ALL POSTS IN Cleaning & Organizing

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Can you believe Tax Day is almost here? Yes, it’s true – somewhere between building that raised bed and decorating all those Easter eggs, we’re less than two weeks away from the April 15 deadline.

Preparing your tax return can be chaotic, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping important papers organized year-round can help you spend less time scouring your file cabinet and more time planning your Tax Day shopping spree (you know you’ve been browsing the sales).

Browse clever ideas for banishing paper clutter from HGTV.com's blog, Design Happens.

SPRING PROJECT: Upcycle Your File Cabinet

Start with the mail. It’s easy to let the mail stack up, and somehow even easier for unread letters to make rounds through every room of the house and get lost. Since it’s not always possible or practical to deal with the mail as soon as you walk in the door, create a system for sorting the mail that works for you – it doesn’t matter when or where, but a consistent routine will help you stay on top of things.

More Ways to Curb Paper Clutter

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We love music in my household. In fact, my roommates and I have a speaker in just about every room of the house. They help us power through our chores whether it’s tackling piles of laundry, scrubbing the tub or vacuuming – we do a lot of vacuuming.

Spend more time dancing and less time dusting with Design Happen's spring cleaning playlist.

With March finally underway, I want to kick off spring cleaning season by sharing a couple of playlists to help you breeze through your household tasks. Categorized by cleaning mood with everything from today’s pop hits to ‘80s power ballads, you’re sure to find something to get you motivated.

You can listen to the entire mix here, or read on for the individual playlists.

More House Cleaning Music

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Winter is undeniably one of my favorite seasons, but I’ve checked out early this year. In an attempt to coax spring into coming early, I’ve started the long and grueling process of cleaning my house.

Whether it’s deep cleaning or just tidying up, there are a few ways to go the extra mile and keep your home sparkling. During my spree, I uncovered dirty items around my home that I didn’t even realize were in need of my care. I cannot confirm or deny that I spent 30 minutes vacuuming a loveseat.

Get a head start on your spring cleaning with these deep cleaning tips from HGTV.com's blog, Design Happens.

1. The upholstery. Vacuum couches, chairs, love seats, rugs and mattresses, then spot clean with a rag and warm water. Depending on the fabric, curtains and slipcovers can be tossed in the washing machine.

2. The walls. If you have kids or pets, this might be a no-brainer – those handprints (or pawprints!) add up. Wipe off any loose dust with a soft cloth, then gently scrub off any dirt with an all-purpose cleaner safe for your walls. (Test in an inconspicuous area first if you’re unsure.) Don’t forget the molding!

Clean Deeper

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Achoo! A couple of us down at HGTV Headquarters aren’t feeling so well. I spent last week in bed fighting what I’m convinced was the plague, armed with only a stash of home remedies and a few boxes of tea.

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones that never seem to get sick, you’re bound to catch a cold sometime. Keeping your home spic and span is one of the most important ways to ward away disease, and a thorough cleaning once you’re feeling better can prevent illness from spreading to your loved ones.

7 Ways to Keep Your Home Germ-Free: Cleaning your home after an illness will reduce the risk for spreading disease to family and friends.

Start with the air. If you don’t remember the last time you changed the AC filter in your home, you’re cheating yourself out of good health. Harmful airborne particles like smoke, bacteria, pet dander, mold and allergens can build up in your home with a dirty filter.  A quality pleated filter will only run you about $20 and last for 90 days.

Take off your shoes. Your shoes are a breeding ground for bacteria. Millions of harmful microorganisms can be tracked across the floor – a major problem only multiplied if you have kids that like to play on the floor. Take your shoes off at the door and politely ask guests to do the same.

Read the Rest

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The Super Bowl is in a couple of days, and whether you love or hate the sport, it’s the perfect excuse to throw a party. I’m sure you’ve spent all your time picking out the food and drinks, and now you’re stuck with a messy house. If you don’t have time to thoroughly clean your home for your guests, just worry about making it clean enough. I know, I know I’m not supposed to encourage that, but sometimes you’ve got to fake it ’til ya make it, people.

Sabrina Soto

Here are a few quick cleaning tips:

  • Focus only on areas your guests will see (the foyer, media room, guest bathroom, etc.).
  • Give the room a decluttered look by placing magazines, cords and other items in stylish trays and storage bins.
  • Wipe down all surfaces.
  • Carry a laundry basket to pick up displaced items while doing a quick sweep in each room.

 Get More Tips From Sabrina Soto>>

What are your favorite last-minute cleaning tips?

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It’s true that keeping a closet neat and organized is a difficult task, but life with no closet or a small closet may feel like you’re just perpetually shifting things around.

closet storage ideas

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. I wrapped up my holiday season by moving into an old house with two close friends.  The house was built in the early 1900s, has beautiful hardwood floors and a mantel in the living room and two of the bedrooms.

The only problem is that my lovely new home has no closets. It also didn’t take too long for my roommates to realize that dorm life had spoiled me – I was the proud owner of no furniture, mismatched, collapsible hampers and a mountain of clothes and shoes.

There are plenty of ways to fake an organized space if a traditional closet just isn’t possible. You can make or buy an armoire or chifferobe, build your own custom closet or repurpose items to create a storage nook.

Unwilling and unable to purchase an expensive armoire or go custom, I chose the latter option and invested in a freestanding wardrobe.  I plan to strip the cloth cover (the fabric resembles a reusable shopping bag) and hang sheer curtains in its place – an easy first step since the wardrobe is held together by metal rods. To hide my always-growing shoe collection, I’ll place a shoe organizer inside. I also want to get a wood pallet cut (almost any home improvement store will do this for you) to sit on top, leaving me space to stash baskets of scarves, socks, hats and other accessories.

It sounds like a bit of a hassle at first, but I certainly wouldn’t trade the time I estimate the project will take for living out of a suitcase again. I’m also pretty sure my roommates want their coat rack back.

How do you deal with a lack of closet space? Tell us how you battle clutter in the comments below and for more creative storage solutions, visit the links below:
Storage 101: A Closet Makeover
12 Steps to Your Dream Closet
8 Revamps for Your Closet
Declutter the Closet
Repurposing Household Items for Closet Organization
Kids’ Room Storage Solutions
Maximizing Storage in Your Walk-In Closet
Make Your Closet Resemble a Chic Boutique

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We’ve finally arrived at the most wonderful time of the year, ladies and gentlemen – Christmas is only one week away!

red and white christmas

When you’re busy running from store to store trying to get the perfect gift for friends and family, it’s easy to forget the little things you need Christmas Day, like mountains of tape and batteries. In honor of all the chaos, we’ve compiled a list of all the essentials you may have forgotten so you can spend more time with your family and less time racing to stores come Christmas Eve. After all, no one likes a last-minute Scrooge.

See the List

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It’s crunch time, everyone! Many of you might have Thanksgiving guests starting to trickle in (I, for one, have already made myself quite cozy at my parents’ house), but I’m willing to bet a large percentage of you are doing one last mad cleaning-dash through your home before your loved ones arrive.

Being a host isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding to see the smiles on the faces of your friends and family. Before the hungry cavalry arrives, take some time to prepare your home for your guests. A lot of organization and a little bit of thoughtfulness can go a long way.

Become a Super Host

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Even though we’ve been getting ready for Thanksgiving here at HGTV headquarters since the middle of summer (putting together those classy Thanksgiving centerpieces and testing out holiday cocktails takes up a lot of time, folks), the holiday has still managed to sneak up on us.

Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away! If you’re looking to try something new this year, this lemon and sage turkey will add some zesty goodness to your menu.

If you haven’t gotten your grocery list together yet, you better hurry; there’s nothing more frustrating than a last-minute hunt through a ransacked supermarket. Overwhelmed? Still scrambling for ideas? We’ve got you covered.

Prepare for Thanksgiving

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Happy November, everyone! We’re only a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, so you know what that means – time to clean the house from top to bottom before the guests arrive. And you better start now rather than later, especially before that extra hour feeling wears off.

With fall in full swing and winter approaching, you may notice your floors may need a little TLC.

You’ll never regret having a good vacuum around. Sucking up all that dirt and grime not only keeps your home spotless and clean, but also clears away harmful allergens built-up in your floors. But with so many brands, options, filter-types, and other factors, choosing the right vacuum can be a daunting task. To make the decision easier, we’ve narrowed down some of the most important factors to keep in mind while picking out a vacuum.

See the Guide

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Perhaps I’ve been influenced by my very Southern mother, or maybe it’s just from spending too much time glued to Pinterest, but I use vinegar for everything. Ev-er-y-thing.  I keep all types of vinegar – white, apple cider, red wine, tarragon – stocked in my cabinets. It’s handy for cooking, cleaning, and what most of my friends refer to as “weird voodoo home remedies” (a spoonful of vinegar a day keeps the doctor away!).

Vinegar is not just for salads.

One of the best things about keeping vinegar in your home is that it’s so cheap. You can usually get a big bottle of white vinegar for under a dollar, and not too much more for apple cider vinegar. On top of that, it’s edible – no harsh toxins, no lingering chemical smell – making it the perfect cleaning solution if you have children or pets.

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This weekend I whispered, “I love you,” and kissed my shorts goodbye, replacing their spot in my closet with scarves and cardigans.

Always think outside the box (er, closet). Kristen Grove repurposed empty paint cans to hang scarves and hats.

It was only a small victory for the long and often chaotic process that is cleaning, organizing and reorganizing your closet to prepare for fall and winter. Start October off on the right foot with a few tips for making the closet swap less painful:

Clean the closet first. It will be tempting to immediately pull out your entire winter collection from storage just to see what’s in there, but if you do this without creating space for any of it, you’re just making a bigger mess. Take some time before your heavy holiday cleaning starts and give your closet a makeover. If you’ve been meaning to install new shelves or create the shoe storage space of your dreams, now’s the time to do it.

Throw things away. Trash those stockings with runs. Get rid of those rain boots with the hole in them that you kept, “just in case it’s not raining that hard.” Over the weekend, I threw away four pairs of leggings and a pair of shoes that were all ripped beyond repair and just sitting in my closet taking up space. I also got rid of some things that I never wear. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn something in over a year, you probably never will. Donate them or give them away to friends and family.

Don’t do it all at once. Unless you have a lot of time to dedicate, you’re just going to get overwhelmed. And even if you have a whole weekend, set realistic goals – maybe you can’t clean out your closet, sort through your winter clothes and switch out your summer clothes all in one day, but you can spend an hour or two picking out the items you won’t need for cold weather.

Make a list. Do you swear you bought extra-long socks for each of your children last winter and now they’re nowhere to be found? Move to a cooler climate over the summer and know you’ll freak the first time it snows? Make a list of the items you need, then buy each article slowly – think of it as early Christmas presents for all your hard effort!

How are you making the fall transition? Find more organizing and cleaning advice, crafty closet storage solutions and browse beautiful walk-ins here:

Daily Delight: Celebrity Closets
Storage 101: A Closet Makeover
Repurposing Household Items For Your Closet
25 Ways to Store Shoes in Your Closet
Maximizing Closet Storage
Kids Closet Ideas
10 Stylish Walk-In Closets
VIDEO: Making Closet Space Count

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I love to cook, but after 4 years in college, two things have become very clear to me:

  1. There is a certain amount of functional counter space you need to cook a good meal.
  2. The provided counter space in your dorm room or first apartment will always be less than that amount.

Combine that inevitable lack of space with an incomplete set of kitchen tools, minimal cooking experience, and the chaotic schedule a college student often has, and cooking can quickly turn into an ordeal (pizza, anyone?).

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A little time management can go a long way, and starting off with the right items can make a big difference.

Buy Ingredients

The other day I escorted a friend to the grocery store. We put away all her groceries only to find that when I opened her refrigerator, it was still empty. Baffled, I ransacked her cabinets, trying to see what went wrong. The problem? She had only bought snacks. Snack foods are good to have around, but if you don’t continually buy staple ingredients like eggs, bread and milk, you limit the variety of meals you can make. I try to make an effort to always buy a box of pasta noodles, a jar of sauce, and a couple of canned vegetables every time I grocery shop – they’re good for a quick meal and I know I’ll always need them.

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Small spaces get dirty fast. A sticky spot on the floor or a few cobwebs in the corner might go unnoticed for weeks in a big, roomy house, but quickly become an eyesore in a dorm room. But whereas in that big house you may have cleaning products for days, college students’ supplies are often limited.

This kid doesn't know most college students will never own a vacuum this nice.

Here’s an example: I didn’t always own a mop. I used to loop a hand towel on the end of a broom, dunk it in a bucket (and by bucket, I mean trash can) of soapy water and drag it across the floor, hoping that it would clean something, anything. Those were dark days.

Decorating is basically useless if all of your stuff is covered in trash. There are essentials you need, especially if it’s your first apartment or dorm, to keep your space tidy and clean.

See The List

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With the kids back in school and lazy days of summer coming to a close, you may have noticed laundry day is more like a full-time job. And if your machines are older, the chore may seem like a never-ending cycle (ha!).

One way you can speed up the process is by not only cleaning the lint from your dryer, but actually cleaning your lint screen. Lint can block air from circulating in your dryer, but mix that with continued, heavy buildup from the oils in fabric softeners and detergents, and you’d be better off just buying new clothes. All that gunk also creates a pretty hefty fire hazard, so it’s a good idea to clean it out regularly.

Read the Steps

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Yes, I’m back on the topic of celebrities. I promise I’m not a stalker — but really, does a stalker know that he or she is a stalker? I’ll ponder that one later. In the meantime…

Architectural Digest is showcasing the closets of Mariah Carey, Elton John, Brooke Shields and other stars. My favorite closet featured is the one that hotelier Steve Wynn had designed for his Las Vegas home.

INSPIRATION: WALK-IN CLOSET IDEAS FROM HGTV

Wynn Closet

AD100 interior designer Roger Thomas created this closet.

What caught my eye was Steve’s impressive tie racks (on the right). Uh, yeah — my ties are hanging crazily on three coat hangers along with several belts. And, I won’t even discuss how my poor bow ties are stored. It’s all very shameful. But, I digress.

Tell me about your dream closet, or tell me what closet disasters you have going on.

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Last week we talked corded phones for their usefulness during power outages (and their general, overall cuteness). You all brought up great ideas for what you should keep stashed in case of emergencies, like Sharon, who keeps a battery-powered weather radio or Holly, who keeps everything from water to flashlights to full meals.

Emergency Kit

Courtesy of Emergency Supplies Blog

No matter how safe you may feel in your neighborhood, you can never predict when disaster will strike. It’s vital to have both an emergency kit and a plan, and to be sure you and all your family members — even children — know how to use the items in the kit and understand your family’s disaster plan.

What you keep in that kit may differ a little depending on your family’s specific needs — like extra medications or supplies for common weather emergencies in your area — but here are several items the most basic emergency kit should have:

  • Bottled water
  • At least 3 days worth of food
  • First-aid kit
  • Glowsticks AND Flashlights (don’t forget batteries!)
  • Blankets
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Emergency contact info
  • Copies of important documents
  • Change of clothes
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Spare set of contacts/glasses (I would be doomed without mine)
  • Paper and pen

Make sure to store your kit in a safe place where it won’t get damaged, but that it’s not so out-of-sight that you can actually get to it if there is a real emergency. A good idea is to establish an escape route, then put your supplies somewhere along that path. It also never hurts to keep a separate stock of supplies in your vehicle. Remember, when it comes to you and your family, you’re always better off safe than sorry!

For more advice on emergency-preparedness see: Preparing a Disaster Plan

And for more on surviving homeownership: 

Lazy Homeowners Rejoice! Home Maintenance Made Easy

House Diaries: Best Tips So Far (From You!)

House Diaries: Making Lists + Getting Inspired

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Here we are in August, and somehow it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school. I swear school starts earlier every year! I’ll admit that my school days are long past, but I can’t help but wax nostalgic about the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the squeak of new shoes. And so, my inner middle-schooler gave a little cheer when I spied this so-old-school-it’s-new-school basket rack from Hertz Furniture.

Hertz Basket Rack

Picture this rack in a pool house or mud room, keeping wet swimsuits, muddy shoes, and sports equipment stashed in style. The best part? The rack comes in 20 colors ranging from vibrant teal to neutral putty. What do you think, would you bring a little locker room chic into your home?

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I spent this summer – my last summer as a student ever – interning here at HGTV.com. The beginning of August has only reminded me that it’s only a matter of weeks before I head back to class for my final semester at the University of Tennessee (Go Vols!).

I’ve lived on campus all four years of my college experience – two years in a “traditional” two-person dorm and two years in an on-campus apartment. At this point I could probably, pack, unpack and rearrange all the furniture to maximize the space in just a few hours.

That wisdom came with experience, however. Like many other students, I spent the entire summer before my freshman year of college fretting over what to bring to my new home. Mix together my panic with graduation money and things quickly got out of hand:

What I Thought I Needed to Be Organized:

What I Actually Needed:

  • Paper shredder
  • 10 composition books
  • Multiple laundry bags
  • Laundry basket
  • More than three rolls of tape
  • Magazine rack
  • A plastic bin in every size
  • High school term papers, “for reference”
  • Pocket shoe organizer
  • Hangers

Needless to say I went overboard, much to the dismay of my poor parents who had to lug it all across the state only to have to turn around and take it all back when everything was intruding on my roommate’s side of our tiny room. Here’s what I’ve learned from the chaotic mistakes I made:

320 Sycamore shoe organizer idea

Melissa from 320 * Sycamore cut a hanging shoe rack to fit her narrow closet doors.

My favorite trick for keeping things tidy is investing in a couple over-the-door pocket shoe organizers. They’re inexpensive and readily available in stores at this time of year. They have deep pockets – making them perfect for stashing toiletries, school supplies, and snacks – and what’s best is that you can keep them behind a door or tucked away in the closet.

You could also try attaching clear folders to the wall for a neat place to hold homework, papers or a collection of menus for those late-night hunger pains:

hanging pocket folder organizer

Remember that whatever you do, organization is priority number one in a dorm room. Priority number two is not attempting to take your house with you to college.

For more creative ideas on controlling clutter in a dorm or small space, check out:

Clever Uses for Everyday Items in the Home Office

Repurposing Household Items for Closet Organization

Stylish Storage Solutions

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Jewelry storage is so tricky, don’t you think? I have my accessories draped on hooks and dumped in trinket bowls, and the whole effect comes across as sloppy. I think the clear solution is a Bling Box.

Deny Design Bling Box1

Bling Box Jewelry Case

You can customize your Bling Box with dozens of backgrounds, but my favorite is this painterly scene by artist Amy Sia. I think it would elevate my jumbled bangles and tangled pedants to a work of art.

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