10 Ways to Conquer Clutter and Simplify Your Life

New year, same old mess? Curb your family’s clutter quirks with these 10 simple organization tricks.

It’s the season of fresh starts, which means it’s the perfect time to rejuvenate your home organization strategy. Spoiler: It’s not as hard as you think! In fact, these stress-reducing tips will help you solve some of the most common home organization woes — simply and with minimal effort.

1. “I can’t find it!”

Cutting clutter is an obvious starting point for resolving this issue. Having too much stuff can make it hard to locate items you need. Favorite shirts get lost in a crowded closet, the perfect spatula hides in the overstuffed kitchen drawer, and necessary tools float to the bottom of an unsorted toolbox.

But getting organized may be easier than you think. Let’s take those tools as an example. The garage can be one of the messiest places in the house, but this simple and easy starting point will help you get it under control.

  1. Hang a pegboard, and install some hooks.
  2. Using a marker, draw an outline around each tool to indicate its location.

You’ll have a tool organization system that not only keeps you organized but also alerts you when the tools are missing. Plus, organizing is contagious — once you start, it spreads rapidly throughout the house.

2. “I left home without it (again).”

Have you ever walked out of the house and forgotten the birthday card for your friend? Left the set of directions to your niece’s wedding on the printer? Or failed to retrieve the receipt for returning the vacuum you purchased last month?

If only we could remind ourselves about these things before walking out the door.

Whether the front door or mudroom is your jumping-off point each morning, you can set it up for total success. Create an organizing system with pockets that hang on the knob or over the door to hold items you’ll need before you leave for work, school or events.

A simple door organizer usually costs under $15 either in stores or online.

3. “Did you wash my soccer uniform?”

The laundry room is often the nemesis of an organized house. Here’s a laundry system that will restore household harmony and save you time: Get each family member their own laundry basket, and label it.

Rather than placing the clean laundry on the stairs or couch and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes, ask them to pick up their personalized basket in the laundry room.

There will be no lost items or mix-ups — and no more blaming you.

Photo from Zillow listing.

4. “Do I have to do everything?”

The kitchen is the pulse point of most homes. It’s a high traffic area that everyone uses all through the day. We open our mail here, study for school here, use the computer here, pile our stuff here — plus, it’s where the food is!

Dedicate one part of the counter to be set up for daily routines, like a lunch-making station. Stock it with paper towels, wraps, baggies and a cutting board. You could also make a coffee and tea station, equipped with supplies like filters, strainers and sugar.

If you create an organized space for your family to make their own lunches or coffee drinks, your life is easier. That’s called delegation.

5. “Where’d I put the phone number for the doctor’s office?”

Another tip for the kitchen is one that can save a life: a household manual, in either a physical or digital form. You can create this in just a few minutes, and it costs you nothing.

To get started, grab a binder and three-hole punch, and put all your vital information in the binder. This includes emergency contact info, the name of your family doctors and vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medications and dosages for the kids, caregiver names, the location of your wills — anything you’d need someone to know in an emergency.

When you have a minute, make it digital. But start with step one: Simply gather important information in one place, and keep it contained.

6. “I can’t corral these crazy cords!”

Phones, chargers, remotes and mismatched cords are always scattered throughout the house. The shortcut for pulling everything together? A central charging station.

A charging station hides cords, keeps all electronic items together and can even blend in with your furniture.

7. “There are toys all over the place!”

Many parents’ biggest home organization issue is the kids not picking up their toys.

The solution here might be as simple as teaching your children organization skills early on and making it easy for them to put things in their place.

Here’s one idea that will allow you to shift from frustration to elation:

  1. Use bins to hold the toys. Each bin should hold toys of the same type.
  2. Find a picture of the toys being stored in each particular bin. For example, if you have dolls and stuffed animals in one bin, attach a picture of dolls and stuffed animals to the front of it.

Photo from Zillow listing.

8. “Can everybody please clean up after yourself?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could clean up their own mess in at least one communal room? Does your bathroom come to mind? Make this a reality by creating a system that works fairly universally.

Get each person in the house a toiletry caddy. Just like at summer camp or in a college dorm, put names on the caddies, and store them on shelves in the bathroom or, if space is really at a premium, ask folks to carry their caddies back and forth from their bedrooms.

The bathroom stays organized, and there’s an automatic tidying-up system built in after every visit.

9. “I have no place to really relax.”

Clearing clutter can create a peaceful home — away from overstimulation and the demands of our external world.

Take that idea to one room in particular: our bedrooms, which are meant to serve as a sanctuary for rest and romance. The piles of laundry, books and magazines living next to the bed nix any possibility of a calm and relaxing experience.

Let’s get the laundry and closet into a workable system and put a cap on the number of books and magazines in your personal space.

You can start to create a peaceful space by:

  • Getting rid of clothing you don’t need anymore. Box it and store it, sell it or give it away.
  • Going through all the books on your bedside table (or floor), and selecting just one to read. Store the others in an alternate location. Keep just this month’s magazines on your table, and either relocate, recycle or donate the rest.

Photo from Zillow listing.

10. “I don’t have time to get organized.”

One of the top reasons for not getting organized is lack of time. It seems we devote all the energy we have to work, family, school, volunteering and other commitments.

While many of us dream about alphabetized folders and color-coded sheets and towels, the fact remains that there is often little time in the day to organize or even clean.

The best way to manage this issue is to reduce — and then repeat after me.

  • Reduce. Eliminating clutter is the No. 1 thing we can do to create more time for ourselves. When there’s less clutter, we spend less time cleaning it, less time putting it back where it belongs and less space storing it. Take just 10 minutes today, and eliminate 10 items you no longer really need.
  • Repeat after me. Here’s a mantra for you: Avoid perfection at all costs. Don’t get too hung up on the details. Your home doesn’t need to be perfectly organized every day. Sometimes “good enough” is all you need.

 

Posted by Dorothy The Organizer on Zillow

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How to Declutter Your Bathroom So It Isn’t So Gross

Figure8Photos/iStock; realtor.com

Want to learn how to declutter your bathroom? We feel your pain. Despite often being the smallest room in the house, it is also one of the hardest to keep organized. If you’ve ever been late to work because you couldn’t find that new can of shaving cream you know must be stashed somewhere, you also understand that decluttering your bathroom could seriously change your life.

We can help! In this second installment of our 2018 Declutter Your Home Guide—a series of articles that will pare down your possessions room by room—we tackle this oft-neglected space and show you how to declutter a bathroom correctly. Try some of these tips to bask in a cleaner, calmer bathroom (ahhh).

Nab every inch of space

Photo by The Painted Home

The first step is to find a home for everything: Take advantage of any place you can carve out some real estate. Consider the back of the bathroom door, the inside of a closet door, or a mounted bin or rack on the wall.

“These spots are often overlooked storage opportunities,” notes Katie McCann, an organizing pro with Maeve’s Method.

Installing shelves over the toilet is smart, too, adds Marty Basher, a home expert at Modular Closets.

If you don’t have a product shelf in your shower, pick up a caddy or small plastic basket, suggests Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything but the House. “This way, you can easily move items from the shower to replenish it and then back again in one motion,” she explains.

Give it a spin (or use bins)

Photo by Houzz.com

A Lazy Susan under the bathroom sink to house products makes decluttering easy, says Julie Coraccio, the organizing genius at Reawaken Your Brilliance. “Take everything out, remove what you no longer need, put your essentials back in, and you’re done,” she says.

The same principle holds for pull-out bins.

“With baskets or bins, you can stop clutter before it starts, because you’re less likely to add more items than you can hold in each one,” she points out.

Go a step further and label your containers, as seen above, or invest in dedicated drawer dividers, suggests Basher.

Break up with your makeup

Photo by bluejey024

Face it, ladies—you’ve probably got too many eye shadow palettes, and they’re getting old, too.

“Many women keep makeup much longer than they should,” notes Coraccio. Pitching expired items should be a no-brainer, she adds, and it’s an easy step if you’re having trouble decluttering this area.

Not sure if something’s too old to use? Go to the Cosmetic Calculator and find out.

Group like items

Photo by Dura Supreme Cabinetry

As you plow through each drawer and shelf, create piles with similarities so you can put them away methodically. Makeup, of course, will have its own section, and the rest should be easy to arrange, too (hair care products, body lotions, perfume).

And to keep toiletries from piling up, commit to a single item at a time.

“Half-used bottles and tubes become clutter in a hurry, so be disciplined—use and finish what’s already open before trying a new product,” urges Basher.

Check your meds

Photo by Harry Braswell Inc.

Keeping unused or expired medications in the bathroom adds to clutter and can be dangerous. Kids may sample a pill, or you might inadvertently take something in the dark when you’re half-awake. The best advice: Let those meds go.

“Why put your health at risk?” asks Coraccio.

But please don’t be lazy and toss them down the toilet.

“Make sure you dispose of medications properly as some have been making their way into municipal water systems,” she notes. Most cities and counties have drop-off locations or specially designated days when they take unused medicine (check with your local health department).

Learn the difference: Regular vs. Special

Photo by Clare Gaskin

Not every product deserves a spot on that Lazy Susan or in the bins close at hand.

“Keep items you don’t use regularly separate from those you grab on a daily basis,” suggests Basher. This means special fragrances, expensive body cream, and once-a-week hair and face masks can live in their own drawer or basket. You’ll streamline your products and won’t be waylaid pawing through the bin during the morning rush.

Corral kid stuff

Photo by timothy bell photography

Sharing a bathroom with children? Their things need an overhaul as well. Pitch toys they’ve outgrown as well as those threadbare towels, and create separate storage for the under-10 set. Wire baskets, a plastic bucket, or mesh bag that hangs over the shower rod are a few options for storing toys.

Say buh-bye to samples

Photo by Houzz.com

The smaller the product, the harder it can be to locate. We’re talking about those hotel-size shampoos, lotion samples you’ve ripped from magazines, and the tiny makeup tubes that come with larger purchases at department stores.

“Donate these unused items,” says McCann. There are many worthy groups that’ll gladly take unopened toiletries, including homeless shelters, church committees, and school drives for the needy.

 

Posted by Jennifer Geddes on realtor.com

 

 

3 Steps to Creating an Organized Entryway (Even If You Don’t Have the Space)

With a little inspiration and organization, you can create an entryway that makes coming and going a breeze.

Drop zones, mudrooms, utility rooms, entryways, “places to leave your stuff.” Whatever you choose to call them, these spaces are invaluable as a spot to kick off your shoes, drop your keys, and keep everything you’ll need for the next day right where you left it.

Sometimes these spaces can be hard to come by, especially if you live in an apartment or studio. Without organization, shoes usually end up piled in front of the door waiting to trip an unsuspecting victim, and an array of backpacks, mail, dog leashes and knickknacks can clutter your home to the point of embarrassment.

Photo from Zillow listing.

But having a dedicated, organized and stylish drop zone for all of your daily needs — and to welcome your guests — is absolutely achievable, no matter the size or design of your living space.

Try these tips to establish a functional entryway in a home of any size.

Make a little room

Since it’s generally not possible to remodel or add on to a rental apartment, you must work with what you have.

Try a narrow console table for tight hallways as a place to drop your keys or leave your outgoing mail.

If space is really tight and all you have is the wall behind your door, hang hooks for coats and bags so they stay off the floor.

Another small-space trick: Temporarily remove your coat closet’s door, and add a stool or small bench inside as a place to sit and take off your shoes — and still have room for coats.

If your apartment is inside a secure building, you may be able to leave out a basket or tray for shoes in the shared hallway.

Add functionality

A mirror can also go a long way in opening up and brightening tight areas by reflecting light and giving the illusion of more space.

Retailers like IKEA sell modern pieces that can be modified to fit narrow spaces or hung on the wall. Measure your desired entryway space, and find furniture that will make the most of the room you have.

Having dedicated spaces for accessories also will make your drop zone a functional center. A devoted bowl or hook to hang your keys, a folder to sort your mail, and a basket to keep your shoes in really makes a difference in the flow of your day.

Leave a message

Bump practicality up a notch by having a message center in your drop zone where you can pin important reminders or leave messages for family members. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected as they go in and out.

A docking station to charge all your electronics can also be useful here. Look for compact and small accessories that will fit your space, yet serve the purpose you need.

By customizing your drop zone with features you need that will fit your home, you’ll keep everything streamlined and easy to find when you need it.

Posted by Erica Sooter on Zillow

Declutter Like A Boss: 15 Secrets From Professional Organizers

Experts share their top clutter-smashing strategies, so you never have to let clutter take up space in your home, budget, or mind ever again!

Most of us have it, but none of us want it. Clutter can overwhelm our lives if we let it — even our wallets can take a hit. According to the National Organization of Professional Organizers, unnecessary spending related to disorganization eats up as much as 20% of our annual budgets. Excess stuff, no matter what form it takes, can really take a mental toll, even making you less productive and more irritable.

The good news? Kicking off a full-on clean sweep isn’t as hard as you think. If you ask professional organizer Maria Gracia, founder of Get Organized Now!, spring is the perfect time to tackle clutter once and for all. “I prefer spring cleaning to involve the purging of anything that’s weighing heavy on you, whether it’s a cluttered garage, an overclogged to-do list, a bursting email inbox, or an ongoing argument with a loved one,” she says.

Are you ready to declutter your home? Follow these time-tested tips from organization experts.

  1. Follow the one-in, three-out rule. To declutter like a pro, first you have to think like one. That means throwing out the old “one in, one out” system, which “doesn’t do a thing to declutter your home — it basically just evens things out!” says Gracia. She instead sticks to a “one in, three out” policy: When you bring in anything new, three items in the same category (clothes, jewelry, toys, etc.) must be donated, recycled, or trashed.
  2. Don’t store beyond your space. A good rule of thumb to ward off clutter from the get-go is to purge all items you don’t reasonably have room to store. “If you own a house with wall-to-wall shelving in the den, you’ll have a lot of space for books,” says Jodie Watson, founder of Supreme Organization. “But try to keep a library’s worth of books in a studio apartment, and you’ll run into clutter issues pretty quickly.” The same idea applies to kitchen appliances, dishes, shoes, you name it — keep this in mind especially if you’re moving to a studio apartment for rent in Austin, TX, and closet space is limited.
  3. Color-code your closets. While you’re in the closet, arrange garments by color. “This will help you see if you have been accumulating black T-shirts over time or have an excessive amount of pink tanks,” says Ashley Murphy, co-founder of Neat Method. “You really won’t know until they’re all grouped together, and it makes the purging process much easier.”
  4. Sort the fridge. Similarly, Murphy suggests grouping like foods — such as sweet treats, salty snacks, and fresh fruits — in baskets in your fridge or pantry. That way, you can see exactly what you have. “It forces you to not overbuy. If it doesn’t fit in the designated basket, you don’t need it,” she says.
  5. Put hard-to-reach storage to work. Murphy advises clients to commit all of the out-of-reach spaces in a closet (the highest shelf, back corners, etc.) to special-occasion pieces. For example, you might stash dress shoes if you do most of your day-to-day work in a casual setting, or swimsuits if you live in a climate that’s typically cold. Then keep the heavy-rotation wardrobe items within easy reach.
  6. “File” everyday shoes. Closet on the small side? Consider loading flats, flip-flops, and sneakers vertically in a basket. “It takes up such a small amount of space but holds a ton of shoes,” says Murphy.
  7. Ditch packaging ASAP. As soon as you bring a product home (or as soon as something comes in the mail), take everything out and recycle the box or package immediately — and instantly reclaim that space. “Unless you plan on returning the item soon, there’s no reason to hold on to it,” says Julie Naylon of No Wire Hangers. “If something goes wrong, most companies won’t require the original packaging anyway.”
  8. Opt for paperless manuals. Yep, go ahead and recycle that product manual too. Steal this trick from Naylon before the paper piles up: “Whenever I buy a new product, I go online, type the model number into Google, and download a PDF of the manual onto my computer.”
  9. Organize first, then declutter. To make organizing and tossing easier, Watson suggests separating paperwork into categories first. “It’s much easier to address a smaller stack that’s either medical, financial, or home-related than to mentally jump back and forth and make decisions on each document pulled from a random pile,” she says.
  10. Toss excess office supplies. “There’s not one house I’ve been in that didn’t have an overflow of office supplies,” says Naylon. “If you can’t part with of some of your pens or paper clips, pack them up and keep them in back stock. You don’t need every pen you own cluttering up drawers.” This goes double for any freebie promotional pens that you rarely use.
  11. Purge idle projects. We all bite off more than we can chew at different times in our lives. If neglected projects (a half-knit sweater, a travel scrapbook you never got around to putting together) have been sucking up visible space around the house, it’s time to move on. “Be realistic about the projects you’ve been planning to do. Decide not to do two or three of them and let go of any items you’ve been keeping around ‘just in case,’” says Watson.
  12. Make things visible. “If kids can’t see what’s in a storage bin, they’ll never put things away properly,” says Murphy, who recommends see-through or mesh bins for toys and other kids’ stuff. Her pick: colorful locker bins from The Land of Nod, because they look great and “let little ones see that games go in one, dolls in another, and so on.”
  13. Use the right-sized containers. An overstuffed bin isn’t useful to anyone — you’ll never want to dig through it to get what you need. “If an entire group of items can’t fit inside one container, find a bigger one or break it up into two,” says Watson. On the flip side, don’t keep too few items in a larger container. That just wastes precious space.
  14. Conquer your inbox. Digital clutter weighs just as heavily as the tangible kind. To keep it from spiraling out of control, Gracia suggests making a standing daily date to deal with it. “Give yourself a set amount of time, like 15 minutes, to delete or respond at the same time every day. Set a timer and keep going until it sounds,” she says. On lighter days, take a few minutes to unsubscribe from newsletters and companies you’re no longer interested in, set spam filters, or sign up for a service like unroll.me. If things have gotten really dire, consider deleting all of it. Highlight everything and press “Delete” or change email services. “Then contact those in your address book, asking anyone awaiting a response to resend their question,” says Gracia.
  15. Use the rule of four. There’s nothing more intimidating than an overloaded to-do list. That’s where Gracia’s “rule of four” hack comes in: “Keep two lists: one master list for everything, and one called ‘To Do Today.’ Move only four items from the master list to the ‘today’ list, and only focus on those four until they’re done. At that point, you can move four more over. Every time you complete a set, reward yourself!”

 

Posted by Jill Russell on Trulia

5 Organizing Secrets Only the Pros Know

Dorothy the Organizer spills the beans on how home organization professionals clean up your mess.

We professional organizers have many secret tools and tips. They’re what make us very successful.

When our clients pay close attention and ask us questions, they obtain the magical key to unlock their clutter dilemma.

Many people who opt not to work with a professional set out with the best of intentions. They dive into a project after seeing an idea in a magazine or on Pinterest. They run to the store for organizing products they haven’t completely considered. Suddenly, they find themselves at home opening their latest purchase and realizing this new gimmick isn’t going to solve their organizing problem, either!

Does this sound familiar? Now you can avoid these clutter curve balls with five organizing secrets only the pros know.

Create the vision before you organize

How many times have you said to yourself “I’m going to organize my closet,” only to be left frustrated by the experience before you are halfway through?

The solution here is to create your vision first, then organize. Visioning is a bit like planning. It’s when you take the time to think things through before you begin doing the work.

Plan what you want the space to be before you start. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Using the example of visioning for a closet, spend that time asking yourself some questions:

  • How do I want to use this space in my closet?
  • Will I store just this season’s clothes here, or just those that fit me currently? Or will I use half for clothing and half for memorabilia storage?
  • How’s the lighting?
  • Do I need a step stool to reach the shelves?
  • Do I want to keep my hamper in the closet or move it to the bathroom?

Take the time to write down your vision first and then — here’s the secret bonus — get someone to help you.

Having someone assist you is a secret the pros know well. Human behavior studies have shown that when two people (rather than one) are working on a project it gets done faster — not just because of the extra pair of hands, but because of the synergy between the two people. There’s a flash of motivation that bounces off one person onto the other that gets us through these projects much more quickly.

Play hooky

No, not the skipping-work kind.

Professional organizers know that getting organized doesn’t necessarily mean having custom shelves built to clear the over-cluttered corners. We look for practical solutions with an aesthetic flair first. It’s not necessary to answer the organizing dilemma with an expensive or time-consuming project.

My secret tip? I happen to love using hooks as my first line of defense. Here are a few places hooks come in handy, and common items they can hold:

  • Bathrooms: blow dryers and curling irons
  • Kitchens: brooms, aprons, and towels
  • Bedrooms: large hooks for backpacks and purses, small hooks for necklaces or belts
  • Home office: cords, headsets, and chargers

Use really simple math

It’s called the “subtraction method.” You’ve heard of dividing your stuff into keep, sell, and giveaway bins, but when the clutter seems overwhelming, I favor an easier approach with just one master box, which is what I call the “somewhere else” bin.

With your intention set toward subtracting items from a particular room (rather than having to dust them and organize them again), start with one spot — say, the dining room table — and remove items that don’t belong there, placing them into your bin.

The pros use this secret strategy to help reduce both the clutter and overall overwhelm. It’s a great way to begin organizing a certain area, and you can return to the box later when you’re ready to deliver items back to their proper locations.

Create “drop zones”

Every member of your household should have his or her own drop zone. For example, you can set up a table right inside the garage as your son’s drop zone. When you pull into the garage, he’ll know to go directly to the table and drop off his football uniform and backpack before entering the house.

A drop zone is a secret tip we use to allow each family member to have a place where they manage the intense number of incoming items into the house without the stuff being strewn from backseat to bedroom.

Drop zones keep clutter from migrating all over the house. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

In this case, the dirty football uniform is already in the garage near the washer and dryer, and, when he’s ready, your son can come out to the garage and triage his backpack: Pull out the empty food containers from lunch, water bottles from practice, homework to take to his room, and field trip signature forms to give to you.

Do this for yourself for your own briefcase and gym bag, too.

Shut down the distractions

One of the biggest reasons why my clients don’t trust themselves to get organized is because of the distractions they face. As a professional organizer, I can uphold the secrets to getting organized for my clients when they cannot do it for themselves.

If you can learn to master these distraction devils on your own, you are well on your way to making your organizing projects a super-simple and easy experience. Here are my secrets:

  • Ignore interruptions. When in the midst of an organizing project, ignore the dings and rings that alert you to text or voicemail messages. One exciting text can derail an entire morning reserved for organizing the kitchen cabinets.
  • Avoid diversions. Flipping through a book you meant to read; rereading a poem your daughter wrote for you; trying on a blouse to see if it still fits; researching a vacation destination on the Internet when you come across the brochure — it all sends you down another path. If your intention is to organize, you must stay on task.
  • Dabble with discipline. The biggest complaint that we organizing pros hear from our clients is paper pileup. The reason we seem to have so much paper around is because it’s a reminder that we want to read, write, pay, respond, or sign up for something. Paper (especially lists of things we wanted to do) can really send us into a tail spin. Remember when tackling paper, we are justorganizing it (that is, sorting it) not acting on it. These are two very different actions. Your job is to collect like items together to make paying bills easier, or sitting down to read more peaceful.
  • Eliminate the little pieces. You know, the basket on the counter? The one with some pennies, one bracelet, two blank birthday cards, a charging cord, paper clips, lip balm, cough drops, a gift card, batteries, one pen cap, a small tissue pack, vitamins, a whistle, and Lego pieces? We’ve all got some version of this. When it comes to organizing — especially if you’re looking to make some major progress — remember this mantra: Little pieces = big time waster; big pieces = little time waster. To translate, when you deal with smaller items, it always feels like you do less. If you need to make some real organization headway, try starting with the larger items, such as furniture, suitcases, boxes, and appliances.
  • Outsmart the temptation. We all have a natural inclination to match up the missing sock, reunite the pen cap with its pen, attach the backing to an earring that has none, or dig through the pantry to match the lid to its rightful water bottle. Trying to match up these long lost companions will sabotage your momentum when it comes to organizing. Avoid the temptation to fall into the matchmaking process, and instead toss items into a clear bag and label it with a black marker. Store all the bags together in a “missing parts and pieces” box and move on. They are likely to be reunited down the road.

Posted by DorothyTheOrganizer on Zillow

5 Steps to a More Organized Home for Back to School

This A+ plan will have your family ready to greet the first day of school with a smile.

As if summer isn’t crazy enough, the transition to school can make home life even busier and messier. Schedules are a mix of school activities and the last-hurrah-of-summer, and the house is strewn with important school papers and wet beach towels. Here are a few tips to help you organize the chaos this year.

Clean the fridge out (and off) and restock

Shutterstock ID 266450780;

Shutterstock ID 266450780;

Clearing the front of the fridge of summer camp art projects and already-happened wedding invitations will signal a new season and leave room for important phone numbers and all those A+ papers your young scholars bring home.

Then, clean out the refrigerator, tossing all those picnic leftovers, and get it ready for quick breakfasts, packed lunches and after-school snacks. Anything grab-and-go is sure to be appreciated, especially during the first few weeks of school while your family is still getting used to the new schedule. A basket of fresh fruit by the door is also handy.

Take stock of closets and clothes

Courtesy of California Closets.

A new first-day-of-school outfit is a childhood ritual. But before you add to your child’s wardrobe, take stock of what they’ve outgrown during the summer months. And don’t forget the weather will probably be changing soon. See if your kids will be needing any new warmer clothes for the coming season.

A clean and organized closet and dresser will make getting out the door in the morning easier for everyone.

Similarly, catching up with laundry and creating a laundry system if you don’t already have one will keep your life running more smoothly.

Create a scheduling center

This is Mission Control for the family, so it should be in a central place in your home, such as the kitchen or entryway. You’ll want to keep a calendar, filing system, address book, notepads for taking phone messages, and plenty of pens, since they always seem to go missing.

This is also where paperwork should go to be sorted and put away, or signed and sent back to school. Create a system for paperwork and scheduling the family so Dad isn’t slated to tee off with his co-workers at the same time he’s supposed to chaperone a field trip.

Make mealtime easy

Meal-planning will save you time and money — not to mention protect your sanity when you’re running home from work and PTA meetings.

To keep the grownups fueled, set up a coffee station in your kitchen where they can grab a to-go mug easily.

Create a menu, and make a master shopping list to prep for the week. That way, you’ll know exactly what to make when everyone’s hungry, and you won’t waste ingredients.

Shutterstock ID 117974122

Shutterstock ID 117974122

Keep a list on your fridge to remind you of the week’s menu. And when inquiring minds ask what’s for dinner, you can direct them to the menu.

Prepping a few extra meals to throw in the freezer now will ease the busy first few weeks of school, too.

Tackle the mudroom and entryway

School brings with it a lot of paraphernalia: backpacks, lunch bags, gym bags, artwork, and library books. The mudroom or entryway will be the drop-off point and can quickly become a disaster without a system.

Courtesy of California Closets.

Are shoes taken off here? If so, make sure everyone has a designated spot for their shoes. Same with coats and backpacks.

Lunch bags should go in a specific place, or back to the kitchen to be cleaned out for the next day.

Establishing these routines at the beginning of the school year will help them become engrained so by the time winter, with its extra layers, and spring, with its muddy boots, come along, you won’t be pulling your hair out.

While the transition will take some getting used to, having solid systems in place in your home can help you ease the stress, and focus on the enjoyment of an exciting new school year.

Get more home design ideas to keep you inspired.

Posted by Natalie Wise on Zillow

7 Clutter Problem Areas And How To Tame Them

Bins with lids, cabinets that are oddly-shaped, and beneath the bed are some of the best places to hide items and clear your clutter.

Little apartments tend to come with big responsibility. Here’s how to maintain a clutter-free home without purging all your stuff.

So you’ve found The One: a space to call your own. It’s got a great location (you actually landed a Mission-area apartment in San Francisco, CA!), the rent fits your monthly budget, and it even has a little architectural charm. The only downside? Its size. And while you knew things would be tight, there’s still a moment of surprise when you realize that an amount of clutter that wouldn’t make an impact in a larger place makes your apartment look as though it should be on Hoarders.

Short of doing a major purge, you can focus on smaller, easier-to-manage problem areas. “Apartments, or small-space homes, tend to have two main areas that get easily cluttered: the entryway, and the kitchen counter or table,” says Clea Shearer, co-founder of the stylish organizing service The Home Edit.

Here are a few expert solutions to tame those areas — and others — that collect the most clutter in your small space.

1. Empty the sink

If you let dirty dishes take over the sink (or, perhaps, have temporarily hidden them in an unused oven when guests drop by), you know how to solve this clutter area: Wash them. Divide the task into two parts to make it seem like less of a time commitment: Once you rinse dishes, stack them on a drying rack — just be sure to tackle the rest of the chore later. “Dirty dishes should never pile up,” Shearer says. “But once they are clean, they can go right onto a drying rack if you don’t have time to put them away immediately.”

2. Rethink recycling bins

If you have an open bin for recycling, you’re going about it wrong — all it takes is an empty milk jug (even flattened) and a few catalogs to create an overflow. The better alternative is a receptacle with a lid (like this IKEA Sortera recycling bin). You can also stack another bin on top, to further sort paper from plastic, doubling your bin space in the same amount of floor space. Thinking vertical also comes in handy for cleaning supplies, which can be sorted in stacking bins (like in the above image from The Home Edit) or in rolling drawers.

3. Manage mail

The answer to stressful heaps of old bills and junk mail: Know thyself. “If you walk into your apartment and always set the mail down in the same spot, put a basket down to keep everything contained and neat,” Shearer says. You could even use a slim magazine file to separate must-read mail from the inevitable catalogs if you’re the type to lose things in a pile.

4. Relocate laundry supplies

If you’re living without a laundry room, detergent and dryer sheets can end up anywhere — sometimes out in the open or cluttering up spaces that don’t make sense, like your pantry. Look to odd-sized cabinets instead. “Use that brilliant little cabinet in the kitchen, there’s almost always one, that’s oddly positioned and wouldn’t be used for china or dishes,” says Nicole Krinick, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. “This is always a go-to, or under the sink in the bathroom if there are cabinets there.” If you just laughed at the idea of cabinets, you might have to store supplies in the open. But you can make detergent pods a little prettier by stowing them in a nice jar, decanting liquid detergent into bottles (just make sure to label!), or throwing everything into a stylish bin like in the above example from The Home Edit.

5. Stop shoe piles

Corners of any room can collect shoes, and when tossed absent-mindedly on the floor, shoes are at best hard to find and at worst, a tripping hazard. Organizing expert Felice Cohen (you might remember her from the viral video on living in a 90-square-foot apartment) stresses first cutting down on how many pairs you own, then solving the issue at hand. “Once you’ve culled down a little, under the bed is a good place for shoes,” she says. “Or a multifunctional bench with shoe storage in the entrance. I like shoe cubby storage that has slots for several shoes. You can also fit one on the bottom of a closet, where the space is usually wasted.”

6. Get creative with sports gear

Sports gear often is tossed just about anywhere. To better organize it, hide it in plain sight. “Yoga mats, rolled up, fit nicely in an umbrella stand outside my door. They also fit nicely into shoe cubbies, or you can roll them up and place behind an angled piece of furniture,” Cohen says. “For bikes, I have found they take up the least amount of room hung up by the top wheel on a hook. They’re easy to install and can fit up high.”

7. Give your closet a breather

Small spaces often come with small closets and small spaces for dressers, which is why it’s important to prioritize what you need and store things based on use. When it comes to next season’s clothes, a somewhat-inaccessible location is totally fine. “High, hard-to-reach cabinets or under the bed are great for storing things you use less often, like decorations or off-season clothing,” Cohen says. Subdividing smaller items, like ornaments, into smaller bins minimizes headaches when it comes time to use them.

Bonus tip: Declutter in phases

Of course, even the cleverest solutions won’t help if you’re still holding on to things like your high-school T-shirt collection. If this sounds like you, it’s time for a purge. “That can be easier said than done, which is why I encourage clients to break the clutter down into manageable, bite-sized tasks,” Cohen says. “Can you get rid of five things a day? Or put away just five things a day? Now imagine if you did that every night. Soon, most would be put away.”

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia