Solutions: Trays help keep daily chaos under control

Jeanine Matlow

The first signs of spring seem to inspire us to enhance our homes so they can better suit our evolving tastes and needs. For many, this will involve some type of editing or other organization projects.

Those who are constantly searching for ways to cut down on all that clutter might find that trays can be a real lifesaver. In fact, I’m beginning to think I could use at least one or two in every room.

After refraining from buying any type of organizing tools for quite some time, with my rationale being the empty baskets and plastic containers I have in my storage room, I finally gave in to my urge to acquire something new and I am glad that I did.

Though my initial purchases were pretty simple, they made a big difference in my daily battle with paper. All it took was three shallow trays to make my days more orderly. Two that are identical serve as “his and hers” mail catchers on the kitchen table and the other is for newspaper articles that I haven’t had the chance to read yet.

Ever since I put the trays to work, I have come as close to perfection as possible with my organization of these stray items because they seem to keep everything in line while reminding me to keep my system in check.

Gone is the chaos on the kitchen table for the most part, as are the piles of newspapers that are always scattered about the living room.

The handles on the lightweight trays make it easy to move everything at a moment’s notice without losing any important paperwork in the process.

I decided to take my system a step further with a few similar items, such as drawer sorters and a pretty little desk organizer. None of these pieces were terribly expensive, but their black and white floral pattern makes them easy on the eyes.

Most of my organizers were discovered at discount stores like T.J. Maxx and Dollar General.

I’ve found that most functional accessories like trays are rather versatile and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different situations and style preferences. For instance, trays come in handy for entertaining and can be used to corral everything from beverages to books and magazines.

Available in shapes that range from round to square and rectangular, the materials tend to vary, as well. I’ve seen leather, metal, melamine and more. The trays I have are made from weathered wood, making them neutral enough to suit any setting.

Not only do they nudge you to get your act together, but they make it easier to stay that way.

My next ambitious project was inspired by a set of shallow plastic baskets from Target that I hope will take my biggest offender in the junk drawer category from disastrous to divine. We’ll see how that goes.

For information on the trays shown, go to

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at