My home is my sanctuary — or, at least, it is when it's neat and organized. When it's
not, it makes working, relaxing, cooking, socializing, and sleeping (all things I prefer to do from home) infinitely more challenging. That's why I'm always looking for decluttering tips that actually work and don't require a ton of effort, and for this article, I decided to go straight to the experts: people who organize homes for a living.
In order to get a well-rounded perspective on decluttered homes, I reached out to three different sources: Amy Tokos, president-elect of the
National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and owner of Freshly Organized, Marissa Hagmeyer and Ashley Murphy, co-founders of NEAT Method, and Patricia Cassano, founder and primary consultant at 3-Tier Organization Long Island. (That last source also happens to be my mom, and we can all thank her for the fact that when my house is unruly, I have trouble sleeping at night.) I also pooled advice from some of the world's most popular organizers, like Marie Kondo and The Home Edit, too, so these tips cover a lot of ground.
Everyone I interviewed agreed that the right tools are paramount (a great-fitting bin, box, insert, or organizer makes all the difference in the world), but the prep is also important. According to these sources, before you start, you'll need three things: motivation, a vision, and a blank canvas. "Oftentimes, people begin an organizing project because they think they 'should,' but don’t have a clear understanding of 'why,'" Hagmeyer wrote to Bustle. Murphy then continued, "Do you want to create a more consistent exercise routine? Does getting dressed in the morning need to be easier? Are you finding too many expired foods in your cabinets? By having a purpose for your project, your organizing will be focused, and you won’t get lost in the weeds."
Next, establish a vision for your space, whether that's a sketch, a written paragraph, or some inspirational photos. "Write it down so you can revisit if needed for direction or motivation," Tokos said. "Start small – one area, room, or section of a room to make it manageable."
Last but not least, create a blank canvas for yourself: "Get in the right frame of mind and start by taking everything out of whatever you’re organizing (whether that’s a closet, pantry, shed, or cabinet). That way, you can see it all at once and be deliberate about the things you choose to put back," Cassano wrote. Once those three boxes are checked, you're ready to dive in. Scroll on for
tricks, tips, and tools professional organizers use to declutter a home.
Easily Swap Out Your Seasonal Clothing With Canvas Bins
"Create zones in your closet for a quick change between seasons," Murphy wrote. "For example, where you store your warmest weather clothing can be swapped for your cold weather layers and placed in a less prominent area of your closet. Bins are great for seasonal items," and
canvas ones look especially chic. (These also have lids for stacking.) "Create a 'Swim' bin that can be quickly moved to a less accessible spot and replaced with a 'Scarf' bin," Murphy said.
Add A Shelf Wherever You Need It
"Not a lot of people know about
pressure shelves, but they’re the best," Cassano wrote. (It's weird to refer to my mom by her last name, especially since it's also my last name, but I'll continue to do so in the name of good journalistic practices.) "They help you maximize your storage — and make customized sections that truly fit your containers — without causing any permanent damage to your cabinets or closets." These ones are made from stainless steel and come in a wide range of adjustable sizes that span from 20 inches to 74 inches.
Digitize Your Papers Whenever Possible
"As in all spaces, less is more," but this is especially true when it comes to your office area, according to Hagmeyer. "We all hold onto more paperwork than we probably need to. Seriously consider whether you need all the paperwork you’re keeping and move to a digital system as much as possible." Think about investing in a great scanner — and since we're on the topic of decluttering, the smaller, the better.
This one from Epson is tiny and lightweight for easy storage and travel. Plus, it's USB powered so you can scan documents and paperwork just about anywhere.
Branch Out With Your Organizational Containers
"Don’t limit yourself to the containers you can find in a craft or organizer store," Cassano told me. "Think outside of the box when it comes to your supplies. For example, an inexpensive toolbox can hold your paint and brushes, your sewing supplies, your cleaning accessories, or even your makeup." This
toolbox from Stalwart comes in either pink or yellow, and it has four-tiered organizer trays that slide out as well as a roomy tool area. Best of all, it's $21 — way cheaper than many other organizational solutions.
Store Your Beauty Products In Clear, Accessible Containers
Makeup and beauty products are some of the biggest obstacles when it comes to decluttering your bathroom, but it's a relatively easy fix with the right tools: "With a pared-down supply, choose storage solutions that make sense in your space and ensure that your daily products remain easily accessible," according to The Home Edit. They prefer clear storage containers, like this one from Tranquil Abode. It spins, stacks vertically, and has adjustable shelves, so all of your essentials remain neat, visible, yet easy to grab.
Put Pretty Baskets On Top Of Your Kitchen Cabinets
"If your kitchen cabinets don’t reach to the ceiling, consider adding pretty baskets above your cabinets that store seasonal or occasional-use items," Murphy wrote. (This tip works equally well for closets and toy areas, too.)
Whitmor offers some of the more affordable ones with built-in stainless steel handles. You can wipe them clean with a damp cloth, and they come in your choice of nine colors.
Tackle Your Entryway By Giving Things A Designated Home
According to Tokos, the entryway of almost every house is a problem area: "[It] gets cluttered with bags, shoes and keys. Designate space for each person, whether it’s with labeled bins, a hanging rack with hooks, or a bench with baskets. Don’t forget a cubby for pet leashes and toys." While shoes and bags might require a larger solution, Amazon reviewers love this
floating shelf when it comes to keys, leashes, mail, and reminders. It's easy to install with the included mounts, and it comes in your choice of white, black, or brown.
Use Dividers With Multiple Levels To Make The Most Of Space
"Junk drawers are bad in just about every house because they’re a catch-all 'for now,' but they never get sorted out," Cassano wrote. "Dividers are a life-saver here. It’s okay to have a miscellaneous drawer, but if you can’t see everything in it, those things are ultimately useless to you." She specifically recommends
organizers with different levels: "Use a divider with multiple tiers, especially for deeper drawers. That way, you get the most out of your storage space."
Opt For Clean, Clear, Reusable Containers Over Branded Ones
According to Marie Kondo,
branded products add "noise" to your home, so whenever you can, remove labels and logos. Opt for clean, clear containers that spark joy. I have two of these foaming mason jar soap dispensers (one in my bathroom and one in my kitchen), and I love the way they look. I also love the way they rinse clean and minimize waste. Last but not least, they've saved me money in the long run, since big refill bottles are way less expensive than tiny decorative ones.
The Drawer Divider Is A Best-Kept Secret Among Professional Organizers
"One of our all-time favorite organizational products is a
spring-loaded drawer divider," Hagmeyer wrote. "They are probably the most underutilized product by those outside the organizing profession because they don’t look like much. But don’t be fooled, spring-loaded drawer dividers will give you an as close to custom as possible solution for any drawer in your home. We particularly love them in kitchens and bedroom dressers. They create crisp boundaries and take up very little visual and actual space."
Use A Rack When Storing Big Bottles In The Fridge
While it may seem like your refrigerator comes with all of the necessary organization elements, big bottles (like wine, soda, or water) are especially clunky to store. As a result, they end up taking up a lot of room — but according to Tokos, a "
bottle rack in the refrigerator [helps you] to use your space efficiently." This one gets bonus points because it's versatile, easy to clean, shatter-resistant, and has modular pieces that can be stacked whichever way best suits your fridge.
Invest In Furniture With Hidden Storage
According to Cassano, "Clothing, towels, and linens can easily get out of hand. If you’re running out of room in your closets, consider getting a piece of furniture with hidden storage. For example, a
storage ottoman is multifunctional. It’s a place for you to put your feet up, but it also hides clothes, pillows, and blankets." (Get the one pictured above in your choice of nine colors, all with velvet fabric, a tufted cushion, and a 250-pound weight capacity.)
Label All Your Bins, Drawers & Canisters
Label your bins, drawers, or canisters, so you're
more inclined to keep them organized, according to Clea Shearer of The Home Edit — but there's nothing wrong with a little flexibility, either. These decorative chalkboard labels, for example, stick right on to any container, but if you change your mind about the contents later on, you can erase the writing from the included marker and start over again.
Utilize The Magic Of Temporary Hooks
"In closets, you can easily add temporary or permanent hooks up the wall for hats or other accessories," Murphy wrote, and the internet is filled with affordable, damage-resistant options. My personal favorites are these
brilliant hooks, which have a peel-off sticky backing that adheres to just about anything — without the need for drilling or nails. They're also reusable if you simply soften the adhesive with a hairdryer. I use them to hang tools, wreaths, pictures, kitchen accessories, you name it.
Make Use Of The Space Under Your Bed (Or Sofa)
When it comes to homes with minimal closet space, Cassano writes that "under-furniture storage can be really effective, but make sure to store your things in closed containers or bags that protect them against dust and moisture." Opt for a shape that's slim, a fabric that's non-woven, and a clear top so you can see the contents.
These ones are great for seasonal clothing or even wrapping paper, and they fit under some couches, too.
Take Things Off Of The Floor & Over The Door
"A shoe organizer on the back of a door offers additional off-the-floor space for jewelry, scarves or other accessories that may not fit into other storage easily," Tokos wrote. It's also a great spot for toiletry backups and toys. Whether used in the closet or on a standard door,
this one from Univivi is a fan-favorite because it's sturdy, versatile, and fits most doors without causing damage. It has three plastic organizer pockets and four structured bins with mesh panels.
And Make Use Of The Backs Of Your Cabinet Doors
"People can also store things over cabinet doors with the right accessories," Cassano said. For example, this
organizer from SimpleHouseware has two padded hooks that fit most standard cabinet doors. It then has a hanging basket that's great for pans, cutting boards, and plastic wrap in the kitchen — or bottles and hair tools in the bathroom.
Create Easy-To-Access Storage In Your Pantry With A Lazy Susan
"The key to an organized pantry is to keep like items together," Tokos wrote, and a lazy Susan is one of the best tools for that. It allows you to both group similar foods together
and access them without disrupting all of your other ingredients. The Copco two-tier turntable has thousands of five-star reviews because it turns smoothly and has a non-skid surface on both tiers that prevents things from falling over. At $12, it's also a really affordable solution.
Get Ahead Of Your Mail Before It Gets Ahead Of You
"Loose papers can make any area look cluttered, and allowing junk mail into my house is my biggest pet peeve," Cassano wrote. "My advice? Get ahead of it before it has a chance to get out of hand. As soon as you enter the house with new mail, shred the junk right away and instantly file away the important stuff. Keep bills somewhere visible but neat so you don’t forget to pay them."
An organizer like this is great for that function; it has several tiers and compartments so you can file bills, invites, and outgoing mail, plus it's pretty to look at so you won't mind it on your desk or counter.
Store Your Important Documents In A Fireproof Box
Tokos also recommends digitizing important documents, but "keep a set of the most important financial, health and personal documents in a fireproof box," too. In addition to being fireproof and water-resistant, the
ENGPOW document bag has built-in organizers that make it easy to store cash, certificates, devices, papers, and government documents. It even has a lock for added security.
Organize Your Clothing Drawers Like A Filing System
Marie Kondo popularized the filing system for clothing drawers. (She has a
special method of folding that allows you to stack your clothes horizontally in a dresser, so you can see everything at once and grab what you need without upsetting the rest.) But for an extra boost, these drawer dividers make the filing system a lot easier. They adjust to suit a wide range of drawer sizes, and they help you differentiate between various sections, so you can store your bras, socks, and underwear in one single drawer.
File Your Pans Instead Of Stacking Them
"I also really love
pan and lid dividers, which act as a filing system for your cookware," Cassano wrote. "Rather than stacking all of your pans on top of each other, these organizers let you place each pan (or lid) in its own file, so you can grab it without moving anything else and your pans won’t scratch each other."
Make Better Use Of Your Wall Space With Hooks & Mounts
"Making use of walls is a great opportunity to get things off the ground or off a counter," Tokos wrote. "Hooks in garages, closets, bathrooms, and bedrooms can be a game changer," she added. For example, this
tool mount has over 4,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating because it helps you organize brooms, mops, gardening tools, bags, umbrellas — you name it. It has both hooks and self-adjusting grips that prevent poles from sliding down, plus it can support up to 35 pounds at once.
Set Up A System For Your Coffee & Tea Station
"If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, do yourself a favor and get those
clear, small desktop organizer drawers, but put them in your pantry or cabinet instead," Cassano wrote. "They’re the perfect size for tea bags, Keurig cups, and sugar packets, and they’re small enough that you can designate a drawer for each type. (For example, you can have a black tea drawer and a green tea drawer, or a sugar drawer and a Splenda drawer.)
Make Use Of Cupboard Space With Free-Standing Shelves
Tokos recommends that you "pay attention to opportunities to maximize your cupboard spaces. If you have a shelf that has space in the upper area, a free-standing shelf could make use of that space." Take, for example, this
pick from Lavish Home. It helps you stack plates, dishes, bowls, and mugs; the bamboo shelves are ventilated and sturdy, the corner-design tucks away for a clean look, and you can opt for a two-tier version for smaller cabinets.
Further Maximize Storage With Under-Shelf Baskets
"An alternative to shelf organizers is
under-shelf baskets. They’re not permanent, so they won’t damage your shelves, and they allow you to use every inch of your cabinet space (without having to stack things too high)," Cassano wrote. This Amazon favorite with hundreds of five-star reviews come in three different colors, and while they're durable enough for your dinnerware, they're also great for books, paperwork in the office, tools in the garage, or soda cans in the fridge.
Transfer All Of Your Clothing Over To Velvet Hangers
Cassano wrote, "I organize every closet with
velvet hangers. They’re thinner than standard hangers, your clothes won’t slip off and end up on the floor, and you can buy them all in one single color so everything looks uniform." These ones are durable to support up to 10 pounds, and a pack of 50 will cost you less than $25. No wonder they have over 10,000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating.
Write Out Your Tasks For The Day, Every Day
Sometimes, your stuff isn't the only category that needs organizing. You can streamline your routine and daily tasks by recording them all in one place, so your mind feels clearer, too. "Once I’m at my desk, I write out my tasks for the day,"
Marie Kondo wrote in a blog post on her website. "Everything is included on this list, from folding the laundry to answering emails. When I’m done with a task, I put a checkmark beside it. Seeing the checkmarks at the end of the day offers a sense of accomplishment." Of course, any old sticky note will do, but if you want all of your reminders in one place, this weekly planner has room to jot down your daily appointments, to-do list, goals, and shopping list. It's also undated so you can start any time.