10 Cleaning & Organizing Hacks for the New Year

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However poor your track record may be, it's hard to resist making new year's resolutions. Psychologically, there's just something compelling about the idea of making a fresh start, and January 1 is as good a time as any. If you're set on keeping your living space cleaner and more organized in the coming year, we have a handful of no-brainer home hacks to help you along the way.

Credit: Grace Cary/Moment/GettyImages

However poor your track record may be, it's hard to resist making new year's resolutions. Psychologically, there's just something compelling about the idea of making a fresh start, and January 1 is as good a time as any. If you're set on keeping your living space cleaner and more organized in the coming year, we have a handful of no-brainer home hacks to help you along the way.

Organize Your Spaces With Mini Lazy Susans

Coriander, chives, spring onion, spinach and Ocimum basilicum 'Magic Mountain'

Anywhere you have a lot of small items cluttering a given space, a compact lazy Susan can help bring order out of the chaos. Instead of fumbling through a cluster of condiments in the fridge, spice jars in the pantry or nail polishes on your dresser, clear the space and put down a small lazy Susan. You can find them inexpensively in just about any size you need. Add back the items you want to organize with the tallest in the middle and the labels facing outward and you're all set. Just swivel the platform until you see the item for which you're looking.

Credit: annick vanderschelden photography/Moment/GettyImages

Anywhere you have a lot of small items cluttering a given space, a compact lazy Susan can help bring order out of the chaos. Instead of fumbling through a cluster of condiments in the fridge, spice jars in the pantry or nail polishes on your dresser, clear the space and put down a small lazy Susan. You can find them inexpensively in just about any size you need. Add back the items you want to organize with the tallest in the middle and the labels facing outward and you're all set. Just swivel the platform until you see the item for which you're looking.

Steam Clean Your Microwave

A mug inside a microwave oven

The new year is a good time to do some cleaning chores that you often procrastinate, like cleaning the accumulated gunk in your microwave. You could do that by scrubbing, but it's much easier to let steam do it for you. Just microwave a mug of water for three or four minutes and then wait another 10 to 15 minutes before opening the door. All those spatters will wipe away easily, especially if you add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the water. The same trick works with your regular oven, but you'll need a large pan of boiling water, and you'll probably need to block the oven vent with a towel to trap the steam.

Credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Moment/GettyImages

The new year is a good time to do some cleaning chores that you often procrastinate, like cleaning the accumulated gunk in your microwave. You could do that by scrubbing, but it's much easier to let steam do it for you. Just microwave a mug of water for three or four minutes and then wait another 10 to 15 minutes before opening the door. All those spatters will wipe away easily, especially if you add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the water. The same trick works with your regular oven, but you'll need a large pan of boiling water, and you'll probably need to block the oven vent with a towel to trap the steam.

Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

Interior of dishwasher

Here's another of those "once-in-a-while" cleaning projects people often forget: cleaning the dishwasher itself. Your dishwasher can get kind of grubby over time, and a clean machine means cleaner dishes. Start by removing the dishwasher's filter and taking it to the sink for a good scrub before replacing it. Run the empty machine with a cup of vinegar in it (or use a commercial cleaning product) and then wipe down the doors to remove any remaining debris or gunk. Finish by topping the rinse-aid reservoir and you're good to go!

Credit: Oliver Helbig / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Here's another of those "once-in-a-while" cleaning projects people often forget: cleaning the dishwasher itself. Your dishwasher can get kind of grubby over time, and a clean machine means cleaner dishes. Start by removing the dishwasher's filter and taking it to the sink for a good scrub before replacing it. Run the empty machine with a cup of vinegar in it (or use a commercial cleaning product) and then wipe down the doors to remove any remaining debris or gunk. Finish by topping the rinse-aid reservoir and you're good to go!

Use Magnets as an Organizational Tool

Safety pins stuck to a magnet

A lot of the small items that need organizing in a home – safety pins and bobby pins, random kitchen implements and so on – are made of metal, which means magnets can be a great organizing tool. Put a magnetic knife holder on the side wall of a cupboard or inside a cupboard door for small kitchen utensils or implements. Bar magnets or the little magnetic cups hardware stores sell for handypeople work great for pins and needles, barrettes and other small items. You can paint them or cover them with decorative tape to make them look less industrial.

Credit: Silvia Bragagnolo / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

A lot of the small items that need organizing in a home – safety pins and bobby pins, random kitchen implements and so on – are made of metal, which means magnets can be a great organizing tool. Put a magnetic knife holder on the side wall of a cupboard or inside a cupboard door for small kitchen utensils or implements. Bar magnets or the little magnetic cups hardware stores sell for handypeople work great for pins and needles, barrettes and other small items. You can paint them or cover them with decorative tape to make them look less industrial.

Double Down on Kid Closets

Girl's clothing hanging in a closet

Closet space is at a premium in most homes, and some of it inevitably isn't used well. The prime example is your kids' closets. Kids' clothes are physically smaller than adult clothes, which means they don't need as much vertical space. Installing a second (or even a third) bar for hanging clothes beneath the existing one lets you put more in the same space. To really maximize your square footage, build a few cubbies in the lower half and put half-width hanging bars between the cubbies and the wall. Pro tip: This works for shorter adults as well.

Credit: Dana Hoff/UpperCut Images/GettyImages

Closet space is at a premium in most homes, and some of it inevitably isn't used well. The prime example is your kids' closets. Kids' clothes are physically smaller than adult clothes, which means they don't need as much vertical space. Installing a second (or even a third) bar for hanging clothes beneath the existing one lets you put more in the same space. To really maximize your square footage, build a few cubbies in the lower half and put half-width hanging bars between the cubbies and the wall. Pro tip: This works for shorter adults as well.

Organize Your Deep Freezer

Interior of freezer

In homes that have one, a standalone freezer is another place that's chronically in need of serious reorganization. For a chest freezer, invest in a set of stackable plastic crates and sort your freezer's contents into them. For an upright freezer (or on a smaller scale, your fridge's freezer), find open baskets that fit the available space and do the same. Discard anything that's clearly past its prime or unidentifiable. If you really want to do it right, pack the food into picnic coolers for a few hours and defrost the freezer while it's empty.

Credit: Franziska Uhlmann / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

In homes that have one, a standalone freezer is another place that's chronically in need of serious reorganization. For a chest freezer, invest in a set of stackable plastic crates and sort your freezer's contents into them. For an upright freezer (or on a smaller scale, your fridge's freezer), find open baskets that fit the available space and do the same. Discard anything that's clearly past its prime or unidentifiable. If you really want to do it right, pack the food into picnic coolers for a few hours and defrost the freezer while it's empty.

Use Closet-Rod Shoe Organizers as Instant Mini Cubbies

Knit hat and gloves

Discount stores and department stores sell shoe organizers that are meant to hang from a closet's clothes rod. Aside from that obvious use, these make great instant cubbies that go anywhere. Need a spot near the door for hats and gloves in winter? Hang one in your coat closet. Need a place for the kids' craft supplies? You can even hang them in pantries and wardrobes. In places where they'd be useful but no rod exists, you can improvise one by picking up a shower rod from the bathroom section of the store and installing that in a suitable spot.

Credit: Nana Fathrina / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Discount stores and department stores sell shoe organizers that are meant to hang from a closet's clothes rod. Aside from that obvious use, these make great instant cubbies that go anywhere. Need a spot near the door for hats and gloves in winter? Hang one in your coat closet. Need a place for the kids' craft supplies? You can even hang them in pantries and wardrobes. In places where they'd be useful but no rod exists, you can improvise one by picking up a shower rod from the bathroom section of the store and installing that in a suitable spot.

Store Baking Sheets Vertically

Gingerbread men on baking sheet

Cookie sheets and other large baking pans can be really awkward to store in your kitchen cupboards. They take up a lot of space, and if they're stacked, it's hard to pull out just one without the whole stack sliding onto your floor. The easy answer to this is to store them vertically on their sides. The desktop organizers used for paper documents work remarkably well as a way to hold them on their sides, and they're usually wide enough to accommodate muffin and cake pans as well. Some wire racks or even dish drainers can do the same for smaller items, like pot lids.

Credit: Jeffrey Hamilton/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Cookie sheets and other large baking pans can be really awkward to store in your kitchen cupboards. They take up a lot of space, and if they're stacked, it's hard to pull out just one without the whole stack sliding onto your floor. The easy answer to this is to store them vertically on their sides. The desktop organizers used for paper documents work remarkably well as a way to hold them on their sides, and they're usually wide enough to accommodate muffin and cake pans as well. Some wire racks or even dish drainers can do the same for smaller items, like pot lids.

Organize Shovels and Brooms

Spades, rake, boots and gardening gloves by a shed

Whether you keep them in your garage, a shed or a walk-out basement, organizing brooms, mops, snow and garden shovels, rakes and other ungainly tools can take some thought. Ideally, you might hang them all on a wall, but wall space isn't always available. To keep them neat, pick up a used file cabinet at a thrift store. Remove the drawers, paint the empty cabinet (if you wish) and set it on its back near a convenient wall. The empty spots where you removed the drawers make perfect storage bins to keep your tools upright and organized.

Credit: Iain Crockart/Photodisc/GettyImages

Whether you keep them in your garage, a shed or a walk-out basement, organizing brooms, mops, snow and garden shovels, rakes and other ungainly tools can take some thought. Ideally, you might hang them all on a wall, but wall space isn't always available. To keep them neat, pick up a used file cabinet at a thrift store. Remove the drawers, paint the empty cabinet (if you wish) and set it on its back near a convenient wall. The empty spots where you removed the drawers make perfect storage bins to keep your tools upright and organized.

Corral Those Cords

Smartphone with tangled, multicolor wires and cables

Most homes are filled with electric and electronic items, which means they're also filled with cords: cords to the computers, cords to the A/V system, power cords for your plug-in devices and charging cords for your cordless devices. Getting them organized goes a long way toward keeping your house neat. For small cords, wrap them with colorful Velcro straps or clip them with hand-decorated clothespins. For larger power cords, glue decorative paper to empty toilet paper rolls and slide the coiled cord inside. For power bars or large nests of cords, place a decorative box on the floor. Stack the cords (or place the power bar) inside and cut slots in the side for the cords to feed through. Replace the lid and you're finished!

Credit: mikroman6/Moment/GettyImages

Most homes are filled with electric and electronic items, which means they're also filled with cords: cords to the computers, cords to the A/V system, power cords for your plug-in devices and charging cords for your cordless devices. Getting them organized goes a long way toward keeping your house neat. For small cords, wrap them with colorful Velcro straps or clip them with hand-decorated clothespins. For larger power cords, glue decorative paper to empty toilet paper rolls and slide the coiled cord inside. For power bars or large nests of cords, place a decorative box on the floor. Stack the cords (or place the power bar) inside and cut slots in the side for the cords to feed through. Replace the lid and you're finished!

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