Organizational hacks for the rest of us

July 31, 2013 | 97 comments

When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent too much time reading Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple. Friends of mine had used the suggestions from those pages to bring order to their homes, and I came to the very unfortunate conclusion that those tips were just what I needed too. About a year later, I found myself staring at the color-coded toy bins I’d so carefully set up in my son’s room, realizing that they were filled with ALL THIS STUFF that was NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE, yet finding that the prospect of sorting it all out made me want to fall to my knees and scream.

What I didn’t realize then is that I have Attention Deficit Disorder, or something like it. Is there a diagnosis for people who have been known to ignore jars of jelly spilled on the living room carpet because they just didn’t see them, who find the entire physical world to be an overwhelming and mildly annoying place compared to the awesome reality inside their heads? If so, that’s me. (By the way: I’ve given up on trying to have shoes on all the kids when we leave the house. My new plan is to make going barefoot to the doctor’s office a thing.)


Eight years and a few more kids later, I’ve finally found a way to keep my house organized, and I thought I’d put all my secrets down in a post in case it’s of help to anyone else.

I’m the first to admit that this list isn’t for everyone. Many people have a natural ability to deal with life that allows them to keep their houses Pinterest-worthy at all times. If that’s you, please close your browser now so that I won’t be a bad influence on you. But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t understand how anyone could ever get all the stuff off the floor when they sweep, or if trying to fold a fitted sheet has ever made you entirely lose your will to live, you might just find a few useful tips below.

All of these papers would be on my office floor of these boxes had lids.

All of these papers would be on my office floor if these boxes had lids.

1. Lids are your single biggest obstacle to staying organized. They exist solely to prevent you from getting your stuff where it needs to go. Banish all lids from your house.

2. Don’t fold things that don’t need to be folded. Guess who’s going to care if your wash cloths are wrinkled? That’s right: nobody. Put shoe boxes in your linen cabinet and under the sink where you can toss dish rags and wash cloths. Store baby clothes (unfolded) in an open basket.

3. Do that thing from Pinterest where you keep bedding sets together by storing the sheets in the pillow case — and, per the above, just wad up the sheets and shove them in there if you can’t deal with folding them.

4. Sort items with as little granularity as possible. Different places for the kids’ scissors and crayons and pencils? Waaaaay too detailed. Get one box and throw it all in there together.

There would be no problem here if I'd just labeled it "Art Supplies."

There would be no problem here if I’d just labeled it “Art Supplies.”

5. Know that you have an archenemy, and it has a name: Clutter. Pretend that you’re Chuck Norris and Clutter is the bad guy, and bring all your best Kung Fu skillz to getting it out of your house.

6. But don’t be too hard on yourself if your house is cluttered. People like us always have a million ideas swirling around in our heads, and our living spaces are going to reflect that. Grade yourself on the curve: If you only have four messy areas in your house, that’s the equivalent of your super-organized friend having her home ready for a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot.

7. Don’t use socks.

8. Okay, you might have to use socks sometimes. Resign yourself to this terrible fate, and try to do that thing everyone recommends where you only buy socks in one color and one size and you don’t match them before putting them away.

9. What’s that you say? You can’t do the one-color sock trick because the Sock Variety Fairy keeps coming in at night and planting patterned socks in your kids’ sock drawers? Yeah. Happens here too. Just buy as many socks of the same type and color as you can, and be strong about throwing away mismatched pairs. Worrying that you shouldn’t throw away the reindeer-patterened sock because its mate might show up in the next load, even though you haven’t seen it in months, is a great way to end up with multiple drawers stuffed with random, unusable socks that makes your brain start to melt every time you open it.

10. Store your most-used items out in the open. (Dinner preparation might be a little less dramatic without the avalanche of pots and pans bursting from the cabinet every night, but you’ll love your hanging pot rack.)

11. Keep a write-on/wipe-off marker in your bathroom so that you can make note of the brilliant inspirations that come to you when you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (or to remind yourself to do things that you’d otherwise forget).

You know what's hard? Taking a picture of writing on a mirror without getting yourself in the photo.

You know what’s hard? Taking a picture of writing on a mirror without getting yourself in the shot.

12. Get a large, 56-quart storage bin to designate as your “items to donate” box. It’ll be too big to fit in your car, so keep a box of trash bags next to it for easy bagging when you’re ready to make a Goodwill run. (Yes, the bags have to be next to it — if you leave the room to get them, you’ll be watching Youtube videos of funny kittens in two minutes. I don’t know how this happens. It just does.)

13. Don’t be a perfectionist about getting rid of items. I know, I know: when you cleaned out your closet you found those clothes that you bought that time that seeing a random episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians made you decide that your wardrobe needed to be more “fun, ” and now you don’t know what to do with all those designer leopard-skin leggings. You thought about donating them to Goodwill, but you might be able to get some money for them, and — let me stop you right there. People like us can spend years analyzing this kind of thing. Give yourself two weeks to get down to a consignment store to see if you can sell your items; if you can’t do it in that time period, just dump it at Goodwill’s donation center and be done with it.

14. Keep your children ignorant of the concept of puzzles until at least age 10.

15. Go paperless for your filing system. I consider ScanSnap and Evernote to be major contributing factors to the fact that I have not yet spent any time in high-security mental facilities.



16. But think carefully about whether you want to go paperless for everything. There are a lot of great to-do list apps out there (I’m loving Errands), but any time you fire up an electronic device you run the risk of playing Angry Birds instead of whatever it was that you set out to do. I’m still a fan of paper for grocery and daily chore lists.

17. The amount that you love your children is not directly proportional to the amount of their artwork that you keep. Save a few special items, and toss the rest. If it helps you get it done, take pictures of the pieces you toss and store them on your computer (I recommend Dropbox or EvernoteΒ for this). That way you can have all the memories and none of the clutter.

18. If you have young children, one of the best investments you can make is to install shelves or hooks at a height only reachable by adults.

19. Keep pre-packed bags that contain essential items for your regular activities (e.g. a pool bag with goggles, sunscreen, and bottles of water). Hang them on the hooks I mentioned above, lest you too experience the moment of grabbing your activity bag when you’re running late, only to find a Dora doll and a half-chewed granola bar inside instead of the items you need.

Organized chaos. Just my style.

Organized chaos. Just my style.

20. Unless you hate yourself, don’t use regular bookshelves for children’s books. Sling bookshelvesΒ allow you to blindly and haphazardly put away all those small, weirdly-sized books just like you would with a normal bookshelf, but without the sense of failure.

21. Understand that putting an object into an opaque box with a lid is equivalent to throwing it into the cauldron of a smoldering volcano. You will never see it again.

22. As fun as it is to test the limits of your sanity by trying to find the right top for your leftovers container when it’s 10 PM and you’re exhausted and just want to go to bed, avoid the hassle by storing your tupperware with the lids on (thanks to readers for this tip!)

23. Put the word out that giving your children toys with more than 20 pieces will be taken as a hostile act that signifies that the giver despises your family and wishes ill upon you personally.

24. Buy a small house. Bigger spaces just give you more places to hide the clutter.

25. Believe that it’s possible to find an organizational system that works for you. I can’t tell you how many times I concocted elaborate plans that would supposedly keep my house in perfect order, only to have the entire thing fall apart within two weeks. Around the time baby number three came along, I started to have grave concerns about whether we were all doomed to live in squalor. But I kept trying, and after learning many, many, lessons the hard way, I’ve finally found a set of organizational techniques that keeps my household running smoothly (most of the time, anyway). Keep at it, and you will too.

For additional resources, I recommend Organizing Solutions for People With ADD, the FlyLady book, and, of course, Pinterest, from which many of these tips came.


  1. Amy Wood

    I am glad that I am not the only one that writes on the mirror (except I use soap)!

  2. Claire

    I was recently diagnosed with “inattentive ADHD.” Oh, how I get the lack of organization/overwhelmed by everyday stuff. Drastically changing my diet has helped, but really a loose form of organization works best. I’ve tried to be super organized and ended up knee-deep (waist deep) in “stuff.” When I do things similar to your way, I am much calmer and more organized. I don’t have children. If I did, then CHAOS would be an understatement. Thank you for inspiring me. xoxoxoxo

  3. Elisa | blissfulE

    For odd socks, I recently started keeping a shoebox in which I throw every sock that doesn’t match at the end of a load of laundry. Much less stressful to have all the odd socks in one place, and sometimes they are even reunited. Yay!

    • Karie

      I do something similar. I have a sock box that lives in the laundry room. Sometimes when the pile gets too big, or I just _know_ that a sock has been there for-evah! I will simply remove the sock. Occasionally I have regretted it (about 3 seconds) but most often the other sock was already lost long ago.

      • Patti Oefelein

        Instead of throwing them away, check with your kids’ teachers to see if they can use them as erasers for individual wipe off boards or chalkboard used inthe classroom. If they don’t need them, then toss them! I saved all the odd socks for my own classroom for years.

    • Sara McD

      I sucker, I mean delegate, sock folding to anyone who walks by when the sock crate is full.

    • Bobette

      Luckily for us, mismatched socks are all the fad right now and my teens and pre-teens refuse to wear socks matching! I now just have a sock box in a central location and, with the exception of mine and my husbands socks, a never even think about matching them!

      • Jennifer Fitz

        I’m with Bobette. Coordinating socks are way cooler than matching socks.

        • Rita R

          YES! My kids have totally bought into this fad of mismatched socks. And now, I can never go back. Need socks in my home? You’ll find them in the laundry basket by the back door.

          • Melissa

            Absolutely agree. My kids wear unmatched socks all the time, and it is definitely the cool thing to do now. I solved the problem for my husband’s socks by allowing only one brand/style/color of dark socks and one of white socks. No more sock problems!

    • Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      I line-dry all my laundry, so when a sock gets through without its mate, I just leave it on the line until the other one comes through. Doesn’t take up much space.

      Permanently widowed socks are ideal for dusting and polishing, if you ever get around to those tasks. Or the kids can make them into sock puppets.

  4. Tiffany

    Ahh Organized Chaos. Now this is an organizational system I can use! I’m so happy to see that I am not the only one…my mother and sister are more of the Martha Stewart types (I missed out on that gene party)…pretty sure they have near heart attacks when they enter my home! Thanks for this!

  5. Amy @ Consecrated Housewife

    Totally get the shoe issue…our solution is to leave the shoes in the van for the two youngest members of our family (5 & 2). Otherwise I would spend half my life looking for their shoes when we should have been out the door 5 minutes ago. If nothing else, at least leave a spare pair of crocks or something in there, trust me…you’ll wonder why someone didn’t patent this idea.

    Oh, and don’t forget to have the kids take the shoes off before they get out of the van (but mine usually don’t have a problem taking shoes off in the van). I’ve trained my older ones to help them put shoes on when we arrive someplace so we don’t have to stand there in the parking lot waiting for them to put on shoes!

  6. Camille

    Oh my goodness. I think this is me, except I’m in the “I just had my child child and I think we may have to live in squalor” phase. Time to cut myself some slack from the ultraorganized systems I’ve tried… Because they aren’t working… And try some more low key organization.

  7. Kendra Tierney

    I love bins without lids! For our family, it’s also been key to keep the main toy storage out of reach of the kids. I just give them one or two bins at a time, so messes stay manageable. And they’re able to clean it up themselves, since it stays categorized. Here’s how we do it: Setting Kids Up for Success

    It also avoids that thing where other people’s kids come you your house and dump all your bins upside down. I hate that thing.

    • Gina

      Totally agree!!!! We put up a big long shelf in the toy room, and ALL small pieces toys, puzzles, paints, CRAYONS go there. One simple rule – clean up your other toys before I’ll get a new one down.

  8. Melanie

    haha! My husband has ADD. *I* am disorganized. *He* is a train wreck. I *love* the idea of the dry erase markers….I can’t tell you how many times I have needed him to remember something when he leaves for work (very early) in the mornings and trying to figure out where I can put a post-it where he will actually register it. Hmm…maybe I can write on his car windows too….
    The jelly jar thing made me laugh out loud. I am always amazed at what he just doesn’t *see*. I could make a very long list of the things he has sat on because he just doesn’t *look* before he sits. Like, babies. Sandwiches. Kittens. huge lego creations (ouch).

  9. Meredith

    I love the suggestion of leaving the youngest’s shoes in the van!

    I also agree with sock-less living when possible. Thank goodness we live in a mild climate! My kids wear Keen sandals for just about any occasion.

    • Jeni

      We really leave our shoes in the car. The oldest is 4 so really, it’s second nature. They play barefoot a lot outside anyway too.

  10. Renee

    Since we are expecting to have a large family, we keep clothing for hand-me-downs. I used to have such a chaotic just-throw-the-clothes whereever habit. I now love our large intdustrial shelf in the basement with the clear storage totes so I can actually see what’s in them! (then I can keep the lids on to protect them from bugs/critters).

  11. lp

    Ha! I’ve given up on the socks and just let the kids mix and match. Our 3-year-old especially loves it (“I’ll wear . . . bunnies on this foot and Ariel for my other foot!”) Drives some of the extended family crazy, though. πŸ™‚

    • Tracy

      My teenage children have done this since they have been required to do their own laundry. Before they insisted on matches. Since I require anyone big enough to reach the bottom of the washer to do their own laundry, I haven’t had to mate socks for a long time. I wash mine in a lingerie bag that I put my dirty socks in as I take them off. DH just wears black gym socks.

  12. Amelia HOW did you get inside my head? Seriously? I am so disorganized and this post TOTALLY makes me feel better that our boxes don’t have lids and that I don’t fold my sheets or baby clothes or wash cloths or basically anything. And, the avalanche of pots when you open a cupboard? My husband swears I’m going to kill him one of these days the avalanche of dishes.

  13. Cathy

    My kids are all older – ok, 2 are almost grown, but I quit folding certain things a loooonnnggg time ago – underwear? nope, just throw in the drawer. Socks? keep them in a bucket – pick out two & go. Wash cloths? I keep a pretty basket in the bathroom & toss ’em in. (I guess I should add that since my kids reached the age of being able to be taught how to do their own laundry, everyone in our house is responsible for their own.)

    Incidentally, if I had told certain members of my husband’s family NOT to give toys with more than 20 pieces, they would have taken it as a personal challenge to find toys with AT LEAST that many pieces. Some people are just like that…

  14. marika

    One more sock suggestion – wear mismatched socks. As long as they are of similar thickness/material, you won’t notice, and most likely, no one else will either. And if they do notice, hey! a topic for random conversation:-)

  15. Danielle

    What helpful hints you’ve included here!! We’re only on baby #1, but boy can I see how implementing some of these tips could make life easier! Something I’ve really tried to do is make sure that things are stored where we use them. For example, we bathe him in the kitchen sink, so the tub, shampoo, washcloths, and towels for him all live in the kitchen closet, even though all the other towels are in a linen closet upstairs.

    Thanks for the insightful post!

  16. Nancy

    Hurting myself laughing! LOVE “wad the sheets up and stuff em in there”; “don’t use socks” and keeping artwork=love. A sanguine personality (read “born slob”) who struggles toward that distant goal of orderliness (married to a melancholic/choleric) whilst awash in a bunch of kids, I feel this post in my bones… thank you!!

  17. Grace

    I have never been able to figure out what my problem with filing stuff in boxes is until you said it: LIDS. I just never knew until now. Thank you for opening my eyes!!

    Also, I would add 26: If you are a chronic non filer of paper and it ends up on your desk, remove your desk. Our office is a thousand times less cluttered with my desk gone, because I can’t just put papers on my desk.

  18. Katherine

    <3 love all of this! :0) I've been cutting down on #s of toys lately, but I'm a sucker for keeping *all* the books, that sling bookcase is a great idea. Also the socks thing. And all the other stuff. Thank you!

  19. TheReluctantWidow

    I have recently learned the trick with sheets stuffed into pillow cases. I was working with a friend who does organization on the side, and I was telling her that I was going to get rid of the stands that I had purchased for my front load washer/dryer because I only use one section. Then she gave me that brilliant tip and they all fit very nicely standing up on their sides in these compartments. Now when clean sheets come out of the dryer, I just semi-fold/mash them into a pillow case and down into the drawer they go.

    Also, as I have gotten older, and I think in small part due to my husband’s death, I find that I can not tolerate a lot of visual clutter. It makes my brain hurt. So I made a pact with myself that three rooms in the house must be picked up and de-cluttered daily – my sunroom which doubles as an office and front entry, the living room, and the dining room. If I can walk into those rooms and see empty spaces, then I can relax. It makes me feel happy.

    Thanks for the tips! I see a few that I am going to try to implement. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  20. caroline

    i have never in my life felt more understood by another human being

    • Jeni


    • Ruth

      Now, don’t mistake me for the gal who changes sheets regularly. I used to double or triple up the crib sheets. Layer up: Mattress pad, sheet; mattress, pad sheet… That way when the sheet got nasty I’d pull off the top set. Really helpful for 4 am containment failure -and the sick in the night deals. I’d pull off the top set and then not mutter about forgetting to put fresh sheets when I had to put the love down for a nap later that day. 4am day starts = mommy fog (worse than the usual sleep deprived perpetual fog that I’ve grown accustomed to). << Hey, grammar Nazi's, have fun with that one.

  21. Elizabeth

    Love this!

    I always have clutter of papers (will have to consider scanning), toys (which I like to have more organized than the kids do), art supplies. I’ve already adopted 1 box for all art stuff.

    My 2 year old absolutely enjoys puzzles (24 pieces!!!) and we’re always missing 1 until it shows up days later under a table or bed or a box of toys.

  22. Lucy

    A long time ago you wrote a post about how you use boxes without lids. I ran to ikea and bought a ton of boxes (I’m really glad I managed to get a bunch of the ones that are only three inches or so tall – they don’t carry those anymore) and it has been so much better. Filing systems have NEVER worked for me – out of sight, out of mind. But a box labeled coupons or bills has been much better.

    I love this list. My husband has ADD and I swear it’s contagious but then, I’ve never been organized. Ever. So far, I’ve found only one organization book directed toward ADD (I think you mentioned it in that post and I’ve gotten it from the library several times). The other best tip I got was to severely limit the plasticware. I have only about seven containers, and I keep them in a small drawer. If they reproduce and I can’t close the drawer, it’s time to cull. It was so freeing to get rid of all those containers. For other stuff, though, I find baskets, bins, cardboard boxes, whatever, to be lifesavers.

    The only thing that seems to work well is simply to limit stuff. That is so hard for me, because I’m a maximalist and if I put things away I forget I have them. I’ve been working on becoming more minimalist, but it’s really a struggle. Yet I know it’s the only thing that will truly work for this family of scatterbrains.

  23. Kate

    I have ADD, and the challenge with organization is always the combination of two issues:

    1. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist/I will forget where it is
    2. If my visual field is cluttered, my mind feels cluttered, and I can’t think.

    My favorite sanity saver is a 15 minute one-room cleanup. Pick one room and put everything back where it belongs…but, so that you don’t get distracted by putting things away in other rooms, bring in a basket for everything that belongs somewhere else in the house. That way, at the end of it all you have one tidy room and a single basket of stuff to put away whenever you have time/energy.

    This really helps when I NEED to get one level tidy (upstairs or downstairs) because I know otherwise I’m going to go up and down those stairs a million times and become overwhelmed. This way I just wind up making one trip up or down with the basket at the end.

    • Megan

      Nice! I’ll have to try this tactic!

    • ~ Nona

      I just found out this past year that I have ADD. I was grateful for the diagnosis: it explained a lot.

      I’m working on decluttering. Here is another post that all of us with this problem (and some of us without it) can use profitably:

      Note: It will take TIME to get there BUT if you follow the guidelines in “Declutter Your Life”, you will get there.

      I tried working at this 20 minutes a day. It turns out that that’s too long — this is stressful work for those of us with ADD — so I’ve cut back to 10 minutes every day except Sunday. Some days I do two 10 minute segments.

      If I find myself on a roll, which sometimes I do, I give myself permission to keep going beyond the 10 minutes.

      The other guideline: Once an area is cleared of clutter, I have to keep the area clear. Not easy, but doable.

      Hope this helps!

  24. Nadine

    Also – keep a dry erase marker in your car. You can rapidly write needed information on the inside of your window to make sure you don’t forget necessary errands or details. Major lifesaver sometimes!

  25. Eugenia

    Thanks for the laughs. πŸ˜€
    But #21 is my goal. If I don’t see it, we don’t have it, and that’s it.

  26. Angela Holmes

    I love this post. In fact, I love all your posts. I hate clutter, but it follows me around. In fact, most of my day is spent picking up clutter…I think that’s the 2 year old’s fault. πŸ˜‰ So I was reading this post and got to the part where you are taking a picture of the writing on the mirror, and realized, I need to go take a shower so I don’t look like this stay at home mom who doesn’t shower. πŸ™‚

  27. Sarah Ewing

    I love you! I also have some kind of ADD and 6 kids which means that we NEVER leave the house without discovering too late that someone is wearing bare feet in rubber boots when its 30C and dry out or a shirt/pants with holes/stains. And organizing life necessities at home: impossible! Although I will attempt some of your tips and see if life improves. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  28. christine

    You are so right about the lids! Things never get put in a box with a lid, mostly because the lid becomes a surface to hold more clutter.

    I don’t know the last time my kids wore socks that matched.

    As the years go on, there are fewer things I bother folding. Certainly not Pjs or underwear or washcloths or rags. I’m thiiiis close to telling the kids to forget folding their clothes. By the time the lovely folded clothes make it into the dresser, they’ve been dropped 3 times and are simply stuffed into the drawer willy-nilly.

    While I am a guru at organizing, with each additional child I give up a little bit more of it. I’m going to play with the kids while I have the chance. Or blog. One of the two. πŸ™‚

    • Sarah

      Yes! Who irons pyjamas? Crazy.

  29. Tracey

    Well done and hang in there… children grow and some of them may even help in the struggle. One observation though – the only criteria for a pair of socks is there are two! I have seen fancy knitting patterns where you purposely make TWO different socks. Rudolf on one foot, stripy on the other – no problem in my book!

  30. Megan

    God bless you for understanding my brain. Bookmarking now and making everyone I know read this so they can understand me.

    Also, not less than two hours ago my daughter got FOUR 100-pc jigsaw puzzles for her 5th birthday. I about had a breakdown right then and there!

  31. Sarah

    Love it! You really make me chuckle…and feel normal! LOL

    I have NEVER understood why people iron bedding, never mind fold it nicely. Who is going to see the smooth bedding? Who are we trying to impress? I remember when we were trying to sell our house I actually ran the iron over our duvet when it was on the bed just to, you know, tart it up a bit.

    I posted a Youtube video on my blog a while ago about how to fold fitted sheets. I was triumphant. I had found a way. They made it look so easy. The very next time I tried to fold a fitted sheet I was all, “Rahhh! How do they do it? Stupid thing!” *scrunches up in ball and squashes into box*

    All my tupperware type boxes and lids are my favourite husband booby-trap. They’re balanced to create perfect avalanche conditions when he opens the cupboard to try and find a suitable box for his lunch. πŸ˜€

  32. Line

    Thank you! These are the best ideas for keeping organized that I’ve come across. I think I can do this, well some of it at least. I especially liked what you wrote about lids being an obstacle to staying organized. Lids confuse me! “What’s in the box?” “Do I have to take the lid of or can I just put everything on top of the lid?” And so I end up with empty boxes with a lot of junk on top of them… yay me …

  33. Adrian Gallacher

    This is wonderful. Our ‘Art Box’ full of pens and crayons is like a shoe box but no one ever gets further down than the first two inches. I sometimes (but not often!) wonder what treasures lie beneath those two inches.
    We have lovely wooden jig-saw of the counties of Britain and Ireland on an A4 board. Every now and then all the parts of Britain and Ireland are on it and I know there’s a God.

  34. Tanya

    So Awesome. Thank you.

  35. Jeni

    I love love love love this. I hate socks. Our of the 5 of us my husband only wears socks for work alone. And yes no socks for the rest of us. All year. I mean it.
    Boo socks.

  36. Laura

    So, so very awesome. Thank you for this Jen. I’m mentally patting myself on the back for doing some of these things already. And I cannot _wait_ to get a scansnap / evernote system going.

  37. Eva

    My entire life would be totally organised if only ‘Real Simple’ magazine were available in Australia.

  38. Sarah Beth

    My husband is one of nine children and I am one of four. The aunts and uncles and especially Grandma are (bless their hearts) way too generous with the toys and books and games. We’ve given away toys galore and more of them keep coming. It it were not for those everloving toys my house would be so lovely.

    Two of my husband’s brothers team up and give us a membership to a children’s museum so that is two less clutter items arriving at Christmas.

    If relatives ask what the little dears want give yourself the gift of sanity and ask for museum memberships, gift cards to amusement parks or aquariums or zoos or anything which is not a three dimensional object in your home.

    • Sarah Beth

      The family are very kind and generous, but with two sets of grandparents plus thirteen aunts and uncles you can imagine the quantity of stuff my children receive. Truly I appreciate their love for my children.

      And Jen, thank you for sharing your life with all of us. You are an inspiration to us all.

    • Roz

      If relatives ask what the little dears want, ask for bins and dry-erase markers.

  39. Roz

    Let me share a brilliant idea with you along the lines of the odd-sock box. Someone suggested it to me last time we moved.

    When you’re packing, take a medium-sized cardboard box and label it “THIS IS THE OTHER PART OF THAT.” When you run across an unidentifiable stereo cable, or a roll of tape for the label-maker, or the lid to the travel mug that’s already packed with your dishes, just toss it in there. Be sure you put the box somewhere findable when you get to the new place. Then, when you come across the label-maker in Box 27 — shazaam, you check your TITOPOT box, pair it up with the orphan tape roll, pat yourself on the back, and shoot a prayer of thanks to the Blessed Mother who, after all, had to move to Egypt on a donkey.

    • Meika

      Oh my word, this is brilliant! I recently started something like this for baby toys that I want to get rid of but are all over the house – why on earth didn’t I think to extend that to EVERYTHING? Genius! (And we’re moving, to boot – so great timing.) Thanks, Roz!

    • Anne McD

      I LOVE this! This is up there with the “random hardware drawer” I heard someone say they had. Every time her sons ran up to her with screws, doorknobs and such, she’d throw it all in the same drawer, so when she’d come across a drawer with a missing pull.. voila! She knows where to find it.

  40. Sharon

    Wow, I am amazed at how many ADD moms there are out there! I am not alone! Actually, I knew I wasn’t alone when my next door neighbor stopped over, saw I was reading a book on Organization for People with ADD and said she had just been diagnosed with it. I guess her dx was official – I just diagnosed myself. Funny thing is, I borrowed 5 library books about getting organized when you have ADD, but couldn’t focus on any of them long enough to do anything but renew them every three weeks. I will tell you that I got far enough in one that they gave the best advice – we need to be able to do things in as few steps as possible, which is why lidless works for us! Having to lift the lid is that one extra step that will allow you to get distracted before you ever actually put anything in it!

    I like the 15 minute room rescue (as Flylady calls it!) but putting things in baskets…. for me, what goes in the basket stays in the basket. I have laundry in a basket in my kitchen that I may never take out of there again. I cleaned out a drawer recently, put the junk in a box, and the box is still in my bedroom. Recent is a relative term, of course, but “never” isn’t, and that is pretty much when we can expect that box to be emptied.

    As far as that one extra step – the same book said to have just one set of sheets for every bed to eliminate clutter. That is awful, awful, awful advice. How could the author not remember that taking off the sheets is one step, but getting them cleaned, dried and back on the bed is about another 30 additional small steps? If you want clean sheets that actually end up on the bed, then have two sets for every bed. Store the extra set in a zipper bag under the bed (you can get it there – admit it, you have at least two weeks from the time you change the sheets until the time you do it again) and when you take off the sheets, immediately put the clean set on the bed.

    Love this list!

    • Julie

      I agree…another reason to have extra sheets: stomach flu. ‘nough said. Also, I have the same problem with baskets.

  41. Lisa

    I love all of this! Esp. the one about kids’ artwork- best advice for a pack rat.

  42. Megan

    This is brilliant! Thank you for reminding us that we are all doing ok!

    My #1 biggest organizing lifesaver is the Basement Toy Collection. Approximately 80% of all the toys we own live in the basement at all times. The children have no basement access. I have eight giant bins with lids that are numbered and their contents inventoried on corresponding lists on a nearby clipboard. The inventory sounds ridiculous, but when my little one says, “Mama, where are my Dora dominoes?” I can say, “let’s look at the list. Box #3. What are you going to trade for them?” It saves me hours of searching (or, more frequently, listening to hours of whining because I refuse to hunt through 8 giant bins for one toy).

    The best part is when I swap boxes, though. One at a time gets hauled up, emptied, refilled and re-inventoried. It’s about an hour of work on my part, but the “new” toys in the box will keep the kids busy and quiet and out of my hair for at least a half day. It is worth all the work! !!

  43. Bethany

    OH…. MY…. GOSH…. I know you had your sixth more than a couple of months ago, and I had my 6th just a couple of months ago, but I had NO IDEA… It’s like reading an excerpt from my life, my unbelievably chaotic, ADHD, disorganized life. It’s like you’re my secret twin.

    Except I’ve taken Simcha Fisher’s advice on socks, and they all just get thrown into a bucket; if people need socks I wish them luck and tell ’em to dive in. I’d get rid of all socks, but I love Winter.

    Thanks for the list! I look forward to seeing what I can implement that might help me, seeing as how I just challenged the children to get the house out of “Survival Mode” and into “Maintenance Mode”. Here’s hoping.

  44. JenF

    Thank you for this! I don’t have any kids, but I can totally relate! The worst thing for me to keep organized is paper. I spend much time labeling and setting up a niced, organized filing system, and it works for a little bit..until I get a random note that doesn’t fit under any of the categories I’ve made. Then forget it! I’ve also noticed that the system works better when I put the papers in their corresponding labeled folders, lol. Usually, I pat myself on the back if I put the paper in ANY folder, and then pull my hair out when I have to find it again!

  45. Mary @ Parenthood

    My daughter wants to hang onto her socks even when they have holes & are clearly too small. Now we buy new exciting ones & trade to get her to cough them up (because I do not have time for that battle!) I try to encourage socklessness but I am weird about my feet & pretty much always wear socks. So naturally wearing socks here is a thing you must do. No amount of explaining that only mom hates not wearing socks & kids are allowed to go barefoot / often like it. Guess how much use her sandals that can’t be worn with socks have been worn this summer?

    Art work also a problem. I have no trouble chucking stuff, but daughter doesn’t want me to! My solution is that she can pick a certain number of crafts to keep (eg 15). Once she gets to fifteen items, de has to trade for other crafts. Actually threw away 30 good one

    Good tips here – I find helpful to eliminate areas that act as collectors (aka horizontal surfaces). Also have a place to dump junk destined for other floors.

  46. Lynne

    Your title sucked me in. I was way hooked even before I got to the not-seeing-the-jelly-in-the-floor part, but it was that little bit of humanity that completely cemented us as soul-sisters. And was there ever a more perfectly relatable sentence than, “Unless you hate yourself, don’t use regular bookshelves for children’s books.”? Anyone who understands that the will to live can hinge on failure at ostensibly simple tasks, that person I must hail with loudest and most heartfelt praise for breaking the silence and speaking openly about this “dirty” little pathology that separates us from the Marthas who dominate the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you! ADD hausfraus unite!

  47. Meika

    I was catching up with my blogs on my little phone reader yesterday morning and just ASSUMED that this was the one organizing blog I follow…when I got to the part about ALL THE STUFF and about died. Made my morning!

    I wish I could attach a picture of my new sling bookcases – totally agree on that front. I’ve always been a hot mess and the only beautiful thing in my house pre-kids was my bookshelves. Seeing that piled-up mess 712 times a day undid me every time.

  48. Laura

    May I also offer up “Move every 5 years”? πŸ™‚ Yes, this is a bit extreme, but moving makes me clean out and everything is so nice and organized after your settled.

    • Christine

      Laura, you are right on the money! When I was first married, my ex-husband was in the Navy, we moved on an average of every three years! I had to clean out stuff because we were limited in the amount (weight) we could move. After retiring 17 years ago, I’ve been in the same house! With way more clutter than I am comfortable with. I have decided to do some purging this winter. It’s going well!!! Goodwill has been the beneficiary of many trips the past couple of months!

  49. Shelley

    Thank you! I don’t feel defeated anymore! Hope has been restored. πŸ™‚

  50. Martha

    Have you ever read ‘It’s All Too Much’ by Peter Walsh? Solid gold. The title says it all, right?

  51. Theresa

    As a foster parent, I am incredibly jealous of your ability to take your children out in public without shoes without getting a call from a social worker.

    I agree with the small house thing. Ours is almost 1200 square feet for our family of 5 and I figure if I got a bigger house, I would just fill it with more clutter!

  52. Judy

    I am soooooooooooo Happy to Read this! Thaaaaaaaaaaaank YOU!!! for putting your experience into words!! I’m only a quarter way through the post But Had To Stop and Comment… I never can do something from start to finish it seems AfTeR AaLLL and this makes me SAD and my Life UN…managable….. but,right now I am SooooooooooohhhhHAPPY !!!aaaaAAAND FEEL SUCH RELIEF, I think I may be wearing a smile on my face (without reminding myself) all day long… and the frontal lobes of my brain are even getting stimulated somehow, I can picture you Lobes standing upright at AtteTion, Taking A BOW and I’m filled with new…HOPE…WOW!! Now I know why I haven’t deleted you from the multitudes of newsletters I’ve subscribed to receive in my extreeeeemely Cluttered Mailbox (of Course.)

  53. justatinypencil

    Wow! I’m not the only one with this system. That’s a relief. Thanks for the confidence boost, Jen!

  54. PJ

    #12: if the box is too big to get into the car, how do you get it home?

    • Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      Walk. Make sure to bring a baby; you can carry it in the box. Plan a route along the shoulder of a highway where there is no sidewalk. Don’t check the weather forecast.

      I did this once. It was an Adventure! πŸ™‚

  55. Rita R

    by the way…my husband, youngest of 8, never could understand my desire to fold clothes. He has taught me that sorting into separate kids’ laundry baskets is totally the way to go. I have 4 daughters- so theirs will end up all over the floor anyway, and my son doesn’t understand the concept of “clean clothes go in the drawers”!

  56. Maia

    This. (And so many other reasons.) This is why I love reading your blog.

  57. elizabethe

    Thanks Jen. I realized that I have the exact same ADD variant as you when I read (after you posted about it here) the book Organization for people with ADD or whatever it’s called. I was reading it and I was like “HEY! I ALREADY DO all of these things for people with ADD!”

    Sadly, my husband is the male Martha Stewart. I am NOT KIDDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His socks are organized by color. His t-shirts are in a stack. About 150% of our marital strife comes from the fact that I am in charge of day to day household organizing and maintaining and he will not accept that any of the strategies you’ve listed above actually result in organization and are not in fact the evil of “shoving” (which, apparently, is the 8th deadly sin), instead of “dealing with.”

    someone please write a post about that.

    Actually, maybe I can write an anonymous guest post. jen, email me if you want one. I have finally come to grips with this terrible situation in a way that is satisfactory for my husband and me (I hope, I’m not really asking him explicitly, I’m just assuming by his in general better mood that it’s the case).

  58. Ruth

    Thank you! I needed to read this today. Reading this, all I could think was, “she just GETS me!”

  59. Shelly

    Artkive is a great app to snap pictures if kids’ drawings/artwork and you then have the ability to make it into a book πŸ™‚

  60. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Hack that I wish I would have learned sooner: no to the puzzles. just no.

  61. Courtney

    This is a great list. I have a brain much like yours so these ideas are very useful to me. I’d like to add a small change I made that makes life a bit easier for me: I stopped putting flat sheets on my kids’ beds. The kids would always push them down to the end of the bed or totally off the bed and I felt like I constantly had to fix them. So I had this crazy idea that maybe you don’t have to have a flat sheet and now they just have a fitted sheet and comforter. These days you can buy a fitted sheet and pillow cases individually so you don’t have to worry about having a flat sheet you don’t use.

    • Courtney

      Forgot to add – my oldest actually sleeps on top of her comforter so her bed doesn’t get messed up!

  62. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

    This is mostly very useful advice, but two of the tips leave me scratching my head in bafflement:

    1. If the boxes have no lids, how do you keep the dust out??? In my home, your papers would be mounded with gray fluffs in 3 months or less. I don’t know where they come from, but they always do, so I thought they were in all houses–no?

    3. You own complete sets of bedding, and you care about using them as a set?? We just buy bedding that is some shade of blue or has blue in the print, and grab a random assortment of items.

    One of my favorite organizational tools is the large clear vinyl bags with a zipper around one end. Blankets come in them, but I never put the blankets back into them because it’s too difficult to fold them that way. Instead I use the bags for things like winter hats and mittens, toys with little pieces, etc. The bag keeps stuff together (and dust-free!) but you can see what’s in it.

  63. Anne McD

    The Hubs thought I was nuts when I tried to explain the perils of boxtops to him a few years ago. I got the “raised eyebrow.” We don’t speak of it anymore. I love your ideas! I’m also thinking about trying the “Beachouse” approach which is pretty much “get rid of all your crap and spend all of your time outside.” I’ll let you know how well that’s working for us when its November and we’re cold and bored.

  64. Jennifer

    I consider ALL puzzles to be disposable! That way when (not if) a piece or two, or most, go missing, I feel free to throw away the rest! Also, when my first two were tiny, I schemed to get shelves placed all around the house about 10 inches below the ceiling – Hubby said No. The oldest got married this summer and the youngest is 2 years old. Now the older children wish we had shelves all around the house about 10 inches below the ceiling – still No “sigh”.

  65. Kelley

    I haven’t read through all the comments so maybe somebody already posted this, but my favorite organizational strategy is an over the door shoe holder for art supplies! Glue, glue sticks, paintbrushes, watercolor, colored pencils, etc can all have their spot and are easy to find and put back! No lids!

  66. Steph

    This was an awesome post! Thank you!

  67. Sarah

    Hahaha, this is great. Thanks for the tips

  68. Maria Paredes

    My favorite is number 14. That goes for any toys that have many and small pieces. Good luck with that one but you gotta try. lol Also this article makes me happy because I didn’t know there were people out there like me. I feel better now. Thanks for that. πŸ™‚

  69. Maria Paredes

    My favorite is number 14. That goes for any toys that have many and small pieces. Good luck with that one but you gotta try. lol Plus I am very comforted to know there are others out there just like me. I sometimes feel like the only one. Thanks for that. πŸ™‚

  70. Shelley

    You are my twin! I literally do all of this! Still have paper files, too, though.

  71. Christine

    Don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on organizing boxes only to throw out the lid? But the dishwashing buckets that fit in the kitchen sink for washing dishes. Way less expensive (about $3) and no lid to worry about!!

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