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 I got rid of items that were clearly out of date, broken, or no longer being used.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!

Moving In: Kitchen Edition

One of the best times to get organized is during a move. Unless you’re on an extremely tight schedule, the packing process is one step during which you can get rid of a lot of unnecessary items. Before you pack each item away in a box, you subconsciously ask yourself, is this worth hauling to our new place?

I’ll address packing more later in a future blog post, but today I actually want to address the other side of moving: the unpacking.

Unpacking belongings into a new space gives you the chance to start fresh.  Each type of space has unique tricks and challenges, but today were going to take a look at unpacking a kitchen since I did this for a client recently.  Take these tips to heart in your next move, or apply them to your existing kitchen right now if you need a fresh start!

Before You Start, Plan

Since you just had to pack everything up at your last place, hopefully you have a pretty good idea of what you own. Start by making a list of everything, being very thorough. Cookie sheets- how many? Pyrex dishes- what kind? What size? This may seem a bit tedious, but it shouldn’t take more than a 15 minutes and will save you lots of time during the unpacking process.

After you have a pretty comprehensive list of your kitchen tools and utensils, take a good look at your cabinets and drawers with those items in mind. Are there any items that are lso arge or bulky that they can really only go in one place? Or maybe you only have one drawer, so you know the silverware will go there (sounds crazy, but this was the case in my first apartment!).  If you know you need to keep certain things in certain areas, start placing them there. Not physically- but by using sticky notes.

For big spaces like a kitchen, planning with sticky notes is the way to go. Write “Cutting Boards” or “Dish Towels” on a sticky and then stick it where you think those items will fit best.  However, if you change your mind as you go along, you don’t have to physically move all the items from one cabinet to another- you can simply move the sticky note!  Go through your list, and make a sticky note for each item. Then get to sticking!

Work Your Way Out

Something to keep in mind as you are sticking away is to work your way out from the center of the kitchen.  If you live in an apartment or house with a very small space, this may not mean much. However, if you consider your storage options moderate to substantial, organizing in this way can increase functionality once you’re finished.

Pro Tip: Roll your towels instead of folding them! This way you can see them all at once, and not just to top one or two.

I’m considering the “center” of the kitchen to be where the main appliances are located, most notably the stove, oven, and dishwasher.  When you’re working in the kitchen- whether that be cooking dinner or unloading the dishes you want your most-used items to be close at hand. Don’t put your everyday bowls and plates in the furthest cabinet from the dishwasher. Unloading dishes will take twice as long!  Likewise, put your cookie sheets and pots and pans by the oven. And put your glasses in a cabinet by the fridge. Be strategic about your placement, and save those cabinets in the bar or further down the wall for holiday dishes, entertaining pieces, or your china set.

Put Like-Items Together

We’ve covered putting items close to where you’ll need to use them, but within each drawer and cabinet, you want to be smart as well.  Don’t place items together that don’t belong together in the same space. Mentally (or physically with a sticky note!) designate your cabinets and larger drawers by category, such as “Baking” “Dinnerware” and “Stovetop.” Once you’re done that, you’ll have much less trouble trying to decide where to put things! The mixing bowls go with baking. The slow cooker goes in the “Small Appliances” cabinet.  This method also helps when you can’t remember where you’ve put something. If you keep to this system, all you have to do is think of the category and your item should be easy to locate.

One more tip to keep in mind is to keep drawers or cabinets with the same theme close to one another. For example, if you need two towel drawers, choose two that are side by side. It doesn’t make much sense to have them across the room from one another (unless of course you have two sinks. Then it might!).

Leave Space

As you start unpacking your belongings into the cabinets and drawers you’ve chosen, keep in mind not to cram each area to full capacity.  If your tupperware only fits in the drawer when you place everything just so, this drawer may not be the ideal spot for these items. Chances are, as you go through life, not everything will be placed in that drawer perfectly and you may even accumulate a few more containers. Save yourself the headache now, and move them to a location that provides a little wiggle room.

If finding a bigger spot is not possible, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the contents.  Do you need 12 pyrex measuring cups, or could you get by with half of that?  Sometimes it can be hard to say goodbye to perfectly good items, especially if they’re hardly used.  (But then again, if they’re hardly used, why are you keeping them?) Lots of kitchen supplies can fetch a price online. And if not, why not donate them or give them to a young couple you know could use them? It’ll be a win-win, trust me.

The Takeaway

Overall, the key to unpacking your kitchen is to be intentional with the placement of your belongings. Have a plan in place before you start unpacking items willy-nilly. If you’re having people come over to help, have the sticky notes arranged before they arrive so there’s a plan in place. Hopefully this will not only allow the unpacking process to go more smoothly, but will allow for greater efficiency in the days and months to come!