I vanquished my kitchen junk drawer on New Year’s Day, and it has stayed mayhem-free. First I tossed out everything I didn’t use often, then installed high-sided compartments so Post-it notes didn’t mix with paper clips. Next, I labeled every area so family members less invested in the project would know what goes where. I can’t even call it a junk drawer now. Maybe an efficiency niche?
Oak Park, Illinois
When my daughters were little, I would put together complete outfits, down to the hair clips, place them in large plastic bags, then stock their dressers. The system worked great until a few years into elementary school, when my girls decided they wanted control over what they wore. Today they’re teenagers and don’t even match their socks. Oh well!
I organized all my tablecloths by length and hung them on flocked hangers usually used for pants. I wrote the length of each tablecloth (36 inches, 72 inches, 120 inches, etc.) on the top of each hanger before putting it in the closet. Now when I need a particular size, I can find it without any fuss.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Inspired by my local bookstore’s orderly shelves, I organized my cookbooks into categories. My best friend—my label maker—was put to work labeling the shelves with subjects like regions, kids, chefs, slow cooker, holidays, and baking. Now my 100 or so cookbooks have a home, and I know exactly where to look when I need one in particular.
I found an old armoire on the side of the road and transformed it into a beauty station for my bedroom. My husband installed interior lighting and mirrors, racks for nail polish, canisters and shelves for cosmetics and hair products, a wire-mesh screen for earrings, and cute hooks and knobs for necklaces. The best part: When I shut the doors, everything is out of sight.
Ormond Beach, Florida
To organize my boys’ vast Lego collection, I purchased a rolling chest of plastic drawers. They have labeled compartments for every color (red, orange, and yellow go in one drawer; brown and tan go in another; and so on) and separate drawers devoted to instruction books, Lego “guys,” and tiny miscellaneous pieces. At long last, my house isn’t consumed by stray blocks.
Los Angeles, California
Planning my wedding would have been so much more stressful without my massive binder. I’m a theatrical stage manager, so I modeled the binder after the one I use to handle productions. I had a section for the budget, another for “costumes,” and a scenic section devoted to the physical setup of the ceremony and the reception. I’m a very visual person, so I loved being able to flip through the binder, glancing over every detail.
Danielle Ryan Schafer
Winter Park, Florida
After the holidays, I used to pack away only the decorations, leaving everything else—seasonal stationery, plates, and more—mingled with our year-round stuff. But a few years back I developed a better system: Now I collect everything holiday-related from around the house and put it into a bin (or three), which I keep in my office for a month while I find straggler items, like the kids’ Santa-themed pajamas. Then the bin goes into the hall closet until the following December. This strategy really helps us cut back on clutter.
I’m an avid reader who is awful at remembering book titles and authors’ names. So I created a spreadsheet on which I write the title and the author of every book I finish, along with a synopsis, the date I turned the last page, and a comment on how easy it was to get through. I started the list in 2010, and so far I’m at 24 books and counting. The file comes in handy when I want to suggest a book to a friend.
Apex, North Carolina
The narrow spice racks I installed inside my pantry doors hold approximately 75 spices, from A (achiote) to Z (za’atar). My inner cooking nerd loves to survey the alphabetization.
My “Where is it?” list. It’s a file on my computer where I write down everything that I am storing for the future or don’t use often, along with exactly where in the house I’m keeping it (for example, under the guest bed near the headboard). When I need something, I look at this document and in no time I know where it is.
Yolanda Sue Gruwell