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10 Organizing Tips That'll Change Your Life

They'll help you spend less time re-sorting and re-storing things later

By Cass Colin and

(This article previously appeared on

Eager to get your house organized before winter sets in? Follow these 10 pieces of advice to whip your space into shape:

Minimize What You Store

Ask yourself, “How can I make it smaller?” before deciding to purge keepsakes, says founder Lorie Morero, though the axiom works for any situation.

For example, remove excess packaging before storing your items (ie: remove shoes from shoeboxes or save pages from magazines rather than storing the whole issue).

You can also scan photos and store them on your computer instead of keeping hard copies (most copy shops and drugstores offer usage of a scanner if you don't have one).

(MORE: Take the 30-day Declutter Challenge)

Put Binder Clips to Use

Binder clips are your friends. There’s not much you can’t do with these inexpensive office-supply wonders. Besides clipping like items together, you can use them for almost anything, including:

  • Sealing bags of chips and other packaged foods
  • Clasping together paperwork you need to deal with later
  • Holding larger items, like unit shelves, temporarily in place (see example)
  • Standing a sponge up to let it drain (see example)
  • Minding cords on your desk (see example)
  • Preventing things from rolling around in your fridge

Place Kitchen Aides All Around the House

Use kitchen storage tools outside of the kitchen. For instance:

  • That Lazy Susan you’re barely using on the dinner table?  Pop it under the bathroom sink to corral products and make them easier to find.
  • Add a silverware holder to your desk drawer to organize odds and ends.
  • Install a hanging fruit basket in your shower to hold bath products (or even kids' toys).

Put Small Clean-up Tasks Into Practice

Small clean-ups make light work. Look around the room — is there anything there that should be elsewhere, perhaps? Thought so. Instead of letting magazines, leftover glasses, shoes and more pile up, integrate small clean-ups into your usual routine.

By taking one thing to its proper place while you go about your day, you’ll prevent the clutter pile-ups that can make organizing such a chore.

(MORE: Decultter Challenge: What Works Best for You?)

Stop Trash at the Door

Put junk mail in its place. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in his or her lifetime — and 1/3 of it is junk mail.

Save yourself from stacks of coupons, circulars and the like by placing a recycling bin near where you open mail. Then go the extra mile by setting up a small filing system for mail, such as a simple in-and-out tray or a more sophisticated desktop file with designated slots for mail that needs action, versus things you just want to keep.

Set a Schedule


Organize your time better with a calendar. Whether you prefer the classic hang-it-where-you'll-see-it method or modern electronic calendars (such as Google’s free service) that let you and your family update one agenda, your life will feel more organized if you make plans and maintain a schedule.

Set a Date

Toss products that are past their prime. That layer of dust slowly settling on your spices and bath products — it’s not a good thing. Pantry items like herbs and extracts have shelf lives of roughly one to four years, while makeup only lasts a year.

Prevent build-up of ineffective products by labeling items as you buy them. (Hint: Garage sale-style dot stickers are durable and cheap.) By simply writing the purchase date on items, you’ll never hesitate to toss something because you're wondering if it's past its prime.

Keep Surfaces Clear

Start an organization system that ensures you have the workspace (and tidy appearance) you desire. Choose tools and systems that hang items, giving you additional surface storage and usable countertops and desk surfaces. Hooks inside your cabinet doors, a wall-mounted inbox system or even a pegboard system in your basement or garage creates additional storage without eating up too much of your space.

But use caution when hanging items. If a storage system is too high for you to reach easily, you won’t use it, leaving items to end up wherever you can conveniently toss them.

Put Like with Like

Store items by category. It might sound like common sense, but NAPO’s tenet, “things that work together should be stored together," is the basis of great organization. As you’re finding places to stash items, be sure you group them accordingly.

Junk drawers and miscellaneous closets become nightmares when they are filled with items of mixed use. Corral items by purpose and store them where you’ll need them — such as putting bathroom cleaning supplies in the bathroom instead of in the hall closet, for example — to simplify your life.

(MORE: 30-Day Declutter Challenge: What I've Learned)

Purge Often

Employ the one-in, one-out system. According to NAPO, we use only 20 percent of the things we keep. Instead of conserving your energy for a big, whole-household purge, shed items from your closets and cabinets as you're getting dressed each day.

Apply a one-in, one-out system to your home, by donating or handing down one item of clothing for every new one you receive. The key to organizing is often having fewer items to organize.

Cass Colin Read More
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