About Harriet

Organizing expert Harriet Schechter is considered a pioneer in the field of professional organizing and has authored three books, including Let Go of Clutter (McGraw-Hill) and Conquering Chaos at Work (Simon & Schuster). She's answered thousands of questions about organizing, clutter control and storage solutions, and she's happy to answer yours!

Travel toiletry organizers

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Packing toiletries is probably the least fun part of trip preparation.  Even if you’re traveling by car and have plenty of space to stash your stuff (and no TSA restrictions), it can be hard to pack your favorite toiletries safely–and organized so that they’re easy to use when you unpack.

Luckily there are now some great travel toiletry organizers that make packing–and traveling–so much easier. Here are three of my favorites:

  • The TSA Travel Bottles Kit is completely TSA-compliant so you can take small amounts of toiletries with you right in your carry-on luggage. (The TSA Liquids Rule states: “You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces or less per item…)  The Kit consists of a one-quart-capacity clear vinyl zippered bag containing four clear plastic 2-ounce bottles (three with screw-caps and one spray bottle) and two 2-ounce clear jars.  The caps and lids are in three different colors so you can color-code the contents.
  • The Travel Toiletry Bag is a compact multi-compartment organizer designed to unfold into a sort of hanging mini vanity–it has a swivel hook that lets you hang it on a shower rod, door or towel rack; the hook tucks away in its own pocket when not in use. The organizer features a large main compartment with two elastic-top pockets plus two elastic straps for keeping bottles securely stored in the upright position. There are also three interior zippered pockets (two are PVC lined with mesh front panels for visibility) and an exterior zippered compartment.
  • The Travel Bag Organizer consists of two zippered cubes that slide apart to reveal a shelf designed to fit over a bathroom sink. It expands from 15 to 36 inches wide to fit over most sinks for instant counter space. Whether used vertically, horizontally or diagonally it’s designed to hold everything in place. Each cube has two large compartments with removable dividers, plus a spacious zippered pocket in each lid section.

For more travel organizing tips, read my post on travel organizers.

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Conquer Car Clutter

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Is car clutter driving you crazy?  (Sorry, that pun was intentional.) If so, you’re not alone. Automobiles of all sizes have a well-known tendency to attract and hold clutter.

You already know you need to remove all the stuff that doesn’t belong in your car–that’s the simple part.  But what can you do about the stuff you really need to keep handy when you’re in the driver’s seat?  I’m talking about necessities: sunglasses, cell phone, tissues, pen or pencil, notepad, cleaning wipes and whatever else you want to be able to reach easily while you’re behind the wheel without taking your eyes off the road.

Fortunately there are auto organizers designed to keep those necessities right at hand yet out of the way. Here are three I recommend for conquering car clutter:

  • The Driver Cup Auto Organizer fits in any cup holder and features a rear cord port for charging a cell phone, three soft Driver Cup Auto Organizer Imagepockets (fabric-lined for safe storage of glasses and small personal electronics), and a mesh front pocket for holding ear buds, change or cash. The rubber cord port lets you easily charge your cell phone or MP3 player while you drive.
  • Another space-saver is the Driver Pocket Auto Organizer, designed to hang from the dashboard vent via a two-way clip.  It has one large pocket with rigid sides to keep it open, plus a small front pocket; both pockets are lined with padding to protect your electronics.
  • A larger option is the Automobile Catch-All Organizer which fits neatly on a seat, console or floor of any size vehicle.  It includes a large main section with a movable divider; two outside mesh pockets; a corner pocket; and a lid with Velcro closure.  Reinforced sides keep the unit sitting upright, and bottom grip-strips make sure it stays in place.

For more tips on this topic, read “Keeping your car clutter-free.”

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Junk drawer organizers

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Ah, the classic junk drawer.  Filled with items that you just know if you ever discard them, you’ll finally need them.  A jumble of seemingly useless yet occasionally useful odds and ends.

An organized junk drawer may sound like an oxymoron–but think about it.   How handy would it be if you could quickly find whatever you needed, instead of wasting time rummaging around and getting sidetracked by things you forgot you had?

Junk drawer organizers are available in a variety of configurations.  The best ones offer some type of flexibility.  Here are five effective types of junk drawer organizers:

  • Double-decker. The Junk Drawer Organizer consists of two trays: a sliding top tray that’s about half the size of the bottom tray.  Together they comprise 22 individual compartmentsJunk Drawer Organizer Image of various sizes. Decals are included that can be used to designate specific sections for a variety of items such as pens and pencils, notes, scissors, stamps, and screwdrivers.  The trays can also be used side by side for more drawer coverage.
  • Modular. Interlocking Plastic Bins are useful for creating a completely customized drawer organizer. The bins come in various sizes and feature an interlocking lip so they can be easily joined together.
  • Sliding. The Acrylic Expandable Drawer Organizer is a clear tray with multiple compartments, designed to slide on drawer sides to allow quick access to items in the drawer space below.  The tray features square rails to fit on drawer side frames measuring one-half-inch thick, and expands to fit in drawer spaces measuring 11 to 18-1/2 inches wide.  The clear acrylic lets you see what’s in the drawer beneath the tray.
  • Adjustable. The Bamboo Adjustable Drawer Organizer includes three removable dividers that can create anywhere from six to 13 storage compartments.
  • Dividers. The Expandable and Adjustable Kitchen Drawer Dividers kit components includeExpandable and Adjustable Drawer Dividers Kit Image a pair of spring-loaded dividers that fit in drawers measuring 17-1/2 inches to 21 inches long, plus three additional slide-in dividers that provide for greater custom organization.

For more types of drawer organizers that can help you get your junk drawer in order, read my earlier post on makeup drawer organizers.

 

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Answer: Organizer for vitamins

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Q. My husband takes about 20 different vitamins and supplements and the bottles are always cluttering up our kitchen counter.  He also sometimes has difficulty opening and closing the bottles. So I’ve been trying to find an organizer-dispenser that can accommodate up to 20 separate batches of large tablets and capsules. But all the ones I’ve seen are either made for small pills or they don’t have enough compartments.  Do you have any suggestions?

A. I think the 20-drawer Small Parts Storage Cabinet could work well as a space-saving dispenser and organizer for vitamins.  Each clear drawer can be pulled out completely for easy access when filling, and you can put adhesive labels on the drawer handles for identification.  (If you use Erasable Labels, you’ll be able to make changes easily when needed.) Small Parts Storage Cabinet Image

The only drawback is that this is not a totally air-tight container; therefore you might want to store it inside a cupboard, on the most accessible shelf.

More ideas for vitamin and pill organizers can be found here.

 

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Blanket Storage Solutions

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Summer’s here–time to tuck away all those heavy blankets, comforters, bedspreads and quilts. Easier said than done, of course, especially since they should only be put away clean.  And getting them laundered or dry cleaned is a job in itself.

At least you won’t have to lose any sleep over how to store them.  Here are four different types of effective blanket storage solutions:

  • Zippered storage bags.  A classic solution, especially if you have adequate storage space. The extra-large Canvas Blanket Bag is a good example–it has a clear side and zips on three edges for easy accesshttp://www.organizeit.com/images/canblank2.jpg to the contents. At 26 inches by 21 inches by 10 inches, it’s roomy enough to accommodate a king-size comforter and duvet cover.  Zippered under-bed storage bags are also useful for blanket storage.
  • Vacuum seal storage bags. To fit more blankets into less space, Jumbo Vacuum Clothes Bags are an efficient solution.  These clear, heavy-duty double-zip bags allow you to compress the contents by using your vacuum hose to pull out excess air. (You can also remove air by hand, but the vacuum does a better and faster job.)
  • Blanket hangers. The Comforter and Blanket Hanger features extremely sturdy chrome wire construction designed to support the weight of even the heaviest comforters. Providing 15 inches of hanging space, the open-ended design makes it simple to retrieve or hang any large folded materials. The hanging rod includes a non-slip rubber sleeve to prevent covers from falling off.
  • Quilt racks. If you’d just like to be able to grab extra blankets easily, a quilt rack is a handy option. This type of blanket storage solution also allows you to display afghans, quilts and throws. The antique-style Quilt Display Stand has three bars, and each bar can be used to hang at least one blanket.

More types of blanket storage solutions can be found here.

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Gardening Organizers

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Do you spend more time rummaging around for your gardening gloves than actually gardening? If so, your gardening gear could benefit from a good weeding–and a good storage system.

There are several different kinds of gardening organizers; most are either mobile or wall-mounted.  Here are two excellent examples of each type:

  • The Garden Rack with Removable Basket lets you efficiently store all your gardening tools and accessories togetherGarden Rack with Removable Basket Image. The rack is topped with a shelf for holding items such as gloves, clogs and plant food; the removable basket is handy for carrying materials to and from your yard.  Two sets of long hooks securely hang shovels and rakes; four shorter hooks accommodate hand tools.  Constructed of heavy gauge epoxy-coated steel, the rack can be mounted directly to the wall or may be used with Garage Grid or StoreWall systems.
  • For simply storing an individual long-handled tool or a garden hose, the Swivel Storage Hook is a space-saver. This clever hook folds flat against the wall for sleek storage when not in use. (More garden hose storage options can be found here.)
  • The Yard Tool Gardening Cart is designed to organize both long- and short-handled garden tools along with gloves, clogs and various Yard Tool Gardening Cart Imagegardening supplies. The cart features 10 pockets on each side for smaller items; two grid shelves can hold larger items, plus provide support for long-handled tools. The bottom grid shelf can hold smaller tools. A solid bottom shelf keeps tools in place.
  • The Garden Tool Storage Cart features a removable vented shelf for potting or storage, a solid storage shelf, a 4-inch-high bin designed for mixing soil, and a sifter on the top of the cart that allows loose dirt to fall into the bin. There are also five side slots for holding all sizes of gardening tools.
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Vanity Organizers

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Do you suffer from vanity insanity?  It’s a common condition, especially on busy mornings.

A cluttered vanity (bathroom counter) is frustrating to use and hard to keep clean.  But personal care supplies tend to accumulate on open horizontal surfaces because leaving things out is easier than putting them away.

Luckily there are vanity organizers that can help you keep your bathroom counter clutter-free–or at least a lot tidier.  Here are four effective storage systems for cleverly corralling cosmetics, hair styling stuff, dental care items and more:

  • The Bathroom Counter Organizer is designed to both organize and attractively display frequently used items such as make-up, brushes and combs. It consists of three tall clear Bathroom Counter Organizer Imageglass jars ensconced in a metal frame. The jars lift out of the base for easy cleaning and are cradled at the bottom with thick foam padding for protection.
  • The Acrylic Vanity Organizer is a clear rectangular container with four small compartments and one large compartment for organizing a variety of personal care supplies and accessories.
  • The OXO Stainless Steel Toothbrush Holder provides bothOXO Stainless Steel Toothbrush Holder Image hygienic and stylish storage for toothbrushes and toothpaste on your vanity.  It can hold up to four over-sized toothbrushes plus a tube of toothpaste. The interior divider, which is removable for cleaning, features flexible plastic fins that separate the brushes. Vents near the top and bottom let air circulate so toothbrushes can dry after use, and the attached angled lid permits easy access to the contents.
  • The Hair Care Caddy is specifically designed to organize a curling iron, flat iron and blow dryer.  It’s constructed of stainless steel mesh with a silicone inner base for safe storage of hot hair appliances; a divided compartment in the back lets you neatly store the cords. You can keep this vanity organizer on your bathroom counter or store it in a cabinet, a deep drawer or even hanging on a towel bar.
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Conquering kitchen clutter

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Trying to keep an over-stuffed kitchen organized is a losing battle.  No matter how many clever containers you use, the real problem is TOO MUCH STUFF.

But organizing becomes easier when you habitually let go of excess clutter instead of just cramming it into overcrowded cabinets and cupboards. Here are five steps you can take to conquer kitchen clutter:

  1.  Ask yourself which items really deserve to live in your kitchen cupboards and pantry cabinets, and which ones you’re ready to jettison (discard or donate).
  2.  Weed out common clutter-causers like multiple mugs (often caused by a fondness for “free gifts”), dozens of bags, countless condiment packets from fast-food eateries, and enough cleaning products to stock a store.
  3.  Let go of things you don’t use that have been taking up space for so long you can’t even remember acquiring them.
  4.  Set limits by deciding what quantity of each item it’s reasonable to have on hand–for example, do you really need over 80 grocery bags, or six types of glass cleaner?
  5.  Make a conscious effort to stay within those limits. It also helps to adopt environmentally friendly alternatives that reduce clutter, such as reusable bags (canvas, vinyl or mesh) and nontoxic multipurpose cleaners.  
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Spice Organizers

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If “Old Spice” makes you think of what’s in your spice rack, maybe your spice collection is due for an overhaul.

Although spices and herbs don’t spoil, they do lose their taste over time.  According to spice experts, the shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 4 years for whole spices, 2-3 years for ground spices and 1-3 years for leafy herbs, depending on the herb. To test if it’s time to toss, simply taste or smell the contents of your spice containers. A lack of scent and/or a bland flavor means the contents have turned into clutter–time to discard.

Decluttering your spice collection can help you reevaluate the way you store your spices. There are three main types of spice organizers: hanging (mountable on a wall or inside a cabinet door), drawer inserts, and free-standing (for counter-tops or inside cabinets). Here are the best examples of each:

To explore more spice organizers, click here.

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Answer: Hanging recycling container

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Q. I recently had a really awesome wooden shelf with hooks built in the hallway leading from my kitchen to the garage. The recycling container that holds the recyclables until they are wheeled to the street is in the garage. Rather than making a trip to the garage every time I am disposing of an item, I would like to find an attractive lined “laundry bag” of sorts to hang on my new shelf.  It would be convenient and look nice, as we and guests pass by and through the hallway. Can you help me?

A. I think a laundry bag could be awkward for holding recyclables since you’d need to use both hands to access the opening.  A better alternative is the Canvas Door Knob Hamper, which has an open top for easy access, a slim profile, and a hook for hanging and carrying. Canvas Door Knob Hamper Image

If you’d still prefer to try using a laundry bag, two that might work are the Large Canvas Laundry Bag and the Laundry Bag With Strap.

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