How I Organize My House

how to organize your home with baskets and containers

How to Organize Your Home

One of my top FAQ here on the blog and in the real world is about how to organize your home, specifically, how I organize my home. Phew. That’s a good question, but one I like to answer!

Organization is big topic with lots to talk about, but my organizational systems are fortunately not complicated at all! I keep things SO simple around my house for a reason, I’m busy and don’t like to work too hard on housekeeping. But you do need systems if you want your house to be ‘clean enough’ and ‘organized enough’ so you can function without stress.

So let’s break this topic down into a manageable post for today and get started!

First things first, though, you can’t organize excess clutter. Darn! Maybe that is obvious to you or maybe not. Plain and simple: no organization system is ever going to work if you have too much stuff. So always start any organization project with getting rid of what you don’t need, have too much of, or can do without. That step isn’t much fun, but it will be rewarding!

Then once you’ve pared down, you can move on to organizing what you actually need and use on a regular basis! And that organizing step is what we will focus on today, particularly for those of us who do not have enough built-in storage, although many of the same principles would apply to closets or drawers.

Everything you have to organize needs to have a home. Right? Since one of my key organizing systems involves using baskets and containers as a ‘home’ for my stuff, I thought we could take a little tour through a few rooms of my house and I could explain how I use baskets or containers to be better organized. You need to know where to put things if you are going to keep your home in order. In my case, since we don’t have a lot of built-in storage or closets, we get more creative!

In our recent pantry makeover, I knew I wanted to use baskets or other containers for organization. I like container organizing for so many reasons, but one is simply because they look awesome anywhere you put them!

You can see more pictures and commentary on our pantry in the pantry makeover post, but let’s take a quick look at a few of the key baskets or containers to answer a few questions.

pantry organization with baskets and chalkboard labels

On our upper pantry shelves we used chalkboard labels to identify the contents, because we can’t see what it is in them from down below. That helps a lot! You can search “chalkboard labels” on google and probably find something similar. I got mine on amazon.com.

I’ve had quite a few questions about what is in the “bulk” baskets. I can show you inside the baskets sometime when I have time to take pics and I can do a more detailed pantry or kitchen organization post, but for now you’ll have to imagine as I describe it.

Those are items we bought in bulk such as grains, beans or oatmeal or anything we don’t need all of right away. You might remember in our pantry reveal post seeing the glass jars where we put many of those types of grains for daily access, but when the jar is low, we can refill from what is in the baskets (we leave the items in their original bag until they go in the jars). The woven baskets were probably from Pier One, I’ve had them for awhile.

The white crate (I bought it online from Target!) on the very top is currently empty! I have so much storage in my pantry right now I have no need for the crate, how awesome is that to have empty storage? But I might perhaps use it from time to time for extra things like even extra pancake syrup or salad dressings (we shop at Costco so we often get two at a time). I will label it when I decide what I need it for.

pantry

I also love those metal IKEA trash cans, perfect for Jack’s food! Much cuter than a big bag of dog food laying around!

The baskets on the floor are stacked and labeled with items we don’t need all the time, such as paper plates or utensils, but we want them to be convenient to get to so we keep them in the pantry. If we rarely ever use items, they go in the garage on a shelf. These baskets may have come from Michaels Craft, or Pier One or World Market.

pantry organization with wire baskets

Baskets and crates are so useful, I always keep an eye out for them and pick them up whenever I find an affordable one! They are awesome because they hide things that may not be attractive on their own. They also group like items together and keep them in some sort of order (instead of falling over in a mess or ending up on the floor).

I like them for organizing items like snacks in the pantry — they make finding what you are looking for fairly easy and painless and it is really easy to tell a child or a guest where to look for something.

Plus, having these snacks so visible and accessible in a wire crate, any snacks we have are more likely to be eaten before they get stale since they aren’t hidden way back in a dark pantry, or lost behind the cereal boxes. That keeps things tidier and saves us money too. The greenish wire crates were from Target and the silver metal one I think was from TJ Maxx.

Now on to other rooms in the house! Yes, I have baskets everywhere.

The Inspired Room Baskets Console Table

In the main rooms and even my bedroom, I have a few of these taller baskets that I like to use for extra throw blankets or even decorative pillows. This World Market console and the baskets (also from World Market) used to be in our front “gathering room” which is where this picture was taken, but when we moved it to the dining room, these baskets were set in various corners of the room.

The baskets add texture and function as cute decor, and I know where to find a cozy blanket for family or a guest or simply to jazz up the sofa if I want to!

organizing dining room console

Now the console table is in the dining room, as you can see here. Please ignore that Easter grass on the chairs (sigh). Since don’t have any built-in storage for our dining room you might wonder where we keep extra dishes and things we don’t store in our kitchen? Baskets of course!

We do have a dresser in our family room that stores a ton of stuff related to entertaining. But for additional random things like items for entertaining or seasonal decorating, we use baskets!

how to store extra dishes party supplies

Extra silverware or serving dishes that aren’t used every day or on display can be tucked away in a basket. They are easy to retrieve on a moment’s notice, and that is just how I operate. I like to know I can pull out what I need quickly and easily! No fuss.

It would be awesome to have walls and walls of built ins or a fancy big butler’s pantry with room for dishes and silverware. But alas, we don’t have any extra storage like that. But that is OK. We have baskets and they do the job well!

organizing ideas seasonal decorations

I adore lidded baskets and always keep my eye out for affordable ones because they never go to waste at my house. One of my favorite uses for them is to store seasonal decor. For instance, I love having a turquoise vase for decorating, but I’m not as likely to use it in the winter. I’m also not likely to use it if I stick it under the house or lose it somewhere in our garage. But if I put it in a basket in my dining room, the vase is out of the way yet easy to find in the spring when I am ready to use it!

I also keep seasonal items like pine cones, faux pears and apples, shells and faux flowers or even candles we aren’t currently using in baskets.  With the lidded ones you can stack them two or three high in a corner or against a wall.

coffee table book styling

In the family room, we have tons of books and magazines. I love them, but since we don’t have a library or lots of bookcases, I have to get creative with where to put them. I definitely don’t consider books “clutter” so I want to have them out where I can see them!

But to keep a little more order in the room and on the coffee table, I love stacking books and magazines in my thrift store wire crate. The crate functions both as a decor item and a functional item, which is what I want out of most items that take up space in my home. The crate corrals pretty much anything we want to put in there. We even toss remote controls or napkins in sometimes if we want to keep them away from Jack. He could reach in and take stuff out if he wanted to, but he doesn’t seem to try.

organize the inspired room family room

I always love finding cute lidded boxes and trunks, too. This more recent purchase (from Joss & Main a couple months ago) came in a set of three. One went on my nightstand for phone cords, notepads and any other random thing I need in my room, one on my desk (for my labeling machine, stapler and hole punch) and then this patterned box, which fit perfectly on the end table in the family room. Cute? yes. Functional? Yes. WIN WIN.

I have so many ideas for this cute trunk-like box (I haven’t put stuff in it yet but I WILL!), I might keep special magazines for my mom to read when she visits, I may store more seasonal decor, or I might even keep extra tableware or surplus drinking or wine glasses in it. So many options. I LOVE IT!

storage on bookcase

My office has tons of lidded boxes from IKEA. I have cute little labels for each one that I still need to put on. But each one holds some type of office supply or item I need for my business. I group like things together in a box so it isn’t hard to find them.

For instance, I have lots of manuals for cameras and printers stashed in one. Another holds business cards or notes from people I meet at conferences. Another has fabric or material samples from projects in my house. All things I may need occasionally, but nothing I want to have laying around causing clutter. Again, sometime I’ll break this room down further and even take pics of the insides of the boxes for you.

Remember, everything needs to have a home. Group like items with like items as you sort through what you want to keep in each room of your house, and then you’ll be able to decide the purpose of each basket or box so it makes sense to you. Don’t just stash and hide random clutter!

how to organize with baskets

I wrote about this basket in a post quite awhile back so this is an older photo, How to organize with baskets, but it was perfect for holding the Wii games and controllers when we had our TV in the family room! I don’t like to see games everywhere so this was a great solution that my son can follow easily.

shoe basket entry

Then there is our entry!

I found that huge amazing gray driftwood basket AT THE GOOD WILL. Find of the century. We use it for shoes. We don’t require guests to remove shoes, but my son has tons of shoes for various purposes and we also like to have shoes handy when we need to let Jack out or run to get the mail or whatever. So, there is where we go to find them if we need spare shoes! No need to search everywhere for them if we know where the random shoes go. (Fun fact: My girls and I wear the same size shoes, which is a good excuse to buy lots of cute shoes! But my son’s feet are bigger than anyone’s so we no longer can borrow his, darn!).

how to organize front entry with baskets

This basket is right by our front door. See how everything in it is in a clump? Real life, no staging obviously. But clumped or not, this system works! With a dog, there are various things we need to have handy for walking him or taking him in the car. Jack has leashes and harnesses and raincoats (yes, we live in the Northwest and our dog has a raincoat). We have a flashlight for taking him out at night.

Instead of those things cluttering up the house or getting lost, what do we do? You know the answer! We put them all together in a basket. My house is kind of like the “put a bird on it” of the basket world.

organize kitchen

I even have a basket under my kitchen island for potatoes or onions. I can share more specifics on my kitchen drawer organization in a separate post so stay tuned for more details and photos.

white farmhouse kitchen sink

Then lastly (actually there are more I just don’t have pictures of everything and this post is already crazy long!) we have a wire basket (from JoAnn Fabrics) on the counter by the sink! What for? That is where we put our hand towels. The towels are convenient and easy to grab and they don’t need to take up drawer space. And if we can get towels out of the drawer, we have a free drawer in which to organize something else that can’t be on the counter. WIN.

As you can see I’m a big believer in “container organizing” all through the house! If you are fortunate enough to have a house full of built ins and excess numbers of closets and ample storage, you might have things organized behind closed doors and not need baskets. That is nice for you. I’m jealous. But for me, containers like these work really well! I love the look of baskets so I’m happy with it!

Now you might be wondering how I remember where I put things. Do I put things in boxes and baskets and containers, but then they are lost forever? GAH No way! Do I have elaborate color coded filing system for every item and basket in my house so I can track down the right basket? NO, remember I don’t like to work that hard!

The truth is, I can find just about anything I put in my boxes or baskets  –without having a tantrum or meltdown. WINNING again! It’s easy because I only have a few baskets per room. I don’t keep TONS of junk in baskets, only what I really use and need. They are filled with related items in or near the related room (ie kitchen supplies in the kitchen, office supplies in the office). Even if my baskets or bins aren’t labeled (many are but some aren’t), it only takes a few moments to find what I’m looking for.

Do you create “homes” like baskets and bins for your things? What kinds of items tend to clutter up your house? After you pare down what you have, how could you solve organizational issues by finding a home for things? 

Did you know that The Inspired Room features Scripps Network videos (think HGTV!) on closet organization (and other topics!)? If you need a little more inspiration, come check out the video series!

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Comments

  1. Gorgeous! I’ve stopped calling it “cleaning” and started calling it what it truly is…”crapshifting.” When I am at my most organized it’s shocking how little crapshifting has to be done. I’m inspired to get at it as school is out. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Absolutely beautiful! I have such a problem with organization and am overwhelmed. Thank you for such an inspirational post.
    Kim recently posted..Valley Stream Community Fest Set For September 28thMy Profile

  3. I felt like I was nodding my head at everything you said. Yep, no extra storage space here or bookcases (or a pantry!). Baskets are a lifesaver for me! And yours have given me even more new ideas on how to hide stuff! I love that your hand towels are in a cute little basket…and that you have so few towels that they only need to fit in the basket! I need to get rid of some of hand towels! Why do I have so many! I don’t go through them very quickly! Thanks for sharing and I love to see the real life of what is inside all those beautiful baskets!

  4. Thanks for the inspirations..I love baskets too and use them for toy storage too…but I have yet to go long way and you gave some great inspirations.

  5. I love seeing how other people organize so I really enjoyed this post. I particularly loved the Ikea trash can as a dog food container. I already have a turquoise one in my bedroom serving as a trash can but I’d love to have two more for our dogs.
    Kimberly recently posted..Southwestern Salad with Avocado DressingMy Profile

  6. Great post. I love all these ideas! And your blog! And JACK!

  7. Those are really good tips. I need more baskets. Clearly. That would solve my problem.
    Rebecca recently posted..the liljestrand house – honolulu: hawaiian modern magnificence (part one)My Profile

  8. I am struggling with what to do with all the ‘memories’ stuff. I am not a big scrapbooker, however, I want to just assemble it all in a memory book for ech of my kids. But how do I keep it organized? In some boxes of sort? Suggestions?

    • I use these boxes (http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-Jumbo-Scrapbook-Storage-Black/dp/B0013Z9EBC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404655073&sr=8-1&keywords=black+boxes+for+storage) — just one for each kid of the stuff to keep. Super durable so far, with a lid and label.) I think a good-quality box is important for the stuff you’re serious about keeping.

      Our preschool does memory books for the kids for each year, which is nice since I spent 7 years straight in a pregnancy/small-child/no-sleep haze. Now I take photos using the Artkive app — it stores pics in the cloud of fun artwork that’s adorable but not something I want to stack in boxes, and I can make books or whatever out of it later. My 3 kids are PROLIFIC when it comes to writing and illustrating stories, so I keep a few of the very best and send the rest in a big envelope to various grandparents with a note that says “take a look, smile, and feel free to throw away.”

      If you feel overwhelmed by this stuff, throw it into a big fat box and label it “5 minutes every night”. Just tackle it after the kids are in bed while you watch a show, a bite at a time. :)
      Melissa D recently posted..XO, Vera: 300K Subscribers = a lot of dedicated emails!My Profile

  9. GREAT TIPS!!! I’m about to move into a new house…and i’m GOING to be organized!!

    CHeers
    ~ J

  10. I love the way it looks and feels. Last summer I started the organization process and decluttering..and redecorating. Primitive decorating gone and vintage has been started. It is a much cleaner feeling and easier to take care of…now to get rid of all the primitive stuff.
    I love the basket ideas and I will start to pick a few up…thanks for sharing.

  11. I love the wire baskets in your pantry so you can see what you have. Makes sense! One of the reasons I love my Ikea expedits so much is that I get a piece of furniture with eight baskets. Some of them were empty at first, but I found plenty to fill them up with fairly quickly. They have kept me (and the rest of my family) so much more organized.
    Jennifer recently posted..Another Awkward Niche Gets a MakeoverMy Profile

  12. Hi Melissa, love this post. And I love easy organizing. Love your wire containers, I have a couple and just love them. Love your Jack container too! Awwww so sweet. But I like the basket by the sink the most with little towels in it. Great idea!
    Blessings,
    Debbie
    Debbie recently posted..Shabby Chic Style TABLESCAPE FOR SPRING-HANDPAINTED PINK ROSESMy Profile

  13. Great organizational inspiration! I need all that kind of inspiration I can get. When I try to organize and put things away, I forget where I put them, so I am anxiously awaiting your tips on how to remember where things are. Also, do you have tips for paper organizing? That’s my biggest organizational challenge.

  14. Thank you, Melissa!

  15. Everything must have a home. Amen! Collect baskets and boxes. Yeah, Sistah.

    I think I possibly have more baskets and boxes than even you do…I am totally daft in this area…I really need to stop…those fabric covered boxes from ikea with the oval metal handle on the front (I notice you have one) were my latest seduction and I bought four of the big ones and three of the smaller ones to organize a bookcase…so pretty!! .I also love a large, chunky, deliciously charcoal brown, woven felt basket I found in the Target bath section recently. Holds wii controllers and wires next to the TV.

    I prefer rectangular containers with tops, like those inexpensive, plain old ikea metal or cardboard/metal boxes. I have many in silver, white and kraft paper brown. Completely hide the clutter, stackable, easy to label and use shelf space more efficiently than round containers. Though I have a few open round baskets, mostly big ones under furniture on the floor.. I have a great big round market basket I brought home from Guatemala way back in college in the seventies that now holds lots of rolls of TP tucked in a corner of the bathroom….it looks great, actually, with the TP all white and just out there…and great accessibility so my husband actually puts on a new roll when the old one runs out..:). My beloved french market basket from San Remy brings back memories of a beautiful trip and also looks great holding throws next to the sofa.

    There’s a great old book about organizing…title was goofy..I think maybe it was called Secrets of an Organized Homemaker. I don’t know if it’s still in print. There were some really good general organizing principles in there, and while I didn’t follow every suggestion she made, overall I think the material is superior to anything I’ve read on organizing before or since. The ideas are simple but effective. If you don’t use an item often (holiday stuff, for example), it can be stored in a less accessible spot, like a high shelf or the garage. Things you use every day need to very accessible and stored right in the spot you use them. Things you use, say, once a week, should be fairly accessible, but they don’t get the really prime real estate in the cabinets. She also talked about how to go about winnowing your possessions down in an easy and common sense way. She had loads of ideas. Maybe it was just the time of life I was at when I read it, but it made a huge impression, I thought it was brilliant and it is still the way I organize my possessions.

    Love your new kitchen, thanks for your blog.

    Judy B

  16. Thank you for this post! I have a poor habit of buying things to help me organize, but I’m cheap and the stuff I’ve bought ends up being useless and no help to me at all. We are moving this summer, and I think in the new house I’m going to try and be a lot more conscious of what I’m buying – even though it may cost a little more, the pay off will be worth it!
    Ashley recently posted..Primed and BoringMy Profile

  17. I love to use baskets and small decorative trunks to store and hide things. It’s genius and looks great. I like your idea of the hand towels on the counter. Better be pretty hand towels like yours, though.
    Lisa recently posted..Miguel’s Missionary MomentMy Profile

  18. Diana C. says:

    Loved this post…as an advid organizer, found some new tips.

  19. Love this post and like what you have done with containers for organization. Perfect timing for me,Was going to start sorting, throwing out and putting things away today, as there’s no school today because of snow! Yes, April 18 and we have a snow day ………… I live in Nebraska. Wanted to especially comment on the basket you keep your Wii games in. It is a Longaberger basket. They are simply the best when it comes to construction, durability and beauty. I’m glad you like yours. Yes, I’m a Longaberger consultant. Longaberger also has the number one selling pottery, and wrought iron to organize and decorate your home. Go to my website if you would like to see/learn more. http://www.longaberger.com/christytreffer.

  20. KATHYSUE says:

    Melissa,
    I love baskets, not just for the texture and the look but as you have used them for storage, Great ideas and examples on how to keep things neat and tidy.
    Kathysue
    KATHYSUE recently posted..Laundry Room Ideas!My Profile

  21. Sara nemeth says:

    I’m curious to know where your console table on wheels is from?

    Sara nemeth

  22. I love organizing and enjoyed this post. For the last 30 years I have lived in less then 700 square feet so I had to be organized all the time. I just moved into my very first large house as an adult and am busy using my organizational skills to make it very neat and organized. I love the use of baskets and have many I use with labels , plastic containers for small objects and also use plastic organizers from the dollar store. One tip I love for winter is keep a large cookie sheet with river rocks by your door for wet shoes, it saves your house from having shoes all over and wet ones at that

  23. I am an interior designer in LA specializing in nurseries and children’s rooms. Organizing your children’s toys and ‘stuff’ is one of the biggest challenges I tackle when pulling together a nursery design. Children come with lots of stuff and you have to have a plan for that. Baskets are the easiest way to handle this issue and they also give you another opportunity to use them as yet another interior design element. Love the tips you gave above and love reading about anything to do with organization!
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  24. I love your style of organization Melissa! ;) Both method and storage style. I think the quote is have a place for everything and everything in its place. – Then again…I probably messed that quote up…but you get the idea. That’s my ‘motto’ for being organized. I like to be able to put my hands on things I need easily. I can only imagine how dizzy I would be if I had not employed this system a long time ago. Haha!

  25. I have that soap dispenser you have in your kitchen! I really like “jack’s” food can. Its so cute.
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  26. I have been enjoying your blog for several months now. Today I posted my first comment (tried before but could not figure out the system to do so…thought I had to have a website! Duh!) Just wanted to further tell you what an inspiration your posts are to me. I was most delighted with the Fiddle Leaf Fig tree you added to your living room and the artistic/sculpturistic appeal it brought into that space. I liked yours so much so that today I purchased one for my living room. The no fuss appearance of your tree really appealed to me. I love how it has brought “life” into the room. Thank you for sharing all your decorating ideas with us! God Bless…

  27. My husband knows his stuff has gotten out of control when I buy him a new basket. :)

  28. Love your simple approach to organzing. So many of the organzing bloggers turn it into such an ordeal with labels and binders, it would become a part-time job.

  29. You did this beautifully, I love getting things organized. I always put like items together too. Its so much easier to find what I need. xo
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  30. Some great ideas here…I thought I was the only one to use a picnic basket to organize the kids Wii games. Glad to know I’m in good company.
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  31. I have the same boxes from Ikea :) I agree they are beautiful and perfect for organization purposes.
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  32. YES! After I put our DVDs into baskets, our living room looks a LOT neater.
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  33. Inherited

  34. Inherited old

  35. Inherited black and white photos are a HUGE challenge for me. There are oodles with people that we don’t know anyone in the photo. I’d like to get them edited down and organized. I’d also like to figure out a way to safely label the ones we do know so my daughter isn’t writing this comment in a blog post.

    Love the use of baskets! I will be using this technique more! And soon!

  36. What I love most about this whole ‘container organization’ thing is the simplicity of the idea. Without much fuss and expense, baskets and bins de-clutter the space and encourage neatness and organization. I can be a very lazy homemaker at times and my baskets help me do away with the frantic “where are they” searches.
    It is nice to keep all like items or frequently used stuff together. Delegate one basket to each- magazines in the study, toiletries in the bathroom, fruits in the kitchen, tools in the garage, soft toys in the kid’s room, dirty clothes in the laundry area…. I guess baskets come handy in every part of the house. :)
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  37. LOVE this! Wow.. I enjoyed looking at all the pictures – What great ideas! Thank you for the inspiration:)!
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  38. I love all these ideas :) I can not wait to put them to use!
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  39. Love your informative post about storage. Years of living overseas has taught me the value of once a year pitch party…if it hasn’t been used for a year…give away which is not hard overseas. We now live in a small condo with a kitchen with little cabinets so love the ideas for the kitchen…and the shoes…will be back for more ideas. You are a wise women.
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  40. Love this post!
    Can you share where your blue curtains are from? so in love with them!

  41. I absolutely adore baskets and have a vast collection all over my house! I am blessed to have a large home with plenty of closets, a large pantry. and a large garage, but I still find myself putting things in baskets. I am a retired media specialist, my husband is a retired attorney, and my son is in his third year of college, so books are abundant throughout the house. I also love crafting and here baskets have been a Godsend. I also keep my eye out for interesting containers, metal boxes, and such to put bits of lace and ribbon. Another cute idea is to hang flat sided baskets in your pantry to hold potatoes, onions, garlic cloves, etc. Thank you for sharing all your ideas and photographs. Feel very inspired to tidy-up my office/crafts room from all the “new” items I dumped on the floor from my recent yard sale-ing/thrift shop purchases :D

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