Everything (Almost) In Its Place

It was 8:00am on a clear February morning in 2004 when the seed of an idea that would transform our lives took root.

We were meeting in the big corporate cafeteria of the building where Alicia worked, lamenting the fact that it had taken us a ridiculous amount of time – three long months of schedule juggling and rain checks to finally manage breakfast together. We were both drowning in endless lists of should-do’s and must-do’s that left little room for the things that seemed to matter, like catching up with an old friend.

As we joked about putting ‘get a life’ on our to-do lists and counseled each other on our respective situations, we couldn’t help but notice the similarities in our problems. Despite our different organizational styles (Alicia is detail-oriented and list-driven, while Sarah is more of a focus-on-the-big-picture and let’s-just-keep-moving-in-the-right-direction type of gal) both of us felt out of control, disorganized, and overwhelmed. Sarah wondered how Alicia could feel stressed when it appeared that she had every single thing she would ever need to do on one of her many lists. Alicia marveled at the fact that Sarah was actually anxious when she seemed to instinctively handle most of her life’s to-do’s in her head.

As we compared notes, we realized we had both purchased many of the same organizing products, read the same magazine articles, and listened to the same experts about how to ‘do it all.’ Yet here we were, both miserable! We realized that whatever we were doing to get organized was not working and was actually making us more anxious!

Alicia hated that the filing, calendar, and closet organizing systems she’d tried were too compartmentalized and too specialized to be integrated into one workable system and took so much time to learn that they became another full time job. In order to get one organizational task completed, she needed to cobble together three or four separate systems and in the end it was often easier to raise the white flag and surrender. She wanted to feel as though her life’s many details, like genes on a string of DNA, all added up to something unified and meaningful. She yearned for a manageable road map to guide her in keeping her busy life together.

Sarah, meanwhile, was tired of having her hopes dashed each time a ‘perfect’ organizational solution failed to live up to its promise (or rather, each time she failed to make it work). She fantasized about living the life of one of those superwomen who managed to excel both at work and be a model mom, wife, friend, sister, and daughter. She tried any product and followed any expert advertising ‘the answer.’ In the meantime, she kept falling off the organizational wagon and into chaos when a perfectly reasonable bump in the road of her packed life, like a sick child, would throw her ‘just-in-time’ schedule off.

Sarah, a management consultant by day, and budding entrepreneur at night, during nap windows on weekends, and every free moment in-between, had a hectic travel schedule and an agenda that was dictated by her clients. Her organizational weakness was tracking details like did she pay the utilities bill or remember a friend’s birthday with a card and a phone call? After years of frustrating dead-ends, she simply longed for a practical solution that she could actually work into her packed life to manage the details more effectively without losing sight of the big picture.

So there we were: two intelligent, professional women, trapped in what we now like to call ‘organizer hell.’ There had to be a better way. A few months and a zillion iced teas and lattes later, we founded Buttoned Up, Inc. (enlisting the help of Alicia’s two sisters, Nancy and Susan). Our mission is to help stretched and stressed women like us get the fundamentals organized so they have more time and energy to enjoy life. We make organizational products and create content designed to help women stop chasing the illusion of organizational perfection and get happily, practically Buttoned Up.

Along the way, we’ve spoken to hundreds of women from all over the country of all ages and lifestyles about their organizational challenges, and the majority agree: chasing organizational perfection is exhausting and disheartening, but until now, it has been held up as the sole option for women who want to banish household clutter, have a neat but functional playroom, and keep an easy practical family calendar. It’s an all or nothing world.

Our new book, Everything (Almost) In Its Place, tells busy people how to live an organized life, not a life overrun by organization.

We’ve got three secrets to getting Buttoned Up.

Secret # 1:
You don’t need to be perfect.

Secret # 2:
You don’t need to do everything on your lists.

Secret #3:

You don’t need to do everything yourself.