DC: Mission Organization


My sisters closet/office had become a complete dumping ground for anything and everything “miscellaneous;” if it didn’t have a real home or if she wasn’t sure where it should live, it ended up in the office to be dealt with later.

I should start by saying that my sister is very organized. She and her family live in a small row house in DC with almost no closet space, no garage, no basement, no attic, nada (I’ve heard that’s pretty common for a DC row house). These space restrictions mean she has to be organized to keep clutter from overtaking the house. But while the rest of the house stayed in order, the office had slowly become just a storage space.

She longed to turn the office into a space that worked for her and most importantly a space she loved.

We started brainstorming about how we could tackle this project together during my next visit to the east coast. Here was our starting point My sister’s big dreams for tackling the clutter had become a distant memory as the responsibilities of life forced it lower and lower down on the list of things to do. So when she asked for help I jumped at the chance to work with her to create space for living!

Oh, these are my favorite type of pictures! Look at all the potential! You can see that there was good amount of structure already put in place. This was good because we had a limited amount of time.

She had loads of great containers that were being underutilized or were too stuffed to be functional. She also had some sturdy shelves on the wall. One was leaning a bit (you can’t tell in the picture) and needed a new bolt in the stud- but other than that the shelves were a keeper.

The first step was to sort.

  1. Trash
  2. Donate
  3. Belongs in another room
  4. Stay in the office-divide by projects
      • Gifts
      • Photos/ Scrapbooks
      • Correspondence
      • Reference Files
      • Finances

I wish I would have taken a picture of our sorting mess! But you can imagine that once we dived in we had our hands full! I reminded her though, that sometimes during the initial sort, it can feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better. Remembering that can help you from feeling overwhelmed.

I didn’t capture a picture of all the give-aways (this project was pre-blog) but let me tell you that in the end, she did really well. Just imagine this whole porch filled with trash bags and boxes to be donated! It was a beautiful thing. Since my sister has such a limited amount of storage space, my goal was for us to purge as much as possible. Mainly we focused on items she was holding on to because she thought she might use it someday or she would really like to use it but just hasn’t made the time for. (I was probably a little tougher on my sister because she is my sister after all.)

The fun part was putting everything back together. After recruiting a little extra help to fix the shelf, we were set to go.

We found a home for the most used items closest to the desk for easy access. The baskets in the pics below contain regularly used office supplies like post-its, scissors and paper clips. The paper divider on the bookshelf houses file folders and various types of paper to keep close at hand.

Some of the furniture in this room pulls double duty for office and closet use, such as the dresser. We kept the bottom shelves for clothing storage but the top drawer became dedicated for office use.

We placed craft supplies, gifts and wrapping paper in this drawer, each with its own labeled compartment. On top of the dresser is a nice clean space next to the printer to use while dressing and a lovely little container to collect jewelry or whatever else tends to collect on top of dressing tables.


On the bookshelf, each shelf was designated for individual projects. The top shelf is for less frequently used office supplies, the middle shelf contains a few smaller projects each in its own folder or file box. The bottom shelf houses photo projects.

With such a limited amount of space in the room, under the desk became reserved for storage of reference items. The file boxes were a nice option and fit nicely under the desk. Since she’d definitely like more leg room under the desk, my sister has the purchase of a new/used file cabinet on the horizon that will be placed right in the corner next to the dresser. We didn’t have time to go on a Craigslist’s hunt across DC during my visit, but once the file cabinet is in place all the papers will easily be transferred from the file boxes resulting in more space under the desk.


There is also an active project box under the table which provides easy access to items that would otherwise turn in to clutter. It is for unplanned projects that need to be mended or returned or any project that takes up a little too much space.



Once everything was in place, we positioned a tension rod under the table and draped a curtain to make a stylish cover up. A tension rod is also planned for the side of the table with a coordinating curtain.

We repurposed an old gift bag as a waste basket and hung it right by the desk since floor space is limited. We also slipped in a little stool for her little ones that want to have a place to sit and work with mama.

The space is organized, functional and totally works for her. She especially loves that everything has a home and it’s easy to clean up and maintain.

Then we added all the personal accessories such as paintings and favorite memorabilia. When we stepped back we couldn’t help but be thrilled with all our hard work.

Organizing by the numbers

Total time- 16 hours

Total $ spent- ZERO! (a few purchases planned such as the file cabinet and an additional tension rod)

Number of items donated- 25+, a whole patio full!
\What area of your home have you turned into a multi-functional space? Anyone struggling with small quarters or a lack of storage space?

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  1. A Joyful Chaos says:

    We live in an old (1870's) farmhouse which was built before closets and all those nicer things we take for granted were common.I have a hard time finding room for everything and trying to stay organized is a challenge.

  2. My sister definitely has that problem. In her last house the small closets were turned into bathrooms when it was updated with indoor plumbing! It is a foreign concept for most of us and quite a challenge.

  3. This is the perfect time of year to be organizing. I have such a tiny house that I am sure I will be putting some of this into action here. Thanks for linking it up.

  4. iheartorganizing says:

    This is just oodles of fantasticness! Love ALL of the functional storage! Thanks so much for sharing and linking up this week! You have me feeling very inspired!


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