Some Overdue Office Organization

Let me tell you a tale of a girl who used to be organized, oh…. about four years ago. Since Clara came along, well, it has been a slippery slope. I’ve kept notes to myself in various notebooks, on my phone, on post its, and have scribbled in every square inch of my day planner. I’m almost never sure what I need to do next since there are so many active lists competing for my attention these days. So when John and I were asking ourselves what our home office needs to make it as functional as possible, it was about two seconds before I was pulling a Mary Katherine Gallagher and jumping around and throwing my arms in the air and shouting “command center!”

Yes, my friends, it was even more urgent to this nesting pregnant lady than painting those office walls. Although we realized as we were nailing into them to hang things that it’s sort of an accidentally genius move to hang art before painting because if you make a few bad nail holes you can just spackle them before you paint the whole room, so that’s a nice perk.

We thought this wall was perfect since it would be visible from within the office, but our scribbles would be out of sight from the foyer. And we both agreed that we needed a place to write things that had to be done across multiple categories like “projects”, “house maintenance”, “showhouse/book 2 stuff”, “future post ideas”, “website to-do”, etc. We just knew there had to be a better way than having different lists of each of those things floating around randomly (the website one just fell behind the couch, by the way).

Not only did I dream of having them all in one place in an easy to reference spot for both of us – most of all I dreamed of having a column for “top tasks” so we could lift tasks out of each of those other columns and place in there by order of priority. This will hopefully keep us from bouncing around randomly without really weighing what makes the most sense for us to tackle next.

While we were dreaming, we also wanted a place to work out our upcoming post schedule where we both could see it (so we can see which giveaways are lined up, what posts we’re planning to write up next, etc). We also wanted a smaller spot to jot down what we need to buy/get the next time we’re out (we’re always forgetting random things like new oil-rubbed bronze window locks for the freshly painted office windows).

John and I weighed a ton of options for meeting all of those needs, like: one big dry erase board, one big cork board, using dry erase paint right on the wall, going the chalkboard route, using magnetic paint to hold up small pieces of paper in a grid that we could move and shift, etc. In the end we settled on sort of a hybrid solution. We decided to make two big magnetic frames so we could use smaller dry erase magnets (which we could write on and shift around) to create a multi-column to-do list and a post-planning schedule. We even snuck a “To Buy/Get” list in there on a smaller frame while working in some sweet Clara art, a quote that makes us laugh from our last office, and a favorite family picture.

First we planned the arrangement with some old frames. We continued to shift things around a little after this photo was taken, but you get the idea:

Next we ordered some white dry erase magnets from this site. John found them and I was instantly on board because I love that they’re not small/swallowable magnets (which make my paranoid-mom-heart skip a beat) and also because we can write directly on them and move them around. So placing them in a “projects” column, then moving them to the “top task” column, and even popping them over to our post schedule board if they’re done/shot/written/ready to be scheduled would be nice and simple.

We also hit up Home Depot to see what they had in the “sheets of metal” category. There were some other sheet metal options on an end cap, but we bought a magnet with us just to be sure they were magnetic and they weren’t. Kinda threw us for a loop until we saw these panels hiding in a completely different aisle. And thankfully, these guys were magnetic.

We ended up getting two of them that were big enough to fill our frames (they came in a bunch of different sizes, and thankfully were pretty easy to cut at home with gloves and a metal snip). Here are my supplies all laid out:

First I removed the glass from the frame along with the backing and laid just the wood part of the frame over the sheet metal and used a red sharpie to trace the rectangle that I’d need to cut out.

Then I just slipped on my gloves and started cutting with the metal snip. It took a little while since it makes such small cuts, but it was pretty straightforward and I was left with two metal inserts for my frames in about fifteen minutes.

Here’s one slipped into the frame, with the backing holding it in place. It was pretty exciting to test drive a few of the dry erase magnets up there. #yolo

After I made sure both pieces of metal fit into the frames, John and I chatted about what colors we thought would be nice for the metal and the frames, and decided to draw inspiration from our new desk. And so the idea for a mixture of frames in a soft champagne color, a pearly metallic white, and a flat basic white was born. We had all of these guys in the garage already, so I was ready to rumble.

First I used clean metal primer on both of the sheets of metal we bought, just because I thought it would be a nice uniform look to spray those to match their frames. We figured with all those white magnets on them, things could get busy, so keeping the frames and backgrounds uniform might be a nice touch.

Next I sprayed the frames themselves. This is the pearl mist going on a few of the frames and one of the primed sheet metal pieces (you can see the champagne mist ones drying in the background). I left these outside to dry so long that a rogue leaf landed in the middle of that smaller frame (thankfully it was completely dry by then).

It took about four thin coats of spray paint to get things nice and even, but in the end it’s a really clean look to have the metal sheets and the frame the same color. I even used a little bit of washi tape on the end of the magnetic headers for each category to set them apart along the top of the board.

Oh office supplies, why are you so adorable?

To make our “To Buy/To Get” board, I used a smaller frame with some slightly metallic linen-like fabric slipped that into the frame behind the glass. A black dry erase marker makes it easy to write on the glass, and we just shoot a picture of the list whenever we’re running out for errands so I can remember everything instead of muttering “where’s that list?” followed by some endless purse-searching.

Here’s a closer shot of the post planning board, which got the pearl paint treatment, and some gold and yellow washi tape along those header and side labels. We don’t usually work very far out for posts (we share a lot of stuff within a week of doing it) but it’s already coming in handy for jotting down future ideas, giveaways that have been scheduled, etc.

So that’s how our little command center came to be. I’d really love to upgrade some of the frames eventually (the one with Clara’s painting in it needs a larger mat for example) but for now I’m feeling around 95% more organized. If only I could fit my massive belly behind the couch to retrieve that old website to-do list…

Might have to send Burger in for it. And by that I mean “somehow convince him the list is made of food so he cares enough to retrieve it.”

How do you guys stay organized? Do you have a big family calendar that hangs in your kitchen? We debated doing a calendar board as well, but like using my planner to write down meetings, appointments, parties, etc – so we thought keeping that in there but all the project/home maintenance/book/showhouse/post stuff on the wall would be a good combination. We’ll have to see how it goes…

Update: For anyone wondering what the octopus print says, where we got it, or where the file cabinet is from, that info is all on the first page of comments for ya.


  1. says

    I love it. It makes me feel calmer just looking at it! This would also be great in an office.. where every could SEE what you are working on!

  2. says

    Ahh, those are so cute! I totally wouldn’t have thought to take a magnet with me and just assumed the metal sheets were magnetic, made the project and then thrown a hissy when I tried to put a magnet to it. This is why you are you and I am me. :)

    That’s cute…you asked how I stay organized. Email reminders are about the extent of my organization skills.

    • says

      I think it appealed to us to have all of our to-do lists in one place, so we can choose priorities from each column (for example, if house maintenance stuff like changing the air filters was in another room, we might never remember to put it on “top tasks” which we really hope will keep us organized so we can tackle things in a smart, prioritized order). We’ll have to see how it works though!


    • says

      Yeah, that sounds logical. I was asking because I want to do this, but didn’t know how to apply it to the kitchen where everyone can see it. LOL I Need to figure that out. :)

    • says

      Hmm, anyone have ideas for Maureen? Maybe a big chalkboard in the kitchen – or a large linen covered pinboard? Those seem a little prettier so they could be in plain sight and still hopefully keep you organized?


    • Beth says

      Maureen, what about using those cute little dry erase magnets on the fridge? Easy to move around and in plain sight. (I would have to be careful about keeping them above the child-reach line, or else all is for naught as the little one rearranges everything.) You could even keep important papers that you need to fill out, etc. right next to the to-do list. I’m thinking it would help my family not to forget important things that need to be done, which happens when we leave stuff on the kitchen counter.

    • Emily says

      Maureen, can you scale this down for the fridge and gorilla glue some very heavy duty magnets to the back of a frame that you dry erase on? Instead of a photo, print a sheet of paper with your category columns and put that behind the glass (or plastic sheet to make the frame lighter)

      I did this with my niece/nephew’s photos for our fridge gallery, and it looks great but I think we’re going to swap some of it out for a general to do house project list since we’re now in a house instead of an apartment. My inspiration came from this:

    • KiTX says

      We have a dry erase board on the fridge, smack in the center, that we keep our grocery list, task list, and errands list on. I think it would be adaptable to a chore chart. It’s just my husband and a 7 month old now, but once she’s big enough to stop being a slacker and pull her weight (I kid, I kid!), I’m thinking we’ll make it a calendar of activities and errand list/grocery list in one section with a chore chart a little lower at kid level. That said, I’m drooling over Sherry’s command center. Wiping-off-the-keyboard drooling.

    • Jennifer says

      Michelle- I love your command center! I was just in the container store checking out the dry erase options! I love your wood wall and how you brought in the color! Nice job.

    • Tracy says

      Maureen – I’m not sure if you are asking because the kitchen is the place where everyone who needs to see it will, or if you’re worried about it in the kitchen because visitors will see all your business…if it’s that second thing, I’ve seen a few where people do them on the inside of a cabinet, particularly a big pantry type cabinet at a good height for that sort of thing, or even inside a pantry door, if you have one. That way it is easily accessible and you can still see everything at one glance, but also easily closed to guests, if you don’t want them seeing that you have a urologist appointment on Wednesday, for example. Some I’ve seen have been chalkboard, whiteboard, or magnetic paint, which then allows you to hang some locker type things if you want to keep items along with your lists and calendar.

    • Julie says

      Maureen, I put our command center (I like that term a whole lot better than “random assortment of household crap” that I’ve thought of it as before today) on the back of our basement door that’s in our kitchen. I have an at-a-glance calendar (we use synced Google calendars on our phones for most of the daily stuff and appointments; kids aren’t old enough to need to look at their own copy yet), our to-be-paid bills, coupons, take-out menus, random bulletin board paperwork, etc. If you don’t have a basement or your door is elsewhere, you could use the inside of a cabinet or pantry. I like having everything accessible but hidden.

  3. says

    This looks great!

    I always try to do organization systems like this, but I never keep up with it. I always seem to keep everything in my head, so I guess that’s a good thing that I actually remember.

    I love the washi tape on the categories!

    • says

      Oh my gosh if I trusted my head I’d forget my own name! Haha! I have always been a “write it down or forget it forever” person. I’m so envious of people who remember stuff that well!


    • Isabel says

      Right there with you! I have a million empty notebooks that I’m constantly giving away to my mom and sister cause once I write something down I never look at it again. It’s all in my head (and on my phone calendar if it’s far away enough that I may forget). I decided my ability to remember everything is related to my love of elephants cause it’s said they never forget.

    • Jeanne says

      I have gone to using my “Notes” on my cell phone. I have an iPhone 4s, but I’m sure there’s any number of apps for the ‘droid’ phones or maybe they have their own version of a resident ‘notes’ app. Anyway, it’s great. That, and I also put my appointments on my calendar in my phone, which happens to synch up with my email (yahoo/gmail). This keeps me pretty well organized.

  4. Erin says

    Ok- the magnetic list- genius. Love that idea and it looks great too. I would love to have just one command center in our house. We have a corkboard by our backdoor and the rest of house stuff off in my office in a giant pile. But having a command zone is the dream! Also, I have to say having a list posted and then taking a pic of it is possibly one of the best things about a camera phone. I find myself taking pics all the time of my notes and grocery lists because I know I can find them easier than a scrap of paper.

    • says

      YES! I love just looking on my phone for something instead of digging through my purse and pulling out ten scraps of paper to find the right one!


    • Tracy says

      A little secret app – Ziplist. Put in all your recipes (or you can easily add stuff if you regularly get recipes from blogs or other sites) and it has a built in meal planner so you can pick (I do this weekly, so 7 meals) from your recipe box, add them to a meal plan, and then you can tell it to make a list of all the ingredients you need for those 7 meals. Really easy to edit, so if you already have a box of pasta, you can take it off (it also assumes – but asks – that you have stuff like salt, pepper, flour, etc.) You can add other stuff you need outside those lists. It has a web component, and Android and iPhone/iPad apps, so I might do the list on the computer while I’m at work, but then pull up the app when I’m at the store….and there’s everything I need in a nice little checklist. It’s amazing, I tell ya.

    • Page says

      You all might like the app ShopShop. My husband and I love it because we can text each other updates to the shopping list while we’re out and about separately. And you can make different lists for each store or person. The possibilities for organization are endless :-)

    • April says

      Another app that actually acts just like your new boards is Trello. You can Google for more info, but it’s really JUST like the system you set up, only all on your iPhone. And you both can look at and add to the same lists! You might like it.

  5. not her, the other girl says

    I don’t know how well it would work for more than one person, but I like the Workflowy app/website. All the bullet pointed lists and sublists a girl could want, and searchable hashtags if you’re feeling wild and crazy.

    Just curious, what’s the octopus picture say?

    • says

      Thanks for the app tip! As for the pink art, that’s a funny quote from a TV show that cracked us up a few years back (John had a poster shop make it into a print to surprise me). It says “When I grow up I want to be a photographer or an octopus.” Gotta dream big!

      Update: Here’s the old post about it with a link to where John ordered it.


  6. says

    I love your organization boards! What a great idea, and they look good on the wall too, unlike a lot of organization items you can buy. I have been reading your blog for years, and I thought it was about time I commented. Amazing to read! Thanks!

  7. says

    I think this is such a great idea and it makes me want to run to Home Depot right now and to purchase those awesome dry erase magnets! I love anything office supply and To-Do list related. Right now I have everything written on random pieces of paper or notecards because I never go into my purse to retrieve my planner. This could be the perfect solution!

  8. Leslie says

    I totally needed this. I have a notebook with 20 million different lists in it and I spend more time trying to find the right list than actually knocking stuff off the list. *le sigh*. Now I know exactly what I need to do! I better make a list….. :) Thanks guys!

  9. Marilyn says

    Just wondering why you don’t paint your room first. You work so hard to put all that stuff up but now you will have to take it all down to paint.

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