Back-to-school time always puts me in the mood to organize. It's kind of like a second chance for all those New Years' resolutions that have been forgotten, and there's no better reminder that organizing systems will save your sanity than the flurry of paperwork that needs to be completed and stored for school! I'm no expert, but I love a tidy space and have learned a few tricks for keeping the mess-prone spots in the home under control.
Take inventory! The first step is to declutter and know what needs to be organized. Once you know what you are actually keeping, you can start figuring out where to put it and what you'll need to organize it.
Contain it. I LOVE baskets for storage. It's an easy way to bring in texture and keep things pretty. In a pantry or bathroom cabinet, clear plastic bins are a great option. I prefer to take small items out of their original packaging -- it's prettier and makes it easier to see when you need to restock. Label it. A label maker can be your best friend -- they help everyone in the house find what they are looking for AND put it away. I've found lots of cute labels on Etsy.
Get creative. Bins and baskets aren't the only options. In our office, we utilized an empty wall for vertical storage by using a towel bar and curtain hooks to hang and organized fabric samples. It easily filled an empty wall space and keeps the samples tidy and easy to reach -- no more digging through bins!
Repeat the process. To really stay on top of it, you'll probably need to go over everything in your house at least twice a year. It sounds daunting, but if you can quickly look through and purge one area at a time -- even if you just spend 5-10 minutes -- it'll keep the mess at bay.
Almost no surface in the house seems to attract as much clutter as the kitchen island. It's especially prone to paper clutter, and the usual culprit is simply a lack of other options. My best trick for keeping horizontal surfaces clear is to go vertical with your storage. If you're plagued by paper, install a wall unit or bulletin board to keep any documents that will need attention off the counter but easily at-hand. And as with every area, the best way to stay on top of it is to nip it at the source by dealing with mail as soon as you receive it, and to regularly purge items that are no longer needed from drawers and cabinets.
When designing any space, we do our best to find out how our clients live and will use the space. For example, will they primarily use the front entry or a different door? Do they throw mail down here or in the kitchen? Do they remove their shoes or not? Then, we can understand the elements that need to go into the space. I've said before that my favorite formula for an entry is a cool table, a stunning lamp, and an oversized mirror, and it's not an impractical look! A table top can hold a dish or tray for dropping keys or mail and hide a basket underneath for shoes or bags. And of course, it's always a good idea to check oneself before heading out into the world. In a rainy or cold climate you'll need a spot to hang a jacket or umbrella, and if there are kids at home, we include a place to hang All. The. Things!
A dedicated mudroom is every mom's dream! And it's a chance to really dig in and customize your storage. When we're remodeling or building out new spaces, it's crucial really think through how the space will be used and what will be stored there. We even measure our clients' luggage and mops or brooms to be SURE there will be space to store them. Typically, we use a mixture of closed and open storage, which makes it easier for kids to find and put away their own items, but allows unslightly pieces to be tucked away, too.
The laundry room is another space where I am passionate about vertical storage. Previously, our clients had a big rolling bin and fold-up drying racks, but they took up all of the floor space, making it hard to reach the sink cabinet at the back of the room. We brought in wall-mounted drying racks and hung heavy-duty fabric bins on a peg rail to get everything up off the floor. It's just as functional, but much easier to keep tidy.
Oh, the kids' rooms! There really isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to keeps kids' rooms clean, and their needs change as fast as they grow. But here are a few tried-and-true ideas. Keeps like items together -- action figures, cars, baby dolls, stuffies, LEGOs, you get the idea. Small items should go into small containers and large items in larger containers, and choose low and lightweight or see-through containers for younger kids. Keep anything that requires supervision (ahem, slime!) out of reach. We like to use picture ledges for books so that the covers can face outward -- they're cute and kids can easily find what they want this way. Finally, rotating toys keeps playtime fresh and the mess more to a minimum.