Last week I wrote about four common organizing mistakes and how to avoid them. I touched on the problem of putting low-use items in the "high-rent districts" of your home or office. Let’s inventory a few key areas -like your kitchen, home office, bathroom, and entryway- to help you identify some potential roadblocks to your organization efforts and resolve them.
Whether you have a small or large kitchen, your countertops and cabinets are high-dollar real estate. Are any of these culprits lying on top of your kitchen counters?
Food (as in packages of chips, popcorn, unhealthy snacks?)
Small appliances that you don't use often? (Do they pass the use at least three days per week test?)
Fancy tools? (Still really use an electric can-opener?)
Dish drying rack?
Save your countertops for things you use at least three times/week. If you have a second sink, put your drying rack in that space to free up counter space. This forces you to get dirty dishes into the dishwasher or hand-cleaned since there is less space to keep the dirty ones. Food on the counters can be tricky. Packaged foods should be behind closed doors - and less of a temptation. If you have room, a bowl of fruit can live on the counter tops as both a reminder to choose healthy options - and an art piece.
Now on to your cabinets. It’s easy to put your everyday plates, glasses and coffee cups in an easy-to-reach cabinet near the dishwasher. But here is another tip: store only what you need on a regular basis. Depending on the number of people living in the house, 4-8 place settings will suffice. Not only will this eliminate excess items in your prime real estate cabinets, but it will also cut down on some dirty dishes you let sit.
The last time my dishwasher died, it was unbelievable that we truly only needed a few plates and glasses that we used over and over, and washing them up became a necessity, so they didn’t sit around dirty. There was no huge pile of dishes demanding attention anymore.
Store the additional mugs, plates, and glasses up higher in the same cabinet - even if they are the same type of dish. Then, everything you need for the table at meal time is in once place and easy to access. Store party platters or other extra dishes on the top kitchen shelves - or even in another closet or room for when you entertain.
Take an inventory of your desktop. Do you see:
An old to-do list in a pile of papers?
Random office supplies, like a stapler?
Multiple jars of writing instruments?
Paperwork from old projects?
My 3-hole punch was looking suicidal (from lack of use). How about that staple remover on your desk? Is it dusty? We’ve modernized the way we work, but forgotten to update our workspace. Pull items off your desk that are not in daily use and keep them somewhere accessible - but not in the high-rent district. Here are a few suggestions for what SHOULD be on your desk:
A basket for your current projects and action items
A place for your reusable water bottle
A place to charge your devices
One pen and one notepad
Bathroom drawers can quickly overflow with beauty products and hair or teeth care. Instead of organizing by category (all tooth care products in one drawer, all hair and personal care items in each subsequent drawer or on cabinet shelves), organize by bathroom user. For example, one person gets the right drawer for all their daily personal care needs, the second person uses the left drawer and so on. Then, take all backup or additional products and put them in a bottom drawer or under the sink for refills as necessary. With this approach, each person needs to open only one drawer to find their stuff, and even better - they only have one place to put it back. I finally implemented this with my daughters, and it has saved a lot of fighting over hair brushes!
Another critical area for managing your prime real estate is the space near your door. Whether you call it a Home Command Center or a Landing Zone or Launch Pad, this is where daily life unfolds, and traffic flows here all day long. Take a look around; are any of these culprits in your high-traffic area?
Junk mail (find that recycle bin!)
Reusable bags you are finished with (keep these in your car)
Multiple shoes, jackets, hats, purses, backpacks - make a home for these near your entry/exit
It’s a never-ending task to maintain this area, just like keeping up with your laundry. But if you can create some healthy habits, such that your family does a sweep at the end of the day to put things back in their proper place, you can at least start each day off with a clean slate. One hopefully easy trick to implement: give each person a hook for their backpack, purse or computer bag. Also, give each person a basket or other storage option (on a desk or a wall) for paper items that accumulate all over the countertops. A nightly sweep of all the paperwork into the right basket will help you start a fresh new day.