3 Reasons You Should Label Everything at Home

published Apr 28, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Many of us are fresh on the heels of a beginning-of-the-year flurry of purging and organizing. We’re just entering that space where we’ve come down off the high of opening a door to see a freshly folded linen closet or meticulously arranged pantry shelves.

It’s the moment of truth, where the systems we put so much thought (and probably a little money) into are either going to deteriorate and in a few months have us right back where we started, or maintain our things staunchly in their newfound places. Labeling, the icing on the sweet cake of shipshape storage, can make the difference between the two.

Labeling isn’t just for looks or fun. Marking what something is or where certain items should be housed can be pivotal in whether your home devolves into messes that have to be routinely overhauled or stays mostly neat indefinitely.

Here’s why labeling is key to a well-maintained organizational system:

1. It tells others in the household where things go (and where to find them)

This is what happens in our house: I shop for a big Costco load of groceries and my husband and kids help haul everything in. While I’m getting a snack for the two-year-old or helping with an urgent homework problem, my husband starts putting things away. I am grateful for his help and definitely not complaining, but the fact of the matter is that many times things get put away in the empty spots in the pantry because “there wasn’t any room in the right spot” or because my husband simply didn’t know there is a specific place for diced tomatoes, and it’s not the same shelf where the pumpkin puree goes.

Since I’m the pantry organizer at our house, labeling the shelves would bridge that disconnect between me knowing where things are supposed to go and others in the household being super helpful and inadvertently messing up the system. In addition, when anyone goes to look for something in the pantry, particularly if it’s in a basket, they know just where to find it.

The kind of direction labeling provides isn’t just for other members of the household and it isn’t just for the pantry. Wherever you’ve put an organizational system into place, labels give everyone—including you!—that extra nudge to put each thing back in its designated spot.

2. Labeling eliminates visual noise

Even if your space is orderly and all clutter is contained in bins, if those containers aren’t labeled, you don’t know where exactly anything is or what exactly is in those bins. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, wondering is stressful, and labeling answers the question before it’s even asked. If your bins are opaque and you can’t see inside, the necessity of labeling is obvious. But even if your bins are clear or somewhat see-through and you can see the contents, labeling removes the compulsion to inspect what’s inside even without opening the container. The label tells you, at a calming distance, what’s behind it so you can go straight to where you need to retrieve something or put something away without wading through a bunch of unknowns.

3. Labeling ensures that everything has a home

When labeling is part of your organizational system, it’s much harder to fudge as you’re putting stuff away. For instance, if you’re organizing your bathroom items under the sink and sort items first and then label bins for them to go in, you’re giving everything a particular home rather than perhaps haphazardly putting like with like and tossing in that item that sort of goes because there’s still room left in the bin.

When you take a few extra minutes to label after you’ve organized, you’re helping everyone in the house maintain the system you’ve created, you’re drastically reducing visual noise and the mental energy you’d expend trying to find things or to put them away in the right place, and you’re making sure that there actually is a place where every thing belongs.