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How to organize lots of shoes and water bottles, plus a love letter

The main reason we home schooled for six years was because home schoolers don’t have to know where their shoes are. Ditto for water bottles. Need to go outside? Lie down with a manga until the feeling passes. Thirsty? Just drink directly out of the faucet like my son — or, like my son when he’s being fancy, drink out of a plate.

I have failed.

Anyway, now we have to be shod and watered every morning. Behold, I have some solutions for you, especially if you have a lot of kids and not much space.

For shoes, you want to buy a bunch of stacking bins, like these:

stacking bin 2

They’re meant for office supplies, but they work fine for shoes, especially for kids. One bin for each kid, and you can configure them however you want, AND you can empty them out and hose them down as required.

For water bottles, an over-the-door shoe organizer like this is poifect.

shoe organizer

We had a million water bottles clattering around the counter, and the tops were, of course, nowhere to be found. I want to make sure the bottles air out, so we keep all the lids in 2-3 pockets, and the bottles in the rest.

The thing I like about these systems is that they’re cheap, and you don’t have to actually install anything — so if it’s not working for you, you can just scrap them, no big deal.

And of course, like an organizational system, they only work if you actually use them!  My kids are genetically predisposed to be slobs, and most of them will only put their stuff away if I remind them every single time. So these systems don’t automatically make our house tidy and clutter-free; but they do make it possible to clean. There  is somewhere to put stuff if the urge strikes you. When someone (me) suddenly can’t take it anymore, someone (me) can go into an angry, white-hot cleaning frenzy fueled by self-loathing and dust allergies, and can turn a ghastly heap back into a living space again without having to think about it too hard. Success!

Now I’m going to share pictures of what our shoes and water bottles look like right now, a week before school starts. I haven’t done any organizing or cleaning yet, and I’m in the middle of a huge painting job, so these areas are both at peak disgustingness, everything is out of place, and I haven’t been making anyone put anything away because it’s just not my top priority at the moment. I’m painting cabinets, too, so everything that was in those cabinets is now cleverly being stored in the middle of the dining room. But they’re still better than what we had before!

The water bottles:

water bottles now

Why, yes, that is a tattered copy of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” hanging up on the door, from the last time I was panicking about my kids not having a good foundation in poetry; and yes, that door is on the For the Love of All That Is Holy, Please Paint Me list. I call this picture “Palimpsest of Things I Was Worrying About.”

The shoe area:

shoe bins now

To the casual observer, this would appear to be the shameful evidence of a slovenly and chaotic household; but to me, it’s a picture called “Simcha Loves You and Wants You to Feel Better about Your Own Life.” Extra points if you can spot the kid who doesn’t appreciate air conditioning.

As soon as my new camera gets here, I’ll take some “after” pictures, and you can laugh at me all over again, because it will still suck.

In a couple of months, I’ll show you how I came up with a brilliant system which doesn’t keep our mittens paired up and readily accessible, but it could. 

How about you? Do you have any smart systems to share? Or maybe you’d like to pay someone to clean my house?

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