Everything in Its Place

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

This is key for organization. It’s not the cute boxes and nifty shelves. It’s that things are assigned to places. When they are needed, they can be found and used; when they are not needed, they return to base.

Unfortunately, jazzy systems can only go so far. Putting everything in place, no matter how wonderful that place is, requires discipline. Ugh!

Now, we’re not talking boot camp discipline here. Perfectionism is not required, even though it would keep those shelves absolutely perfectly organized. But that (fortunately) is not the ultimate goal. Keeping things orderly has several purposes, but none that should be overtaken. Reflecting God’s character is lovely, but obsessive organization shouldn’t become a god. Making the best use of our resources is ideal, but shouldn’t be the ultimate driver. Saving time is great, but we don’t need more time just for the sake of having free time.

Keeping things in place is a way to serve God, your family, and everyone around you. If you make a habit of using things and then returning them to a reasonable location, you will have fewer hindrances as you fulfill your purpose. The frustration you feel when your home is a disaster area can be minimized. The time wasted searching for necessary books and papers before school can be converted to a calm departure and good conversation on the way to school. You don’t have to tear the house apart for a bandaid when the skinned knee comes limping in from outside. Guests are welcomed to a home that is lived in but not hazardous. Bills can be paid on time rather than lost in scattered stashes of mail.

Basically, it’s not rocket science or out-of-reach creativity. You can do the simple, basic steps needed to bring order to your household and life. Not perfect order, but purposeful order.

Clean Cars

As promised, here’s how my truck-cleaning effort went. The entire process took 1 hour, although I did not vacuum (since our cordless went with my husband the day I did this). Most likely the time for pictures and setup this time around would offset cleaning time for a normal routine.

Back Seat Storage

Since I have a truck, the interior storage is primarily under the back seat and in the console. I tackled the largest area first! Before are pictures of the space, all the stuff originally in it, and the final arrangement.

IMG_4598

I put all my extra shopping bags in one bag, which fits nicely in the shallow middle. The pillow and picnic blanket went in one well. My road trip guides and other books went in the other well. The umbrella and ice scraper went on the ledge in the back. The insulated bag is on top of it all on the driver’s side, because that is what I grab most often.

Since several tools and notepads and other items had accumulated since the last cleaning, I took those and put them in the appropriate areas for when I got there.

Console

This started out pretty ugly; we use this most often when driving because it’s easiest to reach.

truck 11The keys here are to 1) only have what you need handy and 2) contain the small items. I stacked the flat books and iPod. Medicine and keys/bobbypins/money went in two separate cheap plasticware boxes that I pulled out of the kitchen drawer. The manual went in the glove box and the napkins went in the grab bag (seen later).

Doors

I love the deep pockets in the doors. My driver door has my favorite shopping bags, because usually I only use two or three, and gum. The other side has activity books for traveling and the GPS. Here I simply had to take out the trash and stuff that had migrated to the wrong section.

Truck 9

Truck 1

 

 

 

 

Grab Bag

Truck bagBecause of the limited storage, I like to keep a tote bag with various things handy. Mine sits in the middle of the back seat (on the hump), but it is easy to move temporarily if the back seat is full. This is where the food items (snacks, napkins, straws), wipes, towel, emergency toy, and such are stored. It is arranged so I can reach in and get what is needed without searching or unpacking.

Other

Truck cordThis time around, I used an idea from Pinterest browsing to corral the charging cords that typically spread all over the front. A Command hook next to the charger worked nicely.

Also, I always have a trash bag in the middle of the front seat. Sometimes it is a small plastic bag. A box or cereal storage bin or cheap car accessory works well also.  The important thing is that it is handy and used (and emptied occasionally…).

The back of the truck has the big stuff, since it is available. Two lawn chairs, a tool box, and a tote to hold anything needed for transport are what stay in the back. The tool box and tote contain smaller things that would otherwise just float around and scatter while driving. They are both easy to grab for use when needed.

_____________________

I hope this encouraged and helped you — or will someday in the future. Nothing I did required a trip to the store; I just used what I had. You can put more effort and money into it, but it isn’t necessary in order to keep to the organizing principles. Best wishes on your efforts in this area!

Our Mobile Command Centers

How much time do you spend in your vehicle each day? Who shares it with you? What do you accomplish using that vehicle? Is it worth the time and effort to keep it ordered and clean?

I’m going to say “Yes!” to the last question, as you might have guessed. With as much as we use it and as many people as it affects, it is worth the time — and I consider it part of my household. That said, what would be helpful to consider as we make the effort?

IMG_4587Trash goes in a trash bag. Whether it’s a nifty car accessory or the last fast food paper bag, trash needs to be accumulated in one place. One contained place. There is no need for it to be spread all over the vehicle. If your children are old enough to generate the trash by themselves, they are old enough to put it where it belongs. If you are the one unwrapping, you can make the habit and keep it neat. It sounds simple and obvious, but it makes a BIG difference.

Bring it with you. If the bag needs to go in the house, the owner (whether you or your child) can bring it in the house. This is for those times when you think you’ll just get it later, but later is a separate trip and an interruption to your flow and doesn’t keep items in the place they belong and you have to find the keys and then you get sidetracked on the way… If you have a hand, go ahead and bring it with you. Note: groceries are usually multiple loads, and if something needs to stay in the car to go somewhere on a later trip, that is a different matter also.

Contain items. There are a number of things that I keep in my truck always. So I have a tote bag that holds all those things (snacks, towel, wipes, road map, road trip dream list, hat, etc.) in one place. I can reach in and grab what I need when I need it, and stuff is not strewn about the interior.

Truck 7Built-in storage can be wonderful for this as well, but use it wisely. Put in what you need to keep, not what you want to ignore. Because it is out of sight, you will need to treat it like a closet and refresh/reorganize every so often. In bigger storage units, use smaller containers and label them. This will make it easier to restock and find what you need.

Make a habit of cleaning. Not constantly, of course, but at some point and then repeat. It doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time or money to vacuum (and the more often, the quicker it goes) and run through the car wash a few times a year. You and your riders will feel better about and in your vehicle when it is clean.

____________________

Wow! All that reminds me (again) that I am long overdue for a clean-up of my trunk and under-seat storage. Now I really have to do it! I’m off — and I’ll post before and after pics, along with concrete examples, in the next blog post.

Using your Kitchen Cabinets

The time had come. Our kitchen cabinets were set up for one flow, but lately we have been using them differently. Time to reorganize! So a young friend and I set to work one morning. Below are the practical principles we used as we evaluated and restocked.

Kit Col 1Put things where you use them. Dishes usually make sense near the sink and/or dishwasher and table. Pots and pans will be used by the stove, so don’t walk across the kitchen if you don’t need to. If you have a stand mixer and always bake on one counter, go ahead and stock those supplies near there. Although you may get extra steps toward your daily goal criss-crossing the kitchen multiple times, it may not be the most effective or efficient way to accomplish that goal AND make dinner.

One step at a time. We followed the same process we have discussed when refreshing closets. Everything came out. Clean the cabinet. Sort. Decide where it will be best located and arranged. Put it back, one cabinet at a time. Although we could not empty the entire kitchen at once, due to limited counter space, we did empty the entire cabinet we were working with each time.

Match up sets. Pots have lids. Pans have lids. Casserole dishes have lids.  You will probably come up with some mismatched lids, where the dish broke but the lid didn’t go in the trash with it. You don’t have to keep the lids with the items as you place them back in the cabinet, but it will help you not keep lids you don’t need.

Cups need to go together with like cups. When all the cups are in one place, you may notice that you have more than you need. For instance, I ended up with 3 of the same size saucepan. Since I don’t often–make that never–use all 3 at the same time, one would be a good to donate to someone who doesn’t even have one.

Make the most of your space. Some cabinets have extra tall room. Some are more narrow. Use those to your advantage. Stack bigger things in the tall cabinets, or use stacking shelves inside the cabinet to stack smaller things taller.

Keep in mind, however, that your kitchen cabinets are usually well-used. Don’t stack or cram too much in any space. It needs to be easy to reach in and grab whatever is needed each time. Having your child start a cup landslide isn’t the quickest or best way to a glass Kit 3of water.

Also, remember that flat things can go sideways to allow you to grab one in the middle without having to re-stack and potentially make the most of room up.

Keep like items together. As you replace items back in the cabinet, take a few minutes to put all the same things together. All the sugar in one row. All the red glasses in one row, then the yellow glasses, then the plastic school memento cups. All the bowls in one section of the shelf. This helps you see at a glance what you need as soon as you open the cabinet door, rather than having to search through a broad category of cups or dishes. It is also easier to unload the dishwasher when the time comes. You already have a place for everything.Kit 2

High shelves are for rare items. The very top shelves, or the very back of the corner cabinet, are for the items you only use once or twice a year. Don’t strain yourself unnecessarily. You will be able to get them when you need them, but that leaves room for the often-used items on the easy-to-reach shelves.

Finally, remember our tips from closets:

  • Label enclosed containers, so you don’t have to wonder what is in the canisters.
  • Contain loose or sloppy (shapeless) items.
  • Repair as you go.
  • Decorate what you cannot fit in the cabinet, or needs to be even more accessible. Baskets, canisters or hanging bins on the countertop, if used in moderation, can be attractive and useful.
Kit Col 2
Before & After

So if you have the need to reorganize your kitchen at any point, keep these things in mind. I hope they are immensely helpful to you! If you have anything to add for the good of all, please comment below to expand this resource.

Meal Timelines

Do you ever get to the end of the afternoon and realize with a shock that dinner will be expected shortly and you have no idea what it will be? Well, it happens to all of us, but if it happens regularly, I’d recommend reading two previous blog posts, Planning Your Day and Meal Planning. This post will build on what we have already started discussing.

Planning ahead involves knowing how your day will go (roughly) and knowing what you plan to make for a meal, but you also need to know how the various steps for your chosen menu will fit into your schedule. When do you need to start preparing? Do you need to figure on 2 hours in the kitchen or 20 minutes?

Many recipes now include prep time and cook time, which is very helpful. But you still need to know what you’ll be doing when.


Note: if you use frozen meat for your meals, remember to add defrosting the meat to your steps or your schedule the day before or early the day of.


As you look at your menu, map out the different steps and when you’ll need to do each of them (i.e., 2 hours ahead, 45 minutes ahead, right before serving, etc.). Some recipes or dishes are simple enough that you only need 5 minutes of prep time 2 hours before dinner. Some have a few more steps. Others are all last minute, just before you eat. Write it down in a timeline, counting backwards from your target mealtime.


Note: if you collect tried-and-true recipes or standard menus for a monthly meal plan, this will be helpful to keep with the recipe. That way you don’t have to think it through each time.


For an example, using the menu outlined in A Simple Meal, you would sketch out a timeline like this:

  • 2 hours prior — prepare meat and put in oven
  • 45 minutes prior — prepare sweet potatoes and put in oven
  • 15 minutes prior — set table and steam vegetables

Now you know that you have less than 30 minutes needed for the meal, but also you don’t need to do anything between the 2 hour mark and the 45 minute mark. You can plan on 75 minutes to devote to other tasks.

Now you also know what you are doing and that your bases are covered. Way to plan!