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How to Organize the Messiest Spots in Your House

These creative storage tips will help cut down on clutter.

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Cluttered Garage Home Storage Room in Denver ColoradoBoogich/Getty Images

Don’t ignore your home’s problem spots

You are not alone if you find yourself organizing and then reorganizing the same spots because, like a bad magic trick, the clutter keeps reappearing. This usually happens in high-traffic areas where things get dropped (and then never picked back up), as well as difficult-to-organize spots that require specialized solutions you haven’t gotten around to figuring out. Well, you’re in the right place—and better yet, this advice will help you accomplish miracles in mere minutes. Try these quick fixes to put an end to those annoying messes once and for all, and then learn another 50 organizing tricks you’ll wish you knew all along.

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The cabinet under the bathroom sink

When you’re rushing to get ready in the morning, it’s all too easy to shove whatever you just used into the cabinet under the sink. (Hey, at least it’s out of sight, right?) While that solves the mystery of how that spot became a cluttered mess, it doesn’t solve your problem. To do that, you need to add some smart storage that gives you easy access to your products. Contain the clutter in caddies you can lift out and drawers that slide out. This Like-It Under the Sink Starter Kit is a great all-in-one solution. Once you get the sink space under control, find out how to clean your bathroom in 5 minutes or less.

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The entryway

Most entryways are overflowing with stuff. It’s a mix of mail, jackets, and all the other things you leave the house with and drop on your way back inside, meaning to put it away later…but somehow never getting around to it. Put a stop to the drop by adding a wall-mounted organizer with hooks. It’s perfect for keys, leashes, hats, and more stuff that you use regularly and need to put somewhere as soon as you come inside. Since it’s wall-mounted, it uses vertical space and keeps things from piling up in a messy mound on a nearby console table or bench. If you don’t have a lot of space, here are some other ways to transform a tiny entryway into a spacious storage area.

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Junk drawers

Drawers can quickly become a catch-all for lots of little stuff. Make it easy to find what you’re looking for by adding drawer dividers. Instead of wasting space by adding a full organizer with sections, just slip in the divider part. Get ones that are spring-loaded, like these Dream Drawer Organizers from the Container Store; they’ll stay in place, but you can easily swap them from one drawer to another as your storage needs change. Plus, you can customize them to suit whatever size you need and whatever you’re storing in there. While we’re on the topic, find out why you shouldn’t keep batteries in your junk drawer.

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The laundry room

Between the bottles of detergents and assorted cleaners, the dirty clothes waiting for their spin in the washer, the brooms and mops you’ve also shoved in there, and the clean clothes you keep meaning to put away, your laundry room can quickly become a complete mess. Make a dent in the mess by getting brooms and mops out of the way with a wall-mounted organizer, and deal with clothes by putting them on hangers right away. Keep those hangers at the ready—and totally organized—with a freestanding hanger organizer. Now you can breathe a sigh of relief and toss in that next load of laundry. Just make sure to avoid these 10 laundry mistakes you didn’t even know you were making.

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The refrigerator

It’s the most used appliance in the house, and that’s why your refrigerator can quickly go from orderly to chaotic. If you have difficulty finding what you need and even occasionally forget what’s actually in there, try organizing items into bins on the shelves. Use one bin for each category, like marinades, snacks, and leftovers. That way, you’ll remember to use things up before they become unrecognizable. Now that you have more storage space, check out the two foods you’re probably not refrigerating—but totally should.

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The pantry

Most pantries are a mess of tipped-over boxes, split-open bags, and random seasoning packets. Restore order with plastic holders—they are, hands-down, the best way to corral smallish clutter. With the little stuff contained where you can find it, stand the boxes upright and put clips on open bags. Don’t miss these 16 pantry organization ideas you’ll wish you knew before.

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Kitchen cupboards

Are your cooking essentials in a jumble? Here’s your new strategy: Store whatever you can vertically. Slide bulky platters, trays, cookie sheets, and pot lids into a divided rack. Everything will have its place, and it’s much easier to slide out one item then it is to unstack all of them. While you’re on an organizing kick, get rid of these 10 kitchen items.

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The medicine cabinet

First, categorize medications and first-aid items by malady—cold and flu, pain relief, and so on. Relocate them to a cooler, drier place, as these things aren’t suited to a steamy atmosphere. Reserve the medicine cabinet for things you use multiple times a day, like toothbrushes, contact lens solution, and face wash. For easy access, store them in small, clear bins on the shelves of the medicine cabinet. Once there’s a place for everything, it’s easier to keep the area tidy. Were you surprised to learn that you shouldn’t keep medicine in your medicine cabinet? Here are even more things you shouldn’t store in your bathroom.

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The linen closet

Trust us when we say that this trick will change everything: To avoid sorting through individual bed sheets, store sheet sets in bundles. Make a bundle by folding both sheets and all but one pillowcase together. Then tuck the folded linens inside the remaining pillowcase to make a tidy packet. Voilà—instant organization! Next, make sure to keep everyday towels, sheets, and other folded linens front and center in the closet. Prevent stacks of folded linens from tipping over by inserting shelf dividers, and store infrequently used items like beach towels, holiday tablecloths, and out-of-season blankets on harder-to-reach shelves. Next, find out what you’re doing to your closets that professional organizers wouldn’t.

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Bedroom closets

Maximize your hanging space with double rods. The lower one hangs about three feet below a regular closet rod and is perfect for hanging shirts or shorter items. You don’t even need to install hardware—look for the type that hooks over your existing rod, like this model by Lynk. Shelf dividers will prevent towers of sweaters from collapsing and also are great for organizing purses. Finally, a good shoe system will help keep everything off the floor, whether you prefer clear shoe boxes, an over-the-door rack, or traditional floor organizers. Another good idea? Paring down what you have. Check out these 9 genius rules for deciding which clothes to keep or toss.

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Your computer desk

Whether it’s in a dedicated home office or occupying space in your kitchen or bedroom, a clear work surface helps you stay focused. Keep frequently used office products close at hand, but create a storage area for extra supplies like printer paper, rarely used reference materials, and toner cartridges. Also use a cable organizer to tame the tangle of cords, wires, and cables from all of your electronics. When your desk is clear, designate a tray for incoming projects and papers, as well as an out-box for items that need to be mailed, sent to school, or returned.

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Kids’ rooms

When it comes to taming kiddie chaos, your goal is to make things even easier to put away than to get out. For example, instead of storing books on traditional bookcases, stand them upright in a shallow bin. A child can easily peruse and pull out his or her favorites, and the shallow storage makes it simple for little fingers to replace books in the bin. Store toys and stuffed animals in their own baskets and bins, too. But remember: The deeper the storage container, the harder it is to find something and the easier it is for the mess to start up again. While you’ll certainly want to organize what you have, you might want to think twice before you buy your kids more toys—here’s why.

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The basement

Basements are the ideal place to store extra household supplies, like kitchen items, cases of water, and bulk paper goods. Stack tightly sealed clear plastic bins on heavy-duty metal shelving; that way, nothing is on the floor in case of flooding. Finish by sticking labels to the edge of the shelves so you can easily see what’s stored where.

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The garage

Is clutter the reason you park your car in the driveway? To get your car back into its rightful spot, use all available wall space in the garage to store stuff. Mounted pegboards for tools or sturdy shelving systems for larger items are your best options here. Then sort items into categories like tools, seasonal items, sports equipment, car essentials, and lawn care. Once you have enough space cleared out, park your car inside the garage and open the doors. Mark off where the room for storage ends. This ensures you’ll be able to exit the car after it is parked. FYI, these 13 garage mistakes could put you in danger.

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The attic

Put once-a-year, seasonal items like holiday decorations in the attic, or use it for longer-term storage. (Remember, though, that temperature fluctuations in attics are destructive to books, videos, and photographs, so keep those items in a cool, dry place.) Wrap delicate ornaments in paper towels or tissue paper before boxing them up, and use a marker and masking tape to label lights or garlands so you’ll know where to find them next year. Pro tip: For a snarl-free string of lights, take an empty coffee can and cut a slit in the plastic lid. Put the plug end of the light cord through it, then wrap the string around the can and secure it with masking tape. Finally, protect against pests and roof leaks by storing everything in weather-tight clear plastic containers. While you’re up there, take a closer look at what you have—if any of these things are in your attic, you’re sitting on a gold mine.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Jamie Novak
Jamie Novak is a globally recognized professional organizer who regularly contributes to RD.com. 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.com, @JamieNovak, or using the hashtag #KeepThisTossThat