How would you like to be more organized? Is that a “yes, please” I hear?
I think we would all like to be more organized. Organization makes your life so much easier: being able to find something when you need it, knowing what you have in the house so you don’t end up buying more than you need, and just having things neat and tidy.
I think that a lot of us often approach organizing kind of backwards. We decide we need to be more organized, and the first thing we do is go to Target to buy containers.
We get all sizes: big ones, smaller ones to maybe fit into the big ones. Some cute little tiny ones, just because. There must be some tiny things we need to organize, right?
Note: I agree with that, 100%. Except that a few years ago I bought a set of those cute little containers. They had those nice snap-on lids too. They were maybe 2″ square with colorful lids. Today I found one of them with seeds in it my son had saved. Where are the others? No idea. I never found anything small enough to put in them.
Where to Start?
Where you start is up to you. My advice would be to pick an area that really needs it. And ideally it would be an area that’s causing you aggravation.
For instance, we cook at our house. My son and I enjoy it; my husband will even pitch in now and then. So we have a lot of kitchen stuff.
One area that really needs organizing is our utensil drawer. I guess that’s what it’s called. It’s not the drawer with the silverware in it; it’s the other one, with vegetable peelers, measuring spoons, and ice cream scoops.
As I am writing this, I realize how much stuff we actually have, and well, I know what’s next on my list!
When you choose an area, try to go for something on the smaller side. You want to get the job done rather quickly, but do it well, and you don’t want to end up with a bigger mess in the process.
If the place you choose is on the bigger side, and it has to be done, see if you can find a way to divide it into sections.
What’s It For?
Now this might sound stupid, but sometimes you need to decide exactly what purpose this area serves. If you have a cupboard that you store your water glasses in, you wouldn’t also put your makeup in there, right?
And most of us store our water glasses in a cupboard next to the sink, because that’s where they get used.
I promise you, this step has a purpose. It might be obvious to you right away what it’s purpose is, but sometimes, we need to take a better look.
You know, sometimes when you move into a new home, you put things just sort of anywhere at first, just to get the unpacking done.
I drink iced tea with lemon year round. I have a small cutting board my son made in middle school that I have used since the day he brought it home for slicing my lemons. (He’s almost 36.)
When we moved into this house, it went on a small counter in the corner of the kitchen. Stayed there for over ten years. When I got my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, it went on another small counter, by the refrigerator.
Finally, one day I realized that my tea station was the furthest away that it could be from the refrigerator, and my mixer was on the opposite side of the kitchen from my baking stuff. Well, duh.
So trust me. Just decide what the space is for, and while you’re at it, remember my dumb story and make sure it’s in the right place.
Clear it Out!
Now this is the part where you have the potential of making a mess. But if you want to be more organized, sometimes you have to make a mess to do it.
This is also where it helps if you paid attention to step one, and chose a small area to work with. Your mess won’t be as big! Even so, making a big mess is worth it if you end up more organized when you’re done.
As you are clearing things out, remember step two – when you decided what the area is used for. That way, if you find some lipstick and eye shadow in among your drinking glasses, you know that they don’t belong.
So this part is kind of like decluttering. You’re going to weed out anything that is no good anymore or that you don’t use, but you’re also looking for things that belong somewhere else.
If you bring some supplies with you, like garbage bags for trash, and some kind of container for things you’re donating, be sure to bring another one for things that belong elsewhere.
By the way, if you can find a cute basket or container (something “just right” sized and nice enough to leave out), it can become an excellent way to keep your house picked up. If you have more than one level in your home, you can put it by the stairs for things that need to go up or down. Or you can just use it to gather things up to put where they belong.
You’ll Need a Tape Measure
Remember when I mentioned that our first impulse is to go to Target and buy containers when we want to organize? I forgot to tell you not to do that. So hopefully you didn’t.
After you have your area cleared out, you can wipe it down if it needs it. Then get your trusty tape measure and measure it. Be sure to write down your measurements. You can put them in the notes section of your phone or if you have a household planner, that would be an ideal place for them.
Why are you measuring your space? So that you can choose the right sized containers to help you get it organized!
Now the next part might be a little tricky, but you also need to get a general idea of how much stuff you have.
Here’s an example: I have most of the things in my linen closet stored in baskets. The different sizes of sheets stay separated that way, and the pillow cases are all in one by themselves.
The towels just go on the shelves, but the washcloths needed a container to keep them neat. Well, I underestimated how many washcloths we have! I need at least two more baskets, or one bigger one for them.
You’re going to store like things together, so get an idea of how many of each thing you have. And then if you end up with several very small amounts of things, maybe you can store them all together.
Shop the House
Now the wise thing to do next is to shop the house for things that you can use as containers for organizing. And be open minded as to what you can use.
A few years ago, one of the drawers in our refrigerator that we kept lunchmeat and cheese in broke. I had to replace it, but buying a new one was way too expensive. I decided to use a couple of plastic containers instead.
But I only had one that fit. I needed two. So I found a shoe box and used that. Yes, I’m weird. I’ve probably kept that from you until now, but I am. It worked until I could get to the store and find a plastic basket the right size. Shoe boxes are probably not the best way to store your cheese, but they will do in a pinch.
So, as I said, be open minded.
I have seen tons of pins on Pinterest showing how you can use a cereal box with one corner cut off for all kinds of storage. And when my youngest daughter got married, her friend made her a tray out of a piece of cardboard with wine corks glued to it and edged in string.
The tea we drink comes in tins, and I save those. My husband uses them in the garage for bits and pieces. And coffee cans can be useful for a lot of things.
And if you have a lot of baskets, I’m sure you can put them to use and get more organized in the process.
Yay! You get to go shopping! Be sure to take your measurements with you so you know what size containers to buy. Remember, it has to be big enough to hold your stuff, but it also has to fit into the space you have.
Stay away from those really large totes unless you’re storing big things. I have extra quilts in one or two of those in my linen closet. If you store a lot of smaller things in there, it will be harder to find them.
I’ve heard that the dollar store is a good place to shop for baskets and storage containers. I would caution you, though, to be careful about what you buy. Is it going to be sturdy enough for your purposes?
My first set of “cheese and lunchmeat” baskets came from the dollar store and fell apart not long after.
Also take into consideration what it’s going to be used for. A container that holds your nail polishes and accessories should be sturdy (to hold the weight), solid (as opposed to a basket so nothing slips through), and probably plastic, in case anything leaks.
Ikea might be a good place to check, if you’re lucky enough to have one near you. And I’ve wanted to visit The Container Store forever and ever! I actually have one not too far away in Chicago, but I don’t have any geeky friends to go with me. Anyone live near by?
The Fun Part
OK, shopping was kind of the fun part, but now comes the even more fun part! Yes. I am a geek.
Now you get to take all of your amazing containers and baskets and put them to work!
Start filling your containers with your stuff. Take a moment to admire how it all fits just right in it’s container because you took the time to do it right.
Then start putting things back where they belong. If you are a super geek like me, you can get out your label maker and label everything. No kidding.
When I last organized my linen closet – it could use a touch-up now – I decorated it. I had these little ornaments I guess you would call them with inspirational sayings on them. A previous boss loved them and loved to give them to us. So I hung them around my linen closet. (There’s only two or three. I’m not completely crazy.)
Linen closets are also good places for a nicely scented sachet. I buy those ones for your car that look like a Yankee Candle and hang them in my closet and the linen closet. Fresh cotton or something like that.
If you end up with extra space, congratulate yourself. And resist the urge to add more stuff.
A Few Last Tips
First, one of my favorites: make things easier to put away than they are to get out.
Let’s say all of your makeup is thrown into one zippered bag. You can dump it out and search until you find what you need. And some of us might be willing to do that, depending on what it is.
Once you find what you need, you just scoop it all up and throw it back into the bag.
Try to keep things near their point of use. I already mentioned this, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.
Keep things that are used together, together. Checkbook, envelopes, stamps, pens.
Keep prime real estate in mind. Prime real estate is basically the most accessible spots in your house for storage.
I have a large kitchen, but also lots of cooking things. I have three large soup pots, and two large roasting pans. The soup pots get used more than the roasting pans, but not so much that they deserve prime real estate.
One soup pot is in the kitchen. The others and the roasting pans are in the basement. For the amount of times they get used, it’s worth the walk downstairs rather than trying to store them in the kitchen.
And finally, if I haven’t given you enough tips so that you can be more organized than ever, here is Good Housekeeping’s list of 100 things.