Getting organized is a top new year’s resolution. (It’s not yours? Maybe it should be.…) Being organized affects every facet of your life, from school and work to travel, health and raising kids.
“Getting your space in order has to be the first step in any instance of growth,” says Eliza Cantlay, a certified professional organizer at Simplicana of Kansas City. “Most resolutions demand that you ‘take stock’ in some way before you begin, and taking an honest inventory of your stuff or your life is tough to do if you’re not organized.”
She goes on to point out that, as far as resolutions go, it’s difficult to lose weight if your fridge is a mess, improve your love life if your closet is busting out all over your bedroom or save money if you’re buying duplicates of things you already own somewhere you can’t remember.
Organization can be defined simply as knowing what you have and where you can find it when you need it. Getting there is simpler for some than it is for others and highly individualistic, yet the approach should be the same for everyone.
Organizational expert and podcast host Tracy Hoth of Simply Squared Away offers the helpful acronym SPASM: sort, purge, assign, set limits and maintain.
The first step is putting like things together.
“This step is calming because you’re not making decisions right then,” Hoth explains. “Then, if you see that you have six pairs of scissors, it’s easier to do the next step: purge.”
This stage is the toughest because of the emotional attachments placed on objects, whether it’s nostalgia for baby clothes or shame that you can’t fit in your old jeans. Ask yourself: When was the last time I used that? Do I need it or even want it? What is the end goal for my home?
At this point, maybe you are able to purge only 10 percent, but that’s a good start, Hoth notes; more will come later.
The third step is to assign every object a home, whether it’s a box or drawer, in the living room or basement. If an object does not have a home, it is clutter. Think of the adage “a place for everything and everything in its place.” You can use containers from around the house, like shoe boxes or baskets, but “clear bins are probably the best answer,” Hoth says.
Setting limits regards the number of containers you have and how much stuff is in them.
“If your basket is full, it’s time to go through it,” Hoth says. “You say, ‘That’s all I can have.’”
And you purge another round.
Finally, you maintain it all by putting in place a system, such as an inbox for paperwork that you process daily or a toy basket your kids use to go around the house picking up things to return to their permanent bins. A box labeled “donate” that you drop off when full may help prevent unwanted items from becoming clutter.
Hoth recommends spending 15 minutes a day or 30 minutes a week on organizational tasks, whether it’s starting at the very beginning of a project or keeping up with the daily drag.
“It really does make a difference. It moves you forward,” she says.
Handy ‘homes’ for your stuff
In a bin
▪ Table top storage boxes with drawers are an excellent way to tame odds and ends. One of Eliza Cantlay’s favorite go-to products is the Akro-Mils’ hardware and craft cabinet, with 32 small drawers and 12 larger drawers. ($40.76, Amazon.com)
▪ Kids will love keeping their rooms neat and tidy — right? — with giant Lego storage blocks. ($21-$36, TheOrganizingStore.com)
On a shelf
You can get a box anywhere, but if you want something with a little more flair, you can’t beat nesting boxes by local legend Kate Spade. They are as pretty as her purses. ($54 for three, TheOrganizingStore.com)
▪ So you have cabinet space, but can you reach it all? Pull-out organizers will help you use all the space in that deep, dark hole. Simple Human has them ranging in size from 9 inches to 20 inches. ($40-$60 at Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy’s)
▪ Why are Lazy Susans called “lazy” when they’re one of the hardest workers in the kitchen? Tracy Hoth is obsessed with OXO’s turntable for the corners in a pantry and the corner shelves of a kitchen if there isn’t one built in.
“They are super high quality, and the base stays put,” she notes. 11 inches or 16 inches. ($11.99-$16.99, Lowe’s)
▪ Drawers without dividers are nearly useless. You can use plastic, you can use wood, but for goodness sake, get something in there that will divvy it all up before you reach in for a spoon and come out with a knife wound. Lipper International’s wood drawer dividers are spring-loaded and allow you to determine your own size compartments. ($19.99 for two, Bed Bath & Beyond)
On the wall
▪ Need an easy-to-reach hook for the dog’s leash or your office key fob? Hammer a few decorative hooks in the wall and you have instant accessibility. Crate & Barrel has colorful square hooks in powder-coated steel. ($3.95 each)
▪ Run out of cabinet space? Look for eye-catching organization systems that hang on the wall.
The Grundtal wall organization system from Ikea can be used to custom organize anything, with mix-and-match elements that hook onto hanging bars. (Prices vary)
▪ West Elm also has a super stylish utilitarian wire mesh organizer. ($129)
Under your feet
Items that serve double duty give you a better bang for your buck. Kick your feet up on the Stash storage ottoman and handily store your throws and remotes inside. ($179, Crate & Barrel)
In the car
For all the space inside some trunks, it sure is easy to lose track of things. Keep them from rolling around back there in a Laura Ashley collapsible trunk organizer. ($29.99, Kohl’s)