Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – Point of Use Storage

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

I believe strongly in storing things where you use them. I think that failure to store things where they are used leads to clutter, and it’s certainly less convenient. While your first thought may be “Of course I store things where I use them,” I bet you will be able to find examples in your house where this isn’t true, especially after we walk through my morning.

Let’s think of how you begin your day. You get up, probably make your bed, use the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, and everything you need for those tasks is probably close at hand. Then you head to the kitchen. Are the coffee cups stored by the coffee or tea maker? Is the sweetener or creamer in easy reach? Mine are. The coffee pot is next to the refrigerator, and the coffee and little containers of sweetener are kept in the cabinet above, next to the tea bags and coffee. The mugs are in the cabinet right next door. All these frequently used items are on the lowest shelves, so I don’t have to stand on tip-toe to access them every morning.

The next thing I do is make breakfast and, simultaneously, pack my daughters’ lunches. My daughters take some medications and vitamins with their breakfast, which I store in a drawer that I frequently access during this procedure. Like a lot of parents, I am better at remembering my children’s needs than my own, so I moved my medication from my bathroom to the same drawer. Now I remember it every day.

The Medicine Drawer

I keep everything I need for lunches, which either three or four people take every day, in one drawer: lunch boxes, small storage containers, and sandwich containers are stored together. (Same drawer as the medications and vitamins.) Larger plastic containers are stored in a separate drawer. Although it might seem logical to keep all the containers together, I use the larger sizes only for leftovers after meals. I use the little ones only for lunches. They aren’t used at the same time and don’t need to be stored together. To keep the drawer from getting out of control, all the small containers are confined in a box. I also try to only have matching containers. Almost all the tops match almost all the bottoms. Over time, I’ve gotten a couple different sorts, but I don’t really like that. It’s easier if I can reach right in and grab any lid, knowing it will match the bottom.

Handy drawer for many uses

Because Clara has diabetes, a lot of her food needs to be weighed and measured. I keep all the measuring cups and spoons in the same drawer along with her scale, the list of food codes for the scale, and the carbohydrate book for anything the scale doesn’t cover. I can use the scale without even taking it out of the drawer. How handy is that? Initially, I stored it by the stove, but that wasn’t where it was used, so I ended up dragging it around the kitchen and often not putting it back. Instant clutter. What else is in this drawer? A pizza cutter and ice cream scoop. You might be thinking that I’ve lost my mind. Don’t they belong in the drawer with the wooden spoons, spatulas, and other similar tools under the cooktop? Nope. We frequently have ice cream for dessert. I can stand at this drawer, pivot 180 degrees, and grab the ice cream from the freezer. The ice cream bowls are close by too. (We use little bitty bowls for our ice cream. A serving, which is 47 grams (1/2 cup), looks like plenty in a little bowl, but it looks oh-so sad and lonely in a big cereal bowl.) It makes sense to keep the scooper right by the ice cream and the bowls. The same with the pizza cutter. We have pizza once a week – Sunday night is pizza and movie night. The pizza comes out of the oven and lands right here to be cut, so why not keep the cutter here too?

Most mornings, Clara tests her blood sugar for the first time at the kitchen island. Her extra supplies are in a cabinet just a few steps from the island, not in the bathroom. When she tests, she can check her supplies. Anything that need replenishing is just behind her.

Then it’s time to go. We grab our lunches and head toward the door. Backpacks, jackets, and instruments are stored on a bench by the front door. I keep a schedule for each girl on the wall by the bench, so we can quickly check and make sure that instruments or tennis shoes for PE (physical education) classes leave with the girls. Nothing that goes to school is stored in their rooms. That way it doesn’t get scattered about, and no one has to run back to her room. We grab them and head out.

My friend Holly’s daughters check and brush their hair before leaving the house. Rather than going back to the bathroom, or dragging hair brushes and hair ties with them from the bathroom to the front door, Holly keeps a basket of hair things by a mirror by the front door. Having the hair things at their point of use makes leaving the house easier, and it prevents clutter. Another friend lives in a unique three story house on a sharp cliff. Rather than having kids climbing back down three flights of stairs, one set of children’s toothbrushes are kept  small upstairs bathroom by the kitchen (top floor). They have another set downstairs in their bathroom closest to their bedrooms (lowest floor).

Anything that is kept where it is used prevents you from scurrying around to find it and lessens the risk that it will be left out of place, abandoned where ever you used it. Sometimes this means that you may have duplicate items. A hairbrush by the front door and one in the bathroom may make perfect sense, and that’s okay. As you go through your days this week, I encourage you to think about your routines. Notice when you backtrack to get something or observe that certain items always seem to be left out. These are probably the items that need a new home, by their point of use.

Today’s Declutter Item

It has taken me a while to decide to let this cabinet go. It is a great piece of furniture but the truth is I don’t use it any more. I don’t sew often enough to warrant the amount of space it takes up. I sold it on eBay on the weekend for $200. It made another young lady very happy and I am sure she is going to get a lot more use out of than I have of late.

Horn Sewing Cabinet

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Yesterday I got to have afternoon tea with a friend I mine that I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with. It was unexpected but very pleasant. My son enjoyed talking photography with her too.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Thank you Cindy. You always give me food for thought. Even though my home situation is nothing like yours, I have gotten a lot out of your posts, and today’s especially. Have a good day!

  2. Oh, to whine, if only briefly. The concept of things near point of use makes so much sense. So why do kitchen designers put all the drawers in one spot? Which is nowhere near the dining table and where I store my dishes so the silverware is in a different area? And no, I can’t reach my cups unless I put something else I use everyday out of reach. Somehow in my current kitchen I seem to need a stepstool once or twice a day. It’s not a small kitchen and I have weeded and weeded and truly believe I use most everything in it. But somehow the point of use and grouping like things seems elusive in the spaces it offers. Sigh, just keep trying. Incrementally better all the time. Thanks for letting me whine. I’m sure there are others out there who think there kitchens were committed rather than designed.

    • I freely admit that my kitchen is nearly perfectly designed, but that’s not the only thing that makes point-of-use storage work. Being aware of storage problems as they arise and seeking to correct those problems will help you. I only recently moved the lunch boxes into the same drawer as the small storage containers. Everyday, I would unload the lunch boxes to wash the containers and leave the boxes on the counter above the dishwasher. This was tolerable during the week, but I started leaving them out over the weekend too, despite the fact that they had a perfectly good, although not perfectly convenient, home. It wasn’t until I identified “lunch boxes left on counter” as a problem that I was able to find a solution.

      That said, I think I would go insane if I had to use a step stool several times a day like you are!

      • I had the step stool problem, too – I am not very tall, so I can only reach the lowest shelf without a step stool. However, I found a solution in that way that I – like Cindy – don’t group alike things together. We’re two persons living here and we don’t have a dishwasher, so obviously for the most part we only need two dinner plates, two coffee mugs, two bowls, … you get the picture. So I put all the excess tableware (that we need for guests) on the upper shelves. On the lower shelf is only the amount of things we need every day – and therefore there is now enough room for the tea pot and the salad bowl as well – things that have been stored on the upper shelves before, even though I need them considerably more often than the ‘plates for guests’. (On a side note, I kept 4 instead of 2 coffee mugs on the lowest shelf, because most weeks I’ll have a friend over for a cup of coffee at least once or twice; however guests for dinner come not so often and when they do, I can use the step stool or ask my considerably taller boyfriend to get some plates out)

  3. Wow Cindy, I REALLY like this post. I do struggle with the whole ‘why is there a pizza slicer there?’ visually lack of sense, but once i get over that!!!!

    Much to my mum’s chargrin, when she wanted to toss all the stuff back into the new kitchen, i pointed out some ideas (mugs in shallow pull out draw under pantry, kettle in pantry, tea near kettle) Glasses near the sink/not too far from fridge – there is that pantry in the way though!!

    I will think about adding scales to where cup/spoon measures are – that makes sense. Let’s hope it doesn’t make world war!!

  4. Absolutely! I also have organized my kitchen so that everything is handy. I can unload my dishwasher in a couple of minutes with a minimum of movements. The best: everything is accessible so the kids can do it too. 🙂 Nothing is out of their reach so they can fully participate in all kitchen fun activities like cooking but also preparing/cleaning up their school lunch/lunchboxes. 🙂 I am lucky to have a big kitchen and only need a few shelves and drawers to store our stuff, especially since I eliminated all plastic.

    I have a hard time with duplicating items though. I feel that it is a waste of resources, even though it could be a time saver. I’d rather re-organize my routine so I won’t need them. For instance, my daughter does her hair before brushing her teeth, so no need to worry about her hair when we are about to leave.

    • We can also unload our dishwasher in just a couple of minutes. The dishwasher in our last house was position much less conveniently, and there were a lot of back and forth trips to get it all unloaded. My girls’ things, too, used to be on low shelves where they could serve themselves. (No need for that any more.)

      As for duplicates, most of the things I mentioned are items that many people would already have in duplicate – hair ties, hair brushes, or toothbrushes. I understand not wanting to buy say two bathroom scales, but some of the smaller items are worth it to me. (Especially since, as I said, we had most of them in duplicate already.)

  5. I forgot: your idea of using the scale right in the drawer is brilliant! 🙂

  6. Hi Cindy,
    you know that I love point of use storage from this post back in February. I find that the easier things are to access and put away the more likely the house will be kept tidy. And as you say, I tweak as I go changing where I keep things if I find it is even slightly inconvenient. I change the way I do things sometimes too if I think there is a more effective method. It is kind of a case of continuous trial and error but my home just becomes more and more efficient over time. Thinking outside the box is a handy skill to have when it comes to fine tuning your home as well. Just because something is normal behaviour or system doesn’t mean you can’t change it to suit yourself.

    • Thank you Cindy, so very true – over the last few months, things in the kitchen (especially in the pantry cupboard) have moved several times, and I think I have it nearly right. But thank you also Colleen by referring us back to your February post – I have recently (almost) emptied a similar plastic filing cabinet, which will be perfect for the as yet unsolved potatoes, onions, and cleaning cloths and cleaning agents (I mostly use microcloths but e.g. silver cleaners and oven cleaners can have their own drawers). Probably a perfect answer to an unsolved mess!

      • Hi Ann,
        outside the box is where I like to be. Just because something was designed for a certain purpose doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and use it for something else. Those plastic drawers have worked out so well for me.

  7. As usual, this is great advice! I’ve always been one to categorize items, so I love putting like with like or use with use. However, with other people in the house, our systems don’t exactly mesh, so I often have to explain to The Hubs why I put an item somewhere different than he wants to put it.

    • i have the same problem meg….sometimes my husband and I are not on the same team as to where things belong…..and they dont always put things away around here….some things dont go exactly as planned but Im staying assertive lol…..Im the CEO of the kitchen at least….must start somewhere:)

      • I rule the kitchen, as well, so I may have to explain why something moved locations, but it stays there. I have to say, disagreements with family members about where the proper location is has not been a problem for me.

  8. Great article, Cindy, to show how to make the advice fit your own situation and do some creative thinking to get the best set-up!

    I’ve often read that pots/pans should be stored next to the stove – but I nearly always add water to whatever I’m cooking in that pot. So my pots are next to the sink. Frypans, on the other hand, can be next to the stove. It really makes a difference in my house, because I have a large kitchen, and there’s a lot of walking between those two places. It also makes it easier to put those pots away after they are washed.

    • Wow Jo – you’re so right!!

      • Oh, that’s SO SMART. In my case, I have drawers under the cooktop. My stove is a separate unit. The skillets (fry pans) are stored in two drawers on the left side (smaller ones in top, large ones below), and the pots are stored in two drawers on the right side (small and medium in top, large in the bottom). You might think I have too many, since they’re stored in four drawers, but I have the space in my kitchen, and this way none of the pans is nested, which makes grabbing the one I want just a little bit more convenient. Also, I can store the lids on the pots, which is nice.

  9. Cindy, this is a good post. Store where you use is a great principle. How many people do you know who have an actual closet or storage area by the door they use the most to go outside? I have been thinking back to all of the homes and appartments I have lived in and so many of them didn’t. It was always by the front door. Unfortunately, we always used the door into the garage or the back door because it was closest to the car. I have noticed that there are some new homes that are beginning to show the signs of more thinking and planning going into them with regards to things like this. I’m wondering if it is because more women are getting involved in the designing of homes? The one big problem we have with our present home is that there is no place to put anything by the back door that opens onto the carport. It opens into a hall like area that is just big enough to open the door all the way back. So it’s the width of the door plus a few inches. I’m still working on figuring out a way to add some shallow storage there even if it’s just hooks.

    • If it’s your home, you could make a cut out in the wall and put storage between the studs. If it’s not your home, this probably won’t work. If you google “storage between the studs” You’ll find a number of images.

  10. 1. In my single-ness (pre-40) I was freakisly religious about putting stuff where it belonged. Then came the fam (after 40) and then NOT having stuff put back in the correct location after use would drive me wild with madness. NOW (a month shy of 50) I attempt to (happily) remind the individual/fam of where things SHOULD go (and I totally do this without being a ‘nagigator’). NOW I just let it go that if something is at least in a drawer in the correct room, I’m happy (and I just SILENTLY and with a smile on my face put it in the correct location). Sometimes I find that where an item was put is a better location than where I THOUGHT it should go. All a huge learning curve for me (either it is maturity, older age (well, not that old) or just down right chilled out with life that this kinda stuff doesn’t rub me like it used to, see, even old dogs CAN learn new tricks!!!!).

    2. We’ve truly decluttered and downsized our possessions, so with less to have to figure out where it should go, it does get easier to be returned to the ‘correct’ spot (or close enough to…). ALSO, I must point out, if something is not put back into its appropriate place, I ask myself (and individual/fam) if the ‘item’ really even needs to be in the house at all (what is this really used for? or is this a duplicate and do we really need two of these?)!!! So sometimes from this we end up decluttering EVEN MORE!

  11. Great article! Especially since we have my 92 year old mom living with us. I have always tried to keep the things she needs in the same spot as she is blind in one eye….she knows exactly where her coffee mug in the cabinet is, I have the orange juice right in the front of the refrigerator, things like that. Your article however did resonate with me because the cabinet I keep spices, sugar, etc. in was jammed and while I could find everything she could not and always needs to ask me. Yesterday I decided to remove everything out of it and I really took your advice. I put everything in order and threw away quite a bit of things that were hiding in the back. Mom went into the cabinet and she was so impressed and proud that she could find something all on her own without things falling all over. I also threw away coffee mugs and bowls while I was in the kitchen When she moved in we joined her things with mine but it is just TOO much. I felt badly to discard of her things but I now do it little by little. I have learned everything in life doesnt always go as planned. I needed to find a home for her and her things in our five room apartment. I rid myself of the guilty conscience of not keeping everything of hers because in my heart I know I did the right thing by Mom. Having things in its place and being organized is what matters……I .love your posts….I even wiped the front of the cabinets while I was in the kitchen yesterday. WooHoo!!!!!…..Thank you:)

    • Donna Ray – Good job all the way around. I love having the fronts of the cabinets clean. I did that just last week. I was complaining that they were dirty, and instead of just complaining, I grabbed a cloth and started in on them. I was amazed at how quickly work progressed. I’m glad I did it, as I know you are too.

  12. This is something I’ve been learning and trying to implement. I do find it cuts down on clutter drastically.

    • Hi Lynn,
      me either but here is an example of the situation. The child dresses for school in the morning, comes home change into ballet gear has lesson, comes home again changes into play clothes, later has shower and changes into PJ’s. All of these clothes regardless of duration of use and soiling go into the wash. This system requires an extensive wardrobe plus a lot of washing.

  13. I’ve just recently started reading your blog, but this post inspired me more than anything else I’ve read yet. I’ve already rearranged my tupperware and meds, moved a desk sort of thing near the door for putting things on, and with the telling, my son came up with the idea of putting the silverware drawer out of the way and putting the measuring utensils and whatnot under the biggest workspace in the kitchen.

    We already love all of them.

    I will never think about space the same way. Thank you!

    • Hi Joelle,
      welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for making yourself known to us. We always enjoy getting feedback from our readers and Cindy will be happy to see this comment. For more ideas about storage ideas read this post.