Posts Tagged ‘arrange’

I did…draw the line on my overfilled utensil drawer, that is. Do you ever have one of those moments where you just feel a strong urge to organize something? Well, that happened to me the other day so I decided to tackle an area of my kitchen that had long bothered me: my specialty utensil drawer. Not my regular utensil drawer, with forks, spoons, and butter knives. I’m talking about my serving spoons, whisks, measuring cups, you name it. And you know what, it was out of control! Check it out:


So I got excited. I thought, hey I can satisfy this urge to organize something AND fix a problem that’s been nagging at me for a while. Here was the situation:

Honey, can you grab me a whisk?

  • I couldn’t find anything. Okay, I was able to find some things, like those items I always kept on top the pile, but where was that black serving spoon we used to have? Or the whisk?
  • Even if I could see what I wanted, it wasn’t always easy to remove. Take the rolling pin for example. It was always kept off to the side, but was literally buried underneath several other utensils. The very thought of getting that rolling pin out to use it was a chore. And that’s only one of many examples. Anyone want to help me detach my potato masher from my pastry cutter?
  • Sometimes the drawer wouldn’t even open or close properly. Now you know you have a problem when this happens. Wooden spoons and ladles get contorted so much that the drawer gets stuck on its way open. Or you can’t remember how to arrange the funnels so that the drawer will actually close again.

Operation: Utensil Drawer

You’d think I wouldn’t have let my drawer get to this point in the first place. Well, I felt like I had no choice in the matter. I thought I really only had this one drawer for my specialty utensils and I basically had to make it work. That is, until I had that urge I mentioned up top.

Urges are funny things. Sometimes they can really crank up the creativity level. So I waltzed into the kitchen, determined to free up a second drawer to use for large utensils because clearly my one-drawer system was not working. Yes, I did think of putting a mug or jar on the counter with all my wooden spoons, but I rejected that idea ultimately because (1) I really do loathe clutter on my kitchen counter, just ask my husband, and (2) I don’t think removing a few wooden spoons would have made much of a dent in my problem.

How I freed up another drawer is really not too important here (if you’re curious, I moved my cutting boards to the oven drawer and then moved my plastic bags/foil/saran wrap supplies to the cutting board drawer…instant empty drawer!). What is important is that now I had a nice clean slate to work with to divide my one totally disorganized drawer into two organized ones.

Here’s what I did. I decided that the most obvious division between all my specialty utensils was serving utensils (wooden and plastic spoons, ladles, ice cream scoops, spatulas, etc.) and everything else (measuring cups, whisks, funnels, pastry cutter, rolling pin, etc). As it turned out, dividing the utensils that way meant a pretty equal usage of each drawer. Perfect. Check out my after shots:


Wow, I can see the whisk!  And I found that black serving spoon I thought we lost!  But I can just hear the naysayers now: Sarah, you can’t possibly keep those drawers looking so nice and tidy for very long. Well, I have kept it this way for 2 weeks. Is that long? Drawer dividers would be ideal, but I don’t have any of those. I think the real key is that my husband and I both stick to the new system and we enjoy it too much to mess it up. Simple as that.

It’s a thing of beauty

To summarize, the new organizational system ensures that (1) everything can be found, (2) everything can be easily removed, and (3) the drawer opens and closes with ease. My three initial problems are solved. I probably should also mention that I ended up getting rid of a couple of utensils that were doubles or triples (i.e. we already had one (or two) and didn’t need yet another) or totally unknown to us (i.e. um, what does this do?). Clutter control can be a beautiful thing.

Well, so goes my story of how I satisfied an urge to organize something. Do you ever get these kinds of urges?


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It’s now day three of this week’s wardrobe series and we’re to the point where we can start organizing our clothes storage spaces. This is my favorite kind of organization, so pardon me for being a little excited this morning! Since you’ve done a little clothes decluttering by choosing what to get rid of and either selling or donating it, your storage spaces are now ripe for some creative arranging.

Let’s face it. Not all closets are created equal. Not all dressers are created equal. And those of you with neither closets nor dressers have had to find unique storage solutions for your clothes that perhaps no one else uses. My point is, I can’t really tell you exactly how to organize your specific wardrobe storage spaces, but I can give you some handy guidelines to go by.

Why organize your clothes? You know what you own (hopefully) and if you have a smallish wardrobe, you probably know just about where everything is. But what about using that space more efficiently? We could all use a little more room here and there. Furthermore, have you considered the benefits of logical arrangements of clothes? There are a lot of creative ways to arrange your bins, dresser drawers, or close racks, and by doing so, you will find your clothes more easily and keep track of what you wear (and don’t wear). And if your wardrobe is the opposite of smallish, then organized arranging is a must!

I dream of a walk-in closet

Honey, are you reading this? I’d like a large walk-in closet with shelves, numerous racks, and creative storage spaces. Are you writing this down? How does this weekend work for you? Um, ya, does this sound familiar? Do you dream of a large closet that will pretty much organize your clothes for you? Well, maybe someday I’ll get my wish (hint hint), but for now my basic single rack closet will have to do. And don’t get me wrong—it’s totally functional and it does its job (it’s better than no closet, right?). No matter what sort of closet you have, below I’ve outlined some simple guidelines to help you get it organized through a little creative arranging.

  • Arrange clothes by seasonMonday’s post generated some good discussion about in-season versus off-season clothing. Some people store their off-season clothes in another location (e.g. the basement) and then make the switch when the weather starts changing. I am able to keep my clothes in the closet all at once, so seasonal organizing isn’t a necessary solution for me. But consider the possibilities of removing half of your clothes (or your kid’s clothes) from your closet and storing them in bins in the basement for a season? Would this free up some much-needed space for other things?
  • Arrange clothes by type.  If seasonal arranging isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t really need to go this route, then the next logical level of arranging is by type. What I mean by this is pants, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, skirts, dresses, etc. Keeping similar clothes together is a sure way to be able to find what you want and keep a good inventory of what you own. When you arrange your clothes in this manner, you’ll not only be able to just go easily grab a sweater from your sweater section, you’ll also be able to get an idea of just how many sweaters you actually have. You might just discover that a little decluttering is in order.
  • Arrange clothes by color.  Now don’t go rolling your eyes and think, “she’s one of those organizing nuts.” I admit that organizing something like your DVD collection by color might look pretty in passing, but it is not at all functional. However, arranging your clothes by color is a whole different story. When you choose a skirt to wear to a play, you probably have a particular color of blouse you’d like to wear with it, right? Let’s say you want to wear a pink blouse. If you have your clothes arranged by type and color, you’d first head over to your blouse section. Then you’d find your pink blouses and easily choose the one you’d like to wear. All the pink options are right there in front of you and you aren’t left digging around your entire closet to see you if have a better pink alternative. Plus, the beauty of the color system is that when you go to put your blouse back after you’ve worn it, you know exactly where to put it. Systems stay in place. Your clothes begin organizing themselves…well, you know what I mean.

The old faithful dresser

Perhaps you don’t have a closet. Or maybe you have a closet but you need a little extra space for certain clothes. Next I’d like to share a few tips about how your can arrange your dresser drawers. It’s one thing to let your eyes wander around your closet to find what you are looking for, but if you have to search through all your drawers to find that one pair of pants you need, then you are wasting precious time. If organized appropriately, your dressers can be as easy to navigate as your closet.

  • Assign dressers to basic categories of clothes.  My husband and I both have two dressers for our non-closet clothes. We each have a small night-stand dresser that contains our undergarments, socks, and other similar items. We also each have a regular-sized dresser where we keep the clothes that we prefer not (or don’t need) to hang up (like shorts, t-shirts, jeans, etc.). Therefore each dresser contains a particular group of clothes and makes for a logical division. If you only have one dresser per person in your household, then that’s fine—you’ll be more interested in the next tip.
  • Each drawer should contain only certain types of clothes.  It’s not really very effective to just throw clothes in whichever drawer currently has a wedge of room. How will you ever find anything? It’s best to assign each drawer to a particular clothes type (or a few clothes types). For example, one drawer can be socks and undergarments, one drawer can be all your pants, one drawer can be all your t-shirts. That way when you wear something, you not only know exactly which drawer to find it in, but you also know exactly which drawer to return it to. You’ll never be looking for spots to squeeze that clean laundry into ever again.
  • Maximize space usage in each drawer.  No matter if you are dealing with a sock drawer or a t-shirt drawer, it’s important to spend some time maximizing the space usage within the drawer. Is there a better way you can arrange the socks to fit more pairs? Is there a particular style of shirt-folding you can learn to be sure you are not wasting any space? Be creative!

Additional clothes storage options

If I wanted to bore you, I could outline and review a practically endless list of alternative clothes storage solutions. But I most certainly do not want to bore you! Instead, I’ll just suggest a few popular options if you are looking for additional space beyond your traditional closet or dresser.

  • Storage bins.  Clear plastic storage bins are the best kind because you can see what’s inside and they are usually stackable. Put them in your closet or under your bed, the locations are limitless! And if you want to be even more organized, you can label each bin so you can keep track of what’s inside. This type of storage solution would work particularly well if you wanted to arrange your clothes seasonally.
  • Collapsible clothes racks.  Perhaps your closet is full and you need more room. Or maybe one bedroom in your house has no closet, but you still want to hang certain clothes. Clothes racks are nice because they are usually cheap, quite adjustable, and can be collapsed and stored if you aren’t using them. Plus, you can pretty much put them anywhere!
  • Wardrobe armoires.  A level up from the adjustable clothes racks perhaps, these fancy pieces of furniture often offer a closet and dresser in one. They look nice and they are mobile, but you must be willing to spend a little more money.
  • Closet organizers.  This last option isn’t really an alternative clothes storage option per se—it’s really more of an improvement or addition you can make to your existing set-up. Google ‘closet organizers’ and you will find an overwhelming list of choices. These popular space-savers can be purchased at a number of stores, but you can also build one yourself!

Reader Reflection

I’ve offered some general clothes organization guidelines above that hopefully you will be able to apply to your wardrobe no matter your situation. However we all have unique lifestyles and homes, so would anyone like to share some creative clothes storage solutions you’ve come up with?

What’s next?

Continuing the wardrobe series, tomorrow we’ll investigate some shopping tips when it comes time for us to have to buy new clothes.

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Today I want to conclude my short series on the pantry. So far you’ve learned how to save some time by creatively stocking your pantry and yesterday you read about three money-saving tips you can adopt while doing the stocking. All that’s left now is to take all your stocked food and organize it in the space you have. It doesn’t matter if you have an official pantry or if you use kitchen cupboards; these spaces are much better off organized in such a way to maximize your efficiency in meal preparation and to prevent food waste.

I’ve broken down the pantry organization process into 8 steps. You may already be past the first few steps, and that’s great! But if you desire to start from square one, then these tips will be just what you need to begin. So let’s organize our pantries!

Step 1: Empty your shelves

Find a large surface nearby (like your kitchen counter and/or table) and empty your pantry’s contents onto it. Yes, that’s all. This first step is easy!

Step 2: Toss and combine

This second step might be easy for some and hard for others because it involves throwing things away and consolidating. I happen to enjoy these practices because they make me feel like I am accomplishing something (instant gratification!) and I ultimately can free up much-needed space in the process. So what you need to do is go through all your food and assess what needs to be pitched and what needs to be consolidated. Do you have popcorn that expired 3 years ago and likely won’t even pop in the microwave anymore? Toss it. Do you have 3 different containers of garlic? Combine them into one and get rid of the other two containers. Don’t be wasteful, but be realistic and diligent…you want to start with a nice clean slate.

Step 3: Figure out which food items go together

What you do next is something that is useful with anything you organize—categorizing. Don’t think about your space yet, just think about the food for now. Which foods naturally go with others? Here are some examples of categories that I used: baking ingredients (like flour, sugar, baking soda, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.), cooking ingredients (like spices, broths, oils, bottles of marinades or sauces), snacks (like chips, popcorn, or candy), breakfast foods (like cereal and oatmeal), beverages (like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc.), and stand-alone foods (like boxed pastas, rice soups, peanut butter, etc.). After you are done arranging everything into nice tidy categories, it’s time to take a deep breath.

Step 4: Assess your shelf space

Look at your nicely arranged categories of food all over your kitchen. Smile. Now look at your pantry or cupboards. Don’t panic! While you probably won’t be able to keep the exact arrangements you’ve chosen for your food due to space limitations, you can still get it close. Re-evaluate your categories now with this new information. Above you saw that my food separated into (mostly) nice, organized groups. But the shelves in my cupboards are an assortment of sizes so I needed to make a few adjustments. Each of you will have to make the necessary adjustments that suit the layout of your space. Here’s a breakdown of how I arranged the food I listed earlier onto my shelves (keep in mind that I don’t have an official pantry, so I need to use regular kitchen cupboards):

  • Cupboard 1 (2 shelves): baking (shelf 1 & 2)
  • Cupboard 2 (3 shelves): spices (shelf 1), canned ingredients (shelf 2), bottled ingredients (shelf 3)
  • Cupboard 3 (3 shelves): pastas (shelf 1), sauces & soups (shelf 2), stand-alone foods (shelf 3)
  • Cupboard 4 (2 shelves): cereal (shelf 1), oatmeal & breakfast bars (shelf 2)
  • Cupboard 5 (2 shelves): salty snacks (shelf 1), sweet snacks (shelf 2)
  • Cupboard 6 (1 shelf): beverages
  • Cupboard 7 (1 shelf): oils, potatoes, and rice (shelf 1)

So as you can see, even though I had to split some categories up, I was still able to keep them near each other. And for certain illogical cases, I just had to deal with it. For example, I don’t see any rhyme or reason to how oils, rice, and potatoes go together, but these large items (I buy all these in bulk) only fit in this particular cupboard! When you tackle this challenging step in your own kitchen, you might find that it is a lot of trial and error. But don’t be discouraged—you’ll discover a good system if you put your mind to it!

Step 5: Arrange your food onto your shelves

Now that you’ve decided where you will put everything, you need to find an efficient way to arrange it all on the shelf. Keep three goals in mind as you do this: (1) maximize use of space (i.e. can items be stacked, or placed in a different order?), (2) keep arrangements logical and efficient (i.e. which food items do you use more often?—keep them near the front) and (3) minimize chances of food items being forgotten about and expiring (i.e. is everything visible and reachable?)

Step 6: Consider improvements

Here’s a chance for you to get creative. How did step 5 go? Do you still need more room? After a few weeks of meal preparation do you find that certain items are not in logical or convenient places? Don’t be afraid to make changes to improve your system. For example, do you love containers that you can label? Things like flour, sugar, and other baking items are perfect for this type of storage. The great thing about special containers is that they are stackable and they seal and keep food for longer. Another idea to consider is changing shelf heights in your cupboards to better fit items or buying special racks that can add an additional surface to any given space. Experiment!

Step 7: Stick to your system

There’s no point in having a great system if you don’t stick to it. Be careful not to allow all your great new arrangements to turn into chaos again! Put items in the EXACT place you found them. When you buy new items, remember your system and arrange them accordingly. Every once and while take a look at the bigger picture and make sure you aren’t slipping in any areas. If you stick to it now, you won’t have to go through this arduous process all over again in the future (unless you move!).

Step 8: Rejoice!

You’ve gotten a major area in your house organized…so celebrate! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your accomplishment and feeling good about yourself. So go on and give yourself a pat on the back.

Reader Reflection

Do you have any creative pantry organizing ideas you’d like to share?

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