Bob and I choose to organize our home just like organizing our time – on purpose. We try to use all of the spaces (or minutes) efficiently and without waste. Our stuff can manage us – controlling where we can go in our home, how we function there, whether or not we invite people in, and how much we enjoy being there – or we can manage our stuff and have freedom! *smile* Here are three main reasons we choose to organize our home. If we’re not organized then 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!
In this post, part 1 of “Organizing a Home”, I will share with you both some general organizational principles I keep in mind for organizing our home, and some specific tips for how I organize three of the rooms, including photos. Part 2 will be a continuation, how the rest of the rooms are organized including tips and photos as well. I hope it’s helpful. *smile* The rooms I’ll cover in this first post will be:
- The Play Room / Computer Room
- The Kitchen
- The Master Closet
The rest of the rooms in our home will be cover in part 2. This will include: the Family Room, our Desk, Dining Room, Bathrooms, Pantry, Linen Closet, Master Bedroom, Boys Bedroom, Girls Bedroom, Laundry Room, Under the Stairs Closet, Garage Kids’ Clothing Closet, Garage “Mud Room”, Garage Elliptical Trainer and Tools Room, Storage Shed, and the Back Yard.
(To help ensure your success with organizing a home, I would encourage you to also read my post on De-cluttering a home before you dive in. *smile* It’s actually very simple to organize manageable amounts of stuff.)
So the main idea for organizing is that everything has a 'home' where it lives (and I don’t mean the last place it was played with *smile* – but somewhere chosen intentionally and proactively). Everything. If it doesn’t have a home it can’t be put away, right? Homeless items just get moved around the house. And it takes training for children to learn how to put things away where they belong, instead of contributing to disorder and chaos; with 9 children we could never keep up with that, trying to be orderly while they follow along behind creating chaos. That’s not a good practice for them or for us, or for their own future families. So we explain this to the kids, and when we ask them to put something away (even the smallest toy item) they need to know where it goes, and they need to put it where it belongs – no where else. If we ask them to put something away and they choose to move that item (toys, clothes, books, etc.) to another location in the house but do not put it where it belongs, that is deliberate disobedience and carelessness (a character issue requiring training). I encourage you to start now developing in your children valuable organizing skills and good habits for their lives. By purchasing tubs for the children’s toys we are investing in their ability to learn to be organized.
Now we do have toys, for example, scattered around the house every day as the children play with them – but when it’s time for the next part of our day to begin, whether that’s homeschooling, or a meal, or bed time, everything gets put away where it belongs. We have experienced many problems with having toys scattered all around the house during non-play times of the day…but those problems are avoidable. Here is an example for toys,
- Toys scattered around the house are a distraction to the kids, keeping them from staying on task with other things we’ve asked them to do (homeschooling, chores, preparing to leave the house…).
- Toys that do not have all of their pieces or parts don’t get played with (but are taking up valuable space).
- Toys especially on stairs can cause people to trip and fall seriously, possibly even dropping a young child they may be carrying, or causing injury.
- We can end up purchasing extra toys that we didn’t need (thinking the children don’t have enough to occupy them, but in actuality they just don’t play with what they already have), which is a waste of money, a waste of space, and a waste of time.
There is some financial investment required for organizing spaces, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be simply done. Also keep in mind that the investment is not just financial – we are enabling and teaching our children how to be organized by providing them with the tools to do so. When children are not wandering around looking for things to do, or trying to find the pieces they need; when their home is organized they can just choose an activity and utilize all the time they have during that block of time to play. Organization is so valuable. I have had so many people tell me that they were taught next-to-nothing about organization growing up, and now they feel completely handicapped in their own family. I encourage you to give your children this skill. And living in an organized home is so very relaxing and calming – it’s very, very worth the money spent on it, as well as the time and energy spent for it. It can also increase the value of our house if we sell it some day; when there are built-in shelves in the closets and garage, that makes our house just a step ahead, a little more desirable than the other houses of similar square footage and price. Here are some principles I follow for organizing our home.
I. ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLES
- As I mentioned above, everything needs a ‘home’.
- We’ve learned not to be afraid to throw things away! We try not to let our stuff manage us. We give it away and hope to bless others who do need it.
- Before buying an item I decide where it’s ‘home’ will be. Sometimes in order to bring more in to our home we need to take something else out to make room.
- If items don’t fit in to our home in an orderly way, we don’t have room for them in our home.
- Keep very (very) little on the floor. It’s difficult to clean around items on the floor, and it adds a cluttered look, feel, and smell. It is difficult if not impossible to clean under or around piles on the floor, leaving dust and dust mites to remain there (a dust mite is a bug that is microscopic, but does defecate leaving a dead-animal smell - ewww). Things left on the floor are more likely to get broken. And when some things are left lying around it promotes everything being lying around.
- Organization is not just a weekend project; it is a life-style change in how we think and in our attitude. It is intentional living – On Purpose.
- We try to have only what we use all the time out, visible, and handy. Everything else can be stored in clear (so we can see what’s in them and not have to waste time getting them down to look inside to see what’s in them; and so that we don’t inadvertently keep stuff we didn’t even know was there because we couldn’t see it) plastic boxes or drawers in closets, in the garage, or in under-the-bed boxes – whether that’s seasonal clothes, seasonal decorations, extra office supplies, whatever.
- If I as the mom do not keep our home clutter-free and organized, then my husband and children are not likely to do so, either. If I keep a cluttered, disorganized home, yet I say to them, “You really need to keep things picked up and put away”, they’ll probably think to themselves, “…Why?” I may get so frustrated that people are leaving clothes on the floor or toys out, but if I do not set a standard of tidiness then others will degenerate in to that same standard. Our home doesn’t need to be perfect! But it should be uncluttered and organized especially if I expect this from other family members.
- As a general rule of thumb, objects on the walls are to be displayed in odd-numbered groups (1 item, 3 or 9 items, etc.). My mother taught me that this is naturally pleasing to the eye. *smile*
- Piles equal disorder and clutter.
- We feel it’s important to take responsibility for our God-given space. If we are responsible with the little things in life then He will give us the privilege and responsibility of bigger things! *smile*
II. ORGANIZATIONAL TIPS: How I Choose to Organize Each Room of Our House
We often have friends desiring to come over and see our house, and see how we fit 11 people in to 1100 sq. ft. so comfortably. They like to take pictures with their cell phones of our organizational strategies to take home to show a spouse. *chuckle* If you would like a virtual Tour of Our Home with just the photos and no organizational tips you may do so here; if you would like the organizational tips to go with each room, you may see that here beginning in this post. I will share with you how and why we organize each room of our home. I hope seeing what we do is helpful to you. I encourage you to keep in mind that many of these tips can be applied to a variety of rooms, not just the rooms that I currently apply them to in our home. Also, remember that we did not do all of these ideas at once; it’s been gradual. We’ve adjusted how we do things out of necessity when the Lord has added another precious child to our family, and we’ve learned from past mistakes.
By the way, most of what you’ll see in our home we bought used from Craig’s List (i.e. book shelves, couches, camera gear, cribs, booster seats, strollers, …), and most everything else is from consignment or thrift stores (all of our clothing, shoes, curtains, matching bed linens, etc.). And we only bring in to our home that which fits in an orderly way. When we’ve had a need for more things or more children to fit into our house and it doesn’t look possible, we ask the Lord what His plan for us is and He faithfully shows us! Sometimes that means re-organizing an area so that things fit and work beautifully, and sometimes it means letting go of what we thought was a need, and He shows us how that it really wasn’t a “need” after all. Let’s take a walk through the first three rooms of our home that I’ll cover.
Playroom / Computer Room
- We store all toys with parts/pieces in CLEAR containers. We use plastic storage boxes with lids, clear plastic drawers (each drawer can be taken out and taken to the area the child would like to play in), in the clear plastic zipping bags that bed sheets come in, in the 5”x7” clear hard-plastic containers with screw-on lids that some Costco foods come in (such as their Jelly Bellies), or in gallon-size, clear zip-lock baggies for small pieces (i.e. GI Joe or Strawberry Shortcake accessories).
- From our experience, if kids can’t see activity choices they won’t play with them. Kids cannot rehearse all of their options in their minds like adults can; they need to see their choices (and so do very visual adults, like myself!) This way toys can also be kept so that children can find an activity in it’s entirety with all the pieces.
- We give a child the weekly job of cleaning out the toy baskets and putting small lost pieces with sets they belong with. It’s a good job for a young one, to help them learn to have some responsibility, and help them learn the value of putting toys where they belong in the first place.
- It’s nice to have a couple shallow baskets for miscellaneous toys; ones that don’t have a set to belong to, like medium-size cars (not matchbox), those 3 super hero figurines the kids like, a ball, the toy phone, toy calculator, a harmonica. Keep them shallow so that they don’t become a catch-all or a “black hole” for any toys, though. If containers are too deep kids won’t see or play with the bottom 50%, and things get lost.
- I try never to stack anything, even decorations, on top of book shelves. Keeping it clear gives a room an open, spacious feeling.
- All books are kept vertical, never horizontal which gives a piled, cluttered look. And yes, I do have to teach the kids to do this, and the ones who aren’t old enough to get books onto the shelf vertically between other books just stack them vertically and then periodically myself or an older sibling just takes those and stands them upright and with the bindings facing outward.
- Homeschool curriculum books are kept in this room in a couple of the cubbies.
- There is a CD player ($22 from Wal-Mart) in here for the kids’ music or audio books.
- The large white shelf unit is from Ikea ($200 EXPEDIT) – they are awesome. We have these same shelves in the kids clothing closet (Clothing Organization). They hold 4 dressers worth of clothing, toys in tubs, or tons of books. These shelf units can also be purchased in smaller sizes.
- Dress up clothes are kept on the floor in large clear plastic tubs, one stacked on top of another.
- Some of the kids art work is framed on the wall; I think it looks orderly to have some framed, and the kids are all the more proud to have it displayed this way.
- Messages on Cd and audio books are stored lined up on top of an activity cupboard, held up by a book end and the wall.
- The children’s music Cd’s and tapes are kept in the basket-drawers on top of the computer desk; the Cd player sits on top of these drawers.
- We only have one task chair at the computer desk right now, but we will be looking to purchase some more off of Craig’s List soon so that we’ll have 3-4 total, one for each computer.
- Computers were either given to us (old ones that someone no longer wanted) or purchased used/refurbished.
- In the closet my husband installed deep white wire shelving. Here we keep craft supplies in clear plastic drawers, some of the supplies in clear plastic tubs with lids. Games, coloring books and Madlibs, office supplies, plastic and paper handle bags, scrapbook supplies for the kids (I scrapbook online, to see how and why I do this click here Family Scrapbooking), folding chairs, broom, vacuum, ironing board and iron, sewing box, and a small tool box for me.
- I use decorative, upright file organizers for my “desk” on the kitchen counter. Paper stored upright doesn’t look like piles. (If you would like to read about how I organize my space and time, click here Managing My Time.)
- We do not have a catch-all “junk drawer”.
- My 1 cook book that I use often (never used the others, so they’re gone) and 3 recipe binders (if you’d like to see how I organize recipes, click here Recipie Organization) are standing up on top of the refrigerator between book ends.
- The food processor and latte machine are also on top of the refrigerator with dish towels draped over them to keep the dust off; this greatly frees up my little bit of counter space.
- The kitchen cupboards are so few that we do not keep pantry foods here but rather dishes for eating on, pans and dishes for cooking or serving food, a couple flower vases, Ziplock baggies and Saran Wrap, ex-long grilling utensils, and spices and baking powder and such.
- I use two-tiered turn tables in the cupboards for spices (keeping them off my limited counter space), and single turn tables for tall cooking items such as oil.
- All of the food items are in the pantry (hall way coat closet transformed in to a pantry – to see how we did this, click hereCreating a Food Pantry).
- We have 3 kitchen drawers (yes, there’s only 3) and a knife drawer. The top drawer holds silverware (20 place settings worth), and the bottom two drawers hold cooking utensils (again, only the ones we use all the time, no unused duplicates). On the knife drawer my husband installed some very powerful magnets so that our toddlers cannot open it. I have to use both hands to open this knife drawer now, but the kids can’t get to them.
- We have only one refrigerator, however it’s an extra large 22 cubic foot size, so it is a nice size for us (plus I grocery shop for one week’s worth of food at a time, because that’s what we have space for). Some time we’re sure we’ll have to buy another refrigerator for the garage, even for just weekly shopping (Craig’s List here we come!)
- We keep both a recycle can and a garbage can underneath the sink, both of which get emptied daily. I had to shop around for a small can for recycle to fit behind the front garbage can, but I found one. *smile*
- I keep kitchen cleaning supplies in a plastic basket and tub under the sink so that when they leak over time, I can easily clean the tub out and not have the inside of the cupboard damaged or molding.
- There is one canister for a variety of teas on the counter top (the rest of the boxes of tea flavors are in the pantry), a 4-slice toaster, a coffee pot, and a fruit bowl (for those family members who don’t like their fruit cold – weird *wink*).
-We have one pull-out wood cutting board above the 3 drawers, but keep an additional cutting board standing up underneath the sink which we frequently pull out for an additional work area.
- We keep only 6 sippy cups with stoppers, and 6 sippy cups with straws; we don’t need any more than this even with company (we only use 2 sippy cups at a time, or 6 cups with straws during our weekly movie night). They come from the dishwasher and we store them on a shelf with their matching stoppers and straws inside of them so when we need one we can take it down and it’s ready for use, no hunting for matching cup pieces (wasting time).
- I keep only about a dozen pieces of Tupperware of varying sizes because I don’t realistically ever use more than that. I nest the containers, and “file” the lids smallest to largest into a clear plastic box that I can pull out of the cupboard like a drawer. I do keep a couple of real large Tupperware containers in the garage for delivering meals to friends; but those don’t need to live in the kitchen.
- I prefer plain white paper towels (instead of colored patterned ones) because they’re pretty invisible, and my eyes is drawn to the decorations in the kitchen (curtain, carpet, hand towels, teapot) instead of the paper towels.
- We use sponges to clean the kitchen with instead of a cloth, because they seem easier to keep clean of food, and they don’t need to be draped over the faucet to dry. When I wipe off the counter tops with an old sponge, the counters smell bad; so after I’ve disinfected our sponge a couple of times when it needs it (microwave it for several seconds; kills smelly bacteria), and it’s started getting brown-ish looking, I just pitch it and get a new one out of the package. Sponges are so cheap, and to have a clean-smelling kitchen is important to me.
- Periodically I put the tea pot over by the dishes to be loaded into the dishwasher, and I or whoever is loading dishes gives it a quick scrub with the dish brush to keep it looking nice.
- One of the kids has the job of cleaning off the stove top really well once-a-week, so that stays generally clean (I wipe it down after cooking on it, but it gets a really good scrub on the top of it weekly). I really like to prepare food in a clean kitchen.
- One child also has the weekly job of washing kitchen “faces” – the fronts of the cupboards (and inside the cupboard holding the garbage can, where food tends to splatter), the front of the dishwasher, front of the refrigerator, and front of the stove. Done regularly it only takes a couple of minutes, but this really helps the kitchen look clean.
- We chose a kitchen faucet that has a removable “bell” end to it, which we can pull out on a hose and handle easily to wash large cooking dishes, or wash out the sink – this is wonderful, I use it countless times a day.
- We keep a fire extinguisher underneath the kitchen sink, too.
- I put away the winter clothes in summer and summer clothes in winter. This keeps our closet manageable, easy to see our choices each day, and smelling nice because clothes aren’t heaped in piles all over, or stacked so deep that we never see or use the bottom 75% of them.
- We only kept our favorite clothes when we did our latest massive closet clean-out (we only wear those anyway, right?); all the rest that we never wore, or were the wrong size, we gave away. Now we can choose to wear anything we see in the closet, instead of having the disappointment and frustration of only being able to wear about 5% of what was in there. *smile* Feels so nice. I used to have 5 sizes worth of clothes in there! (due to many back-to-back pregnancies, literally babies 10.5 mo. apart in age, weight gain due to those, and no time yet to be losing that weight.)
- We have one large clothing hamper with a lid (keeps dirty laundry smell inside) in here for ours and the baby’s clothes.
- I use only inexpensive white plastic hangers for a uniformed look. This can be inexpensively achieved by purchasing just one package of several hangers for a couple of collars per weekly shopping trip. I’ve also started purchasing only the heavy-duty plastic ones, as the cheaper thinner plastic ones tend to have their hooks break off very easily with a heavy coat, or if someone hooks or unhooks the hanger carelessly or too quickly.
- We obviously use this room also as a nursery for our baby (or babies, as is currently the case *beam!*).
- I also have 2 free-standing white wire shelf units in our closet which contain all of the medicines, first aid, extra toiletries, overnight bags, extra boxes of cotton rounds or Q-tips, and feminine hygiene products. We have clear plastic drawers (shoebox size), one for kids medicines, adult medicines, first aid supplies, and suntan lotions & aloes. Then I have one clear plastic box without a lid (so I can see through the side of it what’s in there) on top of the shelf for the larger items such as packages of cough drops, NyQuil and DayQuil, and caster oil.
I hope this was a nice taste of how we choose to organize our home and why, and I hope these Principles & Tips were helpful for you! In part 2 of “Organizing a Home” I will cover the rest of the rooms in our home.
Blessings on your efforts!
You may also be interested in reading,
“De-Cluttering: The First Steps to Organization”
“De-Cluttering: The First Steps to Organization”