• Holly Blakey

My Shelter-In-Place Organizing Project


I just love waking up at 8am, watching my favorite Netflix shows whenever I want, and tackling all my house projects. I just hate waking up from this dream that is 100% not a reality :)


I'll admit it: I haven't been organizing my house during SIP. I really haven't been able to tackle many projects unless it's outside with the entire family taking part. We live in a 2,000 square foot house – five of us – two adults and three kids under six years old. Trying to accomplish an organizing project with everyone in the house is like that amazing quote I've read online "cleaning with kids around is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos." It's true – the second I open up a closet or drawer to start organizing, my kids' "mom radars" go off and they're glued to my side... they also think whatever is in the closet/drawer is the new best activity in the house.

This has driven me slightly nuts. You know, being in your house more than ever, seeing endless projects to tackle, yet suddenly gaining the new job title of teacher and carrying on countless other mom + work obligations. It doesn't leave a lot of time to dig into involved projects. Simply put, there's a whole lot going on at my house, and not much of it is organizing.

With the exception of THE CLOSET. In our cute 1940's white ranch house we have lots of closets, despite it being relatively small. 6 to be exact. One in each of the bedrooms, 1 in the entryway, and 2 in the hall. The other closets are all great, and very organized... but The Closet has been... well, a project. It's big, and dark, and deep (sounds like a mysterious date, right?). We've lived in this house for over 6 years, and until SIP it has been the one spot of the house I like to ignore. It has housed suitcases, multiple guitars, vacuums, and a bunch of other stuff. It's the place in the house that my husband and I drop things we don't want to deal with at the moment.

The before... might be worse than Monica's closet

Over Christmas we had an ugly sweater party and the husband of a good friend jokingly asked if there was any place in the house that WASN'T organized. I happily led him to THE CLOSET. I was a little disappointed he didn't gasp when I opened the door. He actually didn't think it was "that bad"... Not sure if he was being kind, or he just doesn't have the obsession like I do. Needless to say, I knew that this neglected spot in my house deserved some love. And not just for aesthetic reasons.

Like many of my busy mom clients, I needed more space that was highly functional and efficient. So like I do at the outset of my client projects, I started asking myself all the important questions:

  • How do I need this space to work for my family?

  • What will I use it for?

  • How often will it be used?

  • Who will use it, and how can I make it work for everyone – and over the long haul.


Answering these questions helped me clarify the next set of questions:

  • What needs to find a new home?

  • What can be given away/recycled/etc.?

  • What systems aren't working?

  • What could be added?


It's amazing that while I ask my client's these questions every week, I forget to ask myself (or I just don't give myself the time), then I open up a closet and ask, what happened? When you actually get clear on your answers, the right system for you will present itself. And that's important – no two homes are the same. In size, people within them, and the activities of those people. So each home's needs will be unique.

Answers to my questions included:

  • Guitars and suitcases out to find new homes.

  • Metal storage rack out – taking up way too much space and not functional.

  • Outgrown baby gear to be donated.

  • Ironing board MUST go up and out of way... a few too many accidents had already occurred when my kids played hide-and-seek in there.

  • Extra shelves needed ASAP.

Everything out – fresh start

I can't stress enough the life-changing miracle of an extra shelf or two (a bit dramatic, but seriously!). One Home Depot run, less than $50, and a few hours later, we had four deep shelves that completely transformed the functionality of this closet.

For us, with three small kids, and limited space, I needed a system that could keep up with the high transition rate of EVERYTHING. I'm constantly giving away kid's clothes, storing hand-me-downs (our garage is detached and there's no way I'm walking out to the garage each time I need to store an item), returning friend's items, taking my husband's dry cleaning, selling clothes at our local consignment shop, and in general putting things away (a lot). I needed a system that made my life of constant transition easier, and tidier.

Shelves in

What this meant practically for us:

  • Bins without tops so I can literally toss items in while holding a baby (or two). Honestly, if a bin has a lid that I have to take off, I am less likely to make the effort to properly store an item in that moment (Lazy? Maybe. Momlife? Totally)

  • Bins with handles so I can grab any of them and take it out to the garage to put into storage tubs, or take into the car to do dry cleaning, or drop items at a friends. Grab n' go all the way.

  • Nice big, clear labels so that any "readers" can help out with sorting.

  • Uniformity... because I love it. And just like journals, I have to like the way it looks, if I'm going to use it.


Yes, that's 12 bins, and yes, I absolutely use all of them – almost everyday. The categories are:

  • Clean  items to take to the dry cleaner.

  • Bags  for shopping and groceries (let's hope we get to bring our own bags again soon!)

  • Ben – anything my husband needs to sort on his own.

  • Donate – items to be taken to the local donation shop.

  • Garage what I need to haul out there and sort into bins for longer storage.

  • Parts – miscellaneous parts to the stroller, carseat, etc.

  • Return – self explanatory.

  • Sell – items that need to be shipped to ThredUp or taken to the local consignment shop.

  • Shipped – items I need to ship to my friends – these are usually hand-me-downs.

  • Swim – diapers, goggles, sunscreen, floaties, etc. (2 bins for this)

  • Travel baby and kid items I use for travel – seats, covers, etc. (our big travel items such as suitcases are stored in the garage)


After six years of living in our home, and six years of living with kids, these have proven to be the most high-touch categories for us – the categories of items that would always end up in my entryway or laundry room – things I wouldn't know where to put or wouldn't know when I would have the time to put them away. So these categorized bins not only help my high-transition life remain tidier, but also gives me some sanity back knowing that there's a place for everything... and I don't have to handle it all right now.

For another family the categories might be much different, or less, or more. And that's the beauty of creating organizing systems that work for YOU. It doesn't have to look like anyone else's home. But hopefully this framework can help guide you to create a highly functional system that makes your life easier too! And hopefully you'll be able to make THE CLOSET in your home a space that provides relief instead of stress... because at this funky time in SIP life, we could all use a little relief.


The before and after

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holly@breathingrm.org

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Photography by Courtney Steffens for Breathing Room Organization