Order in the House

The house is a mess, and you're in distress! But you can escape the chaos of clutter. Here's how to take control of four troublesome storage zones and reclaim your peace of mind.

Whether at home or in corporate cubicle land, an efficient, clutter-free office space is essential to bringing a bit of sanity to your day. Let storage components climb the walls, and rearrange your space so regularly used supplies are accessible and others are out of the way.

The "handle it once" rule keeps papers from piling up. Immediately toss, file, or pass on paperwork rather than revisiting it later. Labeled hanging files are one way to organize papers up and out of the way.

Organize mail, so it's processed daily, and consider responding via phone or e-mail when it's quicker than traditional post. A dedicated peg for receipts and a pen on a chain mean those items won't easily go missing.

Keep work surfaces tidy by stashing office supplies out of sight. Choose small-scale tape dispensers, staplers, and pencil sharpeners and such, because full-size ones hog more space and often don't fit in drawers.

Stored by the batch and easy to snatch, clips, bands, and miscellaneous bits claim untapped territory. Spice jars, secured with commercial grade hook-and-loop tape under cabinets, do the trick.

If it will function better, don't hesitate to alter a perfectly good vanity cabinet. We replaced doors with swing rods that hold hand towels on one arm and a privacy curtain on the other. Secured to the cabinet side are a hair dryer holster and hooks for a hairbrush and mirror. If there's no room to tuck everything away, never fear. Display pretty soaps, nail polish, and jewelry in a tray.

Put an end to a jumble of jewelry with a ceramic egg tray found in the kitchen supply aisle. Tuck earrings and necklaces away in little nests, never to be lost or separated again.

Your back will appreciate bins that pull out from under cabinets, making contents easy to find and reach. Determine whether your cabinet will accept a side-mount track or one that mounts at the bottom.

Taking a cue from luggage that secures contents in elastic pouches, we used fabric glue to affix different lengths of elastic bands inside an undercounter canvas basket. They'll keep bottles from tumbling.

From movies to music to magazines, today's mayhem of media gear demands a place to call home. With adjustable shelves and generous drawer space, this versatile cabinet stores a multitude of electronic toys as well as reading material, photo albums (yes, print and organize those digital pictures), and games.

Reserving a drawer for games means you'll know just where to find dice and a deck of cards when you need them. A divided bin is a winning solution for corralling all those tiny game pieces.

There's a remote control for everything these days, but what good are they when misplaced? Stop searching and identify a place like our space-savvy bin mounted inside the cabinet door.

Sorting laundry by color with help from a multibag hamper helps wash day go faster. The flip top on this one even serves as a folding table or, with a pad, functions as an ironing board. Housing an iron and a clothes rod on the side of the cabinet takes advantage of underutilized space. This rod folds down when not in use, but you might consider a retractable clothesline for its hardworking, space-saving qualities.

Replacing door panels with pegboard creates storage on both sides of the door (perfect for our stain removal chart). Staples at hardware stores, the board and hanging accessories are also popping up in decorating catalogs.

It's good practice to check pockets before laundering clothes. You avoid damage that coins or crayons might do to the washer, dryer, or garments, and you just might find a tasty treat or modest tip for your hard work. A labeled container such as this jar helps assure pocket dwellers get back to their rightful owners.

Leave keg-size containers at the store and opt for smaller bottles of ultraconcentrated formulas that take up far less space and clean just as well. Be sure to read directions so you use the right amount.

What to Keep and What to Throw Out

  1. Is it expired? If past its prime, it's to-go time. Milk and meds aren't the only things with expiration dates these days. Printer ink cartridges, suntan lotion, toothpaste -- if they're beyond their expiration date, they aren't likely to function at their best.
  2. Is it used? Use it or lose it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many partial bottles of you-name-it have lurked unused in your cabinet for years? Whether it's chartreuse nail polish or a box of cassette tapes collecting dust, give it the boot.
  3. Is it a duplicate? No need for multiples. Do you really need two ironing boards? Three phone books? Fifty old towels-turned-rags? Enough said.
  4. Is it a fit? Would you buy it today? If you didn't already own the item, ask yourself whether you'd buy it now. Maybe your taste in music has changed or the size and color of that vase doesn't fit your rearranged room. Edit out those oddities.

Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers.

Home Office

Desk - Woodcraft Industries, Inc.; www.woodcraftindustries.com. Birch storage box and mail sorter above desk Norrebo, spice jars - IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; www.ikea.com. Drawer organizer, round white containers. See & Store, magnetic magazine wall pocket, magnets, magnetic pen and paper holders - The Container Store; 800-786-7315; www.containerstore.com. Clamp light, calendar - Target Stores; 800-800-8800; www.target.com (product line varies). Receipt peg, chain and pen, pens, paper tray, file folders and holder, expandable folders, notepads, paper, flags, ruler, bookends - OfficeMax; 877-633-4236; www.officemax.com.


Pink tray, paisley and striped pails - The Macbeth Collection, LLC, West New York, New Jersey; 201-662-8501; www.themacbethcollection.com. White ceramic vanity set, pink travel cases, canvas drawer box - Ore, Inc., Salt Lake City; 801-713-0568; www.orecontainers.com. Ceramic egg tray, Ceramic Valet - The Container Store; 800-786-7315; www.containerstore.com. Chrome towel holder from the Baren series, cotton swab box, Racken, glass jars on metal shelves - IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; www.ikea.com. Nail polish tray, hair dryer holster - Organize.com; 800-600-9817; www.organize.com. Wrapped soaps on tray - Anthropologie; 800-309-2500; www.anthropologie.com. Towels, hook rack, shampoos - Target Stores; 800-800-8800; www.target.com (product line varies). Fabric for skirt, elastic for canvas box - Hancock Fabrics, Inc.; 877-322-7427; www.hancockfabrics.com.


Cabinet - IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; www.ikea.com. Metal mesh organizer for game pieces - Design Ideas; 800-426-6394; www.designid.com. Photo albums - Crate & Barrel; 800-996-9960; www.crateandbarrel.com (product line varies). DVD bins (embellished with labels) - Target Stores; 800-800-8800; www.target.com (product line varies). Wallpaper - Gramercy; 800-332-3384; www.fschumacher.com.


Hamper sorter, clothes rod hanger - Stacks and Stacks Homewares; 800-761-5222; www.stacksandstacks.com. Fabric for iron pad - Hancock Fabrics, Inc.; 877-322-7427; www.hancockfabrics.com. Iron Holder - Ikea; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; www.ikea.com. Undershelf bin, silver turntable, spray bottles, hangers - The Container Store; 800-786-7315; www.containerstore.com. Green storage boxes on peg board, from the Stanton Pegboard collection - Pottery Barn Kids; 800-430-7373; www.potterybarnkids.com.


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