Getting Organized for “Back to School”

I’m a self-professed slob, and I have no idea why people are always shocked to hear this. I must present myself like I have my act together, but unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Ask anyone who knows me in person. I am always late to appointments, forgetting something I’ve promised to bring, and misplacing important items such as car keys. My house is rarely picked up, and you can usually depend on finding stacks of papers and books on almost any horizontal surface.

It doesn’t help that everyone in our family is wired the same way — except my youngest, who somehow managed to inherit the tidy gene from my mother. It is amazing. The child can organize her room without assistance and can almost always locate a missing item that the rest of us have spent hours searching for. But she is seven. So when it comes to organizing the rest of the house, I am on my own. For now. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can put my daughter to work. I told her she should be a professional organizer when she grows up.

My husband likes for things to be neat and tidy, and he is willing to help, but he is as befuddled as I am when it comes to implementing a workable system. Our current system basically consists of letting things go until they get to the point where we can’t take it any more, at which point we scurry around and shove everything into nooks and crannies where they won’t be so noticeable. It’s not exactly a solution — it’s more like a bandaid.

Everywhere I look, my house is crying for help. We’ve lived here for almost eight years, and the home that once felt open and spacious is closing in on me. My laundry room is driving me bananas. My kitchen cabinets are overflowing. The family room is littered with books and toys, and the dining room table is the “catch-all” for everything that we don’t have a good spot for. I know I need a “command center” but I have no idea where to put it or how to go about creating one. And don’t even get me STARTED on our attic . . .

Every year when the kids head back to school and all the paperwork starts pouring in, I swear I’m going to implement a workable system to keep our home running smoothly and stick to it. But it never seems to happen. This year I’m not messing around. I decided to call a professional.

My friend Darla runs a professional organizing business called HeartWork Organizing. She came out to my house one day last month to take a look around and help me come up with a plan.

I always assumed that it was because of my laziness that nothing I try seems to work, but I realize now that it could be the systems that are flawed. Of course, I do have to make the time to do the work, but sometimes I think we jump into a system that we see touted by the organizational gurus when it isn’t the right one for us.

Darla taught me two things while she was here:

  1. Not one system works for every person.
  2. It is easier to change systems than habits.

The first thing Darla did when she arrived at my house was to have me show her around. I showed her my current organizational systems (I have to laugh to even call them that!!) and explained our habits.

I realized right then the value of having a professional organizer into your home.

Any website can give you ideas and tips, but a professional organizer takes into consideration your home, your space and your habits and then makes recommendations that fit your life.

We ended up doing a few small projects in my kitchen together, and it was fascinating to see how Darla worked. Some of her solutions were so simple, but they really helped me feel like I have a better handle on things.

Take for instance my plastics drawer. It was overflowing with plastic containers in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

plastics-before

Darla’s advice was to toss all the mismatched pieces and start fresh. Since I hardly had any matching pieces left, I had no problem doing this. Plus, I’ve been wanting to switch to glass storage bowls anyway. Clearing out all the mismatched plastics allowed me to clear out my glass storage containers from underneath my island where they have been making a mess of my mixing bowls.

Darla placed them in the “plastics drawer” along with some disposable cups that were taking up space in my pantry (removing them from their plastic packaging and stacking them neatly never occurred to me!!!) That empty spot was holding some disposable plastic containers that we ended up using to store things in my pantry. Her advice was to buy the same size and shape from here on out so they will fit nicely in my drawer.

plastics-after

We also worked on my pantry. This is a temporary solution. I am planning to replace these wire shelves with a system of adjustable shelves from FreedomRail. But for now, check out our Before and After!

pantry-before

And now . . .

pantry-after

There is so much more we could do with that if I had more containers, but we came a long way. If you could have only seen the floor in the before picture . . . OY!

The biggest lesson I learned here is to take things out of their packaging and place them in glass jars or containers. This is especially helpful for items like rice and beans that come in bags. But it was also a great way to consolidate THREE open boxes of cereal. GACK.

cereal

(And yes, I am officially a hypocrite — those of you who have followed my blog for a while know how I used to eschew all boxed cereals. I finally caved and started buying a few organic varieties. I still think it’s a nutritional wasteland, but I’ve gotten lazy, and that is all I have to say about that.)

We also cleared out this cupboard above my fridge.

cupboard-before

And . . .

cupboard-after

There was a lot of trash and a lot of donations when we were done, and honestly, I don’t know why I couldn’t do most of this myself. But having an objective party present to give advice and perspective makes all the difference in the world.

We realized through this process that I owned about 10 coffee makers. NO JOKE. Darla thought it was so hysterical that she had to take a picture. I got rid of a few so now I’m down to just four. LOL!!

There is so much more I want to do in my kitchen alone. Then I plan to tackle the laundry room.

laundry

Night. Mare.

And finally, we are going to work on implementing some type of “command center” system so we can start back to school with a workable system that will {hopefully} allow our home to run a bit more smoothly this year. Our schools start on September 3rd, so the way I see it, I have exactly one month to get my act together.

The hardest part is finding the time to do all of this. I keep telling myself that I need to think like we are moving (we are so not!!) and then de-clutter and organize mercilessly until I feel like I have my house under control again.

I will keep you posted!!

Comments

  1. Heather M says

    I feel so much more normal now! You are always so put together so it definitely makes it seem like your house would be perfection and spotless. I don’t have 10 coffee pots but I do need Darla to come help me. My kitchen is too small for it being the place I love to be the most.

  2. says

    The whole “think like you are moving” thing really does help! If I pick something up for the millionth time (and realize it) I hold it and ask “If I were to ever pay a mover to pack this would I want to fork over the money?” This usually works for me! (Not that I would ever pay for movers…I’m a total DIY and save some money gal but the thought terrifies me that I’d have to pay so much for all my crap lol)

    You can totally do this! You’ve done a lot already!

    • says

      Yeah, see I have NO PROBLEM throwing things away. I think it is figuring out what to do with the stuff I want to keep that I struggle with. That, and I just don’t want to take the time to do the hard work. THAT no organizer can help me with, though. :-)

  3. says

    Will you tell us more about why you want to switch to FreedomRails? We’re moving in a month and I’m building a small pantry – I was just going to go with regular plastic shelving (like what you have), but I’d be happy to explore other options! Thanks.

    • says

      YES!!!! For one thing, with FreedomRails, you can move your shelves around anytime you want. The ones I have are static and can’t be moved to fit larger or shorter items so I waste a lot of space. The other thing is, I detest those wire racks because everything falls over. I am definitely getting the solid shelves this time.

      • says

        Rachel, definitely look into FreedomRail. It’s the best steel in the industry and, like Jo-Lynne mentions, completely adjustable. You can get either wire or wood shelves, and lots of helpful accessories. But the solution has to work for your situation. If you ever want to give a call or email me a picture of a problem spot, I’m happy to let you know if it’s a good solution. I don’t rep the product. So if there’s a better solution, I’ll let you know!

  4. Julie Karlen says

    Those pictures look just like my house! I think I am inspired to do a little simple organizing today! I hope you continue to share your organizing journey. I need the push!

  5. says

    What?? No photo of the coffee maker collection before they all disbursed to their various orphanages? haha :) Goodness, your “before” pictures all look good to me. Sigh. I’m not a tidy person. I was before I married. It’s been a losing game ever since! I’d love more posts on this domestic transformation. As for coming across to your readers as “having it together,” — I think most women who are into fashion come across that way :)

  6. DeAnn says

    I could have written every word of your introduction. I have the organized vision in the deep recesses of my brain and I am much more at peace when things are neat, tidy and organized….but there is a major disconnect in making it happening. It’s like I have an OD –organizational disability. A professional organizer came over a looong time ago. Three things I still remember and put into practice, 1) Don’t be afraid of empty shelves/space. When you clean out an area and happen to have an empty space, just leave it…it will fill up eventually. 2) Put everything in containers, like you mentioned..pasta, rice, beans, cereal. It is so very helpful and only takes a few minutes–kids love this job. 3) rip the flaps off of sandwich/quart/gallon bag boxes. So much easier to retrieve bags, and keeps them looking tidier in the drawer where they are stored. (Maybe most people do that already but it was a revelation to me. :)

    Looking forward to the laundry room and command center posts. Get moving on that, would ya? ;)

  7. says

    I wish I had my act together as much as I’d like to think, lol!

    I seem to keep up with the house pretty well, there’s a few weekends or having friends sleep over that will totally destroy the whole house. (I do not understand the logic in that but it is how it is.) But I have been reading Minimalist Parenting and also feeling the itch to be, not nesseccarily more tidy, but be more organized. I’ve realized that that is my problem. I’m always trying to tidy everything up when in fact I just need to organize better.

    Please tell me you are going to blog about your command center! I need ideas for that badly!! :)

      • says

        Awesome! I have a countertop that is lowered to table height, we usually eat dinner at it every night instead of using the dining room but I think I could set up the area that comes out of the wall as a “homework” area.

        Can’t wait to see what you come up with! :)

  8. mary b says

    I am totally the same way! Although once I do “organize” a drawer or closet it looks pretty good, it is taking action to get each area figured out that we have issues with. ( hence the piles of things longing for a home)

    I was looking at the shelves in our office area and I thought the same about moving…what would I actually keep if I was moving. (been here 13 years, there is a lot of stuff).
    Cannot wait to see your command center ideas.

    • says

      Yeah, and I have this THING where I feel like I have to get all my blog posts written and work stuff done before I can tackle a house project, b/c I know it will take me away for a while. I think I need to let go of that.

      • Heather says

        ahhh yes I understand! Sometimes I have to remind myself that its ok to step away from the blog world for a few hours! I get so wrapped up sometimes and really sanity ad our everyday life is so more important!

  9. Megan says

    I could have written this post. Word for word (except for the end where you actually organize something). My house is out of control – especially the kitchen, mudroom/laundry room, dining room table and the counter/drawers/vanity in my bathroom. I am paralyzed as to how to fix it. Every Thursday night, I completely clean off the countertops in my kitchen (my cleaning lady comes on Friday) but by Saturday morning, they are cluttered again. Every so often, my mom comes over and organizes a drawer or cabinet for me. It is truly a gift! I am dreading the beginning of school and all of the paperwork (and not just administrative stuff but also crafts/coloring pages/workbook pages/projects, etc. which I feel guilty throwing out but have to pitch alot of the time)!

    I tell people that I can be messy and disorganized at home but I am not dirty – there is a difference! :)

  10. Nancy M says

    OMG! This is me to a T except that school starts in 6 short days and it’s our basement instead of our attic!

    Last spring, I spent a bunch of time and $$ at the Container Store. A year later, two things in particular are still working for me. I bought a wire mesh storage organizer for our plastic containers and it’s still organized. As a matter of fact, I have wondered why it has been possible for me to implement and maintain that, yet attempts at organizing other stuff has not stuck. All I can think of is that it’s like a Kindergarten classroom. That has been identified as the “plastics” place so that is where plastic, and ONLY plastic, goes.

    The other thing that has continued to work for me are lazy susans in the pantry. It was sickening to see how much expired food I threw out last spring. I decided no more stocking up at sales unless it is truly something we use all.the.time. There are no savings good enough to cover the expense of what I threw out. So now I buy things as we need them and put them on the lazy susan so nothing can get lost or overlooked at the back of the deep, dark pantry shelves. On the shelves where I don’t have lazy susans, I put seldom used items (stock pot, Dutch oven, etc) at the back of the shelf so that things such as oil and vinegar (that are too tall for lazy susan) stay at the front and don’t get pushed to the back.

    Good luck, Jo-Lynne! I look forward to more ideas and updates on this topic.

  11. Kelly says

    I consider myself fairly organized, but definitely have some hot spots that Darla could help with;) Looking forward to seeing the updates in the other areas of your home. Great ideas for sure!

  12. says

    That’s just what I need, an organizer. I tend to just throw everything out when I can’t get it organized. I know, it’s ridiculous, but every so often I crave order. That’s when I start trashing stuff.

    Looks great so far. Can’t wait to see the command central system.
    ~FringeGirl

    • says

      ME TOO! I should have included that in our current system. We toss stuff ruthlessly. Funny thing though? I tossed MORE with Darla there than I ever do on my own. Crazy.

  13. says

    Really? You are not organized? Wow. I am really shocked. With that said, thank you thank you thank you for not being perfect. I am busy trying to organize a few things before we have to dismantle our family room when they replace the patio door. Thanks for the great tips.

  14. says

    What does it say about me that I think your “before” pantry is not that bad AT ALL. I was just feeling totally overwhelmed with mine today & then I see this post. It must be a sign that I really need to clean the thing. Maybe I should hire Darla!

    • says

      Ha, well, I was looking at it and I thought the same thing. But it is much better now – it is just hard to see the difference in the photo. Plus, it will be SO MUCH BETTER once I get the new shelving system in place.

      The main thing is I threw out some things that had been in there for months (years?) and moved some other things out to the cabinet over the fridge that we cleaned out. Also tossed some stuff from there. Darla volunteered to take it all to Goodwill so it was GONE immediately – that was the biggest gift of all!

  15. Ruby C says

    Doesn’t it make you feel better when you open your drawers and cabinets and see right away what you are looking for. We can save a lot of time by keeping everything organized and not having to look for miss placed things. Here is a great blog I recently found. She is a professional blogger just like you and has a lot of great tips on organizing. Check it out. http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/

  16. says

    Yikes, with the school paper stuff. I remember when my 3 kids were in 3 different schools, I thought I was going to go nuts with the amount of paper that came home. I don’t need it anymore but I’ll be interested to hear what you two come up with.

    I don’t have a pantry at all so I could probably use someone to give me a hand just to think cupboard placement through a bit more efficiently.

    • says

      I don’t know WHAT I’d do without that pantry! LOL. I still need help with cupboard placement, lol. I have lots of room, but I think I need some pull out shelves to help make the most of my space.

  17. Rochelle says

    “(And yes, I am officially a hypocrite — those of you who have followed my blog for a while know how I used to eschew all boxed cereals. I finally caved and started buying a few organic varieties. I still think it’s a nutritional wasteland, but I’ve gotten lazy, and that is all I have to say about that.)” Amen Sister!! Summer just totally messed up our “healthy eating” spree….I am the opposite of you. I have a hard time concentrating if things are not organized so sometimes I will waste more time organizing things before I can actually accomplish anything. There are pros and cons to both. But my children have no such tendencies and all the little playthings (they are 3 and 6) drive me nuts. I love to organize though and I can’t wait to see how the laundry room turns out:o)

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