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Ask UfYH: Where the Hell Should I Store This Stuff?

Q: I grew up with a messy person and never learned to clean, and to make it worse I have ADHD and chronic pain. A lot of cleaning-up tips say to “find things homes” but I don’t know how to do that!

Much less find things homes that I’m actually capable of using—far too often I find an “away” only to discover that I’m not actually able to put the thing back every time. As a result, everything just ends up on my floor. This is clearly not optimal, but I don’t know how to “find things a home” that will actually work! Help!

A: There are two main questions to ask yourself when trying to find a home for things:

  1. How often do I use this?
  2. Where do I use this?

The first question regarding the frequency of use will tell you how accessible things need to be. If you use your stand mixer maybe once a month or less, but your food processor several times a week, you want your food processor more accessible than your stand mixer. There’s no sense in using up valuable storage real estate for things you don’t use frequently enough to warrant it. Frequently-used items are what you want to have front and center, easy to get to and easy to put back. Your lesser-used items can be stored in the less-convenient places. I have an enormous stock pot that I use maybe twice a year for lobsters and the occasional massive batch of soup. That giant pain in my ass lives in the cabinet over the fridge, which is impossible to reach without a stepladder, because why am I going to either leave that space empty, or store this giant-ass pot somewhere that can be better used for things I actually need regularly. I have a waffle iron. It lives in the back of my pantry because I never use the goddamn thing. It was taking up space with my other small appliances (immersion blender, food processor, crock pot) that I use often, and was making the storage situation cramped and difficult.

The second question will help you determine where a logical storage space is. For example, if your coffeemaker has a permanent home under a cabinet, does it make sense to have your coffee and filters and mugs and sugar all the way across the kitchen? It would make more sense, and save you time and aggravation, to store things where you use them. One person I know always took her shoes off as soon as she walked in the door, but then would have to carry them to the bedroom closet where her shoe storage was, and ended up with a pile of shoes inside the front door because of the inconvenience of that extra step. So she actually converted part of the coat closet right inside the door to shoe storage, and now shoes get put away in the right place right away.

So when you’re trying to find a logical home for something, figure out how often you’ll need to get to it, where it would make sense for it to be, and whether or not it’s easy to get out and put back. It may take a while, but once you have a logical system in place, you’ll find it much easier to put things away.

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5 replies on “Ask UfYH: Where the Hell Should I Store This Stuff?”

Now if I could just get everyone else in the house to abide by my organizational systems. I fully recognize that I’m the biggest slob, but when I come up with an efficient way to put things away, stick with it!

I’ve finally trained them not to hide the giant water glasses I use every day behind the tiny juice glasses we only use if the big ones are dirty, but god help me with keeping the ketchup NOT blocking the milk in the fridge.

I had to relinquish my label maker, because it was getting to the point where the dogs were going to end up labeled. I did, however, bring it into work, because it’s much harder to keep 35 people putting things back where they belong than two.

I started with a home and added things to it as I discovered they were useful. Like, for example, I bought a little basket for my desk, then just put my most frequently used items in it – calculator, post-its, measuring tape. It doesn’t have to make sense to everyone, just for you & your space. I used to try to be SUPER ORGANIZED and have a bin that was just for post-its and notepads and papery things, and keep my measuring tape in my sewing kit. But it turns out I didn’t need a whole bin of post-its or all my sewing supplies all the time, so this works better for me.

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