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"Too many people shop for containers first, figuring that will make it easy for them to get organized. But it's rarely true. All they end up with is more clutter because their empty containers are taking up space," says Sharon Lowenheim, a New York City organizer. Determine what you need to store, how much space it will take up, and the size of the space where it is going to be stored. Then buy containers accordingly.
Declutter on a Dime
Shop dollar stores for storage bins and baskets, then buy a bunch in the same color. Displayed in multiples, inexpensive plastic or cloth bins look calm and organized -- and they offer tons of storage space.
Lots of bins may be counterintuitive to the process of decluttering, but in some cases, the more the better. For example, in kids' rooms, having several smaller bins designated for specific types of toys makes it easy for kids to find that one toy more quickly, as opposed to dumping a large container of miscellaneous toys on the elusive hunt.
Sort sheets for each bedroom into designated bins. That way, finding the right linens for a specific room is a snap. Place a coated metal pan rack inside the bin to separate sets to make it easy to grab all the pieces when it's time to change the sheets.
Extra Storage Space
Use the backs of doors and cupboards for bonus storage space. Shallow shelves, hooks, and over-the-door organizers make convenient spots for items that are chronically homeless.
Create zones for kitchen tasks you do on a regular basis, such as making lunches or baking. Designate a shelf for everything you need for the job, including nonperishable foods and special tools or utensils.
-- Kathi Burns, author of How to Master Your Muck
An Orderly Nightstand
Designate your nightstand as a clutter-free zone that's a pleasure to wake up to. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of books. Set out a tray to hold change and jewelry. Park a basket below for blankets or magazines.
"Fluctuating waistlines, happy memories, and sentimentality keep us holding on to items longer than we should. Simple solution: Place a large cloth bag on the floor of your closet. Each day, ask yourself three questions about one piece of clothing: (1) Is it flattering? (2) Do I love it? (3) Does it represent who I am today?." If the answer is no to any one, put the item in the bag to be donated.
-- Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore, authors of Pretty Neat
Each spring and fall, do CPR on your closet: Categorize, Purge, and Rearrange. Carefully consider each item. If it doesn't make you feel wonderful or look fabulous, it's a no. Put it in the "to donate" box, and put that box in your car.
Declutter and Donate
Keep a donation hamper in your closet. Every two weeks, select an item of clothing you haven't worn in the past six months and throw it in. When the hamper is full, take it to a local charitable organization.
-- Peter Walsh, organizing expert and author of Enough Already!
Save Your Linen Closet
-- Laura Wittmann, author of Clutter Rehab
Read All About It
"Designate a place where newspapers will go -- on a tray, in a magazine rack, or in a basket -- and when they no longer fit, it's time to move them to the recycling bin."
-- Stacey Platt, author of What's a Disorganized Person to Do?
File away instruction books or warranty information in the same room as the item, and if you're storing multiples, organize the pile in a magazine holder. Staple the receipt and warranty to the cover of the manual. Or go paperless and visit the manufacturer's website to view or download the instruction manual. Have the model number handy when you go browsing.
Invest in a tabbed wallet for receipts and coupons. It will make your purse into a mini filing cabinet that puts everything you need for shopping at your fingertips. Label the tabs how you like -- by store, by date, or by category.
Create an indoor mailbox in a central location. Set a time to go through the box once a week. Open everything, pay bills, file important correspondence, and recycle junk mail.
-- Niecy Nash, host of Clean House on the Style Network
Recipe for Organization
Have a pile of cookbooks gathering dust? Scan and print the one or two recipes you use the most often, then donate the book. Same goes for recipes in magazines. Tear out the relevant pages, then recycle the rest. Put the pages into clear plastic pockets in a three-ring binder. You've just made yourself a customized cookbook with plenty of room to grow.
-- Lorie Marrero, author of Clutter Diet
Give frequently accessed papers (takeout menus, sports schedules, phone directories) a dedicated spot rather than leaving them in a pile on the counter or stuck to the fridge. Three-hole punch all that paper, then store it in a pretty binder with labeled tabs.
-- Aby Garvey, simplify101.com
The next time you sit down to watch TV, pull out a drawer, any drawer. During commercials, sort the contents into four piles: keep, toss, donate or sell, and items to relocate. Then put back only the keepers, using expandable organizers to keep them tidy.
-- Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions
Junk Drawer Strategy
Tackle your junk drawer first. Remove anything you don't use at least monthly, then sort what's left into compartments of an organizer that completely fills the drawer. You won't have room to stash things that don't belong there.
-- Jana Lufkin, stylist
Practice organizational layaway. Keep a box for things you're thinking about getting rid of but aren't sure you can part with. When the box is full, write the date on it and store it. After one year, if you haven't needed or missed anything in the box, it's time to toss or donate.
Don't get stuck at the grocery store without your reusable grocery bags again. As soon as you unload groceries, put the bags back in your car or on a designated hook by the door.
Every three months or so, reserve one Saturday morning for a family cleanout. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and have each person find things in his or her space to donate or throw away. Box up donations and drop them off right away, then reward yourselves with lunch out.
-- Meredith Schwartz, penelopeloveslists.com
When you're trying to decide whether to keep something, ask yourself three questions: Do I love it? Do I use it? Could someone else use it?
-- Claire Kurtz, thewellorganizedwoman.com
Tailored to You
A system that's a natural extension of your habits is easier to stick with than one that forces dramatic change. So set up solutions right where clutter collects, such as a labeled pail for each family member's shoes and other equipment in a bookshelf right by the door.
Play a Game
Make clutter-busting a family game. Write tasks on plastic balls. Each person chooses a ball, completes the task, then chooses another one. After 30 minutes, whoever has the most balls gets a prize -- like a no-chores day or control of the TV remote.
-- Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch, authors of Pretty Neat: Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection
Decide the dividing line between "keep" and "toss" before you start sorting. For example, if you're weeding through a lipstick collection, keep the ones you wear most often or are less than two years old, then toss the rest.
Share space with ease using these tips.