Tag Archives: Organized

A Happy Home, One Habit Adjustment at a Time

happy home

{Image: Krystian Olszanski, Flickr}

I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but I go to bed and just at that point where I think I might drift off to sleep, an idea hits me and I have to mull it over before I can fall asleep. Thirty minutes … an hour … TWO hours later … I finally collapse from exhaustion. It’s a problem; I know!

But some nights those ideas are really worth it. Last night was one of those nights. I was so excited about posting the book giveaway, but I recognized I needed to allow my mind to rest a bit, so about thirty minutes before I went to bed, I put down the laptop (hard to do when both you and your husband work at home and depend on your laptops to pay the bills), and I did something as my evening ritual that is still relatively new to me: I tidied up the main living areas, fluffed the throw pillows on the couch, wiped down the countertops, swept the floor, and did some dishes. I let myself unplug and wind down and got a few things done in the process. I hoped this would help me calm my mind so I could fall asleep sooner.

It would have worked, if I hadn’t realized that I had accidentally hit on something that I’ve begun doing. I had found at least one cleaning-type activity in most rooms of my house that I either already liked doing or wouldn’t mind attempting to do on a regular basis. What’s more, that one thing made a huge difference in the appearance of the room, and that one thing inspired me to do more in the room!

So, what ongoing habits have I either already established or am working on establishing that have made the difference for me? Here they are:

  • Bathroom – pick the towels and clothing up off the floor.
  • Kitchen – wipe down the countertops regularly with my homemade all-purpose cleaner, so I know they are clean and ready to use.
  • Living Room – banish paperwork from multiplying on surfaces. The coffee table isn’t always paper-free, but only the most essential pieces area allowed to stay, like bills that must be paid.
  • Dining Room – whisk items out. Once it becomes seen as a dumping ground, items multiply and we can’t use the dining room table for its intended purpose.
  • Bedroom – make the bed in the morning. I will admit … this one is very new to me. I’ve never been much of a bed-maker, to my deep abiding shame. But oh, what a difference it makes! And really, now that I work from home, I can’t use the “I go to work earlier than Daniel gets up” excuse.
  • Entry Hallway – create a make-shift “landing strip” with a basket for keys and a wire pot-lid holder for outgoing mail sorting. Now I know exactly where to look for that bill that needs to be mailed or that new insurance card I need to put in my car!
  • Office – only allow actual office stuff! This one is harder to enforce, since I currently photograph my vintage home decor for Creative Salvage there, but I try not to let the photo shoot take over for Daniel’s sake.
  • Coat Closet – hang up our winter coats at the end of the day. This sounds so small, but it’s really huge, since we prefer to use one of our living room side chairs as our “closet” and it is a daily battle to get those suckers back on hangers after each use!

I’m far from perfect. It is hard for me to focus on cleaning more than my other pursuits sometimes. Even though I work from home, the hours still fly by and the dishes go untouched while I work on editing item images, packing orders to ship, designing a brochure or writing copy for Daniel’s and my primary business, or drafting a blog post.

But these seemingly small habits I’m forming have begun to help our home be a happier home, one little adjustment at a time. And that’s really my goal for this whole process: I want our house to be a sanctuary where we can rejuvenate and relax and friends and family can stop by and feel welcome.

What habits are you forming?

Psst! Have you entered my giveaway drawing to win the book Organize Now! and a dayplanner yet? The deadline is Thursday, January 19th.



Filed under Balance, Cleaning, Home, Organizing

Get Organized 2012: Book Giveaway

*** This Giveaway is Now Closed***

YAY! It’s time for my first ever giveaway! Thank you for stopping by and adding your name to the drawing. I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile now and I’m excited to find out who wins!

I’ve tried to keep this giveaway as simple as possible. To enter the drawing for the books, leave a comment to this post. I’ll keep the entry open for 7 days, until next Thursday. For the full details, including eligibility requirements, read below:

Get Organized 2012 Giveaway Rules & Information

The Prize: One (1) copy of the book Organize Now! + One (1) At-A-Glance Daily Organizer Planning Notebook with two days per page.

Number of Winners: One winner.

To Enter: Leave a comment below to enter. I’d love to hear what you feel your biggest organizational challenge is. What is that one (or two) thing(s) that you keep fighting? For me, it’s paper and laundry!

The Duration: The giveaway will be open to enter for seven (7) days, from Thursday, January 12, 2012 through Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 9:00 pm Central Standard Time.

Eligibility Terms: This giveaway is limited to United States residents age 18 and older. (My apologies to my Canadian and International friends. I wish “contest” laws weren’t so tricky when it came to giving things away of all things!) Void where prohibited by law. One entry per email address only. By entering you agree to these terms and also to let me contact you by email to let you know if you won. Duplicate entries will be deleted.

Shipment Terms: Prize is shipped to the United States to eligible United States resident.

Winner Selection: The winner will be chosen randomly chosen by Randomizer.org. I will update this post to reveal the winner on Friday, January 20, 2012.

*** This Giveaway is Now Closed***

Congratulations to Tamara Wilson, #111!

I will contact the winner by email to get contact information for shipping. If I am not answered within 3 days, I will do another drawing for a runner-up.


– In the case of any technical difficulties, I will allow up to one additional day to compensate for downtime, at my discretion, with sufficient notification added to this post. In addition, if I am unable to contact the winner at his or her email address, or the winner does not reply within a reasonable time period I will award the prize to another randomly chosen commenter.

– Winner is responsible for any applicable taxes on the prize.

– In case anyone from my family or hometown is wondering … yes, you can certainly be my friend or family member and enter this drawing. Only Daniel and I and ineligible individuals from outside the U.S. are excluded from winning this helpful book!

– I keep your information private. I will not share emails or anything else with a third party. Email is collected as a means to identify entries and so I can contact the winner.

– p.s. I wasn’t paid or rewarded in any way to host this. In fact, I chose (and used my own money to purchase) these books because I feel like they are truly helpful and I want to share how empowering it feels to be organized!

If you’re new to Behind Closed Drawers, welcome! I hope you’ll stop and stay for awhile. Grab a cup of coffee, and dig in. This blog recounts my journey to getting my home organized (you can get caught up by starting here for a list of my most popular and favorite posts), and I do my best to post as many hints and tips as I can that I’ve learned along the way, such as my recent series on 5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012. I’ve also just started a new Home Tour Tuesday series with before-and-afters of my projects.

To subscribe to my blog posts, you can opt for an RSS feed (the logo is in the top right-hand corner of this blog) or subscribe by entering your email address in the field provided. I won’t spam you or give your information to anyone!


Filed under Giveaway, Organizing

365 Days of Organization: The Journey of a Little Messy Girl

365 Days of Organization – this has been my top search term referral coming up in stats for the past week or so. I know it is the tag line of this blog (after all, I was really eager to write a post each day with a new organization project when I started–oops), but I think I’m getting the hint. People have made their new year’s resolutions, and getting organized this year is one of them.

So I’m planning on making good on the search and my tag line. Now, I’m older and wiser at this point. I know I cannot keep up a blog post a day including weekends and stay sane, but my new schedule after leaving my day job has allowed me to write more (yay!) and work more on the new house (double yay!) so I have no excuses not to get in a groove and share more of what I’ve learned. In fact, with the one-year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?) of Behind Closed Drawers coming up soon, I’ve started working on some plans to improve the site and to create more valuable resources for my new friends who have found me, hoping to get organized in 365 days.

To you, my new friends, let me say: welcome. And congratulations on your new journey! I’ll be here, sharing advice, being a cheerleader, and “getting real” by spilling my guts and showing terrible before pictures that make me cringe. You see, I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just a reformed messy who still has relapses (I dislike doing dishes or putting up laundry) and probably is a type 2 hoarder on her worst days (I’ve taken the test … I had to know, lol.) I just know what I’ve been through to get to this point and I want to spread the knowledge that has gotten me this far.

This blog is the equivalent of a weight loss journey of someone who does like her vegetables. Instead, it’s a the perspective of a little messy girl who, ironically, loves to sort things and organize them. I’ve been there. I’m pushing through to the end with little baby steps. And someday soon, I’ll reach my goal weight–err, organization level–and I’ll be proud to give a house tour at the drop of a hat, instead of panicking that my guest will think I’m a slob.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m glad you’re here.

So, stay tuned. I’ve got plans for this new year, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to provide even more content and tools to help you get organized in the 365 days that make up 2012. Big things are coming! Provided, of course, the Mayans weren’t right. 😉

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Filed under Ponderings

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Today is the final day of this series! I hope that you have gleaned some nugget of truth along the way that will be useful to you in your home. We’ve already talked about Being Intentional With the Process, Making Specific Goals, Sorting the Major Areas You Use FIRST, and Not Getting Distracted by Details. Today we’re going to go a step further and discuss the importance of knowing what you need before buying those cool, snazzy organizers that are being promoted in every major home store these days (they aren’t dumb. They know how many people make home organization a resolution this time of year!)

I have to say, this particular post resonates with me because as that girl who liked to organize but hated to clean and sort to get the organized state, I went through cycles of binging on pretty, neat plastic tubs, bins, shelves, and anything else that caught my eye. I was operating under the mistaken delusion that more containers meant quicker organizing.

So here’s what would normally happen: I’d buy clear plastic shoeboxes with the newest hip shade of lid, a couple of big totes, and maybe some baskets for good measure. I’d bring them home, take them out and admire them, start putting stuff in them, and I’d eventually get stuck. My sorting method would leave too few or too many containers remaining. Or they wouldn’t fit under my bed or on the top shelf in my closet. Or they’d be cheap and fall apart within weeks. Or … something. But you get the picture.

Then there was the problem that I’d inevitably lose track of which tub or shoe box held the particular item I would look for months later, so I’d tear them all apart until I found it.

So, please, spare yourself that agony …

Step 5: Before you buy organizers, know what you need.

This might make you cringe, but live with your stuff for awhile before you make that next shopping trip to Target or The Container Store.

The beauty of organizing your home is that you don’t have to be confined to a particular method of cleaning, sorting, or decluttering if it doesn’t work for you. I like to keep my toothbrushes in my bathroom in an open mason jar. You might prefer a classier holder. I keep memorabilia in clear plastic bins, you might prefer baskets. I have the majority of my craft supplies in cubbies and fabric drawers in our garage, you might be horrified by that idea and choose a snazzy wardrobe (cast off from the big tv days) to house your crafts.

So, basically, if I was to give you a list of all the best things to buy to get your home organized, they wouldn’t necessarily work for you and you’d be stuck with even more “organizational” clutter than before.

My suggestion is simple; take a few days or even weeks or months to really get the feel for how you use your home. Not how you wish you used your home, but how you really, truly use it. Pay attention to where you put items out of habit when you are done using them. Notice where you wished you had a shelf, or a container. Gather all of like items with like (wooden spoons with the wooden spoons in the kitchen, printer paper with the printer, dirty colored clothing with other dirty colored clothing) and note how much room is needed to hold all the like items.

Once you have a good handle on this, take things a step further and break out your measuring tape. Measure the space available–height, width, depth–in the areas you need containers. Write the measurements down in a place you will be able to find them again (for me, this was a notebook I kept in my purse). Take the measurements with you to the store. You’ll be glad you did. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken this little rule and ended up making a second or third trip back to The Container Store to find something the actually fit. Shame on me!

Now, what kind of look do you want with the container you purchase? If it is for the wooden kitchen spoons, simply putting them in the same kitchen drawer by the stove might suffice and save you some money. But if your drawers are all full, or if you want them even more accessible, a pottery pitcher or a plastic lazy susan with upright dividers might be better. For your closet, matching baskets or sturdy fabric-covered boxes would add a certain polished look. In the office, a simple plastic drawer unit or lidded paper boxes would be appropriate for printer paper. Just make sure the item you buy matches your aesthetic, your space available, and your budget.

Speaking of budget, storage isn’t cheap. Even shopping at Wal-Mart, you’ll still run into sticker shock. I’ve had to deal with this by purchasing a few here and there and making do in the meantime. Sometimes making do for us means not having a drawer divider in a kitchen drawer for awhile, or swallowing pride and accepting to use an ugly boring plastic tub I have on hand, or even focusing on updating one area at a time to aesthetically pleasing storage and re-using the uglier storage from the updated locations in other, less visible locations. In fact, I have one plain brown collapsible fabric “drawer,” (first spotted in our old master bedroom closet, then in our laundry room storage area later) that has made its way around my house and is currently residing under the kitchen sink with all my cleaners.

So, before you go out and buy organizers and containers, make sure you know exactly what you need. Save up, take your time, and measure twice.

And that completes our 5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012 series! If you are just getting started reading and would like to learn more, links to the complete series are in order below. I hope you’ll also take a moment to subscribe to Behind Closed Drawers by email or RSS feed, both located at the top right-hand corner of the page. The one-year anniversary of this blog is coming up, and I have big things planned to celebrate!

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012

  1. Be Intentional With the Process
  2. Make Specific Goals
  3. Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST
  4. Don’t Get Distracted by Details
  5. Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Happy Organizing,


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Filed under Budget, Organizing, Storage

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Don’t Get Distracted by the Details

Day four already?! Where does time fly?

By now you know that you should Be Intentional With the Process, Make Specific Goals, and Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST. Today, we’re going to look at not getting distracted by the details. Which is hard. Really hard. I might be a big-picture thinker, but as a vintage-lovin’, artsy-fartsy, all-around creative kinda gal, the details are what bring things to life! So when I am organizing my house, I tend to latch onto my pretty mason jars and wonder what I can do with them, or I painstakingly arrange those socks in the drawer until they … are … just … right. Ahem. Like they’re gonna stay that way! But hey, they need to be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh my goodness. Wrong.

If I waited for my entire home to be perfect before I felt like I had done what I had set out to do, down to eradicating the last dust bunny from under our entertainment system, I’d be waiting for the a loooonnng time to ever enjoy the sense of accomplishment that sorting those major areas first brings, meeting my specific goals to clean the house, and carefully approaching each task with intention and purpose.

So, while this post might piggy-back a little on yesterday’s post, it bears repeating …

Step 4: Don’t Get Distracted by Details

Yesterday I mentioned how my mom always chided me for focusing on a small task when my whole room was a disaster area and some quick picking up of laundry would make it look so much better. My alphabetizing my cassette tapes may have been a facetious comment (although as a former library worker, alphabetizing had been known to happen), but the moral of the story is still the same.

If your home is cluttered and unorganized, don’t fall into the temptation to focus on only the details. I’ve been so guilty of this. I can arrange my coffee table magazines to the absolute perfect angles (obsessive compulsive much?) while at the same time ignoring the pile of boxes people have given me for shipping from my Creative Salvage Etsy shop that need to be stored in the attic.

My theory why it is so easy for me to get lost in the details is because details are manageable. They are small. They can be accomplished in a short amount of time, so they can feel more rewarding. They also give one the sense of being in control, whereas if a home is overrun by “stuff” it is visually distracting and overwhelming to some.

Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned in my organizational journey:

  • Be systematic. If you tend to get stuck focusing on one detail here and there, combat that by sticking to a plan such as cleaning and organizing from the front door to the hall and then the hall to the kitchen and the kitchen to the back door.
  • Keep moving. Sort as you move from the front door to the back door, but also keep the momentum going by not sorting in a detailed way.
  • Use the box method. Bring five boxes: Keep, Sell, Give Away, Throw Away, Decide Later. If the item is a no-brainer that you love and use, put it in the Keep box. If you don’t use it or want it and it is in good shape and valuable, put it in the Sell box. If it is in good shape but not particularly valuable, put it in the Give Away box. If it isn’t in good shape, you don’t want it, and probably nobody else would either, put it in the Throw Away box. If it is in good shape, but you’re not sure if you can part with it, don’t prolong the decision making and hinder your progress, put it in the Decide Later box. Go through your area quickly and thoroughly, but don’t spend too much time thinking about the items or you begin to focus on those little details again and your work will be hindered.

And then … reward yourself. Enjoy some details. I didn’t say ignore them. I said don’t get lost in them. When your living room or hall or bedroom has been organized on the macro level, go ahead and drill down to the micro level. Buy a fabulous sock drawer organizer if that’s your thing (although consider the perfectly imperfect solution of having a sock drawer where you can just toss your socks–as in, you might actually stick with the process–instead of rolling and displaying them like sock sushi.)

Whether you choose to reward yourself with a nice dinner out, a manicure, a movie, or even just enjoying focusing on the details for once like I just mentioned, the point is that you are providing positive reinforcement for sticking to the job at hand. You’ve just begun to reprogram the way your brain thinks about organizing. That’s an accomplishment! Soon you will begin to associate the big projects with a similar sense of pride, control, and accomplishment that the smaller details bring. Congratulations!


Filed under Organizing, Sorting, Uncategorized

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST

I’m about to “keep it real” as I write this pre-post note. I have to admit I struggled writing this post because I felt hypocritical the entire time. In fact, I have been tweaking and re-writing it several times throughout the day, trying to get my thoughts right. Here’s the thing: though I’ve been working hard to get organized, I’m far from perfect. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a magic formula. I didn’t always follow the advice I’m about to give you. So part of me feels like a fool even daring to post it and say, “hey! Here’s something to help!” But I’m ignoring that little voice and I’m hoping that by posting this anyway it will be exactly what someone needs to hear, because regardless of how I feel right now, all of this is coming straight from personal experience and the heart. So here goes … 


Has this ever happened to you or someone you know–you feel overwhelmed by the scope of your organizational needs and don’t know where to start? Here’s a hint: don’t start with your jewelry box or your baseball card collection. Those things being tidy, while nice, won’t help your daily existence too much. Today’s organizational step continues the themes from days 1 and 2 of this series, in that I’ve learned that being intentional with the process includes making specific goals for the areas I use the most. You want to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Step 3: Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST

It’s a good thing to have an organized bathroom drawer. (I know I liked mine when I had it at our old house and I first organized it; I liked it even better when it had a snazzy organizer in it.) However, if the major areas in your home are a disaster area, you’ll still feel like you’re not under control. Because you aren’t. The thing is … you can be. I promise.

You just have to be willing to go the slow route and tackle them systematically so you can feel more relaxed in your environment.

Carefully consider how you use your home on a daily basis. Where do you eat, work, relax, and congregate as a family? What cupboards do you access each day? Is there a piece of furniture on which you tend to set things down? What’s your favorite chair? Where do you fold your laundry? But mostly, which rooms do you use the most? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They just help you create an inventory to focus your organizational efforts in the most effective way.

Don’t be afraid to create an organizational structure that is non-traditional. Forget the name of the room. Focus on how you use it, not what it was called by your real estate agent or general contractor. The goal here is to simply determine how you actually use your home’s areas. Once you know this, you’ll have a much easier time sorting, cleaning, and organizing them. Simply remove the items that don’t belong with the function of an area and move them to one where they make sense, instead.

It’s a snowball effect in reverse. Instead of starting small and getting bigger, you start big and go smaller. (My mother used to tell me this all the time when I was younger and I didn’t listen to her. I thought it was waaayyyyy better to, say, alphabetize my cassette tape collection by artist than to pick all the clothes up off the floor and do the laundry first.)

Here’s why this is a good method: it makes you feel good. It inspires you. It provides a nice, tidy atmosphere for you to then take out those drawers and sort them, one by one, without being overwhelmed. It is much easier to focus on the harder small sorting when the easier big sorting is already done.

If you are ahead of the curve and you’ve already got the big spaces fairly under control (nobody has a perfectly kept home , except maybe June Cleaver) then progress right to tackling the cupboard or sideboard or linen closet you use on a daily basis.

Bottom line? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Sort the areas you use the most FIRST. Progress gradually to the areas you use only once in awhile (like that jewelry box, or the closet in the bedroom you never use, or the toolbox in your garage.) Voila! You’re on  your way to being an organizing dynamo!


Filed under Organizing, Uncategorized

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Make Specific Goals

Just under a year ago, I set out to conquer clutter and resolved to whip my home into shape one drawer, cupboard, and shelf at a time. This post is a continuation of a series I began on Monday, sharing an overview of five steps that I have learned along the way that have helped make getting organized a reality for me. Yesterday, I talked about how to Be Intentional With the Process; today, I am tackling how to Make Specific Goals.

Step 2: Make Specific Goals

It’s funny how much like dieting, exercising, or handling a budget getting organized can be. I touched on this yesterday, and also awhile back when I compared talked about keeping a household space budget. Mostly, this is because all these things require self-control and willpower in order to bring about positive change. However, it is also because that we tend to make these things goals of ours. We can visualize ourselves 20 pounds lighter, able to hoist heavy barbells with ease and finesse, and making final payments on our student loans to become debt-free at last. The problem is, if you only visualize the end result, you’ll get lost in the daily drudgery.

That’s why experts in so many fields recommend making specific goals and rewarding yourself for reaching them in small increments. They call them SMART goals. This means they are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-sensitive

I’ve seen this used from everything from time management to weight loss and it is a good formula because it forces you to think things through and be able to track your success. To put this in perspective, consider this example:

“I want to get organized.”

Is it specific? Not really. Is it measurable? Nope. Is it achievable? Perhaps, but you’d have a hard time knowing when you had completed your goal. Is it realistic? Yes. You CAN get organized. But it is not realistic to expect that all areas of your life will be instantly organized by willpower alone. That also takes time. Which brings us to … is it time sensitive? No. There isn’t a deadline. There isn’t a goal date. You might get organized fully for one day twenty years from now, but that won’t help you this year. It will be very easy to become exhausted and discouraged when trying to reach this goal.

“I want to clean out and organize the hall closet by Thursday, so that we can fit our winter coats and easily access sporting gear for the kids.”

Is it specific? YES. This is for the hall closet. Is it measurable? YUP. If you can fit the coats and find the sporting gear, you have succeeded. Is it achievable? YOU BETCHA. Even if it takes several days and interruptions, it is a manageable task that will not be tossed aside and forgotten because it took too long. Is it realistic? SURE. A small hall closet is a great starting point for a household organizing venture.  Is it time-sensitive? ABSOLUTELY. You want it done by Thursday. You can always extend the deadline, but for now it is doable and you can step back Thursday evening and appreciate your handiwork. (I’d say now is the time to reward yourself with a nice brownie sundae. That is, if you aren’t working on losing those 20 pounds.)

This is basically what I’ve been doing for the past year. Sometimes I slip up and say vague, unhelpful things like “I need to clean up this place. It’s a wreck.” Those are the days when I sit on the couch and ignore the piles around me. (Full disclosure? This happens more often than I would like.) On a whole, however, I’ve found it has been very useful to tackle bite-sized projects that I can step back and admire after I’m done. Keeping up with this blog has been a huge motivation for me to keep up the good work, and it has also helped me make specific goals by thinking about how I could write a post about my latest project!

So, take a look around you … what specific goals can you make today that will improve your household organization?


Filed under Balance, Organizing