I Tried the “SIMPLE Method” and Decluttered My Kitchen Cabinet in 30 Minutes

published May 4, 2024
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Disorganized under sink.
Credit: Taylor Maple

Many people have a spot that can become a black hole for clutter that’s intimidating to even touch — whether that’s an overflowing bedroom closet, a garage filled to the brim, or, in my case, a cabinet under the kitchen sink. These tasks need to be tackled at some point, and it’s often difficult to settle on where exactly to start. Enter: the SIMPLE method. 

What Is the SIMPLE Method?

The SIMPLE method was coined by Kathy Jenkins, certified professional organizer and owner of Come to Order. It stands for what she argues is the most effective order of events when it comes to organizing.

S: Sort like with like.
I: Identify what to keep.
M: Make a home for it.
P: Put it in containers.
L: Label it.
E: Establish a routine.

Jenkins says she came up with this motto while working with clients and realizing that some of them would need help maintaining it after they no longer solicited her services. “Professional organizing is a luxury service,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that when I walked out the door, they felt empowered to be able to continue on.”

How I Tried the SIMPLE Method to Declutter

I put it to the test myself with my horrifying aforementioned kitchen cabinet. I must say that I’m thrilled with not only the results, but also the ease with which I achieved them. I steeled myself as I always do when approaching chores I’ve been dreading, but it turns out the dread was unwarranted. 

Credit: Taylor Maple

Sort Like with Like

I began to tackle the first step: sorting. I quickly transformed an unidentifiable heap of stuff into clear categories: dish care, floor, and surface cleaning products; outdoor items like plant food and bug spray; dog grooming tools; miscellaneous kitchen things like food prep gloves and a pot holder; and even a few medical odds and ends like hydrocortisone cream and unopened cold medicine. (I told you this was a black hole.) 

Jenkins says that sorting is the perfect way to start this journey off on the right foot — not only will you have an easier time assessing what you have, but you’ll also be able to take stock of whether you need all of it. “It’s hard to discern everything if you’re going through it one at a time (from one pile),” she says, adding that looking at things one-by-one might leave you keeping more than you need to. By sorting into categories, you’ll waste less, clock what you could probably ditch or donate, and save money.

Identify What to Keep, Make a Home for It, and Put It in Containers

After that, identifying what to keep was easy. Some things clearly needed to go into the trash, and others were destined to be organized into other rooms, which dovetailed nicely into my next step: making a home for everything. Once I was left only with what I knew was at home under my sink, I put it in containers. 

Crucially, Jenkins advises that you buy a container to fit your stuff and its spot in your home — and that you don’t work backward, trying to fit your stuff into containers you jumped the gun on buying before knowing what your true needs are. “Everyone wants to run out and buy containers. A lot of organizers want to sell you containers,” she says, but she insists containers should always be in service of your unique space. “To me, a container is a boundary of how much space you’re willing to give something.”

This resonated very deeply with me, a woman with very little space on her hands, and I separated my cabinet’s contents into two compact bins: one for dish and hand washing supplies and another for more general household cleaning.

Credit: Taylor Maple

Label It

I don’t have a fancy label maker, but I do have duct tape and a Sharpie. Use what you have! I love this step because it’s one I often skip, and I think having a label will give me pause before I toss something in carelessly that doesn’t fit the category. 

Establish a Routine

When I showed off my work to my husband, after we both wiped away solemn tears of joy (kidding, but only a little), we agreed to a sweep of this cabinet every time we cleaned the kitchen, ensuring that any creeping clutter or disorganization would be caught quickly.

Credit: Taylor Maple

My Final Thoughts

And voila! After stashing a couple of other newly condensed odds and ends in the cabinet, it is looking far better than it ever has. And the best part? The whole process (including vacuuming out the cabinet) was done in about 30 minutes. Your mileage may vary based on the space you’re tackling, but if Jenkins was after simplicity and efficiency, she nailed it. 

I asked her why she thinks the practice has become so popular — it’s been written up in books, magazines, and featured online — and she sums it up quite simply: “Without being boastful, I think it makes sense.”