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October 5, 2015 practical

A Place For Everything

And Everything In Its Place

Let's get organizedLet's get organized

Another common question we get when introducing the we-live-in-an-RV concept is, But where do you keep all your stuff?”

Short answer:

  1. We don’t have as much stuff to keep after downsizing.
  2. We put it where it makes sense to put it.

Long answer: there are four main concepts to stuff-management in our RV that apply to regular size apartments (and even houses!). They are:

  • Take the path of least resistance.
  • Sub-divide and conquer.
  • Be efficient.
  • Monitor usage.

Ready to stop wondering where you put your keys? Want to always be able to find exactly what you need exactly when you need it? Tired of buying new stuff only to have the old stuff magically reappear when you get home? Good - here we go.

Take the Path of Least Resistance

This concept will help you get started on better organization (after winnowing down your stuff, of course).

When introducing organization into your life, it’s easiest to take the path of least resistance. Basically, look where stuff is already accumulating, then add containers for it to go into instead.

Problem: when we first moved into our apartment, our keys, phones, miscellaneous papers, and mail would all wind up on the kitchen counter right by the door. Then other stuff would get put on top of it or it would get shoved to the side for actual kitchen usage and now when it’s time to go we’re looking everywhere for our keys.

Solution: put two baskets on the counter - one for Christian’s stuff, one for mine.

Better solution: put an organizer on the wall with a basket for mail (to sort)/wallets and hooks for keys. This solution is better because it uses wall space instead of counter space.

Another problem: our laundry hamper was originally in the closet (in the bathroom), and yet there was always a pile of dirty clothes on the floor right outside the closet not two feet away.

Solution: move the laundry hamper out to where the pile of clothes was. Now clothes get sorted right away (it was a two-compartment hamper) instead of being dumped on the floor then picked up and sorted later.

In our RV, we put this principle into practice by having knobs/baskets by the door for pocket stuff. I waited to hang these and other organizers up until we had already been living in the space, following the path of least resistance to find the best place for stuff-containers:

Knobs from Hobby LobbyKnobs from Hobby Lobby

Plastic 'baskets' from IKEA (part of a set)Plastic 'baskets' from IKEA (part of a set)

We also have a shelf on the wall by the office area for pens, along with a utility cart from IKEA for office and crafting supplies.

Utility cart from IKEAUtility cart from IKEA

Sub-Divide and Conquer

The secret to this concept is containers. You can go fancy with cubes and nice plastic bins with lids:

Shelving unit and bins from Walmart; PVC to extend legs from Home DepotShelving unit and bins from Walmart; PVC to extend legs from Home Depot

Accumulated organizers from various places, mostly snappable/stackableAccumulated organizers from various places, mostly snappable/stackable

or you can go cheaper with bins from a dollar store or IKEA:

Bins from a dollar store + labelsBins from a dollar store + labels

Bins from IKEABins from IKEA

or you can be a college student and use the cardboard box that your discount frozen burritos came in.

(There’s no picture for this, that way I can pretend it never happened).

Basically, if you have more than two of something, get a container for it. Batteries? Put each size in a sandwich-size plastic bag, then put all the sandwich-size baggies in a gallon-size baggie. Pens? Use an old Solo cup (not used though, that’s just gross). Forks and spoons? Keep them in an rinsed-out de-labeled jam jar on the counter and suddenly your decor is rustic.”

Another way to take this concept up a level is to label your containers. I have a label-maker that can do frames, different font styles, multi-line, etc. etc. - but you could even use a piece of Scotch tape and a Sharpie. Label makers aren’t too expensive - you can get one for $16 and start labeling things this weekend! I never realized how much I needed a label maker until I had one - now it’s one of the items I would take with me if I was stranded on a deserted island.

Labeled bins for easy findingLabeled bins for easy finding

Be Efficient

Use your space and time efficiently. Efficient use of space for us includes:

  • Keep winter clothes in the tow car when the weather’s warm (and vice versa)
  • Look for available space, both vertical and horizontal, including inside of existing cabinets
    • But be careful about mounting in an RV! Our cabinets are sometimes covered with just paneling on the sides, which is not a good place to hang a coat rack. We looked for actual wood or the metal studs in the walls for hanging heavy things.

Paper towel holder from Walmart (like this one) and napkin holder from IKEA (part of the set from earlier)Paper towel holder from Walmart (like this one) and napkin holder from IKEA (part of the set from earlier)

Knife rack from Amazon - we've had it for 3+ years in every dorm room/apartment and love itKnife rack from Amazon - we've had it for 3+ years in every dorm room/apartment and love it

Rimforsa wall organizer from IKEARimforsa wall organizer from IKEA

Spice racks from Amazon (2 packs of 2 each, 3 in the cabinet and one by the office); plastic containers from WalmartSpice racks from Amazon (2 packs of 2 each, 3 in the cabinet and one by the office); plastic containers from Walmart

Coat rack hooked over the ledge for the bedCoat rack hooked over the ledge for the bed

Locker wire shelf over water pump next to trash can; Command hooks inside cabinet door + hooks from IKEA included with bathroom sinkLocker wire shelf over water pump next to trash can; Command hooks inside cabinet door + hooks from IKEA included with bathroom sink

Plastic bin for socks + space-saving multi-hangers from Amazon - we had to bend the hanger part a little to fit over our closet rodPlastic bin for socks + space-saving multi-hangers from Amazon - we had to bend the hanger part a little to fit over our closet rod

  • stack stuff

Efficient use of time means organizing based on frequency of use, and also putting stuff by where you use it. For example:

  • Pots, pans, dishes, cooking utensils, and food are in the kitchen area
    • Less-frequently-used dry goods are further down and back
  • Books are by the sofa/bed
  • Extra blankets are tucked into the space around the bed
  • Craft supplies and electronics are by the office’
    • Current back-burner projects are further away from the cabinet door
  • Outdoors stuff is in the outdoor storage compartment
    • So are the back-up maintenance supplies, like screws, paint, and caulk.

This may seem like common sense, but sometimes it is harder to do in the RV. Since there isn’t really closet space in the bedroom,’ we’ve got some of our clothes in the closet, some in cabinets over the couch, and some in the shower.

Monitor Usage

As much as I wish otherwise, good organizational habits are not a one-and-done type deal. Just like we monitor our electricity, water, and gas usage, we monitor how often we use the items we bring with us. This means being comfortable with questioning your past decisions! It’s difficult for me to admit I’m wrong, so I sometimes want to insist that I’m going to wear all eighteen pairs of shoes when I’ll actually only use two.

For example, of the four different types of nut butters we brought along, we have only used one of them.

Why did we have four flavors of nut butters in the first place?Why did we have four flavors of nut butters in the first place?

Also, I brought along the single serve blender cups (five of them) that were so useful for breakfast when I was teaching every day, and have not used them once. When we make our next pit stop back in the Dallas area, we’ll probably switch to just two blender cups (not five) in case we want to make personalized smoothies (non-dairy and dairy is usually the case), or maybe just use the full-size and make multiple batches.

Reclaiming cabinet spaceReclaiming cabinet space

Review

Okay, so now you’ve

  • downsized,
  • figured out where stuff accumulates (taken the path of least resistance),
  • set up containers for stuff to go into (sub-divided and conquered),
  • made use of every available surface and put frequently used stuff where it’s easier to get it (been efficient),
  • and figured out what you don’t actually use (monitored usage).

Guess what the next step is?

Do it all again! That stuff that you don’t actually use can now be put back through the downsizing-decision process, and you can repeat the whole cycle! YAY!

These are the basic concepts that I’ve been using (though in a less codified manner) for most of my life. I really actually love organizing things (even if I don’t love keeping them organized), so if you have questions please feel free to let me know. Can’t figure out where to put stuff in your apartment? Not sure where to get good containers? Leave a comment or email me at [my first name]@gen.co.

Happy organizing! :)

-Elisa


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