You've probably heard the saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place!" Let me just say that this is a huge challenge for a mother of 10. We wage a continual war against clutter at our house, and sometimes we're on the losing side. But then we pick ourselves up and go to battle again. Maybe we'll finally get this down by the time our last child leaves the nest, though by that time there should be ample grandkiddos tumbling around. At any rate, people often assume I must be organized, and I guess I do have a few tricks up my sleeves. That's not to say that just because I have a place for most things that they stay in their places, but we'll get to that, too.
This week I made a special effort to get the kitchen and some other areas organized, and I figured I would take pictures while it still looks halfway tidy, if you know what I mean. I decided to share them with you, too. Maybe it will inspire you. Just don't knock on my door unannounced to see if it stays that way all the time... It doesn't.
We'll start with kitchen cabinets. These two shelves hold hot beverage supplies and spices. We have a lazy Susan for most of the smaller spice bottles, and then the large bulk ones from Sam's Club (cinnamon, taco seasoning, etc.) are in the back. The bin on the left side of the upper shelf holds various kinds of tea, which leads to our next picture.
We had a whole bunch of half-filled boxes of tea in this cupboard, so I decided to put each kind in its own zip bag with a portion of the original box to identify it. Then I put them in a Rubbermaid container for which we have lost the lid. As cozy as tea sounds, I don't actually drink the stuff and we don't even keep coffee in the house! I like hot chocolate (with whipped cream) and hot spiced cider. During the holidays, we brew up some wassail. I'll give you the recipe for that later in the season.
This cupboard houses our casserole dishes, glass pie pans, mixing bowls, measuring cups, funnels, and large rectangular plastic storage containers. A few of the shelves have labels to help family members remember where to put things, but I still have to rearrange this cupboard constantly. The cabinet that's worse, though, is the one with all of our smaller Rubbermaid containers. It's like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. People prefer to just toss them onto the dish drainer and let me deal with it. I am not always amused by this tactic. By the way, when I organize our cabinets, I often take everything out and wipe down the shelves with a wet cloth.
I confess that I, too, prefer to put something somewhere "just for now." This is not such a bad thing. For example, that white basket on the top of our microwave it there for just that reason. We find little things here and there and rather than get distracted from what we were otherwise doing to go put away one stray item, we toss it in the basket. I clean it out about once a month, along with several other "catch-all" bins scattered around the house. It saves time, and it keeps the clutter contained at least. It works for me! That big bowl on the microwave holds hot pads, and the canisters on the counter hold cooking utensils. And yes, that is a fire extinguisher right next to the stove. I've only had one kitchen fire that I remember, when the burner coil itself burst into flames. I got a new glasstop stove out of that mishap, which was providential considering that the oven had been acting up for quite some time!
Yes, I know this picture is sideways. Blame it on Blogspot. It just uploaded that way. I even tried rotating it before uploading to compensate, but no deal. You'd think all of those first aid supplies and medicines would fall right out of their bins this way! Actually, it's this stuff that kicked off my organizing spree in the first place. We were putting away groceries earlier this week and a spaghetti can fell on Micah's toe and cut it open. When I grabbed the first aid box from the kitchen cabinet, I realized how disorganized it had become. So I put it in order, then tackled the medicines, throwing away anything that was expired. Then I hit the bathroom medicine cabinets while I was at it. That evening after dinner, I decided to clean out the rest of the kitchen cabinets, though I didn't finish up until the next day. (Yes, I did go to bed that night in between. Mama needs her beauty sleep!)
Because our little kids have always lacked in the area of self-control with carbohydrates, and because we don't want cereal all over the floor all the time, we store it on top of the refrigerator. The plastic containers keep the bugs out, which is important since las cucarachas are so prevalent in Florida. We found the sugar dispenser at Walmart. It has a spout on top and a sturdy handle on the side, and holds a whole 5 pound bag of the stuff! Yes, that is a chore chart hanging on the freezer door. The kids do a large share of the daily chores, like dishes, sweeping, bathroom cleaning, cooking, vacuuming, etc. Some of them need to be reminded more often than others. Do you see that little paper slot taped onto the freezer door that says, "Pen -- Put me back"? Of course, the pen wasn't in it when I wanted to take the picture, so I went and found one. I'm really trying to set a good example.
Where most of our pens are supposed to go is in one of the bins on this supply shelf, which is in the room that doubles as our school room and dining room. I have bins labeled for regular pencils, pens, colored pencils, crayons, scissors & tape, rulers, hair supplies, etc. This works most of the time, but the kids sometimes ignore that and just throw the stuff in whichever one is handy. Again, I have to sort all of the bins out regularly, with help from the kids. Also on these shelves, the green bin on the second shelf from the top holds books that are waiting to be repaired. The big bin on the right hand side of that shelf holds game pieces in zip lock bags. The game boards are underneath it. This is my solution to the Broken Box Syndrome. One of the shelves holds a stack of wooden puzzles. I labeled the edges of the boards with a permanent marker so that when I find a stray piece I can get to the right one quickly. The shelf below it holds drawing books, right next to the drawing supplies. Another bin holds whatever papers are on the table when it's time to set it for dinner. There is also a set of encyclopedias on the bottom shelf. We don't always use these for reference since we have Google, but they are good for pressing flowers and holding down the edges of bedsheets when building forts in the living room...
Keeping stuff organized in the kids' rooms is also a challenge. One of my boys has a long standing habit of doing school work on the floor.
We recently moved in a desk from one of the other bedrooms, which helps most of the time, but this is what I still found when I walked in there an hour ago. By the way, the desk has racks for holding notebooks and textbooks upright. Whoever invented those was a genius.
More storage shelves? Yep! This is actually our storage room. It used to be part of our garage, before we closed it in to make a 5th bedroom several years ago. Thad found these wonderful sturdy plastic shelves at Home Depot and designed the storage room dimensions around them. Our laundry area is in this room on the right side of this picture, with plenty of room for baskets of the dirty stuff. We run about 5 loads a day, so this place gets a lot of traffic.
We buy our paper goods in bulk, so the storage room shelves really come in handy. We buy restaurant dispenser napkins at Sam's Club because they are so much cheaper than regular paper napkins.
We try to cut down on the use of paper towels by cleaning up with white terry cloth bar rags, also purchased at Sam's Club. We use so many of these every day that we put a small hamper for them in the dining room near our storage room door, as well as another one next to the kitchen sink.
And speaking of laundry, it's not so hard getting it clean, but then it sits around in baskets until I can get someone, often myself, to sit down and fold it and put it away. It is the bane of my existence -- or at least one of them. We call it Mount Neverest. I put dots on the labels of our boys' clothes so I can figure out what belongs to whom: one dot for Andrew, two for Micah and three for Ben. The older girls do all of their own laundry, thankfully. If you can relate to my laundry woes, you might be interested in an earlier laundry blog post I wrote called And You Wonder What I Do All Day...
Unmatched socks are another huge hassle. I keep a wicker basket on a corner of the living room for these, but I don't even have the heart to photograph it. However, this is the shoe basket in our foyer by the front door. It is meant mainly for the little kids, though I often throw our teenagers' flip-flops in it, too. As you can see, there is a place for the shoes, but the shoes don't always make it in to their place.
The living room is another place that often looks like a hurricane has hit it, though it's not quite so bad in this picture. Books, papers, pillows, blankets, pencils, building blocks, cups, pieces of bagel (which are not supposed to ever be in there in the first place!), laundry (clean at least), and more often take over this room. I try to get the kids to straighten it up a few times a day, but I still find myself needing to tidy up again myself before bed if I'm not too exhausted. Our couches are sturdy, easy to clean microfiber with attached back cushions.
I'll end with a cozy picture of a book basket in the living room. I don't ever want to get so busy cleaning house that I can't read to my kids. (I do miss this some days, though.) We probably have about 2,000 books in the house, most of them in big bookcases throughout the house. Our preschooler's boardbooks are in durable plastic bins to make it easy for her to put them away by herself. This big basket is for the books that I am currently working through with them, or that we use frequently enough that it would be a waste of time to shelve them. Good literature is at the heart of childhood. And Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, as silly a book as it is, has some great tips for getting their kids to clean up after themselves! (OK, so she did tell one mom to let her son's room get so bad that he got trapped in it and cleaned it up out of desparation! But she does make cleaning up seem like a whole lot of fun!) I loved this book as a child, and my friend Clare gave it to me when she was decluttering her own house and getting rid of lots of stuff her kids had outgrown.
I guess I've come to the end of my little pictorial primer on home organization! Perhaps you will be inspired to organize your home, too! Don't be afraid to buy the supplies you need and to make sure they are not ugly or flimsy. The investment is worth it. I'll be doing a blog post on easy and thrify autumn decorating soon, but I know that the first step to an attractive home is keeping it tidy!