Ger Organized

    City dwelling is trending in Pittsburgh. The sheer number of renovated and new-construction housing visually communicates the wager developers have put on the Strip District and Lawrenceville. Because many of these tight-knit houses, apartments, and condos don’t include excess storage, finding space for all of your belongings can be a challenge.

    It’s important to note that, even if your home isn’t large by suburban standards, you can still have a beautiful, organized, and functional space. Designing maintainable organization systems in your home can help simplify your life by promoting efficiency, saving time and money, and decreasing waste. Think about it: If you only store items you love and use in your home and you know exactly where they are, you won’t spend an extra minute searching for anything. Getting ready in the morning will be faster … You won’t overbuy or repurchase things you already own … You’ll be able to see what you have at first glance because a “junk drawer” won’t exist.

    Getting Started: Assess, Purge, and Categorize. Learning to live with less is a great exercise in determining what’s most important to you. When you have a smaller home, your space determines the total amount of belongings you can reasonably house. However, your personal priorities dictate how much of each category you should keep. For example, if you love knit sweaters and prioritize owning several neatly folded stacks in your closet, you likely won’t have as much room for denim. Once you’ve determined your priorities, it’s time to purge. Only keep the items you absolutely love. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I actually used this spatula?” “Will I really wear this mother-of-the-bride dress again?” Consider donating or consigning your belongings to give them a new, helpful purpose. After editing things, categorize them—everything needs an appropriate “home.” The rule-of-thumb is organizing “like with like.” Start with broader categories, such as kitchen items, and then narrow to utensils.

    Once you’ve mastered the basics, consider tackling a few common spaces in more detail.

    Space 1: Reach-in Closet. Although walk-in closets are fantastic, you can create a gorgeous reach-in version with a few suggestions.

    Use slimline hangers: Swapping hangers and facing clothing the same way can do wonders for the look of a closet—consistency is key. With smaller hangers, you’ll be able to fit more items, but leave breathing room and don’t cram!

    Color-code everything: Color-coding makes it easy to locate the perfect shirt when you only have a few minutes between the gym and work. Try organizing from light to dark: white, pink, brown, gray, black. You’ll feel like you’re shopping each time you open your own closet door!

    Leverage baskets and bins: Woven baskets are great for filing sneakers or sandals, while canvas bins can store scarves and hats. With opaque containers, you don’t have to fold or worry about contained items being too perfect!

    Get Organized

    Space 2: One-Cabinet Pantry. Because the kitchen is often the central point of most homes, it’s important to keep it neat and functional.

    Purge expired spices: Spices are a commonly overstocked item in the pantry, but most of us have our set of favorites. If you haven’t used a spice in the past five years, it’s time for it to go. Check for duplicates and share excess shakers with a neighbor!

    Rearrange shelves: This seems obvious, but many people overlook the option to rework shelf heights. Sometimes moving a board up or down just one notch creates a whole new opportunity.

    Make use of height: Many modern condos have open floor plans with tall, lofty ceilings. Store infrequently used items at the top of a tall pantry and purchase a sleek, collapsible step-stool for access. The stool can likely be used in your bedroom closet, too.

    Space 3: Multi-Use Area. Many spaces in the Strip and Lawrenceville make use of a common living room/kitchen layout. Make the best use of this space by keeping it orderly and useful for all household members.

    Design a drop zone: Determine a place (likely near the front door) for miscellaneous items like keys, mail, and change. Matching bins provide a home base for each family member to house things of importance when they enter the home. Don’t forget to label them!

    House it on the bookcase: In addition to holding books, leverage your common-area bookcase space to store items for the entire family. Style the bookcase with unique baskets to hold kids’ toys, outdoor items, and even dog leashes. Still holding onto a few sentimental tchotchkes? A few can also go here!

    Shop for furniture pieces with built-in storage: Whenever it’s time to purchase a new furniture item, look for multi-functional options (like an ottoman that can hold blankets or a kitchen table with drawers for placemats). Even if you move to a bigger space in the future, you won’t regret the extra room.

    Making a Plan of Attack. If organizing your home—no matter its size—feels overwhelming, think about it in tiny, digestible pieces. It’s reasonable to aim to “make over” one room a month. Get the entire household involved to speed up each project and predetermine a “reward” for every space you successfully organize. This could be dinner for two at a new restaurant in the Strip, a wine tasting in Lawrenceville, or an outing somewhere in between for the whole family. Think about experiences over things—you may want to steer clear of buying anymore stuff for a while!

    Nikki Orsborn runs the Pittsburgh market of NEAT Method, the nation’s largest professional luxury organizing company. She can be contacted at or 412-977-718 (website: