Organization Problems Solved
The daily task of picking up the kids’ toys, keeping the kitchen counter clutter-free and finding a place to put all of our stuff seems to never end. No matter how often we do it, fighting clutter feels like a constant battle in the war on home organization. Sure, we start off with good intentions when spring rolls around, but how much do we really get done during “spring cleaning”? If you want to be the victor in this war (and enjoy the spoils!), it begins with a commitment to get organized followed by a plan of action to achieve your organizational goals.
The Initial Sweep
If you want to get your home organized, you have to know what you have to organize and what space you can use for storage. The first step is to clean out all the clutter in the home. “Take time at least once a year to do a thorough room-to-room clean out, removing any items you don’t use, need or want, and get them out of the house,” says Karen Leff, personal organizer and concierge with Leff’s Last Re-Sort LLC, in Atlanta. “Most people just have too much stuff, and it builds. If you clean out each year, you are more likely to keep your home organized.”
Once you remove the clutter, you can concentrate on those things you really need to organize. You also may discover that you now have more space for storage. Take the time to evaluate each room in your house, how you want to use that room, who will use it and what storage space is available. The answers to these questions will help you organize the room and its contents.
Address Problem Areas
Keeping clothes organized and stored is an everyday challenge, but it doesn’t have to be this way. First, get rid of any clothes you no longer wear. Next, sort them into a system that works for you. For example, Leff recommends sorting by season, then by occasion, while designer Debra Bobo of CSI Kitchen & Bath Studio, in Norcross suggests sorting by clothing style (long hanging items like coats and dresses, short hanging items like shirts and pants and folded items like sweaters).
Also, consider storage solutions to address odds and ends like handbags, scarves, belts, hats and more. “Include accessories in the closet such as a rod to hang the next day’s outfit (also handy when packing for travel), a tie rack to keep all ties together and another one for belts,” Bobo says. Shelves and baskets are another handy way to create storage space in your closets.
For many people, bathrooms are the hardest room to organize because they are limited in storage space. To make the most of the shelves, cabinets and drawers you do have, Leff recommends using small utility baskets to group similar items to keep them from falling down and rolling around drawers.
To keep the medicine cabinet under control, throw out any outdated products as well as those you never use. Also, match storage space to appropriate items. “Use the medicine cabinet behind the mirror only for medicine or small pill containers, contact solution, etc.,” Leff says. “Large bottles and odd-shaped boxes tend to tumble out when you go to retrieve items.”
Who doesn’t have those linen closets with sheets and dust ruffles shoved haphazardly on the shelf? To straighten them out, Leff recommends getting rid of any extras you never use and limiting your supply to four or fewer sets per bed, ideally keeping two sets of lightweight/summer sheets and two sets of heavier cold-weather sheets.
Also, keep bedding sets together, so it’s easy to find everything you need when it comes to changing beds out. Stack like items in the same place, i.e. pillows on one shelf, blankets on another, so you can quickly grab what you want.
■ Laundry Room
It’s so easy to dump everything in the laundry room, but this just makes it harder to stay organized. Make the most of this space not only so it’s easy to get the wash done, but also to increase storage capacity. “Cabinets are great above the washer and dryer because they hold a lot and hide clutter,” Bobo says. “If there is room, a tall utility cabinet is handy for storing the vacuum cleaner, laundry and cleaning supplies and miscellaneous items like light bulbs.”
For those without cabinet space, install shelving instead. To maximize a small laundry room, Bobo also recommends including a rod for hanging drip-dry items as well as a built-in, fold-down ironing board.
How many times do we dig through the kitchen pantry looking for something only to find that it’s out of date? To help keep the pantry organized and current, Leff suggests placing newer items behind older duplicate items when stocking the pantry so you use the oldest item first. Stacking like items together also helps when it comes to finding what you need, so be sure to place your soups, pasta and cereal boxes together.
Placing cereal and grains in airtight plastic containers is another way to stay organized. They allow you to quickly see what you have on hand and when it’s time to restock a particular product.
All parents know that keeping toys picked up is an ongoing chore. To make it easier, choose a storage solution that is age-appropriate for your children so they can help with toy cleanup too. “Large toddler toys are easily stored in bins and baskets or on low shelves,” Leff says. “You want them to be accessible to the tots and easy for them to put back into the bins when they are finished. Smaller, Lego-style toys with lots of little pieces need to be in clear plastic storage bins with lids.” Bins, baskets and shelves are ideal for closets.
You also can create a multipurpose center to help with organization in a child’s room or the playroom. “Another good solution is to plan a customized wall of storage that includes a desk for doing homework and artwork, drawers for supplies and shelving for books, toys and games,” Bobo says.
■ Home Office
Paying the bills or doing your online shopping is so much easier when you can find what you need on your desk. “Lateral files are a great way to keep your files organized while providing extra desk space for printers and file caddies,” Leff says. Also, use drawer organizers to keep paper clips, staples, pens and other supplies nearby and easy to find. Clear plastic storage bins with lids are great for storing supplies like extra cables, electronic accessories and printer ink on shelves, Leff adds.
If you have a closet in your home office, Leff suggests storing your office supplies there, but don’t be tempted to fill it up. “Don’t over buy no matter how good a deal,” she says. “Only store as much as your space allows without cramming your shelves. They will have another sale on paper clips and copy paper!”
So often we store items throughout the garage, sometimes so much that the car won’t fit in it. But there’s more to the garage than just the floor. “The walls of a garage are wasted space,” Bobo says. “Use organizers such as shelving, bins and racks designed for specific purposes to get items off the garage floor.” Racks that hang from the garage ceiling also provide additional storage space for rarely used items such as holiday decorations.
Scott Saffran, owner of The Garage Dude, in Marietta, recommends putting belongings together into logistical groupings (i.e. all the sports equipment in one place, all the gardening tools in another, etc.), and making sure everyone returns an item back to its original place. “If a kid gets a basketball out of the basket, he or she will learn to return it to that basket,” he says.
Also, be sure to spread your belongings out, Saffron says. “Most clutter is in high-traffic areas,” he says, such as near the door that enters the house. He suggests placing thinner items near the door and putting big, bulky items on the far wall where you generally have more room.
When passing through the mudroom or main entry, it’s not uncommon to dump off backpacks, shoes, jackets and hats as we head into the house. However, by choosing an effective storage solution, you can keep this mess off the floor and in an easy-to-access space. “A custom-designed storage unit is great for keeping the mudroom neat and tidy,” Bobo says. “This could be bench seating that also doubles as drawers or chests for storage with open cubbies above and hooks for coats.” To keep clutter to a minimum, Leff also recommends storing seasonal items like boots and mittens elsewhere when not being used.
Keeping your home organized can be managed with just a little time and the right organizational tools. “Working two to three hours several times a year, targeting specific rooms or problem areas will really keep your home clutter-free,” Leff says.
Tackle organizational challenges with the help of a professional
When it comes to organizing our stuff, most of us have an idea of what would be our ideal storage solution; however, we also think that “ideal” comes with a hefty price tag. Karen Leff, personal organizer and concierge with Leff’s Last Re-Sort LLC in Atlanta, disagrees. Thanks to their industry contacts, she says professional organizers can leverage their network to achieve affordable results. “These people can provide our clients with a better product and outcome, often at the same or less cost than going to a closet design store.”
To keep on budget, the key is deciding what you want and need before you talk with a custom closet designer or home organization expert. Scott Saffran, owner of The Garage Dude in Marietta, says to really assess the space and your purpose for it. Some sample questions include: “What items do you have to store in the space?” “How often are you accessing those items?” “Who needs access to them?” “What else do you want to do in the space, if anything?” “Use this information to help decide what storage system to purchase,” Saffran says.
Closet and storage system design experts also can offer options for spaces with design issues such as awkward wall or ceiling angles, dealing with electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, or unusual floor plan designs. “You get a custom solution to your storage and work areas,” Leff says. “They measure your space and make a design that you can tweak if need be. Once a decision is made, they will come in and build/install your dream closet or storage area.”