by Erik J. Martin / CTW Features
In the 1930s, two popular radio comedians were Fibber McGee and Molly. The running gag with Fibber was his hall closet – whenever he opened it on his show, a heap of piled-up possessions would come tumbling out in a comedic cacophony.
Today, however, if you opened your closet and a jumble of junk spilled out, you wouldn’t find it so funny. Yet many of us continue to treat our closets, cubbies, and pantries like landfill zones where all manner of miscellaneous items can be hidden from sight. And that’s a recipe for organizational disaster, the pros caution.
“One of the most common challenges is putting things away where they belong. It’s tempting just to shove something in a closet or cupboard. Homeowners say to themselves they will deal with it properly later. The problem is that later never happens. Things get piled on top of things and are pushed to the back of a cabinet. All order is lost,” says Jonda Beattie, a professional organizer in Atlanta.
Maintaining a clutter-free, organized, and neat home requires keeping tidy cabinets and closets, believes Jayna Lattimore, pro-organizer and founder of Ordered, LLC.
“This allows your home to be its most functional so that you can have positive experiences in it. Upkeep is especially important in enclosed areas like cabinets and closets because you are only allotted a certain amount of square footage for the smaller spaces, and it’s pertinent that you make the best use of that space,” says Lattimore.
Proper organization can bring a sense of calm and relieve stress by avoiding feelings of overwhelm when there isn’t enough time in the day to do household chores, notes Caitlin Ruth, founder and CEO of Organized | AF.
“When small spaces like closets and cabinets have systems in place, your entire household can collectively contribute to putting away groceries, laundry, and other important things,” Ruth explains.
Your first step is to determine the purpose of each closet and cabinet.
“In your bedroom closet, for instance, do you want it to hold all your clothes or only the current season’s clothes? Should the linen closet also hold extra toilet paper and bathroom supplies?” asks Diane Quintana, a certified professional organizer.
The next step involves decluttering closets and cabinets. Decide what you no longer like or want to keep and remove these items, which can be discarded, donated, or sold. Also, remove duplicates.
“If you have doubles, pick one. No one needs five spatulas,” says Ruth.
For bedroom closets, invest in quality hangers, utilize space under hanging areas, create zones by dividing clothing by type, and rearrange zones as needed based on the season, recommends Lattimore.
In any closet, aim to utilize vertical space, too.
“You want to keep as much off the floor as possible. Use over-the-door hanging storage units, shelving, and floating units to maximize space in those areas,” Lattimore adds. “Try to group similar items. Use clear storage containers that make it easy to see the contents within. Don’t overstuff. And try to arrange items by frequency of use.”
In cabinets, prepare to adopt many of the same best practices.
“Clear the clutter, categorize, and combine, set a goal of fully using the space you have, use bins and baskets, label as necessary, and decant as much as possible. This reduces visual distraction and confusion of different labels and sized containers that the items originally came in,” continues Ruth.
In the kitchen, designate cabinets based on functionality and efficiency.
“Dishes and glassware cabinets should be near the dishwasher. Pots and pans cabinets work best near the stove. The items most frequently used should be in the front and center of the cabinets. The items rarely used should be on the top or back of the cabinets,” Quintana advises.
In laundry room cabinets, place things you use most frequently near the front of the cabinet, adds Quintana. In garage cabinets, zone out areas for better organization.
“Put yard materials in one area, car maintenance items in another area, and sports equipment elsewhere,” says Quintana.
Be prepared to reassess your closets and cabinets every few months and re-sort/rearrange as needed, especially if you accumulate more items.