Change – The Ultimate Organizing Test

A lot has been happening in my family’s life lately. We have already and continue to make some big changes.

  1. In the fall I left my corporate job. It was a necessary move but one we weren’t really prepared for – emotionally or financially.
  2. This month I began a new part-time job in an entirely different industry and career path. I’m very excited about it but there’s a lot to learn and I’m starting at the beginning.
  3. Two kids started their first season of competitive sports – and the time commitments are pretty intense. And these are not sports with a “season” really – they are the kind where you practice extensively year-round (gymnastics & cheer).
  4. We decided to relocate our family back across the country to be closer to family at the end of the school year. This means we have to sell our home, find new jobs, and find something new.

It’s a lot. I have to admit that I’ve struggled to hold everything together some days. But we are making it work. So over the next few months I’ll be sharing this journey with you – the good, the bad, and the very messy.

Life IS messy. It does not always stick to the plans we set out to follow. So I’m finding my routines and organizing strategies are that much more important… and that much harder to stick to. I hope you’ll follow along as I share with you the challenges and successes of organizing through major life changes.

 

Quick Tip Thursday – Spring Decommissioning

It’s Spring! It’s Spring! IT’S REALLY SPRING!

Here in Colorado it hasn’t felt much like spring this past month. We’ve had a few major snowstorms. But finally – in May – I feel confident I can start to pack away our winter gear.

Some of the things I’m getting ready to pack away for summer are:

  • winter coats, hats, gloves
  • snow shovels
  • sleds
  • ice scrapers
  • snow boots

Watch this short video to see how I prepare our snow boots for storage.

Summer In The Park!

The weather is finally starting to warm and give hints of summer (although the snow on the rooftops this morning in my neighborhood wouldn’t make you think that) and it’s time to start thinking picnics!

There are so many options for picnics…
* Dining on your own patio/deck/backyard
* Daytime lunch picnics at the park
* Evening concerts in the park
* Lazy afternoons at the beach or the lake

In my younger days living in Chicago I loved the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. My friends and I would pack up bottles of wine, fruit, and sandwiches with our blankets and bug spray and enjoy awesome concerts under the stars. Girls’ Night Out at Ravinia have been replaced by family friendly movies and concerts in our local park but the enjoyment of being outside has not changed.

The only thing that brings down the otherwise festive atmosphere is the hectic hour before we leave gathering all the necessary gear and food while corralling children into the car or wagons.

If you like to picnic and plan to do so this summer, take time this month to prepare for all those festivals and outings (like Independence Day Fireworks) coming soon.

First, pick your favorite container… maybe it’s a organizational tote from Thirty-One or one of the classic Land’s End totes.

{image source: Land’s End}

Next, gather all that you need to have a great picnic.  Here are my suggestions for staples:

    1. Blanket(s).  Some places my have picnic tables but even so, a blanket can come in handy when it gets a bit chilly. My favorite blankets are washable and thick (to keep out the moisture from damp grass).
    2. Plastic Sheet or Tarp.  If you live in an area known for lots of summer rain (not you, Coloradoans!) you’ll probably want something to go under your blankets.CrateandBarrelCandleInCanSm
{image source: Crate & Barrel}
  1. Citronella Candle. Bugs can ruin an outing quickly. Keep them at bay. This adorable candle-in-can from Crate & Barrel is a great way to go. They are inexpensive enough you can buy a few and keep them on hand. Don’t forget the matches!
  2. Bug Spray. An extra layer of protection.
  3. Sun Screen.
  4. Umbrella. You may just need to make a mad dash to the car in the rain. Make it a little less crazy with an umbrella.
  5. Trash Bags. All those food wrappers need to go somewhere!  Instead of making 10 trips to the trash can, fill your bag and then dump it all at once.
  6. Sweater or Sweatshirt. Even in summer, it can get quite cool once the sun goes down. If you came in shorts and a tank top you might need a little something to help you make it through to the end of the show.
  7. Collapsible Chairs. Some type of camping chair works great. I’ve found the older I get, the less I like sitting on hard ground for several hours.
  8. Flashlight. If you do evening picnics (like for concerts) this can help as you pick up all your gear at the end of the night and make your way back to the car.
  9. Cork Screw. If you are a wine drinker, this essential will be sorely missed.
  10. Paper/Plastic Goods.  Be extra prepared by having the napkins, forks, knifes, spoons, and plates already packed in your bag. Don’t forget a few cups or glasses for wine or other drinks.
  11. Sharp Knife. The plastic knives will work fine for eating but you may want to share your apple or cut open a package of treats. Don’t bring your $200 Wusthof knife. Grab an inexpensive one at the store just for keeping in your picnic kit. Bonus points if you put it in a little plastic box to keep little hands from getting cut while reaching into your tote.
  12. Wet Wipes. Baby wipes are great for this. Kids tend to find the messiest item in any picnic area (and adults could probably use a wipe too.)
  13. Hand Sanitizer. Your kid just gave a big hug to the Border Collie the next picnic blanket over and they are about to eat their sandwich…
  14. Ziploc Bags. I always find empty bags to come in handy. They are great for holding left over food and the miscellaneous “treasures” that kids seem to acquire.
  15. Something Fun. A frisbee, deck of cards or other small item can help pass the time as you wait during intermissions.
  16. Kids Essentials. If you have kids, especially babies or toddlers, you’ll probably need a few spare diapers and a change of pants & underpants.  You probably don’t need a complete diaper bag but the essentials are good for your picnic bag.

Having your gear bag packed, all you’ll need to get ready for a picnic is the food and the friends and family.

And remember… when you get home you need to restock the bag with anything you used up.

Kids Toy Organization

*** If you found me from Organizing with Sandy, WELCOME! I love new visitors.  I hope you find something that helps in your quest to live more organized.  And if there’s a specific topic you don’t see covered that you’d like to learn about, let me know! ***

You may not know that I am the mom of 3 little ones.  And for about one more week they are 3 under the age of 4.  Yes, our life is a lot like barely controlled chaos.  All of you moms out there know how frustrating kids toys can be.  Our house is no exception to that.  With just one child the toys were manageable.  When number two came along the collection exploded.  And my kids don’t even have that many toys compared to some of their peers.  We don’t have a playroom in our house and since the bedrooms are upstairs I like having the kids play right in the family room where I can see them.  But this means that our family room is in a constant state of toy upheaval.

A few years ago I got the idea to replace the little bench I had under our large window with a large storage shelf.  I was lucky enough to have a dad that was willing to build me a custom shelf.  He did all he building, I did the painting and the kids do the playing.  This is what we came up with:

The shelving is open making it easy for the kids to get things out and put them away.  And it fits right up under the molding on the window ledge.  I get lots of questions from neighbors about where to buy it. I think if you reasonably good at building it’s a simple design.  But you could likely find similar, pre-made options to fit the same purpose.

To keep it fun for the kids I painted the inside of each cubby a different color – red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple from the Disney collection at The Home Depot. In fact, we got all of our supplies there.  And since we don’t own a table saw and my dad was visiting from out of state The Home Depot actually cut all the wood for us.  If you take in your measurements they will make the cuts for you (on wood you purchase there) for free!

How do we use the shelves to store their toys:
On the right we have two shelves dedicated to books.  Well, really one plus an overflow shelf.  You can see that we cut out an opening for our heat register and I bought a deflector to make sure our heating and cooling efforts were not thwarted.

The middle section is the most frequently used.  The bottom row has baskets ($2.50 each from the Target Dollar Spot) that hold a tea set, cars and trains. The top shelf has three baskets (also from Target DS) that hold stuffed animals and other small toys that don’t fit as part of a collection.  Also on top is the big box of blocks.  I love that those Trio blocks have their own storage case and the lid is a play space – makes keeping them together much easier for my 2 year old.
On the left side we keep a few bigger/awkward sized toys – the “laptops” and drawing pads.  And another basket for dolls.  Those pails on the end are actually EMPTY!  They get used occasionally and I keep them here for those times when we need them.

Things you might notice about this setup.

1. I do not have labels on my baskets.  This is on purpose.  My kids are still young enough that their interests change quickly.  So a basket may hold trains today but in 6 months it may be bouncy balls.  And I don’t really have time to be making new labels all the time.  It also makes cleanup fast.  If everything is out on the floor (yes, that does happen!) then we can just grab any basket for trains and any other for cars, etc.  Finally, the kids can’t read yet.  Any labels would be just for me at this point.

2. I have lots of small baskets instead of fewer larger ones.  Yep… my kids (especially the 2 year old) like to grab a basket and dump.  Less stuff in each basket means less stuff dumped at a time.  Trust me, I tried it with larger containers and it just meant larger mess.

3. Some things are missing (crayons, play-doh, etc).  We actually have a different home for these (I’ll show you on a different day.)  The kids actually have several places they can play throughout the house.  This makes it easier for me to get things done and still have them near me, it keeps any one room from becoming too crazy with toys, and it gives them options for changing up the scenery a bit.

4. There aren’t TONS of toys.  We actually have a fair amount of toys in the basement.  I try to rotate them every few months and take away things that aren’t getting much love and bring back old favorites and new things.

5. My baskets don’t match.  So?  The kids like it that way and I kind of like the color myself!

How do you store your kids toys?  What are the challenges you face?

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Quick Tip Thursday – Kids In The Kitchen

If you have young children you’ve probably answered a few hundred thousand requests for plates, bowl, cups or milk or water, etc.  And while you adore those little faces sometimes your hands are busy with other things and stopping to get yet another cup of water makes you want to pull your hair out.

Try keeping some kid-friendly dishes down low so the kids can access themselves.  We keep ours like this:

They can get a plate while I cut the strawberries or a bowl while I grab the cereal from the pantry.  And the cups… I put the water dispenser in our fridge low enough that they can help themselves (while standing on a stool) and I don’t have to be involved. 

It’s such a small thing that helps so much.

We’re lucky to have these pull-out shelves but I found that plates and cups were always falling off to the side.  Adding these inexpensive baskets keeps things corralled a bit more.