I’m one of the most disorganized people in the world. I run at such a high speed, my home is in constant chaos. So this January, I’m resolving to change my ways. I’m going to take three key steps to get my year off to a well-organized start. Want to join me?  


Step 1: Tame Your Entry

The area around the entry door you use the most often is one of the hardest spots in your home to keep organized, isn’t it? As we cross the threshold, we immediately dump everything on the first surface we see. In my home, this is my kitchen table, which has the misfortune of being a few steps from our back door, the one everyone comes in (except party guests and folks who don’t know us very well). This poor table is where we pile up our coats, mail, keys and cell phones. Without an organizational plan, it can look like a war zone in a matter of hours.

I wish my entry looked my cousin Anne’s, pictured above. When Anne built her home, she knew she needed a spot for her busy family to stash their stuff when they flew in and out the door. She built in attractive cubbies for each family member that are big enough to hold everything from tennis rackets, school books and coats to briefcases, purses and gym bags. Do you have space to add some cubbies by your back entry door? Maybe some wall mounted shelves or a line of baskets on the floor?

Chances are you are like me and don’t have room to set up a coming-in-and-going-out station by your entry. But you can still use some of the ideas to organize your space. I started by hanging some heavy-grade decorative hooks by my back door to catch coats, the dog leash, briefcases – things we can’t seem to hang up or put away to save our lives.  I stole this idea from my bathroom, pictured above. For years, I nagged everyone to hang their wet towels on the towel rods, to no avail. The soggy towels always ended up piled on the floor. Then I got smart and replaced the rods with hooks, and now the towels magically end up where they belong.

Another trick I’m trying this year is to convert one of the drawers in the kitchen cabinet nearest the door into a catchall space to hold stuff like our cell phones, sunglasses and keys. If Dan embraces this system, it will revolutionize his mornings. He will no longer have to start his day with the phrase, “Have you seen my keys?”

The drawer next to it will hold our mail – things like bills and invitations we need to attend to. (It will NOT hold the stacks of magazines Dan thinks he’s going to get around to reading. That tower of shame will be placed on our back steps, taunting him every night as he heads up to bed.)  With all the important mail corralled into one small drawer, I hope I will no longer be accused of losing the bills. Doesn’t this sound like the perfect plan? I’ll let you know in a few months if Dan and I are ready to kill one another!


Step 2: Make Your Work Areas Work Well

Next, focus your organizational energy on making the work rooms in your home streamlined and stylish. What’s your laundry room looking like these days? Piles of clothes waiting to be ironed? Stacks of socks hoping to find their mate? Crunchy crumbles of laundry detergent and bits of drier dust scattered about? Let me assure you, your laundry area can’t be worse than mine. My laundry is in my scary, dark, icky basement, which resembles a dungeon in the Tower of London. Renovating this cell of a room would cost more than my home is worth, so it’s not going to change any time soon. Maybe that’s why I love my friends’ lovely laundry rooms so much.

Check out the fun, fun, fun space created by my friend Lisa in the photo above. Her playful wall paper and peppy green paint make this space exciting. Can you brighten the walls of your laundry room with some paint or paper? Lisa also used baskets to organize her laundry room essentials. Do you have a spot for a bookcase or shelves you can fill with cute baskets or boxes to hold things like laundry to be dropped off at the cleaner’s or soap and supplies?

Every time I walk into my friend Cynthia’s laundry room, I am green with envy. This space was pretty lackluster until she used her ample creative energy to remake it. Instead of going to the expense of remodeling, she just painted her outdated cabinets a warm white. (I love the blue ceiling!) Then, she filled the open shelves with her enviable collection of dishes, displaying them so beautifully the scene could be from a decorating magazine.

Since her washer and dryer were not so lovely to look at, she hid then behind a standing wooden screen. Ingenious! To make the mundane magnificent, she put her laundry detergent into delicate decanters. Do you have any old decanters you can use in your laundry room? Serving pieces you can use to hold laundry supplies? Bring them out and make your daily grind a bit more beautiful.


Step Three: Get Creative with Storage

When you live in an old home like I do, you get really good at creating storage space. Through the years, I’ve become a master at selecting furnishings and accents that are not only beautiful, they can also store my stuff. What do you need to store in your home? What places do you already have where you might be able to stash your things away?  Sometimes every organizational tool you need is right under your nose – you just have to see your furnishings and accents with new eyes. For example, pick pieces for your living areas that have lots of drawers and closed cabinets, like the beautiful chest of drawers in my friend Lisa’s living room, in the photo above. You can pack these drawers full of games, photo albums – anything.

Since I have a serious dish addiction and I like to entertain a lot, I have lots of supplies to stash away. So every single drawer in every single piece of furniture in my living room is packed full of things like linens, trays and candles. Are you using your cabinets, drawers, baskets and boxes efficiently? If they are empty, fill them up with the items you don’t want to keep out but don’t use every day.

Beautiful baskets and boxes also make great hidden storage units. The basket and wooden boxes in the photo above add lots of texture and contrast to the display, and they offer a spot to hold table linens and serving utensils.

You can also store your stuff in plain view when you use gorgeous storage containers, like silver, glass and china serving pieces. When I decorated the little office on the sun porch off my bedroom, I used some of my pretty treasures to hold my stuff. Forget the office superstore — go shopping in your china cabinet. Convert a vase into a pen holder, use a tray for your inbox, stash paper clips in porcelain jars.

Pretty jewelry is like artwork. So why keep it hidden away in a jewelry box when you’re not wearing it? I put my rings and bracelets in this precious porcelain server on my desk for some eye candy. What else can you store out in public view, turning it into a conversation piece? Maybe your grandmother’s china? A few pieces of a favorite collection? Some old photos?


Next Week … I’ll be talking with one of my favorite designers, Holly Blalock from CR Laine, about the hot decorating trends for 2013.

P.S. The big Nell Hill’s Custom Order Upholstered Furnishings Sale starts on Jan. 15. This is the perfect time to get one of our truly unique sofas, chairs or ottomans — custom designed for your home and style — for 20% off! The sales lasts until Feb. 15.



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15 Responses to “Ready to Organize Your Life? Three Spots to Tackle Today”

  1. cindy Says:

    Some wonderfully useful and beautiful ideas, thanks.

  2. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    I too have an old home, built in late 50′s, 1960 so we have a total of 3 small, tiny closets. We have had to be creative, in order to put away things, I totally undersand and can relate 100 percent with this excellent post. I think that’s one of the hardest things to do, to figure out where to put the things you most need in a place where they can be accesible when there is not much storage space. Great tips Mary Carol. I think I will start my spring cleaning up a bit early.

  3. Debbie Says:

    I absolutely LOVE how you add some humor to your posts and also LOVED how you described your own laundry area in the basement of your home! Sounds just like mine! Living in an old home presents such challenges but fortunately, offers lots of lovely charm to the living areas of a home. Thank you for keeping your posts “real” and so very, very inspiring!

  4. Pam Smith Says:

    I think this was one of my favorite posts. I love the creative way you wrote, and the creative ways to help problem areas in our homes.
    Your home tour is on my to do list. I hope that this is the year I’ll be able to come. Pam

  5. Karen Ziebarth Says:

    Damn…you’re good!
    Thanks for the outline!

  6. Mary Carol Says:

    Humor just makes life go better, don’t you think? And you guys are so, so much fun to talk with! Pam, when you come for my next open house, one room you WON’T see open to the public is the laundry room! I like you all that much that I will spare you the horror.
    By the way, we just set the dates for the 2013 open houses, so be sure to get these down and make your travel arrangements so I’ll get to see you! The Fall Open House will be Sept. 6-7 and the Holiday Open House will be Nov. 8-9. Can’t wait to see you all there!

  7. Alice Davidson Says:

    I sometimes feel that I am the neediest when it comes to sorting out clutter. These ideas were terrific! Looked around and immediately saw a hallway bureau which will soon hold all the junk mail that someone around here needs to read!!

  8. Allison Barfield Says:

    I am also on an organizational adventure throughtout my home. All of your suggestions are really coming at just the right time!! Love the Laundry room ideas!!!

    I have recently made my back hallway leading from the garage an official “Family Command Center”. I took vintage metal shelves that were painted an orange with just enough rust to give it characte (I found them at an antique store for $15.) My friend and I took it apart and reassembled and built a wooden top. It has now been repurposed into a long narrow table where I have placed baskets for all kind of kid stuff (sports equip. Art work I want to hold onto, swim bag and more ) The top contains a tray that holds all the necessities for kids home work; erasers, a cup for pencils, pencil sharpener. I added a lamp to the table to add a coziness to the spot. The hall also contains a boot bench which I coated with a fresh and fun color of paint (Turquoise) The wall of the hallway behind my repurposed metal shelves table is now a wall with 3 trimmed out panels. One with chalkboard paint, one that is a magnetic board for my kids chore charts and all those pesky school reminder papers that come home, and the other a fun wall I painted orange and added a clock, calendar and cubbies for my kids to place their school work in that I need to see on a daily basis and a cubby for both mine and my husbands mail. And hooks for our keys. This area is now a fun, stylish and consolidated spot for all those piles of paper and chaos that was making my life crazy. And as a bonus I have helped my kids get a little bit organized in the process!!! I guess organizing can be fun if you put a little style into it!!! Now if I can just figure out the rest of the chaos!!! :)

  9. Robin Frank -- Vision Interiors Says:

    All of you gals are so fun … Such clever ideas … Here we are women all over the country putt sing with our homes …. Sharing ideas . Just too great ! So enjoy tuning into this post …. Really look forward to it . Was in the Brirecliff store yesterday with a customer … It’s looking quite Spring . Girls …. If your not in Kansas City area …. Come for visit …. Stay at my 100 year old house … And I will personally take you to the Nell Hill stores …. ( and lunch ) . You’ ll have the time of your life ! Right now …. Organizing my basement … !!!

  10. Mary Carol Says:

    Allison, wish I could see before and after photos. Your ideas sound so amazing – I love the idea of re-purposing the old shelving and adding spunk to the boot bench with fresh paint. You all are inspiring me to truly stick with my resolution to be more organized!

  11. Amy Says:

    I absolutely love these ideas! So many wonderful things you can do without spending a dime.

  12. Allison Barfield Says:

    Mary Carol, I will bring you some pics of my back hallway next time I make it up to the store!!! You have always inspired me with all my decorating! Happ
    y to be the one to inspire you this time!!!!

  13. Robin Frank -- Vision Interiors Says:

    Are dinning chairs included in the furniture at your furniture sale. ? There are the reproduction Chippendale ones with rush seats I am interested in and I forgot to ask when I was at the store ….. Thanks … Robin

  14. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Robin,
    The dining room chairs will be a part of our next sale — the sale on wood furniture. It runs Feb. 15-March 15 at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff. All wood furniture will be 20% off during this twice-a-year sale. During the special order upholstered furnishings sale, which runs Jan. 15-Feb. 15, sofas, ottomans and side chairs will be 20% off. Hope to see you there!

  15. Josh Says:

    Mary Carol,
    My wife and I live in Atchison and frequent your shop! (Becky is the best by the way) We recently purchased a historic home that has been completely renovated; however, we are struggling with closet storage and storing away wedding presents we recieved this year. Your blog has been inspiring, but in a home that does not have as much area for storage by the front and back doors, closets, and limited basement space. How could one use their second floor landing as a catch all and still find they are being organized?

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