Tag Archives: Organization

Thrifty Living: Toysplosion, Part II

28 Nov

I have been fighting the good fight over toy storage ever since before Isobel was old enough to go through the cat door. When her toys began taking over the living room we bought an awesome six dollar thrifted chest and begged the internet for help to solve this problem. Little did I know that the toy storage problem would never go away, just change and become difficult in different ways with time.

We’ve been slowly moving Isobel’s toys out of her nursery and into a room affectionately known as “the Pencil Room,” after the time that I stashed an enormous cache of colored pencils in that room. Which, nevermind. That’s a story for another time. Our plan is to move Isobel out of the nursery and into the Pencil Room, which will eventually become her big girl room.

After shopping around for toy storage and organization systems, I settled for thrifted tins and baskets, tubs for larger toys and collections, a few buckets and finally, some photo storage boxes bought cheaply at Micheal’s.

I really like the tins, even though you do have to remember what’s in them. But that makes them that much fresher to your child when they pull them out again. Sometimes the lids on older tins tend to stick, but that can be a good thing if it holds toys for your older child that you don’t want your younger kid getting into.

The main thing I’ve learned about toy storage and organization is you have to develop a little ruthlessness. Keeping the amount of toys at manageable levels, developing collections that will grow with your child, and donating the things that you child has out grown/doesn’t care a whole lot about/are duplicates of other toys has really saved my sanity. Especially when we have playdates. When we have Kingston over he moves from room to room, rooting out his favorite toys while he and Isobel dump everything out in the process. And that is totally fine! Kids! It’s what they do! I’ve sorted and pared the toys down to the point that I can clean up a toysplosion, I mean a total, house-wrecking toysplosion, in under twenty minutes. I don’t mean to brag. Getting to this point was a hard-won battle. But it is possible.

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After: The Library

2 Feb

I have to admit I find the library’s transformation to be better than the after shots of Isobel’s room. (Go ahead and click here to see the before shots. We’ll wait.) I have a lot of things I’d like to change in this room, as well, but it lacks the transitional clutter of the nursery had has somewhat less chairs!

Oh wait. What the hell am I thinking? This room has more chairs. When I went through and photographed my house for the Thrifted Home Tour I noticed all the random Scandinavian things and thought I had a mild Viking theme going on, but do you know what? If I had to sum up my decorating style I guess I’d say Chairs, chairs, chairs!!!

I should rename this post “My office chairs: A Memoir.”

You’ll notice from the before pics that the desk was covered in crap. I’m not sure if I had the presence of mind to clear the cups and plates away from the computer, but when no one’s home I eat there on my lunch so there’s usually some, er, remnants. Damn. I really hope I cleaned that up for you guys. Now, however, it’s all cleaned off and shiny and I even organized the library card catalog file on my desk.

Oh, and I fit as many of your Christmas cards as I could on my bulletin board. The rest on are the fridge. Thanks again, I love getting mail.

For the most part, my Secret Shame is gone, but you’ll notice Isobel’s car seat in the corner. It’s back in Anthony’s car now, where it belongs, but I took this photo while he was in LA.

I like to call this area “Nerd Corner.” Kind of like Pooh Corner, except its for nerds and not for er, Poohs, I guess. You’ll notice the nasty carpet I keep harping on. (It was nasty and old when we moved in.) In the Olden Days I’d have edited it out using Photoshop. But let’s face it, internet, our Honeymoon period is over and now you have to endure me and all my flaws. Oh, and not tonight. I have a headache.

Here’s why we call this room the library. You’ll notice our book situation and how it has gotten out of hand. I’m eventually going to end up giving some of these away to friends and blog readers so stay tuned. I tried to do some weeding and it as largely unsuccessful. I found about five books I’d be able to part with. And let’s just say that Anthony and I are planning on buying more than five new books in our lives.

(It suddenly occurs to me–I should have a CHAIR giveaway!)

(Or maybe I should just have people over more to justify the amount of chairs.)

The additional shelf we are planning on getting will be added to nerd corner. Anthony’s already dibbed it so I’m sure it will be full of Manga and Pathfinder books.)

Aaaand here’s the desk, so we’ve come full circle. What do you think?

Organization: Before

2 Jan

In keeping with my New Year’s Goals, Anthony and I are aggressively going through the house on a cleaning and organizing crusade. Here are some of the Before shots in all their sordid glory.

Above we have the desk. It’s a large, vintage, all-steel desk that was made in the fifties and used by my father in the warehouse where he worked for nearly thirty years. It’s giant. It’s a behemoth of metal and the matching chair alone probably weighs more than I do. It’s huge, which sometimes just means there’s more room for junk. Behind it is my bulletin board. If you sent us a card in early December, you might find yourself on it.

Also if you are a Star Trek: TNG fan, prepare to be very jealous. Note the screen saver. Anthony also set the computer up to all the vocal responses of the computer of the Enterprise. In fact, our whole computer is Enterprise computer-themed. Yep. The two of us? We’re bringing dorky back.

Clutter has been building up all over the house. Behind the chair in the library is one of the areas that I shove things when I don’t want to deal with them. I call it my Secret Shame.

The majority of the Christmas toys still live in the family room. The nursery needs a total makeover into a little girl’s room.

This is what happened when I pulled all the toys out of Isobel’s room to sort and redistribute. Thank goodness for naps.

Not only are we taking out the crib and leveling up the bedroom, I’m also trying to sort through the chaos that is the closet. This was the state of things before she was born. Now it is no where near as neat, but it is just as full. She has clothes in her size plus larger and smaller. It’s a nightmare and I need to get stuff to storage, donations, and to pass on to my friend’s baby Abby. God, what a nightmare.

Before I return to work I we’re also going to tackle the garage an the attic. I hope the After photos are worth it.

As of this revision, the desk area is mostly done. I don’t have flattering After photos to share with you, but this might do for now:

Meal Planning Apps

3 Jun

This post is the second in a series about iPhone apps I use and enjoy. This is less about being on the cutting edge of technology and more the equivalent of peeking in someone else’s medicine cabinet. Electronic voyeuristic curiosity! I’d love to hear what food-related apps you enjoy in the comments.


Shroomies Produce Guide – I have no idea why this is called ‘shroomies’ but it does make me giggle. This app really isn’t as necessary as it claims but I love it none the less. It is supposed to help you choose produce that’s in season but really, you probably don’t need help with that. If you can use your valuable looking skills to see what the store is offering a lot of cheaply then you know what’s in season.

Shroomies does offer the valuable service in the form of providing nutritional information, seasonality (when will asparagus be cheap again?!), how to store and how long to keep it, preparation advice and almost 200 photos and descriptions of all sorts of produce. Have you ever read a recipe and thought, what the heck is kohlrabi? Look it up! I love browsing the photos for inspiration, but I’m weird like that.

RelishI’ve sung Relish’s praises before and I’ll do it again: the iPhone app lets me peruse my weekly shopping list and view the recipe right from my phone, no printouts necessary. You have to have a subscription to Relish’s menu service for this to be useful, however.

Everyday Food – I sort of hate to give Martha even more of my money when she has so much already, but there’s something to be said for not having to leaf through stacks of magazines to find a recipe.

Mise En PlaceI’ve mentioned this app before also and while it over complicates the week night dinner I can’t wait to use this for a big party or holiday such as Thanksgiving. It lets you schedule all the tasks that need to be accomplished for a big meal and can help you figure out what you need to do well in advance. My organization-loving heart swelled when I found this.

Epicurious – The same benefits of the recipe website in handheld form.

Grocery Gadget – I’ve mentioned this app before, too, but when I find something awesome I like to share. Angela originally found this app and I’m so glad she told me about it. It handles far more than just your grocery list and has all sorts of handy features, such as online editing, list sharing so other members of your household have access to them, and full control over list organization. It’s the priciest app I’ve ever purchased but, for me at least, it’s been so worth it.

Closet Dividers Tutorial

30 May

I received a lot of interest in my flickr series about the closet dividers I made for my daughter’s nursery so I thought I would post a little tutorial for those of you crazy enough (or pregnant enough) to attempt it. It has been suggested that I not post a tutorial for this and that instead I create these dividers to sell on Etsy. As fun as they were they were a whole lot of work and I’d feel compelled to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation so I think we’re all better off with a tutorial.

For those of you who remember, I received more baby clothes for Isobel before she was born than my husband and I own put together. I’m talking massive amounts of ittty bitty pink onesies, dresses, overalls, footie pajamas, socks; you name it, I had four of them. Including infant bathrobes. Which, shockingly, I never used. I folded them all neatly and stacked them next to my supply of infant smoking jackets.

My trepidation grew with my belly. How on earth was I going to keep track of all these clothes? All these sizes? All these hangers? (Note to new moms: you will never have enough baby hangers. Stock up when you can.) I decided to put my nesting urge to work with my obsessive tenancy to organize and came up with the perfect solution: homemade closet dividers.

These are a lot of work, a whole lot of work, and when I first began the endeavor I didn’t realize it would be as time consuming as it was. However, if you are pregnant and in the midst of nesting like I was, you will go to ridiculous lengths to complete this project.

I’m sure there’s more than one way to do this but I’m going to post the way that I went about it. If any of you figure out an easier way to do this, please speak up in the comments. I’m sure there are crafters out there who would be eternally grateful.

MATERIALS


Paper – The most obvious thing you’ll need for this project is paper, gorgeous paper that you love, and the thicker the better. I went to the store in my town and found a notepad of large square crafting paper. It was gorgeous and I think I used all but one sheet. It was expensive, though. I’m not used to spending twenty bucks on paper. You’ll also need printer paper or some other paper to use as labels. Of course, you could also use printer-friendly labels found at an office supply store. Your choice.

Cutting tools – By this I mean scissors but I also mean any other nifty tools that would help you cut out the circles from the middle of the hangers and any other tool to fancy up the paper. I used a hole-punch designed for making rounded edges on photographs for rounding the edges on my labels. I won it as a door prize for attending a scrap booking party one time, but I’m sure you could find them at the craft store.

Adhesive – I used rubber cement for this but I’m sure Mod Podge would work if you want to decoupage them. I’m sure other sticky substances would work, too. Just remember that Elmer’s glue can make paper wrinkle. Experiment and find out what works for you.

Door Hanger Template – I made this one in Photoshop and posted it on flickr. Enjoy, and feel free to make any adjustments you see fit!

Laminator – You don’t have to laminate these, but it really helps them last. As I mentioned, you can always decoupage them. Lamination services are available at some office supply stores or at copy centers like Kinko’s.

THE PROCESS

The first thing I did was figure out my closet organization layout to determine what labels I wanted to use. If I can figure out a way to post my labels so you don’t have to go through the headache of making them, I will. Because that was a lot of work and I sort of want to be your personal label-making savior. You do need to figure out how many labels you need to figure out how many dividers you’ll make. And then you’ll need two copies of each label because the dividers are double-sided.

Print out the closet divider template on some very thick cardstock-ish paper. After it’s all printed and cut out and ready to go lay it on the wrong side of one of your fancy papers and trace with a pencil (oops, forgot to add that under materials – pencil!). I was able to fit three dividers on each piece of fancy paper.

You are going to trace the template twice for each divider so count out how many you need and double that. Trace them and cut them all out. Once that’s done, you can begin the long process of gluing the dividers wrong-side together. Let them dry for awhile. I matched the dividers up so that they had the same paper on either side but now I’m not sure why I bothered. It would be just as cute, if not cuter, to have mismatched sides. No matter, cut ‘em out, glue ‘em together, let ‘em dry.

Attach a label to each side of the divider. You can get as fancy or simple with this as you want. If I can figure out how to post the word doc labels I made I certainly will, but don’t limit yourself. If you have great penmanship you can write directly on the dividers themselves, or create your own lovely labels in Photoshop or Word. Avery makes those labels you just run right through the printer and that always works, too. Like I said I just printed mine out from word, cut them to side, and then fancied up the edges by using a photo-corner-roundening punch.

After the labels are created and glued on and all dried you can decide whether or not you want to laminate them. If you do decide to go that route, leaving an edge of lamination around the dividers is a good idea. I did not and some of them started to come apart a bit. The big pain about laminating is that after all that cutting you then have to go back and cut them all up *yet again* before they are done. Honestly, however, if you’ve gone to all the work of making these you’re probably going to want them to last, so in my opinion it’s worth it. Plus, if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re a crazy pregnant lady hell-bent on nesting and nothing will prevent you from completing this task. That’s how it was for me.

TA-DA!

If you’ve followed these steps you now have your own gorgeous closet dividers perfect for you organizing the tons of baby clothes you’re obsessively organizing and then re-organizing at three in the morning. I’d love to hear from anyone out that who had the stamina to try this.

SO, TO SUM UP:

  1. Figure out what sections you want in your closet
  2. Print out the labels on printer paper, nice paper, or on self-adhesive, printer-friendly labels.
  3. Print out the door hanger template on thick paper and cut out.
  4. Trace template on wrong side of fancy paper
  5. Glue two fancy papers wrong-side together for each divider.
  6. Stick or glue label on each side of divider.
  7. Laminate divider
  8. Cut out divider

Questions? Experiences? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.

The Toy Chest

6 May

Isobel is a lucky girl. Even before she was born she owned more toys that we know what to do with. It didn’t help things that as soon as I found out I was pregnant I let myself go a little crazy in the second-hand toy-purchasing department.

I didn’t know then if our little Peanut was a boy or a girl yet, but this awesome dollhouse was just five dollars. Five dollars! I figured if we had a boy who wasn’t into it I could give it to my cousin. And hey, the cats sure like it.

My friends have been more than generous to Isobel also. The day she was born my friends Stef and Dave were at the Zoo in LA and they bought her a stuffed gorilla we named Gogo. She loves that thing. Melynda was waiting till the day she was born to go to Build-A-Bear where she made her a unicorn named Unico 2 (Melynda owns the original Unico). I swear that unicorn is as big as she is. It’s so funny to see her carry it around the house.

The Waltons bought her this gorgeous ruby-red tricycle. I swear I had the same one when I was little.

And who could forget the baby showers! My coworkers were so generous.

Isobel was a much-anticipated baby.

Aside from thrift stores or yard sales we haven’t purchased any toys for Isobel–not for Christmas or her birthday. She has so many toys–a Mount Everest of toys! A Giant Pacific Floating Garbage Patch of Toys! An Asteroid Belt of Toys!

We couldn’t justify buying her more toys when she was way more interested in playing with a tooth brush.

And it was all so neat before she was born.

One of the things we’ve been doing is to organize her living room toys in a chest found at a thrift store for six dollars. It works well, holds a lot of stuff, and is stable enough that the lid does not slam down very easily.

Isobel loves digging around in her toy chest for toys and I like that everything isn’t all over the living room all the time. I like that some of it is out of sight. It all about the illusion of control, I guess. The latches on the outside of the trunk are also fun to play with and now that she’s more mobile she likes to sit on top of it, too.

I highly recommend scouring thrift stores for toy chests like this. We’ve actually gotten several compliments on it while closed–no one realized it was full of toys! And it was totally within our budget.

A couple things to keep in mind while looking for any sort of chest or case or even luggage while thrifting: always always always open it. Make sure you know about the lining or the condition of the inside first. It might be grosser than you’re willing or able to deal with. I got lucky with this chest. The particle board isn’t lovely to look at but it’s clean and stain-free. I was able to wipe out most the dust with a damp cloth then gave the whole thing a once-over with some mild disinfectant. If I had the time and money I would have lined the inside with some pretty contact paper. I might get around to it one day but it’s not high on my priority list.

Another thing you have to be really careful of when thrifting is The Weird Smell. Now anything that’s been closed up for any amount of time is going to smell off or stale or musty. It’s the overpoweringness of The Weird Smell that will tip you off. It will be strong and lingering. Trust me that no amount of washing or airing out will eliminate The Weird Smell and you’re going to end up resenting the piece, however lovely, for it’s scent. Pass it up.

Aside from this chest and the shelves in her bedroom we don’t have a system for toy storage and that’s really starting to worry me. I don’t like using bins. I know there are some that are not so horrible to look at but I think they are overall messy-looking.

I’d love to hear from other parents out there about your methods or toy storage and organizations. What do you do to keep it all under control? How do your toy storage-systems work?