A Wintery Mess in the Coat Closet

It’s that time of year that brings with it a wintery mess.  I’m not talking about snow or slush; I’m talking about all the hats, mittens, scarves, boots, and winter detritus that go along with the cold weather.  If left unchecked it can quickly take over closets and make the entryway look like an end-of-season sale.  Not to mention the chaos that ensues when you are trying to leave the house in the morning with a four-year-old and an infant and you cannot find a hat to save your life.  Since there was snow in the forecast, this week’s challenge was tacking the front hall closet.  I was determined to be able to find a warm hat for both my boys.  I am proud to say I did it!  My family now has an organized, functioning coat closet.  The best part is in the mornings my four year old is now able to get his hat, mittens, and coat all by himself.  I don’t know who is prouder, him or me.  Here are the 5 things that helped my coat closet and family’s life get a little bit better:

1.  Make a 2 coats per person rule.

I am terrible about seasonal purging (it sort of goes without saying here) but, our coat closet is small and winter coats are big.  So, all fall/spring coats went into the guest room closet.  I was surprised at how many there were!  All I left in the closet was one puffy-warm coat and one fancy-warm coat per person.  Let’s face it, that’s really all you need. Suddenly I have loads of room in my coat closet!  Not too shabby.

2.  Hang an on-the-door shoe rack.

This is officially my favorite organization trick!  It takes a mess of winter wear and suddenly gives them all a place.  They are easy to find, out of a bottomless pit of a storage bin, off the floor, and use minimal closet space.  It also makes it easy for my 4-year old son to keep track of his own things.  He knows which row is his and goes there to find his mittens and hats.  This also lends itself to an easy drying system.  After getting clothes all wet from playing in the snow, simply use a clothespin to attach the wet clothing to the outside of its storage pocket.  It will dry quickly and it will be easy to return it to its place.

3.  Bag the bags.

Moms are the black hole of bags.  I constantly find myself holding onto random bags.  If it is not a disposable bag, I will hold onto it because “it could be a good bag someday”.  Gee, good thing that mindset doesn’t add to clutter.  (Eye roll here.)  But taking a page from my 2-coat rule, I was intent on purging.  Tote bags, grocery bags, book bags, and handbags all came out of my closet.  Then, I simply asked two questions: “what do I use it for?” and “how often do you use it?”.  If I used it often, I hung it from a hook or from a hanger.  My favorite, go-to tote bag goes on a hanger and I swear it makes life easier.  I am able to find it easily, load it easily, and clean it out easily. A few other favorite bags were stored on the top shelf. All other bags found a new home inside a suitcase in my closet.

4.  Add some shelves.

Make the refill of that diaper bag as easy as possible by adding some small, thoughtfully stocked shelves that store a few necessities for quick replenishing.  My diapers, wipes, and extra clothes are now all together in the same place where I keep the diaper bag.  Loading the bag now is as quick as one, two three instead of frantically running up and down the stairs to grab things I forgot.  Granted the mini work out I got on the way out the door was probably good for me, but maybe I should just take my easily stocked diaper bag to the gym.  A musing for another day…

5.  Add a trashcan. 

I threw a trashcan in the front hall closet on a complete whim, thinking “if it works, great, if not I’ll take it out”.  I love this trick so much I am getting a bigger trashcan!  Whenever my family comes home from anywhere, it does not matter where, we somehow have gathered a ton of trash.  Honestly, the amount of random pieces of paper, used apple sauce pouches, old wet wipes, and disposable coffee cups my car collects on a daily basis is embarrassing.  But suddenly I have an easy place to dump all of it. As soon as we walk in the door, coats go in the closet and trash goes in the can. I love it!  My goal this weekend to put a bag dispenser in my car (this sound fancy – think an empty tissue box filled with plastic grocery bags) so I can easily collect the car trash and throw it away as soon as we are inside.  Brilliant!

Until next week, enjoy the mess!

Bathrooms and Snow Days

Week 2 of the My 6-week Get-Organized Challenge.

The bathroom.  Let’s face it, when it comes to cleaning, bathrooms, and kids it really should be a four-letter word.  When we bought the house, the master bathroom was the huge selling point.  The jetted, corner tub inspired visions of a blissful, spa-like bathroom with an orchid and decorative rocks filled my head.  Two years later the only thing this room inspires is a headache.  My jetted tub creates wild storms for Mr. Man and his collection of Jake and the Neverland-Octonauts-sailing-submarine-pirates bath toy collection.  My sink has challenged my husband to a beard growing contest might be winning.  My vanity holds everything from deodorant to band-aids.  I even found a half-eaten bag of graham cracker snacks left there from October. It. Was. Gross.

The Before:

Here’s just one drawer to give you an idea…


So this last snow day I took full advantage. While one boy napped and the other vegged out with a movie (ah, the beauty of snow days!) I tackled the bathroom.  All it took one kid’s movie, two mini-muffin pans, some snack-size zip lock baggies, and elbow grease.  It’s not perfect, but it is a huge improvement.  Week 2 of my organization challenge complete!  And I included one cute shot of what a VA snow day looks like.  The New Englander in me chuckles every time!

The After:

IMG_3885 IMG_3880 IMG_3882 IMG_3913



Taming the Laundry Room.

Where has the time gone since I made that resolution to really get organized this year?  Just between you and me, I haven’t even begun to take the Christmas ornaments off the fire-hazard, I mean Christmas tree!  But, it’s time to start.  Time to get off the couch and clean under it.  Mess and clutter foul up my family more than anything else. We bicker trying to find things, feel rushed and thrown together, and never just rest in a peaceful room. There is a reason why teachers take weeks before school planning, setting up and arranging their rooms – environment matters.  So, I am rolling up my sleeves and working on my environment.  I am holding myself to a six-week cleaning challenge. Hopefully by then I’ll be a bit closer to fulfilling one of my greatest resolutions, living in an organized house.

I thought the most logical place to start was the least sexy place in the house – the laundry room. It is the minivan of the home – maybe not sexy, but boy it can hold a lot of useful crap. I figured if I could get it under control I’d be off to a great start. I’m not done yet, I still need to figure out where to keep the cats’ food so the dogs don’t eat it yet I can still use my folding table and I need to develop a good recycling system, but it’s a start.  Here’s what helped me tame the laundry room:

  1. Install a shelf over the washer.  It sounds so simple, but installing a shelf next to the washer was the best thing I did.  Suddenly my detergents are right at hand, spills don’t matter because they go right into the washer, and I have room on my folding table.
  2. Mount a wall drying rack.  I took a short cut here.  I had hooks already on the wall and a standing drying rack.  So I simply put them together.  I now have a place to hang shirts to dry, nothing drags on the ground, and when I’m done it folds completely out of the way.  I love simplicity!
  3. Repurpose a back-of-door shoe rack.  I am in love with this simple, clever idea!  I spent $7 at Wal-mart and got a completely made over, tidy closet that is easy to maintain.  Cleaners, miscellaneous things like extra screws and other things that live the junk drawer are contained and easy to find when hung on the door.  I am now obsessed with adding back-of-door shoe racks to all of my closet doors.
  4. Hang a broom rack.  Brooms, mops, and dustpans need a place live when not in use, and cluttering a poorly named “broom closet” simply was not cutting it.  So I spent $5, attached a broom rack to the wall behind the door, and now all my brooms are off the floor, ready for use when I need them, and I have room to store the kitty litter in the broom closet.

All for now – until next week!


PS: If you have any great organizational tips or life hacks that you think are brilliant, please share them! I need all the help I can get to get my self not just off the couch but also cleaning under it. In a home with two kids 5 and under, two dogs, and two cats I am looking for simple to create, easy to keep going hacks. Bonus points are given to anything that helps wrangle the tumbleweeds of pet hair and mountains of kids’ arts and craft projects!