Organizing 101: Corral Small Items & Don’t Fill Containers

It’s two-for-one day here on the blog.  Two Tips.

They are both easy, quick-fixes that will make an immediate impact.

Use containers to corral small items.  Here are some examples of how we do this in our house and why they work:

Little girl hair ties are THE WORST.  Tiny.  Translucent.  You can’t grab just one.  This is a shallow Rubbermaid leftover container that fits in the drawer with her other hair stuff.

In our old house, the corn on cob picks were the bane of my existence.  These versatile drawer organizers are perfect for gathering together those little things, and not using a ton of drawer space to do it.  They also contain the toothpicks perfectly.

I’ve had this little drawer organizer since I was in high school.  It’s been used in bathroom & desk drawers in three states and eleven residences.  It creates spots for easily lost and cluttered items like hair ties, bobby pins (notice the paperclip holder that corrals the bobby pins #thankyourealsimple), fingernail clippers, Fitbit charger and contact lenses.  It also creates a spot for hair brushes.

This box was from a perfume gift set.  Those things are pure gold.  They are super sturdy.  In this case, it works perfectly in Wyatt’s sock drawer.  Those little socks get lost so easily, but this box keeps them on their side of the drawer.

These drawer organizers from Ikea are made to fit perfectly in their furniture (we have the Hemnes dresser).  Whenever possible, containers that fill the entire space they’re in are best because there’s no wasted space.

In our pantry, this bin contains all of the little stuff.  Taco seasoning packets, soup packets, and jell-o boxes.  I also have it on the highest shelf that I can barely reach because I can reach the basket handle easily.

When organizing and putting items in containers, make sure that you leave space for growth.  You are always going to add to what you have, so you need to account for that.  If you fill a container at the onset,  you are setting yourself up to not be able to continue with the organizing process you just started.  Oftentimes, this is after purging, so, theoretically, this is the time when you will have the least amount of this item.

Notice how each of the containers that I have pictured above aren’t over flowingly full.  This makes all the difference in keeping things sorted.

If you’re organizing your dresser and after purging and sorting, your shirt drawer is completely full, don’t leave it that way.  Either purge more or spread shirts out to two drawers in order to allow yourself to add more shirts to the drawer.  Because you just know you will.  It’s human nature.

Organizing 101: Create a spot for EVERYTHING

As I’ve talked about before, most of the time, piles are created by items that don’t have a home.  When we don’t know where to put something, we just “set it there for now” and a month later, it’s still there because we don’t want to think about it.

What?  That’s just me.  Okay.

Last Christmas, Elida and I decorated her first-ever gingerbread house.  Super fun.  Super cute.  Annual tradition started.  But then, we’re stuck with this gingerbread house.  Where am I going to put it?  Our house is small and there’s not a lot of extra room for perishable decorations.  So, it got moved from the counter to the Dining Room table to the entry way table.  Until the day it finally met it’s demise in the garbage can, it was just always in the way.

I think that’s how it is for a lot of our stuff.  It served a purpose at some point, but we reach a point where we just don’t know what to do with it.  So we don’t do anything.

Create a spot for EVERYTHING.  I know, I know.  It’s overwhelming.  It seems impossible.

It is possible.  It is also overwhelming.  So, don’t think about EVERYTHING on the macro level.  Tackle it a little bit at a time.

Go room by room.  One room at a time, decide to find a spot for everything.  Start with a  small room (I would advise against starting in a closet.  It can be tempting because it’s small and it’s so appealing to get that thing organized, but because of the volume of stuff in a small space, a closet isn’t the best way to learn this new discipline).  Sort through everything.  Purge unused, old, unnecessary stuff.  Clean the space.  Then, find a spot for everything.  EVERYTHING.  Then, whatever doesn’t fit or shouldn’t go in that room goes into a “Needs to Find a Spot” bin.

If the “Needs to Find a Spot” bin isn’t overly full, or has items that are frequently used, tackle that bin next.  Anything in that bin that is just debilitating and you can’t decide where it goes, stays in that bin.  Take that bin and go to the next smallest space.  Repeat the same process.  When the “Needs to Find a Spot” bin is full or when one-third to one-half of your house has been gone through and spots found for items in those rooms, go through the bin and find spots for those items.

Even if you aren’t able to go through that bin as often as you’d like or if there are more things in there than there should be, an added bonus to that bin is that it serves as one central location for when you can’t find certain items.  When you’re looking for something and can’t decide where it could be, that should be the first place you should look.  More often than not, when I’m missing something, it’s because I don’t know where it should be kept, so I’m at a loss.

The “Needs to Find a Spot” bin allows you to feel the success of finding spots for the majority of your things and helps you get over the hump with those not-easily stored items.

Try it and let me know what items for which you just can’t find a spot.  We’ll work together to help you tackle this one.  It’s a lot of work, but it is a game-changer.


Organizing 101: Use Uniform Storage Systems

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for going out and buying all kinds of new stuff.  Hear these words as a “from here on out….”

There’s a reason we all pin these pictures

Photo credit: I Heart Organizing

Photo Credit

Photo Credit: A Bowl Full of Lemons

It just looks so pretty.  In addition to looking good, uniformity in container size allows you to utilize spaces better.  It is also ideal for stacking, as uniform containers are made to fit on top of one another.  It also helps maximize storage space in areas where shelves are adjustable.  When containers are all the same height, you can fill the entire space by making the shelf above the containers just above the lid.

Whenever it is possible, use the same type of storage system. This does not mean that you should get rid of all the containers you have now and go buy all new.  Use what you have already and, as often as possible, use uniform containers in the same space.

There will, however, inevitably come a time when you need to purchase more containers.  Think ahead employ this idea from now on.

Choose 3-4 different sizes (ex. shoebox, small bin & large bin).  My favorite small bins are these.  I use them in in our house.  They are cheap and versatile and timeless.  I’ve been buying them over the course of ten years, so the colors of my lids don’t match, but that’s not something that bothers me.  For storage totes, these are my go-to.  We have them in 10, 14 & 18 gallons.  They stack wonderfully and hold up well.

Buy them in bulk – WAY more than what you need at the time – and keep your extras for the inevitable stuff that you will need to store in the future.    When we moved this summer, instead of buying boxes, we bought a few dozen of the 18 gallon totes and now we have a stack of empty totes in the garage for when we need them.

Organizing 101: Use Spaces for Which They Were Created

Bedroom closets are for clothes.  Linen closets are for bedding, towels & bathroom supplies.  Kitchen countertops are for food prep and small (kitchen) appliances.  Dining Room tables are for…. wait for it….. Eating!

This seems obvious, but the truth of the matter is that for so many of us, one of our main issues with clutter has to do with spaces being overtaken with stuff that doesn’t allow them to serve the purpose for which they were created.  How many of us have stacks of papers covering our kitchen counters?  Is your Dining Room table the landing spot for stuff when you get home?

There’s nothing wrong with spaces serving dual purposes.  In fact, I’d say that’s making good use of what you have.

In our stage of life, supper is the only meal that is eaten at the Dining Room table, which means that 23 of 24 hours out of the day, it just sits there.  So, the Dining Room table is also where the kids and I do activities like color and do (do? mold? play?) play-doh.  Using spaces for which they were created doesn’t mean that you can’t use them for anything else, it just means that whatever else they’re being used for can’t be the reason they don’t get used for their main purpose.  After we’re finished coloring or play-doh-ing, that stuff gets put away so that the table is clear for supper.

I have a small keepsake box that I keep in my clothes closet, which is fine because it’s not taking up space that I need for clothes.  My clothes closet can fit all of my clothes AND the keepsake box.  If I had all of my keepsakes in there and there were stacks of clothes on top of my dresser because I didn’t have anywhere else for them, that would be an issue.  Do you see the difference?

The root of this problem is often that those things that are in spaces where they shouldn’t be are there because we don’t have a place for them.  So they sit on a counter or table until we can’t stand it anymore, and then shove them in a closet when we reach our breaking point – or when people are coming over.  #let’sbereal

If this is one of your struggles, pick one of these “trouble spots” and decide what it’s purpose is.  Once you’ve done that, empty the space’s contents and make a pile of stuff that fills that purpose and stuff that doesn’t.  If the pile of stuff that fills that space’s purpose is bigger than the space, then you need to whittle it down.  Start purging.  Harsh reality, but what good is a linen closet full of bedding where you can’t get to the sheet set you need because you need the jaws of life to pull it out?  Fill your space back up with everything you have that goes in there.

Then, it’s time for the not fun part: Going through that other dreaded pile.  Ugh.  I know.  I’ve been there.  Always start by thinking about what you really need (more about that here).  Then, try to think of other places in your house that would be more appropriate storage areas for those items.  If you just can’t, then throw the rest of it in a shoebox or bin, and label it ‘Closet Misc.’.  Put it in your garage or under a bed – somewhere accessible, but where it’s not taking up space that you need for other items.  (Sidenote: If a year goes by, and you haven’t needed anything out of that bin, THROW IT OUT!).

The freedom you feel from being able to eat at your Dining Room table, not having to move heaven and earth to see your countertops and easily being able to get clothes into and out of your closet make the hard decisions and time you put into it worth it.  Try it.  You’ll see.


Organizing 101: TBD Boxes

Today’s tips are easy ways to break down what can easily become overwhelming tasks.

TBD Boxes.  To Be Donated & To Be Delivered Boxes.

Keep a TBDonated box in your clothes closet.  Mine is a diaper box because we have lots of diaper boxes in this house.  This box sits on my closet floor and any time I try on a shirt that no longer fits or flip through that sweater that I haven’t worn in three years and finally admit that I’m never going to wear it again, it gets put in that box.  Once the box is full, I take it to Goodwill.

It’s hard enough to admit that something doesn’t fit or we’re not going to wear it anymore, but when those stars align and we finally come to grips with those realities, having that box right there gives you a spot for these items.  Without that, it’s just easier to put it back in the closet and then face having to make that hard decision again down the road when we’ve reached the point where we have to do a major closet purge.

Keep a TBDelivered box in your car.  Whenever you have something that needs to go somewhere (i.e. a pan returned to a friend, a return at a store, a gift for a relative), put it in that box in your car.  It provides a place for these items to gather so that they don’t get lost in the piles that so easily accumulate in high traffic areas.  Once the box is full is full, your errand is getting everything in the box to it’s place.

By keeping this box in your vehicle, you always have stuff that needs to be dropped with you when you’re driving around.  On the off chance that you remember that lasagna pan that needs to be returned as you drive past your friend’s house and have 2 extra minutes to stop and drop it off, it is with you.