Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rule #8 Organize into categories and then use clear, labeled containers to hold smaller things.

In some of my previous blog posts, but specifically in the one called "Organizing After a Junk Raid," (which you can read again here) I talked a lot about the basic organizing principles of putting things together in like categories and then labeling them.  Here are some examples around my home of where and how and why this works:

This is a picture of my kitchen pantry. You can see here that because I have used containers to hold like things, that all of my spaces, clear to the back of each shelf, are used to their maximum efficiency. It makes it so even the very top shelf that is hard to reach is totally usable.

See? The top shelf, even though it is barely reachable, is completely usable. All someone has to do is reach up and pull a container down, get the item they need out and then put the box back. It makes every inch of that space completely usable.
When you are organizing your spaces, always keep in mind the super important principle of SPACE PRIORITIES (have you forgotten what that is or are new to this blog and don't know?  If so, read about it here).  Which means that the things that you use the most deserve to be in your most easy-to- get-at spaces. So here, you can see that I use our medicines and bandages more than I use batteries or extra light bulbs. These are all things we need to keep (they are keepers!) but are used in different amounts and in different frequencies.

As far as figuring out how to group like items together and pick a container to use, you can see on the shelves in my pantry that what I have done is determined a general category or "grouped like minded things together" -- things like bandages and creams and internal medicines -- and then put them together in one medium sized clear box. Some people make the mistake of grouping items together in such SMALL groups that it overwhelms them. So, for example, I wouldn't have a specific container for pain relievers, and another one for antihistamines, and another one for anti-acids.  One big one for every type of medicine that goes INTO your body was good enough for me.

The same thing is true for's an overkill to have one box for AA and AAA batteries and another for C and D batteries. If I had rechargeable batteries and a charger I would keep it in here too.

One of the things I love about using containers for all sorts of items is, not only is it easy to pull out the box and reach the item clear far in the back (as opposed to having to climb up there and try to reach clear far back to get at it) but it sets a limit for you on how much of that thing you can hold before it's time to go through and dejunk again or figure out what you really don't need.  I talked a lot about setting limits in a blog post recently that you can read here and it comes up again when talking about how to use containers and labels to keep your home organized. I LOVE that containers give me the option of keeping things up to a certain point but then force me to "limit the chaos" and keep things under control.  Which brings up another good point. Every few months or so, when you see a container reaching capacity or feel a sudden "this is a mess" feeling, take just a minute and pull a few things out to get rid of. This especially happens to me in the "internal medicines" box when medicines expire and need to be discarded or when one medicine is almost gone and can easily be combined with another of the same kind. Your containers do not need to necessarily be super organized as in all things lined up, alphabetized or neatly stacked (a good example of that is my batteries container you can see above). As long as it contains what the label says and you can reach in and find things fairly easily, you are doing great!

Another thing I love about using containers to organize is that it makes things really easy to see....for you and for your family members. Especially if you use clear containers, which I think is best if you can make it happen, it's pretty easy to see what the box is holding, how much you have of it, and it makes it very accessible to get at the item you want. Take, for example, this container of match box cars. Not only does it set a limit for my boys and how many cars and trucks they can have but it is also really easy to pull these containers down (one at at time is usually my rule) and my boys or their friends can reach in and find what they are looking for, usually without having to dump the whole thing out.
One of the places I have loved using the labeled containers idea is this area next to our family room.
It has a mud room feel with the hooks for backpacks and coats but the use of all of the clear containers makes it be able to hold so much more. In our home we have a basement that has a play room with lots of toys. But, especially when my children were young, all of the toys like these you see here that have lots of pieces were just NOT going to work down in the play room. Why? Because for some strange reason, one of the things kids love to do the very most is to dump well organized bins out. Have you ever noticed that? Did you think it was just the children in your life that did that? Well, it's not. Its pretty much any child anywhere in the world. The best solution I found was to have these containers hold the toys with lots of pieces AND put them up high where just an adult can get to them. If my children or children visiting would ask to play with the wooden blocks, for example, I would get the bin down and let them play right there in the family room. Then when they said "Now I want to play with the trains," I would say "Okay! Sure thing. Just pick up the blocks first and then we will put them away and get the trains down."  Every once in a while, the kids had big plans to make a fort out of blocks and then use the army men and dinosaurs. If that was the case, I would definitely make an exception and let more than one bin down. I love creative play like that!  But most of the time, the one bin at a time rule worked just fine and definitely helped in the management of messes.

Here are a few close-ups so you can see better:

As a side note, I really liked the method of storing children's books, like you can see here. I found that kids can pull out the bin, file through one at a time and find the book they want, pull it out and read and then put it back in and get another without making any mess at all. I liked having one bin for learning books (basically non-fiction) and then one bin for little board books (for babies who like to chew on books and tear pages) and then another for large fiction books. Like I said earlier, part of organizing is figuring out how to break things down into reasonably sized like items and this one for books really worked for me. I also liked how it limited the number of books we can have. I know that might sound like heresy to some of you but truly....just because books are "printed material" doesn't mean they are made of gold. AND, in this day of total affluence, they have basically no monetary value at all. You might disagree with me if you buy your books at school book fairs or Barnes and Noble but, as a frequent yard sale shopper, I'm telling you that really nice kids books cost 25 cents to 50 cents each--less than a candy bar or pack of gum. So, I'm giving you permission to buy a few, send a few out, and only keep a large but limited supply of your favorites. (You're welcome ;)

Another place I use labeled containers a lot is in this closet in the den.  In my next post I am going to be talking all about how to deal with a spouse who wants to keep everything (and the top shelf in this closet is a prime example of that :) and how to compromise and still maintain some order in your home.  So stay tuned for that.  But, as for organizing this closet with labeled containers, I think it's a good example of using different types of containers to get maximum efficiency out of a space and still be able to find everything pretty easily and quickly.  In a future blog post, I am going to be talking all about PAPERS but suffice it to say here that the middle shelf is where I spend the majority of my time here in this closet and thus it gets the middle shelf PRIME SPACE. My scrapbooking paper is up top which I use quite a bit and then family games are reachable for the rest of the family.

After you have dejunked and are ready to start finding PLACES FOR YOUR KEEPERS, organizing your keepers into reasonably-sized categories and then storing them in preferably clear, and for sure labeled containers in the way to go! I'd love to see pictures of the ways you have found to store your items and please send me questions of specific spaces in your home you are wondering how to organize. I might not know the answer every time but I'd love to give it a shot!

Next blog post:  Rule #9  People are more important than things.