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12 Simple Life Hacks for Organizing Your Home

Professional organizer Jamie Novak shares tried-and-true life hacks for keeping your home in order. Learn what to keep, what to toss and how to organize it all.

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Family Handyman

Find Unused Storage Space

Whether it’s in the rafters of your garage, between joists in the ceiling of your basement, inside a cabinet, etc., maximize your home’s storage space by thinking outside of the box! For example, Family Handyman reader David Ojala uses gutters as storage shelves on the side of kitchen cabinets for one of the most clever home organization hacks we’ve seen!

Vinyl rain gutters are fairly inexpensive and great for storing small items. They come in 10-ft.-long sections, so you can cut them up with a power miter saw or hacksaw and make several shelves out of them. I just snap an end cap on each end, drill a couple of holes and attach them to my cabinets with wood screws and finish washers. For heavier stuff, I attach them with fascia gutter brackets, which you’ll find at the home center right next to the gutters. — David Ojala

Plus: 9 more uses for gutters that aren’t on the roof.

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Optimize Your Bookshelves

Optimize Your Bookshelves

Kirsten Hinte/Shutterstock

Bookcases look most balanced when they are filled 75 percent with books and 20 percent with decorative items, leaving 5 percent of empty space.

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Toss Old Clothing

Toss Old Clothing

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Clothes you haven't touched in two years need to go. The two-year rule accounts for warmer-than-usual winters or unseasonable summers when you may not wear something you'd usually wear. It also accounts for clothes you've been saving for chores like yard work or painting, without letting you hold on to these items indefinitely. If you're not willing to take the time to try something on to confirm that you still love it, then you can let it go. Learn about Swedish Death Cleaning and if you can apply some of the principles. Just be careful what you donate, there are a number of items you should think twice about donating.

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Dry Measuring Cups: Keep or Toss?

Dry Measuring Cups: Keep or Toss?

Keep dry measuring cups that:
  • Nest together, conserving space
  • Are stainless steel (which is heat resistant and lasts longer than plastic)
  • Have these four basic measurements: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup
  • Have an offset handle to allow you to more accurately level off dry ingredients
Toss the ones that:
  • Have measurements that are no longer legible (over time the print can wash off, making them less useful)
  • Are hard to clean
  • Damaged, bent, plastic, peeled, melted, warped, and stained cups
  • Rarely used single measurements, like 2/3 cup (two scoops from a 1/3 cup works just as well)

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Keep Shutoff Instructions Handy

Keep Shutoff Instructions Handy

Family Handyman

It's a good idea to tape "how-to" directions and a map of the location for shutting off gas, water, and electric to the inside of your utility cabinet or laundry room door.

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Life Hacks for Home: What to Keep in a Mini Toolkit

Life Hacks for Home: What to Keep in a Mini Toolkit

Family Handyman

Keep a mini toolkit handy for small projects that pop up around the house:
  • Small hammer for easy projects, like hanging a picture hook
  • Level
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Box cutter
  • 5' tape measure
  • All-in-one screwdriver with multiple bits stored in the handle
  • One tiny screwdriver for opening the battery compartments on things like a remote control
  • Superglue

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Avoid Cluttered Walls

Avoid Cluttered Walls

Family Handyman

To keep the wall from feeling cluttered, stick to the common two-thirds formula: Frames or other items on the wall should fill two-thirds of the space over a piece of furniture. If you hang multiple frames, aim for 2" between each, and always try to group in odd numbers. This is the easiest way to hang a gallery wall.

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Declutter Your Medicine Cabinet

Declutter Your Medicine Cabinet

Family Handyman

Keep only these must-have medical supplies for kids:
  • Child-safe insect repellent
  • Child-safe sunscreen
  • Infant and/or child thermometers (both digital and ear or rectal)
  • Rehydration fluids for children with tummy trouble
  • Children's and/or infants' acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as recommended by your doctor, to relieve fever and mild pain
  • Phone numbers for your pediatrician or emergency contacts
  • The American Association of Poison Control Centers' national emergency hotline: (800) 222-1222

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7 Items That Should Never Be Stored in Your Garage

7 Items That Should Never Be Stored in Your Garage

Family Handyman

1. Paper—as in paperwork, books, or paper goods, like paper towels 2. Photographs and other memorabilia 3. Fabrics that are likely to develop mildew and musty smells 4. Items in cardboard boxes, such as boxed food 5. Metals that are prone to rusting, such as fishing gear and metal toolboxes 6. Collectibles, like vinyl records, which can warp 7. Propane tanks for your gas grill (these are better kept outside where it’s well-ventilated to prevent igniting the fumes when you start your car)

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What to Keep for the Car

What to Keep for the Car

Family Handyman

What are the must-have car care tools? Here's what to keep and what to toss. Keep:
  • Wheel brush
  • Bucket, 3 gallons or larger
  • Vent and dash brush
  • Crevice tool
  • Brake-dust remover brush
Toss:
  • Tiny detailing tools that don't work well
  • Power washers that are too harsh for the car's surface
  • Battery-operated buffers or wax machines that are difficult to operate
  • Car-care accessories that attach to your drill but are more trouble than they're worth

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Storing Important Documents

Storing Important Documents

Family Handyman

Keep seven years' worth of business-related backup documents to support your tax returns, like final budgets, receipts, and contracts. You can toss nontax related items such as old conference materials, first drafts of final documents, and outdated business cards and brochures. Check out how to get your home office organized to avoid clutter.

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Mud Room Grab & Go Bags

Mud Room Grab & Go Bags

Family Handyman

In your entryway, keep a tote bag for each activity you or your kids regularly participate in. For instance, have one bag for soccer practice and one for band rehearsals. That way you can simply grab the bag and go, with all the essentials inside. Depending on your needs, three other grab-and-go totes you might consider keeping are:
  • A car travel/restaurant tote filled with travel-friendly toys, quiet games, or projects the kids can do while waiting for dinner in a restaurant
  • Dry-cleaning tote for clothes that need to be taken to the cleaners
  • Library tote for your books and library card
Build this sleek, organized entryway storage unit with these plans.