Jen Laird White, mayor of Nyack, New York, and mom to two active boys, knows that things are bound to get messy. Here's how we helped her get organized.
By Sarah Stebbins
"I'm a good mother, cook and entertainer, but organizing eludes me," says Jen. The entire family—Jen, her husband, Rich, and their two sons—dump everything on the kitchen counter, including phones, iPads, keys and papers. "When guests are coming over, I just throw it all in what I call 'the party bag' and shove it out of sight," she says. "Problem is, later nobody can find their stuff." Jen also uses the area to display snapshots and post notes, but the jumble created visual clutter and got in the way of the cookbooks she refers to on a regular basis.
Pro organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life (Touchstone), suggests a number of simple storage systems. Shallow bins, situated beneath an outlet, provide a place to charge electronics, deposit mail and empty pockets without junking up the area. A sleek metal organizer strip displays photos and papers. Bins in the cabinets below can corral chargers and kitchen items, as well as handbags, hats, gloves and anything else that doesn't make it into the main closet, located a few rooms away. "The key to containing clutter is to catch it where it lands," says Morgenstern.
Watch this behind-the-scenes video showing how we decluttered the kitchen.
With no clear arrangement for the heaps of toy soldiers, trophies, books and board games, Luke was frequently searching for his belongings.
The tall set of shelves is now devoted almost exclusively to books, with those that aren't current favorites housed up high. On the low shelving unit, bright bins hold collections grouped together by type—Legos, art supplies, notebooks and so on. "Try to choose containers that closely match the height of the shelves," says Morgenstern. "Otherwise you end up stacking stuff on top." To make it really clear what goes where, metal-rimmed key tags (Avery White Metal Rim Tags, $6 for 50, avery.com) can be labeled and tied around the handles. The top shelf of the unit is reserved for displaying prized possessions.
Bedding: Dwell Studio Owls Duvet Set, dwellstudio.com, from $156
Watch this video to see how we organized Luke's room.
Jen with sons Jack, 14, and Luke, 10, in the newly revamped bedroom.
The only downstairs closet in Jen's 100-year-old home has to handle the entire household's jackets and gear. But with limited hanging space and shelving that was difficult to access, things ended up in a heap on the floor. "We'd basically shut the door and hope it didn't explode," says Jen.
Morgenstern prescribed minor structural changes. Lowering the clothes bar several inches allowed the overhead shelves to be spaced farther apart and fitted with bins for off-season accessories, handbags, gloves and balls. A nearby folding stepladder makes everything easier to access. The bottom shelf, previously blocked by coats, was also brought down so it could stash shoes. Boots are parked on a small washable rug, which helps trap dirt, and hooks—mounted in a V formation to allow bulky items to hang freely—transform the dead space on the backs of doors.
Bins: Richards Homewares Medium Totes in Ivory, target.com, $60/set of 6
Watch this video to see how we transformed the closet.
The master bathroom had virtually no storage, so Jen and Rich resorted to stashing toiletries on window ledges, the shower floor and a small table next to the toilet. "It not only looked messy, it was annoying to fumble for bottles or knock them over when we opened the windows," says Jen. There were hooks for towels by the door, but no place aside from a hall closet to stash extras.
Jen pared down the toiletries and committed to keeping only the absolute essentials in the shower and by the pedestal sink. "I realized we didn't need the dog shampoo in the bathroom," she says. Replacing the bulky mirror with a slim oval style freed up shelf space for toothbrushes and toothpaste, arranged upright in vessels.
"This spot was calling out for a tall cabinet with a mix of open and closed storage to hold towels, toilet paper, lotions, you name it," says Morgenstern. She suggests organizing items used at the sink, such as makeup and hair products, in easily transported containers or kits.
Cabinet: Pottery Barn Modular Floor Storage, potterybarn.com, from $149
Watch this video to learn more about how we organized the bathroom.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.