Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Closet organization

I’ve had this project done for about two weeks and I thought I’d already posted about it. Clearly, that only happened in my head!

We have alot of little people at our house, so they get to share rooms and closet space. They were always fighting over space: “Your shirt is on MY side!” and so on. I decided to make little closet dividers to help mitigate the fighting. I was going for something like this from the Container Store. They’re only 99 cents each, but they looked so BORING, especially for a kid’s room. So, I made my own. No, they don’t look as neat and polished as the ones from the store, but they were FREE and the babes got to work on them during their crafting time. This means they learned tracing skills, cutting skills and learned how to use a paper cutter. (No, not the guillotine style paper cutter!) Win-win in my book. Oh yeah, and they have made it easier for DH to put the clothing away and the babes don’t fight over their closet space anymore!

So how did we make them? First I made a template, and then had the babes use the template to trace onto more cardboard. (We used cereal boxes since we have a plethora of empty boxes. We go through like 2 boxes of cereal per week!) Once the shape was on the cardboard, the babes cut them out. Then I had them trace the same shape onto paper. Things started falling apart here. Apparently, they aren’t all that adept at cutting straight. So we ended up with papers that were totally different sizes from the cardboard . .. not exactly what I was hoping for. I said I would just do it myself, which of course sent them into a crying and wailing jag. What to do? What to do? Have them glue the paper on first and THEN use the paper cutter to trim off the excess. This worked like a charm!

The final steps were to label the dividers and decorate them. I used a combo of stickers and handwriting to label them and the babes decorated them to their liking. Wanna see how they turned out?

Up close and personal
closet organizer close up

In use
closet organizers

Total cost: Free
Total time: 1.5 hours


Linen closet

Linen closets are notorious for being difficult to organize. Our previous house had three GIANT linen closets. This was a good thing because we had lots of space. It was also a bad thing because the closets were very deep, like each shelf was maybe 2.5 feet deep. As a result, our closets looked something like this:

linen closet

Part of the problem is that we have small children, so many things that would go under the sink or on the counter or in drawer had to be relegated to the lockable linen closet.

Our new house has ONE linen closet . . . . and it’s tiny.
mchenry linen closet out

I spent alot of time trying to sort out where the heck we were going to put all of the stuff that was jammed into our linen closets: blankets, towels, sheets, toiletries, games, puzzles, picture frames, more blankets, snow suits, stuffed animals, more blankets (yes, we have LOTS of blankets!), cloth diapers. It was pretty clear that the items would need to be spread out in several different places. I started with the easy stuff. The snow suits and diapers went in the top of one of the bedroom closets. Next came the toiletries. One of the bathroom has a giant mirror with doors that slide, revealing lots of little shelves. This seemed like the perfect place for the toiletries.
behind the mirror

If you are thinking that things seem randomly placed and not perfectly organized, you are right. They could be a little more organized, by size or color or some other way. But, it seemed that my organizational energies would be better used elsewhere.

So now I had to tackle everything else. At the top of the stairs, there is a banister. The house is a tri-level, so that particular banister was up high and looked down on the bottom floor, about 9-10 feet down. Our 4 year old DD is a gymnastics freak . .. she seems gymnastic equipment everywhere. I just knew that some day she would pretend that the banister was a bar and she’d flip over it to her death. Not good. I knew I needed to put something in front of the banister. I also needed more linen closet space. I solved both issues by purchasing this dresser.
linen dresser

The beauty of this dresser is the really deep drawer in the center. It looks like there are 5 drawers, right? Really, there are only four, with one of them being a double height drawer. This works perfectly for our towels. Initially, I rolled the towels and set them in upright. They sure looked pretty, but as soon as you took out a towel, the others would start unrolling . . . .not so pretty. So I settled on a tri-fold system that is working out quite nicely.

I filled the other dresser drawers with random stuff. Things like folders, 3- ring binders, blank CD’s/DVD’s, and other random stuff. This left the actual linen closet open for the sheets, picture frames and games.
mchenry linen closet in

You’ll notice that the game shelf is a little messy . . . chalk it up to the 2 and 4 year olds not getting their puzzles back in perfectly. And you know, that’s totally okay. As long as it’s not a fruit basket upset and they can get to their games and puzzles, then I’m happy. (In our previous house, they were on a high shelf and I was constantly having to get their puzzles down for them. Now, they have more autonomy.)

The sheets were a challenge. I really wanted to do the “fold the sheets and then put them in the pillowcase” trick I’d seen on Pinterest. Sadly, I couldn’t find any specific directions on how to do it, so mine definitely did not end up looking like neat little packages. I couldn’t figure out what to do with all of the extra fabric from the pillowcase. Oh well. I just tucked the top sheet and pillowcases into the fitted sheet and folded it all up into a nice little bundle. I’m pretty happy with the results.

“But wait!” you say. “Where are the blankets?” Ah, the blankets. I don’t have a good solution for them. They are sort of scattered around the house. Some are in one of the closets in the basement, some ended up on the floor in the babes’ bedroom, and some are on the floor in my closet. Not ideal at all. Alas, I couldn’t find a better solution!

So to recap. Here’s one of the linen closets before:
linen closet

And here are the after pics.
linen closet after

Perfect? Not at all. Functional? Yep!

Total cost: $35
Total time: 45 minutes

Above the bookcase

In our old house, the bookcases were located in the perfect place to collect clutter. It ended up being the place we’d put confiscated toys, or random things “to deal with later” or just stuff. It looked terrible and drove me nuts! I walked past the bookcases one morning and just had to fix it right then and there. Everything came down. Some things got trashed, some rehomed, some got put back up. The end result . . . . I’ll let you decide.

top of bookcase

It’s better, right? Not perfect, but I’m not going for perfection here, just an improvement. Tthere is still the danger that the bookcases will get cluttered in the new house, especially since they are right by the door to the garage. But, I’m keeping an eagle on them!

Total time: 20 minutes
Total cost: free

The end of limbo

Wow! It’s been over a month since I’ve posted. But, it’s been a VERY busy month around here. WE MOVED! I can’t tell you how happy we are to have moved. We just moved a few blocks down the street, but it’s going to be a MUCH better situation for us. Anyway, I haven’t had half a minute to think about organizing, let alone blogging. We are mostly moved in now, so I’ll be back on the blogging wagon in a few days.

“Wait!”, you must be saying. “Can’t you just organize things as you unpack and move in?”

Well, yes, I could, if I didn’t have four babes running under foot. Since I do have a troupe of little humans, things just got unpacked and placed somewhere, without much thought to overall organization. And truthfully, I need to live in this space for a little while to figure out how best to organize things. I have a few things underway: I have the beginnings of a command center, the linen closet is enduring an overhaul and my sewing room is getting an overhaul as well. These are all going to take a few weeks, but stay tuned for the end result. I am happy to say that the areas that were previously organized in the other house (dry staples, kitchen utensils, hats and gloves, serger thread, hair accessories, dresser drawers) are still organized here. Some, like the hair accessories, have been a bit revamped, but they are still organized. So, hooray for that!

So, I’m back on my organizing game!

In limbo

I do have another little project that I got done this past week, I just haven’t had a chance to blog about it because we have been contemplating some big changes . . . . . we are thinking of moving to another house. We always said that we wouldn’t move from this house unless we were buying. But, things change. Our family keeps growing and we really need another bedroom. At this point, buying a house isn’t going to happen. Sooo, we either squish all the babes into one room, or we move. As luck would have it, two houses right down our street came up for rent just in the past week or so, right when we were thinking of moving.

Anyway, what does this have to do with organizing? Everything! So much of organization is dependent on the space. I’m reticent to spend time creating a home command center or organizing a linen closet if we are just going to end up moving to a different space. So for now, I’m just spending my time gleaning ideas from the internet and jotting my thoughts down so that once the dust settles (either in the new house or here), I’ll have a plan.

On the one hand I’m kinda hoping the moving thing works out. New and different is always fun and exciting. On the other hand, moving is such a giant PITB, especially with many little humans underfoot. Eh, we’ll see what happens. So if I disappear for a few weeks, you’ll know why!

Dry staples

We are in month two of being dairy and soy free thanks to DS3’s intolerance. This means we have been spending lots of time at the co-op and I’ve been buying lots of bulk foods. This is all great, until I get everything home and have to find somewhere to put it. When I would find somewhere to put the goods, I’d forget what was what. “Wait, is this rye flour or millet or sorghum flour or or or?” I kept thinking I would just remember . . . . not so much. I needed a new system. I already had several vintage tupperware containers that worked out really well. But, they were big, and more often than not, my co-op purchases were smallish. So I went with some Ziploc freezer containers and some no-name freezer containers. I used a dry erase marker to write the contents right on the container. The writing isn’t permanent, but that’s good because then I’m not tied to using that particular container for a particular grain/bean. So far, it’s working out really well. And if nothing else, it looks nice =)

dry goods

Total cost: $6
Total time: 30 minutes

Hair accessories

Sometimes, you have to seize the moment and change your plans. A few days ago, I heard the babes playing in the bathroom. This is almost never a good thing, so I went to see what was up. What I found totally surprised me. They were all crowded around the hair accessories drawer, trying to figure out a way to organize it. This drawer wasn’t originally on my “needs to be organized” list, but far be it from me to discourage the babes from organizing! I suggested that we separate the accessories into different categories, and then we set to making little boxes for said categories. We used cereal boxes, and then glued fabric on the inside to make them look less blah. The project took us a few days because we pretty much only worked on it during craft time, but everyone was pleased with the end result. You’ll notice that none of the fabric really matches. If I had my way, it all would have coordinated. As it happened, I let the babes choose the fabric from my scraps stash, so none of it matched. I’m okay with that.

hair stuff drawer

I’m glad I seized the moment!

Serger thread

This is going to be the shortest post ever, which means that this was a super easy thing to organize.

I used to keep my serger thread in the drawers of one of my sewing machine tables. I got rid of that machine, which meant that I had spools of serger thread just floating about my sewing room. The Dollar Tree to the rescue once again!

serger thread

It’s not a perfect system. When you take out a spool or two, some of the others fall over. But I don’t change thread all that often, so this will work for the time being.

Total cost: $3
Total time: 5 minutes

The babes’ dresser drawers

When I was a kid, I had organized drawers. Undies were neatly folded, socks were matched and organized, pants and shirts neatly folded. I thought that’s just how all drawers were. And then I went to a friend’s house and saw that her drawers were helter skelter. I remember thinking how cool it would be to have to dig around my drawer to find the mate to another sock. So I went home and immediately did a fruit basket upset on my undies and sock drawer. I felt like the coolest cat around! This lasted for a few days. And then my mom saw my drawer and she came unglued.

Mom: What in the world happened to your drawer!!!
Me: Uh, I thought it would be fun to have it like Sally.
Mom: No senorita! Ven aca y arregla esto! (Translation: I don’t think so, missy. Come and clean this up right away!)

So that was the end of that. Now that I have four little humans of my own, and I’m trying desperately to reinstate a modicum of order into our household, I can see where my mom was coming from. Every week, I wash the laundry and neatly fold everything (although I’m sure my mom would contest my use of the adjective “neatly”), putting it in neat piles by child (to make it easier for DH to put away). Every week, I discover that the drawers are a total disaster, with things just thrown in there (likely because the babes helped to put their clothing away), and my folding was all for naught. I decided that part of the problem was that the drawers were this cavern with no real way to separate the different items. A few little bins from The Dollar Tree and about 15 minutes later, order was restored.

junkie drawer

undies drawer

Each child has their own color, that way there is no mistaking, and they feel special. We’ll see how long it lasts, but so far, everyone seems to like their little bins.

The other thing that I organized in their room was their stuffed animals. They all have a little menagerie that ends up getting kicked all over their room and just creating havoc. When you have 3 kids sharing a small bedroom, even the smallest mess can seem enormous. So another trip to The Dollar Tree and another 5 minutes, and their animals were corralled! Hooray!

stuffed animals

Total cost: $12
Total time: 20 minutes


After getting two relatively easy organizational projects under my belt, it was time to tackle the biggie . . . . setting up a schedule. I’ve been struggling to have a semblance of schedule for the past year or more . . no dice. It’s hard to smoothly run a household when noone knows what is going on. I was grouchy, so then the babes were even crazier than normal, and nothing got done and it was just mayhem. So, come hell or high water, we were going to get on a schedule. In the interest of having a successful schedule, I enlisted the babes to give ideas on what should be on the schedule. They are still very impressionable, so in the end, the schedule was really full of my ideas, but they felt like they had a part =)

I found some teaching poster boards at the Dollar Tree that were perfect for filling in the schedule. I divided it up so that each person in the family had their own column. Then, we just filled in the info and popped it up on the fridge. We’ve been doing the schedule for about a week now, and it seems to be working pretty well. We have yet to be “on time” for everything. But the goal wasn’t to be totally rigid with the schedule. It was more of a motivation to get the babes moving and to keep us (DH and I) from whiling our time away doing foolishness. So in the morning, the most hectic part of the day, it’s easy to say, “We are going to miss playtime before school is we don’t hurry, guys!” And when there’s something they don’t want to do, I can blame it on the schedule, “Well, the schedule says snack time isn’t until 3! So we have to do what the schedule says.” I’m not really sure if the babes have noticed a difference, but I feel like there’s a wee bit more order. There are still some large blank spots in my schedule as I haven’t totally decided how to divvy up my time. I’m sort of waiting for the baby to get on a more predictable nap schedule, which should be happening here in the next few weeks. I’m also needing to sit down and sort out all of my home-making responsibilities (bread-making, cleaning, laundry, general cooking, paying bills, etc.) and then assign them to particular days and pop them into the schedule. But that’s an organizational task for another day.

daily schedule

As I mentioned, the morning is the most hectic. Half of the time, it would be 10am and noone had gotten their hair brushed, or their beds were still a disaster, or sometimes they were still in their pajamas! So we created a little morning routine poster to put up in their room. I printed off some clip art and then let them color them in. Once that was done, I helped the older two glue them onto the poster and then they wrote in each step (with spelling help from me). It’s a great poster, because the two babes that aren’t reading yet can identify the next step based on the picture, and the 5 year can read what the next step is. So far, so good. They come out from their rooms ready for the day, we didn’t have to constantly nag at them and they are building independence. Win-win in my book!

morning routine

We worked on one more poster this week. It doesn’t have anything to do with schedules, but it is part of process, so I’m dumping it into this post. Handwashing. My 5 year old has really wonderful handwashing technique because I spent lots of time teaching him how to do it. After babies #2 and 3 came along, well, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t spend as much time teaching. The 2 and 4 year olds generally hear, “Go wash your hands, guys.” This is a totally unreasonable expectation given that I haven’t really spent much time teaching them the proper steps. My solution? A handwashing poster. Again, I printed some clip art and had the babes color them in. We then glued them to the poster and I wrote in the directions. Since it was going to go in the bathroom (AKA – splash central), we covered it with clear contact paper, then taped it up on the mirror. The 2 and 4 year olds really love the posters. They are always telling me, “Mommy! I followed the sign and my hands are CLEAN!” The big victory with the 5 year old is that he is now wiping down the counter after he is done. Hooray for no more messes on the counter!

handwashing chart

All in all, this was a productive week in organizational land!

Total time: 2 hours
Total cost: $1

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