Posts Tagged ‘Organizational Goodness’

When we moved from our apartment to our home, we more than doubled the square footage. The trade off was closet space. We have one major closet, the one in the master bedroom. It’s huge. So huge, in fact, that I fit a desk in it and now have a crafting nook. A desk. In the closet. Along the narrow wall. Yet we have no entryway closet, no linen closet, no mud room storage. It’s a good thing we live in a temperate climate because our coat closet is barely wide enough for a door.

My mission right now is to find a way to organize everything so it doesn’t look like a preschool exploded in our home. Because, quite frankly, that’s a generous description of our home.

Getting rid of some media clutter

First up, is getting rid of those DVDs. Right now I have a 2 ft, by 3 ft by 1 ft stack of DVDs in the entrance way. I’m leaning towards Vudu’s DVD to Digital service. Basically you prove you own the DVD, and they sell you a digital copy for cheap. We have, by my estimate, around 300 DVDs. We’re unlikely to ever watch them, but I hate to part with things that are still functional, especially those still in the shrink wrap.

Yes, I realize I’m being somewhat irrational. Or at least not frugal. Those DVDs are a sunk cost, and it’s silly to throw more money at the problem, but it will make me feel better and I can donate the physical copies. I’ve convinced myself that by converting it to digital we’ll be more likely to actually watch them, and they’ll take up less space.

Speaking of DVDs, do you know it’s 2016 and Domingo and I still don’t own a device capable of playing a BluRay? We learned that (and fixed that) this weekend.

Those shoes!

Shoes. Shoes all over the floor. And not just our current ones but the ones Nicole & Alexis just grew out of. No entrance way closet means no shoe rack. This is another case of large space, no storage. We have a large enough wall that we can fit a storage bench.

I’d like to find something comfortable to sit on while taking off your shoes that has storage to hold said shoes. This isn’t the best solution, as we usually come in through the garage and not the entrance way, but it’ll beat leaving shoes strewn about the floor.

Toys, Toys and More Toys!

Finally we need to come up with a storage idea for the toys. What I really need is a way to easily separate and store the toys for both kids. There have been a few toys that Alexis would have enjoyed, but were buried and not unearthed until she had out grown them. We’re also now collecting quite a few sets of toys with multiple parts, (e.g. building blocks, puzzles, magnets, etc), which work best when you know where all the parts are. I had been using individual draw string bags, but they become difficult to see through and we tend to forget about some beloved toys that way. I suspect a toy purge is in order.

November 11, 2014

Creating a Battery Chart

Lily’s death is hitting me harder than I anticipated. It was easy enough to stay distracted over the weekend, but now that I’m home alone on maternity leave I keep thinking about my kitty. In an effort to stay distracted, I’m throwing myself into my nesting projects.

Over the weekend Nicole brought the phone from her play kitchen to me complaining that it was “broken”! The phone was still working, but the sound had faded. I expected the batteries were nearly drained from frequent use. Turns out they were starting to corrode! Back in our costco days we had stocked up on what seemed like a life time supply of batteries. That was over half a decade ago. The ones in the phone were just passing the expiration date. Thankfully I had removed the batteries from all of Nicole’s baby toys since inactivity is the fastest path to corrosion. But her current toys? I knew we had used batteries from those same costco giant packs, and now viewed them as ticking corrosion time bombs. So today I opened up every single battery powered toy to check. Fortunately no other batteries were starting to corrode, but I did through out some near expired ones. I know, so not frugal of me. Better than than lose the toy, though.

Since I didn’t want to go through this exercise every year, I decided to make a chart.


Now I know approximately how many batteries are close to expiring. I can sort by date & type to get a sense of how many batteries I’ll need to stock my box with. Or at least a minimum count. I still expect that most batteries will be drained long before they reach their expiration.

Our biggest clutter concern right now are the toys. I’ve been pretty ruthless about purging Domingo and my belongings we no longer use/need, but Nicoles’? Not so much. It also doesn’t help that we, like all parents, like to spoil our child. I think most of what we own these days are toys! We needed to get these painful tripping hazards off the floor, and stat!

Stuffed Toy Organizer


A pop up laundry basket is an awesome storage device for stuffed animals. It takes up less space than those traditional stuffed animal bags, at about a forth the cost, making it perfect for small apartments.

You can still use the bag of stuffed animals as a seat. Nicki can attest to that.

Puzzle Bag


Once you lose a puzzle piece, the puzzle is effectively worthless. No kid is going to want to play with a puzzle for which they first have to hunt down all the pieces. A puzzle shelf wouldn’t cut it, as we have different brands of puzzles and no shelf would easily hold them all. We also didn’t want to limit the number of puzzles we own to what fits on a shelf, since puzzles are great learning toys.

It turns out mesh laundry bags for delicates are a near perfect fit, perhaps erring on the side of being too big. You can easily see through them so you know which puzzle you’re getting out of the box. Bonus? They’re only about $1.50 a pop.

September 4, 2014

First Aid Kit

A while ago Domingo and I started discussing the need for a first aid kit. Our toddler is constantly coming home from daycare with “owies” and since getting her her first tricycle a few weeks ago, we’re sure she’ll start getting more “owies” at home too! I don’t like the idea of prefabbed kits. I wanted to put together my own.


The Box:

I ordered the Stack-On SBR-18 17 Compartment Parts Storage Organizer Box from Amazon for $6.77. Like with the battery box, I wanted something with removable partitions so I could more easily customize it with the first aid supplies we needed. I also wanted something red, because, well, it’s a first aid kit.

The box was a bit bigger than I expected, which ended up being a good thing. Just packing the things we already had around the house (band-aids, a plastic squirt bottle to wash out scrapes, Neosporin, anti-itch cream, antiseptic wipes, medical tape, and ace bandages) the box ended up pretty full! I intend to aid Bactine, and gauze pads. I’m sure the SBR-13 at $2.96 would have worked out as well. My primary goal was to store band-aids, Neosporin and Bactine. Everything else was a nice extra.

I am not pre filling the squirt bottle. I don’t want to let the water sit and risk growing bacteria – that would defeat the purpose of washing out the wound in the first place! We do have a bottled water on hand, as recommended by the red cross, since we live in earthquake country.

The Bag:

The bag is actually the plastic bag that held the waterproof mattress cover for Nicki’s new twin bed. I rarely discard resealable plastic bags items tend to ship in. You never know what will come in handy! Right now the bag that had my boppy pregnancy pillow is being used to store canvas tote bags, and I have the stuffed animals from my childhood in the big square bag that the foam tiles came in. This bag is just the right size for some instant hot and cold packs, and some additional water squirt bottles.

I’m not 100% sure that keeping the instant hot pad is a good idea, and I may remove it at some point. I don’t believe it can melt the plastic bag. (It shouldn’t get hot enough to burn skin – right?!) Use caution if you decide to store an instant hot pad.

To finish it off I used red Washi tape ($2.99 from Target) to make the iconic health cross symbol.

Dr. Mommy’s Owie Stickers

After creating our initial first aid kit I kept coming back to the band-aids. I liked the idea of having a fun collection of band-aids for Nicole to pick through. Her owies typically aren’t too sever, so if I can distract her from them (like by offering her fun “owie stickers”), I’m sure she’ll forget about the actual owie.

While the band-aids themselves may have interesting designs, the wraping they’re stored was plain and not see through. That takes all the fun our of picking a band-aide! So I needed to keep the box so she’d have some idea which band-aide she was choosing from. I decided I needed yet a third box and went with this card storage box. At $5.52 it felt a bit pricey, but it got the job done nicely.

August 31, 2014

Staying Put For Now

This month would have been the end of the lease had we not renewed. I was reminded of this fact when I got an email notification reminding me of the increase rent payment – a whopping 24%! (Thank you Silicon Valley housing crises…) While a large part of me wanted to say “thanks, but no thanks!” to this apartment community, it really would have been terrible timing. I’m tired. Bone tired. I can’t imagine trying to find a new home at ~28 weeks pregnant while working, let alone actually move.

Besides, we only just finished unpacking this weekend. The last few moving boxes have been flattened and are waiting to be taken down to the bin. We also pretty much finished our primary organization.

We want from this:

Piles of boxes hiding in corners behind couches

To this:

Closets full of organizational bins.

I have a bin for college memorabilia, one for work memorabilia (yes I do have some!), one for old photos – all things that I’ll probably rarely pull out, but I’m not ready to part with. There are also the seasonal tins, such as fall decorations and Christmas ornaments. When the time comes to move, we’ll load up the moving truck with them, but we’re not expecting to actually unpack them. At least not permanently.

This is the most organized we’ve ever been. We even organized our vacuum parts.

I am not kidding.

There’s still a little more to do in the master bedroom, and with a toddler around our home may be organized but it’s never tidy. One step at a time. I plan to take it easy for a week or so, and do my best to not dwell on the rent increase. We’re planning to start housing hunting in the spring, so at least we shouldn’t be stuck with it for too long.

August 18, 2014

Battery Storage Box

battery storage box
Battery Storage Box

I’ve been in love with this idea since I saw it on pinterest: A box with removable compartment dividers to store all your batteries. I had previously looked into buying battery boxes off of amazon or the container store, but they were all fixed sizes boxes. If I was running low on C batteries, that space would be wasted. We also had some non standard batteries for toys & camera equipment that I wanted to accommodate.

Every website I saw that described this particular image referred to the box as a “tackle box”. The box they used may have been a tackle box, but I spent enough time in JoAnn’s and Micheal’s to know a standard craft box would suffice. For the kinds of batteries we have, we needed something roughly 2.5 inches tall (About the size of a standing D battery 2.5 inches). I settled on the Creative Options brand, “deep utility box“. Regularly $8.99 on sale for $5.39 at Micheal’s. Online prices for the box are rather ridiculous. I recommend visiting your local craft stores and seeing what they have. If you don’t have a local craft store, you might have luck at a office supply store, Target or Walmart. Just make sure what ever box you do get is tall enough for your batteries, or at least has wide enough compartments for them to lie flat.

battery storage box

This particular box has three rows, the first row (closest to the latches) cannot be compartmentalized. I’m using that space to house the extra dividers and odd shaped batteries.

I had thought we had a ton of AA batteries. A while back when we had a Costco membership (6? 7? years ago) we bought one of those mega packs. Turns out we’re down to our last seven! I thought we also had AAA batteries. It wasn’t until I was putting together the box that I had a vague recollection of maybe using the last ones on a toy. Now I know what I need to stock up on so hopefully we won’t be caught off guard again!

battery storage box
Nicole investigating the box

Another big win? It’s defacto child proof. Or at least more baby proofed than the previous method of leaving batteries in the packaging. When I was taking the photos of the box she came up to investigate. She couldn’t open the box she grew bored with it and ignored it.

August 16, 2014

The Cost of Organization

We’re getting closer and closer to finish our organizational quest. It’s a very good thing since we’re getting closer and closer to running out of closet space! Now that we’re almost done and I don’t think I’ll be buying much more, I like to do what I always do – crunch the numbers!

Storage Tins: $90.24, roughly $8.20 per tin
Pasta containers: $76.95
Toy Chest: $62.99
Other (Diploma frame, “wedding proof” album, etc): $53.97
Total = $284.15


The tins were mostly a necessity. I did get some specialty tins (like an anti-tarnish craft box for my hand made jewelry), though surprisingly the specialty tins tended to be the cheaper ones. I guess the price is more a function of volume of plastic more than anything else!

The pasta containers were a bit of a splurge. We go through a lot of pasta with a toddler in the house. It’s also easy for me to forget what I have, and we sometimes end up with multiple open boxes of the same pasta shape. I wanted to combine the half used boxes into something air tight so I could more easily see what pasta I do have, and what I needed to pick up at the store. Also they’re pretty. I ended up going Oxo pop top brand. Only I purchased them in the store rather than online and paid a bit more. Dang it!

We ended up getting the Little Tikes toy chest. We had previously been using a bookshelf to keep Nicki’s toys organized, but Nicki’s become quite the climber and managed to topple the book shelf once. She wasn’t hurt, but I wasn’t going to risk it. Much like the crib, once she deemed the shelf “climbable” she wasn’t going to let one spill stop her from trying again. As a result, Nicki’s toys are all over our living room. (We really don’t need any more tripping hazards…)

The stuff in the other category is really superfluous. I don’t need a diploma frame, especially if I’m not planning on hanging my diploma.

Overall I’m happy with my purchases, even if I did overspend on a couple of occasions. I look forward to seeing those pasta containers on the counter in our new home one day.

August 3, 2014

DIY Bath Toy Organizer

DIY Bath Toy Organizer
DIY Bath Toy Organizer

I thought I was really clever with this one. That is, until I checked pinterest this afternoon and noticed many others had come up with the same idea I had. Oh well. At least I can rest assured I’m in good company.

We had two issues when it came to bath time: (1) too many toys, and (2) a safety beam that’s just begging to be a concussion instrument.

When Nicki was young she had a bunch of bath squirters. We could fit most of them into the stacking buckets her aunt bought her. Recently, we also bought her bath letters set since she can’t get enough of the ABCs. Suddenly we had too many bath toys to store even remotely neatly. We’re in a two bathroom apartment, and Nicki’s bathtub is the one that’s shared whenever grandparents stay over. We needed a quick way to remove the toys so the shower was usable for adults.

The other concern was the safety bar. Nicki is generally good about sitting in the tub, but the bar is a little too inviting, and she occasionally likes to investigate it. It’s also at the wrong height so sometimes when she stands up to signal she’s ready for out she comes pretty close to clonking her head on it. We needed some sort of padding to keep her away from the bar.

That’s when I got the idea to attach plastic buckets to the bar to act as a buffer. Now if Nicki stands up, she’ll bump into the far-less-likely-to-cause-a-concussion bucket long before she bumps into the bar, and we have a place to store all those toys. We needed very deep buckets to both hold all the toys, and to hang mostly even since the bar’s a good 1.25″ from the wall.

The deeper the bucket (side ‘A‘ of the triangle) the shallower the angle to the wall (θ)

We found these at Target for $5.99 a piece. They’re not exactly the most fetching baskets, but they’re plastic so they won’t rust and have holes so they’ll drain water. We attached them with left over shower curtain hooks.

DIY Bath Toy Organizer Buckets
The Buckets

From pinterest it seems that dollar tree buckets are much more popular. They’re a bit shallower than what we used, but if you put a tension shower curtain rod close to the wall, would work great and be a bit cheaper. I suspect when we move we’ll go this route. At least I hope we don’t have another safety bar in our kids’ bathroom.

Nicki had a blast taking all the toys out at bath time. She was so enamored with the baskets, she even put the toys away when it was time to get out!

Addendum: Looks like I am not as clever as I thought I was. Nicki loves her basket, but now she wants to stand in the tub to inspect all the toys! We ended up buying a shower curtain rod after all.

Second Addendum: The shower curtain rod is gone. Just 3 months after we started using it I noticed it was beginning to rust on the inside. I’m not normally a super crunchy, no chemicals type, but rust is pretty high up their on the bad list. We’re back to using the safety bar. Nicki stands occasionally, but the tub at least has a no slip liner and we’re working with her to stay seated.

July 14, 2014

Safely Stored Away

My quest to organize has been temporarily stalled due to insufficient number of storage bins. I like to color coordinate our tins to make it easier to find things. What I really need is another Christmas stuff tin and fall tin so I need to wait for the fall & winter colors to come out. Curse my love of the season! So I’ve moved on to other ways I can improve my organization, besides just filing stuff away in plastic containers.

Since a move is around the corner, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure things that are “stored away” are also protected and won’t get damaged in the shuffle.

My PhD diploma is still in the cardboard envelope it was mailed to me in. The 4 x 6 proofs from our wedding are in a shoe box that were previously kept in the garage. (Fortunately the digital copies are safety backed up in the cloud. I protect my data.) These nondescript storage locations are easy to mistake as housing something less important, and then handled with less care. I forgot about the shoe box full of wedding photos during the initial move. Domingo figured an old shoe box in the garage couldn’t possibly have anything important, so it was one of the last things he looked at. It could have easily been a casualty of the move.

I ordered a blue & gold (our wedding colors) photo album to get those proofs our of the shoe box, and a document picture frame for my degree. I figure a nice frame will protect it, even if it never makes it to my wall. I’ll put the the ‘proof album’ on the entrance way console next to the Nicole’s baby book and the wedding album I had printed. The degree will still probably go into a storage box, but at least the frame will keep it protected. Now it will also be easier to find, should I ever choose to hang it on my wall.

My diploma in a floating frame. Definitely happy with this purchase, even if the diploma never makes it out of the box!

On my list was also tackling fix some crude patches I’ve been neglecting.

I’ve keep the pocket change from our travels abroad as an inexpensive souvenir. A few years ago I put them in a 3 ring binder. The trouble is I’ve never collected coins before, so it didn’t occur to me that the little plastic sleeves weren’t enough. One needs the cardboard coin holders called flips to keep the coins from sliding out. (Actually I’ve gotten around this issue the past couple years by scotch tapping the plastic sleeves shuts. Shhh! Don’t tell). I decided it was high time I get those handy coin flips.

Coins Quasi-Sorted
Quasi-sorted. If I had the energy I would have each page be a different country. Oh well, that can be another task.

Lastly I wanted to deal with my bead collection. Back in the day one of the things I’d do was peruse inspiration websites, like Fusion Beads that would let me buy in piecemeal. I’d fine something like this, and buy exactly the number of beads I needed. Alas, I had more ambition that time, and I haven’t gotten around to all those projects. It doesn’t make sense to put four 6mm azure bicone beads in a box by themselves. I’ll run out of space! So I decided to get larger favor tins for these still unstarted projects. Maybe some day I’ll find the time to actually tackle them!

ETA: Okay, scratch that. The “wedding proof album” is going in a box. It’s too tall for our console, which should have been obvious to me. Three 4x6s would mean the album has to be at least 12 inches tall. The shelves on the console are not tall enough.

June 22, 2014

A Place for Every Thing

It feels like we’re unpacking/organizing at the rate of one box per day. At this rate it’ll be eleventy billion (slight exaggeration) years until we finish. I am determined to finish organizing everything this time. No more useless junk!

The biggest accomplishment of the weekend was organizing the tool box. We had a tool box filled to the brim, plus a small tin of tools Domingo brought from his apartment. We sorted everything, kept the best of anything we had duplicates of, and pitched anything that we couldn’t identify or was too warn to work well. Did you know we had a wrench? We didn’t! That’s one item off our Black Friday buy list. We also had 3 micro screw driver sets. Oops. We did correctly surmise that we are lacking a set of good, full size screw drivers. By the time we were finished with the tool box, everything we were keeping fit nicely into it, and we could actually close it without force for the first time since we bought it. Bonus: the most useful stuff is in the top try.

Organizing makes me happy. Yes, I’m weird.

Other areas we tackled (or at least have a game plan to tackle):

Nicole’s ‘Artwork.’ We’ve gotten a lot of stuff from daycare that includes hand prints and foot prints, and I want to save those as best as possible. Unfortunately they’re often bigger than standard 8 x 10 pages, and too big to fit in folders. I’m thinking about getting one a large art portfolios. It’s kind of over kill (and thus pricey), but it should protect those prints. It’ll also stand up flat, so I can store it in a closet. I also figure it will be able to hold a lot, so we should get many years of use out of it before needing another.

My sister (the artist in the family) recommended Itoya Original Art Profolios.

Nicole’s hair bows. If you had told me I would be the kind of mom with a collection of hair bows for my little girl, I probably would have burst out laughing. Hair bows on babies is not my thing. What I wasn’t counting on was a kid with so much hair! She goes through phases of what she tolerates, and hair accessories are apparently a popular gift idea when a little girl has a lot of hair. As a result we have quite the collection. The problem is they’re small, and they have a tendency to find there way behind furniture.

hair ties
Bows and ties and clips, on my!
It never fails: unpack/organize anything and the toddler wants to play with it.

For these I used a bead organizer. I used to be fairly into beading, and bought a bunch of these on sale back in the day. It was nice to be able to put one to good use!

What I have no idea what to do with:

My jewelry: Over the years my taste in jewelry has evolved somewhat. I used to be really into things like silver jewelry club and the $20 side of brands like peora where you could snag silver jewelry for next to nothing. Lately I’ve been more into Diamonique solitaries and the simpler Swarovski pendants. They’re inexpensive stones in delicate settings. The delicate settings helps to make the jewelry look more expensive than it actually is (in my opinion at least.) The problem is most of the chains are too delicate for a shoe box, yet I do not have the space for a jewelry box.

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