Extra Tips: Maureen Gainer Reilly

Organization expert Maureen Gainer Reilly shares tips for organizing a large family.

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Professional organizer and Mission: Organization guest Maureen Gainer Reilly offers web-exclusive tips.

Being unorganized wastes time and money. With life's busy pace you may think you don't have time to get organized. In reality, you can't afford to be unorganized.

Organizing a large family is a huge challenge, but I've got some tips that might help:


  • Hire a professional organizer to lay out an organizational plan that works for everyone in the family. If that's not in your budget, enlist the help of a friend. Arrange to take each other's kids out of the house so you can have uninterrupted time to get your space organized.

  • Don't underestimate the time it takes to get organized. Schedule at least a four-hour block of time to tackle a closet or area crowded with clutter. Short intervals typically do not yield dramatic results.

  • Children love creating art, and parents love to keep it! Keep it from getting out of control by labeling a large bin for each child where the art gets stored once it comes off the refrigerator or wall. When the bin is full, sift through it and keep only the best pieces. This way, your treasures are all in one place, and the bin forces you to only keep a limited amount.

  • If you make it fun, kids will do it! They typically love colorful, easy to handle containers with clear labels. You'll be surprised how much they will clean up and put away when you make it easy. Be sure to keep the bins within their reach.

  • Know your organizing style! Too often we buy fun organizing products (I know it's hard to resist!) that do NOT fit our personalities. If you forget something the minute it's out of sight, try using a bulletin board instead. If you know you need a clean desk to focus, ditch the desktop organizers and buy items that tuck away while you're working. Don't fight your natural habits--you'll never win!

Bonus Tips


  • Leave returns and receipts in the trunk of your car. No more passing a store knowing you have an item sitting at home.

  • Screen your calls! Work uninterrupted, finish what you're doing and then return those calls you missed.

  • Invest in a label maker. For as little as $30 you will ensure that everyone stays on the track with the organizing system you have created.

  • Keep your purse organized. Put hard-to-find items in small cosmetic bags to prevent you from digging around to find what you need.

  • Keep coupons and gift certificates in an envelope in your purse so you actually use them before they expire.

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