Organization Part 3 – Good ideas are meant to be shared – By: Carly Pray

This week’s post is the icing on the cake. You have thought through all the mental and emotional challenges of what to keep and what to part with. You are familiar with the basic laws of organizing your stuff and have given everything a home. You have an accurate view of where you fall on the personality spectrum when it comes to what you and your family need in terms of organization. Now I assume you just need some fresh and practical ideas for things that you keep.

More or less I will just be walking you through my house and showing you my favorite products and systems that have helped me to stay organized. There will be a lot of photos and some links. Although I have plenty of thoughts on how to decorate your home in beautiful and personal ways (hmm… maybe another blog opportunity if you all want an encore), this post is not dedicated to beauty; it is only aiming for organizational points.


Tips & Tricks

-You can reset your car just like you reset your house (see Part 1 of this post series). When you pull up to a gas station or when you pull into your driveway, have everyone scan their areas and grab any trash. Remember, be specific with your kiddos and have them do their part. Point out specific things to pick up and tell them specifically where to put those things.

-Don’t do the work for them and do not let them leave stuff that belongs in the house or in the trash in your car. Hold yourself to this too.

-I keep a couple gallon ziploc or disposable grocery bags under the shotgun seat so that I can use them as trash bags as needed.

Fave products

Thirty-One Large Utility Tote


I love this bag so much that I have two. This is my old one and it lives permanently in the van. It holds a blanket for each kid, a picnic blanket for sports days & park visits, bug spray for baseball season, and a little box of stuff to do if the kids get bored. I also keep any other small car accessories in the bottom of this under the blankets (baby wipes, dash wipes, car seat accessories, etc). With all of this essential stuff corralled into a bag I can easily move it when needed (i.e. the car wash, loading the back area). I use my other utility tote as my swim bag. It’s sturdy and big and cute too!


Ha. I don’t actually have these rooms, but I dream of them from the garage where these things happen for me. It’s the home of our current sports equipment and where we put laundry. There are nails in the wall for hanging gear bags and a place for umbrellas & outside boots.

Tips & Tricks

-Only kids who have current season sports use the hooks. Off-season stuff is put away in another area away from the door.

-Big 5-gallon buckets work really well for umbrellas & baseball bats

-When kids get home from practice they take off their gear and put everything back in the bag before they even enter the house. That way it’s all there and ready to grab when you walk out the door next time, and nothing gets lost.

Fave products

-Laundry basket caddy. My handy husband made this for me, and you can find the plans here: (I never got around to painting it a solid color, which of course I regret now that I am posting it for the whole internet to see… Organizational points, not beauty, right?)


-Rubbermaid storage bins for the garage. They hold everything from seasonal decor to car wash supplies to snow clothes. Walmart has a killer deal on these. You can even go the extra mile and label them with fancy painter’s tape like us (jk). They keep anything you can’t keep in the house stored in a way that’s easy to find, easy to access, stackable and safe from dust.



This is what I call the area where everything lives that you need to grab as you walk out the door. Backpacks for kids, your purse, shoes, etc. This could also be in the mud room if you have that luxury. I chose to work with the little corner spot right by the door to our garage.


Tips & Tricks

-Each person gets a hook. I hang my gym bag and my reusable market bags here too, so I get extra hooks. I’m the mom and I will hog the hooks if I have to 😉

-When the kids get home they hang their backpacks and put their lunch boxes away before doing anything else.

-When kids finish their homework, its gets put all the way away which means in the backpack.

-If I need to take something with me the next time I leave (library books, mail, stuff for work) I set it on this counter by my purse so that I don’t forget it.

-Cheap wood and pretty knobs make life better. This is a cheap painted piece of wood (Home Depot for the wood + $1 cheap acrylic craft paint) with pretty knobs (Target) attached before screwing the wood into a stud in the wall.

Fave Products

Ikea Shoe Compartments. There are several styles to check out in this link. They hold shoes and they are shallow to the wall so they don’t gobble up too much space. My friend bought the standing white ones and put a stained piece of wood on top for an instant classy upgrade. I chose this deeper style because it fit more shoes. In our family each person gets a compartment. No smelly shoes stinking up their closets! No overfull shoe basket that takes forever to dig through. Love.



Organized people put everything into categories. Everything. Their stuff, their lists, and even their time. Like-things should be together. So organized kitchens have categories. I should be able to tell when I see a cupboard/drawer/shelf which category I am looking at (i.e. all the serving bowls, all the cups, all the canned goods, all the baking goods, all the lunchbox items, all the pitchers). The amount of items on a shelf should not be overwhelming; the items should have space around them unless they are stackable/nesting sets. If you have to crowd the shelves and I can’t see clearly see what my options are in a cupboard, you have too much stuff in that cupboard.

Tips & Tricks

-Slim your plastic/kid dishes way down. Use your organizational math here: you really only need one plastic plate/bowl/cup per kid and a couple extras for when friends come over. Same goes with plastic water bottles. 

-Have your kid stuff in a low cupboard that is easy for the kids to access.  This way kids can get their own stuff without needing your help. We have one set of plastic bowls, a bin of plastic plates, and a basket of plastic cups. I also have a basket of mom-approved kid snacks there that the kids know they can choose from. The rest of my dishes are grown-up (aka made of nicer glass and ceramic materials).


-I have one water cup per kid (I bought these on amazon: and have a different colored straw for each kid). These cups always stay on the counter by the fridge and they are for water only. They do not need a new cup every time they want water, and no one has time for that many dishes.

Fave products

A cute charging station. Organized cords for electronic devices, a home for a few other essentials like my blue tooth speaker (I love me some happy jams in kitchen) and that little drawer has stamps and gift cards and little things like that. I found this one years ago on Amazon.



The priority for your hallway closets should be useful stuff. Of course if you have extra empty closets you can use those for {organized} storage of things you use less often. If you have only a few closets, they should be categorical (like the kitchen cupboards) and I recommend extra storage items be kept in the garage in Rubbermaid bins. One thing I love in my house is the use of small bins for the top shelf of the coat closet. I can reach the bins to pull them down and put them away, so I don’t have to climb on a stool and sort through loose items. All the items inside the bins stay dust-free when they’re not loosely on the shelf. My categories of “useful stuff” here are Cleaning Supplies, Touch Up Paint, Batteries and Hardware, and back up Rags & Scrubbers for cleaning.


Tips & Tricks

-Keep a mason jar full of each room’s paint. Then you can toss the giant can and you have easy access to the touch up paint when you need it. I have lived in my house for 5 years and haven’t even gone through a third of a mason jar of touch up paint. You only need to hang on to a little.

Favorite Products

-Giant Ziploc bags. I store off-season comforters in these. It makes them easier & smaller to stack on the shelves.


The only things you truly need on a bathroom counter are hand soap, a towel for drying hands, and tissues. Everything else can be put away.

Tips & Tricks

-Because this is a classic place where there a bunch of tiny things to keep, I use bins inside of my drawers to corral the little things.


-Don’t forget vertical space where you can store stuff! I store my yoga headbands on the inside of the vanity cupboard doors with command hooks. I  have 2 pretty hooks on the back of the bathroom door for 2 guest towels. I have a hanging rack behind my bedroom door for all my sandals. There are vertical spaces in your rooms that you may not realize you can utilize.



The biggest problem I see in bedrooms was already addressed in Part 1 of this series: You need to put your stuff all the way away. Avoid the temptation to just leave things thrown on the bed or dresser. But there are a few ways to help make putting things away easier, and most of your organization here happens in the closet.

Tips & Tricks

-Fold less, hang more. It’s easier to hang up your clothes than to fold them neatly and keep your piles neat in your drawers.

-Felt hangers not only feel classy, but they are thinner than the plastic ones and you can fit more clothing if you have a tiny closet.

-Bins on the top shelf of the closet (instead of loose piles) are easier to access.

-For kids, consider having big bins instead of folded dresser drawers. My son does not have a dresser. He could never seem to care enough to fold anything or maintain folded piles. So under his hanging clothes and under his loft bed we use cube shelving (Kallax line @ Ikea In one cube he has a bin with socks & undies. In bin 2 he has all his hats. Open cube 3 has his slippers. Open cube 4 has his shorts & pants. In another cube under his loft bed he has all his PJs thrown into a big bin. This way it’s easy for him to find his things and it’s easy for him to put away his laundry. The categories are simple and obvious and the bins are large enough to hold his things with room to spare.


-Sports clothes are in separate bags. Above his cube unit in the closet, my son has one bag with his karate stuff in it. All the karate clothes live in there: the gi, the belt, and even his soccer sandals that he wears for off the mat. When he gets home from karate he puts everything back in that bag. That way when it’s time to go he can just grab the bag and we don’t waste time running around looking for stuff. He also has his baseball clothing in another bag. All of it: pants, belt, cup undies, cup, and socks. If I’m in a hurry I grab that bag and his gear bag and I know I have everything he needs.


-If you want to hear the ultimate organized wardrobe system, look no further than my husband’s closet. My husband is not into style/fashion, and he got sick of trying to remember what he wore on previous days so that he didn’t accidentally repeat outfits often. So he created this system: He has all of his work shirts in a row in his closet. Every morning he chooses the shirt that is first in the line. When he rehangs that shirt he puts it at the back of the line. If a shirt just got washed it has a it’s hanger facing the wall. After he wears it once he rehangs it with the hanger facing the room. After the shirt is worn twice he puts it in the laundry. This way his clothes wear out evenly, he knows he’s wearing all his clothes, and he knows he is not at risk of repeating an outfit too often. On a funny note, I asked him if he has favorite shirts and ever breaks the system to wear a favorite. His response: “I don’t break the system. But I do get excited when I see my favorites coming down the line to the front.” I don’t do this system because I have style moods, but it truly is the epitome of clothes organization.


-Again, don’t forget your vertical space. Jon has 2 hanging rods and vertical shoe storage to maximize his space. His belts hang on nails on the inside wall of his closet. Nails or command hooks for hanging hats on an inside wall work well too.

-Speaking of vertical space, we LOVE loft beds. Two of my three kids have loft beds. They keep stuffed animals out of sight (for the love, stuffies look just like clutter but my kids adore them), they free up floor space underneath, and kids think they are cool and “teenager-ish”. For my older girl this gave her her own space in a shared room. For my son this afforded him a cozy reading area and play space.


-I made a simple cinder blocks + cheap wood shelving unit for my son’s Lego display area (see photo above). Style points: You can paint the front of the cinder blocks to make them look cooler. (Haven’t done that on this set shown, but I have on his other shelving unit and I love it).

Favorite Products

-Ikea Kallax unit & bins: This line has larger cubes & bins than other stores’ versions.

-Ikea wire drawers. Jon I both have these in our closet under our hanging clothes. They are cheap and work well.


Kids naturally end up with more stuff to organize than adults do because they grow and change interests all the time. This is why teaching your kids to part with things they no longer love or no longer use is so useful (See Part 2 of this post series). There are more ideas than I have written here (hint: Pinterest), but here are the ones I use and love most. 

Tips & Tricks

-Organize your morning routine. This little tiny sign I made 4 years ago has been the simplest solution to our morning routine. This is the list of everything my kids MUST DO to be all the way ready for school in the morning. It’s on the counter in their bathroom. After I wake them up in the morning they have to do all of these things before they do anything else. No playing with toys, no electronics or TV (even for me – it was just too distracting), no reading. They don’t have to do these tasks in a rush, but they may not do anything else until these things are done. Once they are all the way ready, they can do whatever they please. If I see them playing I say “Hey, are you all the way ready?” and they go check the list or I verbally ask them each point on the list. (Here “check your backpack” means check for HW, library book, and pack your lunch/snack). I don’t get mad. I explained to them before I started this that I don’t want to yell at them and I want a peaceful morning (which they wanted too), and that if we agree to simply do the list before we do anything else I think its attainable. I has worked and we are all happier for it.


-Kid art can be a clutter struggle. A simple way to display it is to only hang one art item at a time. That way they can feel special about something and you don’t end up feeling cluttered. To do this you need a way to change out art easily. I have these clipboards hanging on the wall in the hallway. I also love this openable art frame sold at Target for the ease of changing it up: If the kids make something awesome I tell them to go put it on the art wall on their clipboard. Every couple months I take off everything on the clipboard and keep my favorites in a file area.


-DVDs can be stored in CD a wallet case. We have a separate case for grown-up movies, one for animated movies, and one for live-action kid movies. It’s compact, makes movies easy enough to find, and the cases are portable for road trips.

-Kid toys and books can be stashed away in your everyday adult space. I have a bunch of kid Legos in the pretty baskets under my coffee table. Our current library books are in a pretty basket on my shelving unit. The play food & kitchen toys live in a handsome vintage suitcase under the other coffee table. After successful purging I had empty drawers in my kitchen, so I use those for kid craft & art supplies that are often used at the kitchen island. You don’t always need special large storage units just for kid items because you can give those items a home in your existing areas. As long as you make sure to put things away from your first activity before you start the next activity, you will not become overwhelmed by your kid stuff.


These posts are aiming at the end goal of increased sanity, pleasure, and peace in your home. If you are happy with the way you run your home and keep your things, then you are in a good place and don’t need my help. If your possessions are bringing you stress and/or becoming a burden, it’s time to reconsider the ways that you have things organized and try a new system. Hopefully this last post sparked some new ideas. If you feel stuck, one of the best things to do is to get fresh eyes on the area. Ask a friend to come over to look at the area that’s bothering you and see if they have any ideas for how to change it up. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you (unless you want to pay them of course). Remember: you control your possessions, you are in charge, you are capable. I truly hope that these posts were helpful to you. Happy organizing!

Guest Blog Part 2: The Art of Purging: Only keep things you use and love – By: Carly Pray

Hi again! Thank you to those of you who gave me positive feedback on Part 1, I really appreciate it. As I said before, I hope it was truly helpful. 

Now to Part 2, the most difficult part for most people: THE PURGE. Getting rid of the stuff you don’t use or want. 


“Stuff” is an interesting thing and if we are going think on it for a moment, this once again ties back to personality. There is another spectrum here, and it is the spectrum of how emotionally attached you are to your possessions. I see this so clearly in my kids. I have one kid who just said to me yesterday, “Mom, can we purge my bookshelf soon? There are books on there that I don’t even care about and I am never going to read.” This kid loves being able to find toys easily when needed, likes a neat room, and enjoys knowing that the purged things will go to another person who will use them. This kid is practical and not emotionally attached to most stuff (notice the word most – if we were to try and purge the stuffed animals in that room there would be strong feelings flying all over the place). Then I have another kid who is very good at expressing feelings and does a full self-lecture through a purge. “I love this, but I know I don’t use it. But I love it. I remember buying it. I want to keep it, but I really never use it. URGHHHHH!” Luckily this kid is old enough and logical enough to get through it. Obviously I have guided her through it and forced her to prevent hoarding. I used to purge kid stuff during naps or school so that she would never even know anything left the house. She told me once that she was glad I hid my purges from her; it was just easier for everyone and she did not even notice what was missing. This kid attaches high value and emotion to everything she owns. Like I said in Part 1, a lot of things come down to this: Know yourself and adapt accordingly.

Here’s the extreme end of the stuff-attachment spectrum: One time I was purging kid toys while my kids were napping. A friend of mine was hanging out with me while I did it. When I told her what I was doing she said, “Awwww, don’t get rid of her stuff! That’s sad!” The practical part of me just about snapped. I do not think it’s healthy for someone else to attach unnecessary emotion to my stuff that I know is unneeded and/or unwanted. That friend of mine has kind of personality that will have the hardest time with purging. It is smart for this kind of person to ask a friend on the other side of the personality spectrum to come over and help her purge. 

That little memory leads me of an important point: If you are an adult, you should be the only one assessing the value of your things. If you hear your mom’s voice or your friend’s voice in the back of your head saying “Don’t get rid of that!” Shake it off. Do not keep something because you fear what someone else will think if you part with it. You are in charge of your things and it is your prerogative to decide what to do with your things. I give you permission to move yourself toward a healthy relationship with your possessions. This healthy relationship results in feelings of usefulness and/or pleasure. No one else can feel those things for you or tell you what to do. Do not allow anyone to burden you in an unhealthy way. Saying goodbye to some of your stuff does not mean you are a mean person.


If giving everything a home (that is not on the counter) was difficult for you, you probably have too much stuff. How much stuff you are allowed to keep is directly related to how much space you have. I live in more or less 1500 sq feet. For where I live this is on the smaller side of homes. If I lived in a mansion or in a tiny little San Francisco apartment, I would obviously change the amount of stuff I chose to keep. 

Regardless of how big your space is, the big question is this: 

Can you truthfully say about every single thing in your house one of the following statements? 


As you go through your house, I recommend that you purge in small bites. It almost always takes you longer than you expect and it can quickly get overwhelming. I recommend only doing one room at a time – even if you really want to declare a purge on the entire house. Finish purging one room completely (meaning everything you are getting rid of is in a bag or box and in your vehicle and everything you are keeping is put away in it’s home) before you move on to the next room. When you start to go through an area you should already have one bag or box where you are going to put everything that you are donating, and one bag/box for trash. Don’t make a pile that you will bag later – that’s double work. If you decide you are done with something you put it directly in the bag/box. 

Here’s how it looks:

1. Take everything out of the area you are working on. Just one drawer/cupboard/shelf at a time.

2. Set aside the items you use frequently. Only the favorite items that you love or use regularly.

3. Put any items that you immediately know you will not be keeping in the trash or donation bags.

4. Now you should have your “Maybe” items remaining. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Do I actually use this?” “Do I really love this?” “If I got rid of this, would I even notice that it’s gone?” If the answer is “No” to more than one of those questions, you need to be done with it.

5. Put everything back in its home in an organized manner: like things together, frequent use items toward the front, small things corralled into containers.

The Maybe pile is the hardest part. If it feels impossible for you to get rid of Maybe items, you can do this test: have a storage bin to put those items in. Instead of taking that bin to the donation center, hide it in your garage. If you end up desiring one of those items in the next couple months then you can go and dig it out. If you go a few months and items are still in that box, it’s time to say goodbye. 



This is a classic clutter place because you got stuff as wedding gifts and then realized a few years into your marriage that you don’t even ever use the trinket that someone else thought you would love. Once again, this should not be a guilt game. If you don’t use it, you don’t use it. Set yourself free. One person can only use so many decorative serving bowls. Your bowls do not have feelings. You are allowed to have favorites 😉 Keep your favorites and donate the others to someone who will be excited to have them and actually use them. For example, I only need a small and a medium sized sauce pan, a big fat soup pot, and a skillet. I chose to part with all the others to save space and I don’t even miss them. If something is of high value, take the steps needed to sell it and enjoy the money you get from it. Your pantry should only have foods in it that you eat regularly, you only need a minimal stockpile of items unless you live in an area where you won’t be able to get to the store for several days in case of an emergency. 


One idea I’ve tried is to put all of my hanging items with the hanger facing backwards. Once you wear an item, you flip the hanger back to normal. At the end of the season you part with the clothes that are still on backwards-facing hangers. It’s good to see what you are actually wearing or not wearing, even if you thought it was adorable in the store or during a different season in life.

Unless you are not done having children and you have a bin of maternity clothes, Do not keep clothes that don’t fit you. Just don’t. Those poorly-fitting items will look great on someone else and you do not need them to distract or depress you. Be honest with yourself about why you are keeping those clothes and say goodbye. A shirt that fits you well and flatters your figure is worth 10 shirts that make you self-conscious. If you have shopping habits that are hard to break, consider going on a clothing fast where you do not buy any new clothes fro 6-12 months. I have done this twice and it really helped me to stop browsing items just because they were a good deal. 

For non-hanging clothes you can use some pretty basic math to help you know how much to keep. You do not need 20 pairs of underwear. Unless you go 20 days between laundry sessions. I never go more than 10 days without doing laundry. Just in case I get really behind, my husband has 12 undershirts and 12 pairs of undies. I wear my PJ pants a few times before I wash them, so I only need 2-3 pairs. I only let myself have 2-3 pants and 2-3 shorts for sleeping. I workout 4 times a week, so I have 6 workout tops. If you have a big closet and a generous budget, you can afford to have and keep more. But if you are trying to pare down, use this kind of easy math to give yourself a number and stick to it. When you pull everything out of the drawer, put the keepers back in priority order of how much you love them and stop when you get to your set number. 


Again, there is math here. You technically only need one set of sheets per bed in your house. I only have one set of summer sheets and one set of winter sheets for my bed. When they need to be washed, I wash them that day and put them back on before I go to bed that same night. For the kids I have the set of sheets currently on their bed and one extra set per bed. That’s it. For towels I have one towel per person in the house. For extra towels I imagine that I will never host more than 6 people overnight at a time, so I have 6 additional towels. For snuggly blankets I have one per person in the house and a handful of extras for when guests are here. 

Cleaning supplies

You do not need a ton of cleaning supplies. You really only need a multi-purpose cleaner, a toilet cleaner, and one way to disinfect (wipes, bleach spray, etc). You also only need a few tools – a few rags, a scrub brush, a toothbrush for little tricky places, a magic eraser and a duster. Many of you can really scale down in these areas. 

Beauty Products

If you don’t love a product, you don’t love it. Do not put a bottle in under your sink or in the drawer simply because it’s not empty and you feel guilty. Throw it away and move on to a product you like. Again, under your sink and in your bathroom cupboards there should only be cosmetics and products you USE or LOVE.


Once you purge, you need to be very careful to avoid ruining your hard work. If you go out and buy a bunch of things that you do not need or love, you will just reclutter your space. As you put things in your cart at the store, you should be imagining where you will put it at home. Imagine exactly when you will be using it. Ask yourself if the item is worth storing. Wait until you completely run out of something before you buy it’s replacement. Do not buy craft supplies for yourself or your children unless you can imagine exactly when you will complete that craft project and know that you will actually do it. Trust me, I know that everything in the Target Threshold line is adorable and I want all of it. But I have to put the breaks on and remind myself that I have limited space. I am committed to only bring things into my house that I know I will use or love.  The 3 questions mentioned above really work to help guide you. Once you have your purged items in your vehicle, head to the donation center as soon as you can – your purge is now complete and you can work on the fun part of organization: Smart and Practical ways to store your stuff. See you next week for Part 3!  – Carly

And since I had the chance to read this yesterday, I took her advice and went after my kitchen pantry.  Let me tell you she’s right when she says it may take longer than you’d expect.  Bonus of my hard work?  Discovering a lost bottle of champaign that was on the verge of expiration, so of course I had to drink some while making dinner last night.  I toasted to a (mostly – the kids will purge their own boxes) purged pantry!img_9670

Guest Blog Part 1: Organization By: Carly Pray

Guest Blogger: Carly
I have been trying to get Carly to start her own blog for years.  She is inviting, humble and full of great ideas.  She’ll be sharing a three-part series on organization over the next couple of weeks!
Hi readers! It’s 2107. You just got a bunch of new stuff. You just got your Christmas decorations put away*. You are ready for a fresh start and ready to put some fresh systems in place. I’m here to help. And I really mean that: if anything you read here is not helpful to you, forget about that unhelpful part and move on! I am not writing to you as a professional, I’m writing as a {virtual} friend who wants to enable you to make your life run better for YOU.
*If you haven’t done that yet, stop and do it before you jump into general-house-organizing-mode please.
Why do you want to organize? Check your heart and trust mine.

This will mostly be a helpful, practical, idea-sharing series. But first there is a moment of self-reflection required: Why do you want to get organized? There is a full spectrum of personality out there. I find personality to be one of God’s greatest displays of His creativity. This connects to organization by ranging from the “everything is in a labeled bin and my closet is color coordinated” personality to the “there are clothes I haven’t worn in months because they’re buried under a million other things in my closet and I forgot I even own them” personality. Wherever you land naturally on this spectrum, none of the personalities are better than others. I really mean it. I know disorganized people who are peaceful and happy and free. I also know disorganized people who are frustrated and continually grumpy because of the chaos they live in. On the other hand there are organized people who are relaxed and happy and peaceful, and others who are controlling and uptight. If your efforts to get organized make you grumpy with other people or fire up your inner self-critic, get off this train right now. Your sanity is not worth jeopardizing and negative self-talk is the enemy. Successful organization ends with increased sanity.  As you try out new ideas, make sure your heart is in a good place. That place where you are ready to try something new because you recognize that they way you are currently organizing things is not working.

I also hope that you can trust my kindness. I recently helped a friend move & downsize dramatically. A couple months after the move she told me, “Sometimes when you were helping me purge my stuff I felt like you were being mean to me. I knew you weren’t being mean, and I told myself that you loved me. And you were really helpful. But for some reason it felt a little bit like mean.” I had no idea that she would interpret my help that way and I was so thankful that she trusted my love for her through it. I wish I could come to each of your houses and make you laugh and help in a more personal way. But we are in a blog relationship, so we have to make a deal: trust my helpful heart and I will trust your ability to receive all this info in a healthy way.

Okay enough with the brain gymnastics and the blender of feelings. Here are the practical (happy!) things organization can do for you:
-Find stuff quickly in the moment you need it
-Stop wasting time searching for things 
-Stop losing stuff you paid for and re-buying things you’ve lost
-Enjoy the beauty of your home without being constantly annoyed by clutter & messes
-Teach your kids some good habits for the future when they are roommates & spouses
-Run your kids’ lives more efficiently and calmly (morning routines, gathering sports equipment, etc)
Part 1 will be the general rules of organization. In Part 2 I will coach you through the process of purging if you have too much stuff. Then in Part 3 I will share some ideas and systems I have around my own house to keep everything running smoothly. I know that most people will love Post 3 the best. But these posts are in order for a reason – if you can say that you are abiding (enough) by the “Laws of Organization” and you only have stuff in your house that you use and/or love, then you will be ready for the fun part. Here we go!
Organizational Law #1
A place for everything…
This is the first half of a very popular organizational phrase. It’s popular because it works. Everything, yes every single thing, in your house should have a home. And only one home. If I were helping you clean up I would start by walking around and picking up anything on the counters or on the ground that are out of place. I should be able to ask, “Where does this go?” and you should only have ONE home for each item. So if I say, “Where do the scissors go?” You should not say, “In that drawer or over in the desk area or you could also put them on in that other room…” NO. Only one official home. You don’t need a junk drawer where you throw homeless items. Or a stack of papers that you are going to “go through later”. You need to declare a home for those homeless items and make a filing spot for those papers. Homeless items end up tossed aside and cluttering your space simply because you never declared an official home. (By the way, unless its an appliance or decorative item, the counter is NOT a home. Counters are for food prep and homework and the fruit bowl and working on temporary projects. Counters are neutral workspace, NOT a home.)
On this same note, when you buy or receive anything new, you should be giving it a home as soon as it enters your house. If you do not have a home for it, you should consider not keeping it (returning it, donating it, etc). If you want to keep it but do not have space for it, it’s time to remove something from your house that you no longer use/want to make room for the new thing.
Organizational Law #2 
…And everything in it’s place. 
(And please, make your kids do their part.)

This is the second half of that famous phrase. And in my observation, where about 80% of organizational failure happens. People, you need to put your stuff away when you are done with it. All the way away (in its previously declared home). It’s that simple. When you are done with a project, a meal, doing your makeup, you should not walk away from a pile of stuff sitting on the counter/table/desk/bed. After you get dressed: put your PJs in the drawer. After you make food: put the food items and cutting board and knife away. After your kids do their homework: they should put their pencils away and folders back in their backpacks. If your kid was playing with toys in the family room: have he or she put the toys away before going on to the next thing (nap, lunch, baseball practice, whatever). If you do this one thing, you will solve the trouble of all messiness, all clutter, and eliminate most chances of losing anything. It’s that simple.But if you don’t do it already it takes a fair amount of discipline to establish this as a habit.

One of the ways I see this part is ‘hitting the reset button’ on your house. There are stops during your day when you can choose to “reset”. You can reset before meals. You can reset before you leave the house. You can reset before bed.  Some people only need to reset once a day (leave the toys, the food mess, the homework stuff and just put it all away right before bed). People like me need to reset before sitting down and relaxing because the clutter feels chaotic and distracting. I often take 3-5 minutes to reset before I leave the house because I *love* coming home to a neat and beautiful house. It’s just like giving myself a little moment of happiness when I walk in the door. Only you can figure out how often you need to reset.

“But the children!!” you say. This is your job as a mother. You run this place. You are in charge. You set the tone. I hate to say this because I fear that you will be offended. I only mean it as an observation of people I have seen in action and my own personal experiences: If the tone is frantic and stressful and you leave the house (amidst your own yelling voice and your kids scurrying in a panic and without the things they need for the day or the next activity) it is because of your lack of organization. Stop everything 10 minutes before it’s time to leave and have EVERYONE reset. Not 1 minute before. Don’t lose track of time on your phone or FB or talking to a friend and then get mad at the kids because they aren’t ready.  They are kids, they need you to guide them through it (and hopefully not in anger). They need to learn, and you need to show them. You need to remind them to put the old thing away before they get out a new thing. As I am typing this my 2 youngest kids just ran over and asked to play video games. My response was, “put that puzzle and those cars you were just playing with away first and then you are good to play video games.” They ran off happily and did it quickly because they were pumped about the video game. I glanced over and made sure they did it before I heard the TV turn on. No hot emotions, just an understanding of responsibility.

(“My husband!!” you say. This is trickier with husbands than with children, because husbands are adults and you are not the boss of them 😉 That is a whole separate blog post regarding teamwork and common goals. But if everyone but the hubs is pulling their weight, I am going to guess that you will still feel successful with 4/5 of the stuff put away.)

Reset looks like is this: Walk around and put away anything that’s not in its place. If the messes are overwhelming and/or you need be extra efficient, start in one area and completely reset that area before moving on to the next area. If you are walking into another room to put something away and you see another mess – don’t panic or get distracted. Just head back to the area you are working on and keep your focus. Start with the areas that you spend time in the most, move towards the less important or less annoying areas last. Once this becomes a habit and often enough, it should only take about 5 minutes.
I don’t know why but with the kids I call this “Doing Jobs”. I tell all the kids, even kids who are just over for a playdate, “Time to stop what we are doing and Do Jobs. Follow me.” I walk around and hand a kid anything that’s out of place and tell them exactly where to put it. Then they are supposed to race back to me for their next job. I give extra high fives and accolades to the kids who are the fastest. You know they love to race. If I need extra happiness we put on music while we do it. I only takes 1-3 songs. And if everyone gets a piece of gum when we finish, why yes I will use that extra motivational power. The key here is that I don’t just say, “Clean up this counter!” I stand there and hand them the scissors and say ,”put these in that desk drawer. {Next kid} Put these socks in the laundry basket. {Next kid} Throw away these papers in the trash.” Everyone participates, and the reset gets done fast. I keep the mood happy and we are out the door or on to our next activity in just a few minutes.
The last note is this: I reset before true cleaning. So the dishes just get scraped and set in the sink during the reset. Once the clutter is gone, then I do actually cleaning like wiping counters or doing dishes or wiping down a bathroom. I am barefoot all the time, so resetting often means sweeping. But I do that after everything is in it’s home.

Okay Part 1 is done. If that all seems like common sense to you, great job. You are ready for Part 2. If all of that sounds overwhelming, try looking around and noting if you have a lot of homeless items lying on your neutral surfaces. Maybe try just just resetting once or twice a day and getting everyone involved. My husband read this and said, “I get stuck at giving things homes. So I just set stuff on my workbench because I’m not sure where to put it and eventually it’s a mountain of stuff that takes forever to clean.” I know this is true because he is awesome about picking up inside the house where I have already assigned the homes for everything. My daughter read this and said, “My stuff has homes but I just get lazy and don’t feel like putting things all the way away.” It’s good to know thyself. Not to make excuses for yourself, but to know yourself and then take steps to be at peace with yourself and the people who have to live with you 😉

Here is a picture of my daughter’s desk.


Neat piles that aren’t technically dirty… but check out how tiny that little bit of work space has become when it’s crowded by her piles!


The second picture is after I sat there sipping a glass of wine and simply picked up everything on her desk that isn’t decorative and asked her to put it in it’s home. I timed us and it took less than 10 minutes and we had some of our favorite songs on while she did it. Now she can actually use her work space and I am not a grumpy mom when I walk by her room. And we got to enjoy the sound of our stellar singing voices and occasional dance moves.