My best tip for organizing your house in one weekend

Genevieve Howard and Creative Hands
Getting inspired by the Creative Hands book. Photo by Derek Howard.
Getting inspired by the Creative Hands book. Photo by Derek Howard.

Fall is a great time to get organized. Soon we’ll be spending more time indoors. Isn’t a clean spacious house that smells of apples and cinnamon welcoming?

My Get Organized in One Weekend to-do list included:

  • Purge clothes
  • Purge my homemade knitted and crochet items
  • Trim dog nails

I started my weekend organizing with a trip to Goodwill on Friday. Maybe I would find something to help me organize, like bins or baskets.

Instead I found a fantastic vintage craft book called Greystone’s Creative Hands. It offered valuable advice like, “Remember, you will need to buy more yarn if you want to make the scarf longer.” (Italics mine. Note the use of the word, need.)

At home, I went through my collection of homemade scarves. I realized I only had 17. I didn’t have a single one that was six feet long, red and based on a pattern from 1974, as shown in my new (old) book.

I start the six-foot red scarf. Photo by Derek Howard.
I start the six-foot red scarf. Photo by Derek Howard.

I knew I immediately needed to get to work on it. I could use up my scrap yarn. I had two partial skeins of red. Perfect! I cast on and started knitting.

In between knitting, I went through my clothes. I decided I would no more than five of anything, with the exception of homemade scarves. Five dress shirts, five dress pants, five long-sleeve V-necks. My closet and drawers now only have clothes that meet the criteria (“Does it make me look and feel good? Would I buy it today?”) from this handy list from White House Black Shutters.

Uh-oh…yarn crisis!

Two partial skeins would be nowhere near enough. After church on Sunday, I stopped by the craft store. I knew if I was going to make a six-foot scarf, I would need to get more yarn.

Of course, I got two jumbo-sized skeins. I wouldn’t want to run out mid-project, would I?

Back home. Back to work on the six-foot scarf. I heard the dog nails click as I knitted. But this scarf isn’t going to knit itself.

My top tip for getting your house organized in a weekend? Start a project that uses your scrap yarn like I did!

I’m starting the week feeling really proud of my organizing skills. Good luck with your fall cleaning—hope it goes as well as mine did.

PS–check out my very special knitting assistant


Lord, help us to know and accept ourselves as we are.
Bless our hands to your service and our homes to your glory.

Tell me your thoughts!

What would you like to accomplish this fall? Any home organizing plans? Or six-foot red scarf making in your future?


Clarity from cleaning


daffodilsWhen you are feeling stuck emotionally or spiritually, work on your physical surroundings. The momentum will move the other aspects of your life. Make space for the good things on their way to you.

This week, I blocked out six days to take charge and do what needs to be done going forward. I made a massive investment in my future enjoyment.

With three people living in 1,000 square feet, open space is hard to come by. All winter, we practiced the dump and collapse method of life: we dumped our stuff as we walked in the door and collapsed on the couch.

Papers, clothes, hobbies, gadgets and other possessions staged a coup to take over the whole house.

The dog mistook one of the couches for a large bone and chewed off large hunks of foam. It looked like a foam confetti explosion party happened while we were at work. Doesn’t that figure? Freeloading dogs party, and we work all day to bring home the kibble.

After a hard winter, foam bits, paper piles, snaked up tangles of wires and book stacks stood accusingly, nagging us to deal with them.

In her organizing book, Making Peace with the Things in Your Life, Cindy Glovinsky calls the areas that bother you the most your Biggest Irritants, not necessarily the messiest areas. She recommends picking those to clean first for the most rewarding payoff.

With the help of many cups of espresso and strong sweet tea to get us buzzing, we took on ours.

Things I took care of

  • Emptied the living room of everything
  • Got rid of two couches
  • Tore up 16-year-old carpet
  • Fixed a hole in the floor
  • Removed a rose bush and mulched
  • Picked up a quarter-ton of hay
  • Donated 50 books to our local library
  • Donated 40 balls of yarn to a high school knitting club
  • Donated a dozen pairs of shoes to a clean water project
  • Gave away a table (amazing how quickly things disappear with a FREE sign on them, even when you live on a gravel road way out in the country. God bless you, person who took the table.)

Prepare for the future

I feel free and energized. I didn’t even know how much the clutter was draining me.

Do a spring cleaning on the things that irritate you the most. You will feel a new peace.


Lord, bless us with


Let us find our security in you,
not in what we buy or store.

Keep our hands open and
our minds at ease,
our future sheltered in your plan.

Tell me your thoughts!

What is causing you trouble right now that could use extra attention? Does your space support you? Have you had a chance to do spring cleaning?

Pet clutter? 5 ways to organize your cat

If you’re like me, you’ve got clutter. I have paper clutter, clothes clutter, electronics clutter and clutter so cluttered I’m unable to categorize it.

One of the most difficult kinds of clutter to deal with is pet clutter. We have six animals in various states of disarray. Rather than stay in one area, they wander from couch to window, adding noise when they deem appropriate.

Often, we think there might be a reason for the noise. We leave our couch, and look out the window vaguely in the dark. Is there a opossum? A raccoon? Nothing! We tell the dogs we see nothing. Does that stop them? No, it doesn’t. My husband has described our dog, Mercy, as mostly blank with periods of anger at the unknown.

She will go to the window and start barking. Our other dog, Cookie, doesn’t even bother to look if there’s really a problem. She will join in the barkfest without any fact-checking or confirmation. It’s time to bark! Let’s go!

They disrespect us as housemates, and think nothing of telling us about their hunger problems at 5 a.m. Do we look like we care? We’re sleeping! Or at least we were. If you want a guaranteed alarm clock that will work even when the power is out, feed one animal once at 5 a.m. and you will never oversleep again.

Thankfully, Mira our cat entered our lives last year. We adopted her from the local humane society. We were unaware of her talent: she is a self-organizing cat. Where other animals sleep without any visible sense of order or structure, Mira takes it upon herself to put herself away.

5 ways to organize your cat


Lord, thank you for the unexpected ways
your creatures amuse and awaken us.
Help us to be good caretakers of
the animal friends who greet us, charm us,
keep us active and make us better people.

Tell me your thoughts!

How do animals entertain you? Has an animal made a difference in your well-being? What is the most cluttered–or most organized–thing your pet has done for you recently?

Easy organizing tips from a basket case

tiny duck basketI’ve never been known for my homemaking skills. We are not what you would call disciplined people. But we have made a positive change in what our house looks like this summer. You’ll hear our story and find out how we made it happen using a party, a plan and prizes.

I don’t possess natural or learned talent at running a household. After you read my upcoming memoir, you’ll understand why I never got basic household skills. To make a long story short, I’m someone who prefers poetry to picking up. The result? People have described my home through the years as “lived in” or “cozy.”

My husband worked in a bookstore for years and he told me that the people who buy yachting magazines are not yacht owners. They’re the people who dream about owning a yacht.

Who do you think are the people who buy organization books? I have so many books on getting organized that they clutter up my bookshelf. Some take a feng shui approach (“chi needs to flow”), others a hard line (“don’t be lazy—scrub that toilet with a toothbrush!”). Some suggested “easy tips” that I failed at following, either proving that they weren’t as easy as promised or that I am incapable of doing easy things. “I’ll take the hard way, please, full chaos.”

A case for baskets

We live in a singlewide trailer that is 16 feet across by 66 feet long: 1,056 square feet for three people (who have clothing, shoes and toiletries) plus two dogs (who need toys, blankets, beds, food and treats) and two cats (with their six-foot-tall cat tree, toys, food and catnip. Need cat organizing tips?).

Just all this everyday stuff might give our house a “pleasantly plump” feeling but on top of that, we’re collectors. We collect comics, books, board games, plastic horses, magazines, electronic devices, Playstation games, craft items, mismatched tea cups and plastic Shakespeare’s/Heidelberg cups. (I reached my goal of 100 plastic cups a while ago but just added one more today. Why do we do it??)

I also collect baskets. At last count, 48. Because, as you can tell, I need someplace to put things.

beet pulpAlthough most of the stuff for the horse and pony is in the barn, we keep the saddle, bridle and beet pulp in the house. Don’t you have a bag of beet pulp by your front door?

Holding onto so much stuff means that we’re living in the future or the past. Part of our stuff is memorabilia. This was a gift from so-and-so. I went on a trip and brought back this mug. My iMac G3 was the coolest computer ever (also by our front door).

Then we hold onto things we might need for the future. I have 190 skeins of yarn because all the yarn stores in the world might DISAPPEAR WITHOUT WARNING. I need to be ready for the yarn apocalypse.

In the middle of all this stuff, I know I’m not living according to my beliefs. So much clutter shows that I’m putting fear before faith, materialism before transcendence.

I believe God works in the present. If I am aware and my space is open, God has room to move in my life. I can let go and trust that God will provide my daily bread. And yarn. And baskets for me to put my bread and yarn in.

A party, a plan and prizes

How did we turn it around this summer?

First, a party. A party motivated us to move the dozens of shoes out of the foyer so we could open the front door for guests.

Second, a plan. We found a book with a weekly checklist of household chores divided up throughout the year. Who knew we were supposed to vacuum under the couch cushions? I love a good checklist almost as much as a nice basket.

Third, prizes. Using the checklist in Stephanie O’Dea’s Totally Together, we give ourselves a prize for making our cleaning goal five out of seven days. We decide each week at our family meeting what our upcoming prize will be. It might be a visit to a store we like to (window) shop (like Itchy’s Stop and Scratch) or to a café for a boba drink.

How has our new way of neatness affected our lives? We come home and it feels like a sanctuary, not a storage shed.

I used to think cleaning was a burden. Now I see keeping the house clean is a kindness to us. We wake up to open space. We find things when we need them. We have room to move. At night, we climb into a made bed and the covers welcome us.

If you would like more order in your life, whether in your home, your office, your shop or your barn, try the party, plan and prize method. The party can just be one friend stopping by. The plan can be as simple as 10 minutes a day picking up. The prize might be a pack of gum.

We have a long way to go. But if we can make a good start, then I know you can too. Leave your tips and troubles in the comments. Let’s get organized and get energized together!