Organization pro tips from Julie Carlson of Remodelista


Small spaces get cluttered quickly, and who in New York isn’t dealing with a snug living situation? It can feel though, like to get organized you have to go down an aesthetically unpleasing route of wire metroshelving and Ikea cubes, or dive in and change your entire life, a la Marie Kondo. Julie Carlson, the editor-in-chief of the design blog Remodelista, has a new book out called Remodelista: The Organized Home that will help you get your apartment under control, and make it a beautiful space you can relax in.

We asked her for some organizational pro-tips, and having put them to use, we can report that they really work.

Brooklyn Based: The idea of reorganizing my whole house feels a little overwhelming. Where should I start? Is there one area that either makes a greater impact, or is a simpler task to accomplish so completing it successfully with be inspiring to move on to a more challenging spot?

Julie Carlson: Consider organizing and weeding out your entry. It’s a compact, easy-to-conquer area, and putting it in good order eases all your comings and goings. Make sure you have a good, easy-to-reach place for all family members to keep house keys, hang coats and bags, and stow shoes. Leave some room for your guests’ things, too. Clear out anything not being put to regular use. Then proceed on a clear path.

BB: The book does a great job of covering lots of different types of spaces, from larger homes to smaller apartments–do you have any further tips for apartment dwellers who may be struggling to carve out space?

JC: We’ve discovered that even the tightest spaces have storage opportunities, including the bedroom. Mount a Shaker peg rail (available from the Container Store and elsewhere) high on a wall as a place to hang clothes, hats, and jewelry; you can display art on the ledge. Don’t have room for a bureau? Consider a bed with drawers. Also assess the inside of your closet—chances are good you have room to insert extra shelves over the hanging rod. And how about using the inside of the door to hang ties and belts on rods or store your wristwatch collection on nails? Keep eyeglasses and sunglasses on a wall-mounted bungee cord—there are several good options on Etsy (search sunglass rack).

BB: Do you have a favorite clever storage solution for small spaces that you’ve seen someone employ that just struck you as really smart?

Julie Carlson, editor-in-chief of Remodelista.

JC: We recently noticed someone using white canvas shoe pockets on the wall in front of their desk as an office supply holder. We also love using wooden pegboards all over: they work in entries for hats and coats, in kitchens for pots and pans, and in offices for keeping all sorts of desk things (so you can have a clear work surface). A good source is George & Willy via Etsy.

BB: A lot of your strategies involve installing shelving, racks, specific holders, that landlords may not love. Any tips for removable and freestanding storage?

JC: Coat stands and carts are a great, versatile alternative. We used both, for instance, in a narrow bath to store towels and toiletries. Two student standbys, stacked wooden crates and DIY cinderblock shelves, can also look great. Flat files and other metal drawers also work well all over (and if they’re on casters, so much the better); they have a clean, industrial look and can be put to use for storing all sorts of things from kids’ artwork to table linens.

BB: The glass, enamel, woven basket, canvas aesthetic is clean and beautiful, but do you have any tips for customizing this for a brighter, more colorful decor?

JC: We customize neutral storage vessels with hand-written washi tape labels. It comes in a huge range of shades—we like hot pink—and is made of rice paper, so it’s easy to write on (and to remove without leaving a mark). Apply washi tape directly to a spice jar lid or enamelware container. Or stick on a basic tie-on tag and hang from a basket.

Of course, for the person who gravitates to bright things, there are also baskets, as well as glass and enamelware in standout colors and patterns.

BB: I love the idea of “shopping from your house,” since it’s easy to drop a bundle on storage solutions at Ikea and other spots. What are some common items that most people have kicking around that work well?

JC: Metal trays are a favorite organizing tool for introducing order and a look of completion. They work all over—both out in the open and in drawers—and are perfect for containing individual items, such as the dishwashing tools next to your kitchen sink, and for creating a daily parking space for your mobile phone, water bottle, and other essentials on your desk.

Some other simple ideas: I use small, clear glass drinking glasses in my medicine cabinet to hold makeup, my toothpaste and toothbrush, even my eyeglasses (so I spot them every morning). Terracotta planters come in all sizes and are also good for storing things. So are tin cans: in the book, we show a group of tomato sauce cans used to keep forks, knives, and spoons organized and within reach.

For corralling kids’ toys and books, wooden crates are always handy–add wheels and they’re even more useful.

BB: Can you give us some words of advice on tossing stuff that may have some sentimental value but doesn’t do anything for us?

JC: We, too, struggle with letting go of things that have memories associated with them—this is especially the case for my co-author, Margot. For her, it helps to know that someone else will put her castoffs to good use. So she holds yard sales where she gets to see her things leave in good hands. A while back, a basement flood forced her to get rid of unopened boxes sent from her childhood home. She says the freeing feeling that resulted was a lesson: “Don’t hold onto objects that encumber you. After all, things packed away in closets and attics get dusty and moldy; so put them back in circulation (rather than in a landfill)—and free yourself for the objects that make you happy.”

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