When Clutter Creeps, SIMPLIFY!


None of us can escape that endless stream of important papers and miscellaneous items that make their way from the car to the house – stray kid trinkets, keys, purses and wallets. If you’ve spent any time on the design of your home, the clutter pile-up can quickly wreck it.

The answer to this universal quagmire can be simple, says Janet Andrews, owner of JLynn Maximizers, LLC of Lovettsville, Va. She sees it all the time in her line of work, finding storage solutions all over the house for clients.
It starts with first answering a couple of questions:
1. Where do you enter and leave your home: the front door, side door, through the garage?
2. What room do you enter when you come in: the foyer, living room, kitchen?

Look for hidden storage in those places, she advises. Things you wouldn’t normally think of may just be the solution. “Tucked behind every door in your home is storage waiting to be utilized,” she promises. This includes your cabinet doors.

Baskets. Try attaching one or a few to the inside of your coat closet door or behind your laundry room door. “Inside a kitchen or laundry cabinet door is a perfect spot to hide away your wallet, your lipstick, or whatever you need to grab as you leave the house,” she says. “Add a few hooks and now you have spots to hang your purse and your keys.” If you don’t want to make it permanent, self-adhesive hooks are easy to apply. They come in all shapes, sizes and looks now.

“Create a ‘system’ that works for your things and has the flexibility to change the configuration as needed.” Add a wall file holder and there’s your spot for outgoing mail or papers you need to save or take with you, Andrews says. “The possibilities are endless.”  Once you start looking at your home this way you’ll begin to find more and more creative storage solutions throughout. Turn the space into a design element by color coordinating your hanging files, baskets, hook racks or key holders.

As the go-to place for ideas, Pinterest can provide countless clever solutions. However for those who are organizationally challenged, it can be overwhelming, according to Maria White, owner of Enuff with the Stuff in Ashburn, Va. Better to keep it simple, she says. Label it your command center, landing pad or drop zone, the answer to that area that remains all-to-messy is fluid. “You rarely set up a system that sticks forever. Kids (and spouse’s) needs are always changing and you have to adjust for that.”

Desktop Hanging files are her go-to tool for reducing clutter.
“Some people are really visual and if they don’t leave it out they might forget.” Desktop filing systems come in more colors and styles now and can keep a countertop or kitchen desk area neat without taking up much space. You can put stackable trays inside cabinets and assign everyone a different tray. No need to go out and buy new organizers, though. “Most of the time you can find things in the house that can be repurposed.” Old checkbook boxes are perfect for sectioning off pens and small office items in your drawers, too. If you have cabinets with small built-in shelves, utilize that space to put essentials for what you need to manage in short time.

If you have one of those spaces in your house that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, like a recessed wall behind a door, maybe it’s the perfect spot for your drop zone. For example, a shelf can easily be added with a strip of backsplash, neutral coat of paint and white hanging files above. Simple, elegant and suddenly organized!

When it comes to the paper chase, “we’re just so inundated as a society,” White says. “Paper is one of the hardest things for people to get organized with. It’s also the hardest to get rid of.” Particularly when it comes to your kids. With school starting soon, there is a whole other layer that will emerge once again. Even though your child’s creations are golden, make the tough decisions to weed them out, for storage sake.

“I really encourage moms to let go of all the school papers. Some moms want to hang on to every paper,” she said. “Hang it on the cabinet for one week and then purge. Have a special place to display their original art, then have the kids go through and pick out favorites.”

There are many artful ways to hang your kids’ creations. A simple wire strung across a piece of driftwood – for a rustic flare – can be used to rotate out artwork weekly or monthly.

 Go digital. The ultimate reduction of paper: Create digital files in your e-mail, White suggests. Utilize your e-mail server to make a rule to send your mail directly into specific folders. For example, try making a file for school and folders for each child in them to sort all the myriad correspondence coming from the school.

Bottom line: Take a little time up front to come up with a system. Then purge regularly, White says.  “Ask yourself, ‘Do I have the space for it or not, and does it have a purpose or not. If I am going to keep it do I have a home for it?’ ” If you’ve taken the time to create a system, then it’s quicker and easier to put your things up and avoid the pileup.

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