We’ve all been there. Looking for an item like a box of pasta in the pantry or an extra bar of soap under the bathroom sink, only to discover a mess of clutter. Even the most organized people have areas they neglect in their homes, especially those who live in apartments and condos where storage space is at a premium.
If you’re looking to have a more organized space, it’s crucial to keep even hidden and unexpected areas neat and clean. Sometimes it's obvious what's disturbing the peace, like the gazillion cosmetics on show, but sometimes you can't quite put your finger on what's making your home feel cluttered. So I spoke with professional organizers to learn exactly which spots their clients often forget about when organizing, as well as how to sort them out and keep them that way.
Whether you're getting a studio straight or tackling a bigger rental with roomies, there are a ton of cute home organization products out there right now so that decluttering can be done asap and with your home's aesthetic in mind.
1. Junk drawers
Ah, the Junk Drawer—we all have one. Those catch-all spaces that hold everything from pens to vitamins we no longer take, unused kitchen gadgets, and other miscellanies. Junk drawers are by design, filled with items we forget to declutter. But instead of neglecting these spaces, we need to go ahead and tackle them before doing anything else, explains professional organizer Shantae Duckworth. “This process usually takes about half an hour and, most importantly, it’ll give you that boost to conquer the other areas in the home.”
Much like when organizing kitchen drawers, Duckworth suggests starting by removing everything from the drawer, getting rid of what you no longer use, cleaning it, and then measuring for organizing containers. Make sure you have your favorite eco-friendly cleaning products to hand before you start! Remember that anything you find aesthetically pleasing, move it up top and keep it on display with a cute tray or colorful storage bin.
Most people are in and out of their pantries so often that these spaces just seem to attract messes. Regular pantry editing and maintenance is important because you don’t want to accidentally eat or serve expired food. Duckworth notes how “Pantries tend to have deep cabinets so we tend to forget about the food that has already been purchased, and we go out and repurchase the same items," recommending to pull everything out and check expiration dates to see what food is still fine to keep and what should be composted or thrown away. If you have roomies, set up an organization date night to make it more "fun", then trawl through all of your food so that everyone can come to an agreement about what needs to go.
To maintain a neat pantry, Duckworth advises checking your pantry to see what you have before your next trip to the grocery store. “I started my organizing journey I couldn’t tell you how many cans of tomatoes I had in my pantry that we were continuously going out and re-purchasing.”
3. Linen closets
Who doesn’t have a bunch of old towels they’re saving for the beach or to dry off the dogs on a rainy day? While many of us go into our linen closets regularly, we also forget to organize them. “The linen closet, in my opinion, tends to be a place where people put things that they can’t fit into a junk drawer,” says Duckworth. “The linen closet should be organized with items that you use, such as towels and bedding, maybe cleaning supplies. It tends to be the place that people will put a whole bunch of random stuff into if company is coming over, or if they don’t have a designated home for things.”
Start the cleaning process by removing everything from the space and then edit. If you have ripped or stained bedding or towels, get rid of them or look into donating these items to a local animal shelter. Alternatively, stained hand towels can find a new purpose as cleaning rags. Duckworth recommends keeping two sets of sheets per bed and three towels per person in each household.
“Most people will find items and linens that they haven’t seen in years. To organize the space, I would definitely recommend getting some clear acrylic bins, that way you can easily see everything in each bin, and it gives the closest a sense of formality,” adds Duckworth. Note that woven bins are cute too.
4. Under the sink
Under the sink spaces tend to be a black hole of cleaning products and unused personal care items. What makes these areas even more of a challenge to maintain is having to work around pipes. “When it comes to these areas I always tell clients to really analyze what they want to keep in the space because it is valuable real estate. This is also a great time to look at your cleaning supplies and maybe invest in some all-purpose cleaners, that way you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of different products when you could just get one product and save some space and money,” says Duckworth.
For these areas, the organizer suggests using Lazy Susans with multiple compartments. “That way you have space for your cleaning supplies, your garbage bags, sponges, and other items. It’s also great to invest in some over-the-hook storage to be able to put towels or sponges to maximize space.” These work well for organizing kitchen sinks but also in bathrooms.
How to keep these spaces tidy
“I find the best method for busy people to tackle clutter is to schedule an uninterrupted appointment with yourself," Professional organizer Marcia Sloman, of Under Control Organizing tells me. "Decide on a small area to start (like a drawer), and set a timer for 30 minutes. Sort out the stuff into defined categories. See how far you get (in your designated time frame), then put it all away for another 30 minutes. The key to success is leaving enough time to clear the deck.”
Sloman also recommends decluttering as new things come into the home. “When one new item comes in, one to two go out. This particularly applies to new clothing, accessories, and cosmetics, think ahead about where they will be stored.”