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10 Genius Solutions to Declutter and Get—and Stay—Organized DO NOT PUBLISH

Just when you thought getting and staying organized was all about throwing stuff away, this genius declutter solution comes along: Straighten up!


PantryMiroslav Pesek/Shutterstock

Pick up in the pantry

Putting groceries away in a rush means they are not always shelved in the right spot. Smaller items get lost towards the back of the shelf, and you might not realize you have three of the same cracker boxes open. Sort and store like foods together, shelve them in your pantry in the same groupings as they are in the aisles of the grocery store. This keeps items you use together near one another and makes writing out your shopping list easy. Close any open bags, consolidate multiple open packages of the same food, and, if you have just a little left, pour it into a smaller container to save space. Slide boxes, turn jars, and twist cans so you can read the labels and you’ll know what’s what a glance. Corral small packets, like seasoning mixes or single serve packages, in a basket bowl, or food storage containers so you can find them. Using storage containers is a smart way to pest-proof your pantry.

refrigeratorAndrey Popov/Shutterstock

Realistic refrigerator results

It is time to straighten up the shelves, move things around, and toss any unidentifiable food. Designate one shelf for leftovers so you’ll see it and remember to eat it before it goes bad. Try this trick to prevent wasting wilted food: Swap shelves with drawers, move fresh produce from the drawers to a shelf, and place bottles and jars in the drawers. That way you’ll see the fresh food on a center shelf and remember to use it. Straighten out the condiments and store sticky marinades, and jelly jars in a foil baking cup to prevent drips. Use small bins to store things you use together (i.e. everything you need to make a sandwich). That way instead of pulling a bunch of things out from all over the fridge, all you need to do is pull out the one bin. And you are not finished until you declutter the outside of the refrigerator, that includes boxes or bags on top and piles of paperwork stuck to the side with a magnet. Here’s how else you can make the most of your fridge.

DeskSteve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Ditch drawer disasters

Between the expired coupons, random charing cords, and empty packets of chewing gum, it is no wonder you can’t find what you need in the drawer. Recycle any papers you can, and store the charging cord in an empty mint tin. (Don’t forget to wrap them to keep them tangle-free.) Add organizers to the drawer to help with the small pieces and parts; try shallow box lids or plastic food storage containers. Although square containers fill in the space best, small bowls or even egg cartons can be useful. Make sure there is a spot for everything you reach for in your drawer like, pens, notepaper, a roll of tape, batteries, birthday candles, rubber bands, paper clips, twist-ties, and the small tools you use all the time like a mini screwdriver to open battery compartments. Find out more decluttering secrets from organized people.


Purge your purse

Notes you no longer need and lots of loose change make a mess of your purse. Toss the trash, gather the coins, and put receipts you might need in one place. Remove anything you don’t need to carry with you like a pen without ink or lip gloss in a shade you don’t like. Decide which compartment will be for what and move the things there; going forward be sure to always put them back in their right spot. If your purse is short of storage spots use makeup bags or clear zip top baggies to store things like mints and gum, pen and paper, sunglasses, and house keys. Finally, straighten out the dollar bills in your wallet and slide stray credit cards back into their slots. Do keep these items in your purse to stay more productive.

TowelAlex Traksel/Shutterstock

Clean-out linen closet clutter

Straightening out the shelves in the linen closet will make it a whole lot easier to find a matching set of sheets. Store the sheets inside one of the matching pillowcases so you have the whole set together. Re-fold any blankets or towels that have gotten messy, stack hand towels with matching washcloths. Put all guest linens in one section so you can grab them for overnight company. A slim step stool can help keep your closet clutter-free, allowing you to reach the top shelves instead of tossing stuff up there is a haphazard way. Keep lotions, shampoo, body washes, and bars of soap in a plastic bin to prevent them from tipping over; plus, if they leak it is much easier to clean up. Save space by taking products out of packages and re-stack paper products. Open gift sets so you can start to use up those tiny toiletries and mini makeup. Check out these 14 tips to stop closet clutter.

ClosetSvet Feo/Shutterstock

Curb hall closet clutter

Between all the coats, umbrellas, and tote bags there is a good chance the closet door barely even shuts anymore. Straighten out the closet and clear out the clutter by swapping out coats. Bring the jackets and coats you use this time of year towards the front and slide the other, out-of-season coats towards the back. Mate up the shoes to make sure you have matching pairs, then line them up or store them by pairs in a shoe organizer. Keep a few umbrellas in the closet, but make sure you have some stashed in the car for whenever you may need them. Nest smaller re-usable tote bags inside a larger re-usable bag. Don’t keep any that have a broken strap, are dirty beyond being able to come clear, or are too large or too small to be functional. If your closet door swings out, don’t overlook valuable storage space on the back; an over-the-door-organizer is a perfect place the stash seasonal accessories like scarves.

Bookcasetdee photo cm/Shutterstock

Banish jumbled bookcases

Wondering how to get organized with all that scattered stuff making the space look messy? Take a moment to purposefully group displays of decor, figurines, and photo frames. Slide books to the front edge of the shelf— this makes it look neater, keeps dust from settling on the shelf, and prevents you from dumping clutter in front of the books.

Coffee-tableAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Lighten-up the living room coffee table

Between the many remotes for multiple components and everything else dumped on the table the space can use a little straightening up. Prevent items from getting strewn by adding a tray or two to corral all the clutter. Neatly stack the magazines and declutter by returning all the random items that have been dropped on the table to their right rooms.


No more nightstand mess

Clutter can make it difficult to relax in your bedroom retreat. Stop sleeping next to a towering mess; straighten up your bedside and nightstand. If you find yourself too tired to read in bed; move the whole stack of to-be read material to the living room where you can curl up on the couch and read. Straighten up the top of the nightstand, if you are short on storage space try sliding a basket underneath the nightstand as the place to stash stuff like a flashlight for power outages. Use a decorative box on top of the nightstand to keep bedtime routine necessities like hand lotion or things you reach for like a pen and notepaper.

VanityDavid Smart/Shutterstock

Bathroom vanity mess be gone

Is the bottom of your bathroom vanity drawer littered with loose hair elastics? Take a moment to gather them all up and straighten up the drawers. Use all those extra makeup bags to store stuff. You can use one for your everyday neutral makeup and another for all those bolder colors you reach for at night. Toss crumbling makeup, broken compacts, old mascara and anything else that you won’t use but haven’t taken the time to toss. De-gunk your hair brush and clean the combs; use a piece of tape to get the fuzz the blow-dryer vent. Toss tube of styling products that have too little left to get the job done and clean clogged spray nozzles. Getting organized and staying clutter-free doesn’t have to be difficult, keep it all organized by simply straightening as you go. Find out the items you should definitely toss from your bathroom.

Jamie Novak
Jamie Novak is a globally recognized professional organizer who regularly contributes to She has more than 20 years of experience covering the home-organizing industry. Novak wrote Keep This Toss That: the practical guide to tidying up, a top selling book for Reader's Digest. She’s been seen on HGTV, QVC, and national morning talk shows. Her work has appeared in magazines from Better Homes and Gardens to Real Simple. Connect with Novak at, @JamieNovak, or using the hashtag #KeepThisTossThat