Friday, November 14, 2008


A long time ago, I read about the Penicillin method of decluttering your house. I’m almost certain it was from this site, but now I can’t find it when I go searching. Anyway, the Penicillin Method is this:

Look at your cluttered home in small areas: the kitchen table, the front entrance, the computer desk. These are the areas that collect and attract all that stuff that eventually drives you nuts. Thoroughly clean one area at a time. Don’t just push the clutter aside, but really look at what you’re clearing and figure out a way for it to never be a problem again. Once the area is clean, treat it as though it has been cured (with penicillin) and never let it get that way again.

I have three penicillin areas so far:

The kitchen table/island:
This is the most multi-purpose piece of furniture we have. It’s where we eat, where the kids to homework and crafts, where I bake, where Homer and I have our computer. It was always covered with papers, mail, school forms, and every other bit of random crap in the house. We made this our first penicillin area last spring.

We got those hanging basket/cup things on the wall for mail, coupons, school work, small tools, batteries, pens etc. Just having a place to put those things has made a huge difference. Also, the baskets aren’t huge, so we go through them frequently to purge what we don’t need and find a more permanent home for those things we want to keep. The rule is that the only things that can be left on the island are the fruit bowl, the computer and the turntable thingy. Everything else gets filed or moved to another area. By the way, we’re planning on painting the kitchen over the holidays, so ignore the hideous wall colour and spackled bits.

The front closet:
Five people, one small front closet. This closet was always jammed with stuff, which most often spilled out to the front entrance. It's embarrassing to admit that I would hear a knock on the door, panic, and shove a pile of coats, shoes and backpacks behind the door to hide the mess. We tried baskets and shoe shelves, but nothing really worked. The kids couldn’t reach the baskets or the hanging bar, so they never put away their own stuff.

Just after school started, I reorganized this closet by raising the original hanging bar and shelf by about 6 inches and buying a new hanging bar and sectioned hanger (both of which actually just hang from the top bar – no installation tools required). I took a couple of the plastic cubes I already had and screwed them into the wall. One holds backpacks, the other holds kid shoes. The kids can reach the lower bar and hang up their own coats and they each have a section of the shelf thing at the side where they deposit their hats, mitts, sunglasses, etc. The very top shelf is for the grown-ups.

I know you’re looking at this thinking “this is the AFTER shot?” But really, it’s a vast improvement. It’s still jammed, but now everything has a place and the kids can do their part to keep the place tidy.

Old dining room/new den:
This room has gone from dining room to playroom, back to dining room, back to playroom and now den. The kids were putting more and more demands on the TV and computer, so when we upgraded the kitchen computer, the old computer went to the kids. This room is used for TV/movie watching, video games, computer, crafts, fort building and playing. And it was always a mess.

The first step to cleaning it up was getting proper shelving and a desk. We bought those cube shelves from Ikea with a desk to match. We bought a few of these storage boxes and used them for things like paper, arts & crafts supplies, etc.

We learned that the things that were kept in the boxes were always neat and tidy and the things that were just open on the shelves were a hideous mess. So, we went back to Ikea and bought enough of the boxes to fill the shelves. Each box has a specific purpose, labelled with words and pictures, so even the non-readers can tell where things go.

The final thing we did for this room was to make a no eating rule. We used to allow them to take drinks and snacks in there, but it just left too much mess in there with crumbs, wrappers, empty cups, etc.

The transformation in this room is fairly recent, so we’ll see if it becomes our newest penicillin area.

Do you have any areas that could use some penicillin?


Pickles and Dimes said...

I am loving that last shot with all the boxes neatly labeled and stacked.

Hmmm...we don't have any kids, so we are pretty neat. We're a clean-as-we-go family. I guess my penicillin area would be my scrapbook room. I'm terrible at labeling photos when I get them, so I have stacks of them, unlabeled, and I have no idea where to file them.

Rolling Off The Edge... Together said...

Holy cow, I need you to come organize my house!

Also, I wished with all my might that we had an IKEA in our dang state (or one that did not require a three hour drive and a large truck.) I love IKEA and our house could benefit from it... Woe is me :)

Nowheymama said...

This is very inspiring. I recently went through everything in our dining room, which is also where our computer is, and did a big rearrange/purge. My goal is to keep the table clear. We'll see!

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

Totally taking that prescription! Will post pictures soon!

Saly said...

We've been watching the Clean Sweep reruns lately and we've been pretty good about decluttering. With all of the remodelling though, our house is in a constant state of disaster.

Chantal said...

Do I have any areas that could use some penicillin... Ummm ya like the whole freaking house. Thanks for the look into your place. I will take some ideas for sure. I love the hallway closet. Ours is twice as big as yours but way more messy. A few years ago I put a peg bar on the entry wall (outside the closet) for the kids to hang their jackets on. They do use it (mostly) but now I am tiring of having the jackets out in the open. I had thought of re-installing the peg bar inside the closet but I figured the jackets would just fall off. I like the idea of that hanging bar for their jackets. I think I just might go shopping this weekend WOO HOO.

bananafana said...

we're in the process of relocating just about everything in the house - O's bedroom to ours, ours to downstairs, office to a computer nook in the kitchen, office becomes a playroom . . . plus our upstairs bathroom is halted in mid-redo. Most of these projects have small things we're waiting on so we're at a standstill and were just talking about taking the same approach. Over the next few weekends we're planning on taking on small areas. Maybe I'll get ballsy and post pictures (my blog is back up and running!). or maybe that will be one more thing that doesn't get done . . . HA!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

good for you! I love the way the den looks.

Erin said...


I mean. WOW.


Believe it or not, I've never considered organizing our front closet. That would seriously help the whole downstairs. Hmmm. How did that never occur to me before?

shay said...

Wow! You are my newest hero. I have so many areas of my house that need penicillin...okay so my whole house needs it! Yikes! I love love love the Ikea boxes in your new den! awesome!

Oh and happy birthday tomorrow. I hope it's fun!

SLynnRo said...

This is my method. I feel so smart!

Astarte said...

I really like the zippered baskets. We only have the open kind, and I think a lid would be a HUGE improvement. I've done the shoe-tree organizer thing, too, and had it work really, really well.

We have those IKEA shelves, too, and I lovelovelove them. They are perfect.

Our island is always the clutter-catcher. I can't stand it!!!!

Beck said...

That last picture is AMAZING.
Sadly, my house needs to be put on heavy-duty IV antibiotics. STAT!

Jess said...

I clean by area too. Our areas are the couch in the bedroom, the dining room table, the coffee table, and the table in the hallway. Unfortunately I haven't gotten to the part where I never let them get messy again once I've cleaned them.

Leilani said...

Does IKEA still sell those zipped storage baskets?

Laura said...

Wow I've never seen those bins with zippered lids...very cool!!

LoriD said...

Hi Leilani - yes, Ikea does still have them. They're called Flort.