Organizing Secrets: It’s the Little Things

Article by: Laura Gaskill [Houzz]

Imagine walking into someone’s home, opening the junk drawer and seeing not a pile of junk, but neat little compartments holding necessary items. A pantry where the jars and cans are lined up like soldiers, shelves labeled and not even close to overflowing; a sock drawer where every sock has a mate. 

For a home to be kept thoroughly organized, you have to be mindful of the smallest habits, the tiniest motions and details — otherwise things rapidly descend into chaos. But is all that mindfulness possible for a mere mortal? I am beginning to think that what separates the truly organized from the rest of us is how the little things are handled. What if, by starting with a commitment to keep one small area of your house ultra tidy, you were able to create a domino effect that eventually affects every room? 

Here we’ll take a look at eight small areas that can be problems and ways to transform them into beacons of an organized life. 

The bedside table. 

I admit it; I have been known to carry huge stacks of books, magazines and notebooks — more than any human could possibly read in a week, let alone in one sitting — to bed with me. 

The teetering mass flows over the bedside table onto the floor, tumbles under the bed and inevitably spreads onto the adjacent radiator cover. And really, that’s fine … for a short time. But if you have a similar problem, and the mess stays (or grows) all week long, it may be time for an intervention. 

I plan to start by adding a small vase of fresh flowers, a candle and a small piece of art beside the bed. Having something lovely to wake up to seems like a positive motivation to take that extra minute in the evening, before shutting off the light, to put the books, tablet or magazines away. This seems like such an easy fix, I may start with this as my first new habit.

The entry. 

The main problem here tends to be the habit of leaving lots of things out because you may want them at some point during the week. 

To transform this area, start thinking about only the next day. Will you wear those boots again tomorrow? What about the jacket, scarf and bag? If not, put them away in a main closet instead of letting them pile up by the front door. 

Set out just what you need, and not only will your entry look neater, but you’ll get out the door more quickly and easily in the morning.

The utensil drawer. 

We all have that one main kitchen drawer that houses utensils — no problem there. But it isn’t just utensils, it it? It also likely holds a random assortment of cooking tools, cookie cutters, various thermometers, broken chopsticks and a few stray rubber bands … at least mine does. 

The problem here, I think, is that the utensils don’t quite fill the drawer completely, which leaves ample room for marauders like leftover skewers from the barbecue last July. I suggest we start thinking of this drawer as the kitchen workhorse drawer: Let it contain your everyday flatware, plus any other small tools you reach for constantly (measuring cups and spoons, an extra timer), and that’s it.

The pantry. 

Containers are a problem in the pantry— they look messy, and the jumble of sizes and shapes makes it hard to find things. 

Decanting the things you buy constantly into airtight containers is definitely something a highly organized person would do. Don’t, however, fall into the slightly less organized person’s trap of buying all of those special containers, decanting everything into them one time and then continuing to buy regular packages and shoving them in on top of the pretty ones, which then tumble over, completely ignored and neglected.

I suggest starting instead by making it a routine to go through the pantry every time you go to the market. Consolidate containers, clear out old stuff and wipe down the shelves. Add a few nice wire baskets if you want to corral wayward boxed goods. 

And if you do want to upgrade to pretty matching containers, remember to label their contents.

The junk drawer. Let’s begin by not calling this the junk drawer  call it the “really useful stuff” drawer instead. Batteries, scissors, stamps … this is stuff you need! No actual junk belongs in there. If there is any junk, get it out. If it’s still crammed too full, you probably have some not-so-useful stuff in there, like old birthday cards and that dead cell phone you’ve been meaning to take to the e-waste center. Get that out, too. Now add neat little dividers and give yourself a great big pat on the back.

The bathroom sink. Clutter problems in this area tend to come from a combination of a) being short on time in the mornings, and b) having too many products. Also, it may be necessary to face the fact that you just do not like getting things in and out of a medicine cabinet. 

Try keeping your daily essential toiletries in one or two nice-looking baskets, lidded or not, set atop the sink or toilet. Should you buy another toiletry product that doesn’t fit in your allotted bins, get rid of something else. 

As for time in the mornings, if you make it a habit to put everything back in its place when you are done using it, your getting-ready area will be neat as a pin the next morning, actually making it quicker to get out the door.

The sock drawer. What is it about socks, for heaven’s sake? I’ve given up on always finding every sock’s mate, but I have committed to giving each lone sock an ultimatum: lone socks no longer live in my drawer. They are immediately booted back to the laundry room, where they will remain until another cycle of wash has gone through. If no mate has been found by that time, it goes in the trash. 

This works amazingly well, and I’ve found that my family has lost very few socks since putting this system in place. To take it to the next level, you will need some sort of drawer dividers to give each pair of socks and tights their own cozy little home. I think just peeking into a drawer this organized would make me feel more positive about life in general.

The coffee table. The coffee table was never much of a problem in my house until we had a child. Now we rarely see the top of it. It does seem unnecessary to get too regimented about keeping surfaces perfectly cleared throughout the day, but a once- or twice-daily clearing of the decks can help keep this area neat. Having a nice tray to place on top can help give you something to aspire to — knowing your coffee table has the potential to look cute may be enough motivation to get you to keep it that way.

Read more from Houzz: The 5 Decisions That Can Lead to Clutter