Contain Me! I went to the Container Store!

Have you ever seen a 5 year old heading into the circus, cotton candy in hand, gleefully galloping towards the big top? Well, my giddiness today would have made that 5 year old look like Oscar the Grouch. I went here:

Container Store

Cue the choir and the angels singing, please! I literally jumped out of our car and ran into the store, while my husband said (distantly in the background) “please don’t stay in here for four hours.” Well, I came out relatively unscathed and only stayed in for a reasonable half an hour.  I seriously love this store. Now, you can find a lot of the items in other stores (and I must admit that you can find similar items for lower prices if you shop right). However, there is nowhere I’ve found that has such a comprehensive collection of boxes, bins, hooks, baskets, filing systems, shelves…I could go on and on.

Please note…even though the closest Container Store is 2 hours from us and I was SERIOUSLY considering doing the storage version of ‘Supermarket Sweep’, I restrained (CONTAINED!) myself to buying only things I had either been looking for or knew exactly how I would use them when I got home. Here are the few purchases I made.

-Small baskets for guests to use in the guest bathroom. We have zero drawers in our guest bathroom so I always feel bad when people have no place to put anything. I have been looking for cute and simple baskets to bring out onto the counter to contain toothbrushes, lotion, etc. I bought 2 medium size baskets and 1 small one.

Container Store Shopping (1)

These are very simple without being plain, they match our decor and they will clean up easily if anything spills inside them. I also put a paper towel in the bottom of each one just in case, though. Sidenote: I love the bags for The Container Store…a constant reminder to ‘Contain Yourself!’ Oh! And please also note the sneak peak of the flooring we are currently laying down in the whole bottom floor of our house (that is another story for another day!). But that explains why the baseboards are off in the photo.

-A plastic storage bin for the kid’s drinks in the fridge. This is the first one of these that I’ve bought, but I know I’ll be heading back as soon as I can to get more. We usually have a couple cups in the fridge for each kid (one for water or juice and one for milk) and we wash and replace them every couple days. But they are usually spread out all over the fridge and it makes it difficult to get to other items. Problem solved!

Container Store Shopping (8)

-A lid holder for the lids to all of our pots and pans. I love how our pots/pans cabinet has two pull out drawers. However, they were always a little disheveled. Here is the before of the top and bottom.

Container Store Shopping (2) Container Store Shopping (3)

I put the lid holder on the bottom and split up the pots and pans so there weren’t so many handles to deal with when I try to get something out. It looked like a constant sword fight in there before…pots versus pans. Whose handle will win????

Here are the after pics of the cabinet with the lid holder.

Container Store Shopping (4)

Container Store Shopping (5) Container Store Shopping (7)

I feel like I’ve made 3 changes that will impact daily life and make navigating our house a much more pleasant experience. The best part is I only spent $35.  Score one for The Container Store!

~Erin

Mail Station Bliss

I have a love/hate relationship with mail. When it’s under control and I’m neatly stacking opened items into my pay-file-recycle-shred piles, I feel in control and ridiculously accomplished. When it piles up though, I hate mail. I mean loathe mail. And I slink past the growing pile slowly and glare at it like a cat looks at you when it’s in a bad mood. (You know that look).

My sister told me I should do a post on organizing mail the other day after I told her how I got so behind somehow. I had been going through the pile with my two kids in the room and they were literally rolling and burrowing in the pile of creased and sharp edged paper. Totally safe for little kids, right?

So I thought I would share a few tips and also the comfort that even people who pride themselves as ‘organized’ get way behind sometimes when it comes to daily tasks. So first, I present to you my extremely boring mail organizing system:

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This is the top drawer that holds basic office supplies. The basket in the bottom right corner of the photo holds my ‘mail related’ items, such as stamps and a return address label stamp.

IMG_6914This is the right hand side of my desk. You can see a small mail organizer, which has 2 compartments. In the back compartment, I keep mail I still have to deal with, whether it’s a bill to pay, a phone call to be made, or an invitation to one of the many black tie galas I’m invited to (no…not really, mostly just bills).  The middle compartment holds blank envelopes. The front compartment holds several misc items, such as a letter opener and apparently (according to this photo) my cell phone. Weird.

I also have my shredder sitting right next to my desk. I explain my love for my shredder in this post.  And the shredder is sitting on top of my file cabinet. So here is my usual process for going through mail.

-I open everything and separate them into 4 piles: File, Shred, Recycle, and Take Action

-I throw the recyclable item’ s in the recycle bin (conveniently located next to the file cabinet).

-I shred the ‘shred’ items. Or sometimes, if I’m really short on time, I’ll put them in the aptly named ‘To Shred’ folder in the file cabinet. I try not to do this too often though, because then it tends to build up.

-Then I file everything in the ‘file’ pile.

-Then I try to go through all of the action items and pay bills, make calls, etc. If there are things that have to wait, they go into the back compartment of the mail organizer.

Now this is not a perfect system and sometimes I get waaaaay behind. But it’s the best system for me and that’s what it’s all about.

However, here are a few other ideas I’ve found in blog land to inspire you to organize your mail stations.

How cute is this DIY mail station? She took a cardboard box, cut it in half and then covered with an adorable pattern. If you are short on space, using wall storage is always a great idea.

I love this mini workstation. It has everything you could need without being cluttered. The little pops of color would inspire me to keep my desk clear so I could see it!

Mail Center 4

This mail system is very similar to mine….except it’s a lot prettier to look at. Maybe someday…..

How do you efficiently go through your mail? Or is it in giant stacks all over the counter? Because we do both at our house ;)

~Erin

 

Guest room closet switch out!

One of the hardest organizational challenges I have in our house is that we don’t have a playroom. Now I know plenty of people get along just fine without a playroom, but it’s just a room I would really love to have. But for now, we have a guest room that doubles as a playroom when people aren’t visiting. However, that means that our ‘guest room’ is continuously filled with airplanes, books, magnets and a mini trampoline. When people come and visit, I try to rearrange a little so that guests feel like they can have a space of their own. However, I do leave the trampoline because I know people secretly love to jump on mini trampolines and I honestly feel like every guest I have will actually sneak a jump on it in the middle of the night. Here is what the closet normally looks like when it is completely playroom time.

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Now I just make a few little changes when someone is coming to visit. Most of the toys actually stay in the closet because if I had another place to put them….well….they wouldn’t be in the guest room in the first place. :) Here are the changes:

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-I clear off an entire shelf so that people have a place to put things if they choose to. You can see that there is a plastic bin on the high shelf in the closet. This is holding all of the toys that came off of the toy shelf.

-I hang up a couple of closet organizers since there is not a dresser or regular shelving. Hopefully this helps guests feel like they can unpack and, you know, stay a while!

-I also put a basket of magazines on the top of the toy shelf. This is just a nice touch, I think.

-I also have extra hangers, pillows and a portable heater in there.

Hopefully these little changes create a more welcoming space for guests so they don’t completely feel like they have to sleep inside a Toys R Us.

What rooms do you have that serve multiple functions? How do you create a space that works for both?

~Erin

Cute Valentine’s Craft and Art Organizing Tips!

When I was helping my mother-in-law clean out the Playroom Closet in her house, we came across the cutest little Valentine’s craft called the ‘Lovebug.’ Here is the one we found:

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I actually have no idea if this was made by my husband or if it was one of his siblings, but I loved the idea. Soooo…I stole it for my own kids.

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It’s so simple and we already had all of the supplies, so that made it even better! Just a Popsicle stick, construction paper, pipe cleaners and crayons. Easy!

I am constantly trying to find new ways to store and organize photos and art projects so that they don’t take over my house. I do have a scrapbook for the kids crafts, but since Evan started preschool a couple of weeks ago, I know the sheer volume of felt, crayon drawings and tissue paper animals will soon overwhelm me.

I take pictures of the kid’s crafts whether I decide to keep the actual craft or not. That way I always have a record of them. For my husband’s birthday last week, I gave him a framed collage print of my favorite of Evan’s art from 2012. Here is what it looks like:

Evan's Art - 2012We are going to do a new one every year for both of the kids. When the frames get to be too much, we will just put the 8″ x 10″ prints in a photo album. And of course, I will always have the files on my computer too.

I love to have some of the actual crafts, so I will keep on doing my scrapbook for my favorite pieces. However, I try to keep the paper in our house to a minimum, so I’m hopping on board the technology train to help me wrangle in some of the paper clutter. Scanning, JPEGs, and collage prints are some of my very favorite ways to preserve memories.

How do you preserve your family’s memories but also contain the paper clutter?

~Erin

 

Loving these products!

I’m excited once again to be participating in the Collectively Creative blog post, dreamed up by Kelly over at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons! This month’s editions is ‘Lovey-Dovey’.

The Lovey-Dovey Edition Logo

To show my lovey-dovey side, I’m going to talk about products I can’t live without. I can hear you now….’Isn’t she such a romantic?’  I know, I know, home products aren’t exactly the most lovey-dovey thing I could talk about, but when your life is clean and organized, don’t you just feel lovey-dovey all over? ;)

There are not many products or items that I love so much I consistently recommend them to people. However, there are a few:

1) Paper Shredder – I’m KIND of obsessed with my shredder. I use it all.the.time.  I try to regularly shred anything I want to throw away that has any account number or other personal information. Also, twice a year, I go through my entire file cabinet and shred anything I no longer need. This keeps my file cabinet from getting ridiculously out of control.

Paper ShredderMy best tip for buying a shredder…get a cross cut shredder. This cuts the paper both vertically and horizontally so that pieces are much more difficult to put back together should you happen to have someone digging through your trash (insert creepy music here).

2) Vinegar –  I keep a spray bottle on my kitchen counter at ALL times. Vinegar is one of the few cleaning products I use and I use it everywhere….counters, toilets, mirrors, trash cans, dog food bowls, you name it, it’s probably getting voraciously sprayed with vinegar as you read this. It’s a natural disinfectant, a deodorant and a safe alternative to many of the chemicals used every day in so many households. Over at Pinterest to Panache, vinegar is mentioned as a great drain cleaner along with baking soda. Who knew that elementary school science fair volcano we all did could turn into a great natural cleaning product.

3) My Labeler – I can pretty much label anything. Clothes, baskets, bins, drawers, garage items, paint cans.  Now maybe if I label my dogs and kids, I’ll actually call them by the right name when I’m yelling!

4) My Kindle – I am one of those true converts who said I would never get an e-reader. I just love flipping through the pages, the smell of the books, blah blah blah. It’s all true, but I’ve also come to realize a few things. When you’re juggling baby #2 and don’t have a hand to flip the page, the Kindle is AMAZING!

kindleI have also recently jumped onto the Ipad bandwagon. I absolutely love this little machine too, but I’m still learning about it. One of the great things about the iPad is that I have downloaded the Kindle App and my husband and I can easily share books on our Kindle account.

Organization bonus!  Since we are now downloading a lot of books instead of buying the actual books, we are saving space and reducing clutter in our home.

6) My minivan – seriously, have you ever driven a minivan? If not, you’re missing out. They are not the best in the Colorado snow, but hardy nonetheless.

caravan

And it’s an organizers dream car! So many bins and cubbies, two glove compartments, enough cup holders for a football team and stow and go seating so the seats can completely disappear from view without taking them out of the van. We can fit ridiculous amounts of stuff in this vehicle and just took a cross country trip with 2 kids and 3 dogs and all of our stuff. Again, I am a true convert here. This was me 4 years ago…”I will NEVER own a minivan!” Hmmmm….here I am listing it on my favorite things post. How times have changed.

All of these things help me to stay organized and control the clutter in my life. They are useful, practical, reasonably priced and used every day at my house. What products do you use all the time that make your life easier?

And what else do I love? The posts listed below brought to you by some lovely bloggers all sharing in the Collectively Creative ‘Lovey-Dovey’ edition!

I Love You More Than… – (Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons)
Heart To Heart – (Pillows A-La-Mode)
Top Ten Romantic Movies of All Time – (The Thinking Closet)
DIY Heart T-Shirt – (NorthStory)
[DIY] 12 Pre-Planned Date Cards – (Inspire and Indulge)
The Love Letters – (Mrs. And The Misc.)
Valentine’s Day Bon Bon’s – (Happy Little Kiwi)
Lovey Dovey School Lunch Ideas – (Time With Thea)
Give a Fortune of Love – (Green Door Hospitality)
Kniting Hearts – (Gentle Stitches)
A little Lovie magic – (The Thing About Joan)
Sending hugs – (Cul de Sac)
Give a Fortune of Love – (Green Door Hospitality)
Will You Be My Valentine? – (A Ponytail Kind Of Day)

Playroom Closet Makeover

It’s time for a playroom closet makeover and reveal. I am super excited about this project.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (10)

It was another room to tackle at my in-laws house and it was fun for me in a lot of ways:

1) This was a fairly big project and I LOVE a challenge! And who isn’t ridiculously excited about organizing a playroom closet? Wait, I’m the only one?

2) This is now the place where my kids play when we visit my in-laws so there was an added benefit for me too!

3) I also got to help go through so many toys that belonged to my husband and his siblings while they grew up. How adorable is that?!

So let’s start with the before pics of this daunting task:

Left side of Playroom closet - before

Left side of Playroom closet – before

Right side of playroom closet - before

Right side of playroom closet – before

This is a large closet and the door is in the middle so when you walk in, you can go to the left or the right. Or, NOT go to the left or right because of all of the stuff. The space was filled to capacity and partly dark because you couldn’t get to the burned out light bulbs to change them.

The first step was to take out everything! This took a long time and resulted in the main playroom area looking like this:

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (3)Holy Moly! My initial thought was that we would never get all of that stuff back in there. Then came the realization that if all of that stuff had to go back in there, I wasn’t doing my job. We quickly started a sell/donate pile that eventually grew to about the size of a dinosaur.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (12)There was also a pile for trash that started growing out in the hallway.

After everything was out of the closet, we looked at our organization options. There were three existing shelving units that were perfect for toy storage. There were also 5 large storage bins and 2 of these were completely empty!

We got our general layout in mind and put the storage bins and shelving back in the closet with nothing in them, just to make sure we liked the flow and that everything fit well. We also moved a smaller shelf from the playroom into the closet.

We decided the left side of the closet would be mostly focused on non-toys. There was a large file cabinet with activities and papers that we pushed back against the wall. There were also numerous boxes of items that my husband and his siblings needed to go through because they were filled with their memories and personal storage. All of those items got piled up next to the file cabinet. Now obviously these need to be gone through, but my mother-in-law was the only one there with me and it wasn’t her stuff so we designated that as a safe zone for the clutter. We did try to make it as pretty as possible. Here is the left side now.

Left side of playroom closet - after

Left side of playroom closet – after

You can also see the small wood shelf which now holds clear plastic bins of toys. These separate smaller items like toy cars, dinosaurs etc. They are great because the kids can see exactly what is inside each bin without taking it off the shelf. There are also a few baby/ toddler toys on lower shelves which my one year old can pull off and play with.

Since this closet has an angled ceiling, I thought it might present a problem with fitting everything in. However, it turns out that the 5 large storage bins fit perfectly underneath the angled edge. You can even open the lids without them hitting the ceiling. These bins became storage for larger items. One for stuffed animals, one for balls, etc.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (11)

The best part is that one of these bins is still empty so if another storage need comes up, there’s an option!

The right side of the closet is my favorite part. We put the 2 large shelving units and the smaller shelf on this side. The small shelf is now for books and board puzzles.

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (10)

One of the large shelves is for games and the other is for misc items (though they are all grouped and/or containerized).

Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (7)Nan & Gary - 2013 January - Playroom Closet (8)

Basket for dress up hats

Basket for dress up hats

I am beyond thrilled with how this turned out. The space is clean, bright and organized. The best part was that when my 3 year old went in there, he stayed in there for more than 2 hours playing….in a closet! See, even 3 year olds rather be in a space that is organized!

Ok, one more time with the Before & After photos!

Left Side - B&A (3) Right Side - B&A (3)I love it!

~Erin