an intentional homecurating the common

When I was a child, my room was messy. I was that kid who’d be sent to their room, and instructed not to come out until it was all picked up. And so, I would get to work. (Without any argument, I’m sure. Right, Mom?) Instead of simply putting things away, first everything came out of the drawers and closet. Next, I’d start going through things one by one… trying on clothes and sorting through stuff, all the while deciding what to keep and where it should go. The problem with this process was, I’d made an even bigger mess and now it was going to take all day to do what should have taken maybe an hour. Eventually, I’d lose interest or want to go do something fun, and so everything that remained sprawled about my room just got shoved “away” somewhere. My room may have passed the inspection, but it was only a matter of time and I’d be right back in the same predicament.

This pattern followed me to adulthood, as it continued being a struggle to keep our home neat and tidy. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. My attempts to get organized just always came up short of making a lasting difference. I’ve apologized to my husband for this shortcoming, had anxiety over my repeated failed attempts to fix it, and even tried to accept that was just the way things were.

Until it came time to sell our house and I had to go through every nook and cranny. I wasn’t just on a mission to organize, I was determined to eliminate excess, and in the process, stage every last square inch of a house people would be not just walking through, but judging whether they would want as their own. As I went through the cupboards one by one, ensuring that they appeared clutter free and plenty spacious, something amazing happened…

I realized that I am actually a perfectionist when it comes to organization. Say whaaat?!

As I began hyper-organizing every cupboard, every drawer, every single corner of the house, it. was. glorious. I wasn’t simply putting things in place as I had done in the past. I was carefully selecting items based on their aesthetic, and getting rid of (or at least packing away in storage) the rest. The stack of towels in the linen closet looked better just by removing that one odd-ball that I’d gotten back in college. The almonds were more suited for “presentation” in a clear jar than in the bright blue and green container they were purchased in. The books on display appeared richer simply by removing their dust jackets.

the elle in love, intentional marriage, organized home

It was as though a whole new side of me had been released and all of a sudden it made sense. Up until that point, I’d never even considered that my compulsion to do-it-right-or-not-do-it-at-all could be holding me back from keeping a closet orderly. In looking back, though, I can clearly see that if a space didn’t meet my standards upon organizing it, I’d just get frustrated with failed attempts and basically give up on caring about it until it got so out of hand I couldn’t stand it anymore.

The spaces in our home that I most struggle with keeping organized are those zones that lack uniformity. For example, a pantry full of different labels – all vividly colored and screaming for attention in the way that they’re created to do – well, it just felt noisy. Since it never felt organized to begin with, I wouldn’t necessarily notice the gradual fall from structured to chaotic. Embracing the perfectionist in me and giving everything a systematic “home” – even though, yes, it is a bit extreme – provides a distinct tell the moment something is out of place. Problem solved.

This type of structure takes a lot more effort up front and has been a long and slow process. It’s a financial investment too, purchasing designated containers in order to store goods that already come in perfectly functional packaging off the shelf. In the long-run, however, we’re actually saving money because we waste a lot less when we know (and can easily find) what we have.

the elle in love, intentional marriage, organized home

So now, let’s go back to that “noisy label” thing. That revelation was a happy-accidental result of hyper-organizing that took me by complete surprise. When you think about it, it’s not shocking. Strong brands are designed to make you feel a certain way. Period. Which means, it’s only logical that a shelf filled with various advertisements can’t help but be conflicting. Even if you don’t realize that it has an impact on you, let me ask, do you feel calm when you look at a cupboard littered with logos? I’m not going to go as far as to say you should look upon your pantry with admiration. I get that for most people it is simply a matter of practicality, and with all of the to-dos in life, a pantry just may not be that high on the list of priorities. But I will say that, for us, eliminating commercial clutter from our home – whether that’s from the pantry or even the shower- is no longer just about being organized. It is a way to live intentionally and ensure our home enables us to slow down and provides us with a place where we can feel peaceful and rested.

Eliminating commercial clutter from your home enables you to feel peaceful and rested.
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We have a ways to go yet, but since moving here, we’ve been mindful about creating a space that not only feels “like us”, but is also free from as many advertisements as possible. I recognize that not everyone is as susceptible to the influence of the world as I am. For us, though, this intentionality makes a big difference. The more neutral our home becomes, the more we find ourselves appreciating the little things in life. And the more we enjoy what we have and where we’re at, the less anxious we are over the constant temptation to have more, do more, and be more. So basically, we simplify for the sake of our sanity. ;)

If that makes sense to you, please let us know that we’re not alone. Also, I was hoping that you’d be here because what I’m about to say is specifically for you… I’m starting a new series on Curating the Common. It’s all about selecting everyday items with intentionality.

Why? I’ve been getting inquiries about where we’ve sourced several of the products, containers, and objects around our home. Incidentally, the neutral color palette we’re sticking to has also been a topic of conversation. Although it feels a little silly to say that because I don’t think of myself as worthy of giving advice on home styling, I have learned quite a bit these past couple years about disregarding what’s “normal”, or even expected, in order to make our space look, function, and feel the way we want it to. And I’m more than happy to share about that all day long.

To kick off this series, next week we’re taking a closer look at the space that started it all – my baker’s pantry.


  • Dana Fiorito said:

    You know the way to my heart. Seriously! We've just moved into a new home with a pantry and this is my's a good reminder that it's a slow process. a blogpost with links to storage containers, perhaps?? :)

    • mel said:

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Dana! Congrats on the new home. It's so exciting, and at the same time so much work figuring out where everything goes. A look at the storage containers we use in the kitchen is coming to the blog this week! ;)

  • Sondie Wheeler said:

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past several months. You have both inspired me and moved me to tears. This post really embodies how I feel about our home. Thank you! Your words and photography are so fresh and thoughtful. I look forward to reading more. Keep up the great work!

    Sondie (Mohrman) Wheeler

    • mel said:

      Sondie, You are so sweet! The encouragement means more than words can say. Thank you!!