35 Professional Organizing Tips Straight From the Pros
Use these pro organizing tips to clean up around the house and keep it organized.
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Keep Only What Brings You Joy
Would you have seconds of that buffalo shrimp macaroni and cheese if you didn’t love it? Would you continue to watch a bad movie? Um, no. So why should you treat your belongings any different? Marie Kondo‘s advice is simple: Keep what brings you joy and get rid of everything else.
Tackle Categories, Not Rooms
Decluttering your home is a huge undertaking, so it’s important you have a plan before you get down to business. Organizing room by room seems efficient, but Kondo urges you focus on categories. Think about it this way: You probably have a lot of towels scattered throughout your house. By taking stock of all your bathroom, kitchen and powder room towels at once, you can get rid of any duplicates or towels that have overstayed their welcome.
If you’re a pro at organizing and decluttering, here’s how to become a professional organizer.
Don’t Let Nostalgia Cloud Your Judgment
A movie ticket stub from your favorite film or a program from your kid’s school play may tug at your heartstrings, but these mementos aren’t doing your space any favors. So why keep them around? We know what you’re thinking: What if yesteryear’s trinkets bring you joy?
Find a way to consolidate ’em. Instead of having a box with old birthday cards from Grandma Sue, place them in a scrapbook that can fit on your newly organized bookshelf.
Learn the Art of Folding
If you don’t have a dresser, we recommend you get one, stat. According to Kondo, your clothes will be “happier” if you fold them. After you fold your scarves, dresses, and pants, Kondo recommends stacking them vertically in your closet—she claims you can fit 20 to 40 folded piece where you’d normally be able to hang ten.
Professional organizers help you organize a cabinet to turn your garage into a magazine spread. Here find out the cost of decluttering services.
Eliminate Excess Paperwork
Speaking of superfluous systems, your filing cabinet needs to go. It’s the digital age, after all! You can find copies of almost every paper in your home office online. As for those important documents—like your birth certificate and recent W2s—Kondo advises whittling down your paperwork into two piles: “Papers to Save” and “Papers to Deal With.”
Ditch the Fancy Storage Systems
Before you whip out your credit card to buy that fancy spice rack, Kondo recommends detoxing your home first. She argues the only reason we think we need those pricey filing systems is that we have too much stuff. Go ahead, donate what you don’t need. You and your space will feel infinitely better.
Store Everything Standing Upright
If you’ve spent the majority of your life stacking your socks, bras and underwear on top of each other, you’re in for a surprise. The organization queen recommends you store items side by side, so they look more like a row of book spines. Why?
“This will allow you to see what’s inside at a glance and take inventory of what you own,” Kondo said told Architectural Digest. “If you store your clothes in a drawer standing upright, you will be able to survey how many articles you own that are the same color. This will prevent you from unknowingly buying more of the same type of clothing.”
Start From Square One
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want to give your wardrobe a complete overhaul, you’ll need to remove all your clothes from your closet. Sure, it sounds time-consuming, but Kondo argues it’ll be easier to spot duplicates and items that don’t bring you joy. Once you donate the clothes you don’t want, you can replenish your closet with your favorite pieces.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but there are some items we can’t bring ourselves to throw away. Before you start your organizational awakening, Kondo urges you to ask yourself why. She explains most items fall into one of three categories: an attachment to the past, fear of the future or a combination of both.
The better you understand why you can’t part ways with those old kitchen gadgets from Grandma, the easier it’ll be to conquer that obstacle and have a brighter (and indisputably cleaner) future.
Know How to Make Space
Even if you don’t consider yourself a collector of “stuff,” that “stuff” always seems to pile up in every corner and on every countertop. “Start following the one in, one out rule going forward,” says Nancy Haworth of On Task Organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina. “When you buy something new, toss, sell, or donate an older item to create space for the new item.”
Have a Place for Everything
“If you have too much stuff without a place to go, the clutter and piles in your home become impossible to actually clean,” says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts in Waco, Texas. So if you have a peg in the kitchen for your keys or a shelf for your mail, use them.
Find Clever Ways to Store More
People with clean homes use their smarts when it comes to products that help them stay organized. “An over-the-door organizer has a variety of clear pockets where you can store jewelry and make-up, sorting by type—pencils, lipsticks, brushes, and eye shadows,” says Paloma Baillie, a DIY expert with the 5mile app. “Everything is laid out, so you have easy access and can see items more clearly.” You can do a similar thing with office supplies if you don’t have room for a desk.
Make Organizing Look Pretty
If you consider storage and organization as part of your decor, as many with clean homes do, it makes the project a feast for the eyes. “I separate my wardrobe so all my dresses are together, all my jeans are together, sweaters, tops, coats, skirts, etc. Then I color code each category,” says Rachel Parcell, style and design expert behind Pink Peonies. “I love the way it looks and it’s easy to find things.” Wondering whether you’re a minimalist or not? Find out by taking this organizing style quiz.
Think of your stairwell as an extension of your basement. If there’s room, add a couple floating shelves and hooks for a little extra storage.
Since moisture is a common problem in basements, recycle the cardboard boxes and go with plastic bins to store seasonal items or things you don’t use regularly. Plastic bins will do a better job at keeping moisture out and are easy to label and move around on shelves.
Tuck the microwave under your cabinets to get it off the counter. Microwave ovens are the biggest space hogs on most countertops. With a few models, manufacturers offer optional mounting kits that let you mount the microwave under cabinets. To raise your old microwave, consider the sturdy brackets shown here.
But first measure its height and the height of the space above the countertop; with a larger microwave, you might find that the space under it will be too small to be useful.
Under-Cabinet Knife Storage Racks
Pull-down racks give you instant access to kitchen essentials without the clutter of spice racks or knife holders. When the cooking is done, the rack swings up against the underside of the cabinet. The acrylic knife rack like the one shown here, or buy a pair of hinges only and make your own wooden rack to hold knives, spices or other small items that take up counter space.
Tucked Away Coffeemaker
For serious coffee drinkers, stowing the coffeemaker inside a cabinet just doesn’t make sense; you’ll only have to pull it out again in a few hours. Here’s a solution: An under-cabinet coffeemaker is always available and doesn’t take up valuable counter space.
Storage Bin Index
Like a lot of other people, my wife and I love large plastic bins. But remembering what’s inside each bin is tough, and reading a small label is nearly impossible when your bins are stored high on garage shelves. We solved both problems by labeling our bins with large numbers. Each number corresponds to a page in a binder that lists the contents of each bin.
It’s simple to change the list, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to find what you need by checking the binder than by rummaging through each bin. — reader Gerald Naumann.
Perfect for storing jewelry at home or away, this hanging jewelry organizer has 32 pockets for storage, along with 18 hook-and-loop closures. Unlike jewelry boxes, this organization system makes it easy to find just what you’re looking for and takes up less space as it can hang in your closet.
Find Unused Storage Space
Whether it’s in the rafters of your garage, between joists in the ceiling of your basement, inside a cabinet, etc., maximize your home’s storage space by thinking outside of the box! For example, The Family Handyman reader David Ojala uses gutters as storage shelves on the side of kitchen cabinets for one of the most clever home organization hacks we’ve seen:
Vinyl rain gutters are fairly inexpensive and great for storing small items. They come in 10-ft.-long sections, so you can cut them up with a power miter saw or hacksaw and make several shelves out of them. I just snap an end cap on each end, drill a couple of holes and attach them to my cabinets with wood screws and finish washers. For heavier stuff, I attach them with fascia gutter brackets, which you’ll find at the home center right next to the gutters. — David Ojala
Plastic Bag Holder
An empty rectangular tissue box makes a convenient holder for small garbage bags, plastic grocery bags and small rags. Simply thumbtack it to the inside of a cabinet door. It’s one of our favorite kitchen storage ideas.
Hang Spray Bottles Under the Sink
Hang spray bottles from a rod to keep them upright. It can be hard to keep spray bottles from falling over and making a mess under your bathroom and kitchen sink. To keep them upright, hang them from a short tension rod in your cabinet.
DIY Tiered Hangers for More Closet Storage
Short on closet space? Use a lightweight piece of chain to stagger hanging clothing in tall closets to maximize space. Just loop the first link of the chain over the first hanger, and hang subsequent hangers on every other links after. Hang up to six shirts for the rod space of one. If you’re up for a bigger project, you can build your own melamine closet storage system.
Three-Ring Tool and Appliance File
Store your appliance and tool manuals in three-ring binders so you can find them when you need them. Insert labeled dividers to organize them for quick reference instead of having them scattered in different places.
Corral Sports Gear
This sturdy ball corral holds a herd of balls and lets kids easily grab the balls at the bottom without unloading all the ones on top. It’s built from 3/4-in. plywood and 2x2s. We made our ball corral 24 in. wide x 33 in. high x 12 in. deep.
The hooks on bungee cords can be a safety hazard for kids and adults alike. So cut the hooks off the cords (or use elastic cord available at camping, sporting goods and hardware stores). Thread the cord through predrilled holes and secure with knots. Drill the holes slightly larger than the cords to make threading them easier.
We added plumbing hooks and short gutter troughs on the outside of the corral to make it easy for kids to stash smaller balls, helmets and mitts.
Turn Your Hangers
Once you’re gone through your closet and weeded out the unused items, turn all hanging clothing with the hanger facing outward. After wearing an item, return it to the hanging rod with the hanger facing the back of the closet. After one year, all articles of clothing still facing outwards were not worn, and you can consider getting rid of them.
Closet Nook Shelves
Salvage the hidden space at the recessed ends of your closets by adding a set of wire shelves. Wire shelves are available in a variety of widths. Measure the width and depth of the space. Then choose the correct shelving and ask the salesperson to cut the shelves to length for you. Subtract 3/8-in. from the actual width to determine the shelf length. Buy a pair of end mounting brackets and a pair of plastic clips for each shelf. Want more tips on organizing your closet?
Under-Sink Storage Bins
What’s hiding under your kitchen sink? If the space under your sink is anything like ours, it’s an overcrowded jumble of cleaning supplies, sponges and plastic bags. Here’s a great way to store these items right on the door of the sink cabinet.
Cut a plastic storage tub in half with a utility knife and screw it to the inside of the cabinet door through the plastic lip at the top of the tub. Just make sure you position it so you can shut the cabinet door when all your bags and other supplies are in the bin.
Hangers seem to just spontaneously spawn in the closet. Don’t let them take over your closet.
Make Holiday Light Storage Stands
Storing holiday light strings without wrecking them is tough. Here’s a great idea: Just screw a dowel to each end of a wooden base cut to the size of a large plastic bin. Then wrap your lights around the dowels in a figure eight and place the stand in the bin.
You’ll be amazed how many light strings you can wrap around the stands without them getting tangled or damaged.
Hose Reel for Holiday Lights
To keep holiday lights from getting tangled and make it easy to string them around the yard, roll all the strings of lights onto a portable hose reel with wheels and a handle.
Pantry Storage: Spice Storage
Small spice containers use shelf space inefficiently and are difficult to find when surrounded by taller bottles and items. Use a small spring-tension curtain rod as a DIY spice rack. It’s easy to install and strong enough to support the spices.
Try making a shelf that runs between your couch and the wall. That space can be used as a spot to place a lamp or plants and store the remotes, books and candles.
Storage Above Windows and Doors
The empty wall space above doors and windows is organizational gold! Hang a shelf there and use it for bathroom towels, toiletries, books, files, tablecloths—the list is endless.