Getting your house organized will go a long way to maximizing efficiency. There is no single right way to do it: The trick lies in finding the way that works best for you. For the kitchen, a few basic organizing concepts can get you started.
Cosmetics have a finite shelf life, as do skin-care products and medications. Every year, take an inventory, and throw out those items that are expired, you no longer use, or are damaged. Flushing expired drugs down the toilet may affect the water supply, so ask your pharmacy if they have a drug take-back program. If not, throw them out securely in the trash.
Despite its name, medicine should never be stored in the medicine cabinet. The heat and humidity can cause drugs to lose potency before the expiration date. Use the cabinet for things you use every day, such as cosmetics, dental-care products, and hair-grooming products.
An organized clothes closet can simplify busy mornings and make every day just a little bit better. Two or even three short rods installed one above the other, rather than one high one, will maximize hanging space for short items like shirts, skirts, and folded trousers. Reserve another area for longer items such as coats and dresses.
If the ceiling is high, install shelves above the rods to store items you don't use every day, such as hats, gloves, and other off-season clothing. Walls and the backs of closet doors can support hooks, peg-board (to which you can secure any number of hooks), mirrors, and even bulletin boards for messages and mementos.
If a closet is dark, it will be difficult to locate what you need (as well as to get rid of the things you don't). Consider battery-operated lighting if your closet has no power source. Better yet, have an electrician install recessed ceiling lights that turn on automatically when the door is opened. An incandescent light can also help prevent mildew.
Whether your laundry room is a tiny closet or a spacious basement, organization is key. Arrange products and supplies according to how you use them. Anything you regularly need should be within easy reach; place extras and incidentals on a high shelf or another out-of-the-way spot.
The key to a well-organized home office is to manage paperwork. Considering the volume of mail that can accumulate on any given day, one in-box might not do the trick. Try a system of four in-boxes: for personal correspondence, bills, catalogs, and papers to file.
Unless a piece of personal correspondence holds sentimental value, you should discard it once you've answered it. If you decide it's worth keeping, move it to a bulletin board to display it for a while. File it if you've established an orderly system for this kind of correspondence, and even then you should weed out the file annually.
After the bills are paid, the easiest way to keep track of them is to arrange them, by month, in a 13-pocket accordion file (use the last pocket for tax documents, such as W-2s). Each year replace the file and use the previous year's file to do your taxes. Then go through month by month to see what to scan or keep.
Create photo albums for milestone events but use archival-quality albums that are photo-safe, acid-free, and PVC-free. Consider making two copies of photos that are of special sentimental value. Keep one set stored in an archival-quality box, the other in an album for more immediate access and enjoyment. Use acid- and lignin-free paper, photo corners, backings, and boxes.
When using photo boxes, use photo-safe photo sleeves and store photographs smaller than 8 by 10 inches vertically on their long edges. Those larger than 8 by 10 inches should be stored in small stacks within the boxes. Photos of the same type are usually safe to store in contact with each other without using individual sleeves.
Don't use PVC products, glassine, colored paper, or kraft paper for photographic storage or mounting; these materials generate acids, which can cause photographs to fade and become brittle over time. The inks and dyes in colored papers may also bleed and stain your photos.
Start by having space for outerwear. Whether it's in a front-hall closet or a series of hooks on the wall, be sure to allow sufficient space for everyone in the household, plus extra space for visitors. Place an initial above hooks, so each family member has his or her assigned place.
Add a message board. Install a small chalkboard or white board for jotting notes and reminders. A cloth-covered piece of Homasote board (at hardware stores and home centers) can hold messages. A calendar, mail sorter, and battery-operated clock are also handy if space allows.
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