Lessons in Organization from an Interior Designer

Have you ever experienced clutter that seems to collect exponentially on its own? Perhaps you go to sleep in a neat and tidy home on Sunday evening, but by Friday afternoon, it looks like a tornado has whirled through the house. Kids’ sports items and school notebooks litter every surface, coats and shoes are strewn everywhere, and where did those car keys end up?

Our lives are SO busy. With endless appointments, to-do lists, school commitments, and events, it comes as no surprise that staying organized is a common challenge. In fact, when trying to plan a home organization system, most of us experience some level of analysis paralysis — the task feels too big..

I have good news for you and for your future self. With a slight change of perspective, organizing your home can become far less overwhelming. Today, I’m sharing some organizing tricks of the trade I’ve learned as an interior designer, as well as some I’ve learned as a business owner and mother of four.

Get ready… it’s time to conquer the clutter!

Staying Organized with Children or Grandchildren

Isn’t utter chaos just part of having kids? When my four were young, life was anything but calm and serene. Don’t get me wrong, my children have enhanced my life in a way I never knew was possible (and still now that they are adults!), but sometimes, the mayhem was unavoidable. Fortunately, I found some simple solutions to bring order to our home.

Play Spaces: When my kids were little, I labeled their toy bins so they could easily put their toys away after playing. It made their clean-up time simple, quick, and more intuitive. plus, it was easy to get them involved.

Activity Storage: With four busy, active kids, we were constantly jumping in the car and running to extracurricular activities. There simply wasn’t time to hunt for ballet shoes or football pads. My solution? The kids had designated drawers in their rooms just for their special activities, so they could keep all the associated gear in one place.

I won’t say that we never forgot soccer shin guards or a football helmet at some point, but having only one place to look for their items saved a lot of in-the-moment angst when we were on a tight schedule.

Creating a Laundry System: When you have kids, you probably feel as though your washing machine is running all day, every day. I know I did! My favorite method? Two laundry bins: one going upstairs at night and one going downstairs in the morning. It helped me keep all the clean things ready to be put away in one place and allowed me to visually see what would need to be washed that day.

Additionally, I initiated the habit of having our children put their dirty uniforms into the washing machine as soon as they returned from practice or a game. (Because there is nothing more frustrating than preparing for a soccer game and learning their uniforms aren’t clean, right?) This way, I could wash the uniforms and put them right back in the children’s rooms that night, so they were ready for the next day.

This system solved two problems: there were no longer sports items haphazardly tossed all over the place, and it fostered independence and responsibility. My children quickly understood that in order to be ready for something they loved, they needed to be prepared.

Enlisting the Kids’ Help: It was expected that everyone living in our home would contribute to its care, including the kids. My husband and I began intentionally teaching them age-appropriate tasks when they were still very small. At age 2 or 3, they learned how to hang their coats up when coming inside, make their beds in the morning, and put clothes in the washing machine (with some assistance).

The kids also helped clean our house on Sundays to prepare for the week. I’m pleased to say that my children went to college knowing how to cook, do laundry, and keep the bathroom clean. No age is too young for a child to observe and participate in keeping a home neat and tidy.

Consider Organization Built into Your Home’s Design

Moving into a new home and creating organizational systems for the entire space can often feel overwhelming. You don’t yet understand how you will live in the space, so deciding where to put things seems like a meaningless task. This is one of the many benefits of having a designer on your team. When I work with you, I develop a sensible organization plan that helps you use your home efficiently from day one.

Consider How the Space is Used: I thoughtfully stand in your space and envision how you’ll use it. Knowing your lifestyle and routines, I seamlessly integrate organizational systems into your floor plan tailored to your unique needs, working room by room — closets, built-ins, cabinetry, etc. With these systems planned before renovating or building, there will be no second guessing when it’s time to put your things away — everything will have a well-planned home.

Considering the Entryway: When a parent gets out of their car and walks to the back door, they shouldn’t have to walk through the kitchen to use the dining table as a dropzone. Instead, I carefully consider the literal steps they’ll take when coming in with hands full of children and groceries.

My goal is to create a design that allows you to come into the house, set the baby down, take all coats and shoes off, have a place to put the Target bags, and then finally enter the kitchen with only what’s necessary for that room. This will keep you organized, at peace, and teach children the routines required for entering a home refreshed.

Consider the Needs of Empty-Nesters: Once the children have moved out, a couple begins a new season of life with new routines and needs. Rather than focus on making their home entry less hectic, we shift to creating a welcoming first impression for their guests. We develop a design suitable for entertaining, hanging coats, and with proper lighting to support aging eyes.

Staying Organized as a Business Owner

It’s extremely important that my business runs smoothly in order to deliver the exceptional results my clients deserve. Although clients won’t see the organization and systems we use behind the scenes, they directly benefit from the many checklists and processes we have in place to keep things running seamlessly.

Digital Platforms: We use two different digital platforms to structure our projects. Dubsado serves as our client database. We document the details of every client we interact with and keep them neatly organized in two different columns: potential clients and ongoing clients. Dubsado also stores our contracts with clients.

Asana is another robust platform we use to work through our unique design process for each client project. Each detail is well-planned and organized in a user-friendly manner to keep us on track. Between these two systems, we have every single thing covered.

Client Binders: Aside from our digital organization systems, we also create a client binder for each project with a separate section for each room. We include a detailed checklist for everything that needs to be selected and completed for each room, ensuring that nothing is ever forgotten or missed. In addition, our team reviews each client’s project every week to ensure we’re on task and making progress through our design process.

Finding Joy in Organization

Personally, I find getting organized to be extremely fun, but even if you don’t, I hope you might find these suggestions helpful. If you feel overwhelmed with implementing new systems in your home, take a moment to stop and ask yourself, “What am I doing right now?” and use your answer as a guide. What can you do to make that one task run more efficiently?

Living in the moment and narrowing your focus has a way of lessening stress. Even thinking, “Where am I going tomorrow, and how can I do something now to prepare?” is a small way to accomplish something your future self will appreciate.

If you’re considering a renovation, you’re in the perfect position to thoughtfully create an organizational plan for your home before it’s built. I’d love to be your guide, designer, and advocate through the process. Please reach out to me here, and let’s work together to bring your home to the next level.


Clevelan Ohio interior design

I’m Ingrid Porter. As a designer with 30+ years of experience serving Northeastern Ohio, I specialize in personal and detail-driven design for families building or transforming the home of their dreams. If you’re ready to take “home” to the next level, we can’t wait to work with you.

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