Out with the old

From A to Z, simple steps to declutter your NYC pad and start the new year fresh

TRD New York /
Jan.January 08, 2015 01:00 PM

No matter how tidy and luxurious your Manhattan apartment may be, chances are your bedroom closet harbors a tangle of sweaters, and then there’s that mushrooming collection of old phones hidden in a cupboard. It’s a new year now — it’s time for a fresh start. From corralling beauty products on a lavish silver tray to storing cocktail party attire in a “virtual closet,” here’s an A to Z list of good practices to sweep away the superfluous and transform your home into a genuine retreat from the busyness of the Big Apple. It’s 2015: Happy neat year!


Keep what you need close and leave the rest out of sight — and out of mind. “As a rule of thumb, have the things that you use everyday very accessible,” said Lucy Harris, founder of Lucy Harris Studio, a high-end interior design firm based in New York City. “Things that you don’t use — the fondue pot that someone gave you for your wedding, the rice cooker that you always forget to use — store those in a harder-to-reach place.”


Clear containers

are essential, according to professional organizer Barbara Reich, founder of Resourceful Consultants. “If I think of the dry goods at home, I like to see the flour, the white sugar, the brown sugar,” she said. “It looks good and it’s functional.” Even the areas that are not on display should look like they could be on display, she adds.


Technology to the rescue! “Vital documents like birth certificates must be kept, but consider online billing and account management [to reduce paper clutter],” said professional organizer Korinne Kubena Belock, founder of Urban Simplicity. All you need is a scanner — paid bills, insurance forms, phone contracts and the like can all be digitalized. You can keep the documents in folders on your computer desktop or store them in Dropbox or Google Drive for extra backup. In case you need to retrieve them, you can always print them again. 


How to get rid of that growing stash of outdated devices that contain sensitive information? “There are events that happen in the city every few months and you can drop-off and recycle all electronics,” said professional organizer Gail Furgal, founder of OuttaSight Organizing. Starting this year, it’s illegal to throw electronics in the trash in the city; check out nyc.gov/nycrecycles for options and more info. Dedicated companies also provide solutions: 4th Bin picks up e-waste, recycles it and issues a certificate of data destruction, said professional organizer Collette Shine, founder of Organize and Shine.



Multi-purpose furniture is crucial for organized apartment living. Stackable, space-saving pieces from Resource Furniture are made with this idea in mind. “They literally specialize in small spaces,” said interior designer Melanie Morris, co-founder of Morris & Woodhouse Interiors. Resource Furniture’s movable, extendable pieces completely transform themselves: Goliath, a narrow console for the entryway, becomes a spacious dining table for 10; Giralot is a playful, wall-mounted storage unit that swivels on a column, making it easy to hide and display items as needed.

Grab & go

That stuff you need every time you walk out of your apartment, like keys, wallet, maximum-strength lip balm? Round them up in a decadent, stylish bowl in your entryway and you’ll always be ready to go.


Meaning: Everything has a place. “Things need to have their own ‘home,’” advises Belock, stressing that all items should have a designated spot, and that all members of a household should be aware of them. “If you can’t find a home for an item, you don’t have space for it,” concludes writer Leo Babauta on his blog Zen Habits. 


“A simple inbox for items you need to act on will ensure you never lose track of important paperwork,” said Belock. “To prevent your inbox from becoming a black hole, spend five minutes in the morning reviewing the contents. Trash any papers that are no longer relevant and take action on timely ones. After a while, checking your inbox will become a habit.”


It’s gotta go. In addition to paper, don’t forget that tattered or unloved clothes can be discarded, too. “As an easy rule, if you haven’t worn it all season, consider donating it,” Shine said. Furgal suggests sorting garments  in categories: “Place all the white blouses together, then you can see how  many you have,” and easily pick the ones to discard or donate. Mementos
and knickknacks can be tossed or donated with this rule, too.


If your budget permits a limited amount of customization, the kitchen is the place to splurge. “Each client has a specific way of how they use their kitchen,” said Morris. Based upon your kitchenware stock and cooking habits, cabinetry can be designed to maximize your space and accommodate your needs: Easy-to-reach spice storage for avid chefs; deep cupboards to stash rarely used oversized pots.


are the core of an organized house. A simple label maker is all you need, according to Reich. This way,  “everybody is accountable for putting things back in the right place.”


When custom or built-in furniture is not an option, think modular. USM Modular Furniture, which has a Soho showroom, has lavish solutions for organizing spaces. “USM is like the Mercedes of modular storage,” said Morris. From a minimalist bookcase that reaches the ceiling to a colorful coffee table, USM units can be assembled in a variety of ways, incorporating style and functionality.


Try not to buy things you don’t need, but if you do, there’s one golden rule: If you acquire something new, get rid of something old.


The counterpoint to your inbox. Once you’ve acted on important items — like that lingering RSVP to your niece’s wedding — move them to the outbox so they can be mailed in a timely fashion.


“Whether you live in a five-floor penthouse on Fifth Avenue or a studio apartment in Brooklyn, the big problem is always going to be paper,” said Nancy Heller, president and founder of Goodbye Clutter. Don’t let magazines and newspapers take over your space; keep only the latest issues and recycle old ones as new copies arrive. For events and appointments, mark the details down on a calendar then toss the cards.

Quilted bag shapers

“One of the biggest mistakes I see in closets is purse storage,” said Belock. “Properly stuffing purses with quilted handbag shapers prevents purses from losing their shape when empty, and they keep purses lined up neatly on open shelving.” The Container Store has silver shapers designed by professional organizers in varying sizes for bags (as well as boots).

Roller shades

What’s stashed in our living room shelves is not always worthy of being displayed. To cover up unsightly items, a roller shade does the trick nicely, especially if it complements the room’s décor. Install the brackets on the underside of top shelf to cover or reveal objects.


Très chic. Trays are an exquisite solution for keeping beauty products tidy. This is especially true if the trays are silver: The effect is as if cosmetics are being “served.”



Sometimes it’s not identifying what to get rid of, it’s actually getting the stuff out the door that’s the challenge. Take it easy and call Uber. “I call Uber up, I get a car, I go downstairs with bags and I take them right over to Housing Works where everything is donated,” said Shine, revealing a practice shared by other organizers. Cars’ availability can be easily checked with an app, making a trip easy to schedule — especially important when there are many bags to deliver.

“They will wait for you, they will help you with loading and unloading your bags,” adds Furgal. Additionally, since the whole transaction is paid automatically by a credit card on file, there’s no fumbling for cash while juggling packages, Shine said.

Virtual closet

The perfect solution for a clothes horse: An outsourced closet. Manhattan-based Garde Robe is a luxury wardrobe storage and valet service that provides “endless closet space.” Garments are professionally photographed; each garment is cataloged by item type, designer, size and season. The items are then carefully stored in a wardrobe, while images and descriptions are merged onto a password-protected website that can be accessed anytime. “A client [can] call and say, ‘I’d like the red coat with the leopard trim’ and they will bring it over,” said Heller.

Wasted time

If time is money, don’t waste it sorting through piles or looking for misplaced items. Clutter can slow you down physically, Reich explains. Time spent now putting everything in its place can save you hours throughout the year.

Xhale, yoga, zen

You’ve done the hard part — now it’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor: a sanctuary where you can truly unwind. Om.

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