Household Organization

By Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT

Use the Principles of Work Simplification

Try to develop efficient organization and storage systems by following these principles of work simplification and energy conservation:

  • Store items that you use frequently, such as pots, pans, and utensils, close to your work area or work surface.
  • If possible, place your supplies and equipment between eye level and hip height to avoid unnecessary bending, reaching, and lifting.
  • Store heavier items on your countertops or within easy reach.
a woman cooking with adaptations

Cooking efficiently with adapted equipment.
Note the frequently used items nearby on the counter top.

  • Return all equipment and supplies to their appropriate storage areas when you finish cooking.
  • Whenever possible, avoid lifting or carrying heavy objects. Instead, try using equipment with wheels, such as shopping, laundry, or microwave carts to transport heavy items.
  • Push or slide heavy objects along your counters or floors.
  • Allow yourself sufficient time to perform cooking tasks in order to reduce stress and fatigue. Try to balance work with rest.
  • You can find more suggestions for home safety and adaptations at Home Modification on the VisionAware website.

Eliminate Clutter

  • Concentrate on reorganizing clutter-prone areas, including medicine cabinets and closets; kitchen cupboards and surfaces; kitchen and bedroom drawers; workshop and hobby areas; and desks and bookcases.
  • Remove items and appliances from your work area that you use infrequently.
  • Dispose of older and unwanted clothing and accessories.
  • Separate seasonal clothing and dispose of never—or rarely—used household or personal items.

Organizing Your Medications

Before you implement a medication labeling system, try using any of the following organizational systems:

  • Whenever possible, keep medication in the original bottle or container.
  • Organize your medications in alphabetical order.
  • Separate your medications by location: keep breakfast pills in the kitchen and evening pills on the bedroom nightstand.
  • The size and shape of a pill can help with identification. Practice feeling different pills until you can recognize and differentiate them.
medication label on a prescription container
  • The size and shape of some containers may be enough of a clue to help you recognize them. Some over-the-counter medications—certain brands of cough syrups and topical creams, for example—are recognizable by their unique shape, size, or texture.
  • If there are no children in your home, ask your pharmacist for a conventional pill bottle instead of the child-proof variety.
  • Ask your pharmacist to place your medications in a blister package to help keep them organized.
  • Separate medications you use infrequently from those you take every day.
  • Place each medication on a separate shelf in the medicine cabinet. (This method is not advisable for people experiencing memory problems.)
  • Use a dark-colored tray when organizing medications. The contrast with the medication containers will help with identifying them. Also, a tray's raised edge can prevent dropped pills from rolling onto the floor.
  • Maintain a large print, braille, or audio listing of your current medications and dosages. Include all vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Keep all medications away from excessive sunlight, heat, and humidity, such as in the bathroom or on a windowsill in your kitchen.
  • Dispose of old or outdated medications promptly.
  • See Managing Your Medication for more information about labeling techniques, including products and devices to help identify your medications.

Organizing and Identifying Kitchen Items

There are many different methods for organizing and identifying items in your kitchen:

  • By weight: A container of breadcrumbs and a container of powdered drink mix have the same size and shape, but are easily differentiated by weight.
  • By location or placement: Try any of the following methods: grouping similar items together, such as fruits, soups, or vegetables; placing frequently-used items toward the front of shelves and cabinets; storing foods or supplies in alphabetical order.
  • By sound: Use auditory cues to differentiate items that have the same size, shape, and weight. For example, a can of fruit cocktail sounds very different from a can of tomato paste when shaken.
  • By size and shape: A can of tomato paste differs in size and shape from a can of stewed tomatoes.
  • You can also label household and kitchen items by using regular household materials or specialty labeling products.
labeled cans

A variety of household products labeled with
everyday materials, such as wide-tip markers,
rubber bands, and index cards

If you need additional information about organizing and labeling a variety of household items, including clothing and personal items, see Labeling and Marking, Organizing and Labeling Clothing, and Organizing and Modifying Your Home.

Organizing Mail, Bills, and Documents

Try some of these organizational hints for mail, catalogs, bills, and documents:

  • Identify a trusted friend or family member to help you read and sort your mail.
  • Commit to reading, sorting, and filing all new papers once a week or at a regularly-set time.
  • Designate a specific drawer in the kitchen or a basket on the counter to hold your mail.
  • Create a designated location for pieces of mail that are most likely bills and letters.
  • To sort your mail, use file folders in different colors or sizes, giant/medium sized manila envelopes, or in/out stacking trays.
file folders with large print tabs

Use colored file folders with large print tabs.

  • Larger catalogs and magazines are usually easy to distinguish from regular-sized envelopes.
  • Advertisements often come in odd-sized envelopes, but if you are in doubt, place these in the same location as your bills and letters and ask your reader to sort through them with you.
  • The choice of system is yours, but try to be consistent when setting up and using whatever mail organization system you select.
  • Invest in a simple paper shredder. Shred all "throw-away" documents, especially those that include your name, address, Social Security number, or financial information.
  • Shred and purge documents, bills, and papers that are more than seven years old.
  • Consider keeping one-of-a-kind documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies, in a locked fire-safe box.
  • Give duplicates of important documents to a family member or use a safety deposit box at your bank.

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