The Jewelry Problem

My jewelry wasn't getting put away where it belonged. This didn't make much sense to me, because the system I use has been effective for several years. Still, it seemed time to revisit the issue since most of my jewelry didn't go back into its case but instead was sitting in a heap on the dresser.

If you've read The House That Cleans Itself, you know that I recommend a very unique jewelry solution: I keep my earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc., stored in clear plastic divided boxes I got at an office supply store. The point of doing this is so that I can go through my jewelry to pick out what I want simply by looking through the clear plastic instead of making a mess while rooting through a jewelry box.

Click here to see plastic boxes

Taking a new look at this system, I realized where the problem was coming in: I'm up to 8 plastic boxes now, and that's too many to go through so easily. (It's not that I have a ton of fancy jewels or anything, it's just that I never get rid of stuff. I've got earrings in there so old that my kids use them with costumes!) My solution, then, was three-fold:

1. First, I purged unneeded jewelry. My teenage daughters took some of it and the rest I gave to a friend who recycles costume jewelry into beautiful artwork.

2. Next, I picked out the pieces that I wear most often and put them into two of the boxes. The other six boxes contain seasonal pieces (like Christmas tree pins), things that go with just one outfit, or things I keep mainly for sentimental reasons (like my childhood charm bracelet.)

3. I hung a row of pegs for the chunkier necklaces that didn't fit in the boxes.

Now, when I get undressed and need to put my jewelry away, I just have to search through 2 plastic boxes instead of 8 to find an empty spot, and I don't have to fight with the chunky necklaces that made the boxes hard to close.

Problem solved, the House That Cleans Itself way!


The Makeup Zone

The problem in my makeup area is the perfect example of why I simply had to write The House That Cleans Itself: because I'm so domestically challenged. A naturally-neat person would never have had this issue, it's that big of a no-brainer.

The problem: My makeup area is consistently messy, littered with cotton balls, tissues, and q-tips.

The solution: (Get ready for a big "Duh!") Put a small trash can within reach.

The reason there was always a mess on my vanity was because the bedroom trashcan is located across the room, and so every time I finished putting on my makeup I had to gather up the used tissues and things, carry them over to the can, and throw them in. For the domestically impaired, that's no small feat—because the simple act of getting up out of a chair is enough to shift the mind into a different gear, one that has forgotten all about walking to the trash can and is instead focused on whatever is next in the agenda.

Because there wasn't room to relocate the bedroom trashcan within reach of the vanity, I got a second, small decorative trashcan instead and stowed it underneath. Now, when I use a tissue to remove my makeup or a q-tip to smooth out my eye liner, it goes straight from my hand to the trashcan. My messy makeup area is no more.

Click here to view a variety of small trashcans.

Next up: the jewelry problem.


Never Stop Tweaking

Recently, my bedroom hasn't been as consistently clean as one in a House That Cleans Itself ought to be. I have been busier than usual with lots of speaking engagements, travel, and novel-writing, but still something has felt "off" about it. The HTCI plan is supposed to be nearly effortless, but in this case it no longer was.

Using the HTCI principles outlined in the book, I decided to take a look at my mess, examine the evidence, and see if I needed to make any new changes. Sure enough, I was able to narrow the problem down to five issues:

1. My makeup area was consistently messy, littered with cotton balls, tissues, and q-tips
2. My jewelry wasn't getting put away where it belonged
3. The TV cabinet seemed messy
4. My bedside table was cluttered with too much stuff
5. The catch-all basket next to my bed had caught all it could—and then some!

Check back next time to see how I solved each of these problems the House That Cleans Itself way.


The Cluttered Couch, Take Five

There are still two items on the cluttered couch that need a home. First is that ubiquitous crayon box.

When my kids were small, I solved the crayon problem with a visit to Pier One, where I bought a gorgeous wooden box that I knew would be pretty on my living room coffee table. We placed the crayons inside that box. That way, they were always handy but hidden in plain sight, and they were easy to put away once they weren't being used.

Click here for an example of the wooden box.

If you don't have a coffee table (or do but don't have room for a pretty box), choose a drawer or cabinet where the crayon box can always go, one that is located very near the couch, since this is obviously where you are in the habit of keeping the crayons.

As for the diaper bag, this brings up a whole set of challenges. It's been so long since my kids were babies (my oldest will graduate from high school this spring!) that I confess I'm not an expert on this. I do, however, remember being out with the diaper bag and reaching inside for something important—only to find that I had used that item up last time and never replenished it. With that in mind, I'm thinking that the best storage place for a diaper bag isn't just somewhere convenient but also somewhere very near the items that go into that bag—for example, hanging on a peg close to the diapering table.

If the baby's room is very far from the door, however, this won't work because it will be too inconvenient. Therefore, I would suggest making room for the diaper bag in the same place you keep your purse—but be sure to post a small list there of things that need to be added to the bag before going out again, such as diapers and wipes. If you really wanted to be efficient, you could keep extra packages of diapers and other items there as well, to pull from.

Moms, do you have any other good ideas about where to store a diaper bag—and how to keep it freshly stocked? If so, post your comments here.