bathroom countertop

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Bathroom Countertops

Perfume bottles, toothpaste tubes, empty shampoo bottles—clutter can build up at a mystifyingly rapid rate in a bathroom when several members of the family are using it. These quick tips will help to restore order.

Divide and conquer
Impose order by allocating each member of the family their own drawer or container and keeping only a few items out on the countertop. If you don't have enough storage space for everyone to have a drawer, decorative boxes or lidded wicker baskets are good alternatives. Gather all nonessential items into these containers after use and pop the lid on to regain some order. A colorful plastic box with holes for drainage for corralling children's bath toys is also a good idea if you want to limit the bath time chaos and avoid stepping on a hard plastic toy with bare feet.

Group essentials
For items that are used every day and need to be kept out on the countertop, such as hand soap, hand lotion, and toothbrushes, group them all together on a tray and keep them close to the sink to avoid splashing water all over the countertop when you reach for them. Choose beautiful bottles or containers that you will be happy to look at every day, too; I decant my liquid hand soap into a glass dispenser because I'd rather look at that than a plastic bottle, but whatever pleases your eye is the right choice for you.

Tidy towels
Large storage boxes are good for keeping clean towels neatly ordered, and plenty of wall hooks will ensure wet towels don't end up on the floor. Color-coded towels are useful if you have lots of people using a bathroom—and culprits can be easily identified when damp towels are left lying around. If your towels are all the same, a simple colored tab or marker dot on the label can help you assign each one to a family member. If you are really organized, why not take a page from my sister's book and embroider each person's name onto their own set of towels? Instant identification!
cluttered drawer

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That Kitchen Drawer

You know the one—the drawer that's stuffed with takeout menus, batteries, scissors, pens, paperclips, old receipts, and who knows what else. We all have one of these offenders and, actually, we all need one; where else would you stash all those random items that don't belong anywhere else? That said, the best way to keep on top of it all is to regularly dive in and sort through it.

Take stock
Clear everything out of the drawer and group like items with like items. Roll up lengths of string neatly, stack menus in a pile, and sort through all those single batteries to see which are charged and which need to be recycled. If there is a more logical place to store something, find it a new home. If there isn't anywhere else for it to live, it can go back in the drawer. But be scrupulous.

Buy a dividing tray
Find a tray or dividing system for the drawer (a flatware tray is good for this) and designate a space for each of the different groups of items. Now fill it up section by section. Place all of the items you need to access daily (pens, scissors, string) at the front, and move those that are used less often (batteries, menus, birthday candles) to the back.

Banish layers
The tipping point for a messy drawer is usually when several items get layered on top of each other, because as soon as you start having to sift around to find what you need, looking under papers and behind rolls of string, any system that you have in place quickly unravels. So be strict with yourself and don't put anything on top of your newly ordered storage system. If an item doesn't fit into a compartment, it doesn't go in the drawer.
cluttered entryway

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The Entryway Floor

Your entryway will need to work extra hard to stay tidy with the amount of daily traffic it has to deal with and the number of items that need to be accessed every day. If you find yourself tripping over shoes or umbrellas the second you walk through the door, it could be time for a blitz. Here's how to transform your entryway from cluttered to calm.

Storage, storage, storage
I am obsessed with storage and don't think you can ever have too much. Entryway storage, in particular, can be really appealing; wall hooks, mail trays, umbrella stands, and storage benches can totally transform a messy entryway and provide a great opportunity to stamp your personality on your home.

Floor space is usually limited, so start with the walls. Peg racks are great for a country-style foyer and can be run along the length of your wall for maximum coat storage, or choose brightly colored hooks for a cheerful welcome in a contemporary space. Hooks labeled with names are good for allocating each member of the family a designated space to hang their coat, and high shelves are good for stashing away items that aren't needed every day.

Be seasonal
In the height of summer, do you need to have wet-weather gear cluttering up the entryway? And, equally, do you need to take up valuable storage space with sandals and beach bags in the winter? Do a seasonal review of your entryway closets and remove any items that aren't required. Store them somewhere else, such as under a guest bed or in the attic, until they are needed again, swapping out seasons as necessary.

Squeeze in a slim table
Having a place for keys, mail, and your phone is essential in an entryway if you want to avoid dropping them on various tables around the house. If you have enough space to squeeze in a slim console table, it will definitely pull its weight. The secret to blissful order is to place a few trays or dishes on top and designate one for each item that you tend to put down when you walk through the door.
cluttered kitchen counter

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Kitchen Countertops

The kitchen is another hardworking space that gets a lot of daily traffic, and kitchen counters and islands in particular can accumulate clutter at an alarming speed. I find that stray pieces of paperwork, such as unpaid bills and receipts, mysteriously migrate to my kitchen countertop—I have no idea how—along with a motley selection of items "on their way to somewhere else." Here are a few tips to keep surfaces clean and tidy.

Have an inbox
If letters, bills, and homework tend to migrate to your kitchen counters, set up a box or tray to keep these things tidy and together. A slim tray is better, as a large box will only encourage paperwork to build up, making the problem worse. Use it as an active inbox, to be sorted through daily, and it will keep everything in one place and prevent individual letters and bills from drifting across the countertop.

Maximize wall storage
Clutter attracts more clutter, so clearing your countertops of anything that is nonessential will allow you a clean slate from which to start. Many items that clutter up kitchen counters can usually be hung on the wall with a little creative thought. Try hanging utensils from a bar or a series of hooks, storing spices and herbs on a wall-mounted rack, and placing vegetables in wall-hung wire containers.

Limit food containers on countertops
It's nice to have a few everyday essentials out on the counter, such as a bowl of fruit, but when food containers start to take over, it's time to be ruthless. Store most food items in cupboards or out of sight, choosing just one or two items that you like to display or see every day.

Text excerpted from Happy by Design: How to Create a Home That Boosts Your Health and Happiness, by Victoria Harrison (Weldon Owen, June 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Harrison. Excerpted with permission by Weldon Owen.