Getting Organized for the New Year

Room by Room host Shari Hiller shares her plan for tackling organization in the closet, home office and garage.

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I do enjoy every minute of the winter holidays, even that feeling of anxiety that sometimes comes with the new year. Even that's not so bad because it allows me to evaluate and set new goals, not only for life, but for my home as well.

One way to take the pressure off is to have ideas for the new year instead of resolutions. And one of the best ideas I've ever had in January was to get organized. But doing it meant creating a plan of action, a plan for success.

Getting Started
The hardest part of getting organized is simply getting started, so the first step in the organizational odyssey is to determine which areas of the home need an organizational boost. Trying to organize the entire house at once means becoming overwhelmed. Instead, plan for one room at a time. A good plan includes the three areas of the house that seem to become the most cluttered: closet, home office and garage. Once the areas are selected, it's time to delve into organizational options for each area.

Organizing the Clothes Closet
Working with many closet designers throughout the years, I've learned quite a bit. First, pull out any clothing that hasn't been worn in the past 12 months. I've read that when organizing, you should handle an item only once, so immediately fold these unwearables and place them in a box for charity.

I'm lucky to have ample closet space, so my clothes are already organized according to seasons. The next step is to organize my cold-weather clothes according to color.

I know this sounds silly, but it's so much easier to coordinate outfits when everything is grouped by color. Brown and beige slacks are grouped with warmer colors while black slacks are grouped with cooler blues and grays. It actually makes it easier and faster to get ready in the morning. It helps to have purses and shoes divided in the same way. This grouping of color gives the closet a much less cluttered look, even if I haven't removed that much stuff.

Tackling Paper Clutter in the Home Office
The first step is to tidy up desk space is keeping only those supplies that are used daily on the desk. The rest should be put in a nearby storage cabinet. Paper is an obvious problem in any home office. Take this opportunity to shred any documents that aren't needed for tax purposes.

It's also a good idea to sort incoming mail daily. Any junk mail can be thrown out immediately, and other mail should be read and addressed immediately. Don't put it in a pile for later or it will grow uncontrollably until it takes over any available horizontal space.

Getting the Garage In Order
Finally, it's on to the garage. I spend a lot of time in my garage working on outdoor projects or just getting toys to play with my son. I actually keep it pretty tidy, but there are a few areas that could benefit from more organization.

To free up floor space, invest in a number of wall panels that use a variety of hooks and baskets. With such a system it's easy to hang bicycles, sports equipment, garden tools and ladders. It isn't cheap; in fact, this is the area that cost the most to organize. However, there's much to be said for arriving home to organization instead of chaos. It gets your evening started on the right foot: organization, less stress and relaxation.

Also, buckets are a great organizational tool in the garage. One bucket can hold rags, sponges and car care products. Another can be home for gardening paraphernalia: gloves, trowel and clippers.

One storage area that is frequently overlooked in a garage is the 3 or 4 feet just below the ceiling. Easily create storage for seasonal decorations or other items that are infrequently used by installing shelving at this level around the perimeter of the garage.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of HGTV's Room By Room.)

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