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15 Organization Strategies for Pack Rats

When you're a pack rat, getting organized can be a difficult task. As Alice Boyes, Ph.D. said in "Psychology Today," there are some solutions for those who like to keep things just in case.

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shutterstock_426719995 drawer clothes organizerAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Commit to an Organizing Routine

If you have a lot of things you want to keep, commit to an organizing routine to keep up on clutter. For example, commit to putting things away when you’re done using them. Also, devoting just 10 to 15 minutes a day to decluttering and organizing makes a big difference. If you want to declutter, stop buying these items.

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Take One Room at a Time

It’s easier to organize one room at a time than it is to try to tackle the whole house at once. Start by organizing your closet, then your entryway, then a desk drawer and so on. When you’re done with a space, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and can move on to the next.

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Use Stackable Containers

When you’ve got LOTS of stuff, plastic containers and bins with lids are essential. Place items you don’t use every day in these bins and stack them in a designated spot in the basement, garage or closet.

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If you have a lot of items you want to display, hang sturdy shelves. Books, collectibles, rock specimens, vintage toys … just don’t forget to dust these displays once in a while! Check out our best tips and hints for hanging shelves.

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Use Things in Other Ways

Experts suggest that pack rats should consider using items you already have in different ways. “One day I ran out of trash bags and realized I could use those paper supermarket bags as trash bags (by hanging them on a hook),” said Dr. Boyes. “If you have extras of items that you are keeping for a specific purpose, think about whether you could use them for another purpose.” This may be obvious to many, but not to those with pack-rat tendencies. These 44 handy hints will help you become a master organizer.

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Take Photos

If you have items you don’t use every day and don’t have room to keep them out, put them in bins and take photos of them. Keep those photos in a scrapbook and write down where they are stored so you can pull them out when you want. This practice has the added benefit that if you find that you haven’t needed or even thought about the items you photographed for several years, perhaps it’s time to let them go. Organize your garage with these 51 brilliant ideas.

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Toss Trash

Know the difference between things you should keep and obvious trash. While you can reuse a plastic shopping bag, that empty milk carton is clearly trash. Try following these 14 habits of highly organized people.

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Try Over-the-Door Organizers

Over-the-door organizers aren’t just for shoes. These organizers work well for everything from small home business supplies to toiletries and accessories. Keep your shoes tidy by building a shoe organizer.

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Use Labels

Be sure to label storage bins with what’s inside and make sure the labels will stay put and the writing won’t get smudged or wiped off (like chalkboard labels). Try these 12 tips for organizing with a label system.

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Try a 1-2-3 Month Approach

“When I’m cleaning up, there are many items I keep because I think, ‘I might use that,'” said Alice Boyes, Ph.D. in Psychology Today. “This especially applies when an item has just passed its expiration date, or will soon.” To do this, Boyes suggests selecting a time frame and set aside a box. If you think you might use the item, put it in the box. Write the date on the box and if you don’t use the item by that date, consider how much you need that item and you’ll have an easier time letting it go.

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Use a Storage Bench

Storage benches are great for organizing items such as bedding, pillows and even board games. Plus, they double as an extra seat or a footstool. You’ve got to try these 20 clever household storage hacks.

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Use a Rotating System

If you have a lot of items you like to display, use a rotating system. Keep some items boxed up and stored away and then rotate them in every few months. You’ll get to see your whole collection over the course of a year. These 24 clever storage ideas work for hard-to-store stuff.

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Look Under the Bed

If you can, store things you don’t use every day under the bed. Buy some flat containers and use them to keep seasonal clothes, bedding, mementos and various collections. Organize your home with these 12 simple life hacks.

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Pack Away Out-of-Season Clothing

If you have a lot of clothing with limited space, put away out-of-season items until you need them. Use a large luggage container, plastic bins or garment bags to store these items in a place other than your bedroom closet. You know about Swedish Death Cleaning, right? If not, check it out—it may change your life!

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If It’s Not Yours, Get Rid of It

You have a lot of items to organize as it is, so if it’s not yours, get rid of it. Give that book back to your neighbor and that pie plate back to your friend. There’s no reason for you to store and organize items that aren’t yours. These eight principles of organizing work in every room.

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Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.