10 Genius Organizing Tips That Changed the Way We Tidy Up

We didn't know we needed a "ripening bin" to help us declutter. Turns out we do.


Galina Sharapova/Getty Images

You know that one piece of organizing advice that finally made you declutter your closet? Or that nugget of tidying truth that convinced you to streamline your living room? Or the cord-tidying trick that finally did away with the jumble of TV wires? Well, we asked some of our favorite home organizers for tidying tricks on that level—the best, most game-changing home organizing advice they've ever dealt out. These are the tips behind their clients' "aha moments." And now they can be yours too! Here are ten life-altering pieces of organizing advice, according to the experts.

Set a Timer

"Clients are amazed when they see that what they thought was a daunting task can be accomplished quickly," says Lisa Zaslow, the professional organizer behind Gotham Organizers. Set a timer and then begin whatever organizing task you've been procrastinating. When you're "on the clock" you can't get distracted or move on to another activity. "One client said that the ironing board in her bedroom had been bothering her for months. It took around 40 seconds to put it away," she says. A timer set to a specific time limit can also be helpful. "When a client feels overwhelmed or stuck, I suggest that we start with just 5 minutes. I set a timer, and when they see progress in a tiny amount of time, they’re motivated to continue and their mood gets a huge boost."


Everyday Caddy filled with skincare products

Nikki Boyd / Photography by Katie Charlotte Photography

Create an 'Everyday Caddy'

To help streamline your morning routine, Nikki Boyd, professional organizer and the author of Beautifully Organized, recommends setting up one central spot for all the get-ready essentials. "Simply grab a caddy and put only the items that you use each morning to get ready (toothbrush, toothpaste, hairspray, lipstick, etc.).  It reduces the number of little decisions you must make when getting ready, plus you save time by only having one place to go for all your 'get ready' needs," she explains.

Think Like an Organized Person

To maintain your organization goals throughout the year, Zaslow suggests asking yourself: What would an organized person do? "When you’re tempted to toss your jeans on the chair in your bedroom rather than put them away, think again. When you come home from grocery shopping, be mindful of putting things away so that 'like goes with like.' When you get your new insurance policy, take an extra moment to shred the old one. Organized people know that spending a little time organizing makes their lives a lot easier," she says.

Set Up a "Ripening Bin"

"Sometimes it can be hard to make decisions about items you may want to let go of," Zaslow explains. "Rather than push people to decide quickly, which can be stressful, I set up a 'ripening bin.' When someone isn’t sure they want to let go of something, or they have some lingering attachment, we’ll put it in the ripening bin, putting off the decision until they’re ready." Sometimes, by the end of their organization session, the client is ready to let go, but other time, they're revisit it on the next session. To hold yourself accountable, set a reminder on your phone (or ask Alexa) for two days from now so you don't leave the items in purgatory indefinitely.

Follow the One In, One Out Rule

According to Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly Professional Organizing, the secret to maintaining a tidy home happens before you even get home. "Getting and staying organized has a lot to do with mindful shopping and being conscious of what you are bringing into your home," Hord says. "One of our biggest game-changing organization tips for this is the one-in, one-out rule. If you're bringing in something new, exchanging it with something old. This will always make you consider what you have to get rid of before you purchase—which then might not make you purchase anything."

Hide the Cord and Wires

For anyone you wants a home that looks exceptionally organized, the tech cords and wires have got to go away, Hord says. "A few of our favorite hacks for this are hiding tech in baskets, storing larger tech like printers inside cabinets, and using Command hooks to hold up cords on the back of furniture—but our ideal solution is a Docking Drawer, where you can plug items into drawers rather than out in the open."

Organized closet with labeled bins


Make Some Labels

"Whether it’s a file folder, a pantry bin, the edge of a closet shelf, or a container of Legos, having a nice, clear, durable label takes your organization system to the next level and looks sharp," says Zaslow. "It’s a little finishing touch that is a lasting reminder of the care you’ve put into getting organized and it makes it easy to stay organized."

Hord agrees—especially if you live with your family or roommates. "If more than one person is using a space, labels are especially crucial. Remember, you might know where everything lives but that doesn't mean everyone else in the household does, and organization stays maintained when everyone is on the same page," she says. Now there are no excuses for putting the tape, toys, or Cheetos back in the wrong bin or drawer.

Use a Forget-Me-Not Basket

Boyd says this trick is a game-changer for forgetful clients. "By hanging a basket on their front door, they can place all their items that they are always struggling to find when trying to head out the door in the morning (keys, kids' signed papers for school, etc.). By having the basket directly on the door handle, it eliminates the option of forgetting anything and keeps the entryway clutter-free," Be sure to place the basket near whichever door your family uses most often, and adding a small chalkboard for written reminders can also help.

Try the Ski Slope Method of Organizing

When we heard home organizing expert and designer Anita Yokota was coming out with a book—hello, Home Therapy!—we knew it would be full of home tidying wisdom. But when we spotted her Ski Slope Method of Organizing within its pages, it stopped us in our tracks. When you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of organizing, this tidying technique will help. Similar to how you don't ski directly down a large mountain in one straight line or you might tumble down, this organizing technique suggests that you start in one corner, then move to the other side of the room and do the next corner. Rather than try to tackle the room all at once, you "traverse the mountain" by going back and forth in small sections until the entire room is tidy. Phew! Check out the full technique here.

Just Get Started

"One question that I am always getting is 'Where do I start?'" says Boyd. When decluttering an entire house, the task at hand can seem daunting and there's no right place to start. To help break through the avoidance and procrastination, Boyd created a card deck that takes the guesswork out of where to begin. "You simply choose one card per week and complete the task on that card over that week's time." The goal: break one giant to-do (i.e. organize my entire home) into more manageable tasks. Decide to start now and focus in on one area to start. OK, set your timer, grab your label maker, you're fully prepared with all the expert organizing advice you'll need to reach your goal.

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