A Refreshing Take on Organizing: What Actually Matters & How to Get Started

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by Robin

Back in January, I shared my plan to get our house organized.  You may remember: I am pretending we are moving.  The premise is that I will go through all the areas of my house as though we are moving and ask myself some key questions about each thing we have.  (You can read more about the questions here).

I have been really pleased with the progress; the idea is working very well.  I've tackled a half dozen spaces so far.  So why haven't I shared about it here?   Basically, I stopped feeling good about my efforts.  I forgot "What Matters".

Remembering "What Matters" is a key for our family, this blog and my imaginary-moving-day-organizing-project, but I got distracted and discouraged.  I let the idea of "perfect" keep me from doing "the good".

I spent too much time on Pinterest.  I kept seeing colourful, elegant, organized closets and felt like my finished project wasn't nearly good enough.  I didn't have a cohesive theme, bins stencilled with chevrons or cute tags in interesting shapes.  (Don't get me wrong, I love the look of all those things and admire the pretty spaces people put together.  It's just more than I am able to do right now.)

My organized cupboard was just, well... organized.  It didn't seem nearly good enough.

Do you ever feel this way?  You look at an organizing site or magazine and feel a little less inspired by "the perfect" portrayed there?   I do.  All. The. Time.

Thankfully, a supportive post from a favourite blogger came to me at the right time.  I subscribe to posts from Rachel Meeks at Small Notebook.  She writes in a clear and focused way about keeping life simple.  Her post about the real goal of organizing inspired me.  Here's a quote:

A refreshing perspective on organizing. Why organising actually matters for your family. How to get started. Great perspective if you're feeling overwhelmed. We organized our bathroom "linen closet" and saved time and money.  It does not have to be picture perfect!

 "Becoming more organized is not the goal. In fact, simplifying is not the goal either. Both are tools to help you reach better goals that involve people, plans, and dreams."  ~ Rachel Meeks

Yes!  Exactly what I knew (and forgot).  I also love this graph from her post (it's highly scientific, I'm sure). It sums up what's important about organizing so well:  stop when it benefits you most.

(Small Notebook)

With a sigh of relief, I have now called my projects done when they benefited our family most.

If I kept going (with paint, Mod Podge, scrapbook paper, etc.)  I wouldn't be doing it for me or my family.  It would be to impress someone.  That's not been a goal of our family before, and I never planned on it becoming one just because we have a blog.  In fact, it would not be in keeping with the intent of this blog.

The First Project

I started with our upstairs bathroom cupboard.  It's had many incarnations before moving in here.

First it was my grandparent's cleaning cupboard when this was their home.  I am pretty sure Grandpa made it.

Next, our good friend Paul (a talented cabinet maker) helped us to gussy it up a bit to make it into a closet for our baby girl.  With his help, we added crown moulding and decorative feet.  We also added adjustable shelves and a bar to hang little dresses.

Next it became out bathroom cupboard.

Then it became this:


A jumble of random items shoved onto shelves with no thought to logic.

We have lived with our bathroom cupboard like this for 4 1/2 years.   It has been horrible to use.  The medicines were approximately on the right of the top shelf, in a pile that left us wondering if we did indeed have what we'd need.  (We often did, but just as often didn't.)

The picture is fuzzy.  I think I was trembling with fear that something would fall on top of me while I took the picture.  (Either that or I am just a pretty bad photographer.  Take your pick.)

As I purged it, I found some useful stuff, some junk and a few bizarre items. Most notably: an umbilical cord clip.  Not a sentimental treasure from our babies mind you.  This one is brand new, still in it's sterilized packaging.  Just in case we need one in a surprise emergency birth?

Here it is after I gave it the "Pretending-We're-Moving" treatment:


Ahhh, that's better.  It works now.  And took surprisingly little money, time or effort.


We spent about $7.  The only things purchased for this project were the four trays and a small lidded box.  The four sage green bins on the bottom shelves were stored in our basement.

We actually made money on this project, because we found a number of things that we had forgotten about and would have had to buy in the future.


I worked on it in 15-minute blocks.  I just did one shelf at a time, when I had a few minutes.  I think it took 45 minutes total.

It has already saved us that much time since, by not having to dig through the previous mess to find something we needed.  (I am tempted to include the time we saved by NOT having to get our stomachs pumped if we'd accidentally taken some of the medicines I found with expiry dates in 2008.)

What I did:

1. Emptied each shelf.  Things went into either the Donation Station, garbage or a box for things destined to return to the shelves.

2. Picked up a few containers
  • Four trays to hold items for each of the four members of our family.  A specific colour for each person's stuff.  (Right now the kids can share a tray, while they're little, so the spare holds our first aid stuff).
  • A box with a lid to hold medicines.  (I almost got distracted by this cute first aid box I saw on Pinterest, but I gave my head a shake and remembered the goal: get organized.   I can make it all purdy later if it really matters enough to me.
  • 4 bins that I had shoved under the basement sink.  Each holds something specific: 
      1. Cleaning supplies
      2. Nighttime pull-ups 
      3. Lady stuff
      4. Bathroom miscellanea
3. Put the stuff that's worth keeping back into a place of its very own.

4. Opened and closed the doors like a fool, smiling at just how peaceful I felt at finally finishing this.

5. Called the family up to witness the organized beauty.  When they weren't as impressed as I hoped, I turned it into a briefing as to where they could find (and put back) their stuff.

Are you like me: do you feel a little intimidated and uninspired by those photos of beautiful, perfectly organized spaces?

look no further than here!


  1. I am in the same place, stalled by the inability to make it "perfect". I just have to figure out how to know when I'm at the top of the hill. :-) Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. I hear ya, Marilyn! I have recently found that I can do a lot with 15 minutes maybe a shelf in the kitchen or a drawer. That helped me out of the stall. I'd get a little feeling of satisfaction that would keep me going. You can too!

  3. I am so glad I stumbled upon this page. I find myself all the time starting a project, and not having enough time to make it "perfect", so it never gets finished, or completed "exactly" how I want it, even if it is "functional". I don't like to start something if I can't finish it, but after reading this, I am going to try to let go, complete my projects until they are functional or beneficial, and then when I have spare time, dress them up and make them "pretty". Thanks again!

    1. Thank-you for your comment! The whole idea behind this post was to help others feel good about what works for them, so I am really glad you've left with that feeling. (I almost didn't post this because I didn't think it was "perfect" - your comment helped me, too!) ~ Robin

  4. This is my first time reading your blog and I COMPLETELY agree w/ you. I spend way too much time on Pinterest and seem to rarely try any of the stuff I see there b/c I'm intimidated by how great it looks. Thanks for your dose of reality. :)

    1. Thanks for your comment! It's so reassuring to hear that other people feel the same way. Glad you found our blog. :) ~ Robin

  5. This post found me nodding in agreement with you. Whilst inspired by the beautiful spaces I see, it can also be very uninspiring that whatever I come up with is just not as impressive. I do go the extra step with the modpodge, scrapbook papers etc. but mostly because doing that stuff is the best part of a project for me as I love to craft. In the lead up to the photo, you had me thinking that your organizing efforts would be less than impressive but I think your bathroom cupboard looks absolutely fantastic! I am currently on a journey to let go of "perfect", live simply and get more done. Am now following you on facebook :D Off to check out Small Notebook too.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I hear ya about the letting go of perfect business - it's so limiting - and stops us short of doing what's good for us. Thanks for following us on facebook - I'm off now to check out your blog! ~ Robin

    2. BTW - I'm following your blog on facebook now, too! Looking forward... ~ Robin

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  7. I have fibromyalgia and have gotten to where I don’t start projects because I don’t want another 1/2 done project in the house. 15 min . So simple and brilliant. I can manage 15 minutes and not much more. Thank you for reminding me to make it in small manageable steps


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