Clutter Is Just Unmade Decisions—This Pro Organizer Will Motivate You in 15 Minutes
Seven spots that are likely getting the best of you.
Updated Nov 9, 2021 1:22 AM
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Clutter isn’t some deep-rooted issue or inevitable reality. “Clutter is unmade decisions,” says Shira Gill, the professional organizer and author behind Minimalista (on shelves now). “I’ve found that most people get so overwhelmed when it comes to organizing because they just don’t know where to start.” Luckily most choices can be made in under a half hour. Gill has championed what she calls “15-minute wins”—tasks anyone can reasonably tackle in 15 minutes or less, like cleaning out the cabinet under the kitchen sink, giving the freezer a refresh, or tossing old receipts and neglected gum wrappers that are hanging out in your handbag.
Rather than dedicate two weeks to combing through the whole house, Gill’s signature approach is all about taking on one nook or shelf at a time. “It’s astounding how much you can do,” she says. In Minimalista, the expert spotlights a few not-so-obvious places in your space that are probably getting the best of you—and how to fix them. Here are seven overlooked spots to tidy up this week.
The Inside of Your Shower
The reason Gill’s shared family bathroom looks so neat? She, her husband, and their two kids all share the same shampoo, conditioner, and soap. “It’s not for everyone,” she says. But when you’re low on space, streamlining the products in your bathroom by putting them in large pump dispensers lends a clean aesthetic. If you aren’t down for sharing, at least stick to one product at a time so you don’t have 20 bottles falling over at your feet.
For those of us who don’t have a built-in ledge or shower niche, the pro organizer suggests buying an over-the-head shower caddy in metal (steer clear of suction-cup anything!), or consider a small rolling cart that sits right outside the wet zone so it’s easy to reach.
The Equipment Collection
“Most people, myself included, have a massive mountain of cords and electronics that are in such a jumble,” says Gill. Anything you haven’t touched in more than a decade or don’t remember what it’s used for can be dropped off at an e-waste center. For the things you do need, one strategy is to bundle the object, user manual, and accessories together in a labeled bin or a pouch so you never have to play the dreaded guessing game of “Is this the right charger?” Another way to go about it? Store cords separately and mark them and the device in a coordinating colored washi-tape table so you can easily identify what goes with what. Use Velcro snaps to keep the wires from tangling.
The Baking Pantry
Avid bakers: Round up your flour, sugar, and chocolate chips and decant all your ingredients into large glass jars. “Most people aren’t baking every day, so it’s nice to get rid of the packaging,” says Gill. The pro’s tip: Use a funnel or paper cone to transfer messy items like spices. “They can last around six months or more if you do that, whereas if they’re just shoved in and may be open, they’ll go stale super-fast,” she adds.
Then choose one corner of your pantry closet or a spare cabinet and dedicate it solely to these items. “The big thing is just separating it out from your day-to-day stuff,” says Gill (cookie cutters and specialized gadgets included). You probably don’t need your mini marshmallows and candy eyeballs in arm’s reach.
The Utility Drawer
Gill is banishing the “junk drawer” for a new concept: the utility drawer. This spot in your kitchen or entryway serves a more specific purpose than just holding miscellaneous items—it contains utilitarian things such as batteries, pens, scissors, and Post-it notes. Once you’ve removed the contents that don’t fall into the practical category and relocated them elsewhere, add some dividers to your drawer so you can create a clear “home” and boundary for each category of tool.
The (Laundry) Closet
A little known way to keep your closet looking sharp? Establish systems for laundry. Designate one bin for your dirty clothes. Have another basket on hand for things that need to be dry-cleaned, altered, or repaired. Finally, set up a donation station so it makes it easy to stow items that you are ready to part with.
The Kids’ Bookshelf
Mini bookworms require different types of storage solutions, depending on their age. For babies and toddlers who have chunky, interactive titles that don’t fit neatly on a shelf, opt for a pretty basket where they can be tossed in. “Putting them back together perfectly is not going to be realistic,” says Gill. (This solution is also portable in case you ever need to host story time in the living room.) As they get a bit older, she suggests transitioning to wall ledges, so they can display their favorite books. “It’s decorative and fun, and it’s really easy to clean up,” she notes. Once they’re flying through chapter novels, transition into standard bookshelves, where they can arrange them by series or author or however they want.
The Holiday Gear
Picture this: one curated box of holiday decor for each holiday you actually celebrate. Gill has never waded through dozens of bins to find her dancing Halloween skeleton or Christmas tree lights because she rounds everything up, dumps it out, does an edit, and keeps only what she uses and needs. She suggests you slap on labels and stow items on a utilitarian shelving system in the garage or basement. “And don’t forget to invite me to your party,” she says, laughing. See, that wasn’t so daunting.
Reprinted from “Minimalista” by Shira Gill. Copyright © 2021 by Shira Gill. Published by Ten Speed Press.