Posted Aug 15, 2013

Ask an Expert: How Can Renters Maintain a Clutter-Free Apartment?

For the average renter, keeping an apartment organized at all times is no easy feat. Renters often face physical limitations in keeping homes tidy, including minimal square footage, limited storage areas and, if you live with roommates, several shared spaces. Coupled with balancing full time work schedules and personal interests, maintaining an organized, clutter-free home is a difficult task for any renter. Although it may be difficult, developing a simple system for organizing your belongings and keeping the mess in your home in check not only creates a pleasant living environment, but can also ease your daily stress levels and increase your productivity at home.

We recently spoke with Ashley Murphy, founder of lifestyle service NEAT Method, about ways renters can approach organizing their space. NEAT Method specializes in delivering custom organization solutions so its clients in six cities (and rapidly growing!) across the country can enjoy a well-arranged life, so Ashley knows a thing or two about strategies for staying organized.

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We hope that by following NEAT Method’s expert advice you’ll be able to spend less time keeping your home clean and more time enjoying your newly clutter-free life! You can follow NEAT Method on Twitter and Facebook for more helpful tips and tricks for keeping organized.

Do you have other best practices for organizing your home? Let us know @Lovely or in the comments below.

Moving Into A New Home

As you pack and prepare to settle into your new home, Ashley recommends making a detailed inventory of your belongings and evaluating what you have and what you’ll need in your new space. Taking note of your belongings ahead of your move will leave you with a clear understanding of exactly how much room you’ll need to store everything, what storage options you already have available and what kind of furniture you may still need to purchase. For example, if you have a large collection of video games, you might want to look for a television stand that also has ample room to organize and store all of your accompanying games. If you notice that you’ve accumulated a lot of jackets, you’ll be in the market for a coat rack or sturdy wall hooks instead. Whether it’s apparel, games, music, accessories or art supplies, understanding what kind of possessions you’ll be bringing into your new space will help you choose pieces that function specifically for your needs.

Ashley notes that because renters are often faced with tight quarters and small rooms, they look for very small pieces of furniture that tend to come with minimal storage. She advises renters to keep your list of belongings in mind while furniture shopping and look for pieces that serve multiple purposes to maximize every square foot of your home.

Tackling A Cluttered Space

One of most daunting parts of organizing your home is getting started. One glance in an unkempt closet can overwhelm anyone, so Ashley advises to clear out the entire space first to give yourself a completely clean palette to work with and ease the initial stress of taking on the project. Regardless of the space you’re taking on, eliminate any belongings that you haven’t utilized in six-twelve months; in a kitchen this could mean expired food or the toaster that has remained unused on your counter for half a year, in a bathroom it could be old cleaning products, in a bedroom it means a complete overhaul of your closet to eliminate clothes and accessories merely accumulating dust. You can donate your old belongings to a local organization, or a friend or family member who can get use out of them.

Once you have your space cleared out, separate the items you plan to keep in the space into relevant groups. For example, if you’re working on a linen closet, separate hand towels, bath towels, bedding and cleaning supplies; if it is your refrigerator, separate condiments, produce and beverages. Keeping similar items near each other helps you map out how the items should be stored logically, keeps the space organized and allows for easy access to every item. It’s also a simple way for house guests to be able to locate items quickly and easily.


Getting Organized

Now that all of your items are grouped together, measure every drawer or space and get ready for an adventure to what Ashley describes as a renter’s best friend, The Container Store! You can pick out inexpensive storage solutions that fit every space in your home and measuring before you head out shopping will ensure everything you purchase will fit perfectly. Bins and baskets are great quick-fix storage solutions, giving you places to organize a variety of small items. Whenever possible, try and use clear containers so you can see exactly what is in every bin or container. If you prefer solid containers, you can find ones with fun prints and patterns to fit your personal design style and create labels for the outside of each bin so you can easily keep track of your items.

Bins and baskets are also great solutions for organizing shared spaces of your home if you live with roommates. Designate separate containers for each person in your household in every shared space so you have an easy way to determine exactly what belongs to each roommate. The Container Store carries a wide variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary, so you’ll be sure to find something that fits the aesthetic of your home.

When working in your closet, Ashley highly recommends using space saving hangers which can help maximize whatever closet space your apartment offers and keep your closet as open and organized as possible. Costco has great deals on low-priced Slimline hangers, a favorite among the NEAT Method team.

Maintaining Your Newly Organized Space

Ashley’s biggest piece of advice for renters who have just undergone an organizational overhaul and want to maintain a clutter-free lifestyle is to be mindful of their space. Spending five-ten minutes putting things back in their place after cooking dinner or doing laundry is a more efficient tactic than letting things accumulate throughout your home and having to spend an hour cleaning up. Ashley also encourages renters to be patient and give yourself ample time to complete each project so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Picking one room to makeover every month is a more realistic goal than attempting to organize your entire apartment, and one that you’re more likely to uphold.

Getting The Whole Household Involved

Once you’ve organized your space, it’s important to get everyone in your household involved if you hope to maintain it. Upholding a simple system of grouping relevant items together in each space and labeling bins, baskets and other containers clearly will help roommates and house guests uphold your superior organizational skills. You can also decide as a household on a reward for meeting or exceeding your organizational goals. For example, if everyone is successful in putting away laundry as soon as it’s clean rather than leaving it in the living room, celebrate with a nice dinner out, or if you all devote an afternoon to cleaning out your closets, treat yourself to some shopping for a couple new pieces to put in your newly cleaned closet. Whatever you decide, setting goals and rewards is a great way to keep your entire household motivated to stay clutter-free!


Elizabeth is the Communications & Marketing Lead at Lovely where she helps spread the word about Lovely's mission far and wide. She loves corgis, Beyonce and helping renters enjoy the best possible experience in their homes.

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