5 Pesky Corners You Never Want to Organize (and How to Actually Do It), According to Pro Organizers
Maybe you’ve conquered organizing your main areas, the parts guests see when they show up for a visit. But what about those under the counter, behind closed doors, in small corners, and in spaces that are nagging on your conscience? It’s time to free yourself of even the secret clutter, which seems to not be hurting anything — except that it is.
These tiny spaces you encounter every day remind you the job isn’t quite finished, and take away your time and energy rummaging through unorganized spots. Pro organizers encounter these spaces with clients frequently and know just what to do.
Kitchen junk drawer
“Everyone has it — it’s unavoidable,” says Cindy Thomas, Cincinnati-based home organizer at Simply Organized Interiors. Instead of trying to eliminate this secret drawer, conquer it. Empty everything out, she says, wipe it down, and put in perfectly fitted drawer organizers (these are her go-to’s). “It doesn’t have to be messy — you just need to decide what needs to live in there.” Do you really need coupons you are only going to use when you are driving somewhere? Probably not. Once you have your organizers configured, you can reprioritize what needs to stay in the kitchen and what can move elsewhere in the home, Thomas says.
The drop zone
It’s natural to need a spot to set down your coat, purse, shoes you will wear back out later, incoming mail, and more — commonly called the “drop zone.” Thomas explains that in new houses there’s often a “lovely mudroom style locker” system for families, and in older houses, you might have to make your own. But even with this, you need a system that works for all members of the family. This means adding bins and labels down low for kids’ shoes, socks, gloves, and other items so they can participate in the drop zone process properly, eliminating clutter that ends up there. “Kids want autonomy. Give it to them,” Thomas adds.
For adults, she recommends keeping seasonal coats, bags, and shoes that stay there to a minimum to prevent disorganization, instead of moving them to a nearby closet. Shantae Duckworth, founder of Shantaeize Your Space in Seattle, adds that having a designated package sorting center, potentially not with the mess of coats and shoes, will prevent a “package tower,” and give everyone space and time to sort through incoming mail and packages. If your drop zone is by the garage door, you could try having a package center separate near the front door.
Under the sink
Do you know what’s under your kitchen and bathroom sinks? Unfortunately, it’s time to find out. This often seriously underutilized area might be the storage space you’ve been wishing for, with a bit of organization. Duckworth says that it’s time to get rid of plastic grocery bags and move to eco-friendly options, freeing up this space as well. The only thing she recommends keeping there are cleaning supplies (unless you are kid-proofing and need to store them higher) and related items you only use to clean your kitchens and nearby areas consistently. “Any extra items or items that are used for seasonal cleaning should be stored elsewhere,” she says, recommending large Lazy Susans or acrylic bins to create organization there.
The garage becomes a catch-all for stuff you only need once per year or clutter that you’ve forgotten about for one specific reason, says Katrina Green, founder of Bad Ass Home Life in Sacramento. “You don’t have to ‘live’ in the garage.” But, this underutilized space has lots of potential with little intention. “Determine what is in the space and the only way to do that is to go through each item. Yes, this part is tedious, but you can’t create a system if you don’t know what you are creating a system for.”
Whether it’s yard tools or kids’ sledding suits, whatever is in those dark garage corners needs to show itself, and head where it belongs. Green says it can help to “chunk” the garage to organize at first, and then create zones based on how often you will need certain items (those once-a-year products can head to the high shelves). Thomas adds that an Easy Garage Slat Wall can help get items off the ground and more organized.
Cleaning out your sock drawer might be at the bottom of your priority list, but it’s a small stressor adding to your mornings that you don’t need. Thomas says most people fall into the “too many” or “not enough” sock category, which can contribute to disarray in sock drawers, with stray socks or overflowing drawers. “Many people simply need a hack to keeping all the pairs together.” She recommends a washable sack where socks go right when you take them off, where they are washed and dried together, and never need reuniting. You can also rethink the location of a sock “drawer,” and use an entryway basket or drawer for socks, near where your kids’ shoes live, to streamline mornings even further. “Not having to trek back to their bedrooms in search of socks is clutch in getting that step done before walking out the door,” she says.
Finally, it can be hard to determine which pesky corners and dark down-low spaces need your attention first. Jessica Ruenz, vice president of Kitchen Wise/Closet Wise in Charlottesville, says to start with your most used spaces. “Update frequently used rooms so you can enjoy your efforts and investment. Then move to lower traffic areas that need attention,” she says. She also recommends breaking up jobs into small segments to prevent overwhelm, even when organizing tiny spaces and pesky corners.