Make your home work for you
By Carly Corbin, The Evergreen Method
We’ve all seen the photos that professional organizers post on Instagram and Pinterest where every space is clean and uncluttered, the table tops and countertops are empty, and every single item is stored in its own designated spot. The pantries and refrigerators are all organized with stacked, matching containers, and even the kids’ rooms look like havens of tranquility.
The bonus is that not only does an organized home look good, it also functions well and is set up for successful maintenance: if everything has a spot and things are labeled, even kids won’t have an excuse to clutter.
So how to accomplish such serenity for yourself? Realize that whatever system of organization you decide on, it needs to be personalized and set up specifically with your lifestyle in mind. We all have a daily flow and routine that is unique to us and our family, the key is to set up systems that follow your own flow. Systems that work for your friends, or for the people on Pinterest, may not work well for your family at all. For instance, decanting dry goods, like flour and noodles, into beautiful canisters looks so polished and clean. However, filling up each jar after every trip to the store takes time and doesn’t necessarily fit into everyone’s lifestyle. Storing food groupings in their own containers, like labeled baskets or clear bins, can be just as beautiful and functional. Do what works for you.
Start by taking a look at your home, and create a system for spots where the clutter happens naturally. Does mail pile up on the kitchen counter? Incorporate a mail sorter there or closeby. Do kids’ shoes get piled near the door? Add a floor basket for each family member to contain the chaos. Label the baskets to encourage everyone to maintain their own things.
You can use decorative baskets in visible places, and plastic storage bins for locations that are not as visible. Using whatever containers you have on hand first is definitely very sensible, but, on the other hand, having the same style and color container used throughout makes everything look super tidy and beautiful. So keep that in mind when envisioning your finished space, and create a home that works for you.
No matter the room you are organizing, the process is going to remain the same:
- Take everything out
- Group everything into general categories (pantry example: baking, cooking, snacks, beverages, etc.)
- Edit items (sort them to keep, donate, or toss)
- Reset the space with your newly contained and labeled categories
Tackling each area
Entryways can take on many different forms depending on the layout of your home, but whether it’s a mudroom or a small table by the front door, it is the main entry and exit of your home and an easy target for clutter.
Make note of all the items that enter and leave your home and stay by the door (like mail, shoes, jackets, backpacks, etc.) and create solutions for each of those items. For instance, a row of hooks for jackets, a lower row for purses and backpacks, decorative floor baskets for shoes, and a mail sorter is usually all you need to keep things contained and clutter-free.
The kitchen is where we spend so much of our time, and it can very easily become cluttered and disorganized as you try to stack pots, pans, glasses, and coffee mugs on top of each other. The key is to make the most out of each bit of space while keeping the things you use most often readily available. After all, you want your kitchen to be efficient enough to actually cook in.
Add some shelf risers to make use of your cabinets’ vertical space when stacking variously sized dishes. Nesting pots, pans, and lids can make preparing meals a twisted game of Jenga; opt for some upright dividers to give each item its own place. Storing lids on over-the-cabinet door racks helps make great use of every available space.
When tackling the pantry, take everything out and sort into categories (breakfast, snacks, beverages, cooking, baking, etc.), toss out anything expired, and consider donating goods that are not expired but you know you will not use.
Unpack as many items from their packaging as you can (like taking individually wrapped granola bars out of their boxes) and organize all similar items, like snacks, together for grab-and-go simplicity.
Put it all back in using turntables, bins, and baskets to help contain your categories, and don’t forget to add labels.
The Master Closet
This is a great time to take stock of all the items in your wardrobe. Does it fit? Do you like it? Have you worn it in the last year? If the answer is no, then strongly consider letting it go. Keep a separate laundry basket in your closet for donation items that turn up — then they won’t end up back in the rotation and take up valuable closet space.
Almost every closet I’ve walked into has a mix of several different style hangers (wire, plastic, wood, old dry cleaning hangers). One way to make a big impact in your closet fast is by using one style hanger for everything. I love the slim, velvet hangers and use them in almost every organizing project. Their thin design means more hanging space for all your clothing, and with the velvety covering your blouses won’t be constantly slipping to the floor.
Create order fast by grouping similar items together. All dresses together, tops, bottoms, accessories. Then take it a step further by grouping items within each category by length (short sleeve/long sleeve, shorts/skirts/pants, maxi/mini dresses). Finally, give one last sort by color for that professional touch. The same sorting approach can be taken with shoes and jewelry.
It’s no wonder that spaces where we use skincare products, makeup, and hair accessories become disaster zones — we tend to collect them in excess. But using our guideline of organizing (pull everything out, group into categories, edit, then reassemble the newly grouped items back into the space) will create quick calm out of the chaos.
When it comes to skincare and makeup that is used daily, it is okay to keep them on the bathroom counter or drawer (each in their own labeled bins of course!) but items not used daily can be stored in their own labeled containers under the sink or in your linen closet.
Beauty products have a shelf life, you’re going to want to be ruthless about tossing out old products. When they are old and expired they won’t work as effectively and can also carry bacteria (yikes!), and this is a great time to sort them out.
The Laundry Room
Because laundry rooms often hold household cleaning supplies as well, it is even more important to have a containment system set up here. (Ever reach for one bottle of cleaner and knock over dozens of bottles instead?)
Pull everything out and sort into categories (like detergents, spot treatments, and types of household cleaners) and toss anything expired or empty. When you are reassembling the room, open plastic bins with handles are great to contain each category of items. Just add a label to make finding and returning items a breeze for everyone.
A game-changer product I’ve brought to many projects is a four-section laundry hamper. Sort your lights, darks, delicates, and dry cleaning instantly. They also come on wheels, making moving from bedroom to laundry room effortless.
Getting in the habit of putting things in their correct spot immediately is always best, but sometimes the fast pace of daily life prevents that from always happening. Incorporating an “action” bin or basket can be a sanity saver by holding all the items that need taking care of in one spot. Label a basket for each family member, and pick a day that everyone empties and puts away their own things.
The secret to maintaining your organized spaces year-round is by looking ahead to any upcoming holidays, events, and seasons. If your child has a birthday next month, now would be a great time to take stock of their clothing and toys they’ve outgrown to make room for the new things that will be coming in. Small tasks done every day will help keep your space looking tidy, but when you also look ahead to what is coming you prevent the tasks from piling up and becoming overwhelming.
Downloadable, printable Organization Calendar by The Evergreen Method
About the Expert: Carly Corbin of Haymarket is the founder and owner of The Evergreen Method, a professional organizing business serving Northern Virginia. “I created The Evergreen Method in early 2019 with one goal in mind: to help others live happier lives, with less stress, and more intention. An organized home is the quickest path to that freedom,” she says.