How to Keep a Small Apartment Organized

Moving into a new apartment can be an unnerving task, especially one with confined space. Home organization is not an easy task. It can be challenging for many reasons, from cleanliness to maintaining systems. You might be wondering how you could fit all your belongings into such a small place, but the good news is there are multiple solutions available to help you organize your small space.A cluttered home leads to a cluttered mind. A messy place can never bring mental clarity. No matter how small the place is, if you follow the below-mentioned rules, any place can become a happy place.

Living Room Organizing for a More Pleasant Gathering Space

Since the living room is the place where you spend most of your time when entertaining others, it is best not to keep it cluttered at all. Jackets, coats, and bags occupy a lot of space. As a space-saving solution, install hooks just inside the front door. Creating a mudroom or command center allows you to immediately store your outerwear and bags as soon as you enter the home. Creating coat and bag storage also makes things easier for visitors. If you do not want to hook a nail on the wall or door, simply use sticky hooks. To keep your entertainment equipment safe and away from sight, you may also incorporate storage furniture that blends well with your living room furniture. Many coffee tables come with storage boxes.

Bedroom Organizing for Strategic Storage Solutions

Making your bed every day can be a game-changer in your quest to keep your bed organized. When your bed is neatly made, the rest of the room will automatically appear to be more organized.Many people do not like storing things under the bed as they do not often clean under the bed. As an alternative, you might prefer a bed with drawers. You can keep often used things or off-season clothes in the drawer under the bed. Hang a shoe organizer inside the closet. An over-the-door shoe organizer can hold all types of footwear that might otherwise be cluttering your bedroom. There are many closet organizers are also available in the market today that help you organize things in a very elegant way. There are wire closet organizers and wooden closet organizers. You can hang clothes, place shoes and handbags and even display decorative pieces.

Bathroom Organizing for Space Maximization

Bathrooms are even smaller spaces. Make sure you get rid of the things you don’t need. Install utilitarian storage containers where you can keep your toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries like soap and shampoo. Another small wall hanger can be installed to keep your hairdryer, etc.

Kitchen Organizing Solutions to Tame Clutter

The kitchen is another space that seems to attract clutter. Install wall hangers to hang the pots and pans. Use drawers and cabinets to store other utensils and cooking related gadgets. Keep items you seldom use on the top shelves.Take advantage of every hook and nook in the kitchen by installing a hanging spice rack. Place hanging storage containers at the back of the cabinet or pantry door to hold canned food or bottled food items.

By following some of the above-mentioned organizing suggestions, your small apartment will appear more orderly and spacious. A well-organized small apartment can feel as accommodating as any larger space as long as you keep these tips in mind.

Basic Closet Organization Strategy

One of the first questions I ask my clients who request closet organization help is: what is your morning routine? Next question: are you often late for work? The automatic follow-up that is: can you find your clothes easily in the morning?
If you struggle in these area, have no shame. You’re in good company. The following is a fairly simple approach to getting your clothes closet in order. One of the fantastic aspects of this basic system is it’s easy to learn and maintain. You can make it as complex and detailed as you’d like. I would advise adding more detail to the way you organize your closet ONLY if doing so would help you. It is entirely possible to get caught up in the act of organizing and get lost in the details.
Ideal Step 1: Purge your closet. Right now we are nearing the end of summer. The next couple weeks provide an excellent opportunity for you to assess spring and summer clothes you will look forward to replacing next year. If you are a person who likes to shop off season or during clearance sales, perfect! Get rid of some stuff before you go buy something new. Seriously. Do not allow yourself to go shopping for clearance items until you have purged.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I will proceed to the more realistic first step for those of us who may be trying to quickly throw our closet together either a) to avoid going insane because we can’t take it anymore or b) because we simply don’t have time to do a thorough purge over the next couple weeks because [insert legitimate reason]. No judgment whatsoever. Okay. Let’s start organizing!
Step 1: Bring all of your hanging clothes (within one closet) into view. You can leave it on the racks as long as you can see it all. Divide your closet based on intended purpose/frequency of use. For many of us, that means hanging all work clothes on one half of the closet and all non-work clothes on the other half. If you have special occasion items, separate them into their own category, preferably at one of the far ends of the closet (in the corner, following your work clothes would be a great place, assuming you dress up or wear a uniform for work).
Step 2: Once you’ve gotten all clothes on hangers and separated into their categories inside the closet [you should have 2 major categories per closet, no more than 3], sort all clothes within Category 1 [let’s call it Work Clothes] by type. This means you would hang all tops at the front of the Work Clothes section, followed by skirts, then pants, then dresses, then suits. Feel free to vary the order of clothing types for greater ease of access or enhanced visual effect–yes, your closet will also look pretty when you’re done. Or you may simply follow the order listed. I typically order clothing as described. Sometimes I vary when working within someone else’s closet.
 
Step 3: After grouping clothing according to type, work within each group, and sort all clothing according to color from lightest to darkest (or darkest to lightest with stripes and prints at the beginning of each color segment [i.e. pink butterfly shirt at the beginning of the pinks, which are located directly in front of the reds because pink is lighter than red, but in the same color family]).
Step 4: This may be more of a bonus step for some, but a necessity when I do my own closet. If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing well. Let’s kick things up a notch by…sorting all clothing (within each type) by weight and sleeve length. This means within Tops: tops with thin straps first, then sleeveless, then cap sleeves, then short sleeves, then 3/4-length, then long sleeves, finally sweaters. Skirts: short skirts, knee-length, calf-length (if you’re into that), ending with long skirts. The idea is to essentially keep lighter weight, cooler clothing to the front of each group and to progress to longer sleeves (or skirt length or pant legs).
This way, you can look at your closet and easily pull out your green beaded camisole without hesitation. Breath of fresh air, right? Ahhh….
 
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 3 [optionally 4] on the next category of clothing in your closet [If you divided your closet into Work and Play clothes, you would simply proceed on to the Casual side, sort and group all casual clothing accordingly]
This system has served me so well. I hope you also enjoy implementing it! It make getting back on track much easier when things go awry…as they sometimes do in the world of staying organized…

Getting Organized to Go Back to School: The Organized Lunch (Plastic-Free Edition)

Nowadays in the United States, bento boxes are on every store’s shelves in the food storage aisle. Derived from 5th century Japan, the bento box has long been an effective means of organizing and packing a lunch and taking it on the go. Today’s Western bento box is available in a variety of materials, most commonly plastic. Fortunately for those who are attempting to reduce or eliminate household plastics due to health or environment concerns, bento boxes can be found in more stable materials. In addition to bento boxes, you will also find plastic-free utensils, water bottles, and neoprene eco-friendly, insulating lunch bags that can be used for packing lunches.  All items are relatively affordably priced, especially considering the ease of cleaning in a dishwasher without fear of the material leeching, melting, or becoming warped.

Made from a more traditional material, this wood bento box is microwave safe.

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Stainless Steel Bento Boxes – avoid microwaving

200-Pack of Wooden Disposable Forks  (only $15.95!)

Silicone Snack Containers!

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

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Neoprene and Other Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags

Neoprene – purportedly keeps food hot or cold for up to four hours

Insulated Reusable Tyvek Brown Bag

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Thermal Insulated Aluminum Foil and Pearl Cotton Bag

Starting Point

Probably the most common challenges people face after deciding to get organized is figuring out where to start. It is at this point that a person is likely taking in the view of the disorganization in its entirety and feeling overwhelmed. My number one secret to starting virtually any organizing project is actually quite simple: categorize, categorize, categorize.

The easiest way to begin categorizing a pile of “clutter” is to start by grouping “like with like.” If a closet requires more organization, gather all the shirts with shirts, pants with pants, belts with belts, etc. The basic act will bring clarity and allow the clothing to be further organized by season, fabric weight, color, casual vs. formal, or in any other way that will make the closet more visually appealing and accessible.

Organizing a “junk drawer” or items that may be stored on an exposed surface like the top of a dresser may seem more daunting. Nevertheless, the same principle applies. When grouping items in these types of situations, I highly recommend maintaining groups by using drawer dividers or small baskets/boxes/bins/drawer organizers that are of an appropriate size. A key advantage to creating and maintaining categories is by doing so, you will gain a better sense of which items can and should be readily purged.

By teaching yourself to quickly categorize the items in your living or work space, you will likely find that, after your first attempt at organizing, you will be required to spend less time maintaining your newly organized space. And when it is time to reorganize or purge, being able to assess items by category may also make the process seem less overwhelming.

Definitive Guide to Buying Makeup Storage Supplies

This installment of my “Definitive Guides” focuses on makeup storage solutions. The product that works best for us will heavily depend on the amount of makeup you own. Nevertheless, below is a diverse assortment of makeup storage options:

[The following images are Amazon affiliate links. Therefore, Amazon will compensate me a small percentage for each sale made through these links (each of which takes you directly to the product page on Amazon’s official website). The purchases price on your end will remain the same regardless.]

 

Keep products secure with pull-out drawers!

For the light makeup user

Build a well-organized makeup tower!

Got Palettes?

Both pieces included!

Interchangeable Design!

Brush storage options:

Definitive Guide to Buying Closet Organizing Supplies

After seeing how helpful the moving supplies guide has been, I decided to begin work on my second “Definitive Guide.” Below are some of the most commonly prescribed closet organizing tools I recommend to clients. [Note: the following links are Amazon Affiliate links. As an affiliate, Amazon compensates me with a small percentage of each sale that is made through the links listed below].

Shelf dividers can save a great deal of frustration when storing folded clothing on shelf space. Dividers are available in a variety of materials. It is important to measure the thickness of your closet shelf before purchasing to ensure the divider will attach. If your shelves are too thick for dividers, there are other options (such as fabric cubes and baskets) for keeping folded clothing and linens organized on shelves.

Wire Shelf Dividers

“Platinum” Shelf Dividers

Unbreakable Acrylic Shelf Dividers

Baskets – I am a fan of keeping folded clothing and linens contained, but visible. One of my favorite hacks is to place a stack folded items into a basket or fabric cube HORIZONTALLY, which allows you to see all the folded edges when looking into the basket. Then place the basket onto the shelf on its side. Doing so grants total visibility of the stack of clothes you wish to keep folded. Baskets may be used in their traditional manner (with the opening facing the top) for items you wish to store on a shelf, but don’t require visibility.

 

Java – Set of 3

Seville Classics Hand-Woven – Set of 2

Fabric Storage Cubes – Alternative to basket storage; also useful in various other areas in the home. Low-cost and efficient way to organize items on shelves, including folded clothing.

 

 

Shoes & Boots – Virtually every U.S. household has multiple pairs of shoes. Depending on the climate, some also have boots. Most of us in the NYC area have both. Here are a few tools that will help you store them neatly and keep them off the floor.
10-Tier Space-Saving Shoe Rack

3-Tier Shoe Rack

Over-the-Door Shoe Rack – 36 Pair!

Hanging Boot Storage

Boot Shaper Inserts

 

 

 

Linen Storage – Many of us change linens with the seasons. There are several items that can help you store heavy blanks and large comforters when they are not in use.

Linen Storage Bag

Vacuum Storage Bags – I should not that I very much prefer the vacuum bags that require vacuum suction versus the bags that require folding and manual removal of excess air. When using a vacuum storage back, I typically vacuum out the air until the fabrics transform into a solid rectangular block.

 

 

 

Hangers – 99% of households have closets with a hanging rod. The type of clothes hanger you choose can actually help save space and improve the aesthetics of your closet.

Velvet Hanger – These are thin, strong, and available in a variety of colors; perfect for color-coding the clothing categories within your closet. I mean. If you’re into that.

Recommended Service: Plum Print

Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles often struggle with deciding what to do with artwork created by the kid artist in their lives. We all know that it is impractical to keep every single masterpiece your little loved one produces. But what if you could have all your favorite pieces digitized and compiled into a beautiful and convenient art book?

Thanks to Plum Print, you can now have your child’s artwork compiled into one book or produced into a variety of other home decor products, including shower curtains, pillows, and calendars. To start the process, visit the website to learn how to mail your artwork in a prepaid box supplied by Plum Print [Note: As an affiliate, Plum Print compensates me for every order it receives through my customized link: plumprint.com/helpmelanda.] . After creating your online portfolio, the company will then email you a proof, at which point, you may approve the digitized artwork and select and order the products you wish to have made from it.

Get started today, and receive $10 off your first order!

Let’s Get Personal

It’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of people who meet me, especially in a work capacity, view me as a “solutions-oriented” personality. The minute a problem arises, I quickly begin the process of finding and evaluating the best possible solutions. It’s pretty automatic. Sometimes process starts well before a potential problem can arise. Nevertheless, I recognize I don’t have all the answers […at least not immediately?]. In fact, I’ve found that my willingness to be “human” and to share the fruits of my own [admittedly sometimes wacky] trial-and-error episodes brings an added level of comfort and relatability when working with clients. I was at a workshop for startup founders and entrepreneurs tonight when the obvious occurred to me: I should be bringing that level of humanness to my blog. And with that, I’d like to introduce the #ItsPersonal tag!

My journey as an entrepreneur is fertile ground for the very same lessons and principles I impart to my clients day in and day out, week after week. I’m a believer in teaching and encouraging by example. Tonight, in a lightning bolt-esque moment, it occurred to me that others may also be able to learn and grow by getting an inside look at my own exercise in diligently applying the life-changing concepts I’m always sharing with others.

Through my #ItsPersonal posts, I will aim to share more of my personal insights as a young business owner (along with other more personal stories that impact me as an entrepreneur and as a pro organizer). I hope my stories will leave readers feeling motivated, inspired, (and maaaybe a little entertainment…).

In closing, I will highlight a particular principle that especially rang true for me today and inspired this post (…and the #ItsPersonal posts that will follow): sometimes you just have to pick a starting point and GO!

I’ve probably coached hundreds of people in taking the initiative to “launch,” whether it was the beginning of an organizing project, researching a next move, pursuing a dream, going abroad, applying for schools… But very recently, I’ve been quietly struggling with having several business-related ideas and choosing which to pursue…and in what order. After narrowing the  list down to the most immediately feasible, I still found myself procrastinating and unnecessarily dragging out the regular tasks on my daily to-do lists–anything to avoid taking decisive action.  Today, I was reminded that there comes a point at which there is one thing left to do, and it’s to take the first step forward. After taking that step, however large or small, you can always step backward, continue along the same trajectory, or even go left or right. But once you’ve planned, deliberated, and identified a goal, there is one guarantee: the act of standing in place won’t bring you any closer to it… #ItsPersonal

 

 

 

 

How to Tame Your Junk Mail

Despite the tremendous technological advances mankind has achieved, most of us still have a steady stream of “junk mail” that enters our home. Junk mail is one of the most common obstacles that separates households from becoming organized. Some people allow their mail to accumulate on a desk or table that is typically located near the front door, where the mail makes its entrance. Others simply stash unwanted mail into a large bin or trash bag with the intent to sort and declutter by eventually shredding the excess paper.

The following suggestions will help you avoid the massive pileup that often results after weeks, months, and after especially years of an unaddressed influx of mail.

1. Go Paperless – Unless you require paper copies of bills and statements, paperless is the way to go. Virtually all financial institutions and utility providers offer–and even prefer–e-statements, which can be accessed online or received through email, depending on the issuer.

2. Create a System – Most homes need a system by which mail can be quickly and easily divided AS SOON AS IT ENTERS THE HOUSEHOLD. I recommend using a hanging mail sorter like the one below. One tray should be labeled “IMMEDIATE” for mail that requires immediate attention. The second tray should be labeled “NON-URGENT” for mail that requires action within the next several weeks or months (i.e. renewing a magazine subscription). I also highly recommend placing a basket or small bin labeled “RECYCLING” directly under the mail sorter.  This is where junk mail should go as soon as it enters the home.

Hanging mail sorter example (Amazon affiliate link):

3. Schedule time for upkeep – You will need to schedule time to address your junk mail organizational system. Otherwise it will overflow. I recommend setting aside an hour weekly to (1) address any lingering urgent mail, (2) move non-urgent items that are approaching their deadline to the urgent box, and (3) empty the recycling bin (and prepare it for curbside pickup if offered in your community). The weekly hour of mail decluttering can be scheduled concurrently with another activity, for example, if you are a person who enjoys watching television or listening to podcasts. It may also be easier to tackle a task like mail intake as an end-of-day cleanup activity before going to bed. Although I am recommending an hour, most households that address their mail weekly will likely need far less time to complete this task.

4. Deal with currently overflowing junk mail bags and bins – Many of us already have a stash of junk mail we “intended to go through and shred.” Over time, looking at that pile can become overwhelming. While the best approach is to simply go through and shred all the unwanted mail at once, many people may feel they simply do not have the energy. If this is the case, I would advise dividing the backlogged mail and setting goals (i.e. sorting and shredding 1/4 of the pile Monday, another 1/4 Friday, and so on until it’s gone). The important elements in this less intensive, “incremental” approach to decluttering mail are 1) setting clear goals and a realistic, but productive timeline and 2) being diligent in execution. If you set a productive timeline and stick to it, your pile of junk mail will be gone in seemingly no time, and your only related weekly task will be basic upkeep of your new system.

The key to both overcoming and avoiding junk mail clutter is to work at it strategically and consistently over time.

 

Economics and Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method

Famed Japanese home organization consultant Marie Kondo has inspired millions around the world to focus on optimizing their home environment. Although the thought of organizing and “de-cluttering” is a source of dread for many, Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has performed tremendously from Tokyo to New York City. What is it about a book on home organizing that appeals to so many?

Kondo helps readers conceptualize their home organization and storage habits by utilizing basic economic concepts. Through these concepts, the author translates the oftentimes daunting language of organizing to everyday, palatable lingo. She effectively guides the reader along the path of uncovering the very psychological correlations between organizational habits and psychology.

The Sunk-Cost Fallacy in Organizing

In economic terms, a sunk cost is a past cost that has already been paid and cannot be recovered. This term is highly applicable when it comes to organizing and is a major setback for many individuals who struggle to donate or discard unused items. For example, an individual may purchase a fruit bowl or even a small kitchen appliance while it is on sale and later decide not to use the item because the colors clash with the current decorating theme or because there is simply not enough space on the kitchen counter. Over time, the new purchase remains unused, and the individual may or may not realize the item is not really a necessity. However, the item remains in place because it is perpetually regarded as a “purchase” that went unused and may still be of use at a later date. Meanwhile, the item takes up space in the home and will likely never be used because it does not meet a more urgent need in the household.

When sorting through closet and storage spaces, remaining honest about an item’s realistic potential for use is paramount. While I, personally, do not aggressively focus on forcing clients to discard items simply for the sake of getting rid of things, I do encourage my clients to audibly talk through the way in which the item came into the home and list realistic pros and cons of keeping the item. At that point, the individual is typically able to make a firm, practical decision about whether the item should go or stay.

The Folly of Prediction in Sorting and Purging

More thoroughly explained in the Freakonomics podcast, the folly of prediction simply acknowledges that, in the grand scheme, human beings are often terrible at making accurate predictions. How does this relate to organizing? Marie Kondo uses this fallacy as a basis for utilizing current valuation of an object to determine whether to keep or remove it from the household. Common examples include clothes that are a few sizes too small or books that have already been read. At this point, my method diverges from the KonMari method slightly in that I typically do not insist on a client getting rid of clothing that is within a couple sizes of his or her current weight or donating favorite books if a) there is space to store the items within easy reach OR neatly within plain sight and b) the client establishes or is clearly working on an organized plan to get back into the smaller clothing size or reread the book. Other examples include housewares and decorations that were purchased for a specific purpose and will likely never be used again. Board games and toys that never see the light of day should also be considered through this lens in most cases.

Status Quo Bias and Preventing the Accumulation of “Clutter”

Under the status quo bias, as it relates to organizing, many people are governed by the belief that they should keep an item in the home if they cannot think of a reason to discard the object. Here Marie Kondo employs a dramatic switch that I find to be the most life-changing of all the economic concepts discussed: she suggests changing the status quo to one under which no item is kept in the home unless there is a valid reason to hold onto it. Under the suggested status quo, most of us would be opting for online bank, credit card, and utility statements, recycling empty bags and boxes, no longer keeping massive collections of old, unused plastic food storage containers. The average American household would be drastically different in form and, to a significant degree, in function. We would no longer need to go out and purchase new stuff to help us store our old stuff.

What would we do with all that extra space? Imagine how much more “living” we could do in our home environments…

For more information about the interplay between the KonMari method and economics, check out this  Atlantic editor’s personal experience.