Quick Home Organization Projects from American Hovel Magazine (with before and after photos!)


It’s been some time since I’ve posted content from American Hovel Magazine, the magazine dedicated to lowering neatness standards in the American home. The publishers have graciously granted me permission to reproduce one of the features from the upcoming June, 2013 edition.¹

Quick Home Organization Projects
Other popular home magazines are full of helpful hints on getting organized and staying clutter-free. The photos from these beautiful homes suggest lives of calm and beauty in which calm and beautiful people live and exude calm and beauty from their very pores.

People who live with Real Families and Real Clutter™, however, often find those home organization projects to be completely out of reach. After first sighing in envy at the neatly partitioned closets and gleaming clutter-free surfaces, real people will choke back sobs of despair when looking up at the disarray of their own home. They will then tear the pages out of the offending Magazine of Impossible Ideals, stomping them into a crumpled mess on the floor, and then drink vodka and/or eat chocolate until they pass out under their kitchen table.

We here at American Hovel know that feeling well. After recovering from our last magazine-shredding-chocolate-eating-vodka-drinking rampage, we solicited photos from our readers on their own home projects. You will agree that the scope of these projects is far more attainable. Share in the joy of being able to see a project from concept to completion in a matter of minutes, leaving you much more time to enjoy your vodka or chocolate with self-satisfaction instead of self-pity.

Project 1: Kitchen Counter
Competent cooks know the importance of clear work space for creating inspired and wholesome meals. This is why you so often have cereal for dinner.

Before: It’s covered with mismatched containers and lids, tools, toys, swag, and a basket full of lord knows what other crap. Problem: you can barely tell what’s what, let alone find room to make lunch.

After: Putting the dinosaur toy front and center focuses your attention on the dinosaur toy. Look at the dinosaur! Dinosaurs are cool. Raawr!

Project 2: End Table:
End tables can be beautiful accents to a living space, giving room for guests to set a drink. Assuming that you ever have guests, or that they could find room to set a drink.

Before: This end table is an elegant antique piece. The lovely wood surface is visible between sketch books and art supplies, various toys and craft projects (is that a paper Tardis?) and whatever the hell else is all over it. (Is that a jar of foot cream?) Problem: there is no real focal point. All you see is pile.

After: The robot Matrushka doll has been turned around and given a prominent place, using the lantern as a pedestal. The owl craft is now on top of the paper box. What once just said “pile” now says “pile with Matrushka robot doll and cheery owl.”

Project 3: Kids’ Toy Corner
You live in a reasonable sized house, without a dedicated play room for the kids. What you have is a living room which has a lot of toys in it. Often all over the entire floor. Sometimes the toys get “put away” into a corner like this one.

Before: The toys are vaguely sorted into bins and stacks. Some might find this level of chaos distracting,though, with all the clashing colors. Problem: There is no unifying theme.

After: Covering the pile with a throw quilt from a nearby couch turns the chaotic pile into a lump of pleasing simplicity. Further, it adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the room. (Quilts are warm and comfortable, you know.)

Bonus idea: Put a stylish pony on top and it’s now Imperial Fantasy Mountain, a home suitable for the Princess of all the Ponies.

Project 4: Kids’ Craft Corner
Your kids love to do art, and you have amassed an enormous collection of craft supplies, not to mention a never-ending flood of projects and papers coming from their schools. You’ve started tackling this roughly 27 times over the past 3 months, using boxes to sort artwork, schoolwork, and other miscellany, but have been interrupted each time. The pile has seemed to explode and expand daily whenever you look away. (You look away as often as possible).

Before: A massive, heaving, seething pile of headache. Problem: the throw quilt from the couch is already in use in the living room, plus it’s not nearly big enough for this pile. Your king-sized comforter would do, but you’d have to go upstairs to get it, plus you’d be cold tonight.

After: Move a couple of things around and call it a day. Then stop looking at it. You have more important things to do. Go have some good quality chocolate or a strong drink.

Can you spot the difference?

We hope you have enjoyed this American Hovel Magazine feature. Please feel free to contribute your own organizing project ideas and tips.

¹Note: American Hovel Magazine is a completely fictitious magazine that exists only in my head on and on the pages of this blog. I was flattered to hear that a friend of a friend actually once hunted for the magazine at news stands a few years ago, after seeing my cover. Perhaps the magazine will come to life one of these days, but for now I will just have to live the dream of living in that dream world of clutter. For back issues of American Hovel Magazine, please visit the archives:

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23 responses to “Quick Home Organization Projects from American Hovel Magazine (with before and after photos!)

  1. i adore you. come over and remake my house next.

    • Magpie, the feeling is mutual! I would love to bring my assistants over to your house to help you achieve this level of …organization. You’d be amazed at how quickly it can happen!

  2. You are hoot my friend. My kind of organization! :)

    • Thanks, Annette! Am I as much of a hoot as a cheery owl? I like to think of myself as more of a Matrushka robot. (I have layers.)

      Glad you found my organization tips helpful!

  3. I would totally buy that magazine and then leave the issues in stacks on my nightstand until the stack got precariously tall and threatened to topple the no less than half a dozen water bottles with varying amounts of water left in them.

    • Thanks, marty! It sounds like your nightstand could stand to be the focus of a new home project. Have you tried putting flowers in the partially filled water bottles? A dandelion in each would brighten the room, I’m sure. (By the way, I just fished this comment out of the spam filter. Always a bit scary to go in there…)

  4. I would buy this magazine, cut out inspiration photos, and tape them to my wall. Then I would call it art.

    And never deny the power of an artfully arranged throw. [cough]

    • Thanks, Stephanie! My fictitious magazine would be honored to grace your hypothetical wall art.

      And thanks so much for visiting my blog!

  5. I can’t wait for American Hovel Magazine on Pinterest. I’m certain that it’ll be very popular, both with the magazine’s fans– & will give all the Judgey McJudgertons something to do!

    • Thanks, Ally Bean. That reminds me, have you seen varous Pinterest Fails? I’ve seen some posts here and there, and just came across a whole blog.

      Also, I confess that I fear the Judgey McJudgertons. I think that I may well have horrified some people I know, who as we speak may be feeling the need to resanitize their spotless counters after having had theirs eyes sullied by the image of mine…

      • That blog is hilarious. I love it. Thanks for the link.

        Yes, I know what you mean about some people… who are just too tidy for words… and can’t deal with those of us who skate by with more reality-based decor.

  6. This is… well, it’s fantastic.

    • Thanks, Sarah. Yes, our housekeeping skills are indeed “fantastic.” Dictionary.com lists the first definition of fantastic as “conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque.” That seems… about right.

  7. My only problem with the dinosaur fix is that now you can’t see the pretty tea towel.

    • Excellent point, az. Clearly another kitchen project should be to take the pretty tea towls and use them to cover the clutter on the counter. The dinosaur could even climb on top of the pretty tea towel mountain!

  8. In all seriousness, American Hovel Magazine is evidence of just what a genius you are, Alejna.

    When I was a kid, this is exactly what our house looked like. In fact, my parents’ house still looks a little like that, but with fewer toys. I think that even after my brother and I moved out, the house never quite recovered. I seem to remember that when I was in high school, my friends used to use my room as an excuse not to clean their own rooms.

    • Thanks, Sally. You’re the best.

      It is nice to know that others have lived in this sort of state, and that children have even survived into adulthood without being crushed under the piles of clutter.

      • Yes, both children survived to adulthood without getting crushed under the clutter! However, the house plants didn’t survive.

  9. Thanks for the laughs Alejna. I enjoyed reading this post.

    • Hi, Carl! Thanks for the thanks for the laughs! I enjoyed reading your comment on this post. (Seriously, thanks for visiting my blog!)

  10. this is adorable and you’ve given me some real workable DIY ideas!

    I’m covering up crap with old towels. GO ME!

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