7 Genius Organizing Tips We Learned From The Home Edit—Including the 80/20 Rule

BRB, we've got some decluttering to do.

Organized fridge with produce, eggs, and condiments
Photo: Christopher Testani

Each year, our annual Real Simple Home is bursting with design ideas we're excited to try—but it may just be the smart organizing ideas that end up transforming our homes the most. This year, we collaborated with the organizing pros at The Home Edit to help tidy up the fridge, utility closet, and other clutter-prone spots around the house. After admiring The Home Edit's color-coded closets on Instagram and watching them make over celeb spaces on their Netflix show, we thought we knew all their clutter-busting methods (rainbow order, right?). As it turns out, they had a few more tricks up their sleeves. The Home Edit experts Alli Bridgers, Emily Shreve, and Shaina Burrell helped us tidy every corner of the three-story house and taught us we've been organizing our fridges all wrong.

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For even more tidying tips, check out The Home Edit co-founders Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer's new special-edition magazine, The Home Edit: Feel-Good Organizing. It may even inspire you to actually organize that junk drawer.

Christopher Testani

Resort Your Refrigerator

If you're currently stacking yogurt cups and placing produce on the open shelves in your fridge, you're doing it wrong. Clear storage bins will keep items contained while making it easy to see what's inside. With transparent bins specifically designed for everything from berries to veggies, it's easy to see when you're running low on eggs or if you have excess carrots you might want to work into your dinner plans. Hidden near the back of a shelf, produce has a tendency to rot until you find it liquified weeks later, but sorted in clear bins, it's easy to spot when greens are less than fresh.

To maintain the order, label each bin. "Fridge items have a high turnover rate, so use broad categories. Try 'veggies' and 'condiments,' not 'cucumbers' and 'mayo,'" says The Home Edit experts. "This ensures that everything will always have a home!" Shaina explains.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

"You get the item or the space; you don't get both," says The Home Edit team. "Live by the 80/20 rule: Keep your home no more than 80 percent full and leave at least 20 percent for breathing room." Allowing some open space will help your home feel calmer and less chaotic. Let this principle guide each room overall (no, you don't need to cover every wall with art or fill the floor space with furniture), as well as smaller areas. For example, if you have bookshelves in the living room, fill them 80 percent of the way with books, collectibles, and decorative objects. Leave 20 percent open.

Make Organizing Intuitive

According to The Home Edit, fridges and pantries tend to be some of the toughest spots to keep tidy because they're high-traffic areas frequented by the entire family. "Everyone in the home uses them on a daily basis, from adults to kids. This means the system must be intuitive and user-friendly for all ages," they explain. If the system you're using simply isn't working, try something more realistic and less aspirational. Labeled and color-coded bins make it easy for everyone to figure out what belongs where. Consider keeping kid-friendly snacks on a lower shelf so little ones can help themselves. Arrange labeled bins for seltzers, cheese sticks, and condiments where you tend to store those items, rather than creating a new system that goes against the habits you've already established.

Christopher Testani

Stop Storing Clothes You Don't Wear

The biggest closet organization mistake The Home Edit team sees regularly? "When people hold onto things they never wear," they say. "It's just a waste of space! If you haven't worn it in a year, you probably never will." Sure, you can ask if it sparks joy or run it through a list of questions, but if you haven't taken it off the hanger in the last 12 months, you probably won't in the next 12 months either.

"Closets can be hard because there tends to be an emotional aspect to getting rid of clothing," says The Home Edit. "Rather than going through every item of clothing separately, start by grouping them in categories. It will help you see where you have unnecessary duplicates and decide which items are worthy of keeping." Strict rules (like the 12-month time limit) and practical considerations (like duplicates) may help you make more logical decisions when it comes to closet decluttering.

Swap Clothes With the Seasons

Unless you have an enormous walk-in closet with ample space for every single item you own, you'll want to reorganize your closet as the seasons change. "Winter coats shouldn't be front and center in the summertime," Shaina says. Instead, move in-season clothing to the easiest-to-reach areas, and stash off-season items in breathable bins with lids or vacuum-sealed bags. Not only will your clothing have more room to breathe, but you'll get ready more quickly when you can see all the in-season items at eye level.

Remember: Cleaning Is Not Organizing

Say it with us now: Cleaning is not the same as organizing. Cleaning can include wiping away dust, vacuuming debris, and getting rid of piles of old mail. Whereas organizing is all about creating systems that keep order in your house. "If you don't create a sustainable system, a mess is bound to reappear. If you take the time to think through your habits, your home, and your lifestyle, you can create smart solutions that you'll be able to maintain," Shaina says. Beyond just decluttering and putting things away, organizing your house requires thoughtful consideration of where and how items are stored. Each household is different and the storage systems you choose should be customized for how your family lives.

Christopher Testani

Organize According to How You Shop

If your utility closet and pantry are neat and tidy until you come home from Costco and suddenly toilet paper is falling off the shelves and giant snack packs are piled on the floor, you may need to reorganize according to how you shop. "If you are buying in bulk, make sure to have space for overflow items that don't fit into your bins," the Home Edit recommends. "If you have a huge amount of snacks, devote a couple of bins to those items so you aren't cramming everything into a single container."

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