When we bought our home at 609 Columbia Avenue, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that this little pile of bricks was the perfect place for our family. I adore the charm of our house, the simplicity of the white siding and black shudders, and the details of the curved sidewalk and the lamppost. I love it here. It’s not the perfect house, and it certainly is beginning to fall apart on us, but I am faithfully committed to this place, to everything in it.
But, like most things worth their salt, I’m beginning to realize this house isn’t as perfect as I once thought. My priorities are changing, our family is growing, and even though I live my life in the same walls as before, everything is very different. I feel sorry for my house, in a way, because every time I feel the need to control something or to relieve stress, I usually take it out on the house by scrubbing the walls or emptying closets. Perhaps the walls are tired at night and don’t want me getting out my buckets, rags, and cleaner at midnight. Still, the house is usually better for it, and even though I’m not the best housekeeper in the world, I’m certainly better than I was four years ago. One year ago. One month ago. Yesterday. I’m getting better, committing myself to a life here that grows and thrives.
Josh and I have changed rooms, rearranged furniture, and thrown several coats of paint on our walls. I’ve tried different tactics of organizing our drawers, our cabinets, our pantry, our fridge, our finances. I’ve stayed up late typing up grocery list templates to reuse again and again, and I’ve gone back to revise them. Becoming a mom over three years ago began a long line of experimentation of all-things-organization, and I’m still learning how live a simple, organized life.
Enter: Simple Organized Living.
Over a year ago, I decided to embark on improving the quality of our everyday life by establishing systems of organizing, cleaning, shopping, and managing money. I still don’t have a system that works perfectly (or even consistently), but I’m realizing these systems take time and endurance to develop and stick to. One of my first basic solutions involved using my new sewing skills to de-clutter my tiny kitchen. I didn’t realize just how tiny my kitchen was until recently. It wasn’t until I had a play date with a friend who had recently remodeled her kitchen that I realized that my kitchen was the size of her island alone. She whipped around the kitchen, opening her modern, Ikea-like cabinets (each one looking like a page from the catalog), putting together a lunch for consisting of kale, tuna, and gourmet crackers. Did I mention she has three children with a one-week-old baby? I had to work on diffusing my jealousy while I sat in her kitchen, admiring her stainless steel gas stove. My kitchen is lovely, but it’s very small and at the center of our home. With little counter space and limited drawers, I decided to design and create a fabric organizer that has helped me out immensely.
This was one of my first attempts to get everything under my roof, every detail, every blessing entrusted to me, under control and thriving at its highest potential. This included both the child that God gave me as well as the spice rack on my counter. My next attempt to live this simple, organized life was recording episodes of “Supernanny”, watching each one during Jack’s nap while taking notes and discussing new discipline strategies with Josh. And a few days ago, I borrowed a label maker after realizing I had 5 cans of the same vegetable in my cupboard. My cupboards are incredibly deep, and my arm very often neglects the cans that sit in the deep, dark back of the cupboard. Rather than spend money on tracks for sliding shelves (I’d love these for Christmas!), I got my hands on a label maker and started going to town.
The sense of accomplishment I feel is not only unnaturally huge, but it’s also deeply satisfying. I’m sure I will put a soup can where the label reads “dry goods” at some point. But, when I get little things in order in my home, I feel like I’m putting little building blocks on top of each other, making our foundation as a family stronger and more durable. It all matters to me more than I ever thought stuff on shelves could.
Just when I’m feeling like I’m on a “It’s Fall–It’s Time to Organize and Get Things Together” kick (I will always see the Fall season as a starting line; it’s the teacher in me), I attend my MOMS group where they have Andrea Dekker, creator of Simple Organized Living, come speak. I got so many ideas and loads of inspiration, and I came home and got even busier. Here are the projects I’ve been putting off for months and years that I tackled in one day:
You didn’t want to see the clutter on my fridge (or any of my ‘before’ pictures, for that matter), so here is the polished final product! I had to leave Jackson’s animal magnets at the bottom in case he needed to make a spontaneous animal parade.
The mood strikes him serendipitously.
This may not seem like that big of a deal, but I previously tried to keep all of Jack’s craft things (colors, coloring books, paints) above the fridge. The picture of the fridge will show you there’s hardly room up there for this entire box of loose marker tops, paint brushes, splat mats, bibs, glue, string, and anything else necessary for toddler crafts. It became more of a mess over time, but I was “waiting” until I could get the perfect Tupperware bin before I organized it. Wrong. I learned this morning that a cardboard box will do JUST FINE, so here is Jack’s new go-to place for all things crafty.
Filing cabinet. Everyone needs one. There’s even a huge file for every single user manual that has come with any product we’ve ever purchased. Not to mention the organizing of tax forms!
Drawers! My bathroom drawer is typically an embarrassment. More so than the normal person. So when I found this organizer for silverware that was so much better than my own, I put my old one in the bathroom, only to demonstrate just how much toothpaste the Bishops have.
But don’t think for a second that my tactics are impressive in the slightest. The sad thing is that I’ve really been pursuing control and organization for quite some time now, and our upstairs “desk” looks like this:
There’s not even a chair. We never use it except to print things, in which case we’re really only using the cube on which the printer sits. This definitely not “Simple Organized Living”, and this will definitely be my next project to tackle.
Thankfully, while I’m learning to organize, I’m also learning to give myself grace. 609 Columbia will always be transforming as Jack gets bigger and as other little ones find their way into our home. I’ll always have a closet, shelf, or entire basement to renovate and reorganize. And maybe my kitchen here will never be gloriously spacious with an island the size of a twin bed. But, I truly have everything I need and everyone I love tucked away in this little house. And as long as we’re here, I want us to be simple. I want us to be organized. And I want us to truly, truly live.