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Corral the Chaos 

Distributed by New York Times Special Features

No matter how much you sort, shuffle and stack your belongings, some spots still seem cramped and cluttered. Unfortunately, these problem areas — the junk drawer, medicine cabinet and coat closet — are also the ones you use every day. But these places aren't doomed to disarray. Try dividing a chaotic drawer with a series of small boxes or creating shelves in the lower half of a hall closet.

A few simple strategies will help you organize the busiest spaces in your home. With the right system in place, you'll spend less time rearranging and searching — and more time doing just about anything else.

Junk Drawer

Use wooden boxes to divide and conquer a drawerful of odds and ends. Measure the inside of your drawer, and cut a piece of craft paper to this size; note the drawer's depth.

Bring the paper to a home store that sells wooden drawer organizers. Place different-size boxes on top of the paper, covering most of its surface. If there's room, add lidded spice canisters, which are ideal for small items, such as buttons and tacks.

Arrange the containers in your drawer, using them to keep like items together.

Coat Closet

Take storage to new levels by installing shelves below a row of jackets. Position the shelves near the base of your closet, and you won't have to rifle through items strewn across the floor.

Consider giving each family member a bin for hats and scarves. Designate a shelf for shoes and another for boxes holding dog toys, tennis balls and the like. Leave 1 foot of space between the shelves and the doorframe, and you'll have room for boots and an umbrella stand.

Install long hooks on the back of the door and use them to hang handbags neatly. You can also attach an acrylic organizer to the door to ensure essentials, such as a wallet and sunglasses, are accessible.

Car Trunk

Items kept in the car tend to get lost underneath the seats. Organize them in a heavy, vinyl handled bin (available at home stores), and include paper towels, a first-aid kit, an auto fire extinguisher, duct tape, flat-tire repair kit, bungee cords and a bag filled with flares, jumper cables and other necessities.

Under the Bed

Keep extra sheets, blankets and pillows at the ready in handmade rolling drawers, and fit them with snap-on fabric covers to keep them dust-free.

To make the drawers, measure the length and width of your bed. Build 4 plywood boxes (or have a carpenter construct them) to fit underneath; allow 1 inch between boxes and bed legs and 2 1/2 inches between box tops and bed frame. Paint drawers as desired.

Add a 1/2-inch plate-mounted ball caster to each corner of all boxes (using a spade bit, drill a hole deep enough to accommodate caster; insert caster, and secure with screws). Attach 2 drawer pulls to the front of each box.

To make the snap-on covers, cut fabric 1 inch wider than each box on all sides. Turn sides of fabric in 1 inch; iron, then sew seams in place.

Using a hammer and a fabric-to-wood snap kit (available at hardware stores), screw a snap bottom to each drawer corner and to the center of each side. Affix corresponding snap tops to fabric, and secure to boxes.

Medicine Cabinet

Make the most of this tight bathroom storage space by lining its interior with metal, and then organize its contents into various magnet-backed containers. Have a sheet of galvanized metal cut to fit the back of the cabinet, and another for the inside of the door; adhere metal with caulk. (If your mirror has clips, loosen them and slide the metal behind them.)

Use the metal as a magnetic holder for hooks to organize brushes and combs, and spice canisters to hold hair elastics and barrettes. Group like items in votive candleholders and small acrylic boxes placed on the cabinet's shelves; double surface space with acrylic risers.

Broom Closet

Screw hooks and spring-loaded clips inside the closet and use them to hold brooms, a dustpan, mop and duster. The next time you reach for the dustpan, everything else in the closet won't come tumbling out.

Do the same on the door, but use the holders for small tools, such as a hammer, wrench and screwdriver. Store cleaning supplies in a bucket to transport them easily from room to room.

click to enlarge TIP: Use wooden boxes to divide your junk - drawer and organize the chaos. - DAVID PRINCE
  • David Prince
  • TIP: Use wooden boxes to divide your junk drawer and organize the chaos.
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