4 Super-organized Women Spill Their Secrets

William AbranowiczWilliam AbranowiczTake a peek at their brilliantly organized spaces―and learn their best organizing tips.
By Nicole Sforza

The Kitchen Keeper
Robin Helman
Art director and mother of two, Irvington, New York

Artful Order in the Cupboards
Robin's crisp, curated kitchen features a pullout cabinet with 33 alphabetized spices―from allspice to wasabi―in matching glass jars on tiny tiered shelves. Another cupboard has colorful grains and dried beans and reflects the same modernist design sense. Each container is labeled in lowercase letters, in the same typeface.

Genesis of the system:
"I love to cook, and when I lived in London, I got into spices," says Robin. "Some were in jars, others in bags. They were begging for uniformity. Now my sister brings me spices from Italy, where she lives. I have extra jars on hand so I can just pop them into place."

Payoff: "Looking at these cohesive spots makes me happy. Plus, it's more fun to cook when you know exactly where to find things."

Advice for newbies: "Buy uniform containers, use the same font size for all the labels―I set my label maker on small―and place the labels near the tops of the jars so they're easy to see all at once."

Born labeling: "I was labeling things with my computer long before I had a label maker. Even my label maker has a label on it that says ROBIN."

See More: 24 Smart Oprganizing Tis for Your Kitchen

William AbranowiczWilliam Abranowicz3 Ways to Create Your Own System
Make spices and grains match. Oxo's stackable containers (shown here; from $8 each, oxo.com) come in 11 sizes, so you can use them for grains, sugar, and cereal. Three-inch-high jars are the perfect size for spices; Oggi makes spice jars ($30 for a set of eight canisters, including four spice jars, macys.com) similar to those Robin uses.

Hide spices in a deep drawer. Place spices cap-side up and label the tops. Keep favorites in the front row and arrange others alphabetically. To hold the spice jars in place, outfit the drawer with a cut-to-fit cork liner ($20, williams-sonoma.com).

Display spices on a wall. The 14½-inch-long iron spice rack ($20, containerstore.com) holds about 20 jars and is only three inches deep, so it won't eat up space.

See More: How to Purge Your Pantry

William AbranowiczWilliam AbranowiczThe Photo Archivist
Michele Bender

Freelance writer and mother of two, New York City

Digital Drawers to Die For
Michele's home-office storage includes a drawer where cords and chargers live in tangle-free bliss. Just below is her showpiece: a photo filing system that holds a decade's worth of family shots, beautifully organized on colorful CDs. Whenever Michele transfers images to discs, she deletes them from her iPhoto library. Payoff: "Since having kids, the number of pictures I take is ridiculous," says Michele. "My computer was so overloaded. Now, if the school needs a recent photo for my son's cubby or a shot of my daughter as a baby, I don't have to click through a thousand pictures. I know exactly where to look."

Advice for technophobes:
"Do it in pieces. If you wait till the end of the year, you'll never get to it. When you go on a class trip, come home and put the images on a disc―it takes two seconds."

Humbled by her habit: "I love having everything in order. It gives me a faux sense of control over my life. But my family always makes fun of me. When I say the word organize, my daughter puts her fingers in her ears. If my son wants candy, he'll say, 'I'll let you organize my toys!' "

See More: Easy Ways to Organize Your Digital Photos

William AbranowiczWilliam Abranowicz2 Ways to Create Your Own System
For digital images:
Color-code your collection by storing discs in vibrant cases (slim jewel cases, $11.50 for 25, staples.com)―blue for parties, green for trips, and so on. Use empty cases positioned vertically and marked by the year as dividers; they'll extend about a half inch above the others.

For old-school snapshots:
Mail photos to ScanCafe.com and get them back in digitized form. About 1,200 images (from 29 cents a photo) fit on a DVD; CDs hold far fewer. The company touches up images in a climate-controlled facility monitored 24/7 by armed guards. You can track your precious cargo online every step of the way, and the originals are returned when the process is complete.

See More: 4 Super-Organized Women Share Their Secrets

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