Organizing 4 common clutter zones is easier than you think—and can bring unexpected health benefits

If you’ve got household clutter zones—and who doesn’t?—you can see the physical chaos it inflicts, not to mention the sneeze-inducing dust bunnies. But living messily also takes a toll on your psyche. “Not being able to find the things you need on a daily basis has an impact on your overall sense of confidence and makes you less able to deal with all the things life throws at you.,” says organizing guru Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out (Holt, 2004). Other downsides of disorder include time lost scouring the house for missing items, the financial drain of replacing things you can’t find and the social embarrassment of an unsightly home with clutter zones.

Paper Pile Image - Masterfile

To finesse the mess:

Purge Paper Piles

Despite our increasingly digital existence, at-home desks are often still heaped with mail, catalogs and clipped-out recipes. To tame the paper tiger, trash anything you can easily find online (like recipes) and shred unwanted solicitations from charities and banks. Open mail at your desk daily; immediately recycle the junk and file the rest. Use one folder color for each broad category (such as green for health, red for finance-related items).

Streamline the Shower Area

Soaps, shampoos and other bath products can hog valuable tub and shower space and offer a home to mold and mildew. Neaten the space by combining partially filled bottles of the same product, storing bath toys in a mesh bag that hangs on the wall and leaving out only one container each of shampoo, conditioner and body cleanser. Stash extras in the linen closet or under the bathroom sink until they’re needed. For maximum decluttering, consider a wall-mounted dispenser for liquids.

Untangle Your Jewelry

Got your necklaces in a knot? Create a system that makes sense for the way you like to accessorize. You can group jewelry by type (necklaces, rings, earrings), by occasion (everyday, dress-up, formal) or by color or material (gold, silver, turquoise). Keep necklaces and earrings from turning into a tangled mess by hanging them on attractive jewelry trees and organizers that are made for this purpose—either on top of your dresser or on an eye-level shelf within your closet.

Control Container Chaos

Considering how useful plastic containers are for storing leftovers and lunches, it’s amazing how rapidly they—and their pesky lids—can wreak havoc in a kitchen cupboard. To impose order, weed out all lidless containers and container-less lids. At the most, keep five or six of each size and shape that you use regularly and no more than one or two larger or seldom-used containers, such as those designed to hold cakes or cupcakes. Stack containers by size and shape into a few neat piles. Store plastic lids in a size-order row in an old cake pan, sturdy shoebox or dish drainer so they are always at hand.

Declutter the Junk Drawer

Four easy steps will rapidly restore order:

Dump the contents onto a table or large surface where you can see everything.

Toss the stuff you’re never going to use (broken pencils, soy sauce packets, dried-out markers). In doubt? Throw it out! Put aside items that belong elsewhere, such as bills and other mail.

Sort stuff into piles according to size and function—paper clips, pens, post-its. Even quirky collections like foreign coins or matchbooks can be kept as long as you stick to the “put like with like” principle.

Wipe the drawer clean, add dividers (muffin tins and ice cube trays work well for tiny items) and other storage containers (small clear boxes or bags) and refill.

By: Christina Frank

From Remedy+ digital magazine, a part of our Remedy Health Media family (Fall 2011)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 22 Sep 2011

Last Modified: 22 Jul 2015