Organizing 101: How To Finally Declutter Your Home

Keep the things you love under control—and in their rightful place.

White and Wood Office
Photography by BRITTANY AMBRIDGE

Spoiler alert: Keeping a clean and tidy home is never as straightforward as it seems, even for the self-professed neat freaks among us. Whether your space is in need of a light declutter or complete purge, getting (and staying) organized can often seem like a pretty daunting task—especially if you consider yourself naturally messy. While cramming out-of-place belongings underneath the bed or stuffing a tangle of miscellaneous cords and chargers in a drawer may have sufficed when you were a child, said “out of sight, out of mind” tactics don’t fly in the adult world. Just like with any other discipline, organizing requires patience, plenty of practice, and (often) a color-coded schedule.

Whether you’re moving into a new house, hauling up in a tiny apartment, or are finally ready to admit that you have way too much stuff, we’re here to help you tackle all the disorganized places in your home. Bomb go off in the bathroom? We’ve got you covered. Totally chaotic closet? Consider it handled. Desk in disarray? Done and done. Ahead, the Domino-approved secrets to decluttering like a total boss.

Green and Red and White and Yellow Food
Photography by MEGAN MCNEER

Organizing Every Room In Your Home 

If you’re really committed to cleaning up the home once and for all, the surefire way to accomplish your goal is by breaking your organizing duties down—room by room. Below, the go-to tips and tricks for (almost) every type of space to get you started on your tidying journey.

1. How to Organize the Kitchen

Typically everyone’s favorite spot in the home, the kitchen should be a place that spurs cooking and conversation…not anxiety. So how do you know if your kitchen is in need of a refresh? If you can’t even tell guests where you last put the cheese grater or find yourself digging through a drawer full of plastic straws and measuring spoons when you mean to be searching for the foil, it’s probably time to rethink your storage methods. The first step in achieving a perfectly organized kitchen is to start with a clean slate by tossing or donating any pots, pans, dishes, or other cooking tools that don’t get used anymore and store less-frequently used gear in harder-to-reach places, keeping everyday items nearby.

The core of any neat cookhouse? A spotless refrigerator. Our foolproof tips for a Pinterest-worthy fridge include rules like avoiding cross contamination, designating the upper shelf for leftovers, and transferring large-batch beverages to slim, glass carafes. Additionally, a messy pantry will also set a disorderly tone for the rest of the kitchen. Stock up on transparent bins to stash all your snacks and go-to ingredients to take the guess-work out of eating. And when it comes to the spice rack, alphabetizing will take you far (and save you time). No pantry? No problem. We’ve got storage tips for you too. If you discover that you’re having trouble finding your food on the fly, take five minutes at the end of the day to sort through your space.

2. How to Organize the Bathroom

Even when you’re not sharing the bathroom with another person, it can be a serious struggle to feel at peace and totally organized in your personal oasis. Two major bathroom rules to live by? Keep things contained (in, yes, literal containers) and scrap any products—no matter how pricey—that appear to be gathering dust.

An efficient bathroom is one that maximizes the negative space surrounding the toilet, shower, and sink. Having the best products to keep your things in order, like under-the-sink baskets, pretty trays, over-the-door storage racks, and acrylic makeup compartments are a good place to start. As for the dreaded medicine cabinet, before you set out on taming its many components, consider how much stuff your cabinet can actually handle. Divide and conquer with DIY makeshift cubbies, create a cohesive look with see-through jars, put a method to the madness that is your bathroom shelves, or max out inner wall space with magnetic surfaces.

No medicine cabinet but have a bathtub? A sleek caddy tray promises to keep bath time essentials in an orderly fashion—and off the counter.

3. How to Organize the Closet

Figuring out how to maximize space in any closet is tough. And let’s get real: The bedroom closet is decidedly the most difficult space to master. For closet designer Melanie Charlton, every clean and cohesive closet begins with a much-needed purge. Start your decluttering journey by taking everything out and scrapping what’s stained, dirty, or doesn’t fit anymore. Then, move on to the items you know you will never wear, or those that simply don’t blend in with the rest of your wardrobe.
After you choose to donate or toss unwanted items, don’t forget to properly store the things you decide to keep. According to closet expert Ginny Scott, a streamlined closet (think matching storage containers and coordinating hangers) is always a happy one.

No, an edited wardrobe is not just a thing of dreams—it’s your new reality. As for the linen closet, this spot can easily become a dumping ground for long-forgotten duvets or decade-old beach towels. Step one: Group folded sheets and towels according to the room in which they’ll be used (or, if you prefer, by size.) Bonus points for whipping out the label maker!
And whether you have a massive walk-in, teeny closet, or no closet at all, there are plenty of clever storage items and DIYs out there to help keep your space under control, from multifunctional racks to revolutionary drawers. (Peep a few of our favorite space-saving closet items here.)

4. How to Organize the Bedroom

We get it: It can be tempting to leave the bedroom in total disarray, as one swift shut of the door will hide its mess from the real world. But when the bedroom looks good, you feel good—and sleep better. Since most of our troubles start and end with the dresser, we turned to master sorter Anna Bauer, who makes it her mission to categorize, categorize, categorize (aka, store all like gear together). File-fold your clothes and set boundaries with drawer dividers.

While floating shelves can do a disorganized bedroom justice, don’t forgo the empty space under the bed—particularly if you have little or no room for a dresser. While plenty of big-name brands sell raised platforms with ample drawers below, shallow baskets will also prove to be a handy fix.

5. How to Organize the Office

It’s hard to get down to business when you’re sorting through a pile of papers on your desk (or more likely, searching for a pen for 15 minutes, only to find it’s low on ink). If you crave a proper at-home office (and lack the privacy to make it happen), consider crafting a makeshift space from a bookshelf that doubles as a divider, or setting up a frustration-free workstation out of an empty closet.

While there’s no one secret to a tidy office—at-home or otherwise—, keeping unsightly cords under control is a good place to start. Likewise, color-coding and pegboards (for neatly displaying ideas, memos, and more) will promise a productive year. And whether you’re working away at home or within the confines of a (cozy?) cubicle, always make a point to clear your desk off at the end of each day and return stray files, pens, and paper clips to their designated spots. Our editor-approved cute desk accessories will make you actually want to clean up after yourself.

6. How To Organize Your Laundry Room

Of all the rooms that just shouldn't be left a mess, the laundry room takes the win. Dream laundry rooms with plenty of square footage to wash and fold are hard to come by, especially if you live in a large city where you’re considered lucky if your apartment comes with a washer and dryer tucked away in a closet.

If you have the budget to take major redesign steps, take a look at our favorite laundry room decorating ideas, and consider installing a sleek waterfall countertop over your appliances, which can serve as an efficient workspace. Alternatively, you may raise your machines off the ground, with a platform, to create storage space below. When time, money, and space just simply aren’t on your side, we look for sleek small space inspiration chalk-full of helpful tricks—like storing detergents in glass jars instead of their original boxes, repurposing a wall-mounted rod as a drying rack, or keeping a small stool nearby for when folding turns into a full-time job.

7. How to Organize the Entryway

While the entryway is a non-issue for some, small-space dwellers know it to be a crucial storage spot for daily gear and may need help organizing all the odds and ends. A beautifully organized entryway—like these perfectly composed ones we saw in 2017—begins with being honest. Dig deep and ask yourself if your beloved console actually takes up too much room, or if you can swap that bulky decorative bench for something a bit more functional.

Consider furnishings that can pull double (or triple) duty. In Madewell lead designer Joyce Lee’s Brooklyn abode, a compact console and sleek mirror shelf double the surface area in the tiny hallway without overwhelming the space. Once you decide on a spot for your keys, coat, and other daily gear, make a habit of returning these everyday objects back to the same spot each time you walk in the door.

Photography by JOHNNY VALIANT

Organizing Small Spaces

Aside from lack of square footage, unconventional layouts and quirky nooks can be hard to figure out, let alone style and keep tidy. An already-crowded abode—be it a 100-something-square-foot apartment or quaint houseboat—will often only feel more cramped once you start bringing in your stuff. While living with less isn’t necessarily the key to a happy and tidy teen abode, being especially thoughtful about the things that you do bring into your home is.

Make a point to fill your tiny home with multifunctional pieces—like bed frames that double as a side tables, side tables that double as desks, or stools that double as extra storage space. Look for unconventional places where you can add an extra layer of organization. (Need inspiration? Check out these sneaky storage solutions.) And to keep your home from becoming a breeding ground for clutter down the road, exercise restraint when it comes to aesthetic. Saturated hues, crazy bold patterns, and heavy layers have the potential to make a space feel even smaller than it already is.

Tiny trouble spot number one? The kitchen. In order to make your super small cookhouse as efficient as possible, first, bid adieu to any unnecessary or bulky appliances that soak up precious counter space. Instead, go vertical by hanging cooking tools (and even dishware, too) on the wall. Rolling carts and console tables with drawers will also help add much-needed surface space, while keeping smaller objects, like stray spoons, contained.

A similar sentiment rings true for the bathroom. With the right space-saving essentials in tow (door hooks, over-the-toilet ladders, floating shelves, mounted racks, etc.) your itty-bitty bathroom is guaranteed to be a tidy sanctuary—and in some cases, visually, twice the size.

Taupe Closet
Photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK

Best Storage Solutions & Organization Products

Off to Target or the Container Store for a general swoop of organization necessities? There are just some products no spotless home can live without. As a general rule of thumb, here’s what our editors keep in their organization arsenal:

  • Hooks
  • Clear plastic bins
  • Baskets (lidded and open)
  • Floating shelves
  • Clothing racks
  • Multi-use furniture
  • Trays

Where To Buy Storage Bins & Organization Products

When it comes down to buying the items we need to ensure our spaces stay tidy and neat, we rely on a few key brands that are spearheading design-forward fixes that are also seriously affordable. Here are the big-name retailers we keep in our back pockets for all our organizing needs:
  • Ikea
  • The Container Store
  • Etsy
  • Domino
  • Target
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • CB2
  • Amazon
  • Home Depot

Easy DIY Organization Hacks & Tips

If you don’t have the budget (or the patience) to scavenge for products online or in-store, consider taking on a little hacking of your own.

Often, clutter can quickly accumulate simply because our homes are filled with things that it doesn’t really need. Save space (and money) by scrapping unnecessary items that get in the way or replacing them with pieces that offer more flexibility, as well as less leeway for mess. Bulky coffee table becoming a dumping ground for daily junk? Consider exchanging it for two tiny side tables that offer close to no surface room for clutter to add up.

If plastic containers and label makers rub you the wrong way, there are plenty of alternative storage options that you probably already have in your home that can serve a fresh purpose. Pegboards, valet trays, and upcycled jars from the kitchen are just a few decorative accent pieces that can serve as unconventional hubs for personal knick knacks.

Though it’s easy to feel defeated by the bonus spaces we may be lacking (i.e. laundry room, linen closet, nursery, office), we’re all for playing pretend. No pantry? This is how you should be storing your food instead. Getting dressed, sans closet? Here are eight ingenious ways to keep clothes off the floor. Craving a home office? We think you deserve a place of productivity to call your own.

Curious how to organize your home by color? Not only is tidying according to shade an intuitive way to rethink your space, but it’s also inexpensive to implement and inspires maintenance.

Pink Vignette
Photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK

How To Organize Makeup And Everything Else Causing Clutter

Warning: Beware of the miscellaneous. You can’t consider yourself a decluttering extraordinaire until you officially learn to master the little stuff. After all, it’s the odd objects—like stray pens, misplaced wrapping paper, and forgotten jewelry—that often stand in our way. Below, we break down the typical problem spots.

Paper
We can all probably agree that papers on the loose—be it magazines, mail, bills, or receipts—can pile up quickly. While chic file holders are an easy fix, going completely digital might solve your problem for good. Luckily, there are a number of apps that let you quickly scan and send documents from your phone, so you can toss loose papers for good once you’re done

Shoes & Jewelry
If it’s your shoe collection that’s giving you a headache, hoarders who are tight on space may want to think out-of-the-box when it comes to storage solutions by displaying their collection on the walls with hooks or floating shelves. In a similar vein, mounted custom cabinets and pretty trinket dishes prove to be perfect home for jewelry and other small accessories.

Makeup
The key to a clean makeup space? Be transparent! Acrylic, stand-alone drawer sets and drawer compartments make it easy to see what you have and quickly snag what you need when you’re on the run. To keep the counter from transforming into a disaster, stash the brushes you use every day in cups or slim containers and display face oils, lotions, and creams on a chic tray or plate nearby.

Bookshelf
While color-coded bookshelves are having a moment right now, there are plenty of other ways to organize your favorite reads—like separating out larger coffee table books by placing them on a pedestal nearby, or using book covers to create a clean, uniform look. Don’t forget to dress up shelves with artwork or vases.

Wine Bottles
Traditional wine racks may serve as a functional storage solution but, wooden pegs, grab-as-you-go drawers, and under-the-stair storage are just a few savvy ways to also store your vino when you don’t want to crowd the kitchen counter or bar cart.

Wrapping Station
The gift(s) that keeps on giving? These eight wrap station hacks. On one hand, elongated vases serve as a simple way to store paper rolls, while mounted rods on the wall let you pull down the paper you need with ease.


Have any organization tips or space-savvy products you swear by? Drop us a line below!

See the cleverly and clean spaces that inspire us: 
Four Lessons Learned From Gwyneth Paltrow’s Newly Organized Home
Inside The Most Efficient Apartment We’ve Ever Seen
This Minimalist Shanghai Home Looks Almost Too Perfect

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Published on February 02, 2018 - 9:23am EST

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