Sometimes I organize a space. And then I reorganize it again and again trying to make it function better.
But sometimes I organize a space and I get it right the first time and it stays organized for years with little to no maintenance – which was the case for my spices. After the remodel, when we were pulling our kitchen from boxes, I had to smile as I placed the spices back in a drawer (right next to the stove). It was like this in our old kitchen and it was easy to replicate that in our new space. I know where everything is and spices never get lost in the deep abyss of the cupboard.
I bought uniform jars from Penzey’s spices and used my label maker to put labels on the top of the jars. I keep all the bulk spices in another drawer and refill when necessary. (The other side of this drawer has the same jars in a smaller size for less used spices – spices that I don’t have a bulk container of and chances are it will be years before I go through the small bottle.)
My spices have been organized like this for over 10 years and I haven’t had to make adjustments. Makes me wish I could nail it the first time on all my other organizing projects!
I want to tell you about a little journey I’ve been on…
Over a year and a half ago, we found out that our last and final baby would be a boy. With great sadness and in an emotional pregnant state, I climbed the ladder to our attic and looked over 12 pink Rubbermaid bins of girls clothing. Clothing that I held on to in hopes of using it again one day – all of which I could now get rid of. Part of me wanted to donate it sight unseen. But the more rational side of me wanted to see it all one last time and pull out a few pieces to save.
I spent hours over several days going through all the bins and in the end I had a few pieces to save, and many garbage bags full to donate. It felt oddly satisfying. Although these weren’t bins that I saw or managed on a daily basis I loved knowing that my attic was free of the extra stuff.
I don’t know about you but as a young family, I have spent the better part of my marriage accumulating “stuff”. Baby/children gear, toys, holiday decor, lawn tools, power tools, kitchen gadgets, clothing and the list could go on and on. Much of the stuff was purchased to serve a purpose…we needed/wanted it. I feel as though I’m a responsible consumer. I’ve never spent more than I had, I always do my research and most of the time I find pretty good deals. All was good. 13 years later we have a good sized home full of…”stuff”.
But when I emptied out the attic of pink bins, a little seed of change started to grow. It was as if a light went off in my head. I’m a fairly clean and organized person and yet it has all become too much.
I am tired of being frustrated that my kids can’t keep the playroom clean.
I am tired of shuffling clothing and yet never finding what my kids need – shoes included.
I am tired of spending time organizing the same items over and over again.
I am tired of dusting books I’ll never read.
I’m tired of games missing pieces.
I am tired of wearing 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time.
And most of all I’m tired of spending time looking for things.
This led me to a couple of great purge days – but yet I kept bringing more stuff into the house voluntarily.
I started following a Facebook account about becoming a minimalist. And I enjoyed reading the encouraging quotes or interesting articles. But I quickly realized I couldn’t ever see myself as a minimalist. I have too many passions and hobbies and love holiday decorations. And although being a minimalist wasn’t in my future – I craved the idea of owning less. Less clothing. Less toys. Less stuff.
Briggs birth became a catalyst for change. For the first time since having kids, when he grew out of clothing – I got rid of it. I had no need to store it any longer – I wasn’t passing it on to a sibling. The same for all his baby gear. The swing. The bouncy chair. The swaddles. The bottles. You know how much stuff I had accumulated over 5 kids?? A lot of stinking stuff and I didn’t have to hang on to it any longer. It was freeing.
Getting rid of baby stuff felt great and the mentality started to bleed to other areas of the house.
We tackled Hallie’s clothing. I made her try on every piece of clothing she owned – most of which I had purchased, some of which had been handed down to her. About half way through, she was tired of me asking the same question – Do you love it? – and was ready to be done. In her frustration she snapped, “You’re the one that bought all this clothing for me.” Ding, ding, ding. She got me. She was absolutely right. And her words cut deep. I am the problem – Steve does not purchase anything – its all me. I had to change my habits and my family would follow.
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which was great to kickstart the process of purging – although some of the ideas were a little crazy to me. But then I read The More of Less and it resonated deep within me. I realized I didn’t need to get rid of everything. I just needed to get rid of enough so I can live the life I’m wanting to live. The life I could live if I didn’t manage so much stuff. I can have my holiday decorations and power tools and yet own much less in many other areas.
The corner of our room and a corner of the storage room became the donation location and every week the piles grew and grew (everything except the bike – not sure why it was in the storage room!). I tried to add 10 items to my pile every day. Most days I far exceeded that. I started to become embarrassed by just how much there was and how easy it was to get rid of it. I started to tackle cupboards I hadn’t touched in years, or better yet drawers that barely opened. I made frequent stops to drop off donations.
I’ve still got a long ways to go – I’m sifting through years of accumulation but I’m making progress and the progress is motivating.
I think what has changed the most is my mentality of purchasing items. Yes, we still need stuff and even want stuff and I have no problem making those purchases. But I’ve become more critical of what comes in the house.
I was at Target last week and they had the cutest skirt for Hallie on clearance. I added it to my cart. As I stood in the checkout line looking over my cart – the skirt caught my eye. Immediately Hallie’s words came to mind, “You’re the one that bought all this clothing for me.” She didn’t need the skirt. In fact she has more dresses/skirts than she needs (but she “loves” them all). I decided to not add to the problem. The skirt wasn’t needed and I removed it from the cart. Something that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind a year ago.
The idea of being critical of items coming in isn’t necessarily a financial decision – although there are plenty of financial benefits. It’s a state of mind that offers peace to me. Do I like updating home and decor items? Absolutely. It just means I need to get rid of the items that are outdated, even though I paid good money for them at some point. Why is it so hard to get rid of items you perceive to be of any value – even though you don’t necessarily like the item??! I’ve found this mentality to be one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. But I’m getting there. And being critical of what comes in has really helped.
I’m on a journey. Sometimes I get down on myself that I’ve been working at this for awhile and I have a long ways to go – but that’s why its a journey. I am having to change habits and work to let go of things, it’s not happening overnight. But it’s happening. And I love the change I’m seeing. The funny part is – it’s a change that nobody outside our home may ever notice. They won’t see the semi-empty entertainment drawers or the space in the attic that was once filled with boxes. Luckily, I’m not doing it for anyone else to notice. I’m doing it so we can live a better life as a family. One day at a time.
Hunter reminded me that he only has 6 weeks left of school. 6 weeks. I’m panicking just a little bit at the thought of 5 kids home all summer long…but that’s another story.
With the end of the school year upon us, my kids are starting to come home with more projects and papers than ever before. It’s always tough deciding what to keep and what to toss. But it makes it a lot easier when your kids don’t care and they’re not fishing papers out of the trash can.
Here’s the system we use to manage all the school paper clutter (or memories…whatever you prefer to call it!)
I have one large filing box and different colored hanging folders for each kid. (I found the boxes at Staples and Amazon has just about every color of folder you could imagine.)
I designed the labels and they can be downloaded at HowDoesShe.com.
I printed the labels out on cardstock paper. The name plate will download blank – you can print it out and write on it or use your fancy photoshop skills and photoshop the name onto the document. Tape the nameplate on the inside of the box for easy recognition.
Next, cut out the tab labels. I used the cardstock label tags that came with my folders and I placed my label on top of it. Arrange the tabs so they’re staggered, making each tab readable.
On the front of each folder, glue or tape the “year in review” label. This is a quick snapshot of your child for that particular school year. You could also attach a school picture next to it if you’re feeling really ambitious.
My keepsake boxes are stacked in a closet. I only access them a couple times a year. I keep a small box without a lid that I throw papers in throughout the school year. Periodically, I’ll sit down and rummage through the box and put the papers in the appropriate boxes and folder. This is a task that your child can easily complete for themselves. I’ve known people to do this once a year at the end of the school year.
Find what works best for you and just stick with it!
Our playroom was once littered with art supplies. I love that my kids like to create but finding broken crayons and glue without tops was driving me crazy. Every couple days, I would have the kids round up all the supplies and put them back in their place in the playroom. Just hours after cleaning, I would walk in and find art supplies everywhere. I realized it wasn’t really the older kids who were creating the mess – its the monster one year old we have running around that seems to make messes wherever goes. The only way to solve the problem was to remove the art supplies but make them very accessible.
Introducing the Ikea art cart that resides in my office closet.
I purchased a cart on wheels from Ikea. This allows the cart to be mobile and can travel to and from the playroom when needed.
Also from Ikea I purchased two sets of white magazine holders. These hold the coloring books, workbooks and clipboards. The clipboards were purchased for another project that I never completed and the kids kept sneaking them to color on. They are a staple on the art cart.
The bottom two layers are filled with quart-sized canning jars. Hallie meticulously sorted out all the supplies and organized them into different jars. Crayons, colored pencils, twistable pencils, twistable crayons, pencils and pens, scissors, markers, glue sticks, glue, whiteboard markers…and more. Everything they need for a art project or school assignment. Sometimes, they don’t need the whole cart and they leave it in the closet and take the jars they need. Hallie will take a jar to her room to color and return it later.
It’s been over 6 months and the supplies have remained relatively organized. There have been a few casualties including when the cart was left in the playroom by accident and a certain toddler dumped out the jars. But the kids have been great about making sure it gets put away since then.
The best part is anytime they’re looking for a supply – they know exactly where to look. It’s also easy to see what we’re running low on – which doesn’t happen to be gluesticks, we’ve got two jars full!
I’m a sucker for just about anything at Costco. 5lb bag of chips. Of course. 30 pairs of socks…you can never have too many. And who can’t use a sharpie in every color of the rainbow? Like I said, I’m a sucker. At the beginning of the school year I was perusing the isles when I came across the largest pack of construction paper I had ever seen. My kids love crafts and we go through card stock like there’s no tomorrow so this was right up our alley.
Immediately after my purchase I had buyers remorse. We didn’t really need that much paper and I came to the realization that it was going to be scattered through the house. It sat on my laundry room counter for months while I went back and forth. Ultimately, Hunter had a school project that required several sheets of paper and we busted the package open and he chose his colors. I was trying to keep it neat and tidy, so it stayed on the counter. Then Hallie needed some paper and pulled out a few and before long the nice tidy stack found its way to the game/crafts closet. It didn’t take long for my nice stack to turn on it’s side and start to create chaos. See it there:
And no matter how many times I straightened it I couldn’t get it to stay clean. In my annual beginning of the year purging and cleaning of the house I resolved to find a solution. I bought several bins and boxes and nothing worked like I needed it to. So I turned to the garage and my never ending piles of scrap wood and pulled out the table saw.
I cut two sides and a back piece of wood and cut 9 sets of grooves in each (using the table saw) and cut a top and bottom
I glued, clamped and nailed the sides to the back and attached the tops and bottoms as well.
Once dry, I was able to slide in each shelf – which is adjustable, shelves can be removed for larger stacks of paper.
I returned the stack of beautifully organized paper back to the closet. Yes, it looks like it belongs in a 1st grade classroom. But what home couldn’t benefit from a little paper organization? It makes me happy. It makes me even happier to know that my kids have pulled out papers every day and it still looks like this!
The best part is I didn’t even paint or stain it. I like the natural wood and it wasn’t worth pulling a paintbrush out!