Category Archives: Home Organization

Add a Small Shelf for Big Organizing Help

Hanging a wall shelf in a small area where you just need a bit of a surface can really make a major organizational impact. I’m in need of one over my washing machine, so I can get the detergent, fabric softener and stain removing products off of the dryer. Here are a few ideas of other places where a little shelf might come in handy:

  • Near your front or back door, with a stylish dish for keys and wallets.
  • The area between your bathroom sink and the medicine cabinet.
  • Instead of a bedside table in a small bedroom, like mine.
  • Just above or to the side of the stove or cook-top for commonly used spices and oils.
  • On the wall just above your desk, to keep office supplies off of your work surface.
  • Above your dining room buffet for extra glassware and decorative accessories.

I searched Etsy and found some beautiful, handmade options that just might enhance  your home and fill an organizational need.

This is a pair of copper painted brackets, so you would have to supply your own wood. The maker can craft these to your desired measurements. $20 for this pair from Unique Wood Artwork.
This pair of copper painted steel brackets, fits a shelf one inch thick. You would have to supply your own wood, but the look is so pretty. $20 for this pair from Unique Wood Artwork.
A shelf for a shallow tray for your keys and mail on top and hooks to hang coats and bags underneath. Corvallis Coat Rack with Floating Shelf by KeoDecor.
A shelf for a shallow tray for your keys and mail on top and hooks to hang coats and bags underneath. Corvallis Coat Rack with Floating Shelf, $115 by KeoDecor.
These would look great in the kitchen or bath. Urban Industrial Pipe Floating Shelf $37.30 from Henry Lewis Home.
These would look great in the kitchen or bath. Urban Industrial Pipe Floating Shelf $37.30 from Henry Lewis Home.
A sleek and minimal look, but made of super strong steel. 13- Gauge Wall Shelf, $28 by Cream Street Shop.
A sleek and minimal look, but made of super strong steel. 13- Gauge Wall Shelf, $28 by Cream Street Shop.
this shelf is such a simple design, but makes a very cool statement. Hanging Pallet Shelf, $22.50 by Lee Art Designs.
This shelf is such a simple design, but makes a very cool statement. Hanging Pallet Shelf, $22.50 by Lee Art Designs.

 

“Spark Joy” Reignites My Will to Declutter

In my last feature for the paper, I wrote about how using the Marie Kondo method of decluttering my home has impacted me as an organizer to my core. She encourages us to keep only the stuff that makes us happy. This is actually a tall order, and not an insignificant psychological feat. While I was on my organizing kick last year, I hit a wall when it came to the paper purge, and the whole process got put on the shelf. Then I hit critical mass, with the excess stuff of having two growing children cluttering up my basement and work space.

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As I continue to work on “the purge of all times”, it is easy for me to get sidetracked and lose my motivation. Luckily, Marie Kondo’s new book, Spark Joy arrived just in time. I’m in the middle of it, and have to stall the urge to put it down, just so I can go get rid of some more unwanted stuff. This book is much more in-depth and descriptive, complete with illustrations on how to fold your clothes properly to maximize drawer space.

I’m eagerly anticipating reading Chapter 6, about getting rid of paper. I’ve built this task up so much in my mind that it has paralyzed me. I’m afraid I’ll shred something I may need down the line. Yet, if I’m being honest with myself, when was the last time I actually needed to reference one of my paid bill statements? I can’t remember. Surely, going through this category of stuff will feel just as liberating as shedding the bags and bags of clothing I did last March. Wish me luck, this duty is next on my list.

 

Creating Useable Zones in the Basement

Our house is 95 years old. We live in a very modest 900 square feet upstairs, and need to use every square inch of our mostly unfinished basement. Previous owners had chopped up the space into small chunks, and until recently, we were using almost every area as just storage space. With our family of four seemingly outgrowing our house, and my husband and I each spending hours working from home, our basement must now function as additional living space.

I have made it my mission this year, to carve out little zones for our various activities. I also need to purge and organize each area and get it looking as good as an unfinished basement can, on a tiny budget. You can do this in your small home too. Just really consider the way you live and what you want to actually do in your space. These are the zones we need for our small house to really work well for us:

  1. Laundry area
  2. Storage for toys, off-season items, and momentos
  3. Music area for drums and piano
  4. Office for me
  5. Art studio for Thomas and Lucy
  6. Project space and tool storage
  7. Lawn care items and extra furniture storage
  8. Office for Chris

While I know where all of the areas will be, and some zones are already serving their purpose, there’s a lot of work to be done before I share more before and after photos with you. So for the time being, I’ll show you how the music area is shaping up.

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The drum corner BEFORE. YIKES! We did a major purge of this area and then set up the drums. The next step was to paint the area white and add some decor. 

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The piano area BEFORE. I had already purged this area of clutter, and was using it as an art studio for Thomas. Then, on New Year’s Eve, my mother-in-law bought us a piano at Goodwill for $25!

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The piano bench desperately needed to be recovered. I used upholstery tacks and some fabric I already had on hand.

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Removing the odd shelving and painting the mismatched walls white totally transformed the drum nook.I still need to paint the wall by the piano, change the light fixture above the drums and hang some pegboard near the drums, for storage of other instruments and drum hardware.I’ll surely be posting more photos as I complete each area.

Tips for Getting Organized This Year

In Sunday’s Life section, I wrote a column about my own home organizing challenges. Even as an organizing professional, I still wage a battle against clutter on a regular basis. I hope that you’ll find some of my ideas about how to tackle that looming mountain of stuff in your living space, inspiring.

i clearly labeled bins in my basement, after purging two truck loads of stuff.
I clearly labeled bins in my basement, after purging two truck loads of stuff.

Organize with Pegboard

Our family uses a lot of bags for different activities, and without a proper coat closet upstairs, the bags end up in a jumble in the basement- bags for swimming, overnight stays, store returns, trips to the library, and reusable grocery bags. To solve this storage dilemma, I’ve  hatched a plan to cover an entire wall in my basement with white pegboard and hooks.

Pegboard is available at your local hardware store, and the pricing is super reasonable. I’m going to head to Home Depot in Silverdale, where I know that they can cut the 4 ft x 8 ft sheets down to the height I require. All sorts of hooks and bins are available to customize the wall to serve my needs. I can’t wait to tackle this project and share images with you!

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My Two Favorite Organizing Books

Yes, I have just two favorite home organizing books. I’ve read many, but only two have actually changed the way I think about home organizing. This is the best time of year to gear up for organizing your living space to better fit your needs. You’ve just accumulated more wonderful possessions from the holidays, and now you need places to put them.  In next Sunday’s paper, I’ll write more in depth about the process of purging. For now, here are  two book recommendations, as you consider what to get rid of and how to fit your new belongings into your daily life.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This book really has changed my life for the better. Her determinant for what to keep and what to toss is, does it spark joy? Not only did this help me get rid of lots of excess, but it stays on my mind as I shop, so I am less likely to buy impulsively. Kondo also encourages you to purge by category of item, not by room. This was a game-changer for me. I’ve got her newest book Spark Joy, due out on January 5, on order and I am so looking forward to its arrival.

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My next favorite is Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I love this book because she really delves into how to arrange your living spaces so that they make the most sense for how you live your daily life. She also gets specific about filing systems and how to store all kinds of items. Morgenstern encourages you to think of your spaces in terms of zones, and how you use them. For example, a living room might have zones for reading, watching TV and doing homework. Then you work off of that footprint for where to put things you’ll need to access for those activities. She compares it to the way a Kindergarten classroom is organized. I just loved that principle and it has really stuck with me.

I hope the approach of the new year has you motivated, energized and ready to improve your home’s function through the power of organization. We can go on this journey together.

Five Stylish Wall Calendars for 2016

I love when it’s time to trade out last year’s calendar for the new year’s.  As my husband and I have yet to sync our i Cal’s to keep tabs on each other’s engagements, we stick to the old fashioned method of writing things down and occasionally double-booking. For our family, the wall calendar is our go-to spot to check what events are on the horizon. Calendars also make great last minute Christmas gifts! Here, I’ve rounded up some pretty little calendars to accent your own decor taste in 2016.

 

Coffee &Tea by Rifle Paper Co. A sweet way to see dates at a glance in the kitchen. $18.
Coffee &Tea by Rifle Paper Co. A sweet way to see dates at -a- glance in the kitchen. $18.
The Great Big Calendar by Paper Source. Nice and large, 24" x 19", for writing down lots of important to-do's. $29.95
Great Big Calendar by Paper Source. Nice and large, 24″ x 19″, for writing down lots of important to-do’s. $29.95
Brush Script calendar by Paper Source. Simple and clean, but still pretty. Three different colors of cardstock, and a grid big enough for jotting down engagements. $26.95
Brush Script calendar by Paper Source. Simple and clean, but still pretty. Three different colors of cardstock, and a grid big enough for jotting down engagements. $26.95

 

Seasonal Fruits and Veggies by AzulHome on Etsy. I just love the vibrant watercolors on this calendar, something to inspire my cooking! $30.
Seasonal Fruits and Veggies by AzulHome on Etsy. I just love the vibrant watercolors on this calendar, something to inspire my cooking! $30.
The Vertical Calendar by Make Collaboration. I love the sleek modern look of this one. It also has a magnet hanging system and comes with event stickers. $32.95.
The Vertical Calendar by Make Collaboration. I like the sleek modern look of this one. It has a magnet hanging system and comes with event stickers. $32.99.

Junk Drawer Management

Like so many of you, I have a junk drawer in the kitchen. And, while this next admission may be damaging to my burgeoning career as a self-proclaimed home organizer, my junk drawer gets completely out of control at times. I like to consider myself an organized person in general, but I’m also human. I hold onto little things that I think I’ll need someday and they all seem to get stuffed in the junk drawer.

All organizing systems require regular maintenance. That is the one step that lots of articles with home organizing tips seem to leave out. You’ve got to frequently purge so as to not overwhelm your organizers with the stuff of everyday life. Chargers, receipts, match books, coupons, pens, tape, Chapstick, keys. Tiny items come home with us every single day.

So here is what I did with my junk drawer problem.

Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.
Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.

Take it all out. Sort it into piles of like items. Some of mine were as follows, tools, writing instruments, adhesives, keys, batteries, personal care, curtain hardware and chargers.

Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn't.
Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn’t.

Consider the items. What items did I actually go to the drawer to use?  (Pens, scissors, nail file, tape measure.) What things were just in the way? (Curtain hardware, knobs, carpet tape.) Are there things that really just need a new home? (Receipts and coupons.) Is some of this trash? (Yes, lots of it!)

Assess your drawer organizing unit. Is it the right kind for all of the things that will be returning to the drawer? Maybe its time for a different one.

I've had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better for me.
I’ve had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better.

Now purge. Only return items to the drawer that you actually need access to. In my kitchen, storage space is precious, so I really tried to hone in on what I actually used on a daily basis. Find other homes for the stuff that was just getting in the way.

How long will this drawer look like this? I'll give you an honest update in two months!
How long will this drawer look like this? I’ll give you an honest update in two months!

Okay, now don’t forget: you’re going to need to go through this drawer every couple of months to keep it from getting clogged up again! I just set a reminder on my phone for the first week of January, to check in and assess how my good old junk drawer is holding up. Maybe you should too!

 

Organizing Kid’s Toys

Keeping Thomas and Lucy’s toys contained in a house with no play room takes constant organizing. Space constraints aside, having proper toy storage is always a challenge, because we always seem to bring more play things home. As our kids age out of what they used to play with and get into something new, we need to purge and box old toys up, so our systems don’t get overwhelmed.

A few things have worked pretty well for me, and although it is an ongoing battle, we have mostly managed to keep the house from feeling overloaded with toys. Here are a few tips!

With Thomas’s birthday this weekend, and Christmas quickly approaching, I always do a pre-party purge of his room, assessing what he doesn’t favor anymore. I’ll tuck those things away, usually while he is at school, and save them for a rainy day. This makes room for all of the new stuff. Keep this idea in mind, before new toys enter the house, and you are one step ahead of the game.

Keep a storage tub or two, of less frequently played with toys that your child is still likes,  in the basement or a closet. When they want to play with some of them, swap them out with something currently in their room, like a little borrowing system. We have done this with Thomas’s train set, toy dinosaurs and some other toys that he is still interested in, but doesn’t need to have out all of the time. If he wants to play with them, he gives up something else for a little while, until he is ready to put the older toys away again. Or, simply create a regular toy rotation every couple of months, so that old toys seem new, and perhaps they’ll tire of things less quickly.

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For babies, keep just one basket of toys in your main play area. While young babies do like bright, talking toys, they mostly want to explore their environments. They don’t need a ton of complicated play things. When I took a few minutes to observe which toys Lucy, my nine-month-old, was actually interested in, it was far fewer than what I had on hand. While I plan to keep a few extras to switch things out every so often, I was able to let go of quite a few toys. Babies change so quickly anyways, there is just no good reason to have lots of toys for one particular age.

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Store toys where the kids can see and reach them. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, clear shoe boxes are the best. Of course, they don’t fit larger toys, but you might be surprised just how much you can fit into those little bins. I love that they are stackable and not so big, that they become heavy for kids to lift. We use them for LEGO bricks, play food, Thomas’s tool set, and many other items. Zippered mesh bags are good for larger sets of toys too. They can fit more than what a shoe box can hold, but you can still see what’s inside.

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I converted Thomas’s closet into a music “studio”. He loves going in there and making tunes.

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Create zones within a room. In Thomas’s small bedroom, we have several different areas to keep specific types of things. I promise I am not militant about the lines between these zones, but it totally helps when it is time to put toys away or when we are searching for something. His zones are as follows: musical instruments, LEGO, games, books, miscellaneous toys and CD’s and records. This principle is a classic organizing trick which can be applied to every single room of the house.

Organizing with Vintage Stuff

As I just wrote about for the Sunday paper, I prefer the patina of an old, rusty bin to the plastic sheen of a storage tub. This is not to say that I don’t own a great many plastic storage bins, but I do like re-purposing old stuff as organizational implements.

Tired of the mismatched baskets that I use as my snack pantry above the buffet in the kitchen, I went out in search of vintage metal bins and wooden boxes to replace them with, and found these at Uptown Mercantile and Red Plantation Mercantile.

Another of my favorite vintage organizing devices is this old tool box. I used to use it as my “market box”, when I was a vendor peddling vintage furnishings at flea markets. Now it holds some of my crafting supplies:

I use this metal basket to organize papers, magazines and notebooks that I need at the ready. I have another one similar to it in the bathroom, corralling clean towels.

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How do you use your vintage treasures to organize everyday items?