25 Expert-Approved Decluttering Tips for Your Most Organized Home Ever
Target Your Efforts
Problem: Your organization efforts don't seem to yield results.
Solution: Avoid zigzag organizing. Scattering your efforts over multiple rooms prevents you from seeing progress. For visible, dramatic results, work one room at a time, suggests Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out. Start with one section and complete each area before you move on to the next.
Top Shelf Solution
Problem: The top shelves of your closet are difficult to keep organized.
Solution: Slip a slim step stool inside the linen closet so you can easily access the top shelves, suggests Jamie Novak, author of Stop Throwing Money Away. If you can't reach the upper-shelf items, you most likely won't use them.
Problem: Generous gifting at holidays and birthdays overwhelms already stretched storage.
Solution: Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet, suggests going through toys with your child before birthdays and holidays. Have a donation station always available for kids to put toys when they have decided they're tired of them.
Problem: Household necessities are tricky to store and even trickier to find.
Solution: Stacey Platt, author of What’s a Disorganized Person to Do?, suggests using stackable plastic drawers to manage household supplies such as light bulbs, vacuum cleaner bags, and batteries. Choose clear bins so you can see the contents at a glance, and add printable labels to streamline organization.
Donation in Waiting
Problem: You set aside things for donation, but they never make it out the door.
Solution: If you earmarked something for donation, take it directly to your car, suggests Susan Pinsky, author of The Fast and Furious Five-Step Organization Solution. When items waiting for a trip to the charitable drop-box linger, they can grow into a mountain of clutter.
Clean Out Schedule
Problem: Your refrigerator is jampacked with food.
Solution: Use trash day as a reminder that it's time to clean out and organize the refrigerator, advises Marrero. You'll make room for new stuff to come in and get rid of any spoiled food before it gets smelly or messy.
Problem: Tax season turns into a scavenger hunt for misplaced papers.
Solution: Keep a folder labeled "tax documents" where you sort your mail, suggests Meredith Schwartz of Penelopeloveslists.com. As statements come in, slip them into the folder. When tax time comes, everything you need is in one spot.
Overwhelmed No More
Problem: There's just too much clutter to tackle.
Solution: Come up with a plan and timeline for taking it one step at a time, advises professional organizer Kathy Jenkins. Examine the room you want to organize and visually break it into small areas that you can tackle in increments. Set achievable deadlines to give yourself a goal to work toward, and make a list of what stays and what could go to reduce clutter. Focus on the reason you need to reorganize, such as creating a clutter-free area for family gatherings or cleaning out a guest room to make space for visitors.
Problem: You have trouble getting rid of things. The items have sentimental value, or you think you may need them in the future.
Solution: Keep only things that really matter to you, that you use, and that you have room for, says Marrero. Ask a trusted friend to help you go through memorabilia and keep you on track while you read old letters or look through old photos. Sort items into piles first to make it easier to make decisions. Be kind to yourself and give yourself more time to tackle objects that have feelings attached to them. But don't let grief or guilt convince you to keep things you don't really need. Keep only a few strong sentimental reminders.
Small Closet Space
Problem: Your closet is too small for your amount of clothing or accessories.
Solution: Incorporate a combination of shelving and baskets to tame closet clutter. When closet space is tight, using a variety of storage types can help you make the most of every inch. Watch and see how it can be done.
Do Your Best
Problem: You think, "If I can't do it right, I won't do it at all."
Solution: Get started, do the best you can in the time you have, and accept that everything may not be perfect, says A.J. Miller, professional organizer, motivational speaker, and columnist. Come up with an organizational plan that works for now, knowing that you can tweak the plan later. The important thing is getting started. Begin with a small, manageable project, such as a dresser drawer, and prioritize progress over perfection.
Make Time for Organization
Problem: You're too busy to get organized.
Solution: Find time (in small amounts, if necessary) to commit to organization. Professional organizer Connie Johnson's advice: Play beat the clock and schedule 15 to 30 minutes of daily decluttering time. See how many organizational tasks, such as sorting the mail, reorganizing a cupboard, or putting laundry away, you can complete within the timeframe. Knowing that an end is in sight will make it easier for you to get going. If time is always getting away from you, set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to do a specific organizational task.
Problem: You don't have time or energy to complete an organizing task today, so you put it off until later.
Solution: Make yourself accountable for decluttering by setting deadlines, and reward yourself when you achieve your goals. Marrero also suggests finding a motivation partner. Set a day and time each week to talk about what you want to get done and how you plan to do it. Being accountable to someone else is a powerful motivator.
Get a Move On
Problem: You waste precious time every morning running around the house looking for the items you need for the day.
Solution: Professional organizer Amanda Catalanotto suggests using a "transfer basket" to gather everything that needs to go out the door the next day. Think: library books, bills to mail, schoolwork, etc. Haul the basket to your car every morning and bring it back into the house when errands are done.
Disguise the Clutter
Problem: No matter how hard you try, you just can't get rid of clutter around your house.
Solution: You can't hide all clutter, but you can contain it, says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions. Pinpoint where clutter collects and set up attractive ways to deal with it. Consider placing a large bowl on the kitchen counter to collect keys, or leaving a large basket by the door for shoes. Check discount or office supply stores for patterned folders for storing bills, and corral items inside wicker, fabric, or leather boxes that match your decor.
Tackle Tough Closets
Problem: Your closets are overflowing with an unorganized mixture of household items.
Solution: Combine a variety of storage types for the most efficient use of space. Decide where to place items based on how often you need to access them. Yearbooks, kids' memorabilia, or once-a-year dishes, for example, are good items to store on out-of-reach upper shelves, says Marcia Ramsland, author and professional organizer.
Problem: The dinner table is so cluttered, it's hard to find room for a dinner plate.
Solution: The dining room table is often the place where family members spread out projects, says Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook. With the right organization, it can still be ready for dining at a moment's notice. Designate a bin for whatever tends to find a temporary home on the table. This can be used as permanent storage or a way to move things to their rightful room.
Problem: You have furniture, but you don't know how to optimize its storage capacity.
Solution: When you shop for furniture, look for pieces with built-in storage, preferably with doors, suggests designer Andrew Flesher. A nightstand with drawers can conceal bed and bath supplies, or a dining room console table can stow holiday dishes and seldom-used china.
Open and Shut
Problem: You don't have any extra drawers to allocate for a "junk" drawer.
Solution: Think of the backs of doors as hidden storage gems, suggests Julie Morgenstern, author and organizing expert. Attach shallow shelving or bins behind the door to double the storage capacity of cabinets and closets. If there's space, line the adjoining interior wall with narrow shelves and hooks for items such as cleaning supplies, tools, or pantry goods.
Problem: You're working with limited space.
Solution: Think dual-purpose and look for furniture that can help contain clutter, suggests design consultant Betsy Bruce. Beds and coffee tables with drawers, ottomans with lift-off tops for out-of-sight storage, and benches with open cubbies can all help fit in extra organization within a small space.
Problem: Your closet is overflowing, yet you still can't find anything to wear.
Solution: Purge your closet of items you no longer wear and donate them to a charitable organization. According to Peter Walsh, author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, you should have only three types of clothes in your closet: clothes that fit you, clothes you love, and clothes that always bring you compliments.
Step Up for Space
Problem: You have limited space in your bathroom, but you desperately need storage.
Solution: Repurpose an old wooden ladder as decorative shelves, suggests designer Susan Jeffery Lepper. In the bath, use it to stash hand towels and grooming essentials. For added stability on A-frame ladders, drill holes in the side opposite the steps and add dowel rods, which make great display bars for hanging objects.
Related: Our Best Bathroom Storage Solutions
Get Kids Involved
Problem: The kids' rooms are always a mess.
Solution: Make storage accessible for kids so they're more inclined to help clean up. Drawers and bins make it easy for kids to put away stuffed animals, books, art supplies, and toys, says professional organizer Amanda Catalanotto. Make sure these storage containers are on their level so they can easily access their favorite playthings and put them away when done. Label everything so kids know where items should go.
Cut Crafts Clutter
Problem: Your scissors and hole punches are taking over your craft room table.
Solution: Designer Sy John Iverson suggests using creative solutions to keep craft supplies organized and off your work surface. Keep scissors handy on hooks attached to a shelf or pegboard panel. Store wrapping paper rolls upright in an umbrella stand or wastebasket. Use fishing-tackle boxes to organize small loose items such as threads, buttons, beads, and scrapbook embellishments.