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.

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1. Organize Your Spaces With Mini Lazy Susans

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 and material. For example, the YBM HOME Bamboo Wooden Lazy Susan Turntable is just 10 inches wide and works well with many types of décor. Add 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.

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We recommend this mini lazy Susan, which is inexpensive and moves smoothly with no drag.

Take a tip from your favorite Asian restaurants and use small lazy Susans to keep things within reach.
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2. Steam Clean Your Microwave

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.

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Boiling a mug of water in your microwave will help steam away built-up gunk.
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3. Deep Clean Your 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!

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It just makes sense to clean the appliance that cleans your dishes.
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4. Use Magnets as an Organizational Tool

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 inside of a cupboard door or wall for small kitchen utensils or implements. The Ouddy Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder is a great option. Bar magnets, like the DIYMAG Strong Neodymium Bar Magnets with Double-Sided Adhesive, 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.

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Buy a magnetic knife holder and bar magnets online.

Magnets are a useful tool for organizing in drawers, cupboards and other tight spaces.
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5. Double Down on Kid Closets

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.

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Small-people clothes can be hung closer together than big-people clothes.
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6. Organize Your Deep 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 stackable freezer-safe baskets and sort the freezer's contents into them. These Slideep Freezer Storage Basket Organizers are rustproof and have built-in handles. 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.

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You can buy freezer storage basket organizers here.

Emptying and organizing your freezer is a great way to start the year.
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7. Use Closet-Rod Shoe Organizers as Instant Mini Cubbies

Discount stores and department stores sell shoe organizers, like the Amborido 8-Shelf Hanging Shoe Organizer, which 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.

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You can find an inexpensive hanging shoe organizer in a variety of color options to suit your tastes.

Do you need a convenient way to organize hats and gloves? This will work.
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8. Store Baking Sheets Vertically

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. Try this Mindspace Triangle File Holder for a simple yet stylish option. Some wire racks or even dish drainers can do the same for smaller items, like pot lids.

This vertical desktop file holder will get your organized in no time.

When your sheet pans aren't in use, they're cupboard-dwelling space invaders.
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9. Organize Shovels and Brooms

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.

Rakes, shovels, brooms and other unwieldy tools can be organized neatly in – of all things – a repurposed file cabinet.
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10. Corral Those Cords

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, like the Velcro Brand One-Wrap Cable Ties. You can also 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!

You can buy your own handy Velcro straps in a variety of colors. Pro tip: get more than you think you'll need, as you'll likely keep finding uses for them.

Nothing says "organized living space" like getting those cords under control.
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