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Home Rule

The Grouping Theory Will Let You Organize With Boxes, Baskets and Labels

June 18, 1987|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

Make it easy to put things away. If it can be done in one motion, the item is more likely to be put where it belongs. Use the grouping theory by designing a place for similar items. Baskets and boxes are wonderful for defining boundaries.

Use labels to show where things go. In all sorts of business operations, managers use tags to show customers and workers where things belong to encourage proper re-shelving. They do it in hospitals and libraries. It's a good idea to use them at home, too.

Hundreds of Places

Boxes can be used in hundreds of places to make better use of shelves and drawers and to define boundaries. You can sculpture them to exactly fit your needs and then reinforce them with strong tape. Covering them with wallpaper or contact paper is not only pleasing to the eye but also seems to give them more durability and keeps insects from hiding between the layers of paper. Below are eight ways to make clever use of boxes:

--Shoe boxes make excellent drawer dividers for socks, underwear and pajamas, giving each type of clothing a specific territory. They are good for separating toys to keep them from becoming junk in the toy box. To prevent spilling, make an elastic band by sewing a strip of elastic together, and snap it around the box to hold the lid on. The post office has large rubber bands, as do office supply stores. Labeling or illustrating the end of the box allows easy identification. The contents can be seen through clear plastic shoe boxes, but they break quite easily.

--Tiny boxes and egg cartons or ice-cube trays make individual dividers for jewelry.

--Cold-cereal boxes make terrific organizers for magazines. You can also purchase cardboard or plastic magazine holders in office supply departments.

--Stand tall, narrow boxes on their sides in a cupboard to make a place for baking sheets or trays.

--Vegetable and fruit boxes can serve as files or drawers on a shelf in any workroom. They are also great for storage and moving; be sure to label them. Make sure items are clean and dry, to avoid mildew, mold and moths.

--Large, heavy boxes such as those that refrigerators or washing machines come in can be transformed into temporary closets by inserting a broom handle or pipe through the sides. Support the area under the rod holes with extra pieces of wood or cardboard. Position the rod at least four inches from the top of the box and 14 inches from the back to allow space for the hanger. Cardboard closet boxes can also be purchased from a moving company.

--Use a 12x8-inch box (large enough to hold a baby book) for each child to keep his or her mementos and special pictures and certificates until they can be mounted. Put them on shelves high enough to be out of reach of little hands.

--Manufacturers are meeting needs for sturdy boxes of all sorts by producing them in decorator colors. You can buy flat, skinny boxes to store things under the bed and still keep them dust free. There are cubbyhole units (with nine squares) for shoes and accessories in the closet or for papers in the kitchen or office. A bonus feature is that they are collapsible for easy moving or storage.

Endless Possibilities

Plastic dishpans, mesh baskets of all sizes, and kitty-litter trays (clean, of course) have the same endless possibilities as do boxes. They are durable, easy to move and clean, and can help you organize almost any room. Whether they are under the bed or on a playroom shelf, small things can be put away effortlessly.

In the bathroom they can organize makeup, curlers or bathtub toys. When a craft or sewing project is interrupted, take a minute to gather the supplies into a plastic dishpan, so everything will be together when it's time to start again.

At times it is to your advantage to use the mesh-style baskets so you can see the contents. Stackable baskets or vegetable bins could contain several projects in the work room, or could be used for sweaters in a closet. You learn what helps and what doesn't from trial and error.

One of the best investments I made was to buy four plastic trays (15x3x2 inches) to fit in my silverware drawer. Now three sets of flatware will fit in the drawer at once. Another family uses one-quart plastic buckets in which to stand knives, forks and spoons, as is done in a cafeteria.

Poles can be useful for things other than plants and lights. Poles can be used to hang towels in the bathroom, children's toys in the playroom, coats by the door, or, with the right hooks, shoes in the bedroom. One mother used the pole idea for stuffed animals. She secured a hook in the ceiling, hung a chain, and attached dolls and animals with "s" hooks.

Drawstring bags can be used in many ways. When on vacation, put the sweaters and coats in a bag to save hunting for them every time you get out of the car. Large bags are standard equipment for those who wash at a public laundry.

Use the sturdy mesh bags that oranges are sold in to subdivide children's toys, and hang the bags from a pegboard.

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