Expert Advice to Tame Clutter

Pegboard Projects 1
Can you create more storage and be creative? We asked designers, organization experts and our editors for their inventive tips.

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, one section at a time, completing each area before you move on to the next.

-- Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out

Top Shelf Solution

Problem: The top shelves of your closet are a no-man’s land. Solution: Slip a slim step stool inside the linen closet so you can easily make use of the top shelves. If you can’t reach it, you won’t use it.

-- Jamie Novak, author of Stop Throwing Money Away

Clean Out

Problem: Generous gifting at holidays and birthdays overwhelms already stretched storageSolution: Go 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 are tired of them.

-- Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

Household Must-Haves

Problem: Household necessities are tricky to store and even trickier to find. Solution: Stackable plastic drawers are a great way to manage household supplies such as light bulbs, vacuum cleaner bags, and batteries.

-- Stacey Platt, author of What’s a Disorganized Person to Do?

Want to get organized? Pick the right storage container for the right job and you'll be on your way. Follow these tips for choosing bins, baskets, and more.

Corralling Clutter

Problem: Little things that need to be corralled. Solution: The right container. Watch and see how to pick a container that's best suited for your storage needs.







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. Items 'waiting' for a trip to the charitable drop-box linger, grow, and mutate into a mountain of clutter.

-- Susan Pinsky, author of The Fast and Furious Five-Step Organization Solution

Clean Out Schedule

Problem: An overflowing refrigerator. Solution: Use trash day as a reminder that it’s time to clean out the refrigerator. You’ll make room for new stuff to come in and get rid of any spoiled food before it gets smelly or messy.

-- Lori Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

Tax Prep

Problem: Tax season turns into a treasure hunt for misplaced papers. Solution: Keep a folder labeled "Tax Documents" where you sort your mail. As statements come in, slip them into the folder. When tax time comes, everything you need is in one spot.

-- Meredith Schwartz,

Overwhelmed No More

Problem: There's just too much to tackle. Solution: Come up with a plan and timeline for taking it one step at a time.

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. 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 so there's space for visitors. Prioritize your tasks, starting in an area where you can quickly see progress. Schedule time to work on a project when you're most energetic and least likely to be distracted. Set a timer and quit when the timer rings.

-- Kathy Jenkins, professional organizer

Sentimental Journey

Problem: I can't get rid of these things. They belonged to a loved one, or I might need them in the future. Solution: Keep only things that really matter to you, that you use, and that you have room for.

Ask a trusted friend to help you go through memorabilia. It's easy to get lost in the past while reading old letters or looking through old photos, but a friend will keep you on track. Ask your friend to help presort items. Dealing with sorted piles makes 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 bully you into keeping things you don't really need. Keep only a few strong sentimental reminders.

-- Lori Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

Is your clothes closet in need of an organization makeover? Go for it, using these tips to help you create better storage even in the most basic of closets.

Small Closet Space

Problem: Closet space is tight. Solution: Incorporate shelving and baskets to tame clutter. Watch and see how it can be done.


Do Your Best

Problem: "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.

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 sock drawer. Every morning when you find a pair of matched socks, you'll be inspired to tackle organizing additional drawers and other spaces. Experiencing the benefits of organization breeds motivation.

Choose progress, not perfection. Repeat to yourself that almost perfect is good enough, and keep moving forward. Don't get bogged down in details that don't really matter.

-- A.J. Miller, professional organizer, motivational speaker, and columnist

Make Time for Organization

Problem: Time is not on my side. I'm so busy. Solution: Know how to find time to commit to organization.

Play beat the clock and schedule 15 to 30 minutes of daily catch-up time and see how many organizational tasks -- sorting the mail, reorganizing a cupboard, putting laundry away -- you can complete. Knowing that an end is in sight will make it easier for you to get going. Sound an alert. If time is always getting away from you, set an alarm on your cell phone or computer to remind you to do a specific organizational task. Make time fly and multitask. Minutes will pass more quickly if you do a task while watching TV, listening to music, or conversing with a spouse, child, or friend.

-- Connie Johnson, professional organizer

Eliminate Procrastination

Problem: I don't have the time or energy today, so I'll handle it later. Solution: Make yourself accountable by setting deadlines, and reward yourself when you achieve your goals.

Find 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. Reward and/or discipline yourself depending on what motivates you most. You might reward yourself by eating out at a favorite restaurant or getting a spa treatment. Or you might give yourself a reality check by getting up early for a few days to achieve your goal. Throw a party. Do you shift into organizational overdrive when company's coming? Schedule more at-home happenings. When you know people are coming over, you're more likely to straighten up.

-- Lori Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

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: Use a "transfer basket" to gather everything that needs to go out the door the next day -- 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.

-- Amanda Catalanotto, professional organizer

Good Looks

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. Look at where it collects and set up attractive ways to deal with it. Place a large bowl on the kitchen counter to collect keys. Leave a big basket by the door for shoes. Check discount stores and office supply houses for patterned folders for storing bills -- or wicker, fabric, and leather boxes to match your decor.

-- Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions

Tackle Tough Closets

Problem: Your closets are overflowing with an unorganized mixture of household items. Solution: Take a close look at how you're using the top shelf in all your closets. Store yearbooks, kids' memorabilia, or once-a-year dishes on these out-of-reach shelves.

-- Marcia Ramsland, author and professional organizer

Open Areas

Problem: The dinner table is so cluttered, it's hard to find room for a dinner plate. Solution: The dining table is often the place where family members spread out projects. 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 permanent storage or a way to move things to their rightful room.

-- Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook

Hide and Seek

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. A nightstand can conceal bed and bath supplies. A dining room console table can stow holiday dishes or seldom-used china.

-- Andrew Flesher, designer

Open and Shut

Problem: You don't have any extra drawers to allocate for a "junk" drawer. Solution: The backs of many doors can be hidden storage gems. Attach shallow wire shelving to closet, pantry, and basement doors. If there's space, line the adjoining interior wall with narrow shelves and hooks for items such as cleaning supplies, handy tools, or pantry goods.

-- Julie Morgenstern, author and organizing expert

Double Time

Problem: You're working with limited space. Solution: Think dual-purpose. Look for furniture that works hard: beds and coffee tables with drawers, ottomans with lift-off tops for out-of-sight storage, and chests that can stow linens and tableware and also serve as buffets.

-- Betsy Bruce, design consultant

Take Inventory

Problem: Your closet is overflowing, yet you still can't find anything to wear. Solution: 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.

-- Peter Walsh, author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?

Book It

Problem: You need wall storage but don't know where to start. Solution: Create an instant room divider by placing bookshelves back to back as storage for collections, dishes, and, of course, books.

-- Nancy Peham, professional organizer

Step Up for Space

Problem: You have limited space in your bathroom, but desperately need storageSolution: Use an old wooden ladder as decorative shelves. In the bath, stack it with hand towels and potions. Keep CDs and DVDs at your fingertips in the media room. Or rest small wire baskets for fresh fruit in the kitchen. For added stability on A-frame ladders, drill holes in the side opposite the steps and add dowel rods -- they also make great display bars for hanging objects.

-- Susan Jeffery Lepper, designer

Make Your Mark

Problem: Little people equal big messes. Solution: Drawers and bins make it easy for kids to put away musical instruments, art supplies, and toys. Baskets and jars for socks, hats, and coins keep the closet tidy. Label everything to help kids stay organized.

-- Amanda Catalanotto, professional organizer

Cut Crafts Clutter

Problem: Your scissors and hole punches are taking over your craft room table. Solution: Keep scissors handy by looping a cord through the handle and hanging the pair on a cup hook attached to a shelf. Store wrapping paper rolls upright in an umbrella stand or wastebasket. Use fishing-tackle boxes to organize small sundry items such as threads, buttons, beads, and scrapbook embellishments.

-- Sy John Iverson, designer

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