Home Style: Three spots to tackle in your house

Mary Carol Garrity

I'm one of the most disorganized people in the world. I run at such a high speed, my home is in constant chaos. So this January, I'm resolving to change my ways. I'm going to take three key steps to get my year off to a well-organized start. Here are three spots to start off with.

Step 1: Tame Your Entry

The area around the entry door you use most often is one of the hardest spots in your home to keep organized. As we cross the threshold, we immediately dump everything on the first surface we see. In my home, this is my kitchen table, which has the misfortune of being a few steps from our back door. This poor table is where we pile our coats, mail, keys and cellphones. Without an organizational plan, it can look like a war zone in a matter of hours.

Chances are you don't have room to set up a coming-in-and-going-out station by your entry. But you can still use some of the ideas to organize your space. I started by hanging heavy-grade decorative hooks by my back door to catch coats, the dog leash and briefcases.

Another trick I'm trying is to convert a drawer in the kitchen cabinet nearest the door into a catchall space to hold cellphones, sunglasses and keys. If my husband embraces this system, it will revolutionize his morning. He will no longer have to start his day with the phrase, "Have you seen my keys?"

The drawer next to it will hold mail -- bills and invitations we need to attend to. With all the important mail corralled into one small drawer, I hope I will no longer be accused of losing the bills.

Step 2: Make Your Work Areas Work Well

Next, aim to make your workrooms streamlined and stylish. My laundry is in my scary, dark, icky basement, which resembles a dungeon in the Tower of London. Renovating this cell of a room would cost more than my home is worth, so it's not going to change anytime soon. Maybe that's why I love my friends' lovely laundry rooms so much.

Every time I walk into my friend Cynthia's laundry room, I am green with envy. This space was pretty lackluster until she used her ample creative energy to remake it. Instead of going to the expense of remodeling, she just painted her outdated cabinets a warm white. Then, she filled the open shelves with her enviable collection of dishes, displaying them so beautifully the scene could be from a decorating magazine.

Since her washer and dryer were not so lovely to look at, she hid them behind a standing wooden screen. To make the mundane magnificent, she put her laundry detergent into delicate decanters. Do you have any old decanters you can use in your laundry room? Serving pieces you can use to hold laundry supplies? Bring them out and make your daily grind a bit more beautiful.

Step 3: Get Creative with Storage

When you live in an old home like I do, you get really good at creating storage space. Through the years, I've become a master at selecting furnishings and accents that are not only beautiful but also can store my stuff. Sometimes every organizational tool you need is right under your nose -- you just have to see your furnishings and accents with new eyes. For example, pick pieces for your living areas that have lots of drawers and closed cabinets. You can pack these drawers full of games, photo albums -- anything.

Since I have a serious dish addiction and like to entertain a lot, I have lots of supplies to stash away. So every single drawer in every piece of furniture in my living room is packed full of linens, trays and candles.

Beautiful baskets and boxes also make great hidden storage units. Or you can store stuff in plain view when you use gorgeous storage containers, like silver, glass and china serving pieces. When I decorated the little office on the sun porch off my bedroom, I used some of my pretty treasures to hold my stuff. Forget the office superstore -- go shopping in your china cabinet. Convert a vase into a penholder, use a tray for your inbox, stash paper clips in porcelain jars.

Pretty jewelry is like artwork. So why keep it hidden away in a jewelry box when you're not wearing it? I put my rings and bracelets in a porcelain server on my desk for some eye candy. What else can you store out in public view, turning it into a lovely display and conversation piece? Maybe your grandmother's china? A few pieces of a favorite collection? Some old photos?

The column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at She can be reached at