I look at the Pinterest pages and blog posts by “organizational” bloggers, and I’m overcome with a need to toss everything in my house, and start from scratch with matching bins, buckets, vases and repurposed trays from Pottery Barn and Pier One. Reality is, we’ve decided summer vacation is a more important place for those dollars to be spent. But, having lived in our new house for just under a year, we’re finding how we use the space and the stuff best, and I’ve come up with a few “hacks” that work for us.
They may not be pretty, but I’m hoping these hacks inspire you to use what you have to save you a few precious minutes and some sanity! Turns out the two handiest items were a Sharpie marker and all of the lidless plastic containers that were clogging up my cabinets.
When I (finally) manage to get my kids in the bath, it drives me CRAZY to have to continually figure out which gigantic bottle is shampoo and which is conditioner. Solution: a Sharpie and a quick note to myself. Plus, I no longer have to worry about the older kids picking up, and then dropping, the gigantic bottles when they are washing their own hair.
This one may seem ridiculous, but with multiple bathrooms, we were in the habit of putting towels and washcloths in each one. This meant that I was constantly sorting towels and washcloths AND at least one bathroom was always without some. So we made a central location where we keep all towels and washcloths and it means our bathroom cabinet space is more open. Then one day I realized it was ridiculous that I was folding the washcloths. I took a stool we no longer use, turned it upside down and violà, the washcloth bucket was born.
Our kids have their own bathroom, but they use the same toothpaste and hair products as my husband and I do. For some reason, they carried it daily from our bathroom into theirs. I finally wizened up and bought seconds of everything. Lastly, I found that I was getting SO ANNOYED at opening my drawer and medicine cabinet door multiple times to complete my nighttime routine. Plastic box to the rescue, again. I put everything I use in there, pull it out one time, use, and put it away. That’s at least 60 seconds of savings a night, which gets me to sleep that much faster!
I bake a lot, but I am also short — two things that don’t mesh well in the kitchen. I picked up these baskets at the dollar store and now I just grab the correct one when I’m baking. Two have spices, one has items I don’t use daily (vanilla, cupcake liners, etc.) and the third has baking supplies (baking powder, chocolate chips, etc.). Since I was still digging through the spice baskets to find my basil, a Sharpie came to my rescue again! I labeled the TOPS. I felt like I’d solved world peace with this one!
When we moved into this house, we were lucky that the previous owners had built out a lot of the cabinet space. Our kids are old enough to fill their water bottles for school and make themselves cereal for breakfast. But, they were constantly climbing on the counters to get what they needed. So, we emptied out one of the drawers and put all of the water bottles, plastic bowls, and drinking cups where they could reach them. Another plastic container was perfect for the bottle lids, so I no longer have to search for them in the back of the shelves.
The Homework Closet
There is this great “closet” in our kitchen, but it did not have any shelves and has no light, so for the first few months, we used it to house all of our appliances. One day, after getting frustrated at having all of the kids grabbing pencils and paper from my office, and seeing the stacks of bills and homework covering my daytime work papers, I had an idea. I emptied the space out and it became the “homework closet.” Basically, it’s where anything related to school, the family calendar or day-to-day family operations is housed. I also grabbed a few unused bookshelves out of the garage to help us get organized.
We started by hitting up the clearance aisle at Target, where I found a few dry erase boards. We use one as the current week’s calendar. I note what days kids are scheduled to bring something to school, special dress up days, etc. The larger one covers the current and next month. It’s great when we’re trying to figure out when to fit in a date night or if we can make it to a birthday party. I also grabbed magnetic clips and we keep the current week’s meal plan and the school lunch calendar handy. On the wall we have a clipboard with paperwork that needs to be completed and sent back to school (all.the.paperwork).
There is a ton of floor space, so now we have somewhere to keep the backpacks that is not out in the open (hallelujah!). Winter coats go in here too, so that we lessen the chance of forgetting them. We’ve got a big bin of school snacks on a shelf in the same space, so the kids can toss one in their bags when they’re packing up at night. And I put in an old drawer unit that houses all the school supplies they can possibly want, so that they’re not digging around on my desk anymore. I’m telling you — I slept better the night I finished this quick project. It’s not beautiful (none of the above are), but they make life more functional.