kitchens, Organizing

Creating a Functional Kitchen

As we head from Spring into Summer, now is a great time to do some reorganizing (or organizing for the first time) of our kitchens. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time in my kitchen all year long. Here are some tips to help you assess and organize the central part of any home.

STEP 1: ANALYSIS

As you ponder where to place your kitchen things, begin by analyzing your old storage systems. Were some things working well? If so, don’t change them! If you love storing your mugs by the coffee maker, stick with it. If it’s convenient to have your recipe books on the countertop, keep it up.

Now ponder anything inconvenient. How could you make those things work a little better? For example, if you hate having piles of cans and bottles littering your countertop as they await a trip outside for recycling, then make a new plan. Clear space under the sink to install a pull-out trash can to capture those recyclables immediately after use. If you hate reaching to the top shelf to get your favorite, frequently-used mixing bowls, make a plan to house them in a more convenient location like an eye-level shelf. Where you put your stuff is as important as what you own. If you can’t find it when you need it, or it’s inconvenient to reach, you’ll likely not use it!  (Here’s a tip from my kitchen: my trashcans sit out in the open in the kitchen since we do not have cabinet space for them. I purchased two slim trashcans – one black and one white – and sat them side by side. The black trash can is for trash; the white trashcan is for recycling. You can choose any two colors that would work for your kitchen but this is a great way to have a sleek look while gathering recycling. We use paper grocery store bags in the recycling can and when it is full, we lift it out and put the bag in the larger, trash company provided recycling bin.)

STEP 2: PLACEMENT

As you look over your groupings of kitchen items, start pulling aside the things you use most often. Then store them where you use them. For example, your everyday dishes might work great directly above your dishwasher or close to the table. Perhaps your pots and pans and cookie sheets could go near the stove.

Keeping similar things together will help you navigate your kitchen more easily. For example, store everything related to cooking in one area. You might group your pots and pans, bakeware, hot mitts, and cooking utensils in one area. Create a food preparation area by grouping cutting boards, knives, and mixing bowls. If you love to bake, consolidate cookie cutters, mixers, measuring cups and spoons in one area.

There are many helpful organizing products available to keep your kitchen orderly. Baskets and bins come in a variety of sizes and hold foods, like onions and potatoes, as well as cleaning supplies. A wall-mounted spice rack saves cupboard space. Inside cupboards, double-decker wire shelf stackers double storage space. Wooden cookware racks keep pot lids tidy. An attractive vase or crock near your stove top corrals utensils. (Here’s a tip from my kitchen: I have stainless steel appliances and bought a stainless steel ice bucket and use it to hold the stove top utensils on the counter next to the stove – it is easy to wipe clean and keeps the stainless steel look flowing.)

If you use something frequently, keep it close and convenient. Put infrequently used items way up high, down low, or in the back. Place anything you use daily (such as everyday dishes) at eye level, so you’re not stooping down or reaching on tip-toe. Keep heavy things down low and lighter things up high. For example, if you use your turkey platter or punch bowl only once or twice a year, place them on a bottom shelf.

STEP 3: MAINTENANCE

Once your kitchen is organized, pat yourself on the back. Job well done! But you’re not quite finished… Establish an “in/out” system where some purging takes place before you purchase a new item. If you buy a new set of plastic storage containers, toss out an equal amount of your old storage containers. If you come home with a new mug, an old one must go! It may be helpful to stash a donation box somewhere nearby as an easy reminder of this rule. Also, take time once each year to review your kitchen and all its accouterments. Discard anything broken, donate  anything unused in the past 12 months, and make sure the storage systems still make sense for you and your housemates. Consider your kitchen a work in progress, and like fine wine it will only get better with time.

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organized mail
Decluttering, Organizing

Spring is Here!!! Quick Tips to Start the Organizing Process

Spring is Here! These tips will help you stop procrastinating and get organized today! Inspire and motivate yourself with the “Quick Start” projects. Each of these should take no longer than 30 minutes. Next, try the “Keep Going” tips to really put clutter and chaos in its place!

Kitchen

Quick Start: Take everything out of the refrigerator. Toss anything expired or mysteriously fuzzy. Clean the shelves. Then replace food items, grouping similar things together.

Keep Going: Tackle each kitchen cupboard and drawer the same way. Remove everything, clean, and toss anything not fresh or useful. Give most-used items your prime, easiest-to-reach space. Put infrequently used items up high or way in the back.

Clutter

Quick Start: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Grab a garbage bag, walk through your home, and quickly remove ten things you no longer use or love. Also, recycle newspapers older than one week and magazines older than 12 months, plus expired coupons and junk mail. Dispose of the bags immediately.

Keep Going: From here on out, put things in their proper places right away. Before buying something new, ask yourself if you really need it. If you decide to purchase, get rid of two similar items to make room.

Paperwork

Quick Start: With the exception of bills to be paid and truly important documents, grab all the paperwork you can find into one big pile. Plop it in a big box, seal it, and write today’s date on it. If you haven’t missed any of it two months from now, recycle the entire box without opening it.

Keep Going: Set up a new, easy filing system starting with paperwork you receive from today forward. Think of broad categories of papers you receive on a frequent basis: bills to pay, people to call, medical, school, etc. Get a desktop filing box, keep it in the kitchen, and file only what you’ll truly need to reference later. Be ruthless in your paper disposal. (Shred sensitive documents.) Review file contents weekly.

Touch paperwork only once: Open mail, and immediately act on it and recycle the paper, or file it in the appropriate spot.

Kids’ Stuff

Quick Start: Every evening, set a timer and have the family do the “Ten Minute Tidy-Up.” Holding an empty laundry basket, each person grabs anything out of place, and returns it to its correct home.

Keep Going: Limit clutter with the “new item in, old item out” rule. If you buy a new toy or clothing, get rid of at least one old one. Limit school art and paperwork. Save only the best, and keep them in an under bed storage box or portfolio.

Time Management

Quick Start: Set your watch ten minutes ahead. You’ll have a built-in buffer for running late.

Keep Going: Any task that can be completed in five minutes or less should be completed right away. Schedule a chunk of time each day to handle paperwork. Don’t schedule appointments too close together.

Email

Quick Start: Move everything more than two weeks old from your email inbox to a file marked “Holding.” Keep it for two months. Then, delete everything you haven’t needed in that time.

Keep Going: Treat your inbox like a real mail box. You’d never leave old mail sitting in there! Take the time to set up files where you can immediately move new emails. As emails arrive, either read and delete, file appropriately, or put in a “to do this week” file.

Garage/Attic/Basement

Quick Start: Set a timer for 30 minutes and toss/recycle dried out paint and chemicals, and anything broken, musty, or moldy.

Keep Going: Sort the space into zones. For example, a garage might have areas for sports, tools, gardening, and recycling/garbage. Group like items in those zones. Use appropriate storage containers and label clearly.

(courtesy © 2013 Articles on Demand™)

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Decluttering, House for sale, kids, Organizing

Prepping your kids room before listing your house for sale

Prepping your kids room before listing your house for sale:

One of the many challenges with listing a home for sale when you have small children at home is “what do I do with all the toys?”  A related challenge is “how do I show my house when there are toys everywhere?”

As part of prepping your house for listing for sale, you will need to tackle the somewhat daunting task of toys – deciding which toys can be donated or sold and which toys can be discarded.

For toys that you want to hang on to and keep for DURING your house listing, the rule of thumb is to have toys in only one room – your child’s bedroom. This can be impossible if more than one child shares a bedroom and that bedroom is small. When this occurs, I recommend you designate a room elsewhere in the house (and preferably not on the main level where your entrance is located) as a “play room”. This might be just an area for the toys to reside in as part of a family room or guest room.

For toys you are going to sell, be prepared to take pictures and list immediately on either Craigslist or FB yard sale groups while you are sorting through them. Set a deadline for when the toy will be sold – for example, list the toy and give it 5 days. If it hasn’t sold, donate it. Otherwise you will not be clearing out space but instead will be in a holding pattern to make a sale…forward movement is what you want to maintain so you don’t get stuck.

After sorting and purging of toys, then come up with storage solutions for the toys remaining in the house. Don’t purchase any organizing containers until after the sorting and purging is finished. If there are more toys that you want to hold on to for AFTER the sale, but need to “hide” while your house is on the market, consider using plastic storage tubs (with labels on outside) and either storing the tubs in the attic or renting a storage unit while your home is listed. (Personal tip: I have utilized storage units while showing my home for sale. I rented an interior unit in a temperature maintained facility and rented the smallest unit/closet. If I had too many things to fit in there, then I had to do more purging. I also utilized plastic shelving units that I assembled and put into the storage unit so that I could stack tubs/items higher within the unit.)

Remember, potential buyers are going to know you have kids – that’s okay. What you don’t want to do is distract them with too many things or with a mess. When a potential buyer walks into your home, the first thing they notice will set the tone – if this is a pile of toys in the main entrance area; it will off put the buyer. This is why the toys should be removed from the main level if at all possible. You want a buyer to get a good feel for your home on the main level so that when they do see your child’s toys and room, it’s not the first room/sight they see.

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junk drawer
kitchens, Organizing

Junk Drawers – to have or not to have, that is the question

Junk Drawers – to have or not to have, that is the question…

I don’t know about your childhood home, but the home I grew up in had a junk drawer in the kitchen. We called it the junk drawer even though mainly it housed tools and assorted items like tape, nails, hammer, etc. Perhaps my mom referred to it that way because it wasn’t like the other drawers which were specifically designated for just one type of item – utensils, foil, and large cooking utensils (we had only 5 kitchen cabinet drawers, come to think of it).

Since this is how I was raised, I too have always had what I would call a “junk drawer” – to put it more eloquently, “a mélange of dissimilar items frequently requiring access but with no specific home to call their own”…ahem…junk drawer is much easier now, isn’t it?

Sometimes junk drawers can become nightmare drawers so let’s take a look at whether or not it would work for your home to have a junk drawer:

  1. Do you have lots of kitchen drawers where you can easily assign like items? If yes, then you probably have an extra drawer to assign as the “junk” drawer.
  2. Are your kitchen drawers a wish list item for your next kitchen? If yes, and you have very few drawers, you may want to NOT have a junk drawer since space is limited.
  3. Do you have a tendency to save EVERYTHING, including plastic wrapped utensils (with napkin of course), chopsticks, soy sauce packets, and ketchup packets that come with food delivery from restaurants? If yes, then a junk drawer is not the best solution because it will be used to store all these items, which are not junk but really, let’s face it, trash.

My current kitchen has two junk drawers – they are side by side – and they are in the same vein as the drawers in my childhood home. I call them “junk” drawers, but they probably really aren’t necessarily junk drawers – they hold tools, tape (scotch, electrical, masking, packing, and plumbers tape), scissors, pens, rubber bands, stapler, ruler, measuring tape, etc.  I guess you could say the drawers are more along the lines of “frequently needed tools” and “office supplies”. I also use drawer organizers to separate the different items so it does have some semblance of order to it.

Only you know your tendencies and if they stray towards the side of filling drawers so they’re not accessible or usable, then you probably already know you shouldn’t have a junk drawer. But the decision to have or not to have is always up to you.

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Change Agent
Organizing

Hello, my name is Change Agent

Since I act as a “change agent” for some of my clients who are more chronically disorganized, this can be a scary time. Removing the clutter,  that may have served as a physical expression of an emotional wall or barrier, is a BIG CHANGE.

NOT putting the wall back up of “stuff” is even scarier. However, regret of things that a person wanted to do and didn’t do is even greater than facing the change.

Question for you: Are you regretting not being able to have friends or family over to your home because you’re embarrassed or ashamed of how your home looks? Let’s work together on being change agents so you can start living the life you want to! Regrets – be gone! Change – here we come!

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