Organization Tips: How to arrange your spaces to make life easier

posted by Nancy Vorsanger on July 22, 2014 12 Comments

A few years ago, I hit on an idea that remains one of my all-time favorite improvements to my living situation. Every time I take advantage of this innovation, I’m grateful that I made the switch.

What was this momentous change? I moved my laundry stain remover.

OK, I’m exaggerating, but less than you might think. I used to keep the stain remover downstairs, next to my detergent on a shelf above the washing machine. It seemed like the logical spot. But my family has a single hamper, which we keep upstairs, near our bedrooms. So to deal with stains, I would either examine our clothes as I loaded them in the washer—a laborious process that didn’t give the stain remover much time to work—or walk downstairs to retrieve the stain remover each time I needed it.

Then I had my lightbulb moment: Why not store the stain remover upstairs, next to the hamper? Now if our clothes are stained I just spray them on their way to the hamper, give a quick rub, and let the stain remover do its job.

It really pays to think about where you put things—or in many cases, to rethink where you put them—because it can make your life a lot easier.

Here’s another example. When I moved to our current house, I put my file cabinet across the office from the desk where I do my paperwork. It was only a few feet away—my office is small—but you know what? I did not file. I jammed papers into a letter holder next to my computer monitor and tackled them once or twice a year in long, painful sessions. Finally, I rearranged my office and moved my file cabinet just behind and to the right of my desk chair. Now all I have to do is swivel the chair, open the drawers, and drop my papers where they need to go. Because the process is so quick and easy, I do it right away. Since I made this switch, I’ve stayed on top of my filing.

There are no rules about where things belong. I just advised a client to store her family’s coats, gloves, and hats in a closet near the door to her garage—the way her family normally enters and exits the house—instead of the “official” coat closets near her rarely used front door. Put your stuff where it makes the most sense for you, based on your own habits and preferences. I keep my filing cabinet in the traditional location—an office—because that’s where I handle my papers. But if you do your paperwork at the kitchen table, you need a different solution. You might want to try a portable file drawer for your most frequently used files; you could carry it to the kitchen when you need it or maybe even keep it on a counter or in a cabinet.

Think about your own home. Would it make sense to move some stuff? You could make big changes, like moving furniture. But even a small change can make a difference, as I learned with my stain remover.

Have you had any lightbulb moments about where to keep your belongings? Please share your tips in the comments!


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Nancy Vorsanger loves how her organized home makes her family’s life easier. She opened her own organizing business to help other families get—and stay—organized, with practical, no-fuss strategies tailored to their own needs and lifestyles. Nancy also loves coffee, word games, blogs, her husband, and her children—not in that order. She lives in central New Jersey.

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  • July 22, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    I thought I was being organised every summer by putting all our sunscreens and bug spray bottles in a box on top of our dryer (which is located in a hallway between our back door and garage door) but everyone still forgot about it. I made a hanging box for the wall right next to our garage door under our key hooks so we see it and now everyone remembers where it is and uses it! I literally moved it maybe 6 feet but it has made all the difference and I don’t get asked where it is all the time. Win!

    July 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Yay! It is amazing how just a few feet can make a big difference, isn’t it? Actually I think you got 2 wins because people are remembering AND you’re not being constantly asked about it. :-)

    • July 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm

      Nothing else in my house is organized, but the decision to keep clean underwear in a bathroom drawer is one that has stuck.

      July 23, 2014 at 9:45 am

      That is a great idea!

      • July 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

        I keep my slow cooker and rice cooker in my linen press.
        It was a spare shelf because I put my children’s linen in their wardrobe which made it easier to change sheets in the night.
        The space in my kitchen meant I could move plates to kid height, which meant they can now set the table.
        WIN WIN WIN!

        • July 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

          Haha, I love the cascade effect. I think putting bed linens in the rooms they’re used is always a great idea. And I love the idea of kid-height plates. I’ve seen pictures of some newer kitchens designed to keep plates low for that very reason. Unfortunately that system won’t work in my kitchen so I have had to wait for my kids to grow….I’m jealous of you! :-)

          • July 23, 2014 at 7:51 pm

            I was thinking about what you wrote this morning and realized I have done this – I put a pair of scissors on top of the garage fridge where we keep drinks – I was constantly irritated at trying to open the plastic coverings on bottle water and soda. So simple yet something that makes a huge difference.

            July 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

            That is a great idea! I have had a few a-ha moments with scissors. For ages I only had one pair–I finally got a second pair for my desk (that was in my apartment days, so now we have multiple pairs.) No more getting up and going to a second room, yay! And recently I put some kiddie scissors that we no longer use in the bin where we keep tape–very handy.

            • July 24, 2014 at 6:39 am

              My example is related to filing as well. I keep an action file on my kitchen counter, where I have my bills ‘to pay’. Well before, I used to take the paid bills to the office to file – which might take some time. But I only keep the last bill anyway, and shred the previous one when I get a new one. Finally I thought of creating a folder to keep in my action file in the kitchen with the ‘paid bills’, since they are rotated on a monthly basis anyway. It made a big difference to me and I don’t know why I did not think of it earlier!

              • July 24, 2014 at 6:56 am

                That is a good idea! I know what you mean–in retrospect it’s hard to figure out why you don’t think of things like this in the first place.

                • July 29, 2014 at 11:12 pm

                  I kept on forgetting to take a vitamin which is to be taken on an empty stomach and I would inevitably remember it after I had breakfast. My “aha” moment occurred when I moved the bottle next to the coffee maker; I now use my coffee cup instead of water glass while waiting for the coffee and I have yet to miss a day.

                  My other moment of organizational bliss was when I assigned everyone in the house their own laundry basket in the laundry room. When the laundry comes out of the dryer, it gets sorted immediately into each basket. No more digging through an unfolded laundry basket for a second sock and everyone knows where their clean clothes are. I also have a small, tiered, wire shelf unit that I keep beside the dryer that has a shelf each for dish clothes and dish towels, face clothes and rags.

                  July 30, 2014 at 7:10 am

                  Nancy, those are great ideas! I also found bliss in assigning everyone their own laundry basket. One of my kids’ chores was to deal with laundry after it had been washed & dried; the problem was that I would often put the filled baskets aside for later, but then we’d all forget to deal with it. But with personal baskets, I do the same as you: I immediately sort when the dryer is done, then put each basket on the relevant person’s bed. Now the laundry is always put away the same day.