Take Control of Your Stuff

Remember how good it felt when you first moved in and had all the storage in the world? You can find it again.

As time goes by there's one thing you can count on: unless you're extremely vigilant, you'll end up with more stuff coming into your house than going out. You’ll begin to feel everything's too small, too cramped and too tight.

So how do you take control of your stuff? Organize your space, put things where they are easily found and store items so they can be seen. And – professionals say this is truly the hardest step –give away the things you've outgrown, never used or don't need any more.

Give Away What You Don’t Need

The first real step is to get rid of the things you don't need. Most of us have enough space but it's cluttered up with things that should be given away, recycled or thrown away.

Keep Most-used Items Easily Accessible

Your most convenient storage is at waist level, like a countertop, the top drawer, the first shelf in a cupboard. Put the things you use most into these areas, and you'll find staying organized a lot easier.

Stash things you use less frequently in the more awkward areas where you have to bend down or reach up.

Divide and Compartmentalize Space

You can make the most of storage throughout the house by thinking vertically and horizontally. Most storage in our homes comes in the form of a box: a closet, a drawer, a shelf beneath the sink. Unless that space gets divided and then subdivided, much of it goes to waste.

Containers, drawers, shelves and dividers can take an unmanageably large square of space and turn it into an easily organized system of compartments and cubbyholes. Sweaters on a closet shelf will topple into disorder if stacked too high. Add a slotted divider that reaches from the shelf to the ceiling, however, and each sweater has its own space. Keep a small, stable stool nearby to make reaching things on high shelves easier.

Make Stored Items Visible

Things stored out of sight tend to disappear. The secret of vertical storage is labeling things so they don't vanish. Use clear containers so you can see what’s stored, or else make detailed labels of each box’s contents.

Get added mileage out of deep shelves, like those under a bathroom sink or in a walk-in closet, by putting items stored in the back at a higher level than those stored in front. You'll be able to scan the contents at a glance, reach for what you need and – very important in the quest to stay organized – easily return things to where they belong.

Use these simple steps to get organized and take back your space.