Reduce: Paper Towels

Marcal-paper-towel-s0371806_sc7Reducing the waste we create is the first step to ending clutter….
(Here is a great tip)

Many families use paper towels on auto-pilot. For meals, cleaning, snacks, art spills, drying hands and so much more, paper towels are standard in most homes. However, you don’t actually NEED paper towels. Not only do paper towels create a major drain on the earth’s resources, they’re expensive, and not very strong or useful. I get it. Kids are messy, and as a parent, paper towels can be a fast fix. Still, I’m a parent, and I haven’t bought paper towels for over six years and my world hasn’t exploded, so it can be done. Consider the far-reaching benefits of ditching paper towels:

  • You’ll save trees.

  • You’ll reduce pollution.

  • You’ll conserve water and energy.

  • You’ll save money.

– See more at:

Store your holiday cards and trimmings

wrapping-paperNow that the Holidays are over, what will you do with the cards, wrappings, and decorations? Ask yourself what you want to keep and why. Next, find a storage location, such as a utility closet, hall or bedroom closet, an attic or basement shelving area where they will not compete with items used more frequently throughout the year. If you do not have the space, get rid of the clutter. New materials can be purchased the following season, often at a discount or in in support of an organization you cherish.

Cards can be scrapbooked or recycled. Cards can also be repurposed for paper craft projects, or donated to a thrift store or given as a gift. The reply section of the envelope and be cut off and stapled or taped to Rolodex cards or to a holiday correspondence list stored with holiday trimmings, boxes, and bows. Holiday contact lists can also be scanned and stored on your computer in your e-mail or documents, or in a file cabinet.

Wrapping paper and ribbons can be folded or wound wrinkle-free on cardboard mailing tubes that are available at the Post Office or office supply stores. Clear, zippered plastic bags used to package sheet and blanket sets can also be reused to store these items.  Decorations can be stored in clear or opaque totes or corrugated boxes or shoe boxes, and can be labeled and/or indexed so that contents are known at a glance.

Pegboard: It’s not just for the garage anymore

Handyman things to do project list on a blank notepad leaflet with flat copy space for text insert on a home workshop tool pegboard with hanging construction hammer

Pegboard has classically been considered a staple for tool organization, but now it has found its way from the garage into countless homes for its obvious utility and versatility. Although it has taken a back seat to more recent storage/organizing innovations, it is still a clever, simple, and inexpensive way to keep everything from tools to crafts to kitchen cookware to utensils in place. If you are low on floor space, the best idea is to go vertical, and pegboard storage is a great choice for this. Another benefit of pegboard storage is that it allows you to see everything in your collection at once.

Pegboard now comes in pre-finished colors, in thicknesses of 1/4″ and 1/8″, with a variety of reconfigurable hooks, and even mounting rails for support and framing options. You can even find plastic and metal variations. A standard piece of  4′ x 8′ pegboard retails for about $40 and you can pick up a 43-piece set of hanging hardware for under $12 at most home improvement stores. You can also purchase a starter pegboard organizer kit that comes with various hooks and accessories for hanging things. Other design options are to frame it with decorative molding, stencil it, or conceal it completely in a cabinet with doors.

Pegboard can be used in every room in the house that has a need for vertical storage, and the only limit is your imagination.

Home Filing Systems

this is a close up image of various file folders of personal bills.

Setting up a home filing system might take an initial outlay of time, but you will be able to find necessary paperwork much more quickly afterwards. Every home needs a place to hold and file paperwork. It should ideally be at least two file drawers in size, or an equivalent based on the storage solution you choose. You can choose a file cabinet that looks like one you’d find in an office, or one which looks more like nice pieces of furniture.

The most useful systems have the following three key elements:

  • An action file
  • A basic file
  • A classic file

An action file is a tabletop file used for daily, short-term filing chores. It can hold:

  • Bills for payment
  • Correspondence
  • Other papers that require response

It can also provide short-term storage for paperwork and other information that must be filed.

Basic files are a household’s working file system. They should hold the following:

  • Medical insurance records
  • Credit card statements
  • Rent receipts
  • Bank statements

These files can be kept in a file cart, cabinet or desk drawer. Use your basic files for routine activities such as paying bills, tax files, medical information and home maintenance.

Classic files are for papers that need to be stored for the long term. Most families save the following in a classic file:

  • Copies of income tax returns
  • Cancelled checks
  • Real estate documents
  • Receipts
  • Insurance policies
  • Automobile documents
  • Warranties
  • Credit card statements

File cabinets or records boxes are the best way to protect these items for long-term storage. It is also a good idea to store original documents such as insurance policies, legal documents or tax records in secure facilities such as safe deposit boxes.

A household filing system is a place to store papers against the time we’ll need them again. Set up properly, it will allow users to find documents easily, and locate important papers as needed in the future.

Shoe and Boot Storage

bigstock-Children-Shoes-On-RackYour shoe and boot collection can sometimes make your home feel cluttered. A clever solution to footwear storage can make all the difference.

Hanging Storage

An over-the-door hanging shoe system makes it easy to find your favorite pair and saves space for other items in your closet. It fits perfectly on any door, so shoes are right at hand. For boots you could use boot hooks or pants hangers to clip them together and hang them in your closet.

Shoe Wheel

A shoe wheel can hold up to 30 pairs in its 20 expandable pockets. The design not only saves space, but shoes are just a spin away and easily accessible.

Baskets and Boot Trays

Designate a basket for each family member to drop their shoes in right as they walk in the door, so they don’t track dirt inside the house. Using a wire basket can prevent a buildup of dirt and mold — just place a mat or boot tray under the basket for easy cleanup.

Clear Storage Bins

Protect your shoes from damage and dust with clear storage bins or boot boxes. To help identify them, take photos of your footwear and tape the photo to the front of each bin.

Go Vertical

Look to the wall if you’re out of closet space. A wall mounted shoe rack can display shoes against the wall without taking up valuable floor space.

Under-Bed Storage

Use the space under you bed to store your shoes. Keep out-of-season footwear in a compact shoe organization system you can buy at most home goods stores.

Get Creative

Footwear doesn’t need to be stored in conventional ways. Many objects, such as wine crates, PVC pipes, or wall molding, can be transformed into a shoe or boot rack with a little creativity.

TV Display for Small Spaces

bigstock-TV-storageA TV can take up valuable space in your living quarters. Even if you live in a small space, there is no reason to allow the TV to dominate the entire area. Now that HDTV displays come in extremely flat forms, installation is possible in spaces where the old-school vacuum-tube television would never have been able to fit.

Televisions are most commonly seen either sitting on a media console, or wall-mounted. Many small space dwellers find creative ways to keep a TV in some unlikely locations, however, and here are some ways to think outside the box.

The TV can serve as a focal point to build storage around. Simple shelving and movable TV units offer flexible solutions. A TV console that can be flipped open to reveal hidden storage for your DVDs or CDs is an elegant way to utilize space effectively.

Use partition storage to create different spaces. Designate zones and section them into different functional areas. Tables, desks, and shelves can be used as multipurpose room dividers.

The TV can also separate a sleeping space from an entertainment space. For instance, use the entertainment console as a divider, with the bed on one side, and the entertainment unit on the other. The back of one thing is the front of another. Any vertical, freestanding surface can play dual roles in this fashion.

As with many small living spaces, if you are short on floor space, go up. Hang the TV on the wall and surround it with artwork to integrate it into a visual display. Wall shelving on both sides of the television can provide space for books, photographs and other items. Or try installing a wall unit that combines storage, television and component space, and room for books and accessories. The only limit is the ceiling height and your creativity.

Cupboard Organization

bigstock-cupboardThe best way to figure out how to organize a cupboard is to think about how it is used. The following strategies are a good place to start.

  • Take everything out of the cupboard so you can see what you have. Pick one cupboard and remove all the items.
  • Decide what you can part with. Pare down your cupboard items to the ones that you actually use. Create “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss/Recycle” piles, so that you can dispose of items responsibly and beneficially.
  • Clean the cupboard from top to bottom. Gather the cleaning supplies of your choice. Scrub every nook and cranny and wipe down the doors.

Once the cupboards are cleaned you will need to organize your items. Make sure they are wiped down before they are put away.

  • Group like items together. Everything will be easier to locate.
  • Decide which items you use daily. Store them in a large accessible cupboard. Put the items that you use most often on the shelves closest to the middle, for easy access. Items used less frequently can go on top or bottom shelves.
  • Keep food and spices separate from other items. If you are using the cupboards for both food and other items, make sure there isn’t a danger of the food items spilling onto the non-food items.

There is a wealth of cupboard organizational tools — from magnetic spice jars to plastic bins — that will assist you in your cupboard organization process. Once you have everything reduced to the essential and often-used, you will have a better sense of what you will need going forward. The only real limit is your imagination.

Glass Storage

bigstock-Glass-SheetsGlass is heavy, bulky, and fragile. It can also be potentially dangerous. Using it for art glass or jewelry projects is not an occupation that lends itself to compactness. There is also equipment, chemicals, kilns, molds and mold-making material, abrasive and polishing media to be taken into consideration when assessing your glass storage needs.

The industry standard for safe storage of full-sized sheets of glass (20”x35” to 24”x72”) is to store them upright on a 90° A-frame. If you are working out of a home studio, this might not be available to you. Some creative solutions for full-sized sheet glass storage are:

  • Custom-made racks of acrylic or wood with dividers and a cushioned bottom
  • Bicycle rack with foam tubing covering the metal
  • Repurposed bookcase or other office type furniture placed horizontally or vertically

Smaller sheets of glass (8”x10”) are a bit simpler to store. You can use:

  • Upright magazine cases
  • Laid flat in see-through plastic storage bins
  • Flat file drawers

Even old LP storage cabinets can be repurposed here, if you can find one, as they are the same relative size and have dividers.

Of course, after you cut the glass you will have scraps that you want to save for later projects. It’s important to store these in such a way that you can see what colors you have. Smaller scraps of glass (3”x3”) are probably the easiest of all to find storage for. Acrylic drawers are a good choice, as are glass jars.

Any and all of the storage items above can be found at hardware stores, new or used office furniture stores, specialty storage businesses, or a serendipitous find at a yard sale or thrift shop. A little ingenuity can go a long way in creating appropriate storage media for all your glass.

Multi-Purpose Room

multi-purpose-roomA family room needs to serve many purposes. Since it has to work for the whole family, it’s important to find a way to create zones for everyone’s tasks or interests. Here are some strategies to divide up multi-purpose rooms that are useful for adults and children.

Paint: Use different shades from the same color family, but just a bit lighter or darker than each other to differentiate one zone from another in a room.

Artwork: This is a great way to subtly divide space without interrupting the flow of a room. The children’s area of the room can be delineated by the use of appropriate artwork.

Rugs: An area rug can very effectively indicate where the functionality of one space ends and another begins in a multi-function room. A sturdy, colorful rug is a good way to create a friendly area for children to play.

Freestanding furniture: Efficient furniture placement can divide space neatly without disrupting the overall flow. The back of a couch can have a shelf against it, thus creating space for both an entertainment area and a play area.

Dividers that provide practical functionality: A pair of bookcases back-to-back create an effective visual divider and can also serve as storage for baskets of toys along with books and other items.

Traditional dividers: Standing screens or Shoji screens are stylish options for room division, as are sliding panels or accordion-style partitions that fit into the wall when not in use.

Multipurpose furniture: Coffee tables or ottomans with storage in them are ideal for this purpose and can be moved from one zone to another as needed.

Once you decide how you want the space to be used, you’ll be able to divide it up more effectively to suit your needs.

Under Stairs Storage

under-stair-storageThe space under the staircase is an often-overlooked option for storage. Using the unconventional storage space around your stairs can be an ingenious way to organize your home. The location of the stairs can be key in deciding how you want to organize this unconventional storage space. The simplest way to create space is to just add some shelves and racks, but it is possible to be even more creative than that:

  • Turn the stairs themselves into drawers.
  • Build cabinets with doors.
  • Use the space beneath to build in bookshelves or cubbies. The varying height and width can accommodate books or decorative objects.
  • An open staircase can be a good mudroom if it is in the entryway. Pegs can be hung and a bench installed for storage of outdoor gear.
  • Add a door and you have a wardrobe for storing out-of-season clothing.
  • Bicycles can be hung on the underside of a staircase for out-of-the way storage.
  • If the staircase is in the kitchen, it can be turned into a pantry or storage for other kitchen necessities.

Other options include turning the area into a small home office, or an extra bathroom, or even a laundry room, but this is beyond the scope of simple storage. It does demonstrate, however, that under-stair storage can be quite versatile, and meet your organizational needs quite well, with a little creativity.