Clear the Clutter

Find more storage space in the closets you have, clear up floor space for improved livability and functionality without remodeling or adding on, and grow closer to your friends … all by getting organized. Who knew?

You’re finished with the hard part. You pared down your belongings and took the usable stuff to Goodwill or handed down the kids’ clothes and toys. All of your paperwork is filed. Old catalogs are recycled. And yet you still feel overwhelmed by clutter. Now what?

April Corrao, a designer with California Closets, says the age-old adage is true. Most people, she explains, struggle because they don’t have a specific place for everything. No matter the room, everything should be able to be put away. Corrao says that is where organizational systems for storage spaces are invaluable. “We’re able to help people out in their garage, pantry, mudroom, laundry rooms, wine bars, craft rooms, you name it,” she says. “Anything that can be organized, we can build a system for.”

A lot of people think they need more storage space, but what they really need is better storage space. Therein lies the beauty of organization systems: they can help you maximize the storage space that you already have. That way you can stow away more of your belongings when you’re not using them and yet find them easily. Not only does it conquer clutter, but it also improves the livability of the rest of your home when there aren’t piles of papers, stacks of shoes or other random items lying around.

Closets are obviously the first place people look for space, but homeowners need to be clever and flexible about finding additional storage space. Dawn Shaw, vice president of Shaw Building and Design, says homeowners are still incorporating desk areas into kitchens to help with bills and school paperwork, but they’re using cabinetry to hide flat-screen monitors when they’re not in use. They are also using stackable washers and dryers to optimize laundry-room space.

Sometimes the changes need to be bigger, such as “changing a wall or maybe taking out a large tub and putting in a shower to make room for a linen closet,” Shaw says. She advises clients to think about how they want to live in a room, not just what they want to store there. Shaw asks a battery of questions, including “what would you need in this room?” and “where do you want the TV to be?” to help her clients think more strategically about their homes and remodeling projects so that they don’t add space and still struggle with storage issues or livability.

Most of us, though, can find more storage and more functional living space without major remodeling. Shaw points out that a closet organization system in a bedroom can incorporate drawers and shelving, eliminating the need for some furniture. That opens up the room and makes it feel more spacious without actually adding square footage.

You also don’t need a giant walk-in closet to benefit from an organizational system. Corrao says a traditional closet is one of the best places to look for extra space. “You can actually gain quite a bit,” she says, noting that adding a second bar for hanging clothes and some shelving for shoes and sweaters can make a huge difference. “A lot of times you can get double the space, and you get the most out of your money.”

There are other benefits of an organized home, says Denis Pochevalov. “When homeowners frequently organize their homes, it takes less effort and stress when it comes to cleaning, “ says the owner of Cleaning Bees, which provides comprehensive cleaning services for homes and offices. Plus, it’s easier to clean the nooks and crannies when you can get to them.

Pochevalov also points out that getting organized at home can reduce your stress level. You know where things are, so you don’t have to waste time and energy looking for your keys before work or your son’s backpack as the bus pulls up to the house. It also saves money, Pochevalov says, because you don’t have to replace things that you can’t find (only to find them later when you’re looking for something else).

Sometimes the only thing lacking is motivation. Pochevalov notes that many of his clients often tell him that the one thing that really prompts them to clear the clutter and clean well is having company over. “I say, ‘invite over more people more often.’”

Pochevalov really isn’t off his rocker. The more you go through the routine of picking up, putting things away and cleaning, the easier it gets. Plus, having company over every now and then strengthens your social ties while you’re at it. Heck, if that’s what it takes to get you to dust and vacuum, it’s really not a bad idea … as long as you don’t mind cooking for a crowd.

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