Getting Your Home or Office Organized

Consumer Watch -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ginger Rouleau, Professional Organizer, Consultant, and Home Stager (559) 627-3562

Ginger's 5 Tips for Your Work Space:
Assign a location for everything
Label your items and their locations
Control your mail on a daily basis
Spend five minutes to tidy up at the end of each day
Use pile clips to separate paperwork

Consumer Reports' FEB/MARCH Issue of ShopSmart magazine ( article on the best free and low-cost organizing tools:

1. Shoe boxes
Cost: Free!
Best for Office and craft supplies, CDs, TV remotes, travel-size toiletries, and other small items.

Why they work: You can spend as much as $20 on fancy, store-bought boxes, but shoe boxes work just as well. They're sturdy, stackable, and fit nicely on a shelf.

Tip: Give shoe boxes a makeover with wrapping paper, contact paper, fabric, or even leftover wallpaper, and they'll look like pricey store-bought storage boxes. Vinyl contact paper adheres tightly and can actually strengthen the box. "Make sure to cover the bottom too," Morgenstern says. To replicate boxes with window labels, attach adhesive-backed clear plastic sleeves sold for loose-leaf binders at officesupply stores

2. Acrylic cubbies
Cost: About $15 to $25, depending on the size.
Best for Makeup, desk-drawer essentials (paper clips, pens, pencils, Post-it notes, stamps), or vanity clutter like perfume bottles and jewelry.

Why they work: The see-though compartments come in a variety of boxy shapes and sizes that can give a vanity or desk drawer a fast makeover, and they have flush edges so they can be placed close together in a drawer.

Tip: Keep lipstick and nail polish in the small cubbies, makeup brushes in the long ones. Or you can turn a dresser drawer into a customized jewelry warehouse.

3. Over-the-door shoe bags
Cost: About $10 to $15.
Best for Bathroom, craft-room, and coat-closet clutter.

Why they work: Hanging bags make things easy to reach and they can hold lots of different stuff, not just shoes!

Tip: Hang one on the inside of a closet to store gloves, hats, and scarves. Give each family member a row and label each pouch as a reminder. A bag on the back of a bathroom door can hold your blow dryer, curling and straightening irons, extra shampoo, soap, and other toiletries. Or sling one over the door of a crafts room to store things like scissors and glue. Keep small and often-used items between eye and chest level for easy reach.

4. Plastic linens bags
Cost: Free!
Best for Storing nonwool sweaters or out-of-season clothes, so you don't have to spring for expensive sweater bags. The pillowcase-size ones are handy for stashing small giftwrapping and craft items like tags, rubber stamps, and ink pads. And large and small can hold napkins, place mats, and seasonal linens.

Why they work: They're great for stashing things because they're sturdy and see-through. Best of all, you get these zippered bags free every time you buy a new set of sheets or a comforter.

Tip: Don't use these bags for antique, heirloom, or wool fabrics. Those delicate items should be stored in fabric bags that let them breathe so they don't discolor.

5. Lazy Susans
Cost: From $5 for the small plastic ones up to $20 to $40 for fancier types with stainless-steel or bamboo finishes.
Best for Toiletries and cleaning supplies. They're also great in the garage for lawn-and-garden supplies or in the laundry room for things like detergent. And a rotating lazy Susan out on a crafts table or tucked away in a cupboard can tame an awful lot of itty-bitty art supplies.

Why they work: They're known for spinning spices in the kitchen, but lazy Susans are one of the most versatile organizing tools around.

Tip: Put one or two lazy Susans in the linen closet or under the bathroom sink. If plumbing is in the way, put one on each side of the pipe.

6. Baskets
Cost: Free if you have them; at a store you'll pay $10 to $40.
Best for All kinds of stuff! Small square baskets make nice desk organizers. A big basket can house rolled towels in the bathroom; in the living room, it can hold magazines or wood. A basket with a handle, placed at the top or bottom of a staircase, makes a great temporary storage area.

Why they work: Woven baskets fit neatly on a shelf, and they add a warm, homey touch to a room. And odds are you already have some lying around the house. Baskets without handles are better for stacking. Square and rectangle ones maximize shelf space."

Tip: Line baskets with cheap cloth napkins or fabric swatches, and they'll look just like the fancy store-bought kind. Let the fabric spill over the edge and hot-glue it down. 7. Trays
Cost Free if you have them; pretty melamine ones can be found for $20 and mirrored ones run about $30.
Best for Shoes, vitamins, perfume.

Why they work: "Trays give things a specific spot to land and define a specific area," says Scott Roewer, a professional organizer in Washington. Instead of leaving a bunch of items on a vanity or a desktop, put them on a tray and they'll look neater. Just one warning: "If the space is there, you will fill it, so limit yourself to the size of the tray," Roewer says.

Tip: Put one in the kitchen to corral your vitamins, or use a pretty vintage tray to hold perfume on your dresser. A large sturdy tray in a mudroom or entry is great for keeping messy shoes and boots from wrecking floors.

8. Hooks
Cost: From a couple of dollars on up.
Best for Jackets, hats, belts, and more.

Why they work: Hooks are a great way to get stuff off the floor and organized. "Put the right hook where stuff is going to get dropped and you've got a fighting chance that they'll get used," says Jeri Dansky, a professional organizer in Half Moon Bay, Calif. "Go with basic ones in wood, wrought iron, or chrome, to blend in, or choose something more decorative to become a focal point."

Tip: Put a row in a mudroom or entryway. Or place staggered hooks on the inside of a closet for handbags. And don't forget the garage. Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on modular shelving, suspend mesh bags full of sports stuff like soccer balls and scuba gear on large hooks. Mounted in a stud, a hook can keep even a bicycle up and out of the way. But if you're hanging something heavy, be sure to check the package for the weight limit and installation instructions.

9. Metal tins
Cost: Free!
Best for Small items. Altoids-size tins are great for pushpins and other sharp things and matches. A large tin is ideal for first-aid items and power-outage supplies, such as batteries, candles, and a flashlight.

Why they work: Metal tins that once housed tea, candy, or cookies can be too pretty to throw out. Instead of adding them to the clutter, turn them into organizers.

Tip: If you're going to put a few on display, they should have a common denominator. You can make a few mismatched tins look like a set with a fresh coat of spray paint designed for metal.

10. Plastic wastebaskets
Cost: From less than $10 on up.
Best for Toys, sporting goods, and wrapping paper.

Why they work: They're sturdy, roomy, and generally cheaper than bins, plus they're non-see-through, which is great for concealing clutter. Use labels to keep track of what's in them. The smaller ones are great for kids' and pets' toys, Dansky says. And the round shape lends itself to things that are rolled, like blueprints, wrapping paper, and drawings. Wastebaskets are also great for sports equipment like baseball bats and hockey sticks.

Tip: Spray-paint a bunch of cans the same color so they'll look like a set; be sure to use paint designed for plastic, like those from Krylon and Rust-Oleum.


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