Jessica Litman, professionally known as The Organized Mama, is a self-proclaimed perfectionist who has learned how to adapt to a chaotic household with two young kids – while staying sane and keeping her home relatively organized. In her new book, Home Sweet Organized Home, she shares her expertise along with checklists to help you create and maintain order in your own house.
We caught up with her to learn more about her and get a few sneak-peek tips.
Q: Why are you passionate about organization?
A: I have found that organizing has helped me in so many ways. By keeping my home organized, my mental health is much more in alignment. I have far more patience with my family when things are organized. I feel more put together when things are organized. And I have witnessed this feeling for so many others as well. When your physical space is cluttered, your mental state gets cluttered, causing so much anxiety and overwhelm that don’t need to be there.
A coffee table with shelving can make it easier for families to maintain order in their living spaces.
Q: How did you learn your organizational skills?
A: I am one of the lucky ones who was just born with this mindset. I don’t think it is a skill, just a mindset. My parents share a story when I was young, I would line my stuffed animals up along the wall before I would go to bed. I never knew what a chore was until middle school because I would just always keep my room clean and my bed made.
Q: If someone needs to start organizing but feels overwhelmed, what do you recommend as the first step?
A: Since organizing is a mindset, I think you have to start there and decide what organized means to you. For me, I need things in a specific way. I like all my pillows on my couch every night. All toys picked up. Countertops cleared. But not everyone feels this to be organized. You need to decide what “organized” looks like in your home. When you start any project with the end goal in mind (what do I actually want organized), you can create a clear path to getting to that end goal. So, start by deciding what you mean when you say organized. Then work backwards to make that end result happen.
Litman recommends making your bed each morning to kick off the day in an organized way.
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Q: Can you give one tip for each of the following rooms: primary bedroom, kid’s bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom?
- Primary bedroom: Start here first! Don’t wait until you do every other space. Because when the area where you sleep is cluttered, you don’t get a good night’s sleep.
- Kids’ bedrooms: Three-year-olds can help you organize their rooms. Let them! Teach them how to fold clothes and put them away. Surprisingly, toddlers only take everything out of drawers because they want to know what goes in them. So, give them clothes to put in drawers while you put away clothes. I learned this trick when my kids were young. I just folded clothing in their rooms, handed them the item and they put it in the drawer. They never pulled out all the clothes because they knew what was in each drawer. If the drawers aren’t accessible to them, have bins for their clothes they can put them in.
- Living spaces: Organize this space for the least organized person in the household. Reason being is that when you create an organizing plan for yourself, you are able to keep things tidy but no one else will. So, if you are willing to change your habits, you can create something that will work for the entire household. Here’s an example. Books and schoolwork pile up on the coffee table and counters in the living room. You want to stop this. The least organized person in the house can put things in a tray, so set a tray on the coffee table and redirect all their items into that one tray. You can then change your habit of getting annoyed about all the papers and feel confident that you can collect those papers each night so the living room is clutter-free. You changed your habit instead of making others change theirs but give them parameters to keep things tidy.
- Kitchen: Do not keep a junk drawer. Just don’t. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than a dumping ground for unwanted or indecision. Instead, give the drawer a purpose. Maybe a stationery drawer. Office supply drawer. Tools. Then only keep those items in that drawer!
- Bath: Keep counter items on a tray so they don’t spread out all over your countertops!
Q: Is there one chore everyone should do to help maintain good organization habits?
A: I would say make your bed every day! It just starts the day off right.
Give your kids specific expectations regarding their rooms’ tidiness, says Litman.
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Q: How can parents encourage their kids to put their things away and keep their rooms tidy?
A: Parents need to trust their kids to maintain order. Let go of the control. When you allow kids to create their own organizing and tidying of their space, they will learn the organizing skills for when they live on their own. So set expectations. What are things you expect your kids to do? In my house, we expect our kids to make their beds, pick up things on their floor, and put clothing away. Notice I didn’t use vague terms like “clean up.” I said “pick things up off the floor.” When you set expectations, give specifics and keep them to a minimum.
Q: Are there any organizing myths or rules people should unlearn?
A: Love this question. Yes, I think that people need to stop thinking that organized means picture-perfect, everything in bins like no one lives there. Organized literally means to form into a functioning whole. So, it’s just making your space functional and complete. This “pretty organizing” isn’t functional and isn’t by definition organized.
Q: What can people expect from your new book, Home Sweet Organized Home?
A: In Home Sweet Organized Home, I share practical organizing tips, so you will get to the root of organizing. We start with defining organized to you. I give actionable steps to do that along with checklists. I love checklists. If you are a perfectionist like me, I have ways to loosen the reins a little more for your family to take ownership of things. And I give specifics on room-by-room tutorials along with ages for kids to organize their own things and what that actually looks like.
Q: If people need more personal guidance than your book can offer, how else can you help them?
You can order Litman’s book, Home Sweet Organized Home, online or find it in your local bookstore beginning April 26, 2022.
Shop our website for products to help you and your family create an organized home.