Kids and Organizing – Oxymoron?

I’ve written about this before, but it’s a topic that warrants being a recurring theme….kids and organizing, organizing and kids. They go together like two peas in a pod, right? Or, more like fire and ice? Well, getting and staying organized with kids in the mix is not for the faint of heart. But, I’m here to tell you, it is definitely possible!

In certain times of life, this is definitely more challenging than others, so be easy on yourself, and be realistic. But…I want you to believe this is possible, and to be inspired to try one small step. Remember, organization is a set of skills and can be taught, just like anything else. It’s a long term investment, like any other behavior or habit we’re looking to instill in our kids.

Note: The below focuses primarily on ideas for getting kids to take responsibility for keeping their things picked up. It’s not expecting them to fold clothes perfectly or to develop organizational systems. Let’s keep it simple. Here we go…

1.You are in charge.

You’re overwhelmed by stuff. It’s taking over. How does all this accumulation happen? Well, lots of reasons. School generates paperwork, people give gifts, we buy things, and receive hand-me-downs. The list goes on and on. But, you know what? You are in charge! Your kids are not. You decide what stuff will be in your home, and the accompanying expectations for caring for said stuff. When you act out from that mindset of empowerment, you can take hold of the clutter and make a real difference.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Kids know the routines at school and can and do pick up. Sure, they may listen better to teachers than to their own parents, but at least it’s proof that it’s possible! Remember that when it’s hard and you’re sooo tired of asking for the 100th time. It may just be the 101st time when you’ll see a glimmer of progress;).

2. Make organization a routine.

playing with toys

Think about how to incorporate good organizational habits into your routines. If someone were to ask your kids what they do before bed, they’d likely have a response that closely resembles reality….we brush teeth, put pj’s on, read two stories – whatever your routine is.

You can tag onto these existing habits to incorporate new ones….like putting dirty clothes in a hamper and clearing the floor of their rooms. I recommend keeping it specific and simple. Instead of “Clean up this room before bed. It’s a mess!” Try, “Great job putting those clothes away. Do you remember that one other new thing we’re doing at bedtime? Yes! Clear the floor! So once you pick up this lego pile you’ll have more space to play tomorrow!” Consistency and follow through is key!

3. Link the desired behavior to something fun.

If you’re trying to instill a habit in your kids, such as picking up, there will naturally be more motivation if doing it is tied to the ability to do something fun afterwards. “Before screen time, let’s make sure those pj’s are put away.” Or, “Going to the park sounds fun! We’ll all be ready once the paper and crayons are picked up.” Again, consistency is key. And, allow plenty of time. That way, you’ll be able to wait until the kids pick up their things before heading out the door. When we feel rushed, the temptation is to either not enforce the rule or quickly do it ourselves.

kid painting

4. Give ownership.

Kids often take great pride in “owning” something that is their responsibility. Their rooms are a great place to reinforce this. Saturday morning could be clean their room time, in addition to tidying up daily. Giving kids some choice as to how they might display their prized shell collection, or the color of a throw pillow can give them the feeling that their space is reflective of who they are, and that it’s a privilege to maintain their space and keep it looking nice.

5. The how matters.

working together to organize

It’s tough for anyone to cheerfully do something if they’re being nagged to do it. If the kids pick up on our negative tone, they can associate the thing we’re asking them to do with negativity, and can start being defensive or argumentative. Yes, the reality might be that we ARE frustrated. After all, we have asked 21,907 times to pick up their ______ (fill in the blank). But, there will be payoffs! It’s so hard, but trying our best to stay even keeled with our ask, then following through, will yield a better outcome.

6. Make it easy on them.

When you’re organizing, think about the way your kids interact with their spaces. Do your kids like to read in their bedrooms? Provide a place to keep books there. Are your kids young? Adjust shelves to be reachable, or install a low hanging rod in their closets. Label bins and use pictures for non readers. Make it easy for them, and they, in turn, will be more likely to make it easy for you.

Organization doesn’t fall on just one person. One person may take the initiative, but success will be greatest when everyone shares in the responsibility – including the kids. They have a natural desire to be helpful, and when we honor that and see their true nature, it’s a blessing for everyone.

Organization – Making it Stick

When you imagine your ideal state of organization, do you picture one blissful day, followed by a slow decline to a state of chaos? Or, do you desire a set of systems that stand the test of time? True – organization isn’t a one time activity, as it takes daily attention, intention, and commitment to a new set of habits. And, it’s certainly normal (and smart) to make adjustments and tweak systems. But, it is also possible to maintain a general level of organization for the long haul. Let’s take a look at how to make it stick.

1. Commit to picking up.

There’s 2 rather obvious pieces to this, and I point them out not to be obnoxious, but to invite you to think about this for a minute. There’s 1. commitment, and 2. the act of picking up. Our days consist of using the things we own…playing with toys, preparing food, wearing clothes – you get the idea. And, the partner activity to using is picking up/cleaning up/putting away after the use. Put the toys back where they belong, clean up the kitchen, put the laundry piles away, etc.

If we want to maintain organization, we need the commitment (via a habit, eventually, and initially, the awareness of a lack of this habit) and the act of following through on that commitment. Why is this hard? Well, picking up isn’t as fun as the “use” part. And, we tend to move quickly from one thing to the next – multi tasking and being pulled in many different directions, making timely follow through challenging. Also, we may live with other humans, who may not have a habit of picking up. Thus the compounding ensues. The remainder of the below list addresses these…

list to organize

2. Everyone does their part.

What does doing “their part” mean? Well, this is partly age dependent. But, even someone as young as 1 or 2 can participate – by carrying an item of clothing into a laundry basket. Yes, of course, you can do it faster. Yes, of course it will take loads of patience. But, it will be worth it in the long run!

If kids are creating most of the messes, that’s ok! They’re kids! BUT…they can clean up. If they know they can’t move on to the next fun thing until the previous fun thing is cleaned up, they will do it! This is going to take some strong expectation setting and repeated reminders, consistency and follow through. But, I always say, if they can do it at school, they can do it at home!

teamwork sign so everyone organizes

3. Regulate what is in your home.

Not just regulate, but be vigilant and intentional. If something comes in, something goes out. Any other scenario will, mathematically, result in accumulation – more to find a home for, to pick up, to clean, maintain. You get the picture. This isn’t to say you should never get something new. Just be intentional, so that what comes in is something you really want, will use, and that you have room for.

4. Let your systems work for you.

When you allocated 1 shelf to your paper goods purchases, that worked great for awhile. But, then you saw some on sale and bought out the store. The problem is you already had a full shelf, so you have nowhere to put the new purchases, and your system is no longer working for you. You overtaxed the system, so it can’t do its job. So, either permanently allocate more than 1 shelf to paper goods or don’t purchase something until you have room for it.

Let the system act as your trigger for when you need to purchase more. That’s largely why I’m such a big fan of visibility and clear containers, particularly in the kitchen. When we see what we have, we know when we’re running and low and can add that item to the grocery list.

5. Make adjustments.

Your home is dynamic – things come in and go out, people use things, seasons, needs, and preferences change. So, adjust those organizational systems accordingly. If you thought decanting snacks sounded like a good idea a couple months ago, but realistically, you’re just not committed to the upkeep after every grocery run, adjust! Get a big basket, label it snacks, then put those chips and cracker packages right in there! It will still look nice, but it will be a better fit for you and your family.

6. Employ daily habits.

organizing laundry

It’s so much easier to stay organized with little bits of time here and there throughout the day to stay on top of things. Examples include handling mail daily, picking up the kitchen before bed, having kids pick up toys regularly, putting laundry away, and relocating items from room to room as you move throughout your house.

7. Ask for help.

I have multiple clients who are repeat clients. That doesn’t mean the initial visits failed. It just means things get out of sorts after awhile, and need to be reset periodically. That flexibility in systems (#5 above) plays in, as categories get added and subtracted, labels get adjusted, and things get overall tweaked. It’s a great step to demonstrate commitment to maintaining organization for the long haul. And, that’s the goal, after all!

31 Ways To Be More Organized

Being organized is absolutely something you can learn. It is a set of skills and habits, and can be improved upon with some intentionality in this space. Organization may come more naturally to some people than others. But, there are small and attainable habits and mindsets that anyone can incorporate that will really make a difference in helping you to be more organized.

The below list is pragmatic and focused on efficiency. I mean, who doesn’t want to free up more time in their day?! Some of these will resonate more than others. These aren’t value statements, meaning there’s no judgment if you do none or all of these things. And most people have areas that come more easily to them, and others they’re working on. I sure do! Now, let’s get started!

  1. Purge photos from your phone daily
  2. Plan meals
  3. Write things down
  4. Make your bed
  5. Have routines
  6. Remove trash from your car daily
  7. Tidy kitchen before bed
  8. Handle mail daily
  9. Keep a spot for donations and bring them in regularly
  10. Keep a grocery list
  11. Put things away after using them
  12. Purge clutter regularly
  13. Have a place for everything
  14. Give the kids chores
  15. Pick up after an activity before starting the next
  16. Clean your purse
  17. Go through coupons – purge expired, use soon to expire
  18. Have and use a family calendar
  19. Clean your inbox daily
  20. Minimize distractions/stay on task
  21. Know when to delegate and ask for help
  22. Finish what you start
  23. Minimize multi tasking
  24. Make a decision and then move on
  25. Manage not only time, but energy levels, and schedule work accordingly
  26. Break large tasks into smaller ones
  27. Set priorities
  28. Strategize errands for efficiency
  29. Do mini pick-ups/resets throughout the day
  30. Plan ahead & anticipate what’s coming (next week/next month, etc.)
  31. Keep perspective – tomorrow is a new day and you can get right back on track

Decluttering – Why Does it Matter?

Decluttering….it’s a common goal, especially this time of the year. We may have had an influx of gifts over the holidays, the kids were home, structure was, well, nonexistent, and the house can easily slip. As much as we feel that pull to get on top of the clutter, sometimes it’s not lasting. Or, we swing between being on top of it – for 2 seconds – then getting out of control again. What are the reasons to declutter?

If a decluttered state is what you’re after for the long term – if you want that to be the rule, instead of the brief exception, it’s worth exploring why you want to declutter in the first place. Your why may be different than mine, and it’s important to personalize the reasons so they really resonate with you. Why? Because then, you’re more likely to stay motivated for the long haul. Here are some common benefits to decluttering. See if any of these ring true for you, or if you’d add to or modify the list. 6 reasons to declutter:

1. Stress less

reasons to declutter = less stress!

When your environment is cluttered, your mind can easily become cluttered, too. What does this look like? What does it feel like? An inability to see past the clutter to focus on other things. Easily frazzled and behind the ball. Irritable, unproductive, overwhelmed, frustrated you can’t find what you need, even ashamed.

On the flip slide, when your space is pared down to what you use and love, you notice and appreciate those things more (and the people in your space). You have more time and energy to focus on what really matters to you. There’s space to breathe.

2. Save $

When you declutter, you become more aware of what you have. And, when you know what you have, you won’t buy more of it.

You’ll likely also find that you want less. You’re content with less. So, the allure of buying the new thing starts to fade.

And, lastly, when you declutter items in good condition – that you no longer use or need, you can sell them, and put that $ toward something meaningful.

3. Entertain with freedom

Clutter doesn’t need to be accompanied by a hesitancy to have people over due to the state of your home. But sometimes that’s the case. I’ve heard clients share that they’re embarrassed to entertain, so they don’t. Their ability to connect with others, share a meal with loved ones, is being stolen due to their stuff! Their stuff and the power it is exercising is robbing them of living freely! If that’s you, you can take that power back!

If it feels overwhelming at first, here are some suggestions on where and how to start digging out. It’s so worth it.

reasons to declutter = entertain without embarrassment!

4. Find hidden treasure

Things you thought were lost or forgot you had unearth themselves. You’ll find toys that will feel brand new to the kids, “new” pieces to add to your wardrobe, or that long lost item you’ve been searching for.

5. Maintain more easily

This is one of the BEST reasons to declutter! Decluttering (not just picking up and temporarily sorting and organizing excess, but truly paring down) is a great way to set yourself up for a long term decluttered state! More than a fancy organizing system, more than products and gadgets, or throwing money at it. Paring down means there is less to purchase, fix, maintain, clean, and keep track of. There’s no magic wand of maintenance (daily habits are key), but the initial heavy lifting of decluttering is the bulk of the work.

6. Reclaim your time

Where do the days go? How can we get everything done? Always so much to do, and it’s easy to feel that our time is not our own. There is absolutely a link between being decluttered and having more time to spend how we want to spend it.

It’s easy to find reasons for our clutter and forget our reasons to declutter. “This was from my great Aunt Marge. I have to keep it.” “Everyone gives the kids so many gifts.” “Noone picks up their stuff!” I’m sure you could add to this list. And, we don’t want to minimize these challenges. But, we also don’t want to give them more power than is there’s to claim. And, we don’t want them to get in the way of our goals. Who’s in charge of your home? Do you have the ability to make positive change? To say what stays and what goes? Yes, of course you do! Baby steps. It’s well worth the effort, especially when you find (and remember) YOUR why.

Lost Sock Syndrome

No, no, lost sock syndrome isn’t a real term. It’s not a thing. I made it up. But, stick with me. Do you have a bunch of lost/mismatched/singleton socks that you keep…..just in case…just in case you find their mates? How long do you keep them? Indefinitely?

Now I’m not promoting wastefulness or hastiness. Anyone who keeps a single sock for months or even years awaiting its mate must have the patience of a saint and the optimistic disposition of Pollyanna. But, truly, it’s ok to let the sock (or insert whatever it is that you hold onto) go.

Most of the time, our “socks” just take up space and add weight to us. But, that doesn’t mean we need to toss them out in every instance. Here are some guidelines that can help to know whether to hold onto something or not:

Item Size

Practically speaking, the more space an item takes up, the less likely I’d be to hold onto it. It’s just not worth the prime real estate in your physical and mental space.

Likelihood of use

In the sock example, unless a certain scenario happens (finding a mate), it is very unlikely you’ll use the sock again. Be realistic here. Hint: Using a word such as “maybe” is a red flag. “Maybe I’ll lose 30 pounds someday and will fit in these pants again”. OR “Maybe we’ll buy a light fixture down the road that would take this particular type of light bulb, so I’ll hold onto it”. If the realistic likelihood of use in the next year is low, let it go.

let it go in blocks


Hanging onto a $1 baby sock holding out hope for the other one? Even if the cost is higher than that, it’s a sunk cost. Hanging onto something won’t change that fact.

Outside Perspective

Run your scenario by a trusted person who has no vested interest whether something stays or goes. Ask for their perspective regarding whether your reason (or justification) for keeping a just in case item makes any sense. Of course, you make the final call. If you’re emotionally attached to your “sock”, it’s ok. Noone should guilt you into getting rid of something. But, we only have so much room in our homes (and accompanying mental space) for such things. You may be surprised by the freedom that comes with releasing them. Give it a try!

13 Key Questions to Ask an Organizer

Even though the discipline has been around for awhile, professional organizing may be new to you. If you’ve ever considered hiring an organizer, there are some important questions to ask. Any time you’re making an investment and hiring a pro, you want to ensure you’ve found a good match. See below for questions to ask an organizer, along with explanations. If you want the Cliffs Notes version of questions only sent directly to you, provide your email here:

1. Do you have a website?

It’s not necessarily a red flag if someone doesn’t have a website. They can still have a legitimate business. But, on the other hand, a professional website does indicate the organizer is treating organizing seriously, and likely has references to share. Most importantly, a website allows potential clients to see examples of their work, and learn about services offered, process, and pricing.

website screenshot

2. Do you have examples of your work?

An organizer should be able to show pictures of what they’ve done. This helps you to get a sense of their style and quality of work.

3. Do I need to be involved in the organizing?

This is great to know so childcare can be arranged, if needed, and sessions can be scheduled for a time when you are available. My answer to this question is…it depends. For areas such as pantries, I work independently. For areas that require decluttering and editing down, those are decisions clients need to make. So, a client and organizer often work together.

4. How long will the process take?

Many organizers provide an hourly rate, and hours accrue until the space is completed. An organizer may provide you with a range of hours so you can get a sense of the scope. Ask if there is a minimum number of hours.

5. How much will this cost?

There are several factors that affect how long organizing can take, which makes it unusual for organizers to offer traditional quotes. And, it’s not done with the wave of a magic wand, despite what organizing reality shows portray…there’s a process! The more an organizer can understand your goals and spaces, the better they’ll be able to give you an estimate of cost. Ask if there are any volume price breaks or other discounts/promos.

6. Do you offer complimentary consultations?

This is an opportunity for the organizer to see your space and understand your goals. Not everyone offers this, but some do, so it’s worth asking!

7. How is payment handled?


Some organizers ask for pre-payment to cover any out of pocket expenses such as product.

8. Should I clean up before you arrive?

Most organizers will prefer to see your spaces in their “usual” states. But, on a related note, when a client tackles some decluttering prior to a session, they can save some money, as it leaves less for the organizer to do.

9. Will you share my name/pics of my home?

My work is confidential, and photos only shared with client permission.

keys to your home

10. Will I need to get rid of things?

Organizers can offer an outside perspective, but it would be a red flag if anyone pressures you or requires you to part with something that you’re not on board with!

11. Will you help with donation removal?

Included in their rate, organizers often load up their car to bring donations to a center.

12. What is your process the day of an organizing session?

Since organizing is a new concept to a lot of people, it’s important for an organizer to partner with their clients and let them know what to expect.

13. Should I purchase products/containers ahead of time?

Organizers all handle product differently, and could potentially use what you have or shop for you.

file folders in drawer

Watch outs:

There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to many of the above. But, these answers will give an indication of whether that organizer is a good fit for you. After all, they’ll be in your home, handling your personal items, and trust and rapport are very important.

Trust your gut. If an organizer is rushing through these questions or pressuring you to schedule or pay, try someone else. There will be someone out there for you. Many organizers also offer virtual sessions, so even if they’re not in your area, you can benefit from their expertise.

Find Your Floor

Find your floor…it’s an expression we organizers use when the clutter has been cleared, and the floor (or, more generally speaking, the surface) has been “found”. It has been cleared such that the counter, dresser top, desk, floor, etc. has been revealed, in all its glory. Here are some helpful tips on how to find your floor:

1. Notice

You may have pesky horizontal surfaces covered with clutter that you may not even notice anymore. They’ve just become that place that houses the mail piles or the random items. Look around your home with fresh eyes to notice where the clutter accumulates and what surfaces are waiting to be revealed.

2. Clear everything

Clutter is a magnet for other clutter. We see a pile of stuff and think “Well, all this other stuff is already here, I’ll just add to it”. Start by clearing everything off. Then, really comb through it. What types of items end up cluttering your surfaces? See what can be discarded first. Then, proceed to find homes for everything…somewhere besides the surface they were cluttering.

3. Employ systems

An organizational system is simply a habit, tool, or process that is repeated and helps to bring/maintain order and consistency.

Does your desktop need bins to contain paperwork? That would help you find your floor. One that’s labeled “To Do” and one that’s labeled “To File” is a good start.

Another good system is a place to hang backpacks, accompanied by a habit of the kids putting their backpacks there after school. Often, the simpler the system, the better. It helps ensure longevity.

4. Make it easy on yourself


Finding a home for clutter is a great first step. Another recommended step to aid you in the long term adoption of a new habit (putting things away in their new home) is to physically block yourself from clutter accumulation. That countertop that collected random papers? Treat it as an opportunity to find a decor piece or plant to occupy that space instead. Acknowledge the new purpose. “This is a countertop where this tray and vase stays. The papers get thrown away or filed in the office”.

The clothes that end up on the floor? Get a conveniently placed hamper where you’ll put the clothes instead.

laundry basket

5. Contain

Containers are key! Stuffed animals can go in a large basket instead of the floor. They’ll still be accessible, but they’ll be contained, freeing up floor space for play and room to walk. What other categories of items do you have that warrant their own container? Papers, legos, balls, stuffed animals, and tech are common ones.

6. Adopt a Do it Now Mindset

Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? Will your tomorrow really have more time just waiting to be filled with putting away…yesterday’s…stuff? Is there a really a better time to handle something than the present?

This do it now mindset, combined with the action of following through, can go a long way. Before leaving a room, glance around to see what needs to be relocated. You’re heading out anyway, so might as well grab the empty coffee mug and return it to the kitchen. When you’re heading up the stairs, bring the laundry with you. These things take no extra time, money, or effort, only a do it now mindset. So, do it now…find your floor!

Simplifying Consumption

Holiday gifts, black Friday, cyber Monday, feasts….it’s the time of year when consumption of all kinds is easy to partake in, often in excess. It’s a time when budgets can be blown and organizational systems can be tested to the max. Of course it’s fine to live a little, yet it’s also helpful to do so while remaining mindful of our consumption and how to keep it simple.

Consuming Media

We are barraged particularly hard this time of year. The lure of a sale, the negativity of politics and divisiveness, the mindless habitual act of picking up a screen to zone out, numb, or distract…none of this is particularly healthy. It may be a good time to put in place some parameters. For example, keeping the phone in the kitchen after 9pm. Or, putting it away when you’re with the kids after school. It’s not for the purpose of enforcing a “rule” on a grown human (yourself). It’s to alter a habit by removing the physical trigger. Try it and see what you discover.

social media sign

I highly recommend the film The Social Dilemma, which explores the consequences of our growing dependence on social media. It’s good food for thought.

You can also simplify by reducing your choices. Go through your apps to delete what you no longer use or need.

Purchasing Local

There are so many fantastic local businesses to support, many of whom may be struggling during the pandemic. It’s all too easy to press a couple buttons on amazon and have something delivered the next day. And, I do my fair share, for sure. But, it’s also great to discover and support local by purchasing a gift or a gift card.

shopper image

Gifting With Intention

Experience gifts are great! Or, keep it simple with a theme for your family, such as homemade gifts or games or books. Other ideas to simplify include drawing names or agreeing on a monetary limit for your purchases. 

It’s all too easy to let gifting for the kids get crazy. Sometimes we, as parents/adults, need to reconcile in our own heads that less is ok, and that we don’t need to worry or feel guilty about disappointing little Sally by not buying everything on her list. A hope of getting all the things does not need to be indulged. You’re the parent and get to decide. What is memorable and meaningful in the long term? Memories are not typically created by playing with plastic stuff. Let intentionality and the true spirit of giving/gifting guide you.

Maintaining Perspective

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t write content driven posts such as this because I’m an expert or have mastered these things. I write them because they’re things I think about, or struggle with, and assume others may be as well. And, to encourage independent thought and action. It’s ok to be different, to be “the only” family that operates the way that feels right to you, without giving into group think mentality or “everybody has this app or plays this game or buys this phone”. I doubt that any of us will ever regret not buying that thing or putting our phones down and being present. It’s an invitation….for intentionality and presence over presents.

6 Reasons You Haven’t Decluttered

I can attest to the fact that people do, indeed, pay other people to declutter and organize. Why would they do this? Lots of reasons! Sometimes people simply need an accountability partner, a cheerleader to work side to side with them while they tackle their stuff, in the hopes of getting a sense of order in their home and life.

Regardless of the reason, hats off to people who are reaching out for support in this process. It’s not easy! I love to help people with this journey! Yet, even more than that, I want to equip and empower people to take hold of their clutter, habits, and space so that they can maintain it moving forward. Here are 6 reasons people aren’t decluttering, and how to cut through these mental stumbling blocks so lasting progress can be made.

1. It takes too much time.


As with most worthwhile things in life, decluttering does take time. We’re stretched for time, as it is, keeping kids fed and the wheels somewhat on the bus. I get it. And, I don’t want to make light of these reasons. However…I promise you, making a commitment to declutter is the single most impactful step you can take when organizing. If you didn’t “organize” anything, but you did pare down, that would be progress.

When you’re in a decluttered state, you’re in maintenance mode – a great place to be. A place that does NOT take much time. It takes regularity, but (this bears repeating because I’m sensing you didn’t believe me the first time!), it really does NOT take much time. Make it a priority to do a little every day and you’ll be amazed how far you get. More on this in point #4.

2. It will just get messy again anyway.

Yep, kids, spouse, us!, (fill in the blank) can be messy. But, remember, we’re talking about decluttering – the act of removing the things that are being messed up! So there is LESS to mess up, LESS choices to overwhelm people, LESS to not put away, so you, in turn, have LESS to stress about.

And, even at a very young age, kids can learn where things go, and can learn to put something away before something else comes out.

3. It’s hard…

Decluttering takes time and physical effort. But, even “harder” is that it often entails making decisions about things that are sentimental in nature. It’s easier to leave the pile of inherited china and knick knacks in a box in a storage room. But, that’s no reason to not get after it! It’s so worth it to dive into our clutter, and determine what is special enough to keep, and what can be donated or sold, while tucking the memory away.

4. I don’t know where to start.

which way to start?

This sentiment often includes the prefix “there’s just so much”….thus “I don’t know where to start”. I wrote a blog post with tips on where and how to start. Short answer: It doesn’t matter where. And, start small – one corner, one drawer does the trick.

5. I paid good money for that!

money growing on trees

The money has been spent. It is a sunk cost. Holding on to an item will not un-sink the money that was spent. There is no need to feel guilty over spending money on something that you no longer want to keep. It just doesn’t help. And, maybe you can recoup some money (and bless someone else) by re-selling it. You definitely won’t recoup anything keeping it stashed away. No time is better than the present to let it go.

6. What if I need it again?

Over the years, I have decluttered hundreds and hundreds (probably more!) of my personal items. I can count on 1 or 2 fingers the items I wished I held onto. And, in the grand scheme of things, they were nothing important, and easily replaceable.

The objective isn’t to be carelessly tossing things away, filling up landfills. There are usually ways to recycle, repurpose, and share things with others. But, for awhile, until you’re in a decluttered state, I do encourage you to do what it takes to get to a point where: 1. you use what you have, 2. you can fit what you have. It is a freeing and peaceful place to be. And, you can do it!

Top 5 Master Closet Tips to Implement Today

*Disclosure: Links included in this post are amazon affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

What’s the state of your master closet? Overflowing? Hard to find what you’re looking for? Perhaps you’re a bit unsure what’s lurking in there? Or, maybe you’re in pretty good shape, but just looking to make some minor tweaks. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Here are 5 master closet tips to improve the state of your closet today.

Why today? Because these things don’t involve construction, purchases, or hours of work. These are quick fixes that will make a big impact. If you only have a few minutes, just check off a few of these items, then move on to the rest another time.

1. Remove anything broken

Let’s intentionally start with this low hanging fruit. I use the term broken loosely, so you likely have more than you think in this category. Belt leather cracked? White shirts looking dingy? Cap on your high heels worn through? Those white shirts may have been your favorites, but they don’t last forever. It’s ok to move them along. You’ll allow the remaining clothes more breathing room, and open space for new favorites to emerge.

2. Purge

Set a goal. Make it lofty. Hit your goal, then set a new one. Get rid of 20 things. 40 things. I find it helpful to do this in a couple sittings. You can do a first pass through and you may think you’ve found all that you can, but then you’ll come back the next day and that momentum will build. You’ll find that you can dig deeper. Let questions such as this guide you…Does it fit? Do I wear it? Do I like it? Would I buy it again?

3. Get matching hangers

If you did nothing else but this, you will 100% be making a noticeable difference. This consistency is visually calming, and a good hanger is beneficial to the life of your clothes, too. Out with the wire hangers!

4. Contain loose items

Loose items tend to look cluttered. Try containing scarves or belts in a cute basket or a drawer. Look for commonalities between your items, so they can be grouped and contained together. Some common categories that may be in a master include: towels, sheets, accessories, hats, belts, or swimwear. Question whether other random one-off things that you encounter belong in your master closet, or whether they would be better off in another area of your home.

5. Be intentional

If you have a large master closet and want to keep other household categories such as linens, off-season clothing, files, etc. in there, great! Just be intentional so that the space doesn’t become a catch-all of miscellany.

I hope these master closet tips are helpful for you. As always, the point is not to create a space of perfection, nor should the purging make you feel deprived. On the contrary, when the number of items being stored fits nicely within the space you have, it will bring a sense of calm to your environment. And, I bet you won’t miss those dingy white shirts.

Garage Organization

*Disclosure: Links included in this post are amazon affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Garages can fall to the bottom of the list as far as organizing priorities. Because, let’s face it – organizing garages can be dirty, hot, unglamorous work. But, the reward is worth it! It would be great to be able to park a vehicle in the garage, eh…? Organizing your garage is a really helpful thing to get done before cold weather hits, too. Here are some ideas on how to get that garage in tip top shape.

1. Take everything out.

The process of organizing a garage is no different than it is for any other area of the home. Taking everything out is the first step. It lets you see what you have and allows you to entertain some fresh thinking about the space you have and what belongs where. During this step, the state of the garage will get worse before it gets better, but hang in there. There will soon be order to all those piles.


2. Declutter.

Garages are notorious for being the catch-all dumping ground. If you don’t want something inside, but aren’t ready to decide where it belongs or if you need/want it, where does it go? The garage! So, spend some good time here getting rid of what you no longer need. If your kids are too old for ride on toys, you can donate them! Broken hose nozzles, unused lumber, tires, outgrown sports equipment, flower pots, and duplicate tools can all be sold, donated or tossed.

3. Create zones.

Like goes with like. What are the categories of like items that you’d like to store in your garage? Some common ones include yard, pest control, auto, and sports equipment.

Here’s an example of a cabinet that contains zones for auto, yard, pests, general cleaning, and misc. (Labels were later added). Containers would be another option for keeping these categories separated.

cabinet organization in garage

4. Use track systems.

We did this a couple years ago and I wish we did it sooner! We have two tracks in a row that accommodate two baskets. It’s enough for all the basketballs, volleyballs, and other random sports equipment. It’s hung low enough that everyone can reach it, which is perfect for enabling everyone in the family to participate in keeping the space picked up and maintained.

5. Get things off the floor.

Luckily, garages often have ample wall space to hang racks such as the below. They’re perfect for getting things like rakes and shovels off the floor. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Amazon are all good resources for finding hanging units. Many systems are quite flexible and can even accommodate things like chair and strollers.

Another staple garage item is a sturdy clear Rubbermaid (or similar) tote with lid in a large 56 or 66 qt. size. You can pick these up at Meijer or Target. Make sure you use the lid to allow stacking of bins and keep things dust free.

Sturdy shelving is another great basic that helps to get thigns off the floor. There are plenty of options. Here’s one from Amazon.

Love Your Linen Closet

“Love”? A little strong? Perhaps. But, opening up and peering into a decluttered and organized linen closet CAN conjure up all the happy feels. A little slice of peace and calm. Here’s how to get there…

lovely linen closet

1. Remove

Yep, just like you would in a pantry or other space, everything needs to come out first. You may discover duplicates, stained items, and things that don’t belong.

2. Purge

How many old or mismatched sets of sheets do you have? You shouldn’t need any more than 1 extra set per bed. Or, you could even get away with one set. Wash them, then put them right back on your bed. What else do you have that is unused or excess? Old quilts or comforters? How many pillows do you have vs. need? Some of these things take up lots of space, so be sure there’s a purpose for what you own and that everything gets used.

Determine what belongs in the linen closet. Be deliberate. If you have the space and it’s convenient for you to keep extra bath and personal care products here, then by all means, do so if that works for you. If not, find them a better home.

3. Contain

love your linens

Containing like items in the linen closet helps you to find what you need quickly, and prevents piles from toppling over. Not a fitted sheet folding expert? Neither am I! Put it in a bin and call it a day! You can absolutely have an organized linen closet without perfect or fussy folding.

There are lots of great containers that will work well. Just choose what you like, taking note of dimensions to be sure these sometimes narrow shelves can accommodate your selection.

4. Label

You knew that was coming, didn’t you? Unlabeled containers have a tendency to become catch-alls in the absence of labels that defines what the space is allocated for. Chalkboard labels are great for smooth surfaced containers and bin clip labels are helpful for basket materials.

Three Final Tips:

  1. Keep bulky or seldom used items on the top shelf.
  2. Be wary of “Excess Bath Towels Syndrome”. Extras that are looking a little worse for wear can be downgraded to cleaning towels.
  3. If you don’t have a linen closet, determine where to store things based on proximity to where they’re used. Towels could go in a bathroom cupboard, and an extra set of sheets could go in an under the bed storage box.

How to Organize Toys – Q&A

*Disclosure: Links included in this post are amazon affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Parents of young kiddos will likely attest that toy organization can be one of the most challenging things to stay on top of. Toys seem to multiply! And, despite our best efforts, we can start the day with a picked up home and by 9am it’s like a tornado hit. So, what’s the best way to organize toys? And to stay on top of the clutter? Check out these Q&A’s:

Q: Thoughts on toy boxes?

A: I’m not a huge fan. Yes, it’s possible to use containers to create some definition within them, but it’s all too common to dump and pile things into the deep abyss of the toy box. Things get lost, buried, and there’s no rhyme or reason to what goes where. There are other organizers I would recommend instead. See below.

Q: Favorite product for toy organization?

A: I love the cube unit furniture pieces. They’re flexible (display them vertically or horizontally) and you get just the configuration you need – 3, 6, or 9 cubes, etc). I also like that they’re relatively low so kids can reach everything on their own. Put a pull out fabric or wood bin inside each section, label it with pictures and/or words – whatever is age appropriate -and you’re good to go. Kids can take the individual bins out, bring them to another room to play, if needed, then easily put them back.

Amazon version pictured below. I like the Target ones a lot, too.

Shoebox sized clear plastic bins with lids also come in handy for corralling little parts and pieces:

Q: Where should toys be kept?

A: 1. Wherever there is room for them.

2. Wherever the kids tend to play.

3. Where the kids can reach.

This sounds almost too simple. But, often, we keep things out of our kids’ reach, so they’re dependent on us (or scaling the shelves) to get the toys out.

organize toys such as these balls

Or, we get after our kids for not picking up their rooms, when in reality, there is no designated or available place for their toys – no book shelves, laundry baskets, stuffed animal home, etc.

Try this quick exercise. Get down to your kids’ level, step back (physically and mentally) from the space, and do a quick survey. If it’s cluttered, what does the clutter consist of? Are storage locations within reach? Does everything have a designated home? You may be surprised what you notice. Only then can you address what needs to be modified and improved.

Q: What about book storage?

A. Have enough shelves to accommodate your stash of books. Another way to look at that is to only have the number of books that you have space to accommodate.

Cube bins like the ones that fit the furniture image above are helpful for paperback books, in particular. Those books can be thin, flimsy, and they don’t stack or support themselves well on a shelf. Nothing wrong with tossing them in a bin. They’re contained, out of sight, and your kids can maintain this system. Bonus!

I like to keep books mostly in the kids’ bedrooms, with a couple in the car to have on hand for road trips and just running around town.

Q: It seems so hard to keep on top of the toy clutter. How do I do it?

1. Purge.

Accumulation happens – especially with toys, so purge, purge, purge! And do this regularly. Kids outgrow toys so quickly, so just like you move them up to the next size of clothing and donate/sell the smaller sizes, regularly go through toys and donate what has been outgrown.

2. Buy less.

It’s ok to question whether your kid really needs the latest greatest thing – and to say no. One way to gauge how much of a priority a potential new toy is for your child is to have them do chores to work for it. If they’re not interested, maybe it really wasn’t all that important to them.

organize legos by having a home for them

3. Rotate toys.

Another strategy to keep toy clutter at bay is to implement a toy rotation system. Stow some away, then bring them out and, in turn, stow away some others. The toys that are being brought out will feel like “new” toys! Your kids may have even forgotten you had them. Advantages: fewer toys are out and needing to be put away, less visual clutter, and less overwhelm for the kids with so many choices.

4. Find the tried and true.

At ages 12 and 8, my kids don’t have many toys anymore. However, we have held on to a couple things that seem to stand the test of time: legos and marble works (configurable tracks for marbles to follow). They’re great for all ages, and enable us to have fewer other toys – knowing the longevity of these toys. What are your tried and true?

organize toys such as these legos in shoebox bins

5. Involve the kids.

Kids of all ages can be responsible for their own things. When we have 1 child, it feels manageable for us to be the keeper of the things and the picker uppers. Then, we have more kids and/or life gets busy, and we continue the habit of picking up after our kids – but this time with increasing frustration and stress – because we have other things to do, and darnit, it’s not our stuff to handle! And, our kids are old enough to do it themselves – but they may be resistant.

YES – of course it can be frustrating to teach, explain, and ask again and again for things to be picked up. And, yes, it can literally take years for things to stick. And, they may not do it “right”. Or how you do it. But, they are learning. After all, this is the long game, right? You WILL see the fruits of your patience and persistence down the road. And, your kids WILL be better for it – as they get accustomed to taking responsibility for their things.

Here are 2 potential starting points: 1. Putting dirty clothes where they belong at the end of the day, and 2. Putting things away before getting out something new. Then, build from there.

This toy stuff is totally doable! Let’s remember the purpose of toys…they’re fun! And, they can be educational, can encourage creativity, problem solving, and cooperation. The list goes on and on. These are all great things worthy of supporting. With some habits and systems in place, we can help to keep the stress surrounding this topic at bay, and can enjoy toys for the simple pleasures for which they were intended.