Published on August 6, 2019

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photo by cody guilfoyle

The average person will spend one-third of their life asleep, and that’s not counting the time it takes to wash your face, watch a little TV, and read a few pages of a new novel before drowsing off. All that to say: We’re in bed a lot—and it shows in our spaces. Over time, our nightstands become mini dumping grounds for all the things we need for those precious eight hours (think: dusty paperbacks, water glasses, sleep oils of all kinds). The good news? According to professional home organizer Shira Gill (@shiragill), it takes less than 15 minutes to give your bedside table a makeover.

“Think of your nightstand as a curated slice of prime real estate that will help set the tone for your day,” says Gill. “It’s the first thing you see when you wake up, after all.” Here, Gill breaks down the art of bedside organization into five quick steps. 

Step 1: Lay It All Out

Clutter happens when you can’t see things. Start with a clean slate by emptying every drawer and shelf and displaying your belongings on a clean surface. “Your bed will work well as a staging area to sort and organize,” says Gill.

“Your bed will work well as a staging area to sort and organize.”

Step 2: Ditch the Dirty Dishes

Maybe it’s the fear of waking up in the middle of the night with a stuffy nose or maybe it’s the simple pleasure of eating breakfast in bed—either way, nightstands aren’t meant to double as kitchen sinks or medicine cabinets. As you pull everything out of your nightstand, set aside the items that belong elsewhere. “Coffee mugs, cereal bowls, old receipts, and beauty products all need to be returned to their rightful homes,” says Gill.

Step 3: Be Picky About What You Put Back

The simpler the top of your nightstand, the better you’ll feel when you crawl under the sheets. Gill’s rule for putting things back: Objects on display should be both beautiful and functional. “Fresh flowers, a luxury candle, or a simple water carafe and cup will go a long way in elevating your space and making you feel like you’ve checked into a boutique hotel,” she explains. 

“Fresh flowers, a luxury candle, or a simple water carafe and cup will go a long way in elevating your space.”

Step 4: Tuck the Rest Away

Smaller necessities, like reading glasses, a notebook and pen, and lotion, can be neatly stored in a drawer. (Or if your nightstand is really just an accent table, in a tray or small catchall.) As for valuables, “store your watch and everyday jewelry on a small dish for super-safekeeping,” advises Gill. 

Step 5: Pare Down Your Book Stack

If your reading list is as long as ours, you probably have two separate piles going: the books you’ve ticked off your bucket list and the ones you can’t wait to page through next. Neither collection belongs on your nightstand. “No more precarious tower of books!” says Gill. “Keep only your current reading material on or in your nightstand.” Anything extra can be housed nearby in a basket, magazine rack, or wall-mounted pocket. 

See more stories like this: 
16 Nightstands for Every Type of Bedroom (and Budget)
9 Clever Nightstand Alternatives for Small Spaces
The Books Our Favorite Girl Bosses Have on Their Nightstands This Fall

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