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I grew up with baskets on the floor, sitting fat in the corners or at the edge of furniture. They even found their ways into comfortable homes on the windowsills, where they’d fill up with nickels, pencils, hair-ties and invariably dust. This was our storage process.

My mother meant well when she grouped all the tiny things and separated them from the magazines, but the baskets surely couldn’t have been the best system. Now this simplified plan for storage organization has helped me create my own.

Clear Out

Step one: Get rid of the things you don’t need or use. Make up your rules – and write them down if you like—beforehand. You can check items off accordingly. My bathroom toss-out list includes makeup older than six months, holey washcloths and towels (which you can donate), and any expired products.

In the kitchen, use this checklist for pantry item expiration dates. Recycle old bottles of dish liquid, donate holey dishtowels, and create a pile for any possible duplicates. (You might find 8 of the same pan!) As long as you start with your personal list of removables and stick to it, clearing out can be both quick and freeing.


Sorting and grouping can make the difference between nickel-full baskets and labeled shelves. I like to use a flexible list that defines categories so I don’t create groups of just one, lonely cotton swab.

Key materials: rubber bands, paper clips and labels. In my living room, all out-of-use-at-the-moment cables and wires go together. In the pantry, all spices in packets can be banded up. In the bathroom, I keep an “extras” category available, for items that shouldn’t be thrown out, but are superfluous to the other 300 bandages I have in that one drawer.

How you group is up to you and could vary from room to room. Whatever categories you choose, sorting productively is likely to make the next phase that much easier.


Arrange with care and containers. Do you use the many-basket tactic? Plastic or glass stackable containers? Do you skip it all together and rely on open shelving? I’m a fan of any hanging storage, including (and especially) pegboards.

Before diving in, consider what works for you, and your purpose in organizing the space. If you’re tackling kitchen storage because you want to cook a few larger meals soon –and you want to do it quickly—consider stackable containers with labels in the pantry, and pegboards for all of your large utensils. Deciding what matters most to you is important in each step of the storage overhaul, and it can maximize the usefulness of your new system when it’s up and running.

How have you made organization work for you at home?

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