Friday, May 27, 2011

Tackling the Hall Closet (for now)

Other than bedroom closets, our home has only one closet.

Yep, you read that right, one closet.

I refer to it as the "front hall closet", because it's just inside the front door, at the bottom landing of the stairs. That would be a great location for a "coat closet", except for the fact that we rarely use that door as an entrance...

And yet, until about 1.5 weeks ago, the closet looked like this (full of coats):

Mind you, these are out-of-season coats, but still. Too many coats. I knew we needed to pare them down, as there were some that hadn't been worn since we had moved in, and it kept bugging me because I hadn't done it yet.  So one afternoon, when all of my kids happened to be napping at the same time (that's rare!), I completely emptied out the closet. Completely. And that's when I had an epiphany:  We only have one closet that's not for storing clothes....why the heck am I filling it up with coats (which are still clothes...) that we aren't even wearing?!?  They just went in there because there was a closet rod, not because it made good sense. And coats take up SO much space! I had always wanted to store my vacuum in this closet, but it would hardly ever fit with all the other stuff in there.

So I took the closet rod out!  Then I noticed that the shape of the closet would almost perfectly fit a white, plastic shelving unit that we had in our basement. So I trekked down there, cleaned off the shelves & carried it back up. Perfect!  Then only the things that I really wanted in the closet went back in there.

So much better, right?!  It makes me feel much better.  :-)

Here's some before & after close-ups:

Bottom - BEFORE

Bottom - AFTER

You will notice that the title of this post has (for now) behind it....that's for several reasons.
1) The inside of the closet really needs a paint job. I'm not sure if it's ever had one since the house was built. That might be an exaggeration...but might not.  I'm not sure which.  I'm thinking that an actual color would be fun, but I have many other things on my to-do list before painting the closet will take priority.

2) I was so proud of my quick, nap-time closet transformation that I had to show my hubby right when he got home that day. He suggested that we should really install some built-in shelves, which I totally agree with. That would make even better use of the space.

3) Things that were banished from the closet have not necessarily found homes elsewhere. For example, the coats may or may not be in a giant pile on top of some boxes in our basement...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick Tip Tuesday - Beach Bag

Going to the pool or beach in the summertime is much easier if you keep a beach bag/tote that's always ready to go! Fill it with the essentials - swimsuits, beach towels, flip flops, sunscreen, water bottle, well as any extras you may want to throw in, like reading material, an ipod, etc.
Image Credit: Polyvore-Miss Victoriaa

If you have small children like I do, you may want to nix the "leisure" items (since you'll be keeping an eye on your kids & not just relaxing in the shade!) & include more stuff like water toys, snacks, etc.  Then just make sure that when you wash your swimsuits & towels after returning home, you put them back in the bag when they're dry, and you'll be ready to go again!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick Tip Tuesday - Kids' Sock Storage

And yes, I'm aware that today is Wednesday...I addressed my lateness yesterday (edit: in a post now deleted, because it didn't say much, haha).

So here's this week's tip:  I've just recently began keeping my twins' socks in their toy room.

Strange, yes, but let me explain.

Their toy room  is kind of a "back porch" room with a door to our backyard. Because we don't have a coat closet, it's also where we store all of our coats (hooks on the wall) and shoes. I recently acquired a 5-stall kids' coat cubby from a friend of mine who does daycare. We found colorful bins at the dollar store that fit perfectly in the top cubbies, with plans to store stuff like hats & mittens in them.

My kids have never been a big fan of socks in general, so we pretty much only put them on when we're actually leaving the house. I had always kept their socks in a dresser drawer in their room, because, well, that's where socks go. That's what we're taught when we're little!  But then the other day I had the realization that if their socks were stored right near their shoes, I wouldn't have to run upstairs every time we're going to go somewhere!  Genius, right?  So now their socks are happily residing in one of the colorful bins in the coat cubby, always handy when we're getting ready to head out the door.

When they're older & dress themselves regularly, and get over their aversion to wearing socks without shoes, I'm sure I'll move them back to their dresser drawer. But for now I think this will save me a lot of time!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Storage Solutions for a Deep Pantry

Just off of our kitchen, at the top landing of the basement stairs, is our pantry. It's a tall, open shelf system with no door - though there is a door to the basement stairs, which is closed 99% of the time, so the pantry is hidden also.  Based on the shape/size of it (perfect width but crazy deep), I have no idea what the space was intended for when the house was built in the 1930's, perhaps a broom closet?  At some point a previous owner installed some wooden shelves & began using it as a pantry. We've done the same and haven't messed with the shelving at all, but it's been a challenge to find ways to practically store a decent amount of food in such a deep pantry, while actually being able to access all of it!

Earlier this spring, as part of SimpleMom's Project: Simplify, I decided to tackle our pantry storage problem. Here's what I came up with:

The highest shelf contains some plastic serving dishes that I rarely use, which is fine because I need a stepstool to reach the shelf in the first place!  And wow, I've never noticed that the shelf is that warped!  I wonder if it's really that way or if the camera angle just made it look that way.  *runs to check*  Yep, it's definitely curved. Weird. Good thing I don't store much on it.

The next shelf down is for snacky stuff - popcorn, dried fruit, crackers, peanuts, tortilla chips. I added a couple baskets to the shelf so that it's easy to access the food, and still get to whatever may be behind it. Right now, hiding behind the baskets is a large box of goldfish crackers & my food processor.

Next up is mostly canned goods. I added a shelf in the back to create more space, while still being able to reach over the goods stored in the front. I also corralled some spice packets (like taco seasoning) into a small plastic tub, which I think had sandwich meat in it originally - yay for repurposing!  And yes, I do buy mostly store brands...I'm sure there will be a post about that sometime in the future!

Below the canned goods are my noodles, rice, and convenience boxed foods. I also added a smaller shelf in the back here, just like the one on the shelf above it. The noodle containers are new, and I love the organized look they give the pantry!  Please don't judge my Hamburger Helper and mac & cheese boxes...I really do prefer cooking from scratch, but with 3 small children to care for & a hubby who gets 20 minutes to run home for lunch, I don't always have time to cook from a recipe at that time of day!  Large supper meals that leave leftovers in the fridge are my friends.  :-)

The bottom shelf is storage for large baking pans. I picked up the pan rack after seeing one at someone else's house, and I love it! Before that, those pans were all just stacked horizontally on top of one another and it was noisy & sometimes even dangerous when you tried to pull one out from under the rest!  (There are a few missing from the picture, they were dirty...)  Now my pans are neat & orderly!  Behind the pans is some storage of random kitchen items that don't have another home...a rolling pin, a thermos, an extra pitcher, etc.

And last but not least, garbage & recycling. I have a milk crate on the floor to toss recyclables in, which gets taken out to the garage when it's full & sorted into larger recycling bins.  Our garbage can fits nicely in front of the shelving. It hasn't always lived there, it used to just sit out in the kitchen, but it's been great having the garbage in the pantry (oh geez, that sounds awful!) because the door to the basement stairs keeps our doggie from digging in it!

So there you have it - a tour of my newly reorganized, super deep pantry!  Have you faced any challenges in organizing your pantry?  Or if you don't have a pantry, how do you organize your food storage?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quick Tip Tuesday - Sorting Mail

Whenever possible, sort your mail as soon as you bring it in the house. Immediately recycle all of the junk mail, newspaper inserts, and envelopes. This simple step alone will make a HUGE difference in the amount of paper clutter you have in your house!

Here's my mail, after I sorted it today:
 The front pile is everything to be recycled, and the "keep" pile in the back contains only a graduation invitation and some insurance papers that need to be filed.

It's also super helpful to keep your bin for recyclable paper in an easy-to-access location. I struggled with finding the perfect location in our house for probably a year after we moved in. It needed to be handy, but also somewhere the kids wouldn't dig in it! Finally, my husband came up with an idea that works perfectly for us - under the kitchen sink!  It's kind of a strange place, but it works for me because I almost always sort the mail in the kitchen.  I just use a cardboard box instead of a plastic bin, so I do have to transfer the papers to a bag for pick-up on recycling day, so the garbage man won't take my box to be recycled too! (Learned that the hard way!)
Deal with the "keep" pile right away too. Put bills wherever you store things that need to be paid, put important dates on your calendar, and either file important papers away or at least place them in a folder/bin labeled "to be filed" (I do the latter). Many organizers will tell you to throw away all invitations after writing down the vital information on your calendar...I agree with events that are local, and held in places you are familiar with. However, when I get a wedding invitation that will take place a few hours away in a place I've never been before, I save the whole invitation on my bulletin board so that I have the full directions, etc. That way it's easy to grab when we head out the door!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Unique View of Organizing

One of the reasons I think I have a unique view of organizing from some people is the fact that I have three small children, under the age of 3. Obviously, you have to be at least somewhat organized just to get a family like that out the door!  I think I notice it most when I'm trying to come up with new storage solutions. What may make sense for ME, doesn't necessarily make sense for US.  Let me explain.

Most of our kids' art supplies are stored in baskets inside the built-ins in our dining room, at about arm-level for me. There are also 2 drawers in the built-ins, which I recently emptied out & had the idea that perhaps contain they could contain art supplies instead. Then I realized that putting crayons & colored pencils in a location that my 2.5 year old twins can access on their own when I'm not in the room was probably definitely not a good idea...for the sake of my walls! That's just one example, I'm sure you will read/see more!

Another thing that I think makes my organizing style unique is the fact that I live in an older house. Many of the blogs that I read (and love!) have authors who live in newer houses with a lot of storage space throughout the house. If you're one of these people, I'm jealous of you!  I love our 1930's house, but it does pose an organizational challenge at times. For example, other than the bedroom closets, we're blessed with only a single hallway closet by the front door (an entrance which we rarely use). So we've had to be creative in finding other ways to store & organize our belongings.

If you live in an older house, or have small children in your house, how has that affected your organizing?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quick Tip Tuesday - Quick Pickups

When I'm picking up around the house, I use a clothes basket (or more often, my kids' toy shopping cart!) to haul stuff around. It saves a lot of time because instead of carrying 2 or 3 arm-fulls of toys back to the toy room, I can throw them all in the basket/cart and simply carry (or drive!) them all there at once!  This idea isn't just for toys either, you can do it anytime you have multiple items that are just in the wrong place in your home. Not that your house is ever like that....mine isn't either. *wink*

Monday, May 2, 2011

My New Creative Outlet

I've been reading blogs for some time. The topics vary - motherhood/parenting, stay-at-home moms, families with twins (yes, I have twins), crafting, decorating, DIY, organizing, cleaning, food/recipes, you name it!  I've wanted to start my own blog for awhile, but just couldn't decide what kinds of topics I wanted to talk about. Then one day it hit me - organization!  I love organizing, I even read books about it. Go ahead, call me a geek...I call it research. :)  And so, this blog was born. It will allow me to do some things I enjoy - getting a chance to share my organizing efforts with other people, sharing tips, getting feedback, and knowing that there are others out there who have the same struggles as I do!  My goal for now is to post about 3 times a week, possibly more if I have the time & a topic in mind. 

I'm also realistic. While I would love to have my house in order at all times, with everything in it's place, I understand that I have 3 small children who make that difficult! It's hard enough for me to just stay on top of the basics like dishes & laundry, let alone finding time to tackle special organizing projects. So instead of being stressed out about everything that I want to get done & can't, I've decided to just do my best, working on things when I have the time, sneaking in those extra projects when I can, and always putting my family first.  My mission is just sometimes takes a backseat to life, and that's okay.

I'm glad you're here.  :-)