Ask Bettina

Dear Bettina,

My husband and I are organized people. Our house is tidy, and when things do get chaotic, like the pantry closet or the garage, we put them back to right, but it never seems to stay that way. Got any ideas?

Thanks, Elaine.

Dear Elaine,

Good for you two! Having a tidy house is half the battle. Being organized in this day and age is challenging. There is a constant ebb and flow of stuff. New things coming into our world that need a home, and old things going out (we hope).

Remember, there are two steps to the organization process: the sort and the system. The sort weeds out the unnecessary that doesn’t belong or is no longer relevant. The system is the structure that holds it all together. My guess is that in your case the issue lies with the system. Let’s start there.

Suppose you have just finished the sort of your pantry closet. Everything that remains you want, and it belongs in this space. What do you have for categories? Canned Items. Baking. Dry Goods. Etcetera. Designate a location for each category.

Label the shelf or space. Labeling is key. I know it is an extra step, but it works. When we are in a hurry or tired or stressed, we are likely to just put things anywhere there is a place. If there is a label telling us where an item lives, we will follow the direction and put it where it belongs the first time.

Be specific with your labels. For example, rather than just Canned Goods, break the labels down into categories that make sense for your pantry: Soup, Tomatoes, Beans, etc. Tomatoes is the label for all your canned tomato products (crushed, stewed, paste, sauce). Beans for all your navy, cannelloni, black, kidney beans. The point is to keep like items together so you know what you have.

This approach works for any space where there is a constant flow of things in and things out. Garage for tools, paint, home repair items, and supplies. Basement for appliances and kitchen surplus. Even your desk or office. Any space where chaos is a perennial visitor. Just remember that labels make the system stick.

Keep Up the Good Work,

Bettina Blanchard

About Bettina Blanchard

It’s not what we have, it’s what we do that makes life fun. Professional organizer, business owner, radio show host, accordion player, I love to live and write about finding the balance between having and doing.