You always promised yourself you’d keep a clean office space, bedroom, kitchen, or living room. You browsed websites about organization for tips. You had images in your head of neatly stacked folders, an easy-to-navigate storage system and quick access to tools and supplies. Instead, your home may look more like a warzone than the well-organized fantasy you’d imagined.
If you know your belongings are overly cluttered and impossible to sort through, you’ve probably made a few attempts to organize your home in the past. However, you may have made a few common mistakes along the way, resulting in a difficult-to-manage filing system and a pervasive mess. Experienced sorters, cleaners and labelers—those who’ve managed to get their lives in picture-perfect order—have some shared tips and tricks for organizing and labeling your belongings and life.
Use multiple labeling systems
Don’t be afraid to switch it up depending on what you’re trying to sort, and don’t assume you have to label everything the same way. For example, use a chalkboard or dry-erase board to label boxes, containers or areas that change their contents frequently.
A bin to store clothes in can alternately be marked “winter clothes,” “summer clothes,” “swimming clothes,” or some other category. A food container for long-term storage of goods like grains, flour or cereal can be easily relabeled with a dry-erase or chalkboard label, allowing you to identify what’s inside quickly without worrying about making new labels or creating labels generic enough to loosely identify what’s inside.
On the other hand, you don’t need erasable labels on everything. Your child’s toy bin will likely stay a toy bin for a few years, and your miscellaneous drawer of extra cables and plugs will likely stay that way too. Feel free to use labels with a longer shelf-life, like a vinyl label, to identify bins or containers that will stick around for a while.
Print out custom labels
One way to sort through which labels to use is to do away with buying labels entirely and focus on creating your own. You can design and print out labels using a word processor and adhesive paper, or you can purchase a label maker for between $30 and $60. This will give you greater freedom in the size of your labels.
Making custom labels gives you more freedom in terms of where you can put labels, such as on cords to identify which lead to what devices on an outlet, on binders, or on light switches to indicate what they correspond to. You can also identify objects as yours if you’re prone to sharing or lending items.
Organize your labels too
If you’re overwhelmed by a collection of bins and boxes, labeling alone may not help you, particularly when it comes to any hard-to-classify items. Should your hairbrush be labeled a bathroom item or a personal beauty item? In that case, you may wish for an easier solution.
One idea is that you could create an index of your bins and stored items, so that you can more easily identify what’s in what box. Rather than coming up with a generic term for everything you’ve placed in a bin, create an index by labeling the bin with a number or word, then drafting a list of everything you’ve placed in the bin. Do the same with every bin you package, and keep the lists in a binder.
This works best for items in long-term storage, such as goods you’ll shove in a garage and only need to bring out a few times a year. However, a similar binder system can work for labeling in the kitchen. For example, drawer 1 is the drawer for spices, drawer 2 the location of utensils and napkins, and drawer 3 the spot for plates and bowls.
Get creative with your labeling, and adjust your labels to your needs. Rather than coming back from a home goods store with an assorted collection of labels you thought looked nice on the shelf, first evaluate how you want to organize your home, then purchase or create labels accordingly.
Featured photo credit: StickerGiant Custom Stick via flickr.com