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    10 Expert Tips For Organizing Your House Or Apartment In A Not-Stressful Way

    Start with these.

    Meet Kay Patterson. She's a professional Boston-based home organizer and the mind behind the Organized Soprano on YouTube.

    Kay Patterson / Via Instagram: @theorganizedsoprano

    Over the years, the professional organizer (and classical singer!) has developed a process that is both straightforward and totally practical.

    According to Kay, 43, home organization doesn't have to end in a dramatic, HGTV-worthy before-and-after reveal. Often, she says, just focusing on small (yet super-functional) changes can make a huge difference.

    If your space feels disorganized, Kay says the first step is figuring out what exactly about your home or apartment is stressing you out. Take a step back and determine what about your space is difficult to navigate. Even just identifying that can go a long way in helping you find a simple solution that won't take up a ton of your time or money.

    Here are some of Kay's best tips for getting your space in order:

    1. Create "zones" in high-use spaces — like your fridge or pantry — so that everything has a spot. (Even if the items in it are always changing!)

    A fridge packed with condiments, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and containers
    Kay Patterson / Via

    This strategy is especially important for the fridge because the temperature varies throughout. Dairy products should be in the bottom or the back of the fridge where the temperature stays the most consistent. Everything that can handle more fluctuation — like condiments — should go in the door.

    2. And give those spaces a quick tune-up every once in a while.

    An open cabinet displaying plastic containers and jars filled with staples, a collection of cans on a step shelf, and condiments on a turntable above a Soda Stream, a toaster, a bread saver, and a speaker
    Kay Patterson / Via

    Organizing those high-use spaces isn't going to be a one-and-done project the way it is for the other areas in your home. "The fridge is so dynamic, so things are going to get out of whack," Kay explains.

    For example, maybe you spend a few minutes doing a quick fridge cleanup before heading out to the grocery store. Toss out anything that's gone bad, and double-check what you have (and you don't have) — so that you don't accidentally buy extras.

    3. It's worth creating zones in closets, too.

    A corner closet with four short hanging rods, a chest of drawers, and several shelves holding boxes, bins, and baskets
    Kay Patterson / Via

    There are ways to fix up even the most awkward of storage or closet spaces, Kay says. A good starting point? Make sure your most frequently used things are front and center. Items that are less frequently used or seasonal — suitcases, holiday decor, heavy winter coats — can and should be moved to less accessible spots, like that out-of-the-way shelf.

    4. And consider investing in a few (cheap but functional!) storage pieces so you can take advantage of those closet dead spaces.

    Kay Patterson

    A small shelving unit at the bottom of your closet — for things like shoes and offseason clothing — is a great way to max out vertical space. An extra hanging rod can also be a huge help if you would rather keep as much of your clothing on hangers as possible.

    If you have high-up shelves, stackable bins or shoeboxes can maximize space as well, says Kay. To make things more accessible, tuck a folding step stool into a corner so you can grab what you need.

    5. Digitize files if you don't need hard copies.

    A small desk under three shelves and next to a bookcase with glass doors
    Kay Patterson / Via

    "Otherwise, papers just keep building up,” says Kay. You can use an app like Evernote Scannable to digitize everything that you don’t need a hard copy of — like bills or receipts. The app makes all of your files searchable so that you can locate them faster than you ever would in a bulky filing cabinet.

    6. Use organizers and dividers to keep drawers under control.

    A drawer of video games and video game controllers
    Kay Patterson / Via

    Kay especially likes using spring-loaded dividers for deep drawers. “Anything that prevents things from hiding in the bottom or toward the back is very helpful.”

    7. Prioritize visibility over maximizing your space, even if it means sacrificing some of the space toward the backs of the cabinets.

    A collection of cans on a 3-tiered, expandable step shelf
    Kay Patterson / Via

    Kitchen-wise, Kay says that one of the most common issues she sees with her clients is that they build their pantries too deep. The quick solve? Step shelves, which give you more vertical space so you're not constantly shuffling things.

    8. Clearly communicate your ~maintenance expectations~ to the people you live with.

    Kay Patterson / Via

    That way, all your hard work doesn't fall apart a week later. "I find that a lot of problems come when people don't communicate," says Kay. If something really bothers you — like letting dishes stack in the sink — sit down and have a talk.

    9. But know that everyone's standards for cleanliness or tidiness are different — and that's totally OK.

    A cabinet of gardening supplies
    Kay Patterson / Via

    Compromise is key. If your kids, partner, or roommates are a bit less organized than you are, you might need to meet them in the middle. “If people are happy being messy and it doesn’t bother them, let their space be,” says Kay. “For kids, I find that if they're encouraged to take a little bit of ownership and pride in their space, they’re more willing to help keep up."

    10. Make the shopping part of the process the last step in organizing your space.

    A skinny rolling cart holding laundry supplies next to a washing machine
    Kay Patterson / Via

    Kay says that the biggest mistake her clients make is buying a ton of stuff before they've even started organizing. “A lot of times, that stuff ends up staying in the bag with the tags still on because the process is just so intimidating,” she explains.

    Instead, hold off on shopping until you've started the process so that you have an idea of what you really need to make your space work. Chances are, you might need far fewer containers than you thought.

    And last, set reasonable goals for your organization project so that you feel prepared (and maybe even excited?!) to take on the next one.

    A dog sitting next to a drawer of dog treats, toys, and food
    Kay Patterson / Via

    With all things home organization, Kay recommends shooting for "pretty good" rather than perfect. “Perfect is a place that doesn’t really exist," she says. "As long as you can find stuff, you’ve won.”

    For more tips from Kay Patterson, follow the Organized Soprano on YouTube or Instagram. ✨

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