Home organization is an ongoing process, and time is your most important resource. I have found that even 15 minutes a day committed to de-cluttering will go a long way.
That said, there are thousands of products on the market designed to help along the process. Browsing quickly reveals a range of pricing and quality that can overwhelm—how to choose the best products for your needs? Try using these simple, tried-and-true guidelines:
- How sturdy does it need to be? A sagging shelf isn’t pretty or functional. If you are buying storage units to hold heavy items, better to invest in sturdy products. On the other hand, if you are looking for a place to hold wrapping paper and ribbon or lightweight crafts, cleaning supplies or clothing, adjust your selections accordingly. Use this same logic when considering the location of stored items. Cardboard boxes, while economical, might be perfect for papers in a home office closet, but a poor choice for basement storage. A good all-purpose material for practical storage in closets, pantries and basements is coated, heavy-duty wire shelving on metal brackets.
- How visible is it? If items are stowed in closets, cubby holes, attics or basements and pulled out infrequently, be practical and avoid spending big dollars on the most aesthetically pleasing products. But if you’re organizing something you look at every day, it’s worth it to buy products that you’ll be happy looking at, and which are also easy to clean.
- How much of a beating will it take? Again, location is everything. Your garage, family entryway and/or mud room are some of the most-used areas of the house, and probably not gently. Go with products that can withstand some abuse, or you’ll end up replacing them quickly. On the other hand, shelving that will hold dress hats and scarves in Grandma’s closet will most likely be treated gently, so won’t require industrial strength materials.
- How much room do you have? Even good looking organizational units can start crowding out their owners, which defeats their purpose. Choose products that work with the space you have. Consider using vertical space on walls to maximum effect, for example. Items can also be hung above your head, such as pots and pans in the kitchen suspended from a handsome wrought iron or steel unit. Don’t forget about the space under beds. Ditto for the inside of doors—there are many practical products for storing everything from shoes and jewelry to canned goods in narrow spaces. You can even buy furniture that doubles as storage: ottomans with removable tops to reveal handy spots for stashing magazines, for example.
- Should it move easily? If you want to keep things easily portable or cleanable, consider storing them in units on casters that can lock in place for safety.
- What are your home’s “hot spots”? We all have them. They are the places that accumulate clutter the fastest: shoes, mail, newspapers, makeup and hair products, homework and school supplies, kitchen gadgets, computer accessories, laundry, etc. Start with buying products that keep those areas under better control, then work up to the areas that are less troublesome.
- Remember that clutter continues to accumulate despite our best efforts, especially if you have a young family. Purge on a regular basis: recycle, donate, sell or give away the stuff you don’t use anymore. Make a point of eliminating an item for every new item that comes into your home. No amount of clever storage products will replace the all-important process of weeding out unneeded items.