Get Organized

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kristin van Ogtrop, Managing Editor of Real Simple magazine, and Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, the founder and CEO of Apartment Therapy, offer advice on how to clear away clutter in our homes and organize our closets and cupboards, desktops and drawers. We'll also be taking calls!

Do you have questions about how to be more organized and how to get rid of clutter? Leave a comment below!


Kristin van Ogtrop and Maxwell Ryan

Comments [46]


Thinking to keep thing in a manner make me feel more sleepy. I had small room with cupboard and my things been surrounded here and there.But comfortable with that as I get my thing thing easily.Though room dint look good with this.. But it ok...

Nov. 02 2012 04:34 AM
Liz from Savannah, GA

I find that I can give away things "I might need someday" if I learn someone else needs them NOW. Looking on a "freecycle" website lets me see what others need, and I've been able to divest myself of a lot that way.

Books -- my husband cataloged all of his with the freeware LibraryThing, and THEN suddenly it became easier for him to give hundreds of them away!

Oct. 28 2012 04:29 PM
Kim Doggett from East Village

Has a building ever tipped over, perhaps in a wind?

Oct. 26 2012 01:50 PM

I love the concept of a Maybe Box, Apartment Therapy books, (thank you, Maxwell), Real Simple (thank you, Kristin) and Martha Stewart's blog has lots about organizing and solving storage problems - she's nothing if not efficient! Maxwell's blog is great too - I looked at all these before downsizing to a really gorgeous apt and I found them inspiring.

Oct. 26 2012 01:33 PM

Amy from Manhattan - I thought that was snarky of Edward. Of course you thought of it! It was fun to read.

Oct. 26 2012 01:16 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Sandy from Jersey City,

Take your curios to "Antiques Road Show".

Oct. 26 2012 01:06 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Sandy from Jersey City,

Take your curios to "Antique Roadshow"

Oct. 26 2012 12:59 PM
Sandy from Jersey City

Do you have advice for those who inherit family collections and furniture? This stuff has emotional heft in addition to the obvious physical attributes that make it difficult to get rid of. Some of it goes back several generations.

Oct. 26 2012 12:40 PM

We live in a house without a "mud room", in Portland Oregon. How to organize the entry way with shoes and boots, we have hooks for coats on the wall... thanks.

Oct. 26 2012 12:40 PM
NJ Van from North Jersey

Re: book clutter --- I too share this issue, as a professor --- and have found two solutions that have really made a difference.
1) I scan my books into a fabulous app called Delicious Library --- now many appear on a bookshelf on my computer, and I always know what's in my inventory. I then store many of them either in my attic, or under the bed in an under the bed rolling bin. If the thought of scanning in bores you, hire your child or another student to help you.
2) Books that I'm ambivalent about, or am ready to part with, get sold on Amazon or another book site. I made enough money doing this a few years ago to fund half my holiday budget, and cleared things out very nicely.

But -- the bane of my clutter is my child -- how do I get her to keep on track?

Oct. 26 2012 12:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

JM: I agree. I can set up a system, but after a while I have trouble sticking with it. Maybe the guests can talk about how to know what kind of system will work better for each individual.

Edward: But I never heard it before, & I made it up myself! ...oh, well....

Oct. 26 2012 12:39 PM
Robert from NYC

I have to say if one thing I'm proud of is my drawers. I have very neat drawers because I fold everything that I put in drawers. As for the rest of my apartment, I won't dare bring that up!! But books and sheet music are another problem not to mention my rank of organ pipes.

Oct. 26 2012 12:38 PM

for the fellow with all the artbooks: if you love them and can leave em to someone else who will love em, we gave away many many archaeology and artbooks to several colleges who do not have big book budgets. they loved them

Oct. 26 2012 12:36 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I have used Amazon, and eBay to sell thousands of dollars worth of books, CD's, DVD's, t-shirts, etc over the years. If it's hard for you to give things up, consider how much more satisfying it will be to have some cash in the place of an object taking up space in your home.

Oct. 26 2012 12:36 PM
stacey from Montclair

Suggestion for the sea glass. Artists on Etsy are making gorgeous jewelry from sea glass, and I am sure that one could make some beautiful pieces with the glass! I have a ring of sea glass I have worn for 15 years, and I get comments every time I wear it!

Oct. 26 2012 12:35 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

The hanger trick is an oldie. I remember reading it somewhere a while back.

I do like some of these organizational tricks and some of the storage options, but I have to say that I don't like any of the storage options that involve fabric - i.e., fabric-covered or lined storage boxes, curtains instead of closet doors - because the fabric itself attracts dust. Yecch!

For the book collectors - of whom I count myself one - line your walls with bookshelves. You can put more than books on bookshelves. I have spaces between categories of books where I put photos in stands or sculptures, and I use the bookshelves to keep my DVDs and CDs. Also, you can get bookshelves with doors, so you can hang art on the closed doors and only open them to access the books.

Oct. 26 2012 12:35 PM
Amy from Manhattan

My apt. building recently started a "library" on the basement floor. You can donate your books, & then you can borrow them back, or even take them back long-term if you miss them that much...if nobody else has taken them.

Oct. 26 2012 12:35 PM
Tom from UWS

re: collections
Remember that even museums have to de-accession.

keep the best, and the favorites. Let go of the rest so you can keep your collection alive. (And give it some room to breathe.)

Oct. 26 2012 12:34 PM
Joe D from Flushing NY

Perhaps we should consider cutting down on how much stuff we keep buying.

Oct. 26 2012 12:34 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Sell some or all of those books on Amazon Marketplace, or ebay -- also CDs. You won't make a ton of money but you'll pass them along to someone who will love them.

Oct. 26 2012 12:32 PM
Ann Goodman

They make very thin hangers that I recently discovered and it heklps fit more clothing into a closet. Also, clothing that does not get worn does not hold up well. Ithey dry out and become dead looking. Better to give away and even if it DOES come back in style, it will be slightly off.

Oct. 26 2012 12:32 PM
Beatrice from Ft. Greene

We have an "outbox" and it's been taking up our whole entryway for years. We sporadically take things to Goodwill, but without a car, it's not realistic to do it weekly. As a result, I cringe every time I walk through the door and immediately berate myself for not taking care of the clutter. It's really overwhelming.

Oct. 26 2012 12:31 PM
Whitney from North New Jersey

How does one deal with a spouse/partner who can not part with THINGS?

Oct. 26 2012 12:31 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I'm a pile guy. But anything I would consider putting into storage gets sold or donated. Also, a thought: anything that will just sit in your apartment without being used is sad; give it to someone who will use it.

Oct. 26 2012 12:30 PM
Robin from Albuquerque, NM

I have finally figured out a cure all for all of the random kid drawings and cards that I have received and kept over the years. (Creating tons of clutter and piles.)
If I want to keep it, I scan it into my computer. I keep pictures of cards (front and back), drawn pictcures from nephews and neices with their writing, doilies croched by my grandmother but will never use... all of the small picturesque things that I want, but don't want. I scan them, label them, and file them according to the year or the person who gave them to me.

Be sure you have a back-up of all your photos!

Oct. 26 2012 12:30 PM
Mark Durney from Manhattan

What about creating storage for a closet shaped like an "A" angle due to the pitch of the roof. Any suggestions?

Oct. 26 2012 12:28 PM
JM from Manhattan

Suggestions about how to control clutter and ways to organize always "sound like" they work... And, to the point all that's been suggested sound great!

The difficulty is maintaining the process.

How do you make these suggestions a routine or automatic habit?

Oct. 26 2012 12:27 PM
TK from NJ

My husband & I are moving from a 2 bdrm apt where one room was the 'study/junk' room into a 1 bdrm apt. I'm very concerned on what will spew out of that 2nd room study when we have a smaller space and wondering how to keep it tame. Our computer, mail, mess will all be now exposed in the living room. Thank you!

Oct. 26 2012 12:26 PM
Josh from Brooklyn

Can a list of (or link to) professional "de-clutters" be posted (as a comment).

Oct. 26 2012 12:25 PM
Karl from Manhattan

I come from a long line of hoarders... I've found that a good strategy for parting with tchotchkes of sentimental value is to take a digital image and then toss it. The digital storage is so vast relative to real, physical space! If I feel sentimental I can always look it up, but more often than not it just clutters up the dedicated nostalgia folder.

Oct. 26 2012 12:25 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Amy from Manhattan

"Ooh, new term: Stuffocation! When your stuff is suffocating you.

Use it freely, just credit me."

Amy, Whenever I think I've discovered a clever phrase I Google it and find that others have beat me to it.

Being original is very difficult.

Oct. 26 2012 12:25 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Scan your kids pictures into your computer.

Go to Staples to use their large format scanner if the picture is REALLY BIG.

Oct. 26 2012 12:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Ooh, new term: Stuffocation! When your stuff is suffocating you.

Use it freely, just credit me.

Oct. 26 2012 12:19 PM
Susan from Nj

How do you deal with organization saboteurs - husbands and children?

Oct. 26 2012 12:19 PM

I object to the stereotype of artists being messy!
I visited two of my artist colleagues in the last week, and all three of us are exceedingly neat and organized, with nearly all surfaces either completely clear or with just the one in-progress project out.

Oct. 26 2012 12:18 PM
Joe D from Flushing

What is the connection to orderly/disorderlyness to creativity? Intelligence?

Oct. 26 2012 12:16 PM
ken from brooklyn

how do you get rid of the things "you might need one day"?

Oct. 26 2012 12:16 PM

Donna Eden, healer and co-author of "Energy Medicine," says she's kinesthetic and needs to see what she needs to take care of, like bills - says her more intellectual and less "cluttering" hubby (Energy psychologist) helped her with this. It IS a primal thing. btw Maxwell, her daughter Titanya is a Waldorf School teacher!

Oct. 26 2012 12:14 PM

Designate a place where each thing should live. That way it's quick to tidy up--no thought involved.

(And if you are running out of places to put stuff, see Edward from Washington Heights.)

Oct. 26 2012 12:14 PM
jeff from West Paterson, NJ

It's true that removing clutter eases the mind. But it's also true that out of site is out of mind. If I put something out of site (e.g., a bill), I forget about it. Recommendations?

Oct. 26 2012 12:14 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The Great Philosopher George Carlin on "Stuff"

Transcript of Carlins "Stuff"

Oct. 26 2012 12:12 PM
mr nyc

"Don't have anything in our home that you don't believe to be beautiful or know to be useful".

Also, putting things in boxes, labeling them by date, putting the boxes in order, throwing out the junk and keeping the stuff that's important to you, helps you not only to get organized but to tell the story of your life.

Oct. 26 2012 12:09 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Go Vertical.

Shelves up to the ceiling.

Stackable Plastic tubs.

Oct. 26 2012 12:04 PM
John A

Container Store has a modular system that does all that, but it could set you back $1K if you go too crazy. "Elko freestanding"

Oct. 26 2012 12:04 PM
LL from UWS

Any suggestions for fulfilling my dream of having a layered desk? With several desktop surfaces I can pull out or put away "as is"--I work on 3-5 different projects simultaneously and would love to be able to switch between them. The alternative is having 3-5 "desks" (dining room table being one). Maybe I need something from a catering supply house with racks and trays. . . . . .

Oct. 26 2012 11:36 AM
Mike from Bushwick

I have a very small room, 8x10 but 11 foot ceilings, with no closet space, how can I store my nicer clothes without sacrificing any of my limited space?

Oct. 26 2012 10:16 AM

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