We asked a pair of professional organizers to reach into their hats and pull out some of their most miraculous organizing tactics. They were happy to oblige.
Ever wish you could just Abracadabra!
that clutter away? Or Open Sesame
! to reveal a well-ordered bathroom vanity? We turned to two seasoned professional organizers -- women whose job it is to work magic on their clients' homes (and, more importantly, their organizing habits) -- and asked them to share some of their best tricks when it comes to the home's most notorious clutter zones: tricks that go beyond plastic bins and drawer dividers.
Here are their insider tips for making clutter vanish for good.
TROUBLE ZONE #1: MEDICINE CABINET
Photos: Corbis; MCT
Don't let contents of your medicine cabinet simply float; contain them. Professional organizer Jill Revitsky of Discover Organizing, Inc.
in Pittsburgh places interlocking plastic bins
(meant for drawers) lengthwise on the bottom shelves of her clients' medicine cabinets to hold tiny tubes of makeup, sample packets and prescription medications -- all the things that easily fall over. Heather Lambie, founder of Your Home Editor
, a Tampa Bay, Florida-based professional organizing company, tells clients to line one shelf with vintage juice glasses
(they don't have to match; in fact, it looks cooler if they don't) to wrangle cosmetics; one cup for lip gloss, another for eye shadow. "Beyond being pretty, it creates boundaries. When the cup is full, you know you need to throw something away. When everything gets thrown in a drawer, you lose sight of what you have," says Lambie.
TROUBLE ZONE #2: THE GARDEN SHED
"If you're like most people, once planting season is over, the door gets shut and God help the next person who opens it," says Revitsky. She suggests lining one wall with floor-to-ceiling utility shelves
and organizing shelves by task – lawn and garden, fuel, cleaning, lighting, and so on. Install a sheet of floor-to-ceiling pegboard (wood
) and hang tools from hooks
. Once you've found the perfect layout for all your tools, Revitsky recommends going a step further and outlining them with black marker so you'll know exactly where to hang them back up. Lambie creates DIY storage pockets for shears, garden gloves, pruners and the like by cutting a shop apron
in half and suspending the bottom portion from pegboard hooks.
TROUBLE ZONE #3: UNDER THE KITCHEN SINK
Start by tossing old products. (Resist the urge to combine like products if there's only a drop left in one bottle -- a generic brand of all-purpose cleaner with a brand-name one, for instance.) Group similar products together and place those used most frequently within immediate reach. Revitsky regularly recommends using an expandable under-sink shelf organizer
, which adds vertical storage, and adjusts to fit around pipes garbage disposals. She tosses new sponges, microfiber cloths and other odds and ends into a lidded plastic shoebox and slides it underneath the shelf. And she stuck a strong adhesive hook
to the inside of her cabinet door for drying wet rags. Lambie goes a step further and uses lidded glass jars
to house kitchen cleaner samples, recycled plastic grocery bags, steel wool pads and dishwashing pellets so everything's easier to look at and she knows exactly what she has (and what she needs).
TROUBLE ZONE #4: HOME OFFICE
Photo: Getty Images
Where there's paper, there's clutter. Even in our digital age, it's hard to avoid chaos in a room that must find a way to contain mail, periodicals, coupons, family schedules...the list goes on and on. But there are secret ways to make sure this space really performs.
• Mail (unopened or otherwise):
Professional organizer, Jill Revitsky, of Discover Organizing, Inc.
in Pittsburgh, has devised an ingenious plan that she wishes she could patent: Clear out your current dumping ground and replace it with a fragile object -- a ceramic vase or family heirloom, for instance. Designate a new, improved in-box
to a high-traffic area like the kitchen. "In about 3 weeks, replace the cherished piece; by then you're avoiding the old haunt like the plague, so you don't have to worry about falling back into your old routine," says Revitsky. A few helpful hints to help deal with this widespread scourge?
1. Chill out, it's the holidays.
2. Try to always put aside at least 15 minutes for opening the mail.
3. Do so over a garbage can or recycling bin, says Heather Lambie, founder of Your Home Editor
, a Tampa Bay, Florida-based professional organizing company. "And before you save anything – and I mean anything – ask yourself whether you can get that information anywhere else. Thanks to Google, the answer is almost always yes," she adds.
• Catalogs, magazines and newspapers:
Lambie suggests repurposing items in the home office -- ones that don't normally see a lot of airtime in other rooms. Say, a wine rack (or two) from the kitchen to corral recent issues you've yet to read. (This forces you to immediately recycle or donate the others). Rolled-up monthlies look more interesting this way, and valued kitchen space is freed up.
• Coupons, bills, gift certificates, receipts, schedules:
Invest in an inexpensive tabbed all-in-one folder
, label the sections, and stow it in a desk drawer. Throw in all the loose papers so easily lost track of. Grab a separate folder for pages torn from magazines you love -- so you don't have to save the whole issue -- and organize sections by subject (food, tools, projects).
Yep, those pre-digital, print photos. You're not getting any points for storing them in an "acid-free" Lactaid milk crate. If you're like this writer -- too lazy to organize photos and get them into an album -- try Lambie's trick: She bought a revolving 2-foot postcard rack
at a flea market (the kind used in store displays), sat it on her desk, and fills it willy-nilly with printed photos. "Only our grandmothers had time to put photos in albums. Guests and family members love discovering new ones, and it never matters where they're put back. Plus, I think it's nice that the arrangement is ever-changing," she says.
TROUBLE ZONE #5: KIDS' ROOM
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The key here is to get Little Billy or Angie to put their things away. As parents know, the only way this will happen is if parents make it easy for them. "Set up a child's room similar to a preschool -- with spaces dedicated to learning, being creative, sleeping and eating. This helps him figure out where things belong when he's completed a task," says Revitsky.
Forget hangers when it comes to kids' clothes. Revitsky advises parents to stagger multiple rows of sturdy (child-height) hooks
in kids' closets. "Everyday kids' costumes are in now. They always end up heaped on closet floors," she says. (Lest we forget hoodies, backpacks, belts and purses?)
• Toys, Games:
Unsure whether to toss or keep that teddy? Lambie has a good system for getting rid of the Raggedy Andys to make room for the new gadgets: She tells clients to put toys into "rotation." Toss the item into a labeled, dated transparent bin
(well within the child's sight) for around 3 weeks or a time you're most comfortable with. "For kids aged 3 to 7 years, it may seem like an eternity. If the child doesn't ask for it, he's not missing it and it's OK to donate," says Lambie. Introduce a video game storage system via a hanging jewelry organizer
. Instruct kids to sink in their ($25 to replace!) Nintendo DSi and VTech handheld game cartridges whenever they're not playing them.
Have you devised a foolproof trick that keeps you and your family organized all season long? What about an ingenious system or product you just can't live without? We want to know. Share here!