxim was subsequently taken up by men in all trades and businesses, white and blue collar alike, who saw how having a set place for their tools and papers, both at home and at work, contributed to their success. The standard espoused in old books was for a man to be able to dress himself in the dark or find any tool in his shed with his eyes closed.

While a man’s tools and necessities may have changed over the centuries, the wisdom in u201Ca place for everything and everything in its placeu201D remains the same. Whether at school, work, or home, creating a system of order for your possessions will create numerous benefits in your life.

The Importance of Having a Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

u201CSoldiers of every grade must especially avoid slovenliness: they must bear in mind the proverb, u2018A Place For EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE'…When a soldier can bring himself to be habitually exact in small things, he may be safely regarded as reliable in important matters: but he who is negligent over apparent trifles, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to be punctual on occasions of the greatest moment.u201D -The Manual of the Patriotic Volunteer on Active Service in Regular And Irregular War, 1855

Having a place for everything and everything in its place saves time (and sometimes opportunities, too). Do you know someone (perhaps yourself!) who spends ten minutes looking for his keys every single morning? Or a gent who every time he leaves the house, must turn it inside out searching for his wallet? When you have a set place for all of your possessions, you can grab them and go. You'll never be late for a job interview, date, or other important event for a silly reason like not being able to find something you need.

If you’re in the habit of haphazardly dropping things around the house, you may do so because you feel it takes too much time to put them in their proper places, or because you're just too tired from a long day of work. But by spending and expending a minute of time and a bit of energy now, you'll save yourself from a ten minute hunt and a lot of hassle the next day.

Having a place for everything and everything in its place saves money. Sometimes a hunt for a lost item comes up empty — it is never found again, forcing you to buy a replacement. You don't have any idea what happened to it — and that's precisely the problem. There's no set place you keep it, so it could have ended up anywhere.

Sometimes a misplaced item is eventually found — but because it was stored carelessly, it was damaged, and you still have to buy another.

In our post about being a savvy consumer, we mentioned that a man should not seek to own a great many things, but that those things he does possess should be of good quality. Well, once a man obtains a quality item, he must then take care of it in order to make it last. To live the principle of u201Ca place for everything and everything in its place,u201D is to refuse to follow the dictums of a disposable society.

Having a place for everything and everything in its place will make life smoother and less stressful. As we've mentioned a few times during this series, keeping your place in order gives you a sense of peace and confidence, and conserves your willpower. Being able to get out the door without first running around like a headless chicken only adds to this invaluable sense of calm and control.

“Your safety and comfort in the field will depend upon the manner in which you keep your arms and equipment. You must take particular care not to lose them, as you may not be able to replace them by the time you will need them most. Before dark, place everything where you can quickly find it in the dark. Remember that carelessness in the protection and condition of your arms and equipment may cost you your life or health, or that of a comrade.” –Army Field Manual 21-100, 1941

Having a place for everything and everything in its place prepares you for an emergency. At boot camp, members of the armed forces are rigorously drilled in strict discipline — their uniforms, beds, and lockers must all be kept just so. For a soldier, attention to little details can mean the difference between life and death. He needs to know where his equipment is every moment — an attack can come any time so he must be always ready to spring into action.

While your abode may never come in for a shelling, it's nice to know that if you ever had to run out the door quickly or jump out of bed in the middle of the night, you could dress yourself, grab what you needed, and be gone in a flash. By the way, according to ITS Tactical, the proper order of dressing when awakened during such a crisis is pants, socks, then shoes.

A Place for Everything

Now obviously, in order to have everything in its place, you have to establish the places you're going to put your things. Your selection of places shouldn’t be done willy-nilly, either; if they're inconvenient or ill-chosen, you won't use them, and the habit of putting things there won't stick. The place should be intuitive — putting your stuff in it should require the least possible thought and effort. It should be entirely natural. You're not going to want to climb on a chair to reach a shelf to retrieve and replace something every day, for example. The place you choose to put something has to preserve the quality of the item and protect it from damage as well.

Of course there are as many methods for storing things as there are different items to be stored, and every man will have his own system. Below I walk you through the possible placement of some of the most common possessions for men, as well as offer my personal suggestions on how to organize and store them.

Pocket Contents

We men often carry around a lot in our pockets — smartphone, wallet, pocketknife, handkerchief, keys — and so on. We need these items every day, so they should be as easy as possible to grab each morning when we head out the door.

Key hook. The minute you step through the door — keys go up on the key hook. Now this isn’t strictly necessary if you have a dresser valet/box (see below) into which you plan to deposit your keys along with the rest of the contents of your pockets when you change into your lounging wear or pajamas. But even then, if you share the car with someone else or don’t have a habit of putting your keys back into your pocket and instead tend to plop them on the counter or couch, the key hook still comes in handy. There will also be times when you want to retrieve something from your car, but don’t want to walk into your bedroom to get the keys.

Put your phone, pocketknife, wallet, spare keys, etc into a dresser valet or other receptacle.

Dresser valet. Instead of dumping all of your pocket accoutrements on top of your dresser at the end of the day, depositing various items around the house, or leaving them in the pockets of the pants sitting in your hamper, place them all in a dresser valet. That way in the morning you can grab everything you need without spending ten minutes looking for your phone and keys.

Nice dresser valets with drawers and chargers for your phone and whatnot are available, but if you’re just starting out and on a budget, a $3 basket from Hobby Lobby or even a topless shoebox will do — anything that keeps your stuff together in one place will work fine and dandy.

Kate got me this coin bank for Christmas one year. It’s made with the door of an old post office box.

Coin bank. Coins always somehow end up in every conceivable nook and cranny in your house. So every man should have a bank in which to place his change. It’s really worthwhile to pick change up wherever you see it at home and when you’re out and about as well, and then to deposit it in your bank at the end of the day. I knew a guy who would actually throw away his pennies! Foolishness! Just save your coins for a long time, and then put them into rolls, and exchange the rolls for cash at the bank (unless they have a handy coin-counting machine you can dump your whole loose stockpile into) — you’ll be surprised how much green stuff your pocket change will amount to. There's something so satisfying about turning your coins into cash.

I have a wallet that also holds my iPhone. I find that keeping them together this way is quite handy.

Wallet. If you don’t keep your wallet organized, it can quickly swell to George Costanza-sized proportions. An overstuffed wallet looks silly when you pull it out, is uncomfortable to carry in your pants, and makes your jacket lopsided when kept in a jacket pocket (not to mention possible back problems if you're sitting on it all day). A giant wallet can also create creases in your pants or jacket which can shorten the life of the garment.

So clean out your wallet regularly, and only put things in it that belong there:

  • Keep: Cash, credit cards, ID cards, business cards, photos of loved ones
  • Remove: Discount club membership and library cards (keep in car, or grab for a specific trip when you’ll need them), Social Security card (very risky if wallet is stolen — keep at home), condoms (can degrade in your wallet), receipts (transfer to files when you get home — see below), too many coins (unless it’s a major part of the currency in your country)

For more about maintaining your wallet, see this AoM guide.

Clothes and Accessories

Clothing is an area where our best-laid plans for order often go awry: our garments frequently end up slung over chairs, tossed on the bed, crumpled in piles on the floor, and spilling out of dresser drawers.

But by the same token, taking time to put away our clothes properly will go a very long way in keeping our bedrooms looking neat. Getting ready in a messy environment puts you in an out of sorts mood right from the get go, whereas waking up to a neat room in the morning really helps get your day started off on the right foot. Plus, proper care and storage of your clothes will make them last longer, saving you big money.

Dresser. There are a variety of ways to organize your dresser — you might choose to group clothes together by weight, season, or use. It also depends on how many drawers your particular dresser has. Here’s how I do mine:

  • Top drawer: underwear, socks, undershirts.

Drawer dividers are handy for keeping your underwear/sock drawer from becoming a chaotic mess and can help organize your others drawers as well. The expandable dividers seen here are quite handy, but a little pricey; if you’re on a budget, shoe boxes or tissue boxes from which the top panel has been removed can also work.

  • Second drawer: Fill it with the things you reach for most. Mine has got t-shirts and workout clothes.
  • Third Drawer: Shorts, pants, sweaters. You might also put these types of items on a shelf in your closet.

I put my seasonal-specific clothes in a plastic tub depending on the season, and then rotate them into the dresser as the weather warms or cools.

More dresser tips:

Image from Apartment Therapy

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