Follow These Tips to Keep Your Home Clutter-free and Functional

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The mudroom’s location right off the kitchen makes it easy for Ashley Clarke’s two daughters to keep everything from homework to winter coats nearby and neatly organized.

Make Your Own Mudroom

With two young daughters, Ashley Clarke says her family was in desperate need of a mudroom in a home that didn’t have one. “Backpacks, rain boots, seasonal gear and all kinds of odds and ends with nowhere to hide had me searching for solutions,” she says.

With the help of an online storage solutions company,, the interior designer turned a utility closet off the kitchen into a place to store coats, shoes, homework and other miscellaneous items out of sight while still keeping them accessible for the girls.

Since the wall space was covered with storage, Ashley made the ceiling and top of the walls her design focus. She painted them a soft blush (Benjamin Moore Conch Shell) and accessorized with wall decals and a shell pendant for lighting.

  • Use wire baskets as catchalls to store things in a hurry. Just don’t forget to put them in their proper place later!
  • Open shelving provides multifunctional storage that’s easy to change with your family’s needs. Use baskets or bins to keep things looking neat. Personalized bins are a great way to keep kids’ similar items separate.
  • Drawers work well for clothing or smaller items like gloves, sunglasses and keys.

A Magical Mural

Three-year-old Maeve Dansby’s bedroom mural looks like it came straight out of “Madeline,” one of her favorite book series. The cityscape depicted in the mural is inspired by classic children’s books and downtown Chapel Hill.

Keep kids close to the ground with wooden slats instead of box springs.

“I wanted the space to be inspiring and capture my daughter’s personality,” says mom Molly Dansby. “She’s spunky, smart, sweet, loud and loves pink.”

The mural is the work of Maeve’s grandmother, Lisa Gaither, a well-known local muralist. In addition to providing a beautiful background for her bedroom, the buildings act as a setting for playtime. “Sometimes we pretend we’re paper dolls, or even dragons, sitting on a stoop having a picnic,” Molly says. “The room is fun and happy and it celebrates childhood and imagination, which I love!”

Since Maeve loves animals, stuffed creatures are carefully positioned throughout her room, giving it a town and country vibe.

All this charm didn’t come at a premium cost. Between the family-sourced paint job, the $20 bed found at a thrift shop and a couple other DIY projects, Molly says the room came together on a dime.

  • Canvas bags on hooks provide a cute and easy-to-access place to store toys.
  • Use minimal furniture to give children ample space to play.

Everything In Its Place

According to Elizabeth Hirsh, the best way to organize any space is to follow one simple rule: Have a place for everything. So when she and her husband bought a fixer-upper in the Morgan Creek neighborhood two years ago, she applied that principle to the renovations – including a massive pantry that can accommodate cooking staples, paper products, casserole dishes and more.

The house already had a fairly large pantry, and the removal of a wall between the space and a garage workroom gave her even more room to work with. Elizabeth, who owns the moving management company The Downsizers, designed built-ins that make it easy to store like items together.

She also chose shallow shelves so nothing gets hidden from view. “I really like being able to see everything,” she says. “I find that you use things more when you can see them and they’re readily available.”

The pantry’s location, between the garage and the kitchen, makes it functional for big Costco trips in addition to everyday grocery shopping. “We bring all the dry goods into that pantry and we set them all there and then we bring anything refrigerated into the kitchen,” Elizabeth says. “We literally unpack directly from the pantry onto the shelves.”

  • Group like things together so you can find ingredients easily. Elizabeth has separate bins for baking ingredients, sugars and pastas.
  • Use vertical storage for items you might be tempted to stack. “It becomes a group of things they never touch because it’s so cumbersome to get things out of that stack,” Elizabeth says.
  • Get rid of duplicates. “Sometimes we’ll find people who have four different kinds of blenders,” Elizabeth says. “We’ll say, ‘What is the blender you use the most? What is in the best condition?’” That goes for food, too. Keep your pantry stocked with essentials, but don’t overdo it.

Photography by Briana Brough

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Holly West

Holly West is the associate editor at Chapel Hill Magazine. After graduating from UNC in 2015, she worked as a reporter and editor in eastern North Carolina, but was quickly drawn back to the Southern Part of Heaven.
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