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.

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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While I Was In The Kitchen…

I couldn’t keep my hands off the spice cabinet!

The total cost of this mini makeover was $30 for the stainless steel expandable shelf from The Container Store.
I’ve kept my spices and other miscellaneous cooking ingredients in the cabinet next to the stove the entire 5 years we’ve lived in this house. And in the same place in many apartments before this.  My mom kept her spices in the cabinet next to the stove. That’s where they make most sense to me. I can reach them easily while cooking and put them back quickly for cleanup.
I’ve found that for some spices that we use a lot of (Italian Seasoning, Taco Seasoning, Basil, Garlic Powder) it was better for me to buy in larger size from the warehouse clubs.  They get used far more quickly than they lose potency.  But given the way the cabinets were arranged the only place they fit was the bottom shelf.  That meant all my smaller spices went in the middle.  And my poor cooking spray and measuring cups were relegated to the top.  Now, I’m only 5’3″ so seeing what was on the top shelf was next to impossible.
What did I change:
I moved the shelf height!  Yes, you can change your shelves!  I know you probably haven’t moved them since the day you moved into your home but in most cases they are adjustable.  And mine were adjustable with no tools – just need thumbs!
I raised the 1st shelf one notch giving me enough room for my sesame oil on that expanding rack.

I then moved the 2nd shelf up two or three spots (I can’t remember) making plenty of room on that 2nd shelf for my larger spice containers, the cooking spray and my measuring cups!  Hooray. This has made the whole cooking experience more pleasant for me as I no longer have to stand on tip-toes or a stool.

The top shelf is now very short.  But that’s okay.  The things up there are ones I rarely use – Christmas serving platters, pie plates, cupcake liners, candlesticks, etc.  So on the rare occasion I do need them, I don’t mind grabbing a stool (or asking the hubby for help!)

In the end I went from this:

To this:

It may not look like a big change to you but it makes a world of difference for my daily kitchen experience.

Where do you store your spices?

Tour My Pantry

Two weeks ago I spend a day giving my pantry a mini face lift.  I am so happy with the results.

Come take a tour with me!

Paint! The very first thing I did after emptying the pantry was paint it. Previously it was a hideous uninspired shade of builder-grade white flat paint.  I painted the walls a pale, butter yellow that I already had from a project I was going to do awhile back.  The shelves got a fresh coat of high gloss white.

Starting at the top:  Dry goods are stored in restaurant-style food storage bins. I love them because they hold a lot, are clear, sturdy and my labels stick easily. I use them for flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking mix and cookie/cake decorating supplies.  Other things on the top shelf are my vacuum sealer and the storage containers I use for freezing meals.

The next shelf (at eye level):  Baking supplies (this is where I’ve always kept them). 

And on the other half the larger items for everyday dinners – rice, pasta, taco shells, salad toppings

Shelf #3 (just below eye level): This is where I had some fun at The Container Store.
On the left I used a simple cabinet shelf to stack cans.  On the bottom I have just my true “staples” chicken broth and tomatoes.  On the top, everything else.

In the middle I wanted some pull out drawers like you would put in a cabinet. But since my shelves are only 15″ deep all of the ones made for the kitchen were too big. I told the helpful employee my dilemma and she suggested that there might be a 15″ pull out in the bathroom section. Sure enough, we found these Roll-Out Cabinet Drawers. I bought two – one for bottles and one for small boxes and packages.

Seriously, how awesome is it that I can pull the drawer out and find that bottle of apple cider vinegar tucked way in the back without moving everything in front of it?

The other side of that shelf holds some other miscellaneous cooking supplies (like bread crumbs, extra peanut butter, seasoning packets, and extra ketchup).  You might have noticed that my seasoning packets are in a little box.  That is a kids shoe box from Stride-Rite.  The opening in the lid was just the right size for those packets.
Shelf #4 is kid accessible.  I moved the cereal down there and snacks.  We keep a door knob lock on the pantry door because our kids are young (just 3 & 2) and I don’t want unlimited access to snacks.  But when I open the door at breakfast time they can grab the cereal themselves. The cereal is in containers from The Container Store (that I couldn’t find online.)
I did NOT label the cereal containers because we switch up what we eat from time to time and I wanted these to stay flexible.  Next to the cereal is drinks (lemonade & hot cocoa mix), popcorn kernels for our air popper, nuts, and treats for potty training in some Oggi canisters I got at TJ Maxx but I think you can find them at Target and other places as well. In addition to the canisters I have the nuts and things in a variety of old jelly jars.  These, again are not labeled because they get changed out.
Shelf #5 is also kid accessible. Here I put bigger snacks like crackers & chips along with stuff for the baby – formula, baby food & bibs. It’s great to grab a bib while I’m grabbing a container of applesauce.  I’m not sure I’m in love with the Rubbermaid containers I have here but I already had them on hand so I’m using them for now.

On the floor: This is for bulk storage.  On the far left I have an old diaper box with party supplies (paper plates, napkins, etc that I need like 3x a year).  Then water bottles.  Then this pull-out shelf I had from before that I put extra Ziploc bags and foil and cling wrap.  I keep the current package of these items in other locations.  These are just extras.  Finally, more extra supplies like paper towels, dishwasher detergent and giant jugs of vegetable oil.

Did you think I was done?  Not yet.  I haven’t showed you the walls on the sides and front!
To the left: the previous owner of our home already had these shelves installed.  I put our storage bags on the top here and my “make a turkey” stuff on the bottom self.  What is “make a turkey stuff”, you ask?  Well, it’s brining bags, twine, cheese cloth.  As my dear husband pointed out I only make a turkey a few times a year.  Well, yes, I responded, but I still need to store the tools somewhere!

Under the shelves I put a 3M Command Hook to hold a bag full of my plastic grocery bags to use for lunches for work and small trash cans.

And on the front wall, another Command Hook for my broom & dustpan

To the right, the top shelf has cleaning stuff for my Shark Steam Mop and carpet steam cleaner.  The bottom shelf is what I like to call the “Nana & Papa shelf” – things my parents like when they visit like coffee and tea.

Under the shelves another Command Hook for my Shark.

On the front wall, a magnetic strip from The Container Store for holding extra bag clips.

And finally… on the back of the door I put all of my reusable shopping bags inside of one bag on a hook.  Now I can just grab the bag on my way out the door to the store.

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed my tour. 
To see my previous pantry reorganization check here.

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Organize With Sandy – Organizing Missing Monday #17
Organize and Decorate Everything – We’re Organized Wednesday #26

Quick Tip Thursday

“I need to {{fill in the blank}} my closet!”

You might fill in the blank with one of the following words:
* declutter
* organize
* clean out

. Regardless of the verb you use the frustration behind it is the same.  You are tired of having too many things you don’t love in a space that doesn’t work.  But you put off doing a full closet reorganization because it will take too much time/money/effort.

Get closer to the closet you want by following this very simple step:

The next time you pull something out to put it on and go to hang it back up because it doesn’t fit or you don’t love it or it’s out of style please for the love of all that is good do not hang it back up!

Take 10 seconds and do one of three things with it:
1. Toss it in the “donation” box (that you are going to put in your car tonight!) if it’s still in good repair
2. Toss in the trash if it’s stained or otherwise un-donatable
3. Put it in your craft stash.  NOTE: this option is ONLY for those of you who are actual crafters.  Not those of you who are only crafters in the dark recesses of your mind.  Yes, old sweaters can be used to make throw pillows & draft dodgers.  But if you don’t own a sewing machine or if the one you do own hasn’t been used in 6 months or more, DO NOT save these things.  Refer back to option 1 or 2.

Coat Closet Makeover

This is a project I did quite some time ago but I never had the chance to share it with all of you.
My house has one of the smallest coat closets.  It is 23 1/2 inches wide – not even 2 feet.  It came equipped with a rod and a shelf when we purchased our home.  And the door is a bi-fold.  It looked like this before:

It was housing kids coats, adults coats, a hanging thing for hats & gloves (that kept falling out), and our vacuum.  The coats would often fall off the hangers when we moved the vacuum in or out.
One day I couldn’t take it any more and headed off to Home Depot.  I installed a Closet Maid organizer.  Since the closet wasn’t quite 2 feet none of the standard stuff fit.  I found what I wanted and the nice men in the rental tool department cut down the rods & shelves to be 23″.  This gave me a little wiggle room on each side. 
The installation was easy.  The adjustable bracket hooks installed with simple anchored screws and the shelves hooked right on.  The hard part was removing the old shelf support.  It was connected with a lot of nails.  Then I had to fumble around the basement to find the old paint color to touch up the spots under the old shelf supports.
I installed a two layer rod so that my kids can easily access their own coats.  And the adjustable height will allow me to move the rods up as they grow.

The vacuum got a new home upstairs. 

The top shelf now houses my diaper bags (too many!) and a giant bin for rarely used hates & gloves.  I still need to work a new solution for that bin (actually, since these are rarely used I will probably just leave them as is – these are the heavy duty ones we use for shoveling snow and whatnot). 

Have you updated a tired coat closet?  I’d love to see before & after!

Simple Solution – Bathrooms

I recently found this idea from Better Homes and Gardens.

It’s a bit hard to tell what is going on in this picture. But the idea is to use a lazy susan to store your essential bathroom cleaning supplies. This way you can easily access those items that end up at the back of your cabinet without having to pull everything out. Simple, inexpensive and effective. I love it.

Pantry Reorganization Photos

This was a low budget pantry reorganization. For about $30 I was able to purchase all the supplies I needed – some storage containers, a bin for potatoes, an over-the-door hook and a few pant hangers-turned-tablecloth hangers.

Dry Goods Storage – a few well labeled containers are easier to stack than boxes and a lot less messy than bags of sugar.

Spaghetti – pasta in bags always seems to get kind of lost in a panty. An old over-sized baby formula can is just the trick for keeping the spaghetti from breaking.

Beans – beans tend to come in bags. Bags, even with clips, tend to come open spilling little beans all over the pantry and floor. And they are just the right size for my baby to choke on. An old jelly jar is just the right size for holding these.

Party Box – this holds paper plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils and napkins – all the essentials for a quick party setup. A label makes sure I remember what is inside.
Potatoes – Bags of potatoes get shoved on the floor and by the time you remember you bought them there are so many eyes sprouting you feel like someone is watching you. This handy slide-out bin is an easy way to store them and see them. I have my extra rice on the top but this would be a great spot for a different potato variety or onions.

Bags & Brooms – I can’t take all the credit on this one. My mom made me the handy plastic bag holder. But you can buy these in almost any home store in the country.

All in all, this isn’t the most organized pantry ever. But items are sorted by function and are easy to see and get to. And it’s a living, working pantry. Items go out and new items replace them. It doesn’t need to be picture perfect. It never will be. It just needs to function in a way that makes sense for you and your family.

Pantry Organization

My pantry has always been basically organized. Canned goods in one area, bottles in another, pasta in another, boxed stuff somewhere else and Ziplocks and other random stuff strewn on the extra spaces. But this weekend I took the time to really organize my pantry. What a great experience. Here’s how I went about it:

1. Make a list of everything I could see in the pantry – boxed stuff, cans, drinks, cereal, brooms, storage bags, seasoning packets, snack food, baby bibs, baby food jars, extra cans of formula, etc. etc.

2. Organize the list into a few categories. Here’s what I came up with, you may have these same ones or others:

  • Breakfast – cereal, Bisquick, syrup (you may also have things like oatmeal, granola bars, etc)
  • Baking – flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, shortening, vegetable oil, cake mixes, frosting cans, oatmeal
  • Desert – jello, pudding, ice cream cones, chocolate syrup (extra)
  • Cooking – pasta, pasta sauce, taco shells, canned goods, soup cans, soup packages, packets of seasoning, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, olive oil (extra jar – I keep a handy pour bottle right by the stove), kosher salt, corn starch, bread crumbs, flax seed, rice, potatoes
  • Snacks – popcorn, chips, canned fruit (the kids love this for snacks), crackers
  • Drinks – 12 packs of soda, juice, juice boxes, drink packets (like crystal light or Kool-aid), bottled water, pitchers
  • Baby Stuff – bibs, formula cans (extra), baby food, baby snacks (puffs, teether biscuits)
  • Storage – Ziplock bags, foil & plastic wrap (extra – I keep these handy to the fridge/oven for everyday use)
  • Cleaning – broom, mop, steam mop, paper towels
  • Linens – table clothes, napkins, runners
  • Party stuff – paper plates, plastic silverware, plastic cups

3. Make a note of any kind of storage container I need but don’t already have – sealable plastic bins for powdered and brown sugar (I already have them for sugar & flour), shelf racks to add extra space for storing cans, an over-the-door hanger for linens.

4. Take everything out one shelf at a time and clean the shelf and replace it with what is going on that shelf. Add labels where appropriate. In the end my shelves ended up as:

  • Top Left – Breakfast
  • Top Right – Baking (big stuff – sugars, flour)
  • 2nd Left – Baking (small stuff – cake mixes, cans of frosting) & Dessert
  • 2nd Right – Cooking – boxes & pastas
  • 3rd Left – Snacks
  • 3rd Right – Cooking – cans & bottles
  • 4th Left – Drinks
  • 4th Right – Storage & Potatoes (in a metal bin)
  • Bottom (floor) – Paper Towels & Party (all fit very nicely into an old diaper box that I can pull out when needed)
  • Hanging – Linens, Brooms/Mops

5. Add special containers for easily lost things. An old kids shoe box was the perfect size for holding all those seasoning packets and another for hot cocoa packets. Old snack boxes are just right for holding all those open bags of crackers.

6. Head to the store (with coupon) to buy all the storage things I didn’t have at home

I’ll post a picture for you tomorrow.