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Before & After: Under the Kitchen Sink

Funny how sometimes everything looks neat and organized on the surface, but once you start to open cabinets and drawers you see a very different story.

This is what can happen when you have limited space under the sink. In the kitchen of this 700 sq. ft. rental apartment, the wastebasket is attached to the bottom of the cabinet. It's handy that it glides out effortlessly. It's not so handy that it takes up almost half of the storage space under the sink.

Aesthetics aside, this isn't a space where everything one might need is easily accessible. Everything used frequently is in plain sight, but few items can be used without something else being moved first.

And this is what happens when you use a few guiding principles to curate and create order.

1.) BE SELECTIVE when you are tight on space. The baking soda was stored under the sink because it is often used as a natural cleanser for the sink. But since it is also useful for scrubbing pots and baking dishes, we transferred the baking soda into a sugar shaker and it now has a home next to the faucet and the dishwashing liquid.

2.) DECANT to create a simpler color scheme and a sense that everything belongs together.

Glass spray bottles hold counter spray and vinegar cleaner. Because we've used two different designs, it's easy to see which is which. (I highly recommend using bottles from Sally's Organics.) Dishwasher pods at now at home in a simple plastic bin with a hinged lid; they stay try and actually easier to access with one hand.

3.) DIVIDE AND CONQUER open spaces. Create zones even in small spaces. In the back of this cabinet are cans of paint and unused accessories for the sink and appliances; these items are accessed rarely, if at all, so they create their own "permanent storage" section. (It might seem strange that we didn't store the paint next to the tools and paint brushes, but these are kept in the small walk-in closet as the laundry machines. Any items that might be sensitive to heat generated by the dryer, like paint, need to be stored elsewhere.) We used repurposed Curver bins from the pantry. You can find similar ones at Bed Bath and Beyond and The Container Store.

We lined the bottom of these bins with parchment paper to keep them clean and prevent rust transferring from the bottom of the paint cans.

Storing the bottles in a row delineates another zone of sorts. Technically, everything else -- garbage bags, sponges, and dishwasher pods could have been laid flat on the base of the cabinet.

Think about how easily things can get lost and jumbled in a large tote bag without pockets or on the floor of a closet with no shelving or bins.

Dividing the remaining space with these hinged containers from iDesign creates a clear home (no pun intended) for each item. The hinged lid creates a dispenser for the trash bags, which makes stacking these bins much more practical. (In general, I'm not a big fan of stacking and nesting; it's better if you can reach in and grab what you want without having to move something else.)

4.) ELEVATE. Raising items off the floor or the base of a closet or cabinet allows you to use more of your space and also make cleaning easier. In the case of this rarely used packet of garbage bags, the package holds it shape better when hanging from a command hook and takes up less space as a result.

5.) LEAVE ROOM TO GROW, just in case. Everything looks neater when there is a little extra space between items on a shelf or in a cabinet. But it's also more practical to allow for additional items or stocking up. Keep in mind, you might not have everything in place at the time of your organizing. For example, this cabinet often stores a refill bas of liquid dish soap, so we've left room for that and then some.

Last notes --

While I rarely advocate for purchasing plastic containers for organizing, it's the wisest material choice for under a sink, where leaks and water damage can happen. Choose the sturdiest, most neutral, most stylish bins you can afford so you can use them for a longer period of time.

You may have noticed there are no labels in this space. I often find this unnecessary when using clear storage. It's only helpful when a few items look a lot alike (different types of flour or cereal, for example) or when multiple containers might be empty at the same time. If a client really wanted the clear bins labeled in situation like this, I would affix them to the back or side, so the writing wouldn't add visual clutter.

Happy organizing!


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