Family, Organization

Home to Haven: Making Our Homes a Sanctuary (Part 2)

Welcome back! If you missed it, a fortnight ago we talked about the virtuous balance of up-keeping a home. Definitely read that article first, before coming back to this one. (Click here if you need to go read it). This week we are covering the rest of our home transformation!

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The Bathroom

I was not looking forward to doing the bathroom. Keeping the baby out of the garbage and toilet while organizing – not so fun. As usual, there were some expired hair and health products to get rid of. But purging was not my only goal for this space. I wanted to revamp the bathroom to have a safe and accessible self care station for our little girls.

There are a lot of great ideas for setting up child friendly self care stations on Pintrest. Search Montessori Self Care Station or check out our pinterest board of kid friendly spaces if you are interested. But basically there are a couple main goals for this space for our girls.

  • Access to water through a water dispenser
  • Access to a hair brush and safe hair clips
  • Toothbrush, facecloths, baby-safe soap

The cleaning supplies for the girls (dusting and window washing) were located on their shelf space. However, with the addition of the self care station, we are going to store their cleaning tools in the same area as these other self care essentials.

Another thing is my youngest is still in a stage where she puts things in her mouth, so I am keeping the toothpaste and other not-taste-safe items out of her reach.

The Entryway

Making over the entrance was a lot of fun! My father in law got us a new piece of furniture to use in this space, a three drawer and four self organizer. This is perfect for a Canadian winter. There is space for both our girls to store their things where they can reach them, but also room for Mama and Tato to keep stuff at our height too. We are also making use of hooks for coats and jackets. While there is a big closet, the children and I are visual organizers – so out of sight means out of mind. We need fast, easy, and visual storage solutions to keep our space tidy.

Another thing I did to help make this space toddler friendly was use picture labels! Above the hooks for the girls’ sweaters and coats are pictures of themselves. So Little Fox knows to put her coat back under her picture, and Little Badger knows she can grab the sweater by her picture! This is especially helpful for my husband. We end up with a lot of matching items for the girls, and even though they are 21 months apart, they are almost in the same size clothing for pants and for jackets. Having the picture labels makes it clear to the whole family whose items are whose.

Top tip: Picture labels are also great for toys and any other item that needs organized for toddlers. Toddlers can’t read, but they can use picture labels!

The Kitchen and Dining Area

For the last nine months we have eaten all our meals – except when guests were able to come over – at the kitchen island. Now this was lovely for me, and a big improvement on my childhood eat-while-sitting-on-the-couch upbringing. But one problem we have had with this is that the TV is visible from the island, so my eldest always asks for shows. And often, when my father in law is present, he will simply put cartoons on, since that was how his own children were raised.

Although we have gotten clearer on setting the boundaries of screen time, Little Fox asks for them as if on autopilot if she sees her Dido (grandpa) while she is sitting in her chair for meals. Then I recently made the observation – the dining room table is lower, and out of the sight line of the TV. If I can clear the dining table, and we can build the habit of eating there, it will remove the temptation!

While dining table meals was the end goal of my kitchen overhaul, that is not where I started. I started with the pantry

Why the Pantry?

Why did I start with the pantry? Because in order to make space for the items that were getting left out, first I needed to make space in existing storage areas.

One of the first thing I did was clear out half the pots and pans that had not been used in the last month. (Probably not used in the last six months). However, some of these were pans that might be used to cook for a bigger meal like Easter or Christmas. So I simply moved these ones to another space near the kitchen. (A kind of second pantry by the back door that also functions as a linen closet).

Next I pared down the food. Soup packets are now stored in a basket together, cracker variations in a basket together, pasta in a basket, teas in a basket… and do on. After organizing these pantry items (and removing 5 containers of black pepper, because why do we have so many black peppers out), I was left with room to put the girls’ dishes on the bottom shelf. Now they can easily get their own cups, plates, and bowls.

Finishing the Job

After the pantry and storage spaces opened up, I dealt with the surface clutter. It does feel a bit like an endless game of Tetris, moving home storage spaces from one place to another. But this is also exactly how to find the best way to utilize the storage we have. So it is so worth it in the end.

We still eat breakfast at the kitchen island. I think this gives us a reason to keep the island clear of clutter as well. But we have been having lunch and supper at the dining room table consistently since this reorganization.

Storage Spaces: Garage and Storage Room

First of all, the garage was simple for me to do. We hadn’t used 90% of what was in the garage in 9 months, and it was simply a matter of sorting out what went in the garbage, recycle, and could be donated. The rest of the items either need to go back into our car or are for our storage room. We are in the middle of up-sizing vehicles, given that if we have another child there wont be room for three car seats in our current car. And the last thing I want to worry about when I get pregnant again is selling and buying a car… so we are doing it now.

The store room is a more complicated matter. My concern with both the garage and storeroom is that they are not child-friendly spaces. Both places also contain tools and such stored by my father-in-law. If you don’t have kids, or if they are older, it would be fairly easy to do sorting and purging in those spaces. But since I have a one and three year old, I came up with this store room organization system.

Organization of Non-Child Friendly Storage Spaces

  1. Bring storage boxes (about three at a time) to a child friendly space, where you have a working surface like a desk, table, or kitchen island.
  2. Go through those boxes, sorting out what you want to keep, put elsewhere in the house, donate/sell, recycle, and whatever cannot be savaged.
  3. Get the later three categories out of the house after each purge session, and deal with the “belongs elsewhere” items.
  4. Put the keep items aside somewhere safe, but not back in the store room.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4
  6. After you have emptied your store room, sort through everything in the keep pile
  7. If you still have too much stuff, continue using the donate/sell and recycle piles as categories
  8. After you have sorted piles, find good containers for the stuff you are going to keep, and label them
  9.  Put away your sorted and labeled items back in your empty storage room

This system is perfect for avoiding overwhelm, since you only deal with a portion of items at a time. Plus, you only put back the things you want to keep, so it automatically gets rid of the things you no longer use or need.

The downside is there might be duplicates of items you found in the first three boxes and in later boxes, so you are more likely to keep too much and have to go through your keep pile again. But one way to avoid this pitfall is to ask yourself “Do I want to have to hold this item and have to deal with making the keep or donate decision again?” If the answer is no, just get rid of it now.

The Byzantine Life

Thank you for checking out this week’s organization article. I am not quite done the store room as of the writing of this article. Though that is because doing three boxes at a time is slow work. Especially compared to being able to work in the space. I am still happy with the results so far. And I am really looking forward to completing this space. Despite the challenge of not being able to work there with small children around me. (Also, I am not using nap times to work on this space, which I could do if I really wanted to speed the process up).

You might also be interested in our Home Organization Crash Course article. Or another of our articles on organizing.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media. On our Pinterest we have boards full of organized spaces and resources! Also, new posts are always shared to Facebook, and my husband runs our Twitter (@TheByzLife) and Instagram accounts (username: thebyzantinelife)! Some of our home spaces are now visible on our Instagram page. And, most importantly, if you want to support our work at, consider joining us on Patreon. For as little as $5-a-month you can get exclusive access to special posts, photos, and updates from our family!


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