Smart Design With Suzette: Organization

Organized closet. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

Happy New Year! Many New Year’s resolutions involve getting organized. Disorganization puts tremendous pressure on both the mind and the body. Taking the time to organize your home can lift a great weight off of your shoulders and reduce stress.

But let’s face it, getting organized can be difficult and time consuming. One of the toughest part is getting starting and knowing the process. Here are some tips to help you.

Clear Out Some Clutter

The first step is to get rid of things you don’t need. This requires the most time on your part. Give yourself an hour at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Start with sorting items into four categories. Label a bag or bin for each category:

  • Giveaway/Donate
  • Keep
  • Sell
  • Throw out/recycle

Inside the Closet…

Now that you know what you have to work with it becomes easier to organize the items you have kept. I usually recommend a custom closet system. For my clients, I determine needs for things like long and short hanging items, cubbies for folded items, how many shoes, etc., then design a system specifically based on those needs. Baskets and drawers are great for keeping like items together, or for small items. They also allow you to toss things in easily and hide the mess.  

I was able to get rid of a 5-drawer dresser after I designed a custom closet system for my master bedroom. A well-designed closet utilizes wasted space so you can put more clothes in. Yay!

Motivate Yourself with Matching Hangers

No, having matching hangers in your closet won’t magically make it more organized, but don’t underestimate the perceived impact of a matched set. Besides, swapping out the old hangers is the perfect excuse to rehang pieces in their proper place and makes it more difficult to ignore those wire hangers from the dry cleaners for months on end.

Visually Merchandise at Home

Make your hanging strategy to put like with like (for instance, having all your dresses in one place), but then take it one step further and implement an organizing system by color from light to dark, just as a retail store would. Also, hanging pants folded in half could potentially open up some space below for a second closet bar.

Protect Your Shoe Investments

If you don’t have built-in shoe storage, clear shoebox-size plastic bins will save your shoe splurges from collecting dust and the wear and tear of piling while allowing you to stack them to take advantage of vertical space. Consider loading an under-bed bin with off-season or less frequently worn pairs. Rediscovering them after a time will provide clarity around which pairs you missed and what you can live without.


Each season you should sort through your wardrobe. Make sure that the items you have are really needed, still useful and that you can find what you need when you need it.

Inside Dresser Drawers…

Divide the Space
Unless your dresser has drawers of varying sizes, in which case you’re ahead of the game, it’s important to compartmentalize drawer space when storing small items such as socks, jewelry and underwear. Dividers are your first line of defense and range in sizes to match the job.

Store Items Used Often Higher
When designating drawer space, think about how often certain items are used. Undergarments should be on top, while seasonal items like bulky sweaters can be kept in the lower drawers.

Avoid Overstuffing
If your dresser drawers require a certain amount of cramming to close, it’s time for another audit and edit. The key to staying organized is to make things easy to access and then put away. Having to remove four sweaters to get to the one on the bottom will only result in more mess to deal with.

Inside the Linen Closet…

Assign Areas

Having sheets interspersed with towels is only going to drive you nuts when you know just what sheets you want for the guest room. Instead, divide the space using shelf dividers with bedding in one distinct stack, towels in another, and table linens in a third.

Keep Sets Together

Tuck your folded flat and fitted sheets inside the matching pillowcases before storing, and tie up towel sets, stacked largest to smallest, with a bit of ribbon. These small steps take almost no extra time but will certainly pay off in time saved.

Inside the Medicine Cabinet…

Store Things Upright

Cups and containers that fit on those shallow shelves are game changers when organizing a medicine cabinet. They save space, are great for corralling and (keeping clean) makeup brushes, toothbrushes, and nail clippers, and keep small items like hair ties from magically disappearing.

Keep Only What You Use

Chances are any products you’re using on a regular basis will run out well before the expiration date, so if something has been hanging around for more than a year it’s likely it won’t get used. Toss it! If you’re a serial product swapper, set a cap at storing, say, three of any one type of product at any given time.

Embrace Pouches

Just as pouches help you maintain order in your bag, they are perfect for keeping your makeup in order and easy to grab and go if needed. Task-specific pouches, like one with all your nail-care tools, eliminate the need for foraging in multiple places.

Inside the Kitchen Pantry…

Decant (Almost) Everything

Opened boxes of food such as cereal and pasta always seem to look messy, and those items are best stored in airtight containers anyway. Decant these items into clear containers whenever possible. Items such as teas and grains should be kept in tightly covered jars to maximize shelf life.

Try Using Trays or Bins

One easy technique for organizing pantry shelves is to use trays or bins to corral items used together, such as baking supplies, or extra oils and vinegars that aren’t used every day. This way you can pull the tray out entirely or just inch it out a bit to grab something from the back.

Keep Components Together

The odds that you’ll give that delicious-looking recipe a go are far lower if you end up spending 30 minutes hunting down small appliance parts. Keep items such as mixers and spinners together with their various parts and somewhere accessible, even if it’s high up.

In General – Set Boundaries

If you really want to get organized you have to set boundaries for yourself. When you want to buy something new, something old has to go! Give it to family, friends, donate or recycle.

Countless families are overwhelmed by household clutter. Now that you know the basics to organization, you can move on to organize other rooms in your home. The most important thing is to be able to spend more time with family and friends. De-cluttering and organizing helps make that happen.

For help with your home, contact Suzette through her website or on Facebook at

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