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Your bedroom should primarily be a place of privacy and rest, says Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life! (andrewmellen.com). Organize it accordingly. Minimize the visual jumble by grouping like items together on shelves—books with books, photos with photos—and tossing loose items like receipts in stackable bins. If your bedroom includes a workspace, clear bills and other paper from the desktop daily. Use a closed bin underneath the bed for stowing linens. And decorative bowls can hold everyday pocket clutter: wallet, keys and so on.
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To get a handle on bathroom clutter, corral anything that's easily scattered—hair elastics, cotton swabs, nail care items—in clear, lidded glass jars, suggests Barbara Reich, the pro organizer behind Resourceful Consultants (resourcefulconsultants.com). Next, pare down the colors of your towel supply to make sorting and storage easier. Arrange hard-to-find items on a lazy Susan so they're always at your fingertips. Use bins for holding toilet paper and any cleaning supplies you reach for constantly. Hampers that pre-sort laundry makes doing a single load a snap. No closet? Tiered shelves or a small cabinet can stand in for a closet.
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The first step to making your kitchen more efficient is reorganizing the cabinets according to function, says Mellen. Like items should be stored together, not scattered among three or four areas. Move glasses so they're close to the sink and stack plates at eye level where they're in grabbing distance. Pots and pans belong next to the oven. Lightweight, seldom-used items like party trays can go on the highest shelves, or showcase them rather than saving for special occasions. Packaged food and cans should be front and center. Place backups in a pantry or an out-of-the-way cupboard. Reserve countertop real estate for the most-used appliance like the toaster oven.
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In a tight space, Reich uses every available inch to create a workable home office. Hanging shelves and a storage unit on the wall keep important papers, such as to-be-paid bills, at eye level, while less important files like old tax returns go in boxes up high. A bulletin board puts business cards, invitations and to-do lists on display. Baskets can be used as catchalls for small items like sticky notes. Tiered sorters and open trays make it easier to find things quickly.
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Maximize floor space in the family room by hanging both your flatscreen and a shelving unit on the wall, suggests Mellen. To keep order, arrange decorative baskets on the floor below and designate a use for each—Wii games, magazines, a few favorite DVDs. Use one or more trays to contain objects like remotes that often get misplaced. Hide scrapbooks and other infrequently used things behind closed cabinet doors. Add personality by displaying favorites, like a collection of pottery, in full view.
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With garages, the key tactic is to take advantage of wall space and get almost everything off the floor, says Mellen. Just outside the entry, heavy-duty stainless-steel shelves hold bulk purchases at the ready. A plastic cart reins in cleaning supplies, tools and gadgets like flashlights that you reach for most. Look for storage units outfitted with wheels to make rearranging—and carrying—a snap. Stow out-of-season items in clear plastic bins on a high shelf. Industrial-style wall-mounted track systems keep cords and tools handy. Place a boot tray by the door for wet or grimy shoes.
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If you're short on storage space in the laundry room, install shelves over the washer and dryer. On the top one, store small items such as lint rollers, extra stain sticks and clothes for mending in covered boxes. Use the lower one for folding. Store economy-size bottles out of the way and transfer contents into smaller containers arranged in a basket. Buy a retractable clothesline that you can install in minutes and keep out of sight when not in use.
Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.