Getting Organized for “Back to School”

I’m a self-professed slob, and I have no idea why people are always shocked to hear this. I must present myself like I have my act together, but unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Ask anyone who knows me in person. I am always late to appointments, forgetting something I’ve promised to bring, and misplacing important items such as car keys. My house is rarely picked up, and you can usually depend on finding stacks of papers and books on almost any horizontal surface.

It doesn’t help that everyone in our family is wired the same way — except my youngest, who somehow managed to inherit the tidy gene from my mother. It is amazing. The child can organize her room without assistance and can almost always locate a missing item that the rest of us have spent hours searching for. But she is seven. So when it comes to organizing the rest of the house, I am on my own. For now. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can put my daughter to work. I told her she should be a professional organizer when she grows up.

My husband likes for things to be neat and tidy, and he is willing to help, but he is as befuddled as I am when it comes to implementing a workable system. Our current system basically consists of letting things go until they get to the point where we can’t take it any more, at which point we scurry around and shove everything into nooks and crannies where they won’t be so noticeable. It’s not exactly a solution — it’s more like a bandaid.

Everywhere I look, my house is crying for help. We’ve lived here for almost eight years, and the home that once felt open and spacious is closing in on me. My laundry room is driving me bananas. My kitchen cabinets are overflowing. The family room is littered with books and toys, and the dining room table is the “catch-all” for everything that we don’t have a good spot for. I know I need a “command center” but I have no idea where to put it or how to go about creating one. And don’t even get me STARTED on our attic . . .

Every year when the kids head back to school and all the paperwork starts pouring in, I swear I’m going to implement a workable system to keep our home running smoothly and stick to it. But it never seems to happen. This year I’m not messing around. I decided to call a professional.

My friend Darla runs a professional organizing business called HeartWork Organizing. She came out to my house one day last month to take a look around and help me come up with a plan.

I always assumed that it was because of my laziness that nothing I try seems to work, but I realize now that it could be the systems that are flawed. Of course, I do have to make the time to do the work, but sometimes I think we jump into a system that we see touted by the organizational gurus when it isn’t the right one for us.

Darla taught me two things while she was here:

  1. Not one system works for every person.
  2. It is easier to change systems than habits.

The first thing Darla did when she arrived at my house was to have me show her around. I showed her my current organizational systems (I have to laugh to even call them that!!) and explained our habits.

I realized right then the value of having a professional organizer into your home.

Any website can give you ideas and tips, but a professional organizer takes into consideration your home, your space and your habits and then makes recommendations that fit your life.

We ended up doing a few small projects in my kitchen together, and it was fascinating to see how Darla worked. Some of her solutions were so simple, but they really helped me feel like I have a better handle on things.

Take for instance my plastics drawer. It was overflowing with plastic containers in all sorts of shapes and sizes.


Darla’s advice was to toss all the mismatched pieces and start fresh. Since I hardly had any matching pieces left, I had no problem doing this. Plus, I’ve been wanting to switch to glass storage bowls anyway. Clearing out all the mismatched plastics allowed me to clear out my glass storage containers from underneath my island where they have been making a mess of my mixing bowls.

Darla placed them in the “plastics drawer” along with some disposable cups that were taking up space in my pantry (removing them from their plastic packaging and stacking them neatly never occurred to me!!!) That empty spot was holding some disposable plastic containers that we ended up using to store things in my pantry. Her advice was to buy the same size and shape from here on out so they will fit nicely in my drawer.


We also worked on my pantry. This is a temporary solution. I am planning to replace these wire shelves with a system of adjustable shelves from FreedomRail. But for now, check out our Before and After!


And now . . .


There is so much more we could do with that if I had more containers, but we came a long way. If you could have only seen the floor in the before picture . . . OY!

The biggest lesson I learned here is to take things out of their packaging and place them in glass jars or containers. This is especially helpful for items like rice and beans that come in bags. But it was also a great way to consolidate THREE open boxes of cereal. GACK.


(And yes, I am officially a hypocrite — those of you who have followed my blog for a while know how I used to eschew all boxed cereals. I finally caved and started buying a few organic varieties. I still think it’s a nutritional wasteland, but I’ve gotten lazy, and that is all I have to say about that.)

We also cleared out this cupboard above my fridge.


And . . .


There was a lot of trash and a lot of donations when we were done, and honestly, I don’t know why I couldn’t do most of this myself. But having an objective party present to give advice and perspective makes all the difference in the world.

We realized through this process that I owned about 10 coffee makers. NO JOKE. Darla thought it was so hysterical that she had to take a picture. I got rid of a few so now I’m down to just four. LOL!!

There is so much more I want to do in my kitchen alone. Then I plan to tackle the laundry room.


Night. Mare.

And finally, we are going to work on implementing some type of “command center” system so we can start back to school with a workable system that will {hopefully} allow our home to run a bit more smoothly this year. Our schools start on September 3rd, so the way I see it, I have exactly one month to get my act together.

The hardest part is finding the time to do all of this. I keep telling myself that I need to think like we are moving (we are so not!!) and then de-clutter and organize mercilessly until I feel like I have my house under control again.

I will keep you posted!!