Organizing & Storage Guide

Organization Basics

A four-step guide for organizing any room, plus 13 strategies to prevent procrastination.

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floating shelves in bathroom

Are you overwhelmed thinking about how to get your entire house in order? First, put away the notion that it will happen overnight, or even in a week. And keep in mind the goal isn't to end up with a sparkling space where everything is always in its place. The key to a more organized home isn't just about tossing most of your stuff and stashing the rest in cute containers (although they do help when the time is right) - it's more about recognizing and replacing bad practices with better habits that'll help you dig out from the mess on a daily basis.

The best part about the organizing process is that no matter what room you're wanting to straighten up, the rules are essentially the same - here's a four-step guide to get started, which also includes 13 strategies to prevent you from procrastinating along the way.

1. Define Your Space

For each room you want to organize, organizing expert Charlotte Steill says to take a notebook and sit down in each space, making notes on the following questions:

  • How will the room be used by your family? A shared family space for games, toys and movies? An office for one or all? Be sure to account for all of the various activities because it will dictate what stays and what will get the boot when it comes time to sort the room's contents.
  • What storage is available in the room? Built-in shelves, drawers, cabinets, a closet, baskets and bins? An ottoman with storage? A coffee table with drawers?
  • What needs to be stored in the room to support its use? Toys, video games? Books, magazines? Computer equipment?
  • What is your goal for the room?
  • Does the furniture suit the room, or should it be rearranged or cleared out?


2. Sort Your Stuff

Once you have a plan, tackle only one room at a time and if you're still overwhelmed, narrow it down to one corner at a time. Then, says organizing expert Liz Witts, begin the organizing process by sorting the items into the following categories:

Keep: Items used on a regular basis.

Donate/Sell: Items that are no longer used or are duplicates - things that you can do without and would rather give it to someone else for them to benefit from.

Store: These are sentimental things that you want to hold on to but don't need to have cluttering up your daily living space.

Trash/Recyle: Things that are no longer usable. Worried about how to decide what gets tossed? Follow Liz's suggestion, "If you need to spend more than 15 seconds thinking about what something is, or when you last used it, or why you even have it, then you probably don't need it."

One caveat before you rid yourself of excess: Consider a secondary use for things you're thinking of pitching. Plastic ware can be turned into storage in drawers and cabinets and even old towels can be used for cushioning in a dog bed.

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