bringing it back: tips for organizing the imperfect home

Oh, Friday….thank you, you blessed day.

I’m in the shop all day today, but I wanted to stop in to bring back one of our most popular posts from last year…10 tips for organizing the imperfect home.  Since writing this last January, my motives and feelings on having and organizing have changed, but these tips are still helping me keep more organized in our sometimes house of horrors.  So here’s one more tip for you brought in the year of 2013…less stuff, more organized.

Really, that’s the aha moment for me–if we have less, the stuff is better managed.  It’s certainly not the reason for living more simply, but it’s an incredible perk.

Hope you enjoy this post today & have a happy weekend…


Happy New Year!

Let’s get to the nitty gritty.

I’m messy.

Our house is messy.

I know, I know.  You usually see it all prettied up…staged, clean, the best my house could possibly look.

But that’s not reality.  Not life.

We weren’t always messy.  You’re talking to a former type A.

And type A’s can deal with pile-making type B’s like Matt (love you honey–but it’s the truth).  Type A just walks around picking up after Type B–type A likes to organize.

But after children, something happened to my type A-ness.

We’ve talked about it before–I do want my home neater.  I do want it more organized.

I also want to spend lots of time living and less time paving the perfect path.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect

We are learning how to live a little neater, however.  And once we learn how to organize we spend less time organizing and certainly less time fretting over the lack thereof.

Hence, let’s celebrate the imperfect home.  Let’s talk about ways us type B’s (because now I’m a convert) can learn to organize our home.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


We read about organizing all the time, especially this time of year.  A neat bedroom gives you peace of mind.  Clear your paper clutter.

But how do we, who may or may not have allowed their homes to resemble a hoarder’s garage, actually make organizing easy and attainable?

In the last couple of months, Matt and I have begun re-purging our once-spotless house.  Room by room, cabinet by cabinet, we’ve purged and reorganized.

The laundry still kicks my pa-tooty, though.

I’ll get it one day…just you wait, you stack of clean clothes.  I’ll get you folded one day.


organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


Wanna hear some things we’ve learned along the way?

Note:  This does not mean we keep our home perfect (or even semi-neat) every single day.  And this may not be the best post for those of you who are already neat and tidy. But these last two months, these things have worked for us, and we have spent more days in a tidy state than not.

And that makes this former type A happy.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


1.  Have a place for everything

This is a hard one–I know.  But here’s the truth.  If it doesn’t have a spot (and I mean a spot within a cabinet/closet/drawer/etc., then it will stay out.

All the time.

Do you guys experience that?  We certainly do.  Matt has this little set of drill bits that has a spot.  It sits on the bar, on the island, on the counter by the sink, in the tray by kitchen desk.

That’s not a spot.  It basically serves as a tiny reminder that we’re not quite done cleaning out our garage.

We’re close, though.

I know it’s tough–but go room by room and find a place for everything.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


2.  When you can’t, designate some drop zones.

Our little drop zones are quickly becoming my best friends.  The lidded baskets by the sofa hold all toys that aren’t put completely away, the tray by my kitchen desk holds whatever screws or bits we’re working with at the time, the basket in the laundry room stays & holds rotating loads so they aren’t on the floor, and there are huge canvas bags that hold large toys in the kids’ rooms.

I believe this was one of the many reasons I didn’t get organized after the kids were born.  I, being that type A, wanted every single toy to be organized by color, type, specific lego set…you get the idea.

Which brings me to my next point.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


3.  Pick a SIMPLE system that works for your family.

If you’re a piler, use lidded trays to pile bills and magazines, rather than tell yourself you’ll file them in a binder every week.  Do what works for you.  If you are able to stay on top of sorting every toy set, then go for it!  I’m kind of not able to do that.

Actually, I can’t do it all–and then?

It doesn’t get done.

It only took me 4 + years to learn that it’s way less important that every lego set stays together and more that they are put away at the end of each day.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


4.  Get your kids involved!

How many times do we talk about having our children pick up their toys, only to follow behind them to do it the right way or let them go watch a movie instead?

I’m talking to myself as much as I am to you, friends.  Those sweet adorable bundles of joy are m-e-s-s-y and they need to be involved in the clean-up.

Therefore, our systems for their things need to work for them.  Ava won’t take time to sort her My Little Ponies from her Barbies, so I’ve relaxed.  Into one big basket her toys go.

Gray can’t possibly sort and keep every single Lego in it’s perfectly proper place, so I bought him a giant bin where they all go.  In the end, teaching our kiddos to take responsibility for their belongings is much more important than color-coordinated organization.

Never let toy pick-up slide more than every other day.  I know some of y’all are gasping at me, mouth wide open.  You let your kids leave their toys out??  We do.  I admit it.  But after 2 days, they all go back up.  It’s much easier to pick up every day or two than to let it pile up for a week or two.

Believe me, I know.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


5.  Hyper-organize high traffic areas (like the living room, kitchen, desk area, & kids’ rooms).

These are the areas with the potential to create major mess in the house.  If the kids’ cups don’t fit in the cabinets well, where do they sit?  I actually removed our cabinet doors in our kitchen just to get them more organized.  And it helped drastically!

It won’t do any good for Grayson to have a giant lego bin if there’s nowhere for it to go except the floor.

Go through those rooms and be brutal–purge like crazy!  Clean out drawers in your coffee and end tables in the living room…that way you can keep your stack of shelter mags close by.

Or, you could buy a massive basket that sits under your side table, holding approximately 1,000 magazines.

Just sayin.  That’s what some people do.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


6.  Don’t bring your mail inside until you’re ready to sort it.

I’m serious.  If you can’t bear the thought of sorting Ballard’s from your bills, just leave it in a neat pile in the car.  I mean, how long can we leave it in our cars??

I’m kidding, but this does help me!  If I don’t feel like doing it, I’ll leave it in the front seat.  After a day or so, that bugs me and I’ll bring it in and sort immediately.

7.  After bills are paid & other stuff finds a home, file important papers once a week.

Pick a day, set a time, and just do it.  Get it over with.  It, along with hanging clean laundry, are my achilles heels.  If you’re feeling lazy (like I often do regarding filing of any sort), file twice a month.  Cutting down your paper clutter really is freeing–and believe me, it will always be an ongoing battle for us.  But, when we do it, I’m practically giddy.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


8.  Purge at least twice a year.

Oh, poor Matt.

This is soooo hard for him.  We didn’t do this for years–until Grayson was about 3.  Things just continued to pile and pile behind cabinet doors…until there was no more cabinet space to be had.

It’s hard to let things go, but I’m trying to grasp that things are just things.  Yes, I want to save certain mementos and toys the kids have loved, but if toys are just sitting there, and clothes aren’t worn, or a gadget never used, then there is a great chance that someone else could benefit from it tremendously.

I’m getting quite brutal about this when it comes to toys.  There was a day and time that Gray would spend hours playing with matchbox cars.  He had a million and played with every single one.  He lined  them up by color from the time he was one year old.

Why, yes he did.

So of course I’d like to keep some to remember that precious time in his life, but he probably could do without most of them since he never touches them anymore.

Hard?  Yes.

But the thought of spreading joy to another child?

Easy stinking peasy.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


9.   Reorganize the insides of your high traffic cabinets & drawers every 6 months, too.

If cabinets are too full to fill with everyday items, they’re too full.  Again with the purging.

organizing tips at perfectly imperfect


10.  Follow the 5 minute rule:

Once you get a room organized, meaning everything has its place, follow this rule:  If it takes less than 5 minutes to do, do it right then.

This helps me with hanging a few shirts rather than letting them all pile up, unloading the dishwasher immediately, taking toys to the baskets, etc.

Plus, once a room is neat, it’s sooo much easier to keep it that way.

And when it’s tiring, let it go for a week.  Cut yourself a break, let the house get messy and enjoy your family.

You can clean it up in a week.

Which is precisely what I plan to do today.

If you’re able to use any of these tips to help with your home organizing, let us know and if you have an awesome tip we’ll all enjoy, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Happy Organizing!

*Again, please know that if you and your fam are able to keep organized in impressive ways–I’m SOOO jealous and good for you!  These are simply tips that worked for our somewhat messy family.

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14 Responses to bringing it back: tips for organizing the imperfect home

  1. Brittany February 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I try to wash the dishes, clean the countertops, and sweep the kitchen floor either every night or every other night. If I can’t do it, I think of a time during my week where I can and I do it.

    I also go through the house and pickup things and put them away every night. If 5 things pile up in the living room everyday– books, clothes, dishes etc– then I just put those away rather than dealing with 35 things at the end of the week.

    Our house isn’t clean all the time, but it’s at least 1/2 an hour from being clean every day.

    • perfectlyimperfect February 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      Brittany! I love that…1/2 hour from being clean everyday…that’s also impressive! ;-)

  2. Patricia February 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    My daughter of five…is Ms. organization. She gave me a tip that is wonderful. Use a timer, set it for 10-15- or 20 minutes…those loose minutes that are lost easily. Clean out closet drawer or overflowing basket until the timer goes off It doesn’t feel overwhelming and you are shocked how much you got done in those 15 minutes that are easily eaten up with little accomplished. I started using it in the garden as well. The idea of spending only 20 minutes in the yard sets me free to not feel the dread of pulling weeds.

  3. Lori February 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    I used to be a classic Type A personality as well and loved being organized all the time. The effects of MS have slowed me down a lot over the years and for the past couple of years we’ve had a messy house – it’s clean, but messy. This past week I have been on an organization frenzy! I guess my Type A is coming back again! If I was pregnant I could claim it’s the ‘nesting instinct’. lol Anyway, I just wanted to say that your post was excellent timing for me! Such easy ideas to keep the house tidy as you go along…definitely tips that I can use….once I get things organized. :-)

  4. Janet Wehrer February 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    I don’t have many regrets but I do regret that I spent so much time cleaning and making the house look perfect instead of playing with my daughter. She is forty now. I can’t believe it!! She has two boys and I watch her cleaning and tiding up while I play with her children.

  5. Amanda February 9, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    Thanks for the tips, I am a hopeless type B and my house always looks like a tornado has swept through (that’s about the only thing that looks swept most of the time ;)

    I have a baby and a 3 year old and I am often overwhelmed because I let the toys, washing etc build up to such a point that I don’t even know where to start.

    I am also terrible at starting to tidy one area of the house, then moving on to another without finishing the first. The result is a whole house of things pulled out to be sorted, but nothing actually organised.

    I love the timer idea Patricia, I am going to try it today and hopefully get this place in order!

  6. baileywife February 9, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    That 5 minute rule is possibly the best advice I’ve heard! I always say “10 second tidy” to my family to get everyone to pitch in when we’re in a hurry….but I will get more done with the 5 minute rule for myself. Thanks! ~ Kim

  7. The Vintique Object February 9, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I enjoyed this post after popping over from PInterest to find it. What is it about kids that turn you from Type A into Type B? I tell you, I’d be driven mad if I continued to adhere to my old “coffee spoon must go directly into the dishwasher” ways.

    Off for a five minute tidy!

  8. Amy Volk February 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    This is soooo excellent. I am a professional organizer by trade but write a blog, Lots of it is about organizing and every point you make is exactly what I teach my clients, write about, and desire for my clients and readers.

    Last year I outlined what I hope is the book I finish this year: The UnPerfect Home:Organizing for the Rest of Us!

    Thanks for such a great post. Love your site.

  9. Carolyn Smith February 11, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I got caught up in “life stuff” and neglected the purge part of the organizational plan. Hmmmm….big mistake. ha. I’m now working through every closet and cabinet, purging, purging, purging. It feels great! Plus I feel like I’m giving some really great items to Goodwill and I know they will find a good home.

    The interesting part of the process is that I have noticed that my stress level is decreasing because my space is calmer. I feel lighter. Thanks for your post – great advice!

  10. Monisima February 11, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Great tips! Hope I can put some of them into practice.

  11. j. sullivan February 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    What a great article! All I can say taking these easy steps will free up “mountians” of time… what fun family time will be had
    Gramma of 8

  12. Debby Lea February 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Practical & realistic advice for real families. I especially like #4 Get your kids involved! Too many parents forget that if we do all the organizing for them, we are not helping our kids learn the skills that will make their lives easier later.
    You’re inspiring me to keep it realistic on my blog,

  13. Belinda February 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Thank you for these words. I too used to be a type A. Now 2 children later and a husband who works away 3 weeks of the month I am just too exhausted to be a type anything and have let go. Your article is timeous as lately I am just overwhelmed by our clutter and feel a need to purge but was not sure whre to begin. I am going to tackle it room by room. Thank you so much for putting it so well and inspiring me.

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