To better organize a home, create and establish centers for household activities.
It's an old saw, but it still cuts: “A place for everything, and everything in its place” is a watchword for true home organization. Possessions, like people, need homes. Find them that home, defend their turf with labels, dividers and organizers, and you’ve won most of the battle for an organized home.
Be creative when it comes to finding homes for household stuff and rearrange your thinking. So what if stores sell towels in matched sets of three? Break up the trio and store them where they’re needed: hand towels stacked in washrooms near living areas; bath towels and washcloths in the bathroom where they’re most used. Don’t hide pizza coupons and take-out menus away in a kitchen drawer where they'll get forgotten: store them in a folder near the phone where they’ll be most useful.
Getting organized is not simply a matter of domestic real estate; it’s an integrated process involving all members of the household. Any organizing scheme or system will fail unless all family members understand it and can follow it. Bring the family on board as you organize your stuff and your surroundings. For example, when organizing where to put items in the kitchen, store plates, bowls and unbreakable glasses in low cabinets. Younger family members can set the table only if they can reach the dishware; by storing tableware in an accessible place for them, you’ll be helping all of the family to help you.
Looking for a model of a well-organized home? Head back to preschool! Preschool teachers are model organizers because they have to be. Without a plan for classroom structure, 18 or 20 energetic little people could create plaything havoc in mere moments.
To keep their schoolroom running smoothly, preschool teachers apply the concept of “centers”: dedicated areas for a single activity, like blocks, dress-up or sand play, with storage for all the playthings required by that activity. In the playhouse, kitchen toys, pots, and pans encourage role-playing; at the art table, paper, paints and brushes are within easy reach. At pick-up time, children know to return costumes to the dress-up pole and park the trucks in the “parking lot” storage area.
On the domestic front, you can set up centers that work the same way, to focus and support the everyday activities that are carried on in the home. To create them, you’ll designate:
A focus. Allocate one focused activity to each center.
A specified area. Set aside a single place to perform the activity.
Storage for tools and supplies. Ensure that all items needed are present and available in the center.
Consider establishing these activity centers for your home. Tailor them and their contents to your family’s needs.
Telephone (phone directory, family address book, family calendar, message pad, pens, folder containing pizza coupons and take-out menus)
Grooming (image 1) (skin-care products, shaving tools, cosmetics and hair care implements near a bathroom sink and mirror)
Outdoor clothing (coats, hats, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, and galoshes in a closet near the door)
Cleaning and caretaking (mops, broom, and vacuum, cleaning tote with tools, cleaning products for refills, replacement light bulbs, cleaning cloths and sponges, specialty cleaners)
Paper handling (desk, telephone, computer, file box or file drawer, pens, paper, and checkbook)
Correspondence basket (stationery, selection of greeting cards, pens, envelopes and stamps)
Recycling center (bins for recycled materials, bags and twine for packaging, scissors)
Reading (comfortable chair, reading light, small table for beverage, reading glasses, pillow, highlighters and page markers)
Homework (table, good lighting, pens and markers, paper, reference books)
Entertainment (television, remote controls, TV schedule, seating, snack trays, placemats)
Fix-it desk (workbench, lighting, toolboxes, organizers for hardware such as nails)
Laundry (washing machine, tumble dryer, folding space, stain pre-treatment, bleach, detergent, fabric softener, laundry sorter)
Arts and crafts (workspace, lighting, storage for paints, paper, glue and embellishments)
Mending (sewing machine, iron and ironing board, sewing tools, fabrics and supplies)
Planning and scheduling (image 2) (desk area, computer, planner or electronic organizer, office supplies, coupon organizer)
Wrap and mail center (mailing boxes, postal scale, gift wrap, ribbon and gift cards, scissors, tape, pens and marking pen)
Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited