overwhelm & order

by | Feb 28, 2023 | a slice of life, All Things Home, Organizing | 42 comments

Yesterday, I worked on the things on my daily list to get done (I try to limit it to three big things, which you can read about HERE), but then I found myself shuffling around, a little lost at what to do.  There is just so much to doDo I paint more?  Do I clean?  Do I start on a new project?  I had hit the point that often happens when there are a lot of projects or events happening at once.  Overwhelm.  There’s so much to do that it seems like the best thing to do is get back in bed.

So, after some floundering, I went to my go-to method for dealing with overwhelm – creating order.  All of the mess and stuff everywhere needed to be put into order so that it didn’t look and feel overwhelming.  In truth, while we do have a lot of work to do on the house on top of everything else we do in a day, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Nothing is urgent.  Everything is okay.  It just feels chaotic and overwhelming because of the lack of order.  The piles and clutter and dust bunnies floating across the floor make it feel that way.  For me, at least.  So, let’s deal with those!

To give you an idea, this is what I’m talking about…

organizing art books | miss mustard seed

Everything seems to be waiting for something else to happen and, in the waiting, the mess is becoming a bit too much.

I’ve started with the books, since I will be getting my shelves later this week.  I wanted to get them organized again, so I can find my books easily and see what I have on my favorite artists, genres, and subjects.  I’m also getting rid of more books.  Even as I’m doing it, I’m kicking myself for moving books that I am now getting rid of, but I keep reminding myself that I wasn’t ready then.  I was getting rid of a lot and I just wasn’t ready to get rid of these books.  If moving a few extra boxes of books and magazines made the move a little easier (and simultaneously a little harder), that’s okay.

But now, I am ready to get rid of the books I’ve read and enjoyed and won’t likely revisit.  I can weed out the books that are redundant or maybe aren’t as good as another book I’m keeping.  And then I’m getting them organized by artist, art style, and type of book.  When the shelves come, I’ll be ready to put them away.

organizing art books | miss mustard seed

It looks like more of a mess at the moment, but it’s actually more organized than it was!

organizing art books | miss mustard seed

I’m going to be like a kid at Christmas when the shelves come.  I have made Jeff aware that I want to put those shelves together the day they come, so he can prepare himself for some Ikea assembly!

organizing art books | miss mustard seed

Sorting and getting rid of books has been pretty easy, although physical since these books are all big, honkin’ heavy books!  The bigger challenge has been letting go of magazines.  I have kept years worth of decorating and art magazines.  I always enjoy them and feel like I want to keep them to revisit in the future.  Throwing them away somehow feels like throwing away the inspiration I got from them.  But, the truth is, I rarely revisit an old issue.  I decided it was time to go through them and just rip out my favorite photos and articles to keep in a file.

I grabbed a stack and a ruler and started flipping through old issues of Country Living and Where Woman Create.  When I got to the second or third issue without ripping out a picture, I asked myself if I really wanted to spend my time doing this.  Do a few images or articles matter this much to me?  The answer was no.  So, I allowed myself to keep a few favorite issues in a basket in the living room and I put the rest in recycling.  Done.

organizing art books | miss mustard seed

I’m going to finish getting the books sorted today and I’m also working on sorting the dining room, which has become a dumping ground and running the vacuum.  As I was dusting and vacuuming, I was looking forward to the day when the rooms are mostly done and I can just focus on cleaning and fluffing them.  There are days when I really enjoy the renovation process and days when I’m just looking forward to the finished product.  Getting things a bit more orderly will help me enjoy the process more.

art books | art studio | miss mustard seed

This dresser has been covered in a dropcloth and has been a catchall for the past week weeks as we’ve been working on painting the hallway and Marshall’s room.  We still have trim to install, but I decided it won’t do any harm to clean it off and scoot it back into place.  Once the trim is done and painted, I can put the foyer back together again.

antique sherridon dresser | miss mustard seed

In my funk yesterday, I did manage to get the interior of the front door painted and the windows cleaned up.  It looks so sharp!  As a reminder, the color is Light Blue by Farrow & Ball.  I order my Farrow & Ball paint from Dreamy Whites.  I have a bit of patching and prep work to do on the front of the door, but then I’ll get that painted, too.

Interior of front door painting in Light Blue Farrow & Ball | miss mustard seed

As I said yesterday, it’s little by little, but even large projects can feel overwhelming despite being approached in a methodical way.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed with what’s on your plate, ask what would alleviate that feeling.  Maybe you can hire a piece of it out as we did with the wallpaper removal.  Maybe you just need to tidy up or run the vacuum.  Maybe you need to be willing to accept more help.  Maybe you just need to put real clothes on and go out for a nice lunch.

I hope that sharing this will be a comfort to those who are going through a similar season of life.  In most pictures, I’m cropping out a lot of the mess and clutter and things that are unfinished, but they are still there.  Most days, I’m excited to tackle the next project, but not every day.  I don’t usually get overwhelmed with a long to-do list, but yesterday I did.  And that’s okay.


  1. Laura F

    Yes, it is OK 🙂
    We just got the big parts of our kitchen and bath remodels finished, and I am stuck at unpacking totes and putting things away….waiting for the “gumption” to kick in 🙂

  2. Anita in Michigan

    🙂 I feel your pain. I’m so with you about organization! I just spent about an hour just reorganizing a kitchen cabinet that no longer worked for me, and the whole kitchen feels better, even though it is behind a closed door. Accumulating books and magazines is a biggie! I try to make a habit of going through each magazine when the new issue arrives, sometimes pulling out inspiration pictures or articles to save in a notebook. (Something else to keep organized) Books are another matter. (I’m considering another new bookcase) I keep nothing fiction, but the ones on specific artists techniques, birds and animals are gold to me. I can’t wait to see your new library/dining room. Your plans sound wonderful.

  3. Kim

    I’m in the same messy-and-clutter-clearing-project-everywhere in my house these days too, as I tackle 34 years of life accumulation. Some days indeed feel like overwhelm, as I now have the same clutter but instead of in the basement, they are in different places and piles all on their way to somewhere else! I keep telling myself and my husband that it is all temporary, on the way to more space and easier management down the road. We are both excited about the prospect of rediscovering old favorites that have been hiding in boxes, and passing on other things to other people. I’ll be covering the gamut of giving away for free, reselling online, garage sales, recycling, etc.

    I’ve got one full Billy bookcase of magazines to tackle! Before you recycle all of yours, especially if they are uncut, you should consider giving them away to others who might like to read them! Gently used decor magazines are really popular for most of us avid magazine readers! I have usually sold them for $1 each at many of my garage sales over the years, and they are snapped up quickly.

    You’re not the only one who has moved stuff because you weren’t ready to part with it BEFORE the move, such as books and magazines! I speak from experience! When the time is right, we are all able to let it all go.

    • Jeanette

      I agree with you about the magazines. Donating or selling gives them another opportunity to be enjoyed.

      • Kimberly Howell

        I was going to suggest the same. The local library might even take them.

        • Babs

          Our local library takes them and then they are free to anyone who wants them. I often take them especially if they are one of my favorites. I had stopped all subscriptions due to my inability to get rid of them…they piled up. For some reason I can get rid of the “free” ones but not the ones I paid for…go figure.

      • Shari

        Regarding magazines, when mine start stacking up, I organize them by season. I then enjoy them one last time on the beach by the current season. The issues I truly love, I mark a heart on the cover with a sharpie marker. I keep those issues. As time goes by and I enjoy the magazine again, it will get an arrow through the heart. It makes it easier when I am cleaning out magazines and allows me to keep a few that I really like.

    • Nicole

      Yes I was coming here to say the same! I love to buy vintage magazines at the thrift stores!

  4. B. Folk

    “Everything seems to be waiting for something else to happen.” Describes my life to a tee right now. Piles and clutter, dependent on the other piles and clutter… thanks for the reminder to just do something, no matter how small, instead of going to back to bed (or, spending hours looking at blogs, even my favorite ones such as yours). Ok, off to the garage I go to work on refinishing kitchen cabinet drawer fronts. Thanks for another great post, Marian.

  5. VAMama

    If the magazines are bothering you, remember that most public libraries have subscriptions to digital magazine services. With a library card, using the service is free, and most offer a print function for pages that interest you. The magazine services offer hundreds of different magazines, and most offer many years of previous issues. I have found these really helpful during our frequent moves.

    • Kim

      Wow! That’s a great tip!

  6. Kristine

    I loved this…I smiled and laughed and cooed over the picture of Esme! When we left California for Indiana, I lost count of how many trips I took to the thrift stores and Sailor taking dump runs. And as soon as I started opening boxes in Indiana, a new donation pile began to form! It’s hard to make decisions about taking vs letting go when you have idea where you will land. So enjoyed this post!

  7. Peggy

    I have decades worth of Country Living magazine that I need to find a home for. I can’t make myself throw them out.

    • Kimberly Howell

      Same with my Victoria Magazine issues! But I may keep them ’til Jesus takes me home…

    • Nicole

      Send them to your local thrift store- I love to buy used/vintage magazines and I’m sure many others do as well!

  8. Grace

    I have some questions, please! Do titles of books, on shelves, face right or left? Dust covers on or off? If off, are they tossed or kept?

  9. Alice

    About the magazines…please don’t just recycle them. Hospital waiting rooms, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and even public school art teachers would love them. Especially the high end magazines like ‘Where Women Create’ which are almost like books with quality paper and great photos shouldn’t be just recycled. They could be distractions for people who have few, like patients in facilities or older people or students needing inspiration to create. I have every copy of WWC since I discovered it and a few times I have thought about the need for recycling but then I pull out a copy and because of it’s timeless and inspiring content, I think of someone who would enjoy it and they always do. I recycle containers and cardboard and paper relentlessly but not magazines that could be enjoyed by someone who needs a bit of respite from life’s challenges.

    • Lisa P

      Moving and renovating definitely case moments of overwhelm—I’m in the middle of both and can relate to your post! I find it does help to create a little area of order and even prettiness where I can focus my attention when it all feels like too much. And getting even one small task done helps me feel like progress is being made. Step by step things will get done. Your posts are always an encouragement and inspiration!

  10. Sharon W.

    It’s a 100% ok to put the magazines in the recycle bin. Done and done!

    • Marian Parsons

      Yeah, that’s where I am with it. I thought about where I could donate them or how I could pass them along, but I don’t need to add another thing to my plate. They have been thoroughly enjoyed and I can feel okay about putting them in recycling.

      • mimi

        So very true!! Don’t add more to your errand list or to do list. Feel good about what works for you!!

  11. Laura

    Moving to a new house and planning many renovations would definitely be overwhelming. Give yourself credit for even little jobs you accomplish and take a day off now and then to go to lunch. You wrote a while back that you didn’t want to install windows on the solid wall of your garage because you would lose storage space. If you installed windows with blinds and kept the blinds closed, you could place shelves for storage in front of the windows and no one passing by would know..

  12. Katherine Carter

    Like you Marion, I’m a self- starter and want things to be tidy. I dont mind work, but the chaos of do-it-yourself projects can make you feel overwhelmed . I often try simliar approaches. I’m thankful you shared. It makes me feel less lonely while redoing my own 1979 rancher! Thanks for this article. It’s truly one of the BEST articles you’ve ever written. I love your blog! Keep up the good work! 😊

  13. Cindy k Jensen

    I hope this doesn’t offend you but it sort of seems like you get caught up in things needing to be perfect in the rooms you are dealing with. That means all trim up, painting and patching done, floors, books, etc all the way you want them. I’m sure that coming from a home you took so much time changing and working on and being a blogger makes it seem like everything should always be “perfect”. Being caught in all the details in every room can seem overwhelming I bet, even with having a list. Maybe having everything put in enough order to live day to day is what needs to be done first and then go back and change the things most driving you nuts or needing to be done at a later date can be on your list. I get needing to organize books but putting away the things you know you need to sort more could be left for a later date. I tear out pages immediately from magazines if I know I will not keep the whole magazine and have a place to keep them in a lovely fabric covered box. If I need to find something it is also enjoyable to just seeing the lovely pix I saved while finding what I need. It just seems like you are really driven and need to look more at the big picture although with “lists” I am sure you feel you already are. I believe organization is good but not when it runs your life. If I am wrong just delete me and carry on. Just hate to see you struggle so.

    • Marian Parsons

      No, it doesn’t offend at all. I don’t feel like everything has to be perfect, but I’m trying to alleviate the chaos caused by renovations by ordering what I can. I am not a perfectionist, but I do have a low threshold for mess and clutter, so it helps my mood, my outlook, and my overall enjoyment of a space if it can be somewhat organized while we’re getting projects done. It’s always a push and pull and I’ve gone through it with all of our houses.

    • Joelle

      Would you do a short post on how you painted your front door? I need to do mine and I don’t know whether I should take it off the hinges and paint it horizontally or paint it while it is in place. I would be doing it with a brush or roller. I don’t know why the front door has me stymied; I do closet doors all the time!

  14. Linda O

    When we were moving to a retirement community, I had years worth of Country Living, Country Home, American Live, Phoenix Home & Garden, etc. Now I only have a subscription for PHX Home & Garden, and when that runs out, I stop that too. I now go to the county library that is in our community, and inside that is a small resale bookstore that is entirely run by volunteers (retirees). I buy magazines for 50 cents or $1 and return them and any books we have purchased and read. Much easier and cheaper. If I see something I like in a magazine, I make a copy.

  15. Teddee Grace

    I find when I get into that mode wherein I’m spinning my wheels, I just must make a written list of absolutely everything that needs to be done, even the smallest things. Then I can prioritize them. It really makes things so much more manageable. I have been going through huge numbers of family snapshots, including some inherited from my grandmother, mother and sister, in order to find special ones that will be used at a memorial service for my younger brother who died of Parkinson’s the last day of January. The memorial service in the Pacific Northwest is not being held until April so those of us who must cross the Rockies and the Cascades won’t run into early spring snowstorms, but I decided that I would take this opportunity to categorize these photos so I never have the same difficulties locating what I might want in the future. It has turned this into a major organizational project that seems to have taken over my life. In addition, my winter decor is still in place. We are still getting heavy snows and high winds here in Colorado so it is not as out of place as it might be in another geographical location. However, I am finally getting anxious to get everything taken down and packed and, hopefully, if we get a few nice days, I’ll be able to work in my rental storage and get it all tucked away before I leave for the memorial service. It will be May when I return and I know I will not want to face an apartment full of greenery and pinecones. I think it might be time to make a list!

  16. Jeanna

    Like many others, I was coming to say next magazine purge- donate to charity shop- I volunteered at one and it was one of our fastest resell items, right after greeting cards (not Womens day tho- everyone gets that free already LOL!). Maybe your husband could take it on his way to work for you, so it’s out of the house. A thought, but also when dealing with overwhelm one more chore, is just too much! Have been there many times, when you walk around in circles and can’t figure out where to start- its overwhelm time, I usually go for a walk, fresh air sets me right. The new house is coming along – view from here is Lovely! I spied lots of bulbs popping by your front porch- what surprise awaits you? The suspense!

  17. Mary S

    You will love the shelves from IKEA. My neighbor put tougher 2 of
    them for thier office… she said she got sick of the papers laying
    all over the floor. She put them together by herself. Easy to do …
    according to her. Good luck!!

  18. Teresa

    I was weeding through a group of old magazines the other day and came across a March 2016 Country Living magazine issue. I thought to myself, why did I keep this issue? Sure enough, your PA home was featured in that issue! There are just some special issues no matter the age, I can never part with. I know once your new shelves are in, things will start to look a lot more organized and less cluttered.

  19. Paula

    Unfortunately, most waiting rooms no longer have any magazines due to Covid concerns. Where I live there’s an annual well-organized book fair that raises money for the hospital, and magazines can be donated there.

    When we retired and moved, I was able to get rid of lots of paper by purchasing a small scanner. I still scan magazine recipes that I can’t find online, and we get digital subscriptions whenever possible.

  20. Vanessa Prohaska

    Oh Country Living magazine is so beautiful, so well done. I got rid of 22 yrs of them. Ripped a few recipes and some pictures and placed them carefully inside a binder. Is hard, but take one day and work 10 or 15 at a time. Good luck.

  21. Michele M.

    I love the new paint on your front door – what a calming gorgeous color.

    Boy, would I love to go through those books of yours! You could always do a giveaway on the blog – but then you are adding more work for yourself, so perhaps not on second thought. All I know is every time you have ever shown your books I drool on my keyboard wishing I had more books ion my shelves. ♥

    And as others have said before me in various ways – I think you are so very hard on yourself. I know you are very successful because you are a perfectionist – but it’s stressful. I liked the idea of you getting cleaned up and going to lunch with a loved one. You’ve earned it. Your readers are with you every step of the way and you will get this all done and probably want to move as soon as you do. Enjoy this adventure – don’t race through it and cause undo stress.
    Go out to lunch and then buy yourself some flowers.

  22. Jennifer

    Sometimes I wonder if the Lord makes you go through things to help me get through mine. Lol
    We are in the midst of a major renovation of our whole house and living in an apartment while we wait and work on it.
    This post post helped me so much this morning. The over whelm is real and some days heavy!
    Thank you for sharing your struggles

  23. Lori

    I love all your posts but especially love this one. I love books too and I really need to sort through them and purge again along with magazines I haven’t looked at in forever. I just came home this past Sunday from an 11 day trip to Texas to go through our late mom’s house in prep for an estate sale the end of the April. It was a hard 8 days of going through 71 years of their lives with some crying and laughter too. Now I have things I brought back and I need to find their new place, So I currently have clutter too. Two things that really stood out to me in your post was tearing out articles/pictures in magazines. I’ve done that before and ended up later tossing them too. And the second thing that brought a smile was you saying putting our real clothes on and going out to lunch. It made me think of my paint clothes as I paint furniture/jewelry boxes and other decorative items and my hang out at home clothes and then my clothes I wear when I go out. My oldest daughter asked me one day, how I kept my jeans looking like new (she had an identical pair) …I replied, I don’t wear them unless I’m going out. I wear my hang out at home clothes. 😂

  24. Kim

    Wow! That’s a great tip!

  25. Jo

    I did a purging of my upstairs last summer. I had Country Living magazines from 1978! Toss!

  26. Trish

    Hi Marion,

    This comment has nothing to do with this post, but I was wondering if you have any plans to do another oil painting class in the near future. I love your work and would love to take an oil painting class with you. I noticed you had done a still life class last year but I came upon it too late.

    Thanks & fingers crossed!

  27. Jen C

    Marion, thank you for this post. We’re renovating bathrooms currently and our house is in disarray. I am also feeling extremely overwhelmed. You gave me a kick in the pants and I set up a plan of attack and got busy. I can see an end in sight and I feel so much better. Your home is going to be beautiful and cozy. Keep on plugging away.

    • Kate

      Please consider donating your magazines to college and community centers where art classes are taught. The photos and illustrations are useful to learn line, placement, color theory, composition, etc. Some of my favorite collages would not have been possible without all those seed catalogs, gardening and architecture magazines.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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