Organising the Squirrel Way: Labelling

As promised, I’m here to share what works for me in terms of keeping my stuff together and organised. It’s a pretty mixed bunch – I’ve not yet found an overarching system that works. So I’ve cobbled this together over the years, between the trials and errors.

The Tools

My system is not for those who crave prettiness. It’s for those of us who need to know where things are and what needs doing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE some of the labels and print-outs I’ve seen on organising blogs. I just don’t have the time or the patience to set up something so… coherent for myself. I’m happy with quick-and-dirty solutions that can be changed and updated on the fly. Below is 80% of my organising toolkit:

It might take a LITTLE more than this... But not much more.

Here we have:

  • Masking Tape. Buy the best stuff you can find – it will both stick better and come off more cleanly than a cheap roll would. Besides, one roll will do you for several year’s worth of labels. Don’t be cheap when it counts.
  • A Black Sharpie. Any permanent marker pen will do. I like a bullet point nib.
  • Post-it Notes in three sizes – 3″ x 3″, 1 1/2″ x 2″, and 1″ x 3″. I prefer the first two for most things, but the latter also come in handy. Again, I suggest buying the good stuff – the real, 3M Post-its in this case. Cheaper brands just don’t have the sticking power.
  • Plain old Sticky Tape. I don’t use it a whole heap, but it’s nice to have around.

Labelling Things

Masking tape is my favourite label maker, bar none. It’s simple, fast, able to be replaced in a minute or less, and easy to read on just about everything.

I use it on the boxes that keep my kitchen cupboards tidy:

Kitchen cupboard

Boxes, incidentally, are one of my favourite organising devices. I prefer clear plastic so you can see the contents, but I make do with cardboard for most of our stuff. Cardboard boxes are free. But labelling what’s in them is even more important than with the plastic ones. This importance doubles if you have more than one type of thing in a box. It’s hard to read in the small picture, but the box on the left is labelled “cookie cutters”, “scale”, “pie plates”, and “citrus juicer”. How confused would you be without the labels?

I also use masking tape on the kitchen benches to show where things go. The backs of paper envelopes also work great for larger signs:

Top of Cupboard labels


I also use it on storage boxes in the bedroom, Chipmunk’s clothes boxes, the bookshelves in the hallway, Chipmunk’s toy stash in the lounge room, boxes and shelves in the pantry…. You get the idea. If I have a place set aside for a specific thing, that space gets a label. It really helps with tidying and putting groceries away – or working out what’s been used up, for that matter!

Before I had the masking tape brainwave, I used the 1″x3″ Post-its to label my jars:

Grain cupboard labels

This is where the sticky tape comes in handy to stick down the end of the Post-it. I still use them on plastic containers too. The Decor snap-on labels have a tendency to fall off, or be stolen by a Chipmunk.


See how Sharpie straight on the container tends to rub off over time? You don’t get that with the paper or masking tape label. And they’re easier to read from a distance than the Decor labels. As a bonus, changing what goes in a tub is as simple as ripping off the old label and sticking on a new one.

I also like to keep like with like where possible. So for instance, all the jars in the picture above are grains or flours. The opposite end of that shelf has a box full of jars that hold legumes. All the recipe books are together, the kitchen cloths are next to each other on the shelf…. you get the idea. I try to carry this through the rest of the house, too. It’s a work in progress.

I know at least one of you is rolling your eyes right now and thinking “geez, overkill much?” I used to think like that too…. Until I had a toddler. Until it became apparent that I move things around too much for the Raccoon’s memory to keep up with. (I like to play the Cupboard Optimisation Game, OK?) Until it became even more apparent that our house is just too small to deal with the chaos brought on by throwing things in the closest box and hoping for the best.

So, long story short, we need all this labelling. It means I can stop worrying about where things go. It means the Raccoon knows where things go, and can put them there. It means that when Chipmunk is old enough to read, she’ll have grown up with this system as a way of life. So (in theory) she won’t grow up into a horribly disorganised adult like her parents did.


I was planning on including my To-Do List and general task-capture system in this post as well as the above. However, since I’ve gone more picture-heavy than usual, I’m going to end here and do a separate post for Friday. (Updating TWICE in a week? Madness! Whatever is the world coming to?)