Spring Organizing Motivation and Ideas

 Simple pantry organization a la Enriched Family (Sorry, I forgot to take a before pic, but trust me, it was disorganized; also, my family had a few days to use this area before I had a chance to take the pic so the pantry had been "well loved" at this point, but you get the idea)

Simple pantry organization a la Enriched Family (Sorry, I forgot to take a before pic, but trust me, it was disorganized; also, my family had a few days to use this area before I had a chance to take the pic so the pantry had been "well loved" at this point, but you get the idea)

What stops us from organizing?

I think a lot of us put off organizing because we think too big or we think perfection and we get overwhelmed: "I need to organize the (whole) house or I need to wait until I can budget money for those fancy shelving systems or I just don't know where to start." However, if you think more small-scale/doable, there are a lot of projects that you can easily tackle that will make a big difference in your daily life, and that will be relatively inexpensive to boot. The key is to focus on just one or two areas at a time, and to aim for function (how can I make this area work better for our needs?), not for perfection. 

Usually, two key areas that I recommend tackling first are: 1) The kitchen. Why? As it is usually the the most used room in the house, the impact will be significant. 2) Kids' rooms. Why? Because children's rooms always seem to be in a state of disarray and as parents we are always asking our kids to clean them up (Ahem, at least in my house. Maybe your kids are super tidy, and if so, lucky you! Move on to another room, like the entry area or living room).

Kitchen organization

Starting with the kitchen, concentrate on one or two projects. Depending on your level of motivation, pick the area of the kitchen that drives you batty or the project that seems most doable. For example, in my spring organizing, I tackled the pantry first as it makes me crazy when things are so disorganized that I think we don't have peanut butter and so I buy more at the grocery store, but then I come home and unpack the groceries only to discover we actually had four jars hidden in the pantry. Agh. 

To organize a pantry, I recommend taking everything out of the pantry first so you can thoroughly clean the shelves and get a better sense of what you have. Look for any expired food items and recycle them, if possible, or throw them away. Then, if there are nonperishable food items that you know you just won't use, put them in a bag for your local food bank. Considering what is left to keep, group things in categories that make the most sense. There is no special system. Simply think about what you use the most and want to access the easiest, then think about how to give these things prime real estate in the pantry. If you are big on breakfast, have a breakfast grouping. If you use a lot of grains and pastas, group these together, and then maybe you want to have a separate grouping for oils and spices. Whatever works for you.

Once you have created all the groupings, figure out how best to contain and separate them. You may have some containers around the house that could work, like the crates I used in the pantry picture above. I usually try to see if I can repurpose containers that I already have around the house first, before buying a new container, but sometimes I just feel like geeking out at the Container Store. Ideally, the best containers, in my experience, are clear plastic or metal wire baskets or bins as you can see what is inside of them. However, I found the wooden crates in the picture above at a great discount at Michael's and so I decided to use them. Given that it is hard to see through them to their contents, I focused on using them to store items that I do not use very often, such as baking goods, grains and pastas, and extra snack items. Next, label the groupings on the containers or on the shelves. I have a freakish love for a label maker, so I went that route. 

Designated snack areas in the fridge and pantry

Another great idea when organizing the kitchen, is to clean out and organize the fridge and create a snack drawer. I used one of the smaller drawers in our fridge to provide healthy snack options that my girls can grab for themselves, including apples, yogurt, juice boxes, and snack-sized cheeses. The girls like it because they can choose their own snack from the snack-drawer, and I like not having to have a conversation about what to have for snack or having to "make" the snack. I also created a snack stash in the pantry with options as well, see next photo below. 

 Refrigerator snack drawer a la Enriched Family

Refrigerator snack drawer a la Enriched Family

 Pantry snack storage a la Enriched Family

Pantry snack storage a la Enriched Family

What's under your sink? Before.

Okay. This one is slightly embarrassing, but whatever. The picture below was the cabinet under my sink before cleaning and organizing. Ugh. I think this area is generally out of sight, out of mind for many of us, but yikes. Again, much of organizing is simply getting rid of junk you do not use and then figuring out the stuff that you do use so that you can organize it in practical categories. So first, take everything out of the cabinet, and divide into four piles: donate, trash, recycle, keep. If you haven't used it in the past year, it should be in the donate, trash, or recycle pile, not the keep pile. Then, order the keep stuff in logical groupings and decide on containers and label if you feel so inclined.  

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What's under my sink? After.

Wow. Much better. I would actually feel comfortable opening the cabinet door if I had company over. I put the more frequently used items in the baskets at the front of the cabinet and the less often used items or duplicate items in the back of the cabinet. The wire baskets were purchased at Target. 

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Kids' rooms

Kids' rooms are the second area I would choose to tackle if you are focusing on specific, doable projects. While I can easily be a bit of an organization freak when left to my own devices and time, I live with three other human beings who are total pack rats, and I definitely get overwhelmed by all their stuff at times. After several super busy work and family weeks at our house, I took a look at my youngest daughter's half-hearted attempt to clean her room (read: pile everything on top of and under every available surface and call it a day) - see pic below - and knew what I would be spending several hours doing during spring break.

When working with kids, I find it is best to focus on a very small area at a time or just one type of item, like stuffed animals. I also use a timer and focus on 15-30 minute increments, depending on the age and attention span of the child. With a young child, I suggest having them focus on helping you decide what to get rid of (toss, donate, or recycle) and what to keep. Then, go ahead and finish organizing that particular area on your own if they are losing interest, and then bring them back to help you when you are ready to tackle another area. My six-year-old daughter usually enjoys organizing her room, especially if I empower her to make choices about rearranging her furniture or what small project to focus on, like putting all her legos in one bin or putting all her dolls in another.

For this project, nothing new was purchased, we just utilized the existing furniture and storage, focusing on rearranging and organizing the room by categories (books, legos, art supplies, et cetera). We specifically focused on containing particularly unruly items like stuffed animals (they now live in their own basket that is just for them). Plus, we got rid of a lot of stuff (success!). In the end, both my daughter and I were very happy with the result. Now I am just trying to get her to keep her room from degenerating back to the state in the first picture, by having her tidy up a bit each day, when possible. I also am trying to get my family to adopt the one thing in, one thing out rule. The idea being that anytime they bring home a new picture, toy, art project, and so on, that they want to keep, they have to get rid of a similar item (donate, recycle, etc.). This rule applies to the adults in the house as well and has been a helpful organizing principal for us all. 

Before

 Kid's room after her half-hearted attempt at "cleaning". All I can say is the center of the floor was relatively free of items. 

Kid's room after her half-hearted attempt at "cleaning". All I can say is the center of the floor was relatively free of items. 

After

 Kid's room after organizing. Nothing new was purchased for this project, we just utilized the existing furniture and storage options, focusing on rearranging and organizing. Plus, we got rid of a lot of stuff. 

Kid's room after organizing. Nothing new was purchased for this project, we just utilized the existing furniture and storage options, focusing on rearranging and organizing. Plus, we got rid of a lot of stuff. 

*I love organizing! I provide home organizing services for families (organizing stuff), as well as help parents develop systems to better organize their family life (such as support with meal planning, household scheduling, family routines, individual and family goal planning, setting up back-to-work plans for parents returning to work after maternity and/or paternity leave, and so on). If you ever want help with planning or implementing individual or family organizational goals and strategies, Enriched Family is here to support you. I offer a free, 20-minute initial phone consultation to all new clients to discuss matching your needs and priorities with my services. In addition, I am also extending a 15% discount to all new clients through May 2018. Click the "Let's Get Started!" button at the upper-right corner of this page to contact me. 

Here's to getting more organized in 2018! 

Esha/Enriched Family

(The post above is provided for informational purposes only; the information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes, and no guarantees are made.)

Esha Clearfield