Tips on Organizing Your Home
It's a truth universally acknowledged: An organized home is a happy home. And not just because it's easier to find what you need. In fact, research has shown that cluttered spaces can cause more unnecessary stress than you think. You may find yourself scrambling to find keys and wallets before rushing out the door. Mornings may mean time spent searching for soccer cleats and missing socks instead of sharing breakfast as a family. Even meal prep can quickly go awry when you find yourself searching high and low for a roasting pan or container of spices you swore you still had.
Luckily, getting things in order in every room of the home doesn't have to be as tiresome and overwhelming as it might seem. With a few simple tricks and tools, you can organize everything from stacks of sweaters in the closet and piles of paperwork at your desk to baking essentials in the kitchen and spare linens in the laundry room in a few hours (or less!).
To get started, there are a few simple organizing rules to keep in mind. For instance, when you can, it's always helpful to group like items together and sort them by the frequency at which you use or wear them. In other words, don't let your fine dinnerware take up precious space in the pantry when everyday mugs and neatly stacked bowls could be of better use. Something as simple as adding a battery-operated light to a dim closet or cabinet could help you better find what you need and avoid shuffling around in the dark.
Read on for more of our pro organizing tips, sure to help you straighten out your space in no time.
Start with the Kitchen
Getting this high-traffic area in order can help you be more efficient and less stressed during mealtime—and beyond! The first step: Store things where you use them. Pots and pans are best kept near the range or cooktop; mixing bowls near the countertop you use for food preparation; plates, glasses, and flatware near the dishwasher.
Frequently used small appliances—such as a toaster and coffeemaker—should be stored on the counter; ones seldom needed on a lower cabinet. Install a drawer onto a deep lower shelf for appliances used occasionally, such as a rice cooker and blender.
Keep Like with Like
Store all bakeware in the same cupboard, all wooden spoons in the same ceramic crock, and all spices in the same drawer. It becomes much easier to find items when you know roughly where they should be.
Sort Items Vertically
Store your most frequently used items in the most accessible places. Keep things you use most often at eye level; store heavy items below waist level; and infrequently-used items on high shelves or in another area of the house.
Use See-Through Bins
Keep small kitchen items in containers with see-through bins. This will make it easier to quickly asses what you have in stock.
Make a habit of taking an annual inventory of all utensils, cookware, and dishware and get rid of unnecessary duplicates, items damaged beyond repair, or things no longer used.
Nest Bowls and Pots
This storage method can help conserve space. Place paper plates or sheets of paper towels in between layers to prevent scratching. Use non-absorbent coated paper plates between cast-iron pans, which tend to retain traces of oil.
Stack by Shape
Stack trays and platters by shape: round platters in one stack, oblong platters in another. Or lean platters against the back wall of a cabinet (secure them using rubber bumpers) and stack plates in front.
Group by Function
Group glassware and dinnerware by function. For example, keep everyday plates, bowls, cups, and glasses in one area. Store glasses upright to protect rims.
Baskets and Bins
Use baskets and bins to contain small items that might otherwise create clutter, such as spices, dish towels, or cleaning supplies.
Divide flatware or utensils within drawers. Arrange separate components to fill a drawer, or look for expandable one-piece units.
Hanging plastic or wire baskets, or baskets on gliders placed in base cabinets, makes access to cleaning and other supplies easier.
Use lazy Susans for organizing condiments, spices, or vitamins. These multi-tier turntables can make the most of corner base cabinets and storage spaces.
Stack Shelves Within Shelves
Stacking shelves can maximize space on existing shelves. Place plastic-coated wire shelves to double storage capacity for dishes, cups, glasses, pots, and pans.
Use Space Beneath Shelves
Slip an under-shelf wire rack over a shelf to take advantage of the often-unused space below.
Beat Clutter in the Bathroom
The same principles that work in the kitchen also apply to the bathroom. Start by grouping like things together, such as all cosmetics, in a plastic bin or washable bag, all skin-care products on the same medicine-cabinet shelf, or all shampoos in one spot under the sink.
Toss Old Cosmetics
Cosmetics have a finite shelf life, as do skincare products and medications. Every year, take an inventory, and throw out those items that are expired, you no longer use, or are damaged. Do not flush expired drugs down the toilet as this can affect the water supply. Instead, consult your local pharmacy about take-back programs.
Tackle Your Closet
An organized clothes closet can simplify busy mornings and make every day just a little bit better. Two or even three short rods installed one above the other, rather than one high one, will maximize hanging space for short items like shirts, skirts, and folded trousers. Reserve another area for longer items such as coats and dresses.
Use Adjustable Shelves
Opt for adjustable shelves rather than fixed ones. They will allow you to change the arrangement of the closet as your storage needs evolve. Open storage cubes rein in piles of folded shirts and sweaters and keep them from toppling over.
Don't Forget the Floor
Install shelves or cubbies at the base of a closet and you'll never have to rifle through items strewn across the floor again.
If the ceiling is high, install shelves above the rods to store items you don't use every day, such as hats, gloves, and other off-season clothing. Walls and the backs of closet doors can support hooks, peg-board (to which you can secure any number of hooks), mirrors, and even bulletin boards for messages and mementos.
To keep smaller items like jewelry and scarves from getting scattered (or lost!), gather them into designated containers within drawers or in labeled stacking bins on shelves.
Illuminate the Interior
A dark closet makes it difficult to locate what you need (as well as to get rid of the things you don't). Consider battery-operated lighting if your closet has no power source. Better yet, have an electrician install recessed ceiling lights that turn on automatically when the door is opened. An incandescent light can also help prevent mildew.
To keep your closets functioning optimally, re-examine them every six months. If the types of items you're storing have changed, rearrange the shelves, rods, and bins.
Keep Sheet Sets Together
In the linen closet, store sheet sets together in one pillowcase to make it easier to find what you need when making a bed.
Love Your Laundry Room
Whether it's in a tiny closet or a spacious basement, an organized laundry room is key. Arrange products and supplies according to how you use them. Anything you need regularly should be placed within easy reach; extras and incidentals can be stored on a high shelf or another out-of-the-way spot.
Use a Drying Rack
Keep a drying rack handy for drip-dry items, either one that is collapsible or one that folds away next to the wall.
Manage the Home Office
Keep stress at bay when working at home with a decluttered desk. First step: Organize paperwork. Considering the volume of mail that can accumulate on any given day, one in-box might not do the trick. Try a system of four main in-boxes: for personal correspondence, bills, catalogs, and papers to file.
Keeping certain important documents may be necessary, but it doesn't have to result in a giant pile of paper. Be aware of how long you need to keep items and use a hand scanner designed specifically for receipts to help minimize paper in the home office.
Toss old catalogs into the recycling bin or rip out only the pages you want and order online. Discard old magazines as new ones arrive. If you consider them keepsakes, store them in matching magazine holders on a bookshelf.
Organize Your Photos
Photographs are another item that can accumulate and overwhelm. Even though most photographs these days are digital and can be stored online, there are plenty of occasions when you'll want to make prints to give away and display.
Create Albums for Milestones
Create photo albums for milestone events but use archival-quality albums that are photo-safe, acid-free, and PVC-free. Consider making two copies of photos that are of special sentimental value. Keep one set stored in an archival-quality box, the other in an album for more immediate access and enjoyment. Use acid- and lignin-free paper, photo corners, backings, and boxes.
Bundle Photos in Boxes
When using photo boxes, use photo-safe photo sleeves and store photographs smaller than 8 by 10 inches vertically on their long edges. Those larger than 8 by 10 inches should be stored in small stacks within the boxes. Photos of the same type are usually safe to store in contact with each other without using individual sleeves.
Organize the Entryway
Keeping the entryway organized will result in fewer lost mittens, forgotten mail, and misplaced keys. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, a systematic entryway will keep things neat and save you time.
A Place for Outerwear
Designate a space for outerwear. Whether it's in a front-hall closet or a series of hooks on the wall, be sure to allow sufficient space for everyone in the household, plus extra space for visitors. Place an initial above hooks, so each family member has his or her assigned place.
Add a Table
Create a place to set things down temporarily. A demilune (half-round) table or small console, set against a wall, can hold shopping bags and mail while you remove coats and footwear.
Have a system for incoming and outgoing mail, such as letter trays, baskets, or standing racks. Have a dedicated bin for junk mail, so it can be immediately recycled. File bills and other correspondence in separate in-boxes.
Keep Track of Keys
Choose a consistent spot, such as a series of hooks, to store keys for the house as well as around the house. Label spares or color-code keys for different doors or locks.
Create Entryway Bins
Get bins for things you need on your way in or out. Attach photos of each family member on his or her bin. Hang dog leashes and umbrellas on hooks. For everything else, be sure that entryway bins or baskets are sorted and emptied weekly.
Use a Message Board
Add a message board. Install a small chalkboard or white board for jotting notes and reminders. A cloth-covered piece of Homasote board (at hardware stores and home centers) can hold messages. A calendar, mail sorter, and battery-operated clock are also handy if space allows.