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The Globe and Mail

3 key tips to tackle clutter from an organizing expert

Joanne Ratajczak for The Globe and Mail | Prop Styling by Shirley Meisels/joanne ratajczak The Globe and Mail | prop styling by shirley meisels

Put everything (and we do mean everything) in its place on the home front this year by zeroing in on – and rethinking – three common problem areas. Globe Style consults a top organizing expert for key tips on tackling pesky clutter zones.

Rethink your office space

Unless you work from home, an office that includes a chair, desk and other traditional accoutrements can be superfluous, as e-mail, banking and bills can be handled anywhere in or even outside the house via electronic devices. According to Shirley Meisels, an interior designer and principal of MHouse Inc. in Toronto, all you really need for basic household record-keeping is a spot to stash your files and office equipment, preferably out of sight.

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Her solution: Tuck an attractive cabinet or console with built-in storage into dead space at the end of a hallway or other low-traffic area and make that your walk-up office. Choose a unit with both drawers (to corral smaller items like stamps, pens, paper clips, etc.) and doors (behind which mini filing systems and even safes can be placed) so that everything is hidden away. Use file boxes to store documents and periodicals and smaller lidded boxes to hold receipts.

Rethink your front hall closet

How many winter coats do you have? If the answer is three or less, Meisels says, get them out of your front hall closet – prime household real estate – and repurpose it as a storage area for all the stuff you must use and deal with daily, such as footwear, mail and PDAs. If your closet doesn't have shelves, install an adjustable set so you can raise the lowest one to accommodate tall boots in winter, hiding them away in the process. (Just place a rubber mat underneath to protect your floors.)

Turn one of the shelves into a charging area (and handy drop-off and pick-up spot) for phones, tablets and cameras by putting in a wireless charging mat. And instead of organizing personal effects by type (hats in one basket, mitts in another), organize them by person, assigning individual baskets to every member of the household.

Finally, throw in a key dish, a couple of mail trays (for both incoming and outgoing mail) and a cork- or chalkboard inside the door for messages and takeout menus and you've got a closet more useful than useless.

Rethink your junk drawer

Think of your kitchen junk drawer as a Japanese bento box. In other words, compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize.

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To begin with, Meisels says, empty the drawer out completely and redirect anything that isn't kitchen-related to office or front hall storage areas. Next, outfit the drawer with an assortment of variously sized trays or boxes to house a host of items, arranging them fairly tightly (you don't want to waste precious space). Use long, narrow trays to contain items such as mini-flashlights, basters, meat thermometers and muddlers; install compact square trays to store smaller or loose items such as elastic bands and twist ties.

For a super-organized result, try a thematic approach, keeping all cake-decorating accoutrements in one box, first-aid items in another. You'll never have to search for birthday candles or swizzle sticks again.

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