I have been given an enormous freedom: the freedom to dry my dishes with a drying towel and put them away immediately. I know, this sounds a bit strange. For years now, I have had a drying rack. Our family would unload the dishwasher onto it and we would allow the dishes to dry for hours — usually overnight. Then, we would come back to a mess that would still need to be put away. Often the dish cycle was not complete before I needed to unload the dishwasher again, and I had not yet put the dishes away from the previous dish cycle. This was an ongoing source of frustration and agitation in our family. The kicker of this problem is that I didn’t even recognize that it was a problem. Through all of my best efforts of ‘5S‘ing the house, I somehow missed what should have been an obvious “Please 5S this Clutter Catcher” area. It was a constant irritant, and yet, I had no idea that it was such a problem area. I had even less of an idea of what to do about it. Then one day, we happened upon the “Fly Lady.” In about a day, this woman changed my life and my sink. One of her first lessons is shining your sink. (Click here to visit the lesson.) After reading this, it became apparent that the drying rack was doing nothing but creating an extra step. I can just dry the dishes with a drying towel as I am putting them away. I don’t want to sound dense, but the idea had not really occurred to me. Truly, I have the freedom to just dry the dishes and put them away as I unload the dishwasher. And while I am at it, I dry the sink with my towel when I am done to help shine the sink for the next time I use it. This has the added benefit of keeping the number of dishes used to a minimum. To make it more of a habit, we run the dishwasher now every night whether it is completely full or not. This way we established the habit of unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes away in the morning to get the day off to a good cleaning start. Our family is six members strong at this point, so running the dishwasher every night may or may not work for you. Both my wife and I have been doing this for about a month now. I will never go back. My drying rack was offered to the garbage man this morning as a sign of my commitment. Honestly, there was no love lost on this one.
So, it was time to tackle the fridge. It had finally got to the point that it was really bugging me. (That is generally what’s required to get me moving on any cleaning project!) When I started, I was really stumped on how I could fix the problem. It is a problem that we all encounter with lots of different spaces, not just the fridge. How do I fix it and not just move the pile of (insert favorite word here) from one location to another? So, I deconstructed it.
I unloaded the fridge in its entirety, and I made some presuppositions:
- The organization that I was about to do may not be optimized for every situation, but any forward progress was a learning experience on how to do it better for next time.
- The organization that I perform at this moment will have to be revisited on a recurring basis.
Now, I have a friend that once said to me that he had a fifteen minute rule. i.e., any mess that takes longer than 15 minutes to clean up is too big, and must be cleaned up right then and there. (Thanks, Walter!) And while I do not know if this is a rule that he has been able to adhere to, I like it, and would like to find myself following it. That being said, it took me about 3.5 hours to clean this up. Which might give a clue as to just how bad it was needing it.
So, did I learn anything? Yes:
- My LG fridge has adjustable shelves, but like most people, I do not take the time to evaluate the best position of those shelves. This is mainly because food comes in containers that are various sizes, and it can be hard to predict which sizes one might stock over the course of the food cycle.
- Small adjustments to the placement of the shelves can have a huge impact. I came to realize (after much thought about the shapes and sizes that I was trying to place into my fridge) that improper placement of shelves can act as a nucleation site for compounded clutter. In my case, I have had a few extra “tall” items that I have been trying to place in the fridge, but because I did not have the correct shelf placement, I only had one area that I could place tall things. –This was my clutter nucleation site. All of the small things had to yield to the placement of this one container size.
My current solution: I adjusted the shelf on the right by moving it 2 inches higher. This now divides the space on the right into two equally spaced areas. With the added benefit of a half-shelf, the upper space on the right can be broken down into smaller spaces, currently used to shelter the eggs (see picture). So far, this small change has made a big difference in the form and function of the fridge. I will reevaluate after a couple of months to see if further changes are necessary.
Keep in mind that this may not work for you. It really depends on the type of containers that you are storing in your fridge; however, I’ll bet with a little bit of thought, your fridge can be better optimized, too!