The Simple Life

The Simple Life

Did you spend the majority of 2020 making lists of things you wanted to change about your home but never actually got around to doing them? Well, now is the time. Consider 2021 a fresh start for both you and your living space with a great opportunity to dive into everyone’s favorite activity: organization.

OK, organizing might not be everybody’s cup of tea. It can be tedious and time-consuming and make you want to pull your hair out. However, it’s a great first step for anyone seeking to change the look and feel of their home. It makes a huge difference.

There are a few key areas to focus on that will make the biggest impact: kitchens, offices, and closets. The following guide explains how you can start cutting down on clutter to simplify these spaces—and streamline your life in the process.

A Pristine Kitchen

Life has a few certainties. One of them is that we all must eat; whether that means cooking a meal at home or picking up takeout is up to you. However, if you do spend a lot of time in your kitchen, it helps to keep it as organized as possible.

kitchen

Step 1: Refrigerator

Start by removing everything in your refrigerator and freezer, including the shelves and drawers, if you can. Wipe down the insides with a disinfectant, and let dry. Disinfect the shelves, allow to dry, and replace. Go through the food items you removed to see if anything is expired.

Having a system for where you keep condiments, meats, fruits and vegetables, and beverages will prevent you from having to dig around every time you need something.

  • Condiments: Most refrigerators have storage built into the door for things like condiment bottles and beverages; use these spaces to your advantage. Keep condiments you use most often (e.g., ketchup, mustard, and sauces) together on the most easily accessible shelf.
  • Beverages: Cans and bottles can also be kept on door shelves. Try to keep similar types of drinks, such as soda cans or bottles, water bottles, and beer or wine, together.
  • Meats/cheeses: Meats and cheeses will be freshest if kept in a drawer. You can purchase small baskets to keep in the drawer to separate specific items like lunch meats, gourmet cheeses, and shredded cheeses.
  • Fruits/vegetables: Place fruits and veggies in individual baskets for easy access. If there are any items reserved for children’s snacks, keep them together in a basket on the bottom shelf so the kids can grab and go.
  • Frozen items: Devote specific areas of your freezer to items like meats, TV dinners, and desserts. Utilize dividers or metal baskets (plastic can be damaged by freezing temperatures) to keep things separate.

Step 2: Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are treasure troves of knickknacks, from pots and pans to spices to small appliances like waffle irons and air fryers. But it’s important that these items don’t commingle.

  • Dedicate the cabinets closest to your stove for things you need for cooking. Larger pots and those you use less frequently should be kept toward the back of the cabinet. Separators can be used to keep smaller pots, pans, and lids organized, and some organizers are tiered to accommodate different-sized pans.
  • If you don’t have one already, a spice rack will be your new best friend. There are plenty of affordable options, many of which can be kept inside a cabinet to free up counter space. This option rotates for easier access.
  • If you have cabinets with deep pull-out drawers, consider using these for storing appliances and gadgets you don’t need all the time, like hand-choppers, waffle irons, fryers, and griddles.
  • Cabinets under the kitchen sink should be reserved for cleaning supplies like dish detergent, extra sponges, and disinfectants. Small plastic baskets can be used here as well to keep like items together. And if this space has become a graveyard for plastic bags, consider purchasing a dispenser to keep them organized.

Step 3: Pantry

Believe it or not, a Pinterest-worthy pantry is possible. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think twice about how your commonly used pantry staples are stored—but you should.

  • Start by taking foods like cereals, grains like oats and rice, and pastas, out of their boxes, and place them into glass jars. This will keep everything visible and create a clean look.
  • Organize cans by category (vegetables, fruits, and beans are great to start), and place them into baskets.
  • Heavier items such water bottles and larger cans should be kept on the floor or on the shelf closest to the ground.
  • If you keep pet food in your pantry, it’s a good idea to store it off the floor in a tightly sealed container to avoid attracting rodents or bugs.

Pro tip: Labeling items throughout your kitchen is another great way to maintain organization and create a crisp, clean look. Download and print the labels below to get started!

An Orderly Office

Last year completely shifted everything we once knew about working. With most of America still working from home, having a home office has become just as (if not more) essential as a second bathroom and an updated kitchen.

But just because you have an office doesn’t mean it’s set up for optimal productivity. The tips below can help you create a room that feeds your focus.

cleaning

Clean Sweep

If your office saw more action in 2020 than it had in a while, chances are it’s also messier than it was this time last year. Start by going through desk drawers, filing cabinets, and folders for papers and other items you no longer need. Separate these into piles based on what you should shred, recycle, or file away. Once you’ve determined what to keep, create color-coded folders based on categories like work, insurance documents, and kids’ school forms. Lastly, create a command station (which can be a designated cabinet or an entire set of drawers) that holds your most important folders. You can also consider purchasing a fireproof box for things like Social Security cards and birth certificates.

Comfort (but Not Too Much)

You want your work environment to be relaxing, but not so relaxing that it puts you to sleep. Your desk chair should provide enough back support that you aren’t tempted to slouch, but it also shouldn’t feel like a La-Z-Boy recliner. If your current chair is uncomfortable and you don’t want to splurge for a new one, consider investing in a lumbar support pillow or seat cushion instead. You can also create a more comfortable spot for your feet by installing an under-desk foot hammock. Things like candles (or, alternatively, a wax warmer), plants, and an adjustable overhead lamp can help create a calming environment primed for work.

Color

Whether or not you believe in color theory, there is something to be said for the way your mood can change depending on the colors you surround yourself with. Red might be your favorite color, but it won’t necessarily contribute to your productivity. Instead, shades of blue are great for stimulating the mind and increasing focus. Yellow is often used in creative spaces to arouse the imagination and improve mood. And, as cliché as it may sound, green is great for those working in the financial services industry or for people who want feel more confident and self-assured.

Complete the Look

The most important thing to remember is that your office space is yours. Don’t be afraid to add personal touches here and there, so long as you don’t mind them making an appearance on a Zoom call. For example, if you enjoy fresh flowers or plants, make sure to always keep some on your desk. Websites like The Sill and Bloomscape offer a huge variety of plants and flowers for purchase. A picture of your pet, family, or friends can also help remind you what you’re working so hard for. You should be surrounded only by what you enjoy and none of what you don’t.

A Clean Closet

Your closets can be the most intimidating part of your home to organize, as you may or may not have already realized. If you’ve tried to keep your closets tidy in the past to no avail, don’t give up just yet! The tips below can help you turn even the most chaotic messes into pristine homes for your clothes.

Resist the Urge, and Purge.

When it comes to clothes, it can be so tempting to hang on to shirts, pants, and shoes you never even wear. It might have sentimental value or you might think it will come back in style, but rest assured, you’ll probably never wear that bedazzled denim jacket from your first concert.

Remove everything in your closets first, and then separate into piles based on what you currently wear, what you aspire to wear, and what you’ll never wear again. Go through the “never wear again” pile, and place anything worth donating into a bag.

closet

Categorize.

Once you have a pile of clothing you want to keep, come up with a system of categorization that works for you. If most of your pants are jeans, for example, you can have a section devoted entirely to your denim collection. Below are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Long-sleeve blouses
  • Short-sleeve blouses
  • Dress pants
  • Denim
  • Lightweight jackets
  • Winter coats
  • Suit jackets
  • Dresses

Once you have grouped items into your chosen categories, you can start coordinating a section of your closet for each. Keep categories that you’ll need to pull from more often toward the front, and rotate as the seasons change.

Choose the right hangers and storage.

It might seem like extra work, but if you want your closet to look polished, you need to invest in quality, uniform hangers. The popular home-organizing brand The Home Edit specializes in closet organization. (They’ve even created special hangers for purses and hats!) Avoid wire hangers, which can damage your clothes, and opt for plastic or fabric hangers to help keep the integrity of your garments.

If you own a lot of shoes, acrylic storage boxes are a great option to keep pairs of smaller shoes together and easily accessible. For boots and taller shoes, utilizing boot shapers will prevent your boots from hanging over, potentially creating long-term damage. You can also consider purchasing stackable shelving to organize your footwear and keep it off your closet floor.

Once all your clothes and shoes are in place, labeling the individual sections of your closet is a great way to quickly find what you’re looking for—and can remind you to keep everything in its place. Download and print the closet labels below!

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