30 Days of Spring Cleaning

I’ve noticed a lot of blogs doing monthly challenges and I’ve decided to give myself one, similar to the monthly cleaning challenge at IHeart Organizing. Why? First, because it’s spring cleaning time and my house definitely needs a good scrub-down, especially after being shut up tight all winter. And having the icky slushy salty stains of winter weather being tracked in. Second, because I am a total clutter bug. I live amongst piles. My mother thinks I’m going to end up on Hoarders or die under a pile of books or something along those tragic lines. So I really need to clear out some of this junk. Since there are 30 days in April, I’ve come up with a list of 30, but I doubt I’ll do a thing a day (and not just because it’s April 2nd already!). Here’s my list:

  1. Dining room – Clean off the table and clear out the hutch/drawers/cupboards
  2. Living room – Clean out all the drawers, shelves, baskets and other cubbies
  3. Front Hall closet – Do I wear all these coats? What’s in that box on the top shelf? This is prime storage space — I should be using it better
  4. Bookshelves – Organize and donate
  5. Desk Drawers – Figure out which papers I actually still need on file and which I can shred. Do I need those pay stubs from 2003?
  6. Office closet – What actually belongs in here? This is where all the random stuff ended up when I moved
  7. Office desk top organizers – How do I set this space up so that I actually use it?
  8. Linen closet – Organize, get rid of expired stuff, etc.
  9. Bedroom closet – Switch over to spring summer clothes and get rid of stuff I no longer wear
  10. Bedroom dresser – Same as the closet, but with more foldy-type clothes
  11. Shoe closet, aka the back closet — Reorganize this so I can reach my spring shoes more easily. Take a good look at winter shoes and have the ones that didn’t survive the season repaired or replaced
  12. Pantry – Pull everything out and give it a thorough scrub down. Toss expired food.
  13. Dish shelves – Give everything a wipe down
  14. Cooking utensils and cook wear — Clean out all drawers and cupboards. Donate stuff I never use.
  15. Fridge – Scrub it out and check all the dates on condiments
  16. Junk Drawer – What is even in here?
  17. Shampoo all the carpets – Living room, dining room, hall, back hall, bed and office
  18. Craft supplies – Organize them so that I can pull out and finish one project at a time
  19. Kitchen stove/oven – Clean the oven
  20. Laundry room – Vacuum. Hope the spiders don’t get me.
  21. Email – Go through and delete as many old emails as I can. Especially ads
  22. Old computer – Finish migrating old files to the cloud or to my new computer (before old computer finally croaks)
  23. Photos – Organize my photos in folders so I can find them
  24. Car – Detail it, inside and out!
  25. Dog – Give her a bath and get her a pedicure
  26. Storage unit – Inspect for water damage and other possible issues. Get rid of anything that’s not needed.
  27. Garden – Rack through and pull all last year’s dead plants in preparation for spring
  28. Alley – Get out there and pull out the dead poisonous weeds before they come back to life!
  29. Back yard – Find all the presents that Bronwen left back there that have been covered by snow till now
  30. Front porch – Sweep it clean and clear any dead plants out of flower boxes

Do you have a spring cleaning list? How do you tackle it? Anything big that you think I missed?


Packing it all in

So, I’m getting married.

That’s exciting.

Also, I have to live with a boy. That’s….different. I love my fiance and I can’t wait to start a life together. But I own my place (and love it) so we’ll be starting life here. In a one bedroom condo. With two people.

And 2.5 closets.

And two adults worth of stuff.

The biggest win we were going to get was squeaking out some more storage from the hall closet…which is the only real closet, other than the bedroom.*

Its in the middle of the house, in the teal hallway between the bathroom and dining room doors. It used to hold all my sheets and towels, before this happened. Plus all my coats, and extra craft supplies, and cereal when I buy too much. Winter boots. My sleeping bag. Randomness. But all of it–there’s nowhere else to go. And it was in pretty rough shape:

Hall Closet old

(That was embarassing). After I found new homes for the linens, I never really figured out a good or efficient use of the shelves. Everything in there was just the leftover random stuff from when my sister and I both moved (I got all of both of our stuff). So it wasn’t being used very efficiently. And now that there are two of us, we have more storage needs:

  • my crafting supplies
  • his suitcase (he travels several times a month, this has to be very easily accessible–not the basement or a top shelf)
  • his tools (he’s got way more than I do)
  • cleaning supplies (realistically, these are his. I’m a terrible housekeeper)
  • extra shoes (realistically mine. I think he has like four pairs. I have…more than that.)
  • all the random stuff listed above, like pantry supplies, extra paper towels when we buy in bulk, sleeping bags

And of course, this is still both the coat closet and the broom closet so we need to keep that space too.

No biggie right?

The junk in there wasn’t going to cut it; we needed real shelves. Sturdy ones. And a spot for the suitcase. Oh, and this closet is only 29.5 inches wide. We didn’t want to waste an inch, so our solution wasn’t going to come off the shelf. So we decided to build it out ourselves (Boyfriend finished his whole basement in his old house, so he was ready to go for this project).

We talked and I made lists, we talked some more and I made sketches. We measured, and measured again, and made more sketches. We pulled everything out, til we were left with this:

Hall closet old empty

Two shelves, a broom organizer, a rod, and a ribbon hanger. (Believe it or not, this closet was even worse when I moved in. There was a single 24 inch deep shelf and a hanging rod in the back.)

The good news is, this closet is DEEP, so there is enough room for some pretty substantial shelves, even with coats hanging in the front part of the closet. After all our sketches, and lots of math on my part, we felt pretty good about our plans. So we finished ripping everything out of the closet, and then I got to work with a tape measure.

We scoped out Home Depot and found 2 x 4 sheets of laminate (we went to the city Home Depot, which has a smaller selection, because they also have a Home Decorators Collection). And then we finalized our plan, and headed for the bigger Home Depot–our design would require SEVEN sheets of laminate, with more than a third as scrap because of our 29.5 width. Luckily, they sold 4×8 sheets, meaning we would need only one, plus a smaller sheet to make all six shelves, plus two half shelves and the center support.

Since we were using irregular measurements (to accommodate all the things listed above) and wanted to permanently install the shelves (no adjusting), I wanted to be sure they matched what we wanted. In addition to remeasuring a whole lot of cereal boxes and various tools, I did this:

Hall Closet Taped Shelves

The shelf at the top was placed on the only existing supports we were keeping so we wanted to make sure there was enough space at that top shelf. The tall shelf near the bottom is the sturdiest one since it goes above the half shelf at the bottom (making room for the suitcase) and is for tools. The other tall shelf is for cereal and other pantry goods.

Those were my key contributions to the closet. I started unpacking some of the boxes (the movers don’t come until next week but we’d been bringing over boxes of stuff weekly to start moving him in) and organizing the kitchen–its a one person closet, and this was Mike’s deal now.

He got it to here:

Hall Closet Shelves

And then it was time to paint. It was dingy and ugly, and also kind of cream, which looked even worse with white melamine shelves. So we primed it (with, um, oil based primer because I can’t read and then we didn’t have mineral spirits so we had to go to the store with me covered in paint because I had no way to get it off BUT) and then talked paint. Since we had to go to the hardware store, I really wanted to paint the back of the closet a fun color. I thought it would be cool. And its a small wall, so a test pot would get us there. Except not at the true value, where they sell only itty-bitty testers and in tiny little pots. I was thinking of buying a quart, but really, so not worth it. Its for a closet. And then the salesman was all, can I help you, we have oops paint. So we got a $5 oops GALLON of this:

Hall Closet Painted

He was against it, then offered to paint the whole thing that color (yikes!), and now thinks its fun too. Win! We also got iron-on edging for the laminate so it looks more finished, and he wanted electricity (to charge all his tools) so he did this:

Hall Closet Light

Its an adapter for the light that includes outlets, so you leave the fixture always on, and then put the bulb below with a second string so the light isn’t always on. Then he tacked an extension cord into place. It isn’t in the back because we’re too short to reach the back corner (ever. You should have seen us trying to paint).

Then in went the broom holder and the coat rod, and we started to load stuff back in:

Hall Closet New

The suitcase fits perfectly, the little shelves next to it are for extra shoes, the bottom is for boots, then we have tools, food and cleaning supplies, more food, picnic stuff. All sorts of fun. It doesn’t look this empty anymore; we’ve moved in more boxes, and its filling up (although not packed). And the rod has coats on it, because we have nowhere else to put our coats.

I’m sure those of you with houses (and lots of closets) feel sorry for us right now, but we’re really proud of how well we’ve made the space we do have work for us. This closet now packs a huge storage punch, holds brooms and dustbusters (you can’t see it in pictures, but on the left side where the brooms are, he wall mounted the dustbuster above the door, where it charges too), has his suitcase easily accessible, holds all of our coats and plenty of extra stuff. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually but right now I keep opening the closet and looking.

We made a few small-but-awesome tweaks to our bedroom closet too, which I’ll share once the house calms down enough to accomplish anything.

*I have a front hall closet, but it only looks real:

Stenciled Hallway from living room

It’s actually only about 9 inches deep. It has hooks inside. I’ll share it sometime, because I think I’ve packed a lot into it. But it isn’t even deep enough for hangers, let alone lots of stuff.

How many closets do you have? Do you love organizing closets as much as I do?

Bathroom Built-Ins

Remember these?

Bathroom Final Built Ins

The awesome (if difficult to photograph) built-in cabinet & shelves in the new bathroom. The whole unit is only 12 inches wide (which means the shelves are only 9 inches wide), but it goes all the way to the 9 foot ceiling. And all the way back too (well, 26 inches from the door to the wall…its a very narrow bathroom). I have three shelves that are about 12″ high, and then the top shelf is about 24″, and then the cabinet encloses two more 12+” shelves.

This weekend (while in the midst of another project I can’t wait to share) I took everything out of the bathroom cabinets and reorganized. Here’s what ended up in that built-in:

Bathroom built in contents

That’s a lot of stuff. The cabinet holds extra towels, my bathrobe (out of season), with two sets of sheets on the top shelf with a basket of pillowcases and wash cloths in front of it. The three regular shelves hold:

  • Extra shampoo, conditioner and other toiletries in bottles (held in a basket, with a vase in front of it)
  • A cleaning caddy (covered by the canvas we made along with the birthday art)
  • A long open basket with small toiletries (floss picks, toothpaste, soap)

And the top one has toilet paper. I blame my father. He talked me into it when he took my sister and I to Costco.

That’s in addition to all the other storage:

Bathroom FInal Vanity From Above

The vanity cabinet with large open shelf below it (extra towels, first aid, some cleaning supplies, things I need when I inevitably break my ankle again)

Bathroom Final Shelves

The open shelves above the toilet, home to chargers on the bottom shelf, hand towels and a basket of toilet paper on the middle shelf, and hair products I don’t use on the top shelf [Fact: I can’t blow dry my own hair. This may be because I’ve never tried.]

Bathroom Final Bonus Cabinet

The high-up cabinet above those shelves–most people don’t even notice it, but its got beach towels and my old set of towels in it right now.

I’m totally amazed at all the storage I managed to build in to such a small room. It freed up a ton of space in the hall (only) closet, and it doesn’t look crowded at all. I still miss having a real linen closet, but this is not bad at all.

Do you have a linen closet? Where do you store all your bathroom stuff?

Bathroom Updates

This is a short little post on a little bitty thing. But sometimes those updates are the most fun, so I’m sharing anyhow. I’m loving the new bathroom, but still having a minor issue.

Medicine Cabinet BeforeThat. Not just the part where it isn’t the tidiest, but the part where I can’t actually see things in there very well. My old medicine cabinet had a white interior, and I could see things in it. This one? Not so much. When I wash my face or brush my teeth I put my hair back in a headband and ponytail, so I leave those two things in there. Both are black. They’re on the bottom shelf. See them?

Yeah, me either.

I can lean all the way over and look close and I still can’t see them half the time, and it was driving me nuts.

The surface is also wood, and I worried that drippy toothbrushes and the like would hurt the wood eventually.

Enter the Target placemat:

Placemats Uncut

Which I cut into:

Placemat strip cut

And then emptied out the cabinet:

Medicine Cabinet Empty

And plopped it in (ok, so I measured too):

Strip in Cabinet

Now can you find my headband?

Medicine Cabinet with Wipe Clean placemat strip

Yep, me too! (It’s just to the left of the toothbrushes). If the mat gets dirty or sticky or anything, I can just pull it out and wash it off, leaving my medicine cabinet like new and me able to find my headband at 6 am!

This isn’t my first Target placemat use–I have a couple in my kitchen for things like the bottom of the baking pan cabinet and underneath oils. Super easy, cleans up and if it gets too dirty I can just toss it out and my cabinets will be none the worse for wear! They cost about $2 and although the designs change, they always seem to have these in stock.

Do you line your medicine cabinet? Ever used a placemat for an unconventional purpose?

Moving On: Quick Tips and Things to Keep on Hand

With Lesley gearing up to move in the next few months and Boyfriend moving Saturday, I thought I’d share a few of the things we did right during his move, as well as a few things that fell through the cracks. (Also, if I write it down I’ll be able to reference it myself).

The movers he hired were s-l-o-w, but my experience has usually been that the movers need all my stuff right away, whether I’m ready for them or not. I tend to leave “just a couple things” to be done at the end, but it ends up being too much to fit in and so I end up moving a few things myself. I also tend to think I have one “one or two boxes” when I really have, like, ten boxes worth of stuff left to get thrown in. Don’t leave things for that one last box. Unless its a magic box.

This was an in-town move between apartments (I cannot imagine doing cross country or having more than one bedroom), so it doesn’t include things like toothbrushes–that’s outside my realm of experience. These are the things we were glad to have or wished we had during moving day.

So here goes:

Things to leave out at the old place:

Not this exact one, but similar. Smaller and lighter than a drill, so its easier to store where you can grab it and gets light moving out type jobs done fast

Not this exact one, but similar. Smaller and lighter than a drill, so its easier to store where you can grab it and gets light moving out type jobs done fast

  • Screwdriver (super essential–you’ll forget to take holders off the wall, realize those curtain tie backs need to come down, and that the legs on the table are screwed on). He used a small electric one, which is easier to tote around than a drill.
  • Paper towels and other cleaning supplies, to clean whatever you uncover when you move large items around
  • Garbage bags. More than one, since you’ll be pretty sure you got it all, throw out the first one, and realize you need another.
  • Small Ziploc bags to put small pieces (like screws or shelf supports) so they don’t disappear.
  • Sharpie to label anything you missed.
  • Pen and paper to write stuff down, ideally on a clipboard.
  • Tape gun so you can close last-minute boxes and tape random things together.
  • Some food. We messed this up. Due to the turtle-movers, I was starving by the time we finally left his place. (I had set aside stuff to eat breakfast, but didn’t anticipate lunch).  Along those lines, bottled drinks or a cup so you can still have a drink.
  • One or two Very Important BAGS where the above items get stashed. We had a duffel bag with plenty of pockets (screws, ziplocs, writing utensils), a small size tool caddy (for the screwdriver and some other basics) and a cleaning caddy.

On the flip side, most of the stuff above was important, with some key additions. There are also some things you just want to make sure you can find immediately without having to open any boxes:

  • A utility knife, to open all those boxes.
  • Food. Or at least a plan for where to get some. See above.
  • Toilet paper. Or a willingness to find a convenient business if you need to use the facilities.
  • Spare blankets or towels. Your movers might be smart enough not to put boxes from the snowy ground outside right on your dining room table. Or not. Instead of stressing about it, cover it up.
  • Everything above (except the tape gun. Thank goodness!)

On a side note, Boyfriend now lives half a block from Michael’s. This could be dangerous…

What are your moving must-haves?