Get It Together!

During the winter we hibernate—we pull out cozy blankets, stay inside, and dream about warm weather. But when April hits, there’s nothing better than purging your closet and every single drawer, cabinet, and nook in your home of the excess stuff you’ve collected during the winter months.

Photographs by Chris Edwards

Getting organized isn’t easy. But the sigh of relief once everything is put in place is worth the agony of sorting through pairs of jeans, stacks of old bills, and drawers full of photos. Here are tips on creating a space that works for your lifestyle and fits your needs. 

During the winter we hibernate—we pull out cozy blankets, stay inside, and dream about warm weather. But when April hits, there’s nothing better than purging your closet and every single drawer, cabinet, and nook in your home of the excess stuff you’ve collected during the winter months.

Professional organizer Carson Tate of Living Simply knows this better than anyone. Her crew of five organizers help organize your life—literally. From the kitchen pantry and laundry room to the walk-in closet and mudroom, Tate can transform a once-cluttered and frustrating place in the home to a space made to suit your lifestyle. From busy stay-at-home moms and philanthropists to corporate execs, Tate has worked throughout the area de-cluttering homes in Myers Park, SouthPark, Concord, and Belmont.

For her, organizing is not brain surgery. “It’s the simple things you might never have thought about doing,” she says.

These two homes, one in SouthPark and the other in Myers Park, show you the tricks of getting your life in order by doing those “little things”—because organizing doesn’t have to mean renovating your closet, kitchen, or home office.


Potential, the homeowner says, is what this narrow walk-in closet had. With custom California Closet shelving and shoe racks, this closet certainly had potential to be an organized haven. “I just wasn’t using the space well,” the homeowner says. “I had purses in three different places, clothes piled in big messes on shelves, and there were tons of things I couldn’t find. I also had way too much stuff and most of it ended up in a big pile on the floor.”

Enter Tate. After an initial consultation (i.e. assessing the homeowner’s needs, layout, spacing, etc.), Tate worked on transforming the once disheveled closet into an easy-to-navigate storage area. Here are easy-to-follow tips on cleaning up your closet:

Shoe organization

Make sure one shoe faces forward so the front of the shoe is visible while the matching shoe faces backwards, offering a view of the heel details.

Organize your closet by how you dress

Do you choose your top (i.e. shirts, jackets, or sweaters) first or your bottom (i.e. pants and skirts) first?  If you select your top first, hang your tops on the rod and your pants on the bottom or vice versa. You want the items you select first to be readily accessible and visible at eye level.

Color-coordinate it

Sort light to dark. And put darker colored items in the front of the closet where the lighting is likely better and move lighter, easier-to-see items to the back of the closet where there’s less light.

Uniform hangers

It’s easier to see all of your clothing when it’s hung on hangers of the same size and height. Also, select hangers that are appropriate for the clothing—wide, strong hangers for coats and suits, hangers with notches/hooks for clothing with delicate straps, padded hangers for silk/very fine materials, and pants hangers to preserve or eliminate creases.

Turn shelves into drawers

Sweaters, T-shirts, and pants often fall off and/or end up in a jumbled heap on shelves. It’s difficult to see what you have and even more difficult to access the sweater on the bottom of the pile. Use clear containers to convert the shelves to drawers. These will contain garments so nothing falls off of the shelf—more important, these also allow for quick and easy retrieval.

Accordion-roll T-shirts

Turn your drawer into a clothing filing cabinet. Roll your T-shirt and insert it into the drawer just like you insert a file into a filing cabinet. Now you can quickly see all of your T-shirts (including pockets and back detailing) and retrieve one without messing up the entire drawer.

Arrange accessories by color

Hang like-colored accessories such as necklaces together. A belt rack can do double duty as a place to hang your necklaces and larger earrings.

Arrange accessories by function and use

Group similar shoes together. For example, cluster all of your flats, all of your athletic shoes, and all of your heels together. When you get dressed, if you decide you want to wear flats with your pants, you’ll only have to go to one section of your closet to review your options.
Labels: Labels make it easy for anyone to help maintain an organized space. It eliminates that split-second question about where to put things.

Home Office

When Georgi Dienst made the transition from businesswoman to stay-at-home mom of two children, organization completely vanished. “When you work in an office, you have a desk, a to-do list, a filing system, a general overall way to accomplish your tasks,” she says. “Though it had all the essential parts, I hadn’t figured out an efficient way to work in [my home office].”

The adjacent mudroom also proved to be an organizing nightmare for Dienst. “My mudroom held all the essential family-coat-closet things,” she says. “But it was essentially a dumping ground for all that came through the door. It all fit somehow, but it was nearly impossible to find just what I was looking for.”

Tate helped Dienst get a handle on two of the homeowner’s favorite rooms in her Myers Park home. “Having Carson design spaces that are specific to my lifestyle, my tasks, and my tastes has made me realize how much less efficient I was.”

Here are a few ways Tate organized Dienst’s small home office and adjacent mudroom:

Create distinct work zones

Create work zones for your computer, telephone calls, project planning and execution, and correspondence. Each zone has all of the tools and resources you need to complete an activity. In the telephone zone, for example, you have the telephone, phone book, personal directories, and pens and paper for note-taking.

Maximize your foot space

Convert “dead” space into a pullout shelf to store the printer. When the printer is not being used it easily slides back into the cabinet and out of the way.

Install outlets higher on the wall

This allows you to drop the computer cords (through a hole in the desk) to the outlet, plug them in, and wrap the cords, keeping them off the floor and away from your feet.

Create a gift wrapping area

Designate a storage-and-wrapping area. A waist-high shelf serves as the wrapping station. All of the wrapping paper and supplies are organized by category—birthday, baby, adult—in the two drawers below.

Create an efficient work space

The desk is designed in an L-shaped configuration. U- and L-shaped desks are the most efficient work spaces.

Make things adjustable

Make the shelves adjustable. As children grow, their storage needs change so you want the cubbies to grow with them.

Add multiple hooks

Install hooks at the top of the cubby and then lower on the sides allowing you to maximize the space. As the child grows, coats can hang on the higher hook and hats, scarves, and bags on the lower ones.

Seasonalize the mudroom

In the spring and summer, we need sunscreen, bug repellent, and rain gear. Have these items accessible by placing them on the high shelves in your child’s cubby. Store out-of-season items in the baskets above the cubbies and switch the items out with the seasons.

Remember the pets

Keep all pet gear—leashes, medicines, food, and toys—stored where they’ll be needed most (here, they’re next to the back door). An entire pull-out cubby stores dog food next to the dog bowls for easy access.