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.