Overwhelmed by Organizing? Here’s Help

When you’re getting your stuff in order, a dose of patience goes a long way. These tips will get you started without all the stress.
Cabin Reach-In Closet

Cabin Reach-In Closet

This reach-in closet offers adequate storage in a two-toned modular system combining hanging clothes, drawers and shelving. A boat oar provides a unique rod for the curtain to conceal all when needed.

This reach-in closet offers adequate storage in a two-toned modular system combining hanging clothes, drawers and shelving. A boat oar provides a unique rod for the curtain to conceal all when needed.

By: Gina Hannah
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There's no shortage of advice on getting organized, but getting things in order may seem overwhelming. When it seems like every room in your house is full of piles of stuff, where do you begin? The kitchen? The garage? The stacks of bills and other papers on the table or desk that never goes away?

"Most people don't even start the organizing process because they are overwhelmed by where to start," says Amy Trager, CPO, a Chicago-based professional organizer and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Once they begin, most don't realize a realistic amount of time the project will take to complete. They've allocated far less time than is needed, most likely, and stop before they've gotten very far, out of frustration."

15 Ideas for a More Organized Home

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A Clean Cleaning Space

Rolling storage offers plenty of space for cleaning products and can be arranged to fit any laundry room. Rods for drying clothes as well as high shelves to store out-of-season clothing make it easy to keep everything in its place and off the floor.

Out-of-the-Box Idea

A makeshift mudroom is kept clutter free with a few wall-mounted paint cans. They not only give the space a cool industrial look, but they also provide quick storage for accessories, keys and mail. A basket beneath the bench is a great place for kids' coats or winter gear. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Grove

Stacked Storage

In a kitchen with open shelving, proper organization is key. Here, color-coordinated stacked plates, bowls and even teacups are nicely arranged. And the best part is, stacking allows all the dishes to be stored in the same place.

A Place for Everything

Disorganization in a home office is a recipe for disaster. Keep your desk looking sharp by taking advantage of vertical space. Here, books and magazines are kept to the right of the desk in what would ordinarily be unused space, and a cute wire basket for notes keeps "his" and "hers" separate.

Room for Two

Do your kids share a closet? Try dividing the space with a built-in workspace. All you have to do is close the doors to keep messy projects out of sight. Plus, the open shelving is great for extra toys.

Photo By: Photographer: Christina Wedge

Making Space

By taking advantage of all available space, you'll find creative ways to keep your home organized. A shelf beneath the stairs turns wasted space into stylish storage. Design by John Gidding

Building Up

The best way to stay organized is to install storage systems that fit your specific needs. A high shelf keeps excess items out of the way but accessible when needed. And a shelf to hang bikes is a genius solution for freeing up floor space in the garage.

Sabrina's Secrets

For small spaces, multipurpose furniture is the key to a clutter-free home. As seen in HGTV Magazine, Sabrina Soto's coffee table is also a shelf, so she can keep books and magazines out of the way but still within arm's reach.

Photo By: Melanie Acevedo

Pet Problems Solved

Keep pet toys, treats and food corralled with a rolling shelf that provides space for all the essentials. No longer will you have to search for a leash or your dog's favorite tennis ball.

Wash Room Remedy

If you're sick of a bathroom countertop covered in toiletries, consider installing a few narrow shelves along the wall. Pretty glass canisters make great storage for daily items, while a vanity with drawers provides space for everything else. Design by John Gidding

A Working Office

Another fantastic place to add extra shelving is the home office. These built-ins by CliqStudios provide ample space for books, pictures and knickknacks, leaving the desk completely free for work.

Upcycled Style

Set the tone for the rest of your home by keeping your entryway looking good. Organize mail right a way with a cute and colorful shutter. You can even attach a hook or two to store your keys! Photo courtesy of Holly Marsh

A Clever Kitchen

In this gorgeous kitchen, designer Brian Patrick Flynn installed a wall-mounted, bar-height table. The vibrant metal stools can be neatly stacked under the table when not in use, and a hanging pot rack frees up cabinet space.

Mixing It Up

It's always been a great way to organize your footwear, but an over-the-door shoe organizer can be used for so much more. Hang one in the pantry to hold your canned goods, spices and condiments. Photo courtesy of Laura Whitt

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Laura Witt

Pristine Pantry

Take your pantry to the next level with see-through, pull-out baskets with easy-to-read labels. Grabbing a snack and heading out the door has never been easier (or looked so good).  

An unrealistic view of how long a project will take, combined with a perfectionist streak, can cause a would-be organized person to freeze in their tracks. "They often feel that if they can't complete the project in a particular way, they might as well not start," Trager says. Combine these fears with a life change such a divorce, an empty nest or a move to a new house, and it's easy to see why many people become stuck. 

"There's always some kind of upheaval with life transitions: things moving into your space from an inheritance or birth or marriage; things moving out of your space from a move, divorce or child moving out of the house," Trager says. "Most important is to deal with the stuff that accompanies these events when you're ready. If you tackle the space too soon, you might not have the wherewithal to pick out a few treasured items and let go of the rest."

"It's also okay to get emotional. Organizing brings up a lot of feelings — loss, joy, anger — everything those items remind you of. Acknowledge it, but don't dwell on it."

The best way to overcome fears about getting organized is to be realistic about your expectations and take your time, Trager says. "For example, if you're overwhelmed with an entire room, start by tackling the bookshelf in there," she says. "Breaking tasks down into steps makes the project as a whole a lot more manageable. Pay attention to how long tasks are taking, and schedule accordingly. Also, keep in mind how long it took your space to look as it does. It's not going to change overnight." 

Once your space is organized, you may find yourself slipping back into old habits. Trager says she sometimes hears from clients she's worked with who are concerned about backsliding, and she works with them to get back on track before they get discouraged and give up.

8 Marvelously Functional Mudrooms

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Antique Charm

This gorgeously outfitted mudroom by Frederick & Frederick Architects blends seamlessly into the home's traditional decor. Boots and shoes are tucked unobtrusively beneath the window seat, flanked by storage cabinets that have the look of freestanding furniture. Antique heart pine floors, countertops and transoms lend a sense of age and patina, and hold up to wear and tear. Antique window glass in the transoms, plus reclaimed siding on the walls, completes the look. 

Functional Focal Point

In this mudroom from Tanya Collins Design, an antique pine armoire, painted teal, boosts storage and creates a focal point that enlivens the otherwise neutral scheme. The built-in cabinets near the door, big enough to house bulky items, are painted the same shade as the walls so that they blend into the background. A framed chalkboard-paint wall serves as a central spot for memos and messages.

Wraparound Storage

Although most mudrooms are linear, this one by Anthony James Construction makes great use of an odd corner near the entrances to the home's garage and backyard. A wraparound bench seat features ample storage underneath, while hooks stand ready for purses, jackets, backpacks and more. The 1970s Dutch door adds a nostalgic top note.

Photo By: Anthony James Construction; photo by: Adam Kane Macchia

Sleek Design

Thanks to LDa Architecture & Interiors’ stylish surfaces and clever design, this mudroom doesn’t look like a mudroom at all. Blond wood veneer covers the storage cabinets and bench; the flooring and kilim rug keep the look from feeling too stark.

Clean and Classic

The Lakeshore Designs team gave this mudroom a crisp, tailored feel while still making it ultra-functional. Baskets inside high cubbies conceal loose items such as gloves, while drawers keep footwear and other gear hidden away. Even coats and bags hanging from the hooks won't look untidy, thanks to the clean backdrop. Throw pillows and a cheery rug make the space feel polished.

Handy Kitchen Niche

This simple mudroom area, also from Lakeshore Designs, takes advantage of an awkward kitchen niche and draws the eye to what otherwise would have been dead space. It’s small, but there’s plenty of room to sit and tug off boots or transfer items between purses. As a bonus, it can double as a place for guests to perch and chat with the cook.

Photo By: Lakeshore Designs

Mini Mudroom

If you can afford to give up a closet, take a cue from Röm Architecture and transform it into a mini mudroom. Divided cubbies are sized for different footwear types so that they don't end up in a heap. There's even room for school notebooks or library books that need to be toted in and out of the house.

Simple Shelving

Add two simple reclaimed-wood slabs, and presto! This recessed niche, just inside the backyard door, becomes a mudroom. Barker Freeman Design Office architects needed little more than the shelving and a few hooks to create an ideal setup for removing shoes and stashing flotsam. Keeping the wall color the same as in the rest of the room allows for continuity, but the paler hue on the surrounding wall helps to define the space.

Photo By: Barker Freeman Design Office

Indeed, getting and staying organized is a long-term process. Much like adapting a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle, permanent success doesn't happen overnight. But by consistently taking one step at a time and having a plan for maintenance, you can keep your spaces manageable.

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