By Ann Robinson & Annie V. Schwemmer



A place for everything 1 A place for everything 2 A place for everything 3

When organizing children’s rooms, make it easy with one step to put away items. Hooks are easier than hangers, racks are easier than bookshelves, and bins on shelves are a great way to teach organizing and help children stay tidy. (David Price, Renovation Design Group)

No matter how well-designed or attractive your home is, if it is not clean and well-organized it will not live up to the dream home you are trying to create. Last week we featured the first phase of getting organized with help from professional organizer Susan Schreiner of Clutter Cutters.

Schreiner says sorting and choosing what items to keep are critical steps; missing this phase of the process is one of the most common mistakes people make when trying to get organized.

This week, we will cover the next phase. After you have de-cluttered, weeded out, donated, sold, trashed and sorted your keepers into category boxes, it is time to find the best place to store those items you have decided to keep.

Last week, we started in an area of concentration. Let’s say you started in a guest bedroom that was doubling as the storage/clutter hub. Now that you have sorted, you have category boxes of all the items you want to keep. First, decide which items you want to store in that room. Because your items are already separated into categories, you can see how much space you need to store these items.

When deciding where to put everything, Schreiner says to ask yourself three questions: Where do I use this? How often do I use this? Where do I have some space that might work for this?

The goal is to make putting things away easy. “Try to keep it to one motion to put things away,” Schreiner says. “If you have to go to another room, open a closet and open a box to put something away, you are less likely to put it away.”

The one-motion idea is especially important for the items you use on a daily basis. Schreiner uses the A, B, C, D storage concept.

The A category is items you use every day or multiple times a day. Store these items at the front of drawers, in cupboards and on shelves that are easy to reach. The B items are ones you use every week. These items should still be easy to find but can be a little harder to get to — maybe in the back of the cupboards or in a closet.

The C items are items you don’t use every week. These can be stored in harder-to-reach places such as on high shelves, in the attic, etc. The D items are rarely if ever used. Schreiner says in the organizing world, “rarely used” is code for “can be gotten rid of!” This is difficult because many of the rarely used items were once used in the past. If you find you don’t have time for that item anymore or never use it, replace that interest with a new interest. It will make it easier to move on.

Once you have organized all the items you have in your house, you may think you are done and never have to organize again.

However, continued effort is needed to keep the area organized and maintained. Develop certain rules and be persistent and consistent, especially if you have little ones in the house.

“Don’t underestimate children,” Schreiner says. “They can learn to put things away on a regular basis.” However, she says to make it easier for children, build the system so they will have success.

“It is much easier for a kid to put toys away in a bin than to stack them nicely on a shelf. Hooks are easier than hangers. If you have the space, horizontal book racks like you see in doctor’s offices are much easier than traditional bookshelves for kids to put away books. You may just have to help kids put away books on a shelf if that is what you have.”

Bins for toys should be organized in categories — cars in one bin, dolls in another, etc. This is the best way for children to learn the concept of organizing.

Schreiner says when you organize, you need to consider items that come in and out of the house. “You need a way station to place these items,” Schreiner says. “It can be a piece of furniture or a closet right where you come in, but you need a system to deal with the stuff coming in and out. If you don’t, this becomes the dump zone anyway.”

For this area, Schreiner is a fan of bins on shelves. She says they hide objects, are easy (it takes only one motion to put something away) and you can take the smaller bin to a different room if you need the contents or want to deal with them somewhere else.

Deal with new clutter regularly, and deal with paper clutter every day or two. Immediately put what you don’t need in the recycle bin or shredder. If you have to store paper, keep it contained and organized. Schreiner has found the best paper system for most people is a simple alphabetical file system with an index at the beginning.

Schreiner recommends using small chunks of time to stay organized. “Use two minutes here and five minutes there,” she says. “Don’t wait until you have huge blocks of time” or it may never happen.

It takes some determination and discipline, but if you work regularly to keep an organized house, the clutter won’t pile up. You need larger blocks of time initially to get organized, but less time to stay that way. Keeping an organized house takes consistent effort, but it can be done. Good luck!

For more tips on organizing from Schreiner see

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to

Renovation Solutions: Organizing, Part 2: A place for everything, everything in its place