the lazy gal’s survival guide : I heart organizing

Hello lovely people! We’re back today with another installment in The Lazy Gal’s Survival Guide to Better Housekeeping! If you’ve missed our first two posts in this series, you may want to check them out here, and here.

Today, for our next installment, after spilling my guts and showing you the dark places no one else should ever see our closets, I decided it was time to call on the experts.

Or number one expert, I should say. For most of you, I’m sure Jen from I Heart Organizing, is no stranger. And if she is, then you can thank me later for this post because I know you’ll be an instafan.

Jen is one of those people, who I know if we met in real life, we’d be fast friends. Every time she has a new project, I’m all, What? Stop it! Get out! What a great idea. (For real. I said that last time.) What I love about Jen, is she has a realistic approach to an organized lifestyle, and if she lived near me, I’d be on her everlasting nerves. Cue me, clinging to her leg like a desperate three year old begging for help in my own home. But (because that would be super awkward) she isn’t. Instead, I stalk her on the internet and today, because she’s so awesome in real life, we have the next best thing. She’s here to share a little of her organizing wisdom. I couldn’t be more excited about this post! So without further ado…


I am so happy to be stopping by today to hang out at one of my favorite bloggy places.  Did you hear that these cool kids are taking on a few organizing projects around their home?  That makes me melt inside, and I am on the edge of my seat to see what they whip up for us, wait I mean whip up for their adorable clan {no pressure right?!}  Wink wink!

The reason I say that is because I am a long time admirer of Ashley and Jamin’s home and design abilities.  So I have the utmost confidence that their organizing projects will follow suit.

However, since Ashley proclaims that organizing isn’t naturally in her genes, I thought I would stop by virtually to act as her organizing cheerleader.  Gooooo A S H L E Y!

But where does one begin?

Well, Ashley is already off to a great start, even though she may not even know that yet.  She has assessed her home and acknowledged her problematic areas.  And even more importantly, she acknowledged reality.  Our homes are just that, homes.  And without the fingerprints and chocolate drips and Lego battles taking place on the coffee table, it wouldn’t truly feel like home.

The point is not to make your home “Picture Perfect”, it is about putting systems in place that make it easier to get to where you need to be, to have more time to do the things you love, to easily find what you need, to feel no shame when you have a last minute guest arrive and to feel a weight lifted from living a simpler life.  

Being “organized” always comes with a perception of “perfect”, and because I write a blog very much focused on the subject of organizing, it is also assumed that we have it allll figured out, never have piles and live a stress free life.  Sooo not true my friends.  Every new project we tackle, creates a new pile, similar to this in the background…

And every afternoon when my family walks through the front door, train tracks get built, socks get taken off and tossed, homework gets spread out on the dining room table and our kitchen is taken over with noodles and saucepans while dinner cooks.    We live in our home, and that is what makes it special.  However, over the years we have come up with simple ideas to battle those daily messes.  A few minutes meal planning on Sunday ensures our dinners are cooked by 5:30, a community hamper in the hall collects stray clothes, homework boxes tuck away school belongings and labeled toy bins hold the kids accountable for picking up their own train tracks.  Did we always have those solutions?  Nope.  It has all evolved with trial and error and problem solving.

So, once you acknowledge where you want to spend your efforts and that it doesn’t make sense to strive towards perfection, you are well on your way and now the fun begins!  If you are like Ashley, and have many projects you are hoping to tackle, the list maker in me suggests making a project list.  A simple notebook and pen does the trick, just sit down at the table and think about your day.   What are your daily hang-ups?  What makes you go grrrrr?  What is slowing you down and causing frustration?  Once you have those jotted down, then take a moment to rank them, starting with the item that is costing you the most time, money or both {not being able to find all of the kid’s school belongings in the morning costs time, not being able to find a cell phone bill to get it paid on time, costs money}.

With your new list, you now know where to focus your efforts and take on just one project at a time, taking on too much is a recipe for getting overwhelmed and throwing your hands up in the air.

Now it is time to purge baby!  Say goodbye to that clutter.  Farewell to the items you dig through to get to what you are really looking for.  Adios to expired canned corn, dried up pens from the bank, clothes you have been waiting three years to fit into again, statements for 1997, that ceramic cat figurine from Auntie Emma.  We hold on to so many things because we think we will use them someday, we feel bad donating them because they were a gift or because we think we will have the time to someday repair or mend it.  But if you haven’t used it in six months, will you ever really need it?

If you are still having a hard time deciding and letting go, create a halfway box.  A place for things to live until they take up permanent residence at the Goodwill.  Toss the questionable items into a box, then store it far away for two to six months.  If you haven’t removed the items from the box, it is time to kick them to the curb.

Once the items are purged, take a look at what is left.  Another list will do that trick, jot down things that need effective storage or a place to call home {you can find a free project planning printable here}.  I also like to use this an excuse to sit on Pinterest, browse through pages of my favorite magazines and scour through blogs to find ideas and inspiration that are already working for others.

The myth that organizing is expensive is just that, a myth.  The acts up to this point haven’t cost a thing, in fact, you have already gained by donating to others or selling a few purges for a little extra cash in your pocket.  Storage is where it can get expensive, if you let it.  But the wonderful thing about finding inspiration and ideas, is the endless amounts of bargain DIY goodness going on.  Use mason jars for storing itty bits, cover a box with fabric and add a rope handle {shown above}, build a bin out of reclaimed wood or use vintage dishes and wine crates as drawer dividers. 

Here are a few more tips to make the process a bit easier:

  • Ask for help:  Partnering up on a project with someone always makes it seem more manageable.  Even if that means you have someone come and play with the kiddos while you sort.
  • Multi-task:  Organize while catching up on your favorite DVR’d show, listening to a book on tape or practicing your singing skills.
  • Relate it to what you love:  If you enjoy creating and building, then DIY your own storage.  If you love to paint, paint out a closet or add stripes to a bin.  If you have a passion for sewing, whip up some pocket organizers.  If you adore crafting, then add embellishments to your storage or create pretty labels with decorative paper and stickers.  Turning it into something you enjoy will keep you excited to keep going {and you will appreciate it more in the end}.
  • It gets worse before it gets better:  I actually love clearing everything out {empty the entire drawer, closet, etc…} and start from scratch.  Sure, it looks worse in the moment, but it is also the easiest way to be selective about what returns.
  • Blog about it:  If you have a blog, it is the best way to stay on task with a project.  Once you throw out there that you are working on something, readers will be excited for the outcome.  If you don’t have a blog, tell a friend or family member and have them get excited with you.
  • Pick your battles:  It’s always good to remember why you are organizing in the first place.  Sometimes a simple bin with things tossed inside is good enough.  If it now helps you to keep things in one place, then you have won.  It is also important to keep thing simple enough to be maintain over time.
  • Be forgiving:  Sometimes no matter how much you plan and prepare and problem solve, once you live with a system, it still may not work.  It is important to revisit your new setups and be OK with what isn’t working and give it another go.
  • Take it one day at a time: Organizing doesn’t happen over night.
  • Prepare to do it again:  Organizing is an ongoing process.  So just be mentally prepared that with each life change or as your family grows, you may need a new process or system.   Once you notice a glitch in your day, nip it as soon as you can so it doesn’t snowball into more. 
  • Celebrate!  Once one project is done, get excited about it.  Show it off.  Love it.  And feel inspired to keep going.   If you think you may lose steam before it is over, set a reward at the beginning of the project to work towards, like an ice cream date with the fam or a mani and pedi at the beauty salon.

Hoorah Ashley and Jamin!  You can do it!  Blast those tunes, snag a babysitter, say goodbye to those broken hangers and that Hawaiian shirt, whip out the hammer and paint and have a great time! 

Happy Organizing!



Oh my word. Isn’t she great? Aren’t you an instafan? I think I might cry, this post is so amazing. I want to sit down and read this post again…and again….Thank you so much Jen, for your wonderful, expertise and insight. Seriously clinging to every word you shared, and I will be using, um, all of this.

{Rolling up my sleeves} I think it’s interesting that in reading, I realize maybe I’ve been a little fearful. I can decorate fearlessly. I’m not afraid of paint. What is it about purging, or organizing or establishing a system that scares the willies out of me?

Who’s ready to dive in???

If you want to read more on Jen’s amazing blog, be sure to click on over and be prepared to lose three hours of your afternoon. She’s just that great. ;}

Next week, we’ll be returning to this subject, with what actually is working for all of you. We’ve received quite a few fabulous emails from all of you, and we’re loving all of them. If you have practical, time saving tips that you’d love to share with us, please shoot an email to [email protected] titled ‘Lazy Gal Housekeeping.’ We’d love to hear-and can’t wait to compile some wonderful ideas!

Thank you again, Jen. Have an inspired day, everyone! I certainly am. ;}

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Responses to the lazy gal’s survival guide : I heart organizing

  1. JP says:

    This is great advice. I can’t wait to try some of the out. I think I’ve been a little scared too. It’s like there’s guilt attached to these items, and I feel bad getting rid. Great suggestions-glad we’re in this together!

    • Jena says:

      Loved these two tips I got once about the guilt thing: #1 “Stuff is not sacred.” And #2, take a picture of it! Then it only takes up that itty-bitty bite on your computer, attached to the name of the person who gave it to you and what you received it for.

  2. Jenna says:

    Love this advice

  3. Amy says:

    Thank you for exposing us to her. I can’t wait to read the rest of her site!

  4. Emma Huffs says:

    I have to say, I heart you both. This post and series are wonderful and they came at a much needed time for me. THANK YOU.

  5. Mme PiNat says:

    Thanks for your advices 😉 I love reading your posts, I learn a lot 😉

  6. Laura says:

    What a great post!!! I have to say, I cleaned out, purged and dramatically reduced my hall cupboard last weekend and it was soooooo liberating!! I feel like a new woman! Almost as good as a visit to the health spa….well, maybe not quite! Now it’s motivated me to get on and do the other cupboards, shelves, areas in my home! Thanks again!!! lol x

  7. Angie says:

    Great post!! And wow.. Dinner by 5:30 that’s great! Certainly rarely happens in our house with 3 playing hockey lol. However Pre-planning can sure make it easier (and cheaper than a drive through) it’s quite often my kids are at the rink eating their homemade dinners ….

  8. Toni says:

    That overflowing cupboard full of plastic food storage containers will not be ending the day the same way it started. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Good stuff, Jen & Ashley!! I need to work on a)finishing projects before starting new ones and b) better meal planning. OH, and sometimes I struggle with paper clutter. Can’t wait to read more…

  10. Ashley says:

    Love the advice! I had my first child last year and have been hanging onto some clothing that I didn’t exactly fit into BEFORE my pregnancy. Although I’m back at my pre-pregnancy weight, my body has changed quite a bit and I need to stop hanging onto all those “skinny pants” that are now completely unattainable! If I ever get back down to a 10, I’ll buy new clothes. Until then, I need to purge those 3 huge storage tubs!!

  11. You’re in good hands with Jen. I’ve been reading her blog for a while now and it’s always the first place I go for specific organizing ideas. I think I’m a pretty organized person, but she takes it to a new level! Good luck with your process.

  12. April says:

    I feel like I can put all the systems I want in place, but my husband doesn’t want to/care to use them. Horizontal surfaces are the enemy since they all become cluttered with wires and his latest obession/hobby, then he gets mad at me for “acting like he doesn’t belong in the house” when I move his crap to a more suitable place. Obviously ya’ll can’t help me fix him but does anyone else have this issue and tips for what to do (or not do)?

    • Sherri says:

      No idea for you. Only you know what will work for hubs. Ask him and tell him why it drives you crazy and ask if you can shadow “how” he works so you can figure out how he thinks. Then design storage or solutions around him. I finally got my daughter to follow a natural (to her) organizing by finding a place that made sense for her to literally drop things. If she had to open a door or drawer it would be sitting outside of it. So I took the door off my tiny hall closet (first place coming in from the garage) and created a “nook” that has a place underneath that she can just drop things in. The place above is side shelves (very small because the closet is small) and then a big shelf for my purse, things of hers she didn’t drop on the floor and kick under. Hooks on top for hats, scarves, etc.

      Watch him very closely (think stalker) and see how he walks, where he goes, where he looks for things, what makes sense to him….

    • Shawna says:

      Maybe if he had his own space? My husband always felt like his hobby wasn’t available (in storage and under beds). He now has a desk that’s all his. Mostly he works from home at it, but if he wants to work on his hobby, the space is there. If your husband has his own space (even a small desk in a nook somewhere) then he does belong. And his stuff belongs too.

  13. NancyV908 says:

    This is probably the best description of why & how to organize I’ve ever read. I love how realistic it is and how it acknowledges real-life issues. I love Jen’s blog, but I think this may be my favorite post of hers.

  14. Steph says:

    Its true…I’m an instafan :)

  15. What an awesome post – love Jen’s work! She makes it all seems so easy. So glad to have found your blog too :)

  16. Most people get intimidated by the thought of organizing. They don’t realize how simple it can be. And on top of that, once you’re de-cluttered, life is much easier. Most people don’t realize how much stress being messy and all over the place can cause. Being organized is a lifestyle, and its the right lifestyle :)