Home Organization 101Dec 09, 2022
Home organization is one of my favorite things to talk about. It's one of my favorite topics to listen to on podcasts, audiobooks, and talk about with my friends. Well, now you guys know the real me! I do feel some peace in a clean space, but the goal for me isn't really to have a clean space. I think with little kids, having a clean space 100% of the time shouldn't be the goal. We want people living in our space and making messes in our space. My goal with home organization is to have a home be easy.
My goals here are to simplify our homes so that our “homemaking” is little bit less work than it was before. That we are operating closer to a 30 minute pickup back to our clean home baseline instead of a 4 hour pickup back to our clean home baseline. That our spaces SERVE our lives and our families instead us being slaves to maintaining our stuff and our spaces.
So, First, Do you feel like you are constantly moving things around? All day every day. Like that is your alternate job title. Hi, I’m mom and I move all of my family’s stuff around every day. Moving the clothes, dishes, trash, tiny humans, all the things. Well I’m going to attempt to answer all your household organization and clutter problems with 3 words. Yes, only 3. Here they are! Ready? The #1 advice to having an organized house! ….Have. less. stuff! It is really hard to organize your stuff if you really just have way too much stuff. Decluttering is a topic big enough to have its own full podcast and books, and there already are some. So I’ll keep it basic here. But if you have things you don’t need in your house, you would really benefit from getting them out of your house. donate, sell, giveaway, get them out of your space.
Another basic home organization concept I have learned is that overall function and aesthetic are what matters. We all want a clean functional space that looks great. But I’m suggesting that function needs to be the driver of your decision making. If you’re a mom in the thick of raising little people and are trying to run a household smoothly, go for function first. You can find ways to make your space more aesthetically pleasing AFTER you have solidified the function of the space.
If you decanted ALL your pantry items into clear bins but do not have time to keep up with expiration dates, have ended up with labels on those clear bins that don’t match exactly and that fact drives you crazy, and don’t have space for storing those cute clear bins AND space for the containers that hold their leftovers… I have been there too. This will work for some people and I agree I love the look of it. These cabinets and pantries make the most beautiful photos. BUT that doesn’t have to be your standard for functionality and aesthetic in your own kitchen. If you are someone who doesn’t have your grains decanted into clear containers, you can still have a beautiful and functional storage system.
If you tried some type of system and really wanted it to work, but it just doesn’t work, it’s worth it to try again and find a system that does work. Your time is too precious to be forcing a system that doesn’t work. If you put your precious time and hard-earned money into that system that doesn’t work, I realize that makes it harder to let it go. But the money and time have been spent already, and your day-to-day matters. So adapt it and find something that works. It may just be a season that you’re currently in that doesn’t match up with the function you had planned. Let’s stay in the season of life we are in at this time. Maybe in the next season of life you’ll have time to have perfectly matching spice jars, but maybe this season you’re barely mustering up the energy required to get the kids fed and function needs to win out right now.
Another top tip I have learned over the years- Give the best real estate in the space to the things you use the most. The things you wear or reach for the most need to be right in front, in the biggest drawer, in the middle of the shelf. For example, If you wear your cowboy boots once a year but have to shove them out of the way every time you are looking for your regular boots to wear on the weekends, the cowboy boots need to be relocated. If most nights when you’re cooking, you have to move the potato smasher utensil out of the way to find your main spatula, the potato smasher utensil needs to be moved.
Where to store the things you don’t use as often? In the worst real estate. If you have one of the large walk in closets, this is great for you! You can put off season things on the highest shelves! If you are like me and have a relatively tiny closet, you can have a storage bin in a different area of your house. I have a few bins in my garage with labels for off-season clothes and shoes. I also have a miscellaneous bin, ONE miscellaneous bin for the clothes/accessories that are very rarely used but things I would want to look for sometimes. Like a couple of sparkly shirts for new years eve parties, green pants I wear on saint patrick’s day, my cowboy boots, things that would be hard to replace if I got rid of them and needed them again. I know where these things are, and I know how to find them quickly when I need them, but I don’t need to look at them or shove them out of the way every single day.
Do you have shelves in your kitchen for 6 different types of drinking glasses that you never use? But your food storage area is completely stuffed and spilling over? The extra drinking glasses need to go to less prime real estate. Maybe they go to a bin in the garage or attic and you move all the cans from your pantry to that shelf where those glasses were.
If you have a shelf or drawer that is too full. It’s too full. Some things need to be taken out. You have natural limits within your house. Stay within those natural limits. If you start by prioritizing the prime real estate with the most-used things, you just kind of work down from there. Next most commonly used things in the next furthest away cabinet or drawer. And so on. At some point you will have a stack of things that are hardly ever used. If you have space for these things in the worst real estate of the space, great. If you don’t, they either need to be donated or stored elsewhere. I recommend having no more than one or two bins in a garage or attic for storing things for each room. If you have a huge amount of things in a storage area, you probably aren’t going to actually take the time to search through them when you need something. But if you have one bin in storage area for “kitchen overflow,” the once a year that you need your turkey carver, panini press, or muffin tins, you’ll know exactly where to find them.
That leads me to my next tip. For things to flow smoothly, you need to know where everything is and be able to access it quickly. For things to flow smoothly for your whole family, every person in the family needs to know to find the items they need and be able to access them quickly. Yes, I am a fan of the advice you’ve probably heard, “every item in your house has a home”. My goal with this advice it to help you eliminate being asked 400 times a month “mom!!! Where are the scissors!!” or the re-purchasing duct tape for the 3rd time because you don’t know where it is within your house. Or sending your kid to school without a rain coat when in fact you do have a raincoat for that child but can’t find it before school on that surprisingly rainy morning.
Another organizational tip- store things near where they are used.
We have lived in our house for a few months now and I’m still processing my way through this concept. I have 2 examples of this recently helping my own home. First, We keep our dogs bowls in the kitchen, but I was keeping her dog food in the garage. So almost every day, we were trecking all the way to the garage to the giant dog food container when we needed to fill up her bowls. Talk about making a not so fun task even less desirable. Then I realized that there is a kitchen cabinet near where we keep her dog bowls, and I filled up a plastic cereal container with her dog food and keep it there now. Right where we need it. So when her bowl needs to be filled, it takes 2 seconds.
Second, our kids are in swimming lessons twice a week. So for the past few months I had been doing laundry, drying their towels and swimsuits, putting their towels in the linen closet, putting their swimsuits in their drawers, keeping my daughters swim diapers by her other diapers, then twice a week going throughout the house to round up all those items to get ready for swimming lessons. Then I reminded myself, store things near where you use them. Now after doing laundry, I put their main towels and their swimsuits right into the swim bag. I keep several of my daughters swim diapers in the swim bag. Then when it’s time for getting them ready to swim, I grab the one bag that already has all their stuff in it. It sounds so basic and to me it sounds genius, but it took me several months of making that harder for myself before I realized how to let it be easier. Store things near where they are used.
Now let’s revisit the topic of decluttering. Remember, I believe it’s the key to having a manageable home. Here are some of the things I ask or tell myself when decluttering.
Do I use this item? Do you like this item? At a bare minimum, you should use all the things in your house or at least like those things.
Now I hope this next advice feels freeing and not scandalous, but You actually don’t need to keep everything that has been given to you. It’s yours now. I don’t think Aunt Sally would want you to be stressing about the coffee table she handed down to you when you actually hate that coffee table and hate using it every day. If she comes to your house sometimes and you need to let her know you’re ready to get rid of it, Politely tell Aunt Sally you are so thankful she let you use that coffee table when you needed it but now you have found a coffee table that matches your furniture better. You can ask if she would like the coffee table back or prefer for you to donate it to someone else. If your family members gave you children’s clothes you really hate, don’t leave them hanging in your child’s closet. Your husband will put your kid in those clothes and then you’ll hurt his feelings when you don’t like the outfit he picked. If you don’t want your child to wear those clothes, get them out of the closet. If certain outfits are really special to your family members or are for certain special occasions, have those in a designated area, separate from the regular clothes. You can access them when needed. HOWEVER, if your mom loves buying your child clothes and is over at your house all the time helping, keep the clothes and keep them hung up. Clothes are not worth damaging a relationship so I want to be careful how I say this. If it really is a sentimental item to you or someone else, keep it. I’m not talking about those types of things! Please keep the peace! Maybe you can help her find clothes that you both love. That’s another topic for another day.
The next advice- You don’t need to keep everything you spent money on. The money has been spent. Learn from it and start only purchasing things that are worth spending your money on. Once you have a more simplified home, you’ll start prioritizing quality over quantity. I do believe this will save you money in the long run.
Here's another one, If you could easily and quickly replace the item and can’t think of a specific future use for that item, consider letting it go. Examples here, having one million plastic target bags stored in your kitchen, having 25 glass flower vases when you only ever use 3, having an extreme amount of “craft supplies” that never get used, having 40 bottles of hair products under your sink. If you could easily afford and quickly replace one of these items again in the off chance you happened to regret decluttering it, maybe you can let some go. Especially if they are expired, dirty, or broken. Maybe someone you know would love some of your hair products you never use. Maybe you can recycle some of that glass or those plastic bags, maybe you can start using reusable bags. Maybe this will be a lesson to teach ourselves on how not to accumulate so many things we don’t need.
Alternatively, if you’re unsure if you should keep an item and that particular item would be hard to replace after letting it go, don’t get rid of those things right away. Items in this category would be jeans that fit perfectly, dishes that perfectly match the rest of your set, something very expensive, or something sentimental, maybe wait until you are further into decluttering and more confident in the decision-making-process before letting those things go. These things are more likely to trigger regret if you happened to regret getting rid of them.
You can have a holding bin for things that you want to get rid of but you aren’t sure about. Keep them in the garage for a few months and then revisit. You may be able to decide yes or no on them when you come back with fresh eyes and haven’t used them in a while.
The goal here is NOT to just have less things for the sake of having less things. The goal here is to have room for what matters most. How can the space in your house be best used to make your life easier. That’s the goal.
If your spouse or children are not on board with decluttering, leave them be. I’ll repeat it again, leave them be. Please do not go throw away all your husbands clothes that you deem unworthy of the space. Start with your clothes, your closet, your part of the bathroom, the kitchen/laundry room/ or whatever rooms you are the primary person in control of. They may come around to the idea once they see how peaceful your areas seem. Let them come around. This is about you for now.
Most people are constantly accumulating. And once you’ve been kind of thinking in a “prioritize my home and life” kind of way, you’ll actually slow that desire to constantly be accumulating. But most people with little kids are always being gifted new toys, are purchasing new clothes as they outgrow the old clothes, are buying groceries, home supplies, shoes, so many things come into our house constantly. My challenge to us moving forward is to try to be more intentional about what takes up space in our house. What takes up TIME in our house. Because let’s be honest, each thing in our house takes up our time at some point. And our time is our most valuable resource. So Let’s pause before purchasing, let’s only give space to the things that bring us joy. Let’s realize it’s actually NOT THINGS that bring us joy. It's memories and it’s people. And when we have less physical things in our way, we probably will have more mental space for the things that matter to us.
Because, if you’re anything like me, I feel more at peace when my space is clear. Its like my physical space directly affects my mental space. I really have a hard time relaxing when I’m surrounded by a physical to-do list. I think this goes for kids and husbands too, when our houses are functional and clear, we can relax and have fun more easily. Don’t we all want more of that?
I’d love to hear YOUR best home organization tips. How do you make your space work for you? Do you have any great decluttering wisdom?