7 genius organizing tips we learned from home editing

Every year, our Real Simple Home is bursting with design ideas we’d love to try—but it might be the clever organizing ideas that end up transforming our homes the most. This year, we teamed up with the organizing pros at The Home Edit to help declutter the refrigerator, utility closet, and other clutter-prone areas around the home. After liking The Home Edit’s color-coded cabinets on Instagram and watching them grace the spaces of celebrities on their own Netflix show, we thought we knew all the techniques for breaking the clutter (the rainbow arrangement, right?). As it turns out, they had a few other tricks up their sleeves. Home editorial experts Alli Bridgers, Emily Shreve, and Shaina Burrell helped us tidy up every corner of the three-story home and we knew we’d been organizing our refrigerators wrong.

Take a virtual tour of the real minimalist home here!

For more tips on arranging, check out the new special edition magazine Joanna Taplin and Clay Shearer, founders of The Home Edit, Home Editing: Good Organization. You may be inspired to actually organize that junk drawer.

Christopher Testany

Order your refrigerator

If you’re currently stacking yogurt cups and placing produce on the open shelves in your fridge, you’re doing it wrong. Clear storage boxes will preserve items while making it easy to see what’s inside. With clear boxes designed specifically for everything from berries to veggies, it’s easy to see when you’re running out of eggs or if you’ve got excess carrots that you might want to work into your dinner plans. Produce hidden near the back of the shelf tends to go rancid until you find it runny weeks later, but if labeled in clear bins, it’s easy to spot when the greens are less than fresh.

To maintain order, label each basket. “Fridge items have a high turnover rate, so use general categories. Try ‘veggies’ and ‘seasonings’, not ‘cucumbers’ and ‘mayonnaise’,” The Home Edit experts say. “This ensures that everything will always have a home!” Shaina explains.

Follow the 80/20 rule

“You get the element or the space; you don’t get both,” says the homepage editorial team. “Live by the 80/20 rule: Keep your home in no more than 80 percent stock and leave at least 20 percent for breathing room.” Allowing for some open space will help your home feel calmer and less chaotic. Let this principle guide each room in general (no, you don’t need to cover every wall with art or fill your floor space with furniture), as well as smaller spaces. For example, if you have bookshelves in the living room, fill them 80 percent of the way with books, collectibles, and decorative objects. Leave 20 percent open.

Make organizing intuitive

According to The Home Edit, refrigerators and pantries tend to be some of the hardest places to keep tidy because they are high-traffic areas frequented by all members of the family. They explain: “Everyone in the home uses it every day, from adults to children. This means that the system must be intuitive and easy to use for all ages.” If the system you’re using simply isn’t working, try something more realistic and less ambitious. Labeled, color-coded boxes make it easy for everyone to know what belongs where. Consider keeping kid-friendly snacks on a lower shelf so little ones can help themselves. Arrange labeled boxes of liquids, cheese sticks, and condiments where you tend to store these items, rather than creating a new system that goes against the habits you’ve already established.

Christopher Testany

Stop hoarding clothes you don’t wear

The biggest closet organization mistake the Homepage editorial team sees regularly? They say “when people hold on to things they never wear”. “It’s just a waste of space! If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably never will.” Sure, you can ask if she’s making a splash or show her a list of questions, but if you haven’t removed her from the fold in the past 12 months, you probably won’t in the next 12 months, either.

“Clothes can be tricky because there is an emotional aspect to getting rid of clothes,” says The Home Edit. “Instead of going through each item of clothing individually, start by grouping them into categories. This will help you see where there are unnecessary duplicates and which items are worth keeping.” Strict rules (such as a 12-month time limit) and practical considerations (such as frequency) may help you make more reasonable decisions when it comes to de-regulation.

Exchange clothes with the seasons

Unless you have a massive wardrobe with ample space for every single item you own, you’ll want to reorganize your closet as the seasons change. “Winter coats don’t have to be front and center in the summer,” says Shayna. Instead, move seasonal clothing to areas that are easy to reach, and store out-of-season items in breathable boxes with lids or airtight bags. Not only will your clothes have more room to breathe, but you’ll warm up more quickly when you can see all of the seasonal items at eye level.

Remember: cleaning is not organizing

Say it with us now: cleaning is not the same as organizing. Cleaning can include sweeping away dust, sweeping up debris, and getting rid of piles of old mail. Whereas organization is all about creating systems that maintain order in your home. “If you don’t create a sustainable system, chaos is bound to re-emerge. If you take the time to think about your habits, your home, and your lifestyle, you can create smart solutions that you can sustain,” Shayna says. Far from simply throwing things away and putting them away, organizing your home requires careful consideration of where and how you store items. Every household is different and the storage systems you choose should be customized to fit your family’s living style.

Christopher Testany

Organize according to how you shop

If your utility closet and pantry were neat and tidy until you got home from Costco and suddenly toilet paper is falling off the shelves and giant snack packages are piling up on the floor, you may need to reorganize according to how you shop. “If you’re buying in bulk, make sure there’s room for surplus items that won’t fit in your containers,” recommends Home Edit. “If you have a large supply of snacks, set aside a few boxes for those items so you’re not cramming everything into one bowl.”

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