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.

Assess

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.  

labels

*** 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.


Wrangle Your Receipts in 2016

As seen on Huffington Post

Every time you go shopping, do groceries and pay for parking your wallet tends to increase in size.  Unfortunately this is not because it’s getting filled with cash, it’s those pesky paper receipts.  You finally get so fed up that you rip them all out of there and either throw them out or shove them into a drawer somewhere.  But what if there was a better way?  Most of us tend to have some kind of filing system in place for the important paperwork but receipts from everyday purchases tend to get overlooked. Well, those days are over, so let’s push those papers into the spotlight today.

Do I need to keep this?

First of all, I am not an accountant and everyone’s situation is different so check with your provincial/federal guidelines for the important stuff that you may need for tax purposes.   That’s a whole other blog post and we’re going to focus on the easy stuff today.

Gas, restaurant and grocery receipts don’t need a very long life in your wallet, or anywhere for that matter.  As long as you’re a person and not a business they can go pretty quick.  The old rule of thumb used to be to keep them until you reconcile them with your monthly bank statement and then shred them.  Most of us don’t get statements in the mail anymore, so take a few minutes every few days, or at the end of the week to log on to your on-line banking and check your transactions.  If you keep a spreadsheet with a monthly budget be sure to enter them in and then they can go.  A lot of on-line banking will let you generate pretty pie charts to see where your money is going, so even the monthly budget spreadsheet may not be necessary.

The only other thing I will say about grocery receipts is that sometimes food spoils even though it’s not expired or you got a bad apple or something and and you want a refund.  If that happens a lot to you, by all means, hold onto it for a few extra days.

Withdrawal slips and other bank transactions tend to fall into the same rules as gas and grocery.  Make sure it makes sense with your statement (be it paper or electronic) and then shred it.  Except for taking out cash (and I’m sure they’ll figure that one out eventually) most banking transactions can be completed on-line, so consider making the leap over if you haven’t already.  Anytime you can go paperless it’s a good thing and a lot of banks let you deposit cheques through an app.  No paper records to keep and all the details are at your disposal.  Can’t argue with that!

Clothes, shoes and electronics.  Anything with a guarantee or warrantee or that can possibly break you need to hang on to until that guarantee expires.  Same thing applies to items you may need to return.  Honestly, most of the time you couldn’t pay me enough to make my kids try on clothes in the store, I would much rather buy 1 or 2 sizes that I think will fit them and return what doesn’t work.  Once you have worn the clothes or shoes you generally can’t return them anyway so keeping the receipt is pointless.  Hang onto it for a few weeks (assuming you began using the product) to ensure it’s not defective and then say goodbye to the receipt.

When should I do this?

If you’re short on time to go through your receipts, think about using some of that dead-time.  Waiting at the Dr’s office, the long line at the grocery store, watching a mindless tv show, parked in the car waiting for your friend that never shows up on time.  All great opportunities to take a minute to go through your wallet.  I like to keep a little plastic baggie in my purse for the receipts that need to be disposed of but I don’t want to throw in the garbage while I’m out.

Where should I store it?

With all that being said if you really like to keep these papers for longer but don’t have the space, or just don’t want the clutter, consider using an app.  I like using Wave (no affiliation), but there are tons of them out there.  These apps allow you to take a picture of the receipt (even the super long ones), categorize and edit them with the store name and the amount and then save them on-line.  This also helps if you want to see where your money is going or if you need to generate a report for your accountant.

But Allison, you now say, what do I do with all the receipts I am keeping? They can’t just hang out in my wallet and I don’t want to put them into my filing system! Fear not readers, the answer is as simple as a coupon-sized expanding folder. These things are small, compact, have different sections and can easily be labelled to suit your needs.  You can pick them up at an office supply store or a lot of times, the Dollarstore .  My favorite category to make is the “possibly to return”, it’s like a holding zone for the things I’m not sure about.  Just make sure to go though it every few weeks and declutter.

Happy Organizing!