Sunday, January 4, 2015

Week One - How to Organize Your Main Living Areas

Welcome to Week One of Cleaning and Organizing Our Homes Challenge!   This week our focus will be on our main living areas.  I want to start off with a relatively easy space to organize and maintain before we tackle the trickier spaces (like the kitchen!).  Our main living areas are one of the most important spaces in our homes to keep calm, peaceful and organized since that is where we spend the majority of our time.  We all just took our Christmas trees and decor down and some of us may have had to do a little furniture rearranging - so it's a great place to start our Cleaning Challenge! 

 Our most important tip to remember as we go through the next eight weeks is to PURGE PURGE PURGE!!! You can NOT organize clutter.  If you find that your freshly organized spaces just get cluttered right back up again, then you most likely have too much stuff.   As you focus on each room through this challenge, always keep in the back of your mind - if you don't absolutely love it or absolutely need it, then most likely it is just cluttering up your home, your mind and your life!  Get rid of it!  If you need to do a major clean out of your spaces, then have three large boxes or bags ready as you clean and organize.  One for trash, one for donation, and one for "move to another space". 

I like to keep the seasonal decor in the main living spaces to a minimum.  Adding too many decorations just leads to a cluttered look.  I like to use a vacuum attachment to suck all the dust off my fireplace screen, the bricks, vents and the surrounding areas.  It's the best tool for the job!  I also dust, vacuum and mop the main living areas once a week - but more on that later! 
 One of the things that can attract a lot of clutter in our family rooms is magazines! They can quickly grow to out of control piles.  Assign a basket or special place, like a magazine rack for the most used items.  We also tend to toss in the current book we are reading or other things that might otherwise just pile on an end table.  Having a special spot just for reading material is key to keeping things picked up - but it needs to be in a very accessible location. Also- don't forget to cancel subscriptions for the magazines you just don't have time to get to, even though you think you will one day.  I purge our basket about every other month, recycling old magazines to keep the basket from getting overwhelmed. 

One of our most used organizational items in our family room is our basket of throw blankets.  I keep this basket in here year round.  It has heavier blankets in the winter and lighter ones for the summer.  Right now we even have a throw pillow thrown in there for when the kids lay on the floor to watch a movie snuggled under a comfy blanket. 
 One of the most important things to remember when you are organizing your space is to think about the needs of YOUR family, at the specific stage of life you are in.  Even though I would rather not have kids toys in the family room, that is just the stage of life we are in (almost out of though!).  I am trying to soak up these last few years of little girl-ness scattered about the house.  So for now, one little corner of our family room is designated for Boo's current favorite toys.  I often rotate these out once I see she has become disinterested with the current favorite.  This is  really a sanity saver for when the rest of the family just wants to relax or watch a movie.  When the littlest gets bored, she still has something to occupy herself with and still be with the rest of the family (instead of driving us bananas!).  In all of those baskets is our DVD collection.  I keep them organized by genre - kids movies, dads movies, comedies, etc.  It doesn't always stay that way for long, but generally it is sorted out.  Tucked in the back is a collection of DVD's in portable cases for when the kids need some movies for a long trip in the car.  Just grab and go!  We used to keep them in the car, but now that the kids are older they don't watch much in the car anymore.

 Spend some time really thinking about the needs of your family right now - and be ready to change things up as the needs of your family changes.  It's amazing how quickly those needs change for us with three kids all spaced far apart, one living at college, etc.  Life is always changing around here!  Our couch is one of those items that is VERY multi-functional.  We can open it all the way up, like you see here, for maximum seating.  This is great for holidays - or college breaks when the whole family is home.  We can also separate it into two pieces, a couch and a love seat.  We can even pull one end around and it becomes an ottoman.  Recently, my Punkin has her first steady boyfriend that she met in college.  He will often come for an extended visit as he lives out of state.  During those times we even put the love seat section in our other main level living area (you will see at the bottom of this post), so that they have a semi-private space to be in together but still be on the main living level with the rest of us.  When purchasing large pieces, it's always wise to keep in mind how it can change and grow with your family. 
We keep the Wii games and accessories right beside the TV within easy reach, but out of sight to avoid all that visual clutter. 
 Add in a cute dog (or two!), and your family room is complete. 
 I love keeping all of our remotes in a basket on the end table.  We recently switched TV service providers so I like to keep our Channel guide in this basket as well.  It saves so much time to just glance at it and find which channel you need instead of surfing through 600 channels.  Sheesh!   This basket also ends up with odds and ends in it that need to be purged probably once a week or so.  

Our main living level (our home is three stories) actually has two rooms that are considered "Main Living Areas", so I have included that room in this post as well.  Consider your own home and if there are two or more "main" living spaces, then tackle those rooms as well in your big clean and organize challenge! We spend just as much time, if not more in this room at the front of the house.  This room is technically considered the "formal living room" as it is connected to the dining room.  However, we made it into our library.  We are a book loving family and needed an entire room devoted to it.  Consider the needs of your family and don't be afraid to use rooms in your house for something other than what it was originally intended for.  Inside those cabinets at the bottom of our bookshelves is more books - haha! We also keep all of our family photo albums and some of my camera equipment there.  In the white boxes at the top of the cabinets is our old CD collection that we can't quite bring ourselves to part with just yet, as well as home videos. 

Now that I no longer have a desk top computer, (I am now and forever a lover of my Macbook Pro!) this space also kind of doubles as my office.  I homeschool our youngest of three so it is also where a lot of homeschooling happens.  Our main dining table is right next to this room - which is where Boo sits to do her work.   I am usually right here in my big leather chair doing my own work for my photography business, reading to Boo, or just doing school together in our favorite big chair.  The file cabinet holds our important papers, and the top drawer functions as a top desk drawer would.  Pens, paper clips, etc all in an organized tray.  Those shelves up above the chair are crucial for keeping all of our items we use almost daily.   This holds our stock of school supplies, whether for homeschool, high school, college, or even dad and moms office supply needs. 

 The other cabinet holds a box for various often used cables and chargers, blank envelopes, my labeler and chalkboard labels, my external hard drive,  and packing tape (why do I love packing tape?).  In addition, I keep a basket of somewhat important small paper work that I want to hold onto for a while, mostly for checks that I have deposited via my cellphone, important receipts or other things like that.  These are all things I like to have within easy reach on the main level of our home.

This is how I have organized ALL of our homeschooling supplies.  I homeschooled all my girls several years ago, and at that time we devoted our entire basement as the homeschool room.  You can see that room by CLICKING HERE.  Needless to say, I have simplified over the years.  That seems to be my word of the year - for several years now - SIMPLIFY!  Everything we need for homeschooling one third grade girl easily fits into this room.  UPDATE: This room now serves as our official homeschool room as we have been homeschooling for many years now - you can see it set up more recently by CLICKING HERE.

 Another super handy organizational tip for your main living areas is to have a charging station.  Our is just a simple felt-covered plastic form that fits perfectly into our bookshelves from Ikea.   Underneath that raised part is a power cord/surge protector that has all of our cell phone charger cords plugged into.  Not only is this a great place to remember where you left your phone (HA!), but it is also the docking station where my kids have to retire their devices before going to bed each night.  A quick glance at this spot and you know if everything is accounted for.  That basket holds extra phone covers, cases, sometimes a small camera, and extra charging cords. 

Don't forget to also add small items to your spaces that just make you happy! I LOVE the sound of a ticking clock in a quiet house - so I found one on Amazon where in the reviews everyone complained about how LOUD it was, and I knew I found the right clock for me! HA!  Have fun cleaning, organizing and purging your spaces.  I will be back before the week is over with a weekly cleaning routine that you can follow as we are focusing on one room each week.  This has been the number one secret for me to keeping my house CLEAN on a regular basis and I'm so excited to share it with you!

You can see how to create and organize your mudroom by clicking HERE.