I’ve been writing about organizing areas in the home for several weeks now, and I know some of you have just joined us.  I wrote an article to kick us off about how I think through organizing, and as I sat down to write today, I realized I needed a quick refresher so I could write about how I organized our cleaning supplies.  It’s been done for so long, I kind of forget how it happened!

As a matter of fact, I pull out this list of questions when I set out to organize anything:

  1. What do I need to do in this area and what tools do I need to accomplish it?
  2. Where do I need things to be placed so I can reach them quickly? What is sitting here that is just in the way?
  3. Where will I put things when they are not in use?
  4. Who do I need to tell/inform/educate on how/where to put things away?
  5. How can I keep it the way I want it? When will I replenish consumable items?
  6. What do I do with things I need sometimes, but not very often?

So, when I start to think about cleaning supplies, to answer the first question, I have to define my “area.”

I clean lots of areas.  I also need to consider factors like:

  • storing dangerous chemicals out of reach of children (for their protection)
  • storing cleaning supplies where kids can help (if you want some ideas on how they can help, read this article)
  • which chemicals I need
  • what about chemicals which are useful in multiple locations

First things first: where/what do I need to clean?

  • bathrooms
  • kitchen counters, cabinets, and appliances
  • dishes
  • ceiling fixtures
  • that little corner where the ceiling meets the wall
  • picture frames
  • tops of furniture
  • items on top of furniture
  • floors – we have a combination of tile, laminate, linoleum, and carpet – all of which require different tools
  • windows, mirrors, glass doors
  • towels
  • clothes
  • bed linens
  • cars
  • walkways
  • and this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Of course some of these things we need to clean more frequently than others.  Maybe someday I’ll write more on how to clean, but today I just want to focus on where to keep what I need to get the job done.

For our purposes, I decided to sort cleaning by type and to store frequently used items together.  We are short on storage space and big on helpers, so I am trying to manage having enough tools for everyone to participate with one small shelf, high (but not too high for my teens/tweens to reach) in the hall closet.

Cleaning-Up Cleaning Supplies

I bought four small cleaning buckets and filled them with supplies for:

Dusting

We have a feather duster for each person.  I found a great deal on feather dusters at an industrial cleaning company.  I bought one high quality one with a long wood handle and long feathers.  A teen or adult usually uses this one.  I also bought less expensive, shorter, retractable ones for each of the kids.  There’s something cool about having a light-saber-style feather duster.  🙂

Bathroom cleaners

In the bin in the closet I keep:

  • an old toothbrush
  • sponges which are retired from kitchen use
  • multi-purpose, disinfecting cleaner (we like Dow Scrubbing Bubbles)

In each bathroom we keep:

  • a container of Homemade Cleaning Wipes
  • a roll of paper towels
  • a pitcher with an inch or two of soapy water and a toilet brush.  (You can read about our daily bathroom routine, if you’d like to know more.)
  • and I store a small roll of trash bags in the bottom of each trash can, under the bag in use, of course.

Window cleaners

  • multiple bottles of windex
  • multiple mostly-used-rolls of paper towels (so they are small enough in diameter to fit in the bucket)

Specialty cleaners

  • lemon oil for caring for our wood tables
  • covers for the dust mop
  • spray for the wood laminate floors

We also use the walls of the closet

  • a clear acrylic wall pocket hangs up high for vacuum cleaner bags and spare belts
  • hooks high on the wall to hang a broom and dust mop
  • a small hook hung low on the wall for a whisk broom and dust pan
  • the vacuum cleaner and a hard-floor vacuum stand in the front of this closet

There are some things we use primarily, and regularly, in the kitchen.  I have a high shelf in an upper cabinet where I keep:

  • Dish soap
  • Lysol
  • Goo Gone
  • Drain Cleaner
  • Efferdent (yes, denture cleaner.  It’s great for removing stains and odors from carafes, vases, coffee pots/cups, etc.)
  • The big container of hand soap for refills
  • Homemade Cleaning Wipes
  • I keep light bulbs specific to our kitchen in this cabinet as well
  • dishwasher detergent tablets hang in a small bucket on the wall near the dishwasher
  • trash bags go under the sink, since little people can take out the trash 🙂

If you think about my 5S questions, you can see I have everything within quick reach of where I use it, but don’t clutter my near-storage space with refills or infrequently used items.  I still need to have a place to store refill containers & infrequently used supplies, though.

Since I don’t need these on a regular basis, I store these in a cabinet in our laundry room (I’ll talk about laundry room organization in a future post).

  • I keep an entire shelf of pre-cut paper towel rolls for making Homemade Cleaning Wipes.  On this shelf I also keep bottles of rubbing alcohol, a bottle of vinegar, and a plastic measuring cup.
  • Our hand-held vacuum with a bin of attachments and hoses lives on the bottom shelf of another cabinet (easy to reach for little helpers)
  • a small basket on another low shelf holds kitchen and hand towels which need washing
  • the same shelf has room for spray starch, the refill box of dryer sheets, a refill bottle of windex, and a bottle of ammonia
  • on the next shelf we keep extra laundry soap, unopened bottles of bathroom cleaner, and a basket of infrequently required chemicals – lysol, pinesol, a refill for our laminate floor cleaner spray bottles, extra rubber gloves, powered cleanser, surface cleaners, etc.
  • the highest shelf holds unopened refill bottles for hand soap, a large bin of baking soda for cleaning purposes, refills for the dishwasher tablets, extra boxes of dust cloths, refills for oxy clean, spot cleaners, etc.
  • the very top of the cabinet, accessible when it is closed, hold spare light bulbs in the variety of forms we require for everything from under cabinet lights, to lamps, chandeliers, fans, floor lamps, and outdoor flood lights.  {The only lightbulbs which don’t live here are the kitchen lights, since it’s inconvenient enough to change those without having to go to the basement to find them.  Plus, the kitchen is the ONLY place we use that style of bulb.}

When something is empty in our regular-use items, we have one place to look for refills/replacements.  When we take the last item from the cabinets in the laundry room, it goes on the appropriate shopping list.  When I am planning a trip to Sam’s Club, I have one place to look to check stock on our bulk items.  If the refills are empty or nearing empty, even if no one told me they emptied the dishwasher tablets (and left the empty box sitting innocently on the shelf.  Of course, that never happens… lol), I will see it and get it on the list.

So this is what is working for us, right now.  If I didn’t have smaller kids, I’d probably keep bathroom cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink in each bathroom.  When our kids are older, I might reallocate their dusters to bedroom closets to have them handy.

As it is, our chemicals are within reach of people who should use them and out of reach for those who shouldn’t.  We can team-tackle a room by taking all the buckets to a room together  or divide and conquer with each person grabbing the tools they need to get a cleaning task done.  With our space and our floor plan and our kids, the one-shelf-upstairs-refills-stored-downstairs plan works to keep our cleaning supplies clean.  🙂

What works for you?  I’m always looking for new ways to do things!