One tool I used was a suggestion I've seen multiple places, but championed by the FlyLady. I found a dual pop-up laundry sorter I had purchased a long time ago but had never used. I labeled one side "Put Away" (i.e. things that don't belong in that room and need to be put in their rightful place) and labeled one "Giveaway/Sell". I had the large kitchen trash can for "Throw Away". I also made myself a little organizer tool box that includes things like labeling supplies. I have to say these little guys are my best friends: Post-it® Super Sticky Removable Label Pads. They are everywhere in my house. They last a long time unless heavily abused (e.g. Emily's art cart), but are easily removed and replaced. Unfortunately, they only come in bright green and pink. And I've only seen them at Target and Amazon (not Wal-mart).
But I digress. Here is a before and after of one of the worst drawers in the kitchen--the mid-sized, moderately used gadget drawer.
The utensil drawer also got a fresh sorting and mild purging, although most items stayed in the same place.
The cabinet that needed the most attention was the corner cabinet containing sprinkles, frosting supplies and plastic dishes. I don't have a "before" picture, but it was getting bad. As in, it wasn't unusual to have a container of sprinkles drop on your head if you reached for anything up high and the sippy cups were getting harder to cram inside when everything was clean. I pared the plastic things down to what we actually use on a regular basis--including travel mugs and koozies. I then used plastic containers I already had in the house to corral the sprinkles, baking cups, frosting/cake supplies, etc. as well as the vitamins/gum/medicine. I did purchase two new containers from the dollar bins at Target for the plastic lids and bowls. Pictured is the end result (notice the lovely neon labels).
You may also notice all the spices/cooking supplies on turntables. Turntables are great for awkward corner cabinets! One of the daily challenges from the Declutter Calendar last week was to purge outdated spices, etc. I did this and actually wasn't surprised by the amount of stuff lurking in the cabinets that was past its prime. The collection is pictured below. The worst offense was an unopened bottle of peanut oil that I believe I received as part of a wedding shower gift with an expiration date of 2003! Sadly, that means I moved it to two different houses AFTER it had expired. Yikes! Many of the cooking wines/vinegars dated back to my experimental cooking days before kids and expired 3-5 years ago. Everything else is now back in place (and still alphabetized--but I bet that doesn't surprise you!).
I also took the time to really tidy up my pantry closet. I am very lucky to have a dedicated closet with built-in shelves. I still don't feel like the space is completely maximized, but it works well for now. Here's a top to bottom view with commentary:
These shelves are way high up, so I use plastic crates to hold paper products (plates, napkins, cups, silverware, etc.). I can walk the crates off with my fingertips without having to get out a stool and the labels tell me what's inside each crate so I don't have to get both down everytime trying to guess which one has the napkins (it took me over a year to figure that one out).
These shelves hold baking chips (specialty kinds are sorted into labeled Glad-ware containers), box mixes, pasta, and canned goods. The green bag is for collecting Terracycle items. Some kids in Waverly led by a mom I know run the program at the recycling center. They collect specific plastic bags like chips, cheese, cereal liners, etc. and each bag gets $.02 for the WSR school district. It's amazing how fast you can accumulate these things!
The bottom shelves hold larger bottles and boxed items, including cereal. The plastic tub holds extra baking supplies (flour, sugars, etc.). The trash can is for collecting recycling items that are sorted in the garage when it gets full (usually twice/week). It sits on top of the ample supply of Diet Coke. :o)
I did finally add stackable bins for potatoes/onions and other large items instead of just leaving them all on the floor.
It feels really good to systematically go through things that I know should be done, but I would otherwise have a hard time finding the motivation to do. I would love to have you join me if you haven't already!
P.S. I submitted two entries to the Home Organization "Hall of Fame" and both got published! You can see the kitchen countertop one here and the spice organization here.