ALL POSTS IN Cleaning & Organizing

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I spent this summer – my last summer as a student ever – interning here at 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!


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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.


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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, 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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Organization is my middle name (well, that and Elizabeth), so I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to share our latest video – a closet makeover! Ken’s been hard at work building a custom closet solution that we designed for our master suite, and you guys? It turned out beautifully. Take a look…

What do you think, friends? It’s a vast improvement, that’s for sure. And if you’re inspired to try the look in your own home, feel free to ask any specific construction questions in the comment section; I’ll be popping in to answer any and all!

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Laundry room makeovers might not seem like a high priority for most homeowners, but for me? Huge. I am completely, madly and deeply obsessed with doing laundry. It’s by far my favorite chore (although I’m pretty partial to loading/unloading dishwashers, too), and living with a half-finished, semi-cluttered laundry room has definitely put a damper in the joy I usually glean from this chore.

And with the momentum we gained from last week’s DIY vanity project (do you love it as much as I do?!), Ken and I decided it was time we bit the bullet and finished the last remaining items on our laundry to do list. Might I add that this means our renovation checklist for the laundry room is 100% complete? What a feeling!

In case you don’t remember what the space looked like in the very beginning, let me remind you photographically (you’ll want to wash your hands after seeing this image; trust me!):

Laundry Room Makeover Before & After - Erin Loechner

The super gross before photo!

Scary, right? Of course, wood-paneling the walls made a huge difference, and just a few short months ago, the space looked like this:

Laundry Room Makeover Before & After - Erin Loechner

An in-progress shot of our cluttered laundry room.


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January is National Get Organized Month, so…yeah, I got nothin’. My clothes are all over the floor, I have mail piling up — even my dog’s toys are strewn about everywhere. (He’s really bad at picking up after himself.) But I just saw these lovely glass wall pocket organizers with zinc tags, and I thought maybe they could help me change my cluttered ways.

zinc tags and glass wall pockets

Flowers, jelly beans, pencils…is there nothing these little pockets can’t hold? If you want to get organization extra credit, you could label the contents of each pocket with chalk on the zinc tags! Pair that with a nailhead trim bulletin board, and you’d have the prettiest, most-polished desk ever. It looks like they may be sold out right now, but I did happen to find some listings for these on eBay. And if anyone sells giant versions of these that could fit clothing and/or dog toys, please let me know in the comments here.

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Yesterday was National Pie Day, so as you can imagine I had baking on the brain like crazy. I had to involve the kitchen somehow in today’s how-to, so I decided to keep the focus on beginning-of-the-year organization and pull in these functional and super-handy magnetic shelves and boards. It’s safe to say we’re all about convenience these days, and there’s nothing more suitable than the grab-and-go convenience of these magnetic accessories right within reach. They’re the perfect solution to a disheveled kitchen and empty, white wall space. I’d definitely use my magnetic boards just like designer Ana White by posting recipes, hanging often-used kitchen utensils and displaying/storing my favorite tea. What about you?

HGTV How-To: Declutter Your Post-Holiday Kitchen

modern magnetic kitchen shelves

These functional boards are easy to make; simply cut particle board to the desired length and add an extra two inches to this length for the flashing. Cut the corners of the flashing and bend it around the particle board. On the back side, hammer flashing down and bend to make flush with the board. Attach a picture-hanging kit to the back of each board in the center. Once complete, the possibilities are endless — you can hang your boards vertically (like in the picture above) or create a two-by-two box, for example.

Get the Full Step-by-Step Instructions Here >>

After making the magnetic boards, you can create ledges, shelves and backsplashes with ease. Ana dresses up hers with steel canisters, clear clothespins and metal hooks. She says the easiest way to make a non-magnetic accessory magnetic is to simply glue magnetic tape to the back. So, go crazy and get organized in the process. Put your favorite kitchen food and accessories on display.

Need some inspiration to get started? Check out some kitchen design ideas you’ll love to look at.

Which type of kitchen accessories would you keep stored on your shelves? Corkscrew? Spices? Potholder? Tell us in the comments below.

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I have a dirty little secret: My closet is a disaster. I recently moved into a new house, so my closet is a mix of half-empty tubs, laundry baskets and out-of-order hangers. Enough is enough! This weekend I’m getting organized. Luckily, we have lots of tips to help conquer that mountain of clothes and shoes  — here are some of my favorites.

Clean and Organized Closet

Determine Your Sticking Point
Figuring out the biggest clutter offender will help you maintain a clean closet.  Are your shoes overtaking the space? (My answer: yes!) Try a hanging-shoe rack or over-the-door organizer. Do your clothes overcrowd? Thinner hangers create space so you can find things easier. Feeling rushed each morning? Dividing shirts, dresses, jeans, etc. bring a sense of order and saves time.

Do It in Spurts
Can’t face a weekend devoted to decluttering the closet?  Schedule blocks of time, like 30 or 60 minutes, to devote solely to clutter-busting. Crank up your favorite tunes and set a timer.  Do it once a week and watch your closet transform.

Start With a Clean Slate
Take everything (yes, everything) out of your closet when you get started — that way that sweater from 5 years ago won’t slip through the cracks unnoticed.  Plus, a giant pile of clothes helps you face facts: Some of it has to go.

Face the 80/20 Rule
It happens to us all: the majority of your clothes are constantly waiting in the wings.  The average American wears 10 to 20 percent of their clothes. Give everything a hard look, and remove items that…

  • Don’t fit today (No more keeping it in the wings for those last 10 pounds.)
  • You haven’t worn for over a year.
  • Aren’t your color.
  • Are worn, stained or in need of major repairs.

Get Inspired
Here are few perfectly-organized closets to get you motivated:

Lori Dennis modern closet

Modern closet by designer Lori Dennis

Asian-inspired walk-in closet

Huge walk-in closet with custom cherry cabinetry. Design by Dandenberg Design

Sarah Richardson's Shoe Closet

Sarah Richardson's hall closet. Image courtesy HGTV Magazine

Get even more closet-tackling tips here and check out amazing walk-in closets here. Happy organizing!

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As the new year begins, I resolve to get organized. I usually start my new year inventorying the spaces I need to declutter and then purchasing of slew of items to help me tidy them. Since I work from home, this year I’m focusing on my cluttered office. Here’s my wishlist of pretty, colorful organizing products:


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For the past four months my kitchen has been an unorganized, amateur bakery. From creating tailgating treats and Halloween snacks to savory Thanksgiving sides and Christmas cookies, I turned my kitchen upside-down with each and every recipe. You don’t even want to see my spice cabinet, utensil drawers or pantry. They’re just pure madness! (I know you must know how I feel.) Now that the holidays are over and the heavy baking has come to a halt, I desperately need to get my kitchen under control. So, if you’re dying to start out 2012 organized and clutter-free, then you’ll love this week’s how-to.

how to declutter the kitchen

Your kitchen can easily be the most cluttered room in the house. The best way to start is to clear off the cabinets and hit one shelf, cabinet or drawer at a time. Just like any other room, items should be sorted according to whether you want to keep, donate, sell, store or toss them. It may seem painful at first, but I promise the end result will produce smiles. Get Tips and Rules for Decluttering the Kitchen >>

Is “cleaning out the garage” or “tidying up the outdoors” on your home’s New Year’s resolutions list? Don’t fret. We have plenty of expert tips to get your home sparkling clean, inside and out, with help from

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Fun fact: Did you know it’s nearly impossible to find a non-ugly filing cabinet? I’m something of a paper hoarder, and I thought a cabinet would be the best option for me, but according to my many Internet searches, most of them look like they’re straight from the set of Office Space. All hope was lost, until I discovered the 5-Bin Storage Tower.

white bin storage tower

The Italian design is clean and mod, the height is a great use of space and each of the bins swivels out for easy access to whatever you tuck away inside. (The product description on The Container Store’s site also mentions shoes, books and craft accessories as possible bin fodder.) Plus, it comes in three different colors. I’m so filing my paper in the tower, and I’m so filing the tower under A for “Awesome Organization Find.”

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OK, friends, I’m going to get real with you today. Because the fact of the matter is that during a renovation, your home becomes a war zone. And because my dear husband and I can’t handle living among shambles, we’ve designated one area to unload all miscellaneous tools, paraphernalia, and… well, junk. That area, friends, is our garage. Exhibit A:

Garage Organization- Erin Loechner

The dreaded before.

Oh dear. I cannot believe I just shared that image with you. All of you. Goodness gracious. Please be kind to me, Internet. Because for the past year, we’ve treated our garage like a landfill. I’m just as horrified as you are. Trust me.

And although I dream of a glistening, organized garage someday, I know that, realistically, we’ve still got a long way to go before that day arrives. After all, we still have a full sunroom and basement renovation ahead of us, and I’m quite sure our garage will become the holding zone for drywall, beams and plywood.

Garage Organization- Erin Loechner

Yep, still embarrassed.

Still, there is no excuse to live in such utter chaos. So a few days ago, Ken and I tackled a serious clean-out extravaganza. I won’t tell you everything we unearthed, but I will say the list included an abandoned art project, half-used bottles of hand sanitizer and much, much more.

Luckily, we also stumbled upon the previous homeowners’ kitchen cabinets that we knew we’d saved for a reason. With zero investment and a few nails, Ken and I now have a fully functioning closed storage solution for paint, tools and renovation supplies. Wanna see it?

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It’s back to school time, and HGTV is here to help you create that “big kid” desk just in time for the new school year. This custom, kid-sized desk, created by feature blogger/designer Brian Patrick Flynn, is easy to put together by using plywood and stair posts to create the frame. We’re thinking the more vibrant and colorful you paint it, the less they’ll complain about homework time (maybe). Plus, to keep the kiddos (and you) even more organized when schedules, report cards and forms start flying in the door, create this simple, playful clip-art rail.


Head over to for a complete materials list and detailed step-by-step instructions to create both the stair post kids’ desk and clip-art rails. Then, come back and share your completed (or in-process) projects with us in the comments below.

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I have a list for everything, relying heavily on them in the planning of my daily life. But when it comes to household chores and home organization, for some reason those tasks don’t make my daunting to-do list. Instead, they get pushed to the side, only to be conquered if I have some extra time on a Saturday morning. Thank goodness guidance is here with HGTV’s Help Around the Home.

New to, Help Around the Home features a monthly calendar brimming with daily tips and tasks for keeping an organized home. January provides 31 fresh ideas to start the year out clutter-free and clean. There’s even a cool feature where you can send the Help Around the Home ideas to your own e-calendar.

And if you have creative suggestions to keep clutter at bay, share tips on organization, decorating and homekeeping with other fans.

Now to go check my packet of sunflower seeds!

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