Keeping organized is the best way to stay on top of everything and have a blissfully clean home. When a home is organized not only do things just feel better, but it allows you to function with ease in your home. Yet for most, it can be hard to keep a busy home organized. When it comes to home organization, there are two problems: homes that aren’t organized to begin with or have organization systems in place that ultimately haven’t been kept up with.
Before starting her career with us at BLINQ, our staff member Julia, worked as a professional organizer in Washington D.C. for many years. We sat down with her and asked her to give us a few tips on how to better organize your home and identify some common mistakes many make when it comes to keeping their homes tidy.
“Organization is great, but there is such a thing as being too organized”, says Julia, “That is always the real killer.” When it comes to home organization, many people make the mistake of constructing difficult-to-follow systems or simply go overboard with organizing because they believe that’s is what good organization is. However, “a fancy multi-step system, or folding every pair of underwear you own into an ornate rectangle is not that.”
You might know this scenario all too well: bags inside of boxes, inside of bins, inside of another box. Systems like this create a Russian-Doll effect with organization, and while well-intended, these systems are a nightmare to maintain. “You aren’t going to keep up with a system or routine that makes things harder— especially when it comes to putting things away.” Julia states. Ultimately, organization should be easy and effortless. A general rule of thumb of Julia’s is if there are more than two steps to the process, it generally isn’t a good system for the average bloke to follow.
“When it takes you an extra 5 minutes to put something away, you aren’t going follow through with it again and again. And that’s when things start to get shoved away into a corner that later implodes.”
Be wary of home organization stores
Home organization stores are euphoric— the aisles of colorful, assorted-sized bins, unique storage items, and idealistic mock-spaces are intoxicating. But those aisles instill a lot of false hope. Home organization stores have a knack for making you purchase things you don’t actually need as they make you believe that a product is the right solution for you because it looks like it works.
“Home organization stores often reinforce the ‘over-organization’ habit that won’t help you stay organized. Not only can products from these stores leave you with a hard-to-maintain system, but a gaping hole in your wallet, too.” says Julia. “Sure, their closet storage example with a slew of pricey and unique products looks beautiful, but how many people only have three pairs of shoes and five hanging tops in their closet? Sometimes the store examples with silly custom products set unrealistic expectations that trick you into thinking that your home could look just as perfect…but only if you buy those items.”
However, home organization stores aren’t all bad news. Julia admits that these stores are great but only if you follow some rules. She suggests going to these stores with a list (and measurements!) of what exactly you need or to collect some ideas, but only if you leave your wallet at home!
Use the right space for items
This sentiment is easier said than done. It is imperative that items are kept in the right spot in your home. If you can’t easily access things, Julia says that you will either forget what you have and will buy more, or place things in random places all over your house.
As an example of utilizing the right space, think about travel items such as spare bottles of travel-sized shampoo. Storing those products in your bathroom cabinets might not be the best spot if you have a smaller space— that precious real estate should be reserved for your everyday-use toiletry items. However, your travel items shouldn’t be stuck in a random closet or in the basement, either. You likely pack and unpack near your closet, so consider storing travel items within that area instead in a contained small box.
The same goes for other groupings of items. It might be smarter to keep most first aid items in a central hub of your home such as the kitchen, where not only are more accidents likely happen, but most kitchens are the hub of a home and generally see a lot of foot-traffic as well, making things easy to access in a pinch.
Keep small, loose items contained
Small, loose items such as first aid products, batteries, spare toiletries, office supplies and more can clutter up a space in an instant if left strewn. Julia recommends buying small storage boxes with latching or locking lids to keep these small items contained and easy to access. Lids also give these bins the ability to stack on shelves to utilize more space. Just be sure to label the bins with stickers! Julia suggests buying clear bins and taping a label to the interior of it with clear packing tape as labels are more likely to peel off if on the outside of the bin.
Be sure to get the right size boxes for the products it will hold in addition to the measurements of where these boxes might be stored so that they will fit. “It is also important not to buy boxes that are too large. If you have too much space leftover in a box, you will feel inclined to fill it up with even more product. Organization is meant to help you better access and use up what you have, not buy more of it.” Julia notes.
Here is an example of an artist’s studio Julia organized. The artist had many supplies from paint, glues, installation materials, and more.
By using bins with lids, Julia was able to group similar items (ex. Orange oil paints, pink acrylic paints, crayons, glitter) together and stack them for more space. Julia used larger bins for items that required the extra space. When you brake large groupings up into smaller storage units, that means you need to open more bins to access exactly what you’re looking for if your forget where you put it!
Julia then printed out large labels for each bin and used clear packing tape to tape the entire label to the inside of the box where it is less likely to peel off.
Organization doesn’t need to be expensive
Having custom built-ins put in or buying in an expensive “space saving” system isn’t necessary to get organized. The truth is, home organization can be done cheaply, so long as you take the time to do your research, get creative, and have patience when it comes to finding the right products.
“The dollar store is a great place to find small boxes and bins to help you group and store loose small items.” suggests Julia. “It is also important to consider what you have already and can repurpose.”
Julia adds that sometimes using unconventional items is the way to go when you either can’t find what you need or want a cheaper alternative. When it comes to organizing your closet, Julia suggests using a shoe rack with flat shelves instead of rods, as they can be used to create extra shelving to store folded items in your closet. We also suggest using egg cartons to store jewelry in if you are looking for an eco-friendly and free hack!
What works for you won’t work for everyone
The last tip is the most important, so we will let Julia take it from here:
“Every home is different. Each house has a unique set of needs, problems, space constraints, and budgets. People also prioritize and work through things differently So, instead of buying a bunch of organization items at once and hoping for the best, really think about the problem at hand first. Are your shoes scattered around the house because you don’t have a dedicated space for them? Did your attempt at creating a system to keep the mudroom organized not stick because it was too complicated for the kids to follow?
Once the root of the problem is identified, you then need to work out how much time and space you want to dedicate to the solution. Do you realistically want to spend 5 minutes putting this item away every time? Do these items need to be accessed everyday or not as often?
After you have these pieces figured out, you have a clear solution in front of you. However, it isn’t a universal fix because the solution was derived from your own unique set of problems and needs.
Some people want to meticulously store items in a five-step process while others prefer to just toss the same item into a catch-all bin and call it a day. One way isn’t right or wrong, but one way clearly wouldn’t work for the other. As long as your home isn’t cluttered and you know that things can be found and put away in a time you find reasonable, you’ve done it right.”