20+ Secrets Personal Organizers Would Never Tell You for Free

Industry experts reveal the dirty details to help keep your home organized and clean.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you five pilesiStock/OlegKorobeynikov

Create five piles

When you’re organizing, you should sort everything into five piles: move to another room, donate, give to a specific person, throw away, and, finally, the “marinating” pile. Pack up the marinating items, and label the box with a date that’s six months to a year later. If you never open the box before that date, you can safely discard those items.

Here are the items a professional organizer would throw out.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you sorting closetiStock/Jodi Jacobson

To make an organizing project go faster...

Create rules about what you’re keeping and what you’re discarding. In your closet, for example, you can decide to give away any clothing that’s not between size x and size y, that’s stained, or that needs to be repaired. With periodicals, you can decide not to keep anything that’s more than a year old.

These are the things you shouldn't store in your garage.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you sorting pilesiStock/studioportosabbia

It will always take you at least five times longer...

Sorting through a box of personal papers will always take you far longer than you think it will.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you binsiStock/Photobos

Avoid lids

Avoid lids on laundry baskets, bins, and other containers. They just make it harder to put things away. For other items, I’m a huge fan of clear sweater boxes. Not only do they hold sweaters in your closet, but they’re perfect for holding beans, rice, and pasta in your pantry, kids' toys, and more. They fit on almost any shelf in any home and can hold most of the stuff in your house. I order them by the case.

Save money by trying these simple organizational tricks.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you remove clutteriStock/EricVega

Your goal should be to remove the clutter, not create more storage space

People who think they’re disorganized always run out and start buying baskets, containers, and hooks. You come home and try to use them, and they’re not the right type or size, because you didn’t sort through your stuff first. That’s just backward. All those new containers just end up adding to your clutter. In a pinch, though, use these tips to squeeze the most into your storage space.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you magazinesiStock/JLGutierrez

The number one problem for all my clients: too much paper

The whole idea of a paperless society is a complete myth. People are seriously scared to get rid of it. Remember, 80 percent of the paper you get you don’t need to keep. So it’s imperative to keep weeding out every single day, whether that's magazines, catalogs, mail, receipts, or anything else.

These facts will convince you to use less paper.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you keepsakeiStock/Bob Hemphill

Are you holding on to a big piece of the past?

If you’re keeping something that doesn’t fit in your home for sentimental reasons—say, Aunt Jenny’s blue recliner or Grandma’s chandelier—recognize it’s the memory you cherish, not the item. Then take a picture of it and give it away to someone who actually has space for it who will love it. That said, if you really love that paperweight collection, grandma’s old photographs, or that heirloom quilt, why are you letting them get ruined, moldy, or eaten by moths in cardboard boxes in the attic? Honor your favourite keepsakes by getting them out and displaying them.

Get inspired by these home organization makeovers!

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you donatingiStock/fotostorm

Sure, you could sell that item on eBay...

...but are you interested in finishing your organizing project or starting a new career hocking used stuff? Unless you sell online all the time or need the money, I recommend just giving things away so you can move on.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you dining room tableiStock/OJO_Images

Watch out for flat surfaces...

...which can quickly become drop zones for clutter. When my clients have a dining table that is always getting covered with junk, I’ll have them clear it off, put a flower arrangement in the middle, and set it with place settings. That usually prevents them from parking stuff there.

Consider trying these home organizing tips as soon as possible!

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you cariStock/peplow

Anything that needs to go somewhere should be in your car...

...not in your house. Keep your coupons there in a clear folder so you have them if you need them. Get an errand basket to hold items that need to be returned. Use crates to store kids’ toys and emergency supplies. Also, a car trash bag is a simple thing—get one! For what shouldn't go in your car, here are the things that should never be in your vehicle.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you planneriStock/LuckyBusiness

Put everything on your calendar

Even errands, exercise, cleaning the house should go on it. Then make sure you prioritize the things that are important to you. If it’s not on your schedule, it’s not on your life.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you dont procrastinateiStock/LifesizeImages

My biggest secret?

Don’t procrastinate. If you postpone things that take a few minutes, it adds up and suddenly you’re looking at several hours to clear your clutter. Always open your mail right away, do dishes right after you use them, and put things away as soon as you’re done with them.

These are the home items you should be cleaning every month.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you papersiStock/fatesun

If you have lots piles of papers you’re always looking through...

...that’s a big time waster. Here’s what I suggest: every time you look at a piece of paper, put a red dot on it. If you’re ending up with 10 or 20 dots on one piece of paper, you need a new system to deal with your paperwork.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you storage unitiStock/adventtr

Please, get rid of that storage unit

You could buy all the stuff that’s in there for the price of the annual rental fee—and that doesn’t include the cost of the moving truck and your time. Plus I’m sorry, but the items you own are almost never worth as much as you think. And even if they are, who cares? That’s still not a good excuse to hold onto things you don’t use.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you kitchen cabinetsiStock/nedjelly

My favourite tip for a roomier kitchen

Adjust cabinet shelves; it can create a lot more space. Also, get that popcorn machine, bread machine and the other huge appliances off your counter. If you don’t use it every week, store it in the attic or basement and get it out only when you need it. And do you really need all those plastic containers? Most people have cabinets full of them, but they only ever use a few. Figure out which ones you really use and donate the rest.

Learn what other subtle organizing mistakes make your kitchen look sloppy.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you loading dishwasheriStock/Highwaystarz-Photography

My favourite little kitchen tip

Always load the dishwasher in an organized way. So instead of throwing all the silverware into the utensil box, put the forks in one area, the spoons in another, and the knives in another, and then when you’re unloading you just grab all the spoons and put them in the drawer.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you closet organizationiStock/conejota

Go into your closet today and hang everything backward on the rod

Once you wear something, hang it the normal way. A year from now, if you still have some things still hanging backward, you’re obviously not wearing them, so get rid of them.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you hangersiStock/woolzian

A simple way to transform your closet

Switch to one type of hanger. It makes a huge difference. If you have varying kinds, they get caught on each other, they’re not the same height and you can’t see everything as well. I especially love the thin hangers that are covered in velvet. Because they’re super slim, you can fit more into your closet, and your clothes won’t slip off them.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you two level closetiStock/neirfy

Maximize your closet space

Put in an extra tension rod so you can hang shirts on top and skirts on the bottom, and always add hooks to hang jewelry and scarves if you have extra wall space. You can even put a chest of drawers in there if you have the room.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you shoesiStock/gillian08

I love hanging shoe bags

In addition to shoes, I use them for gloves and hats in winter, for sunblock, sunglasses and goggles in summer, and for crafts, toiletries and makeup.

Try these tricks to keep your shoes stink-free.

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you walk in closetiStock/pxhidalgo

You’re going to be more motivated to get an area organized...

...if you make some changes you can get excited about. When you’re doing your closet, for example, throw up a coat of new paint, put down some cool floor tiles or a rug, or add a beautiful fixture. It will make you want to keep it organized.

These vintage home hacks are still brilliant today!

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you cardboard boxesiStock/Jodi Johnson

Ditch the cardboard

One client asked me to help carry a bunch of cardboard storage boxes into her newly renovated house. As I opened the first one, out came hundreds of cockroaches. That’s why you should never use cardboard. You name the pest; I assure you it loves cardboard.

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iStock/Johnrob

I swear I’m not a neat freak

Being organized doesn’t mean everything is in its place; it means everything has a place. If you can get your house ready for a surprise guest in 30 minutes, then you’re organized. Believe it: I have not one, but two junk drawers in my kitchen—and I sleep just fine at night.

Lazy people will love these brilliant cleaning shortcuts!

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13 things personal organizers wont tell you photosiStock/Halfpoint

Your kids will be so grateful...

...if you label and organize your photos now and if you stick a note on keepsakes explaining their significance. We settle a lot of estates, and it’s frustrating to the next generation when they don’t understand why something was left to them.

These crazy cleaning tips won’t seem so crazy after you try them.