Organizing the Chaos

With the holidays just around the corner there is no better time to look at all the junk in your house and freak. Out.

I mean seriously, how are you going to fit any more toys in your house?? Your kids can’t even pick up what they have now.

“Deck the halls with lots of new junk. Falalalala lalalala.”

Family Room Before: Arial photo of the destruction a toddler can accomplish in just a few short minutes.

I’m a bit of a neat freak. I enjoy organizing. Not just having a home for everything and knowing where it is, but the color coordinated, super pretty (super time-intensive) organizing.

Unfortunately, I’m also a self-diagnosed shopaholic. I’m notorious for buying anything and everything I “like”. Shopaholics and the super trendy minimalist movement (that I love and am envious of) don’t mix.

So I’m faking it until I make it.


Playroom Before: cluttered and un-functional. Question: How many seats can you spy in this one room? Answer: Too many.
Playroom After: Simple changes, like clearing off the table top really helped to streamline this room. Now a basket of stuffed animals and books are the only toys visible. All other toys are kept in their bins in the playroom closet. I’ve found this makes Henry’s play more intentional, rather than just bouncing from toy to toy.

Recently I had a professional organizer come to my home to evaluate my organizing needs. It was more of a therapy appointment than anything. She said my organizational systems were great, but had two organizing improvements for me, install a new (pricy) closet system in our playroom closet and put my out of season shoes in a different kind of clear shoe bins that opened from the side so they’re easier to access.

The home we’re currently living in is not our forever home, so the idea of spending thousands to update a playroom closet is not particularly appealing to me. The shoe bin suggestion I also didn’t enact, because the shoes are on shelves that are too high for me to easily access anyway. Plus the shoes told me they are very happy in the $1 sterilite shoe bins. Or maybe that was my wallet?

I did however pick up some good advice from this professional organizer, and it won’t cost you a dime. The first being to chill out and give myself a break.

  1. Relax, it’s NOT going to be perfect (as much as I want it to be)

The professional organizer (or P.O. for short) confirmed my suspicions that no ones house actually looks Instagram ready other than when that photo is being snapped. She outright told me it would be impossible to keep my house looking that way with a toddler. Plus, I don’t want to waste my son’s childhood cleaning up the mess instead of enjoying making it. 

TV Cabinet Before…

We live in our home, it’s a safe comfortable place to relax and be yourself. I don’t need to be any crazier than I already am, so sometimes you just need to (take a page from Elsa’s book and) let it go. 

TV Cabinet After: You’re probably thinking… that doesn’t look very good. And you’re totally right. It isn’t pretty. If anyone has a good solution for repurposing a big boxy built in please let me know. I’m sharing this photo because organization doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to work. This space now works for my family. I was able to go through a remove a lot of toys that were no longer age appropriate and shuffle things around to make sure toys are in the rotation.
  1. Simplify

The P.O. also suggested getting rid of some of our stuff to make the organizing maintenance easier. Now while I do love minimalism, I also own enough socks to not repeat the same pair for approximately half a year. It’s a nasty habit I’m working on.

Bedroom Bookshelf Before: This bookshelf started off styled and over time morphed into a catchall. I also found a neatly folded (clean) burp cloth in one of those baskets… my son is 2.5. I wonder the last time anyone looked in there!

I’m a big fan of “editing” I like to edit my life throughout the year. It means taking a step back and looking at my life and daily habits. Do my daily actions align with my goals? Do they make me a better mom? How can I improve? This editing process applies to organizing my house as well. 

Bedroom Bookshelf After: Remembering to go through and straighten up these shelves more frequently will save me from a big organizing overhaul in the future. Bonus: everything looks better under the glow of a Christmas Tree!
  1. Rotate the “stuff”*

Have you ever noticed that when your house is messy or you have too many toys that your kid doesn’t know what to do? There are so many choices they just kind of bounce from thing to thing, growing bored quickly.

I’ve started being much more diligent about rotating my son’s toys. At one point we had THREE barns in our family room. 

A. What child owns 3 barns?! and B. Why do we need to play with them ALL at the same time? Not necessary. Buh-bye barns 2 and 3. 

To make room for the Christmas tree in our family room I’m going to be -gasp- removing Henry’s play kitchen. It’s held it’s place of honor in our family room since he received it… last Christmas…. bye kitchen! See you in January! And the best part? When it does come back it will be like another new present!

Arial Photo After: Now that Christmas has moved in a lot has had to move out. Henry’s kitchen, super station and teepee have all relocated to the basement. They’ll resurface in a month or so and be new and exciting again!

Toys not in the rotation (but still age appropriate and loved) are stored in tubs in the basement. I switch them up every two to four weeks.

This rotation process also applies to your closet. Ever notice you wear the same 10 tops and everything else in your closet just hangs there? Start hanging the clean laundry at the back of the closet to broaden your closets’ horizons.

*please, do not attempt to rotate toys while your children are awake. Whatever you were thinking about packing up will instantly become their new favorite.

  1. Presents

With the holidays JUST around the corner  everyone I know is about to get a whole bunch of new stuff. Like so much stuff it might make you cringe.  I’m a big fan of asking for experiences over material possessions.  Zoo membership, swim lessons anyone?

If toys are necessary I love toys that aren’t one-trick-ponies. Toys that can be played with in different ways. A race track can do one thing. Magna tiles can be played with a hundred different ways so they’re always new and exciting.

My son is only two and a half so I think he was a little young for this in years past, but I love the idea of getting a giant ‘Santa Sack’ and filling it up with “old” toys to give away to kids who don’t have as much. Leave it by the fireplace on Christmas Eve for Santa to take to other boys and girls and your kids will be excited about helping. 

It’s a great way to make way for the new while giving an amazing gift to some deserving kids AND teaching your own about the fruits of generosity.

Catherine is a stay at home mom to Henry (2015) and wife to Alex. In her spare time (yeah, right!) Catherine enjoys gardening, decorating, and reading. In her LBC (Life Before Child) Catherine was a TV Reporter. Originally from Chicago, Catherine and family are happy to call Omaha home. They live in West-O with their Maltese, Austin.