Top Spaces to Organize in Your Home

Hi there! Phew, we had quite a snowstorm in CT yesterday with at least two feet of snow from what I can tell. How did you fare? With all of the time indoors, I have continued the decluttering and organizing and have more places to share with you along with a few tips and ideas. This is the second part of a two part series about top spaces to organize in your home. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

Digital decluttering: email and files

Your digital space can be easily over run (I am looking at you 3,000+ emails in my unread inbox!). I find that being able to read the email without opening it is my downfall. So, I can see the “Thanks” reply so I don’t bother to open it. As I become busy, the emails just pile up.

I have taken a “look at it once” approach. When reviewing emails, right away I determine if I need to either delete it or put it in a folder. I like to organize folders by year or client/person. For example, I usually can remember an email by who sent it to me and the general time frame so this strategy works well for me. I recommend organizing by however you think. An easy way to deal with Gmail organizing when you want to delete emails is to do a search and then it allows you to delete anything in that search.

For files on your desktop, I like to do the same. I usually set up a year folder and then subfolders within such as:

Girls Activities

Clients (and then subfolders with each client’s name)

Financial (and then subfolders such as tax preparation)

You get the picture. This way, my desktop is clean and orderly which is a mood boost when I am getting started in the morning. Here is a screenshot.

How to organize your digital files
Organized inbox by calendar year

We also organize pictures the same way – by year and then month. This has worked so well as I can recall generally when a vacation or event happened so when I want to create a photo book or look back on a memory I know exactly where to look.

Also, do not forget to create back ups of any digital files. I like Microsoft One Drive for a cloud version. There are also free versions of Dropbox and other cloud storage that work well too. Nothing worse than having your computer malfunction and losing all of your work and other files!

Organizing your car

The car can be a magnet for clutter. If you have young children it may accumulate toys, empty wrappers from snacks and sippy cups. Older kids tend to leave sports equipment, books, water bottles and wrappers too. I seem to have an issue with reusable shopping bags multiplying!

The first step is to remove everything from the car. Give it a good vacuum and wipe down and then put back in what is really needed.

  1. Papers. Insurance cards, registration and if you belong to a Triple A, make a copy of that card and put in the glove box of every car so it is easily handy.
  2. Emergency water/snacks. I always keep water bottles in the car. I am not a fan of plastic bottles but this is the one place that I do keep bottles handy. Occasionally my girls will forget a water bottle for sports practice or as they head to school so keeping a stash is key.
  3. Shovel and ice scraper. If you live in a climate where there is snow and ice this is a must.
  4. Blanket. I always keep a blanket. This has been handy for kids becoming cold or even our pets.
  5. Trash bags. A store of trash bags makes it easy to keep the wrappers and other unwanted items at bay. When I get gas, I use the time to empty the trash if needed.
  6. Money. Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a spare $20 for ice cream or a cool drink? Or maybe the sports team is collecting money for the coach’s gift? I find a spare $20 in the glove box has been so handy.

Children’s art

  1. Children’s Art. As I mentioned, I did look into Artkive. I realized I can do the same with my own iPhone for much less money. To keep it manageable, I am taking a few pictures a day. I will allow myself to keep one small folder of originals. So far, it has been so much fun to review the girls’ art. With one recently off to college, it is bittersweet and seems like yesterday that she was at her little table painting with her glitter paints and making all kinds of projects! Eventually I will take the photos and make a collage on Shutterfly with the favorites. At any rate, I will have all of them stored digitally which is so nice!

So, I will leave you with one last thought. Organizing is like an exercise program. You do not just do it once and that is it. We move through various stages of life and that movement requires us to re-examine our possessions.

Start a new job working from home? Well the old job’s clothes may not be right anymore and it may be time to donate many of those formal clothes. You child is now in kindergarten? Toys that were once useful may not be in this new phase. You get the picture. Similar to an exercise program, it is wise to start out slowly. Tackle one area at a time. You have the year to do it.

Happy organizing!

Organizing Challenge!

Hi there, so 2021 is well under way and like most of you, I have organizing on my mind. I thought I would share a few tips and plans as well as my list of spaces to organize in your home in the new year.

We are on the second week, but some are small (intentionally) so if you double up one week then at the end of the year you will have tackled at least one a week and have an organized home! This will be a two part blog post and you can find the second post here.

A note on organizing large spaces

For larger spaces, I recommend breaking into multiple areas and feel free to go as micro as you wish. One organized shelf is better than none. I use my 5 steps to organize anything for every space. As I mention in that post, a large space can be daunting to empty out all the contents as some pro organizers recommend. I find tackling one shelf or area that you can comfortably organize in a day or weekend is better. Making a bigger mess trying to organize is not the goal!

Disposing of unwanted items

Also, there are multiple ways of decluttering and disposing of your unwanted items. Here is a short summary of what I have found helpful. I plan to add more detail in a coming post.

  1. Discard. The first and easiest is trash. Keep a trash container close to you when tackling a space. Packaging, broken items and other unwanted stuff goes right into the bag.
  2. Donate. I have a wonderful thrift shop in my town where I donate items and then the thrift shop sells them in a lovely shop. All proceeds go to charity. For anything of value that I simply do not want I tend to donate here. Goodwill is also a good option. I find they take everything. Of course friends and family may want your items. But they may not! Be careful about giving old items without asking.
  3. Sell. Selling for me is a good option for items such as sports equipment or children’s toys and furniture. We have a local Facebook group that connects to Facebook marketplace. I would recommend you proceed carefully. I tend to stick to my town and it is easy enough to check out a person’s profile to make sure they actually live locally. For clothing, I have found that teen clothing does very well at Plato’s Closet and there is minimal work involved. Thred Up is another online thrift shop. As you receive little for clothing, I prefer to donate most clothes.

I also give myself a set time to remove the items from my home. I used to struggle with this – I was great at identifying what to get rid of but not so good at actually taking it out! A week is a reasonable time frame in my case.

Also, I recently added a donate box in my laundry room. I try to either identify 5 items a day to either donate or discard. When the box is full I give myself a week to remove it and either donate or sell. So far, it has worked very well. My children also add to it as they outgrow clothing.

Top spaces to organize in your home

With the above in mind, here are my top places to declutter and organize in your home this year.


  1. Desk files. This one could be broken into as many weeks as you need. A few categories I am tackling include old credit card statements, (I keep a year on a rolling basis and organize by month so when the new year’s month is here I throw out the year before), car repair files and medical. Once I get through that I will go through files from former jobs. There is debate on whether to keep these items at all? I prefer to at least have the last year on hand for most categories.
  2. Desk drawer. I have two desk drawers that tend to collect items and plan to go through all the odds and ends, pens (do they work?) and office supplies. I love rewarding myself after decluttering and organizing and have my eye on some coordinated blush pink pens and this acrylic, monogrammed pen holder to display them on my desk. Another organizing tip: if it is pretty you will likely want to keep it that way!


  1. Pantry. This can be a big job. I tend to do a review and clean out every November before the holidays start. On a monthly basis, I take a look at staples to see what is short on supply and buy new items as needed.
  2. Junk drawers. I have three junk drawers. They are actually no longer used for “junk.” One holds cooking related items such as recipes I prefer to have on paper (if they tend to be long, I would rather look at print), chip clips and fridge liners and drying mats for the dishes. The other one has our note pads used for shopping lists, pens, scissors, and a space for take out coupons. The last one stores electronics. These general groupings make it easy for me to go through quickly and remove any items that no longer work or seem out of place.
  3. Tupperware/Storage. This is a big one too. I finally donated any pyrex without lids. We also instituted a system where the lid goes on the container when storing out of the dishwasher. I had a rack for lids but that system did not work at all! Have you found that to be the case?


  1. Attic. So this one is almost complete for me and it took me three days. I need to add some labels so that the rest of the family knows where to put luggage, extra storage containers etc. I also finally donated my girls’ stuffed animal collection (four bags!) and will confess I just could not do it the first time I faced that the girls were no longer playing with stuffed animals. So I stored them and this time I was more than happy to donate to a place that wanted them. Sometimes you may need a little time mamas…do not be hard on yourself if you do.


  1. Basement. I tackled the basement over holiday break. It took me three days and like the attic it was a refresher. Post holiday it always tends to accumulate as we decide which Christmas decorations are going up and which stay stored. This time I went shelf by shelf. I labeled areas for each appliance and if something did not fit, donated it. I also tackled some gifts that we simply do not use and gave those to our local thrift shop.
  2. Holiday decorations. This one I tackled a few years ago but every year I do a review. This year I identified items for donation. My girls loved colored lights when they were little. We now have white lights. The thrift shop will be getting some very nice colored lights next year:) I put the box on top with a note to myself, so next season I will remember to bring it over.


  1. Closets. This one is an ongoing project. I plan to break it into 1) shoes 2) clothes (work and casual) 3) miscellaneous. So far, I have tackled my and Mr. SB dress shoes. I donated shoes we were not wearing. My rule is that if shoes do not fit into the existing racks, then I need to find a few to donate.
  2. Under the beds. Do you store items under the bed? I find this space to be a terrible place to store anything because I forget about it! One solution, is to either not store anything or use clear storage containers. I also will leave myself a note in a prominent place that reminds me that I stored my summer shorts or whatever under the bed!

Living room

  1. Bookshelves. I have two book shelves in our living area and books all over the house. We are book worms. I want to tackle the books as well as display them and other objects from our travels in a beautiful way. I look forward to sharing that project.
  2. Coat closet. We have two coat closets. I bought two new coats at the J. Crew holiday sale (and they are on sale now!). One in pink (The Lady Coat) and one in green (I love them both!). That means I need to donate two of my existing coats. I do try the one in one out for clothing as much as possible. Once you hit your max on storage, that is the only way to maintain an organized, decluttered space. I have also plan to identify any shoes that no one wears any longer and store the summer shoes in the attic.


  1. Gardening supplies. I have this on the calendar for Spring. We store gardening items in our garage. Every year I seem to accumulate a few more pots so I try to donate some as well.
  2. Tools/Workbench. This may be more my husband’s area but I did buy a pegboard set of attachments on Amazon which will help organize the rolls of tape, wire and other odds and ends.
  3. Cars. Yes, I include cars. In each car, I store snow removal items (during winter), sunscreen (during summer), water bottles, a warm blanket, a bright yellow, reflective vest and some protein bars in case of an emergency. I also have $20 in the glove box where I also keep the insurance and registration. Other items I store include masks (#Covid19), reusable shopping bags and hand sanitizer. That said, there always seems to be other items that are not needed. A regular review of items is warranted every few months.

Check back in for the remaining spaces to organize in your home in the new year. It may just inspire your own decluttering and organizing journey for 2021.

Why Your Past Matters When Organizing

Hi there! A new year is prime time to talk decluttering and organization. Like many of you, I like to start the new year with a clean and organized home and will be writing more about that and how to help you in coming posts. Before I get into tactics though, I want to start with some retrospection. Your past matters when organizing. Why? Because just like in relationships, marriage, parenting and finances and more, much of your behavior may be rooted in the past. In fact, psychology plays a large role in why decluttering can be so hard. So let’s take a moment to think this one angle through.

What was your home like growing up?

Did you grow up in a spotless, perfectly organized home? Every item had a “home” put in its designated place at all times? Or was it the opposite? Maybe it was tough to find the kitchen table because of all of the papers piled on top? Or the dining room was not a dining room but a storage unit? Did your parents save everything or throw it all out?

How the Depression and the War influenced family organization

In my case, my dad grew up in the Great Depression. My mom was also born at the tail-end of the Depression and was growing up during World War II. People had far less stuff, whatever was purchased was bought very carefully and nothing was discarded without thought. Characteristic of that era, my parents tended to save items and were reluctant to throw them away. It turns out my French husband had the same dynamic. His parents grew up shortly after WWII when there were real shortages of necessities in France.

Growing up

How did this impact our homes? Both of our families had lovely homes for which we are grateful. My mom kept a spotless, beautiful home, and the clutter was mostly confined to the hidden areas. That said, over the years, these items tended to accumulate so I became used to seeing a space (especially a closet or “junk drawer”) full of items. In other words, no one wanted to throw anything out! Sure we would get new decor (but the old decor was stored for someday). I am not criticizing my family for these ways – it went along with the times. Also, even when I was a kid, we did not have the explosion of cheap items created abroad. We tended to buy more carefully and keep what we bought.

How does that impact my organization journey?

Fast forward to now

If you have been following my blog, you know I started an organization journey (Project O) a few years ago. I had some of the typical obstacles that kept me from throwing anything out:

  1. “I might need it someday”
  2. “My children (or sub in nieces/nephews/their children may need it someday.”
  3. Sentimental
  4. It was a gift
  5. “It cost a lot/or it is worth a lot.”

I promise to write more on these challenges. That said, the biggest obstacle for me has been overcoming the past and what has been engrained as “normal.”

What is “normal” varies for each person

Your past matters when organizing because it sets up your “normal.” Here are a few habits/behaviors that may be setting you up for failure as you try to declutter and organize.

  1. Your family saved everything for someday. You may need that rope (yes, I come from a family of avid sailors…we had plenty of ropes around the house/garage!), tennis racket, window treatment, fill-in-the-blank. This is a big one. In my house, we often had lovely new curtains or a rug…but the old ones were not discarded but stored. I can not remember when an item that had been replaced was used again…
  2. Your family and friends shopped a great deal. Shopping was big in the eighties and nineties. Many of us grew up going to the mall just for fun. Shopping was entertainment and bargain hunting was a practical sport in my family. Frankly I still enjoy a trip to my favorite boutique or discounter. That said, shopping and especially impulse buys can really add to your stuff and make your home unmanageable. Retailers are masters at luring you in with sales and then making it very hard not to buy. Social media and the Internet, with hyper targeting, has made it even more likely you will buy on impulse. Buyer beware.
  3. Your house was a mess/super organized/cluttered. I have a friend who grew up in a very cluttered home. Her mom never saw a garage sale she did not love and came home with dozens of “finds.” My friend today has the opposite approach. Her husband calls her the “terminator” as she throws everything out. It can work both ways. She could have also become immune to clutter and that would become her normal for now. Neither is inherently bad but if clutter is something you want to avoid then be aware of how your home growing up may impact what you are comfortable with now.

Where am I today (and how do I deal with it?)

So dealing with my past has helped me really understand the obstacles that face me when decluttering and organizing. Here are few:

As I noted, my mom kept a very clean and lovely home. I actually am also very particular about cleanliness which I no doubt inherited. Enjoy cleaning…but decluttering is another story.

I have tendencies to keep items too long (I am looking at you Restoration Hardware window treatments…) with the idea I may need them someday, they were costly, it was a gift etc.. Questions I ask:

Am I keeping this because of my past? What part of my past? Frugal, depression era parents (usually a good thing especially when it comes to finances but not so much when decluttering).

Do I feel guilty because perhaps my modern day values do not align with the values of my family growing up (but are OK today as we are not in a depression, items are readily available etc.)

Is a closet that is stuffed to the gills a result of too much stuff or the fact that I am used to seeing closets looking that way? While Pinterest and Instagram may present unreasonable or unrealistic organization, both platforms woke me up to what is possible. As I have decluttered and organized I have discovered how calm and freeing it can be to have fewer items.

Have you examined your past and how it may impact your decluttering and organizing journey?

5 Steps to Declutter & Organize Any Space

Welcome to 5 steps to declutter & organize any space in your home.

Why organize and declutter any space in your home? For starters, if you are like me you have a certain vision for your home. And, let’s just say this vision is not full of clutter, chaos and spending hours looking for lost items.

So this post is exactly how to approach how to organize & declutter pretty much any space – from a small drawer to an entire garage. But before I get to that I have a confession.  I am not a naturally organized person.  I am a clean person (phew let’s just get that out there). 

If you work with me, you would see I have had a messy office.  As a new mom (and a more seasoned mom) I never could get a handle on toy, clothes, you name it clutter and mess.   My own mother called me Messy Mimi when I was a kid (back then they did not sugarcoat it!). Honestly once I had my own home, I did not know how to declutter or organize in any meaningful and permanent way. I did not understand that similar to an exercise program – organization has to be an ongoing effort.

So I started where you may be at – trying to organize our home where you feel comfortable and relaxed and maybe don’t spend an hour looking for that permission slip/favorite sweater/fill in the blank.  

Sound familiar?  Sound like you could use some help?  Here are my recommended 5 steps to declutter and organize any space.  Trust me.  If a naturally messy person like me can do it.  You can too.

Declutter and Organize

Will share some photos of before and afters…and in-betweens too. To get you started, check out this before of the contents of the utility closet in the laundry room…a mix of vacuums, plastic bags, cleaning supplies, rags…you name it…I followed the steps below (and the after picture is at the end!).

5 Foolproof Steps to Organize Anything
Everything that was in the utility closet. A mess for sure!

Remove everything

  1. Take everything out of the space you are trying to organize (see photo above).  Ugh.  Really?  Yes.  Trust me.  This is a key step.  If you have a large space like a basement you could do this in sections.  The only way to see what you have is to take it all out.  Go ahead.  You can do it.


  1. Set up three areas and designate them as:  Keep.  Discard.  Give away.  
  2. Sort your stuff into those three categories.  So, I have never sorted items from a disorganized space and not found the following to happen:
    1. You will find things you thought you had lost
    2. It is likely you will find spare change or even dollars (I found $200 my mom had given me!)
    3. You will realize you have stuff that you do not need and will be able to either give it away or sell it.

Evaluate + Organize

  1. Assess the items you wish to keep and then think about how to store them.  A few storage tips:
    • Vertical storage is generally the best use of space.  So think up.  Could you put a multi-tiered shelf in that space?  
    • Break larger storage spaces into smaller.  So if you have a shelf then measure to put smaller storage containers into it.
    • Think about ways to minimize visual clutter. Instead of stacking school and office supplies buy some decorative boxes and then mark what is in each (see blog image for an example of inexpensive boxes from Ikea). Which leads me to….


  1. LABEL, LABEL, LABEL  Why am I shouting that?  Because as a naturally messy person labeling keeps me honest.  I also often start out with the best of intentions on how I am going to store an item but then promptly forget a few weeks later.  Labeling also lets others in your home understand where an item goes.  This is even helpful for young kids and toys and any babysitters or others who may not understand your in your head organizing system.
    • I plan on a longer post just on labeling (yes it is that important). In the meantime, think about having some fun with labeling (fun?). Yes fun (maybe not like going to Disney or your favorite wine bar fun but fun in a creative, getting things done kind of way). Avery labels makes some pre-designed labels that you can print yourself or you can even buy pre-printed on Amazon. Avery has a great blog to check out for inspiration. More to come on labeling!

So now for the good part – here is the after of my utility closet after I followed five steps to organize and declutter any space. 

Years later I still have it organized and only need to do a simple refresh every once in awhile to remove cleaning product bottles that are basically finished.

Do you have any tips to share?