Boxes, baskets, bins help reduce clutter

Dear Gail: I just started back to work and it has become overwhelming for me to keep things picked up, especially in our family room. Do you have any tips on ways to reduce or at least control everyday clutter? — Ann Marie

Dear Anne Marie: It is so hard to keep up with our homes when we work, have a family and also need down time. Heck, it’s just me, my husband, our pups and birds, and I have trouble keeping up. So I take my hat off to all those with children; I don’t know how you do it.

These are a few things I’ve done and, hopefully, they will work for you.

First, I want it out of sight as much as possible, but handy. So my favorite clutter control items are small to medium boxes, baskets, bins and storage drawers. They can’t be so big that they create a pile that I have to dig through to get to the bottom, like some of those giant one pocket purses. I want to be able to easily get to what I want without moving more than one thing out of the way.

Now my husband will tell you that I can really pack things in, and I do with storage items in the garage or closets, but not for everyday items. I’m OK to move a couple boxes to get to my holiday decorations, we only have so much space and I use it well.

I use decorative boxes and baskets with attached tops if they are going to be in plain sight. You want to get the ones with the tops attached, so you just have to flip open and close. If you have to take the top completely on and off each time, it will probably just end up sitting on the table.

At the end of the night, I gather up the remotes — because we have way too many — and put them in the box until tomorrow. If you find that the remotes are just getting placed on top of the box, then use one without a top; there’s a better chance that they’ll at least get inside the box and off the table.

For remotes, I’ve also used a decorative desk letter organizer, the kind that stores note cards and pads. It was made out of leather and the remotes stood up in them and spun around. It was perfect until the remotes got too big to fit in the slots. There are also some very nice remote control caddies available.

If you have a side or coffee table with drawers, use them for your everyday items such as remotes, magazines, TV guide and pens. Drawers are great, but like everything else, they can become a hole, so use drawer organizers to keep it tidy. Once you have to start digging for something, it’s time to empty the drawer and reorganize it.

Buy baskets, boxes, bins and storage drawers that stack. Place them inside any door storage you have in the room. This allows you to quickly get what you want and put it away. If you just stack items on top of each other behind the doors, it just becomes a junk pile that topples out when you open the doors.

I personally like the small plastic bins and storage drawers. They’re inexpensive and durable. They also work great under your kitchen and bathroom counters — no more losing what’s in the back of the cabinets or buying things you don’t need just because you can’t seem to find them. It was the best thing I’ve every done to keep those areas organized and clean.

One of my all-time favorite is a storage ottoman. At the end of the night our feet are up and if I’m cold, a blanket is right there. Yes, even in this heat I get cold when the air conditioning is set at 70 degrees. It’s also where we place our Wii controls, accessories and games — easy to get to and off the table.

Do you have stacks of magazines? Maybe it’s time to weed through them. How often do you really look through all of them? But if you’re just a keeper, like my husband, store them in magazine holders in a bookcase instead of piled on the floor or table.

For newspapers, I place ours in an old wine crate each day. It’s decorative, they’re all in one place, off the counters and ready for recycling day.

Family rooms are one of the most used rooms in our homes, so things need to be tidy, but handy. As the saying goes, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Being tidy will help bring peace to your home, reduce your cleaning time and frustration when looking for something, because you’ll know where it is.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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