ALL POSTS IN Organizing

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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.

Read the List

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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.

Read the Rest

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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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Confession time: I cannot remember the last time I changed our air conditioning filters at home. I am certain my gutters need cleaning. And if hard pressed I might be able to remember where the fire extinguisher is but I have NO idea how old it might be. Do fire extinguishers expire? Don’t answer that.

I have a lot of strengths, from making up recipes to mastering any craft challenge that comes my way, but home maintenance is one of my biggest failings as an adult. Enter BrightNest.

brightnest home maintenence website logo

When I happened upon BrightNest, it was as if a chorus of responsible angels started singing. What is BrightNest? It’s a lovely little website that aids you in keeping up with every home maintenance task from changing the batteries in your smoke detector to cleaning your refrigerator coils. They have loads of clever tips (check out this adorable homemade cleaning products infographic), helpful reminders, and you can even create a to-do list for a partner or roommate. My husband just loves that.

brightnest home maintenence dashboard

My favorite part of the BrightNest site is the Homefolio, which allows you to create a customized owner’s manual for your home. You can enter in paint colors, appliance manuals, warranty information, and professional contacts, all in one place. For someone plagued by a junk drawer overflowing with paint chips and food processor pamphlets, this is pretty amazing.

brightnest home maintenence owners manual

It’s totally free to sign up for a BrightNest account, and I think you’ll find it to be a handy little corner of the Internet.

So where do you fall on the household responsibility spectrum? A disorganized mess (like me), or do you have a photographic memory for home details? Can you come clean out my junk drawer?

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Today we celebrate our nation’s independence (I hope everyone has a relaxing, fun-filled day planned).

To keep with the day’s patriotic theme, I highlight Bungalow’s stylish collapsible white and blue storage bins. Yes, the “red” may be missing, but still — they have that “4th” feel to them.

Junk Trunk

A lot of these types of bins are on the market, but Bungalow promises theirs are different in that they are “sturdy enough to last.”

I like that tag line. It’s the same sentiment I have for our country. Happy 4th of July, everyone.

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OMG, the *books*. Piles of nonfiction, stacks of mysteries and romances, dusty autobiographies and Norton Anthologies (Norton Anthologies? really?!)…. I’ve carried books with me since I was in college — in the last century.

But as I found out during my home office reorg, in my gypsy lifestyle, books were important. The people behind them, the writers and the characters, were extended family. The Nortons represented happy college days in the library. Even though I didn’t have a house, they were my physical roots.

During my first coaching with Julie Morgenstern, author of SHED Your Stuff Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck, I marked the books as being the things to which I had the highest emotional attachment. In this organizing process, you first get rid of the things that are 100% obsolete, to which you have no attachment, building momentum to the obsolete items you’re most attached to. (As a quick reminder: SHED = Separate the Treasures, Heave the Trash, Embrace Your Identity and Drive Yourself Forward.)

My cookbooks, arranged on a built-in bookshelf

Dude! I can find my cookbooks!


READ MORE

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Julie Morgenstern, author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck is helping me organize my embarrassingly disorganized home office.

SHED is Julie’s process for helping people through transitions, so they can tame the chaos and make their unique contribution.

The four steps are: Separate the Treasures, Heave, Embrace Your Identity From Within and Drive Yourself Forward. In my first coaching, we focused on Separating the Treasures and Heaving.

Julie and I looked at my photos of the room. Um…super-embarrassing. I mean, look at this place!

Wow, does this home office need some organizing help!

Yes, that hat-shaped thing is a beaded lampshade. On the floor.

READ MORE

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Last December, I was interviewing organizing experts for an upcoming article. One of them was Julie Morgenstern. You’ve probably seen her here on HGTV.com, or other places like Redbook or Good Morning America.

“Why do people have so much clutter?” I asked.

“Going through stuff requires time and decision-making,” Julie said. Most people don’t have a clear head or a clear schedule, and they hang onto clutter because they need abundance. Or it gives them a feeling of fullness, of having enough.

Some people feel comfortable when their home is 60% full; some people feel better at 20%. There’s not a universally perfect amount of stuff — the key is, if you feel like you’re suffocating, you have too much.

That hit hard, because I was suffocating in stuff. I’d recently gone through a divorce and had one of those shameful rooms. You know the one: boxes leaning in precarious floor-to-ceiling stacks; bags of unsorted bills; piles of old clothes; cat brushes, jars of seashells, even 20-year-old floppy disks….

Clutter on a desk in a home office

I swear my desk is under there somewhere!

I asked Julie if I could use her book, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck, as a template for a reorganizing process, and tackle that room. She said she’d do me one better: she’d coach me through it.

Yeah, I jumped on it.

Starting next Friday, I hope you’ll go with me on the journey as — in 3 coachings — Julie helps me purge that room by targeting why I let that much clutter pile up in the first place.

Until then, here’s a clue: You clear out the obsolete so you can make room to move forward. When I say it’s fueling and energizing…well…you’ll see.

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