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Adventures in Organizing

Usually I remember some little tidbit of advice or learn some new technique to share with each space I organize.

This time I was helping an old friend who I had organized for a long time (about 5 years) ago. She & I work well together & got the room done in about 4.5 to 5 hours.
It was a lot of fun because she has a home decor business & had tons of fun stuff to sort through. Plus she let me keep a few treasures from her discard pile.


I found these cute labels and cute baskets while sorting. How lucky am I that they were exactly the labels that I needed for this room?

So for this blog post, I thought I'd share some of our adventures we had that day, and shed some light on why stay-at-home Moms have a lot of hindrances (ie: kids) that slow progress.

Story #1:
My friend had bought a very large (64+ oz) Dr. Pepper. This was her little treat/motivation for the work of the day. She left her drink on the bathroom counter, and we set to work. Her 2 youngest kids were home & fighting each other on the stairs. Then we heard a very large CRASH!!!
Her kids had gotten her drink & spilled it all down the staircase (which had just had its carpet cleaned).....on the 1st floor's wood flooring....even some splatters in the kitchen. So not only did she not get her treat, but she also had to clean up the huge mess. She warned me that with her son, the day was just getting started....


Left side before


Left side After

Story #2:
About 1/2 hour to an hour later, her son starts whining in the hall. She goes out to see what's going on & I hear the following conversation:
Son: "I fell in the toilet!!"
Mom: "You fell in the toilet?"
Son: "I got water from the toilet on me, and then I fell in the toilet!!"

We decided that he must have been trying to go potty, and then somehow managed to fall in. And she had yet another mess to clean up.


Straight Ahead Before


Straight ahead close up Before


Straight ahead After

Story #3:

I had to leave to pick up my kindergartner, and came back to help finish. My daughter kinda played with my friend's son and daughter, but mostly Spongebob entertained them while we tried to finish what we had started. With about an hour's worth of work left, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves and the progress we had made. Then my friend went to see if her daughter had woken up from her nap.

I heard, "NOOOooooo!!! Don't color on the wall with markers!!"

Apparently her youngest had found a marker, and after marking up her own arms and legs, decided to continue her artwork on the walls. My friend came back to the room we were organizing and showed me her daughter's arms.

I said, "Were the markers washable?"

She said, "That's what they say....I guess we'll find out."

By this time though, we were nearing the finish line, so I suggested rubbing alcohol, and we moved ahead.


Right Side Before

Right side After

Last story: Since most of the mishaps were caused by the children, I know you're thinking that this one is another....but this one was all me.

I was loading up my treasures from the pile that she was taking to the local charity, I liked some glass bottles, and she gave me some ideas of how to decorate with them. I put them in a box, then started to head out to the hall.

My friend had gotten rid of a lot that day, and I was so proud of her. Since her truck was currently loaded up with things to be taken to charity, she had made a (very large) pile in her room so that she could load up again later after taking the first load. As I was walking out to the hall, dodging this and that, I looked down at a cute plate. With my eyes so averted, I didn't see the corner of the wall and hit it with my shoulder. If there had been a camera on me, what happened next would definitely be on YouTube by now. I teetered a little, shifted my weight, and had my self settled. Then I made a miscalculation in the distribution of my weight, and started swaying again. It must have taken a full minute for me to finally fall with a very loud CRASH onto the pile of stuff in her room.

She rounds the corner, and asks, "Do you want me to take a picture of this for your blog?"


Let's just say that I was really lucky not to be the punchline from a Seinfeld episode ("Million to one chance, Doc")

*side note: as I was typing this blog post, my daughter cut her hand open with the broken ceramic handle of a toy spoon. She had to get 5 stitches. Isn't it great to be a Mom?

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One Way to Get it Done

One of the hardest parts about organizing is maintenance. We all get lazy sometimes. Even with a place for everything, sometimes you just don't feel like putting things where they go.

This is one of the biggest reasons that I make a distinction between dirty and cluttered. A lot of us have clean albeit cluttered homes. My kids' rooms have the opposite problem.....they are fully organized, but they just won't stay clean.

After helping my friend organize and rearrange her daughter's room, I decided that one way get my kids to clean their room was to redecorate. We usually rearrange the rooms every January. We like to try new furniture placement, and reevaluate whether our systems are working or not, and sometimes even change the function of a room. But being out of school for summer, and getting ready to go back, we really needed good motivation to clean the rooms. And when you involve a little kid in the rearrangement of their room, they feel so empowered and creative (and will actually help).

view from door before

The view from the doorway before. This is one of the reasons I decided it was time to redecorate. How would you like to walk by this everyday?

view from door zafter

The view from the doorway after. The bow organizer got moved from the pink wall. This is one of those placement reevaluations. I thought the bow organizer would make a very cute design element on the wall. In reality, the kids kept knocking it off the wall. They never put the bows back on it so there was always a pile of bows on the floor in front of it. Solution: off the wall and on the floor.

side of bed before

The view of the side of the bed before. When I bought and refinished this side table, I made my daughter promise to keep it nice. It usually gets cleaned off, but this small walkway usually gets trashed. I figured it was because there was no reason to keep the bed made or beside the bed clean. I had never bought my kids a comforter when I moved them to a queen size bed (used to be a guest room bed), they were just using an old quilt.

side of bed zafter

Side of the bed after. Solution: I bought a new comforter and made a big deal about it. We went to several stores searching for the cutest (and cheapest) one. Then I made a small change of switching the way the bed faced. Now it takes up less room so there's more room to play on the floor. Also it looks like a giant day bed. With the pillows at the top, I can fold back the comforter instead of trying to shove it between the bed and wall. The girls thought this made their bed look really cool. I also put one of their buckets beside the bed for all their blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals that they like to keep on their bed.

(side note: my oldest girl picked out the saying on the wall. She had vinyl on her wall before but it was white and didn't really show up. This is sparkly black and I thought her saying was very cute and creative.)

dresser view before

Corner view before. One problem I noticed was that the girls' room was "visually cluttered". I use this terminology all the time when I'm organizing for others.....and all I'm really trying to explain is that when there is too much for the eye to look at all at once, it gives the area a feel of being cluttered even if it is not.

dresser view zafter

Corner view after. Even though I was the one to paint all the crazy murals before, I still had to talk the girls into letting me paint over them. We left some on the opposite wall, and moved a picture from the opposite wall to fill the blank space. My oldest daughter loves busy, bright, brash things....but even she agreed that this just looked better.

Hopefully, seeing that the plumber's toilet gets clogged too (so to speak) will help motivate you to tackle your own spaces. And if you want to involve your kids, or just give yourself extra incentive, remember that the cleaning and organizing is secondary to the fun of redecorating.

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An Experiment

I think I have hit upon a brilliant idea, but I need some help testing it out.

It occurs to me that when we say we don't want to let something go because of all the memories attached to it, this is not exactly the case. So assuring you that the memory doesn't leave with the object doesn't really cut it as far as motivation goes. It seems to me that the problem is really that these items trigger the memory. We come across items when we clean, organize, or move and these memories (that we weren't trying to actively recall) present themselves. And usually the memories are of fun times, accomplishments etc.

So the reluctance to let these items go springs more from the fear that without them we won't have a reason to recall these fun times. (not that we won't be able to remember them)

Here's where my brilliant idea comes in: How about when you are contemplating getting rid of one of these "memory triggering" items, you write down the associated memories in a special journal. Then when you feel like reminiscing, you can pick up your journal instead of poking through all of the boxes in your basement.

I think this will really help free up some of the space in your house as well as in your mind (remember everything in your house is in your brain). In addition, this journal is a wonderful way to start your own personal history. If you were gone, and your children were to find your special items, would they know why the items were special?

I'm really excited about this idea, and I think it could be a great way to share your memories, reclaim the spaces in your house, free your life (and mind) of clutter, and create something unique for you and your family.

If someone takes a chance on this idea, please, please, please email me or comment so that we can see if this idea can really produce its intended results.


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I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 who likes to organize, craft, & read (among other things)