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Maintain It!

There’s nothing more exciting than visiting a client’s house months after we’ve completed organizing, and seeing the space still looking beautiful and organized. But how can you make sure this happens?

W

e love those transformation pictures, but what really happens months after the professionals have worked their magic?

Every organizer loves to talk about perfect containers for each category and item, and the labels that go along with that. This should not be undervalued, since those are often the elements that enable clients to maintain the systems I’ve put in place. As in life, it doesn’t have to be complicated to feel right.

As a home organizer, maintenance is the one underlying theme that is at the forefront of my mind with every project I take on. After all, it’s pointless to create a magazine-worthy space if the results aren’t going to last. Of course, there’s nothing more exciting than visiting a client’s house months after we’ve completed organizing, and seeing the space still looking beautiful and organized. But how can you make sure this happens?

Before

When I visited my client’s home during our initial consultation in September 2019, Racheli* gave me a tour of her beautiful and spacious kitchen. Most women dream of having a large walk-in pantry, but for Racheli, it was becoming a nightmare. The pantry door barely opened because of all the aprons hanging on the back of it, all the plastic bags behind it, and the stepladder with no home. It was hard to walk inside because of the mess of boxes, small appliances, and paper goods on the floor. There were shelves and shelves crammed full of every product imaginable, yet finding what you needed was like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?”

Mid-process

The first thing we did was empty every last item from the pantry so it could be restored to a blank slate. As we removed the items, we categorized them into sections and sub-sections. It didn’t take long for every surface in the kitchen and dining room to be covered, but the pantry was clean and ready for a fresh start

Then came the sorting. Anything expired was thrown into the garbage. We discovered multiples of the same product, each opened, which is common when there isn’t a system in place. For example, we came across hundreds of patterned napkins, some of which only had one or two left in the package. There were woven baskets and other mishloach manos containers from Purims past. We got rid of snacks that no one in the family enjoyed, platters received as gifts that had never been used, and appliance manuals that could easily be accessed online.

Once we purged the garbage, discarded all excess packaging, and determined which items needed a different home, we were left with items that truly belonged in the pantry. We took measurements of every shelf, mapped out every category, and researched products that would maximize the space and suit our client’s lifestyle and taste.

After

After all the hard work, we made it to the fun part of the process — install day! The pantry was transformed and looked fresh and calming. The floor was finally clear, the door opened completely, and every category of food, plastic goods, and servingware had a designated home. Now the question was: Would it last?

Keep It Up

Here are some of my top tips for making sure the magic lives on:

1 Containers

> Containers, and their labels, are instructions for the entire family. They remind you where to find everything, where to unload your groceries, and where to return items when you’re cleaning up. Containers also ensure that you don’t overbuy. When the container for crackers is overflowing, you know not to purchase more — even when they’re on sale!

> Removing excess packaging when you’re placing food into your bins helps you to always see what quantity you have left, and means you won’t be fumbling with cumbersome boxes or wrappers each time you want a breakfast bar or plastic spoon.

> When purchasing containers, utilize a mix of small and large bins so everything has an appropriate spot.

> Turntables and can risers help with visibility and accessibility. Containers allow you to use the entire depth of the shelf without items getting lost in the back.

> I love using clear bins at eye level so the contents are visible and some pretty opaque bins lower down or higher up to reduce the visual clutter.

2 Labels

Labels tell us where everything belongs, but it’s important to assign label categories that are general enough not to cause frustration. Making your categories too specific makes it hard to unpack groceries. Most families will have the same broad groupings that consist of breakfast, dinner, snacks, sweets, cooking, and baking. Beyond that, you can add more specific categories that your family always has on hand.

Make sure that the different containers and labels coordinate nicely with each other and match the style of your home. When the end result is pretty, it provides additional motivation to maintain it!

3 Placement

Consider which items can be placed on higher shelves to help free up your most valuable pantry real estate. For example, make sure to place seldom-used items like icing and birthday candles way up high.

> If you like to purchase in bulk and have the space for it, keep the back-stock higher up or in a garage or basement.

> Snacks are easily accessible lower down, as is everyday plasticware. Nicer plasticware, for special occasions, could be higher up.

> Seasonal items should be kept out of the way, and daily items with higher turnover in the prime locations.

4 Less Is More

We didn’t leave any shelf space open in Racheli’s pantry because open space tends to attract random items looking for a home. Drinks were removed from packaging and placed in large bins on the floor so they were easy to grab. Had the floor space been left open, the amount of items on the floor likely would have grown again, so placing the containers there serves as a reminder that there’s a limit to what can be kept on the floor.

Many people mistakenly believe that when it comes to organization, bigger is better. “If I only had more space, I could definitely keep things organized,” they say. From my experience, the size isn’t nearly as important as the system. If you can’t maintain an organized small home, having more space might only make things harder because a larger space definitely comes with its own challenges. It’s important to set everything up intentionally, bearing in mind your family’s unique preferences, so that everything flows.

Weekly Touch-Ups

Of course, no matter how fabulous the area looks after it’s been organized, remember that it won’t maintain itself! Carve out a few minutes each week to touch up each bin and see how the system is working for you. Don’t be afraid to switch a bin’s location or label and try something new when circumstances change.

It’s been a whole year since we’ve given Racheli’s pantry an overhaul, and I’m thrilled to report that the pantry still looks incredible!

Aliza Scheller of simply.sorted.homes is passionate about creating organizational solutions for her clients that are both practical and beautiful. Aliza inspires her clients to shift their mindsets and become more mindful about what they bring into their homes so their once cluttered and heavy storage spaces become airy and light living spaces.

*not her real name

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