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Top tips for organising your new home

By David Gordon

Of course the best time to organise your home is when you first move in; start as you mean to go on. Getting organised may seem all too hard when you’re already worn out with the business of relocating your life, but you’re going to have to unpack and set up anyway, so why not lay the foundations of a more orderly existence in the process?

Have all the little things in order and if the bigger things don’t fall into place, at least you’ll have more time to grapple with them.

When it comes to arranging and storing, the key is to have everything easily accessible. If you can’t lay hands on something when you need it, your storage system isn’t working. It helps to have a permanent place for everything, and to encourage the family to return items to their designated place after use.

Easier said than done, but a more orderly life starts with a rosy utopian vision.

Organising Your New Home


Homes today pulsate with technological gadgetry, and while we upgrade regularly, we often hold on to the older version, just in case. All that techno-capacity takes up a lot of space. Every mobile, iPod, iPad, camera and kindle now comes with an array of battery chargers, batteries, ear-phones, leads and portable speakers.

To keep the related bits and pieces together, confine them to a section of a deep, compartmentalised spare-parts tray. These are stackable, and come in a range of sizes from any hardware store. To keep leads from writhing together, roll them up and secure with an elastic band, or place items in small, plastic zip-lock bags.

Set aside a small space near a power point as a dedicated recharge area. This should be in a quiet part of the home where our little techno-helpers can recharge in peace without being moved, disconnected or walked on.

Remote controls can be kept in a remote tidy, which costs under $20. It’s a sound investment; too many costly remotes die when they fall off the arms of chairs.

Instruction Manuals

Every piece of technology, every basic household appliance now comes with and a thick manual, usually imperfectly and incomprehensibly translated into English; and it’s often supplemented by an instruction CD. No one wants to read or watch them; but when something goes wrong, you need to be able to lay hands on them.

Magazines boxes are ideal for storing manuals, sets of instructions and warranties. You’ll need:

  • 1 for household appliances – fridge, oven, vacuum, fans, kettle, mixer etc.
  • 1 for technology – phones, TV, computers, printers, DVDs
  • 1 for major fixtures – water heater, heating/cooling system, security system

If you have a set of house plans, store these here too.


The kitchen is usually the busiest area of the home, and will function more efficiently if you have cleared work spaces and carefully arranged cupboards and drawers. Depending on the storage areas available, store items in the following categories:

  • Food – tinned, packaged, boxed and bottled goods, herbs and spices. Store dried goods in sealed glass or plastic jars. If you line up all your tins, labels facing out, people will think you’re a serial killer, but you’ll always know where to find the peas.
  • Pots and pans – stack or nest close to the cook-top
  • Kitchen appliances – the most frequently used should me closest to hand
  • Plastics – buy in graduated sets and store one inside the other
  • Utensils – keep slotted and wooden spoons, spatulas, tongs  and ladles in earthenware pots next to the cook-top – handy and attractive
  • Kitchen linen – set aside a drawer for tea-towels, place-mats and pot-holders. Table-cloths are best stored in the laundry
  • Cleaning items – sponges, washing up liquid, dishwasher liquid, surface sprays etc are best stored under the sink. Use child-safe locks to keep kids out.


Divide laundry items into 4 key areas – socks, underwear, clothing, and household linen. Socks and underwear are daily turn-over items.

You need to be able to find matching socks quickly, so light plastic baskets are ideal for these small but critical items. Use one basket for dirty socks and jocks and another for clean. If you’ve the space, and especially if you have kids, use 2 clean baskets, one for socks and one for underwear, for extra-easy access.

Clothes generally take up quite a bit of room, so use large plastic bins to store them – ideally bins that can fit into a built-in cupboard or under a laundry shelf. If you have plenty of cupboard space, you can sort and store clothes by type. Put out-of-season clothes on the least accessible shelves.

Have a clear work surface for folding clothes and linen. Towels are high-turnover items, so keep them handy in a neat stack at one end of on the laundry work surface. Other linen items are used less frequently and should be stored in cupboards, ideally with slatted shelves to allow for air circulation.

To avoid ironing, fold them as soon as you take them off the line or out of the dryer.  Don’t forget a lavender sachet for freshness.

Laundry detergents, bleaches and other household cleaning products can be stored under the trough or on a high shelf for safety sake if there are children in the house.


Try to keep bathroom clutter to a minimum, especially around the sink. You don’t want to have to move a dozen bottles before you wipe the area after use. Organise cupboards and cabinets along the following lines:

  • Beauty hardware – hairdryers, curling tongs, straighteners, shavers
  • Beauty software – lotions, potions, creams, powders, soaps
  • Dental care items
  • Toilet rolls, air-fresheners
  • Medicines etc – must be locked away
  • Cleaning products – again, keep out of reach of children

You might want to install a shower-tidy, but they have a habit of falling down or going rusty.

Kids’ Stuff

Sort the kids’ belongings into toys, craft items and school supplies and group them accordingly. Toys can be stored in big boxes, baskets or even in mesh draw-string bags, which are ideal for beach toys.

Board or electronic games are best arranged on shelves with books, jigsaw puzzles and craft supplies. School books, stationery, calculators and other learning essentials should be kept in one location, ideally on or around a dedicated desk.

Make your kids responsible for keeping their own things in order – character building, and take some of the burden off you.

To support eager scholars, have a well-stocked stationery zone somewhere in the house – perhaps a drawer or shelf in the study. Each child can have their own novelty stationery holder on their desk, which they can restock from the central supply.

Legal Documents Box

Keep all your important legal papers together. A small, portable safe is ideal for this – you can pick it up and run. Keep it in a safe if possible. Important documents include:

  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports and citizenship papers
  • Health records
  • Wills
  • Banking and credit card details
  • Investment documents
  • Insurance documents
  • Computer back-up USB or hard drive
  • Mortgage papers (lodge house title with a solicitor or in a safe-deposit box)

If possible, scan copies of all important documents and store on a USB.

Lighting Essentials

Bulbs always blow you’re doing something important. You want to be able to replace them right away, and with the correct wattage. Store a supply of replacement bulbs in a cupboard, arranged according to wattage. This is also the place to keep power-boards, double adaptors, extension cords and travel plugs.

Garage, Shed, Workshop

You may have all or none of the above at your place, but you’ll certainly have at least some tools and supplies for vehicles, boats, DIY or the garden.

All car parts and paraphernalia belong in the garage, with bikes mounted out of the way on the wall. If you have a workshop, you’ll be able to accommodate power and hand tools, wood-working, welding, fishing and other hobby supplies.

Again, hardware stores offer an extensive selection of storage systems for everything from nails and screws to paint pots and camping gear. Or make your own shelves, and all those costly power tools might finally pay for themselves.

Whether in garage, shed or workshop, keep the floor-area as clear as possible to maximise the work space. Use the walls for storage. Install a peg-board to hold smaller tools you use regularly. Hang brooms, rakes, hoses and ropes from the wall on heavy-duty hooks. Suspend bikes or ladders from the ceiling – but high enough not to brain yourself.

Large, valuable and potentially dangerous garden items like mowers, blowers, chain-saws and whipper-snippers must be kept in a secure area under lock and key, along with poisons and flammable liquids.


Lose your keys and you’re locked out of some aspect of your life. With multiple window and door locks in our homes, plus car and office keys, it’s impossible to carry them all around with you.

Invest in a simple key-tidy and install it under your notice-board; or make your own key-rack by screwing a few hooks under a shelf and hanging the keys there. Either way, label each key; you won’t remember which is which. Some key-tidies come with plastic labels.

Box of Useful Things

Every home needs one, stocked with the sundries required in a crisis, real or imagined. Keep it in a handy spot; the bottom shelf of the pantry, in the cupboard under the stairs, in the hall cabinet. It should contain:

  • First-aid kit
  • Candles and matches
  • Torches
  • Scissors
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Sticky-tape
  • Blu-tack
  • Pins
  • Anything else you use in a domestic crisis

Finally, be flexible with your new arrangements. If something doesn’t work out for you, change it to suit your needs, but stick to that basic principle – a place for everything and everything in its place.

by Mary Costello, originally appearing on

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