Getting your home organized (finally!) doesn’t have to be overwhelming—as long as you use strategies that actually work. We called on some of our favorite local organization and home experts to share their top tricks for keeping busy families (and their homes) running smoothly. With these clever tactics, you might find that organizing can be downright fun!
Scott Simpson, Scott Simpson Builders
1529 Shermer Road, Northbrook, 847-291-2457
“I think a well-planned mud room is key. Bulletin boards or magnetic walls for calendars, schedules, invites for everyone’s stuff. Open lockers with hooks help the kids actually get their coats hung up. Doors on lockers get in the way and never get closed (by the kids). It’s called a mud room for a reason. It should look great but the function is key. Then make sure there is a great pocket door or barn style door for closing off the mud room from the rest of the house so when the mess or smell of hockey bags can’t be maintained every moment of the day. One side of the barn style door is a great place for the calendars, etcetera. This is fun and looks great too.”
Gayl Monto, professional organizer, The Art of Organization
Monto’s favorite acronym is SPACE:
“My overall favorite tip is to call a professional organizer to help you execute. We can think about organizing all day long, but until we take action, it doesn’t get done. A professional organizer helps you and you learn tips and techniques along the way. My clients say they can hear my voice when they are going through things after working together. And at the end of the day, it’s way more fun and you feel like you’ve had a major cleanse.
Tony Fulmer, chief horticulture officer, Chalet Landscape, Nursery & Garden Center
3132 Lake Ave., Wilmette, 847-256-0561
“Storing gardening stakes takes up valuable space (and time) that could be utilized for something else. We recently came across a clever way of dealing with gardening stakes: Simply take any heavy duty bucket or storage container and fit a heavy duty, multi-ring aluminum tomato cage snugly inside. Use this to corral your garden stakes in a more controlled way and with a smaller footprint. Keep stakes and plants organized and again, minimize clutter and potential messes.”
“Multi-functionality is important when it comes to staying organized – why have three things when you can have one? Here at Chalet, we love the versatility of the Gardman Garden Kneeler & Seat, which can be used by anyone regardless of age. It’s a seat and kneeler that’s great for working outside in the garden or lawn, because it can be switched around for each function quickly and easily. The strong foam pad saves ‘wear and tear’ as well as soil on knees and ‘seats.’ The legs also provide support and stability when rising from the kneeling position. It’s great for the garden, but you can multi-task with it, too – bring it along to kids’ sporting events and other events for a more comfortable spectator experience. Another bonus for those looking to cut down on clutter: the kneeler and seat folds up for minimal storage space.”
Mick de Giulio, de Giulio Kitchen Design
1121 Central Ave., Wilmette, 847-256-8833
“I like keeping all pots, pans and lids together — easy to see and easy to reach. The litmus test for good storage and organization of cookware is not hearing clanging when looking for what you need.”
Large sinks without dividers, that include integrated cutting boards and accessories, provide the most flexibility and make prepping and cleaning so much easier.
“Often-used items like spices, oils, and small countertop appliances can be kept within reach, yet hidden from view in recesses with sliding doors. I like to look for opportunities to capitalize on wall recesses; for example, the areas to the left and right of the cooktop where walls might be able to be recessed. They are especially good in an open plan kitchen where it’s important to keep countertops clutter-free.”
Jeannie Balsam, Jeannie Balsam Design LLC
903 Green Bay Road, 2N, Winnetka, 847-441-5228
“Garages, (especially attached garages) are underutilized and under-designed. When properly designed they can bring the organization of cumbersome and/or seasonal items to a whole new level. This past spring I worked with Will Green at Star Closets and completely transformed my attached garage. We approached the design like any other room in my home. We started by applying a multi-colored ‘flaked’ epoxy flooring that is beautiful, functional and extremely easy to clean with a hose—now we are no longer dragging dirt and leaves etc. into the house., Then we painted the walls, trim and ceiling to match in a deep gray. We designed and installed high quality and durable dark custom cabinetry along one wall (no more white, flimsy melamine cabinets that always look dirty and beat up)—this cabinet area serves as my ‘Costco Closet.’”
“Will’s design incorporated amazing solutions like the ceiling mounted ‘Garage Gator’ for bikes and gold clubs (off season) and ceiling mounted wire racking systems for organized bins with Halloween and holiday decorations. Since homeowners interact with their garage on a daily basis – I think it should be a priority. By keeping your home AND garage organized—your interiors have the opportunity to shine!”
Steve Hester, Hester Painting & Decorating
7340 North Monticello Ave., Skokie, 847-677-5130
“Since many people have leftover touch-up paint from their paint projects over the years, it is a great idea to keep that supply of paints organized. Otherwise, when it finally comes time to use the paints they could be useless. (You should make sure you store the paints in an area that won’t freeze, so do not keep them in the garage or storage shed. If the paint freezes, after it thaws there is a good chance it will not be usable. Keep a file on your computer with a list of the colors and products used for each room and label each can with the room name. If you don’t organize everything like this, once you or your painter go to use the touch up paints, there is a good chance you won’t know exactly where each paint goes. Every year you should check the cans of paint to make sure they are still liquid and haven’t dried up. That way you can eliminate some from your storage if they are no longer useful. However, since you have kept good records of the paint in each room, you will have no problem replacing the paint when needed.”
Tony Perry, A. Perry Homes
564 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, (847) 440-5400
“Create a junk mail trap in your mudroom, it is the room that you typically first enter when you come home. Create a space that you can quickly sort through junk mail, bills, important correspondence, social engagements and general correspondence. Have a crosscut micro-shredder and a garbage can nearby to dispose of credit card offers and other junk mail that contains personal information. If you are always on the go, stock up the junk mail in a drawer and let one of your kids shred it, they seem to love it and it will occupy them for at least 30 minutes a week. Everything else should have a designated drawer or file that is secure.
“Create a ‘quiet room’ on your first floor. With your busy life, it is nice to have a space to get away to read a book, pay some bills or play an instrument (or be insulated from one playing in another room). With all of the craziness that goes on in our lives, it is important to have a space to relax, retreat and recuperate.”
Gina Illiopoulos, Mariani Landscape
300 Rockland Road, Lake Bluff, 847-234-2171
“Start with making sure that everything has its own place. That way you will always know if something is missing or being used at the moment. Having a solid grasp of your inventory will keep you organized and in control of the clutter. When working out in the yard, use a tool belt or basket. That way you will know what you brought out to the yard with you from the garage or the shed and you can then make sure you bring it all back with you. This keeps you from leaving something behind or having to juggle all your tools with your other gardening supplies.”
“Wrap your tool handles in colorful tape or fabric. This not only makes them more comfortable to handle, but makes them easy to find in the yard if they are dropped instead of the usual green or wood handles that blend in to the landscape.”
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