All Posts By

Jenna Nelson

Final Post

By | Organizing

Well, this is going to be the final blog post for Eating an Elephant.  After talking it over with friends, praying about it, thinking through where I want to focus my energy and realizing I was beginning to look at blogging as a chore and not something I enjoyed, I’ve decided to step way from the blog and focus on other endeavors.  That doesn’t mean you won’t have access to the blog though.  I’ll be keeping it up on my website, so if you have an organizing dilemma just head to my website, click search, type in your problem area and all of the blogs I’ve written that relate to your specific search topic will show up. Whew, am I right?! You can also check out Top Shelf on my various social media sites – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even occasionally Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Ending Eating an Elephant also doesn’t mean you won’t be hearing from me.  I’m working on getting something new to you, my amazing and faithful readers… Just hang on for a few weeks while I work on the finishing touches.  It won’t be in the form of a blog on a weekly basis but it will still be informative and delivered right to your inbox.

I never thought I would become a blogger and even though I don’t have a following of thousands (or even hundreds) I’m proud of this little blog and what I’ve been able to accomplish with it. I’ve helped people get organized in small ways, I’ve learned and discovered awesome new organizing tips, and I’ve been able to figure out my style of organizing, what I like and don’t like, and gain a better understanding of what I offer. So yeah, I’d say it’s been a success.  For me.

So thank you all, old subscribers and new, for reading this blog and supporting me in my writing. I appreciate each one of you and hope all of you will enjoy what’s to come.  Hang tight for a few weeks and you’ll be hearing from me again.

– Jenna

A Guest Post to get You Questioning Your Spaces

By | Organizing

Guys, it’s already the end of September!  Can you believe it?!  This year is flying by and once we hit mid-October the holiday season is basically upon us (YAY!) which means POOF!  2017 is almost done!  If reading that sparks some inner turmoil because of the organizing projects you haven’t started yet, take a deep breath and calm down.  This guest post from Laura at orgjunkie.com can help with that dilemma and hopefully will spur you on to get control over some of the clutter in your life.

Now Laura is an organized person with an organizing blog, but even she has areas to work on.  In her post Rearranging Kitchen Cupboards and Making Hard Choices she lets her readers in to one area where she needed to develop a better system – her kitchen.  More specifically, her cookbooks (ooh hitting a nerve with anyone?).  She writes:

“It was time to say goodbye because now that I eat Paleo I never use them anymore. So there they sat, looking pretty but never seeing the light of day. I also now needed that space for other things. It wasn’t easy to let them go, it’s funny what we get attached to because of the significance they represent. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom and these cookbooks were a major part of that huge transition in my life.”

If you can relate completely to her statement, of if you have your own “cookbooks” that may need to be removed from your house, click the title of the blog post in the paragraph above to see Laura’s advice, along with some questions you can ask yourself so you can focus in on what exactly you want for each space in your house.

One Size Does Not Fit All in Organizing

By | Organizing

I think we can all agree that Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse.  As a whole it provides amazing ideas, recipes, inspiration and laughs (I could spend all day on the humor page), but it also gives an incredble influx of information that not everyone can handle and sometimes (okay a lot of times) makes us ungrateful for what we have, jealous for what we don’t have, envious of someone else, and sometimes we spend more money than we should, just to keep up with what we see on Pinterest.  I’ve searched MANY Pinterest pages and boards looking for ideas and inspiration for my clients and if there’s one thing I’ve learned , it’s that, when it comes to organizing, you have to create your own system.  You can’t copy someone else’s work and expect it to work flawlessly for you.  Yes, you can grab ideas, find bins, labels, organizing tools and more but don’t find a picture on the internet and say, “This works for them therefore it will work for me.” It’s not going to happen.  Each space is as unique as the person/family using it and should be organized that way.

Here’s why – your space won’t have the same items the other space has, your needs and expectations are different from the other person’s needs and expectations, and your space as a whole is probably different, even if it’s just slight.  Or maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s a cookie cutter build and you have an exact match to a space you love but guess what, you’re not that other person!  You’re you!  With your own life to live and with your own life that will fill that space differently.  No two closets I’ve worked in are ever the same.  My clients have different preferences.  There may be similarities, but never identical in the items they hold.  No two pantries are the same.  Again, there may be similarities but I have never come across an exact match for any pantry I’ve seen or worked in.

And I don’t know about you, but I love that.  I love the challenge of coming up with new ideas that will work for my clients.  I love the process of transforming their space to fit their specific needs.  I love seeing the satisfaction on their faces when it’s done and they realize what we’ve done can be maintained after I leave because it was organized with them in mind!

So yes, do your research, find ideas that will work for you, get inspired!  But when it comes down to it make sure the way you’re organizing fits you and your lifestyle.  You’re unique and your space needs to reflect that.

My Favorite Product for Spices

By | Organizing

Okay, being perfectly honest I don’t know how recently this organizing product came in to existence.  I never heard about it while I was growing up (and no offense to my mother, that’s not really surprising.  Love you mom!).  I first learned about this awesome organizing helper after I started Top Shelf and researched “spice storage”.  Let me tell you, after looking on the internet and working with lots of clients in their kitchens, an overwhelmingly large number of people have horrible spice storage.  And they know it!  Sometimes they use a spice step (which, if you’ve been a reader for a while you should remember my post about why I don’t like spice steps); sometimes they use an in-cupboard shelf (click here if you don’t know what I’m referring to), but most of the time the spices are just randomly packed into a cupboard, which means finding the one spice that is needed can take a bit of time if it’s not used frequently.  Well, let me give you three little words that can erase your spice storage dilemma:

Spice.  Drawer.  Organizer.

Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have enough drawers for that” and if that’s you and that’s true then click the link in the above paragraph to find some great solutions for your spice storage problem.  But, if you DO have enough drawer space, or can create drawer space, then this product may be for you.

Spice drawer organizers are exactly what they sound like – an organizer for spices that fits in a drawer.  Just think, no more shuffling through the random spice containers, no more knocking them over, no more wondering where the heck your ground nutmeg is… With this product you can see all of your spices in one sweep!  I’ve had several clients use this method and every single one of them loves it and says it’s wonderful.

Naturally, there are several different options to choose from:

Spice Rack Organizer
Spice Liner
Expandable Spice Tray Rack & Drawer Organizer

Another option would be to forgo the organizer entirely and simply lay your spices in a drawer, label side up, so you can see them all.  I have clients who are just as happy with this method as those with the actual organizer.  The spices do have a greater tendency to move around, since there isn’t anything holding them in place, but if you’re okay with that, then this idea would work just as well.

If you have more spices than can fit in one single drawer but you don’t have extra drawers to do this then I what I tell my clients to do is to put the spices that are used most frequently in the drawer (ideally one next to the stove) and the ones that are rarely used can go in a nearby cupboard.  Again, I have had clients do this and they are totally satisfied with it.

Spice storage is a pain and seems to be a problem for a very large number of people.  If you are one of them, this may be exactly what you need.  Look through your drawers, determine if there’s a way to free one up for your spices, and give this tip a try.  I guarantee it’ll make cooking more enjoyable and you may even use some of those special spices you’ve forgotten about in the back of the cupboard.

Happy Labor Day

By | Organizing

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”*

As a small business owner I’m grateful for all the hard work that has gone in to building this nation and feel blessed to live in a country where workers are celebrated.  Enjoy today!

*www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

5 Simple Tips to Organize Your Child’s Closet

By | Organizing

It’s the last week of the month and that means I get to highlight another organizing blog/blogger and one I like to showcase is Morgan from Morganize with Me.  She always has great advice and simple, easy-to-follow tips that anyone can do.

This month I wanted to feature her post on keeping her kids clothes organized for any parent who has young kids at home because, with the new school year recently starting, things are probably a bit chaotic around the house right now.  Even if they’re not chaotic this is a great article for any time of the year and can even be applied to homes without kids ( well… 3 of the 5 can at least).

If you don’t have young kids I’d still recommend you check out this article.  These tips could come in handy for a friend one day or you could even apply the tips to your own closet (again, 3 of the 5 you definitely can).

So, check out 5 Tips for Organizing Kids Clothes and try to apply just 1 of the tips you learn.  I guarantee even doing just one of them will make a difference.

A Simple Test to See if You Have Too Many Clothes

By | Organizing

It’s now mid-August.  Most summer vacations are over, or are just about to end, and everyone is mentally gearing up for the fall and all that comes with it: school, colder weather, cute boots, football…  But wait, is something drawing you back to that vacation you took earlier in the summer?  It’s not the pictures on your phone, the amazing tan you got, the great souvenirs you purchased (which, by the way, did you REALLY need to buy them?) or even the wonderful memories you made… No, what’s drawing you back to that vacation is the unpacked piece of luggage that’s sitting in your closet. It’s drawing you back along with giving you a sense of guilt every time you look at it.  Maybe it’s wide open with clothes spilling out, or perhaps it’s still closed and you don’t even remember what all is in there, but there it sits… for weeks… And the more you look at it the more you think, “I really don’t want to empty you”, so you don’t.  Instead you just ignore it and wear whatever clothes are available.

So, here is this week’s tip: DON’T let your suitcase sit unpacked for more than 12 hours after returning from your trip.  If you get home and simply can’t get to it right away because of work or it’s late at night and you want to sleep I completely understand.  But if you arrive home from your trip and have time to unpack, then just do it.  The most it’ll take is 10 minutes, and that’s assuming the clothes are clean and you’re putting them away.  It will take less time than that if you just dump everything into your laundry hamper.  Once it’s done you can sit and relax without it hanging over your head.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Yes!  It does!  You can’t deny it!

So the next time you get back from a trip, however long it lasted, give this tip a try just to see how quickly unpacking takes.  I promise you, you’ll reap the benefits of having all of those clothes out of the suitcase and you won’t have to suffer the guilt of looking at the unpacked luggage for weeks on end or the disappointment of throwing something away that was wrecked because it was packed away too long (hello moldy, musty smelling, stinky clothes).

A Simple Item I Love to Use

By | Organizing

I love organizing and one of my favorite places to organize is a kitchen pantry.  For me, there’s something so wonderful about creating the different categories, all catered to what each client needs, arranging them in a way that is personalized and specific to the people who live in the house, and then being able to stand back and see the end result – an organized pantry where everything is seen.  I absolutely love taking a small, focused space and making it completely organized and “pretty”.  Since starting Top Shelf I’ve used several different organizing items in pantries but the one item I recommend more than anything else is a standard wire basket.  These can be found at stores ranging from different dollar stores all the way up to West Elm and The Container Store.

One thing I love about wire baskets is you don’t have to use a label.  I know labels are super popular right now, but not everyone has the creative bug to create and maintain labels.  There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just not for everyone.  Wire baskets are great if you want to keep your items contained but still want to see how much you have. And the great thing about baskets is, the contents don’t have to be arranged nicely.  They’re baskets! Just throw those bags, boxes, or bars in there and walk away.

By using wire baskets, you can tell with just a glance what “category” they basket belongs in, the contents it holds, if your supply is getting low or if you can skip buying that item the next time you are at the grocery store.  I had one client who didn’t realize the amount of beans and lentils she had until I gathered them all and put them in one basket. When she saw all that she had she said, “Well, looks like I won’t be needing to buy lentils and beans for a while!” (saving money, cha-ching!)

So, could your pantry use some wire baskets?  Go check out your pantry and see if they could help you out too.

If It’s Missing… Get Rid of It

By | Organizing

I’m sure you read that title and thought, “Wait what? If it’s missing then how can I get rid of it?”.  The answer is in the “…”.  If it’s a puzzle missing a few pieces, get rid of it.  If it’s a game missing pieces, get rid of it.  If something is incomplete and you don’t use it BECAUSE it’s incomplete, why are you hanging on to it?  I realize there are heirlooms and other things passed down that you may want to hold on to, which is fine and totally understandable.  But if it’s a game or puzzle and it’s missing any part of it, clear it out of that space!

Several years ago my parents and I went through a period of time where we did a LOT of puzzles (rocking out to Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera because we’re super cool) and, as all puzzle aficionados know, when you finally finish a puzzle and discover pieces are missing… In that moment there’s nothing worse.  The elation you should have felt is gone because all you can see are the empty spots scattered around the puzzle.  And I’m not being dramatic.  Be honest, if you could choose between a puzzle that was complete or one that had “missing 3 pieces” written on the box, wouldn’t you go for the complete puzzle?!  Yes!  Of course you would!  So get rid of the incomplete one!

I have 7 nieces and nephews (and another one is on the way this month!) and if one of their games is missing pieces it’s not as much fun to play (again, personal experience talking here).  If you have children and can relate, then get rid of the game(s)!  If you don’t have children and can relate, then get rid of the game(s)!  If it’s one the kids (or you) love I’m sure you can find it again in a store or online.  Or you can hit up a much loved family member and they can search for a replacement, but there’s no reason to keep the incomplete game.

And don’t feel guilty about getting rid of either of these items!  Wouldn’t you rather see games and puzzles in your cupboard or closet that you actually want to use instead of a bunch of boxes that you never take out anymore?  Yes.  The answer is yes.  Every time.

Organizing the Catch-All Room

By | Organizing

Well, it’s the fifth week of the month which means your weekly “tip” comes in the form of a previous job. 🙂

Some homes have “catch-all drawers”, “catch-all cupboards” and “catch-all spaces”… This home had a “catch-all room”.  I met the mom in a ballet class we both were taking and every week she would tell me she needed to hire me “one day” (which I hear a lot) and she actually did!  I went to her house for a consultation and she showed me her “catch-all room”.  As we discussed her desires for the room, she told me it needed to be multi-functional for her family.  She is a crafter and seamstress so she needed a space for that, she home-schools her 3 kids and so she needed a space for them to do work individually, she wanted a space for all the arts and crafts supplies they use every day, along with a place to store books, old pictures and other random items that didn’t have a home.  If this sounds overwhelming, it was.  It was a a VERY cluttered space but had SO much potential.

We worked hard for several hours and came up with 4 different “zones” in this large room.  She had her craft and sewing space, her kids got their desk space (she only has 1 kid at a time sit a do work so the desk she had was perfect), the large bookshelf that already had arts and craft supplies on it just needed to be organized and the small bookshelf was perfect for the items her husband needed stored, along with the pictures and books we found along the way.

The one tip I’ll give to you guys based on this job is this – purge! Every single item in your space needs to be addressed. A lot of what you’ll see in the pictures was thrown out or donated.  If she hadn’t been so ready to get rid of the unnecessary, this job would have been a lot harder and a lot longer.

Overall it was a great experience and I was thrilled I could help a friend out.  Scroll down to see the “before and after” pictures.