Once the calendar turns to March, my thoughts turn to the coming of spring and organizing the spots that need attention in our house. I’m certainly not an expert on this subject, but I know that an organized space brings me peace, calm and helps me be more efficient. I enjoy reading articles and watching shows on organizing to see if I can get some new tips. What you will read in today’s blog are things I’ve learned or come up with that have helped me be more organized in all areas of my home.
Over the years, I have come to believe that an organized home is not something that you can do once and be done with it. Our needs, activities and lifestyle change over time, so you need to spend time organizing each week, or each month so that the task is not overwhelming and everything has a place. What helps me is to pick a little spot every couple of weeks – say one drawer that’s become overstuffed – and deal with that. Larger spaces like closets, garages, basements demand more time, but you can also do those little by little if you don’t have large amounts of time available for organizing. The key is to spend a little time as you are able, and you will reap the rewards. Remembering that organizing is not a “one and done” kind of task helps me be kind to myself and have realistic expectations that my closets don’t need to look like magazine pages to be organized and well planned. It’s all a work in progress!
Here are 10 tips that have worked for me:
1. Understand your space and storage preferences: I like to have things in closed cupboards, and when I open the cupboard I want to be able to easily see what is in there. In the kitchen cupboards, I use clear storage canisters whenever possible and I label the container or cut off the part of the box that has the cooking instructions and place it in plastic wrap and put it in the container. The clear container helps me see the quantity we have left of pasta, rice, legumes, etc. without having to take the box out and look into it. Nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a full box of pasta and realizing just before making dinner that there are only a few strands left!
2. Keep a running list on your fridge so you can add items you need as you use them. This will help you be more organized for grocery shopping and will minimize over buying or forgetting something you really need. Don’t forget to take the list with you when you go shopping! Recently, my husband and I have been using electronic shared lists on our phones and that works too. It’s all a matter of preference!
3. Buy just what you need and can use in a few months. Sales on staples and non-perishable food items may be attractive, but take a look at what you can reasonably store and use in a few months. There will be more sales coming! (And, this is another thing that I learned through experience!!)
4. Label everything! I purchased a label maker more than 10 years ago and I use it in all areas of my house. If you don’t have the budget for a label maker, you can simply use tape and a permanent marker. It doesn’t have to be ‘magazine worthy’ to be organized! In the kitchen, I label refillable spice bottles, canisters, and even shelves to help everyone put the right glasses in the right spot. We entertain a lot, so it’s much easier when the family and guests can open a cupboard and know where to find the glass they need. And, then everyone has a much better shot at putting everything back in the same space that you organized for it! No more re-sorting! In the linen closet, I label the shelves to indicate where each type of towel goes (i.e., bath towels, face cloths, hand towels), and also the various sizes of bed sheets. That way all family members and guests can help themselves to whatever they need very easily.
5. If it’s going in a box for later, label the box with the contents. Everyone has stuff that they don’t use and want to keep…those things usually end up in boxes in basements or closets or under beds to be dealt with later. If you label the box with the contents, even those hidden boxes will be organized to some degree, and you’ll spend less time searching for things.
6. Organize your gift wrapping paper, gift bags, etc. in one spot. Those wrapping rooms you see in magazines are really cool, but most of us don’t have space for that in our homes. Instead, try to find a shelf or two where you can put wrapping supplies in bins and label them so the items are easy to find. Recently, the dollar stores in my area have been carrying many sizes of clear bins with lids that are super affordable and visually appealing.
Here’s a cool idea I saw in a magazine years ago for organizing spools of ribbon. It’s a paper towel holder! It’s very easy to use without having to take off each spool.
7. Have a spot for everything. Clutter happens when you don’t know where to put things. Once you’ve got a space for everything, be sure to put it back in the spot, or you’ll end up with clutter again! You might want to have a medium sized bin to put things in that don’t yet have a spot and get to it when you have more time. Don’t make the bin too large or let it get too full, or you may have created another overwhelming spot to take care of later! I say this from experience!
8. Every couple of months, pick a shelf or two in your kitchen pantry and bathroom cupboards and go through it to get rid of unused or expired items. If you set the goal of doing a small area once a month or every few months, it won’t become a huge chore. If you are really pressed for time, try to be sure to do it once a season or once a year! Again, do what you can manage…perfection is not the goal! Celebrate small wins!
9. Go through your clothes every season and be realistic about what you are not wearing anymore. A group of women I met through work last year said that once a year they have a clothing swap get together. They gather at someone’s house and bring all their gently used clothing and exchange it with each other. I thought that was a wonderful idea for all involved. Definitely a money saver! Of course, you can also donate to good causes. Many organizations have drop off bins and some will also come to your house. This year, I am trying a new tip I picked up on a local home show…they recommended turning all your hangers backwards and then put them forward after you’ve worn the piece. By the end of the season, you should be able to see what was not worn and make a decision to keep or toss! Hopefully, that will help me!
10. Organize appliance and electronics manuals in one spot. As soon as I get a manual from an appliance or piece of electronics, I date it and put it in a plastic sleeve that goes in a binder. I used to put them in file folders, but I’ve found that the binders are more effective. I label the binders by the room in the house where the equipment lives (i.e. kitchen, living room, basement, outdoor stuff). Having your manuals handy helps you troubleshoot minor problems with your appliances and gives information on replacement parts. Many manuals are also available online these days, and that’s a great resource too. I have used the online ones as well. I find the efficiency of having the hard copy of the manual in front of me is a time saver and allows you to see more information at once. Of course, it’s a matter of personal preference! So, do what is easy for you!
I hope you find these tips useful and that they inspire you to tackle a small section in your home that will bring you more peace and efficiency. Be kind to yourself and celebrate small successes! Let me know how it goes! And, please share any tips you have that work for you. I’m always looking for new ways to be more organized! Next blog post, I’ll be back to sharing recipes! Stay tuned!