The mini move: How boxing up clutter can lead to an organized home

Moving is a pain. Short of a zombie attack or

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an IRS audit, it’s probably one of the most stressful things you can go through. You can learn a lot about yourself when you move. (Like how you handle searching for the dang packing tape after you’ve misplaced it AGAIN.) And those lessons can be applied in smaller ways — long after you’ve settled into your new place.

If you’ve been living in your home long enough to acquire piles of clutter, a “mini move” might be just the trick. To get started, you’re gonna need a big box and a medium-ish box.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and putting off the job until 2015, just tackle one small space at a time. Remember, you’re emulating a move on a much smaller scale, so don’t even think about doing a whole room in one sitting. Just take on a small portion of a room: your desk, under the bed, only the right side of your closet. That’s it. Just one corner at a time.

Once you’ve chosen a spot to begin, everything you see in that space that’s “clutter” — i.e., everything that doesn’t have a designated home — should go into your medium-ish box. So go ahead and sweep everything off that table. Knock things off the shelf and into your box. (As long as they aren’t breakable, of course!) Then leave the room — and take the box with you! Geez, do I have to tell you everything?

Now that you’re in a different room with your box o’ stuff, it’s time to examine what’s inside. By taking objects out of their familiar context, you can see them for what they really are. Maybe you left a stapler on your bookshelf three years ago and it slowly blended into the background until you forgot it was there. Or maybe you started to believe it actually belongs there, but it doesn’t — it’s a stapler. So, unless you’re a really enthusiastic reader and often need to repair the pages of the books you so forcefully turned, it’s probably better if that stapler went and lived with his other office supply friends.

So just like you did with the stapler, you’re going to take each item out of the box, assess where it truly belongs, and then…can you guess? You put it there! (I really do have to tell you everything, don’t I?) If you’re lucky, you might clear away half the contents of your medium-ish box this way. But what about those stragglers at the bottom? The things you honestly don’t know where they should go? Well, now it’s time to make use of the big box. Toss all of the leftovers from inside your medium-ish box into the big box, and then put the big box out of sight until the next time you’re ready to declutter an area of your home.

Keep repeating this process day by day until you’ve decluttered every possible section of your place, throwing more and more stuff into the big box as you go. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to take a break. Reward yourself by binge-watching season two of House of Cards on Netflix, get out of the house for the weekend — just give yourself a mental break from your stuff.

When you return, refreshed and pumped from watching Francis Underwood carry out his latest schemes, it’s time to revisit the big box. By allowing yourself some space and time away from these objects, you’ve (hopefully) separated yourself from them emotionally. Maybe you were hanging on to a decorative mug from your trip to Florida in 2009. But now that you look at it sitting there in the big box, you realize…you hated that trip to Florida. (Too humid and too many mosquitos!) Now you can easily get rid of that mug without sending yourself on another trip — a guilt trip.

If you discover you’re ready to rid yourself of those things inside the big box, but they still have value (dollar value, not sentimental value), then consider holding a garage sale. Or give them to friends, coworkers and acquaintances. A stuff swap is a fun way to pass along your unwanted items to people who might need them. (It also gives you an opportunity to raid your stylish friends’ closets!) Or donate them to a thrift shop

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or charity. If you just can’t let go of those last couple of jackets from the 80s, consider storing them until they come back in style!

Whatever is left in the big box after this last step should probably be disposed of. I mean, if you can’t think of anyone who’d want your chewed-up ballpoint pen cap, then do everyone a favor by tossing it in the garbage. No one needs to see your teeth marks embedded in blue plastic.

By using this simple method of allowing yourself time and space to re-evaluate your belongings, you’ll be able to see which ones you truly value. Random items will get packed up and moved to where they belong — or even better, to a new home. By making a few small “moves” like these, in no time at all you’ll have an organized home that’s free of the clutter that once weighed it — and you — down.

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Organized Offspring: Tips for Decluttering Your Not-So-Little Kids’ Rooms

As they get older, kids become fierce about asserting their independence. “I can do it!” they protest as they bend down to tie their shoe or try to comb down a stubborn cowlick. Too bad they’re not so determined when it comes to keeping their rooms neat and tidy!

As a parent, you can make things easier on them (and yourself) by creating a space where they have room to play, learn, sleep, and dress — all while keeping their clutter organized.

Loft Beds

Organized Offspring - 1Once your kids are a bit hardier (and less apt to fall out of their beds during the night), you can move them — and their beds — up to the next level: a loft bed. This universally kid-approved piece of furniture is not only a blast to climb into, but it also frees up precious floor space. For older children, you can put a desk below the bed to help them study during those years of real homework. You could also put other pieces of furniture in the space to create a reading nook or some extra storage for books and toys. Or just leave it wide open and let your youngsters run around under there. To quote Brennan and Dale from the movie Step Brothers, a loft bed creates “so much extra space in our room to do activities!”

Organized Offspring - 2

Should you decide to forgo the traditional ladder and design a set of stairs for your child to climb at bedtime, consider creating some bonus storage space by making those steps double as drawers (as shown in the above photo from Freshome).

But even if you choose to go the old-school ladder route, set aside any silly superstitions and be sure you don’t waste any space beneath the ladder. Check out the modified ladder we found at ferm LIVING (below). They cleverly extended the surface of each ladder rung to make a shelf.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 9.31.05 AM

Book Storage

Organized Offspring - 5Once your kids have mastered reading See Spot Run, it’s time to fill their impressionable minds with the best kids’ books out there: Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are. Keep their growing libraries neatly tucked away with these clever bookcase ideas. If you’ve got the skills, build a forward facing bookcase (right) to fit into that seemingly wasted space behind the bedroom door. Or you could also tuck them away on the back of a closet door.

This amazing DIY transformation can also be accomplished with bifold closet doors.

Designated Bins

Organized Offspring - 7If you can get your kids to pick up their toys without making a fuss, you’re way ahead of the game. But expecting them to line up their belongings on a shelf is probably unrealistic. So split the difference and let them dump their things into large, kid-friendly bins. After all, they’re just kids; they don’t care if their stuffed animals aren’t sorted by genus and species. Teddy bears can be stored peacefully with fuzzy bunnies. At least this way, all of the critters will be off the floor!

If some semblance of order is required for the sake of your sanity (and possible OCD), attach large, easy-to-read labels to the bins to help your child understand which items belong in each, like the above photo from Pottery Barn Kids.

Repurposed Hanging Closet Organizers

Sometimes a good organizational tool is a good organizational tool — even if you’re not using it for its original purpose. Hanging closet organizers, like those for shoes or sweaters, are great for storing all manner of things. Everything you need for the kids’ soccer practice can fit into an inexpensive, hanging sweater organizer with multiple compartments. Dolls and action figures, as well as all of their teeny tiny accessories, can be safely tucked away (and out of the reach of baby brothers, vacuums, and dogs) in the pouches of a plastic shoe organizer, like in this example from Better Homes and Gardens.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 9.47.25 AM
Consider Your Child’s Preferences

As your child’s personality develops, work with him or her as best you can to personalize their living space. I’m not talking about building a bed that looks like a space shuttle and installing a planetarium-grade star projector. Start out small. Ask your son or daughter what their favorite color is, then choose a hue you both can live with. If you let children have a (limited) say about the style of their bedrooms, they might be more inclined to maintain them to your satisfaction.


The Open Closet

According to real estate law, a bedroom is a room that (1) has a door that closes, and (2) has a closet. But the reality is

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that sometimes we have an odd-shaped apartment carved out of what used to be a large house, or a single-room studio that used to be part of a warehouse, and all sorts of other weird situations that leave us without a proper closet. So how’s a person supposed to store her clothing collection?

The most common storage option is probably a piece of freestanding furniture, like this wardrobe from Ikea. But it can get pretty pricy for how much storage space it actually provides.

For a less expensive and more customizable option, try this on for size. Using a curtain, section off part of your room as a closet, as shown in the examples below from This Is Glamourous (via Desire to Inspire) and West Elm (via Crafty Cook-Ups). This takes the notion of a curtained door on a normal closet to the next level — you’re essentially installing a curtain that runs the length of a wall and sticks out a few feet from that wall. (I suggest making the space 2.5 to 3 feet deep to ensure it’s large enough for your hangers to fit properly.


The “closet” on the left comes out even further into the room than a standard closet would. However, the placement of the bed helps create the illusion of the curtain as a wall, with the bed’s headboard reinforcing the edges of the space. The example on the right offers less hanging space, but it’s perfect if you need extra space for folded clothes or shoes.

If you don’t want to bother covering up with a curtain, you can still designate a part of your room as closet space while leaving your clothes out in the open.

This One

You’ll have to take care to keep up with

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your hanging and sorting, ’cause there’s no hiding your mess when company’s over. But if you view your clothes as wearable art, then show ’em off with pride! This example from Design Shimmer (via decor8) (left) shows how a neutral color palette in the rest of the room can really highlight the beauty of your wardrobe.

Or, if you have a small room and really want to think outside the box, try a loft bed with closet storage below. The example on the right is from domino magazine (via Arianna Belle).

With your clothes on display, you can show guests where your true

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priorities lie — you might be low-budget when it comes to your apartment, but your wardrobe is your pride and joy.

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Make Room for the Kids: Tips, Tricks, and Space-Saving Ideas

When you have kids, you have to make room in your life for sleepless nights, finger painting, school plays, soccer practice, math homework — the list goes on. But you also have to make room in your home. Those little tykes may be small, but they still need lots of accessories! Whether it’s kid-specific furniture, tiny clothes, or an overabundance of toys, organizing a child’s room can be a challenge. Here are some tips for creating a beautiful and kid-friendly small space.



CS3A crib is an awkward piece of furniture to incorporate into your space, but at least it’s for a relatively short period of time in your child’s life. And while it’s a bit taller than a “big boy bed” or a “big girl bed,” it also has a smaller footprint. That means you can squeeze it into smaller nooks than you can a twin bed, so look around the room and assess if there’s any “dead space” that could hold a crib.

A great place to start is the closet. After all, your baby probably doesn’t have a closet full of shoes yet. (Unless she’s Suri Cruise…in which case, she doesn’t have to worry about small spaces, now does she?) Remove the closet doors altogether like the example above from The Land of Nod. Then push the crib inside.

If the entire crib won’t fit inside the closet, you can let it stick out a bit. In this clever example, Apartment Therapy reader Erin built a small platform so the crib could sit halfway inside and halfway outside the closet (which has a raised floor) while remaining level.

Changing Stations

CS1The changing table is another piece you’ll need for only a few years, so your best bet is to start with a piece of furniture that can serve another purpose once your child is potty-trained. A low dresser, desk, credenza, or bookshelf can provide lots of valuable storage below while its top surface provides a diaper-duty workspace. Once your child is older, you can put away the diapers and other changing accessories, give the piece a really good wipe down, and use it for its original purpose.

Lindsay”s vintage dresser, as seen on her blog Hello Hue, is gorgeous, and it will continue to provide valuable storage for years to come.


Toy Storage

CS5I know it’s scientifically impossible, but why does your child’s stuffed animal collection seem to reproduce like little bunnies? The bulky plushies also have the unfortunate habit of taking up a lot of room. Fortunately, you can get them under control with a cute and clever storage systems for stuffed toys. If you create a “zoo” for the animals, your kids will love to put them away in their home each night — keeping them off the floor and out from under the bed (where online casino canada another kind of nasty bunny lives).

While you could certainly buy a storage zoo, if you have woodworking skills, some lumber, and a few bungee cords, you can save money by making your own instead.

And if you don’t know the first thing about wood and power tools, here’s a simpler solution that uses plastic crates and ribbons.

Clothes Storage

CS2Tiny kids have tiny clothes — and lots of ’em. You can save on closet space for your shorties by doubling the number of hanging rods in their closets. If you use a simple tension rod for a second rod positioned at a lower height, then you can easily remove it whenever your tyke’s latest growth spurt results in his shirts needing a little more room to hang.

This adorable example from Better Homes & Gardens would be perfect for a boy. If you prefer something a little more girly, you might like this precious

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Hang Things at Kid Height

CS8Getting your kids to help keep their rooms clean is a never-ending battle full of threats and promises and begging and bribing. Make things easier on yourself — and your kids — by “lowering the bar” (pun intended). Install coat hooks and the like at your child’s eye level so when they finally pick up their coats, hats, book bags, towels or what have you off the floor, they can hang them up without a struggle or a stepladder. (Just know that whatever energy the kids save by not fighting with you about picking up after themselves will emerge later on at bedtime!) Martha Stewart has a perfect example with this DIY Basket Rack that includes hooks for your little ones” backpacks.


Well-Hung: 11 Wall-Mounted Organizers

It’s the little things, as they say.

The key to that sentence is the plurality of “things.” A little thing on its own means, well, very little. But when things start to multiply, that’s when you’ve got a problem. It’s like the tribbles in that old Star Trek episode: one ain’t that bad—in fact, it’s kinda cute. But once there are thousands of them filling up the room and threatening to smother poor Dr. McCoy, it’s too late. They’ve taken over.

Clutter is the same way. A pile of mail here, some loose change there, and before you know it, your small apartment is collapsing under the weight of all that stuff. The root of the problem is the fact that those bits ‘n’ bobs are so small that you don’t think to designate a “home” for them. And because they have no proper place, they end up everywhere! They take over every empty surface in your home. And if you live in a small house or apartment, that empty space can run out fast. The best solution is to not only give each piece of clutter a true home, but also move the stuff up off your tabletops and counters.

A wall-mounted organizer is exactly what you need.

There are hanging wall organizers suitable for every room in the house, and each one has compartments of all shapes and sizes that are just perfect for pens, rubber bands, mail, notepads, jewelry, art supplies, coins, phone chargers, ninja throwing stars, secret spy plans, and uncut flawless diamonds. (Hey, I don’t know what line of work you’re in!)

So let’s take a look at some examples.

The Expensive One


Here we have the very expensive granddaddy of all wall organizers: the Uten.Silo by Vitra. Its 1969 mod design, vast array of cubbies in all shapes and sizes, and even some metal clips make it incredibly appealing. But at a cost of over $400, it’s not going to be a good fit for a tiny budget. (Photo from Nova68.)

The Reasonable One

The Reasonable One

A much more reasonably priced organizer could be something like this felt one (as seen on Apartment Therapy). I myself have a small version of this that hangs on the door of my fridge with magnets. But it can also be mounted

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to the wall of any room, such as a storage closet, entryway, or crafting space. (Photo provided via Aesthetic Outburst.)

The One to Die For


This one is an organizer to die for. Now, I find myself saying weird things like that all the time (“I want to make love to this wall organizer,” “This desktop inbox/outbox system and I were meant to be together,” “Have you ever seen such a beautiful remote control caddy?”). But this time I really mean it. Sadly, this vintage, one-of-a-kind piece was sold on Etsy some time ago, but it can still inspire a search for similar products, or perhaps a DIY project.

The One with a Roof


There are two things I love about this particular mini cabinet: the simplicity of it and the name. A small shelf that’s the perfect size for bedside accouterments such as an alarm clock, notebook, and glass of water is the ideal storage solution for someone who can’t squeeze a traditional nightstand next to her bed. And notice how the “roof” not only accommodates a book, but also cleverly marks your place as well. But to cap it all off is the cute name that the designers at Ferm Living gave it: the “Studio.” Well, whether it’s displayed in a one-bedroom apartment or a studio, it’s still designed for someone with small living quarters! (Available via Huset.)

The Practical One


While perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, this organizer from Great Useful Stuff (they really get to the point with their name, don’t they?) is ideal for an entryway or office space. With some well-placed cables, it could even double as a charging station.

The Recycled One


This type of wall organizer appeals to two kinds of people: the green and the cheap. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with either one. And if you live in the Bay Area like I do, then you know that most people around here are both. Clean, recycled tin cans can be glued together into a pleasing design and then mounted on the wall, creating cubbyholes for pens, pencils, Berkeley Bowl coupons, and other odds and ends. Learn how to make your own at Green Upgrader. (Once again, not too subtle with the name there.)

The Classy One


Oh man, are those Jelly Belly jelly beans? Cotton Candy flavored ones? Or maybe Strawberry Daiquiri? Hmm, they could also be Bubble Gum, which is pretty blah as a flavor . . . er, sorry. Sometimes my sweet tooth overpowers my good-design tooth. These classy glass holders with zinc labels are from the RSH Catalog, and they were featured on HGTV’s Design

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The Simple One


See Jane Work is one of my favorite sites for online window shopping. One day when I have a corner office (as opposed to a desk in the break room), I’ll treat myself to some pretty patterned file folders and sophisticated desk accessories. But you don’t have to wait until you’re a C-level executive to use this incredibly simple and practical wall pocket. Its long trough shape accommodates just about anything. And because it’s metal, it can also serve as a magnetic message board. (Photo via Real Simple.)

The One from the Future


Umbra has some pretty cool, futuristic-looking home and organization accessories. This compact holder is as sleek and white as if it appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (It’s also available in espresso.) And it has nifty drop-down coat hooks as well.

The Reflecty One


This turquoise iron over-the-door vanity station from Urban Outfitters would be great for a dorm room, as it can also be hung over a door instead of mounted on the wall.

The Little House on the Prairie One


Finally, we go from romantic to rustic with this organizer made from reclaimed wood (also from Urban Outfitters). It has compartments for your things, coat hooks, and a chalkboard for messages. It’s cute one-room-schoolhouse look will fit right in with the rest of your stuff, if your style inspiration comes from Little House on the Prairie.

Photo credits: Each can be found by clicking the corresponding link in the caption.


Are You a Hoarder? How to Find Out (And Then Fix It)

Looking for a really quick way to tell whether or not you’re a hoarder? Try putting your head on a swivel and take a quick look around your apartment. Do you see piles upon piles of clutter? Yes, you do? Great. Now, do you think those piles are a problem? No, you don’t? Great. Now just keep reading because you’re probably wrong.

Hoarding tends to creep up on you. You never see it coming. Not to mention the fact that, according to the Huffington Post, “Between 2 and 5 percent of the U.S. population exhibits some hoarding behavior.” Are you in that 2 to 5 percent? Here are two easy ways to find out, and some ideas about what you can do about it if you are.

Take a Quiz

The easiest way to find out if you’re on the fast track to becoming a hoarder is to take one of myriad online quizzes. For the record, if you’re reading this article, then you probably already know that you’re a hoarder, and you can just skip this step. But hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? You can take a quiz here.

So how did you do? Oh boy, let’s keep reading then . . .

Ask for a Friend’s Objective Opinion

This might sound like crazy advice—especially if you’re embarrassed

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the interior of your home has become—but invite a couple of trusted friends to come over and give their honest opinions. Sure, you could ask your family; but if you actually listened to your family, chances are you’d have cleaned up that mess a long time ago. This can’t possibly be the first time you’ve been told you need to do so.

Make a Change

If you are in fact a hoarder, fear not! There is hope for you. Dr. Jack Samuels, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University, puts hoarding in the family of disorders that includes perfectionism, indecisiveness, and procrastination. In other words, when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, hoarding isn’t all that crazy.

Still, Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Johns Hopkins Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic, has a few handy suggestions that might help you recover from your stockpiling funk:

1. Immediately throw away or recycle junk mail and newspapers. Rather than let the junk mail and front pages pile up for days, weeks, months, years, or even decades, decide right away what needs to be thrown away. Did you hear me? RIGHT AWAY. You know you aren’t going to use those super-saver coupons. And, no, you really haven’t seen that man who’s been missing since 1974. Look at it and then trash it. Immediately.

2. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting a complete lifestyle overhaul in a single day. Do it in shifts, just a little bit at a time. Set aside a chunk of time every day to throw away junk, organize shelves, and declutter. After just a couple of weeks, you’ll see a big difference.

3. If you haven’t used it in 12 months, throw it away. This one can be tough. But if you’re getting serious about fixing your hoarding lifestyle, you’re going to have to get honest about the last time you really used something. Why are you hanging onto that 35mm camera you bought for your photography class at the local community college 15 years ago? Have you ever used that novelty boomerang your brother-in-law brought back from his honeymoon to Australia? If it hasn’t see the light of day in 12 months, it’s a pretty safe bet that you can throw it away or donate it and not think twice about it. You’re certainly not going to miss it. And once you start throwing a few things away, you’ll be surprised how much easier it gets.

Clear Away the Clutter

Whether your hoarding is bad enough that you need to hire a professional organizer to help you get started, or it’s just a matter of doing a small bit of New Year’s cleaning, use the impetus gained from your friends’ loving intervention, along with Dr. Nestadt’s sage advice, to retake control of your home—and your life!

And hey, not to toot our own horns here, but we might be able to help you out as well. If you can’t bring yourself to toss or give away all of your clutter, we’d love to stash some of it for you and free up space in your place. But whatever solution you choose, now is the time to take action. Carpe diem, oh Captain, my captain. Now get to it!