Hold on to your seats, you are about to see an amazing transformation! I was there and I can hardly believe it myself.
The small room in question has to serve multiple functions: as a pantry, a laundry room and a storage closet for four roommates! However, the room was hardly functioning at all. It had been taken over by storage, very disorganized storage.
If you look closely on the left side of the picture above you can see the corner of the washing machine. Four roommates were trying to maneuver their way into the room to do their laundry. “We basically get in and get out. It’s become a dumping ground for stuff we don’t know what to do with.”
There is also a bookshelf that serves as the pantry on the opposite wall. The path to the pantry was blocked and one could only access their food with a mega arm reach.
I received a call for help from Bethany, but it was this picture below that convinced me to book my flight to The Golden Gate City.
When a space gets this out of control it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to dive in. But by employing time tested organized strategies I knew we’d be able to clean out the space and conquer the clutter. I want to highlight a few of the strategies we used to break the project down and make it feel more manageable.
We tidied up the shelving unit in the kitchen right before the pantry. This tiny makeover boosted our energy and motivation as well as opening up more usable space in the kitchen.
We designated a container to hold plastic bags for reuse. We recycled the rest at the grocery store.
We also set limits throughout the storage closet. As you sort like with like and find duplicates (or even triplicates), ask yourself, how many extra sheets do you need? How many coffee cups are reasonable? Be ruthless! Use what you love and let go of the rest.
We emptied the storage room by sorting items into categories as we removed them from the space. As we worked, it became clear that the closet had remained stagnant for a long time. As we unearthed boxes from the closet, we found things belonging to former roommates, a box that had been damaged from a long ago leak and now contained moldy and damaged childhood heirlooms, and even a few boxes belonging to unknown owners. The current roommates hadn’t even realized the amount of boxes hidden underneath the clutter.
After a full morning of sorting, we were able to donate or trash a large amount; in fact 2 sedan carloads to Goodwill! I was ecstatic with the amount of formerly hidden gems we were able to donate to others for use.
After 10 and half hours of organizing, the closet had become a fantastically usable, livable space! Well maybe not livable, but I sure was tempted to roll out my sleeping bag and spend the night reveling in the job well done!
A large area of the room remained designated for storage since this is the only storage in a house with 4 adults (and no garage, basement, yard or attic). Ah city living! Now there is room for long-term storage as well as a space to store more frequently used household and kitchen supplies. And with the storage tucked away on shelves, there is plenty of room to access the washing machine as well as the pantry.
We sorted the household supplies and stored them in various found containers which we simply labeled using mailing labels they already had on hand. There is now enough room to store extra kitchen supplies, like infrequently used pitchers. Since items such as the pitchers have a home, they are more likely to be used, washed, and returned on a regular basis rather than staying relegated beneath clutter.
Simple notebook paper labels were added to storage boxes so everyone would know what was inside. Enough room was left on the label in case any items are added to the box.
Label boxes even if you think you will remember what is inside of them. Others in your home may not know what is in each box, and even if you live alone it is surprising how quickly you can forget the contents you are storing after only a year (or less!). Labels make it so much easier to quickly find what you need in storage.
If you don’t like the idea of writing all of the contents on a box label, you can number each box. On a separate piece of paper create a simple numbered catalog of what is in each box. Then you can easily add or delete items as necessary.
The pantry also received a much needed update providing space for each item with labels to designate its home.
The labels might seem like an overkill, but without labels we knew things would slowly start to drift and be placed anywhere. In a pantry when items don’t have a home, it’s easy to lose track of what you have.
Contain like with like
Along the same lines of the pantry shelves, the laundry nook was organizing by placing most used detergents on top and containing similar items together in an empty box.
Keep items off the floor
After the makeover, Bethany expressed how freeing it felt to know exactly where each item is located and not have anything lurking in the corners. It’s easy to find, use and then return items to their home. My favorite quote was by another roommate, “In the 2 years I have lived here I have never even seen this corner…or been able to touch this bookshelf!”
Organizing by the numbers
P.S. I checked up on the roomies to see how the new systems were working out. Here’s what they said:
Organizing this room has made a huge difference! And we’ve definitely kept it well maintained. When I have to do something like change a lightbulb or tape up a package, I don’t dred having to seek out the supplies. I know right where everything is! I love it. Even something like packing for a weekend trip has been impacted; I can get to my suitcase easily. When I get home, my bag doesn’t stay packed for a week, I can unpack, do laundry and put the suitcase right back in its home.
One of my favorite parts is how organized the pantry is. Now I’m able to quickly spot what I have on hand and actually use these groceries and incorporate them into my menu planning. We joked around that there was so much space in the room we could even rent it out to a 5th roommate. Don’t worry, we won’t!”
Does anyone have a big clean out in the works? Anyone else label crazy?