If you know me, you know I'm a fool for organizing. My house may get messy (there are a toddler and two large dogs in our midst), and we definitely still have too much stuff for my liking (that's a whole other can of beans), but I always know where everything is.
If you don't know me yet, let me say this: I like solutions that make immediate sense, cost nothing (or next to nothing) and are so simple that I can never forget them... Meaning, I just can't see how we could ever go back to the old way.
In my world, where things belong has to make sense... That old saying "a place for everything and everything in its place" makes sense to me. Cooking tools go next to the stove. Pens and paper go near your desk. Keep the baby wipes next to the diapers. Like with like. These are the basics. See? Makes sense.
But what about beyond that? What about those things we mindlessly waste time on every single day, redoing the same old way just because an improved way never seemed to pop up? The solutions that shave minutes off your routine, which over the long haul add up to hours and days of time you could (and should!) be using to accomplish amazing things.
These are the things I get excited about. Yes, I'm definitely a nerd when it comes to this stuff. These solutions may not be for everyone, but they work for us and make our lives a whole lot easier.
Read on to discover my all-time favorite organizing/make-your-life-easier tricks:
Pet Peeve: Sorting cutlery.This one seems so startlingly obvious, I couldn't believe I'd done it the other way my whole life. You can see it now: the cutlery rack in your dishwasher is a jumble of clean silverware. (Chances of getting stabbed by an upward-facing knife: 10 out of 10.) So you carefully go in and collect small handfuls at a time, walk over to the cutlery drawer, and begin sorting. And... repeat.
Solution: Sort as you go.Each time a new piece of silverware goes in the dishwasher, put like with like. Knives with knives (blades down! save your hands!), forks with forks (prongs up for better cleaning), and so on. When it comes time to put them away, just grab that handful of clean spoons and toss them in the drawer. Voila! No more sorting.
Note: this same idea can be used for setting the table. Before: An armful of mixed silverware needs to be sorted at every place setting. After: Keep the knives in your right hand and the forks in your left. As you move from seat to seat, just drop down one of each on their respective sides. So much faster!
Pet Peeve: sorting different people's laundry.Mostly because I find it mind-numbingly boring -- and there are thousands of things I'd rather do with my short time on this earth -- so I will procrastinate and avoid doing this for weeks on end. We've happily survived extended stretches of time pulling clean clothes out of laundry baskets (and had our fair share of "have you seen my...?"), but I figure since I'm a grown-up now (or so they tell me) I should really have a better system down.
Full disclosure: I do not iron my clothes when they come out of the dryer. And, (sorry Ma!) I also don't take it out when it's still a little damp and hang it all over to keep the wrinkles out. Wrinkles and I made a truce many moons ago. We're just going to have to live with each other... Until I have full-time staff... Mmmmmm.
Solution: Individual laundry bins for each family member.Plus, a different laundry day for each person. Wash, dry, back in their room. Take this one step further and have one big mesh bag for each person, and you can toss the whole darn thing in the washer and dryer and call it a day.
Note: we wash everything on cold (trying to conserve energy) so we don't worry about sorting lights and darks. And our summer project is putting up a clothesline outside so we don't need the dryer.
Pet Peeve: heading out to a party and needing to wrap a gift -- pronto.Run all over to find wrapping paper/gift bag, tape, scissors, ribbon, gift tag, card and pen. Leave the house sweaty and exhausted. One day I truly aspire to actually write something in the card before leaving home, rather than hiding out in the bathroom at the person's party and scribbling something down.
Solution: Make a wrapping station.I never thought this would be me. Honestly. But it does simplify matters greatly. Here we had a $5 garage-sale dresser that sat empty. I corralled all our gift-related junk and gave it a new home.
In the top drawer, tape and scissors intermingle with ribbon and tags. Gift bags are broken down by occasion (except we still have too many - another phase will be to pare down and give some away).
Rolls of paper are housed in a gift-wrapping wrangler doohickey. (I would have preferred a dresser that is one meter wide so I could put the rolls in the drawers, but I never found one). Greeting cards sit in a special box waiting to be called into action, with envelopes and a pen tucked right in the box.
Pet Peeve: Matching clean socks.Must I even explain why matching socks is so excruciatingly boring? There's just not enough time to explain, much less to actually do it.
Solution: safety pins.Every single sock in our home is pinned to its mate. Pins come off when we wear the socks, then they get pinned back together before going in the laundry. They get washed, dried and put away in the same exact state.
Added bonus: no more sweaty balled-up man-socks to pry apart. This alone is worth the transition for life.
Note: This same concept is also used to match baby slippers and other tiny pairs of things. When we can't pin items together, like little shoes, but need them to stay together in the long run (like if we need to put them away in storage or give them to another baby) then we tie the laces together in a bow or velcro the straps together.
Pet Peeve: Dirty, non-clothing laundry piling up in the kitchen.The collection of kitchen rags and dish towels that needed laundering was bad enough, then it seemed to multiply exponentially when baby arrived. We seemed to be awake for 24 hours straight (give or take a short nap here and there) and all our living was done on the main floor in and around the kitchen... So more kitchen laundry, baby cloths, bibs, receiving blankets, etc. And no place to put them as they piled up.
Solution: A laundry basket right on location...And it may see more action that all the other bins combined! This laundry gets done on Baby Laundry Day.
Pet Peeve: Wet bathing suits in a sopping wet pile on the floor, or dripping from a doorknob.We have a pool. It's lovely. But at the end of every swim, we were faced with what to do with wet bathing suits. They were either left in a wet ball or hung from a doorknob and drenched the floors.
Solution: A set of hooks right in the shower.Now, bathing suits can drip-dry to their heart's content. No more wet floors. (Wet towels usually just get laid out in the sun.)
Pet Peeve: Recycling going into the garbage.Virtually all the food and product packaging we come across these days is recyclable. In fact, most everything we come into contact with on a daily basis is too. Fortunately, we live in a community with a terrific recycling program. We just can't stomach throwing all those recyclables away in the garbage and ending up in a landfill.
In fact, we've noticed we're collecting more and more recycling and producing very little garbage. But without the convenience of collection bins nearby, laziness often wins the day and those items will probably end up in the trash.
Solution: Recycling bins in all high-traffic areas; and/or one on each floor of your home.
- We have a bin that lives under the kitchen sink, and somehow fills up every two or three days.
- We have a bin that lives in the bathroom, and collects way more than we could have anticipated: Tissue boxes, toothpaste boxes, soap boxes, toilet paper rolls, even the plastic shells for my contact lenses all go into the bin.
- Of course we have a bin in the office for paper waste, junkmail, magazines and so on.
- We have a bin in the garage for packaging, boxes, the plastic tops of spray-paint cans (you can bring the spent cans to your local big-box store for special recycling) and much more.
Pet Peeve: Medicine.
- Not finding what you need to cure an ailment... like, now.
- Discovering, after you buy a brand new box of Advil, that you already had 3 containers of it in various spots around the house.
- Throwing away expired, unused medicine.
Solution: a pharmacy wall.By hanging a see-through shoe organizer from the dollar store on the back of the linen closet door, we now have ALL our medicine in full view, grouped by ailment (Headache, stomach ache, cold/flu, etc). If it's not in there, we don't have any.
Note: Never throw away expired medicine in the trash or down the drain. You can bring it all back to any pharmacy and they will dispose of it properly.
Pet Peeve: Unruly cordless phones.Phone is ringing, but the cordless phone handsets are nowhere to be found. When one finally turns up, the battery's dead.
Solution: Label the phones.This seems so silly, but miraculously, the phones just naturally find their way back to their base. Always charged. Always there when you need them.
Pet Peeve: Lost keys.We only ever lose our keys when we desperately need them / when we're in a terrible rush. When we're hanging out watching TV, nobody cares where their keys are.
A close runner-up to Lost Keys has to be Impossible-to-locate-in-my-bag Keys, which is even more infuriating. Especially when it's cold, snowing/raining, your hands are full, or baby is crying.
Solution: Keys on giant clip, aka carabeener.I've long abandoned the idea of my keys looking glamorous (I once had a beautiful crescent-shaped keyring from Tiffany's that would always come undone and lose all my keys) - I'll take this ugly clip anyday for easy access when I'm out and easy hanging by the door when I'm home. If I don't have a bag with me I'll clip the keys to my belt loop.
Pet Peeve: Not being able to move a piece of furniture because it's too heavy or will damage the floor. For a person like me who likes to mix things up, I can't be committed to a layout for... forever.
Sometimes the best way to get organized is just a better room layout.
Solution: Add wheels/casters or felties to everything.
There you have 'em. They may not be perfect, but they're my faves!
Let's hear it - what are your make-life-easier secrets? Please share in the comments below!
More on Organizing & Decluttering:
27 Sneaky Sources of Clutter
Declutter Project: New In Town