Without a dedicated spot for keys, purses and sunglasses, places like the kitchen table can become a dumping ground. Consider investing in lockers or a stack of cubbies near the door. Or hang coat hooks in the entryway and add a small table topped with a basket for keys.
Smart Shortcut: If you place a covered recycling basket and/or shredder in this area, you can deal with junk mail before it even has a chance to enter your home.
The coat closet should ideally hold a piece or two of outerwear for each family member and minimal gear for the current season, with open space to hang guests’ coats. Clean things off the floor, get rid of unmatched gloves and outgrown boots, and corral umbrellas and winter gear in a sturdy bin.
Smart Shortcut: The inside of the coat closet door can be a handy spot to hang a bulletin board for keeping track of family events and emergency numbers.
Not so long ago, a large collection of CDs and movies was something of a status symbol. These days, we’re increasingly streaming our entertainment and downloading music on mobile devices, freeing ourselves to get rid of those old jewel cases, video tapes and VCRs.
Smart Shortcut: Hide remote controls in a lidded box or basket; if you own more than two, a universal remote that combines functions in one unit might be a simpler solution.
Banish nonessentials in the most hardworking room of the house. Rarely used appliances and dishes can crowd cabinets, making it hard to access the things you do use. If you haven’t cooked Christmas pizelles since 2006, give away the pizelle iron.
The freezer can be another trouble zone; purge expired food or anything so frost-encased it can’t be freed without an ice axe. Items also tend to languish in the pantry—tea boxes, spices, bottles of hot sauce, oddball canned goods, gourmet food mixes. Tackle one shelf at a time, and use up or get rid of anything past its prime.
Smart Shortcut: Zealously guard kitchen counter space, and find a place for everything but the bare necessities. Put away appliances, cookbook stands, oversized pepper grinders, decorative oil bottles and dusty spice racks—and enjoy the increased functionality of clear countertops.
Our bedrooms should be soothing sanctuaries, but instead they often seem to attract the detritus of daily life. Look at this most-important retreat with a critical eye, and remove those things that don’t promote rest and relaxation. If the elliptical gets used more as a clothing rack than for exercise, perhaps it’s time to pedal it—or peddle it—elsewhere. Unless you live in a very tiny home, ditch cabinet-style nightstands with storage, as they will just encourage the accumulation of bedside clutter.
Smart Shortcut: Clear your nightstand top by replacing lamps with wall-mounted swing-arm lights for reading.
Here’s a trick to easily identify the clothes you’re not wearing: Turn all of your clothes hangers with the hook facing out instead of in. As you wear something, turn the hanger hook facing in. At the end of the season, get rid of anything on an out-facing hook.
Smart Shortcut: Scarves, shoes, bags and accessories tend to accumulate because we believe things will come back in fashion. They might—but then again, you might still be sick of platform sneakers when the trend rolls around again. Go through your accessories and donate anything you haven’t worn since the Bush administration.
In the bathroom, use up or get rid of outdated cosmetics and almost-empty bottles. Safely dispose of expired prescription drugs by dropping them at a community-based “take-back” program. Keep counters tidy by designating a convenient spot to stash daily-use items such as toothpaste and hair dryers.
Smart Shortcut: If storage is limited, a vanity may be a better choice than a pedestal sink; turn to bins to corral items and keep the bathroom cabinet from becoming a free-for-all.
sets and extra towels do we really need? Anything beyond one or two spare sets can be donated.
Smart Shortcut: Store seasonal items, such as beach towels, winter blankets and bulky comforters, in unobtrusive under-bed drawers.
Find more tips for home organization and simple living in A Guide to Simplifying Life.