Tips for Organizing Your Place

Even after decluttering, cleaning up and applying some innovative storage solutions, it is possible for families to feel like their spaces just are not quite working the way they would hope.

Maybe there is still a daily hunt for shoes or keys when everyone is trying to get out the door in the morning. Or getting dinner on the table every night remains a time-consuming chore. Perhaps, despite great storage tools creating plenty of space, everyday items seem to keep piling up in places where they do not belong.

When challenges like these keep your family from thriving in your space, it might be time to do some reorganizing. There are many organizational theories, but nearly all of them incorporate the same following core ideas in one form or another:

  • Give every item a “home”.
  • Keep things near where you need them.
  • Make things easy to both retrieve and put away.

Implementing these ideas does not have to be complicated or difficult, but it can take some time, thought and experimentation to get it right.

A Place for Everything

Organizing your home in a way that is functional and that improves your quality of life starts with the idea that every item has a place. Everything you own should have somewhere it belongs and where family members know they can reliably find it. However, it is not just having designated homes for things that is important. Where those places are in relation to your home’s standard traffic patterns is equally important.

Determining the best “home” for an item is both an art and a science. To get started, ask yourself these following key questions:

  • Who needs to use this item?
  • What do they use this item for?
  • How often does this item get used?

Children’s toys are a great example of how these questions can help families make good decisions when organizing their spaces. Children’s small bodies mean that they often cannot reach higher shelves or hooks. Storing kids’ things in spaces beyond their reach can create both safety hazards and serious roadblocks to their ability to put things away properly. This is particularly true of things they use often because knowing they will need it again soon makes it easier to mentally justify not going to the trouble of putting it away.

By contrast, intentionally organizing your space and storage solutions so that children’s books and toys are kept somewhere easily accessible to them will have the opposite effect. Low bookshelves and toy bins that are open or easily opened and closed allow children to quickly and easily pick up their things and put them away. They also allow items to be quickly and safely retrieved later.

First Order Storage and Ease of Access

Do you have kitchen appliances or bakeware you never use because digging them out of the cabinet takes too much time and effort? Do you resort to tearing open bags, boxes and other packaging because you can never seem to find a pair of scissors when you need them? These are prime examples of the need to reorganize using First Order Storage principles.

Quite simply, First Order Storage means keeping the things you need right up front and close at hand so that you do not have to move anything else to pull them out or put them away. Keeping items as close as possible to where you most frequently use them, and removing anything that hinders you from accessing them, saves time and energy. It also increases the likelihood that items will be returned to where they belong when you and your family are done using them.

To organize your space using First Order Storage principles:

  • Group like things together. You may have already done this while decluttering your space. If not, then now is the time! Put all your kitchen utensils in one place. Gather up your shoes into one pile. This will set you up for the second step of the First Order Storage process.
  • Decide where you need or use an item. Do you consistently do all of your meal prep on the same counter? Consider putting your mixing bowls, baking dishes and other core kitchen items in the cabinets immediately above or below that space for speedy access. Do you put your shoes on in your room when you are getting dressed? Pick a section of your closet to keep all your shoes in. Do you wait until you are ready to leave the house before donning footwear? Hang a shoe organizer in the coat closet instead.
  • Give the best “real estate” to the items you use most often. Items you use daily should be placed front and center in your closets and cabinets. For items in near-constant use, you may even want to consider a prime spot readily within reach on a countertop. Things you use less often should be relegated to the harder-to-reach back corners of cabinets or closets. Truly seasonal items that may only get used once or twice a year may be best consigned to even less accessible storage, such as under-bed boxes or attic, basement or storage spaces.
  • Review your setup and remove barriers! When you are all done reorganizing your space, go back through with a critical eye. Look for unexpected or subtle obstacles that make it hard or inconvenient to reach daily-use items and remove or adjust them.

Supporting Good Habits

Most families have good habits they want to maintain or encourage and less desirable habits they would like to avoid or discourage. How you organize your house can directly influence your ability to develop and stick to positive habits. Perhaps the easiest way to organize your home so that it supports your best habits is to think like a retailer.

Retailers long ago perfected the art and science of displaying products in ways that catch the eye, make preferred items the easiest to grab and position items precisely where they are most likely to be seen by the target buyers. Families can duplicate these powerful strategies in their homes to great effect.

  • Store things you want to promote in highly visible places. Do you have art that you love? Mementos from family vacations that lift your mood every time you see them? A set of house rules or a family motto? Are your kids participating in a summer reading challenge? Mount your art or family motto prominently on a wall, give your souvenirs pride of place on your bookshelf and tape your reading challenge tracker to the fridge, the bathroom mirror or somewhere else you will see it multiple times every day. Learn how to choose paint colors for your home here.
  • Striving to do more of something? Keep it right at hand. Maybe you and your family are trying to drink more water and eat more vegetables. Or maybe you are trying to get in the habit of consistently putting on sunblock before you go to the park. Research suggests that putting bottles of water and pre-prepared snack baggies of carrots (or whatever you like) right in the front of your refrigerator can significantly increase the number of times you choose those good options over less healthy ones. Keeping sunblock on a shelf near the door so that it is both visible and instant to grab can drastically improve your chances of using it regularly.
  • Trying to use less of something? Make it harder to see and reach. Numerous studies have proven that even small barriers can have outsized effects on human behavior. Consider hiding items you want to use less often or consume less of where they are harder to see or reach. Putting cookies or other sugary snack items on a high shelf or in a pantry where they are not readily visible and take more effort to reach can quickly reduce the frequency and volume of their consumption.

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