31 Days To A Less Messy Nest Day 10:: Simple Solutions for Everyday Issues


Over the past few months {years?} I’ve heard myself barking the same reminders to my boys, “hang your book bag up, don’t pour too much cereal, you can’t use 18 different cups before lunch…“.  My husband and I made a few simple changes in our home and now I can save my words for better things like “can I have a hug? would you like some more cereal? flush the toilet…

For example, we have always kept our dishes, you know, the plates and bowls, way up in the high cabinets. Our boys are in the stage where they are old enough to not break real dishes but not tall enough to reach all the higher cabinets without a stool.   We like for them to help set the table and put the dishes away so an easy solution for our family was to relocate the dishes to the lower cabinets where they can easily reach a bowl.  I consider that idea to be one of my best accomplishments as a mother.  I think simple mom would be proud.


Another issue was the poring of 8 servings of cereal into a bowl every morning.  Our solution: much smaller bowls. I know, it’s not rocket surgery but this simple change is going to really impact how often I have to buy cereal.  I found the bowls for $1 each at Big Lots.


Cup over usage was running rampant in our house.  Now each boy has his own style of clear plastic, unbreakable cup.  They each have 3 cups and those are the only ones they can use.  They use it, rinse it out and then set it on the dish rack until they need it later. I throw them in the dishwasher at night. If I see a cup laying around the house, I don’t grab it.  I leave it.  Right now one of the boys has unknowingly left two of his cups in the playroom and one half full of juice in the fridge. I can’t wait until he figures it out and has to go searching for his cups and then wash them out because he missed the nightly dishwasher run. If I really ran a tight ship I’d probably lower the cups down to one each but, I’m new at this.


Now you will roll your eyes at how I am so slow to miss the obvious.  We had book bags on the floor that seemed to multiply.  It finally hit me that I had not provided a designated spot for the book bags.  Problem solved.  Duh.  It’s from Target if you are wondering.


There is just not a good place near the boys room or bathroom for any kind of clothes basket or hamper.  The problem is, it doesn’t matter if I choose to provide a hamper or not, dirty clothes will come off and need to be put some place–I don’t walk down stairs naked just to put my clothes in the laundry room before I take a shower and I can’t expect my boys to either.  So, I went ahead and accepted the fact that I needed to put a bulky, in-the-way basket in our skinny hall.  It’s still better than a pile of clothes strewn around.


Lastly, every night we somehow had like 5 wet towels on the bathroom floor.  Even though we only have 3 boys. And of course, none of them left THEIR towel on the floor.  So my husband bought 3 different color towels {2 of each} and assigned a color to each boy.  Now, if they step out of the shower and their two towels are somehow dripping wet from the night before, they’ll have to reach into that in-the-way clothes basket and dry off with their dirty clothes or figure something out.  I have a feeling after experiencing a dripping wet towel once, they will naturally remember to hang up their towel.

None of these solutions were new, life changing or even things I hadn’t heard of before.  Just things that we failed to implement.  Now I’m on the lookout for other ways to help our house run more smoothly so I can focus more on fun things and help our boys become more responsible.

What about you?  What issues have you resolved with no duh, simple solutions?

This post is a repost but it was the post that got the most comments EVER other than a giveaway.  That response gave me the push I needed to decide to write for 31 days about less messiness.

Be sure to visit the other 31 dayers:: Reluctant Entertainer, The Inspired Room, Remodeling This LifeChatting at the Sky, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, My First Kitchen, Life With My 3 Boybariansover the next 31 days.

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  1. Smart ideas. I hope I’m that smart when I am mom of kids your age. ;) Problem solving at its best.

  2. It’s funny how often I try to brute force some kind of organizational solution into my life, only to find it doesn’t work for me. It’s only when I step back and start to organize organically that I find what works for me.

    I realized about two years ago that I’m a “bin” person. I’m not very good at opening doors or drawers to put things away, but I WILL toss things into bins. So I have canvas bins on a shelf in my closet for work socks/sports socks/underwear/bras. On a shelf below that I have three bigger square containers: summer stuff (bathing suits, beach wraps), winter stuff (snuggly socks, mittens, hats, scarves) and other accessories (the buttons that come with clothes, hats, belts, scarves).

    Downstairs we have two large rattan bins side-by-side under our sofa table which become a catch-all that gets emptied every couple of weeks.

  3. I love these simple solutions, especially the relocation of the dishes. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make such a huge difference. I learn that pretty regularly.

  4. Great suggestions. When my kids are old enough to put the dishes away I am going to put them on a lower shelf. That is brilliant.

  5. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cup idea. I have 5 kids and we tried the colors but it was getting expensive and the kids were all fighting about who got what color, etc…and it just never occurred to me to buy all the same color but different styles of cups! BRILLIANT!!!!
    I also love the socks in the lingerie baggie idea that someone shared. Why, oh, why did I never think of that? My teenagers like the no-show socks and when they don’t have clean socks they sneak and wear the little kids socks and I never know until they are ruined! And I have two who fight over whose socks are whose. I keep saying that I am going to write their names on the toes of their socks. I think I will do that AND use the marked lingerie bags.

    • With 2 sons both approximately the same size, I could NEVER tell whose socks or underwear belonged to which. I tried just putting them all in a large basket that they could pick from when they needed clean ones (but of course it was easier just to keep wearing dirty ones- gross!) I finally came up with the idea to mark each son’s with a different color permanent marker! Just a little dot on the toe of a sock, or underwear band made it easy for me to tell them apart without embarrassing them with having their names written in them. It worked really well for us.

      • We use the number of dots: 1 for the oldest child, 2 for the middle, 3 for my youngest. that way, when things are handed down, I can just add a dot.

  6. I don’t know why, but sometimes the “no-duh” solutions take the longest to think up! ;)

    Thank for sharing these wonderful solutions. Over Christmas Break, I totally re-organized our craft room and now everything is labeled and easy to find. It wasn’t that hard to do, but it has improved our quality of life so much.

  7. Love this post, and please don’t think I’ve copied you when I post one similar….it’s already started in my drafts. :) Love me, anyhow.

    Using a lower cabinet to store all of our kid cups was the best tip that I received when we built our house 12 years ago….we also strategically placed it near the dishwasher so that at 3 years old, the toddlers “chore” was to empty all the plastic cups……now that that 3 year old is a teen, it was easier to get him to do it then. :)

  8. Great tips–some things you mentioned we already do, but got some great ideas for how we can tweak our household for the better.

  9. LOVE the idea about the cups! makes dh nuts how many cups we go thru a day so this will be a great one for our family.
    and once the 3 yr old gets bigger, will do the cabinet switch. that’s a great way to move them to self-sufficiency.
    for snacks, i have a basket in the pantry of allowed, pre-measured snacks and slips of paper for other items like pudding or cereal. there are a set amount of those slips for the week.

  10. I love all of these ideas! When my kids were younger they loved the same crispy white socks, and they would always complain about one of them getting the other ones dirty so to make it easier on me and them I numbered them with their first initial and the number so K1 and K1, K2 and K2 and so forth then when I paired them I just put the initials and the number together and pairing socks was so much easier! I still to this day do my husband and my white socks this way, it is makes pairing socks less of a chore! I also have so many organization ideas, my friends always tell me to start a blog, but to tell you the truth I would not know how to start that! Have a great day and thank you all for the tips!

  11. When my four children were little I colored coded as much as I could. They had assigned colors for glasses for milk, juice, etc., towels, laundry baskets, folder for school information. That helped me keep their papers, info organized. As they grew, they knew to look in their colored folder for phone #’s, etc. They also had an assigned laundry day that they were responsible to bring their laundry down.

  12. I linked to this on my weekly roundup, post is under my name. It’s a great reminder to apply some common sense to problems! Thanks to you – and your great commenters!

  13. I have the exact same issue with the dirty clothes hamper having to be in the hall. Bummer, but still, its the only solution! I feel your pain. Great tips, as always!

  14. I can totally relate to the cup idea….when I was growing up, my mom instituted a “shoe jail” when she tripped over our strewn-about shoes a thousand times. So, when we left our shoes out, she would quietly arrest them and we had to put up 5 bucks to bail them out.

    Well, I was a stubborn teenager, and so I refused to bail out my shoes. They needed to suffer for their crimes, I decided. So I just went on with my shoe-strewing until almost all my shoes were in jail and I was forced to wear Birkenstocks in the dead of winter. My brothers, however, wizened up quickly and started putting their shoes away.

    Don’t I sound delightful?

    • Just yesterday I decided we needed a Shoe Jail at our house! I was pondering the price of “bail” — five bucks?? Wow, that’s steep — but what a great idea!

  15. My parents did this when we were kids. We even had our own silverware, one bowl, one plate and one cup… we quickly learned to keep our stuff clean and organized…or did we?

  16. Christine Aldinger says:

    i have really enjoyed this 31 days to less messy……years ago when my sons were small we also were limited to space for a laundry basket but there was room in each b-room for a laundry basket, my hubby and i each got our own and still have our own.

  17. I love all these ideas; your best ones yet! Where’d you get the clear, plastic cups?

  18. We have the same drinking glass problem so each one of us has a colored rubberband assigned to us. They grab a glass in the morning and put their rubberband around it and it is theirs for the day. :-)

  19. Our kids get a cup in the morning and leave it on the table for the whole day, it stays in the kitchen so no mess anywhere else. They use the one cup for the entire day. They sit at the same chair for breakfast every day so they know what cup is theirs. It’s helped a ton with keeping the cup issue not get out of hand!!

  20. Great tips, I have 4 kids ranging from 22 to 8, and its difficult to keep the house organized with this many kids. I have implemented some of your tips especially the wet towel one. I did the same thing bought 2 towels for each child BUT I my husand & I put up 4 hooks with their initials on the bathroom wall & gave them each a designated spot. I purchased the hooks at Anthropologie and they look great in the bathroom. Above the hooks I put pictures of each child as a baby taking a bath. Just doing this gives them “their” spot in the bathroom & no more wet towels on the floor! So its now decorative as well as functional.
    Off to big lots for my $1 bowls, love the idea!

  21. Going a bit further in the laundry dept. – I provided my boys with a white basket and a dark blue basket for whites and colors. Now they come to me (mostly) presorted and ready to load into the washer. I love your series – it’s very inspiring!

  22. That might work great for your boys, but my HUSBAND could use some tips with the whole cup thing. He must use 5 cups every day…and he’s at work all the time too! Good tips. :)

  23. Good ideas!! I can’t wait until my kids are older and can help out =)

  24. Love these- esp. the towel idea! When I was growing up with 4 other kids and only my mom, she put water bottles (and they were real glass ones back in the day) with our initials on them in the door of the fridge filled with cold water. We were only to use those all day long and then she washed them at night.

    But I love these ideas, Nester, because not only does it save you a lot of work, but it teaches your children how to grow up as responsible adults. Even if it sounds unfair to most kids, they start to realize that life isn’t fair either! ;)

  25. i love all these ideas! really smart. i am bookmarking this.

    my newest idea is to put my boys underwear and socks in the bathroom drawer. their winter jammies seem to take up a bunch more space than their summer ones, so their top dresser drawer is CRAMMED. it was a lightbulb moment when i realized i didn’t have to have underwear and socks in their dresser.

    also, i remember sarah @ clover lane said she puts her kids socks and underwear in a hanging shoe bag. i thought that was clever.

  26. Crystal S says:

    This is one of my favorite posts … so worth reading it twice! As always, your tips are realistic, and easy to follow!

  27. I just found your blog through your sister!! I love it!! you may remember me from CIU…i went by my middle name, Libby. Anyways, it’s so fun to read your blog…it’s only been a few days, but you’ve got me inspired and thinking of how i can organize my home. Your pictures are so great, and your house is beautiful!!! you have so many practical ideas…i love your cup idea! that is one of my biggest frustrations right now….i’ve got 5 kids and cups are everywhere, well, they used to be…i’m a little embaressed to admit this, but for now, i’m making them use disposable cups…somedays, when i’m feeling really frugal, i even make them put their name on them…i’ll have to see if i can implement your idea. I’m already thinking of where i could put a dresser for my husband…for all his “very important things” :)! anyways, its fun to “see” your family and get some great ideas!

  28. I started putting my dishes in my lower cabinets a couple of years ago. It allowed me to teach my boys how to unload the dishwasher and made them easy to get to for them to set the table. We’re about to move into a new house and I love that hook rack…I’m planning on getting one like it and putting in my new coat closet for backpacks, jackets and caps….

  29. My children are now adults. I can remember when I decided to pair up the cereal bowl with juice cup mrning breakfast. My daughter had white ceramic bowls, my son had green and “ne’er the twain did meet”. I also saved some sanity by having two rectangular baskets on my desk. Each day, after school, they stopped at my desk (luckily the first room upon entering the back door) and deposited papers I needed to sign, memos from school, anything that needed immediate attention into one basket and graded papers, tests and other completed work for my hub and I to see in another. That saved a lot of tears, “I forgots”, and “what did you get on your science test?” dramas around our house. You’ve got some great ideas, wish I’d have had them 25 yrs. ago!

  30. I got my two kids each a narrow plastic laundry basket from wal-mart(they are for sorting colors) only $5 each, and wrote their name with sharpie, so each one carries their own clothes to laundry room. No more “I don’t want to carry HIS clothes!”

  31. More great ideas! I love them. Keep ’em coming. With my four young boys, it seems I am experiencing the same type of problems you are. The overuse of cups is a HUGE problem for us. They get a different cup every time they come in to get a drink of water. I am going to have to try the cup idea!

  32. Cortney Lovelace says:

    This was the first post that I ran across from your blog and I’ve been hooked ever since. Thanks for this series!

  33. Nester –

    Just to tweak your post a little bit…. the term “rocket surgery” does not exist. Rockets are vehicles used to fly to outer space, or can refer to missiles. Surgery is a term referring to slicing someone open for their own benefit. But using the two together is incorrect.

    You know I’m kidding, right? If you would have seen how I had to spell check “missiles” and “tweak” you would know I’m not smart enough to really know about rockets and surgery… :)

  34. We managed to fit a basket under the sink in the bathroom for dirty clothes and towels, and we have the tiniest bathroom ever with just about a square metre of free floor between toilet, sink and shower. It is a small, skinny thing but at least we got it out of the hallway. The glass idea is just pure genius even in a family of (almost) adults. I think three cups each is fair, because I for one like to keep a water glass around to sip on, a cup of tea in between meals and then have a glass for lunch and dinner too. :)

  35. Our kids have always had their own clothes baskets in their rooms, kept in the closet. When they are done in the bathroom they take the dirties with them. The towel idea is awesome.. totally works.
    We tried the cup thing but it didn’t work for us.. unfortunately. Now my girls are on their own and my 13 year old son is the only one who leaves 50 cups all over the place.
    Love this 30 days, thanks for sharing.

  36. These really are common sense tips, but I had never thought of any of them!!

  37. Robin Fisher says:

    To simplify my life even more, I have decided WHITE for all linens and towels. I have a sewing machine that embroiders, so I embroidered each child’s name on a towel. The great thing–they all match, the bathroom always looks fresh. The towels can all be washed in the same batch and bleached! And don’t you hate how towels seem to fade a different rates. ANYWAY….Same with sheets, dishtowels and clothes. I might change my mind later, but think about the nice hotels you stay in—all white. Just a thought for you and your readers.

  38. We keep three baskets in the bottom of the closet, to go ahead and separate our colors for the wash. My husband does the laundry, so this makes it much easier for him.

  39. Rubber Chicken Girl says:

    Can’t wait to read others’ comments and ideas…
    I am hooked on hooks. If there’s a space, I put a hook on it.
    The drinking glass issue. This one has plagued me as well. I first did the color coded sippy cups. Then I did these color coded plastic tumblers but they were Tipsy cuz they were tall and skinny and people would take too much juice/milk etc ala the large bowl/small bowl thing you did. Then I went to water bottles cuz we do mostly agua anyway. Well, those travel and never return. FINALLY, I am now a convert of the humble MUG. They can all have their own pretty/silly/ironic mug and they are not too big and are squatty and don’t tip over. Problem solved some 19 years later. Of course, they break, but if you thrift….who cares, right?
    Color-coded towels work till you have narcissistic rebellious teenagers who who ALL of the towels, soak them and throw them ALL on the ground. Nice. Looking forward to Heaven most days…..
    Thanks for your good work!

  40. Genius!

  41. Great tips! I’m mom to an only, but can certainly use these tips as well! My biggest problem is toys all over the house! They are strewn from one end to the other, and I’m constantly picking up or telling him to pick up. I want him to feel like it’s his house too, and he plays all over the house (not just in his room, which is upstairs) but we end up with junk all over the place. I think one thing we need to do is purge and have a big yard sale like you did! I just feel this need to clean out and get rid of stuff that’s overtaking my house!

  42. Great ideas! My girls are grown, but the one thing they loved and still talk about is when I assigned tickets for watching TV. They earned tickets by reading. I don’t remember if it was equal time, i.e. read 30 minutes = 30 minutes TV, but it helped their reading skills and limited their TV time. I’m all over the white towels and linens. I’m working toward that goal. I love the cup idea. I use a similar idea with cloth napkins. There is one per spot at the table that stays there for the day. That way we’re not using multiple cloth napkins on a daily basis. I try to avoid paper.

  43. It’s no wonder this post got so many comments–it’s common sense-genius! Seriously, sometimes the simplest solutions have to be spelled out for us to see them. Thanks for super easy, do-able ideas!

  44. Nester! amazing. i am now bound and determined to get my plates and bowls moved to a bottom cabinet. i 100% agree with you that the kids can do SO much that would lighten the load for big mama. thanks!

  45. I love the cup idea. I recently came up with a water bottle idea. Water bottles are the bane (bain?) of my summer existence. We live in the south and basically take water along every time we leave the house for half of the year. Water bottles were too often traveling the house, left in a vehicle…don’t even get me started on the lids. I bought each kid their own color, and thought that was brilliant, but there was always one or two that couldn’t be found when we needed it, or lids missing. And since getting the right colors meant getting different brands, well, then you have to find the *right* lid for the right bottle…argh. So, this year I bought a dozen plain steel colored water bottles…same brand, same lid. I bought colored hair elastics. And when we go out, I can grab water bottles and put that persons color of elastic around their bottle, so when we get home I can rinse it out and save it for the next day. And if someone’s goes missing, I can grab another and another elastic easily enough. We use the colors for bath towels and toothbrushes, so even the younger kids know which color is theirs.


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