Shoes need to be kept either on a mat or on a movable supporting rack so that the floor underneath can be cleaned regularly. In a formal foyer, you can use mats placed inside the closet under the coats. In a less formal entryway or where there’s no closet, use attractive wooden or metal shoe racks to hold shoes and boots, or use a decorative wicker basket as an entryway accent and shoe organiser. Stackable shoe shelves are inexpensive and provide plenty of air circulation that will help wet shoes and boots to dry.
Many entryways don’t have a closet, and even when they do, a freestanding piece of furniture can provide additional coat storage. Coat racks, hall trees and hooks and pegs can help corral coats.
Scarves, Mittens, and Gloves
Scarves are generally hung up to make them accessible and to air them out. But they can be folded and stored in bins or baskets in the closet or on shelves or in cubbies in the entryway. Mittens and gloves need to be kept with their mates, and should be kept in storage that allows for air to circulate around them. A shallow woven or mesh tray or basket is ideal. If many people are using the entryway, consider including several clothespins in mitten and glove storage, so that mates can be pinned together.
Umbrellas should be stored standing up. When laid on their side, the ribs can get damaged. The best umbrella stands allow for air circulation around the umbrellas so that they can dry effectively when brought in out of the rain. This doesn’t mean you have to go in search of an actual umbrella stand. Wicker or wire-mesh trash baskets can function perfectly well as umbrella holders.
Keep your keys from getting lost by giving them a specific place where they go the minute you walk in the door. You can use any of a number of key hangers available in a diversity of styles. You can also go the less expensive route of just mounting a hook for the keys on a wall or other nearby surface. If you have multiple sets of keys — including backup sets of your house keys and keys to locked sheds, second or third cars, and relatives’ houses — keep them all in the same place.
A more appropriate strategy for busy homes is to create a focal point. Use the flat surface as a showcase area, with one central display. For instance, use your most beautiful vase full of dried flowers as the centre of attention atop an upright piano. Put your favourite decorative ceramic bowl in the centre of a windowsill (as long as it doesn’t interfere with the opening of the window). Cluster a trio of unusual glass paperweights on a radiator cover. By creating a focal point, anything else put on the surface sticks out like a sore thumb.
Traditional desks with drawers provide additional storage for things you would prefer to keep out of view. But the problem with drawers is precisely that everything is hidden. It’s easy to put things there without thinking, and the drawers can quickly turn into clutter buckets. To make best use of your drawers and keep them as organised as possible, commit each drawer to one type of storage, and partition drawers as necessary to keep things neat.
One of the most important home organising tips. Your desktop should provide enough room for basic office tools and for space to comfortably write, to open your mail, and to review files as necessary. There should be enough room around everything to allow movement — so you don’t bump your computer monitor while reaching for a pencil. In figuring out how big your desk needs to be, you should work with the other zones of the home office. For instance, you may prefer to use a desktop wire file-organiser for often-needed files. But if the home-office space will not accommodate a large desk, those files are better placed in the front of your file cabinet or in a drawer.
Capture your cords with a cord organiser. There are two types: flexible tubes that keep the cords concealed so you can run a bundle of cords wherever they need to go and rigid cord “channels” that also contain all your cords in one outer shell. Although less flexible, the channels are more easily attached to surfaces such as the underside of your desk or wall baseboards. Lengths of rigid channels are put together by combining sections of straight pieces and corner “elbows.” Both flexible and rigid organisers are available in a wide selection of colours, finishes, and materials. You can also choose from simple, less-expensive plastic braces with clip-in slots for cables and wires. One is positioned about every foot to keep the cords and wires untangled and running parallel for their length.
Set up a mail station in the entryway. If you have open wall space, mount wood or metal wall files like those used for magazines, or hang a decorative fabric pouch. If you have a table in your entryway, use trays or bins to keep mail tidy. Whatever storage solution you use, keep it out in the open so that you’ll see when you have a backlog of mail and be more likely to deal with it.
The trick is to designate a recycling area that includes containers with much greater capacity than you will normally need. Then, when you fail to recycle in a timely manner, you won’t be stuck with a huge mound of clutter.
The ideal phone setup for the kitchen is a wall-mounted phone over accessible counter space. The phone station should include a “frequently called” number list with emergency numbers, a notepad of some sort, takeout menus, and a pen. If the station is next to the refrigerator, use a magnetic notepad with the pen on a cord, and use a magnetic pocket to keep menus and other papers organised. If the refrigerator isn’t close, use a tray next to the phone, and keep notepad and papers confined in the tray.
Keep throw pillows to a minimum — use only those that make you more comfortable. Groups of decorative pillows can too easily become a hiding place for remotes and other small items. Professional upholstery cleaning service will do the magic trick so think about booking this every so often.
Ideally, the top of the nightstand should be large enough to hold a book, a light, and an alarm clock (and a vase and eyeglasses, if you require them). The nightstand should also have a drawer to conceal items that would detract from your bedroom decor, such as prescription medicines, the television remote, and a small flashlight. If you have a number of medications or other items you use while in bed, consider a nightstand with multiple drawers. A shelf underneath is useful for holding magazines and books to be read. If an item is not used while you are in bed, it doesn’t belong anywhere on or in the nightstand.
All beds — with the exception of completely solid platform beds — provide the opportunity for valuable long-term storage. The space under a bed is expansive and there are a number of ways to put it to good use. First, determine what type of long-term storage you need: Bulky items like comforters need a taller container than flat, compact items such as sheets. Measure how much clearance you have between the bottom of your bed and the floor, then choose a type of under-bed storage that suits the space and the degree of accessibility you require. For instance, backup pillows and sheets that you use every few weeks might best be stored in a container with wheels, to make getting to them easier. Depending on which type of under-bed storage you choose, you may want to use a bed skirt to conceal the container.
All the clothes you keep in the dresser should be neatly grouped by type. With some of your clothing, this is easy: It’s a simple matter to fold men’s underwear and place it in rows. Women’s undergarments are a little more of an organisational challenge, and should be kept to one section of the drawer using a divider, a box, or a see-through bag. If much of what you want to store is loose goods, turn to drawer inserts. Specialised inserts are available for everything from earrings and necklaces to rolled ties and folded handkerchiefs. You can also mix and match independent plastic or wood compartments. Some plastic compartments snap together, letting you customise your drawer design.
There are certain items best suited for the top of the dresser. Cosmetics may be essential if you do your makeup in a mirror over the dresser. An heirloom jewellery box is lovely displayed on the dresser, and provides a place for your accessories. Whatever is on top of the dresser should be self-contained. Jewellery should be kept in a jewellery box. Cosmetics should be placed on a decorative tray or in a box or cosmetics bag to prevent them from migrating. Every dresser top should have some sort of valet and a change keeper.
If you have an infant, you’re in control of the toys. But that can become quite a chore because so many people give toys as gifts. Don’t be afraid to donate toys that never get played with or are stored in closets. Create a “favourites” bag for the small toys that your child likes the most. You can use a backpack or any other fabric bag with a loop or handle (even a mesh laundry bag will work). Fill the bag with the baby’s favourite toys and then put it on the floor next to the crib when your child is in the crib. The bag can move wherever the child goes — to the playpen, changing table, stroller, and beyond. That way, you’ll always have a place for your child’s favourite toys. Because infants make a mess of things within their reach, keep extra stuffed animals, learning toys, and toys for later ages together by type on a high shelf or in a box with a latch.
Toys for Toddlers and School-Aged Children
Benches, boxes, and chests can provide ample storage to accommodate an assortment of toys. If you use a toy box, consider buying one without a lid or removing the lid from the one you have. That way the child sees exactly where the toys are supposed to go, and can literally throw them in there. It removes one step in the process — that of opening the lid — making it much easier to stay organised. It also removes the possibility of the lid closing on small fingers. If you keep the lid, look for boxes with finger cutouts and lid-control devices with safety hinges. Bench toy boxes serve two purposes: seating and storage. Find one with a slatted lid so it’s easy to see the toys inside.
Hanging organisers are the best use of a closet rod — and they can be hung from the top of a door or the bottom of a wire shelf if you’ve removed the rod. These organisers are canvas columns of compartments that can be used to store a wide range of items, from clothes to shoes to stuffed toys. They are especially useful for helping kids keep clothing, school gear, and other important items straight. Label each compartment in the organiser with a day of the week. Small children can keep each day’s clothes in the compartments so they’re ready to go in the morning. Older kids can use the organiser to keep homework assignments straight, school projects in one place, and the right gear or musical instruments ready for the day they’re needed.
Toys for Teens
Once into their teens, most kids leave the stuffed animals and power figures behind, opting for more high-tech forms of entertainment. Your child’s room needs to reflect that change. Chances are your son or daughter listens to music and may well have a handheld electronic video game console. These high-tech and expensive items need a safe place to stay when they are not in use, so that they don’t get lost or broken. If your teen’s room includes a stereo, keep portable music players and handheld game consoles in a padded tray or box near it. It’s best if this container has a drawer or enough extra space for batteries and any other peripherals such as the cord that connects the music player to a computer.
Work Station for Cooking
Clustering basic implements and ingredients you regularly use in cooking can make meal preparation quicker. Self-contained units do the trick here. Keep often-used utensils on a lazy Susan, with compartments for cooking oil, salt and pepper, and basic condiments. Position commonly used staples such as garlic and onions next to the food-prep work station. Be sure to leave plenty of surface area for chopping, cutting, and other types of recipe preparation.
Packaged Food in the fridge
Grouping food in distinct areas can be tough because the refrigerator layout is usually pretty open. Use transparent covered bins for bags of food, such as shredded cheese, open packages of premium coffee, and other loose foods. Keep bottled condiments together in the door slot. Other packaged foods, such as coffee beans or ground coffee, should be kept together in trays, which contain spills and make it obvious what goes where.
You should also have a distinct area for leftovers, so you and your family know where to find them. Of course, if you’re running low on room and the leftovers may spoil before use, it’s wiser to freeze them.
Make preparing meals easier by organising canned goods by type (for example, fruit with fruit). The trick to keeping cans organised is maintaining visibility. If you place cans of the same size one in front of the other, you can never be sure what you have — or don’t have — making shopping that much more difficult. Try using tiered shelf platforms or a lazy Susan.
Boxed dry goods should be stored by type. Group breakfast cereals together, rice and beans together, and staples such as flour and sugar together. Bags of staples like dried beans, rice, and sugar are odd shapes for shelf storage. It’s more space-efficient to store these in labelled see-through plastic bins or storage containers.
There’s no reason for a jumble of spice bottles or jars to clutter your cabinet space, especially when there are so many spice-storage options available. Put spice jars in a tiered wire or wood spice platform that lets you store them with the labels out. “Pull-down” versions can make it easier to reach the spices. A spice carousel is another option.
Dishware and Glasses
Store dishware and glasses on an accessible shelf in a cupboard as close to where you’ll be eating as possible. Store glasses in a row, so it’s clear where they belong, and leave room around all your tableware so nothing gets broken when moving pieces in and out of the cabinet. Dishes are usually stacked, but a wire dish rack can improve access.
Pots & Pans
The first line of defence against pot and pan clutter is nesting: Whenever possible, store one pot inside a larger one to reduce the amount of space they take up. Of course, you’ll need to get to your cookware on an almost daily basis, so you may want to invest in a slide-out cabinet tray. When you’re dealing with pots and pans, you also have the challenge of storing their lids. A simple tray or bin can serve the purpose of collecting pot lids in one place, but for roughly the same cost, you can buy a wire pot lid rack that will keep them in a neat row.
These provide adaptable options, and are best used for “overflow” storage. For instance, if you have too many canned goods for available cabinet and pantry space, install a shelf near the pantry for extra storage. Use shelves for more immediate needs; in the case of canned goods, use the shelf rather than the pantry for foods likely to be consumed most quickly. Simple, solid shelves are also a good place to put cookbooks and other kitchen reference materials.
Hanging Plate Racks
Store your special serving dishes or dessert plates while creating decorative interest on the wall. You can select from wrought-iron types that provide a frame for the plates, more discreet wire hangers that let the plate “float” on the wall, or simple wood types. Just make sure you hang the plates where they won’t get bumped.
You can beat clutter and the general disorganisation of table space by “centrepiece” whatever is stored on the table and by keeping the table prepared for meals. Create a central area — on a mini lazy Susan or in some other type of small organiser such as a basket — where all the items that will be permanently kept on the table are collected and organised. Put the basics — salt, pepper, napkins — in the centrepiece, leaving a small amount of space for other condiments during mealtime. Use bowls around this centrepiece as necessary to keep fruit or other treats for the family on hand. You could also book a professional deep cleaning service once a year perhaps.
The top surface of a sideboard provides a place to put large serving dishes from the kitchen that wouldn’t otherwise fit on the dining-room table during meals. It can be very useful in this role, as a place for dish warmers to keep food warm or a place to put the remains of a course as you move to the next one. It’s also a place to work with food, such as cutting a large sheet cake, that would be difficult on the dining table itself. In between meals, the top serves as a location for those special items you don’t want to keep on the table, such as a candelabra and salt-and-pepper or cream-and-sugar sets. The common thread that all these items share is utility. If it isn’t used for a meal, it doesn’t belong on the sideboard.
The Dining Table
The dining room table is for eating, drinking, and socialising after meals. Homework and school projects should be confined to work areas in kids’ rooms. Bill paying and work-at-home tasks should be done in the home-office area. Activities other than dining can scratch the table and often leave behind clutter. Reinforce the singular purpose of this room by keeping the table set to one degree or another. The idea is to dissuade anyone from using the table for something other than dining.
Shelves in the Dining Room
Use shelves to store decorative boxes containing supplies such as festive special-occasion napkin rings and backup candles, or as display storage for collections such as spoons or demitasse cups. Or use them to hold seasonal centrepieces or candle holders that don’t fit on top of the sideboard. Special ledge shelves with a thin, routed channel are excellent for storing and displaying sets of three or four plates, or larger ceramic serving dishes.
Bathing and Hair-Care Products
Organise these everyday essentials in a wire or plastic storage container; otherwise, they will just clutter up the edges of the tub or shower surround. Use one that can comfortably hold all the hair-care products you and others in your household use, along with a loofah, a washcloth, and any other personal care products you use in the shower (which may include shaving supplies for both men and women). You can select models that attach directly to the tile, either with special mounting hardware or with suction cups. Or, for a simpler option, turn to caddies with hooks that hang from the shower head stem. Make sure you buy one with the features that match the way you shower. If you use bar soap, you’ll need a unit with a soap dish. If you regularly use a washcloth, be sure any shelving units you buy have a hook, or buy a separate suction-cup hook.
Pick an organiser that is large enough for all the toys (and then some) and one that can survive being waterlogged. The container can be a plastic bucket or bin, but needs to have holes in it so toys can drain after play. Keep it on a mat under the sink. Or, if you don’t mind having the toys around at all times, keep them in a mesh shower-toy bag with suction-cup mounts.
The Medicine Cabinet
Now organise what’s left by use. For instance, put everything having to do with dental care (floss, toothpaste, mouthwash) in one area of the medicine cabinet. In some cases, what you would normally want to put in the cabinet won’t fit. An economy-size bottle of mouthwash may be too big to stand upright, so you’ll need to store it elsewhere. Find a smaller bottle or glass flask with a tight-fitting top, fill it with the mouthwash, and keep it in the cabinet. If you have limited sink-top space and no nearby shelves, you may want to keep your brush in the cabinet as well.
Although it’s a tempting ledge for all kinds of small items, keep the mantel as clear as possible. Use it as a showcase for one or two of your favourite decorative (fireproof) pieces. Put a cherished ceramic bowl in the centre of the mantel, or place candles in heirloom candle holders at either end. The mantel is also a place for items relating to the function of the fireplace, such as a decorative match holder or fire igniter. Keep the mantel spare and people are less likely to absently place their eyeglasses or the cordless phone there. The less there is on the mantel, the more items that don’t belong will stick out.
The fireplace itself is rarely an organisation problem. If you have a gas fireplace, you don’t even need to worry about cleaning ashes or storing firewood. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, the brick or stone footing around the base of the fireplace should only be used for the fireplace accessories and perhaps a decorative urn or sculpture. Fireplace tools should be kept organised with a stand or separate hangers. Keep wood tidy in a large, fireproof wood basket, tin bucket, or metal cradle. Keep on hand only the wood you need for a single fire; too much wood means extra mess.
You may need more than one laundry basket if you have a large family or you want to presort. If you presort your clothes before washing, use hampers to make the process easier. Three simple canvas or mesh baskets on a shelf — for bright colours, dark, and whites — can help you keep dirty laundry organised for washing, keep the clothes off the floor, and make sure that dirty clothes never find their way into piles of clean laundry waiting to be folded.
Whether you use cabinets or shelves, keep supplies separated by type, using organisers for groups of smaller items. For instance, keep bleach, fabric softener, and detergent together, stain and spot removers and stain pre-treatments in their own tray, and so on. To make things even easier, keep your supplies in order of use near where you use them, with detergent, bleach, and fabric softener organised in that order near the washing machine, and dryer sheets kept near the dryer. Consider washer and dryer pedestals with storage drawers. Your washer or dryer is placed on the pedestal, which not only gives you storage space in the drawer, but also raises the height of the unit, reducing your need to bend to do laundry.
Every laundry room should have a durable “slop sink” for soaking garments and hand-washing delicate’s such as sweaters. Hang a rag or paper-towel hanger within arm’s reach of the sink so that you can clean up spills as soon as they occur. Keep a wire or plastic-mesh bin in the sink as a place to put garments to drain so you still have access to the sink.
Every laundry room benefits from a specific area for folding laundry. The task will go faster and your clean clothes will stay more organised when all the folding is done in one place. You don’t necessarily need a lot of space, because you can only fold one garment at a time. A deep counter-top is best, because it lets you completely lay out whatever you are folding. If your laundry room does not have a counter-top, customise one. Create a folding surface out of a piece of plywood or sheet of hard plastic large enough to fit over the top surface of your dryer, or washer and dryer. Fold the clothes on top as you pull them out of the dryer. Or use a hinged counter-top crafted from a piece of plywood and sturdy hinges attached to the wall. Keep hangers near the ironing board. Hang shirts and other permanent-press items on them as soon as they come out of the dryer so that you won’t have to iron them. Use a wall- or door-mounted folding hanging rod or a hanging stand to keep shirts in order until you put them away.
Folding clothes at a designated station in the laundry room is one way to diminish the possibility that clothes will become bedroom clutter. Unfolded clothes are too easily laid on a bed or chair to be folded later. It makes sense to include drying facilities in this zone because drying the clothes prepares them for folding or hanging.
Keep the ironing board out of the way by getting a wall-mounted version. Another major advantage to wall-mounted boards is the access underneath. They let you iron difficult pieces such as dresses and pants more easily, by permitting the clothes to slide further onto the board without being impeded by board legs.
Hand Tool Storage
Decades ago, home handymen developed an amazingly simple and efficient system for keeping hand tools in order. They put up a sheet of “Peg Board” over the garage workbench, and hung tools off Peg Board hooks. To make things even easier, they traced around the tools, so they could quickly see if any tool was missing, what the tool was, and where it should be put back. This system still works wonders.
Store power tools adjacent to the hand tool zone, because power tools are often used in conjunction with hand tools. For safety — and because they are expensive — you may want to store power tools in a closed and locked cabinet. Dedicate different shelves in the cabinet to different types of tools, such as cutting, drilling, shaping, and so on. If your power tool has a cord, use heavy-duty twist ties to keep the cord in a tidy loop. You can also opt to hang power tools that don’t have their own cases. Buy a heavy-duty rack made specifically for this purpose, and hang the tools from their handles or body.
The basement offers a place to put overflow from the garage or garden shed, and can accommodate odds and ends from the household as well. Shelves are excellent for storing seasonal items, such as plastic plant-pots and hoses, that would not fare well in the winter temperatures of a garage or shed.
Extra room in the attic can serve as long-term storage for records and files that need to be kept for legal or tax reasons. Files should be kept in file-holder boxes, with built-in supports that keep the files upright and organised. Label the boxes and stack them neatly in the most out-of-the-way corner in the attic. Legal documents and important papers that you want to store in the attic should be kept in a fireproof or fire-resistant box or safe.
If you are an avid gardener and like to put your garden togs on as you go out the door, the mudroom is a logical place to keep your favourite gardening shirt, clogs, knee-pads, and apron. Garden footwear should be kept on a simple shoe rack that is easy to clean. Other gardening apparel can be kept in a bin or attractive basket on a shelf or on the floor by the back door.
Home organising tips doesn’t actually stops at home! Try a visor organiser, to neatly stow stuff you’ll need on the road, like sunglasses or favourite CD’s. Put maps in a large Ziploc bag in the driver’s-side cabby; manuals and registration documents go in the glove compartment. Use an empty pill bottle to store coins for tolls; keep it handy in a cup holder. De-clutter the backseat with an organiser for toys, ice scrapers, umbrellas. Put emergency car supplies like jumper cables and flares in an empty toolbox that you keep in the trunk.