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Ask the Experts: Professional Organizer

Laura Cattano, Owner of Laura Cattano Organizational Design

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Staying organized seems especially challenging for New Yorkers.
You’re paying by the square inch in NYC. So you’re paying if you’re storing stuff you’re not using. I think Costco is the devil.

Any organizing tips that make you cringe?
Stories like “Ten Things You Can Throw Out Right Now.” It’s different for everyone! My focus is on empowerment, not an adherence to arbitrary rules.

Ideas for small bathrooms?
Use your stuff as decoration. I installed open shelving in my bathroom, and the things on display that make the bathroom look nice are all things that I use—rolls of toilet paper, folded towels, a glass ice bucket filled with extra soaps.

What about tackling a medicine cabinet?
Set up your everyday products by category. The bottom shelf is all oral care so you can brush your teeth without thinking. Above that goes your morning facial products, then the next shelf is for night products, and on top have specialty products that you don’t use a ton.

Any tricks for general clutter?
A tray is an easy way to look neat. Arrange products in the bathroom. Put bottles on a tray to make a minibar. It makes a collection look finished and intentional.

Any sources for trays?
Depends on your style. Pottery Barn, West Elm, and CB2 have great trays. Hit the flea market and you can find really cool vintage ones.

How the heck do you store shoes?
Kitchen cabinets from Ikea are my favorite thing to install in a closet because they are only 12 inches deep, they’re inexpensive and customizable, and the shelves are adjustable—no shoe rack I’ve ever seen has that. Or I’ll just slide bookshelves in the deeper side of a closet and put all of the shoes there.

Let’s talk about the kitchen. How would you clear counters?
Wall storage is great. I love the Ikea Grundtal wall rails because they’re inexpensive and look nice. And Elfa storage is not just for the closet; I’ve used it for hanging pots.

What about the desk?
Beautiful boxes can be your friend. Don’t get caught up thinking, I want to store pencils, so I need to buy a pencil holder. They’re hideous. Buy a beautiful brass cup, or reuse a glass candle as a vessel. You know those cardboard boxes that stationery and jewelry come in? I keep those and stash them in a drawer or inside a box to hold something else. Nothing gets me more excited than a really nice cardboard box!

Is color-coding books the best way to make them look neat?
Color-coding is nice if they’re strictly decorative, but when you want to find a book, are you going to remember that the spine is yellow? If you like to go back to your books, I suggest categorizing them by subject or title.


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