House Mix

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How I organize my house with kids

I am a stay-at-home-mom and also work from home. Marcello does all his office work here as well. For awhile our house looked like a daycare blew up, but because we eat, sleep, play and work all in this one space, we had to simplify and get organized!

On top of spending loads of time at home, our house has a very open floor plan — meaning our living room, dining room, kitchen, office area/playroom is all in one space! It is impossible to relegate kids’ stuff to one area. With three kids ages five and under, it all ends up colliding into one disaster.

Perfect is not my goal, but simple is! The more we simplify our life, the faster we can get to the good stuff — spending time together. There have been so many benefits to getting serious about purging, simplifying and organizing the kid world in our house. Here are a few:

  1. It makes routines run smoothly — especially school and homework.
  2. Picking up toys takes half the time with half the toys.
  3. Laundry can be done in a day with less clothing.
  4. We can have people over last minute with less clutter.
  5. A chaotic life with kids feels a little more in check when the space around me makes sense.

The biggest factors in keeping kid stuff from overwhelming the house is to:

Minimize things (toys, clothes, school stuff).

  • I went through the toys and donated or gave away about half. I went through them again and even again.
  • If there are toys that do not get played with now, they will not be played with in the future.
  • If you are constantly picking up the 20 pieces to that one set and trying to keep them together, it’s probably time to say goodbye.
  • I let my kids make some choices about what to keep, but for the most part I did my dirty work behind their backs. Shady, I know, but kids are hoarders.
  • I donated the clothes that don’t fit or they don’t wear. They have limited wardrobes and now (as for myself as well) I only buy clothes we love. I don’t want to spend time arguing about an “itchy” shirt.
  • After all that work I am very conscious of what I bring into our home. I don’t buy a bunch of little plastic toys for Valentine’s, Easter or Christmas that will be played with for two minutes. They always just end up on the floor. Or under the bed. Or under the seats in the van. You get the idea.
  • For birthdays, we focus on doing things or a party instead of lots of gifts.
  • I organize and edit the toys every few months. It’s a continual task, but gets much easier once you and the kids get the hang of it.

A place for everything.

  • I think the number one tip to keeping toys picked up and kids’ rooms clean is to have a place for everything. A place for games, a place for books, a place for toys.
  • Show the kids where things go. Expect that they put things back when they’re done with them if they’re old enough.

Stick with neutral colors when you can.

  • I didn’t go through our house and throw out anything with color, but I did make a conscious decision to start buying neutral items when things needed to be replaced. I’m talking about things like dishes, baskets, furniture and some toys.
  • Most things for kids are sold in bright colors, but I found that with a little bit of searching, there are more neutral options. I don’t have anything against color, it’s just that when I’m bombarded by plastic primary colors all day my eyes hurt.

Minimizing and choosing neutral colors have really made a difference visually in our house. Here’s a tour of how I organize things:

Toys

The kids don’t have a lot of toys. Not because I don’t want to give them everything, not because we can’t afford them, but because I believe it’s best for them. Here’s what I would like to teach with fewer toys:

  • To use their imaginations.
  • Not to value things.
  • To appreciate what they have.
  • There is space for each toy to have a specific spot to be put away.
  • To feel free in a clutter-free environment.

I’ve gone radical eliminating toys. What you see in this picture is about all the boys have besides books, games and Legos that are in their room. They spend most of their time making little worlds with their animals and Star Wars figurines or playing outside. For how I organize my office space here, see this post.

One thing we do have a lot of are animal figurines because they are always into different animals. I keep a bin in the garage with most of them and they bring their favorites inside.

As a visual person, who also does creative work in this space, I need a break from primary colors in the form of plastic. This sweet baby buggy my parents got Clara for Christmas is so pretty and neutral I don’t mind seeing it in middle of the living room.

The desk beside mine is usually filled with some sort of “world” set up by imaginary director Adriano. Fits and screams ensue when I disrupt them, so I bought a cute wooden barn for Christmas.

I love this large wooden doll house because not only is it pretty to look at, but also works for boys and girls. It can be accessed from any side, which helps when two boys have a hard time sharing anything.

I love that the Dollar Tree has puzzles for my little puzzle lover. The only problem is that they don’t stay in the flimsy boxes that all come in different sizes so they’re difficult to stack. In just 10 minutes I organized them into Ziplock bags and taped the picture on the front with packing tape. I chose the sliding closure option so he can close them himself.

My boys aren’t obsessed with Legos, but my best friend Ashby’s son is crazy about them. Check out the genius idea her husband, Dominic, came up with. They keep the bigger pieces in clear drawers, but these tool box organizers work perfectly to organize the tiny pieces.

Another way to cut down on toys is to limit them to birthdays and Christmas. Our kids get a few toys for their birthday and Christmas, otherwise if they really want something they have to earn the money doing chores. I really don’t get much sass about it because I stay consistent. They saved $13 each a few weeks ago and we went to Target so they could each pick a toy. God was smiling on them because there was a whole clearance aisle of toys! They spent a lot of time picking the right toy and were very proud of buying it themselves. They take better care of those toys too. Get the printable chore chart and more info on how it works here.

Kids’ rooms

Clara has graduated from baby to toddler and I desperately needed to clean out her closet! She doesn’t need a diaper bag or Jumperoo or all those cute clothes she grew out of too fast. I took everything out and started over.

Here is the before and after of her closet. I couldn’t even open the door all the way! When I took everything out I sorted the piles into: 1-Donate: Clothes that are too small, toys they don’t play and baby things they don’t use. 2-Trash: Be ruthless. 3-Keep: I keep only a few outgrown outfits from each child. I made myself fit sentimental keeps to a small Winnie the Pooh box, top right. Be so very selective.

I got lucky because last week she fell asleep in the car, so I worked like mad to get this done before she woke up! This is what I pulled out. Shown in this picture are trash, clothes to give away and bins with items I will sell at a consignment shop. I will then use that money toward Clara’s next size of clothing and shoes.

I wish I hadn’t bought these baskets in bright coral pink because all together they’re really bold! And I can’t put them anyplace else except Clara’s room. Things are always being rearranged and repositioned to work with their stages, so now I only buy neutral baskets and always in multiples of two — usually 4 or 6. In the baskets from the top down are: 1-clothes that are too small, 2-sweaters, 3-socks and bloomers, 4-clothing not worn frequently (tutus, Fourth of July outfit …), 5-swimsuits, 6-clothes that are too big.

Hopefully we will be done with a changing table in the next six months. High five! Marcello and I have been changing diapers for almost six year straight. This desk was mine when I was a little girl.

When Ashby told me about putting clothes away as outfits, I didn’t try it right away. My boys basically have green or blue shorts and T-shirts and that’s it. They’re all pretty interchangable. But now that I have a girl with much more variety in clothes, this is working like a dream. It’s even dad-proof! Although I actually love to see what Marcello comes up with. Tights as pants are my favorite. Should have listened to you sooner, friend!

As I mentioned before, we’ve been changing diapers for quite some time with no break. At this point, we just put the whole package of diapers and the entire big bag of wipes in a basket by the changing table. We sloppily fold the top of the wipes bag over so they stay wet. These tall basket are from Target. The diapers are the Kirkland brand from Costco. When they’re on sale, I stock up. You can’t beat the price and the quality is fine. I wish I would have done this before baby number three!

I got it right the second time I bought baskets for her room. I found these on sale online at Target for $7 and snatched them up. The white blends easily into the background, unlike the neon coral. Now they will be able to switch out with other places in the house when we need them to. Nothing ever stays the same here for too long.

Clara’s favorite place at our local children’s museum is the play house. It has a kitchen, table, high chair, ironing board, food. She could play there for an hour, but her brothers never let her. So I thought I would try to recreate that space in her room with things we already had. And she loves it! (Actually so do the boys!) To see more of Clara’s kitchen, go here.

The boys share a room. I don’t bother with bed-making. They fold their blankets in half at the foot of the bed. It’s something they can do by themselves and looks tidier than a messy, made bed. (P.S. Don’t look at my bed. I’m not typically a bed-maker. Gasp!)

My kids don’t have huge wardrobes. I only keep clothes that fit and will be worn in their closets and drawers. (Though I needed to do laundry when I took this picture. They have more shirts than that.) I keep their everyday clothes in these shelves, but the clothes are getting bigger so we’ll have to get dressers soon! I keep a box for them to put their pjs and such in so I don’t have to do extra laundry and they won’t end up on the floor.

I buy all the same socks. This is a big laundry timesaver. No worrying about a lost mate. No pairing while folding laundry. Just toss them in the drawer. They each have two pairs of fun dress socks, but I don’t even keep them in this mix.

Each kid has their own laundry basket. As of now I just dump their whole basket in the machine, run it in cold water and TRY to put it back right after it’s done. In other words, I don’t mix the kids’ laundry. I like to keep their clothes separate from one another.

The top two wooden boxes are for Luca and Adriano’s favorite things. I consider most of the things in there trash, but those are things they don’t want to share and think are special. I don’t throw things out from their boxes.

When your brother gets home from school and takes off his shoes.

I bought these twin bed frames that don’t use boxsprings so we can use that space for storage. I keep a bin under the bed for clothes that are still too big. I like to buy a year ahead during winter and summer clearance sales. I put the clothes that are too small for them in the top bin in Clara’s room with her too-small clothes — but after going through two boys, there’s not too much that makes it past the trash! We live in southern Florida so we don’t have winter, but you could do something like this up north when you change out clothes for the seasons.

Kitchen

Next up is the kitchen. Tired of mismatched sippy cups and a variety of dived trays, I did a serious purge of kid dishes in here.

How many years can you use the plastic sets of bowls and plates from Ikea? Don’t answer that. I finally had to toss mine and I made a conscious decision to buy these soft aqua plates and bowls instead. You know, because neutral colors look less obnoxious piled around my sink rather than a rainbow of plastic.

A few years ago, two babies deep, I finally started putting sippy cup lids in a separate basket. And I’m still doing it. It’s just not likely that I’ll put them away dry, with the lid on.

When I had to get new plastic silverware for baby girl, I went ahead and got white forks and spoons this time around.

Keeping things neutral and light, I ordered these Corelle divided plates for my boys who do not like their food to touch. The horror. I like the idea of moving away from plastic, but they’re not quite there yet for everything. We mostly use these for dinner. Also, this white, foldable picnic table has been great. I like it better than a table and chairs because not only does it fold down flat, but the kids can’t use chairs as stools or weapons.

Yeah, now that looks about right. My usual kitchen view.

Bathroom

In the kids bathroom, I focus on trying to help them be as self-sufficient as possible. I want them to be able to brush their own teeth, wash their own hands and hang their own towel up without my help.

They don’t normally all bathe together, but it sure is efficient! We used to have massive amounts of toys in the bathroom, but now the boys are starting to take showers and Clara just brings one or two toys with her. I can’t say it hurts my feelings at all.

We have an faucet extender and stool to help them reach.

Towels, washcloths and toilet paper is under the sink where they can reach them. Keeping things minimal and in the same spot where they can find it helps them — especially toilet paper. It’s true, kids can actually replace the toilet paper roll by themselves!

I took up stock in sunblock. Just kidding. Costco had a great sale on this chemical-free brand and we live in Florida, so that’s what going on here. I don’t want them messing with medicine and stuff they shouldn’t, so I keep it simple here — toothpaste floss, hair brushes.

In my experience kids are a million times more likely to hang their towel on a hook rather than a bar. Pretty sure that’s an accurate statistic.

Instead of taking down our towel bar, I got tricky and used shower hooks and small rubber bands (from the dollar store that I normally use in Clara’s hair).

In the linen closet I keep sheets, humidifiers, first aid things (in the green baskets) and Clara’s potty (which we’re not really using yet, much to my dismay).

I keep the kids’ medicine in a cabinet in the laundry room. It’s all in that top box conveniently labeled “kids.” For the contents of the box and printable checklist on what do do when kids are sick, go here.

School

In the other cabinet (beside the medicine and vitamins) I keep the kids’ art supplies. I’ve heard amazing things about keeping all art supplies in a movable cart from Ikea. I absolutely love that idea, but my kids cannot be trusted. They still color furniture with markers, break and eat crayons and stick stickers where they shouldn’t be stuck. So the supplies and crafts stay in this cabinet where they can’t reach them. I use a utensil caddy for scissors, glue, flash cards and pencil holders. And I have a folder of stickers for rewards or projects.

I’ve written about this before, but it works for us to use magazine holders for artwork, one per child, and a box for homework to be completed and items to be returned to school. Here’s what I do with the art at the end of the year.

This is our lunch packing station. I use these divided containers and keep the water bottles and lids in separate boxes from the Dollar Tree. Behind them are popsicle molds that I like to put leftover smoothies in.

Right now I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, so Luca’s lunches on Monday are a hodgepodge, but on Mondays I make his lunches for the rest of the week. (Adriano is only in preschool and still home with me for lunch.)

Having a hook for each kid’s backpack keeps it from getting lost or ending up on the kitchen counter. Usually.

This idea has worked very well for us. Each kid has a color-coded basket for their shoes in the garage by the door. They are responsible for making sure they end up there. Luca has sand on the playground at school and it ends up everywhere so I don’t want his shoes inside. Sand! Florida can be so weird sometimes.

Tuesday is laundry day and since we all have to be very, very close together, all our messes merge. Also, I’m pretty sure the little one is eating Play-Doh in this picture. For cleaning scheduling ideas go here.

* * *

The place I have the most trouble is in the car. I think until I make a no-eating-or-crayons-or-stickers-or-taking-your-dirty-socks-off-or-bringing-random-toys rule it will remain in some state of chaos. And why do kids love shredding paper so much?

Once you have a game plan, talk about what is expected of the kids and make it a routine. Give some grace if you’re just now beginning. It can take kids some getting used to and friendly reminding. Here are our basic rules around here. They’re not major things, but they help keep things in order.

  1. No leaving clothes or towels on the floor. Put them in the hamper or on the hook.
  2. When you get home from school, put your shoes in your basket in the garage and hang your backpack on your hook.
  3. Bring your plate to the counter when you are finished eating. (But this one is not sinking in around here!)
  4. If you have toys in the living or dining room, get it back to the toy room when you’re done.

I don’t have a perfect house. I don’t want a perfect house. I want a simple, cozy, lived-in house with lots of people and laughing. I would rather spend time with my kids than cleaning and picking up. Organization helps that happen.

What about your family? Do you have a secret organizing weapon for kid stuff?

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See how I organize the rest of my house in this post.

How I simplified and organized my house, room by room

How I simplified and organized each room in my house - with printable checklist

I’m a moderate minimalist. I don’t want our home to be sparse and bare, rather selective and edited. Living simply doesn’t exactly come easy to me, but I’m learning, and it’s making my family’s life easier.

Some positives I’m seeing from living a more minimal life:

  1. Less mess to clean up.
  2. Saves money not shopping for unneeded things.
  3. Makes everyday life and trying to find things simpler.
  4. Helps use available space to its full potential.
  5. Feels peaceful in a clutter-free home.

Use baskets to organize books and paper in home office

Game plan

Simply put, the less you have, the better it will fit into your home and the less organizing you will have to do. These are my personal guidelines for owning and editing the things at our house:

Every thing needs it’s own spot to be put away. 

A place for everything and everything in its place, as they say. Bills, bags, books — each item needs it’s own space. If there isn’t a specific spot for an item on a shelf or in a basket somewhere, it will never be put away, and be left to sit out (right there on the counter, if your family is like mine!).

Try not to own more than one of something.

I understand this doesn’t work with everything, because we each have a passion or two that calls for extras. For example, my husband likes to cook and has, in my opinion, a knife or 10 more than we need. But I think he’d tell you I don’t need to keep 10 cans of paint sitting around in the garage for my projects. But when we were purging, we both agreed we didn’t need two weed wackers or five kinds of pasta strainers, etc. Ditch the duplicates.

If you don’t use it (or like it), lose it.

I held onto a modern white leather office chair that I loved, but had been ruined by my kids and cat with scratches and pen marks. I had a crazy idea that maybe I could recover it myself. Or that I could cover it with some sort of fabric tape. But I didn’t, and it sat around for ages. I finally realized I can’t salvage everything and if it’s not in use, it needs to go.

Some items might be difficult to part with if they have sentimental value. Only you know if it’s worth it to hang onto, but if it’s weighing you down, consider giving it to another home to love.

Keep it up.

It takes time to go through your house and cut out the clutter, and really it’s a never-ending task. Stuff will always find its way into your house — especially with kids! Take the time to keep evaluating and editing what you’re accumulating.

Questions to ask yourself when shopping to avoid clutter in your house

Shopping

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re shopping — and the same goes for donations or garage sale treasures. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it belongs in your space.

Is it something I will use on a regular basis?

Do I actually plan on juicing things weekly with this juicer my friend is giving away? Or will it just take up valuable cabinet space after I lose interest?

Do I already have something similar?

Don’t we all tend to buy a couple of the same pieces of clothing over and over? For me it’s stripes. I would really think I would be sick of them by now, but I’m not. I simply cannot walk by a navy and white striped top without taking a second look. I blame my mother. We both usually look like we’re ready to go yachting at the drop of a hat. A shame no one ever asks us.

Where will it go when I get it home?

If I can’t think of a place where it can have it’s own spot, then I probably won’t buy it. It will just add clutter.

Room by room

So you know my game plan, now here’s a breakdown of what I did to simplify and organize each space in my house:

kitchen

Organized kitchen with cabinets open

Before I minimized our kitchen things a few years ago, our cabinets were overflowing with gadgets and various types of tupperware. We couldn’t use half of them even if we wanted to because they were so buried.

Over a few nights, I pulled everything out of the cabinets and put it in the middle of the floor. I threw out or gave away about a third of it and then organized the rest.

Organized pots and pans cabinets with lids

We got a lucky break on these cabinet drawers. The previous homeowners put them in, and they’ve proved useful and versatile. As you can see, I only keep a limited number of pots and pans.

Organized utensil drawer with dividers

I used adjustable drawer dividers to separate utensils in the drawer beside the stove.

Organized kitchen cabinet with kid dishes and glasses

The kid dishes and cups occupy half of a cabinet shared with glasses. I try to keep all their dishes the same so they will stack well, and all the sippy cups the same so the parts will interchange easily.

Use a container for all the kid sippy cup pieces

I finally put a container in the cabinet to hold all the sippy cup pieces! It’s just not realistic to think I will put the cups together the way they should go before putting them away.

Organized glass tupperware cabinet

Before I cleaned out my tupperware cabinet, it looked as if I were some sort of avid collector. I tossed most of the plastic pieces (keeping a few for sending leftovers home with friends) and got a smaller glass set. The blue basket, above, holds the lids.

Having a leftover label in the fridge keeps them where we can see them so they don't go to waste

I put labels in the fridge to help keep it organized. For the shelves, I use labels for: ingredients, snacks, vegetables, fruit, and the most important one, leftovers. Having a specific place for leftovers keeps them from getting left in the back and going to waste.

Organized pantry with baskets from the dollar store

Visually, my pantry is a work in progress. (See my wire shelf makeover here from our last house.) But we’ve been using dollar store baskets for a couple years and they’ve worked great to organize things. I put labels on the most frequently used ones.

I put up a mini command center on a corner wall to help with scheduling and menus. Get the printables here.

I put up a mini command center on a corner wall to help with scheduling, menus and family info for the babysitter. Get the printables here.

Simplifying our kitchen went something like this:

  • Create a space for every appliance, pan, and gadget to go every time it’s put back.
  • If we can’t remember the last time we used a gadget or appliance, sayonora.
  • Get rid of the random dishes that don’t belong to a set.
  • Toss coffee stained, chipped mugs. Where do they all come from? No need taking up good cabinet space when you can’t possibly need all of them.
  • Limit the number of reusable water bottles. We currently have five.
  • Separate utensils used for cooking on the stove and gadgets into two drawers.
  • Put in drawer dividers.
  • Streamline kids dishes and cups. Throw away pieces that have seen better days.
  • Stop buying random sippy cups and buy only the same ones so they all the pieces fit together.
  • Add a basket for kid lids, straws, and pieces.
  • Toss the mismatched, stained tupperware containers and invest in a new, smaller glass set. That 60-piece set was getting me nowhere fast.
  • Add a basket for tupperware lids.
  • Put in baskets and labels for food in pantry.
  • Throw out old spices.
  • Put labels in the fridge. The most important label we use is “leftovers”. Leftovers would get poked in the side or pushed to the back and go to waste. If they’re all in one place, we know where to look so we can eat them first.
  • Start only buying the food we need for the week so the fridge stays organized and we don’t waste food.
  • Put a small basket on the counter for those little things that are always sitting around.
  • If there is still not enough space for everything, it means more has to go.

My messy junk drawer.

My weak spot? The junk drawer. I’ve chosen to let it go. After all, it is called the junk drawer.

Follow House Mix on Instagram for project sneak peaks.

closet

Closet organization

Before we moved into our current house, we lived at my parents house for five months. We naively thought we would be there for a month or two, so I only packed a suitcase full of clothes for myself. I brought my favorite everyday pieces and a few pairs of shoes.

Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed having less clothes to choose from. And it was much easier to get dressed when there were only my favorites hanging in the closet. They weren’t buried in clothes that I might wear at some point or hated to get rid of because the tags were still on. I also got more creative and put combinations together I hadn’t thought of before. (See some of my mix and match outfits here.)

I loved the simplicity so much that when we finally did move into our new house, I donated a huge portion of the clothes that had been in storage. After only keeping my absolute favorites, I actually didn’t have a whole lot more hanging in my new closet than what came out of my suitcase at my parent’s house. I will probably add a few things to what I have now — but when I do make a purchase, I will make sure that I absolutely adore it and that fits well.

One treat I gave myself for clearing out my closet was to buy matching no-slip hangers because I didn’t need as many. (Costco had them on sale in the store at $7.99 for 35.) It could be a good thing to only have a set amount of hangers too! I counted about 100 hangers in my closet (not including coats). My goal is try to keep it somewhere around that number. (I should add, however, that I live in southern Florida and don’t really switch out clothes for different seasons.)

How I simplified and organized my closet

Tops and shoe organization

I like to hang my tops from sleeveless to long sleeve, and then by color.

Closet organization - put ballet flats in a drawerJPG

Putting ballet flats in a drawer keeps them organized and saves the cubbies for wedges and heels. I use the drawer below this one for flip flops.

Use drawers to organize jewelry in closet

I used dishes and pretty drawer dividers (TJ Maxx) to organize jewelry in flat drawers.

Here is my closet simplify list:

  • Take everything out.
  • Examine every article of clothing and pair of shoes.
  • Donate what does not fit well.
  • Donate what you wouldn’t buy now.
  • Donate clothes that are no longer your style — or age. I just hit my mid thirties and had to get rid of some party dresses that made me look like I was trying to be 22. Not what I’m going for.
  • Donate what you have too much of. How many pairs of jeans does a girl need? Which ones do I actually wear?
  • Limit T-shirts to one drawer. Any overflow goes.
  • Determine a number of hangers that fit your closet and wardrobe and try to stick with that number of hangers in the future.

I few ideas to slim down your closet over time:

  • Try turning all the hangers around in the closet. After wearing a piece, turn the hanger facing the other way when you put it back. You can see what has been worn the past year, and donate what hasn’t.
  • Stop buying multiples of the same item. (Stripes, Kate! Stripes.)
  • Or try to stop buying clothes for six months to a year and realize what you already have in your closet.

bathroom

Glamorous white master bathroom

Staying at my parents also taught me that I have way too many products. I did fine with the basic things I brought to their house. I didn’t need half of the things clogging my bathroom vanity.

Glamorous bathroom accessories and styling

Store pretty things like a set of brushes, a few pieces of jewelry, or perfume bottles out in the open and save cabinet cabinet space for the less attractive necessities. P.S. Here’s one way to shorten a lamp cord.

Bathroom drawer organization - makeup in bowls

Once I put the makeup I only wear on occasion in another container, it made it easier to organize and access my everyday makeup in one drawer.

Bathroom organization - hair straighteners

I got so sick of all the cords of my hair straighteners and curling irons tangling together that I ditched all but two of them and cleared out a drawer just for them. I separated them with a tray.

Bathroom under sink organization

After I used up and threw away products I didn’t use, everything fit easily under the sink.

Bathroom organization with small clear storage boxes

I sort of went crazy in my house with small, clear storage boxes from the dollar store. There are definitely more beautiful storage containers out there but I prefer these because I can see what’s inside without having to open them. Also, you can’t beat the price. These are things that I don’t use every day.

Here was how I sorted out my bathroom products:

  • Throw away all the older or expired bottles — perfume, makeup, masks, nail polish … That will get rid of more than you think!
  • Pull out makeup only used on occasion out of the drawer and put it in another container nearby. Then I can simplify my everyday makeup and see it easily.
  • Limit myself to 2 sets of shampoo and conditioner. And subsequently, only buy another set when one has run out.
  • Limit myself to 3 or 4 hair stylers — curling irons, hair straighteners, hairdryer, etc.
  • If I haven’t used anything left in the last 6 months, get rid of it.

See a full tour of my master bathroom (with before and after pictures) here.




linen closet

Bathroom shelves above toliet create extra storage

In our new house, I eliminated the linen closet in the master by turning it back into a man closet, so we got creative with storage and put shelves over the toilet. This left no room for the random towels or wash cloths that tend to linger in the linen closet. I don’t exactly want to look at that orange and brown floral towel from who knows where up there. All our towels had been around quite awhile, so they became “garage towels” and we started with a new set. (I’m also told you can donate unwanted towels to animal rescue shelters.)

  • Get rid of towels and wash cloths with stains or frayed edges.
  • Donate or make “garage towels” out of the few odd towels that don’t match the set.
  • For now, we will limit ourselves to six towels in the master bathroom and four in the guest bath. (That’s not counting beach towels.)
  • Pitch sheets that have started looking dingy or are no longer used.
  • Rotate the towels so the get the same wear and will eventually all be ready to replaced at the same time, keeping the set the same.
  • Limit ourselves to two or three old blankets for picnics or “tents” with the kids. Why do I keep them all?

home office

Ikea Micke desks in home office. Gray walls Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal

These Micke series desks from Ikea have decent storage, but not too much. It keeps us in check from too much clutter.

Home office drawer organizer

Drawer organizers work wonders with office supplies. This one is from Ikea.

Home office file folder organization in Ikea micke desk

Tackling the file cabinet might be the biggest office challenge. Label folders clearly and shred what is outdated.

Office space is something I think varies widely from house to house. I’ll just share what worked for us:

  • Get a file cabinet or drawer.
  • Assign the following folders: house, health insurance, cars, taxes, financial, each child, pets, manuals, receipts for purchases under warranty.
  • Go through every paper and toss what is no longer needed.
  • Whatever is left goes in the appropriate folder.
  • Create or update family folder with important numbers and documents: social security cards, birth certificates, titles, emergency contacts. (I put this in a separate place than the office area for safety.)
  • Take out items that don’t belong in the office area.
  • Throw away pens and markers that don’t work.
  • Store small office supplies (paper clips, Post-its, tape) in a drawer organizer.
  • Put like things in drawers (all paper is together, all dvds, cds).

For more on our home office/play room (including before and after pictures) go here.

Gift wrap and art station organization

I wish I had space in our office area for a gift wrap/art station, but I was able to set up shop in a corner of our garage.

Play area

Home office and playroom together with Ikea furniture

A family friend commented on how many toys our kids had a couple years ago. Slightly defensive, I explained that I buy nearly all of their toys at the consignment store for next to nothing. I remember his response exactly: “So it’s ok to spoil them as long as it’s cheap.”

Ooooh, that stung. But I wasn’t angry, because I knew he was right.

I don’t think I consciously linked that comment with minimizing our toys, but it was a turning point for me. Slowly over the last couple years, I’ve bought less and less, and edited more and more. I have found that the boys have more concentrated and creative play for longer periods of time with less toys. Maybe they aren’t as distracted or overwhelmed now that they have fewer toys? (I know I am!) 

Not only did I stop buying so many toys, but now I also sort and put certain toys in baskets on the high shelves in their closet — mainly the toys with lots of pieces like blocks, play food, and puzzles. And equally as important, we put all the pieces back as soon as they’re done playing. It took a little bit of training (for all of us), but it’s working so far. They seem to play with the sets or activity longer because it seems more special because it’s not out all the time.

After putting the kids to bed at night, I used to just leave all the toys out, scattered across the floor. Who had the energy for all that? But now that there significantly fewer toys, I’m more motivated to take a couple minutes to do it.

Ikea kallax shelf can go horizontal or vertical for toys and books

If you’re in a place you’d like to start cutting back on toys, here are the steps I started with:

  • Get rid of toys that don’t work or have missing pieces.
  • Donate toys your children are too old for instead of keeping them in the toy box mix.
  • Give away those toys that you thought they’d love, but just don’t get much attention.
  • Recycle the little cheap plastic toys brought home from a party or restaurant.
  • Sort the play sets with lots of pieces and store them out of reach so they don’t get scattered about.
  • Put concentrated effort into thinking about and limiting birthday and Christmas presents to special selections. (These are our favorites.)
  • Ask family members to buy tickets to the zoo or swim lessons or museum visit, etc. instead of more toys.
  • Don’t get mad when they buy them toys anyway :)

kids closets

Kids closet organization

The baskets on top and the shoebox-size storage boxes below help keep toys organized. We try to take one thing out at a time and put it back when they’re done.

Keep kids toys sorted up high and take them out one at a time

The bigger sets of toys are completely out of reach. These dollar store baskets have held up seriously well over the last couple years. I bought about a dozen of them and use them for all sorts of kids stuff.

Use clear dollar store containers to separate toys with lots of pieces

More smaller clear storage containers! When all the pieces were at the bottom of the toy box they boys didn’t play with them. After I took them out and separated them, they’re more interested.

When I started out as a mom, I packed the dresser and closet full of clothes for my first newborn. But after being overwhelmed by what still fit and what matched what, I scaled back. Way back. I was also a little disillusioned by the similarity in most boys clothing. Would you like blue and green stripes or blue and green plaid? If we had a girl, I’m sure it would be more of a struggle!

Here is how I organize our boys’ clothing:

  • To handle hand-me-downs from one son to another, keep clear bins in the garage with 2 sizes of clothing each.
  • Do not keep clothes that don’t fit them in the dresser. Once I realize a shirt is too snug, I place it in a basket I have off to the side in the closet, and then on occasion put it in the appropriate garage bin.
  • Only buy a limited number of tops and bottoms. Just to give you an idea, when my oldest pushes through to a new size, I buy him probably 12-14 shirts, 6-8 pairs of shorts, 3 or 4 pairs of pants, and 4-6 sweaters/long sleeve shirts. (Again, we live in Florida, so we can get away with less layering.) After a growth spurt, I hit our local consignment shop, and then maybe pick up another top or bottom off the sale rack as I’m out an about. But it’s not a constant thing I’m looking for. Once he has around this amount of clothing, I simply stop. When you buy most of it at once, you can also make sure it can all mix and match together.
  • Same with shoes. They usually have sneakers, crocs, sandals and something fun like a bright pair of Converse.
  • Laundry works differently for every home. Around here, I keep a basket for each of them and wash them once a week, keeping them separate. For me, this is easier to keep their things sorted. For my daily cleaning schedule, Go here.

 

And so …

My house still gets messy (a lot) and dishes still pile up around the sink (a lot), but now with half the stuff, it takes half the time to pick up and put away. It’s not as overwhelming. I’m determined to not let material things be the center of my life by allowing them to consume my time, attention, and space.

Here is a printable home organization checklist to help sum things up:

 Home organization and simplify printable checklist, room by room

Click image to download high-res version.
Sources: Canisters | Hanger | Box |Basket
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