Organizing 101: Drawers

Pick a drawer, any drawer.  It’s likely even your underwear drawer could do with a little thinning out.  Why are you hanging on to that itchy thong?  Why are you keeping the ones with the ripped lace?  Ok, but yes- keep that sexy little pair, there is still hope for that.

Organizing a drawer is a great beginner organization and de-cluttering operation- or D/O op as I like to call it (and by like to, I mean I just thought of it this second).  This is a smaller task that can be done in 30 minutes or less… and it is really satisfying.

  • Have a strategy.  Yes, you really need a strategy:
    1. What do I want this drawer used for? Multi-purpose? Sock? tees? electronics?
    2. What makes sense here? What is convenient?  What makes my life easier?*
  • Take everything out of drawer
  • Spread out the contents of the drawer put everything in piles:
    1. Giveaway**
    2. Garbage/ Recycle
    3. Has another home
    4. Needs a home
    5. Belongs in this drawer, has a purpose in this drawer
  • Put everything that belongs in drawer back in drawer
  • Spread out your “needs a home” items and make sure you definitely want to keep them.  Do you need 14 pens?
  • Put away your “needs a home” items (ie. extra batteries, cords, paper clips, stamps, broken earrings, coupons, unused credit cards) in a space that makes sense or put them in a bin for later organization.
    1. Tip: It’s helpful to have a battery bin, an office bin, a manila folder for coupons, and a small zipper wallet for credit cards, gift cards, membership cards, and other items like these that you don’t regularly use.

*My kitchen “junk” drawer, or as I like to call it, multi-purpose drawer, has a purpose.  In it I have chapstick, a couple pens, packing tape (I mail a lot of things), my keys, a stapler, matches and a checkbook.  Sometimes gum, sometimes matches, sometimes paper.  This drawer is like my kitchen purse.  And it makes me happy.

** I always have a giveaway bag going.  Actually 2 or 3.  One for Boomerang (housewares, our clothes, books) and one for Cradles to Crayons (for my kids’ used items).  I do not like throwing things away, so giving things away to worthy causes is satisfying and helps me let go of things.  Both of these drop offs are convenient to me also.  Sometimes I have a “sell” bag for lightly used designer jeans or a nice coat.  The key is to have a regular sized donate bags and once it they are full, put it in your car!


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Paper Problems

File boxes are “Bisgo” from the Container Store; the top boxes hold receipts, clipped articles and Christmas cards, the bottom file boxes contain kids’ artwork

“Touch paper once” is the organizers’ mantra.  But if it doesn’t come naturally to you- or even if it does, that paper piles up quickly.


Mail, cards, school stuff, permission slips, magazines, coupons, work papers, invitations…. AUGH!

If you have a paper problem, then it’s likely you have habits that need to be broken and/ or need a system for your stuff.  I know, when you’re first tackling this it will seem really annoying, time consuming and frustrating.  But once you get rid of your current paper and get your new system in order, the hope is that you will not have to deal with this again. (Really!)

As you read through the list, think about your tendencies.  Are you reading “get rid of catalogs” and thinking:”well I love to look through catalogs, I only have a few” (when really you have 10 in your living room, 6 on your bedside, 8 in the kitchen, 4 by your desk…).

If you have piles and piles of papers, magazines, 2 year old birthday cards, birth announcements and wedding invitations- is this paper making you happy?  Would you miss it in a year?  A day?  Probably not!!!  Get rid of it.  Start fresh.

Clear your palette.

Start fresh. Depending on how many old papers you have, give yourself an hour or two (or three) to go through the paper you have accumulated.  You’ll need a bin for recycling, your calendar and a thin folder for the things you absolutely need to keep. Get rid of every single thing possible- old magazines, newspapers, catalogs- even if you think you will read it (you likely won’t). You have to start from a zero paper scenario.

The goal is to really only “touch paper once”. Meaning, you receive it and then it goes right where it is supposed to.  Do not put it in a pile, do not put it in a file system on your counter (trust me, not a good idea), and do not put it in a basket for later.  If you aren’t used to doing this, I KNOW it sounds weird (and cumpulsive, right?) but I promise you that if you do this, you will be saving time in the long run.  If you work hard for a couple weeks to create new habits, they will come naturally in time.

Here we go. (yay?)

Your system:

  1. Magazines, Periodicals, Catalogs, Newspapers. Did you really wanted to look through that JCrew mag?  Trust me, more will come (like weekly, remember?) and you can always browse online.  Did you really want to get to the Style Section in the NYT?  Also online- make a note in your calendar (like “NYT article on travel tips 2/15”).  If you tend to keep these things, this is where you need to make a change. Maybe in a few months you will feel that you earned back your privilege to save a newspaper section for later on in the week- but now, we purge it all.  You have to start fresh. Get rid of every catalog, every old newspaper. When is the last time you looked back and wish you had February’s “look book”???  If you are a magazine reader, get a magazine rack and keep it near your bed, your couch or wherever you do your reading.  Go through the magazine every week or so and put stuff in recycling. I really would discourage keeping catalogs- they pile up quickly.  You can browse these stores online and do you really want more stuff anyway?? If you keep newspapers for kindling, have a basket next to your fireplace where they go.  Make sure it’s the right size or this area will look like a disaster as well.
  2. Kid’s artwork?  See my recent post on organizing kid’s art.
  3. Not your mail?  I stick my husband’s mail in his work bag, or his desk- my kids get their cards on the dining table (then we recycle).  Some people like mail bins and baskets.  We live in a small space and this type of thing makes my home feel cluttered-  but if you do like to have a mail depository, make sure you still are going through this mail every day- even before you stick it in the bin.  Same purge rules apply or this will become just one more thing you have to declutter/ organize every week. Few bins/ slots are better.  This vintage mail holder from Etsy is cute (and reminds me of my Grandma!). il_570xn-862610339_gxmp
  4. Bills.  If you can’t pay them right away, stick the bills in your calendar book (or a bin/ holder) and do it next time you have 10 mins.  If someone else pays the bill, see #4.
  5. Invitations, Birthday cards, permission slips, school notes, etc.  Sign slips and put in your child’s backpack.  RSVP to invites right away and if you’re not sure, put it in your calendar (for ex. “RSVP for E’s party by today”).  If you hang invites/ cards on fridge or cork board, take down some older papers first. We have a corkboard in our kitchen to display cards, some art, notes and invites. When I put cards up, I take cards down. Nobody cares that you didn’t keep their birthday hanging around for 3 weeks.
  6. Coupons. I am not a big coupon clipper, and if you are you probably already have a system in place.  But if you’re not a professional couponer but keep a few (bed bath and beyond, shutterfly, etc) and don’t really have a system, here are a couple tips:
    1. Coupons for “real” stores: keep a manilla envelope in your glove box and stick store coupons in there.
    2. Online coupons: keep a small folder or envelope at your desk.  You don’t need anything big!!  Coupons expire quickly and this is another clutter creator.
    3. Or, take pictures of the coupon codes and email them to yourself and file them that way (“coupons” folder in gmail, for example).
  7. Receipts. There are entire posts dedicated to receipt organization but I’ll just list a few points here:b82cee38-58b6-46a6-9960-e5c7e14c049d
    1. Go paperless!  Go paperless wherever you can- many stores offer email receipts instead of paper ones, take them up on it!  Check every bill you get in the mail from now on and see if there is a paperless option.
    2. Scan and save.  I love JotNot for receipts that I need (or think I need) to keep.  The app is free for the basic version and you can scan your receipt and email it to yourself then save in a “Receipts” file. This will literally take you 60 seconds to do.
    3. Forever receipts vs. current receipts.  You know the ones you want to keep “forever”- the couch, refrigerator, computer, new dishwasher… and if you ordered them online, you can already easily file them in your email.  Even if you made a local purchase you can request that they email a receipt, which can cut out a step for you.  Otherwise, scan (jot not!) those big ticket receipts and file them in your email.  For tax purposes, put in an email Tax folder.  This is easy, right?   The current receipts can be kept in a small bin in your kitchen or desk- small so you go through it frequently.  A folder, envelope, or a magnetic bin for your refrigerator is easy too.
    4. CLEAN YOUR WALLET.  Are you always struggling to close your wallet?  Do papers get caught in your zipper every time you close it?  CLEAR THESE RECEIPTS OUT.  You only need a couple- maybe the shirt you know you’re returning, the Home Depot receipt for the nails you are going to use- but most of these receipts are probably gas, groceries, a coffee- throw them out.  You can do this in the car at school pick up, waiting for the train.  Find the time, do it.  Then follow steps 1-3 above.


There are a million different cubbies and desktop organizers, bins and files (thank you Pinterest and Pottery Barn?) for your papers and cards and lists.  But even if you have the space to do this, you HAVE to put your paper in order before you will be able to use one correctly.  If you don’t have a system, if you don’t know how to let go of things- your adorable paper office nook will be come a dumping ground for your entire family.  You know what I’m talking about.

So, before you buy any of this organizing stuff and as you continue down this paper purging journey think about how much of your home you want to commit to keeping and displaying birthday cards and doctor bills.






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Because wrinkles AND acne…

You know when you were 16 and getting pimples… and then 23, 27, 29 and you were still getting pimples … and then you know how when you were in your 30s and you started getting wrinkles… and pimples??? It’s just not right. I feel like at this age I should be able to just stick my face in a vat of super moisturizing cream or coconut oil and NOT have to also worry about breakouts.

This week I had a particularly white-heady and cyst-y breakout – the usual hormonal / dry weather/ touching my face too much trifecta.  I went in Sephora to grab a few more of my favorite Boscia Sake Hydrogel Masks and looked around for something clarifying and soothing for my aging and erupted skin.  After checking out some reviews and talking to a salesperson I opted for the Karuna Clarifying Face Mask.


I put this thing on as soon as I got home.  Sheet masks are kind of weird if you haven’t used them before, but I really love them.  I love the way the sheet feels on my face, it just feels like it’s doing something.  I kept it on for 25 minutes or so- realllly hoping it would do what it promised.

Breakouts are super annoying for me now because my (did I mention aging?) skin is dry in the winter and when I break out I feel like I have to skip my normal “lather on the moisturizer” routine and it’s just not a good cycle.  I feel like once you’re out of your teens you can not just go at your face with zit cream and abrasive cleansers.  My pimples all looked red and irritated, and my skin felt simultaneously oily and dry.

This mask totally sold me on the first try. When I took off the mask, the serum was completely absorbed into my skin.   My face was no longer dry or oily and my pimples were no longer red or irritated.  My pimples are still there of course, but they are hard to see because they’re not surrounded by any redness and my skin tone looks more even (ie. no flaking dry skin surrounding my irritated areas).  I am going to keep one of these masks in my bathroom for my next (inevitable) breakout.  Feels good to have a plan.

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Mini Masterpieces


… on the fridge, in the car, on the counter, bottom of schoolbags, their room, the walls.  What to do with all of these works of art from our creative geniuses??

Many of us are emotionally attached to what our kids bring home; it means something- whether we love it or they do. But you have to get into the habit of picking through this stuff at the very beginning or in 10 years you are going to have 14 bins of artwork in the basement and no idea what to do with it.  And none of it will ever see the light of day.

How can you parse through this stuff efficiently and painlessly?  Have a plan and stick to it.

1- Unload. Empty the school bag, bring the art inside the house, put it on your counter. Try to do it every day, or at least weekly. Make it a habit, like emptying lunch bag.

2- Categorize.  I have 3 categories: display, save and recycle.  I save and display things my son is excited to show me or if it means something to him/ me (he’s 4, so that could be a especially well-colored Paw Patrol worksheet- because he’s obsessed with them!), or any other reason it feels special and representative for that moment in time.

What do you keep and what do you let go of??  Take (some) emotion out of it. Recycling even 90% of your child’s art doesn’t mean you don’t care about it- it just means your making it easier for them to enjoy their masterpieces in the future. It doesn’t take away how much fun they had creating it, and how excited they were to show you.

I can’t tell you what you should keep, it’s different for everyone.  What helps me is I imagine my son looking through this stuff in 20 years, will he think it’s funny? Interesting?  Will he pause on it?  Or is it representative of something special in his life?  Is it memorable?  Special?  Did he make it himself?

Label what you save (name, date/ age, a “caption” if you’d like).

3- Admire and Recycle. I put the stuff I’m going to recycle on the kitchen table or counter so he knows I’ve looked at it, we show dad that night and talk about it, then it goes right into recycling (well-hidden, of course- let’s not be cruel).

For the art I keep, I am a big fan of the semi-permanent display.  I have an Umbra Photoline Display in my kitchen that I love. You can also find some really cool kid’s art displays on Etsy or make your own from a Pinterest inspiration. Simplest DIY?  Painters tape and a blank wall. Umbra

The kids are really proud seeing their art displayed and it also gives me a second chance to go through it in a couple of weeks- and maybe I decide to recycle a few more things.

Your older kids can tell you what they want you to keep- if it’s more than you can handle, hang some in their room and go through it again in a few weeks. The bedroom photo at the top of this post has a really cool DIY picture display- you just need some wood, paint and bulldog clips.

When I remove art from the display, it goes into their files, something like these.  You can also use a clear bin or larger file box. Eventually (maybe when your kids move out?) this stuff will make their way into scrapbooks.

My mom made scrapbooks for ALL FOUR of her kids.  She had these big blank paper scrapbooks and taped and stapled our work to pages- layered up- which is a great use of space. My mom had this amazing knack for knowing exactly what to keep- funny poems, cute cards, special drawings- we love looking through them, and that is my inspiration.

If you’re feeling adventurous and already have a big collection of colorful pieces, I also love this  idea from The Artful Parent of turning your child’s art into a poster, this is so cool and creative!

Whatever you plan on doing with your mini masterpieces, remember your purpose as you collect.  A couple scrapbooks from K-8 may turn into bins for trophy’s and sculptures for your high school kid. Just stick to your system so you and your children can enjoy what you so thoughtfully and lovingly saved over the years.

Posted in De-cluttering, Kids, Organization, recycle, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Master Meal List

Our current MML

Our current MML

What’s for dinner?  Sometimes I do not have the brain capacity, time or patience to answer this question once, much less 7 days a week.  But it’s a lot easier these days since we have a pretty lengthy Master Meal List.

What is this magical list?  It’s an expanding list (in my iPhone Notes app) that lists SIMPLE meals that we’ve made and love.

These meals are SIMPLEthey require few ingredients, little time, and are yummy and healthy.  When I make a meal like that- whether it’s an easy new recipe or just a random meal idea I threw together (haddock sandwiches with sweet potato fries), we say, should it go on the list?

We pull from the list for Meal Planning/ grocery shopping – I probably cook 3 meals a week from here, for a last minute meal or if we want to make a tried and true meal for some friends.

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Step away from the paper towels

Floating garbage dump

I don’t remember when I first read about the garbage patch in the Pacific, but the image stuck.  For the past couple years, every time I use a plastic bag, a garbage bag or even a paper towel, I can’t help think about landfills, animals choking on plastic and this floating garbage island.  This is one of those larger than life problems you feel compelled to do something about, but completely helpless and hopeless that you can.  But since these images began to plague me I have made a few lifestyle changes (only slightly inconvenient- and only at first) that help me to feel better about my imprint.


Paper free zone. We don’t use paper towels or paper napkins in this house.   It was actually fun and liberating to go out and buy my first cloth napkins… I think we got our first (ugly) set at Marshalls or something 12 for like $4.00.  Since then we’ve upgraded to some funky patterned ones at Crate and Barrel.  After we use them we hang them on the back of our chair (I learned this from my sister) and use until they need to go in the laundry.

For paper towels, the habit is a bit harder to break.  But for this task, you could actually kill two birds with one stone.  I went through all our mismatched towels, wash cloths, hand cloths and some old t-shirts.  I had more than a few that easily made the transition to the rag pile.  Now we keep a box of them in our linen closet and keep a couple under the sink.

We literally have not had these paper products in our house for 2 years- it’s nice not to have to store them or run out of them!

Plastic bags aren’t just bad for babies Again, I am not being dramatic here, but every time I use a plastic bag I think of the garbage float.  And although I haven’t been able to completely eliminate plastic bag usage, I have cut down considerably.  We do not use plastic bags to store things. Period.  Grapes, sandwiches, veggies all go in tupperware.  My husband was at first a little annoyed that he had to carry his sandwich tupperware to and from work, but now it’s just part of the routine…and I don’t have as many visions of a sea turtle choking on my sandwich baggy.

Recyclable Shopping Bags.  Keep in in your purse, your car, in your desk at the office. Enough said.

We’re all busy, no one is perfect. I forget my cloth shopping bags sometimes and I still to use plastic bags to store homemade bread. It’s a work in progress.

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