How to organize lots of shoes and water bottles, plus a love letter

How to organize lots of shoes and water bottles, plus a love letter August 24, 2015

The main reason we home schooled for six years was because home schoolers don’t have to know where their shoes are. Ditto for water bottles. Need to go outside? Lie down with a manga until the feeling passes. Thirsty? Just drink directly out of the faucet like my son — or, like my son when he’s being fancy, drink out of a plate.

I have failed.

Anyway, now we have to be shod and watered every morning. Behold, I have some solutions for you, especially if you have a lot of kids and not much space.

For shoes, you want to buy a bunch of stacking bins, like these:

stacking bin 2

They’re meant for office supplies, but they work fine for shoes, especially for kids. One bin for each kid, and you can configure them however you want, AND you can empty them out and hose them down as required.

For water bottles, an over-the-door shoe organizer like this is poifect.

shoe organizer

We had a million water bottles clattering around the counter, and the tops were, of course, nowhere to be found. I want to make sure the bottles air out, so we keep all the lids in 2-3 pockets, and the bottles in the rest.

The thing I like about these systems is that they’re cheap, and you don’t have to actually install anything — so if it’s not working for you, you can just scrap them, no big deal.

And of course, like an organizational system, they only work if you actually use them!  My kids are genetically predisposed to be slobs, and most of them will only put their stuff away if I remind them every single time. So these systems don’t automatically make our house tidy and clutter-free; but they do make it possible to clean. There  is somewhere to put stuff if the urge strikes you. When someone (me) suddenly can’t take it anymore, someone (me) can go into an angry, white-hot cleaning frenzy fueled by self-loathing and dust allergies, and can turn a ghastly heap back into a living space again without having to think about it too hard. Success!

Now I’m going to share pictures of what our shoes and water bottles look like right now, a week before school starts. I haven’t done any organizing or cleaning yet, and I’m in the middle of a huge painting job, so these areas are both at peak disgustingness, everything is out of place, and I haven’t been making anyone put anything away because it’s just not my top priority at the moment. I’m painting cabinets, too, so everything that was in those cabinets is now cleverly being stored in the middle of the dining room. But they’re still better than what we had before!

The water bottles:

water bottles now

Why, yes, that is a tattered copy of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” hanging up on the door, from the last time I was panicking about my kids not having a good foundation in poetry; and yes, that door is on the For the Love of All That Is Holy, Please Paint Me list. I call this picture “Palimpsest of Things I Was Worrying About.”

The shoe area:

shoe bins now

To the casual observer, this would appear to be the shameful evidence of a slovenly and chaotic household; but to me, it’s a picture called “Simcha Loves You and Wants You to Feel Better about Your Own Life.” Extra points if you can spot the kid who doesn’t appreciate air conditioning.

As soon as my new camera gets here, I’ll take some “after” pictures, and you can laugh at me all over again, because it will still suck.

In a couple of months, I’ll show you how I came up with a brilliant system which doesn’t keep our mittens paired up and readily accessible, but it could. 

How about you? Do you have any smart systems to share? Or maybe you’d like to pay someone to clean my house?



Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Eileen

    I really like your water bottle idea! I think I’m going to put one of those shoe things on the back of my pantry door and finally put away those bottles and lids that are forever cluttering my kitchen counter and cabinets.

  • Evelyn

    I have shoe pockets on every single door in my little house. They work for almost everything, and you can see all the stuff. Which is not very attractive, but it is effective, and I will live in a Better Homes and Gardens house when my kids are done growing up.

  • anna lisa

    I go on cleaning/organizational frenzies too. I noticed my sister was going a little cry cray this last weekend too, and then lo and behold, a hefty bag of her daughter’s old clothes appeared on my doorstep. –First day of school jitters?

    On Saturday I went into such a beautifying frenzy, it was exhilarating. I was able to cajole my husband (*never underestimate your power on the 14th day) into ripping a wall-to-wall carpet out of the center of our living room.

    He, and a few grumbling teens had to move couches, tables, chairs and a trillion pound giant armoire out. THEN we had to get rid of all of the carpet strips and staples, and of course the dreadful carpet and padding itself, which is now lying like a carcass outside of my front door. Next weekend he will put the laminate down, so he moved back just the essentials.

    The effect is electrifying–the light plywood and minimalism–(all the other stuff is still in a backyard that now looks like Calcutta).

    The kids were really amazed by the change. It even echoes a little.

    I have decided to eliminate the handy little breakfast nook table, the potted giant bird of paradise, and banish half the throw pillows and blankets. I’m swooning over all of the extra light and space. I’ve scrapped the darker living room carpet I was considering, and moved another little dark-ish Persian rug into the kitchen. I’m switching from cherry colored wood to blonde.

    I’ve decided that anything that blocks light and space is the enemy. That goes for all of the kids’stuff too. Chopping block baby.

    I don’t care how much I once paid for it, or if it’s a precious, limited addition anything, or if it’s a third button down oxford shirt that has been worn for only one special occasion. It’s going.

    *Extreme Minimalism*–and a trip to Catholic Charities!

  • Rebecca Anderson

    Ooh love this stuff! Our water bottles go under the sink with the lids in a cute mini bucket. If you buy 56 bottles during the school year, you’ll have a matching lid/bottle set by December 1st. (Australian school year ends around then.)

    Lunch boxes – kids have to hang up their bag, empty their lunchbox and put it by the sink before they get afternoon tea. Then lunchboxes get filled that night, put in fridge, and then put in bags the next morning. This usually works pretty well – ten year old always does while 18 yo is for some reason incapable. By the end of the term his bag is full of…I don’t know, while he looks confused and sorry.
    Six yo HATES emptying her lunchbox. The other day she lay on the floor crying because she couldn’t decide if it was worth emptying it to get afternoon tea.

    School uniforms. We wash the same set every night because somehow this is easier than having 64 blue and red items to keep track of. If it’s a uniform, it’s either on their back or in the washing machine. Only downside was when 6 yo told another mum in the car park who had thought I might like her daughter’s grown out of uniforms that ‘we can’t afford more uniforms.’

    Shoes. Ahh, pain. Have 3 pairs of school shoes for 6 yo. I want to glue them to her feet.

    School hats thankfully live at school. Does anyone have trouble with hair brushes? We have 3 little girls with long hair. We have a drawer for hairbrushes. On school morning it is empty while on Sunday afternoon there are 19 in there.

  • Deimos

    Back to school frenzy, its well worth the effort for that wonderful empty echo of a house free of kids…

  • wineinthewater

    Our 1yo thought shoes were a great thing to chew on from the moment he could roll over to them. So, I took a toy box plan and modified it. Now we have a big box with compartments for each family member where they can just throw their shoes (because we weren’t going to be neat with them anyway) and then both the mess and the temptation of the shoes can be contained. And you can sit on it to tie your shoes. When little one gets past the “gnaw on everything stage” we may go back to the shoe bench with nice baskets I made and the shoe bin can become the toy box it was designed to be .. or not.

    We also make ample use of clear-sided plastic bins. The big ones. We have dozens of them and use them for both temporary and permanent storage.

  • I love the tin of paint in the shoe carrel. Perfect.

    Disorganization makes my head hurt. Even the clothing in my closet is separated by type of garment and within type, sub-type (sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, button down shirts), and then by colour (white, then black, then other neutrals, then by the colour wheel beginning with blue, then prints using the same scheme). Each type/sub-type has a special type of hanger. Things are easy to find and easy to replace in the right spot. (I’m convinced, it’s a genetic thing.)

  • Cordelia

    If, when duly ordered, your kids actually put away their own shoes IN THEIR OWN BINS – pat yourself on the back, Simcha. I’ve had white stacking bins like that in my entry for years now, even with NAMES labelling each bin lest there be confusion, but…nope. Sigh. Bless you for the caption on your second picture.

  • Melissa Zech

    There’s times when I’m on the brink of insanity with just my six, and I think about a quote or some picture or something I’ve read here on this blog over the years, and I think it keeps me partly sane. So I appreciate the pix thanks for the honesty!

  • MeganEbba

    I would totally come clean your house, and then you could go clean someone else’s house and so on down the line because it’s always more fun and satisfying to make someone else’s spaces clean, and you feel like maybe you’re blessing them or something, and also you know you’re not the only one with a pile of papers as high as a toddler that is on top of a stack of art you meant to throw away when the kids were asleep.

  • anna lisa

    I keep their water bottles refilled and in the fridge. The three smaller kids have two bottles each, a small one for their lunch box and a big one for their desk at school. They leave the big one at school until it’s empty. I like the glass ones that have a rubbery sleeve. The water tastes better than metal or plastic and some plastic bottles have BPA–beware, some plastic can get to toxic levels when put in the dishwasher!

  • amanda salora

    my new favorite organizational tool: an over-the-door shoe organizer!