Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ideas for a House of Order: Tidy and Functional

This morning it took me a full hour to do my dishes. Just to give you idea, I had to do the dishes in stages: fill dishwasher, wash Tupperware from the fridge, pots and pans and then everything else. I am really done doing dishes until...lunch. =) As I finished up the dishes, I know the best way to tackle dishes is after each meal, but it is so hard sometimes to keep up. I am re-committing today to do what I know will be easier in the long-run.

I have talked with my siblings lately about things that they deal with as they try to improve their home life and find better ways run their household. One the things that was a common denominator in their comments was trying to have a super functional space. Since then I have been thinking about what works and doesn't work for me at my house. Below I outline one way what I feel keeps my home tidy and functional.

The Entry and Exit

You might think that elves sneak things into your house in the night, but you, my friend, are the culprit. You have to decide what comes in and out of your house. Now, if you have young children, I totally understand. The rock, the stick, the worm or the "borrowed" toy really does sneak into the house sometimes, but if your entry and exit strategy is working, you will be aware of these things entering 95% of the time. The most organized people have an entry area that accommodates most of what comes into the house; think locker area or mud room. I don't have either, but I do have places for everything that comes in. These places are out of sight and keep the floors clear of clutter. You may have noticed that a couple of things on the floor suddenly give the whole family unspoken permission to leave things out. I am guilty! I am especially bad about this with my clothes in my room. I know that if I get lazy about putting my clothes away, it gets out of control really, really quick; this is how it works in any room usually. So, taking the time to put a few things away when you walk in the door will save you a lot of work later because your family will feel more accountable for keeping the spaces clean.

Make a Place for Common Daily Items

 Most of you have mail, flyers, purses, wallets, keys, grocery bags, or diaper bags. The list can go on, but this will jog your memory a bit and help you think about where each of these common, everyday items can go every time you walk in the door. Keep little fingers or paws in mind as you decide where to put things too.  Your entryways are also the first place that your guests see when they come in, so make it a clutter-free area with concealed storage areas. Your entry area might be hidden from the front entry, but you want to keep your entry area organized for function even if no one sees it. Some tricks to help you have a place for things is hooks, drawers and trays that keep things wrangled in a specific spot and still look nice. I love this Wood Garner Storage Cabinet from World Market. Look at all the places you could store things. Add some hooks above or beside and you have a super functional entry area. A vase of flowers, a lamp, some books and a favorite collectible and you make a big impression on your guests and a warm welcome for you every time you come into the door.

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Everything Else Goes to the Filtering Place: Junk Drawer Reimagined

Every house has a junk drawer; if it isn't a drawer, it is a basket, a closet, or in bad cases, a room. I am not convincing you to get rid of it, I am encouraging you to have a junk drawer that we will now call the "filtering" place. Traditional junk drawers always have the same junk in it and it just keeps growing. I am suggesting that you have a drawer that stores things only until you can put them in their place. Nothing is too random that it can't find a place. I know you may argue with me, but I can guarantee that if it is not in the garbage, donation or sell category, it needs a place. 

Now that those common items are put away, your hands may still be filled with something that doesn't have an immediate place. These items need to go into your filtering area. If you have time to deal with the items in this area right away, do it. If your kids are whining about being hungry and you have to get everyone fed before a soccer practice, then leave it there. This filtering area should not be something that is a focal point in the room. Keep it concealed from others, but don't make the area too big because then you will forget about it and let it pile up way too high. Tip: If the living room gets cluttered, I have my little ones take everything and put it on the sofa. Once everything is off the ground, we all help put everything away. The sofa acts as a filtering area for our mini-decluttering session. It is just a way of gathering and then dividing and conquering.

These baskets from World Market are an example of easy filtering areas that are portable, big enough and conceal the items in an aesthetically pleasing way.

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Empty Everyday or at Least Often!

Everyday you need to address the filter area. Your daughter brought a toy out to the van and you brought it in; later put it in the toy box. A friend left their water bottle at your house; put it in your purse so you can drop it off when you go out next. You didn't have time to put your athletic gear away last night, now you have time to put it away. Remember that this putting everything in its place from the filter area should not be just one person's job. Everyone should help to keep the area relatively empty. If the filter area becomes the "Mom, put this away for me" pile, you need to set some specific ground rules for the area with your family. Now, will this system work even if you only put away once or twice a week, yes! Depending on the size of your filtering area, you could go quite awhile. You will find a groove for how often it needs to be done. My desk area seems to get away from me often, but I can't go longer than two weeks before I can't find anything on it. You will know your limits and once you do, try to do it before it gets to that point. =)


To get really organized write down what things you consistently walk in and out with each day. Once you have those written down, check to make sure there is a place for those things. After that, create a filter area that you are comfortable with. An example at my house: I have three little girls who don't like to keep there clothes on. The second level of our three level home always seems to be scattered with clothes, so I have created a basket where the clothes go on the staircase so that when someone is walking up the stairs, they can take the clothes with them. We also have a laundry shoot on the first and second levels, so that makes it really nice for getting dirty clothes in the right place. Maybe at your house it is legos or puzzles. Whatever is driving you crazy, create a filtering place and a system that keeps it manageable for you and your family.

Another scenario is knick knacks that accumulate in the kitchen...a nail here, a small toy there. One of the best ways to wrangle the junk in is to have decorative baskets or bowls available to put those things in until you can put them away in the proper place. Again, create a filter place that is attractive to look at and can hold your stuff until you can get to it. I have three decorative bowls in a green color I love and there is always stuff rotating through them and in the meantime the bowls add color and beauty to the room.

Check out this mudroom. There are baskets, drawers, hooks, shelves, a cork board and it even looks light and beautiful to boot. This is the goal, my friends...function and beauty. Keep in mind though that all the photos you see are very deliberately styled and likely rarely look like this. Cut yourself a little slack and give yourself a high five if there is not stuff on the ground everywhere.

Now it is your turn to start being the boss of your stuff. Next post I will be addressing decluttering or cleansing, whatever you want to call. it. What systems help you keep your stuff from overtaking your spaces? Share in the comments!

Happy organizing and decorating!


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