Expert Advice: How to Get (and Stay!) Organized
Professional organizer Marie Potter shares her best tips and tricks for keeping things clean and tidy at home.
As a child, Marie Potter never needed reminding to pick up her toys. Even then, this professional organizer loved tidiness—think blocks in neat stacks and stuffed animals sorted by size. “I was literally organizing in the crib,” she remembers. Today, Potter spends her days helping clients create order in their own homes, whether they’re merging two households through marriage, making way for a new baby, or just looking to find a little more peace in their living space.
For Potter, it’s rewarding, purposeful work—even if she doesn’t always get the credit. Take one memorable client, who wanted help functionalizing her apartment from top to bottom. “The funny part was that she wanted her husband to think that she’d done it all alone,” Potter laughs. Together, they pulled off the prank. But if you’re looking to DIY for real, read on. Below, our professional organizer reveals her best tips to simplify and streamline any space.
1. Trash or Treasure?
“Do I love it, use it or need it?” These three questions, Potter says, are key to decluttering—the first step of successful organization. If you’re shaking your head ‘no’ to each question, it’s time to let grandmother’s tasseled tea cozy go.
It’s not enough to organize what’s already in your home—you also have to plan for items that will arrive eventually. “Follow the twenty percent rule,” advises Potter, which means leaving that portion of a bin, bookshelf, or drawer empty to make room for new things.
3. Get Hooked
It’s hard to stay organized when children regularly traipse in and out of your home. According to Potter, “hooks are the path of least resistance” when it comes to kid-friendly organization—they’re a ready place to hang backpacks and coats.
6 Modular Units Perfect for Storage
4. I.D. Everything
Label liberally. That way, “you can get the whole family in tune with the organizing system.” Potter also suggests using clear plastic storage containers, since you’ll be able to see everything stowed inside.
5. Savvy Shelving
Why stick with the status quo? Shelf heights can often be adjusted, especially in the kitchen. Potter uses sticky notes to plan a home for everything in her pantry, then drops or raises shelves accordingly.
6. On the Way Out
Our professional organizer recommends keeping a bin or basket in the entryway where you can leave library books, dry cleaning, and anything else that needs to leave the house. “This ‘transport bin’ definitely needs to be near the front door,” she warns. Otherwise, you’re apt to forget all about its contents.