This Organization Guru Shares Her Secrets to Decluttering Your Home
Steal blogger Jen Jones' tips for decluttering and finding storage solutions that work for the entire family.
For Jen Jones of I Heart Organizing, what began as a desire to spend more time with family and less time searching for items around the house became a storage obsession. The Minnesota-based blogger is no stranger to the blogging game—she’s been doing this for nearly ten years now. In addition, Jen runs an Etsy shop where you can purchase all the lists and calendar pages you need to organize to your heart’s content. She’s also a previous BHG blogger and Stylemaker, so we caught up with her to get her latest organization tips and find out what she’s learned along the way.
How would you describe your design style?
Stylistically, I gravitate toward clean, bright, and colorful spaces. I love mixing and matching a few different styles and generally pair modern and simple pieces with traditional furnishings that have a fresh twist to them. I adore patterns, especially a good stripe or floral. I would call my style preppy with a touch of classic.
Who or what inspires you?
I find inspiration in a variety of places. It could be colors in a landscape or a window display for a local shop. I find a lot of inspiration watching movies. I am generally more drawn to the sets and the interiors than I am to the actual movie or storyline.
Of course, I look to Instagram or Pinterest on occasion but spending too much time scrolling those feeds can actually leave me feeling creatively exhausted. I will always prefer a good decor book or magazine over anything digital. And of course, my fellow blogging friends inspire me so much in a variety of different ways such as trying new tools, making a new recipe, even taking a leap with my business. I love that blogs are run by folks who share similar passions and that we can network and teach and inspire each other virtually on a daily basis.
What are your go-to colors?
Color is my love language, and I use it whenever and wherever I can. I am generally drawn to blues and enjoy pairing them with whites, greens, pinks, and occasionally orange. In fact, I have really loved bringing in warm orange tones in small doses around our home lately. It is such a nice balance to all of the cool blues and grays we have throughout. I generally start with white (my favorite is Sherwin-Williams Alabaster White) or blue on the walls and build from there.
I also use a lot of colors while creating my organizational printables, and I enjoy using that outlet to try additional color combinations that I haven't used in my home. A few current favorite color pairings are blush and orange, lavender and hunter green, and mustard yellow with light pink and coral.
What is your favorite piece of organizing advice?
I always recommend starting with a blank canvas. I find that it is best when you remove everything from the space (or drawer or closet or cabinet) and force yourself to touch things before putting them back. Once you see your area clean and empty, it really pushes to you be selective about what items are worthy of returning. And always purchase your storage last. Most of the time you will be able to categorize and eliminate enough at the beginning of the process that extra containers and bins are no longer necessary.
What has been your biggest organization challenge?
I have tackled a lot of projects over the years—everything from coat closets to pantries to entire laundry rooms. I find that coming up with solutions for those areas comes very naturally to me. I am more challenged by trying to find systems that all five of our family members can easily maintain and utilize. I have learned that no two people tick the same way, and what works for one person doesn't necessarily always work for someone else. One person might thrive with a chore task list, while another won't even think to look at it. Four of us might do just fine putting all of our shoes in our bins, but one might naturally leave them in another location. Those situations are toughest for me to navigate, and I find it requires a lot of patience and trial and error to get and keep all of us on the same page. You can always help someone get organized and give them all of the tools, but they have to want to maintain those systems.
What is your proudest DIY moment?
When my husband and I built our home almost 17 years ago, our very first DIY was assembling a large entertainment center that we purchased from a department store. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was our first project in our first home together and we have continued to chase that exciting DIY rush ever since.
Many flooring, painting, and tiling projects later, we decided to try our hand at building a new media wall complete with a gas fireplace, television, and storage galore. It turned out better than we could have imagined, and we are so proud that we were able to take such a large build from a concept drawing to reality. We now have concealed storage cabinets for games and media, upper shelving to display books and decor, and our television is perched above a beautifully tiled fireplace. It was a very full-circle moment creating something so beautiful in the same spot that started it all, and the new built-in has become the focal point of our home.
Do you have any organizing rules?
Focus your time and energy on organizing tasks and solutions that impact you most on a daily basis. Once you navigate some of your daily hurdles, you should have more time to put into those more complex projects, like organizing your photos or cleaning out the attic.
Remember that the main purpose of organizing is to create an easiness to your lifestyle, and the goal is for the end result to be worth your upfront investment. So when brainstorming solutions and shopping for storage, ask yourself, "How many steps will I need to take each day to maintain this?" The lower the number, the higher the success rate. If I have to pull a lidded box out from under another lidded box on the top shelf of my mudroom with the help of a step-stool just to take out my sneakers and sunglasses each day, you can probably bet I wouldn't be quick to put those items away when I return home from work. Look for solutions that help you complete your daily tasks in one fell swoop; select open top bins and baskets, add basic labels for quick identification, and store daily items within arm’s reach and lesser used items up higher or in those deeper cabinets.
What are your favorite sources for finding decor and supplies?
In terms of decor and furnishings, I like to look at independent retailers such as Etsy and Craigslist. Etsy is my favorite source for textiles, art, and unique storage pieces. I always love achieving a high meets low look and am not afraid of searching for quality pieces at a big box store that can be modified to look higher-end with the help of molding, paint, and/or hardware. A source I use for smaller home accessories is craft stores because they typically have a great selection of vases and frames at really affordable price points.
For storage, my tried and true sources are The Container Store (their multi-purpose bins can be used for just about anything), Amazon (great prices on clear organizers that can be utilized in the kitchen and bathroom), and HomeGoods for woven baskets galore and closet organizers aplenty.
How do you make storage solutions family-friendly?
Finding storage solutions that are family-friendly is always my top goal because we have three growing and busy boys to consider. I look for bins and baskets that are durable, furniture that is built to last, and options that will be versatile for many years as our needs evolve and change. I prefer to select storage that can go from organizing toys in the playroom one day then move to organizing sports equipment in the garage down the road. The good thing about classic storage pieces is that woven baskets and clear containers will never go out of date and will continue to be durable and stylish all around the home year after year.
Related: DIY Kids' Room Storage Solutions
How has your style evolved over time?
One of the things I appreciate most about having a blog is the ability to look back at all we have done around our home, and also what we have learned along the way. My style continues to be similar to what it was ten years ago in that I love color and believe in using it boldly. But with time, I have found ways to refine it a bit, to start balancing all of our whites and colors with warm wood tones, and to appreciate unique pieces over mass-produced decor. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, and although frustrating and sometimes costly, it has helped me learn so much about my personal style and how to better approach future projects.
My biggest personal style realization is the importance of building a room and a home over time. I would focus on quick whole room makeovers and a big reveal. And while it is good to do that to get a space rolling, I find that the biggest pleasures come from those small additions that come later on—the little treasures that layer in and give a space that lived in and loved feeling; the thrill of the hunt for that perfect piece of furniture. And when I don't rush a space, I am so much more content with the process of creating it. I make fewer impulsive decisions and that translates to fewer regrets.
What are you working on right now? What's next?
In our home, I am finally finishing up a laundry room update that includes graphic wallpaper, more functionality, and new accents. I am so excited about how it is all coming together and how much enjoyment I get out of using the space.
With my business, I am about to launch my 2019 planner designs in my shop and have been working behind the scenes to overhaul many of my organizing printables with fresh new fonts and colors. I am also in the beginning stages of an organizing book outline, and I can't wait to see how it all comes together! It is years and years worth of ideas in the making and I couldn't be more thrilled.