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.
Learn to make your own carnitas tacos at home.
Change a standard taco night into a new, hearty meal with these pork tacos and fresh apple salsa.
1 To make the carnitas, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ancho and chipotle chili powders, cumin, salt and pepper. Toss the pork into the bowl and generously coat with the dry rub.
2 In a large heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of pork as will fit in a single layer and sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.
3 When all the pork is browned, return it to the pot along with the onion, garlic, orange juice and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the pork is falling-apart tender and cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours.
4 Using tongs or a large fork, shred the pork. Raise the heat and cook, uncovered, until the liquid reduces and the meat begins to brown and crisp at the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.
5 Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a mixing bowl, toss together the apple, green onions, cilantro, jalapeño, salt and lime juice; set aside.
6 To serve, top each warm tortilla with pulled pork, apple salsa, cabbage and queso fresco. Garnish with the additional cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
Prep & cook time: 2 hours
Serves: 6 to 8
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Excerpted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink. Copyright Kimberley Hasselbrink © 2014. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press. All rights reserved.
Designer Montana Labelle's loft
Designer Montana Labelle decorates her loft with a fashion-forward eclectic aesthetic that fits her personal style to a T.
It’s often said that interior design follows fashion, and this certainly holds true in the Toronto loft of designer Montana Labelle. In fact, she takes this idea one step further by using her enviable collection of fashion accessories as part of the decor.
In the 700-square-foot condo, Montana spun her storage issues into something positive. “Since there’s a lack of closet space, I made the loft feel like a retail environment by displaying my clothing,” she says. “I bought an antique chinoiserie style armoire from Craigslist and filled it with my favourite vintage T-shirts, designer handbags and heels.” The result is like waking up and getting dressed in a high-end boutique every morning.
Homeowner and designer Montana Labelle used stylish vignettes to delineate the different areas in her narrow open-concept condo.
Montana hangs out in the living area of her Toronto loft.
Retro finds like the coffee table and media console lend a collected and personal look to the living area. Pops of bright colour come from Montana’s collection of orange Hermes boxes. A hide rug layered over a vintage rabbit fur rug gives the space a luxe comfort.
Now that her loft is furnished and decorated, she finds that it’s truly a reflection of her personal style. “My uniform consists of ripped jeans and basic T-shirts, layered with a leather motorcycle jacket and some great accessories,” Montana explains. “I totally relate this to my home’s mostly neutral palette with exotic accents and unexpected textures, which impart a sense of casual cool.”
An eclectic grouping of artwork – including a skull print by Jenna Snyder-Phillips, papier mache zebra bust and prized Hermes scarf – hangs above the sofa in the living area.
The vintage storage unit and artwork made by homeowner and designer Montana Labelle greet guests in the loft’s entryway. Antique books and other eclectic objects hint at the quirky style in the rest of the space.
An antique cabinet placed across from the kitchen offers plenty of storage (and display space) for Montana’s favourite designer fashion accessories.
The long, narrow loft includes an entryway, galley kitchen and living area.
The brightly lit sunroom acts as Montana’s home office, where she does a lot of work for her design business. The super-slim desk takes up minimal square footage in the small room. A bold red vintage “M” was a lucky find at one of her favourite Toronto shops. She made the edgy artwork by blacking out half of an antique portrait.
The vintage Art Deco bar cart in the office gets pressed into service during cocktail parties and offers extra storage the rest of the time. The antique leather hide on the floor was purchased from the Christie Antique Show.
9 ways to revamp your bathroom without undergoing a large-scale renovation.
According to designer Robin Siegerman, principal of Sieguzi Kitchen & Home Inc. and author of Renovation Bootcamp: Kitchens, bathroom renovations can be surprisingly expensive for the (generally) smaller size of the room, because so much of the expense is hidden in the walls, such as electrical and plumbing. But if your bathroom is in relatively good shape but uninspired from a design standpoint – often the case with condo units, for example – there’s much you can do to give it a spiffier look, with little or no professional help. Here are a few tips.
Replacing an ugly bathroom faucet with a pretty one has become a relatively simple do-it-yourself task, with many faucets now sold in kits that include all the fittings and complete instructions. Make sure you have the right type for the number of hole openings in the sink.
There are companies that will come in and reface your countertop with a ¼-inch veneer of granite, for the look of solid granite at a fraction of the cost. Alternatively, you can have a boring or worn laminate counter refaced with new laminate—there are ones on the market now that closely mimic stone, wood or other natural finishes, or go for something more fanciful if you like.
Replace a boring plate-glass mirror with a framed version you can hang like art. Scoop up an ornate frame at an antique store (or pick out a nice one at a framer’s) and have the framer make it into a mirror for you. Attractive framed mirrors in every style from Victorian to modern can also be found at thrift stores, antique markets and home stores.
If your bathtub or shower is tiled inside the enclosure but stops at the edge, and you can find matching tile, have it extended (or do it yourself, with new ceramic tile mounting kits available at box stores) the rest of the way around the bathroom to the 48” mark, like wainscoting. The advantage to doing this is more than aesthetic; it makes your bathroom much easier to clean, since you can wash the walls at the same time you do the floors.
Many bathrooms are cursed with a single light fixture directly above the mirror, which creates unflattering shadows. If you don’t want to have side sconces wired in, look for a fixture with two lights side by side, which will at least direct the light a little more to either side of your face.
If your bathroom floor is ugly, cover it with a small pure-wool area rug. Unlike synthetics, wool is moisture and mildew resistant, resists dirt (and can be cleaned relatively easily), and if you choose an Oriental or Persian style, adds a touch of class. If it gets very wet, hang it up to dry.
It’s amazing what a beautiful bathroom wall colour will do to add interest to the plainest room, and a small room takes only a day or so to paint. Be careful choosing colour, though: some blues and greens can be cold and unkind to skin tones, while too bright a colour may be overwhelming in a small room like a bath. At the very worst, if you choose a colour and don’t like the effect, it’s easy to paint over again.
Making your own shower curtain is an easy job, even if you’re not a sewer. Measure the shower opening and purchase a few yards of beautiful fabric from a fabric outlet store. Finish the edges with iron-on hemming tape and sew curtain rings along the top. Buy a plastic curtain liner from a bath shop, and hang.
Think scale with bath accessories, but don’t think you have to display only small things. One beautiful vase or piece of artwork (a sealed print is best if your bath gets very steamy) can have fabulous impact in a small space.