Do It For The Kids

I completed this project a while ago, but still wanted to share it with you all. I think it’s a great example of the vast difference organizing can make and how much stuff can be in one (seemingly) tiny space!

Once I start organizing, people are often amazed at how much they had crammed into one spot, whether it be a closet or a drawer or garage. That’s one reason I almost always start by taking everything out. More often than not, the majority of stuff that was crammed in the back, you’re not going to miss!

I completed this particular project for the church I was attending at the time. This was one of several closets in which the preschool and children’s ministry program kept supplies. After nearly breaking my leg more than once trying to find an item for a Sunday morning lesson, I proposed a major clean out and reorganization of the whole closet.

The first step was getting everything out of the closet. No small feat! Thankfully the closet was attached to a large classroom that I could use to “dump” all the contents during the clean out phase. I tackled this during Spring Break while the students were away.

If you’re shocked, join the club! This was one of my first major projects, and I could not believe how many books, props, games, and toys all came out of that little space. But I was committed! I was not going to let a few (hundred) stuffed animals stand in the way of success.

The next item of business was to sort through the piles.

I donated. I discarded. And eventually whittled down the contents by at least a third.

Cleaning out a shared space can be a little more challenging than cleaning an area that is solely yours. I got rid of items that were clearly out of date, broken, or no longer being used. However, just because I wasn’t using certain toys or materials, didn’t mean no one was using them. During the process, I spent time consulting with the children’s team to discern which items should be salvaged or spared.

Cleaning out a shared space can be a little more challenging than cleaning an area that is solely yours.

By this time, putting the items back in the closet was the easy part! When there’s 1/3 less stuff, there is automatically more space and room for a good system to be established. Also, as a bonus, I did not have to purchase any supplies for this project. So many items were discarded that there were plenty of empty bins and boxes to repurpose as I needed!

Items went back into bins by category- musical instruments, balls, animals, etc. There were a lot of categories! Afterwards, I also went back and applied labels in many places.

Labels are essential when several different people are using the same space! They serve the important function of reminding everyone where things belong. If there are no labels, people will stick things anywhere!

Labels are essential when several different people are using the same space!

There is something about seeing “Books” on a basket that prevents someone from putting a DVD there. More than likely, they’ll keep looking for the “DVDs” container. I think we all really want to be rule-followers at heart.

The finished product was a dream come true. Not only could I find everything, but there was room to spare!

Room to Spare {Part 2}

Welcome back! Today we are talking about part 2 of Katherine’s* project. (If you missed part 1, you can read it here.) First, we tackled her photo cabinet, and now it was on to the guest bedroom closet!

*name changed to protect privacy

For many clients, their spare closets are far and away more cluttered and overstuffed than their main clothes closet. Why is that? In many instances, the spare bedroom/coat/hall closet becomes a catch-all storage area for items that are used infrequently or people aren’t sure what to do with. Every few weeks or months, items are added to the closet with no old items being taken out. Before they know it, they don’t even know what’s in there!

Katherine and I talked through this project before getting started. Here were her top concerns and issues that needed a solution:

  1. Get rid of old or unused items
  2. Make remaining items more accessible
  3. Open up extra space for future storage needs

Here is what Katherine’s closet looked like before we got going:

Before: Closet right side
Before: Closet left side
Before: Closet top right
Before: Closet top left

If you can relate, hang with me! This has a happy ending.

As with most of my projects, I started by taking everything out. Once everything was out of the closet, I started making piles: “Trash,” “Donate,” and “Keep.” For the kept items, I arranged them by category (games, books, gifts, etc.).

This closet held a lot of old keepsakes that did not obviously fall in any one category. I worked closely with Katherine and her husband to discern what to save and what to give or throw away. Was every item with sentimental value worth saving if it went back to the top of a closet? These types of decisions are very personal and don’t have easy answers. In situations like this, I do my best to guide each client through the decision-making process, but ultimately he or she will decide what is to be kept or discarded.

Empty closet

One benefit of discarding unused items is that often old storage containers can be repurposed. For example, during this project, Katherine did not have to buy any new storage containers (even though as you’ll see we used plenty), because we discarded the contents of several storage containers she already owned!

After: Closet bottom right

I started strategically putting items back into the closet, keeping in mind which items would be accessed most frequently.

Katherine tutors different students each week, so we made her tutoring supplies front and center on the shelves.

After: Closet bottom left

The vacuum now has a place, and so do her Katherine’s craft supplies! These baskets on top may look like items to which Katherine wouldn’t need easy access, but you’d be surprised! Katherine frequently makes gift baskets for people in the hospital, new moms, and graduates, to name a few, and wanted them in reach.

Now about those photo albums…

In part 1, I rearranged Katherine’s photo cabinet under her kitchen bar, essentially changing it from a photo cabinet back to a kitchen cabinet where she could store food or other kitchen-related items. We decided the photo albums and CDs (which are infrequently accessed) would be much better stored in this closet than in the prime location of the kitchen. Sometimes you can organize simply by moving items to a new location that makes more sense!

Sometimes you can organize simply by moving items to a new location that makes more sense!

Overall, we threw away about 25%, donated about 25%, and moved a few objects to a different area of the house where they could be stored with similar items. Keeping all like-items in one place in your home is key to knowing where to find things! If you store craft supplies in 5 different areas, it may take you 15 minutes to find the particular ribbon you seek.

Keeping all like-items in one place in your home is key to knowing where to find things!

Katherine is feeling great about her new closet. She knows what’s in there, because she can see everything when she opens the door! I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, and I hope you enjoyed following along!