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Finally Organizing Four Huge Problem Areas (…And My Case For Loving January)

Here’s an unpopular statement that might enrage many of you – January is my favorite month. Hold your anger… I’m not saying it’s the BEST month or my favorite season, I don’t love the darkness, short days, or the rain but I crave the quiet in every way and am so happy to not leave my house for the whole month. You see, like most people, from Halloween til New Years my personal well becomes extremely depleted to the point of empty – so many shoots, work’s almost out of control, so much socializing, traveling, eating, drinking, desert-ing, extroverting 24 hours a day and it makes my house a total, unmanageable disaster. I give myself from November to December to just embrace the chaos, mess, and unhealthiness of it all (and boy I do) but then January 1st rolls around and I shut the door on anything optional, hunker down and with work at its quietest I just organize my life/house, read, cook, sleep and have quiet simple connections with my immediate family. IT’S SO WONDERFUL. This year I needed to take a week off my usual routine to go to LA for a friend’s memorial and then when we got back we had a huge snow storm. The power went out but since we have a generator we hosted a super fun, impromptu snow day neighborhood gathering that was very wet indeed (and so fun). But as of last Monday we are back, pretending it’s Jan 1 and between now and spring break I really want to try to be stay “January mode” (I always say this then my mid-February I’m done with winter, over it all, and ready to socialize again).

Now in the spirit of “January mode”, today I’m going to show you four of the most disastrous drawers in the house, where I started my cleaning (and have since tore through them all). It’s a combination of a purge and organizing and it’s highly satisfying to do and see.

My Utensil Drawer

Anybody that cooked in my house was enraged by how we were treating our knives (see on the right) by, you know, shoving them in a drawer with everything else willy nilly. It bugged me too, but just was never on my priority list. So I got to work taking everything out, assessing what I actually use frequently, storing the rest in the pantry or in the long utensil drawer and then of course buying some product to keep things more organized, giving everything a place.

Shallow Drawer Dividers | Enamel Measuring Cups | Enamel Measuring Spoons | Silver Measuring Spoons | Knife Holder | Knives

SO. MUCH. BETTER. After searching for the perfect knife holder for a long time (our drawers are only 3″ deep on the inside) I ended up buying this from The Container Store which is what we had at the mountain house, too. The soft cork is way nicer to the knives and more satisfying (and it can hold way more than just 4, but for the shot we didn’t overload it). I also want to give a shout out to my new narrow measuring spoons (top right) that can fit in every single of my herb/spice bottles (whereas the round white ones on the bottom left can’t). TBH I included the white tablespoons in there because they looked cute, but you obviously only need one set and I def opt for the “uglier” narrow measuring spoons every time since I bought them. The knives are from Made In Cookware and they are sooo pretty (and super sharp and heavy, but to be fair are also new). Oh, and I had to use these really shallow drawer dividers that have cross dividers and they are good for us, but most drawers can handle 4″ drawer dividers. Here’s a link to ours. And all our extra knifes are on a magnetic knife block on the pantry counters, in here just what we use frequently (I don’t love kitchen counter clutter, but like WHO DOES?)

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse kitchen reveal

I love this vintage island so much and the sacrifice, but the drawers stick so bad, they are so deep and really really rustic on the inside. So we used this “wood lubricant” on the sides and bottoms which totally worked! They pull and push so much easier now (thanks to all those who suggested it). So it was time to give it an interior makeover…

Our Kitchen Tool Drawer

Our whole island drawers was a disaster but I only took photos of the worst drawers. So I took everything out and realized that I needed a dedicated cooking “tool” drawer instead of my “just throw it in any drawer and spend 12 minutes trying to find it later” approach. I had two Tupperware drawers and no dedicated tool drawer. AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A HOME COOK!!

Plaid Drawer Liner

See? It’s so cute! Shout out to this cute plaid drawer liner because it’s not a weird sticker but stays in place and is neither boring (solid color) or has too much pizazz (there were some very non-farm versions out there). It’s totally wipe-able and easy to pull out and clean. I like the simple plaid, the rubber backing that sticks, and it has some padding (just barely) which keeps it in place and makes for a soft landing, less banging around. Also these were WAY more affordable than a lot that I found at The Container Store ($9.99 a roll).

I’m excited to show you my favorite simple chopping tools that I actually use frequently on Saturday…

The Tupperware Drawer

This drawer was THE WORST – the glass dishes made it so heavy to pull in and out and so few dishes had matching lids anymore (where do they go??). So I pulled them all out, matched them up, put down the same drawer liner (put wood lubricant on the drawer!!!!!) and reorganized it all.

Tupperware Bowls | Blue Top Rectangle Container | Square/Rectangle Gray Containers (similar)

Now I still love glass containers because I can warm up my soup in microwave if I need to, but I ended up buying more Tupperware (that double as mixing bowls) with lids. The square are a few years old, from Target and the new round ones are from Amazon (and very well reviewed – love them so far).

My “Shove Anything In Here So We Don’t Have To Look At It” Cabinet

I don’t know where the piles of miscellaneous come from nor do I know where all these bits of garbage should go. So listen, it was NOT pretty, but I loved that I could take anything that was on the counter that was junking up my life and just hide it in here (it’s a midcentury secretary). My mom will tell you this is how I cleaned my room, too – just shoved everything under my bed. This is dangerous because mail would get lost in there, homework was forever gone, and we had NO idea where a checkbook was. (Our house doesn’t have a dedicated home office yet, nor a dedicated play/family room strangely). So clearly we needed a place for the things we grab and shove daily.

Bamboo Organizers (similar) | Woven Basket (similar)

So much better. Here’s what we have: a basket that holds the mail (and homework or artwork), notebooks for quick permission school notes for kids, a hairbrush and hair-ties so I can braid Birdie’s super long hair while she’s eating breakfast (or least chase her out the door and have her brush her hair). I know where the checkbooks are, the pens the envelopes and at least one pair of scissors (for now). I’ll likely have to redo this org every few months but at least I have actually thought about it.

So just a quick little Thursday Org post do give you some ideas for this weekend should you be in Org mode, too. I’m now onto our mudroom next (where we kept our beanies in the same drawer as our cleaning supplies??) and will hit all our clothes closets this weekend. SEE?? ISN’T JANUARY GLORIOUS?? Also here is a fun fact that might be a total myth or urban legend – but I once heard that there was a study/scan conducted on people’s brains before they enter The Container Store and then after they’ve purchased and come out, and I guess their dopamine levels was super high. HA! Just the THOUGHT and intent of organizing their homes/lives gives people a high. I also want to caveat that I’m sure “Big Org” was behind that study, but anecdotally I believe it. Happy Org month.

*Pretty Photos by Kaitlin Green

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4 months ago

As somebody who definitely gets that dopamine kick from the Container Store, may I suggest these pegboard organizers from IKEA for your drawers:
Basically you create a little grid for your tools, bowls, whatever so everything has a home and, more importantly stays in its home. No sliding around from opening/closing the drawers and since everything has a specific place, your drawer will stay organized for longer. It only comes in two sizes, but if it fits your drawers I HIGHLY recommend!

4 months ago
Reply to  Emily

these look awesome.

4 months ago
Reply to  Emily

We have Umbra’s version of these that are adjustable in width and I highly recommend them! They are a total game changer for keeping deep drawers organized. We use them for the drawers of kid friendly dishes and cups as well as a drawer of glass leftover containers.

Mary B.
4 months ago

I organized my daughter’s closet last weekend and it was GLORIOUS! Total dopamine hit, taking on our junk drawers next. Thanks for the inspiration post! I would LOVE to have a working situation where I could spend a week or two tackling all of the areas – so jealous (in the best way). Great work!

4 months ago

Such a satisfying blog post! Inspired to get shelf paper and take on some hidden clutter. Thank you for keeping it real for us!

4 months ago

YASSSSS I too love January for this reason. Although I also try to curb spending so work hard to organize without buying anything new. Try being the operative word here. I did get new glass food storage to replace most of my plastic but why are they always so small? I do take note of what would improve functionality of closets and drawers and def is a good time to find deals. Honestly now through March is great home refresh time for sheets, towels and storage. So far I’ve reorganized our primary coat closet, our cold storage attic closet where Xmas decor and luggage are stored. My office closet is next. Cleaning drawers and interior cupboards is also oddly satisfying. If you have to be indoors you may as well enjoy it.

4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle

My trick is to not buy the variety sets of Tupperware — I get enough small ones donated from my mother who does buy them, lol. I am slowly switching entirely to round and rectangular glass Pyrex with third-party silicone lids from Amazon — an investment but I find that plastic lids inevitably break down from microwave + dishwasher use. I only buy specific sizes open-stock (S/M/L rounds mainly because we inherited a bunch to start with, then I added some large rectangular ones because that shape can be more useful) so that they stack nicely in my drawer and I don’t end up with a ton of small tupperware that I don’t need.

4 months ago

oooohhh, aaaaaah! So satisfying even in someone else’s home!! Glad to hear about the dopamine levels since I spend a lot of time planning my organizing, ha ha! Thanks for the inspiration!

Cici Haus
4 months ago

I am a huge proponent of storying tupperware with the lid ON. it’s the only way to not have a mismatch. I’ve had my glass Pyrex for about 15 years and haven’t lost a single piece.

4 months ago

It’s SO SATISFYING to organize those spots that you use ALL THE TIME!! Each time I do something like this — organizing those drawers that we use multiple times a day — I get a little spark of joy every time I open that drawer! I hope you do, too, Emily. 🙂

4 months ago

That was very satisfying! I’m happy for you that your move and big life change is really paying off. You have landed in a great spot. Also, I can watch people clean and organize things for hours. It calms my mind just watching. Think I’ll organize a few drawers today. Good cold weather project. Thanks!

4 months ago

I LOVE January for the same reason!

4 months ago

I have been doing organizing ‘quick hits’ for the past few months and it’s a system that’s really working for me. Basically, I tackle one distinct and fairly small thing at a time – like a single cabinet or drawer in the house I purge & organize at the same time. I do one a day or every couple of days. Just steadily moving throughout the house. It’s manageable, gives that quick hit of “dang, I accomplished something that needed to get done!” and gives momentum for the next thing. Much easier for me than tackling a whole room or big problem at once.

4 months ago

Brave of you to show your messy befores, I can relate.
The worst is the mail, receipts, medical records and paperwork because it sometimes has to be seen by other family members before tucking it away in it’s cabinet, or left out so I can read it/pay it. If I file it away I forget all about it. I also have some resentment because I didn’t ever volunteer or even agree to be the Keeper of Paperwork, I got stuck with the job and have been unsuccessful in trying to unload this chore!

Molly Phillips
4 months ago
Reply to  Christa

I feel your pain! And the coupons an overly large postcard, codes on catalogs, etc. I tear them out and recycle the rest, but then have no idea where to put them so that I’ll a) use them and b) not forget about them.

4 months ago
Reply to  Molly Phillips

I bought a wooden box on Etsy that is a little bigger then 8.5 x 11 (and about 5′ high) that I shove all papers/mail/bills/things that have to be dealt with into over the course of the week, and plopped it on a sideboard I pass multiple times a day. Every weekend I empty that sucker out and deal with all the things. No visual clutter (looks cute in my Zoom background!) but it is still in my visual field everyday so I don’t forget about all the things stuffed in there.

4 months ago
Reply to  Molly Phillips

Take pictures and keep them in an “coupons” album 😉

4 months ago

For old wooden drawers, when the lubricant wears out… try UHMW tape. It’s the best! Easy to stick down (just get the correct width) and then everything slides like a charm, forever. We use it on all of our old wooden furniture and it never rubs again.

🥰 Rusty
4 months ago
Reply to  Nerissa


4 months ago

My kitchen drawer madness is because we renovated but kept the old (probably 70s) cabinets, so I have small drawers – some shallow (so I could theoretically use some dividers, but so far everything is too tall) and others deep (items stack up on top of each other, and they’re all items I need to keep). I wish I had these giant drawers!

4 months ago

I literally laughed out loud at the before pic of the “shove everything in there cabinet” but don’t we all have spots like that? The afters look so great and thanks for giving me some organizing inspiration for the areas I need to tackle next.

Julie S
4 months ago

I love hunkering down and being cozy/hibernating in January! A few years ago l let go of all that goal making and ambitious changes that some people like to do – I found it was neither helpful nor interesting for me. After the busy buzz of Nov/Dec, a month of quiet hygge is just perfect (our seasonal business is very slow this time of year which helps). If I get the urge to organize or otherwise reset my home, I do, but you’re quite right that it’s perfect for quality time with immediate family, and for making soups!

Sarah L
4 months ago

I love that you’ve been thoughtful about your storage supporting your lifestyle rather than trying to get your family to conform to the constraints of a system- the hair-doing pieces are in the desk because hair happens there, and the knives we use all the time are handier than the ones we only need sometimes. It’s easier to maintain when it’s actually supporting your day to day activities. This time next year you can go through the “not as often” storage place and make some edits 🙂

4 months ago

For efficiency while cooking, I do have multiple sets of measuring spoons and cups, and having most recently bought the narrow ones for spice jars, I’ll never buy another round set again. I don’t want to have to stop and wash the tablespoon I just used for a wet ingredient when I need it again for a dry ingredient. They live in a drawer in an organizer that’s meant for silverware, but I put each measuring spoon size in a different spot, with the measuring cups just loose next to the organizer. (Side note: Two things I immediately throw away after purchase: the rings that hold measuring spoons and cups together and the perforated plastic tops that come on spice jars under the main lid. Both just waste my time with every use, so they go directly to the trash.)

4 months ago
Reply to  Brenna

RE: narrow measuring spoons – Absolutely same! I do not decant my spices into anything cute bc I just can’t be bothered (I bother myself in other ways!) so I was always trying to pour powder out of a tiny glass jar. It’s just a mess. Even my tablespoon can fit in the jar of powdered cumin. Everything fits in those “smile” shaped holes in the large spice tins too. Don’t know about Emily’s set, but mine goes down to 1/8tsp which none of my older round plastic sets did. (That’s weird right? I’m sure my mom’s cheap WM sets had 1/8.) I love that the measurement is stamped into the metal and mine are each a single piece of metal – nothing is ever going to wear off or break at the solder point. Love! I have metal measuring cups from the same company, some metal manufacturer not a sexy brand but I can’t remember what they are called, and while they do have a solder point where the handle joins the scoop they are also great. For one, the metal is thicker gauge and the handle is sizable so the solder point is big enough to be strong.… Read more »

4 months ago

When I remodeled my kitchen, I dedicated an entire deep draw to files for everyday paper work. Seem like you need something like that here- you have lots of space – just find a drawer deep enough to hold files and then when maill/kids stuff enters through the kitchen door, you can open and immediately add to the file in the kitchen!

4 months ago
Reply to  Suzanne

Having a drawer in the kitchen for all the paper is definitely a game changer! We have an accordion file for 8.5 x 11 paper in a drawer. I removed the flap that is supposed to keep it closed and have it standing up in the drawer beneath the key/wallet tray area so it doesn’t take up much space. I try to touch the mail as little as possible by immediately recycling and filing as needed instead of making a pile on the counter.

4 months ago

These are my exact sentiments about January/winter. Except I really like the dark and cold — feels like a reset, like a cold plunge. What I’m not sure how to deal with are all the requests/things/engagements that come from school and for my three kids. They infringe so much on my January peace!

Would love to see any more starters or org spaces — It’s so satisfying!