Power Tools For An Organized Home

Who among us hasn't squandered a happy afternoon in a store specializing in organizing products?

Drifting from aisle to aisle, we make a mental list: this for the bathroom clutter, that for the computer desk.

All is bliss until we consider the bottom line. Specialty organizers can be costly! Someday, we vow, we'll get organized at home, but for now, budget realities step firmly on organizer dreams.

Stop the presses! Over the years, these top tools have proved their value, and they cost a fraction of the price of specialty products.

Everyday products from office supply and discount stores can take us 80% of the way to total home organization--for 20% of the price. It's a frugal application of the 80/20 rule.

Ready? On to the power tools for home organization!

View Binders and Sheet Protectors

Three-ring view binders and plastic sheet protectors are a top-notch home organizing duo. View binders show off custom covers for everything from recipe archives to crafts organizers.

Clear sheet protectors display recipes, organize articles, safeguard papers and make it easy to find phone number on telephone roster.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Use view binders and sheet protectors to handle these household chores:

  • Create a Household Notebook: a family organizer for quick reference to important family and household information.
  • Keep calendars, phone lists, kids' sport schedules, and volunteer rosters here. Never look up another pizza delivery number again!
  • Use view binders and sheet protectors to organize and store all home appliance manuals and warranty information in a "Warranties" binder, and never forget how to change all the clocks (oven, thermostat, and security system) on Time Change Sunday.
  • Quilters and crafters use view binders and sheet protectors with our fabric stash organizer to create a portable guide to the fabric stash. Cut swatches from each length in the stash, and fill in amount, fiber, and source locations. Don't leave for the fabric store without it!
  • Simplify home decorating projects by building a Decorating Notebook. Page protectors hold paint chips, fabric swatches, and carpet samples, and organize torn-out articles from home decor magazines. Grab and go!
  • Moving? A three-ring view binder with lots of page protectors holds paperwork, records, utility information and all those business cards.
  • Homeschoolers love three-ring view binders for unit studies, student notebooks and idea files. Organized by student, by subject or by year, homeschooling parents use view binders and sheet protectors to keep homeschool records at their fingertips!
    round up recipes
  • In the kitchen, three-ring view binders keep clipped or copied recipes in visible order.
    A bonus: sheet protectors can be wiped clean if the mixer turns desperado and flings cake batter to the winds (and the walls, the countertop, and the cook).
    create a holiday organizer
  • Conquer holiday-season chaos with a Christmas Planner. Record gift lists and track spending. Plan meals, menus and holiday decorating. Tuck our holiday forms into a three-ring view binder, and send Scrooge packing!

Whiteboard Wizardry

Oh, the magic of a whiteboard!

Also known as a dry erase board, whiteboards pack a powerful organizing punch.

Colorful and easy to use, they're a magnet for creative kids and time-stressed spouses.

Lists, calendars, reminders, menu plans and chore lists all live happily--and colorfully--on the white board.

Put whiteboards to work in your organized home with these ideas:

  • Hang a whiteboard over the telephone to create Command Central.
  • Phone messages are easy to take--and color-coded whiteboard markers (one color for each family member) make messages easy to read.
  • In the kitchen, mount a small magnetic whiteboard to track freezer contents. It's a super resource for once-a-month cooking!
  • A refrigerator-mounted whiteboard keeps an up-to-date shopping list or displays the weekly menu plan.
  • Post a whiteboard in the garage to list house and garden to-do lists. Younger family members greet yard-work weekends more positively when the board--not the parent--tells them what to do.
  • In kids' rooms, replace dusty blackboards with whiteboard/marker sets. Children love the ease and color of using whiteboards. To "record" their artistic creations, use a camera before erasing.

Zip It Up! Zipper Food Storage Bags

Out from the kitchen! Zipper food storage bags have many uses beyond their function as food-savers.

Put these inexpensive, versatile home organizers to work for you:

  • In the sewing and crafts room, extra-large zipper food storage bags sort lengths of interfacing by weight, type and fiber. Pattern pieces can be stored in quart-sized bags; reinforce one corner with tape, punch a hole, and file bags on a shower-curtain ring for a quick pattern file.
  • Create instant "binder pockets" to hold pens, pencils, sewing patterns, fabric swatches or any small items. Reinforce heavy-duty freezer food storage bags with a strip of tape the length of the bottom seam. Punch holes through the taped edge, and insert bag into the binder. [Hint to vacuum sealer owners: use the manual seal function to cut freezer bags to any length and reinforce the hole area.]
  • In the garage, use small bags to store screws or nails, small pieces from appliances or home dec projects, or opened seed packets.
  • Extra-large bags force air out of bulky linens, out-of-season coats or comforters for more efficient storage.
  • When packing for a trip, roll folded clothing in extra-large food storage bags to reduce size and minimize wrinkles. Seal personal care items in smaller freezer storage bags to avoid leaks while traveling.
  • In children's rooms, group tiny toys in sturdy zipper food storage bags. Tip: models with an external "zipper" are easier for little fingers to manage than press-and-seal bags. Store outgrown stuffed animals in extra-large bags to prevent them from gathering dust.

Storage Solution: Records Boxes

There are boxes, and there are boxes. Yes, you can get organized using supermarket castoffs or cut-down packaging from the warehouse store, but inexpensive lidded records boxes earn their keep in an organized home.

Try these tips to streamline storage solutions using records boxes:

  • Planning a whole-house declutter? Records boxes are ideal for the Four-Box or Box and Banish declutter strategies. When each Storage box is full, close the lid and stack it in a storage area. Sharpie markers make it easy to label and index stored boxes.
  • Stacked records boxes simplify storing children's hand-me-downs. storage. Label boxes by gender and size, and stack in order in an out-of-the-way storage spot. Next year, "shop" the storage area before shopping for back-to-school.
  • In adult closets, records boxes provide easy-to-tote seasonal clothing storage. Light enough to tuck on a high shelf, they hold sweaters and summer t-shirts. CEO's storage tip: label one short side "Winter Clothing", the other "Summer Clothing". When seasons change, flip the boxes to the appropriate side. Simple!
  • In the sewing and crafts room, records boxes store fabric, craft materials, yarn, and patterns.
  • Moving? Records boxes' uniform size, built-in handles, and ability to stack make them a mover's best friend. Use clear packing tape to hold lids in place. Strong enough to tote heavy items, records boxes can be recycled for household storage after the move.

Sharp Ideas: Sharpie™ Permanent Marker

There's only one power tool that I ask for by name: Sanford Corp's Sharpie™ Permanent Marker. From attic to basement, these little markers make a big dent in the drive toward an organized home.

Try these sharp ideas to get organized:

  • If it stands still, label it! Sharpie's™ clear, colorful ink works on cardboard, plastic, paper and cloth. Multiple colors let families color-code items all around the house. Use Sharpie™ to label records boxes for storage, decluttering or organization projects.
  • Smart freezer cooks
    use Sharpie™ to write preparation instructions on packaging for once-a-month cooking freezer entrees. Any family member over age 10 can prepare dinner if it's labeled "unwrap meal, place in square glass casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil and heat at 350 degrees for 60 minutes."
  • In the laundry room, Sharpie™ labels clothing to speed laundry chores. Use colored dots on clothing labels to identify family member. Can't tell one pair of jeans from another? Write the owner's name on the inside pocket lining with a dark-colored Sharpie™. Sorting nightmare solved!
  • Does your mailing center include a handful of Sharpies™? It should! Avoid the need for special mailing labels and make life easier for the postman by writing addresses directly on shipping cartons with a Sharpie™ pen.
  • In kids' rooms, use Sharpie™ and removable labels to mark shelf edges in closets, or the slender rim at the top of drawers. Draw a picture or write the word of the items that belong there to help children put away games, toys and clothing.
  • Holding a yard sale this spring? Sharpie™ and masking tape are all you need to mark prices on sale items. Write on the roll, then tear and transfer the "price tag." Use Sharpie™and bright-colored posterboard to create easy-to-spot signs directing shoppers to your sale.
  • Crafts and sewing enthusiasts know that fine-point Sharpies™ create faces for dolls, names for clothing labels, and work beautifully with freezer paper to copy or mark sewing patterns.
  • A final tip: when Sanford Corp. says "permanent", they mean it! Store Sharpie™ out of the reach of children. After the first time you try to scrub Sharpie™ "tattoos" from the hands of an active son, you'll remember.

Sink Disorganization with Dishpans

Durable dishpans, with so many uses around the house. Yes, they'll wash dishes, babies or clothing, but bring these home organizing helpers out from under the sink!

Here are more ideas for using dishpans around the house:

  • You love small kitchen appliances, but not the hassle of collecting the strayed and scattered pieces to mixers, food processors and slicers. Solution? Assign each a dishpan, and store inside kitchen cabinets. Most appliances will fit inside with room to spare for blades and beaters and attachments. Bonus: dishpan appliance storage makes it easy to keep kitchen counters clear!
  • In the kitchen, a dishpan is also the solution for storing pot lids. small plastic food containers, and cake decorating supplies.
  • In the garage, corral small power tools and attachments, hardware, plumbing parts, gardening tools or cleaning supplies in dishpans.
  • Washing the car? Next time, it'll be easier if washing solution, wax, tire treatment, plastic protectant, rags and towels live in their own dishpan. It's waterproof!
  • In the bathroom, dishpans keep Mom's curler collection in one place, ready for use on special occasions. Ditto first-aid supplies, cleaning solutions or extra personal care products.
  • Dishpans make light, sturdy flip-files for children's books, and they're container of choice for kids' launch pads--a central site to collect school papers, lunch bags, notebooks and show-and-tell items.
  • Parents can use dishpans, too, for purses, wallets, keys, library books and other morning madness items. Buy different colors for each family member.

Clear-View Drawer Towers Take The Day

There's one specialty home organizing product worthy of special mention: clear-view drawers and drawer towers.

If you can see it, you can find it with these versatile products!

Clear-view drawers can be used separately or stacked as towers.

Add casters and storage towers roll to any area where they're needed.

  • Use small clear-view drawers in the pantry to contain and display packets of seasoning and gravy mixes or powdered soft drink envelopes. Larger drawers hold floppy bags of pasta or assorted open bags of potato chips.
  • Clear-view storage towers are made for sewing, quilting, scrapbooking or crafts. From fat quarters to hanks of elastic, clear-view drawers hold it all. Stampers use large drawers to hold paper, small drawers for stamps and ink.
  • Homeschoolers, take note! "School" can be contained in a single large-drawer storage tower. Assign one drawer for each child, one for administration. Books, papers, assignments and manipulatives find happy homes in clear-view drawers. Roll the tower into a closet or storage area after school hours. Neat solution!