How The Cousin/Coworker Organization Method Could Transform Your Home

As an interior designer, I have learned that it's one thing for a home to look beautiful and be well-designed, but it's entirely another to create a space that's also functional and organized enough to prevent the inevitable day-to-day clutter from getting the upper hand, ruining the aesthetics. They say the easiest ways to make your home more organized are to use effective strategies for decluttering, create a spot for everything, and clean as you go to prevent clutter from accumulating in the first place. However, real life is busy and ever-changing, so it's easy to make mistakes when organizing our homes, break our too rigid like-with-like organizational systems, and inadvertently create chaos. Items that are often used in our regular routines — or small items that don't necessarily have similar items to logically store together — may need a fresh approach. This is where the cousin/coworker organization method (originally developed by Christen Fackler at iOrganize) comes into play.

"Cousins" of items are related objects that serve a similar purpose, such as sunscreen and bug spray, two products for protecting your skin outdoors. "Coworkers" are different items that are used together to perform a task, such as sunscreen, beach towels, and sunglasses, all beach day essentials. To transform your home with this organization method, assess your regular routines and think about the context in which you use items to determine whether they should be stored with cousins or coworkers for a more effective organization system.

When to organize with cousins versus coworkers?

The majority of your household belongings will be organized with groupings of the exact same item (all tupperware in one cabinet or jeans in one drawer) or their similar cousins (extra sheets with spare towels in the hall linen closet or underwear with socks in a dresser drawer). The cousin side of this method ensures logical storage patterns, making it more universal for people to understand and follow. Grouping exact duplicates (also called "family") and cousins creates the order and predictable structure we rely on in our organization systems.

Where the coworker side of the method really transforms your home is with small miscellaneous items that do not have many cousins that make logical storage companions, such as objects like lighters or matches, for example. I stash a lighter in the kitchen drawer with the barbeque tools and matches in consoles where I display candles. By organizing them with their coworkers, I have what I need right where I use them. Try storing cables with the devices they charge or connect rather than in one tangled mess in the office closet. Rather than in a drawer with other adhesives, maybe Command strips can find a more functional home in a picture hanging kit with your level and tape measure. Take a look at the little items that seem to gather as clutter in your home to see if giving them a spot with their coworkers would mean a more successfully organized space.

Using coworker storage to streamline routines

Aside from miscellaneous items well-suited to coworker storage, the other great way to use this method is with daily activity items. Walk through your regular routines (morning/bedtime, cleaning, frequent projects, etc.) to see where the major hiccups occur. For example, most parents store their kids' socks in bedroom dressers with underwear and other clothing (cousins) because, as adults, this makes sense with our systematic dressing routine. However, most kids don't think ahead to the day's footwear and ignore them. When it comes time to leave the house, sending your child to their bedroom for socks can be a major disruption. By simply relocating their socks to a bin by the back door with their shoes, jacket, and backpack (coworkers), you eliminate the need for running all over the house at the eleventh hour, streamlining the usual chaotic morning ritual with one organizational swap.

Consider storing your daily vitamin by your coffee maker to prompt taking it each morning or stashing sunscreen/bug spray by the back door so you remember to apply before you leave. To make quick work of the mirror, keep glass cleaner and cloths under the bathroom vanity instead of with other cleaning products in the kitchen. While cousin/coworker organization will look different for every family, analyzing your routines and the context in which you use those miscellaneous items that love to become clutter can help you create a more efficient organization system and better household flow.