You need to use cumin in the recipe you are making for dinner. You can’t find it. You have been picking up all the spice bottles one at a time to look for it, and you have gone through all of them about three times. You KNOW you just bought some last week. Can you say FRUSTRATION??
You want to wear a specific pair of shoes for a certain event. You are so proud of yourself for organizing each pair into its own box and stacking them in your closet — but you don’t remember which box these particular shoes are in. Before you find them, you’ve littered the floor of the closet with umpteen boxes, lids, and assorted shoes; and you don’t have time to put them back before rushing out the door.
You do know exactly where the vacuum cleaner is! It’s in the coat closet, behind the ironing board. Which is behind the patio umbrella. Whose little tie thing that holds it together is broken, so the umbrella part splays out to cover both the ironing board AND the vacuum. Tell me this: do you ever actually do the vacuuming with it stored like that? Hypothetically speaking, of course. :-)
Here’s today’s organizing tip: Make things easy to get to and easy to put away.
This has HUGE ramifications, and applying this principle diligently can revolutionize your life.
We get into these organizing moods — and we box and label things to death. We actually hinder our daily life by OVER-organizing, sometimes. Forget about the pretty boxes and the professionally-designed labels. If you can’t get to it easily, your organizing efforts are WASTED.
Making things easy to get to and put away means everything you need to do goes so much more smoothly.
Let’s look at the previous examples:
Spices: One of the problems with spices is their varying sizes. Often the cumin is in one of the small bottles. I lay all my small bottles down on their sides, with their labels facing up, in a shallow bin which sits on the bottom shelf of an upper cabinet. The bin slides easily off the shelf, so I can take it down to look at the spices. I can see all of them at once and easily pick out the one I need. This works so much better than having them all separately sitting on the actual shelf, thus forcing me to handle each and every one of them to find the one I need.
My larger spice bottles are in a bin that has high sides. I can’t see their labels as well, but I can still slide the bin off the shelf to look through them.
(Even as I write this, though, I’m thinking the ideal would be to have an entire drawer dedicated to spices, so that all sizes can lie down with labels facing up. Now that would make them REALLY easy to get to! I think I’m going to try to make that happen in my kitchen…)
Shoes: Don’t put your shoes in boxes with lids on. Instead use one (or several, lol) of those hanging shoe holder thingies. Then you can see all of your shoes at once and quickly pull out today’s pair — and easily put them away at night.
(Why am I NOT suggesting to use the clear plastic shoe boxes with lids that you can buy at the local discount store? For the answer, read the next paragraph.)
NOTE: the above two examples have something in common. One of the KEY ways to make things easy to get to and put away is to forego lids altogether. Having to take a lid off to get something out or put something away means that item will actually get taken out or put away less often. You’ll either find something else to use instead (something that’s easier to get to), or you’ll do without (how long has it been since you wore every pair of shoes that are so nicely put into boxes with lids?), or you’ll have a pile of things that aren’t put away because you don’t feel like messing with the lid to put them inside the box.
This means that stacking bins is not an ideal option. Be real — that bottom one is always a bear to get out from under all the rest, anyway. Just use shelves with one bin on each shelf. Or find some other way to store multiple items that doesn’t involve stacking — maybe lining the bins up side by side all on one shelf. BUT WITHOUT LIDS. Lol.
(Even if we adults are diligent about dealing with lids (although there is room for doubt :-) ), you and I both know that our kids are NOT. So in their rooms, life is definitely easier without lids. Open bins or drawers are the way to go.)
Back to our examples. The vacuum cleaner needs to be the first thing you come to when you open the closet door. It’s actually best if it’s the only thing in there. But if you have to include other items, put the one used least in the back. Or the bulkiest one in the back. In our example, the patio umbrella qualifies under both conditions. Making the vacuum cleaner hard to get to is asking for carpets that never get clean. You know I’m right.
Other applications to help end organization frustration:
More about shoes — I mentioned this also on day 3; but I’ll say it again, since it applies here, too: your most-used shoes can go in a big basket by the door (even a cheapo laundry basket would work for this). Then they are easy to get to on your way out, and easy to put away on your way in. Having to line them up on the floor is NOT an easy put-away, and you’ll most likely end up with a mess. Go ahead and make a mess of them — INSIDE the basket. The worst thing that will happen is you have to move a few of them aside to find the two you want — but guess what? Those that you set aside are very quickly thrown back in again, leaving no mess behind.
Put the cleaning supplies you use most regularly in a bucket that you can carry around with you. (That is, if you do not have bottles of them in every bathroom, as I also discuss on day 3). Window cleaner, general cleaner, maybe furniture polish, a scrub brush, and a rag or two. Keep the bucket under the kitchen sink — and just grab the handle and go. I use an old plastic ice cream bucket.
Don’t overfill any storage area. That’s a recipe for making things hard to find and get out. Keep the number of items you are trying to put anywhere small (more on this on day 7), so that things aren’t crammed in and buried and hard to see.
Try to keep one layer both horizontally and vertically. That means no stacking. But it also means no multiple layers from front to back — like in the pantry. Unless we’re talking about several items of the same thing, like cans of diced tomatoes, that you stack and/or put in front of one another. Then you can easily get what you need by grabbing the one(s) on the top/front.
Sometimes keeping one layer from front to back is just not reasonable, like in the upper cabinets in the kitchen. You can’t even reach the back of the cabinet, but it’s silly to arrange one row in the front and waste all the space behind. In this instance, a small, plastic lazy susan is often VERY helpful for making things easy to get to. They are great for baking supplies like vanilla extract, molasses, baking soda, baking powder, etc. — store all of it on one of them and rotate it to get to what you need. You could arrange boxes of tea on one. Or mason jars, which is how I store my bulk spices like cinnamon and chili powder.
As you can tell already, the possible applications of this tip are endless. So much so that we’ll be revisiting this tip on Day 15 and Day 24! For now, while you are organizing, just remember to give thought to whether the item(s) you are storing will be easy to find/get or not. If it takes more than one physical process to get something you need — or you have to move something else to get to it — your organization is not going to be as effective as you want it to be.
Making things easy to get to and put away will greatly reduce your stress level on a daily basis. Trust me on this one! :-)