Have You Heard of the "One Touch" Method?

By Jennifer Kelly

Oh, I’m a sucker for the Container Store and other pristine spaces that promise aesthetically pleasing closets or cabinets if only I procured the perfect cubby or stylish set of nesting boxes that would order all my messiness.  Hangers that promise to elevate my oxford shirts into hanging works of art. Shoe boxes that house designer shoes that pained me to look at, yet alone wear. Matching containers that made my undersized and over used pantry Instagram worthy.  Yes, those photos of homes unsullied by human inhabitants and devoid of dirt and dust cause grumblings in this ol’ gal, causing me to think, “If only I had that closet then surely then I could organize with the best of them, and since I don’t, well then I’ll never reach organization nirvana…”. Within a matter of moments, I’ve given myself excuses for not even attempting to work towards my goals.

Things get even a little messier with my helpers who refuse to help.  The kiddos remove toys from their shelves as if it’s a race and then when asked to pick up after themselves the request prompts wailing and arguments that rival a University of Berkley protest.  Points are made, thoughts are shared, their unwillingness to cooperate noted and the mess remains. Lincoln logs, Legos, army men, shopkins, puzzle pieces and tangrams dot the floor. It almost looks like a variation on a Jackson Pollock painting, only now represented in mixed media.  And the worst part is I notice this work of art at the bewitching hour - right before bedtime. My day has already been spent “putting the house back together” and I’m about to sit down for the first time since 6:30 that morning. Yet, when I see the havoc and disorder of the play room, it’s as if a switch flips inside my tired mind and adrenaline fills my veins prompting a cleaning frenzy whereby no one wins, and we all end up worse than before we started.  My husband affectionately calls it the war path and has even requested that I don’t put the kids to bed. Not being one to argue I accept, however the house elves, cleaning fairy, Pooka or Mary Poppins never come at night despite our unlocked doors, and the room remains a walking hazard.

I really lose my mind during the summer months when we sleep with the windows open.  Denver gets those middle of the night tempests where the rain comes in sideways just long enough to soak your carpet, warp your wooden floors or have your mdf window sills puff up like a sponge.  My husband and I dash to the various rooms, delirious and half blind, trying to close windows before the precipitation causes a lake indoors. I race to the playroom, only to step on matchbox cars, Duplo’s and train tracks.  Not wanting to wake the house, I continue shuffling across the playroom floor until my toe kicks the floorboard. No pain, no gain. I made it. Shut the window, mop up the water with my rags and drag my feet across the minefield of toys, alive but clearly defeated.  It’s become an annual tradition and you’d think I would celebrate these family memories and one day fondly look back on these memories and laugh. Yet, I don’t.  

I think there is a value to learning how to put things away in their proper spot, but I have yet to transfer that value to anyone, myself included.  I have yet to make it a habit, a routine, common place. And so instead of immediately putting something away, I set it here or there usually forgetting where I placed it.

Recently a friend shared with me a concept called “one touch”.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but in case you’re like me, permit me to expound.  One Touch is the idea that you touch something only once. Before you roll your eyes, allow me to explain.  For instance, when you’re finished with your morning coffee, rather than setting it in the sink which you will later pick up, rinse out and then put in the dishwasher, when you are practicing the habit of “one touch” you finish your last sip of joe and then immediately rinse out the cup, placing it into the dishwasher.  You’ve just “one touched” it, rather than nudging it along to its final point.  Another example, taking off shoes. Rather than removing them and setting them some place with the intention to move them later to your closet, you return them to the closet immediately after using them.   Now, apply this practice to children. When they have finished reading a book encourage them to put it away in its proper spot rather than putting it off till some other time.

I’m sure you all have your own ways of tidying up the house, but I find that if I only did it gradually, starting with my coffee cup, then things don’t spiral into a playroom disaster.

Jennifer Kelly lives in Denver with her husband, 4 children, flowers, bees, chickens, coyotes and field mice.  Forever looking for the good, true and beautiful amongst the ordinary and messiness of life.

Share your ideas with us too! What do you and your kiddos do to maintain a sense of order in your home?