The seasons are changing - and it's finally starting to feel like Fall here in New England. Usually around this time of the year, people like to do some de-cluttering and organizing. In my house, with three young kids, we are always at max capacity and I'm always looking for new ways to keep us organized. I was so excited when professional organizer, Margaret Williams, a design/decor/organization junkie from Austin, Texas, agreed to write a guest post for us! Margaret has two young children herself and gets that the struggle is real.
"I love helping my clients get and stay (!) organized and through the years have heard many of the same problems and questions repeated. Yes everyone’s space and situation is unique but you would be surprised how universal many issues are. No, you are not the only one who is embarrassed to open their entry closet because it contains a combination of paint cans left over from a renovation, rain coats, a languishing donation bag and a gnarly pile of shoes. But don’t worry this realization should be freeing – we are all in the same chaotic boat and help is in sight.
In that spirit I thought it would be fun to share my TOP 5 – the burning questions I hear over and over. My guess is that one, if not all, are familiar to you and I’m hoping in sharing I can help you tackle the problem areas in your home.
1. I want my kids to be able to enjoy and play with their toys but I also don’t want my house to become one big playroom. How do I incorporate all the kid stuff without going crazy?
Create kid zones that don’t try to hide the toys but embrace them! Find a piece of furniture you love and use it to contain and display their books and medium sized toys. Book spines create a fun burst of color and things like dolls and trucks sit perfectly on shelves where as blocks, legos and other maddeningly small knick-knacks are best grouped in bins. Once you have your kid zone set up you can scatter those bins around the house so no space feels completely off limits. Find bins that you love and think of them like you would a cute end table or house plant – another opportunity for dimension and texture.
2. Why does my closet always look messy? I don’t even have that many clothes!?
Shoes…your shoes are (almost always) the problem. It is very rare for a closet to ever have enough shoe storage. Most of my clients have at least 30-40 pairs even if they wear the same 5 in rotation. The solution…create a modular wall of shoes (much more reliable than swaying shoe racks) below your hanging clothes while also using any upper shelves for off season shoes and tall boots.
And don’t forget...matching hangers, all facing in the same direction…are a closet’s best friend.
3. I always have such a huge pile by my front door – what do I do with all that stuff – help!
Use the inside of your closet door(s)! An undervalued space that can be a lifesaver when it comes to bags, umbrellas and even shoes. Behind the door organizing systems have come a long way from the dorm days of our youth and if that’s not your cup of tea you can always create your own through mounted hooks and a pegboard.
4. My pantry is a mess…even if I organize it how do I keep it that way? Bonus points if my kids can access their own snacks and dishes.
Group all the most used items in your pantry by when they are used. I like to keep all breakfast items (honey, cinnamon, breakfast bars) together and same goes for dinner (pasta, tomato sauce, chicken stock). Then all the other items that presumably you don’t eat or cook with every day can be grouped into categories (cans, spices, sauces & oils, baking) with their friends. Then all of these happy groups should be placed in labeled bins. The beauty of the bin is that once that space is full it means you’re at capacity and need to use what you have before buying more. I’m so strict!
As for the kids – try and find one deep drawer or shelf they can reach that holds all of their snacks, water bottles, plates, straws etc. Expandable dividers and clear bins are a great way to create order within said kid drawer :)
5. Even after I clean up and organize my house it almost never stays that way. How do I maintain things without spending all my time cleaning?
Maintenance is the hardest part and I feel you. After you have dutifully spent your Saturday afternoon purging and organizing, first pour yourself a glass of wine, and then immediately take reference photos and save them in a file on your phone. This takes 3 minutes and is a huge help when life has taken over and you are trying to put things back together. All the guesswork is gone!