Pantry Dreams

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I am an organization freak. I always have been. I can’t get out of a bed without making it (sometimes even at hotels). I wipe down the bathroom counter every single time. I have a google doc that tracks car repair and maintenance. (I once got two transmission flushes in a six month period because I didn’t have such a system.) My spices might be alphabetized.

Yeah. I’m nuts. For a long time I hid this, or attempted to, as to not have my OCD nature yet another point of critique. But recently I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all nuts. And life is just so much more interesting and fun when you let your freak flag fly. So, guess what? I love to clean. I love to organize. The Container Store? Better than a trip to Tiffany’s. Seriously. (No mining guilt!)

I have pipe dreams of having a side business organizing other’s spaces. There are some very specific tools and habits to keeping an organized home or workplace. And once these become routine, you are set. Plus, I look at these small daily changes in behavior as prevention.

  • Put in two minutes today to sort through mail, recycling every single bit of paper you don’t need, canceling catalogs, paying bills — you don’t end up with a pile the size of Everest on a Saturday afternoon with late fees and precious, sunny weekend hours wasted inside sorting.
  • Keep a “Goodwill” bag in your closet. Every time you add a new piece of clothing, you agree to donate. No one was infinite closet space. This limits shopping too; you only have so many hangers.
  • Make those hangers the same brand and color. Face your clothing all the same direction. You’ll be shocked how many new combinations you are able to create with the same materials.
  • Google docs and calendars are ideal for tracking birthdays and other important events. Make a plan on the 25th of each month to write out cards for the next month — with stamps and addresses handy. Then mail in two batches. Send thank you cards at this time too. I keep a running list. People don’t care when the card arrives; they want to know you thought of them. And a handwritten note might was well come licked by T-Rex, they are so rare.
  • Burn your CDs. Buy a backup hard drive. Buy another one. Get rid of your CDs.
  • Use the library. Clear your shelves of books you don’t plan on ever using again. Donate generously.
  • Clean out your wallet at least once a week. Face bills. Sort receipts. Keep a supply of stamps.
  • Minimize your cleaning supplies. Bleach, vinegar, coarse salt, lemon juice, a couple good rags and Magic Erasers. You don’t need much more.
  • Keep a trash bag in your car; empty it regularly. Keep a towel in the trunk. Wipe down your dash when things get hairy. This towel is also particularly great for the occasional $2 car wash. I run through these quarter car washes about once a month.

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When a friend recently asked me for some tips on how to be more organized, I started with an especially tricky space. Organizing a small space is even more of a fun challenge. A pantry under the stairs? One with deep shelves? Bring it.

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I started by pulling everything out and grouping like items. I spent $15 on two shelves (one long, to hold baby food and formula) and the other for canned goods, and one basket — for granola bars. Because in Colorado, one cannot have too many granola bars.

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Some 20 minutes later — voila. Because the shelves are long, I organized like items deep. In other words, they are stacked behind each other to the very back of the shelf. Use one, pull the next one forward. But here is the trick about organizing: this will only work if the behavior changes too. You have to learn to work with a new system to make it a system.

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If this were my pantry — I’d paint the inside of the door with chalkboard paint and keep a running grocery list.

And yes, I know. It’s nuts I took so much pleasure from this project. And yet? Better. Much, much better. Organization, cleanliness and frugality are the trinity of a smart home.

(Freak flag at full mast. )

~K