4 New Year Tidying Dos and Don’ts, Straight From a Professional Organizer

Are you maximizing your doors?

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As a longtime professional organizer, I can attest that January has always been good for business, because our desire to start the year with a clean slate and better habits usually includes around the house as well. How else do you think the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals came to officially dub it Get Organized Month? But if your plan is to declutter your space in 2023 without hiring a pro, there’s something I want to warn you about, an error I see all too often: shopping for products without any real strategy behind the purchase. Whether you found those velvet hangers on sale, were influenced by Instagram to buy a plastic lazy Susan, or simply thought that seagrass basket was cute, when you don’t assess an item’s longevity in your life, you wind up with supplies that contribute to the clutter.

Before you blindly buy a bunch of containers to organize your home, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the measurements fit in the space I want to use it? (including will the stuff you want to organize fit in or on it)
  • Is the quality good?
  • Is it versatile enough to use it in another room or, if I move, another home? 
  • Does it make my life easier or does it provide more of an obstacle to get to my things?
  • Do I like the way it looks?

This thought process will lead you to make better shopping decisions when you’re ready to tidy up come January 1. To help you along in your journey, I’ve put together a short list of some of my favorite durable and versatile products I use in my own home.

Don’t: Crowd the inside of your closets with small items.

Do: Hang a utility rack on the door.

utility door rack
Courtesy of the Container Store

One of the most underutilized storage spaces is the back of interior doors. So long as you don’t have a bifold or sliding style, consider adding an Elfa utility rack to the inside of bedroom, linen, pantry, or coat closet doors. They either hang via hooks (ideal for renters) or install with screws and are completely customizable. The narrow baskets and pegboards that attach are perfect for small items that can easily get lost. I currently use one in my laundry room for pet gear and extra cleaning products, but you can use it for miscellaneous office tools or gift wrap supplies, toiletries, accessories, baby essentials, and even spices and snacks.

Elfa Utility Closet Over the Door Rack, The Container Store ($115)

Don’t: Let your things run wild in your drawers.

Do: Sort (and secure) them with spring-loaded dividers.

bed storage
Photography by Belle Morizio; Styling by Julia Stevens

Individual organizers can be a bit complicated to map out with your drawers’ measurements and to keep up with if the contents fluctuate often. This is why I love using spring-loaded dividers, specifically in bamboo because they hold up so well. The fact that they expand, on average, up to 5 inches makes them easy to transfer to different nooks. Of course, they’re ideal for long kitchen tools like spatulas and spoons, but I like to use them in my dresser to keep my pajamas and workout clothes separate. Bonus: Many options are now available with small, adjustable horizontal inserts so you can further divide and conquer.

Drawer Dividers 4-Pack, Amazon ($25)

Don’t: Stick to one type of hanger for all clothing.

Do: Realize the power of a pant clip hanger.

clothes on hanging rack
Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

I get it; it’s easy to buy the jumbo pack of velvet suit hangers and call it a day. Everything looks streamlined in your closet and much better than the mishmash array you had previously. However, I challenge you to order a small pack of pant clip hangers, too (even if you don’t hang any pants in your closet!). You can use them for shorts, skirts, off-the-shoulder tops and dresses, tube tops, brimmed hats, beanies, scarves, wraps, and even over-the-knee suede boots (avoid leather, as the clamps will leave indents).

Amber Home Heavy Duty Metal Pants Hangers (50 Pack), Amazon ($36)

Don’t: Allow high and low cubbies go to waste.

Do: Maximize shelf height with stackable bamboo bins.

arch patnry shelves
Photography by Dionel Fisher

Underneath sinks and the top shelves of closets are often the culprits of wasted storage space. There’s a lot of height, but your things, and your arms, only reach so high. This is where stackable, open-front bins (again, I fancy sustainable bamboo) come in handy. You can find them in a variety of sizes, and some are equipped with divided compartments. Use small ones to stack dishwashing supplies such as pods and sponges under the kitchen sink, and larger versions for off-season accessories on a shelf in the coat closet. Psst: They are also useful for tall wire shelves that cannot adjust, so go ahead and lay some sweaters in a few containers in your closet or stack veggies such as onions and potatoes in the pantry. If you get your space in tip-top shape this year, you won’t have to revisit the organizing aisle in 2024. 

Stackable Bamboo Storage Bins, The Container Store ($15)