How did your house get so suddenly overstuffed? Mail subsumes the counter. The bookshelves overflow, toys litter the floors, and there must be a better spot for that coffee pot, right? Hectic lives can yield hectic spaces, but they need not. Many people’s first impulse is just to get more storage. But before you load up on bins and shelves and drawers, a little consideration can save you time and money. Here two local designers weigh in with decluttering acumen.

The Experts: Harmony WeihsDesign Harmony; Jessica KashianAlexandra Immel Residential Design

A Place for Everything

If you build storage, consider customizing it to belongings. Weihs recommends grouping similar objects (the drawers above maintain a Lego collection). Kashian recalls optimizing a family’s small kitchen with customized cabinets for appliances like the rice maker and the blender, depending on how much each got used.

Integrated Aesthetics

Storage needn’t be an interloper on design—it can actually bolster it. Don’t mimic the kitchen cabinets in the living room, for example, to bring aesthetic continuity. “We want the kitchen to feel different from the living room,” Weihs says.

Out of Sight

While it might feel natural to display your belongings, open shelving can actually increase the feel of clutter. “Even if it’s organized,” Weihs says, “it’s just very visually stimulating.” If the design is already too busy, add doors or drawers to existing shelves to visually corral the chaos.

Routinely Tidy

More vital than perfect storage options is a plan and routine for keeping things picked up, says Kashian. Maybe that’s sorting the mail as soon as it comes in. Maybe once a month you organize. You can buy all the bins you want, she says, but without a system, clutter will still accrue.

Drawers Before Shelves

Especially in the kitchen, drawers tend to beat shelves, since you can pull them out and take stock of what you have, instead of objects getting pushed to the back of a shelf and lost, Weihs says. “Drawers are highly functional. They cost more, but I think [they’re] definitely worth the money.”

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