Organizing Everything: When Spring Fever Strikes

Nothing is safe when spring fever takes hold. I go into a cleaning frenzy. The men in the house are used to it by now. After all, I organize other people for a living. My family is not immune.

With my oldest son away at college, his room took a minimum of fuss. He’ll be home tomorrow for spring break, so I made a few adjustments to his room and that was that. I’m excited to have him home for a week.

My youngest son entered his teen years and forgot all about his tidy ways. We’ve tried to negotiate (keep my door closed, he says) but I still go in there to fetch laundry and to air out the house. Clutter makes me uncomfortable. I need to work on my boundaries and he needs to work on the tidy factor. We’re both a work in progress.

My husband usually dreads the annual closet sort, but this year was different. He recently lost almost twenty pounds, so he was happy to give away all the clothes that no longer fit. He looks and feels terrific. We’re on the same eating plan, but he’s lost almost twice the weight. Men. What a lucky metabolism.

organized closet husband

My husband’s side of the closet

organized closet

My side of the closet

Once I get going, I don’t want to stop. After sorting out the clothes in our shared closet, I got out the duster and the vacuum and cleaned the mysterious cobwebs at the top of the closet, and the shoe dust below.

When I say “shared closet” I should also add that Lindy likes to spend her big sleep of the day in our closet. I’m storing a scrap-booking cart for my sister in there.  Within days Lindy claimed it as her own. Oh my goodness though, all that fur.

Here’s what I did. I folded a small, soft blanket to the size of the cart, then attached it at the top using a trouser hanger. It makes the spot even cozier, while helping contain the fur. It’s easy to wash and put back as well. For added measure, I hung an old vinyl suit cover, the kind that comes free with a man’s suit, on the other side to minimize the flying fluff.

organized closet for cat

Lindy’s napping spot (my side of the closet)

lindy waiting

Lindy is wondering when she can have the closet back

I should probably vacuum in there more often, but there are five million things I’d rather do.

With the closets sorted, I moved on to my toiletries. I moved them into our bedroom to make more room for the boys in the hall bathroom they share.

bedroom organized toiletries

My crafting area also needed some TLC. It’s amazing the disarray one creates from making a single project. It’s all about experimenting. I’ll take out my acrylic stamps, then the stamp pads, paper and more paper, scissors, adhesive and on it goes. When I’m done, the piles in my limited space have accumulated.

organized ribbon

Craft Closet: Organized ribbon and Washi tape

organized crafts cutting tool sorter

Crafting tools and supplies

organized crafts and litter box-001 organized crafts and litter box-003 Years ago I converted the small closet in our home office into a personal crafting area, but it didn’t last long. Believe it or not, the place where I once sat now houses the cat’s litter box.

Please don’t judge.

organized cat box

Organizing the cat box

It’s a long story, but the abbreviated version is this: Slinky moved into the house but was afraid of all the other cats. This was the only place to put an out-of-the-way litter box. Soon the other two cats adopted this litter box, too. They no longer used the boxes in the bathrooms. I prefer cleaning one box over three, but I do miss the leg room. The cats run this place.

It feels great having the closets sorted, along with my crafting materials. I continue to store my crafting materials in the top half of the closet, while the kitty facilities remain below.

hiding the cat box

Hiding the cat box

It’s all about compromise, right?

I’ve been in a cleaning frenzy outdoors as we get things ready for spring planting. I’ll save those details for another post.

Organizing Your Herbs and Spices

lavender flowers dried

Dried Lavender

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions on last week’s Organize This post. I’m passionate about organizing and gardening, so writing a weekly feature should be fun.

Cathy, the fabulous cook, gardener and blogger at Words and Herbs is looking for a way to organize her extensive collection of herbs and spices in a ‘very small spice cupboard.’

Since I’ve not seen Cathy’s kitchen or her spice collection, the following ideas are generic in nature, and should apply to everyone.

Gather and Review:

While it’s tempting to skip this tedious step, it’s often the most fruitful. Haul out all your herbs and spices from cabinets, counter tops and drawers and spread them out in one place. If you love to cook, you probably have an extensive collection.

Spread a large table-cloth or newspaper on your table or counter so it’s easy to tidy up any spills. Set out your spice and herb jars and packets so you can see everything. If you have 50 jars or less, alphabetize into A – L and M – Z. If you have 100 or more, break it down even further. Alphabetizing serves two purposes: it allows you to search for duplicates and it makes it easier to keep your spices in order for regular use. Most markets and grocery stores display spices in alphabetical order so you can find what you’re looking for. It makes sense to do this at home as well.


If you have duplicates, see if you can consolidate them into one container. Before doing so, check the herbs or spices for potency and freshness.  According to Spices Inc., whole spices and dried herbs, leaves and flowers will keep 1 – 2 years, whereas ground spices and herbs will keep for about a year.


Painful, I know, but if your spices have gone off, or have lost potency or flavor, it’s time to let them go. Did you buy a special ingredient that you’ll never use it again? It’s okay to let that go too. You can’t recoup the cost and those spices are taking up valuable cupboard space. Finally, if you’re a fabulous cook, you may receive gifts of herbs and spices. After graciously thanking the giver, consider passing them on.


Yes! Now you can put your system in place.

Spices are best stored in glass containers with tight lids in a cool, dry place. Though you’ll want them close by when you prepare your dishes, you don’t want them close to the stove (too hot) or the dishwasher (too humid). Boy, those spices are temperamental!

Consider investing in a generically sized set of jars. When the jars are all one size, it makes it easier to see what you have and easier to put it back where you found it. It’s also helpful if you’re the cook, but someone else puts things away.

At home, we have the luxury of large kitchen drawers. Our spices are laid on their sides in a   drawer for easy access. In smaller spaces, I’ve helped clients organize spices in a drawer by relocating items like tea towels, or seldom used utensils to another location, freeing up drawer space.

If storing them in drawers is out of the question, consider storing your spices in bins you can easily remove from your cupboards. Spice jars are small and not really well suited for the average design of a cupboard. Lift out bins take care of two issues: they contain the smaller jars, keeping them from rolling to the back of the cupboard and they catch spills, making clean up a lot easier.

There are a number of gadgets on the market designed for organizing spices, but I’ve found that most of them are limiting, either in size or ease of use. Most cooks have far more spices than the average storage system allows. The simpler the better.

Finally, all kitchens are not created equally. A fabulous cook living in a small studio apartment will find it challenging to house everything. Consider rotating your meals in such a way that you can get by with less, or store your less frequently used herbs and spices in a shoe box in an out-of-the-way place.  Just be sure to keep an index card listing what you have and where with your other spices so you can retrieve what you need when you need it.

Bon appétit!


Do you organize or organise? I’m writing from North America so I organize with a ‘z’. Apologies to my readers outside of the US and Canada. You can read more about the origins of the word at Grammarist.


Blogging 101: Feature This

first day of spring 2015

First day of spring in the garden (photos at dusk)

It’s late in the day on the first day of spring, but I’m determined to finish out week three of Blogging 101. Day fifteen’s assignment: Create a New Posting Feature.

Why do this? The idea is:

to inspire loyalty is to publish regularly. And the best ways to make sure you publish regularly is with a recurring feature — it’s like making a pact with yourself and your audience.
Creating a regular feature means your readers have something specific to wait for at regular intervals — it gives your blog a hook.

We’re all creatures of habit, bloggers and readers. Adding a recurring feature — or simply planning posts at regular intervals — helps your writing stay sustainable. Even a purely personal blog of random musings benefits from a hint of structure.

I read the assignment last night and thought about it throughout the day. In my early blogging days I ran a feature called Blooming Thursday.  It did give me some focus for one day of the week, but I don’t think it captured the minds and hearts of…anyone.

I dug a little deeper if you’ll pardon the pun. I thought about the things that I know and love and eventually settled on organizing. Organizing people, places and things has been a passion my whole life. My mom said she found me in her room organizing a sock drawer at the age of two. I’m sure there’s been some embellishing to that story over the years, but it illustrates my interest from an early age.

I’m casting about for a proper name and this is where you come in. Will you please vote for one of these options, or simply let me know what you think in the comments below?

For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, happy vernal equinox. To my friends in the south, I’m sure you’re welcoming the approach of cooler weather. I love the turn of a season and all the promise it brings. How about you?

Getting My Groove Back

I had my groove a few weeks ago but it seems to have gone on a walkabout. Have you seen it?

With the holidays over, it felt good putting our decorations away and tidying up. My husband feels a bit melancholy when they’re over, whereas I’m ready to move on. We strike a balance. I’m trying to find my post-holiday groove. A couple of things remain: a beautiful Christmas bunting and my holiday card selfie.

Christmas bunting

Beautiful Christmas bunting, hand-crocheted and mailed all the way from Australia Thank you, Dani!

My selfie of cards

My cards are still hanging out with my Selfie

Once the boys were back in school and Mike back to work, I embarked on a full-house overhaul. Though I organize for a living, things manage to creep in when I turn my back. I’ve decided to keep a tally this year of everything that comes through the front door unless it’s perishable (plants and flowers) or edible. Even though Mouse-the-Cat thinks that rats are edible, they didn’t make it to my list.

I emptied the book shelf in our living room, put back the essentials and took the rest of the books to a nearby Little Free Library. Our LFL is currently full and enjoying a robust ‘business’ on a daily basis. Once I cleared the shelves, I stacked my favorite gardening books, part practical, part sentimental, on one of the shelves. Now I had room for a  new piece of art. I’ll write more about that in another post.

cherished garden books

Cherished garden books

I emptied the drawer near my laundry room of random bits and bobs*, then gathered the loose buttons into a jam jar. No sense hiding beautiful buttons in a drawer, when I can enjoy them on display while folding laundry.

Throughout the week I avoided my computer and spent my energy cleaning, sorting, dusting, recycling, donating and throwing away.  The process is therapeutic as well as practical. There really is value in a place for everything, and everything in its place.

living room

Living room cleaned and sorted. Wall mural by Donna Pierre

kitchen counter

Clutter-free counters, lemons from the garden, succulents from Laura


Lindy wants to know if I’m *ever* going to sit down

Having said that, all this sorting and cleaning felt a bit obsessive. Was I avoiding something instead? I’m still trying to sort that out. Does this happen to you?

My blog got the cold shoulder last week. It wasn’t planned. I slipped my groove and filled the time with other things. Am I in a rut? Is a rut the same as a groove?

Saturday morning I awoke with vertigo. My heart pounded in my chest and I convinced myself that it would pass. After a long, restless hour I went back to sleep, but awoke hours later too dizzy to remain sitting upright. This turn of events was not helping me get my groove back. Instead it played on an old and deep-seated fear: that I would die before raising my boys. I’m not dying of course, but who said fears are rational? I was just a girl when my dad died, and these fears flare up from time to time.

I saw a doctor today who diagnosed a viral infection of the inner ear. There’s nothing to be done for it but wait for it to gradually improve. Groovy.

What do you do when you slip a groove? How do you get it back?

*bits and bobs. I love that expression, and borrow it liberally from Pauline.


Pictured above:

Beautiful bunting and knee blanket courtesy of Teddy and Tottie

On the book shelf: The Good Life by Sarah O’Neil. Sarah blogs at Sarah the Gardener.

Thank you flowers from Boomdee


Organizing Garden Tools: Bucket Jockey® Goes “Green”

Bucket Jockey® where have you been all my life!?

In all my years of gardening, I’ve simply “made do” with my tool storage.  For the past several years I’ve used a small plastic caddy intended for cleaning supplies.  Not bad for a two dollar investment.

So I can’t tell you how excited I am with my upgrade: an all-in-one tool storage caddy from Husky® and Home Depot.  I’m not sure why I assumed this would be a costly investment. I grew up in an all-female household, so I never really learned my way around a hardware store.  For just ten dollars I was able to create this system, below.

For starters, I wanted to personalize my new tool organizer.  I have nothing against Husky who made this fabulous system, but you must admit they have a grouchy-looking logo.  Since I’m organized at heart, I used a jewelry finding full of hearts.  I blacked out the logo with a permanent marker, then attached the hearts with a safety-pin.  Now I can change out the bucket jewelry when the mood strikes.

Husky Bucket Jockey

I hid the logo with a jewelry finding (with apologies to Husky®)

I used the inner pockets to store my freshly cleaned and sharpened hand tools, including spades, pruners, saws and weeders. My garden fork hangs from an outer pocket, originally intended for a drill. I cut an unused garden glove to cover the prongs so I don’t scrape my leg on the rough edges as I carry it from place to place.

Bucket Interior

Bucket Interior houses tools

Gloved garden fork

Gloved garden fork

Drill holder doubles for tools and gloves

This would typically hold a drill. It works well for gloves and a garden fork.

The Bucket Jockey includes a strap attached to the exterior. I don’t know its intended use, but I’ve re-purposed it for twine. One of the tricks I learned on a garden tour was to cut several lengths of twine ahead of time so you have them at the ready when you need them. I threaded several pre-cut lengths of twine through a couple of binder rings.  They’re attached near the ball of twine.

Strap and Hook
Strap and hook attachment
Garden Twine and binder ring

Garden Twine

strap holds garden twine

Strap holds garden twine

"Bucket Jockey ®" for garden tools

“Bucket Jockey ®” transformed

What a joy to have all the tools sharpened, cleaned and stored in one easy to access, portable system.

On the subject of organizing, I recently launched my new and improved organizing website and blog, Organized at Heart. If you’re interested, please take a look.  If you would like to follow along, you can subscribe to receive regular updates.