As I instinctively opened the door under our kitchen sink today to toss a dirty towel into the designated dirty towel bucket, I was SO grateful that cabinet got organized this year. It also made me think about all the spaces in the house that are now working for us after receiving a little attention. Throughout 2014, I tackled quite a few organizing projects, and each time I figured out a little more about what works and what doesn’t when organizing your home. As we get closer to January when so many of us make resolutions to get organized, I thought it was the perfect time to share what I learned.
I started off 2014 by tackling our bathroom towel & toiletry closet. It was a great first project because I figured out several keys to organizing that I carried over into other projects.
Lesson #1: Ask what is NOT needed in the space.
In our bathroom closet, I was able to get rid of quite a few towels. I realized that the more towels we had, the more dirty towels could pile up before getting washed. Eliminating some of the towels keeps the shelves neater and the laundry pile smaller. I admit that I was a little skeptical of this plan, but it’s been 11 months and it really does work.
Now, when I start any project, I ask myself what can be eliminated from the space. Some things are relocated to other rooms, and other times the items can be sold, donated, or trashed. When you get rid of things FIRST, it lets you better plan for the items that are left. In my recent pantry makeover, I got rid of 75% of the cookbooks. I never used them so there was no reason for them to be taking up prime real estate!
Lesson #2: The RIGHT containers make a difference.
Learning when to save and when to spend on organizing materials has made all the difference. In my before photo above, there are some soft sided bins I got at the Dollar Tree. I LOVE saving money, but in this case, I wasted at least $10. The bins just weren’t functional for the space. Instead, I used photo boxes (white boxes on top shelf) for my stockpiled toiletries. They were a much better choice because they are stackable and have built in labels. The best part is that they are also inexpensive! Michael’s has amazing sales and you can get 7 boxes for $10.
My favorite purchase for this space was the plastic drawers. They work triple duty as shelf dividers, shelves, AND actual drawer storage. Having one of the units divide the bottom shelf keeps the towels in neat piles on each side, provides room for hand towels on top, and hides away washcloths & hair towels. I don’t know about you guys, but our washcloths would never stay neatly piled on the shelf. Now it doesn’t matter!
Lesson #3: Making it PRETTY keeps it pretty.
Obviously most of you aren’t going to go around painting all your closets purple. But you can use uniform labels and colors to make your space pretty. For me, adding little touches of gold didn’t cost anything, but it ups the happy factor of the closet. When you open the door and see things that make you smile, it’s a definite incentive to put things back where they belong.
My next big project was the combo craft room/guest room. It was a trickier space than the closet because everything was out in the open and it had to work as a double duty space.
Lesson #4: Go vertical!
I wanted my craft supplies to be easy to access without taking up too much space. I took advantage of the wall space using inexpensive IKEA rail systems and shelving. Both allowed me to have more supplies within easy reach while still confining the craft space to one corner of the room. The “make it pretty” lesson I learned in the bathroom closet came into play and I blended some art work with the organizing rails to turn the functional space into more of a gallery wall.
Going vertical also worked great under the kitchen sink. Using the backs of the doors added room and made items more accessible.
Lesson #5: Label EVERYTHING!
One thing you’ll notice in all the pictures above is serious amounts of labeling. There is something mentally rewarding when you put an item back into it’s labeled home. On the other hand, it’s disturbing to put something in an area that has been clearly labeled for something else. If that wasn’t enough, labels keep everyone in the house on the same page. For most of my labels, I use my Silhouette Portrait * to custom make labels out of vinyl. A less expensive, but still effective, option would be investing in a basic label maker. *Affiliate links
Lesson #6: Think outside the box
As you start organizing a space, brainstorm your challenges. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned my dirty towel bin. When I decided to clean out the cabinet under the kitchen sink, I had a towel issue. There wasn’t really a clear method to know what was clean and what was dirty. I picked up a $1 bucket and designated it “dirty”. It’s like a mini clothes hamper for the kitchen. I LOVE it.
During my laundry room organization, dryer lint was a problem. We don’t have room for a trash can, so had been using a shoe box on top of the dryer instead. It was functional, but not the most attractive. I wanted something that would look good AND get the job done. I ended up making over a real estate literature holder into a wall mounted trash can.
Brainstorming my problem led me to an outside-the-box solution that has been working brilliantly.
Lesson #7: Do what works for YOU
Every single household is different. The spaces are different and the people are different. A whole group of people think I am COMPLETELY ridiculous for making the lint bin, but that’s okay. Those people didn’t have our problem, so they don’t understand our solution. More people were vocal about their dislike of my pantry makeover, they preferred the messy before photo. Lucky for me, it’s my house and not theirs!
The first 6 points are the ones that I have found make the biggest difference for us. As you tackle your spaces, a different set of guidelines may develop. Each time you start a new organizing project, review what worked and what didn’t from your last project and eventually you’ll have the perfect system for your household.
I’m SO happy that all the spaces I organized this year stayed nice and neat. Well, all except the coat closet. I didn’t label any of the bins and they became a total free for fall. Oops!
I’ve still got some major spaces that haven’t been organized yet. Now that I’ve learned what works for us, I can’t wait to tackle them throughout the next year!