After you’ve completely decluttered your kitchen or if you’re blessed with ample storage, there are some items that always bewilder the best of us. For me, it’s the cookie sheets and other (mainly) flat, rectangular items that don’t quite stack easier. The best way in my house to store these is to keep them in a filing rack! Now, they are kept upright so I can always grab exactly what I need without having to pull out a entire stack of stuff. And the person putting dishes away always knows exactly where to put the missing item. Since that is usually after the kid’s bedtime, the lack of pans banging against each other is just another win!
Creating a command center can seem particularly daunting if you’re on Pinterest. There are literally thousands of ideas and each one more magically perfect than the one before it. If you have seen any of my Real Life Thursday posts, you know that my house is not a Pinterest perfect home. So obviously, our command center is also anything but.
Our ‘command center’ in our house is basically the little counter space next to the stove when we can toss bags that need to be emptied after work and school before being repacked for tomorrow. I keep a little stacked letter holder for some of those little items that are strictly for short term use. In our junk drawer, we keep phone chargers, along with pen and paper.
It can feel overwhelming if you’re trying to figure out what would work best for your family. Here is my master list of items that you could include in your command center. Think about whether you already have a home for some of these things and if you would like to move them to one central location for everyone:
- Charging station
- Small tray for jewelry and/or keys
- Notepad and pens
On wall (can be clipboards, cork boards, photo frames, dry erase boards):
- Calendar (week or month)
- Key hooks
- Grocery list
- Cleaning checklist
- Artwork/greeting card holder
- To do list
- Per person
- To file
- Bills to pay
- School stuff
- Pending file
- To read
Personally, I don’t have a full-on command center in our house. Keys have their own hooks near the door, jewelry is in our bedroom, calendar and to-do list is electronic, menu is in our pantry, grocery list is near our table, paperwork is typically addressed immediately. But that’s me and my house. What is overwhelming about command centers is also what makes them so fantastic: they are 100% customizable for you and your home. If you find yourself constantly looking for some of the items on this list, it might be time to set up a command center and give these items a home!
Giving your kid some space to play in an small house can be tough. I’ve found that trying to sneak some small places can make it easier to clean up and add some creativity to playing by having less toys available. We used to have a table (fort) in this area, but once our tall toddler started knocking her head when standing up, it was time for a change. I moved the garage sale shelves up from the basement and cleared off a bottom shelf to stash some bigger toys and books.
Now, we have a perfect little play nook without the toys completely overtaking our living room!
I have slowly become one of those people: an early riser. My alarm typically goes off at 5:00 am. It’s not because I enjoy getting up early. Because it’s not that. It’s because I need to have some me time before my day begins, which is in short supply the remainder of the day. Other than my drive from school to work and back again (during which time I try to check in with my parents), I am around people basically until I go to bed at night. As an outgoing introvert that needs to recharge frequently, I love having that hour in the morning during the week that I can use for just me.
As we are getting past Halloween, we are officially entering the holiday season. How many things are on there? Is there any time for you? Is there any time for your kid to just play? Just relax? If you’re a parent, you may not even think about the fact that your kid may be an introvert and need some down time. They are constantly on the go from one activity to another, just like us. It’s time to give everyone a break.
Here’s my challenge to you. Take a look at your calendar and find the next completely open weekend. And then mark it as a slow weekend. The entire thing. Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday. Do not add another thing to it. At all. No plans, no errands, no rushing. Do not plan any events before the day. Ask yourself how you see the day going and what your perfect day would look like. Ask your kids that morning what they want to do if they could do anything that day.
I understand that you may still need to do some grocery shopping or meal prepping for the week. Or that you may need to run a few loads of laundry. But resist the urge to stop by the dry cleaners on your way home from the park. Don’t run to Walmart for some batteries. Don’t tackle any home improvement projects (unless your whole family loves doing them together!). Give yourself and your family a weekend to just be together and enjoy a slow weekend of doing nothing. You all may enjoy it more than you think. It may become a new routine.
If you spend any amount of time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen these Ikea/Target carts being pinned left and right, used in every room of the house in a variety of ways: art station, sports equipment, doll storage, book case, shoe rack, baking cart. The versatility of this cart makes it a must have in my home!
In the year I’ve had mine, it started a changing table side (with diapers and wipes, burp clothes, extra diapers) and now it’s been moved to our basement to be a toddler command center for those lazy moments when you don’t want to go upstairs to get a diaper.
I’ve previously talked about the importance of keeping up. I mentioned how a couple of minutes every night doing a quick pick up of the house (before it gets too overwhelming) means saving an hour of cleaning on the weekend. I spend just a couple of minutes getting everything ready for the next day: getting out anything I can for breakfast, ensuring the dishes are all put away, moving any bags to our landing zone, and putting away any paper or toys left around.
Another one minute task I do before going to sleep is to check out tomorrow’s calendar to make sure I’ve got everything I need for the day. My kid has show-and-tell every Friday, usually with a different theme. We came thisclose to missing it this week, but one final peek at 9:00 pm reminded me that we needed to find something orange.
I like to do the same thing at the end of my work day: take a look at tomorrow’s calendar, put together a quick to-do list, make sure my desk is orderly before leaving. Having everything in its place makes a calmer start to my day, especially on a Monday!
That’s really what this 10 minutes of your day is all about: getting you in a calmer, more peaceful mindset to make your day run smoother and your life more organized.
When my amazing mother-in-law (and site proofreader!) recently came for a visit, I saw something new: some colored tape on the spine of her library book with a date on it. Though it was the arrival date for a intralibrary request, I would use this idea and put the due date on there. Remember when there were conveniently placed stamps inside the books and you didn’t have to look at your app to figure out what books to renew or return? (Or what ones are from the library if you have kids with lots of books!) This makes it even easier – you don’t even have to open the book!
I would love to tell you that you can simply just organize your house once and that it will magically stay that way. But that would be a lie. My organizing motto has 3 steps: reduce, arrange, maintain. First, you need to get rid of some stuff. Second, you need to organize it. Third, and most important, you need methods and tips to help you keep it organized.
If you haven’t been organized in a while, you will have to do all three steps, which is always going to be daunting and feel crushing. If you need to tweak an area of your house that was previously organized, you will have to do only the last two, which is definitely achievable. If you have a system in place already, you will only have to maintain. And that is the easiest of all.
When working with clients, I focus on all three parts and I love to give them little tips and tricks to make it easier to maintain with a quick pick up. That five minutes every night means saving an hour on the weekend. Time I’d rather be spending with my family. Time I’d rather be spending with my friends. Time I’d rather be relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine.
Every time I leave a room, I glance around to see if there is anything that needs to go with me. Every night before bed, I walk around the house and get everything put away from the night and set up for the morning. It feels never ending. However, I never feel overwhelmed by my house and I can always find exactly what I need when I need it.
Let’s be real: it’s hard work. At the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is pick up a bunch of toys or wash dishes, but I do it anyways. Because organizing is an ongoing process and it’s always easier to keep up than it is to catch up.
I recently got motivated to do a little pantry clean up. I used the same technique I discussed in my recent kitchen decluttering post – taking everything out, dividing into frequency of use, then putting the most used items close at hand. Moving some stuff around and spending less than $15 made a huge difference on how my pantry functions. I can now find items right away. Everything is very nicely labeled (due to the fact this was the day after I got my recent label maker). You can check out the before, during, and after in my Instagram Highlights.
I used to have some shelf risers in here for my cans, but some items were still getting lost in the back. I still love shelf risers, as you can tell by the 3rd shelf (as well as my posts here, here, and here) but they were not cutting it in my pantry for the cans. So I got a tiered rack to help keep those cans in check. From the moment I put it in and added cans, I knew it was the best decision of the day!
The other thing that became obvious to me: I don’t bake much anymore. Back in the day, I was a baker – any excuse to make a cake or cookies! I had sprinkles, cute cookie cutters, 20 pound bags of flour. As I decluttered my own kitchen, I realized that it had been YEARS since I had used many of these items.
I may need to repurchase some items when I get back into baking as the kid gets a little older and is able to help. But for now, I’d rather enjoy the extra space in my home.
When it comes to my organization style, I have a pretty simple philosophy: reduce, arrange, maintain. The first step is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. Start by taking everything out of the area that you are working on. Every. Single. Thing. (I like to take this opportunity to clean off the surface since it’s one of the few occasions that everything is off there!) Grouping things is a great way to see what you have. If you’re doing a kitchen, group by type of dish. If you’re doing a linen closet, group by use of item (shaving, hair, hand towels, etc) Take a look at each item and determine its fate:
- Do I really need or want it?
- Do I even like it?
- Have I used this in the last year?
- Would I buy it today? If it broke, would I immediately replace it?
- Is this a quality item?
- Would I keep it if it were originally free?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if I got rid of it?
- Am I only keeping it “in case” I need it someday? (Think about if you can borrow one or buy a new one in 20 minutes for under $20)
- Is it a duplicate?
- Is this the best place for it?
- When will I use it again? And will I remember I have it?
Next, you need to arrange how everything is going to go back into the space. I group everything by putting like with like. In my kitchen, my most often used utensils are grouped together in a drawer. In the playroom, the kid’s favorite books are grouped in the bookcase. In my linen closet, all of our teeth stuff is in one bin. This makes it easy to see what you have, what you’re low on, and what you don’t use!
The last step is sometimes the hardest one and that is the maintain part. You need to have a system in place in order to keep the organization. Labels are obviously a great way to ensure that everyone in your home knows exactly where things need to go. When I first bought our three hampers for our ‘new’ laundry system of sorting while putting dirty clothes away, I put 3×5 index cards on each one so everyone knew which was for towels, darks, and whites. It looked silly and completely unprofessional, but guess what? It worked. When the cat destroyed two of the cards about a month in, I didn’t even need to replace them because everyone had a routine and habit of knowing which item when into which basket.
What’s great about this system is that sometimes you don’t need to do all three of them at the same time. You can do it piecemeal. If you have recently gone through all of your under-sink items, think about whether you could group them better for easier access. If you just redid your pantry, think about why it constantly falls to chaos and what type of maintenance it might take to keep it looking the way you want. Take a look around your house and see if there are any areas that could use some reducing, arranging, and maintaining.