8 Truths About Home Organization I Learned from the Berenstain Bears

updated Jul 16, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

What inspires you to get organized? Maybe it’s a trip to the Container Store, or a favorite magazine or blog, or a visit to a friend’s house. For me, the fire was lit at a tender age by that childhood classic, The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room.

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So I decided to go back through this beloved book, as an adult, and see if there were any gems of organizing wisdom that would be applicable to us grown-up, non-bear types. Here’s what I found.

1. “You really can’t have fun or relax in a room that’s such a terrible mess.”
All is not well in the treehouse on the sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country. Brother and Sister Bear’s refusal to take responsibility for the escalating mess in their room causes a bit of an altercation when Mama Bear, fed up with always picking up after her messy kids, threatens to throw everything away. In the midst of the storm, in comes Papa bear with these words of wisdom. Are you guilty? I’m guilty of living in an increasingly messy house, endlessly rationalizing. “I’m really busy right now.” “This is just the way I live.” But cleaning your room (or your house) really will make you more relaxed and happy. Papa Bear knows.

2. Sometimes, it’s good to get rid of things.
While Mama Bear doesn’t end up throwing away all of the cubs’ things, there are a few items that make the throwaway box. You probably don’t have any crumbling, falling-apart bird’s nests, but you might still be hanging on to a few things you could stand to get rid of.

3. A place for everything…
…and everything in its place. You know the drill. Nothing illustrates this more dramatically than the before and after of Brother and Sister Bear’s fictional room. Just look at it — puppets and sporting goods on the pegboard, art hung neatly on the wall, dinosaurs on their own special dinosaur shelf. Genius.

4. Make it pretty.
I’m not gonna lie — my very favorite part of this book was the lovely, pastel-colored boxes that seemed to nest perfectly into the cubs’ closet. Years later, I still get a trace of that same satisfaction when I go to Ikea or the Container Store and see all their beautiful storage solutions. Sometimes I feel it when I look at my own closet. You probably like pretty things, too, or you wouldn’t be reading a design site. So go the extra mile, maybe spend a little extra money to make your storage systems lovely to look at. Cleaning up will be that much more satisfying.

5. Label everything.
It doesn’t really help if all your stuff is neatly nested into boxes in the closet if you can’t figure out which one your favorite sweater is in and have to open all 52 of them. I credit this book with my near-fanatical need to label every piece of storage in my house. It’s a huge help.

6. Pegboards are totally boss.
Papa hangs one in the cubs’ room. I was jealous of that pegboard for years. Fortunately, pegboards have plenty of grown-up applications, like in the kitchen and home office. Here’s a step-by-step DIY for installing one.

7. Have a ‘stuff’ box.
I find that the hardest things to put away are the little things, the random things that don’t seem to fit anywhere. It makes me miss the days when my sisters and I would ‘clean up’ by dumping everything into the cabinets in our toy kitchen (the sink lifted off to allow for top-loading, a convenience I could really use in my adult kitchen). Papa Bear, who, it would seem, is some kind of organizational guru, has the same idea — besides all the carefully labeled boxes, there’s also a huge one that just says ‘toys’. If you find yourself constantly struggling with where to put the random, left-out things, a junk drawer or ‘stuff’ box can be a real life-saver. Whatever it is, toss it in the box — instant clean. If you find that things aren’t getting used and are in perpetual limbo in the junk drawer — well, see #2.

8. “A little organization, and a few rules.”
Papa Bear doesn’t have a monopoly on room-cleaning wisdom. This gem comes from Mama Bear, who recognizes that even if you make a mighty effort to organize your house, you’ll still have to do something to maintain it or everything will just revert back to chaos. While you’ve still got that post-organizing glow, think about developing a few cleaning routines that will keep your space looking spic and span.

And then, sit back, open up a beer, and enjoy your newly decluttered space. Papa and Mama Bear would be proud.

(Images: Stan and Jan Berenstain in The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room)