- Cullman, Alabama


January 20, 2014

Getting organized reaches professional level

CULLMAN — One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to get organized. Sadly, this one, like losing weight, is easy to start and tough to see through. But, unlike losing weight, there are lots of neat gadgets and tools to help you get organized.

Since January is National Get Organized! month, you have a good reason to start working on your clutter now. You have access to expert advice on television, in magazines, books, video’s and on-line guided tours of spaces like your closet or your pantry, and everything in between. But perhaps the best place to start is at your local home improvement store. There you will find a variety of storage receptacles to help you get organized, from your smallest cabinet to your garage.

You’ll also want to check out the attached link to an innovative new pantry system invented by Jim Lazenby, who is a cousin to Cullman native Wells Turner. It seems that Lazenby was making some acrylic butterfly boxes for his daughter when his secretary had a jar explode in her pantry. He took a look at it and the idea for Clear Advantage Pantry Systems was born.

Lazenby’s brainchild is easy to use, compact, and efficient and can be custom tailored for almost any pantry, both cabinet and walk-in styles. “And the drawers pull out with one finger,” he pointed out.

So, now that you have the information you need, get started.

Getting started is often the hardest hurdle. Once you see some results it gets much easier. Professional organizers recommend that you choose a time and date and mark it on your calendar so that you have a fixed point in time to shoot for. Allow 2-4 hours for your first foray into organizing — you can always extend that.

Pick a time when you won’t be interrupted, and when you are not tired, like after working all day. Sounds like a Saturday morning project, right? Then shoot for Saturday morning, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at what bothers you most. Your closet? Your medicine cabinet? Home office? Wherever you start, be sure to arm yourself with plenty of garbage bags, dust cloths, and clear totes.

Starting with the medicine cabinet is probably a safe bet for a novice. You want instant success, and other projects might take longer.

First, take everything out of the medicine cabinet. Clean shelves and mirrors, then take action. Check expiration dates on everything. If it’s old, chuck it.

Then arrange like items together. If you have prescription medications that you take on a regular basis, it might be wise to purchase one of those weekly or monthly organizers. Just sit down and place the appropriate dose in each day’s cubby, then store the remaining medication on a top shelf until you need to refill your organizer.

Group over-the-counter medicines, like eyedrops, or vitamins together on one shelf. If you have four or five bottles of similar items, you might want to store your extras in a closet or drawer until you run out of the one you are using.

Turning labels toward the front helps cut down on the time you might be spending shuffling through bottles and boxes.  

Now that you have the medicine chest tidy, tackle the drawers. You can purchase various types and sizes of drawer dividers at any home store. Using a silverware divider works just as well. You want to make sure that it fits your drawer. There are several types that are adjustable, making it easy to tailor the drawer to your specific needs.

Another way to store items that you use daily, like Q-tips, or cotton balls, is to put them in pretty containers with a neat label. You can buy specialty containers, or if you are crafty, you can design your own labels, adding special touches like burlap lid covers tied with jute, or raffia.

If your home office is a maze of paper, craft items, loose change and a collection of pens and pencils scattered randomly throughout, you might want to tackle this next.

If you are a bit overwhelmed, just start with your desk. Take it one drawer at a time. It’s best to have totes on hand for filing things as you clean your desk. Tax-related information in one, reference materials in another, office supplies in a third. As you clean and file, put each note or document in its place, then when you have everything sorted, go back and file the things you need frequently in or on your desk. Either discard the rest, or store it in clearly labeled totes or file cases, in a closet or on a shelf.

Home stores offer a huge selection of shelving, free-standing cabinets, filing cabinets on wheels and stackable units to help you stay organized. There are multiple types of letter-stackers, see-through file folders and hanging file boxes to fit every need. Pretty baskets with lids are a nice touch for holding pens and pencils, drawer organizers can help you keep track of paper clips, staples and other items that often get lost in a drawer.

As you organize any room in your house, ask yourself these questions and make these determinations; (1) Do I like this, do I need this, do I want this? (2) I like it, want it or need it, but it doesn’t belong here, (3) It should be recycled, (4) It should be thrown out, or (5) It should be donated.

As a general rule, if it’s torn, unusable, broken, outdated or associated with a bad memory, get it out of your home.

Of course the key to organizational maintenance is perseverance. Experts often recommend the one-year rule — where you donate anything you haven’t used or worn in a year — and the one-in-one-out rule — where you get rid of one item every time you bring in a new item. If you are a pack-rat, or very sentimental, this might not work for you, but you can store those items that you can’t seem to part with in a basement or an attic. After all, you can’t display everything…

The most underutilized place to store anything that will hang is the back of a door. Almost any door can be used for something. You can hang coats on doors that might be viewed by company. Other doors, like the one leading to your laundry room are perfect for hanging mops, brooms, ironing boards, aprons; almost anything you might use to clean can be hung or attached with Velcro onto the back of a door.

Peg boards are handy, too, as well as clear file holders, and hanging organizers for shoes, jewelry, make-up or small toys. You can attach peg board to the inside of your pantry or any cabinet door, then add cup hooks to hold things like measuring spoons, ladles, spatula’s, and mixer attachments. In a bathroom, peg boards can help you organize your brushes, styling tools, and anything in a small box with the clear store hanger left on it. The possibilities are endless.

Pantries are another area which cause major stocking problems. If you pantry is too deep, things get lost, if it’s too shallow, you can’t store enough. The Clear Advantage Pantry, mentioned above, it the answer to every pantry storage problem you’ll ever have. They will work with you from your photographs and measurements to get you organized. You will be surprised at what this affordable system can do for you in terms of space savings, the ability to see what you have at a glance, and ease of access to things that used to get lost in the back.

Another dilemma you might encounter is a common one; dish storage solutions. You can find china storage boxes at discount stores and on These compact, lightweight, compartmentalized units can hold your extra dishes and platters in much less space than it takes to put them individually on shelves. The cup storage units along are worth the investment.  

The overhead space in your garage is another underutilized area. There are products on the market which attach to the ceiling, giving you a way to get out of season outdoor cushions, pool supplies, garden tools and other items safely and efficiently up off of the floor. You can also store books in these sturdy units.

So don’t procrastinate! Start simple and enjoy each finished project. Take before and after pictures and keep them on your computer to show you how far you’ve come. The difference will amaze you!

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