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My love-hate relationship with labeling

by respaced on October 16, 2009

I will admit I own a labeling machine, but I will also admit I was extremely reluctant to use it at first. I had lots of good reasons to hate labels: they make refined spaces look tacky, they are insulting to the homeowner (as if they are too absentminded to be reminded what’s in every nook and cranny), and they give a perfectionistic, control-freak vibe to spaces.

But then I started working with clients who had children. Sometimes many children. And despite the homeowner’s and my best efforts, without labels, we could not get the other members of the house to consistently put things back in the right box, on the right shelf, in the right drawer. This was mostly because while our placement of items seemed logical to us, based on how the homeowner retrieved the item, we couldn’t guarantee that the location we chose for each item was equally logical to every household member. Or that the family members were even paying attention to where they retrieved a certain item.

So, labeling drawers, cupboards, shelves and boxes used by multiple family members became an easy, inexpensive and very effective solution. It solved the perpetual question of, “does this item go in this drawer/shelf/cupboard?” making it a decisive yes-or-no question. And rather than looking like a control-freak was demanding perfection in the home, I came to see parents who label as people who use a simple method to make clean-up time run smoothly and argument-free.

Do I think it still looks tacky? Only when the labels are on the outside of furniture and built-ins. I find that putting labels on the inside of shelves in cupboards and the inside of drawers is just as effective as labeling the outside. And when we’re talking about strictly utilitarian storage spaces, such as pantries and closets, I say the more labels, the more consistently organized that space will be. This is because those spaces are often used the most frequently, thus at risk for becoming the messiest the fastest.

So if you are living with many people under one roof and wondering why the spaces you organize never stay organized for long, you are probably a good candidate for labeling.

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