Stay-at-Home-Mom: A Day in the Life

A (Real) Day in The Life of a Stay at Home Mom

A (Real) Day in The Life of a Stay at Home Mom

A day in the life of a stay-at-home-mom varies SO much. It depends on the mama, the kids, the family, where they live, what their schedule is like, if dad is home or not, how much he helps, and so on…

For my family, it varies a ton depending on kids’ moods, whether my husband is in town (he’s gone a LOT for work), and how much the baby naps or doesn’t nap.

So instead of trying to tell you about my most “typical” day, I’m just going to tell you what happened today (or, when this publishes, yesterday).

A (Real) Day in the Life of a Stay-at-Home-Mom

My husband is home right now, not traveling for work, so he got up with the big kids and helped them get ready for school. I had already packed their lunch boxes last night, so that part was simple for him. I nursed Henry in bed while they got ready for the day. The big kids and my husband gave me hugs and kisses before they left for school and work.

Then, Henry and I had a little bit of playtime in the living room. Afterward, he lay on his blanket and looked at the ceiling fan while I cleaned a little bit in the kitchen and moved the laundry along.

Tummy time with my littlest. Then going to clean the kitchen a bit. How are you kicking off your day?

A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

Then I made myself some breakfast… but Henry was getting fussy. Still, I needed to eat, so I did. You’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask before helping the kids with theirs, right? Ezekiel bread, toasted, with cream cheese and eggs on top – it was glorious.

He’s not thrilled about me eating breakfast. But I’ll be a better mama if I do. A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

When I finished breakfast, I wrapped up the baby and took him in the bedroom to nurse down for a nap… it was about the time of day that he sometimes takes morning naps. It used to be the time he USUALLY takes naps, but he’s in a “leap” right now (a Wonder Week), and hasn’t been sleeping as reliably, so my fingers were crossed. He nursed, half asleep, for a while, but didn’t actually nap.

So, when it was clear a nap wasn’t happening, I unswaddled him and laid him on the floor while I sorted through his clothes. The seasons are changing, and he’s growing, so I needed to assess what he had that he could wear for fall, and what I needed to buy for the cooler weather.

I sorted his clothes into fitting / not fitting and short sleeve / long sleeve piles to get a better idea of where we stood.

I made a plan for what he can wear for now, put a few things into my donation box, and made a mental list of things to order for him for fall.

Shoes were not on the list. They’re darling, but we never ever use them. He only wears his zutano booties… which I might buy one more pair of just for laundry purposes, but other than that, baby shoes are silly even if they’re adorable.

Then, I rolled up his current outfits and put them back into his drawer. Done with this little project.

I took Henry into the office with me to nurse while I looked online a little bit for clothes for him. He was still obviously super sleepy… so after a while, I decided to try again for a nap. This happened.

I cleaned the kitchen and moved the laundry again, but Henry didn’t have plans to let me write quite yet… he woke up pretty upset with me, and didn’t have plans to go to sleep again. I unwrapped him and decided to just snuggle him and play the next hour or so by ear and see what would happen.

We didn’t actually watch a show. Instead, we got to hang out with my friend Heather! She held Henry and he laughed at her and smiled at her. I crocheted a little bit while we chatted. It was super-nice.

Yay! A visit from sweet @heatherbarb !

A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

When Heather left, Henry was actually ready for a nap, so I put him down for one… right before my husband came home to drop off the kids from school (when he can, he helps with any driving possible, so that Henry has a better chance of taking a nap – he’s so sweet and helpful!).

I chatted with the kids a little, and then Anneliese asked to play AirPano which is not actually a game – it just shows super-awesome 360 views of tons of amazing places around the world, and you can pan and zoom around to explore them. I pumped while she did that.

Aaaaaand…Henry woke up again. I was pretty starving, so I made myself a lunch really quickly before I went to get him.

Things don’t always go as planned. I imagined a nice little after-school chat with the big kids while Henry giggled on the floor and I ate my lunch. Nope. Full-on preschooler tantrum happened, so Joey needed to take a break in his room to calm down. Anneliese wanted to color, and she chatted with me about her coloring, but didn’t reveal much about her day at school. I ate my lunch and fed Henry the milk I had just pumped (I hadn’t expected him to wake so soon, and he was mad my breasts were empty from pumping).

Joey calmed down enough to be able to talk and listen, so we chatted a bit, and he asked if we could play cars together. We did that — I love that he makes his cars talk — and we had some of the after-school connection I had hoped for earlier.

He calmed down enough to ask me to play cars with him. Anneliese is playing with my childhood “busy book” and Henry is watching us.

A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

Kids were all over me for a while. And Anneliese shared her coloring book with me – so sweet. I wasn’t thinking about to-do-list items but I did have a vague feeling that there was something I should be doing. I reminded myself that I WAS doing the important “something.”

Everyone was in a pretty good mood, and Joey asked me to style his hair, so he and I went to the bathroom together, while Anneliese colored next to Henry, “babysitting” him, with the instructions to help him if he spit up – armed with a wash cloth.

The kids asked for a show, so I turned on Dinosaur Train for them and made myself an iced chai latte to sip while I snuggled Henry again.

Some quiet time for now. Big kids are watching dinosaur train, and I’m having iced chai latte while Henry nurses half asleep. A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

While I snuggled with Henry, I did a little more crocheting and waited for my husband to come home. After a little bit, we turned off the iPad and the big kids scurried off to play while I tended to – yes, still awake – Henry.

Still quiet time. Crocheting hats for refugees. Husband comes home pretty soon!!

A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

I moved the laundry again, tidied the kitchen again, and changed Henry into some fresh clothes and another diaper. The big kids played with
legos, dress-up clothes, and cars.

Playroom shenanigans are going on while I change Henry’s clothes and move the laundry through. A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

Henry and I snuggled up on the couch again, where we were treated to a fashion show. After a bit, my husband came home, I gave him the baby, and I made some random plates for us for dinner.

I’m being treated to a fashion show while I nurse Henry!

A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

The kids had been asking about “tasting plates” all afternoon, and it sounded like a fine plan to me, so I gave them those. We had leftover ribs, so I gave them to my husband, and I had a little tasting plate of my own – mainly fruit, after my big veggie lunch. My husband told us about work, his upcoming travel, and his flying schedule. My kids raved about the fruit kebabs they had at school for a classmate’s birthday, and I told them about all the different kinds of kebabs I love.

Husband is home! We are having a weird random dinner tonight. A photo posted by Emily @ So Damn Domestic (@sodamndomestic) on

Right after dinner, our bedtime routine starts. When my husband is away, that means I’m wrangling the baby while guiding the big kids through their routine, helping to brush teeth, reading bedtime stories, and snuggling them in their beds. Sometimes this goes smoothly. Other times it’s a bit rough, if Henry is unsettled or overtired. When my husband is home, it’s great… he does bedtime routine with the big kids while I nurse Henry. Then, I get kisses and hugs goodnight and a bit of quiet time while the kids get their bedtime snuggles.

Tonight, I asked Topher if he would hang out with Henry while I took a shower – I normally try to get one during the day while Henry naps, but … if he doesn’t nap it doesn’t necessarily happen.

Afterward, my husband and I watched The 100 while he organized some stuff for a course he’s taking, and I nursed Henry to sleep (thankfully he sleeps pretty well at night, even if he’s had a hard time during the day). Then, I hopped onto my computer to handle some website stuff (caching and plugins and hosting upgrades and such) and write this.

And now? It’s time for me to head to bed!

But first…

What I didn’t do today:

  • I didn’t clean the entire house.
  • I didn’t even clean a bathroom.
  • I didn’t get “ahead” in anything. I mostly was treading water.
  • I didn’t “accomplish” much of anything.
  • I didn’t do it all on my own.
  • I didn’t do super-enriching activities with the big kids.
  • I didn’t have a screen-free day.
  • I didn’t cook an amazing dinner.

BUT… what I did do is just fine with me:

  • I snuggled and nursed my littlest boy all day long, making him feel comfortable and cozy and loved.
  • I connected with my big kids – playing cars with Joey and coloring with Anneliese.
  • I got one organizing project done, to prepare for Fall.
  • I kept up with daily tasks like dishes and laundry.
  • I chatted with a friend, for real, in person, in my house.
  • I crocheted half a hat for a Syrian refugee in Italy.
  • I made sure everyone’s tummies were full.
  • I hung out with my husband and swapped stories of our days.
  • I took a really nice shower.
  • I shared my day with you.
  • I was a wife, mother, homemaker.
  • I was enough.

You were enough today, too.

Organizing – 3 Things I Learned From a Trip to the Museum

Organizing - 3 Things I Learned From a Trip to the Museum

Organizing - 3 Things I Learned From a Trip to the MuseumMy family loves to visit museums.

We visit aviation museums, science museums, children’s museums, art museums, and more. After we went to the Calvert Marine Museum in Maryland, my 2-year-old son sobbed in his car seat, “I just want to go to anovver museum. I don’t want to go to lunch. I want to go to anovver museum.”

Clearly, there’s something awesome about museums, if even a 2 year old feels it in his bones how cool they are.

I don’t think it’s the subject matter. Basically every museum I’ve ever been to is super interesting and makes for a really fun day. Even if the exhibits aren’t about things I’ve previously had an interest in.

It’s not the people… yes, museum docents tend to be incredible people who are passionate and knowledgeable about their exhibits. A good guide can make a museum trip 10 times more memorable. However, even in museums where we were mostly abandoned, we still had a fantastic time.

And it isn’t even the artifacts. I’ve been just as enthralled by an un-famous hand-painted piece of pottery as I was by getting to touch an actual piece of the moon. The actual moon, y’all. It’s hard to think anything else would be interesting after touching the moon, but it is. So much is!

The thing about museums is that they’re organized.

Of course they are. I mean, how would anyone be expected to enjoy them or learn from them otherwise?

But the thought that goes into the organizational systems in place in every good museum is essential to the way they function, and essential to the public’s enjoyment of them.

And since the #2 New Year’s Resolution of 2014 was “Getting Organized,” I’m thinking we can all learn something from the way museums do organizing-type things.

1. Every area has a purpose.

In the Calvert Marine Museum, there’s a children’s room designed for hands-on interaction. Kids can dig for fossils and search for information about them on a kid-height computer console. They practice tying sailor’s knots, climb into a sailboat and fasten their life preserver jackets, move the boat’s rudder, and raise the sail. They climb into a lighthouse and turn the light on and off. They can touch some animals like turtles and horseshoes. Everything is designed with children in mind, and hands-on learning at the forefront.

Every area in the museum is just as focused. My favorite is the Rays and Skates aquarium, where you can see (and sometimes touch) the animals, observe newly hatched skate babies, learn about the differences between the two types of animal, and even touch empty skate eggs (“mermaid’s purses”). Everything in the area supports the environment for the skates and rays or serves to educate visitors about the animals and the differences between them.

What to do at home:

Define a purpose for each area or room in your home. If you’re not sure what to do in your living room, it will become an unsatisfying mess. If, on the other hand, you decide that it’s the place for your family to hang out, dance, read books, and do crafts, you’ll design it around those purposes, and enjoy it more.

This even works within a room. Having a food storage drawer in the kitchen, which has all containers, foils, and wraps in one place is much more efficient than having them scattered through various cupboards. And storing your spices in your “food prep” area and your serving utensils in the “serving” section will make your kitchen workflow that much smoother.

2. Everything is labeled.

Of course animals and displays are labeled so that visitors can learn what they’re looking at, but labels are even more useful than they appear. We attended a “turtle talk” presentation, where one of the docents taught us about different types of turtles and terrapins and let us see them up close (out of their aquariums) and even touch them.

She had maybe 5 or 6 turtles out of their aquariums at the same time. Can you imagine what might happen if their habitats weren’t labeled when she went to return the animals? She might remember where most of them go, but mix a couple of them up. Until someone discovered the mistake, they’d be served the wrong kind of food, or be unhappy in their habitat. Oh no!

What to do at home:

Label things. Not just to tell yourself what things are (most of us don’t need that if we’re over the age of 5 or so), but to reserve a place for each item. We did this with our glasses/cups/mugs cabinet. After the first couple of times I organized things and discovered them jumbled again a few days later, I realized it was because when many of the items were in the dishwasher at once, there was a lot of empty space, and it wasn’t clear where each item belonged once it was time to put it away.

Using printable toy basket labels to organize the playroom will keep things organized in your playroom too. It’s the same sort of situation as with our glasses and cups; many things are out at once, and without labels, it can be hard to remember where each item’s home is.

3. Curate, curate, curate.

It’s not necessarily about having the best artifacts or items compared to other museums… but each museum needs to curate its collection and display its most interesting pieces. Less-interesting pieces can sometimes still be used — in Calvert Marine Museum, relatively anonymous shark teeth (small ones or any with imperfections) are mixed into the “fossil hunt” section in the kids’ Discovery Room, while larger and more perfect teeth are on display in the Paleontology Exhibit.

But if the Maritime History exhibit displayed every race entrant registration and each third-place and runners-up ribbon alongside the much more interesting first prize trophies for speedboat racing, the area would quickly become cluttered and boring, since it would be hard to figure out what was important versus what was just…there.

What to do at home:

Curate your belongings. That means pulling them together, surveying them, deciding which are your favorites, most useful, or the best, and putting those items in a place of honor. Declutter the rest.

If you have 5 pairs of “general” scissors but only need one in your office area and one for opening bags in the kitchen, declutter the least-good 3. If you have 3 pairs of rain boots but one is the cutest, and one is leaky, toss the leaky ones and donate the less-cute ones. If you have 15 boxes of photos you never look through, sort through them one weekend and pick out your top favorites to go into an album you’ll actually pick up and enjoy.

What do you love about museums?

If you’re part of a museum-loving family too, think about (or even better, visit) your favorite museum. What is it that makes exploring it so enjoyable? What is it that keeps you coming back? What makes you smile while you’re there?

And what of that experience can you bring back home? 

Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms – Without Bribes, Threats, or Punishment

Teach Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms ... Every time you ask. (Without threats, bribes, or punishments.)

Teach Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms ... Every time you ask. (Without threats, bribes, or punishments.)Kid Stuff.

It’s everywhere.

Toys and books litter the living room floor, clothes are all over their bedrooms, and somehow there’s garbage mixed in with everything. Food wrappers, scraps of paper, pieces of trash that look to your child like they could be “something” with just a little bit of glue, glitter, and ribbon added.

Why are there dress-up clothes on my kitchen counter? And wouldn’t it be nice to crawl into bed without smashing my legs into a Lego creation that magically found its way beneath my sheets?

I know this is reality for SO many of you. I’m sorry.

But there’s a way out. And the best news is, it doesn’t involve threatening, punishing, bribing, or tricking your kids.

A quick search about kids cleaning rooms led me to so many blog posts…

I wanted to see how other people view this “problem” before I wrote my version. The titles make me want to scoop everyone up into a big group hug.

At Your Modern Family, the “works every time” rule about cleaning is that the kids go to bed 5 minutes earlier for each piece of clothing mom has to pick up from the floor. I’m sorry, but in my house, bedtime is after dinner and bedtime routine… any earlier and my husband or I would have to leave the dinner table to make that happen.

Sacrificing our family dinners? No thanks! And making bedtime into a punishment? You’re ASKING for bedtime “issues.”

Mommypotamus wrote How to get your kids to clean their rooms in 16 easy steps. But really the “steps” are jokes about how frustrating it can be…. and then the post turns out to just be an advertisement for a webinar about getting kids to listen. Helpful, huh? An example?

“Step 11: Ask them if they heard the news story about the giant mice that are taking over dirty playrooms across the country.”

I love Mommypotamus, but this post made me feel sad for anyone who clicked it hoping for actual help.

Then there’s the uh-oh bucket. The idea is that you pick up all of the toys that have been left “out” and put them into a storage container. And you hold them hostage. Then, the kids must do chores in order to earn them back.

Isn’t this poem “cute”? (Read: Not the kind of “lessons” I want my kids to remember me teaching them, as they reflect on me in their old age – Mom is a tyrant toy kidnapper!)

YOU LEFT IT OUT
MOM PICKED IT UP
SHE’S GOT YOUR STUFF
YOU’RE OUT OF LUCK
TO GET IT BACK
MUST DO A CHORE
AGAIN ITS YOURS, JUST LIKE BEFORE

Problems with this? Like I said, YOU are the tyrant toy kidnapper, the bad guy. And chores become punishments or payments, not just something kids do because you’re part of a family where everyone pitches in to help.

Plus, you’ve got an ugly rubbermaid tote container sitting out all the time, and you’ve become some weird kind of Monopoly banker who has to monitor toys in / toys out versus the currency of chores done. Is that a job you really want to add to your list?

Other titles I didn’t click on to read?

How to Trick Your Kids into Cleaning Their Room – I don’t know about you, but tricking my kids isn’t on my daily to-do list. I prefer for our relationship to be built on trust.

Is Your Room Mommy-Clean? Checklist –  This one promises a checklist so your child can see if they met all of your insane requirements for a clean room. If I were a kid, I’d likely try to “fudge” it to get through the list faster, feel smug when my mom “approved” my room (knowing I had things hidden in places they didn’t belong), and develop a me-against-Mommy mindset in which Mommy is a weirdo obsessive control-freak and I’m just trying to be awesome. I mean, depending on what type of kid I am….

And another popular strategy is the “you can only have one thing out at a time, and you have to clean it up before you get another thing out” one. I hate this one. HATE. Because part of learning creativity and practicing innovation is using seemingly unrelated things together. This is SO IMPORTANT to allow our kids to explore!

If I never allowed my kids to play with the dump trucks along with the toy horses and dress-up playsilks, they wouldn’t have invented this game where they tie a silk to a truck, and then “tow” a horse behind it, or “buckle in” the horse in the dumper of the truck using a silk so the horse can ride.

Sometimes my kids use the dollhouse along with blocks, legos, horses, and vehicles to make a whole town, complete with a farm, playgrounds, additional furniture they create themselves, a parking lot, roads, and so on.

So how do I get my kids to clean up their things, without any manipulation?

  1. Lead by example. My kids see me cleaning up my own things, putting things away when I’m finished using them. My bedroom is ALWAYS tidy. And at least once a day, my children see me do (and usually help with) a quick general pick-up of everything around the house.
  2. Declutter. You know as well as I do how hard it is to keep the house tidy, let alone actually CLEAN, when there’s all sorts of crud scattered around getting in the way. If you’re having trouble with Step 1, start by decluttering your OWN things so that you can start leading by example.If you’ve got yours under control, help your kids declutter their belongings before you start expecting much in the way of cleanliness from them. Starting a toy rotation system can be a way to jump-start this. There’s no commitment to actually getting rid of things – it’s just stored (by you) in a closet somewhere.

    But actually decluttering items for good will have the best long-term results. If you and your kids are ready, you can start by asking them about each item:
    – Does this toy still make you happy?
    – Are you all done with this, and ready to let another kid play with it and have it?
    – Is this one of the most fun toys for you, or do you like playing with your other things more?

    Please don’t tell your kids to get rid of things in order to “make room for new toys.” It sets up the expectation that more is always coming, and if you do this, you shouldn’t be surprised if your kids start bringing you things they’re “bored with” and then immediately asking you for some new thing they saw a commercial or an ad for. That’s not how this works.

  3. Give each toy a home. Each toy or category of toy should have an actual “home.” In our house, playsilks go in one basket while hats and other accessories (ties, tiaras, whatever) go in another basket. Legos are in a basket together in a cubby on the shelf. The dollhouse and its furniture and people go in another cubby on the shelf.

    We have a basket in a cubby for small vehicles, while the larger trucks get to “park” on the top of the shelf, along with the horses. Another cubby-basket is for miscellaneous smaller items (their boogie boards, travel Tegu sets, Frozen peg people, a weird light-up wand thing that used to be part of a sword that broke, plastic tops they got from a birthday goody bag), and our train set is in another cubby-basket.

    On the other side of the room, there’s a basket for wooden blocks, and in the closet, blankets for forts or other imaginative play are on the floor.I listed all of that from memory. Because when things have HOMES (and there aren’t too many “things” total), it’s easy to know where everything goes and what everything is. It’s the same for kids. If my children want to play with the trains, they know exactly where to find them. And when it’s time to clean up, if there’s an empty cubby, it’s clear something is still “out.”

    You can use labels if you want (and I made these gorgeous ones if you’d like to), but it isn’t a requirement. If you choose to, be sure to label the item/container AND the shelf where it belongs, so that the kids can match them to clean up.

    Tip: NEVER tell your kids, “Put this away.” “Away” can mean anything – shoved under the bed, in the closet, behind other toys, anything.
    ALWAYS say, “Put this where it belongs.” There is only ONE place where each item belongs. Its home. That is where it should be returned.

  4. Make the toys easy to put away. As an early childhood education major in college, I have been in countless classrooms in my adult life. And when I was a preschool teaching assistant, my lead teacher did things no differently from what I had seen over and over… the unit blocks (those awesome wooden blocks we all LOVE to build with) were on shelves, sorted by size and type, often with cut-out construction paper shapes for the kids to match so that they could put them all away correctly at the end. (Like in this picture – Just what every kid needs. A puzzle to do when they’re FINISHED playing.)Want to know what happened in EVERY SINGLE CLASSROOM? Kids would excitedly scoop all of the carefully-sorted blocks off the shelf and happily play with them until clean-up time. Then, they would spend at least 10 minutes trying to put them away properly. Often, a teacher had to help, and constantly correct the child about which blocks go where.

    The result? Wasted time and energy, to satisfy the teacher’s neurosis about “sorting.” Less time to play. More “correction” (which can sound like nagging). More frustration. I have even had kids tell me they like blocks but didn’t want to play with them at school because clean-up was too hard. Some kids would only play with blocks at the beginning of the period, then sneak away to do other things so the other children would be stuck with the cleaning-up task when play time was over.

    Don’t do this to your kids! If your KIDS want to sort their legos by color/size/shape or by “kit” (older kids), let them. But if we’re talking about a 3 year old with 400 Duplo bricks? Just put them all into one basket.

    When I was a kid, my little sister and I had a billion wooden unit blocks. They belogned in a big wicker laundry hamper. All together. Clean-up was NOTHING. So easy!

  5. Use natural consequences. So many parents seem to think the word “consequence” means “punishment.” And they completely forget the “natural” part.

    Let’s explore some unnatural consequences:Leave a piece of clothing on the floor? Bedtime is 5 minutes earlier. (Why? Mom said so. Unnatural.)
    As an adult, if we leave a piece of clothing on the floor, does it affect our bedtime? No.

    Leave a toy in the living room after bedtime? It goes in a box until your earn it back by doing a chore. (Why? Mom’s rules. Unnatural.)
    As an adult, if we leave a crochet project “out,” do we have to mop the kitchen before we can have it back? Nope.

    Your room is messy? No dinner until you clean it up! (Why? Mom can’t think of anything else to “take away” that will make you clean. Unnatural.)
    Guess what! Adults can have a messy bedroom AND still eat dinner – in the dining room, at a restaurant, anywhere!

    This makes no sense.

    So what IS a natural consequence, anyway? Well, think about what happens to you, as an adult, if you don’t clean up after yourself.

    If you don’t put your keys on their hook (or in their home, wherever that is) as soon as you come into the house, you’re likely to have to search for 10 minutes to find your keys the next time you want to go somewhere.
    Tell your kids: “Put this where it belongs, so you can find it the next time you want to play with it.”
    If they don’t, they’ll realize the natural consequences sooner or later, and you can say, “Gosh, I wonder where your green car IS! Did you check in the car basket? It isn’t there? I guess you didn’t put it where it belonged when you were done with it… goodness, I hope you can find it. Good luck.”

    Have you ever left something you cared about “out” instead of putting it where it belonged? And then something happened to it? That crochet project you left on the couch which the cat decided was great for clawing… the beautiful picture your child made you, which you didn’t hang up before the kid came back with scissors and made confetti… the leather purse you shoved into your closet instead of carefully replacing, which now has permanent creases and cracks.
    Tell your kids: “If you care about this, you’ll take care of it and put it where it belongs.” For smaller kids, you may help them think of things that might happen if they don’t, adding, “Otherwise, it may get broken or stepped on or the dog may chew it up.”
    If they don’t, once they realize the natural consequences, “Ohh I’m so sorry to see that your horse’s leg snapped off. How did that happen? Oh, someone stepped on it? I’m very sorry to hear that. It’s too bad it wasn’t on the shelf where the horses belong so it would be safe!”

    Or what if you leave your own laundry scattered around, or don’t unpack from a trip fully? Then where is that green shirt you want to wear? Didn’t you just do laundry? Oh right, it’s still in the suitcase/in this pile/somewhere around here, still dirty… GAH!
    Tell your kids: “I know you love that shirt! If you want to be able to wear it again soon, make sure it goes in the laundry basket so that it gets clean the next time I do laundry.”
    If they don’t, once they realize the natural consequences, “I’m sorry, but that shirt is dirty. Why don’t you put it in the basket right now so it can get clean next time. You’ll have to wear something else today. After you get dressed, would you like to help me start a load of laundry so that your favorite shirt will be ready again soon?”

  6. Help them. Patiently. Even with your behavior as a good example, just a few toys, clearly defined easy-to-use homes, and experiencing and learning about natural consequences, it may still be hard for your kids to clean up at first. Cleaning up after ourselves isn’t an instinctual behavior. It’s a learned one. And anything that’s learned requires some teaching and practice.If your kids are having a hard time cleaning up after themselves, ask them if they’d like you to help them through it. I generally try to stay as hands-off as I can during this process, unless they’re really stuck about something or having trouble getting started.

    Go by categories of item. First, have your kids clean up all of their clothes, into the hamper. Then, see what other category will make a big difference. Are there 38 books on the floor? Have them pick up books next. Ask, “Where does this belong?” for each category, and if they’re not sure, remind them.

    If your kids are a little older and won’t get confused, you could have each kid pick a different category or toy to work on simultaneously. So, one kid could clean up books while the other works on gathering and taking apart the Legos and putting them back into the basket.

    Take your time when you’re helping them through the process. You’re not helping them to get it done more quickly. You’re helping them in order to give them the skills to do it on their own later. Explain things. Model. Demonstrate. Thank them for a job well done.

    Remember, you are a teacher, not a drill sergeant in this process.

  7. Don’t expect or require perfection. At least not at first. If your kids come running to you, announcing that they’ve finished cleaning, and they’re beaming with pride, what do you think it’ll do to them if you go in and start pointing out everything they’ve done wrong?I don’t always “check” after my kids clean up. Sometimes I do, and usually act like I’m about to get a wonderful surprise, “You’re done? Wow, can you show me!?” and they grab my hands and skip down the hall to show me their work. I give them big hugs and say something like, “You had so many toys out but now it’s clean again! Look what you did! Don’t you feel proud? Thank you for helping keep our house nice.”

    Sometimes, especially if I’m in the middle of something, when my kids come to me to let me know they’re finished, I ask them to double-check their work on their own. Often, they find something they’ve forgotten, and they feel proud about having found it the second time. Sometimes I’ll look after that, but sometimes I don’t, and I’ll say something like, “I believe you.” “I know you did it.” “I trust you.” or “I’m sure you did a great job.”

    Other times, they didn’t actually do an awesome job, and things really do need to be corrected before the room is anywhere near clean and tidy. Keeping in mind the role of teacher, not drill sergeant, I’ll point out a few larger errors.

    “What are these pens and stickers doing in the Legos? How will you find them the next time you want to draw or do crafts?” They laugh and put the pens where they belong.

    “What on earth? Are these dollhouse people mixed in with the cars? Where do they need to be?” A kid will shout, “In the dollhouse!” and they race to put them away in their home.

    “I see… three things that aren’t where they belong. Can you find them?” This starts a hunt, with each kid exclaiming, “I got one!” as they find them.

And with all of this modeling, guidance, practice, and habit training, nowadays, all I have to do is ask one simple question IF my kids ever grumble about cleaning (which they rarely do).

The question I ask my kids is:

“Do you care about your toy?” (Or shoes, or backpack, or whatever it is they don’t want to put away.)

And since we no longer own things we don’t care about (see Step 2), the answer is a quick, “Yes, I do,” followed by swift action.

I hope that if you’ve made it to the end of this, you’re walking away feeling empowered, not overwhelmed.

Parenting with honesty, respect, patience, and empathy might challenging at first, and feel awkward compared with using bribes or punishments, but in the long term, you’ll never regret your choice to give it your best shot.

Know Your Style to Make a Cleaning Schedule That Works

What's your cleaning style? Here are the 5 types, and how to create a cleaning routine that works the best for YOU.

What's your cleaning style? Here are the 5 types, and how to create a cleaning schedule or routine that works the best for YOU.

There isn’t really one right way to clean.

Some of you might be frustrated about that. I understand.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things the Right Way whenever possible. I always liked school rules and guidelines, etiquette books that instructed me in the one correct way to eat a piece of chicken at a formal event, and “rules of thumb” that would help me figure out if I was on the right track in any area.

But when it comes to cleaning, there aren’t a lot of rules. Really, you just have to do it. That’s the only rule.

Because if you don’t do it (or hire someone to), things WILL get gross. If you never clean your refrigerator shelves EVER, yes, bacteria will grow, crumbs will build up, and something will eventually start to smell bad in there.

Really bad.

If you never move your bed and vacuum under it, EVER, in a few years, you’ll be sneezing and sniffling every time you walk into your bedroom, and it’ll be a mystery to you WHY that is.

If you never clean the outsides of your windows, the dust and pollen WILL build up, and your home will get less and less natural light.

So many things are obvious “must-dos,” if not daily, then often. Dishes and laundry are the big ones, with other “regular” things like dusting, vacuuming or sweeping, and disinfecting counters following close behind.

But other things? Well, if we’re not careful, they can slip through the cracks.

So it’s important to create some kind of cleaning schedule, to make sure those types of things don’t slide for too long.

How you handle the schedule though? It all depends on your personality. As long as you get it done, there’s no wrong way to do it. There are only wrong ways for YOU. Trying to conform to someone else’s idea of a perfect routine is likely to frustrate you or cause you to fail, when you could succeed if you only listened to your habits and preferences.

So let’s figure it out. What is your cleaning personality?

Which of these sounds most like you? (Or which do you aspire to, and want to actively work toward?)

Cleaning Style: All or Nothing

What does it mean?

You tend to save things up for a big “spree.” Maybe you let the dishes pile up throughout the day, and then wash them all in the evening. Or, you might be like my husband and I used to be… having a big cleaning catch-up day every Saturday. Or if you have a house cleaner come, you spend the day before or the morning of the cleaner’s visit “picking up” everything so that she can actually CLEAN.

What should you do?

If you like doing things this way, there’s nothing wrong with that! Be sure you have a checklist so that nothing gets overlooked. Your weekly checklist might get done in its entirety each Saturday, while you do all of your monthly tasks on the first Wednesday of each month. Maybe you have quarterly “cleaning parties” that last a couple of days to get all of those periodical things done, and Spring Cleaning is a huge annual event in your home.

Cleaning Style: Focus Blocks

What does it mean?

You have focused periods of time set aside for cleaning each day. You like to do little surges or sprints of cleaning here and there throughout the day, and probably love using a timer. You might feel like you need a bit of guidance sometimes though, when you realize you’re always doing the same tasks; you don’t want to accidentally leave anything out!

What should you do?

Develop a great morning routine and a quick evening routine which include your non-negotiable daily chores. A couple times throughout the day(maybe when the kids are down for a nap, or right when you come home from work), have a 15 or 30 minute block of time to really focus on getting some other tasks done.

Using a timer is great for maintaining focus and keeping yourself from getting distracted, and a checklist will keep you from doing the same few tasks over and over while forgetting others completely. Since your daily tasks are all part of your morning and evening routines, the other focus blocks can be used for whatever weekly, monthly, or less-frequent tasks you need to do.

Cleaning Style: Daily Zones

What does it mean?

You prefer to clean by location. You want your entire living room to sparkle at once. Your kitchen to be deep cleaned top to bottom all in one go. Your bedroom to be cleaned from ceiling fan to carpet before you tuck yourself in at night.

What should you do?

Make yourself a weekly schedule that includes working on a different “zone” each day. When you write your overall plan, make sure to separate tasks by room or zone. Kids’ bedrooms might be one zone, and all bathrooms may be another. You might combine the laundry room with the entryway, while leaving bigger spaces like the kitchen on their own as a stand-alone zone.

Cleaning Style: Task Batching

What does it mean?

You’d rather vacuum the entire house in one go and be finished with it than to haul it out every day to vacuum individual rooms or zones. And you think people who do a load of laundry every day are crazy… you’d rather have one big laundry party once a week!

What should you do?

Make sure to hit the whole house with a certain type of cleaning each day. You may do all floors in one day, surfaces and dusting another day, clean all glass, do all of the laundry, and scrub all sinks/toilets/tubs on other days. This is great for general maintenance, but for the less frequent tasks that don’t fall into those categories, be sure to use a written checklist so they don’t fall through the cracks, forgotten over years or decades.

Cleaning Style: Habit Cleaner

What does it mean?

You clean as you go, and barely notice that you have to do any chores at all, but it all gets done. You utilize your “waiting moments” well (so when you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, you’re tidying up from making breakfast without even thinking about it).

What should you do?

Keep up the good habits, for sure, but also start a list of small tasks you can do in those few moments here and there. Otherwise, you may keep doing the same thing over and over (how many times every day does your kitchen counter need to be wiped down?) when you could be doing other tasks that aren’t as obvious, but which are just as quick.

Also, since you’re less likely to need to schedule time to do regular cleaning, it might be unnatural to make time to do the less frequent tasks. Start making THOSE a habit too, by implementing one focus block a day (see the Focus Blocks type above), with a clear trigger time. So, maybe as soon as your kids get home from school (your trigger), you’ll spend 30 minutes on Monthly chores while they work on their homework or have a snack.

So which type are you?

What’s your cleaning personality? And do you feel ready to implement a plan that fits you and your lifestyle?

Use this free cleaning planner printable to make a cleaning routine that works for you each day, week, month, and year.

Grab my free Annual Cleaning Planner Printable now, and take the first step by writing out the tasks you don’t want to forget! Then, use your cleaning personality to embrace a routine that will work the best way for you.

My Number 1 Kitchen Organizing Tip

My #1 Kitchen Organizing Tip (Plus, the no-holds-barred, open-cabinets TOUR)

My #1 Kitchen Organizing Tip (Plus, the no-holds-barred, open-cabinets TOUR)

I loved this kitchen. It was huge, bright, open… the granite countertops let me put hot things down on them or cut directly on them without worrying for their safety.

There was plenty of room for my kids to pull step stools over to help me with food prep, or they could work on activities on the other side of the counter while I cooked. Or, I could watch them play in the living room while I bustled around …

Oh, Maryland kitchen, I miss you.

Maryland Kitchen Tour 6

There were some weird things too though… there was no pantry, so we made do with our “jar shelves” we added, a stand-alone pantry cabinet in the dining room, and (as you’ll see) some kind of random storage of things we buy in bulk.

The cabinets, though pretty from far away, were definitely “economy”… some of the doors just randomly fell off at inopportune times. And the large wide drawers couldn’t hold very much weight because the tracks weren’t intended for much load-bearing. The tracks were bent, too, so sometimes the drawers would just fall as we opened them. It made me kind of nervous every time.

And since it was an ADA house, the sink was awkwardly low (since we aren’t in wheel chairs), and the garbage disposal switch was right at toddler-height, which was …fun.

Anyway, want to see inside all of my drawers and cabinets? I’m guessing you do… because I LOVE looking at other people’s “no holds barred” tours. I want to see the nitty gritty! I want to see the real-life. So…here’s mine.

My absolute number one kitchen organizational tip:

Maybe I knew this already, because it SEEMS like common sense… or maybe not. But I didn’t have the “aha” moment and put it into practice until I read my friend Andrew Mellen‘s book “Unstuff Your Life.”

Store like with like, together in one place.

Before, I had some most-used utensils on a crock on the counter. Others were in a drawer or two. Sure, knives were all together, but the apple corer-slicer and egg slicer were “gadgets” to me, so they were in a different area.

Now? Cooking utensils – which I define as anything I would typically use at the stove/oven, with heat – are all stored together. If I use them “less often” I typically just get rid of them. (top left photo, below).

“Cutting things” is another category. If it cuts, pierces, grates, slices, shreds, or peels, it’s together in one place. Beside my cutting tools, I stored my serving utensils, then eating utensils. (top right, below)

Before, I would have of course stored food storage containers together, but foils/wraps/baggies and the like may have been separate from those. Now, all food storage containers and tools are in one place together. (middle right, below) Though, extra boxes of ziplock bags and my foodsaver vacuum sealer “overflowed” into the drawer right below it.

In the bottom drawer of my super-wide-but-not-strong drawers, I kept my things-to-make-the-table-pretty all together. My favorite vases for flowers were here along with the serving trays and platters I typically only use when taking something to a party to share. Before I decluttered my place mats, they were in here too. (bottom right, below)

My prep utensils and gadgets all went together in another drawer, too. To me, this was anything I would use when preparing (not serving) foods – not including things I generally used with heat at the stove/oven (my cooking utensils) OR things that cut in any way (“cutting things”). (bottom left, below)

These categories might not work for you…maybe you have other specialized categories, or ways of thinking about your kitchen. Maybe you’d prefer to put all measuring/weighing/portioning things together, for example. But categorizing, and then storing entire categories together in one place, makes a huge difference in the organization and functionality of the kitchen. I promise you won’t be disappointed when you try this.

Maryland Kitchen Tour 4

The cabinet to the left of our stove housed our serving dishes, and on the top shelf, vitamins and supplements. (top left, below)

Above the stove, I stored my extra oils/vinegars/sauces. We buy two different kinds of organic coconut oil in bulk, so having somewhere for a lot of “extra” is necessary in our home. (top right, below)

The drawer to the left of our stove held all of my spices and seasonings. It wasn’t deep enough for them all to stand up in the drawer, so the larger ones were lying down.

I’ve tried to do the whole matching-jars thing before, but if you can’t buy spices in bulk (by which I mean exactly how much you want, package-free, not tons at a time bulk), you’ll inevitably end up with a bunch of half full “leftovers” of spices in the containers from the store… and have to find a place to store those, and remember what you have and what you need more of, and so on. I know some people who will just pitch any extra that doesn’t fit into their spice jar into the trash, but I don’t think I could do that. So until we live somewhere with a bulk spice section (and will live there for a long time), I’m all mismatched and okay with it. Unless you have a better idea.

The other drawer there used to have spices too, but when I decluttered that category, I ended up with an empty drawer… which was great for the potatoes and garlic that typically sat on my counter in a bowl (bottom right, below)

And one of the best things ever? Deciding to hang my cutting boards! I’ve previously had them in a cabinet, or leaning against the wall, but they slide around and fall over, and make cleaning the counter more of a task than it needs to be. So in this kitchen, we just put a couple of screws into the wall, painted them white, and voila! Cutting boards were always at the ready, and never in the way. (bottom left, below)

Check out this reveal-all kitchen tour! I love looking in other people's cabinets. Don't you?

On to the lower cabinets around the oven…

I think everyone kind of despises those corner cabinets for storage… I mean, what do you DO with them? Lazy susan? Hide stuff back there? What? Thankfully, one of ours had a corner cabinet door that let me see and reach all the way in. I thought about different ways to use it, but finally just settled on having it be the “small appliances” cabinet. Not too many separate items to get jumbled and disorganized, and storing these things allowed me to keep my counter clear. And YES, you CAN store small appliances even if you use them daily. My vitamix is used multiple times a day in my kitchen, and taking it out of a cabinet and returning it once I’m finished is not a chore.

If I’m going to use the Kitchen Aid mixer to make something delicious, I’ll consider the two weighted squats (one to get it out, one to put it back) my workout for the moment. It’s really not a big deal. Plus, the appliances stay dust-free, and my counter is much cleaner, effortlessly (because I don’t have to move 10 things to spray and wipe it down). (top left, below)

The next one over (directly to the left of my oven) held all of the pots and pans, plus the mixing bowls and sieves on that awkward half-shelf. This was the year we finally phased out non-stick cookware, and I have got to say, I LOVE my pots and pans. These professional quality stainless steel ones we got are WAY cheaper than all-clad, and nearly identical in quality and build. I bought individual pieces, not a set, so that I only have the sizes and shapes I actually use. This is my enameled cast-iron dutch oven which is again, WAY cheaper than the Le Creuset options, and I have no complaints. And we LOVE our cast iron skillets, too. (top right, below)

The other corner didn’t have the corner cabinet door to let me see the whole area, so it was divided into a cabinet with a hard-to-access cave + a skinny weird one. In the larger one, I kept all of my baking dishes, and mainly just tried to not let stuff get shoved into the unreachable corner. (bottom right, below)

In the skinny one, we kept our grilling things along with the cast iron griddle we replaced our nonstick electric one with. LOVE that griddle. And looking at this photo, I’m wondering why we didn’t put the grill things in the garage…since we didn’t own a grill the entire time we lived in Maryland. And some more bulk stuff randomly stored… we were out of grass-fed gelatin, so I ordered more, but accidentally bought the non-gelling kind which we also use in smoothies and such… but had plenty of… so I kinda shoved it in here until we used up what we already had. Not the best, organizationally, but it was out of the way and I didn’t forget that we had it. (bottom left, below)

Maryland Kitchen Tour 3And now for the upper cabinets to the right of the stove.

Various nut/seed butters on one shelf, vinegars and room-temperature sauces/condiments on the next, and opened/in-use oils and fats on the bottom. Also, hanging the pot holders is awesome for the same reasons hanging cutting boards is awesome. SO nice to have them ready to grab, versus tucked into a drawer, but also out of the way and off of the counter. (top left, below)

This time, for the awkward kitchen cabinet, they made it into a weird sort of corner-cut-off deal… I don’t even know what to call it. But with some baskets, we were able to make it into a usable space where things wouldn’t get lost. I would just pull down the entire basket to get what I needed from that category. This is where my gelatin molds and little baking tools (muffin liners, skewers, frosting tips, etc) went. And we shoved our empty mason jars into the excess space around the baskets, sorted by size. (top right, below)

See what I mean about the corner cut off cabinet? Does it have a name? (bottom right, below)

And in the skinny weird one next to the sink, we stored our immersion blender on the top shelf, funnels, birthday candles, and lighter/matches on the second, and liquid measuring cups on the bottom. I don’t know why, but this makes sense to me. And it’s how our weird super-skinny upper cabinet is arranged in our new home, too. (bottom left, below)

Maryland Kitchen Tour

Moving on to the sink area, and the cabinets to the right of it…

The sink. Scrubby brush and straw brushes were in the former utensil crock. Happy plants on my windowsill. Vintage aprons as curtains. It was a happy place to wash fruits and veggies and work. (top left, below)

Upper cabinet to the right of the sink – kind of the beverage station. Anything related to drinking went here. Different types of cups, glasses, mugs, bottles… The labels helped it stay exactly this tidy and organized, too. At first, we tried it without labels, and everything got jumbled as it was used/washed/put away. Labels are sometimes a miracle, because they reserve an empty spot for something so that nothing else scoots its way in. The yellow basket holds all of our tea. The only drink thing that wasn’t here was the coffee maker, which was stored with the other small appliances. It’s a myth that your coffee maker has to live on the counter. It doesn’t. It takes a minute to get it out and set it up, and a minute to put it away. If you use it for an hour every day, does it really need to be “out” for the other 23? It’s up to you to decide for your house, but for me, the answer is no. (top right)

Drawer full of kitchen towels to the right of the sink. We almost never use paper towels, so lots of kitchen towels are a must. We go through several every day, and put them directly into the washing machine as we finish with them, to wash with whatever is next. So they don’t sit around getting stinky, and we have a constant stream of clean ones coming out of the dryer, too. Yes, they are dingy and stained, but I don’t have them for display purposes. They’re workhorses. (middle right, below)

Under the sink was cleaning stuff, vinegar (for making homemade cleaning stuff and for splashing into a sink full of water to wash fruits and veggies), soap refills, garbage bags, and the rarely-used paper towels. (bottom right, below)

In the lower cabinet to the right of the sink, we collected our empty egg cartons for reuse, and would periodically deliver them to our friends who have chickens or take them to the Amish market to share. My rarely-used gigantic cutting board and roasting pan were here too. And because this is the same kind of not-very-accessed cabinet as the one with the grilling stuff? It was a good place to shove some extra GMO-free popping corn after a bulk order. Gotta be honest with y’all… this stuff happens. (bottom left, below)

Maryland Kitchen Tour 5

That’s a wrap! Did I miss anything?

Oh, the top cabinets over the fridge just hold my knife sharpener and my husband’s whiskey or whatever it is he occasionally drinks. Basically, stuff I don’t really need to reach ever.

And the jar shelf wall, which I LOVED? Just some pieces of wood, supported with brackets from the hardware store. Simple. Mason jars are usually cheap and available at grocery stores or Walmart, but Walmart was always out of stock of the half gallon size mason jars, so I ordered those from Amazon. The white lids are these storage lids, and they are FANTASTIC. The canning lids aren’t really intended for non-sealed storing, and it gets annoying to have to remove and replace two pieces every time you open a jar. Plus, the white looks pretty.

Maryland Kitchen Tour 7

If you only get one thing from this post,

…please remember the tip about storing things “like with like” and ALL together in one place, not divided up a bit here and a bit there. I can’t even begin to tell you how many glasses, cups, and water bottles we decluttered once we saw all of our “drinking things” together in one spot. It works like that for every category of “stuff,” too. Once you have it all together, it’s easy to see what you actually like, need, and use, and what can go.

This is also a key tip of Marie Kondo’s – decluttering by category is far more effective than doing it by cabinet or by room.

Our new kitchen is much smaller, and I really miss having it open to the rest of the house and having room for the kids to help more often, or to do crafts at the counter… BUT we still use the same organizing methods. And even in fewer drawers, totally different layout, etc, the categories thing WORKS.

So no excuses about how it would never work in your tiny / old / weird kitchen… it will. It does. You won’t know until you try!

Open Floor Plan Dining Room

Take a peek into my organized, bright, open dining room!

Our Maryland open floor plan dining room was a hub of activity, both an extension of our kitchen and an integral part of our living area.

Every family dinner was eaten at this table (other than Movie Night dinners). The kids did crafts here. I set up painting or sewing projects for myself sometimes. Other times, after the kids went to bed, my husband would work on his homework here on his computer, with his notes and papers spread all around him.

But always, always, always… we put everything away when we were finished. So the dining room was ready for the next family meal or big activity, no matter what.

It was a wonderful, warm part of our home. Want me to show you around?

Take a peek into my organized, bright, open dining room!

Off to the right of the table, we had this little nook. Pantry items (besides my mason jars), the “kids’ kitchen,” and my cookbook shelf.

Maryland Dining Room Tour

The basket on top held our disposable items and party things. We had some leftover little water bottles from Anneliese’s birthday in here, and later they were helpful for freezing to pack in our cooler to take to the beach.

We don’t buy or use much in the way of disposable products, so having a place for the leftover plates, napkins, cups, and flatware all together is helpful for us. So if we ever need a single plate for a craft, or a cup for a special project, we know just where to go.

Maryland Dining Room Tour-3

The pantry cabinet was great for storing our smaller appliances (vegetable spiralizer, mandoline slicer, food scale) and all of our canned goods. I stored some of the bulk overflow for our mason jar dry goods in the bottom (I buy 5 pounds of organic cocoa powder at once, so the extra has to go somewhere!).

I also added little 3M Command hooks to the left side, for hanging the kids’ aprons so they were always handy for cooking and crafting.

Maryland Dining Room Tour-4

My other shelf was really mainly just used for cookbooks… Anneliese kept her kid-sized kitchen tools in one drawer, and the other drawer held a few recipes I had printed out.

The bottom cabinet of it was empty… nothing really ever seemed to feel right in there!
And the kids’ cabinet, while sometimes was filled with individual snacks I prepared for them to enjoy, or pieces of fruit, often was pretty empty too.

You might notice the kids’ fridge is missing in the pictures below, too.  Sometimes it got a lot of use, but often it was empty or held random “leftovers” I didn’t know the kids had saved until I discovered them, dried-out, 3 days later. We didn’t need it or use it as much as we did initially, so we passed it on to another family who actually did need it.

maryland dining room

The other side of the dining room/area had this cubby shelf. This is where we kept our serving dishes, small ceramic pieces, basket of cloth napkins, and the salad spinner. I liked being able to store this stuff out in the open, because the yellow and white looked cheerful and bright to me.

Maryland Dining Room Tour-5
If you’re on my mailing list, you know by now that we’ve moved to California. Our dining room is very different here! It’s not open to the kitchen, so it has a very different feeling. I miss the floor in our old dining room which made it such a great space for crafting and messy projects.

Our new dining room is carpeted – not my favorite, but we’re making it work.

The biggest difference between our Maryland dining room and our California one is that all of the furniture but the table “went away!” We used a PODS shipping container to move ourselves, and much of the dining room furniture didn’t fit. We left behind the chairs, the black cubby shelf, and the white cookbook shelf. We did manage to fit the pantry cabinet and the kid-cabinet, but when we got to California we decided we didn’t need them, and sold them.

I can’t wait to show you my bright, modern, streamlined dining room in our new home! Even though it’s a VERY different space, functionally (we really only use it for meals and snacks now), it’s gorgeous and we love it.

7 Steps to Organize Your Home Office (Even If You Don't Have One)

7 Ways to Organize Your Home Office (Even if You Don't Have One)

7 Ways to Organize Your Home Office (Even if You Don't Have One)

Organizing your home office can seem impossible. I know. If you’re on my email list, you know I used to have a HUGE PROBLEM with it, and that I was a certified Office Supply Hoarder.

The thing about home offices is, they’re often hidden behind closed doors. And since they aren’t part of the main living space, it’s easy to ignore them. No one has to sleep there. No one’s getting dressed in the office or taking showers in there. No one is preparing meals in the home office. And if you need to do some work, well, sometimes it’s just easier to grab your laptop and escape to your living room couch.

I was gonna write, “AmIright?”

But yeah, I’m right. I know I’m right because that was my home-office-life for forever. Until we made some huge changes.

The first change was this – when we were expecting our baby boy, we “sacrificed” our home office to create a bedroom for him. (Which might be kind of silly, since he barely used it at all before we moved.) This meant we really took a hard look at everything that was in the room and determined whether we needed it or whether it was excess. Most of it was excess… Decluttering so much really set us up for the second change.

The second change? We moved to a house in Maryland for 2014, and decided to use a little nook of the main living space as our office, rather than putting it behind closed doors. (This way, our kids also got to have a playroom!)

Maryland Office Tour

For the first time, our home office space was really, truly, honestly out in the open. There was no escaping our messes if we made them. There was no “toss it in and close the door” mentality when it came to things we needed to do later.

In fact, as you can see in the picture below, our home office space was literally the first thing someone would see upon entering through our front door.

We needed it to be neat. Organized. Tidy. And of course, usable.

Maryland Office Tour-5

Here’s what we did to organize our home office.

  1. Declutter. Significantly. We (I) went through ALL of our office supplies, and only kept the things we actually enjoy using. Extra supplies and refills (tape, staples, etc.) all needed to fit into one shoebox-sized storage box.
  2. Make personal kits. Since we each prefer to use different types of products (paper clips for him vs. binder clips for me, for example), I made a little “kit” for each of us. In the dresser in our office area, we each had two personal drawers, which held our office “kits” as well as whatever else we needed in the area. His had a lot of work-specific things, and mine housed things related to my blog, my stationery, and so on.
  3. Share. The top drawer of our office dresser was for shared tools and supplies. Our tape dispenser, stapler, scissors, hole punches, envelopes, and postage stamps went here, along with the small box of extras and refills.
  4. Centralize and minimize paper. Aside from our personal notes (his work things, my website things), our papers were all stored in our filing drawer. We try hard to only keep things we’ll actually need, so our files are pretty minimal. We have tax documentation for the last 7 years, a file for our dog Zora for her Veterinary records, a file for each of the kids and myself for medical things we might personally want to reference (the rest, we just trust the doctors to keep for us), important things about the kids’ school, a file for each vehicle’s maintenance records, and a copy of our current lease. I think that’s about it. Some of it could definitely be scanned and tossed, but my husband does like to have physical papers, so we’ve kept those.
    How to organize a home office spaceThe messy-looking files in the bottom drawer are the kids’ school papers and drawings. I have a folder for each of them, and though I recycle a lot of things right away, if something looks worth saving, I put it in the front of their folder. Bigger projects go in the box standing vertically, between the drawers and the wall. Then, periodically, I can go through them and scan the “true keepers,” recycle everything, and start over. Of course my VERY favorites get displayed, not filed. Or displayed first, then filed when something new is displayed.The top drawer has extra printer ink and other printer supplies (specialty papers, etc.). The second drawer is just printer paper, and the third drawer holds our accordion file of user manuals from all over the house.
  5. Hide cord clutter. Electrical cords are ugly. So we do our best to hide them when we can. We had a tangle of charging cords on top of the dresser for a while, always charging our phones and tablets. It looked like electronic spaghetti. After a while of hunting for a great charging center, we got fed up, I drew this, and my husband built it. Easy.
    Homemade charging stationThe top of the back, behind where the phones are sitting, opens up to reveal one of these USB thingies. Only ONE cord to plug into the wall, and the USB charging cords were all hidden within our charging station. So nice!
    Maryland Office Tour-3Inside our desk, in the keyboard drawer, we charged both of our laptops. If only one of us needed to use our computer, we could do it at the desk (where I wrote while my husband was at work). If we both needed to work at the same time, I would go to the couch with my laptop, or he would take his to the dining table or another surface.
  6. Have a place for trash. A trash can might not be glamorous or at the top of your wish list for an office space, but having even a small one makes a huge difference in the tidiness of the space. Scraps are immediately tossed instead of saved up “for later.” The little basket to the right of our desk was our office trash can. Every few days, I’d take it to the kitchen, pull out the paper trash for the recycling bin, and add the rest (tissues or whatever) to our kitchen trash can.
  7. Add something pretty. Hang pictures that make you smile, or display quotes that inspire you. Do something to make the area a joy to work in!

It’s funny, writing these “home tour” posts about our Maryland home, when so many things are different now that we’ve moved back to California. Guess what! We have an actual HOME OFFICE now, not just an “area!” We’ve definitely made some changes from how we had things in Maryland, and I’m excited to share our current space with you.

So, do you have any questions about what to do in a home office when you DO have one? Or anything that’s bothering you about your home office (whether just an “area” or a separate room)? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to include my answers in my next office post!