An Organized Home

by Debbie Williams

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One of the key rules in organizing and decorating is to utilize vertical space. Often, we place furniture around the room with nothing above it, forming a nice horizontal line. There is a ton of unclaimed storage and visually appealing space right above the furniture line!

For most organizing projects, you have four choices: hang it, put it in a drawer, store it on the floor, or shelve it.

To get started, gather several boxes and label them "To Keep," "To Trash," "To Sell," "Undecided." Begin sorting. Don't try to find a place for everything until your items are sorted. Group your items by category. Decide what will be folded, what will be placed on hangers, and what will go into drawers.

By planning wisely during your sorting process, you have eliminated the need for many storage items. Use what you have around the house, and then buy specific sizes for the articles you need to organize.

Closet Space

Up off the floor! Use multilevel rods for hanging items. Bins and shelf dividers keep folded items stacked. They are inexpensive to buy and can usually be found in discount stores or home stores. The time you save sorting through things on the floor or in drawers for purses and accessories will be well worth the small investment. This will not only free up valuable drawer space, but can eliminate the need for chest of drawers altogether.

When organizing your closet, keep all blouses together. Sort by color, casual or dressy, long sleeved or short sleeved. Do the same for skirts, dresses, slacks and jeans.

Kitchen Capers

Stack it up. Use plastic or wicker in-baskets and go vertical to utilize counter space. Don't spread; stack. Purchase wire shelves for pantries and cabinets at your discount store. These double the space for dishes, pots, and pans. Lid organizers and baking tray racks store stackable pots and pans.

Hang on. Use over-the-door hangers or door-mounted holders to display pantry items. Holders for seasoning envelopes, spice boxes, and plastic wraps consolidate these elusive items once and for all. You can even buy under-the-shelf organizers for paper plates, napkins, and coffee filters.

No more junk drawer? No way! Just use any type of plastic basket or cutlery organizer for your junk drawer, and clean it out routinely.

Pretty is as pretty does. Since counter space is at a premium, don't display all your knickknacks on the countertop. Instead, hang framed prints rather than resting them on easels. Consolidate fridge photos with a magnetic mat, or adhere a magnetic sheet to each picture creating your own photo magnets. Store tall utensils in pottery or your favorite pitcher. This makes your favorite things do double duty, creating more drawer space and reducing countertop clutter.

Kid Clutter

If you have a two-story home, upstairs toys are not dragged downstairs. They stay in the bedroom or playroom. Keep a few toys on a small shelf, in a wicker basket or toy bin downstairs in the family room. These must be cleaned up each night before bedtime. Downstairs push or riding toys must stay downstairs and off the steps.

To further utilize vertical space, install shelves and paint them to match the wall. Hang toy hammocks for stuffed animals. Spray paint a long shower tension rod, wrap with Velcro strips, and stick up stuffed animals.

Old soda crates found at flea markets can be cleaned up, painted, and will house treasures of all kinds. Smaller versions can be purchased at craft and discount stores.

Interior decorators encourage us to keep our collections, but to consolidate rather than scatter them for drama. Encourage your child's creativity by enlisting their help for novel solutions for storage. Give them a budget, make a list of things to contain, and see what they come up with. Perhaps they'll surprise you and suggest taking a box full to their favorite children's charity, or have a garage sale to raise money for newer toys. Involving your kids in the planning, prioritizing, sorting, and containing stages ensures better (not perfect) participation in the maintenance of clutter. And who knows? You may actually nurture a minimalist of your own in the process. Or a packrat with incredibly organized closets.

In the lower grades of elementary school, the classrooms are set up in learning centers. And to contain the clutter in the classroom, Miss Crabtree has a strict rule of putting a toy away before taking out another one. This may seem strict in your own home and does not work with every child. With my own son, I have the "three toy rule." He may play with three toys, and then it's time to put them away before dragging out another one. It works well with puzzles, books, and other like items. If you start young, they may continue this "clean as you go" rule throughout life.

Small plastic shoeboxes are perfect for Legos, Barbie clothes and accessories, and hot wheels. Find the totes a size larger with handles on the top for easy carrying to and from the play area.

Larger tubs hold blocks, play food and dishes, and other pieces that just seem to multiply in the night.

Save the large tubs for train sets, car tracks, doll accessories, and sports gear.

Flat under-the-bed boxes are wonderful for out-of-season clothes and toys. Most closets are not large enough for toys and clothes, so why not store unused toys as you would clothing? Kites, beach gear, and baseball gear should be stashed during winter months; football, hockey stick, and ice skates should be stored during the summer.

Closing Thoughts

By using some of these organizing tips, you will reclaim storage space and cut down on the clutter in your home. By containing clutter, you'll find yourself well on the way to becoming a bit more organized.

Debbie Williams is an author, speaker and parent educator who offers tools and training to help you put your house in order. Learn more at

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