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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published April 10 2014

Ms. Simplicity: Back to organizing basics by cleaning out the bathroom cabinet

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the big picture and I forget about the tiny steps that compose and make up the big picture. Exhibit 1, your honor, my bathroom cabinet.

I had things overflowing and it was a mess. I had to move things to grab other things. I ended up tipping things over, and it was out of control. I just kept looking at it, and I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I just kept on with my day-to-day activities.

Finally, I had enough of knocking stuff over. It was a Sunday night and I wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided to tackle it. Here are the steps:

1. Pull everything out and wipe out the area.

2. Sort the items into trash, donate and keep. I had a full garbage can of old and expired items as well as things ready to be donated that I know I will never use again. I looked at nail polish and asked myself, I get my nails done at a salon, so am I ever going to paint my nails again? Nope. Out went the polish.

3. Get others involved. I called my husband up to sort through his stuff. He realized that he hates wearing contacts and hasn’t worn them in two years. Out they went. He was now able to get all of his items back in his bin, and he no longer had items that were getting knocked over.

4. Categorize the items. I started putting like items together. I take a lot of baths and I have lots of bath products, but until I put them all together I didn’t realize how many I had.

5. Containerize the groupings. It isn’t until you go through the sorting and purging process that you should even think about putting things in containers. I personally always use clear containers when things are out of sight. I don’t need beautiful decorative boxes if it is going to be in a closet. I need clear bins with straight edges (no wasted space) and with a handle to grab in an instant.

6. Label. Even if you think it is obvious, label anyway. It never hurts, and it makes people think that you are super organized. Even if you have a category called “junk,” label it and it will make you feel better and impress your friends and family.

I had a client where we had a label called “misc.” and her son didn’t understand the abbreviation. So make sure that when you label, everyone knows what you mean.

So what I want you to do is to stop beating yourself up about the project that just seems so overwhelming. Just start, and you may possibly be surprised that it won’t take you as long as you thought it would. My bathroom project took me 15 minutes.

The reason it took me only 15 minutes is that I was ready to take action, and I had all the tools I needed with me. It’s time to get back to basics and remember that starting is the hardest step.


Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with Ms. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.