Monday, March 3, 2014

Organizing a Home: More Tips for Organization, part 2 of 2

In part 1 of “Organizing a Home” I shared with you some general principles of organization that I keep in mind for our home, and I shared with you why organization in a home is valuable.  I shared three rooms of our home and gave you tips on how we choose to organize each one, including photos:  The Play Room / Computer Room, The Kitchen, and The Master Closet.  *smile*  In this part I will cover the rest of the rooms in our home.

Remember, if a home is not organized we waste:

1.  TIME by looking for things we need, or shopping for things we already have;
2.  FINANCES by spending money on items we don’t need and already have but don’t know it; and
3.  ENERGY that we don’t want to waste! 

- The Family Room
- Hallway
- Our Desk
- Dining Room
- 3 Bathrooms
- Kitchen Pantry
- Linen Closet
- Master Bedroom
- Boys Bedroom
- Girls Bedroom
- Laundry Room
- Under the Stairs Closet
- Garage Kid’s Clothing Closet
- Garage “Mud Room”
- Garage Elliptical Trainer & Tools Room
- Storage Shed
- Back Yard

The Family Room

- It’s nice if all books can be vertical on shelves, never horizontally stacked on top of the vertical ones (which gives a piled appearance).

- We’ve cleaned out our book shelves many times.  There is room for only as many books as fit on our bookshelves... as much as we tend to be book-a-holics.  We've learned that realistically if we haven’t referred to a book, re-read it, or loaned it in the last year or two, it’s not going to happen.  In the past we’ve held on to some books for 13 years because we were sure we would re-read it some day – and we never did.  *smile*  There’s so much great new material to read!  So it was time for those valuable but no-longer-read books to go.  By the way, a good way to earn money for organizational projects is to sell your unused books on, or on Ebay.

- We don’t have a coffee table in this house as we'd rather use the space for people, and this is our only family living space really.

- We intentionally leave open wall space, and do not over-clutter with objects or picture frames. 

- We personally don’t collect magazines, but if you like to do this they can be kept in a shallow 4-inch-deep basket on an end table or coffee table.  Or, an attractive magazine rack can be put on the wall to keep magazines off of tables (and when the rack is full, out-dated issues can be thrown out). 

- My husband removed the two small light fixtures that were on the ceiling when we bought the house, and replaced them with 8 recessed light fixtures.  We love this – every inch of space is filled with light.  No shadows.  We purchased each fixture individually over time, $25 each for the can and the trim, as we could afford them until we had enough to install them all.  And Bob added a dimmer switch to control how bright, or dim and quiet the room feels.

- I also keep the light in the entry way stair well adjacent to our family room on during the day time because it makes the family room and hallway feel larger and more open and spacious than it really is.

- Also, we've had questions as to why we have the tall desk/shelf unit blocking the visual openness of the stairwell, and the shorter couch where it is placed.  The reason is that we were not able to train kids to stay off of the half-wall, overlooking the stairwell.  Our middle-age kids were climbing over it despite training, and then the youngest 4 were starting to lean way over it and try to climb, too. Very dangerous of course especially for the littlest kids.  So we had to create a wall for now by that stairwell to keep them safe until they have the self-discipline to do it themselves.  *smile*

The hallway

- We keep wall space open in our home.  This looks spacious and uncluttered.  As a general rule of thumb wall decor is supposed to be done in odd numbered groupings, which is naturally pleasing to the eye.  Some how this seems to work to use even though it is a grouping of 10; perhaps because the 'S' is not a picture frame.

Our Desk

- All paper items need a home as well.  They either get thrown away (junk mail, old school work, newspapers, magazines) or need to be given a ‘home’.  They do not sit around on counters, tables, or any other furniture.  They need a file if they’re important or my mom uses a basket for newspapers or magazines. 

- If paper items are stored vertically they look orderly (or in a shallow, small pile in a basket).  Even works-in-progress on a desk can be stored upright with a clear plastic upright file so they’re still easily accessible and visible to us but not a pile collecting dust and taking up our work space.  My husband is a natural “piler” *smile*, but he is fine with keeping his pile vertical to create an orderly, clean look in our main living area in the family room (the left side of our desk top).

- We have only two small office supply drawers in our desk, so I put a basket on one of the shelves for the rest of the needed-0n-hand office supplies.  The drawers hold only a few pens/pencils, scissors, tape, post-its, stamps & return address labels; the other drawer paper clips, erasers, rubber bands, rulers, and a calculator.  The basket holds chapstick, permanent pens (up out of reach and sight of young ones), dry erase pens (also out of sight and reach), window marking pens, nail clippers, phone charger, measuring tape, a ziplock baggie of safety pins, and white out.  The extra office supplies (the rest of the box of pens, or the rest of the package of post-it notes, etc.) are in a large clear plastic drawer in the playroom closet. 

- The drawers have organizational containers in them for all the small office supply items.  For pens I keep only 2-4 ball point pens in our desk drawer, a couple high lighters, and a couple of my husband’s favorite pens.  That’s it.  After many years of having piles of pens in the “pencil drawer” that I never used because I like blue ink and a smooth running ball point I finally threw the rest away!  *cheer!*  *laugh* 

- I keep one tablet each of 3 sizes of post-it notes on hand in the desk drawer; when that is gone I go to the large storage drawer in the supply room and get a new one.

- I keep my husband’s headphones in a basket on the desk top (he uses these for listening to the news or educational videos online)– easily accessible, and no cords lying in a tangle all over the desk top work area.

- We have a small file drawer in the desk for things we refer to all the time, but all the rest of the files are in a 4-drawer filing cabinet in the garage.

- Our camera is stored in the desk where it's easily-accessible, as well as my homeschool teacher correction books that I use daily and my school record-keeping binder.

The Dining Room

- We took the chandelier down to open up the room more, and my husband put in some recessed lighting that we love, on a dimmer switch even.  Nice.  *smile*

- The dining room and kitchen is painted a light latte brown color to give it a warm, spacious feel.

- I display white mugs of varying styles.  It's a Pottery Barn look I like - but we do also use them.

- Each of our children has a water bottle that stays on the dining room table all day for them to drink from when ever they’re thirsty; one of the children fills them all every morning as part of her morning routine.  This saves us storing and washing a ton of glasses, saves me time serving drinks of water all day long, and helps me keep track of how much water each person has had per day. 

- We have our homeschool supplies shelf unit in the back left corner, but only for the supplies we use every day: binders and notebooks, clip boards for writing/drawing on (so pencils don't mark the wood table), pencil/eraser box, pencil sharpener, bucket containing colored pencils (our children's favorite for drawing and coloring), and the top basket contains math manipulatives.  Extra supplies such as additional work books, teacher books, other curriculum are kept in the play/computer room.

Our 3 full-size Bathrooms

The upstairs main bathroom

- Hair clip flowers are kept on the wall clipped to a hanging ribbon.

- The coffee mugs contain flat cotton rounds (like cotton balls, but flat) and Q-tips, to match the coffee theme with the candle and coffee beans on the counter top, latte brown painted walls, and coffee-colored brown words on the back wall.

The master bathroom.

The downstairs bathroom

- Drawers can have organizational trays or open-top containers/boxes in them to keep small items sorted (hair holders & clips). This makes it easy to quickly locate items you need, see what supplies you have (and don’t need more of), and not waste your time looking for them.  For things like hair ribbons, headbands, large clips, scrunchies, we keep these in gal-size ziplock baggies in another drawer, so we can easily find what we need, but don’t have to paw through drawers full of tangled stuff to find something specific.  In essence we can pull the whole “pile” out in a baggie and look all around all sides of it! I love it.

- Tooth brushes, tooth paste, floss, are all in a small container in the drawer as well (just like all other drawers in the house).  This keeps the drawer from becoming really dirty which is difficult to clean, and the plastic box is easy to take out once-in-a-while when it’s real dirty and just take 10 seconds to rinse it out with my finger tips.

- I supply clear liquid soap for each bathroom.  Bar soap is too messy for my taste, and with clear soap there is only invisible mess when it gets dribbled around.  I can buy refill soap in bulk at the dollar store and it can go in to any bathroom we have.

- I like tissue box holders to fit over the top of the tissue boxes which also give the room a nice, matching, simple yet attractive look.

- There is always an extra roll of toilet paper available at the back of each toilet, in a basket.

- There is an inexpensive ($3) clock in each bathroom.  For some reason the bathroom is always a place to think about what time of day it is and what’s happening next in the day – so a clock is always appreciated.  *chuckle*

- If you like to have some reading material in your bathroom this can be stored in a basket on the back of the toilet, or if your bathroom has space, in a basket on the floor (I encourage you not to put reading material near the edges of the toilet, however; it typically gets “sprinkled” by boys – eww, not so great now to pick up and handle.)

- The garbage can is emptied twice a week by one of the children; this keeps it from overflowing.  It is also lined with a plastic garbage bag so it does not get filthy and have to be scrubbed.  The child who empties the garbages just throws the whole bag away once every several weeks and puts in a new one – no cleaning necessary.

- Floor mats are not kept on the floor permanently to get really dirty.  They’re kept draped over the bathtub edge or draped over the towel bar on the wall where they can dry (and not smell like mildew) and stay clean.  They’re used after a shower, then hug up behind the shower curtain out of sight.  (Except for our master bathroom, which does have a rug; but only Bob and I use that room pretty much so the rug stays clean and in place.)

- The downstairs bathroom has towel racks for 2 towels each on the back of the bathroom door and one on the back of the laundry room door (adjacent to this bathroom).  This way we can have 4 towels dry and therefor smelling nice.

- We use the towel bar above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom to hang the large, thick bath mat to dry as it’s too thick to dry draped over the edge 0f the tub.  I use a very large bath mat in this bathroom because I bathe the toddlers and babies here, and I like to have a nice, large, soft place to put them when I take them out of the tub; also a thick, padded place for me to kneel beside the tub while bathing these 4 muffins.

- The master bathroom has one double towel rack on the wall so that both towels can dry completely and, again, smell nice.

- There is a stool in both children’s bathrooms for them to use at the sink or when short little people are using the toilet, but I’ve made sure that the stool is a size that can slide on the floor between the cupboards and the toilet, so it’s out of sight and out of the way.

- I keep the kids bath toys in a zippered mesh laundry bag (for washing unmentionables and other small, fragile laundry items).  This way the pieces can all dry (especially the foam picture bath toy pieces that stick to the tub walls, but also stick to each other and take days to dry out completely in a plastic bag) and they’re not in the way of older children who shower every day, like the bulky mesh bags that suction cup to the walls get in the way.  I also keep only a minimal amount of bath toys.  They don’t need tons, and it is just too much to store and manage.

- There is a toilet brush kept in it’s open-top container (so it can dry out thoroughly) underneath each bathroom sink; I do not want to carry those dripping over the carpet from bathroom to bathroom.

- There is a container of disinfectant cleaning wipes underneath each bathroom sink.  This way I or the children can within about 10 seconds easily and conveniently pull out one wipe, clean the counter tops, sink/faucet, or back of the toilet when really necessary, and throw it away.  This is especially nice if company has arrived and I want to wipe up some tooth paste, or toilet mess real quick.

- I have one bathroom cleaning supplies bucket with a handle that “lives” underneath our master bathroom sink (which is child-proof locked).  Instead of having cleaning products in the childrens bathrooms, which we have found to be dangerous, I simply carry this bucket from bathroom to bathroom to clean.


- We created a food pantry from our hallway coat closet.  *smile*  (If you’d like to see how we did this you can read about it here).

- I utilize 14-inch turn tables and labeled clear Rubbermaid containers in this space to organize regular and bulk food items. 

Linen Closet

- My husband installed white wire shelving for me.

- Here I keep all of our linens:  bed sheets (I buy only white ones that can match any child’s bedroom, this way I only need to have a few extra sets), pillow cases, a couple extra towels (we just wash the ones on our towel racks and then put them back, so we don’t need to own lots of sets), a few extra hand towels, a couple blankets, beach towels (which the kids also play with inside year-round), a dozen or so cleaning cloths, and placemats (for adult company).

- Also on the floor is a basket with diaper changing supplies so that when our 4-year-old son is napping in our bedroom closet (in a sleeping bag on the floor) where the changing table is, I can still change a diaper easily in the upstairs bathroom.

Master Bedroom

- We keep our audio book collection and our library books on the tall shelf unit, separate from our personal books, protected and not likely to get lost. We check out about 80 books at a time on average every 3 weeks, so they really needed their own shelf (found inexpensively used with my phone app Offer Up, which is like Craig's List - awesome.)

- I put out-of-season clothing/ shoes, and gift wrapping supplies in a clear under-the-bed storage box. 

- I also keep all wrapping paper, ribbon, and gift bags in two of these large, easily accessible storage boxes underneath our bed.  But I only keep these three boxes (for clothes and wrapping stuff) so that there are none stored underneath the side of the bed where others could see them from the door way, so our bed also looks uncluttered.

- We make our beds every single day first thing upon getting up in the morning.  It’s usually not very successful for people to try to remember to come back to it.  Bob and I get out of bed in the morning and turn right around and make it together right then before leaving the bedroom, and we train the children to do the same.

- If you need to store things underneath beds, and they’re not in baskets or decorative boxes, you can use a bed skirt to cover those things up from view.  Until we became master de-clutterers *wink*, we had bed skirts on our bed, our children’s beds, and on the baby’s crib because we were using all of that storage space.  But I got sick of knowing that there was stuff stored everywhere, and so I cleaned out extra stuff until we had space.  I much prefer space.  After many years I finally realized that to have the spacious, clean look of nothing stored under our bed all I had to do was get rid of one under-the-bed storage box that was visible from the door way, but not even all the rest of the stuff stored under the bed (and there's a lot of space under a king-size bed)!  So I organized a few of those out-of-season clothes back in to our closet, gave some of the clothes away that I haven’t worn in years but still liked, and took off the bed skirt.  Yay!  It may sound funny to you, but I totally delight in those little ideas and triumphs that create a more spacious look and feel!  *chuckle*

- In one drawer of my dresser I have 4”x12”dresser-drawer organizer boxes for full-length nylons, knee-high nylons, thigh-high nylons, slips, tights, and under-the-dress pants.

- Our bedroom night stands also have drawers instead of shelves, again so that everything is enclosed and out of sight, uncluttered, and not dusty:  books, tissue boxes, pen and post-it notes (of course!), and Bible study notes to myself.

- We keep a baby gate up at our bedroom door all the time.  We do this for several reasons:  it keeps kids and toys out, enabling us to keep this space as mine and Bob’s sanctuary; it’s not child proofed, which then feels like our romantic adult space; we can change kids pants on the changing table without having other children disobeying in the room or unloading things while we’re “tied-up” in a diaper change; when we have babies they can have some play time on the floor without risk of being stepped on accidentally; older kids are allowed to do a larger puzzle in there on a card table or play with sets of breakable things for a while where young children cannot get to it.

- I have sheer white curtains on the window so give the room an open, airy look about it.  And there are blinds for privacy.

- The master bathroom is painted the same color as the master bedroom, to give a uniform, simple look.

- I have electric wax candles on top of my dresser which I can flick on with a remote whenever we'd like a nice mood set, but without the danger of exposed flames. Love these.
- There is nothing stored behind the bedroom door and almost nothing underneath furniture (nothing you can see), which provides a clean, uncluttered, orderly look and feel in “our place.”

- We very intentionally keep open wall space, again to give an open, spacious, uncluttered look and feel.

The Girls Bedroom

- We have a trundle bed that my husband made underneath one of the bunks, and that daughter's comforter and pillow live at the foot of the bottom bunk bed when the trundle is pushed in during the day time.  Our twin baby girls sleep on the two bottom bunks (if one was right close on the trundle they'd just play all the time, so they're separated...unless they climb in to bed and sleep together *chuckle*), the 14 and 15-year-olds are on the top bunks, and our 8-year-old sleeps on the trundle.  There is only enough floor space for the trundle in the room, but this works out just fine since bedrooms are really only used for sleeping (we like to promote family time, not isolation time).

- We keep toys specific to the girls (Polly Pockets, Sweet Street houses, 18” dolls) in their closet instead of clothes.  (All of the children’s clothes are in our kids clothing closet.)  This also helps kids go to sleep more quickly at night when there are not toys visible to tempt little ones to get out of bed.  We also keep in the closet the older girl's jewelry boxes so that the 3-year-old twins don't get into them, the girls' hats and slippers, and drawers containing doll clothes. And we keep this closet locked with a bi-fold door lock so that it's not emptied at an inappropriate time.  *wink*

- On the white wall shelf unit are just photo frames currently because the little girls would get in to the jewelry boxes when they were kept there, and get in to books, too.  And it was dangerous for the little twins to be leaning out that far to reach those items from the top bunk.  So those things are in the closet currently.

- Some of the drawers hold each of the oldest 3 girls personal things.

- The girls floral duvet covers are reversible, which is fun sometimes, and the colors are the same on both sides (stripes on one side, flowers on the other) so if one girl changes her duvet cover over it still matches the room.  The pink comforter at the foot of the bottom bunk is for the trundle bed at night. 

- I choose to use light-weight down comforters for all of the kids’ beds (which I get on sale for $99 each) because they’re easily washable, warm in the winter, and breathable in the summer heat.  I’ve always washed feather down things on cold, gentle cycle, with half the detergent and no fabric softener; and then dried them in the dryer on very low or no heat for a couple of hours, and with 3-5 tennis balls that fluff the feathers up while they bounce around in the dryer.  They last for ever.  Very worth the investment to us.

- Each of the kids twin mattresses has a fitted, padded cotton mattress cover protector on it, and then where appropriate a fitted rubber water-proof mattress pad cover (in case of throw up or a wet bed), then the bed sheet.  And young children who wear pull-ups have on top of the fitted sheet a rubber/flannel crib pad so when their pull up leaks I can just easily scoop that pad up and throw it in the wash without having to wash bed linens.

Boys Bedroom

- We created an all-kids clothes closet in the garage (Thinking Outside the Box), so our children do not have dressers or clothing in their bedrooms.  This leaves the necessary space for beds in each small bedroom.

- I do store sleeping bags underneath one bunk bed, but they’re back against the wall out of view.

- The boy’s closet stores the youngest 7 kids' sweatshirts, personal-stuff boxes, extra blankets, extra wet mats and one white sheet to change a wet bed with, a basket of cloth bags and backpacks, and a large tub on the top shelf for all sizes of children's underwear and girls'/young ladies bras currently not being used (organized in to gallon-size ziplocks and labeled with the size).

- We chose a light color of paint so as to not shrink the feeling of the room.

- I prefer solid colors (sage green walls, and I made denim duvet covers) with an accent of detail like the blue plaid in their pillow shams.  This just feels simple and not too "busy".  And the denim duvet covers will match any wall color should we choose to change it some time.

- We usually have a really cute shelf unit in the boy's room for books, personal boxes, hats, and stuffed animals against the wall below the picture frame, but our boys would not stop climbing on it so it is currently in our master closet until they're a little more self-disciplined.

- We don’t have paper on the kids walls as it always gets curly edges and dusty and looks and feels cluttered to me.

Laundry Room

- All 3 laundry baskets are kept nested on top of a single shelf above the washing machine.

- I keep several hangers on this same wire shelf for items that need to hang-to-dry; if they’re small items they hang right there in the laundry room, if they’re larger then I hang them on the shower curtain rod.

- On the first of two shelves above the dryer I keep several dish tubs, for children who have the flu and need something to keep beside them in bed or on the couch.  There are also about a dozen cleaning cloths, and 3 cleaning towels (for those rare bigger messes).

- The second shelf has laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain removing chemicals, a mesh bag for putting delicate or small things in to the wash (bras mostly), and 3 tennis balls for fluffing up down comforters, pillows, bath mats or towels, or down vests that were washed.

- I keep dusting tools (a short feather duster, and a long-handled duster) hanging on the wall.

Under the Stairs Closet

- I know this looks like a heap!  *chuckle*  But we actually do know everything that is in there.  It is not a catch-all closet, but everything stored here is very big, bulky, and oddly shaped making stacking almost impossible.  So, frequently-used items are in the front such as violins, less used (or out of season for babies such as the crib, booster seats, etc.) items are in the back.  Storing items here also keeps them cleaner for later use. 

Garage – Children's Clothing Closet
(1/4 of the total 2-car garage space)

- There is a row of baskets for each child's clothes.  The boys have a basket for their pants, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, pj’s and pull-ups, and underwear/socks/under shirts.  The girls use them for the same items except instead of pants they have an under-dresses pants and tights basket.

- A couple of the rows have blue canvas boxes that were much less expensive and I was hoping to decorate the boy's shelf unit with, but when I needed more of them the company was no longer making them.  *dislike*  Lots of stores have boxes for these cubbies, however they are pretty much always a couple/few inches smaller and it does make a big difference in how much can fit into one box or basket.  If I have containers (like these baskets from Ikea, where the shelves also come from) that utilize the entire 12" cubby space then the kids can fit two piles of clothes in a basket; the smaller canvas boxes more commonly available in stores fit only one pile.  There are also available in stores boxes that are 1-2" too big and will not fit in the cubbies, so if you do this idea I encourage you to just measure your containers carefully before purchasing them.

- The top cubby/shelves are actually (not pictured) currently used for the oldest girls' purses and things. 

- We keep girls’ dresses and skirts on a stainless steel commercial hanging rack on wheels in the garage closet (Thinking Outside the Box) and not in kids’ bedroom closets. 

- I use only white plastic hangers for a uniform look.  This is easy to do inexpensively by purchasing one package of several hangers at a time for a couple of dollars per weekly shopping trip.

- This can also be a play space for children if they roll the dresses/coats rack over the other side of the garage, to the mud room side.

Garage – Storage Room & “Mud Room”
(1/2 of the total 2-car garage space)  -  you can click on photo to enlarge and "zoom in" if you like.

- Our full-size van does not fit in the garage, so we made it a “mud room”.  We love it.  Bob put a large piece of carpet there (no carpet pad, just carpet on cement) and we made it the area for shoes, coats, gloves etc.  When kids come in from the car they can go strait in to the garage and on to the carpet to put away all of their items, and all of the water, snow, sand, and dirt is captured there and remains in the garage instead of going into your house.

- This is also the room where we keep bulk Costco items on shelves, serving dishes that I don’t use all the time (platters, extra pans), extra folding chairs, our filing cabinet, coolers, extra bed blankets in plastic bags, a 6’x3’ plastic folding craft table for projects in the garage, and a large upright freezer. 

- Stored on the wall shelves in the garage are mostly kids clothing/shoes/boots/coats we’re not currently using, stored in cardboard file boxes and labeled with the size they contain.  Also there are things like box fans, beach supplies, the fake Christmas tree, sewing machines, an Easy-Bake Oven, a potty training chair. 

- Also on the shelves in clear plastic labeled boxes are:  party supplies, disposable dishes, extra dishes for company, toys for the park, maternity clothes, Christmas decorations, plastic picnic dishes, kids snow clothes, hats/scarves/gloves, house paint supplies, painting clothes, baby items I’m not currently using, a few home decorations I use sometimes but am not using right now, some seasonal items (humming bird feeder, Easter eggs, etc.), two “keep sake” boxes for Bob and myself (school annuals, childhood videos, memorabilia).

- In clear plastic drawers on the shelves are:  light bulbs, batteries, safety devices (outlet covers, door knob locks), shoe polish supplies, hair clippers, flashlights, replacement vacuum bags, computer stuff, and other house hold items we don’t need access to every day.

- We keep adults and kids shoes each on large shoe racks (we use free-standing garage shelving racks from Lowe’s) in the garage.  Both adult's and children's coats are kept in the mud room as well; and I teach kids to fasten the neck of their coat with either the snap or velcro at the neck or hood so that the coat stays on the hanger (especially for winter coats that are bulky and tend to fall off the hangers all the time).

- Children can learn to put away their shoes in an orderly way, as a pair – not thrown on to the shelf, causing time to be wasted trying to find matching shoes when you’re trying to get out the door.  We keep boots on the bottom, tennis shoes next up, church shoes middle shelf, the 14-year-old's shoes near the top, and our 15-year-old's shoes on the very top (which is hard to reach much less keep organized in pairs).

- We have one large storage tub in the garage for everyone’s hats, gloves, and scarves (leave the lid off for easy accessibility during the appropriate season) – ready to have items taken out on the way to the car, and put back in before going into the house.

- Toddler baby idea:  We used to keep a pack-n-play open in the mud room for a clean, safe place to set down a toddler or baby while we’re loading or unloading the car.  We’ve loved this tool. 

Garage – Tools & Elliptical Trainer Room
(1/4 of the total 2-car garage space)

- Some of the boxes listed above are in this room

- There are also all of Bob’s power tools, Craftsman tool boxes, step ladder and a 7’ ladder, some yard & lawn supplies, car wash supplies.

Storage Shed in the back yard

- The shed is 6-feet by 8-feet in size, plastic.  Purchasing this enabled us to move all of the following items out of the garage to make room for our kids clothing closet.

- Here we keep the lawn mower, lawn maintenance supplies, younger kids bicycles, two large plastic tubs for yard toys (which are kept in the yard during the summer), a large plastic tub for cul-de-sac play (Frisbees, balls, cement chalk, jump ropes), and camping gear.

- Bob built wood shelves inside of the shed to organize our storage there.

Back Yard

- We have large plastic tubs with lids in the back yard to contain all yard toys (not in this photo, though, as it's spring/mud season and the kids aren't playing out there yet this year).  Not only does the yard stay picked up when not in use and pleasant to look at, but toys don’t rust when left out in the rain, cloth toys like gardening tool bags and gardening gloves don’t grow mold, and Velcro ball-catching toys don’t lose their “stickiness” getting packed with mud.  This plan also makes packing yard toys away for the winter very easy.

- We keep a plastic baby gate outside on our back deck.  This way the kids can get fresh air, but if we are getting ready to go in the car and I don’t want the kids getting dirty or getting out lots of toys (and a lot can be gotten out in a flash with so many of them out there), I can put this gate up as a reminder for them to stay on the deck at that time.  Also, our 1 and 2-year-olds can come and go from the house to the deck freely during the summer days but be kept on the deck when they do not have the supervision of my self or other kids outside.

- We’ve also chosen to fully enclose our yard with a 6’ privacy fence, again so that the children can come and go from the house to the yard freely without adult supervision while still being restricted to the safety of our yard.  This fence also prevents dogs from entering our yard, prevents our children from being in the street unattended, and prevents strangers from being able to remove our children from the yard.  We have great peace-of-mind with this fence in place – it’s worth every penny.

So!  I hope that tour of our home with organizational tips was useful to you.  It may seem like organizing would take a lot of time – but it doesn’t compare to the amount of time, finances, and energy that can be wasted through disorganization.  *smile*  I would really love to hear about any great organizational strategies you’ve implemented in your own home!

Blessings on your efforts,

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  1. Whew! I am going to have to go back and take notes (although I will implement the jelly belly treat for drinking a whole water bottle tomorrow!)! Thank you again for the wealth of information! I love an uncluttered home, some might call it "bare", but with each child, I find I need to get rid of stuff to maintain sanity (if the Lord gives us nine, we will have no belongings left!). You are a great encouragement, too, since my best friend just had her ninth baby and is trying to move to a larger house (out of a nearly 3000 sq. ft. one they built a year ago). I understand their choice, but I know that such a move would be unlikely for us! Thank you for showing that you can have a small (by North American standards) home with many children that is still attractive and orderly.

  2. JENNIFER - I know that was a long post, wasn't it! LOL We really debated how to do that, but didn't want this all broken up in to a series, so we just posted it all. =) I'm so glad to be an encouragement! Of course it's nice to have a lot of space, but most of us don't, so those are the people we desire to encourage. And actually, I've heard a few testimonies lately of friends who, due to economic reasons, have had to move in to smaller homes and they're so glad to not have so much house to maintain!

  3. Hi, again! I must admit, I love having a "smaller house"! I do like things quite tidy, and I can't imagine keeping up with more! We will be moving into something even smaller with our new ministry, and I am excited! I told my husband about this post, and we are going to go over both of the ones on organization together so he can tell me if I am missing an idea that would work really well for us! Thank you again!

  4. JENNIFER - Wonderful! I'm excited to hear about what you learn when you move and what ideas you've especially enjoyed implementing! =)

  5. Wow! It took me 2 days to get through this post! LOL! I was reading slowly and taking it all in-I would look at the pictures, then read and then go back and really look at the pics. again to put it all together. Very inspiring!
    I do have a question. I love how you've basically added 3 rooms to your house just by dividing up your garage; since we moved into our house almost 2 years ago I have been trying to do something similar. Actually seeing it "in action" at your house has been hugely informative! My question is, do you have any problems with bugs/critters getting into your garage at all? We do have regular quarterly pest control, but I have been hesitant to make a family closet out there because of bugs/mice, etc. And one more question; does the weather (humidity, rain, melting snow)not creep in and make things mildewy?
    Thanks so much for your time in writing these and answering our questions!

  6. JESSICA - LOl, I know it was super long! We talked a lot about how to divide it up, but decided it should just be a single post in the end. =) Glad you liked it so much!!

    No, we don't have a pest problem in our house. Of course I can't know for sure how having kids clothes out there would go for you, but my inclination would be that it wouldn't be a problem I don't think. If you keep clothes in the closet that you wear all the time (not lots of extra that you never wear really) the closet would be busy enough through use that the mice wouldn't be interested. You could try plastic boxes on shelves instead of baskets in cubbies, maybe that would deter mice, too. You could do lids on the boxes, say if you used clear Rubbermaid boxes with lids. It would take a little more time to get stuff in and out, but it might be worth it. We don't allow our kids to change clothes during the day just because they're in the mood. If they got really dirty in the yard or the weather started out really cold and then got hot in the summer then we allow it, of course, but otherwise it just doubles or triples our laundry quantity unnecessarily. So our kids are really in the closet clothes only in the morning and then not again until bed prep. time; and to put clean laundry away 4x/wk - so lids might not be a big deal.
    We don't have a mildew problem or anything like that even though we do live in the damp north west. Clothes of sizes we're not currently using that are kept in cardboard banker boxes do get a garage smell to them, but no mold or anything. But those clothes aren't touched sometimes for months or years until the next person needs them. And I just run those, then, through a wash cycle before putting them into the kids closet and they're good to go. So the clothes in the in-use closet always smell nice. I guess it comes down to having in the closet only the closet we currently wear (for the kids sizes and season). This way they're always coming in and out of the baskets with use and don't sit for pests or smells to linger.
    Blessings! =)

  7. Wow...a LOT to take in; I love to learn more, and I know we can always learn from each other. I do not feel overwhelmed with my "soon to be" family of 8, but as the Lord continues to bless us, well, I am sure I can use all of the pointers out there. Thank you for your time!

  8. SERENA - I know it was a huge post, wasn't it?! LOL We really debated about breaking it up, but in the end decided to do it like this...but now since you all are gasping for air after getting through it, I'm thinking that maybe I should have made it a mini-series! Ha ha ha

    Well I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, and yes, we sure can learn from each other on how to do large families well! =) Blessings on your precious muffin arriving soon! Yay!

  9. Thanks so much for posting all of your pictures! You've inspired me to do some re-organizing myself! It has been so encouraging to see what you have done with the space God has provided for you. I figure if you can have an organized home with 9 kids and 1100 sq ft, I can do it with 4 kids and 2100! ;). Thanks again!

  10. BETH - You're welcome! =) I'm so pleased you were inspired! Blessings on your efforts!

  11. What a fabulous post! So inspiring. I read this over the course of a couple days and was implementing some of the ideas in that time. I have "gutted" several rooms and am gathering many things to do a huge yard sale as soon as the weather decides to stay sunny for more than a day :)...thanks again Erika, Love your Blog!!

  12. TIFFANY - Thank you! Yay! Fun! You go girl! =D

  13. I forgot to post a "space saving" idea that I have in my kitchen... On the inside door of our pantry I have hung a shoe hanger (the type with the actual pockets for shoes) and I put snacks in it for my kids. It saves on space of not having boxes in our pantry (like granola bars, dried fruit snacks, trail mix packets, microwave popcorn etc) and it's nice and convenient for the kids to just grab a snack. I usually keep only snacks that I don't mind them having through-out the day, no sugary snacks or cookies...those just might disappear too quickly! :)

  14. TIFFANY - Oooh, that's a great idea!

  15. Erika, what a wonderfully well organized home. Such an inspiring post. Thank you

  16. I have been enjoying reading the old posts on your blog.

    I love your idea of using one of those, oh, what do you call them? Outdoor pavilions? Canvas shelters? Partial outdoor rooms? Anyway, that "thing" on your deck as a shade on your deck. Simple, but something that just never crossed my mind. We have a deck off of our small kitchen (my mom's idea for expanding the space in our small house) that I have wanted to have a lattice shade/roof for, but it is not getting done. Too many other priorities. But I'll bet I could talk hubby into getting one of those shades for the deck this summer! Do you find that it lasts a long time, or do you take it down periodically? Did you treat the material in some way before using it? In any case, I am going to look into that idea. Thanks!

    We also use baby gates for our deck. They are wonderful ways to let little ones get fresh air without worrying about them getting into trouble.

    One idea we used for our small space was to buy a highboy and a buffet cabinet from the thrift store (I think the very good quality, but scuffed set cost $80) and to put them in the dining area. The path to the stairs is narrower, but now we have a pantry (the highboy, since we have no closet to use), and a place to store school items (the buffet). Linens, tea sets, and fancy dishes are in the china cabinet (also from the thrift store), as well as bibs and plastic placemats (in the drawers). Instead of chairs, which always got left out (and caused mom to bump her shins), I bought two long benches for either side of the table. It works well for us (our house is a 1930s farmhouse, so this suits its style well).

    It is so interesting to see what solutions others come up with. Your garage closet solution makes me wish our large garage was attached to the house!

    Blessings, Heather

    1. Heather,
      We bought this gazebo at Fred Meyer on sale for about $99. We do take the canvas off of the metal frame and store it in the garage during the late fall, winter, and early spring months as we're not outside anyway and it's so wet here during those months, the canvas would get yucky. We have not treated the fabric I don't think; and we wash it in the washing machine and dry it before storing it the rest of the year. =) We love it.

  17. Hello! I am really inspired by your post to start getting rid of stuff and get organised! :)
    I do have a question -- what do you do to store childrens artwork that you want to keep? We get so much with just two girls (especially the younger one, she just loves making things!) and I would love to keep it all - which is never possible! But with 9 I was wondering what ideas you had! Thanks! Kelly.

    1. Thank you! =) Praise the Lord.

      Well we have zero space for art projects around the house, unless I was willing to stack them up on top of shelf units, which I'm not. So I take pictures of their projects and I scrapbook them in to our family photo albums, which the children pull out periodically and pour through, remembering our family's events and projects. That's just what I can do in our small space (1100 sq/ft). =) Here's my post on scrapbooking if you're interested.

  18. I am so glad I discovered your blog! I am a mom to 8 ages 18 months up to 20. We are completely unorganized and really don't know how I have managed this long! You have inspired me to get my home organized and declutter one room at a time.

  19. I was sitting here tonight mad!!!! Mad because I told them to clean up before they went to bed; house is a wreck even thought they said "we cleaned it", mad because they don't want to go to sleep; can I have some water, I gotta pee, mama remember that time when...can you read me a book...mad because I can't get them in bed on time. I finally verbally exploded and not in a good way!

    When I had 2 children my house was spotless, visually appealing,light, airy, colorful...just wonderful. I knew it was because every time someone would come over they would comment and be in awe at the colors and the cleanliness. They couldn't image children lived and played here because it was so well kept up. Fast forward some years later with 6 kids...long breathy is a mess, I mean destroyed. They are literally running me out of my own home! My walls looks like I live in the worst parts of Brooklyn(I live in McDonough, Ga) two year old has a specialty in toddler graffiti, the toys oh the toys, pencils, crayons, shoes, clothes. The five year old hoards paper for no reason its everywhere, in her many purses, book bags and her drawers. Girl has receipts, coupons, bottle tops, rubber bands, tape, tissue, whatever...shaking my head! Oh and the sink full of dishes and baskets of dirty/clean clothes. I cannot catch a break, I cannot keep up. I wake up to screaming, fights, destruction and sheer madness...I look at my kids...this is gonna sound bad...but I want to literally run away from home! But alas, I come to a website where someone has more children than myself and has order, peace and tranquility and then I realize that these things do not evade me but instead I fail to implement the system I once had in place, ie., obedient children and order. Listening to an ex-crazy friend who's house is probably 10 minutes from being rendered unlivable. She told me "I was being ridiculous with all that cleaning and stuff and that it didn't matter...God doesn't care about that kinda stuff, just enjoy life she said" I can't focus and sometimes I hate getting up.Is that enjoying life? Be careful who you listen to... This madness was accelerated even more when my husband got a traveling job (gone 95% of the time)that left me with the sole responsibility of raising, disciplining, homeschooling and caring for the children, chores and life in general...Unfortunately though I thought I was, I wasn't ready to assume the helm alone...

  20. Tonya,
    *hugs* I totally understand. I felt the same way, orderly at first, then not, but much earlier than you've experienced it; like when I had 3 kids! LOL Here are some suggestions for you. First some small steps.

    Throw away any markers or crayons that are not washable, so if they disobey at least it's not permanent. Keep up all pencils and ball point pens, I don't even let our older kids leave them around ANYWHERE (we've had furniture destroyed, too). They take it with them or put it in the pencil box, period. Next, limit the 2yo's play space by putting toys all into a play room or bedroom so he doesn't have access to all of them all the time; use door knob locks, and serve him certain toys for certain amounts of time. Also don't let him in to other rooms with clothes, etc. Productively occupy his time all of the time when you're busy. If you have a schedule then he'll have free time, and not-as-free time, and it's good for him. Here is one of my posts on scheduling to start with:

    Here's help with occupying the little ones:

    We have 2 sons who collect all that paper, too. They just need a place to put it, and a limit on how much they can have at once. We give them each a box like a shoe box or a cute hat box. When it's full they need to clean it out so they can then collect more paper.

    If you have a schedule and a plan you'll be able to get things like dishes done during that meal before you all move on to the next thing like school or play time. All our kids stay at the table until the whole kitchen is cleaned up and then we all leave (and I'm cleaning up while they're eating, too).

    I've had MANY days when I wanted to run away - *chuckle* - you're not alone. Even just two days ago I was crying to my husband and saying that I can't do this, feeling so discouraged with the kids school and behavior. It's a lot of work to keep order in a home - but it's worth it as you've experienced.

    Here's another post on where to begin with getting things to a pleasant state.

    You can do this, Tonya. I'm here if I can help. I can help you find a plan of attack, take just one thing at a time, such as limiting the kids access to everything in the house so they're not undoing it faster than you can clean it up. Then move to the next part of the plan. *hugs* Hang in there. I'll help you.

    1. Dear Erika and tonya,
      I'm in that place in life now too. I just had my 8th baby and I've had a total meltdown everyday for the last 3 weeks. Not to mention exhaustion and constant migraines. I can understand how you feel Tonya! Really struggling here and there's no one to help. Hubby works a lot and is exhausted by the time he gets home. He falls asleep almost as soon as he is through the door.

    2. Mmolesy,
      I encourage you to read the same post I referred to above, how to manage a home while still managing the family. If tha't now what you were needing then let me know. =)

      Also maybe try my post on Motherhood with Vitality?

    3. It's so refreshing to know that I'm not the only one to go through this!! I checked out the Maxwells at your suggestion. I am now reading Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, and Sweet Relationships. I added Sweet Journey into my morning Bible time. Between Teri's words and mentorship and your example showing us how to flesh all of this out-I'm feeling very blessed and like there IS hope, I CAN bring order to the chaos that infects my mind, heart, spirit, and home.
      When my home is in chaos our lives feel lost in the chaos. We do serve a God of order and peace as you pointed out in one of your scheduling posts. Chaos, in my opinion breeds sinful heart attitudes. We go into "survival mode" as we try to perserve our sanity and spirit from the onslought of craziness in our days thus focusing only on ourselves and how we can feel better about the situation. It's not spiritually healthy. I so want to be more disciplined, orderly, and organized. Thank you for helping me!!

  21. Awesome post, thank you for the info!!!

  22. Hi Erika,
    The interior of our home is in need of a good re-paint. I noticed you have a lot of white in your home. Do you feel that white paint is easier or harder to keep "looking" clean than tans? Do you use satin finish or semi-gloss? I don't like the sheen of semi-gloss but feel our satin finish paint doesn't wash well. Thanks for your time. ~Anna

    1. No, white is definitely harder to keep clean than tans; we just have off-white to try to keep our tiny spaces looking as open and light as possible. But I love our latte-colored accent walls. And semi-gloss in our house is definitely easier to wash and keep clean; the satin just looks terrible in our house. We don't care for the bit of shine, either, but clean trumps even the gloss look. LOL ;)

  23. I am wonder if you have any ideas for moving. I have 3 months to pack up our home (3 bed, 2bath, Landry and storage room,family and living room, kitchen, and garage)that we have lived in for 11 years. I am pretty organized,but will have to do a little at a time over the 3 month period (I don't have a lot of big chunks of time) while still trying to maintain some sense of orderliness and routine and continue with our homeschooling. I am also 4 months pregnant with our 6th baby. Just a little overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Any ideas or suggestions would be great. Thanks Tammy

    1. Yes. =) Do you have a place to stack boxes as you go, like the garage? I would personally start by stacking things there that are already ready to go (already in a box, maybe from the garage). That way you can with very little effort see a nice pile forming of packed things and feel progress immediately. Then start with things you don't need such as out of season clothes, and begin boxing those things. You can encourage the kids to help pack a few things such as stuffed animals to boxes, or extra linens, toys, books. Occupying them as much as possible will be easier than managing them while you're busy on something else. And again you'll see boxes accumulating with the easy stuff first. And the main thing I would encourage you to do is to de-clutter HUGELY as you go. Don't put energy in to packing clutter, and don't pay to move it. =)

      This is how I pursue de-cluttering. First clean out and set aside or give away (or throw away) all the definite items to go, making a "maybe to go" pile while you work. So you have things to keep, maybes, and to-go's. Then I'd clean out about half or more of your maybes and let those go, too. Keep only your very favorite things: clothes, decorations (not the "I might use this some time" items! only the favorites), dishes, linens, towels, etc. Moving in to your new home will feel so much easier, spacious, and full of all your favorite things! And nothing that you have to keep because you might use it some day.

      And probably have a designated time each day to pack, and leave it at that. Otherwise you might feel that you should be giving all your spare time to it, and may feel frustrated if you're not able to give as much time/energy as you desire. Set aside 30 min, or 90 min. if you can (during naps?), or maybe two or three 30 min. blocks of time. But then enjoy a little free time with the kids, too. Time to work, and time to play. Balance.

      I should post on this some time... *chuckle* Do you mind if I quote your question with your first name?

    2. Thanks Erika, I love your idea about having a set time each day so that I don't have to worry about it the rest of the time, I can know that it will get done at that time. I am also really ready to de-clutter. I am not personally attached to too many things, but my husband, well that is another story. =) We'll see where we get on that. I would love to start fresh with only the things we really need and use. Feel free to quote my question and use my first name. I learn so much from your posts and appreciate what you are doing.

  24. Erika,
    I have been reading through posts on your blog over the past week or so after a friend mentioned it. It appears that you are a naturally organized person. I have 4 kids(10 1/2, 8, 4 1/2, and 1). We moved twice in a period of 4 months while I was pregnant and ended up in a house that ended up having many problems after we moved in (flooded basement, broken a/c). This was a very stressful time for me as I was trying to homeschool my two oldest who have learning differences. Additionally I have degenerative disc disease and was in significant pain for about 10 months after my little one was born. It is a struggle for me to be organized under the best of circumstances, but after these past two years, I haven't been able to get my feet under me. The baby sleeps but I am constantly tired (I think chronic pain is a contributing factor). I know that adding order to our day would help.

    Do you have any suggestions for those of us who really struggle with organization? Where do you start when the kids need to get back to a better routine and the house is in disorder and mama needs a routine and everyone is very distractible including mama?

    I am enjoying seeing how you do what you do but I can't help but think it comes very naturally for you.

    1. Jamie, this post may be of interest to you. =) And this one, too, Let me know if you need more direction.

  25. Question, was wondering why you don't swap the couch and desk unit which would open visual space because of the half wall. Just curious...

    1. Oh yes, I should put that in the post. The reason is that we were not able to train kids to stay off of the half-wall, overlooking the stairwell. Our middle-age kids were climbing over it despite training, and then the youngest 4 were starting to lean way over it and try to climb, too. Very dangerous of course especially for the littlest kids. So we had to create a wall to keep them save until they have the self-discipline to do it themselves. =)

    2. Totally makes sense. We have a half wall upstairs but so far our three boys (8,5 and 3). Haven't messed with it. I don't put furniture in front of it that they can step on for that very reason! To funny

  26. Erika, I found your blog when I was pregnant with number 6 and was looking for an alternative to dressers in the bedrooms as we had run out of room. I showed my husband your IKEA expedits for your clothing situation and he went for it! It totally floored me. Anyway, it was worth the 5 hour drive to pick those puppies up and we even found a used one on Craigslist where "our" IKEA is located. Anyway, all of that to say, I love your blog and have used your ideas to simplify and organize our home! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing!

  27. How come you don't encourage alone time.

    1. Oh we do actually encourage it to a point. It's important for every day - however we don't encourage them to live isolated from the family, dwelling on their own teenage self-centeredness (which is inborn and natural at 14/15, but not good to indulge or feed) but rather to enjoy being in relationship with everyone, which they do very much when it's enabled/encouraged.

  28. Love the updated pictures and comments. Love the bookcase you are using for homeschool supplies!

  29. Hello Erika!
    I have two questions. First, how do you do baptisms in your family? Do you celebrate each child coming to Christ with a gift or small party or is it less important in your family?
    Also - How do you deal with your young ladies and their first periods? I know some families celebrate this special time in their daughter's lives and others do not. My girls haven't gotten to either of these points yet, but I respect your opinion as a sister in Christ.
    If these are too personal, I am so sorry.

    1. We do baptism when they older and able to really understand the laying down of their life and making Christ Lord of it. Not until at least junior high age. And we celebrate within our own family.

      For periods I sat down with each daughter at home (of age) individually when it was time - when she was beginning to show signs of beginning - and explained what was going on and why. Gave her supplies. Encouraged her that she's growing up and that' is exciting. and bought some additional items to go with the event, such as deodorant if she didn't already have some, a body spray, maybe some earrings, some "make up" type items if she'd like them but only things like translucent face powder and a brush, maybe a little very light blush, some lip gloss, and I help them shape/pluck their eyebrows, and get them a little make up bag. But we keep this between myself and daddy and an older sister; we don't include the sons in knowledge or celebration.

  30. Thank you thank you for your timing in posting this! My house is driving me crazy. It is NOT peaceful and is upsetting and all the piles and toys etc are just depressing. I had been thinking of spring cleaning but I see now I need to declutter and get things under control first. And find some new systems for all the children and I. So thank Erika, for sharing all your helpful ideas. I have a plan and the kids and I are all going to dig in and work hard! I'm excited to "get to the other side"!

  31. Thanks for this post! Good stuff! I love helpful tips! I have been blogging about large family/single parenting life organization!

  32. I love your blog. Thanks for sharing it! All the pictures are great. I especially love your garage. I live in Texas so we would need to air condition the garage to keep the food and clothing safe. It gets extremely hot. Plus, I'm in Houston, so it gets very humid. Right now we just keep extra school supplies, books and larger dishes on shelves in plastic tubs in our garage. We have so many pests. Silverfish, roaches, spiders and most recently mice! It's clean but the pests come in anyway..either for water or warmth during winter. We would have to totally seal off garage. Boo.

  33. You've done really amazing job! Thanks for this post. I believe it may help many people to organize their homes and get inspired by you.

  34. ice if all books can be vertical on shelves, never horizontally stacked on top ...

  35. only keep these three boxes (for clothes and wrapping stuff) so that there are ...



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