Lessons from Grandma

by Debbie Williams

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Over the years, I have studied and modified organizing systems, making them my own and then teaching them to others. And I thought I was pretty good at it, until I met my husband's Grandmother. Living in a small space where she has collected treasures from her children and grandchildren, and tried to find a home for each sentimental item has created the need for her to develop strong organizational skills. And quite luckily for me, she has shared these tips with me so that I can pass them on to my clients and readers.

Wall Pockets

Take a cue from hotels by mounting a metal towel rack on the wall over your toilet, beside your shower, or from the back of the bathroom door. Store washcloths and small towels for easy guest access.

I've even seen a compact vertical towel rack that fits in that hidden space between the wall and the door facing of the bathroom door, with hinged arms to swing out to catch wet towels. Swing the arm in as you leave the room, leaving the towels to dry in the air, not on the floor.

Use plastic pockets to store spices in your pantry, or hang them on the inside of cabinet doors to double your storage space. Hang clip strips on your laundry room wall or broom closet to provide hanging storage for brooms, mops, and dusters.

Mount acrylic wall pockets in your kitchen, bedroom, or workspace to create a small file system, eliminating the need for bulky cabinets. Be sure to use screw inserts if you plan to use these for heavy items such as magazines, newsletters, or heavy files.

Don't Look Under the Bed

Take advantage of unseen space by storing out-of-season clothing in plastic bins under your bed. Be sure to label the end of each box so that you can quickly find that sweater when the weather turns cool. You've not only eliminated the need for offsite storage at the dry cleaners, but have easy access to your clothing when you need to plan your wardrobe.

Keep an empty container under your bed for charity, filling it as clothing and household items become outgrown or no longer needed. When full, take it to the charity of your choice. If you're really clever, you can quickly itemize the contents of your box before dropping it off so that you will have a complete receipt for your tax records.

Behind the Door

Create a simple laundry bag by hanging a hook over a bedroom door, or mount a hook on the backside of the door to your bathroom. Loop the handle of a mesh laundry bag over the hook, and you have a compact storage area for dirty clothes. Many ready-made bags can be found in bed, bath, and discount stores. Get creative, and use one decorated like a basketball goal and hoop to swish your way to a cleaner floor.

The Gift Closet

Transform an area under the stairs, inside the broom closet, or near the water heater into a container for birthday and holiday gifts. If you purchase presents year-round, or have a large family and are looking for places to store a plethora of boxes and bags, make a home in a closet, trunk of your car, in the attic, or under your bed. If you are surrounded by snoopers who can't resist the urge to pilfer your hidey hole, camouflage your storage container by labeling it "mending" or "light bulbs". Make the sign as boring as possible to deter prying eyes from looking too hard into your hidden containers.

If your hiding place is not a firetrap, such as near a hot water heater or near combustibles, consider storing your Gift Wrap Center nearby so that you can quickly decorate gifts before storing them.

Rack It Up

Older homes rarely have enough closet space (whose home does, for that matter?), so making use of the closet space you do have is crucial. Utilize as much vertical space as possible, hanging metal racks over the door to hold paperback books, videos, product samples, CDs, or video games. With a little energy without a lot of bucks, you've created a portable audio/video center in your small apartment or office.

Mount a canvas or vinyl shoe bag on the inside of your door to contain shoes, action figures, Barbie dolls, cleaning items, toiletries, etc. Try to use a theme when storing items in pockets so they can be easily found, such as grouping hair sprays and shampoos on the back of the bathroom door, or toys and cars on your son's closet door. For easy viewing, purchase hanging organizers with clear vinyl pouches.

Whether you live in an efficiency apartment or work in a tiny cubicle, making the most of your small space is a key element to your productivity. Utilize as much vertical space as possible with racks, hangers, hooks, and pockets. Turn wasted space into workable space with organizers specially made for office supplies, collectibles, paperback books, or audio recordings. Unless you're willing to part with most of your collectibles, make a home for them so that you can treasure them for years to come. And don't forget to take a milk and cookie break after all that organizing work - you've earned it!

Debbie Williams is an organizing coach and founder of the online organizing site Organizedtimes.com. She is the author of Home Management 101: A Guide for Busy Parents and Put Your House in Order: A Study Course for Christian Home Managers. copyright 2002, Debbie Williams

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