Trouble Spots: Under the Kitchen Sink

A couple weeks ago, my sister-in-law texted me a picture of Mrs. Meyers Vinegar Gel and asked me if I had used it before.  I use my Norwex rags for almost all of my cleaning, but if I use a cleaning product, it is almost exclusively Mrs. Meyers., which was why my SIL asked me about it.  I told her that I hadn’t ever seen it or used it.

She then proceeded to ask me if I ever used vinegar to clean and what I used for certain cleaning tasks.  I told her that I’ve been meaning to use vinegar for a long time, but have never actually done it.  At this point, I got lazy and didn’t want to text a list  of what I use for each task, so I decided to take a video of under my kitchen sink where my cleaning supplies are housed.

Disclaimer: This is, in no way, a professional video.  I thought that my SIL would be the only person to see it, but once it was done, I decided that I had to show it to you to prove a point.

I am very intentional about not accumulating things, not buying stuff we don’t need, getting rid of things we don’t use – and this still happens.  ALL THE TIME.  It’s a good reminder that organizing and minimizing and decluttering is an on-going project.  And that no one does it perfectly.

As you can see from the video, we don’t have a lot of cleaning products, but what we do have makes up the majority of what we keep under our kitchen sink.  I consider this space to be “unfinished” in that I would still like to do more to leverage some of the vertical space that is currently unused.  But, for now, it works for us, so I don’t have a lot of urgency in crossing that task off of my eternally long to-do list.

What do you put there?

What makes this space a trouble spot for everyone is that the plumbing makes it awkward.  It’s tall and deep, but the pipes through the middle of it and gigantic garbage disposal make it hard to leverage those two assets.  As you can see, we use this space for dishwasher pods (our dishwasher is adjacent to this cabinet), Cleaning supplies & dish rags.  The majority of what is housed in this space is used in close proximity to here.  The exception being the Mrs. Meyers Vinegar Gel.  🙂

Where do you start?

The best way to maximize this space is to locate where you have the biggest chunk(s) of open space.  In the case of our cabinet, it is between the wall & disposal and between the pipe and wall.  These are unobstructed rectangles, which is storage perfection.

I bought this two-tiered drawer organizer (similar) knowing that I’d use it in this space, but not sure what I’d put in there.  It fits perfectly between the pipe and the wall.  I couldn’t put the drawers up against the wall because I needed to be able to pull them out and the cabinet door is in the way, so it sits in an inch or two in.  Our most used supplies, dish soap, cleaning wipes and sponges, are housed in the front of the top drawer.  The back of the top drawer holds our other less-used cleaning supplies.

The bottom drawer is the perfect spot for dish rags.  One of my favorite features of this particular organizer are the adjustable dividers which allow you to use every inch of each drawer.

After putting the drawers in, I moved over to the other big chunk of space and looked to see what the next tallest item is.  At least six years ago, a friend moved out of his house and had Swiffer wet mop and dry mop refills that he wouldn’t use.  I took them thinking that I could find a use for them.  You can see how that went.  The wet mop pads are used more than the dry, so they served as a step stool for the dishwasher pods, which are accessed daily.  The dry mop refills are all the way in the back.  I don’t know why…. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking that I should just throw them.  Six years, people.  It’s been six years and one of the boxes remains unopened.

What about the pipes?

Think of maximizing this space like doing a puzzle.  Match the spaces you have with the items that need to go in there.  Originally, I had put our dish drying mat between the drawers & wall, but it was awkward reaching around the side of the drawers to pull it out and it almost always got stuck on the cabinet door hinges.  The pipe that runs almost all of the way to the bottom of the cabinet created the perfect wall on the other side of the drawers to hold the mat.  This would be otherwise wasted space, so getting that to fit made me feel like I hit the jackpot.

I put lemons in my disposal at least once a week, so I threw those in a Rubbermaid leftover container and put them at the front of the cabinet.

At this point, I took the random hodge lodge of what was left and put it in a shoebox container, which fit between the pipe & the mop pads.  The trick to this part is that the disposal is low enough that nothing tall can fit in the back of the container.  We have a plastic bag holder attached to the cabinet door that, when shut, takes up space at the front of the cabinet, so the shoebox had to sit back a little bit.  This took some maneauvering of what went where and it’s not pretty, but everything is easily accessible.  And, most importantly, what needs to be accessed most is very easily accessible.

 

I considered getting rid of one of the bottles of vinegar, but didn’t pull the trigger.  Do you clean with vinegar?  What do you clean with it?  How do you use it?

Creating a Cleaning Routine

As structured as I am, until the last couple months, I’ve never been one of those people who did certain chores on certain days.  When something looked dirty, I cleaned it – and by look dirty, I mean pink ring in the toilet bowl, ability to write a note in the dust on the shelf or visible dirt in the carpet.  Probably not the best plan, but it worked.  After my daughter was born the time gap between seeing the pink ring in the toilet and cleaning it grew dramatically longer than it had been before she was born.  I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated at my inability to keep up with housework.  I’m sure you’ve never been there.  (sarcasm…)

Once I quit my job to stay home with my daughter, I decided that that this was something that I needed to do better.  I looked at all kinds of cleaning schedules on Pinterest, but it was hard because no one person’s cleaning tasks are the same as another’s.  The more I looked at other people’s routines, the more I became convinced that the best cleaning plan is the individualized one.  We all have different homes, schedules, number of people in our homes and hobbies, so it’s very unlikely that one person’s schedule would work for the next.  Other people’s lists are a great resource, however.  Instead of using them as my list, I used them as the inspiration to create my own.

Here are the steps to think through to come up with the routine that will be the most successful for you:

STEP ONE: Identify all of the tasks by writing them down
Start at one end of your house and think through everything that needs to be done in that room/area to make it spotless.  Do this for each room/area.  Do not get overwhelmed.  Writing them on the list does NOT mean that you have to go do all of them right now – or even anytime soon.  It simply acknowledges the task.  I was pleasantly surprised by how short (translation: manageable) my list was.

STEP TWO: Assign the frequency for each task (Daily, Bi-Weekly, Weekly, Bi-Monthly, Monthly, Seasonally, Annually).
There are two ways to look at this.  If you’re the type of person that likes to stay on top of things and doesn’t easily get overwhelmed, schedule them more than they actually need to get done (for example, I have vacuum floors as a daily task, when in reality, it should be done 4-5 times a week) and just skip it when it’s not absolutely necessary.  However, if you’re the type of person who gets overwhelmed by long lists of to-do’s, schedule your tasks less than they need to get done and you’re more likely to do the things on your list.

STEP THREE:  Identify the blocks of time you have (or need to make) for cleaning
Make this work for you.  If you’re the type of person who likes to do a little bit at a time, then think through your day and set aside one block of time each day for cleaning.  If you would rather get it all done in one fell swoop, then figure out when that time is.  When I was working full time, I had my lunch hour, a half hour in the evening (while my husband did the bedtime routine with our daughter) and Saturday mornings.  Now that I’m home most days, I break it up between Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  As our family schedule changes, so will my cleaning routine.

STEP FOUR: Match up the chores with your cleaning times
I mentioned earlier that I was pleasantly surprised by how short and manageable my cleaning list was.  I was even more pleasantly surprised after I assigned the tasks to days.  When I realized that in order to have my house clean all the time (which it never is, but, if I stuck to this routine, realistically could be), I had to spend an average of an hour a day cleaning, I couldn’t believe it.  I thought, for sure, that it would take a LOT longer than that.  And I certainly didn’t think that I’d be able to stay on top of things by having days when I didn’t do anything but my daily chores.

I’m not sure if this would be true for everyone, but after a couple months of this new routine, the best part, for me, has been the freedom from feeling bad about not doing things.  Because my old “system” – or lack thereof – was reactionary, if I saw something that needed to be done and procrastinated it, I just saw it get worse and felt bad.  Now, if it’s mopping day and it doesn’t get done, I don’t feel bad because I know that I just did it last week and I will do it next week.

Try this out and let me know what works well for you.  Do you have other hurdles when trying to stay on top of this?

And, because I said that other people’s routines can be a good resource, here is my list:

cleaning routine sample

Staying on Top of Laundry

I have tried all kinds of methods to stay on top of laundry.  I do about six loads of laundry a week and what works best for us is to do it all at once, usually on Saturday mornings.  Occasionally, I’ll get a head start and do a couple loads on Friday night.  With doing it in one big chunk, the biggest factor in getting it done in one day – or, ideally, in one morning – is to change out loads as soon as they’re finished.  

So, when I start a load, I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and set a timer.  If I wait to walk into the kitchen to set a timer there, I forget almost every time, and three hours later, the clothes in the washer are starting to smell musty and the clothes in the dryer are beyond wrinkled.  Ugh.  (learn from my mistakes…..).  The other nice thing about using my phone is that I almost always have it with me, so no matter where I am when the timer goes off, I hear it.  

Doing this is the difference between getting all six loads of laundry done in less than five hours and spreading the process out over the course of the next two days.  And the nerd in me can’t get enough of that sense of satisfaction that it’s 1PM on Saturday and all our clothes are clean (and sometimes even folded and put away!)

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your timer sing a great song to you when the load is finished.  If we’re going to do laundry and have things beeping at us, you might as well make it fun, right?

Laundry Load How To’s

I am one of those people that follow clothes label instructions.  Not to the letter for each, individual garment, but generally speaking, I group my loads of laundry by washing instructions.  For instance, we have a number of items that shouldn’t be washed with fabric softener, including our performance wear, my husband’s socks and my Norwex cleaning clothes.  I call it the “Under Armour” load, because the majority of it is our Under Armour apparel.  Truthfully, it’s the “No Fabric Softener” load.  But who wants to yell down the stairs, “I’m putting the ‘No Fabric Softener’ load in the wash.  Do you have anything else that needs to be added to it?” Me either.  So ‘Under Armour’ it is. And there are about six more loads with similar stories.  (Side note:  This post is NOT sponsored by Under Armour, but you’d never guess that by the number of times their name appears.  Free marketing for them, I guess.)  

It got to the point where I could barely remember the variables for each load.  In our house, laundry is mostly my responsibility, but my husband will often graciously pitch in and check a few loads off of my to-do list.  He told me once that there have been many times when he would think to start a load of laundry, but couldn’t remember washing and drying instructions.  

I went straight from that conversation to our computer and created a spreadsheet with washing and drying instructions for each load.  As many times as I’ve done our laundry, I am amazed at how often I reference this sheet – hanging above our washer – for instructions.  

Laundry How To - maximizingdaysblog.com

Laundry How To - maximizingdaysblog.com

*These are not Pinterest-approved photos.  Those who are more creative and decoratively-inclined than I am would put it in a cute frame and hang other cuteness on the wall.  I recognize that there’s nothing cute about this.  It’s all about purpose.

Remembering each load’s specifications is one less thing I have to commit to memory.  And, my amazing husband uses it frequently as well! Get the printable here  and let me know how it’s helpful to you.