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What's Up Magazine

Spring Cleaning Tips in May

Nov 09, 2010 11:10PM ● By Anonymous

If so, you may decide that it’s finally time to tackle the task of getting organized—and staying organized. While the idea may seem daunting, it’s not unattainable by any means—and so rewarding in the end! Begin the process by thinking about why a change is necessary.

“People who have compelling reasons to get organized can make it happen,” says organizational guru Lorie Marrero, inventor of The Clutter Diet. “Successful change comes from being clear about what you want and why you want it. Just like with weight loss, there are three elements to making lasting changes: motivation, education, and support.”

A recent incident in my own well-used kitchen, just a week before I was to host a bridal luncheon, illustrates these elements. A pipe underneath the sink burst quietly in the night, flooding the cabinet and spilling water onto the floor. The plumber repaired the mechanics but not the aesthetics.

The damage was sufficient (yet unexpected) motivation for a kitchen makeover that included some much-needed organization—and the installation of new hardwood flooring. But (being an impatient sort) I plunged into the project without sufficient education . And, as for support , I made the mistake of acting as my own contractor while still keeping my day job—a strategy I do not recommend to anyone wishing to remain sane.

I set out to organize a kitchen where pots and pans tumbled to the floor whenever their cabinet was opened, coffee mugs were precariously double-stacked, wine glasses shared space with beer mugs, and the refrigerator door looked like an art exhibit on a New York City sidewalk.

The renovation entailed gutting my entire kitchen. The contents of every cabinet and drawer were boxed up and stored in the cellar (the Land of No Return). After ruthlessly eliminating all but the most-used items I was nearly at the finish line of the kitchen makeover project. Years of clutter became someone else’s treasure (thanks to Goodwill) and today my pots and pans are stored on a two-tiered lazy Susan—though I am currently in the market for a hanging pot rack. My kitchen counter is clear except for canisters, spice rack, toaster, and coffeepot. It is, as the Clutter Diet diva would say, “good enough.”


Preparing for Order

“Good enough” is a mantra to remember when organizing your space. Families with toddlers and teens have a special challenge in keeping things orderly, but there are ways to enlist even members of those age groups in the organizational game. I know a working mother with four children, ages 6–15, who manages to keep an orderly home. Part of her strategy during a recent organization “blitz” was to assign a color to each member of the household and use this personal identification to mark the baskets, shelves, and cupboards where they should store their “stuff,” from sports equipment to school papers.

Before you begin your own blitz, take time to study your space and assess your storage needs. Look at your kitchen with new eyes. Pots and pans can be the most unruly kitchen tenants: they take up too much space and they’re hard to keep organized. A ceiling- or wall-mounted pot rack tends to be the best solution for overstocked cabinets here. And don’t think you must have shiny copper cookware to use one: just be sure your everyday pots are clean. Store pot covers out of sight in clever lid organizers that slide into the side of a cabinet.

Get Vertical: A useful tip from HGTV’s Professional Organizer Monica Ricci

“Use vertical space. Place hooks under cabinets to hold mugs above the countertop, or hang a stemware rack in the same spot for wine glasses, which will free up a lot of space in the cabinet above. Hang adhesive hooks on the inside of cabinet doors or pantry doors to hold tools such as measuring cups, oven mitts, or other kitchen gadgets. . .Remember that any space you can use to hang something will free up flat space inside a cabinet.”

Group similar items together and place them as close to where you use them as possible. Store your glasses and cups near the sink or refrigerator, pots and pans near the stove, spices and oils near the food preparation area, and plates in cabinets nearest the sink or dishwasher. A double-tiered turntable, a hanging spice rack, a sliding spice organizer, and a standing spice rack are all great space savers for spice storage.

Most kitchens have an everything drawer, a limbo for homeless odds and ends. Neaten yours up with a simple partitioned insert (think cutlery container)—after you have checked its contents and are ready to start anew—hopefully with a stern view of what’s worth keeping. Pack-rat tendencies are stronger in some than others, and it is important to keep those instincts in control if organization is your goal.

In the cupboards where your plates are stored you can use a helper shelf (usually made of plastic-coated wire) to make the best of your most accessible vertical shelf spaces by stacking smaller plates above large dinner plates. You can customize any size drawer and use it for dinner napkins, napkin rings, candles, etc. Use spring-loaded dividers to create orderly rows or boxes.

Multi-tiered sliding cabinet organizers can help to keep the area under the kitchen sink organized and easy to reach—those items that are stored toward the back of the deep cabinet become accessible with a slide-out shelf. (Have you noticed the “accessible” theme here?) You can use cabinet door organizers to store kitchen wrap, paper towels, or cleaners on the backs of under-sink doors.

Don’t forget the loo!

All these basic organizational rules also apply to bathrooms. (But be sure to tackle one room at a time. Working on multiple rooms may leave you overwhelmed and wanting to give up.) Get rid of outdated medications and other clutter in the medicine cabinets. Store hand towels and washcloths in attractive baskets, and be sure the clothes hamper is functional in style and placement. Hanging shelves to place over the toilet, on the walls, and over the shower are inexpensive and available in many attractive designs and materials. Smaller versions of the high-tech stainless steel–covered waste cans so in vogue for kitchen use can add punch to modern or traditional bathroom decor.

There usually are pipes under the bathroom sink, making it difficult to store things in the cabinet there. Purchase an inexpensive multi-leveled under-sink shelving unit that assembles around the pipes inside the cabinet and then use bins on the shelves.

If your bathrooms are small, consider replacing a space-consuming cabinet-style sink area with a pedestal design. If you make the switch, metal racks and baskets may be used for storage instead. A space-saving idea for towel storage is to replace a shower curtain with sliding shower doors that have built-in towel bars. Roll up extra towels and store them on mounted racks or baskets, hang them on hooks or swinging towel arms attached to your bathroom door, stack them on a hotel-style rack that has both bars and shelves, or place them in a cubbyhole that you created by moving a drawer or door from your vanity.

Create an area that makes it easy to reach frequently used items, and then store your less frequently used items in cabinets or the linen closet. A trick borrowed from the experts is to sort bathroom items by group: teeth, hair, nails, skin care, shaving, first aid, soaps, travel items, and paper goods (cotton balls, tissue, swabs). If your medicine cabinet shelves are not tall enough for many of your everyday items, purchase some small containers that do fit, transfer items into them, store the big containers in a closet, and refill as necessary (this works well for folks who like to buy in bulk). This done, you are well on your way to becoming organized!

Tip: A tiered plate stand borrowed from your kitchen can serve as creative storage space for extra bath essentials—and you don’t have to sacrifice decorative appeal!

Remember, while the task of organizing your kitchen and bathrooms may seem daunting, the end results are well worth the effort. Besides saving time, space, and money, your efforts produce other benefits: “An organized home creates a safe, nourishing, and harmonious environment,” says Yarrow, a local feng shui practitioner whose clients include sailboat owners and restaurants as well as homeowners. “The less clutter there is, the more space there is for the circulation of positive energy.”

Now you just have to make a commitment to keep it up!

Being organized can help you do the following:

  • Reduce stress. Life is just a little easier when you know where things are and you are getting important things done on time.
  • Save time. Finding things easily means you don’t waste time looking for things, and remembering what to bring with you means fewer trips back to get what you forgot.
  • Be prepared. When your spouse cuts a finger in the kitchen, do you have a bandage and first aid items ready at a moment’s notice? Being organized means that you’re ready for what life throws your way.
  • Avoid embarrassment. An organized home is more easily opened to friends and family for entertaining and is not embarrassing when people just drop by.
  • Avoid unnecessary conflict. How many times have you gotten into an argument because you or a family member has lost something important?
  • Sell your home faster. If you are in the real estate market presenting an uncluttered home to potential buyers can make all the difference.


Expert Advice for the Organizationally Challenged

Simple guidelines for organizing your kitchen

First gather these tools to help you:

  • Trash can and heavy-duty trash bags
  • Permanent marker
  • Notepad and pen
  • Boxes or paper grocery bags for sorting
  • Small measuring tape
  • Tool belt or apron to hold things handy while you work
  • Cleaning cloths and cleaning products

1. If you prefer using shelf paper, consider whether you’d like to install it during this process. Even if you don’t want to shelf-paper the entire kitchen we do recommend using a plastic shelf liner in the cabinet underneath the sink to protect it from leaks. While you are working you’ll also want to use your cleaning cloths and favorite cleaning products to wipe away crumbs and spills from your shelves.

2. Notice the work pattern of your kitchen. Where are the sink, refrigerator, and stove in relation to each other? Consider this pattern while strategizing placement of items. Food preparation areas should be nearest to the sink, cooking utensils closest to the stove, etc.

3. Use sticky notes to make your decisions on placement of the categories of items in your kitchens. Think through whether you make brown bag lunches often, what is easier for children, whether you have multiple sets of dishes for entertaining, and other considerations about how you and your family use the kitchen.

4. Start in one spot of the kitchen and work in a circle, clearing spaces, categorizing and purging your items as you go. You can use paper sacks to sort categories of items such as “food preparation,” “serving utensils,” and the like. As you clear the spaces for their new homes, put the items away according to your new plan.

5. Don’t keep seven potato peelers! If you have duplicate items, choose your favorite and part with the rest. Have a donation box ready for these items.

6. Use our A-B-C-D concept to help you make decisions and prioritize your space:

Examples Priorities Places
Paper towels, flatware, drinking glasses, everyday dishes A
Things you use all the time
On the countertop, in most handy cabinets and drawers, in front of other items
Serving bowls, blender, food processor B
Things you use most of the time
In relatively accessible cabinets and drawers, maybe behind or above A items
Holiday dishes, gravy boat, formal china and silverware C
Things you use once or twice a year
Stored out of the flow of daily living, up high, in another room, or in a special cabinet
Outgrown baby dishes, specialty gadgets, single-function specialty appliances D
Things you are not using
If you can’t part with them, store them out of the flow of daily living in a less accessible place

7. Put items that belong in other places in the house in an elsewhere box to put away later. This practice prevents you from getting distracted.

8. Make notes as you work, about shopping list items, action items, and anything else, so you can capture the thought and move on. If you are buying products like drawer dividers or bins, measure the space and write down the measurements before going shopping.

9. When you have everything exactly the way you want it, keep the sticky notes or labels up for a week or so to help you get accustomed to the new arrangement.

10. Consider using a label maker to make “official” permanent labels for some areas to help maintain order. You probably want to do this only on the insides of cabinets and pantries, obviously not on the outside of your nice cabinet doors.

11. Remember to revisit your new organizing systems and make sure they are working. Often organizing projects need a little tweaking later to make them work better, such as an additional turntable, drawer divider, or label or moving a shelf up or down one or two notches.

Source: Lorie Marrero