Simple Tricks for Getting Organized


A thoughtful approach to garage storage makes the most of this valuable space and keeps every necessity at your fingertips.

If your house is bursting at the seams, or simply short on storage options, the solution may be as close as your garage. To make the best use of this space, however, you first need to corral its current chaos.

This is, fortunately, a relatively simple task if you incorporate a few good storage ideas. With careful planning and a little effort, you can transform your garage from a messy catchall to an efficient, well-organized household annex.

Divide and conquer

First things first: Get rid of anything you no longer use. After you’ve winnowed down the contents of your garage, sort everything into groups. Keep garden tools with garden tools, and sports equipment with sports equipment. Items used together ought to be stored together.

Where possible, place like items into clear plastic containers with lids. It’s fine to use opaque bins, just be sure to label each one. Stackable containers are especially handy. They keep your belongings clean, protect against insects and rodents, increase the amount of usable floor space, and cut down on visual clutter.

What goes where?

The efficient use of space partly depends on positioning stored items in a thoughtful, strategic way. Are there certain items you’re likely to need on a regular basis, such as cleaning supplies? If so, store them near the door so you can access them quickly and easily. Stash rarely used or seasonal items, like sleds and skis, in harder-to-reach spots.

Off the wall

The key to garage storage and organization is getting things off the floor. Capitalizing on wall space enables you to fit the most into your garage, while keeping it all visible and easy to access. The type of wall storage you choose depends on your storage needs, project budget and personal preferences. Many homeowners opt for one or a combination of the following storage standbys:

  • Pegboard. A favorite for generations, pegboard is inexpensive and easy to install. Because it can be outfitted with an array of compatible hooks, clamps, bins and shelves, pegboard can be used to store and organize just about anything, as long as the item to be stored isn’t especially heavy.
  • Open shelving. Whether a wall-mounted track system or a set of stand-alone units, open shelves are affordable, versatile and user-friendly, and they keep everything in plain sight. Plus, depending on their construction, 12- or 16-inch-deep shelves are typically capable of holding heavier items.
  • Closed cabinetry. If you plan to park your car in the garage, cabinets with doors may be the most desirable option, because closed storage means not having to come face-to-face with paint cans and garbage bags every time you leave or arrive home. Cabinets are available in countless materials and styles, but generally speaking, they are more expensive than other solutions. And because they are unable to accommodate very large items, cabinets are most effective when used in conjunction with another storage system.
  • Panelized systems. Here, entire walls are covered with specially designed panels that hold any number of companion add-ons, such as hooks and shelves. Unlike pegboard, panelized systems can handle heavier items. But that strength and utility comes at a cost, especially since some proprietary products must be installed by licensed professionals.

Look up

For certain infrequently used belongings, the ceiling provides ideal, out-of-the-way storage space. Ladders and seasonal gear can be kept here, hung by clips or straps fastened to the ceiling joists. Or you can take advantage of hoist pulley systems, which cleverly operate like the cords on window blinds. Bear in mind, however, that ceiling storage must be oriented so that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the garage door.

Safety steps

As you’re organizing your garage, it’s important to keep safety in mind. It’s unsafe to store gasoline and propane in the garage; a single spark could lead to tragedy.

Likewise, if you have children or pets, you should store hazardous materials like fertilizer and pesticides far out of reach. Locked cabinets are a good solution for these toxic materials, and they’re also a smart place to store power tools and sharp implements.

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Originally published January 2015.



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Organizing Your Pantry in 6 Easy Steps


When your pantry is tidy, every trip to grab a bag of chips or stash the week’s groceries will be a treat.

Food pantries can take just about any form. These versatile storage areas for canned goods, paper products and less frequently used small appliances may be housed in a walk-in room, a simple drawer, a wall cabinet or a closet. Hutches, armoires and even open shelving also work well.

Regardless of the setup, the key to a successful pantry is keeping it organized. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.

Clean it

Similar to a refrigerator, the first step to seeing what you have to work with is emptying it out and giving it a good overall cleaning. Start with the ceiling — look out for spider webs! — and work your way down to the floor.

Next, give shelves a thorough wipe-down with soap and water, capturing any dust and crumbs. If you’re feeling ambitious, repaint your shelves or even wallpaper the pantry. If not, simply line the shelves with contact paper and mop the floors.

Take inventory

While boxes and food items are strewn throughout your kitchen, grab a donation box and think about what you really need and use.

Were certain items out of reach that would be better relocated closer to the stove, like herbs and olive oil? Place those items where they may make more sense, and make a list of the items you need from the store to fill the culinary gaps.

Throw away expired products, and set aside any items you don’t think you’ll use — like the navy beans for that special recipe you never got around to making — for your local food bank

Solve problems

If the clean-out process revealed hard-to-reach items in the back of your pantry, relocate them. Put things you rarely need — like extra mixing bowls and seldom-used appliances — in the back, and label the front of the shelf to remind you of their new location.

If your pantry is deep enough, opt for installing roll-out shelving or wire bins for those hard-to-reach essentials.

Get a better view

If you have open shelving or glass-front cabinets, handling a mix of boxes, bags and random containers can be a challenge.

Invest in a large set of clear glass or plastic jars for storage. Their attractive uniformity will cut the visual chaos, and they’re perfect for storing baking supplies like flour and sugar.

Decide on storage solutions

Once you have a handle on what you want to store, it’s time to round up the items you need to put your pantry back together. Your list may include spice jars, Mason jars, contact paper, racks for aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and bins and baskets to wrangle small items.

Put it all back together

You’ve taken everything out and purged what you don’t need. Now it’s time to reload the pantry with everything you plan to store.

Group like items together — coffee and creamer with sweeteners; flour and sugar with baking soda; pastas and grains with oats; soups and olives with other canned items. Play around with your arrangement until it looks so organized that you feel proud enough to show it off.

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Originally published January 2015



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10 Tips for Organizing Your Whole House


Tackle one task per day and you’ll be more organized in no time.

Getting your home and space organized can help you feel more in control of your environment. That sense of order can reduce stress, help you focus on your own well-being and achieve your other goals. Follow these tips to organize your whole home quickly and easily.

Set up a no-fail garage system

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A place for everything, and everything in its place (or at least you’ll be able to tell if it’s not).

I suggest starting out in the garage, because it can be one of the most overcrowded places in the house. Picture yourself driving into your garage and seeing at least one new system set up for easy use in the coming year.

Here’s an approach that’s simple, inexpensive, and quick to accomplish.

  1. Hang some peg board
  2. Put some tool hooks in the holes on the board
  3. Using a thick marker, draw an outline around each tool to reserve its location.

Your new tool organizing system will keep you organized, and alert you when tools are missing. This garage system also helps other family members put things away because it’s easy to see where to place each item.

Cut laundry time in half

How can one of the smallest rooms in the house seem so chaotic? And why does doing laundry seem to take up so much time?

Here’s a laundry system that will save you time and restore your sanity. First, provide everyone with their own laundry basket. Put family members’ names on the sides of the baskets so there are no lost items or mix-ups.

laundry
Photo from Zillow listing

Now here’s the sweet secret. When the wash is done, rather than placing the clean laundry on the dining room table or the stairs (and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes), have everyone come to the laundry room to pick up their personalized basket of clean clothing.

Work some kitchen magic

The kitchen is the activity hub of most homes. It’s a busy area because family members or roommates use the kitchen at least three to five times a day. We open our mail here, study, read, use our laptops and tablets here — not to mention, it’s where the food is.

Because we have so many varied activities happening in the kitchen, it’s wise to create separate stations for those activities. One way to accomplish this is to invest in a rolling cart — whatever style and size works best in your kitchen.

Use this cart to establish a dedicated space for one of your most common activities. For example, create a lunch-making station stocked with a cutting board and knife, salt and pepper, paper towels, and non-perishable food items (bread, oranges and apples) and snacks. Create the space for your family to assist in making your life easier while also keeping one station of like-items together.

Put it in writing

Whether you’re a one-person household or a family of five, one tool can save your life or home: a household manual. The beauty of this handy tool is it doesn’t have to be compiled all at one time, and it costs you nothing to create.

Grab a three-ring binder and a three-hole punch, and keep your essential information in the binder. To get started, collect your emergency contact info and other vital information such as the name of your vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medication doses for your kids, the name of your father’s caregiver, and where your home’s gas shut-off valve is located.

As you continue to organize your home and find more essential documents, you can add to the binder. For those who prefer a digital approach, store your manual on a highly secure cloud service.

Get a charge

Many people are frustrated by cell phones, iPad chargers, memory sticks and tangled cords sprinkled throughout the house. Relaxation and recreation activities often seem to need the power of a charging station that’s easily accessible — and it doesn’t hurt if it’s attractive too.

One simple solution is to consider a charging station that conceals the cords, keeps all the electronic items together, and looks good while doing it.

Tell a tidier toy story

Whether it’s grandparents or new moms and dads, one of the biggest complaints of people who share their home with children is about picking up toys.

The “putting away” task is a skill that can and should be taught to children, as it’s important for establishing personal responsibility in kids as they grow into teens and then adulthood. Besides, putting away toys can be fun.

Here’s one idea that will shift your play storage situation from frustration to elation. Use colorful bins to hold toys, designating each bin to hold one type of toy, such as musical instruments, cars, dolls, games or Legos.

To make it even easier, find pictures of the toys in magazines or online, and use them to label the bins.

If you have dolls or stuffed animals in one bin, attach the matching picture to the front of the bin. Keep the number of bins small, but make sure the bins are large and easy to access.

Declutter the grownups’ bedroom closet

Bulging closets and growing piles of clean and dirty laundry may nix the possibility of either rest or romance. Decluttering in the bedroom creates a sanctuary for both.

Starting with the closet is good move. Once the space is clear, it all boils down to finding what you need when you need it.

Here’s a quick process for getting your closet in order:

  1. Clear the floor so you can move around easily.
  2. Make sure you have proper lighting.
  3. Pull everything out.
  4. Only put back in what fits you right now, is stain-free, and requires no repairs.

Set kids’ closets straight

For organizing kids’ clothes, there’s no better tool than a hanging shelving unit. Designate one pocket for each day of the week, and label it. Each weekend, pick out clothes for the following week, and put them in the pockets for the day your child will wear them. Imagine a calm morning without clothing conflict.

Bundle toiletries and grooming tools

Some bathrooms are small, and everyone seems to have their own favorite shampoo, hairbrush and brand of toothpaste. Drawer, cabinet and counter space tends to run out quickly.

If this is your situation, try assigning everyone in the house a bathroom caddy, loaded up with all their cosmetics, toiletries and grooming tools, and labeled with their name.

Store the caddies on a shelf in the bathroom or carry them to and from the bedroom. The bathroom stays organized, and there’s an automatic clean-up built in after every visit.

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Originally published January 2016



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7 Simple Ways to Keep Your Kids’ Toys From Taking Over Your Home


Conquer the clutter and reclaim the precious space you once ruled.

If having your family at home all day, every day has made your space feel chaotic, and your days and nights seem to run together, regain a sense of order with these simple tips.

1. Reduce the clutter

It doesn’t matter how organized you are — a surplus of toys will always ensure your house is a mess waiting to happen. Fortunately, getting kids on board with the idea of ditching their stuff is a lot easier than it sounds.

The trick is to make it an opportunity for them to define themselves and their interests. Encourage kids to make a pile of ”baby toys” to donate, and have them set aside any toys that no longer interest them, such as action figures from a forgotten TV show. Separating these toys will help them appreciate how much they’ve grown and rediscover the toys they love.

2. Choose toys wisely

Since you’ll probably be stuck with them for a while, it pays to be picky when it comes to buying toys. To make toys more meaningful to your child, only buy them for holidays, special occasions and rewards — don’t shy away from asking relatives to do the same.

Avoid toys that are poorly made (cheap), not age-appropriate, unnecessarily large, pointless or anything tied to a movie — unless it’s that one you’ve been playing on repeat every day. The best toys are versatile, encourage creativity and can easily be expanded upon, such as Legos, wooden train tracks and dollhouse sets.

3. Leave some toys out of reach

If you’re constantly finding play dough and puzzle pieces in the sofa cushions, it’s time to put them on the top shelf of the closet. Designating these messy toys as ”family toys” will give you more quality time with your child instead of scrubbing pen marks off the curtains.

Also, try to set aside a tote of toys, games and puzzles for rainy days. This ensures you’ll always have a trick up your sleeve for sick days or when a boring relative visits.

4. Set boundaries

If toys are already sprawled out over every available surface of your house, don’t worry! You can quickly reclaim order in your household by setting a few ground rules, such as ”no toys in the kitchen” or setting limits on the number of toys allowed out overnight.

While that might seem a bit draconian, children are generally happier when they’re given clear expectations and few surprises. That’s why it’s important to follow through and pick up every night, no matter how exhausted you feel at the time.

5. Give kids ownership

Picking up toys doesn’t have to be boring. Babies, toddlers and big kids alike can have fun organizing and picking up, just as long as it’s not a negative experience. This means you should provide enough time for enjoyment without resorting to counting ”1, 2, 3” or shouting empty threats.

A great thing about setting aside extra time for picking up is that you and your child can do fun things like scoop up blocks with a blanket or deliver toys across the house via tricycle. If you make it fun enough, your kid will eventually pick up without even being asked.

6. Give every toy a home

Without a simple organizational system, picking up can be a major headache. Don’t throw everything into one big toy box; there’s a better way.

Buy a series of matching plastic bins and line them up along the wall where your child can easily put away and retrieve toys on his own. Designate one box for Legos, one for stuffed animals, one for train tracks … you get the idea.

Use stacking plastic boxes for smaller toys like matchbox cars and dolls. Organize them further by storing puzzle pieces, doll clothes and other annoyances in Ziploc bags.

7. Hit the books

It’s not your imagination. That pile of storybooks by the couch really is getting taller, and if you wait much longer, it will likely turn into a giant heap.

Worse yet, your kid uses those books to stall and push back bedtime a little later with each passing night. That’s why it’s important to either keep the books in your child’s room, or keep a small selection of favorites in a basket for easy retrieval.

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Originally published December 2017



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Solving the Ultimate Small Space Dilemmas


Squeeze every last bit of storage space out of your dwelling, no matter its size.

When you’re in a small space — especially if you’re sharing it with others, and you’re spending a lot more time there than you ever have before — you’ve probably come to realize that square footage is something to be savored, not squandered. If things are feeling a little crowded, this may be a good time to assess your organization methods.

Whatever your hobby or collection, there’s an organizational hack to help you store it. Here are some clever storage tricks for six of the toughest, bulkiest space-takers you may own.

Offseason wardrobe

Tuck those bulky winter sweaters (or shorts and flip-flops) in plastic bins under your bed. If your bed’s too close to the ground, lift it up with sturdy wood blocks. Even a few extra inches create enough space for a sizable storage container.

If elevating the bed isn’t an option, maximize your closet space with a few sets of cascading hangers. Put blouses on one set and T-shirts on another, and you’ll most likely double your closet space.

Extra linens

Extra pillows, comforters, and bedsheets are great for guests, but not so great for your small space. Try vacuum storage bags — stack your items inside, and use your vacuum cleaner to remove the air. Your items will shrink significantly so you can store them under your bed or on a shelf.

Shoe collection

A burgeoning shoe collection can take on a life of its own if not properly corralled. Take it back to dorm-room days with an over-the-door shoe organizer. These college favorites are popular for a reason — they store a dozen pairs of shoes or more, plus scarves, baseball caps, belts and chunky necklaces.

Bikes

Bikes can be one of the most difficult belongings to stash, especially if you don’t have a deck, garage or basement. Try installing a strong hook in the wall, and hang your bike by the front tire. Pro: It’s a great way to get the bike off the floor. Con: It still protrudes into the room.

For a less invasive option, hang your bike flush against the wall — like you’re hanging a piece of art. The hardware can be as simple as two wooden dowels that support the bike’s horizontal bar. (Just make sure you anchor the supports in the wall’s studs so they can hold the weight.)

Exercise equipment

An inflatable exercise ball is a great workout aid — and a real space suck. You could always deflate it, but the hassle probably isn’t worth it. So, why not get creative and make it a usable piece of furniture?

Repurpose medium or large exercise balls as dining room chairs, and store them under the dining table when you’re done.

No room for a dining table? The bike trick applies here, too. Install a couple of dowels high up on the wall, and set the ball there until you’re ready for a crunch session.

Decorations and keepsakes

Have a collection of things you just can’t get rid of? Maybe old photo albums, holiday decorations or crafting supplies? Strategically placed shelves are your storage lifesaver when seeking space for infrequently used items.

There’s often a wealth of unused space above and behind your hung clothing in bedroom and hallway closets. While shelves in these locations may require a footstool or flashlight to access, it won’t matter if you only need the items a few times a year.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

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Originally published August 2017



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Creating a Home(work) Station That Gets Top Marks


Good study habits are easier to build when you have a dedicated and attractive spot to hit the books.

When was the last time your home workspace or study station inspired you? For most people, the answer is, “Not recently.”

Whether you’re prepping an area for your work-from-home days or setting up a spot for young scholars to study , you can kick inspiration into high gear with home office solutions that will get your creative juices flowing again.

Window wonder

It’s no secret that sunshine does the body good. Fix up a space near the window so you can soak up plenty of vitamin D while pumping out price lists or writing that term paper.

Greenery looks great near a bright area, so a potted plant or two might help naturally bring your space to life.

Arts and crafts

The age of DIY is upon us. Embrace the casual-cool vibes and create your very own home desk area.

Need a semipermanent to-do list? Try using chalkboard paint to make yourself a giant notepad on a nearby cabinet or a framed chalkboard. Tired of the overdone corkboard for your sticky notes? Framed chicken wire with clothespins makes a more shabby-chic memo board.

The possibilities really are endless for this type of style. Just don’t let your DIYing get in the way of the tasks you originally sat down to do!

arts
Photo from Zillow listing.

Collaboration is key

For those less focus-intensive projects, investigate a collaborative workstation with several small spaces or a giant community table. This type of work environment has been popular among small companies and creative agencies for the purpose of bouncing around ideas.

If you still want your own personal space, put a divider between you and the other desks for some extra privacy, and take it down when it’s time to meet and discuss. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work.

collab sm
Photo from Zillow listing.

A clear mind

While many of us would like to think we have complete control of our habit of logging onto Facebook or checking what else our calendar has in store for us, most of us really don’t. And the greatest enabler of this sidetracked behavior is a cluttered workspace.

Set the stage for a clean slate with a bright white desk and matching chair, a simple light fixture and an inspiring element. Keeping your workstation simple and clutter-free ensures you have a productive day — even if your homework is less than exhilarating.

Whether you’re up all night cramming for exams or prepping for a work presentation due first thing in the morning, you’ll feel more focused and productive by incorporating any of these tips into your workstation.

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Originally published September 2016.



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5 Tips to Declutter Your Closet in a Day


Streamline your wardrobe, and help others at the same time.

I recently had a closet collapse. I came home from a day at the office to find heaps of what had been neatly hung, color-coordinated clothes in one giant, messy mound on the floor. Worse than picking up the pieces of chipped drywall? Admitting that maybe it was time to get rid of that favorite shirt of mine — from college. In the ’90s.

So I sought the help of style expert Darcy Camden to find out what she tells her clients. Camden has been cleaning out closets and styling men and women for more than a decade (read: she spends a TON of time in strangers’ homes). The busy fashionista (she’s a mother, too) insists there are easy ways to declutter that tangle of t-shirts or pile of old papers. And you can do it in as little as an hour.

A little goes a long way

Purge a little at a time, says Camden, who has helped more than 900 clients in her career.

“Most of my clients think that purging a closet is a huge all-day endeavor, but it often makes more sense to do a little at a time,” she says. “I encourage everyone to keep a Goodwill donation bag in their closet or bedroom, and add to it here and there as you discover items that don’t fit or have gotten worn out.”

If it doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it

“It rarely makes sense to keep something that physically doesn’t fit you — even if you love it,” Camden says. Put it in a pile to donate, and imagine how much joy the next person will get from that item.

New season = new chances

When the weather warms up or cools down, it’s a great opportunity to think about what you’ve worn — and what you haven’t. “If you didn’t wear it last winter, you probably won’t wear it next winter,” Camden says.

Use the “plus one, minus one” method

Fab new pants? Great! But only put them in the closet after removing a pair that’s collecting dust.

“I tell my clients to subtract one old item for every new item you purchase,” Camden recommends. “If you spend an afternoon shopping and come home with five new things, spend some time reviewing your closet. Remove five older things you’re no longer wearing.”

Finally, donate!

Think of how much you can keep out of the landfill by gifting your giveaways to a good cause.

“I’m constantly amazed that my clients are worried their castaways aren’t good enough for Goodwill,” Camden says. “Will they really want this stained old t-shirt? Or this single sock? Yes!”

“Working closely with Seattle Goodwill over the years has given me tons of insight into what happens to donations,” she continues. “Your smelly socks and stained clothing provide jobs and can be recycled or reused. Never throw away clothing to a landfill.”

Last year, Seattle Goodwill kept more than 53 million pounds of useful goods out of landfills. In addition to helping the planet, those donations also help fund job training and educational programs, adds Seattle Goodwill’s Katherine Boury.

Happy cleaning!

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Originally published April 2017



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Embracing Order in the New Year


Tackle clutter and make your space work for you — with style.

For many people, the new year represents a clean slate and brings a renewed sense of possibility and enthusiasm. It’s a wonderful time to get your home organized in anticipation of the busy months ahead. Effective storage solutions and organization systems will enable you to enjoy your home to its fullest. Here are some tips to put you on track for an orderly and productive year.

Learn to let things go

The first step in any organization plan is purging. This can be the hardest part, but it is also the most rewarding.

Don’t keep things that aren’t functional or don’t bring you joy. Also remember that something you let go of might make someone else very happy.

If you’re not sure you can part with an item, store it in a box and see if you miss it or need it. This is a great litmus test for what’s truly necessary. If you don’t miss it after a set amount of time, donate it!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

Any organization effort is better than no organization effort. It’s best to approach a behemoth task like organizing your entire home in stages.

The house provides us with natural barriers. Think of each room as its own project and it will begin to feel more manageable.

And remember that it gets worse before it gets better, so don’t feel discouraged early on. Organizing is not something that happens in one day — it’s a journey and a state of mind.

Think outside the box store

A trip to your local organization store can be fun, but unorthodox storage solutions make for a more interesting space.

Beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces can be highly practical and help make your home more functional. Make use of available and affordable materials, when possible, to stretch your home organization budget. You can craft solutions yourself or revitalize secondhand pieces that fit with your style.

Source: Belathee Photography
Source: Belathee Photography

This bookcase was made out of old wine boxes and then stained a dark walnut color.

The three Bs: bins, buckets and baskets

Oh, and jars. (But that doesn’t start with a B.)

Once you’ve whittled down your belongings to favorites and essentials, you’re going to need somewhere to store them. Baskets and buckets have a wonderful visual impact in a room — filling nooks, resting against chairs and adding texture and color.

Source: Belathee Photography

They are also highly functional for storing everything from toys and blankets to magazines and shoes. Keep an eye out for unexpected vessels, like this gigantic industrial mixing bowl that is now a great solution for avoiding entryway clutter.

Source: Belathee Photography
Source: Belathee Photography

Using jars in the kitchen to store dry goods can make open shelving a lot more appealing. Bonus: By keeping healthy ingredients in plain sight, you’ll probably end up using them more often.

Source: Belathee Photography

Use your vertical space

If your home doesn’t have a huge footprint, vertical solutions are essential for staying organized. These can be implemented in a more practical manner — like stacking bins and boxes under your bed or in your closet — as well as through design decisions.

Capitalizing on vertical space draws the eye to different parts of the room and creates a sense of balance, in addition to saving important real estate on the floor.

Source: Belathee Photography

This curio cabinet makes excellent use of a corner that might otherwise be neglected. A hanging light above has a nice visual impact and doesn’t take up any additional space.

The best reason to get and stay organized? You’ll save yourself valuable time — which means you can focus on doing things that really matter to you.

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Originally published January 2015



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