The 5 Commandments of Keeping a Clutter-Free Apartment

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Maintaining an orderly home is hard enough when you have an attic, storage unit or parents’ garage for overflow. In a square-footage-challenged apartment with none of those, it’s damn near impossible. We turned to Whitney Giancoli, an interior stylist who knows a thing or two about maximizing NYC spaces (she’s been featured on Apartment Therapy and Instagrams at @5thfloorwalkup). Here, her top rules for keeping the chaos in check.

Everything should have "assigned seating."
“I'm not saying you can't ever have dishes drying on your countertop, but your default mode should be with everything tucked in its own place,” Giancoli says. That means if you’re used to just draping your coat on the back of the couch until the next time you need it, you might want to find it a designated hook or spot in the closet.

When drawer space is slim, boxes and bins are your best friends.
“Boxes and bins are a great way to store items that you wouldn't normally want on display (like a hair dryer), or high quantities of smaller objects (like your makeup collection).” And while old shoeboxes technically fit the bill, we suggest investing in something a little more uniform.

Purge at least twice a year.
“Unless you exercise some serious self-discipline when buying things and/or accepting gifts, you probably let things accumulate,” Giancoli says. Um, guilty as charged. Her preferred schedule is “right before it gets cold and right before it gets hot,” but any time of year works, as long as you stick to it. “If you have kids, another good time to purge is right before birthdays and each time they move up in clothing size.”

Keep a donation basket or tote bag in your closet.
OK, you’ve set aside June and December for your biannual cleanouts, but that doesn’t mean you should block it out of your mind until then. Put a designated receptacle somewhere convenient; that way, “you can toss clothing and other goodies in it each time you realize your relationship with said item is over.” Once it’s full, drop it off at your local Salvation Army or Housing Works ASAP—no need to wait until your next purge cycle.

Hit "restart" on a regular basis—every night, once a week, whatever works.
“The ‘restart’ button puts you back on your default setting with everything in its place,” Giancoli says. “I get a (likely unusual) amount of satisfaction if I go to bed knowing I'm waking up to a tidy home the next morning.” But if you know you won’t stick to daily resets, pick what’s realistic for your schedule—say, a weekly Sunday-night tidying sesh. One less thing to worry about on Monday? Consider us sold.

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From 2016-2019 Carolyn Kuang-chen Stanley held the role of Editor covering food, travel and all things nyc.