In January and February, participants in our community support groups enjoyed a presentation on getting organized, just in time for them to take advantage of New Year’s resolutions and upcoming spring cleaning projects.
While organization is important for everyone, it is particularly critical for folks with low or no vision. The ability to find things quickly and easily is a big part of being able to be more independent.
Step One : Declutter
The hardest part of getting organized is often the process of letting go of things that we no longer need or use. Going through cupboards, drawers, closets, basements, and other high clutter areas can be daunting, and so we recommended that folks break their decluttering projects down into small, manageable tasks that can be completed over time, as opposed to trying to do everything all at once.
When going through this process view each item critically and evaluate whether it’s something you still need, still wear, or if it still works. Sort things into piles of “to keep,” “to donate,” and “to throw away or recycle.” If there are items that you are not sure about, put them aside and go back to them in a few days when you can look at them with a fresh outlook.
Decluttering is an important first step because the less you have, the less you have to organize.
Step Two: Create a System
There is no one system that will work for everyone. Your personality, vision status, size of your living space, and the habits of the people you live with will all play a role in finding what will work for you.
Whatever system you come up with though, it has to be simple, convenient, easy to remember, and intuitive. The more complicated the system is, the less likely it is that you will stick with it.
Be sure to keep items that you use all the time, or clothes that you wear frequently, up front and in places that are within easy reach.
Most importantly, once the system is in place, everyone involved in the function of your home has to know what it is and agree to follow it.
Once you have a system, everyone needs to consistently follow it. Always putting things back where they belong.
Step Three: Identify and Label
Once we have our overall system in place it is important to identify and label items in an accessible format so that we can quickly and easily find them when we need them.
In the kitchen there are lots of items like soups, spices, cake mixes, canned vegetables, and boxes of cereal that are all the same size and shape with very similar labels. You can easily differentiate them by creating handwritten or computer generated large print labels, by putting an abbreviation on them using puff paint, or by using other tactile markers.
In the bathroom, separate items that come in similar packaging but are very different, like toothpaste and foot cream that come in similar shaped and sized containers. Put the toothpaste, which you use daily, near the sink and keep the foot cream in the closet. Maybe even put a bump dot or elastic band around the toothpaste as a tactile reminder of what it is.
Label boxes and other containers with the name of their contents so that you can quickly and easily identify what is in them.
Step Four: Take Advantage of Simple Tools
When it comes to sorting and organizing items, use boxes, baskets, trays, and other containers to keep like items together.
For instance, sorting pairs of earrings in ice cube trays or egg cartons is a great way to avoid having to dig through the jewelry box to find matching items.
There are several free and low cost smart device apps, like Seeing AI, which have bar code readers that you can use to identify items. Simply scan the barcode and the app will tell you what’s in the container (then be sure to label it for easy identification later).
Using puff paint, safety pins, identi buttons, or other tactile markers you can color code your clothing so that you can tell the difference between navy blue and black, for instance.
Sock locks, or even safety pins, are an inexpensive way to keep pairs of socks together during the laundry process and make it easier to match them up later.
Here are some handouts that were provided to the workshop participants: