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Getting and Staying Organized

So it’s January.  When I was younger I didn’t love January.  January meant that the holidays were over – and I do love the holidays.  But as soon as I became a wife and a mom and started creating a home for my family, I grew to love January.  January represents a fresh start.  It’s a time for new goals.  It’s a time to get your life in order.  A time for getting and staying organized.  :)  It’s the one month of the year that people everywhere get the itch to do what I have the itch to do year round!  So in honor of my new favorite month, I’m re-posting my tips for getting and staying organized.  I’ll also be sharing lots of organizing inspiration throughout this beloved month.  And of course – throughout the rest of the year as well.  :)  So read this post and then get off your computer and tackle an un-organized spot in your home.  I just know you’ll be glad you did!

{Getting organized}
1) Don’t let organizing your home overwhelm you. The thought of organizing your whole house can be so overwhelming. Don’t let it be. Start small. Pick one drawer or area that’s really bothering you and start there. One way of tackling your house is to walk around and make a list. (I just love lists, don’t you?) Write down the spaces in each room that need to be organized and then pick one space/cupboard/drawer to work on whenever you have a minute. (I often organize while making phone calls.) Don’t start a new project until that space is finished. Just having a list will take some of the overwhelmed feeling away. Now your goals are written down and you have a place to start.

2) Use your space wisely. I store a lot of my holiday decor in high spots above closets because I only get them out once a year. On the other hand, my children’s most often used toys and games are stored low where it’s easy to get to them.


3) Give everything in your house a home. If you have created a specific place for everything in your home it’s much easier to put things away where they belong.

Once you’ve made a home for everything, labels are a great way to help you remember where things belong.

4) Organize things in a way that makes sense for your family and the way you live. For example, for a long time I had all of our baking supplies (flour, sugar, etc.) on the main shelf in my pantry. I also had a whole shelf dedicated to cook books. Cook books that had a layer of dust on them. I’ll be honest, I don’t love to cook and with my kids around, we are reaching for the crackers and pasta more than anything else in our pantry. It makes sense for us to have those items on the easy to reach middle shelf in the pantry and the baking goods up higher for the rare occasion that I actually use them. (I tossed out all my cook books except one or two that are stored in a drawer.) Someone who cooks and bakes a lot would organize their pantry another way. Websites and magazine articles are great places to get organization ideas, but don’t just copy what someone else is doing. Organize your home in a way that is functional for the way you live and it will be much easier to keep things organized.

5) The most important thing to remember when organizing: If you want to be organized, you have to be able to let things go. Get rid of it! Seriously. You’ve maybe heard “when in doubt, don’t.” Well my motto with organizing is “when in doubt…DO!” If you’re not sure about whether or not you can part with something, trust me, you can. You might think “what if I need this someday?” Chances are you won’t, but what if you did? Would it be so awful if you got some flowers and needed that vase you’d been storing for three years and then trashed? Could you put the flowers in something else you had on hand? What about your closet? Are you saving clothes for when you lose weight? If you lose weight you’re going to buy new jeans, not wear the ones you’ve been saving for four years since you had a baby. Get rid of it! When keeping things for “sentimental value,” be smart. Do you really need to save every drawing your kindergartner comes home with? Would one or two be enough to remind you of her year in school…or even better, a picture of several of her drawings for her scrapbook?  Being able to let things go is so invigorating! It’s just stuff. And we’re always buying new stuff. Less really is more. Use the space in your house to keep only the things that you use or love.

{Staying organized}
1) Teach your family the importance of having a clean, organized home. If your family isn’t on board, forget about it! There is only one you and you will never be able to keep things organized on your own. Teach your kids how to put things away in the place you’ve created for them. My girls know that when it’s clean up time there is a select place for their barbies, books, dress-ups, etc. Time and time again I have gone over where we keep their things so that now it is second nature for them to put things where they belong. {Getting them to do this without being asked? Don’t have the answer for that one. :)} Assign clear responsibilities for keeping the house clean and give consequences when they’re not accomplished. (My girls’ toys get taken away if they aren’t put back where they belong.)

2)  Take the initiative to put things away where they go and teach your family to do the same. Keeping something organized takes constant work and upkeep. Once you’ve organized and made a place for something, put things away in that place! How many time do we set something down and think, “I’ll just put this here for now.” Resist the urge! It usually takes only a few seconds longer to put something away it its place vs. just setting it somewhere it doesn’t belong. Not procrastinating and consistently putting things away where they belong will lead to a clean, organized home.

3) Take a minute to straighten up your organized space the second it starts looking messy. If you do this, you will avoid having to completely re-organize your home time and time again. My fridge, for the most part, stays clean and organized. That is because every time I buy groceries, I do a “mini cleaning”. I pull out things that are getting old, wipe off a shelf or two, put new groceries in their designated spot, etc. When Kenny comes in with the mail I immediately go through it, toss out the junk mail and file everything else – or I bug Kenny until he does it. (Being a great organizer sometimes means being a great nagger ;)

4) Think before you buy new things. When I’m about to make a new purchase, I always ask myself two questions: Do I have space for this? Is it something that I will really use or will it just be more clutter in a few weeks? Many times I have put something back after asking myself these two questions (especially when I’m about to buy the girls a new toy!). Thinking ahead about how you’ll organize new things you buy will not only help you keep your house clutter free, it will also help you make smart purchases.

5) Choose every day to stay organized. Keeping things organized is a daily choice we make. It’s just like choosing what to eat. If you want to be healthy, you have to change the way you eat. You have to consistently make healthy food choices. Just like you can’t participate in a one time diet and expect to always stay thin, you can’t organize a closet and then pat yourself on the back and expect it to magically stay that way. (I know this because I’ve tried!) You have to consistently put things away where they go and take that extra minute to keep everything organized.

When your house is full of clutter so is your brain. Simplifying your home will bring so much peace. Life will run more smoothly and you’ll have more time and energy to focus on what’s really important – your family – the very ones who make it so incredibly difficult to keep things organized! :)

Happy Organizing Everyone!

p.s.  Want to see how I organize my home?  
Click on the sun below for links to all of my organized spaces.

xoxo, Erin
Join the Conversation

45 thoughts on “Getting and Staying Organized

  1. Oh…how this post inspires me! It’s my dream to have a perfectly organized home.

    I have a problem with organization that I don’t know how anyone can solve. So far I haven’t seen the answer to it is anyone’s “staying organized” idea. I’d like to know what you would do if…whenever you organized something….it was basically “undone” and back to the disorganized way in about 5 days. All your hard work – wasted! Not just in ONE area, but every. single. area besides your own room or closet. The kitchen pantry – mess. The kitchen drawers – mess. The hall closet – mess. The shoe shelf – mess. The kids’ closets – mess. The cabinets in all the bathrooms – mess, mess, mess. I could go on and on. I can’t keep anything in order when there are so many kids undoing everything that I do. I know you don’t have 9 of them, but how do you teach your girls (not counting your son yet because he’s too little) to keep things in their place around the house? I try to tell my kids to “put things back” but they just DON’T. And I never know who it was who made the mess or left something out, because they all just claim it wasn’t them. The brats. I seriously feel like I am trying to shovel snow in a snow storm around here. Sometimes I just feel like giving up. I can be that overwhelming!

    I come to your blog because it gives me a peaceful feeling, all the things neatly in place. It calms me and gives me hope for my own house. And then when I click off and turn around to face my reality…ugh! Reality slaps me in the face, and I feel overwhelmed again.

    Sorry for the vent! LOL

  2. I am so envious of your organizational skills! Before the holidays hit my plan was to go though the house room by room… I haven’t made it too far yet but what I have done has managed to stay organized.

  3. typing one handed…(nursing baby)- this post rocks!!! i am pretty organized- if you are an A+ organizer, I am a B+. ;-) So, I want to get to that next level…next stop is my kitchen pantry! :-)

  4. I found your blog and I sat here and laughed. I just can not believe how alike we are. I have OCD of the worst kind!…According to my husband. :) I really don’t care what people think of me. I love an organized house. All closets have to be color coded and all long sleeves are together and short sleeves and so on, and so on…
    I don’t mind doing it either. I seriously love it. I can’t sleep at night if I see something out of place.
    I reorganized after Christmas and I am so in love with all my closets, pantry and drawers.
    I say, “More power to us.” I am the biggest list maker also.
    Love your beautiful family too
    Happy New Year!

  5. Hi Katrina! You make me laugh. Seriously – with nine kids I don’t have much advice for you! (I second the maid option!) :) Have you ever tried sitting everyone down and coming up with some kind of incentive for the family to put things away where they belong? That has worked with my girls before. We’ll go out for yogurt or get pizza or a surprise at Target if they work hard to put their clothes/toys away all week. I make them pick up their rooms and the playroom every night and they know they are going to have to do that so they try to not let things get too messy or it will just take them longer at night when they have to clean. It’s HARD with three kids so I can only imagine what that’s like for you! If your kids were motivated because of something you were all working towards maybe they would help remind each other? Let me know how it works out. You’re my hero!! :)

  6. Hi Erin!!!! It’s me!!! Really and truly. haha I just did a quick catch-up. I think I should have just put a link on my blog to your blog for the favorites party!! :) You did such a cute job posting about the party!!!!! Cute, cute!!! I loved reading about it and re-living it in my mind. That really was such a fun night. I LOVE seeing what everyone can’t live without! Is it November again yet?

    I missed seeing you today-we slept in and were very, very late!!! Bad parents. :)

    I hope you guys had a great weekend!!!!!!!

  7. Hi Erin! Great post. I’m a stickler for organization as well. I think years ago It was so bad to where I would sort the kids clothes by color. I’d even stress out really bad if things weren’t to my liking it drove hubby crazy. I really do believe that labels a little OCD over my head. I’ve calmed down a lot though. I still have a small problem with my youngest putting things away no matter how consistent I am. When the girls shared a room I stressed myself so much on them keeping it clean. When we gave them separate rooms I found out who the culprit was. I haven’t stopped talking to her about this and she really does try. I have taken things away from her in the past if chores aren’t done. I think that’s where I need to be a little more consistent. A little secret: she earned it honestly from hubby. I’m still working on him too but he’s getting a lot better :) Starting 2012 out strong.

  8. Great post! I’m generally pretty organized but my home has gotten bad over the holidays. I started by organizing my pantry the other day. The kids are back in school today so I can move on to other spaces now. Thanks for inspiration.

  9. Awesome post! I am staying with my parents with my 7 year old and almost 5 month old. (VERY unexpected divorce) I am constantly going through stuff and explaining to my parents to get rid of stuff. My dad is a bit of a hoarder. Ha!

    We will be moving to Illinois in July. I will for sure be going with some of this stuff.

    How’s the house hunt going?d

  10. What a great pep talk! I think the most significant thing you said is that you must get your family involved if you have any prayer of keeping things clean. In our small house I am working on getting rid of stuff and creating a place for everything. We started new chore charts for the new year and the girls have been really motivated by money (they now have to buy all their own treats and toys. Lily’s saving for a DS.) Mack, not so much. So with him I just have to take away privileges when he won’t do his chores. It’s a trial of my patience, for sure, but I have to keep reminding myself that he’s only 3.

  11. Great post Erin!! I have been working on some areas in our house too. I have to get that list going though of specific areas. I like your suggestions.

    BTW, I bought that same nail polish container at the container store. Love it!!!! best thing ever (well next to my ornament organizer!)

  12. Love this!!! And it took me probably a good year to make it a habit to put things away. I take about 15 minutes at the end of the day to put everything back where it belongs. I know if I don’t do it daily, it will become a monster with a life of its own. Some days I still groan about it, but I do it anyway! :)

  13. This is for Katrina if she happens back through here – I do a chore chart for my kids.. The way Dave Ramsey suggests. I only have 3 but it could help at least… it’s worth a shot.

  14. Life is good! The sun is shining, it’s Monday morning, I have my coffee and Erin’s blogging a whole post on organization!

    I also am very organized and aspire to be better so love all the tips. I have a hard time with my 4 y.o. as he just pretty much refuses to pick up and tries to distract me with his cuteness and/or get his big sister to do it for him. He is a constant challenge in this area, sometimes I feel like giving up that he will ever help but I know I need to keep working with him so he will eventually be able to do it himself.

    Chore charts/money work fantastic for my 7 y.o, but 4 y.o. loses steam with that right away.

  15. What an awesome post! You inspire me so much in this department and it is so weird, it is like you knew this was one of my resolutions! Loving all of the tips and plan to use many. Thanks again!

  16. Erin,
    I love your organizing posts! One of my goals is to get our house organized this year and your oraganizational posts and beautiful pictures are so inspirational!

  17. I’m not a parent but I think I have a more troublesome problem – called a husband!! We have lived in our house for 15 years and for all those 15 years all coats went into our hall cupboard. That was until about the past month when I keep seeing my husbands (new )jacket lying across the back of the settee in the living room. No mater how many times I put it away it always appears back. Finally I just had to ask why and the response “I like seeing it there, knowing its there waiting for me when I need it”. There is just no answer to that one…

  18. Great post! Like you I love to organize too, but between the holday parties, decor and illnesses our house seems to be in need of a major overhaul. I started small this weekend, when I didn’t have kids underfoot, but plan on using your system as my inspiration. Thank you!


  19. Okay…the maid suggestion: I only WISH! My husband would never hire “help” because when he was growing up, his family WAS the “help” and now that he’s grown, he just can’t go there. Seems strange to me (who grew up in a house with “help”) but it’s one thing he is just not willing to change. I swear, we could be millionaires and we’d still be out there mowing our own lawns. (we are the only family on our block who does not have a house cleaning service or a gardener.)

    The chore chart suggestion: it’s not the kids chores that are the problem; they do their chores around the house just fine. It’s things like scattering the tupperware when they are looking for a certain one, putting away a blanket by shoving it in the cabinet instead of neatly folding it, getting into the pantry and just making a mess of it. There are so many examples I just can’t list them all. Those are the kinds of things where I can’t say, “Hey…fix that back to the way it was” because chances are, I’m not there when whoever it was gets into it, then I have no idea who did it (being that there’s nine of them) and no one will claim it (sometimes they will be it’s rare) and if you times this by the amount of kids and the size of my house and the number of cabinets, drawers, pantries, etc in each hall, bathroom, bedroom — it just gets too overwhelming to keep up with.

    (taking a breath now)

    Okay, so I’m considering giving each kid an “area” that he or she is responsible for solely for organization. So if one kids’ area is the kitchen then he is responsible for checking that that pantry stays organized and the Tuperware, the drawers, etc. Another kid will be responsible for the hallway, so the linen closets will be her domain. Another kid the entry way/coat closet, etc. With 7 of my 9 being of the age to do this, I should have all areas of the house covered. Then I’ll keep one BIG drum (trashcan) in the garage where each kid can put toys, socks, etc that is left behind in his/her area … that way it will semi-teach the others not to leave there stuff all over the place, because if they do….they have to search the trashcan for it. (no “trash” will be put in this trashcan, just so you know – it will be sanitary!) I will make an “area check” type of chore chart for that and see how it goes.

    Anyway…that’s all I got. I hope this works because I’m tired in living in an unorganized home!

  20. Erin, I love you fashion friday scarves! And your ugg boots! Was great to see you today, and my phone got soaked with water…so I won’t be getting texts for a bit I guess..:(. need soo much organization!!!

  21. Your organization posts make me so excited!! I love all the great tips that you gave and have been putting a lot of them to use! My husband keeps asking how our garbage cans are getting so full so quick, little does he know I am throwing EVERYTHING away that we don’t need or use. Our motto in my classroom is A place for everything and everything in it’s place. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year going over routines and being responsible with our classroom materials so that they get back to where they came from. I am quite sure as Kendall gets older I will do the same with her. But, right now Princess Destructo walks around and empties every single container with all of her toys and then goes to find more things to dump out on the floor. Sigh. Someday she will LOVE to clean/organize like her momma I just know it:)

  22. This is what drew me to your blog! Not because I need help in this department, but because you are my soul organization sister!! I could organize all day long.

  23. Hi Sara!

    My favorite lens is my fixed 28mm (Canon). It seems to be the one I always reach for.

    Your term “ERINizing” cracks me up. :)

  24. I love this post, I was already getting overwhelmed with just the thought of organizing my home. But with this post I have realized that it is possible if I take it one step at a time and one room at a time. Even when I have the urge to organize everything at once :). I have started with the office and getting rid of old files and shredding like crazy.

  25. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration. I finished one room yesterday, made a list this morning and I’m headed off to tackle my oldest son’s room while he’s at school. (I thought it would go quicker without him around.) My biggest problem is storing the larger sized cars and trucks that take up so much space. I’m working though toys this week and dressers next.

    Have a great day!

  26. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but haven’t left a comment before. Thank you for all of the tips. I love to see how other people make their home and family life successful. I’m excited to get working on my house. Happy New Year!

  27. Today I start working on the pantry. I took before pictures and I’ll take after pictures. I’m sure it won’t look as great as yours, but it still has to look better than it does! :)

    I have a question for you though. My daughter has a TON of hair items. Like, more than any one person should have. Any ideas on how to organize those? I bought some cheap containers with lids and thought about using those, but I’m not sure how well they’ll work. But they were only 98 cents, so I knew for that price, I could use them for SOMETHING! :) Any ideas on how to store these and not make them look like a big mess would be greatly appreciated.



  28. Hi Erin!

    I taught a class in Relief Society tonight about decluttering & organizing and I put a link to your blog on my hand-out. Hope It’s okay! The class was fun but I didn’t have enough time. I could have talked about it forever! :)

  29. Katrina, I was shouting the same laments this afternoon. I have only 4 kids and they make me nuts with coming behind and undoing what I did. I think you have some great ideas. With that many kids, you have your own cleaning crew!
    I have found it’s almost more frustrating to have teenagers than little ones because they should “know better”. I started when they were little to teach them and I pray that they will some day be able to take care of their own homes.
    Meanwhile, I am making big changes and becoming much more organized. I really enjoy your blog. The hardest part is you can’t ever stop. I rest for a day and the whole place goes to pot

  30. You have totally inspired me to get even more organized and tackle those things that still need it. It’s 9:00 at night and I’m tempted to start NOW! I’m going to be featuring this post next week and look forward to following you! :)

  31. Hi Katrina,

    OK…how about a circle zone chart? Each child is responsible for a zone, ie: Kitchen, Pantry, Diningroom, Mudroom, playroom, Livingroom, Bathroom 1,bathroom 2,laundryroom, etc. If they are age 3-6? they partner with an older sibling?

    The Chart looks like a pie with the zones written in the wedge. That is put on a larger circle with kids names written along the edge . Each week the “pie” is rotated, so the zones are shifted and everyone eventually gets a turn at each zone. Then the child assigned to the zone is responsible if something is left out…but still encourage personal responsibility. Everyone is responsible for their own bedrooms. I like the incentive of a treat or outing if jobs are done.

  32. I know this is super late, but I have a question about your pantry. I LOVE the idea of having all my stuff sorted into air-tight bins, like you have, but what do you do with the excess stuff that doesn’t fit in the bins? I always end up with extra pasta or cereal etc that has to stay in the packaging because it doesn’t fit into the container, thus negating my beautifully organized containers.

  33. Hi Erin,
    Great tips:)

    My house really needs decluttering at the moment. I’m planning on doing FLYlady’s routines based on zones. (I’ve tried the Babysteps several times but keep giving up)

    Should I mainly concentrating on decluttering/organizing a room until it’s finished or declutter one room/shelf etc a week according to zones?

    I think it’s best to concentrate on just sorting out one room at a time.

    I could appreciate any tips please.

    Did you do FLYlady by the way?

  34. Hi Julie! I’ve never heard of FLYlady! I need to look that one up!

    I would tackle one room until it’s finished. So nice to have a complete space checked off of the list! Have fun! :)

  35. I’m bookmarking this forever.
    You know, my father always says, “When in doubt, throw it out!” That goes for anything in the fridge you aren’t sure of or any clutter you might not need around.

    This is a great post!


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