'Real Simple' 's Best Organizing Tips—Our Top 20 Tricks for a Tidy Home

A look back at the best ways to organize and the most life-changing home organization tricks discovered.

In the past, Real Simple editors have shared countless organization tips. From the secret to a tidy closet in record time to how to organize impossible things (yes, even that cabinet full of food containers), we've tackled every corner of our homes. With methods to wrangle the worst clutter hotspots, plus strategies to keep them organized longer, we know that keeping a tidy home is a marathon, not a sprint. Here, we've rounded up the best home organization tips we've discovered and that we expect will continue to serve us well for many years.

01 of 20

Make storage labels.

When our book, The Real Simple Method to Organizing Every Room ($15, amazon.com), was released in 2018, we had a chance to review the organizing advice we'd been providing for years. One favorite that still stands the test of time is to create labels—for bins, inside drawers, on file folders—really, anywhere. If you live with kids, a partner, or roommates, these labels encourage others to return items where they belong.

To create labels, consider investing in a label maker, or even colorful washi tape and a marker will do the trick. To label plastic bins, try a paint marker.

02 of 20

Follow the one-in, one-out rule of organizing.

It's a simple concept and if you're a longtime Real Simple reader, you've likely heard it before: For each new item brought into your home, one has to leave. The secret to preventing clutter is to not let the amount you introduce exceed the amount removed. For example, if you buy a new coat, donate an old coat.

03 of 20

Open your mail every single day.

It's an all-too-familiar habit: You bring in the mail and decide you'll deal with it tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, the pile continues to grow. Instead, avoid this common paper organization mistake and commit to opening and sorting your mail every day. It only takes five minutes and will feel far less daunting than a towering pile of papers.

04 of 20

Consider Swedish death cleaning (it's not as morbid as it sounds).

Based on the 2018 book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson ($18, amazon.com), Swedish death cleaning is the thoughtful process of letting go of your possessions "when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet."​ While it may sound overwhelming at first, one writer who tried it reported feeling less stressed knowing their affairs were in order and wouldn't become a burden to their family one day.

05 of 20

Try the tray trick to organize cluttered countertops.

Real Simple former editor-in-chief, Liz Vaccariello, introduced a storage tray to corral clutter on the kitchen counter. When items begin to overflow off the tray, it's a signal to tidy up. Try this same trick to organize spices on your kitchen counter, cosmetics on your bathroom vanity, or office supplies on your desk.

06 of 20

Use clear bins in kids' rooms.

For the best chance that kids will help tidy up their belongings, only use transparent bins to store their toys and art supplies. When kids can see what goes inside each container, it's easier for them to put things back where they belong. In the January 2018 Real Simple issue, we also suggested keeping bins relatively small since "bigger bins become dumping grounds."

07 of 20

Let go of the guilt of letting go.

Marie Kondo has been an influence on how we organize our homes. Besides teaching us to only keep items that "spark joy," she's also given us a strategy for letting go of guilt. In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ($9, amazon.com), Marie Kondo recommends saying "thank you" to an object you've decided to part with. This simple expression of gratitude for the object can make it easier to let go.

08 of 20

Keep your citrus juicer on the top shelf.

In the June 2016 Real Simple issue, former home director, Stephanie Sisco, listed 10 habits of highly organized people. Habit #4: They reserve prime kitchen real estate for their most-used cooking tools. "Look over the tools in your kitchen and consider how often you find yourself reaching for each. Standbys, like a vegetable peeler and measuring spoons, should stay close at hand, but an immersion blender used only sporadically needs to move up high," Sisco says.

09 of 20

Move unwanted items to the car.

In that same article, Sisco points out another game-changing organization tip. Instead of letting your donation bin take up space in your closet as you procrastinate dropping it off, transfer it to your car. Not only will you save closet space, but it will encourage you to donate items the next time you drive by your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

10 of 20

Use a turntable to store condiments in your fridge.

In the October 2015 Real Simple issue, we recommended moving condiments stashed on your fridge shelves to a revolving tray set on the middle shelf—"so you can find the soy sauce with a quick spin."

11 of 20

Organize according to your personality.

Using tidying techniques that work for you, depending upon your personality was a previous recommendation of ours. Find your organizing personality with this fun quiz. Then, implement organizational strategies that work with, rather than fight against, your way of thinking.

12 of 20

Store your knives like a chef.

Tossing knives into a kitchen drawer can cause them to dull or chip (not to mention, make them more dangerous to grab when you need them). If you have the counter space, pro chefs recommend investing in a knife block. If you're lacking in counter space, a magnetic knife rack is the next best bet.

13 of 20

Stop stashing harsh chemicals under the sink.

Part organization tip and part safety warning: There are four things you should never stash under your sink. Rather than store chemicals under the sink, relocate them to a locked basement or garage, out of reach of small children. What else should you clear out of the under-sink cabinet? Flammable products, like paints and thinners.

14 of 20

Organize food so you can see it.

This basic rule applies to both the pantry and the fridge. You're more likely to eat (and less likely to waste) food you can see. Invest in transparent bins that let you peek inside, and opt for shelf organizers with levels that serve as stadium seating for your spices and condiments.

15 of 20

Install wall hooks—lots of them.

One of the basic goals of organizing your home is to keep items off the floor. Wall hooks can help in that mission. Whether it's a swivel towel hook, a coat rack, or a Shaker peg rail, wall hooks keep everything from bathrobes to coats to handbags off the floor.

16 of 20

Switch to matching hangers.

Want to know the quickest, most satisfying way to make your closet look more organized—without a complete KonMari overhaul? Switch out all of the hangers in your closet for a matching set. Whether you choose sleek velvet hangers or luxe wood ones, you'll feel instantly more organized.

17 of 20

Take advantage of drawer dividers.

Whether you have a chaotic junk drawer or a cluttered utensil drawer, this problem is almost impossible to solve without investing in drawer dividers. Look for adjustable drawer inserts that can be shortened or extended to fit your specific drawer.

18 of 20

Stop storing off-season clothes in your closet.

If you're keeping winter coats and bulky sweaters in the closet all summer long, you're wasting valuable closet space. Instead, invest in zippered canvas storage bins you can stash under your bed or use vacuum storage bags so your puffer coats will take up significantly less space. Learn more and avoid these mistakes when storing winter clothes.

19 of 20

Store shoes toe-to-heel.

Instead of lining up shoes so they all face the same direction, store each pair toe-to-heel; they will nestle together and save space on the shelf or shoe rack.

20 of 20

Maximize vertical space in the shower.

Vertical space is the key to organizing all types of small spaces, including the shower. Order a hanging caddy that clips onto the shower head, a pocket caddy that clips onto the curtain rod, or an expandable pole organizer that fits neatly into the corner of the stall.

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