From toys under the couch cushions to booby traps of clothes and gadgets upon entering kids’ rooms, clutter can easily take over a family’s home. There’s no reason to let that continue if you follow a few organization tips. Four local NYC personal organizers shared their ideas with us on maintaining a stress-free kind of clean, which of course can be especially challenging in city apartments. But our four guides swear it can be done—and to good effect.
Let’s start with this ironic gem: As keeping-it-clean genius Nancy Heller of Goodbye Clutter advises, beware of organizational products that can actually create more clutter. “Purpose your space,” she warns.
Another pearl of wisdom we love: “The clutter in your home probably didn’t happen in a day, and it’s probably not going to get cleared up in a day,” says A.J. Miller, of Miller Organizing, who recommends each family member receive a specific age-appropriate job and space to clean and organize.
Step-by-step, and room-by-room, here is some more great advice from the city’s best cleaner-uppers for de-cluttering your home and reclaiming your family life.
Think of favorite toys as friends and babyish or unused toys as strangers that go to stay with other kids. When children are aware they can help another child, they are often happy to donate and take pride in doing so. (A.J. Miller)
Double-duty furniture goes a long way. The Boon Animal Bag (see photo above) doubles as a snugly beanbag-like chair while neatly stowing plush toys. (Nancy Heller)
Folding mesh cubes from the Container Store can be tucked away when not used but are great to have as new games come into the house. (Nancy Heller)
Take photos of kids’ artwork to create an art album, eliminating the need to keep every original piece. (Erica Ecker)
You need to wake up without visual noise—a.k.a. clutter. Find a home for anything kid-related piling up in the bedroom. With an “address,” the items will always get put in their “home” rather than on your floor. (Erica Ecker)
With the hectic pace of family life, it’s crucial to make your bedroom a place of calm, relaxation and romance, by keeping keys, phones and change stowed away in decorative boxes or on trays. (Lisa Zaslow)
Here, or in any room, keep an EZ Fold step stool (shown above) for quick reaches to upper shelving. It’s amazing how the high shelves get used when accessing them is so easy. (Nancy Heller)
To make a small space feel larger, replace overstuffed chairs and couches with sleek, minimalist designs—an armless, open chair or a low table. (A.J. Miller)
Store puzzles in 2.5-gallon Ziploc bags, but mark the bags so you’ll always know what pieces are for what puzzles. (Nancy Heller)
Nothing makes your living room look worse than piles of papers. And there are serious consequences if you forget to do your to-dos. Try a Container Store desktop file box to match your decor. (Lisa Zaslow)
Keep a Sharpie and a roll of masking tape in a drawer so you can label food with the date you opened it. You’ll be able to tell at a glance what’s no longer fresh and what needs to be purged. (Lisa Zaslow)
Turn a lower cabinet into an arts and crafts station by putting markers, pens and paper in caddies for kids, especially little ones, to easily access. (Erica Ecker)
Family calendars allow everyone to keep track of each other’s schedules. Sondra Boynton’s planners (see photo at left) have vertical grids for family names at the top and the days along the side to write activities. It includes a dropdown storage pocket, 500 color stickers and a dry erase phone list for the fridge. (Nancy Heller)
Apartment bathrooms, notorious for being tiny, can be plenty cluttered when multiple people share them. Each person should own a plastic tote of bathroom products that is taken to and from the bathroom each day. (A.J. Miller)
Suction cup bins hold shower goods and keep clutter from the corners and bottom of tub space. (Erica Ecker)
Your medicine cabinet is the most accessible storage in the bathroom. Use it for toiletries and cosmetics that you use at least once a week. Store other items under the sink, on shelves or in a nearby closet. (Lisa Zaslow)
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