When we downsized to an apartment for a season, it really changed my take on simplicity. I saw a stark difference in the amount of overwhelm I felt in keeping up with our home. Before we moved, it wasn’t like we were in a giant mansion, but even in our standard 3 bedroom, 2 bath rental home, I could not keep up with housework. I felt like a constant failure. I think most moms struggle with staying organized..because life and kids! The season we downsized taught me some great, practical organizing tips that I’ve kept with me since then.
Organizing Tips For Moms
At the time, our son was in the throes of toddlerhood, and any mom knows that trying to clean with a toddler is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. In our rental home, I often gave up because the sheer amount of work felt overwhelming and impossible. However, I also learned some practical organizing tips during our apartment stay, because the size did not allow room for ANY clutter to accumulate. One of the best habits I started that has helped keep my sanity was a quarterly clean-out and reorganization of spaces that were primed for getting out of control. Anyone else open up closets and the pantry wondering if something is going to jump out at you? Closet and pantry organization is a must. If you feel like the walls are starting to close in on you, being able to find things is a constant hassle, and these things are disrupting everyday life, then it’s time to take control and get organized.
One Big Purge, Then Maintain
Once a year, the week between Christmas and New Years, I do one big purge and systematically organize my home, and then maintain this through quarterly clean-outs. You can do this simply and on a budget with a little planning. And I promise you, especially if you are a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom like me, your mental health will be better for it and your home more peaceful. Here’s my 5 organizing tips to not just get organized, but stay organized.
5 Practical Organizing Tips
- Make a list of projects that would make you feel more at ease if they were done. This is the most simple place to start, because I know you-you’ve got 20 different tabs open in your brain. You think about it every time you open that door, but as soon as you close it, something or someone else needs your attention. You don’t close the tab, you just move on to a different one. Let’s change that right now. Sit down and make a DREAM list. Don’t skimp. You and I both know there’s always going to be another project that you’d like to do. When you have a home, it’s never truly done, but just dream a little. If you could do EVERYTHING you wanted to do, what would those things be? What things would make your life more simple? What things would make it easier for you so that your time would be more free? What things cause you to be in a rush or breakup an argument because someone can’t find something? Use this list like a brain dump so you can close some of those tabs.
- Prioritize the projects that would be the most helpful. Now that you’ve got it ALL down on paper, it’s time to start getting practical. Read through your list and assess: Pick your top 3-5 projects that, if organized, would make your life easier. Think about the ones that if completed, would give you a literal sigh of relief and smile of satisfaction.
- Take each of your priority organization projects, and make a detailed list for what you want done with each one. Include any supplies you would need for this! For instance, every time I opened Kai’s closet, it felt like I opened one of those old cans with the fake snakes…you know what I’m talking about? I’d open the door and it was complete chaos in there. Part of the reason for things getting out of control was during our apartment stay, we got rid of his big dresser. Half of it wasn’t being used and it was taking up already limited space. So, we got rid of it, got some bins for his clothes, and utilized the already there shelving in his closet. When we moved into the house however, the closet was actually smaller and just had 1 high shelf, so his clothes were still in bins sitting on the floor. It was frustrating for him because in his effort to find things, clothes were everywhere. It was frustrating for me because I never knew what was clean or dirty. Too many arguments happened because of that closet, which also housed his overflowing weapons basket, extra blankets that had no place, and other random things that made their way in there. So, when I sat down to make the detailed list, I knew one of the supplies I would need was a small set of drawers that could still fit in his closet, but make things easier to find and stay organized. With the hall closet, I knew I needed an extra shelf so games would stop toppling over, and I could have a space for homeschool things and seasonal books to rotate. So, write down what you would like done for each and what supplies you might need, if any. This is important because it leads me to number four.
- Inventory what you already have for supplies so you don’t buy things you don’t need. You can do this efficiently and on a budget. While I could have an absolute field day at the container store with all their cool knick knacks and gadgets, you really don’t need fancy organization tools to actually be organized. So, let me give you an example of what this looks like. Let’s take those bins that we had for Kai’s clothes. I knew that making his closet priority number one and getting a small set of drawers was going to leave me with four empty bins with lids. Two of those ended up getting used in his closet. One I used for the few blankets we were keeping, and the other I used to put a few random things in like his instamax camera and camelback that get used, but had no special place. Now they are safely and securely in those bins at the top of the closet, not strewn about. The other two bins leftover I was able to use for pantry organization. When I reorganized that disaster (priority number 2), I finally had a place to keep all my cookie cutters and bento boxes/accessories, instead of them strewn about in drawers or, let’s be real, target bags just sitting in the bottom of my pantry. This step might seem a little extra, but you’ll be saving yourself some time and money in the long-run.
- Give yourself a timeline, and go through each project in order of priority. One of the BIGGEST problems is it’s always things we WANT to get done, but without a realistic timeline, they won’t happen. So, legitimately put these things on a calendar. If your kiddos are still in the napping stage, see if you can get one of these things done during nap time, and no shame if they get a movie and snack after if you’re still working on it when they wake up. Is there a weekend coming that’s relatively free where maybe your significant other, grandparent, or sitter can take the kids to do something so you can get things done faster? Being a bit of a go-getter, I can often get unrealistic with my time frame for things, and then feel like I’ve failed when it doesn’t happen the way I want it. I always do this the week between Christmas and New Years because the house is already a disaster, my husband is off work, and my son is entertained by the new presents he just got, so it works. Set a goal end date for ALL these projects, then make a plan to get each one done. If you finish before your intended end date, treat yourself or do something from that dream list!
Going into the New Year with all this organized felt like a breathe of fresh air for me. I’ve been a mom long enough to know my system won’t stay perfect, so every 3 months I simply maintain. That’s about the time things start to go haywire, so before it gets out of control, I don’t do this WHOLE process again, I simply clean out the things we aren’t using and it’s back to where I like it. This keeps not just my home, but my mind running smoothly, and I hope these organizing tips do the same for you.