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1. Cabinet Session
"I use the insides of the cabinet doors to keep my kitchen neat and organized. I put cork tiles on some, and that's where I tack up my grocery list, coupons, and takeout menus. On others I attached little hooks where I hang up measuring spoons, ladles, and cups. This way I can find things easily, and the counters and drawers aren't filled with clutter."
-- Barbara Schwarck, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2. Trip Tricks
When I travel, I buy souvenirs that help me stay organized rather than add to my clutter. For example, I've collected a lot of cool little boxes -- like the vintage enameled salt boxes I got in France -- that I keep in my kitchen. Each one of them holds something -- keys, tea bags, spices, coffee filters, you name it.
-- Ellen Williams, New York, New York
3. Excess Baggage
Luggage is usually so big and bulky that it takes up a lot of closet space. But it dawned on me that my suitcases are perfect for storing my off-season clothing. I tuck a bar of soap inside to protect against moths.
-- Zele Avradopoulos, Waltham, Massachusetts
4. Groceries Made Easy
I created an Excel spreadsheet where I list all the stuff I buy regularly at the supermarket organized into various categories like dairy, produce, and paper goods. I print it out every week and hang it on the fridge. Then everyone in my family circles the things we need so I can take the list when I go to the store.
-- Kristin Delfau, Danbury, Connecticut
5. Organizing Principle
Whenever I'm tempted to put off doing something, I repeat my mantra: "It only takes two minutes." This phrase helps me put my shoes away, empty the dishwasher, pay my bills as they come in, and respond to voice mail immediately.
-- Katie Mattson, Charlotte, North Carolina
6. Living-Room Locker
I exercise in my living room, where I certainly don't want workout stuff lying around -- but I'm less likely to skip a session if my equipment is right there. So I put baskets in the cabinet under my TV, where I keep my sneakers, free weights, stretch bands, and DVDs. I stow my workout mat under the sofa, completely out of sight.
-- Karin Flagg, Austin, Texas
7. Guiltless Garbage
If a plastic food-storage container is missing its lid -- a constant problem in my kitchen -- I automatically give myself permission to recycle it and move on. Also, I set aside just five minutes once a week to toss things in my fridge that are more than seven days old. Who's going to eat ancient leftovers anyway?
-- Sarah Stanley, Washington, D.C.
8. Bag Lady
To keep my kids' activities organized, I bought plain cloth bags, fabric paints, and markers at a craft store. I made inexpensive totes for swimming gear, dance clothes, and soccer stuff. I decorated each bag with appropriate designs so my kids know what's in them, and I hang them all on pegs in our entryway. When we get home from an activity, I restock the bags right away with a fresh swimsuit, clean socks, or whatever's needed.
-- Tanya Pereira, Hampden, Maine
9. In the Habit
My secret for a clutter-free car? I've trained myself to scan the front and back seats after every trip and take anything that needs to be thrown in the garbage or put away in the house. I deal with it right away so things don't pile up.
-- Beth Zeigler, Los Angeles, California
10. Extra Set of Eyes
I bought a bunch of inexpensive reading glasses and keep a pair on my night table, on my desk, and in the kitchen and living room -- even the bathroom. I've saved so much time by not having to hunt for my specs!
-- Veronica M. Mayo, Bellevue, Washington
11. A Place for Everything
I use every container I have as an organizing tool: The kids' beach buckets are perfect for holding Legos and other small toys. The bamboo steamer in my kitchen, which I rarely use, is a great place for my keys, wallet, and other things that might end up on the counter. I found an old shoe holder and put it in the hall closet to organize our gloves, mittens, and scarves. This really has made my house clutter-free.
-- Amie Crouch, Denver, Colorado
12. Laundry Lineup
Instead of folding my T-shirts once, I fold twice and line them up one behind the other in my drawer. It's easier to see what I've got and neater than rummaging through a whole pile of folded shirts.
-- Lauren Halagarda, Alexandria, Virginia
13. Forward Thinking
This sounds goofy, but I have a conversation with my alter ego, Future Self. Let's say I'm about to go to bed and then I spot dirty dishes in the sink. I stop and ask myself, "What would Future Self like to see when she comes into the kitchen tomorrow morning?" It motivates me to wash those dishes immediately.
-- Lorie Marrero, Austin, Texas
14. Light Reading
I subscribe to a lot of magazines, and they pile up quickly. But recently I've started leafing through the issues as soon as I get them. I tear out the articles I want to read and keep the clippings in my purse, tote bag, or glove compartment. Then when I'm stuck in a long line or waiting in a doctor's office, I grab one, read it and throw it away.
-- Michelle Levine, Houston, Texas
15. Neat Idea
Every morning I pick three items from my to-do list and vow to get them done that day. Then I don't let myself check my e-mail or Facebook until I've finished one task. After that I can only go online again after I've finished the next task. E-mail used to be a constant distraction for me but now it has become a reward for completing work.
-- Jennifer Furrier, Scottsdale, Arizona
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2010.