35 Organization Tips from the Pros
Use these pro organizing tips to clean up around the house and keep it organized.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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. Plus: Check out our 39 best cleaning tips for your home.
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 cleaning secrets only car detailers know.
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.”
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.
Under-Cabinet Knife Storage Racks
Tucked Away Coffeemaker
Storage Bin Index
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.
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
Hang Spray Bottles Under the Sink
DIY Tiered Hangers for More Closet Storage
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.
Looking for ways to store bikes? Check out eight products that can help.
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.
Closet Nook Shelves
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.
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.
Hose Reel for Holiday Lights
Pantry Storage: Spice Storage
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.