26 Home Organization Hacks You Should be Using, According to a Pro

Tidy your home from top to bottom with these no-fail hacks.

My job as a professional organizer is to simplify the lives and homes of my clients. But after working with so many households, I've noticed a common misconception about the process. A lot of people think it’s too difficult, too time consuming, or even too expensive to get organized—which is often why they finally bite the bullet and pay someone like me to do it for them. While experts are highly beneficial—especially when an individual or family is exceptionally busy or they lack the skills to let go of things and create systems—it's totally possible to DIY the process.

drawer dividers
Carson Downing

To help you get organized without hiring a professional, I'm sharing my top home organization hacks anyone (yes, anyone!) can do. These tips are broken down into three easy phases: Decluttering, organizing, and tidying, otherwise known as the maintenance phase. Use these easy-to-implement ideas to cut clutter and create the organized space you've been dreaming of.

closet shelving show organization and clothing
Dera Burreson

Phase One: Declutter

Before you contain or label a single thing, it's important to let go of what you no longer need or want. It’s silly to create space for something that doesn’t belong anywhere, so don't be afraid to toss or donate the items that no longer serve a purpose in your home. This step can be difficult for some, but the following tips should help you determine what to let go of.

Do a Little at a Time

Trying to go through an entire household of possessions in one weekend is a recipe for failure. Your home didn’t become cluttered overnight, so it won’t magically be clutter-free in that amount of time either. Choose small areas to start with and keep the habit up. Remember, completing micro tasks over and over adds up to more progress than getting too overwhelmed and doing nothing at all.

Toss the easy stuff first: To strengthen your decluttering muscle, start with what I refer to as the "no brainers." Go through the pantry or medicine cabinet and toss anything that’s expired. This will help build your confidence and allow you to let go of the clothes in your closet that no longer fit, or the serving platter from your mother-in-law that isn’t your taste but you’re holding onto out of guilt.

Make declutter dates: I will actually schedule decluttering sessions on my calendar, especially during busy seasons of life, because it’s so easy to forget that it needs to be done. Decluttering is a task that needs to be done regularly, but future decluttering sessions will become easier after your initial purge. Schedule two closet decluttering sessions per year, one in the fall and another in spring. Four times a year, set aside a couple hours to sort through toiletries and makeup (the first of each season works well for me), and plan a weekly date to toss expired food and do a quick fridge clean-out.

Follow the One In, One Out Rule

Following this rule can be tough, especially if you like to shop, but it's one of the easiest ways to stay on top of clutter. If you buy something new, remove something to create space for it. If you purchase a new printer, recycle or sell the old one immediately. Next time you pick up a new pair of shoes at the mall, donate an older pair you don't wear very often. Not only will this keep your household tidy, but your old items can almost always be donated and used by someone else.

Stash a donation bag in the closet: I personally love and use this method as it creates extra space in my closet in between my biannual decluttering projects. I keep a small tote on the floor and use it to collect things I come across that no longer spark joy. Once it’s full, I take it with me to a nearby charity when I’m out running errands.

Create a donation schedule: Learn the hours of your local donation center or, if you don’t have one close by, inquire about pickup schedules. Most charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Vietnam Veterans of America will come to your neighborhood on certain days of the month. Check out donationtown.org to find where you can drop off or schedule a pickup in your area.

Establish a Daily Decluttering Routine

Get into the habit of cleaning out your car, purse, or work bag at the end of each day. Sort through the mail at least every few day, although I suggest scanning it daily to handle anything urgent. Put your laundry away as soon as possible (I know, easier said than done), and load the dishwasher right after dinner. Staying on top of the everyday clutter will prevent large pile-ups and eliminate stressful messes in the long run.

Go paperless: Paper is one of the worst offenders when it comes to daily clutter. Sign up for paperless receipts at the store, statements and bills from your banks and credit card companies, and learn how to get off of junk mail lists. This will cut down on everyday clutter and give you more time for more fun activities.

Digitally detox: While going paperless is smart, it often leads to digital clutter and I’ll admit that I fall victim to this more than anything. It’s not directly in our physical way so it’s easier to ignore. If your email inbox is staggering or your phone is always letting you know it’s running short on storage space, spend a few minutes at the end of day purging photos, apps, and more.

white and tan mudroom with wooden crates and black boxes
Nathan Schroder Photography

Phase Two: Organize

Once you’ve done an initial clean-out and learned to let go of unwanted items on a consistent basis, it’s time to create a system for the stuff you’re holding onto. These are my best home organizing tips you can implement today.

Prioritize Your Belongings

Place the things you reach for the most often at eye level or front and center. Less often used items can be stored on a high shelf or an area of the house with less foot traffic such as the basement.

Keep like items together: Always store similar things near one another so they have a home where they can be found and returned to with ease. All pairs of jeans should be contained in a drawer or portion of the closet, reusable water bottles should live in the same kitchen cabinet, and so on.

Create a utility zone: An observation that I’ve had after working in so many homes is that it’s the seemingly miscellaneous items that cause clutter to be strewn around. Batteries, lightbulbs, furniture leg pads, and the like either don’t have a home or are shoved in the junk drawer. Create a “utility zone” for these types of things so they’re out of your way but can be found when they’re needed.

Sort Items into Containers

I’m a big advocate for using containers whenever possible because they provide a physical boundary to how much you can actually store in them. If your pantry tends to be bursting at the seams, adding containers to corral everything from pasta to snacks can help to keep it tidier and prevent food waste.

Choose space-saving organizers: Supplies such as slimline hangers, stacking bins, and two tier lazy susans not only keep your things tidy, they also save a considerable amount of space which is especially important when organizing a small home.

Use multi-purpose furniture: Along the same lines, use functional furniture to maximize your space. Consider a storage bench for shoes, a mirrored jewelry armoire, or a desk and bookshelf combination.

Maximize Storage Space

Shelves and drawers aren't the only place to store organizational containers. As you work through each room, consider how you can maximize storage space there for more functionality.

Go vertical: To keep the floor space clear, use the walls to organize. Use tall metal shelving units in the garage or basement storage area to stack totes of holiday decor, off-season clothing, and mementos you want to hold onto but don't need to have out on display.

Don't forget the doors: I have a back of the door organizer in almost every room. I have one in my entryway closet to store pet supplies and have used them for clients to organize beauty products in the bathroom. They're great for gift wrap supplies in the home office, diapers and accessories in a nursery, and more.

Label Like It’s Your Job

Even if you don’t think it’s necessary, add labels to your containers and zones to minimize the guesswork. This is particularly helpful if you live with others or have help in the house so everyone can assist in keeping it organized.

drawer dividers
Carson Downing

Phase Three: Tidy and Maintain

The last step in this ongoing process is to keep up with your daily patterns to avoid clutter from accumulating again in the future. Here are some simple and realistic ways to make it happen.

Do a Scan Before Buying

This goes for pretty much anything in the house but the area I see affected the most is usually the pantry. If your non-perishables are organized and easy to see, it should take a mere 60 seconds to look over what you have before heading to the grocery store.

Learn to Habit Stack

For those of us who live busy lives (which is probably most of us), habit stacking is a method you’ll want to employ. Essentially, it means to tack a new habit onto something you’re already doing. Like listening to podcasts and audiobooks? Put your headphones in as you’re folding the laundry. While you’re waiting for everyone in the office to join a video call, delete and unsubscribe from spam emails.

Set timers: If you're even slightly competitive, this hack will work well for you. Set a 15 minute timer at least once per day and race against it to get as much tidying up as you can. Remember, even a few minutes of steady work will have a big payoff.

Get the whole family involved: If you have a partner and kids, chances are you aren’t the only one who’s made a mess. Make a family affair by including everyone in the tidying up process. Try to stick to the same schedule, such as Friday evening after school and work and before social gatherings or TV time.

Bribe Yourself (and Others)

I am not ashamed to admit that even I, as someone who lives to organize others, needs a little motivation to do it for myself. Whether it’s the newest Starbucks brew, a glass of my favorite wine, or the plan to get a 30 minute massage when I’m finished, I’ll do what it takes to get the job done. If you have kids, keep it simple and offer to take them out for ice cream if they declutter and clean up their bedrooms for an hour.

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