By Jon Shoulders
For the past several months, most of us have been spending more time than ever before within the confines of our homes. As such, taking the time to sensibly organize spaces like kitchens, closets, bathrooms and home offices can not only improve daily productivity but also minimize stress and frustration.
“An organized home or garage, where everything has a place and there is a place for everything, is a calming environment,” says Don Dillard, owner of Greenwood-based home organization company Tailored Living. “Stress is lower. It is a place of peace, and that calm is good for our minds and bodies.”
Conquer that kitchen
Remember the real estate adage, “Location, location, location,” when organizing your kitchen. Dillard recommends placing the most commonly used items — think: frying pans, saucepans and utensils — close to where they are actually used.
“The key is to create efficiency of movement,” Dillard says. “A great cook is also a great multitasker, so having what is used a lot handy simplifies tasks and keeps the mind free to create. There are great after-market additions to the kitchen for sliding drawers in the bottoms of existing cabinetry that are perfect for larger pans, Crock-Pots and large mixers. The drawer makes access to all those great accessories much easier, and they are quick to install and can be custom sized to fit most cabinets.”
Sarah Davis, owner of Neat Method Indianapolis, says simply removing all items from the kitchen and pantry spaces is often the best way to start.
“Pulling everything out allows you to know what you have, purge what you don’t need — including expired items and things you don’t use anymore — and then put all of your items into functional categories,” she says. “Once you’ve identified your categories, you should place them back based on the flow of your kitchen and the amount of items in each category.”
Canned goods can form a puzzle all their own; try putting larger cans in middle shelves for trouble-free lifting and put smaller canned goods and spice racks just below or at eye level for easy perusal while cooking.
“Place boxed items higher when possible but allow for those special cereal boxes down at a child’s level if you are OK with them serving themselves when needed,” Dillard adds.
Store specialty and holiday items at the top of your pantry, in higher cabinet spaces or even in off-season containers in the attic or basement.
If it’s been awhile since you tackled your closet, eliminating what you don’t need can be a helpful precursor to organizing what you have. Dillard recommends a one-year rule: If you haven’t worn something for at least one year, let it go. You can always donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or try consignment shops for unused clothing.
“Identify ways to group items together. Grouping blouses and sweaters by color families is a great way to start,” Dillard says. “Doing so helps choose complementary items. If you have additional spacing, you can also separate work clothes from casual or more formal. Typically, once you begin grouping items, the best location for them begins to form mentally, and organizing them becomes much easier. Think of hanging items like blouses and slacks. Use shelving for T-shirts or undergarments.”
Jaclyn Ray, owner of the Bloomington-based Clutter Wrangler home and office organization service, adds that closets can be approached like rooms in general. Try emptying everything out and creating four piles labeled keep, donate, trash and recycle.
“Deal with the keep pile by further dividing items into categories — winter tops, dress pants, skirts, sweaters, etc.,” she says. “Be ruthless with what passes the keep test. Do you even like it anymore? Does it feel good on?”
Pack up any out-of-season clothing in bins and place in your basement or other storage spot and — boom — instant closet space you didn’t realize you had.
In many bathrooms cabinet and shelf space can be rather limited, making it difficult to come up with a system for organizing beauty products and grooming necessities.
“Just like the kitchen, adding some pullout shelves can create additional space underneath those sink base cabinets,” Dillard says. “Anything that can be used to move items from the counter into another space can make the bathroom a place of peace and escape. Often, something as simple as a small basket for your toiletries makes for an easy cleanup and organizational tool. Mounting racks inside doors, on walls, on the sides of cabinets or even within the shower space are all great ways to increase the function of a bathroom.”
Bathroom organizing can also involve getting rid of expired medicine, retired makeup and unused beauty items. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to all those old bottles and jars of products you’ve all but forgotten about.
“Purge, purge, purge, then wash your medicine cabinet and vanity cupboard and put all of your kept items back in categories,” Ray says. “If you have a lot of a certain category, say makeup, then subdivide by lips, eyes, foundation, etc. You can also donate unopened toiletries, samples and travel-sized items to a local shelter.”
Show the office who’s boss
When organized sensibly, a home office can be an ideal spot for tranquility and concentration, particularly for those who work from home on a part- or full-time basis.
“The key factor here is to create an environment that is inviting but also eliminates distractions,” Dillard says. “The design must be efficient and meet the functional needs as a priority. Once the functional needs are met, then the aesthetics are applied or layered onto the functional pieces through finishes and accessories.”
For dual-purpose home offices where the space also serves as a guest bedroom or craft room, decide first on the aesthetic direction of the space. Is it primarily a guest room, with office capabilities as an afterthought? Does it serve as both a craft space and an office space? This can help to drive more functional decisions, such as whether office-related items like file cabinets, scanners, printers and document trays will end up along outer walls or in primary spots.
An ounce of prevention
Ray says creating a neat, orderly home starts well before the actual process of organizing.
“Pause and think before you shop,” she says. “Try to break the habit of impulse shopping. Really ask yourself, ‘Do I need this item, do I already have something similar, and do I have space for it?’”
If you’re having trouble getting motivated, keep this in mind: Organizing your various home spaces can inform aesthetic and stylistic decisions and lead to fresh design ideas.
“Aesthetic is always important to consider, but I typically focus on the decluttering and categorization of my items ahead of determining what the actual look and feel of the room will be,” Davis says. “After you have determined what items you have left to organize, you can then lay out how you want the room to flow and what containment style you want to go for.”
Completely clueless on how or where to begin your organization endeavors? Avoid thinking in terms of overhauling every room in your home all at once. Start with a single project — no matter how small or simple — and your momentum is likely to build.
“Choose a small space — a drawer, chest or small closet — and invest an hour on a rainy day in that space,” Dillard says. “Getting that small space completed will give you that sense of satisfaction and a little joy. That may be just enough to motivate you to do another small space or start moving to larger spaces. Who knows? You may learn to enjoy it, and think of just how amazing it will be to gain that sense of calm from your organized home.”