We all lead busy lives—working, exercising, schlepping the kids here and there. Throughout this hustle and bustle, there’s little time to put stuff away, so into a pile it goes. And as we all know, piles lead to more piles, which lead to more piles and, ultimately, chaos.
I picked the brains of several “organization pros” to learn their tricks of the trade for creating order in the home.
Allan Young, an expert organizer and the co-founder of customized glide-out shelving system Shelf Genie, offers this pointer for getting started on the road to organized bliss: “Divide and conquer: It can be overwhelming just thinking about decluttering your entire home, so tackle one area at a time. Go through each room individually and thoroughly before moving on to the next.”
ReDesign for a Dime owner Jennifer Scully maintains that every item should have a place. “For my clients with too much stuff and not enough space, we first have a brainstorming, decluttering session,” Scully says. “And then we shop for storage solutions. If everything has somewhere to go, you are more likely to put it away.”
Now for our room-to-room organization tour….
Culinary and lifestyle writer Alejandra Ramos lent us some practical pantry makeover tips:
1) Get a set of stackable BPA-free containers ($3.99–$5.99) from the Container Store. I use them in my own pantry to keep dry goods fresh. A handy set of erasable food storage labels ($9.99) will help you keep track of what’s in each container.
2) Double or even triple your pantry’s space by using the Container Store’s double cabinet shelves ($6.37–$7.49). These sturdy organizers make it possible to include several layers of canned goods, plates and bottles on a large shelf. (Get Container Store coupons.)
3) Utilize your wall space! Install a hanging pot rack above your stove to keep pans within easy reach. Replace that bulky wooden knife block with an MIU France Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder ($20.99) that attaches to your kitchen wall or backsplash. Purchase the product on and delight in its ability to keep your knives sharper longer.
Jill Pollack Lewis, decluttering expert and host of HGTV Canada’s Consumed, says, “Consolidate your monster collection of CDs, DVDs and video games into books. I like the ones that hold 500 or more. They give you room to grow.” This FoxBox Media CD Wallet ($17), which is available on Media Outfit, holds 520 discs and includes a shoulder strap. “No more losing the jewel case, scratching the DVD and having piles and piles gathering dust on top of your stereo and TV,” Lewis adds. “If you want to travel with CDs, get a small case and return them to your master book when you return.”
Scully recommends that occasional pieces of furniture have storage. “Coffee tables and ottomans with storage inside can house blankets, movies, remotes and more,” she says. “Bookcases with closed storage on the bottom can hold photo albums, video games or board games.”
California Closets chief organization officer Ginny Snook Scott has much to say when it comes to tackling the clutter in your garage. She first suggests taking everything out of the garage, categorizing it into three piles:
To keep: This category will mostly likely include tools, supplies, regularly used toys, sports equipment and random treasures.
To donate: Give away those old toys, sports equipment, cast-off clothing and furnishings gathering dust.
To discard: Get rid of partial cans of paints and solvents, empty boxes, jars, out-of-date seeds and worn garden supplies.
When you’re done sorting through the mess, hold a garage sale, donate the items to charity or put the boxes on the curb for garbage disposal. The items in the “keep” pile can now be placed in specific areas to keep your garage organized and efficient. Use containers, racks, baskets and hooks to hold contents off the floor for safety and easy access.
Tracy McCubbin is the founder of Los Angeles–based home-organizing service dClutterfly. She put her expertise to use and offered these suggestions for the home office:
1) Move five miscellaneous files on your computer desktop into their proper folders.
2) Test pens or markers and throw out the ones that don’t work.
3) Shred that stack of old papers.
4) Select five old files from your file drawer and toss or shred them.
This is the easy room! “Toss out shampoos or body washes you don’t use—recycle bottles if you can,” McCubbin says. “Also, dispose of any expired medicine, sunscreen or vitamins from the medicine cabinet.”
Boutique owner, fashion designer and Closet Therapy creator Dawn Baker weighs in with some tips to put bedroom disarray to rest:
1) Find the best real estate for your clothing. For example, your daily items, such as underwear, bras, socks and sleepwear, should be placed in a top drawer or someplace else easy to get to.
2) Try on all your jeans and bottoms to see if they are still flattering and in style.
3) Organize tops based on their style and color.
4) Hang your dresses in order from short to long.
5) Hang your belts on a hook—same for necklaces, as it keeps them from getting tangled.
6) Store your purses on a top shelf.
Cords: Are tangles of loose cords invading your space? Cord Hogs ($5.99 for three) tame the cable chaos by allowing you to wind cords neatly and discreetly.
Magazines: Put the Reisenthel Magazine Board ($14.99) to work if books, newspapers and magazines are taking over your house. This stylish board can be bought on Amazon and is perfect for storing your notebooks, folders and papers neatly. It can be hung on a wall as decor or on the back of a door out of the way. (Get Amazon coupons.)
Random but important junk: Everyone has a kitchen drawer designated for “junk.” But with a few handy boxes, you can give this drawer some order. The MadeSmart Housewares Junk Drawer Organizer ($6.39) slides into the drawer and is designed with several compartments to fit scissors, tape, keys and more. Buy two of these organizers from Sears and use the second one for loose nails and screws in the basement or toolshed. (Get Sears coupons.)
Mail and keys: The Organize It Wood Flip Hook Cubby Organizer ($29.99) is a great accessory to position right inside your home’s entryway. Place your mail, keys, and sunglasses on it. You can also hang light coats from a hook.
Seasonal clothing: Store your sweaters, thermals and hats and gloves in the Iris Clear Underbed Storage Container ($19.99) sold at Organize It. Simply push the bin under your bed when you can’t put the clothes to use. Because the container is clear, you can see what’s in them at an easy glance. (Get Organize It coupons.)
Basement organization: The Container Store’s wire InterMetro Shelving ($98.92–$110.92) is super strong and stable. The four shelves support up to 300 pounds each and can hold everything from tents to paint to holiday decorations.