Organizing with Remodelista - Home Front

Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick
Nov 16, 2017

The popular website was founded in 2007 to bring a fresh voice to design and remodeling. Julie Carlson, editor in chief of, and Margot Guralnick, the architecture and interiors editor, have just written a new book that shares some of Remodelista's favorite ideas for storage and organizing. "Remodelista: The Organized Home" has simple and joyful solutions for dealing with clutter prone spots with style.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick are editors at who have just written "Remodelista: The Organized Home", published by Artisan Books. The book is full of simple and beautiful ideas for making your home a calm and welcoming place. Whether a minimalist or a collector of treasures, you can find ideas for how to arrange and enjoy all the things you value in your home. Send in your questions now. I particularly love the alternatives to plastic they've scouted out.   Ask them about organizing or about remodeling or design - they are experts. Lets chat.

Hi everyone,

We’re excited to be here! Please send your organizing questions our way.

Julie and Margot

I might be a hoarder - my house isn't filled with dirty dishes, but the mail and the paper seems to be never ending and overwhelming. Add that to a very busy 3 year old, laundry, life and I feel like I'm drowning. Any hints besides tackle a room at a time etc?

Dear potential hoarder,

We feel you! To help combat the onslaught, we suggest installing well-ordered systems for dealing with the mail (see pages 30 and 31 of our book), laundry, toys, etc. Make them easy and accessible: ie. generous mail baskets (divided, so on arrival, things get sorted), several good-looking catchall bins for toys that even your 3-year-0ld can use, and a laundry area with baskets for dark, light, etc. See, for instance, the rolling carts from Steele Canvas. It's amazing how much smoother life is when these systems work well. And our book is filled with DIY ideas and sourcing info—take a look at the Remodelista 75, starting on page 162)

I hope this helps! Also know that life gets much easier when you're past the toddler stage! 

When my mother died she left me with a lot of expensive china, silver and glassware. Although we all agree it is beautiful ,neither myself or my grown children live that formal type of lifestyle and really would never use any of these pieces. Where is the best place to get the most money when selling these items.

Hi, We hear about this issue over and over again; we can relate! My first piece advice is to pick a few (even just one or two) things to keep. Tastes change, and in the future you may regret not having a couple of things that will remind you of your mother. And when you're ready to sell, consult page 197 of our book! We list places to sell high-end items, including Everything but the House (, which is an online estate sale site; they come to your house, photograph and catalog everything, and create an online sale. Another good site that allows individuals to list items is Chairish (; in this case, you post your own photos and descriptions of the items for sale. Finally, there's always eBay; especially if you're selling name-brand items (i.e. china from Tiffany) that buyers frequently search for. Hope this helps and good luck.

Growing up once we had silverfish in my house. My mother swore it was because we were using cardboard boxes to store somethings. I don’t have silverfish in my house, just the occasional ladybug. I do use mostly plastic boxes but I wonder about using cardboard boxes to store somethings. I have a a bit of an issue in my storage area but I run a dehumidifier most of the year in the storage area. Are silverfish or other bugs attracted to moist areas? What’s you opinion?

Hi, Yes, we have heard that silverfish are attracted to cardboard and stacks of newspapers in damp areas (sounds like you're already on it; smart idea to run a dehumidifier in your storage space!). In places like garages and basements, it's better to store your belongings in wood boxes or metal bins. Also, cedar is a good way to repel insects (you can place cedar blocks in your storage boxes, especially if you're storing wool items, for instance).

HF 4427

Do you feel that consigning goods is worth the time and effort? Or should you just donate most things to charity?

If you have high-end items, we do feel it's worth the time and effort to consign, especially if the item is in good condition and isn't hopelessly out of style. Most cities and towns have at least one stellar consignment shop where you're likely to get a good return on your investment (we like Consignment Brooklyn; we even interviewed owner Eva Dayton for tips on organizing your closet; see page 121 in our book).

If the items you're deaccessioning are no longer in style (or never were in style!) and are basics like T shirts and the like, it's better to donate them to charities. 



Granted I need to get rid of many of my craft supplies! But I have issues figuring out how to organize my craft supplies. One example is on blogs the acrylic paints look great because they have all the same size bottles of paints so they fit nicely into the tins or shelves. I have a variety of bottles - most are the same size but I have some larger, taller bottles. How do I store them so all are together and they look good in the room? Now they are thrown in a tin containers so I have to look through them to find the exact color. Relating to organizing and storing 12X12 papers - I have an idea to make a store cabinet for storing 12X12 paper versus putting it on shelves or in drawers. I am interested in finding a company that will manufacture it. I have contacted wood workers, Economic Development offices in Baltimore, steel manufactures but I have been unable to find a manufacture. Do you have any suggestions how to find one?

Dear crafter,

If I were you I'd simply organize my paint bottles by size, so they line up well if they're not perfectly uniform. (To get that perfectly uniform look, you could consider decanting the ones that are odd sizes, but I realize that may be a tall order.) Paints are pretty, so I think you should just aim for what makes them easiest for you to access, such as on a shelf rather than in tins.

As for having your storage cabinet idea built, you can definitely find a cabinetmaker willing to take on the job! Post on Craig's List if need be. You have to come up with a well-finessed prototype before you can begin trying to sell to manufacturers. But if you love the results, consider starting your own small business on Etsy, or teaming up with someone in your area who has an Etsy business. If you fill a real need, your design should have a market. Wishing you luck! 


Why do you feel that plastic containers aren't the best way to go?

Three reasons:

1. It's an undisputed fact: plastic is terrible for the environment.

2. Natural materials, such as glass, ceramic, wood, and canvas are aesthetically much more pleasing.

3. So many reports indicate that plastic is bad for our health. The findings may be labeled "pending," but terms such as "endocrine disrupting chemicals" scare us. 

My spice collection has outgrown its lazy susan on the counter. What's a good way to keep all the spices together and organized even with differently sized and shaped containers? Right now the high-use spices are on the counter and the rest are sprinkled throughout the pantry as there is space...

We're big believers in corralling your spices in one place; sounds like you need to create a designated spice drawer or shelf in your kitchen if possible.  We like to buy spices in bulk at places like Whole Foods or specialty stores and store them in uniform containers, such as small glass paint jars from art supply stores with washi tape labels (see page 70 for our tips on creating a spice drawer). 

We just featured chef David Tanis on Remodelista and we're obsessed with his spice drawer. He stores them in glass jars, arrayed upside down in a drawer, so the contents are visible. That way he doesn't have to label them, he says.

See the post here:

Good luck!


Any thoughts on organizing books? How many is too many? Is it worth trying to sell them online?

We love living with books and believe in Anthony Powell's famous line "Books do furnish a room." That said, how many to keep and how best to arrange them is a personal matter. Organizing by color looks great, but makes it hard to find the volume you're looking for. So if you're constantly reaching for your books, organize by category or type (while stepping back and assessing the overall look).

As for what is too many--when your stacks are taking over the floor and beginning to crowd you out, it's time to do some deaccessioning. Selling online is a good option for valuable editions. All else can be hard to sell. Consider donating to a library (that holds book sales) or a school or hospital. 


Any good ideas for keeping them where I'll take them but not on display? And not in those ugly bottles!

This is a great question. We believe in keeping vitamins in the kitchen; several of us at Remodelista have a designated cabinet above the sink, so we can easily run a glass of water. If you have young children, make absolutely sure the vitamins have child-proof caps. If you don't have to worry about children getting into your vitamin stash, you can always decant the vitamins into attractive jars or bottles labeled with washi tape (we show how to do that with spices on page 70 of our book).

My husband's clutter makes me nuts. Sure, both of us leave things lying around, but everything I own has a home. So I put things away and out of sight on a regular basis, while he has piles of stuff he just shifts from room to room. Additionally, he won't put things back where he found them, and just shoves things into cabinets willy-nilly. Not only does this mean I can't find things when I need them, I'm perpetually having piles of stuff tumble out of random places or seeing our belongings get damaged. Honestly, I've hit a limit. I know we'll always have a certain level of clutter, because this is a house and not a museum. But I can't deal with sweaty t-shirts in the dining room and getting beaned every time I open a cabinet. I've talked about it until I'm blue in the face, but it just doesn't register. Any tips for getting some measure of buy-in from a clutterbug? Or am I just resigned to forever picking up after a grown adult?

Yours is a situation that calls for kindergarten and dolphin-training tactics! See page 40 of our book for how a grade-school teacher gets his students to pick up after themselves.

We also recommend reading the New York Times Modern Love column called "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage." It was such a popular article that it led to a book and I've heard a movie is in the works. The bottom line:  Consider applying child- and animal-training methods to get your husband to mend his ways! 

Does anyone have a positive experience to share about consignment shops (for clothes and household items) in the Annapolis, MD or DC area?

Any one have ideas on this?

I solved the mail problem by setting up online bill paying. The mail comes in, the bills get put in the system (you can pick what date they get paid), and anything that isn't a bill gets read/tossed/passed along to the recipient.

Thanks for posting this.

Do you save nice paper shopping bags? How many is it reasonable to save?

Yes, we believe in saving nice paper shopping bags! We use them for all sorts of purposes; taking clothes to the dry cleaner, delivering gifts or a bottle of wine, or sending dinner guests home with leftovers. How many is it reasonable to save? I think it depends on how much storage space you have. If you have just a tiny closet, I would limit your collection to 20 or so (and store them flattened in your favorite bag). 

We also request and save paper bags at the grocery store (if we've forgotten our reusable shopping bag!) and use them as recycling bin liners.

I have a lot of spices, way too many for a lazy susan. I bought an over-the-door wire rack with six shelves and attached it to the inside of the door that leads to the basement from the kitchen. The spices are organized and easy to get, but out of sight when not in use--the assorted jars are not pretty.

This sounds like a good solution. Thanks.

Where can I ditch my 1980s TV set. It still works. But it is huge.

Afraid there isn't much of a market these days for outdated-but-working televisions. The best you can do is to give your set away by posting your offer on a community bulletin board, such as or the "Free Stuff" section on Craig's List—or put it outside your house with a sign. No takers? See the EPA's recycling site ( to find an accredited recycler.

I live in Baltimore County, and there is an electronics recycling drop-off at all their recycling centers. I assume other counties also have electronics recycling. I know Goodwill and Salvation Army don't want old TVs and CRT computer monitors.


Three defenses: 1. Plastic is terrible for the environment - this is not undisputed! The proper disposal of plastic is certainly a concern, but on the manufacturing, processing, transportation, longevity, safety side, there are many factors to weigh in determining what's best for the environment. 2. Natural materials are aesthetically much more pleasing - perhaps, but there are safety issues (smashed glass or ceramics) and they may not have the longevity of plastic or provide as good protection. 3. So many reports indicate that plastic is bad for our health - there's an awful lot of poorly reported and understood science out there on the safety of plastics. Besides, storing your papers in a plastic box is going to have zero impact on your health.

Thank you for your thoughts on this!

Check with your local or county government to see if they have electronic recycling days. Ours has one annually. That's how we got rid of a few old CRT computer monitors.


What are the things you most hate to part with?

I hate to part with sentimental objects of all sorts—my daughter's dolls, my mother's old coat, my husband's grandmother's vases, etc, etc—but that's not to say I want to keep all of this stuff. In fact, rather than holding on to the things I know I'll never use, I prefer to have them go to someone who wants them and will put them back into daily circulation. Donating to charities is a great easy answer. But for me, holding a yard sale is the way to go, because I get to meet people, share the story of the object, earn a bit of cash, and see where my beloved but unwanted objects are going. 


For clothes, I've had great luck with Secondi in Dupont Circle. I'm a little sketched out by Current Boutique - they seemed ok at first, but don't keep good track of items, and some of my consigned items just seemed to disappear and I never got paid for them.


While I understand all the concerns about plastic, I switched to storing things in water-tight plastic containers after a big roof leak at a rental apartment. With increasingly extreme weather, it just seems to make sense.

There's no getting around the fact that water-tight plastic containers are convenient. But there are air-tight glass and ceramic options as well. Check out our new website The Organized Home ( and go to the food storage section for specific answers:

What is your favorite way to organize shoes in a closet?

This is one of the biggest organization issues; in our book we have a whole section devoted to organizing shoes. Our favorite (but unfortunately priciest) way to stash shoes is in glass-fronted drawers in a walk-in closet so the shoes are protected from dust but visible (see page 100).

For more economical ideas, see page 34, where we offer solutions like storing your shoes in a cubby unit from the Container Store (you can insert a couple in your closet), in a large, attractive basket (this is good for the entryway), stashed in a storage bench with a lid, or lined up on a metal tray. In the closet, we're also fans of canvas shoe organizers (both the ones that you hang from a closet rod and the ones you hang on the back of a door).

It was so fun having Julie and Margot of Remodelista on the chat to get us inspired before the holidays begin. Next week, Home Front will be taking a week off. Happy Thanksgiving to all and join me on Thursday November 30 with the Secretly Gifting gift concierge experts Candace Ourisman and Ashley Bronczek talking about holiday gifting.

DC Shares takes in durable medical equipment like wheelchairs, rollators, cane, scooters and gives them to needing DC residents who qualify, free of charge. They are a non-profit. So many of these expensive goods are tossed or taken to thrift stores and there are so many people who really could use them but can't afford them.

Thank you.

It's hard to throw away old cell phones, ipads and hard drives. What is the best way to get rid of these?

Agree, you shouldn't throw away any electronics! First consider selling what you've got: check out and Gone ( buy and sell used phones, tablets, etc. 

What you can't sell, you should drop off at an accredited electronics recycler. See epa/gov/recycle for spots in your area. Your local Best Buy might be one.

Thanks so much for having us! Great questions, everyone. And one last thing we'd like to mention; we recently launched a Remodelista companion site to the book called the Organized Home ( Pay us a visit and we can continue the conversation!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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