9 Decluttering Secrets From Professional Organizers
A Well-Occupied Wall
Short on cupboards? Get things out in the open. New York City prop stylist Erin Swift is a fan of displaying everyday dishes against a well-marked chalkboard wall. The dark backdrop allows you to clearly (and cutely) indicate a home for each item, encouraging others (not you!) to help restock once the dishwasher is finished. Draw outlines of shapely pieces if you’re the artistic type, or just say it like it is, with words.
To buy: Krylon Chalkboard Paint, $19 a quart, amazon.com.
A Nightstand Divided
Melissa Picheny of Declutter + Design, in New York City, can’t stand the stress of a messy bedside table; she finds solace in compartments. With the right setup, there’s a place for your remote, glasses, notepad (to capture 3 A.M. revelations), phone, and beauty ephemera, leaving the top free for lamp, book, and peace of mind.
To buy: Bamboo drawer-organizer boxes, $25 for five assorted sizes, sevilleclassics.com.
Linens That Glide
Organizer and stylist Eliza Krpoyan of Style My Life, in Los Angeles, has a cure for overly deep storage spaces that make it tough to grab anything but those sheets and towels right in front. Rolling shelves (with lips tall enough to contain potential runaways, like spare pillows) maximize access, making it a pleasure to put away and retrieve folded stacks. A stand-alone piece (shown here) is a smart, inexpensive solution for a home without a dedicated linen closet. Or you can custom fit an existing closet.
To buy: Pax wardrobe frame in Ballstad White, $100, and Komplement drawers in birch, $40 each: ikea.com for stores.
A Tidy Tub of Summer
Whatever the season, head-out-the-door essentials tend to congregate right where clutter is already at its peak—in the entry. Design blogger Benita Larsson, who lives in Stockholm, had the notion to divvy up a galvanized tub into discrete compartments (using “walls” of foam core) for all the unfindables. In summer: sunscreen, goggles, and bug spray; in winter: mittens, gloves, and hats. Zippered nylon pouches offer grab-and-go convenience for different activities.
To buy: Galvanized washtub (21.50 by 10.25 inches), $21, sears.com. Nylon zipper bags, $12 to $16 for an assorted set of three, baggu.com.
Toys Tamed and Tagged
Playthings have a will of their own; they can’t stay pristine and still be fun. But Brooklyn-based lifestyle author Katie Brown contains—and camouflages—some of the chaos by stocking shelves with opaque containers labeled with graphic photos of what’s inside. When it’s time to swap out the Thomas trains for the Transformers, just update your shots. The nostalgic borders on the photos opposite come from the Polaroid GL10 portable printer—a breeze to use, because it can receive images wirelessly from your smartphone.
To buy: Hancock Clover bookcase, $199, cb2.com. Play Kit plastic toy bins with wooden lids, $28.50 each, pkolino.com. Medium open canvas bins, $10 each, containerstore.com. Polaroid GL10 Instant Mobile printer (not shown), $110, amazon.com.
Candles are just one example of the type of where-are-they-when-you-need-’em items that you end up rebuying all too often. Benita Larsson keeps track by corralling like items with a grid of interlocking inserts tailored to the contents—whether that’s candles, batteries, or cosmetics. For best results, bring along sample contents and drawer dimensions when you shop.
To buy: Rubbermaid interlocking plastic drawer organizers, $2 to $3.50 each, containerstore.com.
Strength in Numbers
New York City prop stylist Rebecca Omweg uses a uniform-on-the-outside, eclectic-on-the-inside system to bring crisp order to odds and ends. This approach gives a unified front to holiday decorations, art projects, rarely used small appliances—anything you want to hold on to but would rather not see. Keep a list on your computer indicating what’s in each box, and when you need something, do a quick search of the file. Don’t stress about perfection when stenciling; the hand-done quality is part of the charm. A lighter take: standard white cardboard banker’s boxes with stick-on numbers.
To buy: Prant plywood boxes with lids (13 inches high, 13 inches wide, 15 inches deep; assembly required), $13 each, ikea.com for stores. Painting stencil set of three-inch capital letters and numbers, $10, staples.com (paint the numbers before you assemble the boxes). Paint: Orange Burst No. 2015-20, from $25 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.
T-Shirts Rolled and Filed
New York City organizer Barbara Reich discovered that she could get about a third more T-shirts in a drawer with a fold-and-roll technique. But the best part is that this method keeps logos, patterns, or labels displayed, making it a cinch for a kid to hunt down that top she so desperately needs on a given day. (Also works for adults, who, let’s face it, are just as picky.) Use dividers to create precise rows.
To buy: Cedar adjustable drawer organizer, $10, containerstore.com.
Paperwork on Wheels
Kate S. Brown, an organizer in Sarasota, Florida, eases the pain of paperwork by making it mobile. A rolling office lets you relocate to wherever the action is, so you can join the family, hang out by the TV, or even sit in the sunshine while you sort and file. Another plus: The limited surface space holds only essentials, preventing clutter and prompting you to recycle as you work.
To buy: Industrial metal wire cart (36½ inches high, 37 inches wide, 22 inches deep), $595, hudsongoods.com. Semikolon document boxes in lime and black, $20 each; Synchronicity Stockholm office storage box in black-and-white pattern, $14; Circuit desktop files in white, $20 each; and clear pencil organizer, $6: containerstore.com. Basic hanging file folders, $9 for six folders, tabs, and labels, seejanework.com. Rope basket, $36, wayfair.com.