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!

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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Bath & Shower Organizing Tips

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Bathtub edges and shower corners seem to have a magnetic ability to attract everything from rapidly multiplying bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bodycare products to clutter-causing kids’ bath toys.

To declutter and organize these tricky areas, try these bath and shower organizing tips:

  1. Take stock of your “product inventory” and move out anything that doesn’t get used on a regular basis.  Don’t hang onto products like shampoo that you tried a couple of times but didn’t like or ancient loofahs that you keep forgetting to use.
  2.  If there are a number of items that get used frequently by different family members, consider having a shower tote for each person’s bath necessities.
  3.  The most effective shower and bath organizers are those designed to utilize vertical space, such as:
  • The Mesh Shower Rod Organizer features three large and three small mesh pockets to hold your shower items Mesh Shower Rod Organizer Imagewithout collecting water, and a hook on each side for loofahs or shower brushes. The large lower pockets feature a hole in the bottom so you can store product bottles upside-down, eliminating the need to remove a bottle to squeeze out shampoo or conditioner. Designed to hang from your existing shower curtain rings or hooks, this clever shower organizer takes up virtually no space.
  • The tension-pole InterDesign Corner Shower Caddy makes the most of corner space in a shower stall or bathtub. The four height-adjustable, self-draining storage baskets include one large basket and three medium baskets, one with a towel bar and one with hooks and razor holders. The pole adjusts from 5 feet to 9 feet high.
  • The Adjustable Shower Caddy is an over-the-showerhead organizer with two large baskets that can slide from side to side and even reposition up or down to offer customized storage, allowing you to store larger shampoo bottles. The built-in dish on the bottom is sized to hold a large bar of soap; the non-slip grip hanger is augmented by a bottom suction cup that adheres securely to the wall.

More bath and shower organizing tips can be found here.

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Necklace Organizers

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Whether you have just a few strings of pearls or a vast collection of neck jewelry, necklace organizers can make life easier.

Different types of necklaces require special storage.  For example, chain necklaces ideally should be hung to keep them from getting knotted and tangled.  Necklaces made of pearls, gems or beads can also be hung but ideally should be stored in a scratch-free environment such as a velvet-lined jewelry tray.

There are many types of necklace organizers to choose from.  Here are three of my favorites:

  • If you’d like to have your necklaces on display but also want to keep them dust-free, the Hanging Necklace Holder is your best bet.  It features a removable lid Acrylic Necklace Holder Imagewith an easy-grip knob that attaches to 12 necklace hooks, providing quick access to the contents. Constructed of clear acrylic so you can view your necklaces from all sides, it keeps them safe from tangles and dust while looking great on your dresser or vanity.
  • If dust isn’t a concern, the Spinning Jewelry Stand is a good bet.  Five separate holders (each designed to hold four necklaces) are of varying heights to provide ample hanging room for different necklace lengths. The base can spin 360 degrees in either direction to allow for easy access to each necklace, and the raised lip provides additional storage for other jewelry items such as rings or watches.
  • If you prefer to keep your necklaces in a drawer, the Neatnix Jewelry Stax Necklace Holder isNecklace Holder Jewelry Organizer - Blue Image ideal. The stackable and sliding design works with other Neatnix Jewelry Stax, and includes a flocked plastic insert with a faux velvet lining and seven long divided compartments designed to hold necklaces or bracelets. A protective clear plastic lid is also available.

More types of necklace organizers can be found here.

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Sweater Storage Solutions

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Hanging isn’t good enough for certain kinds of closet-dwelling apparel.  Drawers and shelves are needed for storage of sweaters and other knits that should be stored folded or rolled.  (Shelving systems also work well for shoes and handbags.)

Here are four different types of effective sweater storage solutions that can help you keep your knitwear organized:

  • Clear storage drawers.  See-through drawer fronts make it easy to view and access contents.  Stackable storage drawers http://www.organizeit.com/images/459-kable-plastic-storage-drawers-white.jpgmaximize closet shelf space and are available in several sizes   If you have more floor space than shelf space in your closet, rolling drawer carts are a better solution.  And if you don’t have enough closet floor space, you can utilize the space under a bed with the Under Bed Storage Drawer.
  • Sweater bags.  For storing out-of-season sweaters and other garments, the zippered canvas CedarStow Canvas Storage Bag is ideal–it features a base constructed of  interlocking solid cedar panels (designed to repel moths and other clothes-damaging insects) and can hold up to 12 sweaters. Other types of sweater storage bags can be found here.
  • Freestanding shelving.  The easiest way to add shelves to your closet is with a stand-alone shelf unit such as Four-tier Wire Closet Shelves.  For narrower spaces, the Vertical Storage Organizer works well.
  • Shelf organizers. To divide open shelf space for optimum sweater storage, the Closet Shelf Organizer and individual shelf dividers are easy and efficient solutions.Closet Shelf Organizer Image
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Clothes Closet Organizers

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clothes organizersThe best closet-clearing remedies are those that many people find impossible to administer consistently: seasonal wardrobe weeding, or perpetual pruning using the In/Out Inventory Rule (whenever a new garment is acquired, an older one is retired).

The alternative is to utilize every square inch of closet space, which is what closet organizing companies specialize in doing. But what if a professionally customized closet— or even a do-it-yourself version — seems like too much of a project?

The good news is that you don’t have to completely redo your clothes closet to create more storage space. A few efficient and economical closet organizers could give you just enough wardrobe wiggle room.  Here are three of my favorites:

  • The Rolling Pant Trolley–with 15 removable cedar hangers–utilizes your closet floor for slacks storageRolling Pant Trolley with Cedar Hangers Image (and not in a wrinkled pile, either). This clever cart tucks away under hanging shirts or blouses and rolls out for easy access to 15 pairs of your pants and jeans.
  • Another rollaway closet helper is the 7-Drawer Storage Cart, which can be used for storing folded t-shirts, socks, underwear and accessories.
  • You can fit more clothes in your closet by using space-maximizing specialty hangers. Tank Top Organizers (Set of 2) ImageA great example is the Tank Top Organizer, designed to hold up to eight tank tops, camisoles or swimsuits.

For more ideas on how to make the most of your clothes closet, read my post Clothes Closet Maximizers.

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Home office organizing tips

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home-office-organizing
Running a household is like running a small business. There are all those endless office tasks: dealing with incoming and outgoing mail, budgeting, banking and other financial procedures; and, of course, filing.

Having an efficient yet comfortable home office in which to handle these chores can help keep your home organized. If you think you don’t have enough room to devote exclusively to an office, consider these home office options:

  • All you really need in terms of space for a bare-bones, low-tech office setup is a work surface (it doesn’t have to be a desk) and something in which Mobile Workstation Imageto store files (it needn’t be a file cabinet).  For example, you can combine a mobile workstation (pictured) with a rolling file cart.
  • If you have a spare room that’s known as the “guest room,” decide whether you have guests often enough to justify that designation. You may be better off setting up the space for your office headquarters. (For the occasional guest, consider a hideaway bed such as iBed In a Box.)
  • You can create a portable home office setup with inexpensivePortable File Box Image products such as file boxes with hinged lids and handles for easy carrying.  They can be used in conjunction with the kitchen or dining room table, which in many homes are the most popular places to do paperwork.

More home office organizing tips can be found here.

 

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Answer: Hat storage for lots of hats

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Q. I’ve got probably about 18 hats. I haven’t found any good solution to how to store them…hat boxes take up too much room and it’s hard to see what’s in each unless you take it down and look inside or through the front if there is a transparent window. The ways to organize baseball caps won’t work with women’s hats!  Can you help?

A. Storing women’s hats safely yet accessibly can be a real challenge. Here are three different types of hat storage solutions:

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Managing memorabilia & saving sentimental stuff

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managing memorabiliaWhat would you take with you if you had only 10 minutes to evacuate your home?

People who have lost their homes in fires or other disasters will tell you that the things they miss most are the “priceless” personal items with a connection to the past: irreplaceable heirlooms, treasured photos, family histories, scrapbooks, diaries. These types of meaningful memorabilia often have value only to us; it’s the sentimental stuff that defines who we are.

That’s why it’s important to set aside several empty storage containers that you could access quickly in an emergency and fill with your favorite sentimental items. A simple solution: Collapsible storage boxesCollapsible Storage Box - Orange (Set of 2) Image in various sizes. Unassembled, they take up very little space and can be slipped under a bed or along the inside wall of a hall closet. (The most economical solution: cardboard banker’s boxes with removable lids. But if you’ve never used them, it’s a good idea to assemble one just for practice.)

Of course, you can’t protect or save everything you love from every potential hazard. But you can take good care of each thing while you’ve got it, and cherish it while you can.

Unfortunately, keeping too much stuff makes it hard to enjoy and appreciate the very objects that are most precious to you.

Why not make a commitment to edit your memorabilia so you retain only what’s most precious to you? Keep the best and let go of the rest.

By aiming to limit your sentimental stuff to just what you can take with you in an emergency, you’ll have more time and space to enjoy your treasures – and your life.

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Long-term Organizing Tips

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Long-term Organizing TipsGetting organized is only half the battle.  The other half involves learning how to stay organized.  Here are four organizing tips designed to both help you get organized and maintain order:

  • Fuel motivation with visible results.  Motivate yourself to get rid of clutter by creating noticeable results quickly. Begin by decluttering the easiest and most visible cluttered area or segment. Seeing a positive change is energizing and can make you want to keep going.
  • Set up a convenient work space.  Choose an area that’s comfortable for working on ongoing projects and paperwork maintenance. If your File Box - Airtight Imagespace is very limited, you can create a portable home office setup with a lap desk and a lidded file box. They can be used in conjunction with the kitchen or dining room table, which in many homes are the most popular places to do paperwork.
  • Practice making decisions. Exercise your decision-making muscles as often as possible instead of putting off making a decision “til later.” For example, whenever you pick up a piece of paper, decide how you’re going to deal with it while it’s in your hand instead of putting it in a pile.
  • Take time to make time.  Daily, make it a part of your routine to schedule brief blocks of time for processing household paperwork (such as bill-paying, correspondence and filing) and putting things in order.  At least weekly, sit down with your calendar or time management system and your “to do” lists and allocate time for the home projects you want to accomplish over the next week.

*Photo courtesy of Organized Living.

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