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How to Organize Your Household Doodads & Hardware So You Can Find Anything!

Everyone has those little miscellaneous things around the house you need but can not find when you need them. You know you have them "somewhere" but you always have to hunt all over the place looking for them.

Things like hooks, felt pads that stick under things to help them slide, rubber stops to keep things from sliding, twistie ties, batteries, lightbulbs, random nails and screws, various glues, tapes, and on and on. Sound familiar?

And how about all those extra doodads that come with things you buy? Like that new phone you bought. It has a doodad with it that allows you to hang it on the wall – but you are not hanging it on a wall. Or a new bookshelf that came with extra pegs so you could add another shelf if you like. Or depending on your new cell phone has a belt clip with it that you never use. You know what I'm talking about.

Perhaps you thought you were the only one that had a hard time finding homes for these little clutter challenges. It turns out everyone (except maybe Martha Stewart) gets stumped by them. You can find these things scattered randomly in almost every home. As an organizing consultant, I see them all the time. No one knows where to put them. Why? Because they seem to defy categorization. Here's how to give all of them a home.

Create a Hardware Store Area in your home. Many clutter challenges are solved by creating your own little "Home Depot" Hardware Store. I've created these laundry areas, garages, basements, linen closets or any large area where it is convenient, but out of the way. You can give the area all sorts of names. Utility Closet, Supply Area, Gadget Department, whatever appeals to you.

Some homes have a utility area but still can not find what they need because it's a jumbled mess. The trick to making this space work for you is to treat it as a place where you will need to "find" things. Not as simply a place to "put" things.

In order to find things, you need to come up with some creative sub-categories to help you group all those little things you only have one or two of. Here are some of the categories I've come up with to sort things that defy easy categorization in the "Hardware Store".

  • Things that Hang Things – Group hooks, picture hanging kits, nails, screws and such in the same area. Sort like with like and put each type of thing in their own containers.
  • Things that Stick Things Together – Gather all your assorted glues, tapes, stick on magnets, twistie ties, velcro, and put them in the same area.
  • Things that Fix Little Problems – Here's where you put melt pads that stick under things to help them slide, rubber stops to keep things from sliding, the porcelain repair kit for the chip in the bathtub, etc.
  • "Spare Parts" Department – Today, every home needs a "Spare Parts" department to put all those little doodads you may need, but could not replace if you did need them. Like the hang-the-phone-on-the-wall thing. But, remember if you know you will never hang the phone on the wall, just toss it! There are many things people keep that should just be tossed. Like the extra screws from that new desk you put together. Out it goes. Be realistic about whether you will really ever use those spare parts and your life will be much simpler! Another key to making the Spare Parts Dept. work is to contain and label the parts so you, and everyone else you live with, knows what they go to.

This categorizing concept works for all the other little home supplies you have on hand, too. Electrical Supplies like extension cords should all be grouped together. Light Bulbs and all other lighting related things should be grouped. TV related cables and stuff, Stereo related cables and stuff, and so on.

But hold on. We are not done yet. To make the whole system work there are three organizing principles you must apply to each of the departments you set up.

  1. Contain all the items. The containers do not have to be fancy or expensive. You can dig around in your recycle bin and find lots of great free containers. I've even known to recycle sturdy shoeboxes, empty tissue boxes, strong tea boxes, and the plastic containers that eggs, tomatoes and premade salads come in. After all, there is no better recycling than repurposing all that packaging out there.
  2. Think Vertical where you can. Instead of stacking things on top of each other in a container, see if you can stand them up next to each other. This saves an amazing amount of space.
  3. Label Everything. If you label the areas, you and your family members are 80% more likely to put things back in their designated homes. And, most importantly you will be able to find what you need, when you need it, quickly.

TIPS FOR FAMILIES: As a way to get the whole family involved in using your new Hardware Store area, why do not have a little fun with it? Let the kids help with the labeling and finding containers. Sometimes have a contest to creatively name the area, the categories within it, and choose the labels to put on things and give little prizes. The more involved they are in the process, the more successful your new system will be. And it's a great way to teach your kids organizing and categorizing skills that will last a lifetime.

There you have it. Once you get this hardware / supply / utility area set up and organized, you will find things all over your home that now can be given a proper home. Bit by bit, your clutter will transform into handy, useful items. You'll save time and money, so why not treat yourself to that pedicure or massage you've been wanting. You deserve it!

© 2006 Ariane Benefit

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