By Laura Gee, Storage and Organization Contributor

Who knew a closet could cause wars? I’m not talking about messing with a woman’s shoe collection in a closet or even a real war, but I am talking about office meltdowns that happen as a result of a supply closet. Sadly, I’ve seen a major argument erupt over highlighter placement in a supply closet. Storage space in an office is often limited. Tensions run high in supply closets partly because so many people have to share one (why are humans so bad at sharing?) and because usually somebody has put a lot of time, effort, and company money into that supply closet and others just don’t treat it with respect. I want to share some ideas that I’ve picked up through my many job experiences with supply closets.

One trick I learned from an amazing officer manager at a newspaper is to put labels on shelves to show where things should go. Just because you put all the pens in one location and have the boxes of pens separated by color doesn’t mean that people will actually notice that you’ve set it up this way. They’ll say “I didn’t know” when you complain that the red pen box was tossed on the shelf with notepads instead of being put back. If you put a label on the front AND the top of the shelf where that item goes, then other people have no excuse for not putting items away. Labeling the shelves will also quickly show you what you need to order when restocking the shelves. The labeling system might seem tedious, but trust me. It is worth it.

Another trick is to think of the shelves in your closet like shelves in a grocery store. Try to never ever put items behind another item on a shelf. For example, at the grocery store, you won’t see Corn Flakes stacked behind Frosted Flakes because they are both “flake” cereals. To translate that to the office, you shouldn’t put blue pens behind black pens because they are both pens. Give them their own spot on the shelf so people aren’t digging around and looking for stuff. If people have to search for what they want and move things around, it is not likely that you’re system of organization will stay pretty and neat for very long. Make the shelves as user friendly as possible like grocery stores do.

Lastly, when you reorganize your supply closet, share with your fellow coworkers your new system. Don’t be a grumpy and throw threats when you show them what you’ve done, but just explain to them the system. It should take two minutes tops. Yes, they will probably grumble that you bothered them or tease you for being “OCD” but that is okay. They will all know the rules, know where things are, and you are more likely to have your supply closet stay looking nice. The storage room in a supply closet is so limited that you need to be diligent to keep things organized.

Set up an easy-to-follow labeling system in your supply closet. Make everything easy to find and share with your coworkers your efforts. They will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to make their work lives a little easier. They might not show it, but they will appreciate it as long as you are relaxed about it. Take a little time to see what you can do to spruce up your company’s supply closet.