7 habits of (my) organized household

Breakfast at the Steele household.

Breakfast at the Steele household.

If your household is anything like mine, you know that one minute it is under your control, and the next it is . . . not.  I have a bustling house - busy with three kids (two middle schoolers, mind you), a needy 9 pound dog, and a husband who works very hard to provide for us.  Between grocery shopping, endless laundry, school functions, homework, keeping house, and more laundry, I often wonder how the modern-day household can manage with two working parents, and a slew of incoming demands on our time and emotions.

I have grown to love the well-oiled machine known as our family, albeit blended and often scattered at times.  Our children are back and forth, our weekends are upside down, and our calendars are crammed.  I do, however, know there are 7 key items that we continually work on to help our family thrive.

1.  Laundry. 

Never stop doing it.  Do it every day.  Always be aware of how much detergent and dryer sheets you have.  Enlist the help of your children, if applicable.  Even very young children love the challenge of folding, stacking, smoothing.  They may not do the best job, but cut your losses.  You will thank me when they are teenagers who know how to FOLD.  Expect to do laundry most days of the week, and pick your best time of day.  Morning, afternoon, evening - whatever is favorable.  And if you are planning on home construction, or are moving in the near future, highly consider having a washer and dryer on the second floor - it has been a life saver for me!

2.  Make your bed.  Every damn day.

It has been scientifically proven that a tidy bed can increase momentum, motivation, and focus during your day.  Have your little ones make their beds on a daily basis.  It will encourage self-tidying, awareness of their living space, and increase productivity for all in your home (even if they make the bed terribly!).

3.  Empty a trash can that is full.

Overflowing trash cans are more common than you would think - it can drain your energy very quickly, seeing your garbage literally stuffed into tiny waste bins and baskets.  What a depressing sight!  Again, this is another task that little ones LOVE to do.  (Are you picking up on my theme, here?  Everyone helps:)

4.  Get more sleep, set your alarm, and NO snooze button.

I will forever hear my mother's voice letting me know that a). I have NOT gotten enough sleep, b).  I NEED to go to bed earlier, or c). She is SO happy that I finally slept!  We all know that when we have better quality sleep, we are better people.  Compensating by sleeping in late an extra 20 minutes will not cover going to bed at 1:00 am, and will only backlash as you are now running 20 minutes late this morning.  And hitting snooze 4 times after staying up all night will certainly not help you achieve that "well-rested" look you are going for.  2016 tip of the year:  limit screen time at night!  Switch to a book, or a puzzle.  Something with no backlight to stimulate your brain for hours on end.  That does NOT promote sleep, and you and I both know it :)

5.  Tidy.  All of the time.

I come from a family of "tidiers" - while it may not look like much, tidying your counters, cupboards, and living space throughout your day makes way for a tidy home.  No, it is not an OCD thing.  If you have a place for an item, why throw it on the counter?  Why not put it back.  You can (gently) nudge your family members to do the same, and do the same, and do the same until . . . voila' - your family is a tidy family, and your home is a tidy home :)  Most nights I dedicate 20-30 minutes of family tidying, resetting, realigning, and refocusing.  It works wonders! (Backpacks packed (by each child) for the morning, all loaded and ready to go.  Have kids place devices on chargers each night, so they are ready to go by morning.  Plan outfits the night before, and have ready to put on in the morning).

Oh So Clean

6.  No stockpiling, no hoarding.

My children are, by nature, junk collectors.  Hoarders.  Constantly squirreling away trinkets, found treasures, and yes even acorns and rocks - like rodents.  Usually once a month, I wander into the kids' rooms when they are at school, or at a friend's house.  I have a large trash bag, and YES - I sort through the (literally) junk they shove into desk and dresser drawers.  I continue on from kids rooms to my own bedroom drawers, kitchen drawers, office drawers, etc.  Never let junk fester - because when it sits too long, it COLLECTS.  No collecting.  No.

7.  Teach your children well.

I am always trying to show my kids how to do things, vs. doing it for them.  Never underestimate the ability of your kids - they are brilliant.  Those hands and minds are SO ready to take on even the most daunting of tasks, because it gives them pride in doing so.  The work comes when they don't do it exactly the way we like.  But push through, and LET them continue to help around the house.  Send me a message if you'd like a copy of my "Chore List" flow chart :)


Jane Steele created Oh So Clean as a way to help others simplify their lives by sorting through clutter.  As a registered nurse and mother of three, she found that observing an organized lifestyle made for a happier and healthier family.  Jane has been organizing for family and friends for many years - it comes as a natural habit to want to extend her passion beyond her own realm.

Oh So Clean simply allows one the ability to find more personal time, family time, and structure within an otherwise hectic world.  Oh So Clean is dedicated to finding simple living solutions for your busy lifestyle. 





3 tips for spring cleaning!

Happy spring, from Oh So Clean!   I work closely with clients who often feel overwhelmed by such a large spring cleaning list, MOSTLY because they don't know what should be on that list.  Spring is one of my favorite times of year because it boasts a natural feeling of renewal, a fresh start, and a new page.  I often compare spring cleaning to that feeling of "nesting".  When our calendars jump into March, suddenly we notice filthy windows, horrendous baseboards, and walls that are greasy and grimy. 

I am here to tell you that you should NOT feel overwhelmed, and that you have all of the tools you need right in front of you. 

Before we even discuss our spring cleaning list, here are my simple recommendations you should follow:

1.  Do not purchase anything for your spring cleaning session!  Often many people, when they feel a good spring cleaning is needed, run to the nearest Target store to buy new throw pillows and blankets, air fresheners, and a Real Simple magazine.  It never fails.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  NO cleaning or organizing session begins with a shopping trip!  Hastily-made decisions over purchases from Target or Home Goods usually result in excess throw pillows . . . and a house that is still not "spring ready".

2.  Do not overthink spring cleaning!  I want you to know that even if you do not clean your house regularly, it is not magic, and it is not a trick.  There is no "right way" to clean.  There is, however, a method to the madness.  Make a simple list, and stick to it.  Do not let your mind wander to some magical spring cleaning land, where they are doing spring cleaning tricks that you will never know about, have never heard about, and will never do.  Spring cleaning is not a secret, and it is not hard.  It is systematic, and then it is done.

3.  Schedule your cleaning, and stick to that schedule!  Whether you plan to clean alone or enlist help, it is important to check the weather ahead of time, and schedule your cleaning on a clear, dry day.  It will be hard to find energy and motivation if you quickly decide to spring clean your home without preparation.  You should not delve into a cleaning project when you are tired, hungry, or unprepared.  Plan ahead, and map your plan of attack.  Plan on an adequate amount of time for this project.  Drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy snacks as you go to stay fueled for this rewarding work. Take breaks to prevent fatigue!

And finally - the list.  I have found many spring cleaning checklists, but Martha Stewart nails it with this practical guide to spring cleaning.  I especially love the room-by-room instruction - it helps break this large project down to small, achievable tasks.

Happy cleaning!


Oh So Clean

Jane Steele / Oh So Clean

Jane Steele created Oh So Clean as a way to help others simplify their lives by sorting through clutter.  As a registered nurse and mother of three, she found that observing an organized lifestyle made for a happier and healthier family.  Jane has been organizing for family and friends for many years - it comes as a natural habit to want to extend her passion beyond her own realm.
Oh So Clean simply allows one the ability to find more personal time, family time, and structure within an otherwise hectic world.  Oh So Clean is dedicated to finding simple living solutions for your busy lifestyle. 

It's time.

January has come and gone.  If you are anything like most human beings, you plumped up your to-do list with promises of getting organized right around December 30th.  Am I right?  With February in full swing, I ask you: have you made any progress on the task of purging?  Did you organize your entire house as planned?   Your attic, your closet, the toy room . . . ?

How is that donation pile coming?  Most likely the items in that pile have slowly, sheepishly crawled back in to your every day life.  Stuff.  Things.  Crap.  Junk.  It's still there, isn't it?

Well I am here to tell you that it's time.  There is no better time than right now to start purging unnecessary stuff.  New Year's resolutions are not what I am talking about.  I am talking about life changes that will optimize your time and overall sense of wellbeing.  I am talking about adopting a consistent practice of streamlining your belongings so that you have everything you need, but nothing you don't.

Take one junk drawer a week, and tackle that junk drawer!  Commit 30 minutes to one area in your living space that stresses you out.  If you don't know what to do with so many toys, or books, or spare towels, or kitchen tools, bag them and take them away.  Allow yourself and your home the ability to move on without the weight of endless junk robbing you of your time, energy, and piece of mind.

Less is more.

Less is more.

5 (quick and easy) steps you can take to declutter your home today!

Happy Monday!  If you can find a few extra minutes today, take time to consider these simple steps to reducing clutter in your home.  These are my top 5 recommendations that I use in my own home, as well as the homes of my clients.   I find that taking these simple steps reduces anxiety, stress, and that scatterbrained feeling that creeps up so quickly.

1.  Free up your kitchen counters. 

      No you should not have every kitchen appliance on display.  No, you are not running a museum.  If you have more than a toaster, coffee pot, and (maybe) one of those 300 pound mixers, you are good to go.  No one will ever say to you "remember that time I came over and saw ALL of your kitchen appliances on your counter?  That was SO cool!"  Have a place for extraneous items that are used infrequently . . . consider a cupboard, or getting rid of the item completely.  And if there is not one inch left in those cupboards for storage, call me - we need to talk.

2.  Ditch the "occasional rug".

       I used to be a chronic customer at Target, World Market, Home Goods, you name it . . . have you seen all of those adorable rugs?  One can fit here, and there, and EVERYWHERE!  Often times we feel we need to make our house "homey" by adding soft things . . . rugs, drapes, and even more rugs.  In an effort to scale back on what our eyes take in each day, I encourage clients to get rid of rugs in the kitchen, the bathroom and toilet area, the hallway, under chairs, under tables . . . you get the picture.  The smaller the rug, the less it is needed - and the more it will slip and slide around the house.  And if you have a rug resting on carpet, consider calling me to discuss how to part ways with the rug.

3.  Windowsill trinkets.

       When one looks out a window, they want to see the outside world.  Having picture frames, trinkets, prisms, and other decorations pulls the view to the window pane.  Often times our windows are dirty, and having several trinkets to draw attention to them is never helpful.  Not to mention the frustration of wanting to open a window, and having three picture frames, an old vase, dried flower petals, and a prism in your way.  Don't fight with the window.  Keep it clear.

4.  Coats and shoes.

        I will not lie to you.  You have too many of them.  They're everywhere.  There are enough coats and shoes, boots and jackets to equip 17 adults and 10 children for the winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Your options are minimal for this problem - no coat rack, or shoe bin, or shoe rack, or coat bin will do.  You must purge.

5.  Throw pillows.  

        This is one of the most popular items for online resale - those incredibly cute throw pillows that were on sale at Target, Home Goods, World Market.  If we are seeking a cheap and quick change to the room, throw pillows are the first thing we go to.  Feeling tired?  Buy throw pillows.  Hosting a party?  Buy throw pillows.  Change of season?  Buy throw pillows.  The problem is that we cannot let go of our throw pillows, and we are altogether too ready to buy and buy and buy some more.  They are all painfully displayed on our couches, and chairs.  We move them from spare bedroom, to kids bedroom, to loft, to living room.  If you have not sold them online, consider either recovering with new fabric, or donating.

I hope you have enjoyed these 5 steps to decluttering . . . stay tuned for more.  Share if you like what you read! 

Now get out there and declutter!  ;)


Rainy day project


Bathroom closets are one of the most mystifying and complex areas of the home.  Not only do we store towels, toiletries, makeup, and even light bulbs (pictured below in one client's home), we often double up on storage for linens, spare blankets, beach towels, and more.  Tackling a bathroom closet takes time and patience, both of which pay off greatly in this featured project.

Deep breath.

Rainy day project!

Rainy day project!

STEP ONE:  Empty the closet completely of its contents.  You may be shocked to see just how much has been stored in this small space.

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STEP TWO:  Rethink the space - removal of the extraneous shelf on lower level of this closet.  Because our client stores linens here as well, it was necessary to make room for such items.  

Many sheets, blankets, and towels were literally shoved on the lower shelves.  The extra shelf that was removed was awkward and too close to the other shelves.  Oh So Clean took a hammer and removed it (pictured below).  Good riddance!

That was, in and of itself, PROGRESS


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STEP THREE:  Paint!  I will never argue with a semi-gloss interior white for bathroom cabinets.  It is bright and feels fresh.  What an improvement the paint job (pictured below) was!  It really highlighted our spacious and (very empty) closet. 


STEP FOUR:  Organize, sift, get rid of.  This is what takes a majority of our time during Oh So Clean sessions.  Bathroom products tend to accumulate quickly, and when we spend money on products that we end up not liking, we feel as though we cannot throw them away.  Many hair, makeup, and shaving products were eventually tossed. 

Linens were sorted and arranged by like items, and eventually we decided on one spare set of sheets for each bed.  The results were impressive.

For this particular project I was able to find simple vases, clear glass containers, and an old candle holder to pull toiletries together - all located in the home.  Two office organizers were added from Target, and were less than $5 a piece. 

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STEP 5:  Put things back in their (new) place.  This step is often difficult for clients to achieve, because as human beings we tend to want things "the way they were."  Oh So Clean took time to arrange, rearrange, and rearrange again to achieve a functional, sensible solution.

Much better!

Much better!

Out of clutter, find simplicity . . .

Simplicity is defined as freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts (Merriam-Webster.com).  When it comes to clutter and trinkets in our lives, I hardly believe that lack of such clutter would therefore equate to a lack of complexity or intricacy.   However, I do understand that many beings in this world cannot part with clutter.  Does it make us feel more complex?  Or intricate?

There have been numerous studies performed on the human brain, and the negative effects of clutter.  Now we know human beings are vastly different in their intention, drive, and purpose . . . but this I can only assume is true:  no one loves sifting through piles of junk to find something.  No one loves a heaping bin full of nonsense on the kitchen counter.  "Where are my keys?"  "Have you seen my phone charger?"  "Do you know where I put that receipt?"  Can you say STRESSFUL?

There are two major steps in organizing . . . one step is to:

 Make the space appealing - make it functional, and make it meaningful. 

The other more important step is to . . .

Decrease clutter!  Cut out items that are not used, or hardly used at all.  For each item you are considering, take time to really think of why you hold on to it:  was it obtained during a happier time in your life?  Did someone you love give this item to you?  Do you like the item, but have no place to put it?  All of these questions will further your ability to analyze and rid  yourself of excess household items.

Your task for this week:  start with window ledges.  And tops of dressers, or cabinets, or the top of your toilet.  Is there clutter sitting on top?  Are there bins full of more clutter, stacked on top of your window ledge, or your toilet?  Do you need those items on display?  Feel free to sift through items, and get RID of the trinkets, clutter, and junk! 

Out of clutter, find simplicity.  From discord, find harmony.  In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.   -Albert Einstein-. 

You cannot organize chaos . . . part II

Collections.  Everyone seems to have them.  A group of like items that tend to serve an identical function.  You're not living until you have 15 or 20, or even 60 matching things, right?  Most people are natural-born collectors, whether we care to admit it or not.  

Tank tops - 35 different shades, that keep your drawer from closing.  40 pairs of old, ratty jeans (I NEED extras for painting in!  I need my "fat" jeans!)  100 pairs of shoes (that are guaranteed to come back into style, right?).  25 really expensive water bottles (we drink a LOT of water in this house!).  Cookie tins, decorative trinkets, old books, tupperware, china, toys, clothing, spices, tools, frames, toiletries, throw pillows . . .

The list goes on and on.  One thing I know from so many years of making things "just so" as my husband Brian calls it, is that you cannot organize chaos.  How can one expect to organize 60 vases, or 22 scarves, or 17 similarly sized pots/pans?  There isn't enough room in your house for duplicates.  We tend to want to save and save, and save some more.  Why do we need to hold on to so much?  What are we afraid of?

SO many water bottles, so little time!

SO many water bottles, so little time!

I often urge clients to get rid of their (multiple) duplicates.  Say there are 5 people in your family - stick to 5 of your favorite water bottles.  Are some of them personalized?  Were others very expensive?  Whatever the reason you hang onto so many of the same item, ask yourself:  "What purpose does this serve me today?  In three months?  In a year?"  Would you ever walk around with 2 water bottles at once?  Or 5?  You cannot organize chaos.

Another area for improvement tends to be:

The closet!  Overstuffing since the beginning of time . . .

"I don't have anything to wear!"

"I don't have anything to wear!"

The idea of the closet was a very good one.  I can't seem to find who invented it, but we can thank them, whoever they are.  The problem with a closet is that it closes - which means that your items become "out of sight, out of mind." 

One of my favorite things to do is go through my own closet.  Usually every 6 months I ransack the thing, looking for items that I haven't worn.  I am quick to get rid of things - quick to pass it along, because there is absolutely nothing worse than looking at chaos like the picture above.  When I work with clients in their homes, it comes down to the age-old question:  Keep it or get rid of it?  (Hint:  I usually say "get rid of it!"). 

Currently I have 9 summer/fall shirts, and 9 summer and fall dresses.  I have 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, and 2 pairs of sandals.  It makes life much easier when I'm looking through my closet.  As I mentioned before, you can only wear one pair of jeans at a time right?  The other million pairs are just vacationing in your dresser drawer.

Having so much clutter in your home not only takes time to find anything, but it can negatively effect your brain function.  From the New York Times in 2013: 

In a study published last year titled “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” researchers at U.C.L.A. observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Seventy-five percent of the families involved in the study couldn’t park their cars in their garages because they were too jammed with things.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/living-with-less-a-lot-less.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
It doesn't have to be like this!

It doesn't have to be like this!

Easier said than done, but who really needs 12 sweatshirts?  You can only wear one at a time.  Save two, or even three.  If the shoe (or clothing) doesn't fit, GET RID OF IT.  If you have 2 or 3 of the same thing, pick the best one, and leave the rest behind.  You cannot organize chaos.

Give yourself the piece of mind you deserve in your home.  Streamlined closets and organized drawers.  Piece of mind that you know you have exactly what you need, and you know exactly where it is.


Rainy Saturday project

Several months ago we purchased an old schoolhouse turned duplex, and vamped it back into a single-family home.  During construction one of our bedrooms was converted into what is now known as "the teen room".  I have avoided the entertainment center like the plague.  Maybe the fact that I have absolutely NO idea how to play the games it holds . . . PS, PS2, XBOX, XBOXONE, WII, WIIU . . . is why I have steered clear of this cluster.

With the doors shut . . . it's ok, right?

With the doors shut . . . it's ok, right?

Oh boy . . .

Oh boy . . .

Just looking at it stresses me out!  Not to mention I am not a fan of video games altogether ;)  I can't play one to save my life.  My kids will verify that statement.

Well today seemed like a perfect day to reorganize - humid, rainy, quiet Saturday.

What IS all of this junk???!?  This is NOT Oh.So.Clean!

What IS all of this junk???!?  This is NOT Oh.So.Clean!

I of course started with emptying the entire thing, and cleaning out all of the cabinets and drawers.  I then had to SORT the things I know nothing about.  I grouped into piles of like items (I think).  Next, I found some storage solutions that are easy to clean, and easy to use.

Containing it will make it look better . . . right?

Containing it will make it look better . . . right?

So much junk!

So much junk!

Oh boy . . .

Oh boy . . .


After several back and forth texts to my husband, Brian, who was at work . . . I figured out what was important and what could be stored away in the drawers below.  With only a few minutes of organization, the project is complete! 

Total time, approximately 25 minutes


TOYS.....the biggest cluster of all!

Ok my friends . . . who admits to owning exorbitant amounts of toys for their children?  They could be new, used, hand-me-downs.  Regardless of where they came from, you know you have them.  Too many.  Piled up into toy bins, and baskets, and basement boxes, and attic boxes.  We've all been there.


The idea of having toys is a remarkably positive thing - brain teasers, phonics strengtheners, hand-eye coordinators, shapes, matching, games, stuffed animals to love.  Who wouldn't want to grace their child with all of these items to shape them into the wonderful human you know they can be?  Your intentions are good.

The problem lies in your space.  You don't have it.  Yes, I said it, you don't have enough space.  Even if you have storage space, and attic space . . . what good is a toy in storage?  There are only so many hours in the day for every toy you own.  Many toys go weeks without even being considered.


Consider this:  take 10 minutes out of your day, and evaluate your child's toy bin(s). 

Sit down. 

Take everything out. 

One-by-one, take each item in your hand. 

Has your child played with the toy recently?  Is it one of their favorites?  Is it broken, in need of batteries, or damaged in some way?  Is it age appropriate?  Is it missing pieces?  Does your child have 702 of the same thing?  (toy cars, figurines). 

Hopefully you will be able to identify items that your child no longer uses.  HINT:  If it is broken, throw it away.  I know, I know.  That is very hard to do.  But do it.   And when you throw broken toys away, take them to your garbage bin (outside) shortly after . . . unless you want your children to trash-dive after you're done, and pilfer everything back to their rooms (and they WILL do this).

Kids will grow out of toys much like they grow out of clothing:  QUICKLY!  Allow yourself time every 3 months to assess what toys they are using, and what they have outgrown.  And just think:  by donating your child's toys, another lucky child will enjoy the thing that has been taking up space in your home.

Consider rethinking the way you store your child's toys . . . there are many options out there (bins, baskets, drawers).  Have fun, and happy organizing!  :)


Secrets of a cleaning lady . . .

Like most families that I know, our family is very busy!  My husband works as a pharmacist, and prior to Oh.So.Clean!, I was a registered nurse working full time.  I loved to clean but lacked the time to do so.  I was pretty headstrong that "only I can clean my house the way I want to."  So I used to spend my weekends cleaning my house from top to bottom.  I ran the washing machine endlessly.  I cleaned for hours at a time on Saturdays or Sundays, while my husband was working.


By the time Sunday night hit and my husband walked through the door after a long day, I would be exhausted - BUT . . . the house was clean.  Fast forward through our busy week with three kids and two full-time jobs, and the house would become a mess all over again.  If we wanted to have guests over on a Friday or Saturday night, we were stuck with a messy house to deal with.

It was a backward process - the house was clean ALL WEEK, and in complete disarray by the weekend.  I started to resent my long cleaning weekends, and wondered how this backward process could change. 

Here is my secret:  I hired a cleaning lady! 


Searching Craigslist was a challenge - the first person I contacted never responded.  There were several ads for cleaning services claiming to be "cheap and quick".  At last - we did find someone who comes on a weekly basis.  I realized that while "only I can clean my house the way I want to", the truth is that I still need help.  It is a cost that we are willing to make sacrifices for, and it is well worth it! 

And from that challenging search for cleaning arose my new idea for Oh.So.Clean!  Despite my ability to clean and organize, time is another ordeal in and of itself. . . I just didn't have enough of it to maintain my life and roles as a mother, step-mother, wife, and entrepreneur.