Vol.2, No.6

Home: basic tips for organizing anything

These seven basic principles will help get the most disorganized home or workplace into shape. Tips apply to all sorts of situations.

Home organization storage
Photo Credit: Otto Groning
Anyone, no matter how disorganized they may be by nature, can learn to be organized. Organizing tips abound, but they all tend to illustrate one of these seven basic principles.

Principle number one is to store items near where you will use them. Keep towels in the bathroom, not down the hall in a closet. Keep cooking utensils near the stove, and dishes near the dishwasher. It's fine to have a file folder marked "maps," but it makes more sense for commonly used maps to be kept in the glove box of the car.

Principle number two is to group items by their use. Books can be arranged with cookbooks on one shelf, reference books on another, and novels on a third, for instance. Cord, string, and clotheslines can all be stored together in a drawer. Keep shoe polish, shoe brush, and extra shoelaces all together. Kids' crayons, scissors, and activity books should all be kept together, too.

Principle number three is to containerize everything. Stores are well stocked with a variety of plastic containers and "totes." Remember that round containers waste space in the corners. A square or rectangular shape is usually more efficient. Many storage challenges can be answered inexpensively with recycled containers, such as plastic jars with lids, margarine tubs, and coffee cans. Watch for sturdy boxes with lids, such as those printer paper or fruit come in. Keep an eye out for appropriate small containers, too. Tacks and paper clips, for instance, can be kept in recycled vitamin bottles. Be sure to label containers that are not transparent, and then store the container with like objects and near where they'll be used.

Principle number four is to "think vertically." Much surface space on floors and counters is taken up by items that could be hung on the wall or leaned against it. A simple example of thinking vertically is to hang one's nightgown on a hanger in the closet each morning instead of folding it and stuffing it into a crowded drawer. Cookie sheets are often more efficiently stored upright. Many things, such as vacuum cleaner tools and scrub brushes, can be stored in bags and hung on the wall of the utility room or broom closet. Brooms and mops last longer when hung. Often, hanging an object is as simple as driving a nail. Here's a tip - put cup hooks or nails on the back wall of your closet to store purses and belts.

The fifth principle of organization is to cull items that are no longer needed. How many times do you have to dig through things you "might" need someday to find something you need right now? Those unneeded items need to be removed. They can be boxed and stored if you insist, but they need to be removed from the areas where you do most of your living. For really streamlined living, try to remove an old something every time you bring a new something into the house.

Sixth, consider the old advice to have a place for everything and everything in its place. In other words, put it away. Unfortunately, nothing can adequately be put away until it HAS a place. To determine an appropriate place for an item, you can put it where you put other things like it (principle number two above.) If this doesn't work, ask yourself, "Where would I look for this item?" Your answer probably indicates a good place for the item. If you are forgetful about the places you've designated for different items, you can record the places on file cards. Alphabetize by the name of the object. For instance, a card might say, "C - Christmas decorations - kept in the red tote on the top shelf in the pantry." (Now just don't forget where you're keeping the file cards!)

Finally, make putting things back as easy as possible. Have a hook on the wall for hanging your mop, but don't have a big bucket, cleaners, and a box of unwanted magazines in the way so that you can't get to the hook. Get unused clothes out of the closet so people can easily hang up the ones they wear. Use hangers that don't tangle easily. Fix drawers so they slide easily.

Ours is a world filled with stuff. Hopefully these basic principles will help you create order in your own life.