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Never create a file named "miscellaneous" - it's impossible to retrieve anything from it

EXPERTS: Organising and decluttering guru Julie Morgenstern

Q: I just bought an apartment with limited cupboard space. Do you have suggestions for getting the most out of it? I’m looking for organising ideas for the small hall cupboard and kitchen.

A:There are many ways to stretch limited storage. Get out of the business of bulk purchasing, which can be great if you live in a big home but doesn’t work for small spaces. Assign specific functions to each cupboard. Get furniture with storage: end tables with drawers, coffee tables with lift-up lids, etc. And use vertical space. The inside of every cupboard door can be used for hooks and racks and shelves. See if there is a wall where you can add an armoire, shelves or storage.

Q: My problem is paper: cards, handwritten notes, articles ripped from magazines or newspapers. Do I create a miscellaneous paper file? Suggestions, please, on where and how to start organising these random but important pieces of paper.

A: Never create anything called “miscellaneous”. It’s the easiest way to clean up, but it’s impossible to retrieve anything from such a file or container because even 10 minutes later, we can’t remember what we meant by miscellaneous. You need to break paper into specific categories and label each according to how you would look for it. Cards and handwritten notes might go under “Memorabilia” or “Thoughtful words” or “Friends and family”. Articles of interest might be “Conversation starters” or “Knowledge” or “Things that tickle my funny bone” (as one client did).

Get organised to make your life function better. Picture: Jakob Owens

Q: I am normally organised. I recently moved, for a new job, and I had plans to get my new house organised fairly quickly, but it’s been six months and while the house appears to be neat, if you look in the cupboards you’ll see it’s really not. Things are shoved into places where they don’t belong. Thinking about what needs to be done to get it right overwhelms me. How do I get back on track?

A: A move for a job can be overwhelming, and resistance to settling in and creating a new “nest” can be a problem. But you are suffering from the chaos and should put your organising skills to work. Remember, getting organised to make your life function better in the moment doesn’t really tie you to your new job or home. It just makes life easier so you have more choices and freedom. It’s a great way of taking care of yourself in a place that is otherwise not as nurturing. So nurture yourself and get things in order, one room at a time, starting with the room in which you spend most of your time.

Q: What’s the best way to organise scarves? They are a big jumble in my drawer.

A: Scarves work best on a series of hooks on the inside of a cupboard door (maybe two rows of hooks, one at the top of the door, another in the middle). Or, if they are beautiful, you can hang them on decorative hooks on a bedroom wall as a design feature.


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