Shopping·7 min read

17 Tips from Professional Organizers on How to Make Your Home Actually Sparkle

home organization
Design: theSkimm | Photos: The Container Store
February 8, 2024

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We can all probably think of that one area at home that could use a refresh…or an entire cleanout. But the thought of overhauling a closet, kitchen, pantry, or maybe even your entire home can feel deeply intimidating. Since February is the best month for kicking off New Year’s goals, we chatted with three professional organizers about how to get your home projects started. They also shared some hacky, yet helpful products that are worth buying to make your space sparkle.

The experts

  • Lisa Jacobs, founder of the NYC-based company Imagine It Done

  • Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, the cofounders of NEAT Method, an organization firm with over 100 locations across the U.S. and Canada

The steps

  • Sort. Organize the items in your space by type.

  • Edit. “You don't want to move or start organizing with a bunch of things you don't plan on keeping,” explains Jacobs, especially before a big move. For ease, Murphy and Hagmeyer suggest starting with items that are broken, stained, expired, don't fit, or are no longer being used.

  • Map. At this point, you’ll create the blueprint of where you want to keep the items you’re saving. You might have to take some measurements before you buy any larger items.

  • Curate, contain, and personalize. At the final steps, you’ll add your curated items into their containers. You can personalize your space with any customizations, from simple labels and lighting to fleshed-out closet systems.

The must-haves

The Container Store

A classic over-the-door organizer…

In the past, we’ve been deterred by over-the-door organizers because they can be flimsy. Murphy and Hagmeyer put this sturdier option on our radar. “We especially love this solution for optimizing space in small laundry, coat, and primary closets. Create a drop zone, corral shoes, or organize gift wrap — the possibilities are pretty much endless.” This one works for most standard doors. ($119, The Container Store)

Buy it
The Container Store

Velvet nonslip baby hangers…

Yes, for an adult closet. According to Jacobs, these are perfect “for adult-sized pants to reduce view of the hanger and maximize view of the clothing item.” The velvet exterior ensures that items won’t slide around. ($27.99/40-pack, The Container Store)

Buy it
The Container Store

An acrylic collator…

PSA: You don’t have to use a collator just for mail or paperwork. “It’s modern, sleek, and the perfect size for displaying wallets or clutches upright in a primary closet,” Murphy and Hagmeyer explain. We also think this would make a great charging zone to keep cords and other technology organized. ($31.99, The Container Store)

Buy it
The Container Store

A telescopic valet rod…

It wasn’t until Jacobs shared this with us that we had any idea what it was, but now, we need one. “It’s ideal for hanging up your dry cleaning, planning your outfits when packing for a trip, or for styling looks you'll wear for the week.” This one is a part of The Container Store’s Elfa system and easily screws into any 16-inch Elfa Decor Shelf. ($14, The Container Store)

Buy it
The Container Store

Shelf risers…

All three organizers said these are a must. Jacobs suggests using them for purse displays in your closet or in your bathroom for skincare or perfume. Murphy and Hagmeyer suggest tiered versions to “arrange canned goods, spices, and condiments for optimal visibility and to prevent losing items at the back of shelves.” Some can even expand to accommodate more storage. ($22.39+, The Container Store)

Buy it

Easy-to-install LED lighting…

The best feeling? Not having to call in someone handy to get the job done. These ceiling lights mount from an adhesive backing. Just peel and stick for motion-sensored lights in no time. Jacobs loves these “specifically in the closet to create that boutique-like effect” for displaying bags or shoes. ($34.99/2-pack, Walmart)

Buy it

Sheer drawstring bags that’ll keep smaller items together…

This hack from Murphy and Hagmeyer is so obvious yet we still wouldn’t think of this ourselves: “Pair two-piece swimsuits within a drawer or bin using these drawstring favor bags and never lose a match again. We love that they're sheer so it's easy to identify each suit.” You can use the leftovers as gift bags. ($13.99/100-pack, Amazon)

Buy it

The tips to get your next project started

If someone is looking to finally organize a space that's been building up/bothering them, what tips do you have to motivate them to even take the first step?

  • Start small. “This quick win will inspire and motivate you to take on bigger projects and with a little experience under your belt, you'll be less likely to get overwhelmed,” said Murphy and Hagmeyer. Jacobs agrees, “Focus on the area that most depletes your energy, burdens, or overwhelms you.”

  • Ask for help. If it’s in your budget and it’ll provide less stress, go for it. “Outsource what you can,” says Jacobs. “Bring in a contractor. Consider working with a professional or sensible friend to direct you and encourage you throughout the process.”

Sometimes once we organize a space, the upkeep is difficult and we fall back to old habits. What are some ways to set yourself up for success when maintaining an organized space?

  • Be open to revision. Jacobs affirmed that an important part of the organization process is being flexible. “Don’t be afraid to work and rework the organized space as it reflects your lifestyle. Organization is exclusive to you and only you.”

  • Add labels. According to Murphy and Hagmeyer, labels are the simplest way to keep up with your new system — along with everyone else in your household. “This makes it easy for everyone in your home to understand what belongs where.”

  • Use the same hangers. “Consistent hangers are a game changer,” raves Jacobs. “Don't let yourself start putting away dry cleaning hangers or shopping hangers once you've streamlined everything to match.” Not to mention, they’re flimsy and tend to break.

  • Put items back where they belong. Yes it’s annoying, but Murphy and Hagmeyer explain that the quicker you do this, the easier it is to avoid clutter from building over time.

  • Have a storage plan before you bring something new into your home. Aka know exactly where you’ll put something before you acquire it. Murphy and Hagmeyer share that “if you don't have room, practice telling yourself no, or donate something else to clear space.”

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