Getting and staying organized isn't easy. If you're struggling to conquer clutter once and for all, our simple 99 organizing tips should help get you started.
We know, we know: getting organized at home can be easier vowed than done. But even if you’re short on time (and budget), there are dozens of ways you can get your house in order. Here are 99 of our favourite low-cost organizing tips; many of them are environmentally friendly, too!
A stunning kitchen design that proves open display may require more organization, but it's so beautiful it's worth it!
1 Use old baby-food jars to hold spices. Stash them in a drawer upside down so this recycling trick looks sleek, not cheap.
2 Store all your instruction manuals in one binder in the kitchen or pantry.
3 Collect your takeout menus in a binder. Or stuff them into a Ziploc bag and stash 'em – where else? – in the fridge or cupboard.
4 Use a cardboard six-pack container to carry condiments from kitchen to deck in BBQ-casual style.
5 Keep a tray or basket on the kitchen counter where kids can drop off permission slips and adults can put mail requiring immediate action. A second tray can handle lower-priority paperwork.
6 Don’t waste time constantly topping up cereal-sized food storage containers with dog or cat kibble. Use a metal trashcan to store one bag at a time in rodent-proof style.
7 Use a recharging station to keep your cell phone, MP3 player and other portable device cords untangled and your gadgets fully charged.
8 Can’t find fresh garlic or onions? Keep them in clean knee-high nylons. Hang in a cool, dry place.
9 Post a sheet of paper on the fridge and note groceries and supplies needing replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.
10 Reduce spoilage of fruits and veggies by “rotating” your crops. Put new ones underneath ones that were already in your crisper.
11 Use small jam jars to hold cotton swabs, balls and other essentials inside your bathroom vanity drawers.
12 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold bath and hand towels.
13 Cut the amount of time you spend going from linen closet to bathroom by installing extra towel storage via a hotel-style double towel bar.
14 And a stash of bath towels rolled inside a basket helps, too.
15 Store kids’ bath toys in a fine-laundry bag. Hang from the faucet 'til fully drained.
16 Use a shower organizer and just the basics: mild shampoo, conditioner and a body wash.
17 Stash extra shower products in plastic caddies – one per family member.
18 Keep cleaning products in a caddy, too.
19 Post a sheet of paper in the bathroom and note bathroom supplies that need replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.
20 Assign teens and tweens their “own” towel sets by colour. Sorting laundry becomes super-easy and sharing-aversive kids are content.
21 For the living room or family room, get an ottoman or bench with hidden storage under the seat.
22 Large woven or wooden baskets stash clutter effectively, so stock up.
23 Got kids? Get large tubs that can be used to deploy toys – and quickly move them out of living spaces when company’s coming.
24 Don’t hold on to magazines. Just rip out any pages you want to keep for future reference, keep in a file folder, then recycle the rest.
25 Toss dirty socks into mesh fine-laundry bags. Orphaned socks will be a thing of the past.
26 Dollar store plastic caddies are perfect for grouping cleaning products upright in cabinets – no tipping!
27 Recycle old plastic shopping bags. Store them in an empty Kleenex box ‘til you need them.
28 Store batteries in plastic berry baskets until you’re ready to drop them off at the recycling centre.
29 Ditto for compact fluorescent bulbs and orchard fruit baskets.
30 Big, busy family? Paint one entire wall in your mudroom in chalkboard paint so everyone can easily leave messages for one another.
31 Keep one basket per person in your mudroom or front entrance, so everyone knows where to drop off/find their personal on-the-go essentials like keys, bags, homework etc.
32 Designate a back-to-car zone by your entranceway, and put anything there that requires returning to the trunk – i.e. reusable grocery bags, empties – so the next person to use the car will remember to bring them.
33 Remove the front and back from a picture frame and string rows of wire across the centre. Hang it or lean it against the wall and hook earrings onto each wire.
34 For easy jewellery storage, use an old dressmaker’s dolly to hang necklaces and hook earrings into.
35 Shopaholics can put those pretty boutique bags to use by hanging them on the wall or arranging them on a shelf, where they can store scarves and belts.
36 Do a card run – birthdays, holidays, new baby etc. – once a year and store cards in a file tote.
37 Use ice cube trays to hold clips, erasers and other desk-drawer essentials.
38 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold books.
39 Use white address label stickers to label what each cord in a power bar is for.
40 Paint an oversized canvas in one bold colour and hang it from the wall. Pin a rotating collection of your kids’ artwork on it.
41 Post a sheet of paper on your bulletin board and note office supplies that need replenishing.
42 Use a canvas over-the-door shoe organizer to organize small kids toys and art supplies.
43 Those ubiquitous Danish butter cookie tins can be both an art project and art storage unit for kids. First let your child decoupage it. Then use it to hold crayons and pastels.
44 Post those novelty basketball rings above anything you want your kids to slam dunk stuff into rather than the floor: garbage cans, laundry baskets, etc.
45 For preschoolers too young to use hangers with ease, install a low bar in the closet and simply drape dresses and pants across it to keep them wrinkle-free and easily accessible.
46 Have your child plan their wardrobe one school week at a time. Store outfits within five stacking cubbies or on five combination hangers (hangers with a bar and clips to hold pants as well as a top) to streamline their morning routine.
47 Keep sheet sets organized by folding and storing the fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcase inside the second pillowcase.
48 If you don’t want to buy stacking shoeboxes, recycle the cardboard boxes your shoes came in by cutting out a panel at one end for visibility and ventilation.
49 Install a closet organization system: it’ll pay itself off with time and aggravation saved!
50 A well-lit wardrobe is easier to keep organized. Install a Solatube, skylight or adequate artificial light for your needs.
51 Don’t limit closet storage to hangers. Hang hooks on the door for frequently used items.
52 Tackle that kitchen junk drawer problem head on. Today. Purge, edit and keep things in place with a drawer organizer.
53 Are you a piler, not filer? That’s fine, just keep piles of paperwork organized by using folders and write-on clips.
54 Recycle leftover gift-wrap ribbons by using them to tie up extra electrical and other cords in your utility closet.
55 Dedicated tie, belt and scarf holders are closet must-haves.
56 Upgrade your address book for a classic Rolodex. They’re retro-chic and easy to keep updated.
57 Buy a framed corkboard, hang it in the kitchen and pin up favourite recipes, clipped from magazines.
58 Make space by putting your CDs in organizers, by genre. Recycle the jewel cases or put them into storage in the attic.
59 Or, purge your CD clutter once and for all by having your CDs converted to digital files at riptopia.com. Sell or donate the used CDs.
60 Buy a hotel-style hairdryer that can be installed on the wall to save space, time and energy in a small bathroom.
61 A pot-lid holder puts the vertical space behind a cabinet door to good use.
62 A wrap-organizer does the same, creating the perfect spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and waxed paper.
63 Organize vanity essentials on a vintage tray. Très organized and très chic.
64 Use an extra wine rack to hold rolled-up magazines.
65 Use cutlery trays in your drawers, but to save even more time, stash everyday flatware in a countertop caddy.
66 Shrink-wrap out of season clothes, blankets and duvets to save space while storing.
67 You’ll never fit sheets back into those reusable vinyl zip pouches they were sold in, but you can stash cloth napkins in them. Use one pouch per set and label the quantity with a Sharpie.
68 Buy 10 pairs of the same gym socks, to minimize sorting.
69 Do the same for your hubby.
70 Do the same for his dress socks if he can get away with always wearing the same black ones during fall/winter at least.
71 Stash kids’ art supplies on a lazy Susan so everything is easily accessible.
72 Organize household bills in an accordion file with month-by-month pockets.
73 Hold onto paint chips, fabric swatches and brochures from your last redecorating session. You never know when you’ll need to reference them. Store them in an accordion file.
74 On your mudroom wall, hammer in two nails, then string wire between them. Provide clothes pegs and have your kids hang their wet mittens and gloves to dry overnight.
75 Banish tiny piles of coins and start saving in style. Get a designer piggy bank and keep it by the entranceway, laundry or kitchen—wherever you’d like to dump your change.
76 Tired of that circa-90s cast-iron pot rack? Move it from the kitchen to the garage or potting shed and use it to keep garden tools organized.
77 Get – and use – a garden hose caddy.
78 Edit your hangers. Choose: wire, plastic or wood and unify the hangers in every closet.
79 Use pillboxes to stash your earrings and rings when traveling.
80 Use a soda-can dispenser in the fridge so you can access your pop easily without tipping.
81 Use a wall-mounted broom and mop holder, or tie ribbon loops on the end of poles and hang them from hooks in your closet, garage or utility closet.
82 Make a party kit. Stash napkins, extra glassware and plates, votive candles and holders, extra vases, cocktail picks and other necessities in an old wine crate and pull it out pre-party or pre-holiday entertaining so you don’t waste valuable cupboard space.
83 Use a binder to store all medical records and information for everyone in your family, including each pet. Use dividers for each family member and include plastic pouches or expandable pockets to contain receipts and tiny record cards.
84 Stash awkward, easy-to-misplace necessities (extra hairbrushes, lint roller) in decorative reusable tote bags. Hang them off a doorknob in every room.
85 Burn digital images to CD once a month so you’ll never lose them if your computer (gasp!) crashes. Or print them ASAP!
86 Store photos in archival-quality, acid-free boxes until you have time to organize them in albums.
87 Get a heavy-duty paper shredder for peace of mind – and efficient shredding without risk of overheating.
88 Place your shredder where you intercept daily mail. If that’s the kitchen, so be it.
89 Put a small plastic caddy in your gym bag so you can manage hair care and skincare products without dropping anything. Excess water will just drain out.
90 Stop losing lock combinations and computer passwords once and for all. Jot everyone’s codes and combinations down in a notebook and store it in your family’s fireproof lockbox.
91 Store reusable shopping bags one inside the other.
92 Always keep one cute, foldable shopping tote in each of your heavy-rotation purses so you’re never caught without.
93 Avoid the last-minute drugstore run by always having a kit of your favourite travel-sized toiletries (and common OTC meds like allergy pills) packed and waiting in your suitcase.
94 Get a gift-wrap organizer and stock up on a year’s worth of wrap and ribbons, or ready-to-fill bags and tissue.
95 If perishables regularly go to waste in your fridge, start planning weekly dinner menus. Just buy ingredients for those meals, plus lunch basics. Post the menu on your fridge so you’re on track.
96 Mount a magnetized knife rack to a wall in your utility closet or basement, to keep your most commonly used screwdrivers and wrenches handy, not buried in the toolbox.
97 Donate your battery-powered emergency flashlights and stock up on windup models so you never have to worry about replacing batteries.
98 Stop stressing over the emergency preparedness kit the Canadian government recommends all families have. Just make one and get on with your life. Visit getprepared.ca to learn what to put in it. Stash it in a rolling suitcase so it’s mobile in case you have to be, too.
99 Plan a closet clean-out once per season. Less mess makes staying organized a lot easier.
Use your favourite apples in this tasty tart recipe.
Use your favourite apples in this tasty tart recipe.
Serve this delicious apple tart with maple whipped cream any day of the week.
1 In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt; place 1 tablespoon in a small bowl and set aside.
2 Add the apple and flour to the remaining butter mixture, tossing to coat; set aside.
3 On a large sheet of parchment paper, unroll the pastry; fold the pastry in half and roll out to a 1 5" x 6" rectangle. Lifting the parchment along with the pastry, transfer to a large rimless baking sheet.
4 Preheat the oven to 400°F.
5 Whisk the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; lightly brush some of the mixture over the edges of the pastry. Fold the edges over all around, pressing to adhere. Brush the remaining egg yolk mixture all over the pastry, then prick the centre all over with a fork.
6 Arrange the apples, overlapping slightly, in two rows over the centre of the pastry. Brush the apples with the reserved butter mixture.
7 Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden and the apples are tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
8 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the thyme; allow to cool slightly.
9 Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream with the maple syrup using a hand-held mixer until stiff peaks form; serve with the warm tart.
A kitchen boasting restaurant-design pedigree
Trendy meets traditional in this family home built from scratch.
Homeowner Tanya Krpan (pictured here) saved on accessories by loading the family room sectional with an assortment of ready-made toss cushions.
Tanya isn’t afraid to play with negative space, as seen in the home’s grand entryway. “Normally, you’d expect a mirror or big piece of art hanging above the wainscotting,” she says. Leaving the wall blank and layering small pieces on the console allows the millwork to shine.
Black casement windows and decorative accents create contrast in the neutral space. Tanya scored the vintage coffee table when her office was being redecorated.
The family room’s classic-cool mix feels right for a young family.
The kitchen, of course, is the true star of the show. Tanya’s restaurant-design pedigree shines through in the room’s floor-to-ceiling tiles, mix of open and closed storage and high-end appliances. She opted for white Shaker-style cabinetry and warmed up the space with a walnut island and brass hardware statement lighting and fixtures.
Another bistro-inspired touch was her choice of dark honed-limestone tiles for most of the main floor. “The tile grounds the space since there’s an abundance of white everywhere,” Tanya explains. “And it’s proven great for hiding dirt.”
Everything in the Krpans’ home is designed for everyday life and entertaining, from the large sectional in the family room to the round tables in the dining room and the kitchen’s eat-in area. “It’s more social to sit at a round table,” says Tanya. “You see everyone’s faces.”
Cabinets with glass doors allow Tanya to display her favourite serving pieces and special glassware. She had the back of the kitchen cabinets tiled to highlight this focal point of the kitchen.
Tanya and Jure – with their sons, Ivan, 3, and Cruz, 2 – have recently welcomed a baby girl named Belle.
The living room’s crisp white, grey and black scheme gets an energy boost from fresh greenery, pops of pink and plenty of pattern – check out the Moroccan-style rug, the ikat-print and chevron-patterned toss cushions and the graphic stool fabric.
To offset the costs of the more expensive permanent elements, Tanya was meticulous with her decorating budget. She incorporated secondhand pieces, such as the family room coffee table, and sourced inexpensive art for the living room mantel. Affordable colourful accessories add youthful edginess to the living spaces. “I love the femininity that the splashes of pink add to the living room and family room,” she says. “Plus, by the time I got to the decorating, I was living with three boys!”
In the dining room, Tanya likes the juxtaposition of the modern Sputnik-inspired chandelier with the traditional coffered ceiling. The artwork was a DIY project Tanya and Jure painted together on her 30th birthday.
Though this house has been well loved for years, there’s a sequel in the works: Tanya and Jure are in the process of building a new home. “We’ll keep some of the same elements but go a little more modern in the kitchen,” says Tanya. We’ll definitely stay tuned.
How to: Create accent walls
Looking to create an impact in your space? For an easy and inexpensive way to add a bit of drama to any room, consider creating a feature wall with an accent paint colour. Perfect for highlighting a focal point such as a fireplace or shelving unit, an accent wall commands the eye’s attention.
We checked in with five paint companies to get expert advice on where to feature an accent wall and what colour combinations pair well together.
Photography courtesy of Benjamin Moore
Go dark for drama
Using a vibrant colour on an accent wall is bold, but if you want a touch of drama in your space, go for a dark navy, charcoal or even black. A dark colour looks great against surrounding light walls and crates a space around a room’s focal point, like the fireplace in the photo above.
"When we choose the colours for a room, we try to use a dark colour to add drama,” says Benjamin Moore colour and style expert Sophie Bergeron. “In this case, black and blue walls work well together to add both drama and a sense of airiness. The blue (Gossamer Blue 2123-40) is very fresh and light while the black (Black Satin 2131-10) sets the tone for a more modern setting."
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Switch it up with colour blocking
Not all accent walls have to be a solid hue – get creative with colour blocking by adding a striped wall or a graphic pattern.
“These stripes feature the room’s soft hue alternating with an energetic pop of colour,” says Bev Bell, Beauti-Tone colour expert. “The combination creates a dramatic accent wall with a more cohesive and harmonious feel than if the wall was painted one solid accent colour.”
Photography courtesy of Farrow & Ball
Try a custom wallpaper
For an accent wall with a bit more character, try a graphic wallpaper pattern. Some paint companies like Farrow & Ball custom make their papers using their own paint colours, so you can co-ordinate with the surrounding walls in the room.
“The accent wall has encouraged a more adventurous approach to decorating, providing an opportunity to indulge in colour and pattern without the commitment of covering a whole room,” says Sarah Cole, Director at Farrow & Ball. “Try one of Farrow & Ball’s traditional damask paper designs such as Silvergate or St. Antoine in a contemporary colourway for a modern twist on a classic pattern. For a more contemporary design, try Lotus or Bamboo (shown above) for a really striking accent.”
Photography courtesy of PARA Paints
Use an accent wall to define a living space
Accent colours are great for creating a defined area in a multi-functional space (think open-concept loft or studio apartment). Paint a little nook to create a home office or an inset wall to define your sleeping space like in the image above.
“This bright, bold accent colour (Fresh Berries’ P5079-63) directs the eye to the main focus of the room – the bed,” says PARA Paints Senior Brand Manager Garry Belfall. “Used as a vibrant contrast to the more neutral base colour (Every Girl’s Dream’ P5219-14) as seen on the other walls, Fresh Berries perfectly complements this room and creates a bold, beach-themed oasis where you can escape from reality.”
Photography courtesy of CIL
Add a pop of colour to a black and white room.
Add some life to a neutral room with a bold colour that commands attention. Black-and-white is a timeless colour combination, but adding a vibrant hue gives it a modern edge.
“Cinnabar 50YR 32/460 from CIL is a trendy orange that, when paired with stark white and a graphic black-and white-print, is super modern,” says Alison Goodman, CIL Brand Manager. “When you’re dealing with a predominantly black-and-white colour scheme, a feature wall and its splash of colour is a must-have.”