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Drawer Organization 101

As Published At Organize My Drawer
Drawer Organization 101

The most successful drawer organizing projects start with a little planning — take a minute to think through each of these issues before you set up your various divider trays, and you’ll be a a hell of a lot happier with the end result. (I promise!)

Start With The End In Mind

You need to know what you want from each individual storage area before you begin reorganizing it. Is your goal to fit more stuff in an existing space? Spread your belongings out so they’re not so cramped? Be able to see everything you own? Reduce lost-item-driven stress? Make it easier for housemates to help out? Increase your work staff’s productivity? Or some combination of the above? Whatever your motivations, make sure each storage decision puts you at least one step closer to that objective.

Know What You Have

Gather everything that needs to live in that particular drawer BEFORE getting started — nothing derails a well-intentioned organizing effort like setting up the perfect system, then discovering a dozen random doohickeys that got left out! The easiest and most comprehensive way of accomplishing this is to empty your drawers, sort their contents into categories, do a sweep through your other storage spaces for anything else that belongs in those piles – then work on your layout for each.

Pick Categories That Make Sense For You

There are as many ways to organize as there are people on the planet. The best systems are customized to suit your specific lifestyle, personality quirks, and storage needs. So categorize in any way makes sense to your brain — not my brain, not your mother’s brain, not that-organizing-book-author’s brain. If you want to keep eating utensils together, great. If it makes sense to put kid stuff in one drawer and adult stuff in another, awesome. If you prefer lumping every red item you own together, knock yourself out.

Separate Active From Inactive

“Active” storage areas are those can be easily reached without bending or stretching (anything between knee and shoulder height — especially countertops, cabinets, and drawers). The only things that should occupy these spaces are (of course) your “active” belongings — those that you use and get at all the time. Seasonal/special occasion items (ones you pull out once or twice a year), memorabilia/mementos, and all that “someday” stuff (that I want you to clean out) needs to go in another less accessible location.

A Place For Everything

Create a set home for every single possession — no halfway spots or any of this “I’ll just put it here for now” nonsense allowed! The good news is, this reduces your chances of forgetting what you own or where you stored it. (No more buying a new pair of scissors every few months because you’ve misplaced the previous pair!) But it also makes cleaning up easier, because you don’t have to waste time figuring out where everything goes — you know where it belongs, you just need to put it there.

The “Why” Behind The “Where”

The trick to creating a lasting organizational system that you’ll actually use on a daily basis is matching the “where” with the “why” — in other words, have a good reason for assigning an item to a certain location. That means keeping things nearest the point where they’re used. It also means taking into account who requires access to that storage space. (So, for example, you don’t want your kids struggling with a drawer they can’t reach or that’s too hard for their little hands to open.)

Leave Some Room For Growth

I know you just cleaned out, and I can tell that you’re determined to keep things mean and lean from this point forward. But I don’t care how minimalist you become — you’re still going to bring new stuff home with you from time to time. (You do NOT want to find yourself at full capacity when you finish organizing, then discover that you’re overflowing after your next trip to the mall!) Leave 15% of your storage space free for new acquisitions, and you won’t run into a problem later on.

Do A Trial Run

Before you buy an organizer, you need to make sure all the stuff you want to store in ye olde drawer will actually FIT in that space. You also want to determine what configuration makes the most sense. The good news is, it ain’t hard — just cut a piece of paper the size of your drawer, lay it in the bottom of the drawer, and then place your stuff in piles on top of the paper. Once you get everything the way you want it, use a sharpie and a ruler to draw divider — then double check your measurements.

Create Clutter-Free Zones

Once you’ve decluttered an area, we want to keep it that way — but this takes some maintenance. “Clutter creep” occurs when you stick things in spaces where they don’t belong “just for now.” (Always with the best intentions of relocating them to their permanent homes later on — which NEVER happens!) From this point forward, do NOT allow stuff that doesn’t belong to accumulate in a finished storage space. You can pile crap anywhere ELSE that you like, just not in our nice-clean-tidy finished areas.

The Annual Purge

As your life evolves, your organizational systems need to keep pace. It’s not a bad idea to occasionally re-visit each storage space, asking how things are working and what could be improved. (I recommend once a year, as well as at any point when you undergo a major life shift — like a move or change in family make-up.) You might need to do some cleaning out, a little rearranging, a tiny tad of tweaking. Or you may end up completely revamping — it all depends on how much your storage needs have changed.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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