Friday, January 13, 2017

26 Good Reads: Where I Find My Organizing Inspiration

I just completed my first of four organizing projects for this month, and I can't wait to photograph it and share it with you! As I initially sat down to plan each problem area and went through all of the whys and hows and thoughts, I found myself reaching for my organizational library. Before I started blogging, there was no such thing as Pinterest. The majority of the ideas I found and utilized were from the pages of (gasp) books and magazines! And no matter what technology continues to throw my way, I will never stop loving a beautiful book or a glossy magazine. I find endless amounts of pleasure just flipping through tangible pages and taking in all of the advice and visual inspiration. In fact, I am an extremely visual person. I am sure there are a lot of really wonderful books that teach organizational principles, however, I find I am much more likely to hop off of the couch and tackle a drawer or closet immediately upon seeing a beautiful photo of one.

So, as I grabbed for my big stack of books, I thought that I would take a moment to share my favorites with you. The common thread between each of the books/magazines I am featuring today is that they are all filled to the brim with gorgeous imagery that correlates to a plethora of tips, tricks, advice, strategies and solutions for organizing every last nook and cranny of your home.
Unfortunately, some of the books and magazines on my list may no longer be available to purchase online or on newsstands. I didn't want to leave them out of the running though because I have noticed that on occasion publishers will release updated printings, and older versions and copies may be found at second-hand bookstores or are still available through sellers online.

Isn't it fun to find out what makes friends, family, and fellow bloggers tick? Well, these books are my vice and love language and receive my attention all year long (but even more so in January). Above and beyond the helpful tips and mighty imagery, here are a few more reasons these books and magazines stay within my reach at all times.


Real Simple, The Organized Home was one of my very first organizing books. The cover is damaged and the pages are falling out, but it remains one of my all-time favorites. Last year an updated version hit newsstands in the form of a bookzine, and it is equally as wonderful.

Real Simple's photographs are right in line with their name; simple. And that is what I love about them. They are clean, and therefore inspire me to clean!

Both versions of the book will take you room-by-room and not only share ideas and tips for each space, but also identify the basic building blocks to put together a highly functional and easy-to-maintain home. 

Bonus: Flip to the back pages to find common items that are challenging to let go of, and some guiding principles to aid you in your quest to living with less.


Although Real Simple was my first organizing book, Martha Stewart was my first organizing idol. She was the queen of making organization look beautiful (not sterile or boring). Oh, the details! Painted pantries, decorative label holders, collected canisters... Who would want to mess up any of those lovely systems? I grew up watching Martha on television, and I am still in awe of her tips and craft products and kitchen gadgets. Good Things for Organizing is another room-by-room format, sharing storage solutions for just about anything a space can hold. And the rooms featured are relatable and look lived in, not just staged in a studio.

The Martha Stewart Organizing bookzine also includes storage solutions, in addition, it offers quick life hacks like adding grommets to your kitchen towels and rubber gloves so they easily hang on hooks under your kitchen sink. You name it, there is a solution for it!


I know not everyone feels the same, but I truly find pleasure in housekeeping. That said, I also want to learn how to do it more efficiently and effectively. I received the Good Housekeeping Simple Household Wisdom book for Christmas, and it has been a wonderfully quick read complete with tested tricks that are sure to save time and sanity. Did you know dishtowels were deemed the most contaminated spot in the kitchen? Swap those out daily friends! And that you should never use clothing stain remover on the carpet? #guiltyascharged Are you loading your dishwasher with all of your dishes facing inward? That is where the spray is the strongest. Page after page of endlessly helpful tidbits of information.

This year I also picked up Good Housekeeping's bookzine titled Get Organized! I figured if they had such good household tips, I had to know what their thoughts were on organization.

I absolutely love that these pages are filled with EASY solutions, some that can be done in 8 minutes or less! And with that, they don't offer any more than 8-10 simple tips for any given area. This ensures I don't feel overwhelmed or discouraged to tackle my bedroom closet or my overflowing desk drawers. So approachable and motivating!


I think that I am meant to be a resident of Canada (heck, a few hour drive and I suppose I could be!). Their designers and editorials for interiors are the ones I find myself seeking out more than any others. Hello! Sarah Richardson! Come and decorate my house, please! Style at Home Magazine, thank you for sending me a digital copy of your pages every month! You do color SO right! 

I am truly madly deeply in love with how Style at Home does white, I love how they do color, I love the finishes they showcase and the fresh and clean feeling their spaces emote. So when I found out they released an occasional special edition issue solely focussed on organization... Wowza! My heart burst into a million little fluttery hearts.

And these magazines are everything I hoped they would be and more. Colorful organization paired with real life tips that blend seamlessly with the decor (always my personal goal). Everything from setting up an effective workspace to maximizing your kitchen cabinet space, they have it covered. It also looks like they have a newer issue I haven't personally flipped through yet, but it was just added to my shopping cart! I am grateful that you can purchase all of their past special edition issues here, I wish more magazine publishers offered that option to their readers.


I don't think I have missed an issue of Storage magazine in the last 8+ years! And of course, the magazine has a special place in my heart since they gave us a huge multi-page feature a couple of years back. I had the personal pleasure of working with Better Homes and Gardens for quite a few years, and they really have an impeccable eye for amazing interiors and the specific details that make a house a home. I especially appreciate when they focus on the organizational details that help a home run smoother. 

I have personally learned quite a bit from this magazine; the clear shoebox drawers under our kitchen sink have been working hard for us for many years now, and switching all of our towel rods to hooks has been life changing for our kids (and ultimately for us as well). This quarterly publication packs a lot of punch with solutions for every room in the home, garage included, as well as hot new storage and organizational supplies that are designed to simplify daily life. These types of magazines always feel like a splurge, but they are generally ad free and I learn from them so I try to justify it every couple of months.


I will never forget the day this book showed up at my front door back in 2013. I locked myself in the bathroom for hours, shriveling up like a prune in the bathtub while I scoured every last page. Although I have read this book cover to cover multiple times, it is still one I reach for quite frequently. I especially appreciate that they call out some of the trickier items that need to be purged, with advice on how to dispose of them, and/or the best locations to donate things like books, old cell phones, prom dresses, etc...

The pages are filled with motivational quotes and quick hits, and this book taught me that labels don't solely have to be made from white and black labeling tape, that beautifully lined drawers make an impact and why clear acrylic organizers will always be my favorite. I also find it helpful that they will show a full room view, and then break it down into smaller details and strategies.


Cleaning and organizing go hand-in-hand, and often times folks will resolute to organize spaces around their home, and also to make some changes in the cleaning department. Whether it be to make homemade cleaners, to implement 15 minute daily pick-ups, or to deep clean one room per month, there are a few books that can offer you some guidance.

The Organically Clean Home and The Naturally Clean Home are my homemade cleaner bibles. I have quite enjoyed making my own cleaners over the years as there is something so wonderful about knowing all of the included ingredients while saving money and packaging. And with the help of these two books, no matter what the mess, I can find a remedy using items I already have on hand. One of my dear friends, Becky, is about to release her next book, and I am counting the minutes! The girl is a cleaning genius!

Not only do visuals of organized desks and closets inspire me to get off my tush and work some magic, sparkly counters and sink fixtures and bright white baseboards motivate me to go clean something! 

Real Simple Cleaning certainly shares how to make your counters glisten and keep those baseboards white, as well as tips for maintaining household appliances. The photography is stunning and "clean" while the tips are easy and straight forward. Want to put together a solid cleaning kit? This book will help you out with that as well. Now when you go room-by-room to organize, you can add a little extra sparkle to your projects!


Shameless plug starts in 3...2...1... 

I have learned so much over the years, whether it be through reading and research or trial and error, and I now get to share my favorite tips and tricks monthly as part of an amazing collaboration with Redbook magazine! You can find me on the front pages of each issue, tossing around extremely simple and doable ideas. I have chatted about tips for organizing under the bathroom sink, putting together helpful caddies for around the house, solutions to create the ultimate command station and tips for DIY'ing darling storage boxes. This month we re-created solutions from our boy's playroom while adding in a couple of new elements and ideas! This opportunity has been so much fun and a whole new way to share my love for organizing with the world!


Some people collect mugs, others collect baseball cards and vintage tea sets, and I collect organizing books and magazines. When things in my life start to feel a little overwhelming, opening these pages brings me a great sense of calm. And generally all of our organizing projects stem from one of two places; I either grew really frustrated with a particular system and decided to deal with it on the spot, or I saw an amazing picture that sparked a new idea.

What inspires you to take on a new organizing project? Are you a need to read about it or need to see it type of person? What organizational or cleaning books should I add to my list?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

20 Getting Organized in January - Our Four Areas of Focus

When I think of January, I think of organization. There is just something about a new year that inspires folks everywhere to want to start with a fresh and blank slate. And that usually correlates to organization! And organization correlates to an excited and happy Jen!

I had so much anticipation for this month; I mean, hello! Organizing blog! Organizing and cleaning are both my jelly jam! I rang in the new year with dear friends, and then the morning of January 1st I woke up feeling sort of OK, and by afternoon I felt like I had been hit by a bus carrying ten tons of bricks. The flu (or all of those wonderful flu-like symptoms), had officially hit our home, and it hit hard. One by one we began falling, and it was quite the week trying to sooth us all back to feeling like ourselves again. Not the best way to kick off the new year, but if anything we had some good quality snuggle time together. I also want to thank you for all of your comments on the 2016 Year in Review post, you all knew just what I needed last week and brought so much light to my achy days! 

So here I am, feeling much, much better than I did a week ago. Still sniffling but I will take it! I can organize through sniffles!

There are still three full weeks through the end of the month, and I am certain that although I already lost one week, I can still get back in the game, and tackle four different challenge areas. Won't you join me?

For this mini-monthly challenge, I selected four problem areas ranging in type and magnitude. Two smaller, two larger. I find it always helps to start small and work my way up as my momentum builds. And it also helps not to bite off more than I can chew all at once.

We have organized countless areas around our home over the years. We are to a point where most of those systems are working like well-oiled machines, and a few others that still need a little tweaking. And then we have some areas that need our full attention. I went through the house and picked the four that called my name.


These two small drawers live in our sideboard in our dining area and have become a catch-all for anything party or entertaining related. The cabinets below have a similar task, but hold bulkier pieces such as glassware, pitchers, vases, etc... I can already envision myself modifying the cabinets while I work on the drawers since they all have a similar storage purpose. I don't think I need to go into detail about what the problem is, as the picture is pretty clear (hello jumbled mess). But the ultimate goal is to purge anything we haven't used and create a bit of proper storage for what remains. I utilized this area on multiple occasions the last few months (Thanksgiving, small gatherings, Christmas & New Year's Eve), and each time I was quickly reminded why I need to tend to these two small but mighty drawers.


This project won't necessarily be a dramatic before and after, just more of an after because right now it is a blank slate. But I do know that I need to put a couple of quick and simple systems in place here so that we have easy access to specific laundry and washing items. Things like a small trash can, a place to toss dirty rags, a couple of cleaning essentials, etc...  Organizing under sinks is one of my favorite projects. #cantwait #strange


My gut tells me that most husbands receive a nice metal tool chest when they ask for tool storage for Christmas. My husband received an elfa system (enter devilish laugh here). And it is a mess! We made it as far as assembling the majority of the two stands and adding the drawers (although we have to pick up a couple more pieces to completely finish it), and from there everything sort of just got tossed into a drawer or landed on top. I am not doing this incredible system any justice right now! We need to sort, purge, and line all of the drawers with pretty floral gift wrap. I kid! Just seeing if you are paying attention. However, we do want to line the drawers with a grippy liner to prevent everything from sliding around inside. And the drawers need to be labeled. And really, everything just needs to be addressed. This won't be the most glamorous project, but it is much needed. You may recall that we were previously using an old hand-me-down dresser for storing many of our tools, but over time the weight was too much and the drawers began to collapse. The elfa drawers have already proven to be so handy and the entire cart can hold and sort so much more. I really can't wait to see how this little high-traffic area turns out!


I am about to literally air our son's dirty laundry, but this impractical closet is not at all his fault. Back in the day, we saved money be re-installing the original wire hanging system after we wallpapered the closet. The simple two hanging rods worked just fine in terms of giving our guests a place to store and hang clothing during short visits. Now that our youngest son has taken over the room, the closet is not up to par. He has never owned a dresser, so he has been living out of bins and baskets tucked away on the floor. Half of his clothes are also stored in a bin under his bed where they are easier for him to put away. He is unable to reach or use the vertical space, so we plan to completely reconfigure things, while also finally removing the old wallpaper and continuing to install the same paper seen in his desk area. I envision a couple of hanging areas, a tower of drawers, a place for shoes and a place for a hamper. We also hope to ultimately close off the closet with some new swing doors similar to the ones we installed in our kitchen.


Sigh. What it is about showing your messes to the masses that leaves you feeling a little vulnerable and naked? I just keep telling myself that a good before photo always makes for an even better after story. And real life is messy. And seeing these sit here totally motivates me to tackle each one of these spaces this month!

What are your organizational goals in January? Taking on any areas, big and/or small? I would love for you to share what you are working on by using the #iheartorganizing hashtag on Instagram or in the comments below. Oh! And if you are looking for a little organizing of your organizing projects, this project planning printable has been quite helpful to me over the years!

 click here to download your FREE organizational project planning worksheet 

Alright, let's do this 2017!
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