7 Steps to Organizing Clutter
Straighten up without stressing out
It starts piling up during the chilly winter months, builds through March, and by the time spring-cleaning season rolls around, it’s everywhere. Yep, it’s clutter! And chances are, it’s driving you crazy right about now. Luckily, we’ve got the secret to getting it under control in seven essential, game-changing steps. Each one addresses a notoriously difficult tidying issue and fixes it fast, so you can focus on more important things—like updating your Facebook status to "totally organized!"
Step 1: Clear the rubble in your purse
Business cards, receipts, shopping lists—they all multiply exponentially and get lost in your handbag. "These are things we always need to access in a hurry, too, like at a checkout counter," says Mary Carlomagno, a professional organizer and author of Live More, Want Less. Carlomagno suggests reserving your wallet for payment cards, cash, and important IDs, and keeping everything else in a coupon organizer.
Customize the category tabs in whatever way best suits your life. At least once a week, clear out anything you no longer need to have handy, transferring whatever you want to keep to your office files.
Step 2: Do a paper purge in your office
"We keep a lot of unnecessary papers lying around," says Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers. It’s perfectly OK to toss monthly bills and receipts for everyday purchases once the payment has shown up on your bank or credit card statement.
A few exceptions: Keep hard copies of anything you might need for tax purposes (go to Health.com/recordkeeping for some examples), as well as important contracts and personal documents. For everything else (warranties, product manuals), Zaslow recommends scanning them into your computer. You’ll have quicker access and be able to search for those docs with a click of a mouse.
Step 3: Divide and conquer your kitchen cabinets
There’s one pot you need for making dinner, but in the process of reaching into the back of the cabinet to get it, you wind up with a tumbling mess. Zaslow’s advice: "Divide your cabinet space so everything has a visible home."
Use expandable shelf-doublers like the Iron Expandable Kitchen Shelf ($20; bedbathandbeyond.com) to take advantage of the space between shelves. Tiered cabinet organizers also make it easier to see and reach the items at the back of a shelf. In deeper drawers and cabinets, you can use vertical organizers to "file" things like cutting boards and trays. No more frying pan avalanches!
Step 4: Find a home for all your clothes
Who needs a leopard-print dress when your whole wardrobe is a jungle? "Closets fall into disarray because people put things in them without any rhyme or reason," says Regina Leeds, author of One Year to An Organized Life.
Hang "likes" together, sorting by type of item and color, and make the whole space easier on the eyes by sticking to just a few types of hangers. Store sweaters and scarves in clear, stacking drawers—you’ll preserve hanger space and keep everything within sight and easy reach. Best of all, you can rotate individual drawers in and out, depending on the season.
Step 5: Corral clutter fast in your living area
It can be tough to sit back and relax when you’re surrounded by piles of newspapers, games, blankets, etc. "People tend to use a lot of stuff in this area, and they don’t have a place to return it to," Zaslow says.
Keeping a few baskets around will do more than just help you appear more organized—it will help you be more organized. By assigning a different storage purpose to each (blankets in one, games in another, etc.), you’ll have designated places to return the stuff to. Zaslow suggests using one basket for things that come from other rooms, then returning them to their rightful place a few times a week.
Step 6: Harness hidden space in your bathroom drawers
Rummaging to find your fave body lotion or lipstick when you’re getting ready in the morning is not the way to start your day. "Chances are, your brushes, tubes, and bottles are all jumbled together," Leeds explains. "And you’re likely pressed for space, too."
The fix: stackable boxes that will create additional space under the sink or on large shelves—we like the Container Store’s Stackable Bamboo Drawer Organizers ($4 to $8; containerstore.com). Put things you use in the same way or at the same time—hair products or first aid items—in the same box, and label them with tape for easy finding.
Step 7: Neaten your dumping ground by the door
You walk through the door after a long day, juggling your keys, glasses, and a stack of mail, and— boom!—drop them wherever. Then, the next day, you can’t find anything. "It’s important to establish a consistent ritual for unloading when you come home," Carlomagno says.
She suggests setting up a hook for your keys, a pouch for outgoing mail, and a board to post or write notes and reminders. The wall-mounted, customizable Daily System from Pottery Barn ($12 and up; potterybarn.com) will help ensure that you won’t lose anything in your entryway again!
3 storage solutions for...
• A messy closet!
Large stacking drawers ($18 each; containerstore.com) make sorting and finding clothes a cinch.
• A chaotic purse!
File all those receipts and discount cards in a pretty, handmade coupon organizer ($14; glowgirl16.etsy.com).
• An untidy living area!
Straightening up is simple when you have several woven baskets ($59; westelm.com).