Sunday, August 18, 2013

Repurposing Furniture: A Cool Idea for Towel Storage

About a year ago, a friend gave me an entertainment armoire. I thanked her profusely, put it in my daughter's bedroom, filled it with video games and other assorted kid junk, and called it a day. But it bothered me. It seemed like a waste of good storage to me. I drive my family crazy because I constantly rearrange the furniture. Why stop now?

I emptied it out, moved all that junk to better homes, and dragged it into my bathroom. I have a nook in there into which I had always fantasized about building in shelves, but it's been years and that has not happened. But I liked this option even better. It fit perfectly!

In the door section, I store bath towels and other often-used items. There are piles for towels for each member of the family. Because this is directly across from the tub, they are very easily accessible. (Note the repurposed baby wipes container. This one has neti pot supplies.)

In the top drawer, I store hand towels, bath mats, and face cloths.

And The bottom drawer is perfect for toilet paper and extra baby wipes, which I am never without.

It's rare that I have been so happy with a furniture repurpose, but with the proliferation of flat screen TVs, entertainment armoires are often available free or for cheap money. This is a great way to organize these items in your bathroom with something you may even already have in your home.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Taming the Pantry Closet

Hi everyone!

Today's post is about ideas for taming pantry closets, which can get out of control so very quickly. Where I live, many of the homes have a pantry closet and the end of the hallway that leads to the first-floor bathroom/laundry room. They usually have some wire shelving in them. 

I don't know about you, but I feel like I never have enough space. And, as the adage goes, you will always expand immediately into any additional storage space. But there is no such thing as too much storage in a kitchen! So I have gone to great lengths to make the most of this closet space and ensure that everything is accessible (without having to remove the original wire shelving that came from the builder).

On the very top shelf, I keep bags of chips, odd shaped items, and extras of items that are stored elsewhere, like cereal boxes. I arrange them so that I can see their labels through the wire shelf from underneath, as I am a shortie. And I hang chip clips from the front edge of that shelf so they do not take up valuable drawer space.

I use the next shelf, which is at eye level, for stacking canned goods. First, I put down thin foam padding that is sold in rolls in stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond. It keeps smaller things from falling through the wire grid and keeps stacked cans from tipping. 

I have also inserted a rack that hangs from the bottom of the very top shelf. I use it for often-used items that don't play well with canned goods: Craisins, sunflower seeds, applesauce, pickles. It hangs so that it's halfway between the shelves and enables me to store one level of canned goods under it.

Below that shelf is "reused storage container central." I have two heavy plastic bins in which I store extra heavy items, like peanut butter, syrup, salad dressing, and other condiments. I can slide the bins out if I need to. 

I use empty baby wipes containers to hold packets of sauce mixes and so on so they face out and I can flip through them easily. In the center, between the bins, I even have a low-cut heavy cardboard box that is perfect for storing larger packets of rice and noodle mixes, also upright and facing out for easy viewing. On the far left is another perfectly sized cardboard box (from a monster ramen purchase). It perfectly holds two rows of Kraft and Annie's macaroni and cheese , which my kids devour with alarming speed, about eight deep.

The shelf below this contains a small set of storage drawers in the center. I keep bags of nuts, extra k-cups, stacked microwave popcorn packets, and so on in them. And on either side of the drawers are larger items, like pitchers and my rolling pin. In the narrow space on top of the storage drawers, I store stacked pizza pans and muffin tins. No wasted space!

At floor level, I keep a set of rolling storage drawers in which I keep delicate items, like bags of noodles, open flour and sugar, and baking items. To the left there is a soda bottle storage unit, which stores nine bottles, up to two liters, on their sides, keeping them off the floor. On top of that rack, I keep extra sealed bags of flour and sugar. Again, no wasted space. To the right is a rolling storage wire rack. It has canisters of seldom-used sweetener, and lots of Pampered Chef baking tools. Between the rack and the drawers I maintain a large supply of paper shopping bags for transporting paper and cardboard recyclables to the transfer station. 

There is about six inches of space between the door and the front edge of the shelves. In that space, I have placed hooks on which I keep aprons, a fly swatter, and a wooden yardstick, which is THE VERY BEST THING for shooting out cat toys from under the bottom of the stove. :) I also store a floor cleaner there to keep it handy.

My favorite part is the door rack. You can buy these anywhere, and I store boxed items here: pasta, rice and rice mixes, hot chocolate, soup mix, and, of course, my collection of Crystal Light tubes! The rack extends nearly the entire height of the door and holds quite a bit.

Great blog frustration! My photos keep rotating and I cannot get them to show properly. Sorry about that. I will try to correct it later.

Well, that's the pantry. I hope you got at least one idea from it, even if it's purchasing a wooden yard stick!


Monday, August 12, 2013

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If you like this blog, or even if you don't like it but you read it, can you follow me? And please, make requests of anything you might like me to post about. I love requests!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Organizing and Dealing with all that Mail!

This post is about dealing with mail and paper, by special request.

I could spend this post singing the praises of online bill pay and removing yourself from junk mail lists, but I will not. Let's instead focus on dealing with all the stuff that does end up in your mailbox. It can be a lot of paper. I have several tips I hope you find helpful.

First, an admission. I like paper bills. I always want proof in my hot little hand that I paid my bill or bought something new or went to the doctor. It just makes me feel more comfortable to have it available to me when I need it, which is more often than I ever thought. So they ask me with every new paper bill whether I would like to go paperless and I do not. Maybe some day I will change, but not now.

Here's my drill:

  • The mail comes.
  • I open the junk mail. Any generic "resident" junk goes into the paper recycling bin. IMMEDIATELY.
  • Anything from the junk mail that is not generic, such as the form for a pre-approved credit card offer, goes directly into my shredder. IMMEDIATELY.
  • Anything that is not junk mail I then open. I pay all my bills online, so I immediately recycle the envelope it came in, the envelope that came with it, and any inserts that I do not want.
  • This leaves me with a core of important mail, which I deal with once a week. It sits in a designated holding place until my once-a-week organization of paperwork.
  • I immediately recycle the phone book. (I cannot actually believe they still deliver them!)
  • The key here is handling this immediately. If you put it off, it can become overwhelming in short order.
How Do I Manage Storage?
  • I do NOT have a neat desk scanner, although I supposed I could scan all my paper, but as I have said, I like this stuff as paper.
  • I have a small two-drawer file cabinet in my home office. In it I maintain a manila folder for each company to which I regularly make a payment. Each month, I put the most recent statement for each in the front of their folder. 
  • I keep one years' worth in thia small file cabinet but 5 years' worth in the large five-drawer file cabinet in my closet. Anything older than that goes to the shredder (except tax returns, which I think I will keep forever).
What about Paperwork for Purchases?
  • When I purchase something to use in my home (small electronics, household appliances, big ticket items that are not built in), I have a drawer in my 5-year file cabinet that is dedicated to these items. There is, once again, a manila folder for each: Sporting Goods, Audio Visual, Heating/Cooling, and so on. I keep the manual or booklet for each purchase with a copy of the sales receipt stapled to the cover. This is handy for insurance purposes should something ever happen so I can show what I own.
  • When I purchase a home improvement, which is what I call anything that impacts the value of my house, I have a separate portable file for those. Each room in my house, along with the yard, has its own folder. Each time I improve something, I add it to these files. New appliances, new flooring, landscaping. Everything. Then, when I go to sell, I have a comprehensive record of everything I have done to the house to increase its value and what it cost.
  • One additional step for home improvements: when I paint, I ensure that I get an extra color chip and I ask the paint mixing person for two stickers (the ones that go on top of the can) instead of one. As soon as I get home, I immediately tape the paint chip to a piece if 8.5 x 11 paper, add the sticker, note the brand of paint and its finish, and record the name of the room in the house where the new paint is going. I slide that sheet into a sheet protector and maintain a notebook for all paint colors.
  • I also do something similar for water filters and such. I keep a printout of the web site from which I buy my filters, along with the front label from the filter packaging itself, and the name of the filtering system it is for (I have several). That way, when and if I ever sell this house, the next occupant will know what's what. And besides, I can never remember from month to month anyway, so having it so handy in this little binder is great.
I guess that's it for now. More shining examples of my anal retentivity.

Your Question Answered: Where to buy the suction cup soap holder

I bought mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Here is the link. Super cheap.


Ideas for Organizing the Shower

I have never been a fan of the organizers that hang over the shower head. They may work for others, but not me. Nor have I had much luck with those that work on vertical tension rods that fit in the corner of the shower. I am much more of a suction cup girl!

Each member of my family gets their own shower suction cup storage bin for their own products. Each is responsible for letting me know what they are running out of before they run out. (nd when they do run out, they are responsible for recycling the container.) I drill a few extra larger holes in the bottom of each of these bins to ensure they don't get gunky and I pull them out once a month or so and blast them clean.

Here's a quick look at my shower in tons of gory detail:

There is a single fog-free mirror for everyone to use, and there are places for everyone's razors and shaving gear:

There are only four of us, but there are always five razors? We are working on that.

The bar of soap sits in a well-vented suction holder so it does not get soft and nasty. And there are suction hooks for a shower poof, a shower comb, and foot scrubbing paraphernalia. Everything has a set place and it keeps everything neat and easy to clean. Nothing on the ledges, nothing on the edges. 

I love how easy this is to maintain. Hope you find it helpful.

Where IS it?? Why Everyone Needs a Label Maker

Sorry for the lag between posts. Like sometimes gets ahead of me!

This post is dedicated to one of my pet peeves: cords, chargers, ear buds, and so on. Everywhere. And no one can seem to find what they want or need. And, of course, to the sheer joy of label makers.

Do you have "the drawer" or "the box"? You know, the one that is full of mystery cords? When you pull out the camcorder or your mp3 player, are you living in terror for the day it needs to be charged because you have no idea where the cord is? If so, I have a solution to prevent this from this day forward.

First, buy a label maker. I use a small Brother handheld. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.

And here is WHY I love it. Each time something new comes into this house, before the box even hits the floor, I break out the label maker. I hear a collective sigh from everyone in the house as anal-retentive Mom has to "do her thing," but no one complains when I know what every cord or accessory goes to. Here's what I do:

This way I know who belongs to what and what is what and never spend a half hour trying to find which charger goes with which item. And I never have to put someone else's potentially grody ear buds into my ears! As you might imagine, on Christmas morning I am ready with a trash bag, a cardboard recycling box, and my label maker, ready to go to town!

I have used my trusty label maker for all kinds of other odd things. For example, when we first bought this house, I was dumbfounded by the number of light switches, and I could never remember which switch turned on which light. I labeled them for the first few months until I got the swing of it with a nice near label above each switch. (Let them laugh at me!)

How about when the power goes out? I live in a rural area and have a generator, but it powers only certain outlets in my house. Rather than trying to remember, I have labeled each of those outlets with a small PO (power outage) label in the top corner.

And then my single-serve Crystal Light packets, of course, come in boxes, which I recycle because they are bulky (and I rip the tops off). Besides, the printing on the tubes is tiny. My family goes through tons of them, so here's what I do:

Whenever I have an empty container from the pitcher-size Crystal Light or similar drinks, I move them from the cardboard boxes and into one of these and label the top. Then I just keep refilling them with new ones. It makes them easy to find, see, and store.

I fear that I am scaring you with my anal retentivity at this point. But really, buy a label maker. And use it for labeling the plugs themselves for everything that is plugged in behind your entertainment center, for example. Then, when you need to unplug the cable box because it died again, you do not have to have someone wiggling the cords from the top to find the right one. You can just unplug the one that's labeled Cable Box. 

Hope everyone had a good weekend. :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Your Question Answered: Where to find under-shelf storage shelf for cutting boards

I received a question regarding where I purchased the under-shelf cutting board storage hanger shown in this photo:

It's $9.99. There are tons of uses for it. 

A Few Quick Kitchen Cabinet Organization Hints

I have been lax in posting over the past week: some personal issues have kept me otherwise occupied. But I aim to catch up! I thought I would share some hints for taming kitchen cabinets.

First, I am a huge water drinker. I cannot get enough water or seltzer with a bit of cranberry juice. But I am also a chronic spiller, so ALL of my cups have covers and straws, which can be a storage problem. Here's how I handle it:

My personal "sippy cups" are on the bottom shelf, with the covers stored on them. The air holes in their tops are sufficient to keep them from getting smelly if they are put away damp after their hand washing. I keep a baby wipe container bottom to the left, which holds all the straws for these assorted cups. They are easily accessible and right with the cups when I need them.

On the shelf above is another baby wipes container. (They are my most preferred reusable container.) This one houses snap-on covers for cans and covers for plastic cups (that I bring home from restaurants kids' meals). Those are so handy to have around, particularly in the summer time. I send them home with kid visitors all the time.

Finally, water bottles are on the top shelf. Notice that several are open. DO NOT close the tops unless there is no trace of moisture in them, or they will mold and smell horrible. I try to keep them open all the time. Nothing worse than drinking from a bottle and noticing mold in it half way through your chug.

Now let's deal with glasses and coffee/tea cups and mugs. I store the most often used cups (my thermal travel mugs) within easiest reach on the bottom shelf. I keep their covers on them, upside down, to make them fit. Also, there's no searching for a cover when my eyes are still half closed in the morning. I keep the mugs that are less-often used on the top shelf. Note the extra rack. This doubles my mug storage space. It seems like a lot of mugs, but I keep them because they are heavily used when we have company. Otherwise I would follow my rule that if I have not used it in a year, I give it away.

Finally, the middle shelf has glassware. They are all matching style cups, but because they are wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, I store them with every other one upside down. That way, I can fit many more glasses into the space.

One more challenge for me was storing cutting boards. I struggled with this one for awhile until I found this wonderful storage rack. It hooks onto the shelf above it and makes use of the dead space above my plates. I highly recommend it, as I get very excited when I can store things in what was previously just dead space.

You may wonder why I have a sugar dispenser in this cabinet. It's because my Keurig is directly below I like to have it:

  • in easy reach
  • out of view 
This storage location accomplishes both of those.

That's all for today. More to come soon. Thanks for reading, and please comment if my posts help you or if there are particular topics you would like me to write about. I LOVE comments, constructive or otherwise.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Organizing the Dreaded "Coat Closet"

Our coat closet happens to be in my home office, where I spend a lot of time. And the last thing I want to stare at all day is a mess. So it's in my own best interest to keep this closet, which is traditionally a collector of random stuff, under control.

I hate wasted space. I think everyone does. None of us feels like we have enough of it, so why let any of it go to waste? The far left and right sides of most standard double-accordion-door closets are like dead space. You can hang things on a pole and shove them in there, but that's usually about it. I know I could have purchased an expensive closet organization system, and I am sure it would be lovely. But I have better things to spend my money on, like shoes. And lattes.

And this blog is about organizing on the cheap. And that's what I do. I am more of a fan of shelf space than I am of pole space. You can hang a pole anywhere (but that's a blog for another day). So I went to the home of all cheap things, Wal-Mart, and purchased two things: a set of heavy duty plastic shelves that fit perfectly in the side of my closet, and a smaller set of what are usually used as shoe stackers.

This is the plastic shelving. I have Mom's toolbox on the top. Everyone knows no touchy. It has the tools I use all the time. Next shelf is vacuum cleaner attachments, rather than leaving them on the closet floor. Then a second toolbox that has household handy things: felt for the bottom of every leg on everything in my house, picture hanging hardware, screws and nails that I like, and so on. And the bottom holds my complete set of rachets and sockets in standard and metric. Having these handy makes me feel invincible. And that leaves plenty of space above for extra hangers.

On the right side of the closet is the shoe stacking system. Cheap and great for videos and DVDs. But wait, the DVDs are likely to fall all over the place, so I use old shoe boxes to stand them up in. That way I can use them like sliding trays. They can fit in there two deep, so the old wedding videos and so on can be relegated to the back.

Install a pole between your attic rafters and keep your off-season coats up there. Bring then down when you need them, so the closet does not get out of control full. And I purchased a set of Rubbermaid drawers, four high, so each family member has their own drawer for mittens and hats and scarves. That, also, is in the attic now until it's time to swap it out. For the summer, I have the plastic crate on the top shelf filled with baseball hats, rain ponchos, and travel packs.

Oh, guilty admission. The plastic bags on the top shelf hold the goodie bags for the birthday party that should have happened in May but still has not been scheduled...

More tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This useful container can really help you organize!

Over the next few days, I will share some of the many uses I have found for this familiar container and others like it. Slide the plastic sleeve off and you have a fantastic covered container with a million uses.

Here my first one. If you have kids, this is indispensable. Fold in half and roll up a couple of activity book or coloring book pages, or even blank pieces of paper. Slide into the container. Fill the center with a set of crayons, markers, or colored pencils and an eraser. Keep in a cup holder or the glove box of your car. Use it to occupy the kids while at a doctor's appointment, waiting for a train, or in a restaurant to complement the crummy crayons they provide. If you have more than one child, label the canisters. Or, even better, have each child decorate their own. 

These are also perfect for carrying back and forth to school filled with pencils, erasers, and other small items and stand up in a child's locker to they can find this stuff. They are also easy to store in a backpack and keep the little things from getting lost.

More tomorrow! Please let me know what else you might be interested in organizing!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Ahhh, the Laundry Room...

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in the laundry room. And if your house is anything like the houses in my town, you have a washer/dryer in your downstairs bathroom, inside what otherwise would be a magnificent closet. They are side by side on the floor, leaving you with just the space above them for all your "stuff." 

Recommendation #1: Shelving. I put mine together from leftovers, but it sure can hold a lot. I use ALL of the space afforded me. I did not run each shelf all the way across. If you look to the far left, there is some stuff that would have been too tall for the shelves otherwise. And using this shelf type enables me to move them, if necessary. Also, they are vented, so nothing gets overheated or overly dusty.

On the walls to the left and right, I put up very cheap shelves you can get almost anywhere. They are intended to mount on doors, but they are perfect for this application and they hold a lot of the smaller stuff and keep it right in reach.

Recommendation #2: Tension Rod. Take the nasty old one out of your shower now (if you have one) and replace it with a new one. Take the old one and make it your laundry room's best friend. Keep it ready with hangers for those things that come out of the washer and should not be dried, like bathing suits, bras, underwear, and anything with Lycra. I keep a bunch of multipurpose hangers handy so I can hang these things to dry as soon as they come out of the wash. The bonus is that I can close the doors, too, so the whole world does not have to look at my handing sports bras, bras, and underwear.

I also keep the pant hangers with the clips from clothing purchases. They are great for when I wash area rugs and so on. I do not dry them, particularly if they have a rubber backing. I just hang them from the tension rod. This setup is so convenient. 

The other bonus is that setting up the shelves at only 12-18 inches deep leaves lots of space on the tops of the machines themselves for laundry baskets or spreading out clothes to treat and spray stains.

Recommendation #3: Reuse Old Containers. I LOVE the ones that dishwasher tabs come in, as well as baby wipe containers. Never buy the refills. Always get the containers. They are SOOOO usefel. The green one on its side is a dishwasher tabs container. I keep extra new sponges stored in it. And the baby wipes containers have travel tissues packages in them. Note the Little Mermaid can on the bottom. Its a coin can for all the money I find while I do the laundry!

And last, I keep a small stool in the bathroom. You may think it odd, but I sit on the stool to do my laundry. I get my stain removers and sort the laundry, switch the washer load to the dryer, and reload the washer all from a sitting position. It's much kinder to my back.

"See" you tomorrow!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cleaning your granite-composite kitchen sink up after a latex painting job

OK. I could not resist just one more post today, probably because I have been painting all afternoon. I have a granite composite sink and it's a wee bit porous, which can make painting supply cleanup a nightmare. To make the job easy, here's my secret: vegetable oil. Before you start your hours of brush and roller rinsing, wipe down the entire interior of the sink with a generous portion of vegetable oil. First, it will make your sink look awesome. But more importantly, it will keep the paint from sticking in the tiny spaces in the granite composite. This works well for stainless sinks, too, like a charm.

The paint just beads right off and rinses down the drain. Happy cleanup!

Tip to organize your bathroom drawers

The drawers in your bathroom vanity can get out of control very, very quickly. A simple, inexpensive way to help keep them organized: use small wipes containers, either with or without covers. They are almost the same width as the standard vanity drawer. Label each cover for a different family member or for hair stuff or skin stuff. The containers I use are from flushable wipes, like Cottonelle wipes, or hemorrhoid wipes. Here are some pictures from my house.

This one is a covered Cottonelle case for oral hygiene items that would otherwise get lost in the drawer. And, of course, Q-tips sells a perfect one that keeps the swabs need and clean in the drawer. It leaves just enough room for toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes in the back. And yes, those are my feet.

This one is also a Cottonelle case with a cover. It holds tampons, panty liners, and cleansing cloths in the drawer closest to the toilet. Very handy, and discrete, if that matters.

There's an organizer trapped in my body who needs to get out!

I have longed to open up a business on the side to help people organize their stuff: closets, drawers, cabinets. On the cheap, too. I have so many ideas in my head. I thought this would be a good way to share them with people. And besides, I need to keep my day job. I look forward to comments and thoughts from you. That is, if anyone reads this.

OK. Here's my first one. It's not so much aimed at organization as it is aimed at enabling you to drink coffee while you organize.

To keep your single-cup brewer alive and your constant companion for as long as possible, use a Brita pitcher. I live in an area with really hard water. I keep my brewer on my kitchen counter, like everyone else (except it's on a slide-out platform so I can get to the top of it easily). Right next to it I maintain a Brita pitcher of water (also black, so it looks like a set) and use only the filtered water in the brewer.

A few other quick hints:

  • Remove the K-Cup right after you brew. It makes the brewer gunky if it sits too long.
  • Never turn the brewer off it is making any sound at all. Wait till it's all done.
  • And never let the water get too low. If the pump gets dry (insufficient water), your brewer can be toast.

OK. That's it for now. Thanks for reading.