Fast Decluttering Tricks for Every Room in the House
Think of decluttering as the ur-resolution, the one move that makes all other goals more achievable. The whole-house, whole-family plan in these pages is designed to save time (fewer closet excavations) and aggravation (no more pantry landslides). It might also erase guilt, since clutter reminds us of the decisions, big and little, that we've dodged. More shelf space is lovely, but more mental space is the real game changer. What will you do with yours this year?
- Use a boot tray to create boundaries for footwear. Whatever doesn’t fit should go in a bedroom or closet.
- Designate a hook, bin, or basket for each member of the household. If their area gets full, they’re responsible for returning items to their own closets (or a coat closet).
- Off-season items should be cleaned and stored out of the way; use a covered rolling rack in an attic or basement if you don’t have a spare closet.
- Establish drop spots right at the door: a change jar, a sunglasses tray, key hooks, and an umbrella holder.
Employ a large basket to corral in-and-out items, like store returns and sports equipment.
To buy: Yamazaki Home plain pole hanger, $70; ahalife.com; Yook key hook and organizer, $10; umbra.com; Hay Kaleido tray, $25 (small); momastore.org; Classic hamper, $128 (tall); thelittlemarket.com; Zinc boot tray with liner, $40; crateandbarrel.com; Yamazaki Home Slash umbrella stand, $50; ahalife.com.
- Think of central cabinets and drawers as prime real estate. Only your most-used items should live in the quick-reach areas. The rest live higher up or farther back.
- Use divided inserts to separate categories within drawers. Apply museum gel to the base to hold them in place like built-ins.
- In your junk drawer, make use of multi-tiered inserts to compartmentalize the space and keep it from becoming a black hole.
- Bring order to the refrigerator by employing acrylic bins to corral awkwardly shaped packages on the shelves.
- Allocate 15 minutes each week to determine what stays and what gets recycled from the family command center.
- Everyday-use appliances can live on the counter. Others should be stashed in a cabinet, pantry, or nearby closet.
- Keep cooking essentials handy on a tray near the stove. Whatever doesn’t fit belongs in the pantry.
- Create a nonfridge spot for displaying art, homework, and schedules, like a magnetic board.
To buy: Everyday kitchen tool set (top right), $100 (15 pieces); oxo.com; SmorgasBoard, $75 for set;ilovehandles.com; Lattice stool, $398; michelevarian.com; Hay pepper grinders, $35 each; momastore.org.
Bathroom and Linen Closet
- Discard toiletries you haven’t used in a year (unopened ones can be donated to homeless and women’s shelters). And don’t hoard hotel minis if you never pack them when you travel.
- Stash towels at eye level, since you’ll be reaching for them frequently. Hand towels and washcloths can be rolled and stowed in baskets to prevent toppling stacks.
- Illuminate the contents by installing stick-on, motion-activated lights.
Package sheet sets within one of the matching pillowcases to keep everything together in a neat stack.
To buy: Dash throw in neon pink, $88; thelittlemarket.com; Brooklinen wool throw blanket, $229; brooklinen.com; Calvin Klein x Pendleton Peter wool saddle blanket, $285; calvinklein.us; Classic Core sheet set, from $99; brooklinen.com; Organic cotton towels, $50 for 3-piece set; grundamerica.com; Waffle bath towels, $49 each; parachutehome.com; No. 10 Fabric Fresh, $16; thelaundress.com; Spectrum metal wire storage baskets, $13 each; bedbathandbeyond.com; Chandler woven collapsible storage, $22; potterybarnkids.com; Mr Beams wirelessmotion-sensing LED Stick Anywhere lights, $30 for 3; homedepot.com.
- Set rules like at school: Once you’re done playing with something, return it to its rightful home.
- Use clear bins so kids can see what goes inside. Keep them small; bigger bins become dumping grounds.
- Place a hamper in their closet where they can toss clothes they’ve outgrown. When it fills up, make a trip to the donation center.
Make storing collections part of the room’s decor. Use a magnetic knife holder to corral Matchbox cars.
To buy: Eket storage combination with legs, $130; ikea.com/us; Half Dot rug, $299 (4 by 6 ft.), and Wood and Wire gray cube bins, $29 each; landofnod.com; Sterilite large flip-top bins, $22 for 6; amazon.com; Our Tall Shoe Boxes, $4 each; containerstore.com; Magnetic Strip bulletin board, $13, and Mighties magnets, $8 for 8; threebythree.com; One World Denim Globe Pouf, $168; maplenest.com.
- Hang all clothes facing the same direction and arrange like items together so you can easily see what you have (and need).
- Use an acrylic letter file to stash clutch purses upright on a closet shelf.
- If you’re consigning pieces online and they haven’t sold in three months, donate them. Keep them separate from your closet in the meantime.
- Prevent discarded clothes from piling up on the bedroom chair. Place a basket next to it where those items should land (out of sight) until they can be sorted.
Style flat surfaces like dresser tops and bedside tables with a few objects you enjoy to discourage them from becoming landing strips for clutter.
To buy: Bamboo deep drawer organizers, $37 for 2; containerstore.com; Silver rope hamper, $99; potterybarnkids.com; Calvin Klein x Pendleton Peter wool saddle blanket, $320; calvinklein.us; Billy lounge chair and ottoman; Liz O’Brien Antiques, 212.755.3800 for info; Peek 6-drawer dresser, $1,999; bludot.com; Seagrass basket, $128 (short); serenaandlily.com; Custom rug, $599; abchome.com for similar; Vases; The End of History, 212.647.7598 for info.
- Sally Augustin, PhD, environmental and design psychologist
- Elspeth Bell, PhD, psychologist specializing in clutter issues
- Jacquie Denny, cofounder of the online auction site Everything But The House (EBTH)
- Molly Graves, cofounder of The Neat Method
- Isha Gupta, MD, neurologist at IGEA Brain & Spine
- Debra Johnson, Merry Maids home cleaning expert
- Ellen Madere, professional organizer in Old Lyme, Connecticut
- Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space
- Jordan Marks, cofounder and owner of It’s Organized
- Andrew Mellen, professional organizer
- Rachel Rosenthal, organizing expert
- Beth Penn, author of The Little Book of Tidying and founder of Bneato Bar in Los Angeles
- Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College
- Mimi Shagaga, Beverly Hills–based clinical psychologist