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Home & Garden

An organizer’s top strategies for problem areas of the home

Organizing is always a popular topic around the new year, as people resolve to de-clutter, de-stress and generally start over with a clean slate. We asked Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton, owner and founder of Organizing Maniacs in Tysons Corner, Virginia, for her advice about some of the biggest problem areas in people’s homes.

1. Play rooms

Storage needs to be safe and secure, but it needn’t be primary-colored plastic. Wicker baskets can work either on the wall (mounted shelving units) or the floor (baskets lined up in a row). For smaller children, consider a vertical storage solution that hangs on the wall. “That would prevent them from easily getting to them and would give you more control over what they can get at any one time,” Sgrott-Wheedleton says.

As for larger furniture, storage benches can work well, but like any piece of furniture (dressers, shelves, desks or anything else on which a child can climb) always anchor them to a stud in the wall.

2. Filing cabinets

It’s all too easy to let filing cabinets become a dumping zone for loose paper – out of sight, out of mind. But Sgrott-Wheedleton doesn’t mind them, as long as they are used properly. “Keeping paperwork for the sake of keeping paperwork is where we get into trouble,” she says. “Take some time to weed out the old and think about organizing what’s important.”

If your filing cabinet already is a disaster, set a timer for an hour a day until you’ve sorted through everything, starting with the oldest paperwork. “It will be easier to purge things, and you’ll start to feel more confident moving forward.”

3. Closets

If your closet is a mess, don’t try to tackle it all at once. “I take it all out, evaluate what I have, what fits and doesn’t, organize that shelf, bag the donations and then evaluate my time again to see about starting another shelf,” (Sgrott-Wheedleton says. “The secret to success is breaking down every project into smaller projects and taking each one to completion. It will build your confidence, and you’ll accomplish the small wins and keep you motivated to continue organizing.”

If you’re planning a closet from scratch, remember to use as much of the vertical space as possible. For a DIY closet system, Sgrott-Wheedleton loves ClosetMaid available at Home Depot. For shoes, she recommends stacking containers on shelves, using over-the-door organizers or placing a rack on the closet floor.

4. Bathrooms

Too many products? Not everything can be donated, and sometimes you have to just throw stuff away. Sgrott-Wheedleton recommends checking with a local shelter to see what its policies are. Some will accept half-full, non-perfumed lotions.

5. Mailboxes

Make bills a priority and put them in a safe place, such as a basket, bin or drawer. “The important part here is to not throw anything else in that safe place,” Sgrott-Wheedleton says. “Bills only!”

If automatic bill pay is an option, that will take one more thing off your plate each month.

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