Office Tidying Status Update

I’m now about a month into the process of tidying everything. I’ve lost count of the number of car loads and trash bags full of stuff I’ve removed from my life. So far I only have 2 items I regret parting with, and neither of them are expensive or irreplaceable. So I’m doing good there. And as of this afternoon you can see the top of my desk!


Not only that but my closet has WAY MORE space. I expect that over time I’ll move a bunch of the stuff that’s out in the office into the closet.

Before, there was so much stuff on the floor that the door could only open partially. There wasn’t anywhere to store the step ladder so it just sort of hung out. Now everything is off the floor, the fabric has been moved into a new drawer set, and there’s a spot for the ladder just to the left of the drawers. My fabric cutting board, which had previously laid around in my office making it look messy, now hangs on the wall next to the fabric.

There’s still work to do in the closet, I have 3 more categories of craft stuff to go through, but it’s a vast improvement from what it was.

My desk is now clear, there’s no more piles of crap on top of my book shelf, I’ve moved my file cabinet near my desk so maybe I will actually file something someday, and the shelves themselves are slightly better organized. I actually took a lot OUT of the shelves, but then put things back in from other places. In the interest of full disclosure, that blue cart is still there you just can’t see it in the 2nd shot.

The “before” photo is a little misleading, I took it right after I cleaned my office. Which I do maybe twice a year. Here’s a more honest photo of what my office usually looked like:


I’ve managed to create a little island of clean. The rest of the room is still in progress. I can’t stress how exhausting it is to go through all this stuff, the full KonMari treatment is definitely not a weekend project. I reached a point where I need to focus on some other areas/categories, because I’ve got piles of stuff that don’t belong in this room but there isn’t room for them in the places they do belong. We have two big closets downstairs which hold stuff my husband and I will need to tackle together.

Here’s what the rest of the room is looking like these days. Piles of to-be-sorted stuff in an otherwise bare room. That’s because once Baby #2 is born the plan for this room is to move the guest bed in here. Evacuating that half of the room is a long term project of mine.

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New Construction Townhome, Organization

You Have to Clean Before You Can Tidy

My closet is now officially tidied (or KonMari’d, if you want to turn the method into a verb)! It doesn’t look drastically different, especially because the most dramatic change is in the drawers, but it  feels so much better in there. No more piles of t-shirts on the top shelf, no more collections of crap on the floor under the hanging clothes. No more pile of clothing I haven’t put away! Everything is where it belongs! Of course I’ll have to go through it again in 6 months once I’m back to my pre-pregnancy self and can wear normal clothes again, but even what I’ve done so far is a huge improvement.

Next up is the hobby category. I talked about strategies for tidying hobby supplies in my last post, and sat down to tackle a new one today. Except my office is a mess (which is what inspired this whole thing in the first place). I realized that there’s a certain catch-22: you need to have a clear space to work in order to tidy effectively, but the reason I have no clear space is that I need to tidy! I spent about 20 minutes putting things away, throwing out trash, and doing the sort of clean-up I might do before company comes over. I didn’t worry too much about exactly where stuff went, I just tried to lump like items together and get the floor to a place where I could vacuum.

This brought me to tidying step 0: a vaguely clean office.

Clean enough to vacuum but still pretty cluttered
Clean enough to vacuum but still pretty cluttered

Then I tackled my electronics, which didn’t have a ton of stuff in it but was still challenging. I relocated a lot of random cables to the basement (where we have storage bins with various computer parts) and got rid of some very old mostly broken hardware.

Next on the agenda was the linen closet. I hadn’t intended to tidy it, but when I went to put fresh sheets on the guest bed and realized I had no idea where the queen sheets were. There are queens, doubles, twins, and Twin XL in there and I can’t remember which is which.

Sooo anyone know where the queen sheets are?
Sooo anyone know where the queen sheets are?

We store linens in 3 different closets, plus the “in use” linens which occupy the beds/bathrooms. I amassed all the sheets and blankets on the guest bed. Keep in mind this is just the “spares.” The guest bed sheets/comforter were in the wash, and the other 3 beds in the house (ours, our daughter’s, and the crib) all have sheets on them.

No joke, there is an ALF sleeping bag in there.
No joke, there is an ALF sleeping bag in there.

I pulled out anything that I felt was too gross for a guest to sleep on. I pulled out the Snuggie and some polar fleece throws (I hate polar fleece). Since some of these came with my husband when we moved in together I gave him right of first refusal for anything on the chopping block. He agreed with my assessments though.

Next I went through the towels. Not including the full sets hanging in the bathrooms we had 15 bath towels, 16 washcloths, 3 beach towels, 10 hand towels, and 5 bath mats. Once again I culled anything that wasn’t in good enough shape to offer a guest. I set aside a couple towel/washcloth sets to take down the shore along with a surplus duvet.

I didn’t quite hit my goal of fitting all the linens in one closet. We have a bunch of extra waterproof covers for furniture which are bulky but we’ll definitely need them when the baby shows up. I put the crib sheets back in my daughter’s closet, but everything else fit! I rolled the towels for easy grabbing, then folded the washcloths and stuck them on end in a shoe box to keep them from getting mixed up with the hand towels and beach towels.

I put labels in front of each stack of sheets indicating what size they are
I put labels in front of each stack of sheets indicating what size they are

This whole process is so much work but I really think it’s worth it. Just being able to easily grab a set of clean sheets is a huge improvement in my domestic life.

New Construction Townhome, Organization

It turns out you can wash pillows

I was browsing Pinterest for work (yes that is an actual thing) and saw a pin on how to whiten your pillows. It links to a “magic whitening formula,” most of which is probably just OH MY GOD DID EVERYONE ELSE KNOW PILLOWS WERE WASHABLE?

Somewhat skeptical, I went to the Closet of Old Gross Pillows (aka the guest closet) and read the tags. Lo and behold, they all say they’re machine washable. By George, I’ll try it!

Since I have a high efficiency front loader, the recipe in the article won’t work for me. But with a little improvising I came up with something that worked really well.

  • 1 tbsp powdered laundry detergent
  • 1 tbsp borax
  • 1 tbsp dish detergent
  • bleach to the “max” line in my machine’s bleach dispenser

For the love of god, defer to the instructions on your machine if you decide to try this. I use a very low-suds detergent, and did not have any issues in my machine, but please use common sense and err on the side of caution.

My machine has a pretty good soak setting, but for the grosser pillows I stopped it during the rinse cycle and ran them through again. Then I chucked them in the dryer. Martha says to make some felted dryer balls to fluff them up, but aint nobody got time for that. They dried just fine on their own.

So how’d they come out?

When I pulled them out of the dryer I thought “meh, they still look kinda dingy.” And then I set them down next to the ones that hadn’t been washed yet.

Whiten old pillows

Prior to washing, the left and right pillows were the same color. Gross!

I think most of the credit goes to simply washing the pillows, rather than the “magic” whitening solution, but I’m happy either way.

New Construction Townhome, Organization

Coming Clean

Commenter Tim asked how I keep the house so clean, especially in light of having a baby.

I’ll tell you: I cheat. I almost always do a quick pick-up of a room before taking a photo, and usually only even think to do a house-related post when the house is in a semi-presentable state. In my most recent weekend-update, I’d just vacuumed the room because installing the window blinds left a fine layer of dust and metal shavings everywhere.

Here’s a more honest picture of our media room, where the baby spends most of her time:

I’m proud of the fact that it’s still not too terrible, and our overall level of house cleanliness is decent. Keeping the house in order takes a lot of work, but is crucial to keeping our overall stress level down.

I’m a slob by nature, and RD has worked very hard to try and break me of some terrible habits. This includes:

  • Have a place for everything, and don’t buy anything you don’t know where you’ll put it. I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets, an affinity RD does not understand, but I’m allowed to buy whatever stupid kitchen items I want provided I can find a place to put them away.
  • Open sink policy – meaning no dirty dishes are left in the sink ever for any reason. Every now and then I backslide on this, but it works pretty well. Dirty dishes are washed immediately and set on the drying rack. We do have a dishwasher but we only use it when we have company over or I want to sterilize the baby bottles.
  • Daily chores. Cleaning a little each day is SO much easier than letting things pile up and then having to set aside an entire afternoon to dig out your living room floor. I had a page-a-day cleaning calendar at the old place, and need to update it for the new place.

The last secret is that I have help. RD’s aunt comes for a few hours each day so I can work (I do freelance WordPress development), but the truth is about half that time gets spent on household chores. I can get some done while Bitmap naps, but having someone occupy her for a couple hours so I can take care of things is amazing. When people ask if I miss living in New York, I think about all the extra help I get by living near so many family members and the answer is unequivocally no. I might miss a few aspects of it, particularly my friends, but I am so very glad we moved down here when I got pregnant. My own parents didn’t get their first night out sans-baby until I was 5 months old. Bitmap is 3 months now and I’ve lost count of the number of dates we’ve had thanks to my in-laws. Family FTW.


New Construction Townhome, Organization

Page-A-Day Chore Calendar

One of the scariest things about moving to a bigger place is how much more space we’ll have to accumulate stuff. To a real estate agent, big bedrooms and walk-in closets are a selling point, but to me they’re caves threatening to fill with dust dragons and piles of things forgotten. Honestly, I’m not very good at keeping our apartment clean as it is. If we’re going to move into the house without Chris killing me, I need to level up my tidiness skills.

It turns out I’m not alone. Offbeat Home helpfully published an keeping your place organized little by little, using daily chore checklists from A Slob Comes Clean. But I decided the checklists were kind of boring looking, and in my usual spirit of over-engineering I came up with this:

I put "fight off headcold" on my to-do list for today.

I took the base of last year’s page-a-day calendar (my mom gets me one every year for Christmas), and designed a chore calendar to fit it. Each page features 7 “every day” tasks at the bottom, e.g. checking the trash cans to see if they’re full (and emptying them if they are). At the top left is a more major chore (like vacuuming) that needs to be done on a weekly basis. In the middle there are four blank lines for the day’s to-do list which I can write in. And lastly, if there’s a special event that day, such as a birthday, it’s shown below the to-do list.

Sample Page

I designed the pages in Photoshop and then wrote a program using ruby/ImageMagick to dynamically create a page for each day. The daily chores are always the same, but the weekly ones rotate through the week. Within the generator program I plugged in a list of important dates to populate the special events area. Finally, the program lays out the pages two-up on Letter sized paper so I can print them out, cut them, and assemble them into a pad.

To start with I’m just printing a week at a time, so I can tweak things in the design as I go. I used hot glue to bind the pages, but I plan on picking up some padding compound next time I’m in SoHo. I’ve heard rubber cement can work as well.

I’m only on day two of using it, so it’s too early to tell if this is something I can stick with, or yet another failed attempt to be less of a slob. One thing I’m noticing already is that chores take a lot less time when you do them regularly. Also, I still really hate folding clothes.