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Simplify: Drawers & Shelves

Week 1 of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: Drawers and Shelves

The following content may not be suitable for innocent eyes. Just kidding. But the photos I’m going to show you today will confirm for you that I am, indeed, a normal person. Writing a book about decluttering doesn’t mean I don’t have to all the livelong day. After all, I live with one man, and three children under eight. And a cat. And a hamster.

So this week is our official first week of Project Simplify 2013, and I hope this series truly a blessing to you and your home this month! It’s amazing what happens when we take care of those little gnats that fly around our home, slowly driving us to the breaking point.

And one of the biggest annoyances are shelves and drawers—you know, flat spaces that seem to collect everything. I love how one reader on Facebook described it: Flat Surface Syndrome. Yes. Exactly that.

So no more delaying… Here are my own before-and-after pics of drawers and shelves throughout my home.

I’ll start in our bedroom, the area I tend to clean LAST (which is unfortunate, if you think about it). We have a lovely bay window that—well, collects stuff. This is the place where we toss stuff when we’re too tired to put it up where it belongs, or when company is on its way and the living room is still a three-ringed circus.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

(As an aside, I really can’t stand that yellow chair… it’ll probably be gone in a few weeks.)

Here’s my trusty Craigslist nightstand I painted granny smith apple a few years ago. I love it, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. It felt REALLY good to get stuff out of there.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

Heading downstairs… I love that we keep our craft cabinet out in the open for easy access, but it means the top is a paper magnet. Honestly, the “before” shot isn’t that bad here. It’s usually covered in papers, markers, and stickers.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

Turn around, and you’ll see the kids’ bookshelf, also out in the open. There’s a certain 6-foot-2 member of our family whose name rhymes with “Schmyle,” and he’s the only one who can see the top of the shelf. So he uses it as his catch-all spot, unwittingly thinking I can’t see his evil ways. I’m on to him.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

Just around the corner is our kitchen, and while it’s fairly organized, I’ve had some projects neglected since we moved in last summer (you might remember that we bought a fixer-upper, so we’re constantly living in a remodel project). One little gnat on my to-do list has been labeling the glass jars that house our baking goods.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

Sigh… That’s better. (I used these chalkboard labels, also from the Martha Stewart line at Staples, if you’re curious.)

Our spices needed serious help. I love that we’ve now got pull-out drawers, but its meant needing top labels instead of side labels for our jars. Anytime either of us cooks, we have to lift up each spice jar until we find the right one. Total pain.

The first hotspot of Project Simplify on Simple Mom: drawers and shelves.

I bought these labels, also from the Martha Stewart line at Staples (sorry they’re so hard to see; this is a darker corner of the kitchen, making it hard to photograph). I also bought new jars from Bed, Bath, and Beyond; a buck each. I kept a few in their original jars and just switched out the lid so that it’s still nice and flat for the label.

Here’s a better shot of the labels, and of the jars:

Spice labels from Martha Stewart at Staples.

As you can see from the spice drawer, I’m two jars short (there’s one in the front row, with a red lid, and one in the back, with a brown). But I didn’t let perfectionism stop me; almost completely overhauling my spice collection is better than nothing, right? This is one of my most significant life lessons as an adult—that perfectionism is paralyzing. I’m all about pursuing excellence in my good enough organizing and home keeping. How about you?

Are you in this week? I hope so! All you have to do is take a “before” pic of your shelf or drawer, then declutter, clean, and organize it—and then take an “after” pic. They don’t have to be super fancy—mine above are a combination of photos taken with my DSLR and my trusty iPhone, so don’t stress it too much.

And also? You can do as many or as few drawers and shelves as you want. Choose to really focus on one major area, or do a lot of smaller ones, like I did. Whatever helps your home the most is great with me.


I can’t wait to see your photos! You’ll be able to add them to this linky above, or via Instagram all week, so don’t panic—you’ve got plenty of time.

And gear up for our second hotspot next Tuesday… that pesky closet. You know which one I’m talking about.

Which shelves and drawers are clutter magnets in your home?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Steph@livingbrilliant

    Ok, now I am scared. Because I, too, suffer from flat surface syndrome. Ahhhhhh! It seems every time I get a lovely space cleared where the eye can rest, someone else (ok, sometimes me) sees that space as a New Place to Put Stuff. But, I will try again because it is Project Simplify. Thanks for the motivation!

    • Samantha

      I agree Steph! Everywhere I look calls to me saying, “new place to put stuff right here!!!”

    • Tsh

      I totally get that. But think of it this way—if you hadn’t cleared it off, it’d just get worse eventually, right? I mean, we know we’ll have to clean it again, but at least we’re helping it stay under control to a degree. Sorta like shoveling snow while it’s snowing.

      At least, this is what I tell myself to combat that whole definition of insanity being doing the same thing expecting different results. 😉

    • Alissa

      Oh, I totally have that syndrome too! I think one of the keys for me might be to replace the clutter with something purposeful or beautiful. Instead of just creating space, how about figuring out what I want to use that space for – Like Tsh with that top of the bookcase.

  2. Samantha

    It looks so easy! But I can imagine how much time each “flat surface” took to clean considering I did some organizing this evening! I adore how you labeled everything in the pantry. Martha Stewart office products are my favorite.

  3. Victoria

    I have quite a few pesky closets so I am trying to decide which one is the worst. Toss up between the linen closest that and the craft closet. Both were very organized at this time last year but sadly not kept up well.

  4. Emily

    Tsh, yur home is absolutely beautiful. Honestly, once you get into that organizing rut, it gets ADDICTING. You start to see other places in the house to do, and it’s a slippery slope (admittedly, VERY RARE 😉 )

    • Tsh

      Totally. I told Kyle last night that I’m feeling the early onset of my annual decluttering rampage…. It just feels awesome, doesn’t it?

  5. Sarah

    We totally have FSS at our house, too, but I’m planning on addressing that during your “Piles” week. I cleaned out my combo laundry/bathroom (I know – weird, right?) cabinets for this week’s challenge, and I love this! It’s one of those things that’s been bugging me forever and now it’s finally done. Hooray!

  6. Kara

    Looking great, Tsh!
    I’m giggling about the catch all spot because there is a certain person here whose name rhymes with Schmistopher whose catch all is the top of the fridge. I’m also on to him 😉
    Thanks for the inspiration to finally tackle our shelves!

    • Tsh

      Schmyle, Schmistopher… there’s a lot of them out there, aren’t there? 😉 Good thing they’re cute.

  7. karen

    I’m sad to say you’re “befores” would be my “afters”!

  8. krista

    I have my list ready, can’t wait to tackle my drawers and shelves!!

    • Tsh

      Woohoo! Go get ’em. 🙂

  9. Archer

    Thank you so much for sharing your before pictures. After seeing your shelves, I feel normal!

  10. Jennifer

    Hi, Tsh. Thanks for the inspiration to simplify! I have a quasi-related question…where do you find the best deals on coconut & almond flour and coconut flakes? Just curious as we’ve done Whole30 and are switching over.
    Off to tackle more drawers,

    • Tsh

      Well, I’m still new and learning, but honestly? The best deals I’ve found so far are online. Well, except for the coconut flour, which we buy in bulk at Whole Paycheck (er, Foods).

      Here’s the coconut flakes we buy.

      And here’s the almond flour. The recipe on the back of the bag, chocolate chip cookies from, are the BEST paleo cookies I’ve tried so far. Just an FYI. 😉

      Hope that helps! I’ll probably write a post eventually about how paleo is going for me…

      • Jennifer

        That helps a lot! Thanks, Tsh!
        Looking forward to the paleo post. Tips for eating paleo while traveling would be appreciated. I was doing so well with the Whole30, until we went to Disney. The Dole Whip was calling my name! 🙂

        • Tsh

          Um… I need help with that post topic, too. 😉

  11. Sally

    Forwarded this to my sister. She wants to know where all the stuff went. lol

    • Tsh

      Ha! Either back where it belongs, in the trash, or in the “to donate” box.

  12. Laura

    Love the pics:)!!! And reminds me you’re human too….not that I thought you weren’t…:). Where did you get the glass jars for your baking supplies? Love them!!!

    • Tsh

      A mix of thrift stores and Target, baby!

    • Tsh

      Nice job! And if you want to add it to the linky above, feel free. (Or, you know, don’t—whatever you want is fine by me!) 🙂

  13. Alysa (InspiredRD)

    I’m afraid my nightstand looks way worse than yours…I’ll be tackling it later this week. Eeek!

    • Tsh

      It’s looked worse before, believe me.

  14. Stephanie

    Totally inspired!! AND I laughed out loud at “whose name rhymes with ‘Schmyle'”!! One more thing I have to say – you have awesome penmanship!! 🙂 Those spice containers look great. I think I’m going to have to swing by Bed, Bath & Beyond and pick up some of those. (I love the Martha Stewart office line of labels, too!)

  15. KateC

    I had to chuckle when I saw the before picture of the craft cabinet. I am pretty sure the after picture (or an earlier before pic) is the same craft cabinet the top of which has been inspiring me to create a less cluttered home. I love the before picture, its such a great reminder that we all live in our houses and while they may have magazine-worthy areas occassionally, mostly they are lived in!

  16. Liz

    This post is perfect timing for me. I “accidentally” pulled everything out of several kitchen cabinets over the weekend. I was able to completely re-configure a cabinet that I now LOVE instead of hate. I have once again tried to reorganize the stupid “L” shaped cabinets that were clearly “designed” by someone who doesn’t use a kitchen. But I still have a pile of stuff on the kitchen counter because I have no idea how to put it back. (Oops!) Now you have inspired me to pull out the spice cabinets (yes, two *facepalm*) and completely redo those, as well. I’ll be picking up those same spice jars and labels this week! Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have a kitchen I love and can actually use. Wouldn’t that be a shocker?!

  17. Jeff Darling

    I’m going to make sure that my wife sees this post! She is very organized, much more so than myself, and I’m sure she would enjoy seeing this. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to get organized, but that is what we are here for, to work hard!

  18. erin

    Where did you get that green sign from?

  19. Denise P.

    We have a serious problem with FSS (Flat Surface Syndrome). We were so excited to have a good sized kitchen with lots of counter space when we moved. The trouble now, I still don’t have counter space as it is where things collect. My recent answer to this has been two grocery bags: one gathers things that go down to the basement, and one gathers things that have to be taken upstairs. Things sometimes get lost in that bag for a little while but it has cut down on the counter clutter. I’ve also tried to implement putting things away immediately or everytime I am going in the direction of where something lives. Your house looks great Tsh.

    By the way, I think you could have just said rhymes with Schmusband, and most of us could relate and agree. Thanks again for all your inspiration.

    • Tsh

      Perhaps many of us have schusbands then, eh?

  20. Kristen Strong

    Thank you so much for inviting us folks along for some real-but-not-overwhelming spring cleaning. I wish we were neighbors, but I’m so thankful we are friends.

    Off to tackle some shelves in my room on this snow day…


    • Tsh

      Well, remember our heaven idea? All of us on one street. It’ll happen one day, baby. (And I’m sure our houses will all face the beach…)

  21. Gay B

    Labels on the lids of spice jars!!! Why did I never think of that? I’m going to do that when I get home!

  22. Heidi @ Decor & More

    LOL, does the ping pong table count?? I’ve promised my son that I’d have it cleared off to play on for he and his friends after their hs graduation in May. Might take me that long… 🙂
    Thanks, as always, Tsh, for the inspiration and for keeping it real!
    xo Heidi

  23. Elizabeth

    I am fairly certain that flat spaces just BREED junk. I swear I have stuff on my shelves that I never bought or put there, it just appeared one day. Thank you for the inspiration, I’ve been outside for two days (finally nice weather) but the next two are supposed to be rainy and I plan to clean, organize and purge.

  24. Maria

    Yes, where do you put all the stuff??! That was my question too! I can clear the spaces as such, but finding the ‘new homes’ for all that stuff and finding the time and energy to put them there…whole other ball game! It would mean going backwards and forwards for a while…
    But definatley thanks for the inspiration!

    • Tsh

      My basic theory is that if you don’t have a home for the item, you need to question its existence in your home. And if you really must have it, then something else has to go so that you have the space for it. Because if you really love it, why would you let it sit in a pile and collect dust? <3

  25. Christina

    I absolutely love the before and after pictures. What a great way to revisit how things should look when the clutter starts to take over again (and that’s bound to happen in my house).

  26. Rebecca Cooper

    Thanks for the inspiration Tsh!! I’m feeling SO ready to tackle my next hotspot…and believe me, there are plenty of them!! 🙂

  27. Sarah

    Crazy kitchen drawer done!!!! Hooray!

  28. Wendy

    I really appreciate the format of this year’s Project Simplify. It’s motivated me to be much more productive. We, too, have a tall man at our house who believes a high surface (the top of the refrigerator) is his personal “I’ll deal with it later space” !!!

  29. Darla

    Tsh, where did you get that ABC print?? I love it!! Your afters look great and it was encouraging to see that you really are normal and have clutter too! 🙂

  30. Vera

    Thank you for this. I really got our first floor in tip-top shape with this challenge. Can’t wait to keep going with it!

  31. Katie

    Thanks for the inspiration to clean off those catch all flat surfaces. My dresser and bookshelf in my bedroom seem to be the most difficult to keep clean as no one else is ever in my bedroom. Being challenged to simplify was exactly what I needed.

    My latest post: Clutter

  32. Christina

    I might be double-posting, and if I am I apologize!
    But I cleaned out my office! Hurrah! My writing partner will follow shortly with the story of her clean-out!

  33. Kristin Bolster

    Thank you so much for the challenge which keeps me motivated!!

  34. Laura

    I have finally caught up with week one photos. Really enjoyed de cluttering and not so much getting rid of stuff but being able to enjoy the things I have and need.

  35. Jenny


    Thank you so much for posting the before pics! It gave me confidence to do my own de-cluttering at home. You are still a super hero, but it’s good to know that even super heros are human!!!

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