Monday, November 09, 2009

Stump the Organizer Saturday! Organize Spice and Mix Packets

No, my calendar didn’t break. Unfortunately, I had a bit of the flu this weekend and really could not do anything beyond an “autopilot” mentality. Thank goodness for vitamin C.

This week’s question comes from Dianne who poses “How can I organize spice and mix packets? I use a lot of Homemade Gourmet because my sister sells it. I have other mixes too. It drives me crazy when I can’t find what I want or I forget what I have. I tried a basket but it took to long to find things – if I could. I found a wire basket at Walmart (I think) but it is too small and I would need to get a lot of them to screw onto the cabinet door.“ Dianne added later that she has soup, appetizer, seasoning, dinner, and desert packets. She wasn’t sure how many she has for each category. Of all the categories, the seasoning packets are the smallest.

The first step is to sort the mixes into categories. Dianne named the categories so these are perfect to use for sorting. Another possible way to sort might be sweet versus savory. The latter might work for a smaller collection.

While you are sorting, toss out anything that is expired or you have decided you do not like.

Look at the physical size of each sorted category. Will a shoebox accommodate the collection or is something smaller better? The Container Store has different sizes of shoeboxes. I love using translucent containers for the visibility of the contents. Use a separate container for each category and toss the lids. If using a shoebox without its lid makes you really nervous, then sit the bottom of the box on the lid. A little double-sided tape will attach the lid to the bottom of the box. Label the narrow end of the box with the name of the category, and set the mixes in each box as though they were index cards. Alphabetizing the mixes will provide very fast access to a specific mix. Alphabetize by the general name of the thing rather than the exact name. For example, file the potato soup mix as “potato soup” rather than “Auntie Helen’s Creamy Potato Soup” because you will think “potato soup” rather than the exact name when you want it.

Cut out some poster board or cardboard to create dividers for each box. The width of the divider should be the same as the box. The height of the divider should be a little taller than the packets. Use a card for a range of the alphabet - A through E, for instance – to reduce the number of cards you need to make. Crafty folks will enjoy decorating the cards. It may be constructive to appoint a specific color to each set of cards – red for seasonings, for example.

I hope these ideas help you bring order to your mix collection. Dianne has nominated the Alzheimer’s Society for the end of year charity drawing.
Please send your questions for Stump the Organizer Saturday to Include the name of your favorite charity for our December 30th drawing for a donation. The winner of the drawing will be posted on the blog on December 31.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Stump the Organizer Saturday! Organize a Busy Desk

Thanks Rachel for your question for SOS. Rachel has entered the American Cancer Society for the charity drawing at the end of the year. Here’s how she described her situation: “Right now, I am working from a desk in our loft. But it is also used as our computer desk, filing area, etc...basically it's a HUGE mess.” She added that she’s pretty organized everywhere else in her life. Also the desk has no drawers or any other storage because her last desk had too much storage and that led to problems. The picture is of the desk area.
The key in this situation is to think beyond the desk, and create an office with different processing centers. Luckily, the basics for setting up an organized office area are already present. My first suggestion is to set up a chase perpendicular to the right side of the desk so that the chase fills in the corner and is the same height as the desk. This will give you an L-shaped surface area.
The chase will hold the printer so it can be moved off the floor. I’d put the printer at the end away from the desk. Move the vertical sorter to the left of the printer. The vertical sorter is my favorite tool for creating an action file. Each slot holds papers that need a specific action such as “to pay,” “to read,” “to write/email,” “to research”, or whatever suits your needs. However, I have found that “follow-up” is an essential category. “Follow-up” holds items that you need to revisit soon to make sure that someone else has completed their action. Align the vertical sorter so that the empty slots are facing you. Now you can label each slot with its specific action. The labels are absolutely necessary in keeping your action items organized. Now you can easily view and access papers that need action. When the needed action is completed for an item, just file it in the file cabinet. If there is room, place a tray to the left of the vertical sorter to act as an in basket.
Under the chase you will have room for the plastic drawer unit, a shredder, and a can for recyclables. There may even be room for the file cabinet at the end of the chase. Moving the file cabinet under the chase will create a paper processing area with left-to-right flow for paperwork. Good flow is efficient and has a comfortable feel.
The chase can be as simple as a finished board – like a bookshelf board - resting on the plastic drawer unit and file cabinet, or the board can be mounted to the wall with bookshelf brackets. The length and width of the chase depends on the dimensions of the area. From the photo it looks like a two-foot by four-foot board will fit the space nicely.
While you are picking up a board for the chase, pick up a narrow board that is the same length as your desk and two glass bricks. Use the bricks and board to make a shelf that will sit on the desktop against the wall. The shelf will hold the boom box, box of tissues, cup of pencils, and other necessary supplies that you need while you are at your desk. Raising these items off the desk maximizes the amount of space left for work. The glass brick allows light to reach the area under the shelf.
There are just two additional suggestions. Illuminate the area with wall-mounted lamps. Task lighting really helps make an area more comfortable. Label each drawer in the plastic drawer unit with the category of the items within it. Labels tell you not only what belongs where, but also what doesn’t belong.
The suggested changes are pretty easy to make but provide needed space for existing processes and defines what each space is. I would love to know how these suggestions work for you.
If you have a question to submit to Stump the Organizer Saturday! please email me at Please include your favorite charity for the drawing to receive a $10 donation at the end of the year.