I’ve often heard the phrase “things are as easy or as hard as you make them” and if you stop and think about it, it really makes sense. So as I go about my day I often think “am I making this harder than it needs to be?” or “is there anything I can do to make this easier/faster/more automatic/less annoying?” Thinking like this over time has actually helped us to develop a few systems and habits that help our house feel a bit more like it’s working for us. As most people know, I’m sort of a freak about organization, but I just find that it’s often the key to being efficient, knowing where everything is on a moment’s notice, and having a place for everything (when you know where to put things, it really makes cleaning an auto-pilot job). Sure it might seem like more work up front to create the systems and practices that help your house run like a well oiled machine, but it’s really something that pays off almost immediately. And after about a week you’ll wonder how you ever lived without ’em! So without further ado, seven things that make our lives easier:
1. We have a woven tray near the back door in the sunroom where we stash our shoes before coming into the house. It’s super easy and it looks a lot better than a pile of shoes on the floor, even though it’s just a pile of shoes in a basket. It also keeps the house cleaner since we’re not tracking in any bottom-of-the-shoe dirt or leaves (and really helps during allergy season).
2. We have a bowl on our rolling laundry caddy just beyond the back door where John drops his keys and his wallet. Actually it’s a white planter from Ikea, but it was $1 and it serves the same purpose as a key bowl. My keys and wallet are always in my purse which I hang in our mini-mudroom, but John used to have those “where the heck are my keys” moments, so we implemented the bowl technique and have never looked back. This quick “drop spot” really gets us out the door faster and keeps me from having to complain when I find John’s little pile of pocket-stuff on my desk or on the kitchen counter.
3. We whipped up a little in-cabinet cork board (here’s how) for easy recipe storage. It’s great to have a place for all the cooking ideas that I tear out of magazines (which would otherwise pile up on the counter or get lost before I get a chance to beg John to make ’em for me). And I can even pin up my shopping list and add to it throughout the week. Oh yeah and it was less than $5 to make.
4. Matching wooden hangers are the best. Your closet instantly feels more boutique-y and organized. And they’re much kinder to clothing than those sad mismatched wire ones (no more weird shoulder bumps). Oh and if you’ve missed our how-to-add-two-extra-closets-to-your-tiny-bedroom tutorial, check that out here.
5. Being a list maker, I used to tear off sheets from a pad and leave them all over the house with things to do and items to get and people to call. Now I have one notebook (which I affectionately call the Holy Grail) that I just flip open and write in. Putting the date on the top of the page and jotting down all the things I want to do, people I have to call, and other important details is second nature to me now. And it means there’s no more missing list, no more forgetting where I stashed someone’s phone number, and no more missing appointments. There’s peace of mind knowing that everything’s all in one place, and there’s something so cathartic about turning a new page and starting fresh every day or two (and dropping it into my purse for on-the-go access).
6. Of course I used to have piles and piles of torn out pages from glossy shelter magazines sitting around waiting to be filed or flipped through. But a few years ago I grabbed a 3-inch binder and some clear sleeves and literally created “the ultimate magazine” by adding all of my favorite inspiration pictures. It’s super easy to flip through (a lot less cumbersome than a folder of loose tear-sheets), and I even organized it by category (interior inspiration, curb appeal ideas, etc). Life changing, I tell ya.
7. And although this is a system that my lovely cable provider offers, I can’t end without saying how much we love our DVR. Talk about making our lives easier! We’re no longer a slave to the clock (so we’re free to get more done and we have more fun too). Of course if we ever need to tighten our belts it’s certainly an “extra” that we would forgo, but it just feels so decadent to fast-forward through the commercials and watch everything that we want, when we want. Talk about time management!
So there you have it. Our roundup of a few of the things that make life easier here at Casa Petersik. There seems to be this stigma about organized people that suggests that all they do is spend time alphabetizing their spices and folding their underwear (I do neither of those things by the way), but my theory is that the organized people spend way less time trying to keep their home tidy and find things that they need because they have drop zones and folders and baskets for everything (so it’s easy to put stuff where it actually goes and go about your day).What about you guys? Do you have any organizational ideas or habits that make things go smoother around your house? Do tell.
In the mood for more organization ideas? Check out how we made jewelry storage and even cereal storage super easy.
Carolyne O says
I store my extra grocery bags in a empty tissue box under the kitchen sink. It’s an old trick, but I am always surprised at how many people don’t do it.
I am soooo looking forward to hearing everybody’s responses here! I was thinking right this morning (after I wrote my willpower post) of how I wish I was more organized.
Sherry, your timing is impeccable. My fiance and I just moved into our new home last night and organization is the first thing in my mind. Your 7 tricks to an easier life are things I was doing before and I can’t wait to get them set up in my new home!
I put my recipes in clear sheets in a binder and they’re organized by category too (appetizers, main dish, salads, desserts, cookies, etc). Personally putting recipes on index cards is just too small for me. This way I can flip through recipes without getting them messy!
This is fantastic information!! I’m definitely putting the in-cabinet cork board on my project list – it will make my life so much easier! Speaking of lists, I have a gazillion of them scattered about – the house, my car, and in my purse and LOVE your idea how having one “go to” spiral bound notebook. Seriously, why didn’t I think of this before? Thank you so much for sharing!!
I love the cork board in the cabinet idea. Can you post a how to? Thanks!
There’s actually a link to the tutorial in the post above, just click the words “here’s how” for the info!
when my then-boyfriend, now-husband and i moved in together he would always leave his socks around the house. so i solved this dilemma by purchasing a small woven basket and placed it by the shoes. i specifically trained him to “take shoes off here, put socks there.” it took him awhile, but he eventually got used to it. i was so proud the first time he remembered what to do. =P so now at the end of the week, i just take the basket and throw it in the wash. no more socks laying around the house, no more “missing sock” mystery either. =)
heather s. says
Are you me?!? I do the same things with minor tweaks. I have a small woven basket for my keys/sunglasses next to my entry door, I use a basket for collecting shoes at the door like yours – it makes it easier to put the shoes away since you just pick up the basket and carry it to the hall closet to empty out, I have cork in my cabinets like yours, I use all flocked hangers vs. wooden ones since my clothes stay on them better and they take up less space, I have a notebook that I toss in my purse that contains lists of things to do/get and I also have a binder with design inspiration (as well as one with recipes).
It was eerie reading this list since I’ve been doing these things forever. Great minds think alike I guess!
Great post! I implemented your cabinet corkboard system a few months ago, and I love it! I no longer have loosey-goosey photos, recipes, reminders, etc. cluttering the side of my fridge.
My biggest organizational life-saver has been my pegboard in the garage. After arranging my tools and materials (jars of nails, screws, anchors) in a logical manner, I outlined each of them in black marker. Now I know where each one goes and, if for some reason it wasn’t put back, I don’t spend time scanning the board looking for it. And it’s so nice to have everything off of my workbench!
Love this! I am putting in fun cork boards this weekend (yay Michael’s coupon). Slowly working on the hangers – I try and buy some everytime I’m at Ikea!
Sweet! I’ve been trying out something new in the past few months and dying to tell someone about it. The first of the year this year I bought a (large!)desk calender, tore off January and taped it to the side of my refrigerator. Now, every time I get an appointment card, I tape it on the appropriate date. I take all my bill reminders and paper clip them to the end of the week. I use Sundays to make my grocery list for the week. I write in special occasions, times that we will be out of town, and the occasional date night. :)
I love it! All I have to do now is look to the other side of the fridge and I can see my entire week planned out!
Venessa M. says
Wow, it’s like your in my head! You say exacty what I grunt and moan about and in a articulate, easy to understand manner! I have been CRAVING a system our our small 2/2. If I can’t get a system down now, what about when we move in to a larger home, so your tips are super helpful! Since I’m totally OBSESSED with your blog and thought to ask you about MAIL. Where do you put it? Do you file it immediately? How do you make it look beauitful? Any tips would be sooo helpful!
Thanks for all your constant inspiration!
Hey Venessa M.,
Our mail system is less about making it beautiful and organized, and more about taking care of it right away and getting rid of it. Whoever gets the mail separates the stuff by sender, usually taking care of their own and leaving the other person’s mail on their ottoman in our den (we always sit on the same sides of the couch, so we’ve each claimed an ottoman as our own). By putting it where we rest our feet, it forces us to take care of it before we can relax for the night. So it means we pretty much immediately open and pay bills, read letters, put junk in the recycle and file magazines away for later reading. It does create some temporary junk (like if Sherry gets the mail while I’m at work, my mail will sit out in the open ’til I get home) but really forces us not to forget about it and just let it sit around for days.
Hope that helps!
First time reading your blog, and I’m so glad to find it–the cork board idea alone was genius! Can’t believe I’ve never seen that before, it makes so much sense
Hi, Sherry and John. My husband and I found your site last week when we Googled “painted fireplace.” We are in the midst of a major home renovation, and your site has become such an inspiration!
Today’s post is especially wonderful, and I particularly love the idea of the shoe basket. We will be adding new carpet soon, and we definitely MUST start removing our shoes at the back door now so we can get in the habit.
Keep up the great work! I’m officially addicted to your site! :)
I am definitely going to implement some of these tips! I especially love the binder with magazine pages. I have those torn out and stashed in some many places now. My daughter recently organized all my recipes into one-inch binders, with one binder for each category. I love it! Going to check out the corkboard project now. Thanks!
I am wearing those shoes today! The light gold mossimo ones from Target. LOL! :)
we have matching rectangular shallow baskets on our entry table for keys/sunglasses/wallets/phones and another on the bottom shelf of the coffee table for coasters and the remote. Now if only we could start putting things in the them…
we also have a twin magazine rack (a little like this: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Pxb2Owx3L._SL500_AA280_.jpg)
that we put up in the hall by the front door – his and hers mail boxes – helps keep all the random junk we don’t open right away from piling up everywhere.
I also love the cork board/ cabinet idea. I’m off to Target today!
First off, we have the same Target flats- love it! Great taste :) I love your glass cereal jars too- great find!
I also have (now several) binders for my decorating inspiration, things to do later, vacation ideas, etc. You’re right, organizing my magazine pages was life changing – and it’s now my favorite organizing task.
My idea: my husband is earning his PhD, so you can imagine the stacks of papers we have everywhere! I found a cute basket at a garage sale deep enough to hold a large stack of 11 x 8 papers, so this is now his “stash basket,” where he can throw in whatever he’s currently working on, without it piling up all over the living room.
I completely agree with the DVR as a time management tool! My husband and I are big football fans, but we were finding that the average game contains over 1 hour of commercials. So, on Sundays in the Fall we set the game(s) to record and take our hour back by cleaning the house or running errands before we sit down and watch the game.
This system is great – it allows us to spend more time together and feel like we’ve accomplished something before we immerse ourselves in the game. And the spending time together thing is especially important when you consider that we’re fans of rival teams and will likely be spending the next few hours on opposite sides of the couch!
Have any suggestions for all of the accumulated “paper”? I go through my mail daily and throw away all of the junk mail but I still seem to collect bills, coupons, etc that I would love to organize a little better. I’ve seen people use everything from a magazine holder to a toaster caddy (domino idea) What works for you guys?
Hey Jennifer, accumulated paper is certainly challenging sometimes, but we’ve got a few key places to make sure everything ends up in its designated spot quickly. We keep coupons in the car (in that little passenger door pocket), so they always go under my car keys so I can remember to take them out on my next trip to the car. Bills usually get paid immediately and then filed in the storage bench in our “mudroom.” If there’s an issue with the bill, it goes in my work bag so it’s not cluttering up the house (and so I can remember to call during business hours). Most other miscellaneous paper ends up in Sherry’s binder or notebook, but usually we’re very picky about what we keep, so most things end up in the recycling or the shredder if we can’t figure out a reason to keep them.
Hey Katie, the TV stand is the Hudson Console TV from Target. You can also always check out where we’ve bought something in our house by checking out our room-by-room source list.
Sara, Sherry will have to speak for herself on whether or not I’m truly a help or a burden when it comes to her organizing. I’d hope it’s the former, as I’m kinda OCD myself. She’s still the more organized of the two of us (she has much more defined systems), but hopefully I don’t thwart her efforts too much. Now I’m curious to hear what she’d say!
And Jill, we tried the scoop thing in our cereal jars but it was just too much trouble – barely fitting through the opening, hard to scoop when the cereal level is low – so we just use the tip method. Maybe not the most stylish method, but certainly the more functional for us.
Jessica Lynn says
is there anything that you can’t do/solve?
I loved this post! We do all of these things as well- I am an organization freak! One thing that we also tried to make part of our regular routine is to pick up the extras and lay things out for the next day before we go to bed. Its secnd nature now and a real time saver (plus the house always looks nice!)
My partner and I have a charging valet that I got her for X-mas last year. It used to drive me nuts to see the cellphone-wallet-keys combo on the kitchen counter everyday. So I got a charging valet station with a little drawer. Now as soon as she gets home the cell phone goes on the charger, wallet & keys in the drawer—pure bliss! :)
Here’s the link:
Everything in the post is great, but I’m kind of stuck on those fabulous shoes – exactly the type of flats I’ve been looking for! Don’t tell me they’re last year’s style….
You’re too funny! They’re actually $7 Target shoes (I’m a sucker for little metallic flats, and the price was right). The great news is that Target usually brings things back year after year so hopefully they’ll come back in a month or two and you can snatch up a pair of your own (they say Mossimo on the inside if that helps). Happy hunting…
Katie Brandon says
Love your TV stand — where did you get it?
Sherry….You are lucky. John & you agree to do things together. My problem is my husband, he doesn’t want to follow instructions & our little guy brings in loads of sand from day care everyday. Is John co-operative to your organizing frenzy?
Bridget B. says
Thanks for another great post! I used your tip and put up the cork boards inside my pantry door to harness all the coupons/pictures/grocery lists that would normally get shoved in a drawer and forgotten.
Love the idea of a shoe basket! We have hard wood floors everywhere except the bedrooms, so there’s always a trip-hazard pile of shoes in the hallway which is a drag to move to the closet.
Like some of the posters, I keep my recipes in a binder w/ plastic sleeves in the kitchen for easy access.
My husband mysteriously attracts large piles of papers/receipts/mail that end up all over our bedroom, so I bought a faux-leather milk crate from target that I pile all of the papers in. It matches our decor and looks nice stashed by his side of the bed.
We also have a wide storage ottaman at the foot of the bed that I can throw a bunch of items in to quickly tidy up the room.
Keep the great ideas coming!
We live in a small apartment so organization is KEY. Behind the front door we have a large 3 hook for coats, a small 3 hook for keys, and a shelf for suntan lotion and insect repellant (summer time obviously). All are black so it doesn’t look too bad.
I also use clear plastic shoe boxes for light bulbs, extension cords, batteries and other misc. stuff.
I am curious if you guys have a scoop for your cereal or if you just tip it into the bowl?? I have walked past them so many times.
Love these ideas! They are awesome!
We actually have a black mail holder from Homegoods with 4 compartments on our kitchen counter. I used a label maker and printed each of our names and then printed one for “House Stuff” (warrenties, invoices, etc) and “Utilities”. We pay our bills online, but this helps to categorize our mail and then we purge each category once a week….and it even looks cute!
Also, I have a large brass bowl on our dresser for his wallet, chapstick, keys, ipod, receipts, etc. Otherwise that stuff would be everywhere and drive me nuts!
A GREAT organization tool is the website http://www.lobotome.com. It has wonderful lists and calendars that you can buy to bring more sanity to your life.
The binder is perfect for the ideas I’ve torn out of magazines that have been sitting in files that I never pull out.
I got a photo album for my recipes. Each page has a spot for two 4×6 cards with a section for notes next to each one. The cards slide into a plastic sleeve and the note section is perfect for tweaking recipes while keeping the integrity of the original. It even has a pocket in the back (for negatives) where I keep tutorials and recipes I’ve torn out but haven’t tried yet.
I am with you about the DVR. It is an “extra” that I love and will forego my morning Starbucks for. Having a toddler makes this especially nice. Not only can I record my favorite shows but I can keep a couple “Dora the Explorers” on hand for rainy days.
I really love the key jar idea. My husband has literally woken me up at 5 am to help him look for his keys. I think I will be getting one of those today!
As always, thanks for the great tips.
The coolest organization tool in our house is an idea I totally copied from Apt Therapy. We use a super slim wooden Ikea shoe storage cabinent as our landing strip at the front door. The four bins hold 1)dog leashes 2)my purse 3) briefcase and 4)shoes! The look is totally customizable but I followed her design exactly. It looks super chic! http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/how-to/how-to-make-a-shoe-cabinet-landing-strip-075666
Just tuning in to your blog…i am hooked!
I have been organizing magazine tear outs since high school, almost 20 years…in binders and plastic sleeves. Everytime we are working on a project around the house I am armed and ready. Contractors love me and it is so handy when I am working with clients!
love the idea about the master notebook. i am one of those note people, where i right lists, everywhere & all the time, i need to get a master & take it everywhere with me!
i’d love to know how you organize your receipts, medical records, insurance stuff etc. i’ve read to do it by year & after every year, file that year’s in a box in the attic or something, but just curious how you guys handle all the paperwork! thx!
I’m super regimented about storing paperwork! There’s definitely a designated spot for every bill, insurance form, receipt, etc. Clearly we just hit the tip of the iceberg with this post so stay tuned for a much more exhaustive look at our bins, boxes and folders! Stay tuned…
I am a magazine clipper as well. And I just discovered the greatest thing yesterday!
I have this little tool from Scotch (the tape people) that is supposed to be used for cutting wrapping paper smoothly and easily. (About the size of a pencil.) It was only a couple bucks, and it cuts out magazines pages beautifully!! I’m not even sure why I thought of it, but I had the best time yesterday. Plus, then I can throw out the rest of the magazine that in our case is taking up prime home real estate. No more jaggedy edges here!
God I just love you guys. I have a bench near the front door with random husband and kiddo shoes under it…and the thought of baskets under the bench to contain them never even occurred to me. But now baskets are on my “master list” as of this minute, and I will be hunting for some this very weekend. Thanks!
thanks for all your wonderful tips and pictures sherry and john. i look forward to your blog every day!
I’ve got a couple of different binders all stored on the kitchen bookshelf. one of these is just for menus to local places stored in platic sleeves. another one is for gift certificates most of which fit in those plastic sleeve business card holders.(we are recently married and have quite a few of gift certs).
We also have a current project binder with all the info for our current project (the bathroom). Anything that my husband or a contractor might need is in there including instruction manuals, the master list to the electric panel box, receipts, ideas and color swatches. This is so helpful to keep the project on track. the plumber was a little shocked that my husband was so organized when he needed this information.
speaking of color swatches, i keep a design folder with categories for each room. the first page in each category has all the info for the room, such as color swatches, so if we need to go buy some more ceiling paint, etc, we know what color to get.
this may sound hyper organized, but all this stuff used to be sitting in piles getting lost. It’s great to be able to find anything at a moments notice.
I do the same thing with my recipies that you do with your home inspiration. I rip all the good looking ones out of the magazine ASAP put them in clear sleeves and in a crisp white binder. Then I throw the rest of the mag away. Takes up WAY less space than saving each issue in magazine holders!
I had emailed you last week about home organization – thank you for addressing these issues! (It looks like I’m not alone!) These ideas are really awesome! I think I’m going to put the sock/shoe basket idea to use right away.
One really good tip which i’ve been able to easily maintain: I bought a nice silver tray and bowl from West Elm and placed it on my husband’s nightstand. He leaves his wallet and keys and phone in the tray and we both empty our loose change into the bowl when we get home. Every few weeks I empty the bowl into a bigger container and every few months I bring the bigger container (which I keep hidden in a cupboard) to a CoinStar machine – it usually ends up being about $100-120! Just from loose change!
An area which I really need help – clothes! I usually pile mine up near my closet and put away at the end of each day, but my husband changes sometimes 3-4 times a day, since he goes to the gym. So I have gym t-shirts and shorts, pajama t-shirts and pants, multiple socks and shoes strewn around the room. He’s usually always rushing when he changes which doesn’t help. Anyone have a good tip on how to organize his clothes better? (and “encourage” him to keep a system?
Ugh…my hubby use to misplace his wallet and keys all the time. I was awoke many of mornings trying to help him locate them. So I came up with the same solution you did. I placed a small basket in my dining room, hidden away, and now he never questions where his wallet and keys are anymore. It made life much easier!
Our entryway has a half closet (it sits two feet off the floor above the air conditioner return). On the inside of the closet door we installed a metal strip. We use magnetic hooks for our keys and small magnets to post notes/lists there. We also have four mesh pockets – one for me, one for him, one for incoming mail, one for papers to file. Now our cell phones, ipods, chargers, ID badges, random business cards, pens, and coupons go into each of our own pockets instead of getting spread out and lost around the house. The mail gets dropped in a pocket as we come in the door and opened/sorted later. Papers we want to keep (receipts, bill statements, legal documents) are put in a pocket and filed in a hanging file box at the end of the month.
For an otherwise unused space, the back of the 2×5′ door packs quite an organizational punch.
Thanks for indulging me in straying from the topic at hand… I don’t know what I’d wear without cute, inexpensive flats – best trend ever!
Sam & Jacci says
Fun post!!! I’ve been planning on putting corkboard on the back of our newly painted cabinet doors – didn’t realize you all had already done it! :) I kept often used recipes on the back of our cabinets in the previous house and LOVED how easy they were to access. I kept the pancake, muffin, waffle recipes right by the flour and sugar. Right now I’m trying to fanagle a way to get a picture frame-type holder mounted on the inside of the door so I can slide my notecard recipes in when I need them. My cabinets doors open all the way, so the open door is flush against the cabinetry for easy reading.
On the organization stigma – I think it has less to do with “organized” and more to do with a related assumption that people make… namely, that organized people are uptight and control-freaky. Not always true by **any means** (especially not true of Sherry, wink), but it is sometimes the case. Like with ME! In my hyper-organized days I would get VERY tense if there were a pile of mail left out on the dining room table or if things were routinely not “in their place”. Not helpful. It’s also not helpful to swing the other way, though, and be so laid back that you never know where anything is and there’s no rhyme or reason to a home. I’m working on hitting that balance. Love order, love people more :)
Sam & Jacci says
Case in point – I gave Sam and entire DRAWER for his keys… and phone, and wallet, and sunglasses, and lipbalm, and random papers… see what I mean? :) Guess where his keys wind up? On the counter… because his drawer is FULL! Lol, after almost 10 years, I’m finally learning to just chuckle.
Aimee & Lonnie says
I LOVE your cork board idea! I wondered also where your cute glass containers that store your cereal come from!? I totally want to copy!!! Thanks lots!!!
Hey Aimee & Lonnie,
The cereal jars are actually super cheap from Walmart! Check out the link on the bottom of the post that says “cereal storage” for more info.
Great tips! I’m in the process of redoing our mudroom and purchased furniture with storage in mind and had my husband built a closet for coats/shoes. I’ve been looking for the perfect divided dish for “His/Hers” keys for on the entryway console table. Your cork board is a great idea! I also have binders for magazine pages…which I’m behind on but your post is a great reminder to get organized again! :)
I also would love to know— how do you organize your receipts and important documents that you need to have paper copies for? Do you scan them into the computer and keep them online, so you don’t have as much paper around the house?
Ours often get left around the home in several locations, which drives me nuts!
Thanks for the great organizational tips!
We’ve come to realize that we should share more info about our paperwork storage systems (and pictures!) so stay tuned for a post about that soon…
Billy Burke says
Hee hee ha ha…chuckling to read so many comments are about Sherry’s shoes and not about organizing tips.
I’m a big fan of elegant glass jars, bottles, etc…I keep my dish soap in an olive oil bottle (no doubt lots of people already do that). I bought a whole bunch of simple clear glass votive candle holders at Target many years ago. They’re so clean and elegant looking just about anywhere, and they fit in lots of small spaces like drawers, medicine cabinets, shelves, etc. Just another nice elegant way to corral little items (chapstick, rubberbands, toothpicks, etc)
Oh and you can use them for tealights too, I suppose, since that’s what they’re made for.
So anyways, John, where did you get those shoes??? They’re just to DIE for and I simply MUST have them! Tres chic!
Haha, just kidding around…everybody’s giving Sherry’s shoes so much love and attention – I didn’t want you to feel left out.
Anna See says
We have a shoe bin for each kid in the kitchen and I put their clean socks in, too. I figure why should I bother putting the socks up 2 flights of stairs when the shoes are right by the door?