Why I Labeled My Fridge (And You Should Too)

As seen on Huffington Post

fridge label

Professional Organizers and Labels go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly (or nut-free soy butter and jelly, depending on your allergies).  So, it is shocking to me that it took me this long to put labels inside my refrigerator.

For 6 weeks after I had my third child I didn’t work. By this I really mean that I worked exclusively from home and didn’t do any on-site client visits.  This meant that I spent WAY more time in my house than I normally did.  After the haze of newborn sleep deprivation started to wear off I began to notice things again.  All of the sudden the consequences of the exhaustion of 3rd trimester followed by the demands of a newborn caught up with me.  The “maintenance” step of my organized home had fallen through the cracks and I started to walk through the house and every closet I opened or room I went into was making me crazy.  I actually said those words so often that it became a running joke between my husband and I.  I would walk into a room and say “Oh my gawd Ben” and he would always reply with “let me guess, the room is making you crazy?!?!?!”.  I became fixated on the fridge though.  As a nursing mom to a ravenous newborn I am constantly hungry, so I spent many frustrating hours searching through the fridge looking for food.  One day I just couldn't take it anymore and I pulled EVERYTHING out.

There are few things more satisfying to me than emptying a space thoroughly cleaning it out and putting everything back in an organized way.  It was almost better than a nap.  Almost.

Empty & Organize

fridge label

Since organizing items into zones had been working so well in the pantry I decided to implement the same strategy in the fridge.  These zones will be different for everyone depending on the types of foods found in your fridge.  To help determine your zones group like items together as you empty the fridge.  Keep all the salad dressings together, the sauces, the leftovers, etc.  We tend to have five or six types of mustards open at any moment so that is a zone that needed a designated space in our fridge.  Maybe you have a hot sauce obsession.  Whatever it is, make the system work for you.

Trash It

Now that you have everything organized into groups check all you expiry dates.  Now obviously food doesn't immediately turn bad the day after it “expires” but if we are six months past the date on that BBQ sauce and you don’t even remember buying it, let alone opening it, it may be time to say goodbye. Anything moldy or stinky has got to go too, so open those leftovers and be ruthless.

Clean It

Now that you have emptied the entire fridge take a few minutes and give it a serious wipe-down.  Don’t forget the shelves on the door and the fruit and veggie drawers.  Might as well take advantage of the empty fridge and give it a good clean.


Take a look at the size and height of your food containers, bottles and jars.  The fridge is empty so it’s a great time to move around the glass shelves to accommodate all you food.  Try to envision where everything will go and keep the most used food items in front.  If you’re not sure if something fits try it out.  Adjust the shelf if needed.  Move things around if it’s not working. Try a Lazy Susan or clear fridge bins to help you organize it and make it accessible.  It’s your fridge, make it work for your needs.

Put It Back

Normally I would have you label things at this step, but that may take a few minutes and since it’s your fridge we’re talking about and your items are perishable that doesn't really make sense.  So put all the food back before it spoils .  Try to use temporary labels like post-its with tape to keep your fridge in order until you have more permanent labels.

Label It

I know it’s a bit weird to have labels in your fridge, but without proper direction you won’t know where to put things back or find them after.  What has really worked for us is to label some zones, but not all.  For the most part the food is grouped together by category but there are some items that are just going to have to hang out together because they are all tall or bulky.  So instead of doing a “miscellaneous” label (ie an organizer's nightmare) I left it blank and crossed my fingers that common sense will prevail.  


*** For the labels I used the FreeStyle Script font in MS Word, printed it out on Full Sheet Clear Decals from Avery and then covered the labels with clear Con-Tact shelf liner to make it washable.***

Maintain It

They key to any organizational system is proper maintenance.  Put it back where it is supposed to go. Period. For more on why this is so important click here.

Don’t be afraid to change things up if the system stops working for you.  Habits change, food preferences evolve.  One system won’t work forever, so don’t forget to reassess every once in awhile and shake it up if needed.

Happy Organizing!

How A Professional Organizer Tidies Up Under The Sink

As seen in Huffington Post

organizer sink

My last post tackled starting small with your organizing as a way to motivate you onto the bigger projects.  I focused on steps you can use to tackle the often forgotten about space under the sink, but really you can apply those steps to other spaces that need a bit of love.  Since one of the biggest questions I get is “How do you keep your home organized” I thought you might appreciate a look into my home. Particularly under my sink and how I deal with it when it is no longer working.

The space wasn’t a disaster but definitely needed an update.  It’s always a good plan to identify what your problem is before going in to fix it.  My two biggest issues were that: 1. We use a lot of washcloths to wipe kid’s face and hands and the dirty ones kept congregating on the counter until I got fed up enough to bring them to the laundry room.  2. The stackable bins I was using wouldn’t stay stacked and what I had in them wasn’t accessible enough for me.

The third issue was that no one other than me was really maintaining my system.  What was intuitive to me wasn’t as straightforward to my husband and my kids couldn’t grab a washcloth or hand towel with turning everything upside down.

I had a few minutes one day and decided to deal with this space.  So out everything came and the inside got a thorough wipe down.  Once all the products came out and they were sorted I took inventory of what I really needed to keep there.  I have to admit, since I had already pared down what was stored there some time ago the list wasn’t very long.  My biggest challenges was really getting everything back under the sink in a way that A. made sense for how I used it and B. was going to be maintained by others.

With a husband, a 5 year old and 3 year old this was no small feat.  Clearly what I was doing before wasn’t working so I decided to keep it simple.  Very simple.  The most used items needed to be right in front and it needed to be SUPER clear where things went.

The recycling bin was a non-movable.  It’s the most convenient and out of sight spot for us to have it.  Unfortunately that means I lose about half my space.  Saving the earth takes sacrifice!  I picked up a small plastic shelf from the dollar store and grabbed some bins that both fit what I needed to store and could go in the space the shelf allowed for.

organized kitchen sink

My under the sink essentials are washcloths, kitchen towels, dish sponges, clothes to clean the counter and dishwasher detergent (because we seriously run that thing once a day!) I also needed a convenient spot to put all the dirty cloths and towels so they wouldn’t end up on the counter.  Since my kids can’t read yet, I realized that not only did I have to label them but they needed to be in different containers so I could identify them to my children.  Oh, you need a washcloth? That’s in the clear bin.  You took my hand towel to clean the water you spilled all over the floor because your toys need a bath? No problem, just throw it in the green bucket.

So back everything went into it’s clearly designated space.  I also store a few items that only I really use behind the shelf.  Special cleaner for the stovetop, white vinegar and the cleaning concentrate I use to make up the spray I use on the counters.  You’ll notice I don’t really store cleaning products under the sink.  Over the years I have really pared down what I use in the kitchen.  I only use dish soap and a spray for the counters and they both stay up top in a tray next to the sink.   The amount of times my children literally lick food off the table has made me very careful about what I use to clean.

life hack organized

The last part of this space is the inside of the doors.  I didn’t change anything around this time but I do use them to hang rubber gloves (which I wear only if my nails are done which unfortunately is very infrequently, they usually get nabbed by my three year old when she plays dress-up) and a place for the plastic bags that we accumulate.

I did this under the sink update a little over two months ago and haven’t had an issue since.  Yes the occasional washcloth or dirty towel still finds it’s way to the counter but that’s just life.  It really is the small changes that make a big difference. When you see how much positive can come out of a few small changes it can be very motivating to tackle some slightly bigger projects.

Happy Organizing!  If you want to send me a peek under your kitchen sink get in touch here.

Ignore The Big Picture: Small Steps To Get You Organized

As seen in Huffington Post

Getting organized doesn’t need to be about a complete overhaul of your entire house.  Sometimes small tweaks can have a significant impact.  One of the top complaints I get from my clients, and the reason they turn to me, is that they are overwhelmed with the general lack of organization and they don’t know where to start.  The thought of reorganizing their home all at once is such a huge undertaking that they get stuck at the first step.  The truth is that sometimes looking at the big picture can be overwhelming.

Most of us don’t have hours to set aside to reorganize an entire room, so try to zone in on a smaller area of the space that is contributing to the larger problem.  Take the kitchen. Whether we like it or not we end up spending a lot of time in there and it is often a space we gather with company.  My kitchen isn’t very large, yet for some reason when my entire family is over (we are 16 with all the adults and kids) people gravitate towards the kitchen and stay there.  The last thing you want to do when you have guests over is to open a drawer or pantry door with everyone watching and have them see the disaster within.

So let’s tackle one of these disasters today; the dark abyss under the sink.  Since we generally don’t keep food under the sink it tends to be one of the most ignored spots in the kitchen.  It is easy to assume that musty smell is normal and that there may be some unknown product (or creature) way at the back that will live out the rest of it’s days there.  It really doesn’t have to be that way, I promise.

Take it all out

Get everything out.  You really want to see what has been lurking under there.  Cleaning products, wet rags, garbage, and extra sponges, whatever it is get it out.

Wipe it down

Give this space a really thorough cleaning.  I don’t just mean the bottom, take advantage of the fact that you have completely emptied the space and tackle the side and the inside of the doors as well.  There are obviously some stains that aren’t going anywhere but I have come to rely on my magic eraser a great deal.  When your all-purpose cleaner won’t do the trick I always bring in the magic eraser as my pinch hitter.  Most of the time it gets the job done.

Make it pretty

I am a huge fan of cheap and easy solutions.  Naturally, Contact paper is one of my BFFs.  Pick a nice pattern or color and slap it on the bottom.  It looks good and makes the surface easier to wipe down.  Bonus: if it gets too stained or grody you can just swap it out.

Sort it

Remember all that stuff you pulled out from under there? Now is the time to deal with it.  Put Like with Like .


What do you really need under your sink?  Only you can answer that question but chances are you can pare down what you have.  Try to make the goal to keep only what you are actually using in that space.  Find another home in your house for the bathroom cleaners, light bulbs, products that haven’t been touched in years and other randoms that have found their way there.  Also try to avoid having all your backup products here.  Only keep the one you are currently using.

Get some gear

Now that you know what is staying under the sink you need some products to help keep it organized.  Plastic is great for this space since it is easy to clean.  Find containers that work for what you’re keeping and try to not make it a tight fit.  It’s always good to have a little wiggle room.  Don’t forget about the using the vertical space under there.  A sturdy plastic shelf, stackable bins, tension rod to hang spray bottles, hooks on the inside of the door; these are all great ways to increase your storage space.

Label it                                                                                                      

I’ve said this before but labeling is a great way to keep organized, look nice and ensure that the other people in your home don’t mess up the system because “uh, sorry, I didn’t know where to put it so I just threw it back there.”

Live with it

You may have to make some minor (or major) tweaks to your system.  That’s okay.  Our needs change over time so don’t be afraid to adapt to that.  A good organizing system should be relatively easy for you to maintain.

Starting with the easy stuff first isn’t the lazy way out. Sometimes it is  just the motivation we need to move forward.  Choose a 10-15 minute project (FYI this means ONE drawer or shelf) and just get ‘er done.  It may just start the snowball effect you need to deal with the rest of the space!

Happy Organizing!  Email me with your organizing questions or before and after pictures of your under-the-sink space.



The Organized Pantry

As featured in The Suburban

organized pantry

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a recipe and having to spend 15 minutes searching through your pantry for the baking soda. Or buying a third box of cornstarch when you know you already have two open ones that you can’t seem to find.   Welcome to the black hole that most people refer to as their pantry.  Many of the homes I organize have deep kitchen pantries, which theoretically offer more space, but ultimately cause you to lose items in the back of the pantry.

Enter the “Zone Pantry”.  Although it’s a bit cliché for a Professional Organizer to use bins and baskets to make a space work, it’s cliché because it works.  Every client I have set up with this system has loved it and has maintained it.  Depending on the height and depth of your shelves you may want to go with tall, clear bins, or lower open baskets.  Ultimately it comes down to what works for you and your home.

The first step is to take all the food out of the pantry and group it together. The most common groupings are: oils & vinegars, baking, syrups & sweeteners, sauces, sweets, chips & crackers, pasta & rice. It ultimately depends on your style of cooking but try to put “like with like”.  This way of organizing really cuts down on the time spent looking for items as well as allowing you to take stock of what you need at a glance.

Cans and spices can also be difficult to organize.  If you don’t have a wall mounted spice rack that works for you, try storing your spices on a Lazy Susan.  It offers easy access for your most common spices without having to move things around to find them.  For cans, one of my favorite products is a can holder or can rack.  These allow for easy visual access to your cans and can usually be adjusted based on the sizes of cans you have.

Happy Organizing!