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Adjusting the height of your kitchen cabinet shelves can help you stay organized and find items faster. (Getty Images)

Getting organized is one thing, but staying organized is another. Once you’ve decluttered your home, it’s important to set up a system that will keep your storage spaces, surfaces and floors neat in the long term.

But you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on designer organizational tools. Here are 25 affordable home organization ideas you can incorporate today:

[Read: 8 DIY Bathroom Remodel Projects]

Store books, blankets and other miscellaneous items out of sight with a bench, coffee table or ottoman that doubles as a storage space. While investing in furniture can get pricey quickly, storage ottomans and tables start as low at $55 at marketplaces like Wayfair and Home Depot.

If your home doesn’t have many closets or cabinets, you'll have to find creative places to put things away. “When you live in a small space, you have to use every crevice,” says Chelsey Brown, creator of the lifestyle blog “City Chic Decor” and author of the book “Rental Style: The Ultimate Guide to Decorating Your Apartment or Small Home.” Brown explains that in her New York City apartment, she’ll stash thin items like trays for entertaining or artwork not currently on the walls behind floor-length curtains, or even behind her dresser.

There’s always a chair or corner of the room that tends to pile up with clothes, papers or other things that you just don’t feel like putting away yet. To make it look neater, Brown recommends placing a basket with a lid in the spot you always toss things to serve as a catch-all. “Throw things in that basket, and once what’s in the basket reaches the top, that’s when you know it’s time to put everything away,” she says.

When storage is limited, use every available space as a storage solution. Marketplaces like Ikea, Wayfair and Home Goods sell narrow cabinets and bookshelves designed to fit in a corner, and short sets of shelves can double as a side table.

Shelves installed on your walls can make for more dynamic decor options, and they can also keep books, candles or other items from piling up on your coffee table or floor.

Most kitchen cabinet shelves can be moved up or down, but few people take the time to adjust them. By making your cabinet work better for you, you’ll find the food item, spice or dish you’re looking for faster.

In your cabinets, closets or even fridge, a shelf riser sits on a shelf and serves as an additional surface to layer items on top of each other. “It allows you to double the amount of items you can store,” Brown says.

If you’re finding that the drawers and shelves in your refrigerator get overcrowded, additional plastic bins can help you organize. Label bins to serve as designated spots for school lunch ingredients, meat or anything else that you want to find easily.

Add a Lazy Susan to Your Cabinets

Whether you buy a lot of canned goods, use a variety of spices in your cooking or just aren’t tall enough to see to the back of your kitchen cabinets, a Lazy Susan could be the solution to your problem. These rotating trays make it easy to see every item you store in the space, and many can be put in a cabinet, refrigerator or even out on the counter. You can find Lazy Susans anywhere from Target to Lowe’s, and they come as cheap as $5.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Keep the contents of your refrigerator from getting out of hand by sorting through all shelves and drawers every time you add new groceries. Check expiration dates and toss stinky leftovers or old food, and move anything with an expiration date in the near future to the front of the fridge to encourage you to eat it soon.

[Read: 12 Places to Clean in Your Home to Prevent the Spread of Illness]

Everyone has a junk drawer, but it’s time to decide where those items belong for good. Useful tools or items you occasionally need can be kept in the drawer with a simple drawer organizer. But unused notebooks, company swag or other trinkets should be stored elsewhere or donated.

Keep cabinet shelves neater by utilizing the space behind the doors for items that may take up a lot of space laying flat, but can be more compact if you hang them up. Brown says temporary stick-on hooks on cabinet doors – or even the side of the cabinet – can be the perfect spot for rags, hair appliances, scarves and more.

Short storage bins on wheels designed to fit under a bed are perfect for storing out-of-season clothes, jackets and keepsakes you don’t want to keep on display.

In a kid’s bedroom, stuffed animals are often all over the place. You can get them off the floor and give them a rightful home by attaching a basket or net to the wall so they have a place to be when not in use.

A cotton T-shirt may be easy to fold and pack into a drawer, but more delicate or luxurious items in your wardrobe should be cared for even while they’re sitting in your closet. Marty Basher, organization specialist for Modular Closets, says hanging clothes should always be zipped and buttoned while in the closet to avoid wrinkles. Delicate fabrics like knitted wool or cashmere sweaters are better folded and loosely packed in a drawer because “these materials can warp and stretch if left to hang in a closet,” Basher wrote in an email.

Whether you live in an apartment with tiny closets or you simply have a lot of clothes, the closet space you have may not be enough. As a solution, Brown recommends a wardrobe rack to provide additional hanging space. To keep your clothes out of sight, Basher says armoires can be found for fairly cheap through big-box stores like Ikea. “They provide an instant closet and also look great in most rooms of your home,” he says.

To manage your shoes better and keep them from becoming a pile in your closet, get a hanging shoe organizer. “I love using the vertical space behind the door. That works 10 times better than using a shoe rack in your closet,” Brown says.

Make laundry day easier by keeping three hampers for different laundry loads: whites, darks and colors. Because they hold one-third of the clothes, these hampers can be smaller to easily fit on the floor of your closet, or they can be narrow to fit between furniture in your bedroom.

It’s easier to find clothes in your closet when it’s not overflowing, so clear it out when the weather changes for the season. Sweaters, warm pants and jackets can be stored in the summer, and your swimsuits and sandals can be put away in winter in storage bins or vacuum-sealed bags.

Your closet typically starts as a simple bar to hang clothes, sometimes with a shelf on top. Creating a custom closet can be pricey, but you can achieve similar organization by adding baskets, bins, hooks and racks that make it clear where each item belongs. “The best tip I can offer is to have a ‘home’ for every item that goes in your closet. This idea not only makes tidying up easy, it also makes it so you always know where everything is,” Basher says.

[Read: How to Set Up a Home Gym]

To keep your wardrobe from expanding beyond your storage space, always be ready to make the call to donate or sell a top, bag or pair of shoes that doesn’t fit or doesn’t appeal to you anymore. Keep it from getting lost in the sea of other clothes by putting it in a designated spot for castaways, either in a bin at the bottom of your closet or close to your front door to remind you to take the clothes to Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange when it’s full. “Removing them straight away helps keep your closet at its best,” Basher says.

A magnetic strip attached to your wall can take the place of containers you would otherwise need to keep on a countertop. Magnetic strips are an easy solution for storing things like bobby pins, or even replacing the need for a knife block in your kitchen.

Get the loofahs and bottle of shampoo off the edges of your bathtub with a simple shower caddy that can hang from your shower head or attach to the tile wall with a suction cup.

To keep control of your life both inside and outside the home, display a calendar in a prominent location that you update with events as they are scheduled, whether it’s a birthday, planned travel or a donation pickup. Any wall calendar can work, but a dry-erase calendar allows you to change plans easily and eliminates the need to buy a new one every year.

A home only stays organized if you keep working at it, so make picking up and putting things away a part of your routine. When done daily, it should only take a few minutes. Brown says she finds that picking up is ideal for her first thing in the morning. “You’ll feel so much better; you’ll feel more energized, and you won’t feel that anxiety of, ‘Oh, I have to clean that later,’” she says.


10 Ways to Save Energy and Lower Your Utility Bills

Cut back – for the environment and your wallet.

Aerial drone view of suburb neighborhood in East Austin community houses and homes - Mueller Suburb Solar Panel Rooftops and Modern Austin Living

(Getty Images)

Making your home more energy-efficient isn’t just about making a positive impact on the environment – it will make a positive impact on your wallet, too, by reducing your utility bills. Some changes are simple, like replacing old lightbulbs or unplugging machines that aren’t in use, while other projects can transform your home, like bringing your air conditioning up to date or installing solar panels. Big or small, the changes you make can help lower your monthly utility bills and lessen your environmental impact. Read on for 10 ways to save energy and money at home.

Updated on Mary 7, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Consult a professional.

Consult a professional.

Construction concept , Foreman officer inspector defect about engineer&architect work home building before complete project

(Getty Images)

To determine where your home is wasting the most energy, consider a professional energy audit. This may involve blower door tests to check for drafts, thermographic screenings and other inspections that assess the house, its features and your habits, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A home energy audit takes between one and five hours and costs $408 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, although depending on where you live and the size of your home, the price could reach $1,500 or more. The Department of Energy reports that efficiency upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save homeowners between 5% and 30% on their energy bill. You can find professionals who can perform a home energy audit on networks like Angie's List and HomeAdvisor, which will allow you to get an estimate and check reviews.

See what's using the most energy.

See what's using the most energy.

Close up of woman using cell phone touch screen

(Getty Images)

Some electronics in your home are "energy vampires" – devices that continuously sap power even when they’re turned off. There are a few ways to figure out which devices should be unplugged to cut down your electric bill. One option is Sense, a home energy monitor that plugs into your electric panel and provides details about your home’s electricity use through a mobile app. The app will then show you how plugging in or unplugging different devices changes the total amount of wattage in use. You can also use a plug-in kilowatt meter to measure how much energy individual appliances use, such as your refrigerator or computer. Mike Phillips, co-founder and CEO of Sense, says one way to find the devices most likely to be using a larger amount of energy is by their temperature: “If something is using power, it’s going to be warm,” he says.

Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.

Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.

Unrecognisable male watching sports on live streaming online service, view from above

(Getty Images)

Especially when you find yourself at home more, the devices you use for work and play can have a big impact on your energy usage. A desktop computer, for example, will draw more energy than a laptop, even when the laptop is plugged in. “A laptop computer tends to be more efficient – the components are more efficient – but also, you can unplug it,” says Lauren Urbanek, senior energy policy advocate for the climate and clean energy program for NRDC, or Natural Resources Defense Council. Additionally, many video game consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox, offer TV and movie streaming apps but they’re far less efficient than smaller devices designed for streaming. Urbanek estimates they use “somewhere in the range of 20 times more energy (used) than if you use a Roku or Apple TV device.” To save energy, aim to use your video game console for video games, and get a dedicated streaming device for watching TV.

Update old appliances.

Update old appliances.

Close Up Of Man Setting Economy Cycle On Dishwasher

(Getty Images)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but newer appliances operate more efficiently than older ones. The most efficient appliances have an Energy Star rating from the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency, which tells you they're designed to use less energy and can help save on utility costs. For washing machines and dishwashers, "eco" settings or efficiency cycles take a lot more time but use less water and electricity. The added time may seem inconvenient, but it could have a visible effect on your bill – especially if you run the dishwasher and washing machine daily or more often. “If you’re in a rush to get your dishes done, fine, use the shorter cycle. But if you don’t care when the dishes get done in the morning, use the eco mode,” Phillips says.

Change out old lights.

Change out old lights.

Woman replacing light bulb at home. Power save LED lamp changing

(Getty Images)

Pay close attention to the lightbulbs in your home – and if you’re still using any incandescent bulbs. “Any light that gets used, if it’s incandescent it should be replaced,” Phillips says. Instead, opt for LED bulbs, which you can find at the grocery store, pharmacy or online. An LED bulb using 8 watts will produce the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb and lasts roughly 40 times longer, according to lighting technology company USAI Lighting. Another plus for LEDs: “They come in all different shades, temperatures (and) colors so you really don’t get the harsh light that people have been worried about in the past,” Urbanek says.

Replace your showerhead.

Replace your showerhead.

Showerhead

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It might seem almost too simple, but swapping out an old showerhead will reduce the rate of water flow, dropping your water usage without the need for shorter showers. Urbanek recommends looking for showerheads that have a WaterSense rating, which is similar to an Energy Star rating but specific to water usage and flow. While older showerheads use a lot of water and create further water waste with mist, showerheads designed for efficiency cut down on the waste while still making the shower experience enjoyable. “The technology in terms of shower heads has really improved – you’re not just going to get a trickle of water,” Urbanek says.

Pay attention to your thermostat.

Pay attention to your thermostat.

Smart Home: Digital thermostat heating and cooling automation system

(Getty Images)

If you leave the house every day, setting a program on your thermostat helps cut down on unnecessary heating and cooling. However, if everyone’s at home, it’s not so easy to save energy and avoid getting too cold or hot. “Set it to whatever you’re OK with from a comfort perspective, but a higher setting on your thermostat (in summer) definitely saves energy,” Phillips says. Consider lowering your HVAC use at night while everyone’s asleep, and opt for open windows during the spring and fall months when it’s not too hot or cold. “On nice days, opening the windows and turning on the ceiling fan can have a big impact on your comfort,” Urbanek says.

Insulate and reduce air leakage.

Insulate and reduce air leakage.

Attic with insulation

(iStockPhoto)

A major source of inefficiency in your home is air leakage, when the warm air in winter and cool air in summer escapes outside, making your heating and cooling system work harder. A home energy audit can identify sources of air leakage and areas that would benefit from insulation, but amateurs may be able to spot them as well. Urbanek recommends checking around your windows and doors for visible gaps where air can get in and out. If your attic is unfinished, consider insulating the space to keep it from reaching extreme temperatures in winter and summer. This will help keep your HVAC system from working as hard to heat and cool the living space directly below the attic.

Have your HVAC serviced.

Have your HVAC serviced.

Multi-ethnic team of blue collar air conditioner repairmen at work.  They prepare to begin work by gathering appropriate tools from their tool box.

(Getty Images)

To make sure your heating and AC don't give out during a critical time, have both systems serviced by a professional annually. Regular maintenance improves the efficiency of your HVAC system, ensuring minor issues don’t lead to higher utility bills. If you’re unable to have a professional visit your home, you can change out the air filter, which can fill with dust, pollen and pet fur and make the system work harder. New air filters can be found in home improvement stores or ordered online. “Just make sure you’re getting the right size and type of filter for your system,” Urbanek says.

Put solar panels on the roof.

Put solar panels on the roof.

Solar panels on house

(Getty Images)

Rooftop solar panels are more common these days, especially in sunny parts of the U.S., and they can be an excellent way to cut down your total utility bill. While solar panels are becoming less expensive as they gain popularity, installation comes with a high price tag. HomeAdvisor reports that the average solar panel system costs $25,593, but it varies greatly depending on where you live. Research your options thoroughly to determine if solar panels would be right for your home. There may be a rebate or tax break offered for installing solar panels in your area, for example. But first, Urbanek recommends insulating your attic, sealing holes where you have air leakage, identifying "energy vampires" and opting for up-to-date, efficient appliances. “(Doing these tasks first) means that you would need a smaller solar system to operate your home,” Urbanek says.

Here are 10 ways to save energy and lower your utility bills at home:

Here are 10 ways to save energy and lower your utility bills at home:

Living room of luxury eco house, parquet floor and wooden roof trusses, panoramic window on autumn meadow, modern white and gray interior design

(Getty Images)

  • Consult a professional.
  • See what’s using the most energy.
  • Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.
  • Update old appliances.
  • Change out old lights.
  • Replace your showerhead.
  • Pay attention to your thermostat.
  • Insulate and reduce air leakage.
  • Have your HVAC serviced.
  • Put solar panels on your roof.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, renting, home improvements


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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