February 12, 2013

Day 1 of 7 Clutter to Clean – Hall closets, pantry, bathrooms – DONE!


I announced yesterday that I’m attempting to go from Clutter to Clean in one week. It’s all based on a deadline of this weekend when the grandparents are watching the kids and we are borrowing a truck to haul stuff away. Nothing like a deadline to get you moving. I

So yesterday I had four (4) areas to clean:

  • Pantry
  • Linen/toiletry closet (upstairs)
  • Hall closet (downstairs)
  • Upstairs bathrooms

I quickly realized that I am a lot messier than I thought I was. Seriously. It took longer than I thought. Of course most things do, right?

ALL photos are not before and AFTER pictures exactly – they are before and “in process” photos – because each day as I move through the house, I’m moving stuff around. I’ll take final, final photos when we get everything settled – probably after the big garage clean-out this weekend. 🙂

Here is the process I went through for ALL the stuff I came across:

  1. Do I need this?
    No? Trash or donate or sell
    Yes? Step 2.
  2. Do I need it on a regular basis?
    No? Store in the garage?
    Yes? Step 3
  3. Is it in the right place to be used?
    No? Put it in the room it needs to go. Make it accessible based on how often it’s used. More you use, the more accessible it should be.
    Yes? Step 4.
  4. Is there a better way to store it?
    No? You’re done!
    Yes? Fix it.


LINEN/HALL CLOSET – This closet sits in between all of our bedrooms. It serves as a medicine cabinet, toiletry stockpile, linen closet and dumping ground. I think I’m most embarrassed to show you this photo. It had really become a mess. I have no excuses besides there never really seems like a good time to clean the hall closet. You just close the door and don’t think about it. 🙂

Sheets and bedding – What a mess we had, I think it was causing a lot of the organizational problems because it was shoved in where ever it would fit. I made the decision that sheets should be stored in the rooms in which they are used. Thanks to a helpful tip from Martha – I folded all the sheets and stored the sheets inside the matching pillow case and moved them into the rooms where they are used. Brilliant. Moved the summer duvet to the garage for storage until it warms enough to bring it out again. Extra quilts were moved to the rooms where they would be used (kids or ours).


What a relief it is to open our hall closet now! The biggest key for me was throwing out and donating a bunch of the toiletry items that I didn’t use or want anymore. For example, I rarely use lotion, but had bottles of it from couponing. It would take me a lifetime to go through it. I have a friend coming Wednesday night to pick it all up – she won’t mind my half-used bottles of lotion or shampoo, she could actually use it!  I still need to add labels to my bins and I really do not like the blue bins, so I’ll slowly replace those as I find baskets on clearance. But I’m very happy with this initial de-clutter.


Everything is sorted in bins, some of them include:

  • First Aid – bandaids, gauze, etc. 
  • Oral care – toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss
  • Hubby’s stuff – shaving gel, razors, deodorant
  • My stuff – hair stuff, extra lotions or skin care products
  • Household extras – shampoos, conditioners, q-tips, cotton balls
  • Soap – bar and hand soap

Here’s what I did:

  1. Take everything out of closet
  2. Wipe down shelves
  3. I already had the bin system set up – but I went through all the bins and removed stuff I didn’t need or hadn’t used in the last 6 months. I consolidated bins.
  4. Toss expired medicines and products.
  5. Picked up some wooden baskets from Ross for some different size options. Blue bines are old ones from Ikea.
  6. Pick up some $0.97 plastic shoe box organizers at Target. Stores hair clipper in one. Dental care in another tub.
  7. Moved sheets and blankets to the rooms in which they are used.
  8. Vacuum floor and wipe down door and trim.



BATHROOMS – While our socks seem to disappear, our towels seem to propagate. We have enough towels in our house to dry the entire Olympic swim team. Don’t ask me where I got them (okay, I’ll tell you – my mom – she has a thing with giving towels as gifts). I’ve held onto them because they are gifts. But frankly – we do laundry on such a regular basis that two towels per person is really sufficient. Maybe three if we want to be generous. So that’s what we did – we downsized 3 towels per person. The photos above are of my kids bathroom

Here’s what I did:

  1. Get rid of extra towels
  2. Organize under sinks – a few towels and toilet paper
  3. Organize drawers
  4. Wipe down and clean after organized


PANTRY – What a disaster. Our pantry is the lamest design in the world. It’s basically just a storage spot under our steps with mini shelves on the left and right and a slanting wall that really limits what you can store inside. And when I say mini shelves – they are about 5 inches deep. In the very back, there are big shelves about 2.5 feet deep. Because it’s not a very functional design, it’s biggest purpose is storing kitchen appliances and convenience foods – like cereals and snacks for the kids. I’m embarrassed about my “before” photo – we couldn’t even walk into it. But now that it’s all cleaned you can see the gorgeous brown shag carpet from the early 80s – and it’s a beautiful to see, if you ask me, because it means the floor is clean.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Move appliances that we rarely use (like bread maker) to garage.
  2. Move foods that we don’t access often to the stockpile in the garage
  3. Move the bulk foods from the kitchen baking cabinet (which was overly full) to the pantry
  4. Wipe down shelves and cabinets
  5. Toss out expired food (duh)
  6. Vacuum and clean after organized
  7. Wipe down door, molding and trim


COAT/SHOE CLOSET – This one was a mess as well. Shoes piled up. Jackets everywhere. And enough winter coats and gear to think we lived in Alaska!


First I took dumped all the winter gear in a pile to be sorted by person. Then we’d know what we could get rid of.


What we ended up keeping. It all went into a rubbermaid tote labeled Winter Gear.


Kid’s shoes live in this IKEA bench/drawer right across from the coat closet. Each kid has a box inside the drawer (far right). There are 2-3 pairs of shoes in that box. To the left of the boxes are shoes that are one size bigger or specialty shoes – like for church or the yard. We have had this system for the last couple years and it works great because the kids can easily access their shoes. As soon as we come in the house – the kids know their shoes go back in their own box. Even my 2-year-old has this down and it works great on those busy mornings – they get their own shoes and jackets on.


Coats hang on a hook above the bench. Easy access for the kids means they can get their own jackets on before we leave and hang up their own jackets when we get home.


It had been awhile since I went through shoes – and look at the ones they’ve outgrown. Boohoo. Some of them were barely worn. The nicer ones will go to the LMNOP Consigment sale in March and I’ll make some money to buy them shoes the next size up!


I should have taken better “before” photos with the doors off, so you could get a better idea of all that was accomplished. We got rid of a ton of jackets, shoes and winter gear. I moved the tall or awkward boots to the top shelf and moved the winter tub to the floor, for now. In the spring, I’ll replace that with a tub of sunscreen, flip flops and other seasonal summer gear.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Take off closet doors so I could easily access everything
  2. Take everything out of closet
  3. Go through snow/winter gear. Sort by person. Kept 1-3 items per person. Duplicates went in a pile to donate.
  4. Sort shoes. Too small? They went into the consignment pile or Goodwill. If they were filthy and worn – in the trash.
  5. Sort and get rid of extra jackets.
  6. Vacuum and put items back into closet.
  7. Wipe down doors and molding.

Final noteYou can comment, as long as you’re nice or constructive. There is nothing like going through your stuff and taking photographs of it to make you feel vulnerable. For me personally, I’m feeling embarrassed by the sheer excess of stuff.  The fact that we might have 3 or 4 coats for one person, while some have none is difficult to swallow. I think the process of decluttering has given me an appreciation, and awareness, of just how much “stuff” we have collected – and has encouraged me to get rid of more. I really believe there is a BURDEN in the excess. Everything that I’m getting rid of is going to a good home – whether it’s a local nonprofit, thrift shop, a friend’s house or a consignment sale.

So what do you think about all this – is it helpful? I’d love suggestions for storage or helpful organization tips.

How do you keep your linen closet organized? How do you organize the hall closet? Check back tomorrow for an update on my bedroom closet and dressers – it’s gonna be good!


    Leave your comments here...


  1. What you have done looks great, it gives me some great ideas and some inspiration. One idea to help with the pantry/kitchen storage on the deep shelves, is you could always install a roller tray type of thing that you could pull out and see everything at the back of the shelf. I have found the easier I can access something, the more likely I am to use it.

  2. Thanks so much for having the bravery and honesty to share! So encouraging as I start unpacking/organizing our closets and pantry. We just bought our first house…six months ago!!! Just did the pantry and my husband keeps saying, “Wow, honey, this is SO great.” 🙂

  3. Everything looks so good. I gathered up a box of donations today with your inspiration. I wanted to comment about to the people who use regular boxes for storage. I cut off the top and wrap my boxes with matching wrapping paper. It looks super cute and it can be changed whenever you find wrapping paper on sale!

  4. Loved your before and after pictures, very motivating! I have the biggest problem with every time I get rid of something I find I need it within a week or so…..any suggestions!? Thanks for sharing:)

  5. Wendy Jahns says:

    You are inspiring me Heather! Thank you 🙂 you did a fantastic job!

  6. So for your pantry- you say you tossed expired food with a “duh” next to it- but I don’t always toss food when it’s past the best by date. I mean, canned food, etc. stays good for awhile past that date usually, right? It’s just more of the freshness and nutritional value that goes down? Maybe I’m sounding dumb by asking this, but I have gotten very lenient in my date usage and we haven’t had any health issues… Things that make you go “hmmmmm”

  7. Thank you for sharing these pictures. You are a VERY brave woman for sharing the before and after pics!

    I’ve made similar attempts at cleaning at my house but I have a husband that’s a sentimental packrat. I can clean everything and get rid of stuff as long as it is not “his”. He tells me that he’ll do it later and so far I’m still waiting. Unfortunately, his packrat habits are rubbing off on my kid…..:(

  8. Looking good Heather. After seeing your post make me want to clean up my place too. You got a lot done in one day.

  9. I just read a really great book called “7:An Experimiental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker. It is a pretty fast read, funny, and very thought provoking. I am recommending it many of my friends.

    • Emma – I just started reading this! I haven’t gotten very far into it, but it sure makes you think. I’m hoping to get a chance to finish the book after I’m done with the big purge. 🙂

  10. Great idea to remove the closet doors! : )
    I love your goal and your hard work to get it done. Thanks for your heartfelt honesty, too.

  11. Awesome job Heather, everything looks great! I wish I was more motivated. I am working on clearing the clutter too, but I am working at a much slower pace. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. I’m inspired! We have a small place with very little storage. My 8 yr old is pretty self contained in his bedroom (albeit messy) but with a 5 month old I have baby gear all over…and then there’s my couponing stock ups. Needless to say we are cluttered!

  13. I think this is really helpful and very motivating! Pretty much everyone has cluttered areas just like these in their houses. Don’t feel bad! My hall coat closet is a FRIGHT and I don’t have any kids! I am going to go through that closet and get rid of a bunch of the extras that are in there just taking up space. I love the bench idea and am going to get one of those for my laundry room area. I love what you’ve done with all the areas you have done so far and you have given me great ideas. Keep up the good work!

  14. Awesome job. I love a good purge!

  15. Way to go! i know that’s a lot of work. i need to get in and do this at my house again soon. i organized our storage in the garage as i put away christmas stuff, but my linen closet is out of control again. i keep stuffing more stuff into the top and i’m surprised that it’s staying up there. congrats.

  16. Thanks for sharing! The photos and detailed instructions are a big help. I need to do a major house clean-out, but have been overwhelmed. This is the motivation I needed.

  17. Great job now if I can get this done, thanks for the modivation!

  18. Heather, where do u buy all of your baskets and storage?

  19. You are awesome! With having to post pictures did it make you get rid of more stuff? I would think it would! You did an amazing job… you are very inspiring to me!
    Keep up the good work!!!

  20. Good for you!! It just feels so good to look around at an organized house. You have inspired me to work on some area of my house too. Thank you!! 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for sharing, i too have been wanting to go through my whole house, the excess is weighing us down. You are motivating! I agree with some of those organizing blogs having picture perfect houses with all the money and rooms available to store everything. Your blog is so practical and affordable 🙂 don’t feel ashamed… It helps the rest of us feel normal too 😉

  22. Great work & all of it done with the kids. I am impressed.

    Would also like to remind people that local animal shelters and vet clinics will often take extra towels if you are looking for a place to donate them.

    Love your blog & your willingness to put yourself out there to benefit others !

  23. Thank you so much for letting us peek! It is so refreshing to see “I’m not the only one” and to see that it is actually possible to clean up piles and messes! I am loving this series!
    Will you be doing a before and after photo op from readers? It would be awesome and motivating to see other transformations as well 🙂

  24. Very nice! You motivate me!

  25. WOW! You did all that in one day with two small kids? I think you did a great job. I agree, I absolutely love getting rid of stuff.

    • Michele – Yes, it was more than I originally thought it would be. Luckily my kids too a marathon nap – completely unexpected, so that helped. And my kids had fun going through clothes and shoes they hadn’t seen in a bit!

  26. Your timing is perfect! With Lent starting tomorrow, I was thinking of cleaning out a different part of my house over each of the next 40 days. You’ve inspired me to set out and do it.

  27. Getting rid of clutter feels so good, congrats to you!
    My favorite organization blog is I heart organizing. Check it out she offers many tips and inspiration to get every aspect of your life in order.

    • Gina – Thank you! I do love that blog. She is good. I get discourage though sometimes with organizational and homemaking blogs because everything is so picture perfect. The houses are all beautiful, clean and could appear in Martha Stewart – and that makes me feel completely inadequate. 🙂

      • Thank you! I was going to start a new comment thread, but you said it: the stuff on Pinterest is TOO picture perfect. Most of us can’t go out and buy matching storage boxes and fluffy new towels. I, personally, use old diaper boxes to store clothes my kids don’t currently fit in, but that’s not very Pin-worthy. Having you show pictures of your normal, relatable house is very VERY encouraging. I’m having baby #6 in April and we moved in November so I’m in full on nesting mode. I really need organization in the playroom… I need my kids to be able to manage it when “Six Pack” arrives. You have given me courage to take pictures and post them for my friends on FB.

  28. Fantastic job! I find it liberating to get rid of stuff and live with less. Makes it less to clean and things stay tidier!

    • Angie – It is so liberating. It really is. I really don’t like clutter (although you couldn’t tell from my before photos) – but our world just seems less stressed when our home is decluttered. Less stuff = less cleaning = less burden.

  29. You did a GREAT job!! I love so many of your ideas- your kitchen storage area looks like mine did a few weeks ago (I cleaned it up when I couldn’t find a certain pan only to have my daughter remind me I lent it out- 8 months ago) I have been doing the sheets in a pillowcase things for 10+ years since an old friends mom showed me, love it no more hunting for lost pieces when making a bed. I love your show bench- I am gonna have to find one- right now we use an old dresser/amoire that I hate but I had no other ideas for hiding all the shoes my kids have. Just a reminder all those extra coats and shoes and clothes can be donated to Lions4Kids in bonney Lake. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see the rest of it… (P.S. my towel problem is way more out of control than yours we have more than 40 towels, and 4 people lol)

  30. I’m inspired! hubby complains all the time about the clutter. I do have a closet I NEED to go through but I just keep putting it off. I recently did the kitchen cupboards and the hall closet where the towels and sheets are. So much better when they are folded vs just tossed in and hurry shut the door. The computer room is the next room to be done. It’s a hot mess. I keep all my yarn and acid dyes for dyeing yarn in there and then share it with the computer hubby uses and it’s a catch all room for quick unexpected company showed up.
    I have 3 kids 2 dogs and a goat in my house so yes we are a little cluttered 🙂

    • My husband is so grateful that I’m going through stuff. He loves things to be organized, but knows it falls low on the list of priorities when I’m juggling kids and the blog. He is definitely thrilled about and helping with this process of purging and cleaning this week!

      A goat? You have a goat in the house? Tell me more about that!

  31. I see some shoes I want to buy at the sale!

    • Nicole – there are some good ones in the pile! I have a brand new pair of See Kai Run shoes. They were a gift, too small. How much do you think I could ask for at the sale?

      • If it’s those pink/brown SKR’s, my daughter has those and we love them 🙂 I bought mine on Clearance for $20, but I would easily pay $15+ for a “used” pair if in like new condition

  32. Awesome job!

Send this to a friend