A Professional Organizer Reveals 3 of Her Favorite IKEA Products for Bringing Order to Your Home

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Name: Elise Hay, Organized Sanctuaries, and husband, 2 children
Location: Seattle, Washington
Type of home: House
Size: 2,810 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: We bought our mid-century home with grand plans to renovate and modernize it. After a big kitchen renovation, we realized that our plans (and recently completed kitchen renovation) didn’t fit the home. We were trying too hard to make a design that we liked fit the home, when we should have embraced everything that comes with a 1960s home (gold sparkled bathroom floors, wood paneling, orange and yellow vinyl flooring in the basement, stone walls). Slowly, we’ve made modest updates to the home that bring out its character. I am a professional organizer and my husband and I have two young daughters. I’ve finally come to terms with living in a home with many outdated features: it’s not a grand home with tall ceilings, but its character and warmth have made it home.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: A calm and warm sanctuary.

What is your favorite room and why? The living room: big sunny east and south-facing windows allow for my plants to thrive. The pink-toned stone wall in the decor and the warmth of the wood tones and fabric choices are inviting and cozy. Plus, it’s where we read to our kids before bed AND entertain guests. What else could you want?!

Any advice for creating a home you love? Embrace it as yours, while honoring the home and its history. Make it authentic and don’t try to turn it into something it’s not.

What’s your favorite IKEA product? I’m a huge IKEA fan and I recommend their products to my clients all the time, but it takes experience (and willpower!) to know what to buy and what to say no to. I gravitate towards organic materials like wood, wicker, and bamboo, and I think IKEA does a great job using materials other than plastic in their organizing products, such as the RISATORP baskets, the BEKVAM spice racks, and the VARIERA bamboo drawer dividers. These products are fun to use all over the house—I love the RISATORP basket for kids’ art supplies.

What are your biggest “Don’ts” of organizing/decluttering?

  1. Don’t shop for organizing products until you’ve sorted, purged, and measured your space.
  2. Don’t buy an organizing product that you don’t actually need. They might look practical on display in the store but if you don’t need it, you’re just adding to your clutter.
  3. Don’t hold onto something because you’re worried you might need it down the road. Instead, loan it out or donate it. If you rarely use it, chances are you’re better off borrowing it from a friend, family member, neighbor, or library on the rare occasions that you want it.

Your biggest “Dos”?

  1. Sustainability is an important part of my business and personal life. Reuse what you can, and donate what you won’t. 
  2. Do seasonal clean outs / purges of all areas in your home: pantry, medicine cabinet, closets, and more. If it’s a seasonal item (bathing suits, scarves, etc.) that you hadn’t used that entire season, get rid of it. If it’s an all-year product that you haven’t used in 12 months, find it a home that will give it more use. 
  3. Know your home inventory. Keeping tabs on what you have reduces buying in excess. For example, keep your batteries in clear containers so you can buy more only when you’re running low. 

What are your favorite organizing products? What are the products you always have in your home or always recommend to clients?

  1. Drawer dividers, like this one from mDesign
  2. Lazy susans. The divided ones work perfectly all over the house: medicines, toiletries, art supplies, small baking supplies… I could go on!
  3. A label maker. You don’t need anything fancy: the Brother P-touch PTH110 does the job well if you’re looking for a basic one. 

This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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