A Solution for Stuff that Needs to Leave the House

July 2011 4714
This is a wall still in progress after having painted this summer.

The cabinet should actually be moving to a different wall to make way for the piano that belonged to Izzy’s natural-born mother, who was a concert pianist but died when he was a toddler.

I’ll share more about our plans for this wall and the cabinet’s new locations another time. Right now I want to tell you about something specific in this photo that is staying right where it is.

I’ve always had a problem with what to do with items that need to leave the house — library books, items we’re giving or returning to friends or family or taking back to the store, etc.

  • I don’t like them hidden away around the house until leaving-time because we forget. Always.
  • I don’t want the clutter of them sitting on a table or cabinet for an indefinite time.
  • For a while I put those items in the top right shelf of the white cabinet, since it’s near the door. Out of sight out of mind was the problem. Plus, not everything fit.

After trying and failing at each of these “solutions” I found a new solution in May and it’s actually working!

See that colorful tote bag next to the cabinet?


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It’s made with the artwork of my current favorite artist, Flora Bowley. I bought it at her painting workshop in Berkley.

The sad thing is I love it so much that I’m afraid to take it outside, even though it’s very sturdy and easy to wipe off. So I decided to put it out where others and myself can enjoy its vibrant beauty every day.

It holds all the items that are waiting to be carried out of the house and transported elsewhere.

Here’s why it’s been working:

  • The stuff is visible from the top so I’m not forgetting about it.
  • The stuff is not visible enough to register as clutter.
  • The bag is big and I’ve been able to fit everything in it so far, even when it’s been lots of different items.
  • The bag is gorgeous, so it’s an attractive solution.
  • The bag is vibrant so it’s an attention-getter — which makes it an effective reminder to me that I have stuff to take care of.
  • If I ever relax about it, I can even take the whole bag with me on errands where I’m taking the stuff.
  • Items like this are an affordable way to support your favorite artist and also live with their art.

Have you found a different way to store the stuff without forgetting about it? Please share!

If you’ve been struggling like me, maybe there’s a gorgeous tote that will add color to your living room or entry way that you can pull out!

  • Anonymous

    Your bag is beautiful! 
    We have this same problem.  I have settled on a “purse chair”.  It is just a dining table chair that sits against the wall next to a larger cabinet.  I now put my purse there when I come in and have decided to keep the stacks of library books, the bag I take out each day with my clipboard, coupons, paperwork, etc., and anything the kids need there.  I’ve threaded my charging cords through the back of the chair so they are unseen but I can put my phone IN my purse to charge (otherwise I forget it on the charger!).  It does look a little cluttered if there is mess elsewhere in the room but when I keep the room clean and the table clear (a constant job, of course), it registers as “supposed to be there”.    

  • I’ve started just taking my stuff directly to the car. I usually put it on the front passenger seat so I don’t forget it’s in the trunk and then I have a reminder as soon as I get in the car. I do love this bag though. Great idea! 

  • I’ve started just taking my stuff directly to the car. I usually put it on the front passenger seat so I don’t forget it’s in the trunk and then I have a reminder as soon as I get in the car. I do love this bag though. Great idea! 

  • Nice!

  • I had a similar problem.  I’d have a collection of things to be returned to someone sitting on my kitchen counter or table, taking up space.  I also had a collection of items that were downstairs, that needed to be returned to the bedrooms/bathroom/craft loft Upstairs.  My solution was large utility totes from Thirty-One Gifts.  They’re big, colorful…and I can set one out and fill it up, then take it to it’s destination and unload it.  When I’m done with it, I can collapse it and neatly stack it in the closet.  I got so geeked out by this, that I lost my mind and signed up to sell the products from Thirty-One Gifts.  As if I don’t have enough to do as a full-time progammer and a mom. 

  • Ha! ;)

  • Lindy

    I have the same Flora bag and carry it with me everywhere with a sketchbook, pens and pencils, camera, and misc. stuff.  It is holding up  amazingly well!  It still looks brand new.  I do like your idea for a bag close to the front door for all the stuff that needs to be taken away.  I may need to get a second Flora bag!

    Hope all is well with you.  Are you still painting?

  • Hi, Lindy! Yes, I’m still painting! I’m not sure whether or not I have any natural talent for it, but know it takes time, practice, experience, and learning to get good at anything, so I’m still working on it! I’m waiting for Flora to post the dates for her Sedona AZ workshop and hoping I can go!
    What about you? You still going to lots of workshops and doing lots of art?
    Great to hear from you!

  • Iceteeeeee

    I am. Vera Bradley bag fiend and a while back I wondered why I was storing the unused totes in my closet…….duh! I started putting one in each room to use instead! Lightbulb moment!

  • Iceteeeeee

    That should be “I am a Vera Bradley fiend”; sorry!

  • Lindy

    Hi Noell,
    I am headed to Squam in a couple of weeks for the second time.  Flora will be there but I did not get into her class but I am excited about the classes I am taking.  I was signed up for An Artful Journey in Feb and looking forward to 3 days with Flora but the entire retreat was cancelled.  Who knows, maybe I will come to Sedona when she comes!  In the meantime I am at our house in Maine and doing some painting and taking a surface design class (online) with Alisa Burke.  I am loving it!

    Hope all is well.  Keep in touch!

  • Sedona is beautiful! If you end up coming let me know!

    Alisa Burke rocks. That’s awesome!


  • Peg in CO

    Oh, that is a lovely solution.  Good job!  Her stuff is very reasonably priced!  I’m going to think about some of that stuff for girlfriend gifts for the holidays!