Do One Small Organizational Task
1. Maximize wall space in an entryway with cut-to-fit lattice from your local home-improvement store or garden center.
2. Do one small organizational task daily, no matter how small. Clean out one drawer or the top tier of the spice rack. Just think: After a month, you’ll have checked 30 things off your to-do list.
3. Open the mail over the shredder or recycling bin, and get rid of the junk immediately. This forces you to make quick and definitive decisions so nothing piles up in your hallway or anywhere else.
Make Quick Organizing Decisions
4. Keep each kid’s tests, drawings, and papers in a large art box, and go through the boxes with your children at the end of each school year. Holly Bohn, founder of seejanework.com, allows each child to pick one thing to save. She chooses one special item as well, then everything else gets pitched. “This way you don’t have to make immediate decisions when they bring something home,” she says.
5. Store all your notes, lists, and ideas in one small three-ring binder you keep in your purse. Periodically recycle outdated pages (last week’s grocery list) and keep others (that million-dollar idea that came to you at the doctor’s office).
Divvy-Up Your Goods
6. Separate bras and undies with drawer dividers. Use velvet dividers ($8 for six; organize.com) to sort lingerie into sections according to type (bras, undies, and camisoles) and function (everyday garments stay up front; strapless bras are tucked in the back).
7. Once or twice a year, host a shop-my-castoffs party. Turn on the tunes, open a bottle of wine, and let friends take what they like — from purses and baubles to frocks and shoes.
Pat Yourself on the Back
8. Give yourself recognition for your organizing accomplishments, suggests Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. Show off your solutions and brag a little. You’re more likely to maintain order in a space if you’re truly proud of it.
9. Treat organization the same way you would a diet or exercise plan: as a lifestyle change. To maintain results, you have to do a little bit, often, says Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook.
10. Hang two canvas totes, embroidered with REPAIR and DONATE, from hooks in the laundry room, suggests seejanework.com’s Holly Bohn. She tosses too-small, worn-out, and snagged clothes into the bags as soon as they come out of the dryer to keep from stumbling across these mini-projects all the time.
Grab an Organizing Pal
11. Stash a permanent marker in the bathroom cabinet and mark makeup, sunscreens, and medicines with the dates of purchase so you know when they should be tossed. In general, mascara shouldn’t be kept for more than three months, and sunscreens and medicines should be pitched at the end of a year, advises Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet. Look for POA (“period after opening”) icons, like the one at right, on packaging; “3M” means a product lasts three months.
12. No bathroom storage? Hang a canvas shoe organizer on the back of the door, says Julie Edelman, author of The Ultimate Accidental Housewife. Put dental-care items in one row of pockets, makeup brushes in the next, your husband’s shaving gear in another, and so on.
13. Get a clutter buddy. “You’re a better editor with someone else’s stuff,” says stylist Christine Cameron, of mystylepill.com, who regularly helps one friend clean out her closet. “I insist she let go of that when-I-lose-five-pounds skirt, and she reminds me that a girl doesn’t need 10 pairs of black pants.”
Bust Out the Label Maker
14. Store frozen foods and meats in easily accessible, labeled plastic bins, as REDBOOK reader and organizing pro Sue Becker did here. You’ll never freeze your fingers hunting through your well-stocked but overpacked freezer again.
15. Record birthdays, anniversaries, and other key dates at sites like americangreetings.com or giftelephant.com, which can send you reminders when someone’s special day is approaching. Some even set up an automatic free e-card delivery.
You Never Know When You Might Need . . .
16. Employ one system to help organize favorite recipes. The Recipe Nest ($39; reciperelish.com) is a binder with six tabbed dividers that you can customize with your own categories, such as Grandma’s Secrets or Entertaining Menus. It’s nearly two inches deep, so there’s plenty of room for you to add to your collection.
17. Make yourself a YNK (you never know) box, says Alicia Rockmore, cofounder of Buttoned Up organizational products. Here’s how: Empty the contents of a drawer (the kitchen utensil drawer, or a junk drawer) into a box. Then, every time you need one of the items, remove it from the box and return it to the drawer after you use it. After two months, whatever is still left in the box should be thrown out or donated.
A Place for Your Treasures
18. Dangle necklaces and baubles from pushpins on fabric-covered bulletin boards. Hang boards on a wall and always find the perfect accessory. (When the curtains are in place, the treasures are out of sight.)
19. Edit, edit, edit. How many pots can you fit on the stove at once? How many free pens do you really use? How many old T-shirts do you really need to save for the next paint project?
It’s Okay to Regift — Really!
20. Sift through your ever-growing stack of magazines and catalogs while on a plane, train, or bus trip. Bring a few clear plastic envelopes ($7.50 for three; seejanework.com) along with you to stash recipes you want to try, decorating ideas, and reference articles you tear out.
21. Give yourself permission to regift. Just because someone you care about gave you something does not mean you have to hold on to it for the rest of your life (even if you have room for it!). Pass it on to someone who will appreciate and use it.
Design Your Own Bar
22. Corral clutter where it lands. Keep containers near mess hot spots, such as the front door, the bedroom dresser, and the kitchen counter. Then empty them once in a while (or when they get full), put the items away, and start over.
23. As soon as you upload your new photos to the computer, create a digital photo book. As for old photos that never made it into an album, Donna Smallin, author of A to Z Storage Solutions, suggests organizing them in photo boxes, categorizing by vacation or time period so they’re easily searchable.
24. Repurpose your old TV cabinet as a hideaway bar, suggests REDBOOK reader and organizing specialist Grace Brooke. Here, she installed inexpensive hanging glass racks and used three-tiered stacking shelves and trays to maximize the vertical space inside the cabinet.
Traveling Memories Fit for a Box
25. Clean house like you’re moving. Keep only those things you’d take if you relocated.
26. If you travel a lot and collect cards and brochures from favorite restaurants, shops, and activities, throw them all into one box when you get home. When a friend is headed someplace you’ve visited, you can sift through your box (like the one below) to pass along some suggestions. Everyone wins: You have one spot where stockpiling a mishmash of info is allowed, and friends get travel tips from someone they know and trust.