Order in the Home

The space-crunched bathroom. The cluttered kids’ bedrooms. Your overburdened and much-used home office.

Even if you dont have time to go over every spot of your home—or can’t seem to convince your little ones of the virtues of total tidiness—you can get more organized and help keep clutter in check. Here are some simple strategies to try.

KITCHEN CLUTTER

The kitchen, by its nature, is probably the most heavily trafficked and most popular room in your home. It’s where the family gets together during meals, friends gather during dinner parties, and you get each day off to a fresh start. A well-organized kitchen allows you to enjoy more Fully every minute you spend in it.

Since the kitchen is where memories as well as meals are made, you’ll need to consider both functionality and aesthetics as you organize each element inside. Does your present setup work for you? Take this efficiency test: Make a list of your kitchen appliances—the blender, toaster, food processor, mixer—and note where each one is and how you use it. For instance, if your study shows that you’re walking across the kitchen to carry bread to the toaster, then the toaster isn’t housed in the most convenient place for you. Move it closer to the bread box or wherever you store bread. Do the same for other items whose locations you find to be inefficient.

A PLACE FOR IT ALL

Organize drawers by grouping your most frequently used cooking tools in ceramic jars or other attractive holders on countertops. The drawers will be neater—with more space for other things—and you’ll be able to get to these must-have utensils quicker. Clear canisters with airtight tops can hold and display such frequently used foodstuffs as bread, bagels, and pasta on countertops. When you can see a particular food item, you’re more likely to eat it before it spoils. And you won’t buy more of what you don’t need.

Keep countertops uncluttered while using them for display. Place an attractive, shallow wicker basket, small wooden crate, or other container on a counter to hold treats for the kids or fill It with the snacks you like to grab on the run. Use antique, decorative tins or old-fashioned colored glass mason jars to store your collections of tea bags and matchbooks—or as “hiding” places for dog biscuits and kitty treats.

Fruits and vegetables can take center stage in an attractive, breathable basket or metal mesh container on the kitchen table or windowsill instead of taking up space —and being left co spoil unseen—in the back of the refrigerator. Let the fridge do double duty as a family message center: A magnetic message board on the doors will remind everyone in the family of the day’s appointments and the weeks schedule. The sides are a great place to display kids’ artwork, family photos, cake-out menus and a calendar for family activities. Who needs a desk in this busy place when a little creativity and a few magnets will do?

To keep telephone messages from becoming lost during the family’s activities, keep a pad by the phone and secure a pen to it. If you have a space-saving telephone that mounts on the wall, be sure there’s a writing surface and supplies nearby.

Inside drawers, use plastic sectional organizers or small oblong boxes to hold scissors, tape, and coupons in place—and to make them easier to find when you need them. These types of containers also work well for organizing large spoons, salad tongs, carving knives, corkscrews, and bottle and can openers.

If your cabinet shelves are not adjustable, subdivide the space with wire racks. It makes getting to pots, pans, dishes, and pie plates easier than when they’re piled up ahh the way to the shelf above. This wire rack system works equally well with items in the cupboards or pantry. You might also consider installing a corner cabinet carousel or rolling shelves. You won’t want to waste a single inch of cabinet space. Make the most of over-head cabinets by hanging stemmed glasses beneath them. Store your holiday cookware and the cake tins or roasting pans you use infrequently in those hard to reach cabinets high above the fridge.

Instead of copying recipes from magazines or cookbooks onto file cards, create a recipe index in a small notebook. Jot down the names of your favorite recipes, rhe cookbook or magazine they are in, and the page number where you can find them. Place the index with your recipe books or magazines to make sure there will be no more frustrating searches when the last-minute dinner get-together is at your house.

 Tame newspaper clutter by placing a small basket or bin in a pantry area to handle the day’s discarded editions. Or make your own holder using a board box. Simply cut slits. down the center of each of the four sides of the box, place string through the openings and across the box, when the box is filled, tie the loose ends and remove the bundle for recycling.

 Finally, to make everyday cleanups quicker, assign one large cabinet and one drawer near the dishwasher to serve as home for the daily dishes and silverware. If you have extra sets of dishes and far more place settings than you have household members, stock this area with just enough dishes and utensils to get everyone through the day and to make unloading the dishwasher less of a chore. Double the number of place settings if you run the dishwasher only every other day. Store the rest of the service in a place that’s less convenient but still accessible, so it’s handy when your meals require more dishes and glasses than you’d planned for.

BRIGHTER BATHROOMS

The busy bathroom is the place to take advantage of the many tools and gadgets designed to organize your home’s tight spaces. By design, most bathrooms leave little room for major improvement in terms of storage. Still, Chere are plenty of little things you can do to make the most of these cramped quarters.

Start the process by cleaning out the one major area in the bathroom that was designed specifically for toiletry storage the medicine cabinet, get rid of expired medications as well as any toiletries you’ve had for longer than two years, including shampoos, lotions and makeup, and soap. Besides creating more space, clearing out your cabinet will minimize health risks, as bacteria and fungi can contaminate lotions and cosmetics over time.

If you’ve cleaned everything possible out of your cabinet and you still can’t control the clutter, consider installing a second wall-mounted medicine cabinet. Or you can hang a shower caddy over the showerhead to keep shampoo, shaving cream, soap, and razors within easy reach but somewhat out of eyesight.

Another space-maximizing device is a system of coated-wire rollout baskets, which can be used to expand the storage capacity of under-the-sink cabinet space. If your bathroom has no storage space there, mount a small coated-wire grid on the wall and hang personal appliances such as hair dryers and curling irons from it with S-hooks. You’ll find these grids and rollout baskets at retailers that sell bath, kitchen, or closet storage accessories.

Take advantage of the empty space above the toilet by adding a small cabinet or shelves to hold extra linens or toiletries. Freestanding over-the-commode shelves can maximize this space right up co the ceiling. But be careful what you display here; small items that fall into the bowl will be no fun to retrieve.

You can also place your deodorant, perfume, hair dryer, and hairbrushes in the clear plastic pockets of a back-of-the door shoe holder; this will keep these frequently used items from taking up counter space but within easy reach.

A second shower curtain rod, added behind and level with the first, provides a handy place to hang wet towels so they can air-dry before you fold and return them to the rack. If your shower has glass doors instead of a curtain and there’s no place to hang a second rod, you can make more space for towels by replacing existing racks with sets of decorative hooks.

Since running out of toilet paper is something you’d like to avoid, store at least one spare roll in the bathroom rather than in the linen closet. Hide the extra roll in a simple covered basket with the lid slightly ajar. It remains discreetly hidden, yet you, your family, or a guest can grab it in a moment of need.

LIVABLE LIVING ROOMS

The living room is home to some of the biggest, bulkiest objects you own. A couch and chairs. A coffee table, A television. The videocassette player and stereo equipment, Bookcases, end tables, and side tables. Perhaps even your home office and With so many different objects competing for space, a living room can start looking like a crowded curio shop. But making order out of apparent chaos isn’t as hard as it seems. It can involve little more than moving a few things around, adding a shelf or two, perhaps investing in an inexpensive wall storage system—and, above all, using what you have. The main goal here is to create a room in which family members and guests feel comfortable. Start retooling this family hub by taking a good look around the room. Are your shelves too jam-packed to do justice to the photos, book collections, and family heirlooms that vie for space there? If so, begin by stripping the shelves bare of all objects. After a good dusting, put things back in a balanced assortment of large and small items. Place books you rarely read on the shelf nearest the floor and a grouping of smaller, lighter items on the next shelf up. Display items you’d like at center stage on chest-high shelves, and place the remaining items higher up, alternating between bulky pieces and delicate objects.

Look high and low for the objects that have strayed from other rooms and been haphazardly set atop the television, coffee cable, or end tables. Return them to their rightful homes or move them into storage.

 Next, if your couch, chairs, and other furnishings are flush against the wall, move them to the center of the room in seating clusters, or as a single grouping with items spaced 8 to 10 feet (2—3m) apart. This will create a more intimate seating area and, more important, it will free up a wall for new shelves or cabinets.

Use the additional shelves to relieve clutter on existing shelves or to display some bigger items that have been visually lost elsewhere in the room. The ceiling is the limit. Or consider placing a decorative cable or small cabinet behind the sofa and using it to show off large framed pictures or other bulky items.

While you wouldn’t want to cover every wall in your living room with shelves, more wall space does mean more storage possibilities. Consider the walls a display gallery for your treasured items. Hang antique fireplace tools near the hearth, your flute from grade school amid a collection of music-inspired prints, or a child’s framed drawing among family photos.

HIDING IT AWAY

Wall storage units can be a godsend. Consider hiding home-office equipment inside an attractive storage unit instead of keeping it exposed on a four-legged table. Some systems come with folding work tables and deep file drawers. A few even include a foldout bed for overnight guests.

Other large-scale storage possibilities include antique or wicker trunks, wooden storage chests, and benches with hinged seats and hollow compartments.

Store the small stuff in Shaker-style boxes, decorative bowls, colorful cookie jars, and wicker baskets. Consider a CD album for your discs; a media tower—an upright stacker for your videocassettes; and a cord and cable organizer that encloses in one cablelike conduit all those unsightly wires behind the TV and stereo.

CLEARING CLOSETS

Does it take more than a minute to locate a favorite outfit in your closet? Do your freshly laundered or dry-cleaned clothes come off the hanger in need of pressing? Do you wear the same cloches each week, even though you pride yourself on your updated wardrobe? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could save time and rejuvenate your wardrobe by streamlining your closet.

Start by removing all the clothes and accessories from your closet and organizing them by type: shirts, pants, suits, dresses, coats, shoes, belts, and handbags. Set aside the things you don’t wear anymore and consider their future. Here are a Few possibilities for dealing with these items:

  • STORE WINTER OR SUMMER GARMENTS UNTIL THE APPROPRIATE SEASON.
  • UPDATE OLD CLOTHES BY HAVING THEM ALTERED.
  • DONATE UNWANTED WARDROBE ITEMS TO CHARITY.
  • SELL EXPENSIVE ARTICLES ON CONSIGNMENT.
  • USE SOFT, WORN-OUT CLOTHES AS CLEANING OR CAR-WASHING RAGS.

Among the remaining garments, you’ll probably find numerous wrinkled but wearable items that you haven’t slipped on recently because you couldn’t find them. Make a mental note to place these “aha!” items in plain view.

Now is a good time to evaluate your past storage methods and consider how you can be more efficient. Have you spent far too much time searching for the right shirt to go with your favorite suit? Consider hanging the two pieces side by side. Are you a separates mix-and-matcher? Then group separates by color (so you can quickly scan for the day’s color scheme) or by type of garment, placing blazers next to shirts and pants beside skirts. Decide whether it would be easier for you to view your clothes by type (work clothes and weekend wear), outfit, color, or length, and then arrange your closet accordingly.

You can double your space by adding a second rod below shorter items such as shirts and folded-over trousers. Then hang more of the same there. Alternatively, you might consider adding shelves for your T-shirts, sweaters, and shoes beneath hanging items. After all, when your clothing is buried inside dresser drawers, it’s out of sight and less likely to be worn. What’s more, hanging a knitted or lightweight garment on a hanger can distort the shape of the fabric, detracting from its appearance and requiring more frequent—and time-consuming—pressing.

What about those odds and ends that can clutter drawers and dresser tops? Hang a mesh laundry bag in your closet to keep socks, stockings, handkerchiefs, and other small items easy to find. Try looping belts over a hanger next to your pants or hang them on hooks inside the door. You can store hats or bags this way as well.

If rearranging your closet’s contents still leaves you with more stuff than room, it’s time to bring in reinforcements. There are plenty of inexpensive organizing tools that can help you maximize your wardrobe space. Back-of-the-door shoe bags keep shoes off the floor and in plain sight. Also, there are plenty of racks for scarves, ties, belts, hats, and other accessories that can save space in your closet.

[f the basic design of your closet simply isn’t functional for your wardrobe or leaves you short a hanging rod or three, you have several simple options: You can buy a new or antique freestanding armoire or wardrobe. You can purchase a prefabricated closet kit (available at stores that specialize in home organization or from several catalogs) and retool the space yourself. Or you can hire a closet designer to create a system.

Messiness is a normal part of childhood. Most kids grow into neat—or at least neater—adults. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in to clutter until your kids head off to college. Gather the kids together and set some ground rules: Toys mustn’t block doorways. Clean clothes, tried on and rejected, must go back to the drawer instead of into the dirty-clothes hamper. Everything must be picked up and put away by bedtime.

Once you have these rules in place, look around your home for furnishings Chat can be recycled to the kids’ rooms. Instill an appreciation of your family’s past by turning items with sentimental value into unique storage spots for their precious treasures. Turn a trunk or Footlocker into a storage compartment for athletic gear or toys. As a precaution, disengage the lock and add a safety latch or other device that keeps the lid securely open.

Use a small dresser co store the kids’ artwork in the family room or a child’s bedroom. Store art supplies atop a dresser in tin beach pails; add a basket to hold fresh paper. Let the kids fill the drawers with their daily creations. You can’t save every crayon drawing or finger painting, so pick the best effort of each week, or weed out the drawers when they are full and stash the treasures away in a special box with the child’s name on it. You can also include school photos, notes from the teacher, and other special papers.

Let a mug rack—hung low—serve as a hitching post for the kids’ miscellaneous possessions, such as belts, hats, necklaces, and gloves. In the bath, a laundry lingerie bag or a corner organizer with holes that allow water to drain out will keep those rubber ducks, sailboats, and Barbies from taking over the tub.

Finally, place a bin or a sturdy basket in each of the main rooms where your children play. Teach your kids to deposit their toys there when they move from one room to the next. Your nighttime cleanup ritual will be quicker and simpler, as the kids will need to go to only one place in each room to retrieve the toys they’ve played with during the day.

If you’re the market for a good-size stuff-holder, steer clear of toy boxes you’ll come across in many stores they just collect dust in addition to an unsightly jumble of toys and books that eventually spills onto the floor. Choose clear plastic boxes with snap on lids—they allow your children to see what is inside. They also make great space maximizers, since most are stackable.

THE PAPER CHASE

Whether your home office has a room of its own or is confined to the dining room or a nook in your bedroom, a system that lets you organize paper flow is crucial to staying on top of your personal and professional responsibilities.

Keeping good records not only helps you find key documents quickly, it also saves time and eliminates headaches. With everything neatly filed away or in its rightful place, your work area suddenly seems a model of efficiency.

For starters, your home office will need a few business basics. These include an easy-to-use filing system (a file drawer or cabinet with hanging files, manila file folders with plenty of stick-on tab labels), a trash can and a recycling bin or box, a letter opener, stamps, and places to stack incoming and outgoing mail. Make sure the chair beneath your work surface is supportive and at a comfortable height, especially if you use a. computer. If the chair is comfortable, you’re more likely to sit there longer and get more done without hand or eye strain.

Next, make sure that whatever space you’ve chosen is safe from curious little fingers, the dog’s teeth, or the cat’s claws.

If you have a separate office, a closed door should keep all the little ones out. If your desk is a table in a corner, a lidded box that can be shut tight will protect your paperwork at night. Or consider file drawers or a hanging file basket with a lid. Organize your papers into categories that make sense to you. These can include tax information (canceled checks, receipts, pay stubs), items that need response (invitations or requests for information), items to save (coupons, appliance instructions, warranties), phone and mailing lists, and correspondence. Place these sorted papers into files that you have set up.

You may also want to create an “in box for those items that have arrived with the daily mail that you don’t have time to read or file. If you’re crunched for time, tuck “to reads” in the back of your daily planner and pull them out when you’re standing in the grocery line or waiting to pick up the kids at school.

If you bring work home from your office, you’ll want to create a separate area, drawer, hanging desktop file, or group of folders in your home for organizing professional papers and journals.

If you’re in the habit of taking notes on scraps of paper—only to have them disappear, more often than not, without a trace—resolve to write notes only in an appropriate place, such as in the right file or your appointment book, or on hill-size sheets of paper that are harder to misplace. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day (it’s easy to remember if it’s the first thing you do) to go through mail and get rid of what you can from your in box, If you find that you’re tossing or recycling the same things each week, consider stopping subscriptions to magazines you don’t have time to read and writing co an appropriate organization to halt unwanted junk mail.