This is a guest post from Wendi Eva from BreathingRooms.
“Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
I didn’t realize how true this statement was until I became a professional organizer! And working with TBM was a prime example of a day’s work feeling more like an afternoon of play. We laughed, we teased, we exchanged ideas and by the end of the afternoon, her space had been magically transformed! That’s what “work” should be like!
Anytime I start a job, I begin by carefully considering my client’s habits and personality, their budget, and their specific space. These characteristics combine to form unique work assignments that require unique solutions. Custom-made systems and tailor-fit spaces are what I do! Every job is as unique as the individual I’m serving. That being said, there are some general guidelines that prove helpful in ANY space!
BEFORE YOU START ORGANIZING
Declutter before you organize! Empty the space, touching each and every item and deciding if it should stay or go. I developed a system called the A.C.T. N.O.W. Method. A.C.T. N.O.W. is an acronym that stands for six categories to help you sort the items found in any space. “A. C. T” stands for 3 categories of items you will get rid of. “N.O.W.” deals with 3 categories of “keepers.”
- A. ASK: These are items you should ask someone else about BECAUSE THEY DON’T BELONG TO YOU. Ask for permission rather than forgiveness! Don’t jeopardize the relationship just to get rid of stuff!
- C. CAST-OFFS: These are items that you don’t want but still hold value. They could be donated, returned to their owners, gifted, sold, or handed down.
- T. TRASH: This is garbage. Plain and simple.
- The second word is N.O.W. and it stands for the categories of items that you will be keeping.
- N. NEW LOCATION: These are items you’re keeping but need a new location in your house because they don’t belong where you were previously storing them. For now, simply put these items in a box. Do not go about the house finding them new homes until you are done with the decluttering and sorting process. We know what will happen, right? You’ll most likely get distracted and derailed!
- O. OLD LOCATION: These items are either your favorites or they are necessary and you will be keeping them in the space you are currently organizing, or their same “old location.”
- W. WORK: These are projects. Wait on them because tackling them now would deter you from your larger goal of generally decluttering the space. These items typically involve smaller tasks that would be time consuming. Examples could include sorting paperwork, photos, recipes, etc. It could also include repairs, cleaning, phone calls or data entry.
THE ORGANIZING PROCESS
- Once you’ve decided what to keep, categorize items as a store would. Put like items with like items. Categories your food (breakfast, canned, snacks, drinks, condiments, baking, spices/oils/vinegars, produce, bread, and dried goods. Store food wraps together, linens together, utensils together, dishes together… Remember, like with like!
- Repurpose what you have or check out the Dollar Tree before investing in expensive containers and organizers. You probably have bins or baskets that are newly-empty after decluttering! Pick up some small cardboard boxes at the drugstore or grocery store or repurpose product packaging like glass jars and clear plastic containers. Lack of money should never be a reason to put off organizing! (Get free shipping when you shop online at the Dollar Tree.)
- Decant items into clear storage. This saves space and improves aesthetics by removing “word clutter”! It also increases efficiency and accessibility while helping you track your inventory more closely because you can easily see when your stock gets low.
- Store items vertically and keep them visible whenever possible. This facilitates accessibility and reduces waste due to buried and forgotten food stock. If you’re dealing with a deep drawer, you want to see as much as possible! Consider the “bird’s eye view.” If dealing with a deep cupboard, try not to push anything to the far back. Place it vertically in a shallow container that you can pull forward like a drawer to see what’s inside. If dealing with upper cupboards, store boxes like books on a shelf. If you must store items behind other items, put taller items in the back or place identical items in rows extending to the back of the cupboard, like they do on grocery store shelves. Make use of shelf risers or footed wire cupboard shelves to maximize your space.
- Corral and contain items. Give everything a home! Use labels to help yourself and others maintain the space and replace items where they belong.
- Deal honestly with your fantasy self. If you won’t eat it, let it go. If it’s gross or you’ve been storing it for years, it’s time. Toss it! Or, designate a small basket on your kitchen counter and fill it with items that you want to use up or are nearly gone or simply small sample items that you want to consume in the coming week. This will create more space in those cupboards!
- Keep a “buy” list handy. As you go through your space, write down anything that you need to pick up at the store, whether it’s food items, kitchen-y items, or organizers.
- If you have a pantry, use it for overstock, back stock and duplicates. If you don’t have a pantry, make one! Designate a cupboard or even a shelving unit in a nearby closet or basement. You could even bring in a standalone cabinet. You need a place to keep items that are not currently in use so that they’re out of your daily working space. I promise, you’ll thank me for it!
- Create zones and stations in your kitchen. Zones and stations are spaces including adjacent drawers and cupboards that function for a singular purpose. Your beverage station, for example, might have your mugs, Keurig machine, drink mixes, teas, and commuter mugs. If everything is exactly where you use it, you will work more efficiently and spend less time traversing your kitchen! Other possibilities could include a lunch packing zone, a leftover station, a cooking zone, a baking zone or even a popcorn station.