As social distancing efforts continue, our homes can feel more and more like our whole world. While there’s usually little we can do about the uncertainty raging outside, there are many ways we can tame all the small messes indoors.
In this unusual season of spring cleaning, Curbed editors are sharing some of our favorite strategies and hacks for home organization, below.
Be a gatekeeper
“I cannot advocate enough for a one-in, one-out policy,” says Tom Acitelli, editor of Curbed Boston and a dad of two, who applies the policy to clothes, kid’s toys, (most) books, and other household items. “It really helps keep the clutter under control in our small space.”
Create landing places for clutter
“Establish a ‘dropoff point,’ a spot where everything from keys to change to receipts gets dropped,” Acitelli also recommends. He says it’s better if you make it farther from the front door, as the distance can encourage better organization habits.
Executive editor Mercedes Kraus agrees: “Everything must have a place. Even if you need to have a transient place (for keys, mail, and the like), have a space that’s dedicated to transience.”
Upcycle pretty boxes
“I love to reuse good-looking, sturdy boxes as organizers around my apartment,” says editor Jenny Xie. “ A colorful boxed packaging for some new socks now houses small bottles of skincare products, a flat box for a new wallet holds necklaces and hair accessories, and a long rectangular wine box, placed on its long end, tidies up loose single-serving snacks and seasoning packets in my pantry.”
Shop for furniture that does double duty
”I live in a small apartment with just one closet, so furniture that doubles as storage is key,” says engagement editor Jessica Gatdula. “I have an ottoman that serves as an extra seat and stores towels, a basket-like coffee table, and a nice futon that hides my shoes underneath.”
Choose storage you can see through
“Clear storage containers, whether bins or drawers, help you put stuff away but see and access it more easily,” says Kraus. But she’s also a fan of stylish thrifted baskets to stash stuff you might not want to look at.
Contain the kid chaos
“With two kids under five, it’s not as much about organizing at my home, as it is about quickly tossing everything on the floor into an available container to (temporarily) suppress the mess,” says urbanism editor Alissa Walker. “I have these knotted PVC cubes from the Container Store at the ready in every room for toy-sorting, stuffed animal-lugging, and shoe-stashing. The bright colors make me smile—even when I’m on my hands and knees chasing a trail of Magna-Tiles across the rug.” Any similar sized bin, a laundry basket, or even an upcycled cardboard box would work too.
Dip your toes into minimalism
“I turned my bedroom into a sleep-driven space and removed all the dressers, tables, clothing, and doohickeys from the room. It’s minimalist and eerie, but it works,” says Brock Keeling, editor of Curbed SF, who says that in turn, this change helped him get rid of stuff he didn’t need (tangled wires, old books, fussy home accents). “It was a chain reaction of organization!”
“Learn to appreciate—and create—negative space,” says Keeling. “Not every wall, shelf, or surface needs to be filled.”
Unify your closet
I’m personally a big believer in matching hangers—they’re an easy way to instantly make your closet feel more organized. I used to try to cram more in with the popular slim velvet hangers, but these days, I prefer a sturdy wooden hanger, like the affordable ones from Ikea. If you don’t want to go out and buy all new hangers, just toss the rogue, random ones—and then group similar ones together; for example, use all the white plastic ones for shirts and all the wood ones for jackets and sweaters.
Go vertical with your kitchen storage
“I love and loathe my kitchen junk drawer(s),” says Keeling. “One thing that helps to keep the jangly drawers less chaotic: Magnetic knife strips, which hold knives, but also other items like metal clips or tiny whisks.”
Managing editor Mariam Aldhahi, who has a tiny kitchen with no drawers and only two cabinets, has leaned into pegboards in a big way. “All of our pots, pans, and utensils are hanging from a pegboard from the hardware store,” she says. “We also have one in the bedroom and one in the bathroom, which are from the Container Store.”
When you remodel a kitchen, go for drawers
“I detest deep kitchen cabinets, especially for upper cabinets, where you end up storing stuff you don’t use—stuff you might more wisely get rid of, in some cases—where you can’t reach it,” says Cindy Widner, editor of Curbed Austin. “Meanwhile, deep lower cabinets are dark, creepy and hard to keep organized. When I was able to remodel my kitchen I went for drawers—many, of various widths and depths—instead.”
To keep drawers organized, Widner uses two strategies: a grip, nonadhesive drawer liner in a light color (you can line up utensils just so, and they won’t move around), and modular bamboo organizers for drawers that need more structure.