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Bite-size organising steps give you a feeling of accomplishment

When your to-do list feels overwhelming, starting small allows you to see a difference quickly and gain momentum

By Michele Lerner | May 25, 2020 | Diy

Special to The Washington Post

Now that multiple weeks of stay-at-home guidelines have been in place, many of us may feel consumed by a long list of chores. People are taking care of their families, juggling complicated work and child-care schedules, and worrying about their finances. But if you're restless and looking for ways to stay productive during the coronavirus pandemic, think about improvements that you may normally put off, such as organizing closets, pantries, mudrooms, drawers and toy boxes.

Julia Walter, managing director at Boffi Georgetown, a custom kitchen, bathroom and closet system company, shared tips via email for step-by-step ways to make organising less overwhelming so you can see progress more quickly. Comments have been lightly edited for space and clarity.


Start small:

I recently organised my spice drawer, something I rarely have time to do. I discarded spices that had expired and grouped each type of spice together, putting the ones I use often in the most accessible spots. Consider organizing spices in alphabetical order, so they're easier to find.


Open kitchen cabinets:

Look inside each kitchen cabinet to see if there are better ways to organise certain items. Take out all the pots and pans and rearrange them so they are grouped by size, and keep the ones you use most often in the front. Start a donation pile for items you no longer use. They can be donated when it's safe to drop off at a favourite charity.


Take stock of cups and glassware:

We all have our go-to coffee cups and glasses, so remove mugs and glassware that are rarely used and put them in the donation bin.


Look inside kitchen drawers:

Look at how your silverware is stored. There are many options for silverware trays that keep the knives, forks and spoons in their proper places. Free up space by moving random items that made their way into a drawer to a basket that can be stored elsewhere.


Go vintage:

Consider placing utensils near the stove in decorative countertop containers such as vintage vessels and vases. You can find these online, or at flea markets and antique stores when they reopen. Moving utensils to where they are handy will also declutter drawers.


Peek inside your pantry:

If you want to close the door after opening it, then it might be time to organize your pantry. Grouping like products together, such as all the canned soups in one spot, is an effective way to get started. Wicker or metal baskets help keep the stray items in one place. For oversize items, look for an empty cabinet that you only need to access a few times a year.


Check out the mudroom:

If you're lucky enough to have a mudroom, and especially one with doors or cubbies, take stock of how things are grouped. It might be time to store those winter gloves, hats, coats and boots to make way for summer gear. Athletic equipment can get out of hand, too, so look for ways to stack and store those items in bins by category.


Don't forget pets:

Pet supplies, including food and toys, can also get unmanageable. If you have a designated place to store these items, review what you have and see if you can consolidate items to make more room. If you have some food that your pet has never liked but you don't want to throw away, think about donating the food to your local vet or animal rescue when it's safe to do so. Put those items in the donation box.


Move to the bedrooms:

Bedroom closets can be daunting. Think about rotating winter clothes into storage or to a separate part of the closet to make way for summer clothing. It will feel good to know that warmer weather is on the way. Also, purge what you don't wear or haven't worn in years and create a giveaway pile.


Organise shoes:

There are plenty of options for shoe storage to keep closet floors clear and shoes easy to find. Shoes can also be stored in mudrooms and entry closets. Look at stackable shoe storage options online to optimize the space.


Involve the whole family:

Children grow so fast. Think about other families who might be able to use the clothes your children have outgrown or save the items for the right time to donate to a charity. Have the kids be part of the cleanup and see if they remember wearing certain clothes and whom they might want to give them to.


Tidy up toys:

Try to contain the toys to one room and have the entire family help with straightening up. Consider tidying up a couple times throughout the day before everyone gets tired. Get into a routine, if possible.


Manage bathroom storage:

Make sure vanity drawers and cabinets are organized by similar items to save time in the morning. Wall storage is a great way to access items easily and to keep products hidden behind doors. Minimize what is displayed on the counter. The bathroom should be a sanctuary that is calming, not stressful.


Think of a favourite charity:

During this difficult time, routine is important. Give everyone a chore that they own. It helps to map out a plan for each day. Start with little things at first to feel productive. Have family members decide on a charity to which they want to donate certain items. When it's safe to go out and drop off your donation boxes, there will be a true sense of accomplishment.