How I Organize My House

How to organize your house with baskets and containers - The Inspired Room

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

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.


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? 

{Love the Life You Have} Create Personal Style

self confidence

aka: Chose the Funky Glasses. Sponsored by Lookmatic

When I was nearing the end of high school, I was asked what I wanted to do when I graduated so they could add my plans to the video they were going to play when we walked across the stage to accept our diplomas. I had two directions I considered for my career. One was in fashion, the other in home decorating. I loved both. Fashion made ME feel fancy, and houses made me happy. Both were a way to be creative, fun and express myself in personal style.

Fortunately for the fashion blogging world, home decorating won out in the end. In hindsight, fashion was a lot more fun for me when I was 18 years old, wore a size two and had approval to use my mom’s Nordstrom card to make myself look cute every day. What I was going to wear was pretty much all I had to worry about back then.

As life marched on I’ve dealt with more pressing stressful issues like working and taxes,  kids and dogs, mortgage payments and health insurance. What shoes went with which outfit became the least of my daily worries. Many days I was just lucky to find two shoes that matched each other, let alone ones that matched the outfit.

lookmatic glasses the inspired room

It wasn’t like I didn’t care or want to look decent, but fashion became more of a necessity than fun — clothes were often the only way to camouflage the latest unfortunate bulge. Where I used to think more about what was “in style” or what would show off my figure, I am now more inclined to consider what could possibly (impossibly?) cover all the figure flaws. You know? I’m a blogger and bloggers readily admit blogging makes you, well, wider.

Funny though, even at 18 years old and when I was a size two, I thought of myself as a little chubby. I was self-conscious back then, for no reason! GRRR! Where was my self-confidence when I should have had it?

If only we could be as chubby as we used to think we were, right?


Getting older seems to be an eye-opening experience.

My latest literal eye-opening realization is that I need eye glasses. For real.

While most of the youngish bloggers are out there buying themselves nerdy glasses these days to look trendy and hip in their blog photos, I’m actually wearing my new trendy nerdy glasses so I can SEE to blog.

Have mercy. Honestly though, there is more to it than wanting to see better. I do want to have fun and take a few risks with personal style and build self-confidence with who I am at this stage of my life.

One thing I am always learning is that whatever age you are and no matter what is going on in your life, it is important to take time for yourself, to get yourself and your house dressed in a way that makes you feel happy, refreshed and alive! It is easy to let one or the other go at various times in life, yet both our homes and our express an important side of ourselves we need to hang on to.

Just as creating a style and way of life in our house is so important to how we live, who we are when we walk out our front door is a significant part of how we see ourselves. Who are we when we leave the kids for a night with our hubby or go out to lunch with friends or head out for a weekend conference?

Do we have enough self-confidence to actually forget about ourselves, or do we spend more time worrying about our flaws than caring about the people we meet? If we focus too much on our imperfections, maybe we haven’t given enough time to ourselves to be at our best or most confident selves. Maybe we need more rest, more personal time to get our haircut or do our nails or shop for clothes that make us feel better about ourselves.

We may not be 18 any more (and if you are still 18, enjoy every minute of that youthful self!), but we can fully embrace the season of being 30 or 40 or 50 or beyond and find a style that works for us.

take time for yourself

I’m not talking about spending lots of money or becoming overly obsessed with how you look, what clothes you wear or what you decorate your house with. But I am talking about making yourself and your home more than just “presentable.” Maybe I’m suggesting having more fun with your style and finding more time to take care of yourself— without apology or hesitation.

You don’t have to go crazy and get your nose pierced (unless you want to, of course), but maybe just step things up a little bit from what you are used to. I’m not a fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I do think a fresh personal style is attainable for everyone who is brave enough to try new things and admit what they really love. You don’t have to know what is “in” or what all the fashion bloggers are wearing in order to have personal style!

For some of us, maybe we would start simply by putting on some makeup, fixing our hair and getting dressed every day in something cute, even if we are just staying home. I love yoga pants and sweatshirts as much as the next gal, but maybe try wearing a comfortable dress or a cute top, stylish jeans and boots, just to shake things up a bit around the house.

Invest in the little things that can make life more fun and even awaken your creativity and personality.

What if you chose the funky glasses instead of the sensible ones, or bought a coat in a shocking color that might not go with everything (gasp!), or wore a bright floral scarf or the striped shoes with the polka dot blouse (can you do that? why not?)? Do things just because YOU CAN! Don’t ask or worry about what other people think, unless you are asking a trusted friend. Wear what makes you feel like YOU, and what makes you LIKE yourself.

organize your purse

Take time for yourself!

What if you set your to do list aside for awhile and went for a walk all by yourself just to have time to breathe fresh air? What if you got a fun new haircut, or organized your purse with pretty patterned zip up bags that simply make you happy and feel more put together when you walk out the door?

Little things make such a big difference on how we feel!

Create a look for yourself that expresses who you want to be right now. Live the life you’ve always wanted to live, and design a home you actually love to be in, even if you are not in the perfect house. Those elements will all become part of your personal style.

There is always something about ourselves or our life to make us feel insecure, or a “glaring imperfection” that can rob us of our happiness and contentment with who we are and where we are right now. Things that make us want to hide behind the computer screen.

Those whispers in our ear that tell us things we used to be, love or want out of life are distant, not important, or just plain silly to even think about right now. We should be responsible adults, forget about ourselves and always choose the sensible shoes.

It is easy to let yourself, your house or your dreams go downhill or cause you to give up when the stress of life settle in, the bills pile up or you are considerably wider or older than you remember and you do a double take in the mirror wondering what the heck happened to your neck! But we can’t just hide away and wish things were different, we need to get out there and make things happen.

Sometimes life is frustrating or exhausting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make things around you beautiful in your own way. That is what true personal style is about. And young moms, don’t forget yourself along the way. I promise, your kids will benefit and thank you for treating yourself right!

Is there something small you could do this week to help you better love the life you have? Maybe something to inspire you to break out of your fashion frump or decorating slump, enliven your boring routine or awaken your creative side?

modern eye glasses the inspired room blogIn my quest to embrace my personal style, I am wearing funky new glasses from Lookmatic called the Holly glasses in black.  Lookmatic is an online sunglasses and prescription eyeglass boutique, with a large celebrity following. It was painless and actually fun to order online! I love how modern and quirky they are! I am so happy I took a risk.

10 Favorite Bins & Baskets {Gather}

Storage Bins and Baskets Round up - The Inspired Room1.Blue and White Senegal Basket 2. Antique Iron Basket 3. Orange Woven Utility Basket 4. Large Metal Clam Basket 5. Natural Round Jute Bins 6. Vintage Wood Grape Bin 7. Natural White Woven Basket 8. Large Slope Basket 9. Zambales Teal Storage Basket 10. Threshold Storage Bin

gatherGather is a round up of gift and decor inspiration gathered by Courtney Michaelsa design intern at Maison Luxe and The Inspired Room. 

*For more Bins & Baskets see our original Bins & Basket Gather post


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