Organizing

Shelves with Hanging Patterns, Take 2

  Sooo, do you guys remember how my husband set up this shelf for me so I could hang all of my traced patterns?

  Do you see how I have a reasonable amount of stuff on there?  …that’s because it was right after he put it up.  When I have a shelf, I can’t help myself, I have to put everything I can possibly fit on it.  It’s just in my nature you guys.
  Long story short, I put way too much stuff on it and what should have been a perfectly stable shelf, uhm, may have ripped heavy duty anchors out of the wall taking large chunks of plaster with it.  May have.  Ahem.
  So, after some reassessing of what sort of load the shelf should be expected to take and talking about the uses we wanted for this room thanks to this book, my Mr. has made me a way better set of shelves.

  …I’m curious as to if he realizes that he’s basically teaching me that the way to get really nice things is to break the first one he makes me….
  Anyhow, this picture is from part way through the cleaning spree I did to relocate all my fabric and craft supplies up off of the floor based shelves and onto these, so it doesn’t even remotely reflect how awesome it looks in here right now…buuuuut, I live in Michigan and it currently gets dark at like, 4pm, so I take pictures in the 3 minutes per day that the light isn’t horrendous, whether the project is utterly perfect at that moment or not.
  As you can see in the picture, my Mr integrated puck lights into the shelf.  They have 3 different settings so I can either blast them at full strength or, I dunno, set the mood with my serger.  Speaking of lights and my serger… double awesome having the extra light from these shelves, because it definitely broke the light in my serger when the old shelf fell on it.  (This is why I can’t have nice things).
  So, you can see the lights, what you can’t really see is that that man of mine stained the wood to match the gorgeous old woodworking that’s already all over the room, and spray painted the brackets, hardware and the curtain rod for hanging my stuff off of to look like it had always been here too.  Everything went into studs that we double checked the location of this time, so I was given the go-ahead to load them up as much as I wanted.  I got rid of both the wire frame shelves I had all my craft stuff and fabric on, moved it all up above, consolidated everything else down and was able to get rid of an entire table.  My light box is currently jammed onto my sewing table, which isn’t going to work as a long term solution, so we’ll be making it its own little floating shelf, but! with this new set up, this room now functions as office, sewing/hobby room AND has enough open floor space to be used as a guest bedroom again.
  I’m really freaking proud of the results.  It makes the room far more functional, and it looks huge!
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It’s All Too Much-A Review

  I’ve been trying to pare down the stuff in our lives for over 2 years now.  It has been an ongoing process, but we’ve finally had a break through.  This book has been a big part of it.

  …the copy of Peter Walsh’s “It’s All Too Much” that I checked out of the library did not have the author staring at me creepily from the cover.  I’m glad, because that probably would have put me off checking it out, and this book was insanely helpful.

  My Mr. laughed at me a little bit while I was reading this because I had a really hard time getting through it.  Not because it was hard to read mind you, but because I kept wanting to jump up and get rid of things or organize every time I finished a page.

  There’s a ton of information in it, and I’m not really going to dig into it a ton here, but probably the most useful thing for us was the simple advice to change the way that you look at rooms.  Instead of saying “we have all this stuff, where do we put it?”, look at your room and say “I want this room to be used for x, y and z” and remove anything that doesn’t serve those purposes.  Don’t worry about “but where are we going to put it?!?” just now, just take it out of that room.
  The book suggests you sit down and make up a chart for each of the rooms in your home detailing what’s in there now and how it is currently used versus how you’d like to have it function…and the things that ought to be removed.  Actually sitting down and doing it was excruciating and we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it for every room in the house, but it gave us a really strong place to start and got me and the Mr. on the same page as to what we were trying to do.
  I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten more done, thrown away or donated more stuff and gotten our house closer to where we want it in the last two months than in any other period in the last two years.  On top of that, it’s kind of sick how much easier it is to keep things clean and easily found when there are so many fewer of them!  Paring stuff down has gotten a little addicting.
  So, I suppose it goes without saying, if you’re looking to organize and simplify your home (and really, who isn’t?) I highly recommend this book.
  The hope is, of course, now that we’re getting to a point where I can do less manic cleaning and cursing while trying to find my things, I’ll be able to create more.  We’ll see how it all turns out!

The Busy Girl’s Secret to Fresh Food

  The boys are running me ragged.  R has teeth coming through so he’s up at night and fussy during the day and G has upped his diabolical “make Mommy crazy” game to levels here-to un-imagined.  That means I’ve been kind of a flake.  I can barely keep track of my name, let alone what day I opened a jar of sauce, and who really wants to do a taste test to find out if something has gone bad?

  Instead, I’ve been breaking out my Sharpie and doing this:

  It was a total “oh…DUH” moment.  This way, if the jar gets shoved to the back of the fridge, or I fall into a temporal wormhole (as all moms occasionally do), when I discover that jar, I’ll know that, oh, geeze, this has been in here since mid-October and it’s May now! and throw it out.
  No opening up the certainly-disgusting-by-now jar for a horrifying sniff test…no questioning if it actually does taste funny, a cut and dry open date so I know how old it is.
  If only there were a solution just as simple to help me keep track of my 3 year old…

I’ll See You Without Papers, Kid.

  I feel like I’ve been talking about (and attempting to) minimizing my stuff for years now.  I’m doing my best to be certain we’re going about it in a logical, sustainable way, rather than raining down fire and burning out on bursts of speed, so it’s a looooong process, but I feel like we’re finally getting to a point where the progress is noticeable.
  One of our biggest struggles was paperwork.  Between the mail, the preschool schedules, the preschool art, the bills and the instruction manuals we always had piles of paper everywhere.  We’ve done our best to get everything we can switched to online billing and communications, but some companies just can’t/won’t do it that way.
  It was time to try something different.
  The Mr. and I had a scanner.  It’s attached to our printer, and we technically could have done all this without any new technology, but, we were realistic with ourselves and realized that since that scanner takes forever to warm up and only does one side of one sheet of paper at a time, it wasn’t going to cut it.  We invested in a ScanSnap S1300i, which is teenie tiny on the desk top, but scans both sides of the paper simultaneously and can handle several pages at a time.
  The mail comes in, I immediately recycle the junk, bring the important things to the office, scan it all and email anything for my husband to him.  Then I shred everything and never have to think about it again.  If I need it it’s in nicely organized files on my computer, not buried under G’s crayon creations or being chewed on by the baby.
  We’ve been using this method for two months now and it’s amazing what a difference it has made.  No more piles of “to deal with later”, no more panic over misplaced bills, no more paper.  It’s wonderful how much easier it is to keep things in order without just that one category of thing floating around.  If you’re considering going paperless, I’d definitely recommend it.  I couldn’t be happier!

Adding Lighting- One Simple Improvement to Keep Your Closet Organized

  When we first moved into our house, one of the things I was the most excited about was our closet.  Call me a dork if you will, but the previous owners had put in a California style organizational system similar to what I’d been attempting to jerry-rig in our houses and apartments for as long as I could remember.  But, somehow, despite the organization system, we never seemed able to keep things from getting destroyed in there.
  Finally, I realized why.  It was too dark!  We couldn’t actually see anything and so when things would slip off hangers we couldn’t find them and it was difficult to see what we had, what needed to be gotten rid of and what was just out of place.
  The Mr. and I have talked about running true lighting in there (there’s currently one lightbulb, just inside the door, that’s rendered essentially useless by shelves…I wish that first shot were exaggerated darkness.  It’s not), but because of the way our house is built, getting the wiring to it would be difficult.  We attempted stick-on lights, but because the ceiling is slanted, they only pointed at one half of the room…and they kept falling off anyhow.
  Finally, one day it occurred to me that I could use rope lights.
  I measured the baseboards of our closet, originally intending just to light the floor, and headed to my local hardware store.  I started with 24 ft of lighting, an extension cord to run power into my closet and one of these “remote switch” extension cords so I wouldn’t have to plug and unplug everything when I wanted to use it.
  As you can see in the pictures above, I very quickly decided I wanted more lights.  I went back for another 24 feet so I could run lighting under my main shelves as well.
  Now, I’m not going to say that this has changed my closet from night to day…it hasn’t.  But it has made the difference between my never in a million years seeing that two of my favorite shirts (above) had fallen off the hangers onto the floor and my immediately seeing them and picking them up.  The difference between having to guess at which of my dresses I was pulling out of the closet until I was to the door and being able to determine which is black and which is navy.
  We still have organizing to do.  Both of us have more clothing than we need (me especially) and that makes it tough to keep things in order, but this is a huge step in the right direction.  Instead of just pawing aimlessly through my stuff, I can see what I have and easily pull things that I don’t want anymore out!
  Not bad for $50 and an afternoon of work!

How to Store Large Envelope Patterns

  Way way back, at the start of this blog I talked about how I store my patterns.  Since I tend to trace my pattern pieces instead of cutting into the original tissue, I wind up with far more pieces than fit into the original envelope, so I use big mailing envelopes.  They work perfectly for large numbers of pattern pieces, enlargements from sewing books and patterns I find online, but I had a lot of these big envelopes floating around, so I needed to figure out a storage system.
  One night I was messing around on Pinterest and came across this pin for storing gravy and soup mix packets in your pantry and a light bulb went off.
  I knew applying the same principal to my pattern envelopes would make them easy to flip through, but keep them out of the way, so I drew up my plans and tucked my supply list into the Mr.’s pocket as he headed to the hardware store.
  This is what we built:
Wow that looks crooked in that picture…it’s not, I assure you.
  My original design used triangular supports made of wood with a hole drilled through them for the dowel, but my husband found shelf brackets that had a decorative curl on them that the dowel fit into and (correctly) assumed that I’d appreciate another shelf to put my stuff on.
Pattern shown is for the reversible bucket hats I made the boys
  I started by hanging my patterns on curtain rings with clips attached to them, but very quickly ran out and switched to book rings with binder clips…a solution that I actually prefer.  The curtain rings are prettier, but the book rings give me a lot more flexibility to add and reorder my hooks.  To put more curtain rings on (or take them off) I have to twist the dowel out…which is really difficult, so clipping book rings around it while it stays in place is a much easier way to go!
  My office is still kind of a wreck.  I’m still trying to fit about 15 different hobbies into a space that is suited to 2, maybe 3 tops, but slowly, bit by bit it’s getting there.  At least it doesn’t look like this anymore!

Email organization (for gmail)

  I use my email a lot.  As I showed you a few weeks ago, it functions as my self-automated to-do list, so even if nobody else emails me, I inevitably have several emails from myself every day.

Please ignore my frighteningly over-due to-do’s.  I’ve been rather busy lately.
  Because of the high volume of emails coming through my inbox, it can get incredibly difficult to find that one specific note you’re looking for, and the search only works if you can remember some of the exact wording from it.  That’s where labels come in.
Label highlighted in red
  Gmail’s labels are incredibly easy to set up.  Navigate to your mail settings through the gear symbol in the upper right corner of your email.
  Once in your settings, click on the Label tab and categorize away.
  Now, if you’re totally on it, and willing to categorize things as you read them, you’re done.  Just label your emails as you read them and they’ll be ten times easier to find when you need them.
  If, however, you’re too busy to remember where you put your head and a flake to boot (like me), we’ve got another step to do.
  Typically, for most labels, the bulk of your mail in that label is going to be from a few specific people.  That means you can create a filter, and gmail will label it for you automatically.  Yay!  One less thing to think about!
  Here’s how you set it up.
  Head back into your settings (like we did to create the labels in the first place).  Instead of clicking on the “Labels” tab, click on the “Filters” tab.
A few of my filters
  At the bottom of the screen is a button that says “create a new filter”.  When you click it, you’ll receive a box that looks like this:
  Enter the email address that you want labeled and click the magnifying glass button.  Gmail will do a search and show you the emails it has that meet the requirements you have given it.  If your search is returning the emails you want correctly, select “apply label” and choose the label you want applied to those emails.  Save the filter and tada!  Your email categorizes itself!
  You’ll still be able to manually apply labels to emails, but this way the ones you would always always label are already taken care of for you.
  One more task you don’t have to worry about doing yourself!
Let me know if you have any questions about how this works, I love hearing from you guys!

Pantry organization with cheap wash bins

  I’ve mentioned before that the Mr. does most of the cooking around here.  I’m a lucky gal in not having to do it all at all for dinner at night.  Only problem is, we’re adventurous eaters.  …ok, I guess I have to explain what I mean by “problem”.  It’s a problem not so much directly, but because of ingredients.  You see, when you’re just as likely to make an authentic Mexican dish or full-on Thai, Korean or Chinese for dinner as you are a pizza or other “typical” fare, you wind up with a LOT of food in your pantry and fridge.

  The overflow of masa, tahini and fish sauce had gotten unbearable.  Multiple times I’d brought avalanches of unprocessed grains down on my head, and finally I’d had enough.  I went to our local store, grabbed half a dozen wash tubs, broke out my label maker and went crazy.
  Here’s what you need:
A whole mess of tubs, wire shelves (if your pantry shelves are tall) and a label maker
  First things first, I had to cut the number of items in our pantry down.  We were keeping way too much stuff in our cupboards.  We’re maybe a little on the hoarding side when it comes to food (OOOH, a sale on noodles!  We like noodles!  I’ll buy 10 boxes!) so we had piles of unopened packages and jars.
  There is no reason we needed 20 cans of diced tomatoes in our kitchen pantry.  None.
  So I had the Mr. pick up an ugly/cheap garage storage type shelving unit and it went in our laundry room to store the excess.  You don’t get to see that.  I’m sorry.  It’s too ugly down there.  Maybe some day it will be attractive enough to see the light of day.  This is not that day.
  Once I had the upstairs supply pared down to items that had already been opened or things we were likely to use quickly (a single can of diced tomatoes, a single can of black beans…) I started categorizing.
  Now it looks like this:
  It’s not the prettiest, I’ll admit, but it’s incredibly functional, and I didn’t spend a billion dollars on contact paper and ribbon to edge my shelves like some of the breathtaking transformations I’ve seen. I use every inch I have available.  My wash tubs were a dollar each and the other baskets I already had.  The wire shelves were ones we’d collected through moves over the years.  
  Some close ups:
      (please keep in mind our house is nearly 100 years old, some “character” is to be expected)
Basket categories from left to right: sauce mixes, nuts, dried fruits
Peanut butters and other nut butters stored above
Bread and bagels get stored in front (not on top of the fridge any more!)
Dishtowels on the left, teas, sorted into caffeinated and decaf on the right
  The bottom cabinet stays a little less well organized than the top (thanks to G), but it’s divided into categories too.  The top shelf has a bin for canned fruits and vegetables (not including tomatoes) and one for grains.  A basket for onions (if you didn’t already know, you should store them away from your potatoes…for some reason storing them together makes them both go bad more quickly) and a shelf for soup.  The bottom shelf has a bin for beans, one for tomatoes (and more next to it on the wire shelf…can you tell we eat a lot of tomatoes?) and a bin for G’s applesauce and juice boxes.
  He loves being able to pick out his own flavor for his oatmeal in the mornings.
  Obviously, you’ll have to find a system that works for your kitchen, but the thing I’ve found helps make this work the most is getting rid of as many boxes as possible.
My cereal bin
  Just about every product that comes in a box has some sort of bag inside that can be pulled out.  Even when the package is brand new, that bag isn’t going to be completely full, nor is it going to take up as much room as the box it came packaged in.  As soon as you get rid of that box, you can store the product in much less space.
  Until I started doing this, all of our cereal and breads lived on top of the fridge.  I hated that.  It was hard for me to reach and it made our kitchen look extra cluttered and busy.  Now, the cereal is still stored above my head, but I just slide out the whole bin and I have everything at my fingertips…and I just close the cupboard doors and none of it is visible.  For cereals that look similar in the bag, I simply use a Sharpie to indicate which is which on the bag.
  When I was putting the labels on the bins, I made sure to take into account where the bin was going to be placed.  Bins at eye level (or above) got labels on their fronts.  Bins that were going in the lower cabinets got labeled on their top edges.
  I felt like a crazy woman when I was originally setting this system up (am I really specifying fruits and vegetables, but no tomatoes allowed???) but it has been in place for a couple of months now, and I have to say, I love it.  It’s easy to find things, and best of all, nothing pours out on my head.
  Which means I can spend less time sweeping, and more time playing dress up.

Organizing with Dorky Binders

  So I’ve already shown off what an organizing dork I am with my menu and my emailed reminders.  Now it’s time to show off my real secret weapon.

Oh yeah…glorified Trapper Keeper…woooo!
  This binder is the only thing keeping me sane lately.
  I’ve done the Franklin Covey planner.  It was awesome in college.  But it turns out, most of the stuff I need to keep track of now is way too big for that cute, reasonably sized planner.  Besides, who wants to drop the money they’re looking for on the refills every year?
  My long range and repeating events all get taken care of through my google calendar.  All I really need is a place for my events that are happening that week, a to do list, and a place to keep track of my frequently referenced documents.  This does that perfectly.
  
  For my to-do list, I used my hole punch in a stack of scrap paper I had.  Every night before bed I write down what I need to get done the next day.  Makes falling asleep much easier.
  My weekly calendar and my blogging calendar were both printed out from this site.
  They’re both in a plastic sleeve and I use a wet erase marker to scribble all over them.
  My tabs are “g.c.b.”, community, school, home & yard.
  The g.c.b. tab of course is all my information on the baby clothing business.  Paperwork I need to reference for transactions, ideas for things I’m working on, stuff like that.
  The community tab is where I keep information on everything that’s going on around town.
  My gym class schedule is in there, events at the library go in there & my paperwork for my city council campaign is in there.
  The school tab has test results, future class plan layouts and adviser contact information.
  The home tab has recipes and instructions I reference semi-frequently (not frequently enough I can remember without them being written down!) and the yard tab has sketches for landscaping plans and structures we want to build.
  I’m thinking about adding another tab for ideas for trips with G (or with the older kiddos in the moms group I just formed), but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet.
  Want one?  Mine is just a plain white cheapo binder I’ve put art paper into (hit the scrapbooking section in any craft store for the paper).  Folders and dividers are cheap at any office supply shop, as are plastic sleeves.  Buy yourself a 3 hole punch and you’re ready to get organized!

Saving time and money with dorky calendars (food edition)

  So I think we already went over the point that I’m a total flake when it comes to practical things in this post.  Give me something creative to do and I’ll rock your world.  Expect me to pick something for dinner that night and…uhm…well, you probably just shouldn’t.

  It isn’t that I don’t have good recipes, I do!  (Don’t worry, I plan to keep sharing them)  It’s that on a daily basis I don’t think about eating until I’m hungry…and then I want it now.  Doesn’t work out so hot for balanced nutrition and what not.  Leads to a lot of dinners of potato chips and salsa…and that isn’t really the example I want to be setting for G.
“Balanced meals, whatever…give me MEAT.”
  So, because if I don’t plan ahead, we don’t eat so well, I get a little June Cleaver and I make up a menu every week.  I used to do it once a month, but I’ve found doing it weekly allows me to take advantage of the grocery store’s sales and gives me a better idea of how often I should be putting “leftovers” on my calendar.
  This is one of the calendars from before I went weekly:
Yup, color coded and everything.  Big dork, right here.
   Before I started the menus, I documented what we were eating, just to see how we were doing.  Turns out we really, really like beef and pasta.  Surprise?  So now I try to break up our weeks into different types of meals (as evidenced by the colored triangles). 
  I start by putting at least one (and I try for two) vegetarian meals per week.  It saves us money as well as being good for you (meat is pricey!).  I’m still working to find a large number of vegetarian meals we like that aren’t a nightmare to cook, but we’re getting there.
  So one or two vegetarian meals, then I add in 3 “white meat” meals.  Chicken, turkey, pork, they’re all good.  One night goes to beef and one night (ideally) goes to fish.  Then the whole thing gets hung up in our pantry where I can double check in the morning what I need to thaw and the Mr. can see what I had planned for that night.
Pizza.  I ALWAYS plan pizza…wait, that’s not the menu.
  Having the weekly menu works out in a lot of ways.  Both the Mr. and I are terrible impulse buyers, so this way we’re in the grocery store a lot less (meaning we’re spending less time shopping and we’re making a lot less impulse buys of cookies, crackers and other junk we don’t need).  It means I make a concrete plan for perishables, so less of our produce goes to waste.  We have spinach left over from salads last week?  Monday or Tuesday will be a recipe that uses it up.  It keeps us out of the beef-pasta rut, and best of all, it means nobody has to decide what’s for dinner at the end of the day.  Because god knows, after a long day of deciding “should I let the baby put that in his mouth or not?”, I really don’t care if we have stir fry or grilled chicken, I just want to eat.
  DON’T feel like if you make a menu you’re going to be locked into it and “what if we don’t want what’s on the menu, blah blah, blah”.  You can always ignore the menu and make something you’re craving that night.  If you look at the first menu you can see I cross things out and move them around all the time.  It isn’t a contract you’re signing in blood!  What it is, is a tool so that you can take one trip to the store a week and be good to go with food until next week, without having to think about it.
  Try it out and see if it makes your life easier.  If you’re looking for recipe ideas, check out my Pinterest.  Recipes we’ve made and liked are repinned in my finished projects folder.