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

8 Ways to Get a Handle on the Junk Drawer

Junk drawers get a bad rap, and while it is (mostly) well deserved, there is a way to get that beast sorted and organized once and for all. From creating categories to making smart choices about what goes in and what stays out, these eight tips can help transform junk drawers into “really useful stuff” drawers, ones that keep small items right where you need them.

1. Have more than one small-stuff drawer. A single drawer for small items is simply not enough for most households — and overstuffing is what turns a “really useful stuff” drawer into a junk drawer. It starts innocently enough — you want to quickly clear off a counter because guests are coming, so you slide a few random screws, a rubber band and some pocket change into the drawer. The thing is, it’s a slippery slope. Once that drawer starts to look disorganized, it’s easy to just forget the whole thing and start shoving in every loose item that crosses your path.

2. Come up with categories.
 To stop that from happening, begin by choosing a few categories of small-stuff drawers. Then you can stop thinking of them as junk drawers entirely, and start thinking of them based on the theme of their contents. For instance:

  • Household tools drawer
  • Office supplies drawer
  • Electronics drawer
  • Crafts or gift-wrapping drawer
  • Drawer for personal items you need to get out the door

3. Know the two ways to sort. There are certainly other ways to sort your belongings, but these two ways are simple and effective.

  • Like with like. A family member of mine sorts her kitchen tools into two drawers: “scoopy-stirry” (spoons, ladles etc.) and “cutty-pokey” (knives, vegetable peelers etc.). Sounds a little silly, but it works, and once you know where these drawers are, you can quite easily find what you need, even if you are not familiar with her kitchen. Other like-with-like categories might include tools, paper goods, and electronics and power cords.
  • Complete a task. The second way of sorting is to corral everything you need to complete a task from start to finish. In one drawer in my home, for instance, I have envelopes, stamps, pens, checks and an address book. You might want a drawer near the front door to keep your keys, wallet, cell phone, sunglasses and other personal items.

Here is a good example of a well-tended tool drawer. It contains useful, everyday tools — tape, twine, scissors and screwdrivers. This is not the place for arcane tools and specialized equipment used only once or twice each year. Which brings us to the next point.

4. Know what doesn’t belong. In addition to your small-stuff drawers, it’s helpful to have another location for small items that you rarely use. While your measuring tape and box cutters may deserve a spot in a small-stuff drawer, those random screws do not. 

An over-the-door shoe organizer hung inside a utility closet makes an ideal spot for stowing random items that do not belong in a small-stuff drawer.














5. Always label loose parts. If there were only one tip I could ensure that you take away from this, it would be this: Never put a loose part away without labeling it. An easy way to do this is to pop the item in a zip-top bag, place a piece of masking tape on it and write what it is on the tape using a Sharpie. This way when you go to get rid of your old speakers, you can quickly find all of the cords that go with them and get rid of those, too. I started doing this recently, and it has changed my (organizing) life.

6. Keep it where you use it. Are your kids always doing art projects in the kitchen? Keep a drawer for arts and crafts supplies there, instead of down the hall. When items are stored in the room where they are used, they are far more likely to be returned to the right place.

7. Find the right container for the job. Not everything needs to lie flat in a drawer. If your drawers are deep enough, consider standing some items upright in simple glass jars. 

Experiment with upcycled containers — egg cartons are good for sorting tiny items, and jam jars work wonderfully for paper clips.

















8. Think outside the drawer. Not everything needs to be in a drawer. Papers are better off in flat boxes (labeled, of course) or files. Baskets with drawer inserts placed inside have the advantage of being portable, so you can bring them right where you need them.

The Kitchen Storage Space That Hides at Floor Level

The humble toe kick is an often-overlooked design detail, and maybe for good reason: It stands practically underfoot, serving in fact only to give our feet a place to rest while we’re working at the counters and cupboards above. However, whether in the kitchen, bathroom or elsewhere, there is much you can do with a toe kick, so it’s worth taking a moment to think about this small design detail. Here are a few helpful design tips for the last place you’d ever think about looking.

Toe kicks are, as a rule, typically 3 to 4 inches high, and recessed 3 inches underneath a cabinet. This gives you room for your feet — or your toes, anyway — while you’re standing at the counter without wasting cabinet space or creating a pocket that’s too deep to clean.
















However, a toe kick doesn’t have to be wasted space. Drawers for extra storage are the perfect use for this overlooked space.


















They work great for wide, flat items, like specialty pans you don’t use every day …

… or a stepladder for when you need to reach those tall upper cabinets.

A toe-kick drawer can also house your pet food if you prefer to keep it out of the way between meals — or if your pet is a bit of an overeater!

Get a clean, classic look by matching the cabinets to avoid a visual break (especially perfect with statement wood floors).


















For a richer, traditional look, add faux feet to the cabinet fronts to give built-ins a furniture-inspired feel.




















Stainless steel (especially with stainless steel appliances) will let your toe kicks make a subtly modern statement.

Or you can use a hint of color or repeat a beautiful tile — both work great in darker spaces to add some life.

Underlighting isn’t just for cabinets. Glowing toe kicks look great in a space with other modern LED light sources (like in a ceiling alcove).















To make toe kicks disappear, try painting them black or using a dark material …

… or give them a mirrored finish, and your cabinets will appear to float.

Want other uses for your toe kick? Try a modern central vacuum system. You can incorporate a hidden suction port in the toe kick so crumbs and dust can be swept away without your even bending over.



















And a toe-kick heat vent will keep you toasty during a meal in your breakfast nook or banquette.

Your guests (and you) will appreciate the extra effort, even if they have no idea that your toe kick packs such a design punch!