organization tips for the new year

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, Organizing29 Comments

I typically get the organization bug about twice a year…  in the new year and in September when the kids are back in school.  I also organize as I’m working on projects or just in a problem area (like the junk drawer in the kitchen) that is getting out of hand.  But, once the Christmas decor is down (we still need to take down our tree), I like to take some time to purge and organize.  I know I’m not alone in this because that is the topic of most home decor and lifestyle magazines, blogs, websites, and all of the stores put their plastic storage bins front and center.  I’m often asked about cleaning and organization tips since I keep a pretty tidy house, so here are some of my tips if you’re working on organization in the new year.
vintage style laundry room makeover | miss mustard seed

organization tips no. 1

Organizing wasn’t very overwhelming when it was just Jeff and I in a 1,100 sq. ft. townhouse.  Now we’re a family of four with teenagers and a garage and basement and a home-based business, organization can be pretty overwhelming.  Just one room or closet can take an entire day!  Even if you have a full day to devote to organizing, I’ve found it’s better to break up the job into smaller increments of time and spread the work out over a couple of weeks or a month.  Working on one small area at a time reduces the overwhelm that comes with decision fatigue and piles created to donate, sell, take to the recycling center, or move to another place in the house.  Every little bit, even taking on one drawer or shelf at a time, will eventually add up to an organized, tidy home. Taking your time also gives you the time and space to make better decisions instead of just rushing to be done.

sewing room organization | utility shelf | miss mustard seed

utility shelf

organization tips no. 2

Really challenge your stuff.  Why do you have it?  Is it something you really use and love?  Is it just a default?  Has it just been easier to keep it in a closet than to get rid of it?  Ask each item questions.  “Do I love you?”  “Do I use you?”  “Does something else I own work better than you do?”  “Do I really have room for you?”  Asking these questions, even out loud, can help you see your things in a new light.  We have so many things in our house that are just there and really aren’t of use.  It can be hard to get rid of things at first, especially if you’re not used to it, but it starts to become freeing and you enjoy the new space you created.  You can enjoy the things you do love and use if they aren’t crowded by the things you don’t.

This is also a key part of customizing and decorating your home.  Sometimes a beautiful room is buried under clutter and simply organizing and purging will let that space shine.  If you are not good at this, ask a friend who will help you be ruthless.   (Now I will insert here that I’m not in favor of forced minimalism and getting rid of things you really want to keep.  I just think there’s a lot more in our homes, mine included, that are there by default more than intention.)

rolls of fabric | blue and white toile | antique pine | miss mustard seed

organization tips no. 3

Let your family know what you’re trying to do and ask for their help and encouragement.  This is also a key step, so you have the support and even extra hands and opinions to help in your work.  It’s also a good time to talk about how you want your home to feel.  If everyone in the home likes the idea of being able to find things, not having to wrestle through clutter, etc. than everyone needs to work together to make the home feel that way.  Everyone can be a part of the maintenance.

bottled pigments | art studio | miss mustard seed

organization tips no. 4

You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of fancy bins and baskets to get organized.  I think bins, trays, baskets, etc. are great tools to make your organization look sharp and tidy, but shoeboxes, disposable food containers, and ziplock bags will work just as well, especially if you’re on a budget.  When we had zero budget to spend on our home, I would use diaper boxes and plastic wipes containers to get things organized.  It wasn’t pretty, but it worked!  You can buy the pretty boxes when you can afford them.
One more note about bins.  I think the tendency is to buy the bins before we start organizing.  I’ve done that so many times and I end up with bins that are the wrong size or ones I don’t use.  Yes, you can always return or exchange them, but if you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed by the process, that just adds one more thing to your to-do list.  Wait until you work through the closets, cabinets, and rooms.  Make piles of like items that need to be contained and then make a list of the bins, trays, boxes, and baskets you’d like to buy.  That way, you’ll end up with exactly what you need.
antique pine wardrobe | european linens | miss mustard seed

organization tips no. 5

Don’t get discouraged.  Organization is a process and rarely a destination.  We use our homes and that means new things come in, things travel throughout the home, shelves get messy, things get put away in the wrong places, etc.  I am very neat and organized and I still have messy, disorganized, and junky places in my house.  We all do.  So, go easy on yourself, and don’t get discouraged if you’re organizing the same closet each year.  Observe and learn and make adjustments each time you organize in order to fine-tune your system.
basement playroom | miss mustard seed
I have some closets and cabinets that need to be tidied up, but my big organizational project this year is the basement.  I’ve been wanting to tackle the playroom for a couple of years and it keeps getting pushed to the back burner.  The truth is, though, the boys always pull out the things they want to play with into the family room or even carry it upstairs!  They rarely hang out in the “boy cave” we made.  It would be used a lot more as an exercise/workout room.  In addition, they have grown out of most of the toys (the picture above is about three years old), so it’s time to pass them along to kids who will use and enjoy them.  I am sort of dreading that project, though, so I’ll have to follow my own advice and take one section at a time and get Jeff and the boys to help.
basement family room | built-in cabinets | miss mustard seed
I can also make it fun by doing some projects in the basement family room, like adding trim and painting the walls!  The built-ins are still off-limits when it comes to painting (per Jeff), but I have some ideas to make it all work.
What are some organizational projects you want to work on this year?  Any additional tips to share?
If you find getting rid of things to be challenging, you may want to read through the Stuff Series I wrote a few years ago.  You can find that HERE.
organization tips for the new year

Related Posts

my favorite home projects of 2020

woven jute living room rug

top ten posts of 2020

Christmas Dining Room 2020

29 Comments on “organization tips for the new year”

  1. I am organized and tidy, but I live with 4 others who are not. It’s a battle! I follow A Bowl Full of Lemons on FB, and each year, starting now, there is a week by week challenge, one room to tackle as set out by Toni (so this week is the Laundry Room). Having the group sharing their progress is motivation, and I find it a good push to stay focused. And thr rooms/areas that are primarily used only by me (the laundry being one of them) stay pretty good, so the challenge is less work each time I participate. Your tip about waiting to buy storage is SO KEY. I used to buy bins that seemed like a good idea when I would see them on display every January, but over the years I collected many bins and still had spaces that weren’t working.

    Toys are the hardest thing for me to purge (I can purge like it’s my job, usually)… it’s like acknowledging that a stage of my kids’ lives is finished, and I hate it! I’m looking forward to seeing what you do in your basement because I would want to paint those built-ins too! Whatever you land on, it will be beautiful, I’m sure!

  2. It’s the Solstice that makes us organise and evict stuff! Just had one in December, another in June. These match your 2 urges

  3. I have recently moved from a 3,000 sq. ft. home and am trying to downsize to a 1,400 sq. ft. home that I grew up in. I absolutely love being “home” and it is a whole lot easier to keep clean…but, oh my what do you keep and what do you get rid of? It is so overwhelming. I am taking my time and have carried in furniture and carried out furniture that just doesn’t work. I am now down to all the “small stuff” and it is very hard…wish me luck to find a place for all our treasures. Love your inspiration!

    1. Oh SherB, I just did the same thing this past year (one good thing, it kept me busy during quarantine–but it was hard to find thrift stores to take the offcasts). It is easy to clean, but just this month I was preparing to travel to our winter home and I usually had a space to “stage” my packing, this time I had to use the bathtub in the guest bath. You do what you have to when you’re in a small house.

  4. Thank you for all the good tips on organization. I am currently packing and purging my house and my mother’s house to move to a vacation house on the coast. Basically consolidating three houses. The biggest issue is letting go of things in my childhood home. All those memories attached to so many things, that I simply cannot keep for the sake of a memory. I am currently trying to just photograph items and putting the photo in a journal with a description of the memory attached to it. Sometimes it works other times it goes in the I will decide later, which I hope will turn into the sell boxing. I now understand why Mom kept so much of Grandmother’s things, which is another set of boxes I still need to go through. Mom is end life Alzheimer’s and will be leaving us soon, but I still talk to her about it all, knowing she hears me and understands what I am going through. Thank you again for this timely blog post.

    1. I can certainly relate to your issues… My Mother saved anything she could for the “memories”. She is now in a care facility with Alzheimer’s. We had to sell her house to help pay for her care and a lot of those “memories” are now in my garage. I have a hard time parting with them as they meant a lot to her.

      1. I can empathize with that. Pieces from family and things that meant something to people who mean a lot to us are difficult to let go of. I had a lot of my Oma’s stuff simply because no one else wanted it and I didn’t have the heart to get rid of them. What I learned, though, is that I couldn’t interact with anything in a meaningful way when it was in a box with a bunch of other stuff. The stuff becomes an overwhelming burden and I think our loved ones wouldn’t want that. I would encourage you to display the things you love. Find things you have a connection to and use them, enjoy them, and let go of the rest when you feel ready to. Maybe you can give things to other family members who want them or to other people who knew your mom. Or find new homes where they will be used, loved, and enjoyed. And, take pictures of things you want to remember.

        Getting rid of things doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of your mother’s life and legacy. A lot of joy comes from things being in the light of day and not in a box in the garage. Just my two cents.

        1. Thank you everyone for your support in this issue. I am taking Marian’s good advice and will continue with photographing for my journal and displaying the things I truly love. I have already ear marked items to go to family members that I know will enjoy them.
          My prayers are with you Amy. There is something special about a mother and daughter relationship. Saying good bye is difficult. I am writing this from my mother’s bedside as she will be with our Lord in the next few days. I know my Mom is at peace.
          God bless you all.

  5. Saw your post on your newly purchased books. And I own two of those titles. My favorite is Terrain which is one of my favorite shops we visit on our way to Longwood Gardens. I bought a Korean Spice Viburnum there and it gives me so much pleasure each spring with the fragrance and pretty blooms. Happy Reading and sure hope you get as much pleasure from your books as I do each winter as I take a stack off my library shelves to just sit back and enjoy especially all the gardening books

  6. My big organizational project this year are photos, printed and digital. I want to get all the printed photos digitized and then everything organized on my computer so it is easier to find what I’m looking for. I want to complete the baby albums for my two sons (ages 32 and 30) haha! And after the printed photos are digitized I will put them in albums (because I already have all the albums bought and stored from several years ago), I find it is easier to show pictures to other people when they are in an album rather than dragging out the laptop and crowding together to all see the screen. I don’t think I will print any more photos unless I have a specific picture frame to fill but I may look into those photo books you can have printed. Thank you Marion for all your inspiration.

  7. Hate to admit it but as I have gotten older I really appreciate an organized home. A place for everything and everything in its place. Plus we down sized when we moved to the coast, so that made me really decide if I can live without a lot of just stuff. I just feel so much better and can relax when my home is de-cluttered. Thanks for another great post.

  8. I love the photo of the boys LEGO collection. So organized. I have two great grandsons who are obsessed with legos. Their Mom would love to have a room like this.

    1. Oh man, the Legos are overwhelming! I don’t know what we’ll do with all of them when the boys don’t want to play with them any longer.

  9. Love the toy pic! Here’s what happened with our big box of mixed up legos and crayons, etc. The box got shoved away, then, time went by. One day I pulled it out for the grandkids! There was still partially put together Lego houses in the box! Everyone loved it all and the kids played and played. I’m giving a pass to all the young moms that just aren’t up to organizing the big box of toys today♡

  10. I did save a lot of my children’s toys and it is such a pleasure to bring them out of the attic for the grandchildren. Marian, we have the same Fisher Price castle as in your photograph. I was able to find the king and queen for the castle on Ebay after all this time. So, Moms, when you purge the toys, think about those grandchildren that may be in your life quicker than you think. 🙂

    1. Yes, I think it’s a good idea to keep a few quality toys for grandkids.

      That castle was mine when I was little. I think it was purchased at a yard sale, so we never had the king and queen. I think we had a horse and a knight, though. I always loved the trapped door and secret passages. Such a great toy.

  11. Thank you for the great organization tips. This past September we sold my mother in law ‘s home. My in laws built the home and raised their family there. My husband and I live the closest so we had the task of going through everything. Overwhelming to say the least. I am organized but it was still a big job going through someone else’s things. After going through that experience we went straight into purging more things in our home. We made headway but we are going to continue now that the holidays are over. Excellent point about the containers. I bought some ahead of time and found that they didn’t work for where I initially intended to use them but luckily I could use them elsewhere. We’re expecting our first grandchild in May. So excited. Our daughter is already thinking about how to set up a playroom so I will refer her to the picture of yours. Great job.

  12. ahhh….it is the time. We, together, cleaned the fridge today. And, the pantry. He helped, which helped! I usually do it alone, but it was fast! when there were two. So, one more thing done. As soon as Christmas is over, I get the urge.
    I love your tips and it is so true, all of it. I come from a line of women who ‘saved’….I am learning not to be. I love empty drawers and shelves.

    1. I just cleaned my pantry and fridge over the weekend. It’s so nice to have it all tidy and organized.

  13. I am having a hard time letting things go these days….trying to do the “easy” things and the momentum will carry me through the harder things. Looking at your lovely uncluttered spaces helps to inspire me to keep going.

    1. That is a great tactic. When we start to see the clean areas, the empty spaces and realize that we don’t need as much as we think we do, it gets easier.

  14. Pingback: Thistlekeeping - Thistlewood Farm

    1. Sorry about that! You can increase the view to make it larger. We are working on revamping my site and we are going to make the font darker and larger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *