Unclutter Your Life: Bottle of ketchup inspires organizing solution

Expert says labels are 'magic' for staying organized

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DETROIT – Have you ever organized part of your home -- only to have it turn back into a disorganized mess in a few short days? It's happened to most of us.

Organizing expert Cas Aarssen says she's found a simple solution, and it all started with a bottle of ketchup.

"The ketchup in our fridge was pretty much a nightmare, and I was always looking for it. 'Where's the ketchup?' You know, when you have little kids they eat a lot of ketchup," Aarssen said.


Aarssen is the creator the popular "Clutterbug" podcast and YouTube channel. The mom of three says it was her condiment conundrum that inspired her love of labels.

"It became this hunt every day for the ketchup until we made a label that said 'condiments' on the side of the fridge. I kid you not, everyone put the ketchup back there from then on, and that's the magic of labels," Aarssen said.

Aarssen is serious about labels. In her house, even the box of labels is labeled.

But it works.

"Labels are a life saver. Labels will change the way your family works," said Aarssen. "As soon as you label a spot as being something's home, subconsciously, you and your husband and your kids are going to start putting things back in that spot."

Aarssen said labels are especially helpful when members of the family have different styles of organizing or if you have children.

"Without labels, I mean as soon as you put it in a bin for a child, it's out of sight out of mind," Aarssen said. "They don't know it's in there, and they definitely don't want to put their toys back in a space that feels like a void."

Tiny labels won't work. Aarssen said you should be able to read your labels from across the room and picture labels are particularly important for kids.

"You sort the toys into categories, so all of the play food together, and all of the Little People together, and then you make big picture labels for those containers," Aarssen said. "It's a subconscious thing, even for an 18-month-old child and up. They're going to know that's where the toy goes and put it back in that spot."

If it all sounds a little crazy, Aarssen says, that's OK. Just try it.

"Friends and family would come over and be like. 'Why is everything labeled? You're such a weirdo.' But you know what? All of their homes are labeled now, too," Aarssen said.

Aarssen has several organizing tools, including labels for toys and crafts, available for free on her website. Check out the items with the $0.00 price tags. You will need to “add to cart” to get the free download link.