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“Organized is not synonymous with ‘neat,’” says Sharon Lowenheim, a New York City-based professional certified organizer. “A home may look neat but may have random items stashed away behind closed closet or cabinet doors. An organized home is one in which you know what you own, and you can easily find it.”
This is an important distinction since a lot of people usually equate the two. Another misconception is that you should buy fewer things in order to keep your home organized. While that is true to some extent, Lowenheim suggests getting rid of anything that is not contributing to the life you are living right now.
“If an item is from a previous phase of your life such as when you were still in college, when you were single, or when you were married but childless, but is not part of the life you live now, get rid of it,” she adds. “Once you’ve done that, don’t buy anything unless you need it, or unless it replaces something that you plan to toss once you get the new one.”
One of her basic organizing principles is “one in, one out.” It will also help you keep your home organized without expanding the number of items you own. Very often the hardest part is not getting everything in order but keeping it this way for a long time.
Another rule Lowenheim swears by is: Store things where you use them.
“Items that are used very frequently—at least a few times a week—should be stored in the most accessible locations. Your everyday dishes and cups should be in your lowest cabinets, at eye level. Your everyday silver and utensils should be in the handiest drawer,” she says. “Only frequently-used items belong on the countertop. Everything else should get put away.”
And since many people are spending a long time in their home offices these days, Lowenheim also has a few tips on how to maintain your working space in order.
Number one: Don’t let the mail build up.
“Open every piece of mail, discard the envelope, and figure out what happens to that piece of paper next: recycle, shred, file, or act on it,” she says. “If a paper needs to be acted on, put a sticky note on it explaining what is the next step for that paper such as “call the doctor’s office about this bill”. You shouldn’t have to reread each piece of paper every time you come across it.”
And of course, have a reliable filing system that you go through regularly to get rid of papers that you no longer need. This will ensure you always have a place to file new papers so they don’t lie around the floor in your office.
With that in mind, check out some of the items that will help you get your home in order but most importantly keep it that way.
Fellowes Powershred 12Cs Cross-Cut Shredder
This shredder will help you get rid of old documents and papers you no longer need. It also safely shreds staples, paper clips, and even plastic credit cards. Thanks to built-in technology, the shredder will automatically turn off when your hand touches the paper opening. It can shred up to 12 sheets at a time and holds the equivalent of four gallons of shredded paper.
To buy: $160; officedepot.com
West Elm Round Rattan Tray
Trays are a functional decor powerhouse. They will help you keep your living room in order while adding a stylish vibe to it. Place items such as remotes, video game consoles, or magazines to de-clutter your living room and have all of these easy-to-lose items in one place.
This one can also be used outdoors to serve drinks and food.
To buy: $59; westelm.com
CB2 Chelsea Cement Waste Can
Placing a trashcan in each room will encourage you to throw away things you don’t need instead of keeping them around “just in case” or piling them in a corner to throw away later. This stylish waste can from CB2 will do the job just fine and it doubles as a super stylish décor piece. It’s made from cement and its graphic design features vertical and horizontal lines.
To buy: $60; cb2.com
White Elfa Utility Mesh Closet Door & Wall Rack
This multi-functional Elfa rack can help you de-clutter pretty much any room in your house. Use it to store your accessories such as purses, jewelry, and fragrance bottles in your closet, or if you prefer, install it on your pantry door for some extra storage. It’s super easy to install and you can customize its configuration to fit your needs.
To buy: $142; containerstore.com
Serena & Lily Balboa Storage Trunk
This is another multifunctional piece that you can use in pretty much any room. We love it because if your kids spend much of their time in the living room, then your floor is probably littered with toys (that you step on).
This beautifully handcrafted trunk made from solid mahogany and rattan is a stylish storage solution at the end of the day or before you host guests. You can also place it in your bedroom and store extra blankets and throws in it.
To buy: $998; serenaandlily.com
Pottery Barn Rustic Wood Floating Shelves
Don’t let all the vertical space in your home go to waste. Floating shelves are incredibly helpful especially for displaying smaller objects, artwork, and other décor pieces that tend to take up too much space when placed on a table and they also look a bit messy.
These beautiful shelves are available in four lengths and six finishes so you can customize them according to your wall dimensions and design preferences. You can also hang them in the bathroom and store linens and candles on them to add a spa vibe to it.
To buy: from $62; potterybarn.com
iDesign Clear Linus Deep Stackable Plastic Bin
We suggest you stock up on these stackable bins because they are the perfect organizing tools in a busy home. You can use them to store out-of-season clothes or shoes in your garage, craft supplies, toys, kitchen tools, the list goes on and on. And since they are see-through you don’t need to spend extra time labeling them with their contents.
To buy: $18; containerstore.com