Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Paper Monster – kitchen organization project #1

Forgoing my menu this week. It seems I have amassed quite the supply of leftovers!  So we will be eating anything and everything left in the fridge, trying to make space for all the goodies that will need to be stored there come Thursday.  (MMMMM…can’t wait!)

Instead, I’m finally getting around to the “how'-to” of my clutter-free kitchen counters.  Finally!!  For some reason, I deluded myself into thinking that when my oldest little tike started preschool this year I would suddenly have “all this FREE TIME!”  I seriously believed that I would gain an extra 3 hours a day of peace and quiet, in which I could sit and ponder, and write, and craft, and pretty much do anything I wanted! 

Ha!  I laugh about that now.  Boy, was I wrong!!!  I still have to do everything I did when he was home with me.  True, it takes me a little less time to fold the laundry or go grocery shopping than it did with all the typical little boy interruptions, but any precious time I gain gets all used up again doing the “school routine.”  You know, helping the big guy get ready, doing reading and handwriting lessons, books and backpack packed, kids buckled into the car, driving to school, waiting outside classroom until he is allowed in, getting baby buckled back into car, and driving home.  Then doing it all again 3 hours later.  Extra time???  I must have been CRAZY!!

So, yes.  It has taken me much longer than anticipated.  But here is my finished product.


You’re looking at my new Kitchen Command Center.  It was a lot of work to get it that way.  But the great thing about getting a space organized and functioning smoothly is that now, it takes very little time to maintain.  For a mom that already feels short on time, that is a HUGE blessing! 


Remember the “Before”?

Before - edited

YIKES!!! Oh man…that’s bad.  That random rooster popping up there cracks me up.  Want a closer look??

110211_0574 Oh…if only it was actually true!!


Unfortunately for me, I didn’t just have one craptacular, catch-all counter.  It gets worse!!


I had TWO!!!  As well as a completely ineffective (and over utilized) mail sorter, an under utilized and awkwardly positioned magnet board, and bags cluttering up the floor, because there was no place else to put them.  I had good intentions.  But it was COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL! Something HAD to be done!! 

I knew I needed storage.  I needed a place to corral all the clutter, sort the mail, save papers and keep schedules and notes.  AND I knew I needed a SYSTEM to make it all work together and function smoothly.  Before I could brainstorm solutions to get this all cleaned up, I needed to know EXACTLY what was coming in and cluttering up my kitchen in the first place. So I cleaned off all my counters and went to work.

I sorted everything into piles and realized my main problem.  I was battling a paper monster!  I had been inundated with paper, paper, got it.  More paper!  It was coming in from EVERYWHERE!  And I knew corralling it HAD to be my first priority.  So I came up with a filing system to sort it all as it comes in.

111411_0624After sorting through my mounds of paper, I was able to put everything into 7 main categories.

1. “Take Action” - This includes things like permission slips that need to be returned to school, magazine subscriptions that need to be renewed, bills that need to be paid, and Netflix envelopes that need to be returned.  Anything that requires me to DO something, goes in this folder.

2. “To File” – Things I want to store on a more long term basis go in this folder.  Credit card and utility statements, Receipts, product manuals, etc. are all corralled here and stored temporarily, until I get a chance to transfer it to our “long term” filing cabinet upstairs.   (Because lets face it.  We all know I would NEVER trek every little bit of paper upstairs immediately.)  Instead I  empty the folder about once a week.  (Usually every Sunday night when I sit down to plan my next week’s schedule.)

3. Miles Preschool papers – Papers I want to save forever and ever go here!  (That’s a pretty tall order!) Mostly things like his weekly handwriting sheets (I am going to make them all into a book at the end of the year), special awards he has received, and any other extra special projects he comes home with.  These papers are stored here temporarily.  When the folder starts filling up, I transfer them to the school paperwork storage box I created a la Jen from iheartorganizing.  (A super fun project.  More to come on that later.)  :) 

4. Miles Art – Holy Cow!  I had no idea how many “masterpieces” my little man would bring home every week.  Sweet little gems like this one……

111711_1013 edited Seriously???  Hi-Larious. BEST part of having a kid in pre-school, hands down.

BUTTTTT  the question remains.  What in the heck am I supposed to do with this thing???  (Besides of course, snap so many pictures of myself wearing this little dandy the artist himself becomes insanely jealous and is forced to tear it off my head.)  True story.  See that little hand in the corner??

This is where having a “System” in place is important.  No my dear friends, having a file folder labeled “Miles Art” will get you nowhere.  TRUST ME!  (especially if you don’t have a kid named Miles.  Ha!) There are usually 3 or 4 projects coming home from school every day.  That’s about 15 a week, and 60 every month!!!  There is no way storing all those papers in one little file is feasible.  So, here is our system.  First, I snap photos of every single one of his masterpieces while oohing and aahing over them for an appropriate amount of time.  Then we remove the previous days art from the fridge, Miles gets to choose 1 or 2 new pieces to display, and I file the others in his “art” folder.  The REALLY special pieces will get filed in his special school specific filing box to keep forever and ever.  The rest of them get thrown in the garbage at the end of the week when my little man is sleeping.  Sorry Dude.  Flog me if you will, but I have absolutely no remorse, because I took photos of ever piece he created.  And at the end of the year, those photos will be combined into a lovely photo book, displaying the entirety of his preschool creativity.  And that is WAY more awesome than having random triangles and turkey legs floating around my house.

5. Grocery Ads – I like to keep my Meijer, Rite-aid, and Kroger ads to refer to when making my weekly menus, and throughout the week for couponing purposes.

6. Coupons – I like to use coupons.  It’s fun.  But they are messy if you don’t have a way to contain them.  I file all my coupon inserts by date upstairs in my “main” filing cabinet.  But sometimes I clip coupons I don’t use.  Or I print coupons to use later. Or I cut a coupon from a cereal box.  Those kinds of coupons go in my "Coupons – Grocery” folder.  I also get coupons to stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Ulta, Joanns, and restaurants like Arby’s and McDonalds.  All those “other” types of coupons get filed in my Coupons-Store folder. 

7. Recipes– Any recipes I print out for my weekly Menu Plan are stored here.  If they are great, I will transfer them to my recipe binder.  If they are NOT great, they go in the garbage with the leftovers.

I also gave myself and Mike our own folders.  These are for things we want to keep around for awhile.  Things we might want to use or refer to every so often.  For instance, I have been drawing up plans to build Miles a play table and chair set for Christmas.  My drawings and supply lists are in my folder, a long with extra copies of the to-do lists I like to use, my printable calendar pages, blog idea pages, etc.

111411_0623 2 Once everything was sorted, I labeled some folders, filed all the paper away, and put the folders in a cute basket I bought in the Target clearance section.  

Mission Accomplished! 

All my paper has a place to go, and I have a system to make sure it doesn’t get out of control again.

Then, I just added a few extra accessories to turn the space into the Command Central I  had envisioned.

111411_0626A Calendar.  No family command center would be complete without one!  And I love mine.  I just print one off every week to keep track of our comings and goings.  I also have a monthly calendar underneath, to keep  track of all our long-term appointments.



My cup ‘o markers and a cute notepad to write down reminders and add things to the calendar


A simple basket to house our modem/router and hide their cords.  I also stashed my stapler, tape dispenser, and iPad charger in there to minimize the “stuff” on the counter.

I also added a couple small, leather journals to my filing basket, (one for each boy), where I can write down their milestones and funny things Miles says.  And my iPad rests in the basket too.  (That is, when it’s not out and streaming the Polar Express station on Pandora for me.  Listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving is AWESOME!!!)

so that’s it my command center in a nutshell!  (A very large and overly wordy nutshell.)  It is working FANTASTICALLY, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

Let’s take a gander at that before and after just one more time, shall we?

Kitchen organization before & after

It DID take a bit of work and a lot of time to get it looking this way, but by having this space so streamlined and organized, I also actually SAVE time.  No more digging through piles and piles of papers to find the one thing I was looking for.  Everything is right at my fingertips and I can find anything I need in a matter of seconds.

My Command Center was by FAR the biggest project of my quest for kitchen organization, but it was just the beginning!  I cleaned up my other catch-all counter, found a solution for my bags, and even DIY’d a simple keychain holder!  Then there was Miles’ schoolwork filing project, and my medicine cabinet redo.  So much to share!  Can’t wait to show you how it all works together to keep me organized, and our family functioning smoothly.

How about you?  Any major organizing projects going on in your neck of the woods?


Sarah signature copy bigger size


  1. Sarah,
    You are a girl after my heart! I am an organizational maniac but I have that same counter, same school problems, & file issues. I am doing this!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!!!!! Also there will be no flogging from me on the school projects. I have a ton that are getting thrown out after this!

  2. It looks wonderful! I love all of the bright colors:)

  3. You've inspired me to go do my counter!! Lovely job!

  4. Oh my goodness, my office looks like that desk space does! Trying to get more organized, and you are right, it does take too much time when you are messy! Looking forward to implementing some of these changes!!