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The Pros Reveal Personal Organizing Secrets

The term organizing tends to conjure images of color-coded labels, exhaustive filing systems, or strict, Kondo-style minimalism. But the truth is, even the houses of professional organizers aren’t always pristine. “One of the things we get asked most often is whether our own homes actually stay organized or whether our kids destroy them in a split second,” says Clea Shearer, who co-owns organizing company the Home Edit with Joanna Teplin. “Our answer is always the same: Of course our kids destroy it, but if you put simple systems in place, you can get it back to perfection in about ten minutes.” Here, Shearer, Teplin, and another industry pro, Marissa Hagmeyer, a cofounder of organizing service NEAT Method, share the secrets that make organizing a habit, not a chore.

They don’t buy a zillion bins
Yes, vessels are your friends, but don’t think a shopping spree at the Container Store will solve all your problems. Buying the wrong boxes can just add to your clutter. “Most home organization mistakes begin when bins, baskets, and other organizers are purchased before the actual organizing has been completed,” says Hagmeyer. Edit first, and then choose storage strategically. “You must know exactly what you have before the purchasing begins.”

They go with the flow
“We all have daily routines that are hard to break. . . . We walk in the house and set the mail down in the same spot, make our coffee in the same area,” says Shearer. “The key is to create systems that follow your daily patterns—a tray to collect the mail, hooks for where your kids dump their backpacks, a coffee caddy for your daily condiments.”

They make it pretty
Just because an item serves a function (say, corralling your bills) doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be decorative. “Organizing can be made beautiful with the right products,” says Hagmayer. “Acrylic, copper, and woven textiles are a few of our favorites.”

They make it easy on everyone
Shearer knows better than to expect her husband and children to share her high standards for neatness. So she makes organizing a no-brainer for them: “I hung hooks for each family member and gave everyone their own shoe basket.”

And, yes, they label
Both the Home Edit and Neat Method teams swear by labeling—not out of a desire for perfection, but because it automates good habits. “Labeling reinforces all of the systems you worked so hard to think through,” says Teplin, who also recommends color coding things like books and supplies for the same reason. “My home office has a label on every square inch so that I never need to remember where I put something—it’s clearly marked.”