How To Declutter The 4 Messiest Spots In Your Home

Here’s how to conquer clutter, restore order and set yourself up for success—once and for all.

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1. The junk drawer

inside of a very organized drawer containing classes, receipts, pens and a dish of small change
(Photo, Erik Putz. Styling, Meg Crossley and Morgan Michener.)

Rename it “the hub drawer”

This bit of drawer rebranding will nudge you to restrict its contents to the things you need at that operational hub, whether it’s in the front hall or beside the kitchen sink. Line the drawer with pretty paper as a visual reminder not to let the drawer get too stuffed—make sure you can always see a bit of the pattern. “This helps with decision-making and acts as a reminder that junk doesn’t belong inside the house,” says Amanda Omelusik, a Calgary-based professional home organizer at Room to Breathe.

That also means a strict policy of leaving flyers outside. Scan them for deals, take a photo if necessary, then walk them straight over to the blue bin. (Or use an app like Flipp, which allows you to access deals digitally.) But it doesn’t have to be all business: “The KonMari method says if you’re opening a drawer every day, it should make you smile,” says Effy Terry, a GTA-based professional organizer at Organize That. So after corralling your hub drawer’s contents into containers and inserts, consider throwing in one element of whimsy, like a beloved trinket. When you’re getting organized, don’t feel as if you need to buy all new things. That long olive dish your aunt gave you? It’s a great spot to store your glasses.

2. The bathroom vanity

inside of a very organized bathroom closet with baskets of makeup skincare and haircare products
(Photo, Erik Putz. Styling, Meg Crossley and Morgan Michener.)

Find a storage solution that fits your space

Get stuff off the countertop by moving it under the sink. If you have several family members using the same bathroom, designate each person a basket and make them responsible for keeping it organized. And instead of placing items on a single, horizontal plane, use stacked under-sink organizers to maximize your vertical space. If your vanity can accommodate it, pullout drawers are handy. The key is to keep items you need daily (like your hair dryer) at the front of the cupboard.

There’s still room for personality, even in a bathroom vanity: Vases are a great spot to stash makeup brushes, for instance. Remember to group items together—all your hair products go in one basket, all your first-aid items in another. But don’t start building pyramids out of toilet paper. Keep only four spare rolls under the sink—the rest can go in a linen closet with extra tissues and paper towels.

2. The fridge

inside of a double-door fridge that is full of very organized food and condiments
(Photo, Erik Putz. Styling, Meg Crossley and Morgan Michener.)

Opt for clear storage

First things first: Take everything out. Then relegate whatever you can to clear acrylic bins, which will let you easily see what you have and cut down on food waste. Attaching clear, pullout shelves to the existing shelves is helpful for this reason, as well—you can see the contents at a glance, ensuring you won’t buy too much at the store (which then results in expired food). Placing fruit in a container for easy grab-and-go snacking is another way to ensure food doesn’t go to waste.

Glass containers are great for leftovers—they can go straight from the fridge to the oven to the table. And Lazy Susans can be enormously handy in the fridge: Keep your sauces on one so it’s easy to spot the hoisin. Store jams, jellies and other condiments together in a bin you can easily pull out, and add bins into your crisper drawers to compartmentalize your veggies. Label shelves to encourage the whole family to put things in the right spot (using a label maker keeps it even more official). Lastly, go through your fridge’s contents every week or so to get rid of expired items.

4. The kitchen pantry

inside of a very organized double-door full-height pantry cupboard filled with dry and canned goods
(Photo, Erik Putz. Styling, Meg Crossley and Morgan Michener.)

Assess what you need

The key to maintaining order is accessibility: You want to be able to see what you’re looking for and grab it without having to take everything out of the cupboard. (You don’t want to be knee-deep in cookbooks before you can find the basmati rice.) Assess your space and decide what you really need in your kitchen on a daily basis. If you have storage elsewhere, keep items you buy in bulk there.

Use clear bins to group categories of items that aren’t suited to glass canisters, like crackers, soup and canned vegetables, and beans. You can also remove items from boxes and bags to eliminate visual clutter. “This is called ‘decanting,’” says Terry. “Putting pasta, cereal and spices into glass or plastic containers looks cleaner and helps you track when you’re running low.” Write a date on a sticker at the bottom of the container to indicate when the ingredient was purchased. And then bring those containers to the bulk store when you need to stock up—you’ll save packaging (and probably a few bucks, too).