When is the best time to organize? When you have so much stuff it’s making you anxious, says Jackie O’Brien, a Hudson Valley organizer and owner of Clarity Through Organization. And just like fashion has its hot looks for every season, the de-cluttering world also has trends (who knew?).
Some trends involve products (like the Home Edit line at the Container Store), while others are clever ways to organize rooms so they look put together.
The trick is not to fall into the trap of just making a space look good, says Amy Tokos, president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and owner of Freshly Organized, an organizing service in Omaha, Nebraska. “You have to be careful that you don’t create a system that is pretty but not functional.”
While you can tackle the whole house (or hire a pro to help you), you can also focus on the rooms or areas where you will get the biggest bang for your benefit, says Tokos. For most people, that will be closets and the kitchen. The pros recommend trying these three trends for tidying up:
TREND #1 Rainbow Organizing
At its simplest, this is just grouping items by color, whether it’s clothes or books. This works especially well for kids, says Tokos. “You’re organizing so it visually makes sense to kids because a child isn’t going to walk up to her closet and say, ‘I want a long-sleeve shirt.’ She would say, ‘I want to wear red today,’” Tokos explains. It also helps pre-readers pick out books they want.
Organizing a closet by colors also works for adults. “I use color to arrange closets for almost every client,” notes Eva Goodman, organizer and owner of Orderly, based in Hudson. She advises clients to hang clothes from darkest to lightest. “Within the colors I typically do heaviest—long-sleeve items—on the left to lightest—tank tops—on the right. It gives the space a lighter feel and makes finding clothing easier.” The system also works for folded pants, shirts and sweaters on shelves, and drawers, she adds.
How to purge: Take everything out of your closet or drawer and go through each item to decide what to toss. Ask yourself: Are these the colors and styles I want to wear now? “A good rule is if you haven’t worn an item in a year, it’s time to let go,” says O’Brien. And while it’s hard to get rid of things, “if you’re not using it or it’s not special to you, it’s just creating more clutter,” she adds.
Another approach is to make three piles of clothing—the keep, toss, and don’t know piles, suggests Goodman. “Basically, you have to go with your gut and just make fast decisions,” she says. And no, it doesn’t matter if the “don’t know” heap is the biggest. Just go through that one again to winnow it, acting on your first impulse.
Once you’re done, put clothing and accessories into categories, says O’Brien. Place everyday clothes and shoes in accessible spots and put accessories into containers so you know where to find them.
TREND #2 Matching Containers
What’s trending now are neutral or earth-toned containers that match throughout the space, says Tokos. For instance, “acrylic is really big in kitchens right now—they’re versatile for the refrigerator and the pantry. Then getting the same things for your drawers so they all match.”
Just don’t buy the containers first, warns Goodman: “If you buy the wrong bin, it can actually make you less organized! For example, if a bin is too small, where does the overflow go? Or if your bin is too big, you might be tempted to add random items to fill it up, making your system confusing to maintain.” Instead, ask yourself these three questions: What would you like to store? Where would you like to store it? How many categories can you break the storage into?
TREND #3 Empty Spaces
Minimalism isn’t new, but the trend now is to minimize your stuff instead of maximizing the space, says Tokos. So, for instance, in the pantry “you’ll have labeled baskets, but the baskets have five inches of space between them, so it looks roomy,” she explains.
Use broad categories to combine items. If you’re rearranging the pantry, consider why you go in there. “I’m either looking for a dinner food, a snack, or a condiment,” says Tokos. The goal is to avoid scanning the entire pantry. So, try these tips: Store each type of food together in one place. Then see what you can put in containers so the space looks neat—the beans, rice, and pasta, say, in clear bins. Then gather stray items and contain them so they make sense. “It could be your baking stuff—flour, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract—in a basket so it’s all together,” says Tokos.