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A Few of My Favorite Easy Organizing Tips

I had the urge this weekend to share some of my favorite easy organizing tips that have appeared on this blog.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy using them!

 

1)  A visible menu.  First, I do meal plan.  I try to plan at least 2 weeks at a time (and this dictates my grocery list).  Read more about that process here.  But, I also try and post those meal plans in the kitchen so I know what’s coming up each day and can make sure everything is ready when I get home from work to rock and roll.  I found I have saved at least 1/2 an hour each night by prepping ahead of time.  I used to have a fridge sticker with days of the week from the Martha Steward line at Staples to post our meal plan, but over time, it got to looking a little gunky and I decided to retire it in favor of something a little prettier.  I took a free printable from online and adjusted it to fit my needs.  Then, I put it inside a frame and attached a dry erase marker at the top with a velcro dot.  This little guy is on a very narrow piece of wall next to our pantry.  I like it’s placement because it cuts down on the fridge clutter and is right next to where a bunch of our meal supplies already live.  Now, I can keep track of our meals for two weeks in style!  I also love that I can erase things and move them around, because if your life is anything like mine, sometimes we have to alter plans.  I already know we have all the ingredients for everything on our chart, so making adjustments is no big deal.

Sorry for the glare!

Sorry for the glare!

2) Pantry Storage–Part 1.  Over the door storage has really helped us in our small pantry.  It corrals some of the things we use frequently and that aren’t all that easy to store on wire shelving.  On the very top of the wire shelves (not pictured here) are some cat related supplies like brushes and cat treats.  The next shelf features some rolls like foil and wax paper and  a box of zip close bags.  It’s the bottom shelf, though, that I really want to focus on.  This one handles quite a few jobs.

On the far left there are four “crystal light” or generic version containers (two behind and two in front).  The two in the back hold straws (this is so very very helpful, because they are not constantly falling over).  The two in the front hold things we are keeping for the kiddo’s school.  We found out last year that they collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house, so there is one for those.  The one next to it holds all our “box tops for education” or other such things you can cut off of household items that give money back to the school.  (I tried using baggies for these, but this sounds lazy, but the opening and closing of the bags was a pain.  I like to drop them in the top of these small containers much better).  The little orange basket from Ikea holds the little bag clippies from Ikea (which are awesome!).  And, finally, a few more zip top bag boxes.  Storing them vertically saves a bunch of space and makes it easier to grab a bag when needed.  Don’t forget to use that space on the backs of doors or cabinets–it can be incredibly helpful!

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

3)  Pantry Storage–Part 2.  Labels.  To begin, I use black baskets in my pantry to store items as the wire shelving is kind of a pain in the behind.  To make sure items make it in the right place and people don’t eat food that is intended for recipes, I labeled each basket.  My previous labels were pretty specific (Rice, Pasta, Sauce or Mac & Cheese and Soup)–which honestly didn’t work all that well because there were always exceptions.  So, I decided to go the more generic route this time.  When I ran across these chalkboard stickers in the dollar aisle at Target I grabbed them without even really knowing what I wanted to use them for until I thought…hmmm…pantry labels!  I tried the chalkboard marker (also in the $1 aisle) and it was terrible.  I looked high and low for a decent one that wasn’t part of a huge set and struck out (if you know where to buy one let me know!).  Instead, I went with a silver marker I found several weeks later in the dollar bins and was finally able to complete my labels.  To make them, I took some brightly colored card stock, laminated it, and cut the corners with a corner rounder.  Then, I stuck the labels in the middle.  To attach them to the basket, I rolled a piece of duct tape to the back of the label and stuck it to the basket.  Then, I took a flat piece of duct tape and placed it over the holes to cover the duct tape roll.  I did this with the previous labels, and amazingly, it came off pretty easily when needed.

Now the labels are less specific, but still get the point across.  One row has two baskets labeled Meals (which hold items used for recipes) and one basket labeled Meal Prep (which holds items like soy sauce, marinades, cooking oil, etc.).  The shelf below holds a basket for Snacks (crackers, granola bars, etc.), Lunch (mac & cheese, soup, etc.), and Misc (drink mixes, peanut butter, jello, etc.).  So, basically, one row is off limits for general consumption and the other is fair game.  I think the labels turned out pretty cute.  Sometimes a simpler label really is better.

IMG_0912

New, simpler labels.

4)  Organizing the kiddo’s clothes.  The dresser is not large, and as she has gotten bigger, so have the size and amount of her clothes.  We don’t rotate a bunch of seasonal items in the winter, because it can be -4 degrees one week and 65 degrees the next (I thought I might be exaggerating a bit here, but it was 65 degrees one day this week and -5 the next night!), and options are important.  So, the drawers are pretty crammed.  We were running into a problem that as kiddo put her clothes away, the piles inside would get messed up and we’d need to refold half the drawer.  Ugh.  And, it was really hard to see what was really in there–which meant she probably only wore about half her wardrobe (the stuff on top).  Then, one day a light bulb went off!  I had read and seen posts about the filing system for t-shirts in drawers for adults.  You could take an entire drawer and fit it in half the space.  My thought, why not for kids too?  And, why just shirts?  I had tried a filing system for the shirts, workout pants, and pjs I kept in bins in the top of one of our closets, and it worked pretty well.  So, I was fairly confident it would work for the kid too.  We’ve lived with the filing system for a few weeks now, and it has really made some big changes.  Not only do her clothes fit much easier into the drawers, but now when we go to select clothes for the next day, she can actually see everything that is clean when she makes her decision.  And, no more messy piles!  She was a little nervous at first about being able to put everything away herself, but with a little support the first few times, she now has the hang of it.  I highly recommend trying the filing system for you or your kids.  I say “BRAVO!” to the person who originally came up with it.  Here’s a look inside to see what our system looks like.  We have a drawer for shirts; one of pants, socks, and undies; and one for pajamas–which are all labeled so she knows where to put everything away on laundry day.

Shirt drawer.  From left to write the "columns" are sweatshirts, short sleeves, and long sleeves.

Shirt drawer. From left to write the “columns” are sweatshirts, short sleeves, and long sleeves.

 

5)  No More Lost Socks! It was always seemed hit or miss that I would get socks that actually could be paired at the end of a dryer cycle.  To combat this pesky problem, I adapted a tip I saw on Pinterest (can’t remember where… Sorry!) The blog I read suggested giving each member of the family a lingerie bag to hang on the back of their door to stow their socks in after wearing.  At laundry time, the bag is zipped and thrown in the washing machine, thus keeping all the pairs neatly together.  What a fabulous idea!  I thought this was a great idea, but I am loathe to hang anything on our doors.  Instead, I attached small flatish command hooks to the back of our plastic hampers.  I simply hang a lingerie bag from the command hooks on the back–and you can’t even see it if you face the bag toward a wall!  We both know to put our socks in the bag after wearing (though sometimes I forget), and I have LOVED being able to match socks so easily.  Be sure that the socks are unrolled and flat or they won’t dry properly.

6)  Another fabulous command hook idea!  I love command hooks and use them all over our home, but our bathrooms seem to be given extra command hook love.  Towels hang off the back of a door from CH.  My necklaces and bracelets hang on the back of a cabinet door from CH.  And, in our master bathroom, our shower caddies have hung from command hooks for quite some time.   In the shower, we used to have all of our shower items on a caddy attached to the shower head—but the weight of the caddy and gravity kept causing problems with the shower head.  Then we moved all the products to little ledges built into the shower, but they were easily and frequently knocked over and shave gel containers would leave rusty marks.  Finally, I figured out I could hang shower caddies from command hooks—not just the shower head.  Duh!  I found two inexpensive caddies at Walmart and it works so much better.  My husband and I each have our own caddy, so there is enough space for both of our items without them being in the way at all.  I am thinking about doing something similar in our bathtub for my daughter’s stuff down the road.  (You can sort of see that on another wall our shower brush and a squeegee also hang from command hooks).

My shower caddy.  His is the same--and to the left of mine.

My shower caddy. His is the same–and to the left of mine.

 

There’s a few of my favorite organizing projects and tips from around the house.  What are some of your favorite easy organizing ideas?

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Back to School–Helpful Tools

The first week of school is behind us.  As a household with two educators and one kiddo in school, that first week can be a doozy!  Along the way, I have found a few tools that I find invaluable when getting us ready to face the first day of school and every day after that.  Some of these are new and some are old favorites.  Enjoy! (P.S. I was not paid for any of these reviews, nor given free products to review.  These are just things I happen to like).

1)  Martha Stewart Write On Washable Labels available at Staples.  I LOVE these things.  Basically, you write on them with a permanent marker, let it dry, and stick it to an article of clothing (or perhaps something else).  Then, you can wash said item of clothing and the label does not fall off or rub off!  I have been using these for a few years, and we have washed them many times without incident.  Here’s where I use them: On tags inside coats, inside the lunch bag, inside the backpack (I put it in multiple pockets), and inside of shoes (when we were at daycare).  This way if anything gets lost or someone else at school has the same thing, our items can easily be identified and make it back to us.

image courtesy of Staples

2)  Hole punch for Arc Notebook.  This is really just a way to help me keep better organized–and with all the activities and meetings we have during the school year, I need all the help I can get.  🙂  I have been eyeing the hole punch for the ARC system offered by Staples for a while.  I have both a large and small version of this disc bound system.  (If you’ve never heard of these, they are customizable notebooks and planners.  Other companies offer similar items as well).  But, the hole punch made for the ARC planners is over $40 and it is gigantic.  And, to be honest, I wasn’t going to pay that much for a hole puncher.  So, I hemmed and hawed, because I wanted to be able to put some laminated items like my daily activity log in my planner.  I almost went to Staples to see if their copy area would punch it for me.  Then, I stumbled upon this baby on Amazon.  It is made by Levenger and was $19!  Score!  (I also got free shipping, because I was on a trial with Amazon Prime).  It is a portable disc bound notebook punch.  It only does a few sheets at a time, but it handled my one laminated sheet like a champ.  Since the larger punch only does 8 sheets at a time, I didn’t really think I was losing out on much.  You can also lock certain parts of the punch to make it work for the smaller notebooks.  Loving it so far, and it fits easily in my work bag.

 

image courtesy of levenger.com

 

3) To pack lunches, we like to use reusable divided containers.  This way certain foods don’t touch and we aren’t using a bunch of containers or sandwich bags to store everything.  I did learn last year that cleaning them in the dishwasher all the time leads to some troubles with the plastic getting brittle.  This year, I will be hand washing them instead to hopefully help them last longer.  And, the kiddo is packing her own lunches this year!  This little guy seems to help her keep everything sorted.

 

image courtesy of rubbermaid.com This is the divided rectangle–which we are using right now. We’ve also used an off brand and the Ziploc version as well.

 

What are some of the tools you use to get your school year off to a good start?

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Simple Kitchen Organization Tips

Sometimes simple really is better.  Here are a few quick tips for kitchen organization I picked up along the way or that I stumbled upon on my own.  Each of these tips has made organizing one small part of my life in the kitchen a bit simpler and made it easier to put things where they belong.

1)  Clean/Dirty Magnet.  I remember my grandmother having one of these when I was a kid made out of wood that stuck to her olive green and harvest gold dishwasher.  It was a bit clunky, but you knew for sure that it would stick, because you could not mistake the outside of the dishwasher for anything but metal.  I always thought one of these might be helpful (since at times dishes get piled on the counter or in the sink when other family members are not sure), but I had convinced myself that the outside of our dishwasher would not hold a magnet.  I’m not sure why.  So ,when I saw this quick tip on the YouTube channel “Do It on a Dime”, I thought, let’s give it a shot.  And, guess what!  Magnets do stick to our dishwasher.  Here’s hoow to make your own Clean/Dirty magnet.  Start with a freebie flat magnet like businesses sometimes give away.  If you have a label maker, all you do is simply print out one strip that says “Clean” and one that says “Dirty”–I added designs, because, why not?  Then, just cut down the magnet to fit your strips!

This is actually pretty small in size, so it isn't obtrusive--just big enough to do the job.

This is actually pretty small in size, so it isn’t obtrusive–just big enough to do the job.

2) Pantry Storage–Part 1.  Over the door storage has really helped us in our small pantry.  It corrals some of the things we use frequently and that aren’t all that easy to store on wire shelving.  On the very top of the wire shelves (not pictured here) are some cat related supplies like brushes and cat treats.  The next shelf features some rolls like foil and wax paper and  a box of zip close bags.  It’s the bottom shelf, though, that I really want to focus on.  This one handles quite a few jobs.

On the far left there are four “crystal light” or generic version containers (two behind and two in front).  The two in the back hold straws (this is so very very helpful, because they are not constantly falling over).  The two in the front hold things we are keeping for the kiddo’s school.  We found out last year that they collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house, so there is one for those.  The one next to it holds all our “box tops for education” or other such things you can cut off of household items that give money back to the school.  (I tried using baggies for these, but this sounds lazy, but the opening and closing of the bags was a pain.  I like to drop them in the top of these small containers much better).  The little orange basket from Ikea holds the little bag clippies from Ikea (which are awesome!).  And, finally, a few more zip top bag boxes.  Storing them vertically saves a bunch of space and makes it easier to grab a bag when needed.

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

3)  Pantry Storage–Part 2.  Labels.  To begin, I use black baskets in my pantry to store items as the wire shelving is kind of a pain in the behind.  To make sure items make it in the right place and people don’t eat food that is intended for recipes, I labeled each basket.  My previous labels were pretty specific (Rice, Pasta, Sauce or Mac & Cheese and Soup)–which honestly didn’t work all that well because there were always exceptions.  So, I decided to go the more generic route this time.  When I ran across these chalkboard stickers in the dollar aisle at Target I grabbed them without even really knowing what I wanted to use them for until I thought…hmmm…pantry labels!  I tried the chalkboard marker (also in the $1 aisle) and it was terrible.  I looked high and low for a decent one that wasn’t part of a huge set and struck out (if you know where to buy one let me know!).  Instead, I went with a silver marker I found several weeks later in the dollar bins and was finally able to complete my labels.  To make them, I took some brightly colored card stock, laminated it, and cut the corners with a corner rounder.  Then, I stuck the labels in the middle.  To attach them to the basket, I rolled a piece of duct tape to the back of the label and stuck it to the basket.  Then, I took a flat piece of duct tape and placed it over the holes to cover the duct tape roll.  I did this with the previous labels, and amazingly, it came off pretty easily when needed.

Now the labels are less specific, but still get the point across.  One row has two baskets labeled Meals (which hold items used for recipes) and one basket labeled Meal Prep (which holds items like soy sauce, marinades, cooking oil, etc.).  The shelf below holds a basket for Snacks (crackers, granola bars, etc.), Lunch (mac & cheese, soup, etc.), and Misc (drink mixes, peanut butter, jello, etc.).  So, basically, one row is off limits for general consumption and the other is fair game.  I think the labels turned out pretty cute.  Sometimes a simpler label really is better.

IMG_0912

New, simpler labels.

New, simpler labels.

4)  Olive Oil Dispenser for Dish Soap.  Ok, so I’ve seen quite a few times on Pinterest.  I chose to try this because it would look pretty and take up less space on my sink top.  Overall, I do like the effect, but I notice that the metal top oxidizes quite frequently.  If anyone has any tips or ideas on how to handle that (for right now, I just rub off the rust every now and again), pass it along!  I’m wondering if maybe something with a plastic top would be better…

I really, really want to love this!

I really, really want to love this!

What quick tips do you have for organizing your kitchen?

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Quick Tip–Paper Shredding

 

Shredded Paper

I wanted to pass along a time and sanity saver I discovered a few years ago.  First of all, I HATE shredding documents, but I know it is important.  We tried the do it at home routine, but we burned through 2 shredders and I never found the time to do it.   Luckily, I stumbled upon a mail center in town that does shredding for pretty cheap.  In fact, the first 5 pounds are always free.  So, now, I simply keep my shredding until I have a nice stack and take it off to be shredded!

Why I love it?

It helps me cut down on paper clutter--because I can discard what needs shredded quickly and easily.  I keep a small bankers box on the top shelf of our coat closet.  It is right where we enter from the garage each day.  I glance through the day’s mail on my way in the door and can easily slip unwanted items into the hand hold hole on the side or simply lift the lid slightly to get rid of the junk.

It is well worth the cost— I took two almost full small banker’s boxes to the mail center this past week (I let it build up a bit this time around), and it cost me just under $10.  Plus, we get to stay and watch them shred it (which gives me peace of mind and totally enthralls the kiddo).  For less than $10 I was able to outsource more than 6 months of shredding.  I call that money well spent.  Plus, I didn’t end up with a headache after hours of shredding!

Check around your city or town and see if there is a company that offers inexpensive shredding services to save you some valuable time.  Some cities also may offer FREE shred events or shred events that benefit charities–I know ours does a few times a year.  While I could save myself a few dollars each year going this route, I like being able to watch them shred my items on site rather than having them loaded in the back of a truck.  But, I know many people who take advantage of the free events too.

What menial tasks do you choose to outsource instead of do on your own?  Have you found any hidden bargains around town that help you also keep the budget in check?

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Quick Tip: Top Loader Washing Machine

Hello!  I am going to talk about something a little bit gross today, so just beware.  It has to do with my least favorite chore.  Laundry.  I think I hate laundry, because I know it never, ever ends.  Even if every single item of clothing in my house was clean and put away, the stuff we were wearing would eventually need washed too.  But, I digress.  We were having a few problems with our washing machine–everything else was working great except for two little things.  These things were such a problem, I considered buying a whole new washing machine.  The first problem really isn’t that bad, but the second is going to give you chills.

Problem #1:  A layer of light grey film on the agitator and the drum of the washing machine.  I have found that this is possibly caused by the baby oil I apply daily and that is later transferred to my bath towel which is then transferred to the inside of the machine and collects dirt from the clothes as they wash.

If you have this problem, I will offer you a simple solution.  Wipe down the agitator and drum with a dryer sheet (new or used).  This easily removes the film and seems to keep it from coming back for a while.

Problem #2:  Scrud.  I had no idea this was even a word before I started to investigate problem #2 on the internet.  We were having flakes of black coming off in every wash–they almost looked like crumbled up leaves.  According to the internet, people call this “scrud.”  And, scrud comes from your fabric softener dispenser.  The inside of the dispenser builds up gunk over time and (here is the gross part) since it doesn’t get to air out well–black mold grows inside.  Yes, my friends upon inspection of my washing machine FS dispenser, I not only found an unholy buildup of black “tar” inside the part where you pour the FS, but there was indeed black mold inside the part where the water comes out with the FS during the wash.  I WAS COMPLETELY GROSSED OUT!  There was not a chance I was going to wash any more laundry in that machine until the problem was solved.

This is the inside of a machine like mine. The dispenser sits on top of the agitator and is easily removed.

This is what the dispenser looks like when removed.

 

So, after my minor freak out, I tried to figure out how best to clean the little monster.  I tried vinegar and baking soda–a little scrud came loose, but it was still pretty gross.  I tried to fit some sort of brush or apparatus into the thing to get everything loose, but the holes on the bottom and top are not big enough to accommodate cleaning, and you can’t take the thing apart to clean it.  Even CLR didn’t work (I wouldn’t recommend trying this, it was a last ditch effort).  I knew the little monster was too far gone to save.  So, I looked into replacing the part with an online company I heard about on a YouTube video showing you how to replace the dispenser.  (Don’t bother wasting your time searching for this, because I will tell you very soon how to do it).  It was going to take  a few days to get here and would be about $20.  Not bad, but I needed it sooner.  Found it on Amazon for $12, free shipping, but not Prime so who knows when it would arrive.  Finally I searched for appliance parts stores in my area that might sell to the general public (BINGO!)  This was all a little tense as it was around 11:00 AM on a Saturday, and I had already done one load–which now would be rewashed and had about 4 more waiting in the wings.  Plus, I had no idea if a parts store would be open on Saturday.  

Eureka!  A parts store was open and had the part in stock!!!!  We zoomed over in between other errands an picked up a brand new, CLEAN, dispenser.

Some might ask, why did you bother getting a new agitator, I mean wasn’t the other one really not that bad.  Trust me folks it was beyond gross.  I shudder at the thought of it right now.  If you have a dispenser like mine, take a minute and see how much build up you have.  You might want to rush out and buy a new dispenser too.  After 12 years, ours was a science experiment gone very, very wrong.  New dispenser in hand, I raced to the basement when I got home to see if it indeed would fit our machine.  (I had already thrown out the old one.  No turning back folks).  AND IT DID FIT!!!!  Seriously, all you do is remove the old one and pop the new one in it’s place.  That is it!  I did 5 loads of laundry yesterday with NO SCRUD!

What did this peace of mind cost me?  $17 and an extra errand stop.  Totally, and completely worth it.

I also learned how to keep this from happening in the future.  First, take out the dispenser in between washes to let it air or leave the top of the washer open.  Second, about once a month put a little bit of detergent and HOT water in the dispenser.  Run it through a hot cycle to get any buildup out (I might do this and run washing machine cleaner at the same time).  Then let air dry.  We are going to give this a try.  The other option, stop using fabric softener.  I’ll keep you posted on our success.

I also found out the parts store sells dryer belts for between $15 and $30.  In a few weeks when I am SAHM, I am going to tackle our squeaky dryer.  I’ll give you an update on that too!

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Kitchen Helpers

Meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking take up a pretty serious chunk of time every week.  To make things a little less hectic and a little more enjoyable, I have a few helpers around the kitchen that keep everything running smoothly and to take up less time.

First, I do meal plan.  I try to plan at least 2 weeks at a time (and this dictates my grocery list).  Read more about that process here.  But, I also try and post those meal plans in the kitchen so I know what’s coming up each day and can make sure everything is ready when I get home from work to rock and roll.  I found I have saved at least 1/2 an hour each night by prepping ahead of time.  I used to have a fridge sticker with days of the week from the Martha Steward line at Staples to post our meal plan, but over time, it got to looking a little gunky and I decided to retire it in favor of something a little prettier.  I took a free printable from online and adjusted it to fit my needs.  Then, I put it inside a frame and attached a dry erase marker at the top with a velcro dot.  This little guy is on a very narrow piece of wall next to our pantry.  I like it’s placement because it cuts down on the fridge clutter and is right next to where a bunch of our meal supplies already live.  Now, I can keep track of our meals for two weeks in style!  I also love that I can erase things and move them around, because if your life is anything like mine, sometimes we have to alter plans.  I already know we have all the ingredients for everything on our chart, so making adjustments is no big deal.

Sorry for the glare!

Sorry for the glare!

There are also some very awesome products that help the cooking process go much smoother in our house.  I’ve used each of these for over a year and LOVE them!  I used to prep vegetables for our dorm in college, and I learned very early on that I am not really a big fan of cutting certain ones.  So, I was super excited to discover these two sweet items.

1)  Frozen Chopped Onions.  You don’t have to have fresh onions on hand OR have to chop them into tiny pieces.  Need I say more?

There are other brands out there that are just as good, and we pick up whatever the grocery store we are visiting happens to keep in stock.

 

2)  Already Minced Garlic in a Squeeze Bottle.  I LOVE this stuff, because I use garlic a ton in my recipes.  I love that I can just grab and go with out having to have fresh garlic or a garlic press (which I have never owned) on hand.

This is the brand I use, but I am sure others are just as good. I know this company also offers an organic version if that suits your needs better.

Is there anything you use to make meal planning and prep easier around your house?

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What I Learned While Painting My Bedroom

We moved into a freshly built starter type home shortly after we were married.  As such, the entire house was painted the same light gray color throughout in a quality of paint I would guess is one step above builder grade.  We haven’t done  a whole lot of painting ourselves over the years, just our two bathrooms and the kiddo’s room (twice).  The vaulted ceilings in our living room are best left up to the professionals in my opinion.  But, we decided a few months ago that we’d like to paint our master bedroom–and finally found time to get it done over winter break.  In a little over 24 hours our bedroom was transformed with just a couple gallons of paint, and I learned a few lessons along the way.

1)  Ceiling paint cures over time.

We had been living just fine with the generic paint color in our room for ages, but due to some very minor repair work we needed to do to one wall we needed to spray a little texturizer on the ceiling.  In case you didn’t know this (which I sure did not) the paint on the ceiling cures over time.  What this means is that you are not able to go back and touch up the ceiling paint, because the color will not match.  Therefore, you have to repaint the entire ceiling.  We experienced this problem in the kiddo’s room the second time we painted it too when a little bit of the lavender got on the ceiling–her ceiling needs repainted too, but that’s for another day.

2)  Invest in a nice quality paint.

While the majority of our house is a  nice neutral color, the paint does show marks very easily and requires touch ups a few times a year.  I’ve gotten very good at making the whole house look freshly painted, but is kind of a pain in the rear.  In the few rooms we have painted, we have chosen to use Behr paint, and oh my what a difference. Not only is the new paint a semi-gloss instead of flat, you can see and feel a difference instantly.  I’m not sure how to describe it other than it looks creamier and feels smooth and does not show every little tiny mark.  Plus, nicer paint requires fewer coats.  We learned this in kiddo’s room.  The first time we painted it it took an entire gallon (down to the last drippy drop).  The second time it only took about 1/2 a gallon–because the walls weren’t soaking half of it up.  Below you will see the color we chose for our bedroom.  LOVE IT!

Dark Storm Cloud by Behr– http://www.homedepot.com

3)  Quality tape is key.

One might think that painter’s tape is painter’s tape–at least I did.  I was proved wrong this time around.  We used the standard blue painter’s tape around the majority of the room, including 75% of the ceiling.  But, then my blue tape ran out, I had to turn to the green Frog painter’s tape that I use to hang up items around the house.  (The green tape has a bit more stickiness to it, and it will adhere posters and things to the kiddo’s walls where the blue stuff would just fall off.  Also using painter’s tape instead of pins is a great trick to avoid holes in your walls.  I use it at home and at work when I don’t want to compromise the wall).  Anywho…  The green tape went up on half of two walls.  When we took the tape down, the lines left around the green tape were nice and crisp.  The ones under the blue had some seepage.  This may be mostly to do with the texturized walls in our home, but I think would apply to smooth walls too.  In the future if we need to paint a room again, we will definitely use the green tape around the ceiling.

4)  Holy buckets of dust and cat hair.

Let’s be honest here, I don’t think most people move their dressers or beds on a regular basis to clean underneath or behind them.  We for sure didn’t.  And, let me tell you it showed.  We have a few electronics in our room (a tv and dvd player that really only get used for movies with the kiddo and occasionally when the hubs is watching something on YouTube.  It’s used enough to warrant keeping it in the bedroom but not enough to be a distraction from sleeping or my reading habit).  Apparently these bad boys attract a lot of dust along the baseboards between the dresser and wall.  YUCK!  And, evidently two longish haired cats leave hair build up everywhere including on windowsills they don’t sit on and along closet baseboards–and of course under the bed.  Even dusting and vacuuming once a week didn’t help those hard to see areas.  I’m seriously contemplating adding vacuuming under and around bedroom furniture to my spring and fall cleaning lists.  Does anyone move major furniture in their house to vacuum?  If so, how often do you do it?

Our longest haired kitty (and a view of a light gray wall behind him).

Our longest haired kitty (and a view of a light gray wall behind him).

5)  Five-year-olds have more patience than you think they do.

Of course the kiddo wanted to help in the whole process, but little hands and dark paint + light carpet = recipe for disaster.  So, while mom and dad painted for a large chunk of time, she was left to figure out how to entertain herself–which quite honestly she needs to do more of.  And, guess what.  She did it!  She came in to check on us every once in a while and ended up helping in the tape removal process, but for the most part she was able to play on her own while we painted with the door shut (because our youngest kitty is just a bit too curious for his own good).  Of course we checked on her and she checked on us, but for the most part she was super patient which I was so surprised and impressed with.

6)  It’s amazing how a newly painted room makes you feel!

Like I said, we really haven’t painted all that much in our house (mainly rooms on the upper floor) and it has been a while since we’ve done one that I use on a daily basis.  All I can say is WOW, what a difference!  We chose a blue-gray color that didn’t clash too much with the charcoal gray in our master bathroom.  We weren’t entirely sure what it would look like once on the walls, but I am in love.  We wanted something that wasn’t a flat gray, and I love that the blue comes through in the color quite nicely.  And it really looks wonderful with our cherry wood furniture–which I hadn’t expected.  Also, the artwork we have on our wall (photos I’ve taken matted in white with thin black frames or in thick black frames like below) really pops!  Kind of crazy how painting one room can make your home feel new again.  Check out the before and after below…

Before picture.  This is our room with the light gray walls.

Before picture. This is our room with the light gray walls.

After!  We love the way the room looks now.  This picture doesn't do the color justice, but you can definitely see a difference in the before and after.

After! We love the way the room looks now. This picture doesn’t do the color justice, but you can definitely see a difference in the before and after.

Anyone else tackle any major projects over the winter holidays or make any painting changes recently they are in love with?

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My Favorites from 2013

Over the last few days, I have been working on one of my resolutions to break out of my rut of just reading the same blogs or websites and explore new inspiration.  It has been SO MUCH FUN!  I will share in a later post (or maybe on a sidebar) who has become a new favorite.  But for now, one thing I noticed people doing was posting their greatest hits of 2013.  While I could post what seemed to get the most traffic on this blog, I would be limiting myself to things I actually linked up to other blogs.  So, I decided to post my favorite projects from 2013!  In no particular order, here we go!

There is no picture to go with this post, but I think it is the perfect one to start with.  It is titled “Organization is HARD!” which it truly is for many people, even semi-organized people like me.  I sometimes feel like I have finally got everything together and then life sends me a little whammy wake-up call.  Case in point, I was trying to work ahead on teacher gifts from the kiddo and coworker gifts from me and wrote out these cards to hang on the gifts the day before so we could just go after it the night we planned to put them all together.  The next evening, after 20 minutes of looking, I gave up and wrote out new cards.  Two days later I found them.  UGH!  Lesson learned, put the stuff where you are going to look for it.

After reading tons of blog posts, visiting sites from Pinterest, consuming about 15 organizational books last spring, and from life experience in general, I came up with my Top 7 Organizing Tips.  Putting stuff where you are most likely to find it is one of the top 7.  I should have listened to my own advice when doing the gift tags.

New Desk Space

New Desk Space

Another big change for me this year was an addition of an office space for me in our guest bedroom.  My hubby bought me a new desk for my b-day, and I have been able to do work from home and all my other creative projects in style ever since.  Most of the desk organization has stayed the same.  The only big-ish change is that the magazine holders have been moved to my new closet space to make room for our household wireless printer.  (I was told I get to be the keeper of the printer, because I print more stuff.  Very true, and it keeps me from running down three flights of stairs every time I print something.  And yes, even though there are 3 sets of stairs, our house is still fairly small.  Go figure.)

IMG_5238

Another fun project was organizing the bathroom I use to get ready in the morning and share with my little one.  Just finding the right stuff to store everything was a challenge (especially because I didn’t want to spend much money), but I loved how it looked after all the labels were added.

All the drawers happily organized and each with a purpose.

All the drawers happily organized and each with a purpose.

One of the biggest challenges in a smaller home is storage for all of your kid stuff (and we only have one!).  I talked about controlling the kid clutter that seems to permeate every room of our house and also how I tackled some storage problems related to homework/learning center in our eat-in kitchen.  It’s funny to look back on some of these posts because I realized that I have made some pretty big changes since I last wrote about some of these spaces.  For example, in my daughter’s room, we needed to make space for a collapse-able barbie house (which has never actually been collapsed), so the storage cubes have been moved back to the closet for now.  And, her bookshelves now house books on the bottom and toys she wants to make time to play with on the first shelf and the top surface.

My new clothes closet.  Everything fits and It actually is better this way!  The other side of the closet holds my craft dresser and on the wire racks above are some of my other craft/girl scout items.

My new clothes closet. Everything fits and It actually is better this way! The other side of the closet holds my craft dresser and on the wire racks above are some of my other craft/girl scout items.

Another huge change that has made a difference for us is switching how we organize the closets in our master and spare bedroom.  Now all of hubby’s belongings are in the master, and my clothes, shoes, craft stuff, etc. are in the spare room closet where my desk lives.  What a logical change that I should have totally made sooner.  It has worked so well for us already!  This post also covers our storage closet and the drop zone of the kiddo after school.  I also tackled some of our problem drawers this fall and am very happy with the results.  I am still loving the wrapping paper lining the bottom of my nightstand.

And finally, I worked on organizing my calendars and to-do lists.  Mainly I had trouble because I had too many of them–between paper and electronic I couldn’t keep track of what I needed to keep track of.  Thanks to Google Calendar and a few list making apps, I have been able to keep things more together the last few months.  And sometimes I need all the help I can get.

There you have it folks!  My favorites of 2013!  As I mentioned earlier, it’s funny to look back on some of these things and realize that I have already made changes to those systems I wrote about.  One of my Top 7 Tips is to realize when something isn’t working and feel ok about going back and fixing it.  I have that one down!  In the next few weeks, you’ll hear from me on a couple of areas in particular that I have revisited and realized needed some work (one of my 2014 goals! yeah!!).  I am sure there will be more to come as I revisit old projects and start new ones.

Has anyone else had a project they thought was finished and then a few months or more down the line you realized maybe needed a bit of tweaking?

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Let’s Discuss Drawers…

Over the past few weeks, it has been incredibly busy around our house.  The fall months usher in tons of activities, work commitments, and time snuggling under blankets eating popcorn and watching movies.  This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for organizing projects.  But, I did make an effort to tackle some of the areas around our home that bug the heck out of me.  Specifically, this week, let’s talk drawers.

I am pretty sure I know exactly why the drawers needed some love and attention.  While it is pretty easy to realize you need to attack clutter when it is on the counter top, table, or top of your desk, the drawers are often out of sight out of mind.  Plus, it is way to easy to just dump something in one without really putting it away, because you won’t see the mess you just made (or the mess that will appear after you do this five to ten more times).  Last January, I made a major push and went through and organized and purged most of the spaces in our home–which included the drawers.

I did this so quickly that I didn’t really stop to think about the purpose of each space.  I just got rid of the junk and stuff that didn’t belong in that room, made it look tidy, and called it a day.  The result 9 months later is drawers that are once again a tangled mess and somewhat frustrating to use.  Without even planning it, about once a week I have tackled a drawer in a different room in our house that has absolutely been driving me nuts.  What I love about these types of projects is that they are quick (usually 20 minutes or less) and the end result is so satisfying.

One of the biggest problems with each of these spaces is I didn’t really think about what each drawer was used for before I planned out what I wanted to be in them.  My first task was to give each drawer a purpose.  Second, once again purge the junk and stuff that didn’t fit with the drawer’s new purpose.  Third, logically organize the contents that were left over (and make it look lovely if possible).  And finally, make the commitment to not dump and run ever again (or at least not very often).

So which drawers did I tackle?

1)  Drawers in our entry way table.  These drawers are in a small table just as you enter from our garage (which is our main point of entry) and the place where my purse, charging station, and hubby’s keys and mail reside.  The drawers were a mess, because they really had no function at all.  They seemed to become a catchall for electronic accessories and related items.  (I thought about where I went to search for things--Tip #2 on my top 7 Organizing tips).  So, the two drawers were given a purpose with that in mind.  One drawer is now home to our batteries and the other to accessories for cell phones and tablets.

Batteries are now easy to find and all in one place!

Batteries are now easy to find and all in one place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)  My sock and underwear drawers.  I was able to purchase some awesome divider boxes from Ikea when I was on vacation (I love Ikea and wish we had one nearer to us) that worked for a while, but again, I didn’t really think about what I had in the drawer before shoving everything in.  Mainly, I tried to fit things in compartments too small for them or had ones that were left with extra room.  This was basically a purge of the never used or old stuff and a rearrangement of what’s inside.  Below is a pic of the sock drawer (not much different from a pic I took in January).  What I realized was that I had tried to give this drawer too many purposes by adding some extra stuff where the white socks now live.  This caused all of the socks to be in a chaotic tumble.  Now this drawer has a specific purpose, I’m definitely happier!  The other drawer is a huge change, but I passed on posting pics of my undies.

After...  Not a huge difference, but has been a big one to me!

After… This is not a big change, but it really has made a difference for me in finding what I need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3)  My night table drawers.  This one was pretty fun and made me realize my night table was a huge dumping ground for stuff I didn’t know what to do with.  About half of the items in here were removed, and I left only the essential items behind.  I really thought about the purpose of my night table drawers–what I really wanted them for was to keep the clutter off of the top by the lamp.  (The only things up there are my lamp, current book I am reading, and my magazine holder).  Having that clean space just makes me feel calm.  So, most of the other items were removed and I am left with books to read, sleep masks, notebook and pens to jot down ideas, jewelry I don’t wear very much if ever but can’t part with, and various hand creams.  The bottoms of the drawers looked a  little yucky and boring, so I borrowed  a page from many other online organizers and made my first attempt at using wrapping paper as drawer liner.  It looks so cheerful and happy!  It doesn’t match anything in our bedroom, but I don’t care.  Who ever goes in those drawers but me?  I lucked out and had this pretty flowered Flavia paper I bought from my daughter’s school fundraiser, and it was even double sided.  I did use the turquoise pattern as well on the inside of a shoe box lid where the jewelry boxes and some other items now live.  YEAH!

The top drawer now houses all my sleepy time aids and my books waiting to be read.

The top drawer now houses all my sleepy time aids and my books waiting to be read.

The bottom drawer holds some other items I like to keep handy but don't need to access all the time.

The bottom drawer holds some other items I like to keep handy but don’t need to access all the time.

 

4)  Narrow drawers.  I have three narrow drawers in my life that get messy because they are so small.  At least that is my guess.  Two live in my bathroom and hold hair and tooth brushing accessories (among other things I found) and one is the “junk” drawer in our kitchen that holds pens, scissors, tape, etc.  I had previously organized each of these, but tip #7 from my top 7 was staring me in the face.  Sometimes you have to realize you may need to make changes because what was working before or what you thought would work really doesn’t anymore.  And, I thought enough ahead of time to do before and after pictures!  Yeah!  For these, I just gave each a specific purpose and removed all the excess.

Bathroom Drawer 1–Hair related items

Before...  Too much random stuff in this drawer made it hard to find anything.

Before… Too much random stuff in this drawer made it hard to find anything.

After...  Now home to only hair related items, and the basket is up front and won't slide to the back anymore.

After… Now home to only hair related items, and the basket is up front and won’t slide to the back anymore.  What you can’t see is the back end of this drawer behind the brushes.  That was home to the “mess” and now holds stretchy headbands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathroom Drawer 2–Teeth cleaning and daily medicine/vitamin storage.

Before...  This drawer was a mess!  I may add  laminated pretty paper to these bathroom drawers to help with the ick that collects.

Before… This drawer was a mess! I may add laminated pretty paper to these bathroom drawers to help with the ick that collects.

After...  Just what needs to be there.

After… Just what needs to be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen “Junk” drawer turned supply drawer!

This is the biggest mess usually.  I really dumped quite a bit out of here and kept what I seemed to seek out here most.

This is the biggest mess usually. I really dumped quite a bit out of here and kept what I seemed to seek out here most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever tackled small projects that gave you big results?  I was amazed at how happy I felt after completing each of these!

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To-do or Not To-do–And how should I track it?

I have always been a list maker.  I find serenity in writing down the tasks I need to accomplish and making a plan for their completion.  Simply getting them out of my head leaves more room for important thoughts for the day and help me focus on what the important things–being in the moment and enjoying life, but also really paying attention to what the people around me are saying or doing whether at home or at work.  Sometimes, it is hard for me to focus when my thoughts are swirling around everything I need to get done today or this week or next month.  I also find immense joy in crossing things off of that list.  It is so rewarding to look back and see all that one has accomplished and helpful to see what still needs done.  But, what is the most effective list making tool?  Do you use old school paper lists?  Do you track your items on an App on your phone?  Do you use your daily calendar to mark what needs done and when?  I don’t think I have the best answer to this question, but I have found some ways lists work best for me.

Image from http://careerrocketeer.com/2011/10/how-to-use-task-lists-and-calendars-in-your-job-search.html

My list of scheduled events or activities is kept on a Gmail calendar that I can update online or on my phone.  You can read about it here.  My cleaning routine is pretty well ingrained in my daily life now, so I don’t really track it anymore—keep reading to hear more about this.  So, basically my to-do lists are for two different purposes—work and non-work.  I have tried keeping track of everything in one place on lists in my ARC systems, both the big and small ones on laminated sheets with wet erase markers.  I have tried keeping a small notebook in my purse or work bag to track the same.  Neither of these seemed to work all that well.  I think over time, I realized I cannot keep my work and non-work lists together necessarily, because they are both quite long and looking at them both is overwhelming.  Plus, I need them in two different places.  My work lists generally stays at work, while my non-work list needs to be very mobile and at my fingertips.  I feel like I have come up with a great way to track my non-work tasks, but I am still working on the best solution for my at work tasks.

1)  For my non-work to do list, I have found that I really like using apps on my phone.  They are then mobile and easily accessed.  I have tried a few different phone apps to track to do items.  I really like these because if something pops into my head, I can immediately type it into my phone, assign it a due time, and then promptly forget it and focus on the task at hand.  This is very important for me.  Have you ever been deep into a task and all of the sudden something pops into your head that you know needs done but doesn’t need done now and if you don’t write it down chances are you’ll forget about it until two days later?  Well, that happens to me all the time.  So, being able to quickly jot that piece of info down somewhere it won’t get lost and that is handy is a lifesaver for me.

How I use to-do apps:  The to-do list I keep in the apps really only pertains to the stuff outside of my normal routine.  For example, today I have:  fix sock drawer (it’s bugging me), pull flowers past their season, carve pumpkins, finish updating address book, etc.  These are usually personal tasks that I want to accomplish.

Apps I use:  First of all, I very rarely actually pay money for apps, so the ones I have used are all free.  In the past, I used Remember the Milk–which is really nice to set up recurring events.  Over time, though I found that I wasn’t really using the app much because I had become comfortable with my weekly routine and no longer needed a visual reminder to clean the bathrooms on Tuesdays or vacuum the floors on Thursdays.  Plus, the daily emails I was getting were cluttering up my inbox.  It is a nice app with many merits though and could be useful to others.  The app I am trying out right now is called Anydo.  I really like the simplicity of this app.  I can schedule items for today, tomorrow, upcoming, or someday.  I can schedule the items at specific times and the app send me a reminder on my phone (not email).  I also found that if I turn my phone on its side, I see a calendar view which incorporates the events from my Gmail/phone calendar.  I just thought that was the coolest thing.  The app also sends me a reminder every morning to plan my day–which I could honestly do without but isn’t terribly annoying.  One other feature I really like is that it tracks my “done” tasks.  I can go back and look at all of the things I have accomplished–which you can’t really do with paper lists that are typically thrown away upon completion (or when a new list is made).  You can also decide if the tasks are personal or work related–which I haven’t really done yet.  There are other settings, but these are the ones I find most helpful.  So far, I really like this free little app.  I also found it sends you coupons when you accomplish goals–which was an interesting surprise.

2)  My work to-do list.  This is a tough one.  My job has many different aspects to it, as many of ours do.  And, keeping track of each task, email to answer, phone call to return, report to write, has been a struggle.  I am still working on finding the best way to do this.  Up until today, I had been using the old fashioned paper pencil list.  I cross off what I get done during the day and add whatever isn’t done to the list I make at the day’s end for the next day.  While this works ok, I feel like it is #1 a waste of paper and #2 a bit inefficient.  I wanted to find a way to have the list displayed on my desktop screen and have it be portable to see when I am out traveling around the city or in the building away from my desk meeting with colleagues.  I did a little research and stumbled upon Wunderlist.  It is a program that I can update online and also use on my phone!  So, I can have the online version open on my desktop during the work day and still carry the list around on my phone as needed.  I was able to sync from my computer to my phone and the other way around–just what I wanted!! I am currently liking that I can see/update my list in multiple places and I was able to choose my own background.  You can also make separate lists for personal, work, shopping, movies to watch or make your own list—all kept in one place—which could be very handy to some folks. I can set a due date and/or a reminder, add subtasks, and take notes for each task which will be really helpful for my work items.  I hope this is going to work as well in real life as I think it will in my head.

I am very excited to have my Gmail calendar, Anydo personal to-do list, and Wunderlist work to-do list all working together to keep me more together.  Is there anything out there that you absolutely love using to organize your to-do lists?  I am always open to suggestions!

P.S.  Ok.  So I’ve lived with both of these apps for a few weeks now, and I LOVE them!  I really do enjoy having my lists separated, and that both apps provided functions that fit my varying needs.  Wunderlist has been great because it syncs easily from my phone or computer, and I can have a portable list to carry with me or I can display it right there on my computer desktop to see.  Anydo is great because it gives me fun noises and words of encouragement as I complete tasks, which comes in handy when some of them include cleaning the shower, doing laundry, or grocery shopping–yuck!  I also enjoy that both apps track the amount of tasks I have completed, and I can go back and look at my list of completed tasks so that I can bask in the glory of all that has been accomplished!  Woohoo!

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