Think Small To Accomplish BIG: A Simple Approach For Organizing Your Home

Not all organizing has to come in the form of a large makeover project, emptied out onto the front lawn. If you’re starved for time and don’t have the energy to take on emptying out your entire kitchen, one cabinet or drawer at a time will do the trick, I promise!


I thought our breakfast cabinet would be the perfect small project to illustrate this and show my BE SIMPLE™ approach in action. We moved into our house one year ago after moving into a rental one year prior to that, so everything was unpacked but not necessarily optimized and organized. We were suffering from moving fatigue…and new parent fatigue, too! Now that we have settled in and don’t have any plans to move {that I know of, anyway}, my goal is to create simplicity and order in our home. It’s also my hope that sharing my efforts will help you do the same. So, here is how I used my Define, Design, Do: BE SIMPLE™ approach to organize our breakfast cabinet.

1.Define1. Define- Take 10-15 minutes to define the project by doing the following:

a) Name your project: Breakfast Cabinet Dash
b) Take pictures:  ✓
c) What is your ultimate intention for the space? What do you love most? What frustrates you most?

This cabinet houses everything we need to access in the AM, including medication for the dog, coffee, tea, cereal plus a small area for sweet snacks (so I can easily reach them ;). I like how we use the cabinet and I love that we have 42″ high cabinets- though I hate not being able to reach up high. I hate that the shelves aren’t high enough for the cereal boxes to stand up. I hate having to scale counters to reach the oatmeal in the cabinet over the microwave. Everything is getting sloppy and things fall over. Seldom accessed items take up valuable (aka. reachable) real-estate.

2. Design- Create a MAP- Make a plan. I’ll be sharing my MAP worksheet in a few weeks with Homeology subscribers, so be sure to enter your email on the home page.

Since this is only a single set of cabinets, it is already serving its intended purpose as the breakfast cabinet, and the issues are mainly mechanical (i.e. shelf too low, items falling over) this project is what I would call a dash. You may not need to create a MAP for a “dash”.


3.BSS3. Boundaries, Staging and Supplies

a. Single cabinet

b. File boxes and covers assembled and set on counter

c. Sharpie, Post-it’s, Flat-head screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, gloves (shelf-pin removal), cleaning spray, paper towels, step ladder.

4.EmptySort4. Empty & Sort- I emptied all of the contents of the cabinet and created categories to sort them into as I went. Notice that I don’t recommend the typical categories of Keep, Toss, Donate, etc. that you might be expecting as these aren’t the most conducive to making decisions, read more here. My categories were: vitamins & meds, coffee, tea, cereal, sweet snacks, beverage mixes. I also created boxes (covers) for: incoming {items that should live in this cabinet} and outgoing {items that need to live elsewhere}. I also placed everyday items in the front half of the box and others in the rear half. If I needed more space, I could have created a separate category for each and placed them in their own boxes.


The two categories that should always be included are incoming & outgoing. Come back next week to hear more…

5.Shed5. Shed- I tossed stale cereal, old tea and combined packages where appropriate.

6. Identify a Home- For the most part the previous locations were working for us. The exception was infrequently used items that lived in our “prime real estate” {the lower shelves}. So, I began placing things in their designated homes, keeping each of the categories together and adding any incoming items.

7. Measure & Shop- Another topic for another day is personalizing your storage, but here are some possibilities for adding containers or enhancing the storage space in my cabinet: tea storage, bin/tray for morning items, jar for treats ✓, cereal storage, pill case.

8. Polish- I grabbed my Sharpie and Washi tape and hand-wrote labels for the shelves.

9. Live & Learn- As one of the last steps, you’ll list all of the new habits that go along with your new space. Your new habit may simply be to put things away in their new homes or it may be a more complex process of putting paper in it’s proper inbox, processing it, filing it, etc. Here is where you incorporate your new habits into your life and learn what works and what doesn’t. For my breakfast cabinet, it’s putting things away daily and restocking when unloading the groceries.

10. Eliminate- While this is the final step, it is one of a more ongoing nature. Think refine, streamline, simplify; eliminate what doesn’t work for you or your family. Here’s another reference to my favorite quote from Day 4 {with a little interpretation}: “Organization is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. - Antione de Saint-Exupery”

I hope this helps show that you can start as small as you’d like. Just think: if you organize just one small space per week at the end of a year you’ll be making lots of room for what matters!

Ciao for now!


Quick Cookery: Southwest Lime Chicken Wraps {or Salad}

This week’s Quick Cookery features a simple and delicious recipe I was lucky enough to stumble upon last year. Not only is the recipe versatile {you can serve it as a salad, with chips, or as a wrap} but there is a method for cooking chicken that you must add to your Quick Cookery arsenal.


Now without further ado, I present to you Southwest Lime Chicken Wraps and Salad To-Go from Amanda at Burlap & Denim. Doesn’t it look so yummy and fresh? It is especially easy to make for a large number of people and it’s been my go-to recipe when we have visitors. I even signed up to make it for our assigned dinner night during our beach vacation this summer. I feel like I’m cheating!


Please visit Burlap & Denim to pin from the original site (click on the image).

Here are a few things I wanted to add:

  • We now make the dressing by the bottle, not the cup. I’ve used Marzetti’s and Harris Teeter brand Ranch dressings and both were good. I tried Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk this time and wouldn’t use it again.
  • I usually just dump an entire bag of frozen chicken in the slow cooker and put some aside for chicken salad. And here’s a hint: if you cook the chicken well enough, you won’t need to take out the mixer/beater. It falls apart when you stir it. Nothing better than shredded chicken without having to work for it! The possibilities are endless.
  • In most recipes that call for juicing a lime, I typically just use 1 tablespoon of bottled lime juice per lime.
  • To make prep even quicker, we just use store-bought tortillas and prefer whole wheat.
  • Make the salsa in advance so you can chill- it lets the flavors meld.

Please visit Amanda at Burlap & Denim and check out her delicious recipe. Special Thanks to Amanda for letting me feature her recipe on Quick Cookery! Let me know in the comments if you are going to try it out…

Ciao for now!


Getting Organized: Have You Tried This Approach To Sorting Your Stuff?

When taking on an organizing project, most people use the keep/donate/toss method. I see it being touted all the time in magazines, on television and in the blogosphere. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sorting this way and if it works for you, I urge you to continue using it. But if you’re looking for something more, read on…


Here’s a different approach for you to try. I was introduced to this method many years ago, by Marla Dee of Clear and SIMPLE™, which entails first sorting into bins by category. Instead of sorting into bins by what you plan to keep, donate or toss, try sorting into bins relative to the type of item it is or activity it relates to. Here are some examples:

  • Clothing- Dress slacks, jeans, yoga pants, tank tops, short sleeve blouses, long sleeve blouses, dress shoes, casual shoes, etc.
  • Office Supplies- Computer paper, note paper, drawing paper, pens, highlighters, permanent markers, No decisions to be made about what to keep, toss or donate (obvious trash can be tossed, of course)…yet.
  • Toys- Sports equipment, cars, dolls or action figures, quiet play, riding toys, etc.

Only after the space has been emptied and sorted, do you revisit each bin and make decisions about which items get tossed or donated. Why?

1. Relative decisions are easier

When faced with deciding on each item, you are not considering your entire collection. It is much more effective to decide which pants (shoes, office supplies, etc.) to keep once you see that you have ten pairs of black slacks and only wear your three favorite pairs.

2. Increase your chance of success

Decisions can be difficult and time consuming. Sorting this way enables you to get further in the process without getting discouraged, frustrated or quitting before you finish.

3. Keep it under control

In order to organize effectively, items should generally be grouped with other like items. This approach will help you better manage the process and the physical stuff involved during the toughest part of the project.

4. Take a break

Sorting this way will allow you to set aside your project if you run out of time or need to take a break. Assuming you use stackable boxes with lids and label {see my 10 Steps to Organize Any Room post here), you can still function while the project is in progress.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about how you come up with the categories and the two sorting categories you should automatically include with every organizing project but I’d love to hear from you in the meantime! Have you tried this method of sorting? How has it worked for you? If you haven’t tried it yet, do you think it would work for you?

Ciao for now!




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