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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
256 pages
Jul 2005
Harvest House Publishers

Emilie's Creative Home Organizer

by Emilie Barnes

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt  |  Interview



  1. Organization
  2. Food Preparation
  3. The Kitchen
  4. Storage
  5. Cleaning
  6. The Garage
  7. The Laundry
  8. The Automobile
  9. Finances
  10. Time Savings
  11. Raising Children
  12. Good Health
  13. Sewing and Crafts
  14. Plants and the Garden
  15. Beauty
  16. Moving
  17. Our Wardrobe
  18. Safety


It only takes
15 minutes a day
and you’ll be on
your way to becoming a
creative home organizer.

But everything should
be done in a fitting and
orderly way.
—1 Corinthians 14:40 (NASB)

Being a homemaker, full-time or part-time, is a gift. Every woman should realize that she has the greatest profession in the whole wide world.

How you organize your home and life will determine how effective and efficient you are in this honorable position.

This chapter contains quick ideas that will keep you from backtracking and wasting valuable time. Try to think of time as money. You either save it or waste it, but time does cost you money.

Recently, I saw a sign which read: “I had my home clean last week; I’m sorry you missed it.” Even though most of us would like a clean, orderly home because it brings pleasure and peace of mind, we must remember that most homemakers have never had their home in perfect order.

A modern homemaker needs a lot of courage to face the ordinary daily tasks of managing a home. Let’s make homemaking an exciting adventure, rather than drudgery and a thankless job that we are stuck with. Let’s all learn to find satisfaction in a job done to the best of our abilities and energies.

Organization begins now. Do a little each day and you will be absolutely amazed at what happens in your home. Remember to be consistent with your routine and organization.

The following ideas will help:

  • Your inner drive toward order and clarity is much more powerful than the forces of chaos. Remember, the glass is half full, not half empty.

  • It takes 21 consecutive days of doing a new task before it becomes a habit. Don’t give up on Day 15.

  • Simplify and unclutter your life by saying no to good things and saving your yeses for the best things in life. Live a balanced life. Make time for yourself. Stop go-go-go. Be a person of “being” rather than a person of “doing.”

  • The specific elements of real order include a home that is easy to move around in, with simple systems of handling paperwork and managing money. We must realize that time is money and is limited.

  • Any system of organization must be right for you. There is no best way to be organized. Whatever methods you select must fit your life-style.

  • Order and organization is not an end that we kill ourselves to attain. It is a way for us to function effectively.

  • In order to have order, you must figure out what your goals and purposes are in life. Why do you do what you do?

  • People don’t plan to be failures, but they do plan if they are going to be a success.

  • I have found that my motto “Do the Worst First” helps me get started. Once the worst is done, everything else is so much easier.

  • Use the salami method to reach your goal: If the size of your project overwhelms you, tackle it a piece at a time. You wouldn’t eat a salami whole, would you? You’d cut it into slices. Do the same thing with your big projects.

  • Share your goals with people who really care about you and want to help you.

  • A goal is nothing but a “dream with a deadline.”

  • Studies show that the success rate for people who write down their goals is about 90 times greater than for those who don’t.

  • Getting organized is not an end in itself. There is no “right” way to do things—unless it’s right for you. It must fit your style, your energy, and your schedule.

  • Are you a morning person or a night person? Your efficiency may increase if you arrange your tasks as much as possible around the rhythms of your body. Try scheduling top-priority projects during your peak hours, routine work during your “low” time.

  • Provide yourself with a notebook—either looseleaf or spiral-bound, and small enough to carry around with you. This notebook will become your “master list”—a single continuous list that replaces all the small slips of paper you’re probably used to. Use the notebook to keep track of all errands, things to do or buy, and general notes to yourself about anything that will require action.

  • Keep your list with you at all times. A list is worse than useless if you can’t refer to it because you may think that you’ve disposed of a matter when in fact you haven’t.

  • Beware of the tail-wagging-the-dog situation where your appointment book, budget and expenditures records, filing system, and master list take more time to maintain than working out the problems they’re supposed to solve.

  • Keep a second, separate notebook to cope with complex, special situations—for example, enrolling a child in college, moving to a new home, or organizing a big family holiday.

  • Don’t be in a hurry to throw away notebook pages that have been completed. That stove part you ordered two months ago may be all wrong when it arrives, and you may have to call the same people all over again.

  • List on paper ten goals that you wish to attain by the end of the year, and do them.

  • Keep a daily “to do” list. Make up a new one each morning and include tasks you specifically hope to accomplish— deadlines and appointments, as well as items from your master list. Give each task a priority number—1, 2, 3. Do all the 1’s first.

  • Assign jobs and responsibilities within the family. Kids ages two to four can put dirty clothes in the hamper or match socks, ages four to seven can dress themselves and clear the table, while those over eight years of age can put away toys and do many chores reasonably well.

  • Set up an area for yourself where you keep all your lists, calendars, menus, etc. This is your place to work and make schedules.

  • The key is to start now—no matter what! If you have a call to make, start dialing. Have a letter to write? Start typing.

  • Buy one small basket or a plastic bin (color code the various members of your family) for each person and hang the baskets near the coat closet. Use them for gloves, mittens, winter hats, scarves, and other small but important items.

  • Set up an emergency shelf out of reach of small children. Equip it with flashlights, candles (use votive candles in glass holders for safety), matches, a first-aid kit, and an index card with emergency telephone numbers. Make sure baby-sitters know where the shelf is.

  • No one has several free hours to clean out a closet. The key is to use the 15-minute segments you do have to accomplish a small task or make a dent in a larger one. For example, file your nails, make an appointment to see the dentist, or clean just one shelf of that closet. You’ll double your efforts if you do small tasks (such as writing a thank-you note) while engaged in some other activity like running a bath or waiting for a casserole to heat. Try talking into a small tape recorder to give yourself reminders while putting on your makeup or taking the bus.

  • Make a list of three things you want to do. Next to each item write two reasons why you are not doing it. Change the two negatives into two positives. The ability to turn a negative attitude into a positive one is the key to self-organization.

  • An easy way to organize your handbag is to have separate little purses—one for cosmetics, one for food items (like mints, gum, suckers), one for bits of papers and business cards. Another can be for Band-Aids, nail clippers, nail file, nail polish, and pills. You can go on and on. All these little bags go into your purses. Just take out whichever bags you need, and you are ready to go.

  • Never have time to read all the magazine articles that you would like? When you receive a magazine, quickly go through it and tear out the articles you find interesting and file them away for later reading.

  • Five-minute pickup: Pick up and dust in each room for five minutes. Time yourself with a kitchen timer.

  • To organize the various booklets and pamphlets that come with cooking and home-care appliances, punch holes into self-sealing plastic bags so that they will fit into a three-ring notebook. Use one bag for each appliance.

  • Select one shelf in the den or playroom for storing borrowed library books. You’ll know where they are when it’s time to return them.

  • Get rid of extra paper. Almost 90 percent of the paper in your home or office is never referred to again. Get rid of as much of it as possible.

  • The problem with storage closets and kitchen cabinets is remembering everything that is in them. Taping overall lists inside each of these doors saves the time and trouble of searching for something that may be in the back or at the bottom of the closet—or may not be there at all!

  • When you get a new reference book (such as a cookbook or gardening manual), attach a pocket inside the cover to store clippings, notes, or pictures about that subject.

    Key Questions When Cleaning a Closet
    As you weed out a closet, consider each item individually and ask yourself:

    1. Have I used this item in the past year? If the answer is yes, it’s worth keeping another year. If no, discard it.

    2. Does this have either sentimental or monetary value to me? Yes? Then keep it.

    3. Might this come in handy someday? If you answer yes but have nothing specific in mind, better put the article into a “throw-away,” “give-away,” or “put-away” box unless you have ample attic or basement storage space. A yes answer usually means that you’re hanging onto clutter.

  • To help keep track of gift-giving, use an inexpensive monthly planner (purse- or pocket-size). On each special date, note the name of the person, the occasion, and the gift given. Add sizes, color preferences, and any tips for future giving.


  • Have a secret shelf for gifts. When you find something on sale or have time to shop, buy gifts in quantity and wrap and tag them for future giving.

  • Many household chores can be done during “in-between times”—in between outings, appointments, or TV programs. Once you realize that it takes only 15 minutes to change the sheets, you can fit this and similar tasks into the available time slots.

    Sometimes all it takes to eliminate mess, clutter,
    and confusion are a few hooks here, a basket or
    two there, and a bit of reshuffling of items on a shelf.

  • Use drawstring pouches made from fabric as containers for baby’s blocks, puzzle pieces, and other toys with dozens of parts.

  • Use a zippered mesh lingerie bag for storing bath toys. Tie with a string, and hang it over the showerhead so toys can drip dry.

  • When moving to a new home, order extra labels of your new address. Enclose one of your personalized labels along with each change of address card you send to your friends. Then they can stick the label right in their address books.

  • If you conduct a lot of business by mail (like paying bills, sending for free offers, or ordering merchandise), enter each transaction on a large wall calendar in the kitchen and check it periodically. This is especially helpful to verify a payment that may have gotten lost or if too much time has elapsed since placing an order.

  • If you cannot find time to do what you want, here is how to make time:
    1. Delegate some of the household work to other family members.
    2. Eliminate some of the work entirely. (You don’t have to iron certain items.)
    3. Make sure that all your children contribute to running the household.
    4. Use small amounts of time (five to ten minutes) to your best advantage.
    5. Carefully plan the use of leisure time. Concentrate on doing those activities that give you real pleasure.
    6. Leave yourself some open-ended time for a spurof-the-moment activity. Do not cram your appointment book full.

  • Do you seem to have a lot of spare time or have trouble making good use of your spare time? You might consider learning a new skill or cultivating a new friendship. Check your local newspaper to find some groups you could attend that would interest you, or become a volunteer somewhere.

  • Write the names in ink and use a pencil to write phone numbers and addresses in your address book. If someone moves, you can easily make the necessary change without messing up your book.

  • To keep track of your credit cards, lay them out and photocopy them. All the info is on one sheet.

  • It is not what you get that makes you successful; it is what you are continuing to do with what you’ve got.

  • Remember: Your goal is to get organized so that you can work toward your mission in life.

  • I practice a 45/15 rule that really helps me. After every 45minute work cycle, I take a 15-minute break and do something different—take a short walk, go outside for some fresh air, call someone on the phone, get a drink of water. This rule keeps me renewed and fresh.

    It’s not what you are that holds you back;
    it’s what you think you are not.

  • I have kept a mini-notebook for several years which I call “The Lord Provides.” In it I’ve listed everything that has been given to us as gifts and from whom. Also listed are things we have found and items donated to us. It’s beautiful to see how the Lord leads others to meet our needs and desires.

  • Having more than one phone can be a frustration as well as a convenience, so I keep a list of frequently called numbers beside each of the phones. Emergency numbers and those of close relatives are a must if you live alone, even if you normally remember the numbers. In a stressful situation you may forget.

  • Color code your files for a real time-saver. The red folders can be for “hot” items, for example. Use bright colors— they are more cheerful.

  • I had so much data and information around the house that I became a slave to recording and keeping track of everything. A friend of mine urged me to look into a small home computer. At first I balked, but I am so glad I listened to him. Now that I have one, I can’t believe how valuable the computer has become. It’s a real time-saver.

  • Whenever I receive an invitation, I attach it to my kitchen calendar in the month the event will take place. I also write the event on the calendar on the appropriate day. I keep the invitations clipped to the calendar in one stack in chronological order. After each event has taken place, I remove the invitation. Keeping the invitations handy saves me from searching for the time, the place, and especially the spelling of people’s names.

  • It’s important to look professional and not weighted down when making customer calls. I have one leather briefcase that holds my wallet, makeup, calendar, and other business-related files. If I go to lunch and don’t want to take my briefcase, I simply take my wallet and go. No more fumbling with briefcase, purse, keys, etc.

  • Once you have organized your space, keep it organized by maintaining the space on a regular basis. I find that maintenance is the most important aspect of organization.

  • It takes time for change to be assimilated.

  • Assign convenient permanent locations for small, “restless” items that would otherwise end up on a tabletop or be mislaid. For example, place a hook near the door for keys that you always take when you go out, a small dish on the bureau top to collect loose change or earrings, a mug on the desk to hold pens and pencils.

  • If messy housemates are a problem, toss their out-of-place belongings into a big cardboard box. When asked where you put an item, point to the box.

  • Some of the most valued “records” that you have are probably personal letters, photographs, and such mementos as newspaper clippings, diplomas, and graduation programs. Don’t feel guilty about saving these, but don’t be overly sentimental either. Throw out the scraps that will mean little as time passes.

  • To protect valuable mementos and records from fire or flood (and to keep them all in one place, as well) store them in a metal strongbox or small footlocker.

  • Make sure that you have copies of all birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates. These records are filed permanently either in a state vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office.

  • To get copies of a birth certificate, write to the appropriate office of the capital of the state where the birth took place. The office may be listed in the phone book under “Vital Statistics” or “Health Department.”

  • When storing keepsakes or clothing, number your boxes 1, 2, 3, and so on. Make out 3" x 5" cards and list on each what you’re storing in the numbered boxes. Put your 3"x 5" cards in a file box. When you need to look for an item, simply go to your file box and find the card with the item listed. Check the card number and get the corresponding box. The item is found in minutes!

  • Use a kitchen silverware tray to store art supplies, children’s crayons, pencils, etc.

  • Use colored plastic rings to color code your keys. It makes it much easier to locate them. Store keys in one central location so everyone in the family knows where all of them are.

  • You might consider a trade-off system. Whenever you add a new item to the household inventory, discard an old one. This works great for wardrobe items.

  • Caution! Do not throw out someone else’s things unless they ask you to do so. Suggest and encourage, but don’t take over. This applies to your parents, spouse, and any children over four years old.

    Prime Rules of Organization
    1. Use a single notebook for notes and basic written information.
      • Jot down five areas of your life that need straightening out. Concentrate on these areas.
      • Isolate these basic five areas. You must learn to focus on the part and not the whole.
    2. Divide up difficult problems into instant tasks.
      • When you see a problem area like a messy refrigerator, don’t see the whole mess, but start with one area of the whole. Clean one shelf or drawer at a time.
      • If the whole is too large to do in one day, take two to three days to do the task. You will feel so relieved and proud when you finish.
    3. Prioritize your projects.
      • Rank them according to importance. Don’t get bogged down in this process. Don’t worry about ranking each one exactly.
    4. Choose a regular time to organize work.
      • We do much better when we are specific in this area.
      • This regular time will soon become a habit.
      • Block out one longer amount of time or several shorter spans of time.
    5. The important element is to start.
      • Even if it’s the wrong spot, begin.
      • The most important step is to identify the problem. Then you can analyze the solution, prioritize what needs to be done, and finally get started.
      • Remember, these are firm appointments to be kept.
    6. Reward yourself for beginning with:
      • A walk on the beach.
      • A new blouse.

      • A new CD.

  • Be ruthless with your own possessions. Discard all unused junk. When in doubt, throw it out. It takes up space, and you’ll just wind up cleaning it and moving it around.

  • When the enthusiasm strikes to clean, start from the outside in. Take care of the clutter scattered around the room before digging into the closet. Starting with the closet first makes a double mess.

  • To keep mess to a minimum, before you begin cleaning a closet arrange three boxes nearby to categorize those things that shouldn’t go back in. Label them “Give Away,” “Put Away,” and “Throw Away.”

  • Work on one small section of a closet at a time. Do not empty an entire cluttered closet at once. The resulting chaos is sure to discourage you or put you off entirely.

  • The most basic part of organization is knowing what to throw away. Invite an objective friend over to help make those decisions. Less is better than more. It saves you a lot of cleaning.

    People don’t plan to be failures, but they do plan for success.

  • Keep items used together near one another (for example, tennis rackets, balls, sneakers, and other tennis equipment). Store these related items at or near the place where you use them.

  • Make the time to do what you want and need to make your life what you want it to be.

  • Buy a handbag or tote bag large enough to hold a paperback book or magazine (for waiting time) and a small notebook for list-making. Attach your keys to a chain that clips to or loops around the strap. Tuck keys inside. Keep cosmetics in a separate bag that closes to keep makeup from falling out. Wrap a rubber band around pens and pencils. Always put your eyeglasses in the same compartment. Remove notes, crumpled tissues, and deposit slips once a week, maybe while you watch TV. Switch bags only when you dress up.

  • Before you buy something, ask yourself, “Where am I going to put it?” and make sure that you have a clearly defined place in mind.

  • If the phone encroaches on your efficiency, unplug it or let it ring. Can’t bear that? An answering machine or service will take your messages and let you return calls at your convenience.

  • Keep a pad and pen next to your bed and in your bathroom to jot down ideas, things to do, and supplies and makeup you need.

  • Allow time for making beds and tidying the kitchen before leaving the house in the morning. It makes coming home much more pleasant—and sets an example for others in the household.

  • If you can’t get all your housework done in a reasonable amount of time, hire someone to help you. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can accomplish with someone helping out just three hours every week!

  • If you can’t afford professional help, be creative. Possible sources of assistance include schoolchildren, college students, and neighbors who might be willing to take over one or two jobs, such as housecleaning, ironing, or grocery shopping— and for considerably less than it costs to hire a professional.

  • Don’t keep an address book for home use. Instead, buy a small 3" x 5" file box. Use 3" x 5" cards to list names alphabetically and file them in the box. You’ll never lose the box or spend money replacing old address books. When someone moves or changes a phone number, just replace the card. Add cards when needed. On the back of the card you can write important information about that person: directions to home, favorite colors, names of family members, birthdays, favorite foods, etc. This will give you a great source of information about that person.

  • Using Bits of Time

    Most small chores can be accomplished in bits and pieces of time. For instance, while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, you can pay bills; while riding the bus, write out your shopping list. The following lists may give you some ideas of what you can do with small chunks of time.

    What you can do in 5 minutes
    Make an appointment.
    File your nails.
    Water houseplants.
    Make out a party guest list.
    Order tickets for a concert or a ball game.
    Sew a button on.

    What you can do in 10 minutes
    Write a short letter or note.
    Pick out a birthday card.
    Repot a plant.
    Hand-wash some clothes.
    Straighten your desktop.

    What you can do in 30 minutes
    Go through backed-up magazines and newspapers.
    Work on a craft project.
    Polish silver and brass.
    Vacuum three or four rooms.
    Weed a flower bed.

  • Make it a habit to return everything to its proper place and remind others to do so. If you do this daily, it takes less time than waiting until the situation is out of control. An even bigger bonus is that you won’t need to spend time looking for out-of-place objects.

  • Do small chores as needed so that they occupy little time. For example, laundry left until the weekend can consume the weekend; instead, start a load before breakfast, put it in the dryer after breakfast, and it’s done.

  • Use labor-saving gadgets or appliances whenever they will really save time. But don’t overdo it. Chopping an onion with a knife may take no longer than using a food processor and then having to take the machine apart and wash and dry it.

  • Leave some slack in your day for surprises, interruptions, or emergencies. Some activities will take longer than expected, no matter how carefully you plan or allow for delays.

  • Think before you act—even before you do routine jobs. The way you perform simple, basic tasks is usually the result of habit, not logic. There may be a better way.

  • Why does a half-hour job often take twice as long as you thought it would? Probably because you estimated only the actual working time and didn’t take into account the preparation (getting out and putting away tools, for instance).

  • Install telephone jacks all around the house or get a cordless phone so that you can talk wherever you are in and around your home.

  • Establish a message center in your home. It needn’t be elaborate—it can be on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board or a door. Encourage everyone in the household to use the message center to list plans, needs for the next shopping trip, and (especially important) all telephone messages.

  • Keep the message center current. Throw away outdated notes. Take care of as many items as you can each day, or enter them in your notebook for action later.

  • To save time and frustration, whenever possible use the telephone instead of making a trip. Phone to confirm appointments, to check if a store has the item you want, to learn business hours, and so on.

  • Learn how to cut off time-consuming calls without hurting people’s feelings. For example, it’s quite all right to say, “This is a terrible time for me, may I call you back?” (Of course, do call back later.)

  • Sometimes a phone call is more timesaving and effective than a letter. Even a long-distance call may be cheaper, especially when you consider how long it takes to write a letter and how much your time is worth.

  • Group your errands so that you can accomplish several in a single trip. Try to find a convenient shopping center that has all or most of the stores, offices, and services that you need.

  • Whenever possible, do errands when traffic is light and lines are short—usually between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. on weekdays, in the evenings, and all day Sunday.

  • If you have appointments or errands at several locations, schedule them so that you can go from one to the next with a minimum of wasted time and travel.

  • Eliminate additional trips by making back-to-back doctor or dentist appointments for family members (or at least for all the kids).

  • Try to get the first appointment of the morning so that you won’t be delayed by someone ahead of you and you’ll still have most of the day left when you finish.

  • Take your weekly “to do” list with you whenever you go on errands. You may be able to fit in something that you scheduled for later in the week.

  • Excerpted from Emilie’s Creative Home Organizer by Emilie Barnes. Copyright © 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.