I have stuff. And, like a lot of Americans, I have a lot of stuff. As a lover of beautiful things, I bring them home sometimes. This manifests in many forms: I am not afraid of thrift stores, I will stop by the side of the road if something looks interesting* (and maybe bring it home) + I have a shoe problem. Luckily, I’ve always had (almost) enough space and an understanding partner.

Enter baby.

Right before the birth of our daughter Delaney, my husband and I married off our office/man cave (bedroom #3) to our guest room (bedroom #2), and let me tell you, they almost got a divorce. There was TOO MUCH STUFF! No way around it: Our house was bursting at the seams from baby gear and baby laundry and toys and little shoes and my shoes and his shoes and our snorkel gear and the picnic basket and the antique dolls that his mother gave us when she moved and the roller blades that we never use and my vintage purse collection and books and snowboarding gear…and sigh.

It’s tough. 

It’s been a ride for sure, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Our house is not super small, yet it’s not large (1800 sq ft) and we are lucky to have three bedrooms to spread out in… But it was very clear after Delaney entered the picture: We needed less stuff and better utilization of our space. Two years of purging later (including built-in bookcases, a bar/shelf set up + an Elfa closet even happened) and I’ve developed a mantra and a method…

I know there’s a lot of stuff going around the web about organizing and there are so many methods. (Marie Kondo, I’m looking at you!) Hell, there’s even a whole chain devoted to it. (Container Store, muah!) I don’t claim to be a guru at all, but I can tell you my mantra/method combo has really changed my house.

If you feel overwhelmed at home with all your stuff, give it a try…

  1. First, the mantra: Less stuff, better storage. This my friends, has changed my life. I repeat it to myself when something doesn’t fit in my dresser drawers. I repeat it when I’m tempted to buy a kitchen gadget. I repeat it when I see anything cute for younger children that I would really like to get for Delaney. I repeat it when I log onto Amazon.com or walk into Target. I say it when I look at my entry way, which is one HOT mess (this will become a before and after… I got plans in the works and I”m not afraid to show the messy side of life).
  2. Next, method: A paper bag. Not a lunch size paper bag, but the larger size that you might get at the grocery store if you accidentally forget your reusable bags. (Gulp. Guilty!) They are perfect because they are manageable size. Small, yet they hold a lot. Take that bag and walk to an area that is cluttered/bothering you. Start from the top and work your way to the bottom, going left to right. Anything you haven’t touched in a over a year, haven’t thought about in a long time, forgot that you had, goes in that bag. I will say, in the manner of Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t give you joy
    (or if you go “meh!” or “what the hell was I thinking?!?”) when you see it, then toss it in the bag. Life is too short to be surrounded by mediocre junk. Keep going until the bag is full.

Easy, right?

You have the option to keep going. Another bag on hand? Got more steam? Another spot that’s been bugging the you-know-what out of you? Go for it. More power to you. If you want to hang out and chill on your “I just got rid of stuff” laurels, then do it.
I am not saying this method is perfect. Sometimes stuff is big. Sometimes stuff is heavy. Not everything’s going to fit in the bag, but a lot of things will. I promise: You fill up that grocery bag & you’ll feel like a proverbial million bucks.

Have a hard time knowing where to start? Ask a trusted friend. They’ll be honest and point you in the right direction. Sometimes we become “blind” to what’s around us. I’m pretty sure it’s a coping mechanism. How else would we manage to function in all the chaos? Pick the friend who has the eye, who doesn’t beat around the bush~that one person who’s going to tell it like it is. I didn’t say it’d be pleasant, but your space will thank you.

Wait! Where’s the better storage part?

That comes last. No use wasting energy, dollars and time on organizing things you don’t need/use. I don’t claim to be a master of this just yet, but I do have some tips:

  • Try and use what you already own. Your wallet will thank you and the planet will too.
  • Everyday objects should be at hand, rarely used things stored away. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, I’m looking at you. Unless you are Betty Crocker, that thing should not live on your counter.
  • Make friends with your label maker and measuring tape. They will save you a lot of time looking for things and time spent waiting on line because that bookcase you bought doesn’t fit.
  • Clear shoe boxes are in almost every room of my house. (labeled, of course!) They hold my shoes, but also coral art supplies, random electronic cables my husband can’t part with, you get the picture… Don’t be afraid to buy the big box. You think there’s no way you can use them all, but before you know it, they’ll be gone.
  • Afraid of Ikea? Go face your fears! Those Swedish super stores are chock full of great organizational ideas. (And often inexpensive!) Save your sanity and go on a weekday. Ikea on a Tuesday is the best thing ever! I heart Ikea, big time!!!
  • Know that often things get messier before they get better. It’s probably THE most frustrating thing about organizing! It’s okay…Breathe deep. Take everything out of that drawer and spread it all out so you can see it. That’s a mess worth having!

Last thought: This takes time. This does not happen overnight. It takes patience and thoughtfulness. What do you do? How do you live? How do you want to live? The answers to these questions will affect how you organize your things. Also, on shopping: Don’t run out and buy the first thing you see because you think it’s the solution. Because it’s not. Take your time. Research. Make a plan, then implement. We’ll get there, I promise!

How do you stay organized? Are you a neat freak? Trying? Share what helps you stay organized and sane in the comments below.


PS:  Professional organizers don’t like Marie Kondo. Threatened, maybe???
PPS: Game changer: Keep your food storage containers all the same brand and have no more than four sizes. Everything will fit together neatly and you’ll never be hunting for that one lone lid.

*I once found a vintage 60’s Italian chrome floor lamp on the side of the street. I will always pull over for something interesting!

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