An organized house may seem like fantasy for a busy family. However, Stephanie Jackson, executive organizer and owner of local company Sort Me Out, believes anything is possible with a little bit of planning. “The secret to organization is evaluating your needs,” she says. “When you know why you’re organizing, it’s easier to get everyone on board, especially kids. If they understand that keeping things tidy makes life better for other people, chores won’t seem like punishments. Having a purpose also allows you to sort through stuff with an objective in mind, making it easier to determine what you need and what you don’t.”
It’s easy to keep those little-used spaces like guestrooms or formal dining rooms tidy and clutter-free. But what about the rooms your family utilizes each day—you know the rooms that make a house a home? Here are some ways to create order among chaos and tips for keeping things tidy during the day-to-day shuffle we call life.
Tame Kitchen Chaos
Counter space is at a premium in most kitchens, which is why it’s essential to organize outside the box. “Use racks to store spices and beverage supplies,” Jackson suggests. “Create extra space by using racks that fit over cupboard or pantry doors. You can also install hooks to make use of valuable overhead space.”
Parents of young children may find it especially tough to stem the tide of kid-related items taking up space in the kitchen. “Kids are growing and transitioning out of items all the time,” Jackson notes. “To stay organized, keep a close eye on what your kids are actually using and remove the stuff they aren’t.”
Since food and water bowls for pets are also often located in the kitchen, Jackson recommends using an absorbent, nonskid mat to keep kibble and water off the floor. The inexpensive mats are sold at dollar stores and are easy to replace. Store cat and dog food in an out-of-the-way corner in a plastic tub with a lid to keep out curious critters.
Banish Bathroom Clutter
Mount wire or plastic baskets on the wall to hold the items you use most often. Baskets with suction cups that peel off without leaving holes or removing paint are ideal for this purpose.
If you share a bathroom, provide baskets for each person. “Make it fun for kids by letting them decorate their baskets,” Jackson recommends. “Use larger baskets to store towels and linens. Stack the baskets to utilize the vertical space in cabinets, under the sink and on top of cupboards.”
Mesh laundry bags stuck to the wall with suction cups are the perfect solution for keeping kids’ bath toys in check. “One big bag makes it easy to collect the toys when bath time is over,” says Jackson. “The mesh also lets the toys dry, which prevents mold and mildew.”
Love Your Living Room
The living room is a gathering spot for the entire family, which makes it a clutter magnet. “Establish a drop zone so that when you come home, you know where to put the mail, your purse or wallet, and kids’ backpacks,” says Jackson. “When you have one spot to keep all of those items, you won’t lose track of them.”
Containers with easy-to-open lids are ideal living-room storage solutions. Keep the coffee table clutter-free by placing remotes for all of your various devices in a large glass jar next to the couch. Stash toys, books and games in a plastic bin with a tight-fitting top and slide it under the couch.
A place for everything and everything in its place is the mantra you should adopt for organizing your living room. “Kids have cribs, playpens and toys, while pets have beds, toys and leashes,” Jackson says. “By storing everything in one spot, you know exactly where to find things when you need them.”
Simplify Kids’ Bedrooms
When it comes to organizing kids’ rooms, it’s all about managing expectations. “Don’t put too much pressure on kids to get organized right away,” Jackson cautions. “Think about how much they’re doing now, and then decide how much you would like them to do. Start small and praise often.”
Keeping things simple is key to helping kids learn to be organized. “Find a large container, such as a cubby or a toy chest, so kids can easily pick up their toys and put them away,” says Jackson. Fabric organizers that hang from a closet rod are great for kids’ rooms and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Mesh laundry bags or clothes hampers can be used to store bigger items, such as stuffed animals.
How to Stay Organized
Organizing is a habit that requires daily practice, but it doesn’t have to take up your whole day.“Figure out when you have the most energy, and devote a set amount of time to each room during that period,” says Jackson. “Keep going through things. Part of organizing is throwing away or donating to charity what you no longer use.”