What Hasn’t Worked

WM pink and gray Rev3

Not too many of my projects have been complete failures, thank goodness. I can’t recall if I’ve had to scrap any of them, but with many of them almost 18 months old they need to be revisited. Possessions need to be reevaluated, items need to be culled and reorganized, and everything needs a general spring cleaning. It’s one of the universal truths of The William Morris Project: Only the dead are done.

Real, living, breathing people make messes and collect clutter and keep pens that don’t write well. They put things in drawers when they don’t have the time or energy to think about where it belongs. They are human; they are not perfect. Sometimes, but not always, they make decisions in hopes of pleasing others and not themselves.

Case in point!

WM-Manuals, 12

Let me tell you about organizing instruction manuals. I saw this idea on pinterest and thought it was brilliant. I’ve always had this idea of a shelf of home binders where everything home related would be there at the ready. Contracts, warranties, important documents, emergency plans, whatever. It’s what most organizational-type people recommend you do, and I thought I would start with our manuals. Great. No problem. Perfect, in theory.

I went to Staples and grabbed a gigantic black binder because that’s my personality. A gigantic black binder is a solid choice. The largest size would grow with me. Black doesn’t get and dingy over the years and is a color that would always be available. I wouldn’t have to worry about matching colors later down the road when I bought more binders. But nooooooo. Did I listen to my usual pragmatic self? I walked back to the end of the store because I needed something, maybe a label–can’t remember–and I stumbled upon the Martha Stewart section of the store.

At the time I was reading a few other home organization blogs and fell into the trap of comparing projects. Everything they did was really pretty. Their bins were all from The Container Store and labeled with modge-podged scrapbook paper in happy colors they cut out with their Cricut. I’m normally great about admiring without second guessing myself but for some reason I felt vulnerable that week. I didn’t want to be pragmatic and practical. I wanted to be pretty and twee! I put back the black binder and bought the (much smaller and more expensive) Martha Stewart binder in aqua, a color I don’t even like. Since then, I’ve bought a few more items that came with instruction manuals but I haven’t put them in the binder for two reasons. One: there isn’t room in that very pretty and twee aqua binder for another piece of paper, let alone a manual. Two: every time I look at it I get ticked off thinking about my moment of vanity.

This is another universal truth of The William Morris Project: Projects built on vanity crumble.

I couldn’t return the album (I plan to give it to my sister-in-law for my niece, Gabby), but I did stop reading the home organization blogs. There is nothing wrong with pretty and twee. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to make colorful labels or shopping at The Container Store. But, since I don’t do those things, there is little value in me following blogs that focus on home organization products. Honestly, I’m not into home organization. I’m into that William Morris quote and, by consequence, raising happy, productive boys in a peaceful environment without a lot of extraneous nonsense.

Unrelated, but something to think about: even hoarders can be neat-freaks. People just don’t see them as hoarders because everything is so well organized.

BR1, 2

The second project that didn’t work as intended is actually a series of projects I affectionately call anything Nico and the Mister might possibly touch.

Mikey's Closet, 7

Mikey's Closet, 2



Kitchen Mania, 3

If Nico touches it, assume it will be in tatters by the time he’s done. He knows where I keep my stamps and some craft supplies, so all hope is lost there. I’ve lost track how many times I’ve organized their closet. His side of the dresser looks like an explosion went off. You can’t even close the drawers because when he looks for a shirt he half pulls out every single shirt in the drawer. If he’s missing a shoe, he takes out shoes from the shoe drawer until he finds the shoe he wants and then leaves, usually in a hurry because he is always in a hurry.

Sometimes he pulls everything out of the bathroom cabinet just to see how high he can stack it. Math, puzzles, building–he excels at anything that requires spatial acuity or reasoning. I can only hope he uses the gifts God gave him to invent a machine that will put his dirty socks in the hamper.

The Mister, on the other hand, is fairly tidy but only when it comes to projects he feels are important. His closet is not important. The way I organized the dog medication is not important. The coat closet is not as important as the hook right next to it. The way I organized the master bathroom is important. The medicine boxes are important.

You can see where this is going. When you do projects for someone else, you have to expect that they won’t always appreciate your efforts, especially since you really are trying to foist your methodology on them. The only way something or someone will truly stay organized is if they do it themselves, but in the case of children, that’s not always likely. So, for Nicholas I know he needs ample space to make a mess. If I want his dresser to remain tidy I can’t keep it stuffed with clothes. I have to be on top of purging so he has room to paw through his shirts like a dog digging for a bone. Same with the toys in his closet. I have to take those to Goodwill or it will forever be a giant game of Jenga in there.

Treating Nico and the Mister like me and Mikey hasn’t worked.

HomeworkDrawers, 7

Last but not least, the homework drawers. This project I loved and continue to love. Every parent needs a homework drawer or two. But! I should have put it into my calendar (hahahahaha! I DON’T HAVE A CALENDAR!) to have them clean it out every month, just like they clean out their desks at school. They are a mess now, and once again it’s a battle to find a single pencil. The school year is almost over, but next year we will put into place a clean out day for the drawers. [See universal truth #1]


Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:

  • Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
  • Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
  • No links to giveaways, please.
  • Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job and all that stuff.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


    • says

      It’s from Picnik, the free photo editing software. If you want something similar I would google 50s fonts. I know it’s inspired by a very popular one.

  1. says

    So many good points! I wish there were a pinterest for pithy quotes.

    Only the dead are done.

    I’m into that William Morris quote and, by consequence, raising happy, productive boys in a peaceful environment without a lot of extraneous nonsense.

    even hoarders can be neat-freaks

    I had something like this very thought, sometime this week. I was oohing and envying a blogger’s beautifully organized house and all those beautifully labelled containers. There did seem to be an awful lot of them, though! Then I read somewhere that her home is 4,000 square feet–more than double my own home. I wasn’t envious anymore. That’s too much house for me–and too much stuff, no matter how beautifully labelled and containerized.

    About organizing for others? Well, yes, you said it.

    • says

      There was a point in my life where I would have gladly bought a 4,000 square foot home–it was my goal! It’s not anymore, but I understand why for some people that’s important. I know that for me, I’m just not enough of a naturally organized person to handle that space. The more space I have the more clutter I create, and the more compelled I’ll feel to fill it up with useless stuff.

      Understanding that only the dead are done is the biggest key to making this project work for anyone. I get a lot of emails from people telling me they would start, but they can’t because their family will just mess it up all over again. Or they don’t feel like even trying because it never stays as clean as the first day. Well, of course not! You’re alive, right? Do you never go to the hair salon or cut your hair because it never looks as good as the first day of a haircut? We have 1,000 legitimate excuses to not do something–don’t use a flimsy one. If I didn’t organize something because I thought it would get messed up, I wouldn’t have attempted 75% of the projects I’ve completed.

  2. says

    But why-0-why can’t they appreciate our organizing them and just play along with the rules? It would make me so happy!

  3. Jenn says

    I have two boys, 8 and 10, who share a room. We hang up their t-shirts because it makes me crazy when all the t-shirts get tossed around when they are looking for a favorite shirt. They’ve recently started putting away their own laundry and they are better at hanging things up than folding them.

    • says

      This is why it’s so critical that I clean out that closet once and for all. Once I do that, I can start hanging stuff, which I think will help. We’ll see. The 1950s closets are deep and tall, so that might present a challenge.

  4. jasi says

    i’m pretty organized and minimal, always have been. but this movement toward, what i call “baskets in baskets”, looks ridiculous to me. i don’t have to label my wash cloths, thank you. the closet has only towels (the big ones) and wash cloths (the much smaller ones). if you can’t tell, you’ve got bigger problems than a jammed labelmaster.

    if you’re really into it, that’s great, but if you’re just a body trying to get organized, please for the love of pete, stay away from those sites that have you twenty stepping towards a useful linen closet. one does not need chalkboard labels for everything!

    • says

      Some people are really, really into it. It’s not for me, but that’s okay. People think the amount of time I spend reading is preposterous, and they are probably right!

  5. Susan G says

    Ditto to what the others said, and although I am definitely in the Jules/Mikey camp, I smiled and smiled imaginging Nico digging through drawers, grabbing what he needs, and taking off to whatever important activity awaits. :)

  6. Brandie says

    “Unrelated, but something to think about: even hoarders can be neat-freaks. People just don’t see them as hoarders because everything is so well organized.”

    So true! When I check out beautifully organized closets but they have 50 pairs of flip flops I can’t reconcile the two ideas.

    I love the William Morris Project because it inspires me to simplify rather than just organize what I have which I was never very good at anyway because I had too much stuff! It was a huge revelation to me how much easier it was to be organized once I simplified. Thank you for that!

    • says

      I am not a naturally organized person. The only way I can be organized is to keep my possessions to a reasonable and manageable amount.

  7. says

    I so adored your William Morris Project month, and devoured all of the posts over several days. I decided to try “William Morris Weekends” and managed a couple of projects before I realized that even attempting to tackle (and photograph, and then post about) a project every week is not practical for me. I volunteer extensively through church, and the program year follows the school year pretty closely. With Pentecost last weekend, there is now a little space in my calendar, and I hope to tackle a few more things this summer when I can actually spend a little time inside my home (rather than just darting in and out of it on my way to various commitments). You know what needs to be William Morrissed? My calendar.

    What does work is that you have illustrated beautifully through your blog that making an intentional, lovely home need not be accomplished overnight or preserved in some museum-like state, but can be done in small and manageable projects, and is a lifestyle choice.

    • says

      Thank you. :) The boys’ room alone has taken me months! Budget, time, energy…I have kids, a husband, and stuff to do! It’s why I will never be a big-time blogger, but in the end I don’t think it’s what I will regret laying on my death bed.

  8. says

    I love that painting above the dresser. And the blue lamp. Yum.

    My son is still too itty bitty to make much of a mess in his room, but I need to get better at the purge so that I don’t make a mess of it! His drawers are brimming with clothes, but half of them don’t fit him anymore. Oy vey!

  9. says

    Late to the party. That kind of week. Just want to say yes to everything here. I tried and tried and tried to get my daughter to go along with my program in the bathroom that she sees as hers. I was going to the mat over where to put the shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor stuff in the tub/shower. It was becoming a huge Thing before I realized it was a losing battle, and I was losing much more than a tidy bathroom. It still bugs me, but I just pull the shower curtain closed (so I can’t see it) and remind myself that in 3 years I won’t have this problem any more–at which time I will probably long to have her still with me, messing up the bathroom.

  10. Amy says

    Oh the line about stacking things just to see how high he could go made me laugh and laugh. My little guy is 3, so we’re not quite there yet. He’s happy being destructive with the stuff he’s got, not looking for anything else. But that’s coming.

    Thanks for the series. Every so often (daily?) I have to remind myself that done is better than perfect. When everything’s done, I can circle back around and perfect it. If it’s working, it’s fine.

  11. DemMom says

    I will admit I love the home organization blogs, but I actually agree with you all that not EVERYTHING needs to be labeled, we don’t need new products to deal with our old ones, etc. But I did want to suggest one little thing: to save a little room in the home manual binder you can rip out the instructions in languages other than your own. Makes them a bit smaller!

  12. says

    Yeah, I don’t clean out our homework drawers either. Like, pretty much all school year. (Maybe a little tidying around Christmas break?) And the idea of pencilling in a date to get it done makes me laugh (at myself). Because then I’d have to FIND a pencil! 😉

  13. says

    I love the William Morris quote and have it on my refrigerator door and in my bedroom. I’m getting better and better at getting rid of things. Actually I don’t have a lot of things, but our house is under 1000 sq feet and there’s 4 of us. I just sold my sons play tree fort instead of storing it. And going thru memento bins, and will get it down to just one. Then there’s all there school art work. Seriously do I need 6 bins of stuff from k-12.

    I greatly enjoy your blog , and your a very good writer.

  14. Ellen S says

    You’ve put into words that which constantly trips me up: “This is another universal truth of The William Morris Project: Projects built on vanity crumble.” Yes, Yes, and Yes.

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