Published on January 29, 2020

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Photography by Sara Tramp-Ligorria for Emily Henderson Design

I’m a pretty tidy person. I’ve employed Monica Geller–level tactics in keeping my space clutter-free, save for a few strategically placed decorative vessels, so much so that the first thing new guests say when they come over is, “Wow, your apartment is so tidy.” (The second thing they say is, “What’s with all the vases?”) 

But, really, the whole thing is a facade: Peek behind any closed drawer, and you’ll find a jumble of mismatched, orphaned items that I don’t know where else to store. There’s a mix of practical things, like doctor’s bills, and sentimental ones, like the long-expired coupons for blush that my grandma once sent me with a letter—despite the fact that I’ve never in my life worn blush, I can’t bear to part with them.  

Clearly, it was time for me to call in an expert. Enter: Ann Dooley, professional organizer and KonMari consultant. I sent her a list of all the hard-to-organize things the Domino team tends to collect (and then has a hard time figuring out how to arrange). And, with the caveat that you should check on each piece’s unique joy-sparking status before storing anything, she gave some solutions to our toughest decluttering dilemmas: 

Birthday Cards

“Keep only the ones that are very special to you—the ones that make you smile big or get misty-eyed,” says Dooley. Instead of having them all loose in a drawer, she recommends turning them into an album. Hole punch your favorites and bind them together with a pretty velvet ribbon, so you can flip through your book the next time you’re feeling extra sentimental. 

Tote Bags

Even though ditching plastic baggies for reusable totes is the sustainable way to shop, it’s easy to let them pile up. Dooley starts by KonMari folding them (sort by size and material, flatten each one, then wrap like you would a T-shirt) so they condense into rectangles. Place them in a small basket in your entryway so you can grab one as you head out the door. 

Gift Wrap

“Rolls of wrapping are best stored vertically,” says Dooley—so try repurposing an umbrella holder or even a wine box. That way, you’ll avoid buying doubles and you can survey what you have before picking out the perfect print for that hostess gift. If you have a hall closet or an empty corner in your office, they can live there. 

Packing Materials

If you’re a frequent mover, start by flattening cardboard boxes to file away in your garage or attic (or even use them for short-term storage to hold things you don’t regularly use)—except for one. Stick all peanut foam into a large trash bag, and keep it in that box—or, you can put it in a pillow case that has a zipper, and use it as a genius DIY floor cushion until your lease is up. After all, Styrofoam isn’t great for the planet, so may as well squeeze as much use out of it as possible. 

And as for the smaller odds and ends? “The butcher paper and bubble wrap can actually be handy for stuffing your purses and boots to help keep them in shape,” adds Dooley.

Spare Furniture Assembly Tools

All those trips to IKEA add up, leaving you with a graveyard of hex keys and instruction manuals. Dooley suggests storing them in the plastic sleeve they came in and taping them to the back or bottom of the item itself: “They’ll be out of sight and you’ll never lose them,” she says. 

Receipts 

Keep them in clearly marked envelopes based on your needs: for example, taxes, returns, and gift receipts. Once you’ve clearly delineated what goes where, file them away in a folder or desk drawer, making sure to have the newest bills in the back of each envelope so everything stays in chronological order. Your future self will thank you come tax season. 

Off-Season Outerwear 

Again, this starts with KonMari folding all soft clothing, and then grouping each item by purpose—so all your thermals and snow equipment go together, for instance—and then repurposing the clear zipper bags that bedding comes in to keep them together. (Psst: Marie Kondo also loves using sweater bags for this.)

Extra Hangers

First things first: Dry cleaning hangers can be returned to the laundromat. Otherwise, Dooley recommends keeping a handful of them hanging at the end of your closet rod in case you get anything new, and then either donating the residual ones or picking up a tool called the Hanger Hamper. It’s a triangular bag that you can tuck away in the corner of your closet until the next time you come back from a vintage shopping spree with an armful of retro blazers. 

See more organization tips:
I’ve Used These Container Store Shelves in Every Apartment I’ve Had
The Organization Brand our Social Media Editor Turns to Again and Again
Shea McGee Just Shared a Genius Use for the Humble Kitchen Basket

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