Organizing

The Home Edit’s Top Tips for Organizing Small Spaces

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The Home Edit co-founders Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer. Photo by John Shearer.

The Home Edit co-founders Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer. Photo by John Shearer.

Home organization is not what many would consider a fun activity, let alone a stylish one. But the women behind The Home Edit—with their celebrity clients, penchant for rainbow-bright color-coding, and love of labels—are giving the discipline an entirely new look.

After being introduced by a mutual acquaintance, Nashville-based Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin quickly discovered they shared a passion for organization. They founded The Home Edit to help clients create spaces that aren’t just tidy but beautiful too—and perhaps most importantly, easy to maintain over time. Business took off, and soon the pair found themselves with a roster of celebrity clients—including Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore, and Lauren Conrad—and one million followers of their inspiration-heavy Instagram account.

As Joanna and Clea prepare to launch their debut book, The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals, we caught up with the in-demand organizers to get their top tips for tidying small spaces.

An entry table with three drawers and a labeled basket tucked below make this petite foyer both fabulous and functional.

An entry table with three drawers and a labeled basket tucked below make this petite foyer both fabulous and functional.

First things first: Why is it important to organize and tidy small spaces?
Joanna: The smaller the space, the more noticeable the clutter can be. It makes a huge difference if everything is edited and categorized with functional storage solutions. Deciding on a functional system that works for the space and your lifestyle will allow you to find what you need when you need it, as well as help you maintain it for long-term success.

What makes small spaces so tough to organize?
Clea: Whether people admit to it or not, clutter can be extremely overwhelming. It makes people look at a space and see it as a lost cause, rather than seeing it for what it is—which is a space in need of a different system. Maximizing small spaces takes some extra creativity but it’s definitely possible.

What should people know before they start this process?
Joanna: In a small space, purging items is a non-negotiable. I always tell people that you get the item or you get the space, but you don’t get both. If you don’t start with a major edit, then you are essentially just shuffling clutter back and forth. Once you purge items you no longer want or need, you can open up more possibilities for maximizing your space and making it functional.

You strive to make things beautiful yet functional. Can you tell us more about this philosophy?
Clea: We believe that organizing spaces shouldn’t just be about putting things in their place. Our philosophy is finding that magical sweet spot that exists where spaces are efficient, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing all at once. It not only makes sections of your home more enjoyable to look at, but we’ve also found that sprinkling this extra layer of pixie dust inspires people to maintain these spaces—which is the whole point!

Shallow bins and alphabetical organization are key to keeping kitchen drawers tidy—especially if your home doesn’t have a dedicated pantry space.

Shallow bins and alphabetical organization are key to keeping kitchen drawers tidy—especially if your home doesn’t have a dedicated pantry space.

In a small space, purging items is a non-negotiable. I always tell people that you get the item or you get the space, but you don’t get both.

— Joanna Teplin, co-founder of The Home Edit
Joanna and Clea favor over-the-door storage since it doesn’t take up valuable floor space.

Joanna and Clea favor over-the-door storage since it doesn’t take up valuable floor space.

Labeled bins and clear jars are musts for any organized pantry—including that of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, shown above.

Labeled bins and clear jars are musts for any organized pantry—including that of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, shown above.

Clear—and clearly labeled—plastic bins ensure you can easily see everything in your fridge (no forgotten leftovers here!).

Clear—and clearly labeled—plastic bins ensure you can easily see everything in your fridge (no forgotten leftovers here!).

What are some of your small-space organizing essentials?
Joanna: If your bedroom is short on space, you can eliminate the need for a dresser by adding hanging shelf organizers to your closet. T-shirts, sweaters, and jeans can be stacked on each shelf, and drawer inserts can be added to hold socks and underwear. With a variety of sizes and hanging-bar options, it’s a small-space essential.

Clea: Use large floor baskets for items that can be hidden, and trays to display items you’d like visible. Not only does it contain clutter, but it adds a stylized component to a room. Coffee tables and bed frames that come with built-in storage capabilities are a major plus.

If you have wall room, use hang shelving, hooks, or modular storage to get things off countertops and other surfaces. For example, if your kitchen lacks a pantry, create a substitute with a wall-mounted cabinet or shelf and some stacked dry-goods containers. It will free up valuable real estate and items will be easier to access.

A hanging wall unit and bar cart add storage to a bathroom that lacks drawers and shelves.

A hanging wall unit and bar cart add storage to a bathroom that lacks drawers and shelves.

What’s the best way to keep a space organized long-term?
Clea: Labeling—whether it’s with text or by color with ROYGBIV—is our signature, but not just because it looks pretty. It actually holds you accountable! It makes sure you’re putting things back in the appropriate space. Keeping a space organized also takes ongoing maintenance—there’s just no way around that. Setting aside time for mini edits throughout the year allows you to reassess a space and decide if anything needs to be purged.

Any last bits of advice?
Joanna: In any space, especially a small one, it’s important that closets, cabinets, and baskets aren’t filled to the brim. It can cause clutter to spill out and become a bigger problem. When deciding on a storage container or system, pick an item that is practical and fits the dimensions of your space. For example, if your shelves have extra height, you want to choose something stackable. If your shelves or drawers are extra deep, pick a bin with depth.

Use clear bins to display things that are pretty enough to be seen (or that you want to keep visible), and opaque containers to keep everything else neatly concealed.

Use clear bins to display things that are pretty enough to be seen (or that you want to keep visible), and opaque containers to keep everything else neatly concealed.

Joanna and Clea made sure to show off the pastel-toned knitting supplies in Lauren Conrad’s craft room.

Joanna and Clea made sure to show off the pastel-toned knitting supplies in Lauren Conrad’s craft room.

How to Master the Art of the Edit

“Editing is the foundation of a sustainable organized system,” Joanna and Clea write in their book—and it’s an especially important process for small spaces. A thorough edit is always the first step in the pair’s organizing process, whether they’re tidying up a single drawer or cleaning out a walk-in closet. Here’s how to pare down, The Home Edit way:

Step 1: Take everything out. And they do mean everything: The space you’re working on should be totally empty when you’re done. “If you don’t get in there and pull out every single item, then you’re just kicking the can of beans down the road, not to mention building a faulty foundation with your organizing project,” the pair writes.

Step 2: Create groupings. As you pull things out of the space you’re organizing, pair like items together, which will help you keep it all in order and see if you have any duplicates. But don’t be tempted to start putting it all back in just yet, they insist. That comes after the next step. 

Step 3: Edit. Now it’s time for the paring down to begin, which is often the trickiest (and most emotional!) part. “Take a hard look at everything sitting in front of you and ask yourself, ‘Are all these things worth my energy?’,” write Joanna and Clea. “That’s really what this all comes down to—deciding which items are worth your attention, time, and effort when it comes to creating (and maintaining) a gorgeous, clean, Zen-like space that makes you happy every single day.”

Thanks to their sturdy, slim design, velvet hangers are a favorite of The Home Edit team. A double rod helps maximize hanging space.

Thanks to their sturdy, slim design, velvet hangers are a favorite of The Home Edit team. A double rod helps maximize hanging space.

A makeshift “chest of drawers” made of deep plastic bins is a genius solution for closet floor space, and ensures items will remain dust-free.

A makeshift “chest of drawers” made of deep plastic bins is a genius solution for closet floor space, and ensures items will remain dust-free.

 

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