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Get your priorities straight.
When you're organizing, the difference between front row center and the nosebleed section is critical to discern.
We know that at every concert or event there are the great seats and less good seats. Orchestra Center vs Rear Balcony. First Class vs Coach. And so on. Like it or not, for most everything in life there is the primo spot and the non-primo spot.
The same holds even when you’re organizing your home. It’ll behoove you to notice where the primo spots are — which are the drawers and shelves that are super easy to reach, a breeze to open, easy to see? And which are a pain to deal with?
You want to align your most important and frequently used items with the primo spots, and the low priority items with the pain-in-the-butt spots. High priority items are generally things you need quick and frequent access to. They aren’t your family heirlooms; they’re the tools you use to get through each day.
Let me illustrate.
This is the most frequently used drawer in our kitchen—maybe even the whole house. Some would call it a junk drawer, but I consider it a tool drawer. We open this drawer 30+ times a day.
The items in it are high priority, so the drawer is in a prominent, easy to access spot. My husband has selected this drawer as the home of his infrequently used wallet. (Nowhere else will work — it must be this drawer. In marriage we all make compromises.)
Because only one person uses it, and infrequently at that, his wallet is considered low priority (it’s my newsletter so I make the rules). It has a little wallet spot in the back of the drawer (lower priority spot) so it doesn’t block access to any other items. We’ve agreed we both can live with this.
We had to create this wallet area because otherwise it’d end up on top of the higher priority items. Having to move a low priority item in order to reach high priority items is blasphemy of the highest order, and somehow makes me blind with rage (yes, I should get out more).
Bottom line: when you’re organizing I urge you to notice and restore order if you see low priority items in high priority spots.
One more thing that should be high priority: subscribing for free to receive new posts
It’s helpful to look at your space with fresh eyes — just because you’re used to an item being in a certain spot doesn’t mean that’s the best spot for it. Areas where you will want to especially focus on this prioritization framework:
In your closet, put the items you grab every single day (underwear and socks probably) in the easiest to reach drawer. The jeans that have become a uniform? High priority. The heavy wool sweater you break out twice a season? Low priority. It should go in the harder to reach spot.
In your workspace, put things you use all the time on top of the desk or in easy reach. Files of old tax papers? Put those somewhere not at your fingertips (unless you’re being audited, but then you have bigger problems).
In the kitchen, a true workhorse room, do not worry about “rules” of kitchen organization. Put the frequently used items—whatever they may be—in the easy to reach areas. Do what makes sense for YOU.
Same goes for storage spaces. I’ve been doing a lot of this in my newly finished basement. The full reveal is coming soon, but I’m leaning hard into this prioritization concept as I figure out where things go in the new storage closets.
Basement before, with all our crap piled in the middle of the one room that wasn’t touched by the remodel:
Nice new closet for storage, post-remodel:
The plan is to put things we use rarely in the back of this deep closet. That is a low-priority area. Suitcases, camping gear, and outdoor stuff go there.
Then in the middle are hand-me-down kids clothes, lesser used kid stuff, and holiday decorations.
In the front area is for mementos for myself and each of my kids, which I contribute to pretty regularly and want to make that as easy as possible to access. I also have overflow holiday decorations I’m sticking here till I have the energy to move things around again.
As a reminder, we have to be really careful with storage space — it quickly becomes a black hole of unknown things. Here are some principles to guide how we think about what to store:
Side note: You’ll notice the IVAR shelving system from IKEA figures heavily in my storage situation. I freaking love this system — it’s affordable, made of solid wood, and is endlessly adaptable and reconfigurable. I’ve used it in the past 2 places I’ve lived and it just keeps working perfectly. The shelves move up and down, and everything snaps together so you can change the width of the unit easily.
My only tip if you get this system: I try to stay away from all the cute accessories like drawers, wine racks, etc that perfectly snap into the shelves, as tempting as they are, since that’s how you end up with overly specific “solutions” that end up not being adaptable as your needs change.
I’m curious if anyone else uses the high-priority/low-priority framework in their homes? Where are your primo spots?
Quick admin note for longer time readers: I realize I’ve gone from weekly posts to biweekly to who-the-hell-knows lately. It has been A TIME over at my house. The teachers at my son’s school district have been on strike for the third week now with no end in sight, and at the same time, our regular childcare providers for our toddler have been down for the count with Covid. Oh and yesterday I woke up with a cold! Cool cool cool.
I’m trying to learn about giving myself a break, and cutting down on my unpaid side hustle seemed like a good place to start. Who can even keep up with a new organizing idea every week?? But I miss working on this, and I miss you all. I’m committing to at least 2 posts a month from here on out, and more once we get out of cold & flu season. I have so many ideas in the queue, and including a basement reveal and a big announcement..! I appreciate you for sticking with me.