By Madoline Markham
Photos by Lindsey Culver
How do you keep your home organized in the midst of the chaos of life? Tara Bremer’s mantra is to focus on keeping the things you are using and loving. To find out what exactly she means by that, she walked us around the Homewood home of one of her home organization clients, Emily Morgan Brown, and her family, and she showed us practical tips she uses with simple supplies you can find at Target or Walmart. Tara notes that the Browns are minimalists but that these concepts can be applied to anyone—and that she styled these spaces for photos with real life in mind too.
We divide utensils up with clear containers like these from Target. If they aren’t divided, it will become a disaster, and you will end up with a pizza cutter blocking your drawer to where you can’t open it. Drawer liners are good for any drawer where there is risk of getting liquid or oil in it to protect it, and it keeps things from moving.
Tara’s Three Ingredients for Closet Organization
- Matching hangers
- Containers for the shelves, like a basket or bin
- Something to put shoes on or in
True to my three ingredients, this girl’s closet has bins on the shelf for winter items and her in-season shoes on a shelf; you can buy a shoe riser if your closet doesn’t have shelves. I put her clothes in color order for picture, but in my own closet I put them in order by sleeve—long sleeve, short sleeve and sleeveless—and then in order by color. I think color order is a nice thing if someone enjoys it, but if it feels like too much don’t do it. You want it to be sustainable.
Shelves and containers are a big deal, and labels are everything. Even if a 4-year-old can’t read “cars,” he knows what a C is and he knows what a picture of it looks like. Kids are going to dump stuff, and then they can clean it back up and sort their toys themselves. I don’t believe in over-organizing. For example, with American Girl doll items, I would not say to make a bin for shoes and one for clothes, etc., but I would make one for the dolls and one for everything else. I like that Emily has broad categories for cars, dolls, dress up, etc.
Coiled Rope Basket
You can buy these soft baskets from the Pillow Fort kids line at Target. I like to use them for stuffed animals and dress-up clothes. For adult closets, I have used them for costumes, scarves, bathing suits, clothing overflow and things you don’t need access to in drawers.
Tips for Small Houses
When you need your space for work really hard for you, you have to say, “The smaller house is more important than me than jamming as much in as possible.” Here are some practical tips to do that.
- Create More Storage Space: Use under bed storage containers with wheels and shelf helpers to add more layers to shelves. You can also install more shelves in closets and pantries when you have unused wall space.
- Shop Thrift Stores: Tsh Oxenrider says she uses the thrift store as auxiliary pantry for items she doesn’t use often. For example if you don’t have room for a cake plate but you might need one every year or two, buy one from the thrift store and donate it back afterward.
- Get Creative: We’ve put shoes in drawers before and get creative in different ways depending on the house. I think it’s a fun challenge for our team to figure out how to stay in a smaller house.
Tips for Longevity
After you organize, how do you sustain it?
- Give Things Away Regularly: Stuff will always keep coming into the house whether it’s kids’ art or a freebie from a conference. It’s important to keep things coming out. I keep a bag in my pantry for items to take to the thrift store to remind me.
- Label: Labeling is huge. It might feel silly, but it can provide clarity to the whole family—the spouse, kids, sitters, grandparents, or you might forget too.
- Channel Your Frustration: Use your frustration at your chaos to be the energy to propel you to organize and keep things organized.
About the Organizer
Tara Bremer holds degrees in psychology and counseling, so she brings knowledge of the human condition, behavioral psychologies and habit formations to her home organization business, House Peace. She also puts her experience to the test every day with her three kids. Learn more about her team’s in-person and online offerings at housepeace.net.