Home organization isn’t just about buying a bunch of plastic storage bins. It’s a way of life.

It helps when all members of a household are on the same page when it comes to organizing. If one person is a minimalist and another is a collector, it can lead to clashes. But even in those situations, there can be compromise.

“An organized home doesn’t have to look sparse,” said professional organizer Standolyn Robertson, owner of Los Angeles, CA-based Things in Place Organizing Services. “I like the idea of people surrounding themselves with things they love, as long as they can manage them.”

Some people will keep too-small baby clothes and old cribs in the garage while parking their $50,000 car in the driveway.
— Professional organizer Standolyn Robertson

When it comes to organizing your home, experts agree that it’s important to be diligent about removing unneeded items on a regular basis. It’s also helpful to designate locations for similar things so they’re always easy to find.

“One of the things I always tell people is to cut yourself some slack,” said Robertson, past president of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). “Disorganization doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to clear up overnight. Go in with a plan and an understanding of your household works.”

Here are five tips for getting your house in tip-top shape.

1. Develop a System for Purging.

Professional organizer Barry Izsak, founder of Austin, TX-based Arranging it All, thinks purging should be the first step in organizing.

“Remove the things you don’t need. In order to do that, you need to get like things together,” said Izsak, past president of NAPO. “That’s when you find out you have 10 pair of black pants or 16 Phillips-head screwdrivers, or 27 Tupperware containers of the same size.”

Barry Iszak
Barry Izsak emphasizes the need to purge unwanted belongings.

Izsak suggests making easy, unemotional decisions first. Get rid of things that are broken, worn-out or don’t fit.

Professional organizer Barbara Reich, owner of New York City, NY-based Resourceful Consultants, recommends purging young children’s items like clothing and toys on an almost seasonal basis.

“The younger they are, the quicker they outgrow things,” she said. “There’s less urgency around it as they get older.”

2. Keep Related Things Together.

In your bedroom closet, for instance, put skirts together, and then organize them by color. Elsewhere, work on creating kits to organize items that go together: a cookie-making kit, a first-aid kit, a dye-my-hair kit.

3. Label, Label, Label.

Label boxes, bins and even rooms, Robertson said. Even label your time. “Homework time, dinner time—this helps both adults and kids manage their business better,” she said.

4. Scope Out Your Space.

Give plenty of thought to where you put things. It might seem obvious, but it’s important to keep things you use a lot at your fingertips or at least in an accessible place. Put seasonal items higher up or out of the way, and retrieve them when you need them.

Barbara Reich
Barbara Reich says your garage shouldn’t be a “junk station.”

Things you don’t need on a regular basis can go in the basement, in the attic or in a self-storage unit.

“Some people will keep too-small baby clothes and old cribs in the garage while parking their $50,000 car in the driveway,” Robertson said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

To Reich, a garage shouldn’t be a “junk station”. If you’re not going to park your car there, then treat it like any other room that’s got indoor/outdoor carpeting.

5. Match the Bins.

Back to those plastic storage bins. If you are going to buy some, at least make sure they’re uniform in appearance.

“Get bins that match,” Reich said. “When you have uniformity of storage—whether it be hangers, bins or boxes—it eliminates visual noise. It makes things not only easier to find but aesthetically pleasing.”

Top image courtesy of Michelle Lehman