Your New Year's Guide to Purging and Reorganizing Your Home
There's no doubt about it: 2020 is the year you get your house in order!
Forget about spring! The start of a new year is the very best time to clear the clutter out of your life for good. But before you embark on a marathon housekeeping session, consider getting rid of the unwanted stuff you're hanging onto at home. "Dedicate [some time] to purging," says Kadi Dulude, founder of Wizard of Homes. "Find a few minutes each day to look through your cabinets and drawers and toss out things that are empty or not useful anymore."
Joanna Teplin of the Home Edit says starting small, like with a drawer, is the way to go. "It's just kind of getting your feet wet," she explains. "As soon as you finish a project, you're much more motivated to extrapolate those learnings throughout larger spaces." Not sure where to start when you KonMari your place for 2020? "Throw out expired food in the refrigerator and recycle old plastic containers in your pantry," says Nicole Anzia of Neatnik. "Then get rid of socks that are threadbare or old towels in your bathroom that are worn out, and any toiletries that you don't use, including samples from hotels." And don't forget to sort and recycle all your paper pileup from the previous year. "Take care to recycle old magazines, catalogs, and mail from before December," adds Dulude. "These items tend to pile up quickly."
Once you take everything out of its place, wipe out the interior and assess. Then, sort the remaining items into categories, getting rid of additional items that you no longer want or need as you go. "If you skip this step because you're too excited about your trip to The Container Store or Target you'll be doing yourself a disservice," says The Home Edit's project manager Courtney Cohen. The master organizers insist that the actual reorganizing is the very last step in the process. In order to get there, you have to take inventory of what's staying and measure your space before you shop for baskets and bins. Choosing organizational systems that are aesthetically pleasing is an essential step in creating one that you'll actually want spend time maintaining.
Once you're in a good place, remember to "make a commitment to only bring things into your home that you need and love," Anzia says. "This will help you streamline your home and keep clutter at bay." Now that you have a general rulebook to work with, it's time to get started. Here, we take you through each of the major room in your house and share the tips and tricks that our experts say will help you bring order to your home in the new year.
Whether you have a closet, a mudroom, or just a foot of space next to the doormat, keeping the entryway neat is important for making your first step into the home feel like a breath of fresh air rather than a frazzled disaster. Create a clearly designated space for shoes, coats, bags, keys, and whatever else you like to drop the second you walk through the door in order to prevent a mess in the long run. Labeled baskets or cubes can catch all the things your kids usually toss the second they enter the house. In their wildly successful book, The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals, Teplin and Shearer recommend hanging files on the edges of the baskets to store any papers, mail, or homework that need to leave the house in the morning. Creating a space for hobby items (such as yoga mats, soccer cleats, or bicycle helmets) is also helpful.
Above all, you have to decide what you and your family absolutely need to keep by the door to get out of the house as quickly as possible. If this means that everyone needs their shoes in the entryway, you'll want to get stackable shelves to accommodate them. If you would prefer that everyone keep their shoes in their closets, allocate a few labeled bins per person. Whatever doesn't fit has to be returned to their rooms.
The living room is for relaxing with family or chatting with guests, but often it's a stressful mess where all you can find is a bunch of blankets and never the one remote you actually need. The most beautiful living rooms are nothing but soft textiles and simple furniture, so bulky shelving units are not going to be the answer to your problems. Instead, Cohen recommends investing in a few large floor baskets for the common areas. "They allow you to store items like blankets and quickly clean up any clutter before guests arrive," she says. "The fact that floor bins add a stylized look is an added bonus."
A rat's nest of cables and wires is another cozy-vibe killer. Paintable cable channels ($19.99, containerstore.com) or lofted cord organizers will contain the mess behind your TV. "You can also use a catchall tray on your coffee table to corral magazines, books, and remotes," says Dulude.
It's unfortunate that the bedroom is so difficult to organize because it's the most personal space in the house. Cleaning up your nightstand is a good place to start, and can spare you a lot of evening angst. "The nightstand is a definite problem area in the bedroom because it can easily turn into a drop spot for items that do not belong there," says Cohen. Drawer inserts will allocate the space to specific items so that it doesn't end up becoming the place you throw things you're trying to get out of sight. Another space saving solution: "Mount your bedside lamp on the wall to free up more nightstand surface space," says Dulude.
"Pack away spring and summer clothes for the winter so you're only dealing with a seasonally appropriate wardrobe," Dulude says. "Also take time to donate items that you no longer need. Many places come pick up your things and can even leave a receipt for a tax deduction." When attacking the closet, consider what actually needs to be hung. Wedging a thousand hangers onto the rod is almost as aggravating as when all of the clothing is in a pile on the floor. The only items that really need to be hung are delicate fabrics or items that cannot be folded. Suits, chiffon blouses, and billowy skirts are, of course, going on hangers. As for your collection of denim, there is absolutely no reason to hang up your jeans. It's an inefficient use of space and folding them is so easy! Sweaters can be stacked on the top shelf and kept upright by acrylic shelf dividers.
Lacking on shelf space? Create shelving where there's none by investing in stackable shelf organizers," says Dulude. "Add bins for things that can be loose (underwear and socks for example). These same shelves can also be put on the closet floor under hanging clothes to add more space to store shoes."
Once you've tossed expired and empty containers, "It's important to create zones that streamline your daily routine," says Cohen. She recommends designating a drawer or shelf to the items you use most often and separating those items by category using drawer inserts or bins with dividers. Make sure to measure your under sink space before purchasing any organizing systems.
The "purge" step is especially important (and tricky!) when it comes to the kids' room or playroom. You can either get your kids involved in the purging process or instead, archive the toys or clothing in an area that they won't go rummaging through. If they haven't asked you where the items are after a few months, they've probably forgotten that they exist and you can recycle, donate, or sell stress-free.
Once you've gotten through that admittedly tough step, create an organizational system that they'll be able to maintain. "The key is to organize in a way that fosters their independence and is intuitive to a child's mind," says Cohen. She recommends creating low organizing systems such as short shelving units or large floor baskets that provide easy access for kids. "We also suggest sorting their clothing by color (ROYGBIV, of course) and labeling bins so they know exactly where to find things and where to put them away," she says.
The goal for the kitchen is to make all of the systems as obvious or straightforward, not only for your kids, but also for yourself. "Kitchen clean-up will be so much easier if you keep less stuff on your countertops," Dulude says. "You also avoid letting these items collect grease and sticky dust from being on display."
Next up is the pantry, which the pros agree is one of the toughest areas to organize. Teplin explains that sorting by broad categories can help with grocery shopping because you can clearly see which zone is empty and know what needs to be replaced. One of their favorite storage units is the iDesign Divided Lazy Susan ($14.99-$19.99, containerstore.com). "The kids can just spin it to get the item they want instead of trying to maneuver to the back of a fridge," says Shearer. Turntables are also helpful for deep cabinets such as those under the sink.
If you just have a cabinet, stackable bins might be the way to go. If you've got a freestanding cupboard, see-through bins and baskets might be better for you. Staggered risers for cans will work for both setups. If you don't have a pantry, drawers can still work beautifully. Lay spices on their sides and sort snacks into compartments to make all of your items visible and just as aesthetically pleasing as a walk-in closet. Once you decide what kind of containers work best for your pantry, buy a large set in bulk—matching canisters are the key to a beautiful pantry. Whether it's glass jars with clamp lids or pop-top containers, all of your materials—from cereal and rice to baking supplies and cheese puffs—should go in the same types of containers. If you're not thrilled about the idea of decanting your goods into containers every time you go shopping, skip the clear containers for concealed crates so the pantry looks uniform.