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35 Organization Tips from the Pros

Use these pro organizing tips to clean up around the house and keep it organized.

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Happy girl laughing against a colorful tiles background. Concept of joy; Shutterstock ID 332500766Shutterstock / asife

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. Plus: Learn how to fold clothes exactly like Marie Kondo.

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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.

Here’s how to keep your towels extra fluffy.

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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. Next, learn 24 life-changing ways to store hard-to-store stuff.

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Neatly folded clothes with accessories in chest of drawers; Shutterstock ID 453967519; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeShutterstock / Africa Studio

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.

Here are 10 things happy people never forget to do.

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Get rid of the 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.”

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Creative cabinet made of wooden recycled boxes; Shutterstock ID 589573676Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

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. Plus: These are the things smart homeowners do once a year.

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Chest of drawers with multicolored kid's clothes; Shutterstock ID 637013131; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeShutterstock / Africa Studio

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.”

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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.

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Sad woman sitting in laudry room with a pile of dirty clothes; Shutterstock ID 775801702; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeShutterstock / mariakraynova

Dig deep

Saying goodbye is never easy, but there are some items we can’t bring ourselves to discard. 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.

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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.” For more expert advice from clean freaks, check out what professional house cleaners do in their own homes every day.

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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. Plus: Check out our 39 best cleaning tips for your home.

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shoe holderali blumenthal/rd.com

They 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. Shhhh…these are the 15 cleaning secrets only car detailers know.

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closetAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

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.”

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stairwell-toy-spaceHeart Work Organizing

Stairwell Storage

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.

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storage bin towerFamily Handyman

Plastic Bins

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.

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Off-the-Counter MicrowaveFamily Handyman

Off-the-Counter Microwave

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. Plus: check out more quick and clever kitchen storage ideas.

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Under-Cabinet Knife Storage RacksFamily Handyman

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.

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Tucked Away CoffeemakerFamily Handyman

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. Plus: here's how to get those pesky coffee stains out of carpeting.

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Storage Bin IndexFamily Handyman

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 Editor's Note: When it comes to bin I.D. tags, we like adhesive storage pouches that let you slip index cards in and out easily. You can find these at office supply stores or online retailers. Find out another reason why three-ring binders come in handy around the house.

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JewelryAmazon

Jewelry Organizer

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. Need to hide something? Check out these secret hiding spots, perfect for stashing cash and jewelry.

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Family Handyman

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

Plus: 9 more uses for gutters that aren’t on the roof.

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Plastic Bag HolderFamily Handyman

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.

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Keep Your Spray Bottles in LineFamily Handyman

Keep Your Spray Bottles in Line

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 (about $12 at discount stores) in your cabinet. An old rod can come in handy in a number of spots in the house.

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Clothing Storage Solutions: DIY Tiered HangersFamily Handyman

Clothing Storage Solutions: DIY Tiered Hangers

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. Want to get into a closet project? Build your own melamine closet storage system here.

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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.

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fh09sep_501_51_126 ball sports equipment storageFamily Handyman

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.

Looking for ways to store bikes? Check out eight products that can help.

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Family Handyman

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. Find out how to get rid of anything.

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Closet Nook Shelves

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? Check out these 11 clothes storage ideas.

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Under-Sink Storage BinsFamily Handyman

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.

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Hangers

Hangers

Hangers seem to just spontaneously spawn in the closet. Don't let them choke out your closet. Find a place to store extra hangers.

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Make Holiday Light Storage StandsFamily Handyman

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. Check out these other great storage ideas.

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Hose Reel for Holiday Lights

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.

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Pantry Storage: Spice StorageFamily Handyman

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 simple shelf. It's easy to install and strong enough to support the spices. Learn how to make this spice rack in our video tutorial.

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table-behind-couch globeLittle House Design

Couch Shelf

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.

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Family Handyman

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.