mysemiorganizedlife

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Label Love!

About four months ago, I bought a label maker.  As much as I enjoy organization, it is surprising that I did not already have one.  I picked up a fairly nice one when all the organizational supplies went on sale at the beginning of the year.   The urge to label everything in sight right away did not hit me the way I thought it would.  Instead, I determined it would be better to take my time and see how the new organizational systems I instituted around my house worked out before I started labeling anything.  Once I was fairly sure my changes were making organization around the house work better, I broke open the box and went to work.  What I found really fun about the label maker is that you can choose your font and even put little designs on the labels.  You could buy label strips in different colors, but I stuck with black type on white labels.  It is also pretty easy to use, though I did have to look at the instructions to figure out how to change between all of the settings.  Also, the little machine does seem to run through batteries fairly quickly.  I haven’t made too many labels yet, but I’ve already received the low battery warning.  I am interested to see how long they actually last.  All in all, I am pretty happy with my purchase.  While I haven’t gone label crazy, I am glad to finally have some of my labeling dreams realized.

Some of our closets received the first round of labels.  The linen closet contains several baskets that are hard to see into from the outside, so labels here were necessary if anyone else other than me wanted to find anything in here.  I also labeled my husband’s t-shirt organizer.  This will help immensely in keeping things neat and tidy.

We also store our medicines in little baskets to keep them from falling over and to sort like with like.  My handy label maker worked great in giving each basket a clear distinction.

I also finally labeled the folders hanging in my paper organizer.  I like the look of the printed labels over hand written ones in this instance.  They look more neat and crisp.  I have plans to makeover my paper file box soon too.  It came pre-labeled, and how it is set up does not really meet my needs.  I am forcing myself to make their system work.  With my new label maker, I can make a system that works for me.

I did find there were some places in my house that I wanted to label, but the strips from the label maker were not the ideal solution.  I needed something bigger or bolder to work effectively.  As mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to give my daughter a chance at the independence she so desperately desires.  Her dresser drawers are much more accessible now, but it was hard for her to remember what clothes were in what drawer.  Since she can’t read quite yet, I knew we needed larger picture labels.  My label maker is pretty cool, but it can’t do that.  I also wanted to label the drawers of the dresser I keep my craft supplies in as it was hard to remember exactly what was in each one.  This was a hard one to think through.  I didn’t want to use sticky labels that would damage the wood, and though I considered hanging labels from the knobs with ribbon, I didn’t want to get them caught in other drawers or have them face the wrong way all the time.  After some thought and scrounging on the web for free labels, I found some canning jar labels online at www.sweetpreservation.com to use for both projects.  I printed them on cardstock, and adapted them to my needs using painters tape to affix the labels to the dressers to make sure I didn’t harm the wood. (I love using painters tape when I am worried about harming the original surface).  I think they turned our pretty well.

My newly labeled areas offer a little bit of that feeling of organizational zen.  I am excited to tackle a few new labeling projects in the near future.  My daughter now wants labels for all of her toy areas and cubes so she knows where things belong, and I am going to make my file box much more user friendly.  Yeah!  Can’t wait to spread the label love.

***UPDATE***

I spent about an hour one evening making labels for my file organizer.  I like it so much better.  I now realize why I was always putting off sorting my papers that needed filed.  It was a pain!  My new labels make sense for my needs, and I even have two “blank” areas where I can add a new section if needed.  Much improved!

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My Happiness Inspiration!

My desire to be organized has always been there.  I love color coding and always think something could be better organized than it already is.  But, for a while I lacked focus.  I would try and tackle projects that were too big or find myself reverting back to bad habits over time.  I’ve always said that cleaning helps me feel zen, it shakes me out of a bad mood, and I feel more in control of my life.  I feel happier.  To me cleaning also means organizing, putting things in their proper place, and being able to find things exactly where and when I need them.  Keeping up on everything though was starting to get hard.  I felt drained, lethargic, and unmotivated quite often—what I needed was a mental kick in the pants.

Luckily, I stumbled upon The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin at my local public library.  I spent $1 to get the express copy located near the check out desk, and I am so glad I did.  What intrigued me the most about the idea of this book is really one of the things that keeps drawing me back to Gretchen’s writings, videos, and blog.  She is a fairly typical woman who wanted to increase her happiness in her everyday life without making major life changes.  You may have heard about how Walden went to the woods or how a trip to Tuscany or India changed a woman’s life, but Gretchen said there was no way she could do that.  She had a family and a job and a home.  Just like many of us.  She was happy in her life, but she felt she wasn’t enjoying her happiness.  She could really be happier.  I felt the same way.  I was happy in my life, but I knew that I was not really appreciating what I had.  Most of the time I felt like life was flying by, and I wasn’t taking the time to enjoy it.

I fell in love with this book pretty quickly.  I breezed through the public library copy and knew I had to pick up my own so that on my second read I could take notes in the margins (something I rarely do, but the format lends itself so easily to note taking).  Readers are introduced to Gretchen’s thought process and goals for the project in the beginning, and then the chapters are broken down into areas Gretchen wanted to address in her life—one for each month of the year.  In the paperback copy, she provides a guide on how to start your own happiness project.

Certain chapters of the book resonate with me more than others, but I definitely felt like each one could easily apply to my life.  I love that the first chapter (January) starts with Boost Energy.  It is truly hard to start anything new, to keep order in your life, or to enjoy experiences when you are exhausted.  I know firsthand, because I struggle with getting enough sleep every day.  There never seem to be enough hours to get everything done.  The chapters on marriage, parenthood, and friendship were also great reminders of how I want to be with the people in my life and how we can get more out of those relationships.  One of my favorite messages throughout the book was how we as individuals can increase our happiness by shifting our personal perspectives.  You cannot expect your happiness to increase by changing other people—you can only alter your own behavior and attitude.  Also, accept who you are.  Do not try and make yourself like things you don’t really like—instead celebrate and embrace the things that interest you.  When you do things that you like…you are happier!

My favorite message from Gretchen, though, is “The days are long, but the years are short.”  So many times we rush through life or are focused too much on what needs done or on future events, that we forget to be in the moment.  This is so powerful for me, because most days I do feel rushed or so focused on what will happen that I forget to enjoy the moment—even if it is something I have been looking forward to for a long time.  I don’t want to wake up one day and realize my daughter is an adult and feel like I missed her childhood.  Or, go on a fabulous vacation with my husband and not be actively in the moment.  John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  By embracing ideas presented in the book, I hope to avoid falling into this trap.

While I haven’t set up my own personal happiness project specifically and I don’t chart my progress like Gretchen, I do find myself thinking about her words on regular basis as reminders of how I want to be.  Someday I hope to set up my own goals/project in writing, and I think I will have a better idea of that when I finish my second read of the book.  Hopefully, I have that done before her next book, Happier at Home, comes out this September.

I highly recommend this book to anyone.  Gretchen’s journey has really inspired me to look at my own life and how I live it day to day.  It is part of the reason I am focused on organization in my life and why I started this blog.  Thank you Gretchen Rubin for being brave and sharing your story with us.  It has definitely made a significant impact on my life.  I have a long way to go, but I appreciate you being one of my guides.

To learn more, visit:  http://www.happiness-project.com/

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Emergency Storm Kit–Why I needed one! (updated)

As we sit waiting out the third round of storms for the day, I realize that I am not prepared at all for the dreaded Tornado season that happens each year in the Midwest.  Today we had very scary weather alerts letting us know that strong winds, large hail, and tornadoes were likely for our area (and most of the rest of our region).  I didn’t really think too much of it, having grown up here and knowing how bad storms can get.  But, then I started checking Facebook.  So many people were preparing for the imminent doom that was about to descend directly upon our heads.  They were posting lists of the supplies and necessary items they were packing together in case weather Armageddon indeed occurred.

As a child, these violent storms always scared me.  Long, loud thunderstorms would send me scurrying under our coffee table or into my parents’ bed.  During one summer storm, when my brother and I were home alone, my mom called us and told us to get our essential items and head to the basement closet.  To us, our essential items including things like our entire stuffed animal collections, bowling shirts covered in patches, and favorite snacks.  As I am now an adult and a mom, my idea of essential has changed.

Knowing 24 hours in advance that we might get our doors blown off gave me plenty of time to prep and to worry (though I only really started prepping a few hours before the storms were to hit and only after reading the fifth Facebook post about others’ storm kits).  I found myself to be a little lost, wandering around the house trying to think of what I would want/need if we became trapped in the basement for any length of time or were without power or water for a while.  It is a really scary thing to think about!—which is probably why I hadn’t faced it sooner.  And, I realized I was not ready in any way to face an epic storm.  Sure I have flashlights strategically placed around the house, and I’m sure we could make do with whatever clothes were in the dryer, but what if we didn’t have 24 hours notice?

Should I have paid more attention to the article in one of the parenting magazines about what to include in emergency kits?  I remember clearly at the time thinking I should make one, but not wanting to make the several different versions the lady who wrote the article mentioned.  Nor did I have the money to shell out for all of the things she listed.  After my eye-opening worry fest today, I know I do need to face this challenge because I want my daughter—my family—to be safe in the event of an emergency.  So, tomorrow when I go to the store, I need to keep in mind what I need to put in my kit.

1)       Storm Radio (Amazingly, we already have one.)

2)      A few flashlights (get more so I am not pilfering from what we already have)

3)      Batteries

4)      Matches

5)      Small first aid kit & pain medicine

6)      Wet wipes

7)      Hand Sanitizer

8)      Non-perishable food/snacks

9)      Extra clothing (already in house)

10)   Charger for cell phone (luckily we have extras)

11)   Paper & Pencil

12)   Cat food

13)   Blankets/Pillows (easy enough since our shelter is our storage room)

14)   Kid distractions (games, coloring books, etc)

15)   Copies of important documents

16)   Dust Mask

17)   Water (www.ready.gov suggests 1 gallon per person X 3.  For us that is 9 gallons of water.  Where do you keep 9 GALLONS of water??  What if you have 5 people in your family!).  Not sure how much I’ll store yet.

18)   Trash bag/zipper bags

These items (other than the water) will be kept in a clear plastic storage bin in our “shelter area.”

Stuff to grab on the way

1)      Cat

2)      Wallets

3)      Phones

4)      Keys

5)      Portable Computers

6)      Prescriptions (if there is time)

After thinking about all of the practical things we would need in an emergency, I realized there were several items on the above ground levels of our house that I would not want to lose.  I have a plastic file box where I keep all of my daughter’s memories (post to come soon regarding this process).  I was keeping it in her room for convenience, but I now think I’ll keep it in our storage room.  I don’t want to have to lug that to the basement in the middle of the night to save our priceless memories.  The rest of the stuff is really just stuff.  As long as I have my family, and we are safe, I count myself lucky.  Everything else can be replaced.  Having an emergency kit ready to go is a huge step forward in making sure that if a disaster does hit, we are as prepared as possible to face it.

Our Emergency Kit!

This is our Emergency Kit thus far.  I am missing a few things off my list above, but they are easy to add.  Included are a few other items as well: basic toiletries, scissors, paper towels, toilet paper, plastic cups and utensils, and wash cloths.

Putting this kit together over the last few days sets my mind at ease a little.  If do feel calmer about the potential for facing a disaster situation.  Though, I am still not sure where to store all the water!

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Why Didn’t I Do This Sooner!

I spent quite a bit of time recently thinking about what was really irking me around the house.  Usually, the things that bother you on a regular basis are things that could be better organized.  I had to think…what little parts of my cleaning or cooking or life routine were not working the best.  I came up with quite a few, but for now, I’ll just share the ones where I had to smack my forehead and wonder why I hadn’t done anything about them sooner.

1)  Cleaning caddies.  All of my cleaning supplies are now in two different caddies.  One in my kitchen and one in a bathroom.  All of the cleaning supplies are easily transferable to whatever location is necessary and spills are contained and clean up quickly.  Plus it is much easier to take the caddy from one room to the next instead of juggling a bunch of bottles.   (Thank you to http://www.thenesteffect.com for your list of favorite organizational tools.)

2)  Small trash cans.  I placed a small trashcan in my laundry room.  Instead of fighting with a plastic bag tied to my laundry sorter, I now have an actual place to put lint, used dryer sheets, etc.  I also added a medium sized trash can to our kitchen.  We recycle quite a bit, and I never really had a designated place to store them.  Sad to say, I used paper bags or plastic grocery sacks that would hang off the doorknob to our pantry.  SUCH A PAIN.  Now my daughter asks if things go in the “big” (regular) trash or the “little” (recycling) trash.  Seriously, WHY didn’t I do that sooner!

3)  Toilet paper roll holder.  The under sink storage in one of our bathrooms works great for holding a few extra rolls of toilet paper.  The other is pretty full of the grooming and beauty products the two gals in our house need to look our best.  No room to neatly store extra rolls–which usually meant a quick trip to the linen closet only a few paces from the bathroom–which in some instances is too far.  So, an upright toilet paper roll holder does the trick nicely.  Plus, when the little one runs out mid-use, she can easily grab a new roll.

4)  Drawer organizers.  Thank you Ikea!  Instead of spending time once a month reorganizing my sock and underthings drawer, I finally invested in drawer organizers.  I like to not have to dig through my stuff to find what I need, especially when a groggy morning could result in navy blue socks with black trousers.  Sadly, we do not have an Ikea near where we live, but I was able to pick up some organizers up while on vacation.  They have worked wonderfully.  Even if I am feeling lazy, it is too easy to put things away in their proper places to not do so.  My daughter even has little ones in her drawers to help her keep all her little articles of clothing corralled.

5) Oven mat.  I actually installed this a while ago, but I think it is definitely worth mentioning.  I picked one up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with one of the coupons that regularly find their way to our mailbox.  I LOVE it.  All I have to do is slip it out–when the oven is cool–and the food really just wipes right off of it.  So much better than running the stinky, long cleaning function on the oven or using a lot of elbow grease.  I love it so much in fact, I talked several people I know into getting one.  They are in love too.

6) Fridge and Freezer organizers.  I read in a magazine somewhere, and it has been so long I don’t remember where, that using plastic shoe boxes is a great way to keep your fridge and freezer organized.  (They are great for other parts of the house too: under the bathroom sink, in the closet, for toys, in the garage… but I digress).  I use quite a bit of frozen vegetables and tend to stock pile meat for the upcoming few weeks (see meal planner post).  As a result, I always seemed to have odd sized or fairly flexible packages rolling around my freezer.  Now, I use two plastic boxes near the ice holder.  Our frozen veggies now stack upright neatly and the meat for our meals is easy to find.  This also helps out greatly when meal and grocery planning, because I can easily see what I have on hand.  I also keep a few boxes in the fridge to hold meal prep ingredients for the week and easy to grab snacks for the kiddo.  Plus–they are very inexpensive!

I am sure there are many more organizational tips I will run across in my quest for harmony and efficiency that will make me wonder why I didn’t think of them sooner.  But, for now, I am pretty happy with the small changes I’ve made over time.  They certainly cut down on time spent doing the nitty gritty of the day and leave more time for the fun and meaningful.

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