Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JANUARY 2010
Parting Thoughts
Lessons from the Laundry Room
By Paul Burton

Our house was constructed without a hall closet. To remedy this shortcoming, we had purchased an antique coat rack and placed it in a convenient spot. We do, however, have a laundry room. It’s one of those closet-style areas with swinging doors and it runs along the hallway out to the back deck.

Last winter we began discussing the desire to create a coat closet to replace the coat rack. We decided to remodel the laundry room, as the washer and dryer, though full-sized, can be stacked. Much discussion ensued about exactly what we’d like to do with the laundry room.

The problem was that over the years the laundry room had become a repository for all things homeless. Not only did the washer and dryer reside there, but so did all the cleaning implements and supplies. Joining them was all the home repair and maintenance items and tools, along with spare towels and sundry other items. There was also a cabinet mounted above the washer/dryer in which we stored even more things.

Needless to say, the laundry room became a disaster area!

With some terrific suggestions from the contractor we hired, the laundry room was converted into a combination laundry facility and coat closet!

I know, “Wow, Paul! Breaking news!” However, there’s more to this story.

The other day I was tasked with a minor home repair. I toddled off to the new and improved laundry room, retrieved the tools I needed and went to complete my assigned duty. As I returned to the closet to store my tools, I was struck with two powerful observations:

Gone was the dread of opening the closet doors to retrieve/return things.

A well organized space was a pleasure to experience.

Not rocket science, but the point is that small organizational changes can have large impacts on our experiences.

Prior to the remodel, the laundry room was a hidden train wreck. There was no “organization” to the space and, as a result, things were stored willy-nilly wherever they wouldn’t tumble to the floor. Over time, things heaped up higher and higher, making a trip to the closet a precarious proposition. If you could even find what you were looking for, you stood a strong chance of starting an avalanche when you extracted it from the pile. The laundry room was not a place you went to unless absolutely necessary!

The new closet is well organized. The washer and dryer are stacked with just enough room to hang an iron/ironing board storage unit on the wall next to them. There is a custom built five-shelf unit running vertically that splits the space. The size of each shelf is adequate for the things we store, and having five of them provides for good separation. The other side of the closet has a dowel stretched across it for hanging things. There is also adequate space to stand the vacuum, brooms and mops without interfering with the hanging items.

Because everything rests on a stable surface, I feel entirely confident that I will not only be able to quickly find what I need, but that I will also safely extract it. I no longer dread going there.

After conducting my household repair and returning everything to the closet, I stood looking at the newly remodeled space and felt a distinct sense of satisfaction that we had 1) fixed an irritating problem, and 2) accomplished a terrific result through a little thoughtful analysis and action.

Many who know me will want to ascribe the sense the well-being I derived from this remodel to my latent OCD tendencies. However, I believe that we all experience satisfaction from accomplishment. And, more importantly, feeling satisfied (or good) is the measure of success by which we should gauge our lives. Therefore, whether I have OCD or not is irrelevant. The point is that I experienced well-being from a simple act of organization which also made my day both more effective and more efficient. To wit, I completed a task without undue delay in the preparatory or clean-up stages.

I hope you are able to translate this simple example into an opportunity in your own life to make a minor organizational improvement that positively affects your sense of accomplishment and well-being. Whether it’s in your personal life — like the example above — or your professional life, look for something that would be relatively easy to change, but could confer significant benefit to you upon its completion.

May all your laundry rooms be well organized!


Paul H. Burton enjoys a national reputation as an expert in solving the productivity challenges faced by people working in today’s frenetic world. Visit him at www. quietspacing.com.

© 2010 Paul H. Burton

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