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Ms. Simplicity: Organizing is the spice of life

Nothing gets me more excited than organizing! I love walking into a client's home and seeing the chaos and knowing that I am trusted to make it all better. I see it as a puzzle that was dumped on the floor. I start by sorting the edges, then grouping like items together. I start moving pieces around and soon I have a complete puzzle.

Yes, it is easy for me. Yes, it isn't my stuff, so I am not emotionally attached to it. But what I know is that the basic underlying organizing principals remain the same - you just need to implement them. So my hope is that you start to implement the organizing principals with something easy and not emotional, like your spices.

I am a girl who loves to cook and bake, therefore I have lots of spices. Most of my clients have the same problem - too many spices jammed in a space. They don't know what they have, so each time they go to cook or bake something they buy the same spice over and over again.

They keep what they use over and over again in the front of the cabinet and everything else gets pushed to the back, never to see the light of day again. So where do you start? Start by pulling everything out. This step is crucial. You need to see what you have.

If you just pull a few things out at a time you never are going to get done. So clear some counter space and grab a stool in order to reach the top of the shelves. Look at expiration dates. Spices are not at their optimum forever.

Sort into similar categories. I like to keep my spice blends together and my individual spices together. To me it makes sense to categorize the spices. If I have a group of spices I just use for grilling, those get their own section. If I use a set of spices just for baking, same thing, they get their own area. Oversized items, all go together as well.

Now alphabetize. I know this sounds kind of crazy. But once you alphabetize you will never go back. You will see what duplicates you have. You will start to see a pattern of spices that you buy over and over again.

Once you take a spice out, you will know exactly where it should be returned to. And this is a bonus - all the members of your family will know where the spices go back to as well.

Some things I have found that are essential when working with spices: 1. Be ready to adjust your shelves. Too often there is wasted horizontal space. You will want to take advantage of all the space possible. If your shelves are not adjustable, find ways to better use the space.

2. Purchase Lazy Susans. I really wish I had invented these, as I use them daily in my organizing projects. They take everything in your cabinet and bring it front and center with a simple spin. Gone are things lost in the back of cabinets.

3. Don't be afraid to reduce your supply of spices. If you don't think you're ever going to use turmeric again, get it out of your cabinet and have it find a new loving home. Same thing with cream of tartar. People buy it to make sugar cookies once and then they hold onto it forever. Time to ditch it.

I, for one, am ready to gather my grilling seasonings and use them all up this summer. I am tired of cooking on my stove, and I am grateful for warm weather. So get organizing, and gather your grilling seasonings as well.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with Ms. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at