Hits & Misses: Organization Edition
Do you ever wonder what eventually happens to some of your favorite projects and ideas you see featured on blogs and Pinterest? Do you ‘like’ or ‘pin’ projects to make for yourself but wonder if the blogger still uses the idea or if it was just all for show (and blog content)? On Monday, I showed you guys my new dry-erase board system; and in doing so, admitted that the project was born out of another/different project not turning out quite as planned. That situation got me thinking about how the magnetic task board was not my first project “fail,” and that you all might enjoy revisiting some of my past projects to see how they’ve held up and/or if I still am using them! Instead of project successes and failures, let’s call them “Hits & Misses” – and today, let’s talk organization projects!
More than anything, I work very hard at making our home functional and efficient. Yes, I like it to be decorated and styled; I want it to be pretty and organized; I like color and fun patterns peeking at me from various nooks and crannies. But more than anything, I strive to make our less-than-ideal space function ideally for our family. In an effort to make the most of our spaces, I’ve come up with many organization projects and systems over the years. As I look around the house, some have worked so perfectly that they haven’t been touched or tweaked since I snapped the photos and published the post here on the blog. Others though, for a variety of reasons, were un-done or re-done somewhere along the way. Today, I’m pulling back the curtain and showing you 10 of my organization “Hits” and 10 of my organization “Misses.” Let’s start with the “Hits!”
1. Laundry Room. Or laundry room, as a whole, functions so incredibly well that I have’t had to tweak a thing in the 2.5 years since I completed its makeover. The canvas totes along the shelf help corral like items and really maximize the shelf’s storage capacity. The caddy on the counter holds our most-often used laundry supplies in a quick and easy-to-reach spot, and the curtain conceals our recycling bins. This picture was snapped in Summer 2012, and it pretty much looks exactly the same as I type this right now!
2. Towel and Rag Bins – I’m always amazed at how something so simple can significantly contribute to the running of an efficient household! Back when I made over our Laundry Room, I labeled these clearance tin buckets to hold clean and dirty dish towels, cleaning rags, mop pads, cloth napkin and other household/cleaning towels. When dish towels or cloth napkins run their course, they get tossed into the “dirty” bucket. On wash day, all the dirty rags get run through the washer and dryer, then are folded and put right back into the “clean” bucket. I know exactly where to put and find clean dish towels, and all of our dirty/stinky rags are all in one place!
3. Tupperware Storage. Who hates toppling towers of tupperware and rummaging through cabinets and drawers to find matching tops and bottoms for packing up leftovers? Me, me me! One day, I had a lightbulb moment to separate out tupperware lids and bases into separate baskets. What was a spur-of-the-moment experiment turned into one of our best kitchen solutions ever. Yes, I have to pull out both baskets whenever I need a set, but all the items are neatly stored, making finding exactly what I need a piece of cake!
4. Utensil Jars. Our little kitchen is tight on drawer space, so ALL of our kitchen utensils were stuffed into a single drawer. When ForRent.com asked me to create a kitchen storage project, I whipped up these jars thinking they would be cute, but not sure how long they’d stick around. Well, folks. Those jars are still sitting on my counter just as they are in that photo from last summer. I LOVE having the utensils right on the counter, and having them sorted out makes finding just the right one a cinch! (I also get complimented on these jars more than almost anything else in our house, ha!)
5. Cube Toy Storage. Buying the now-retired Expedit for all of Henry’s toys is one of the best things we did in this house! The cubbies are big enough to hold (almost) all of his big clunky toys, and now all those random blocks and trains and cars have designated homes. The labeled toy bins have been truly awesome. At 3.5 years old, Henry knows exactly what toy goes in what bin at the end of the day; and when he is looking for something specific, I can say “Look in the monkey box,” and he can find it right away! He now will even correct me when I put the wrong toy in the wrong box! Teach ’em young, I say 😉
6. Small Toy Boxes. Not to be repetitive in the toy department, but these small wooden boxes I snagged from Target on clearance are THE BEST for holding all the small figurines and Little People Henry is SO very in to. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t ask for the Little People Box or the “other green box with Batman in it.” These boxes are super sturdy, and I love that we now have a place to toss every little toy and animal that comes home from Chic-Fil-A or the doctor’s office!
7. Coupon and Receipt Holder. I know the label is spelled wrong (gah!), but the small office supply caddy that we use on our command center to catch coupons and receipts has been awesome. Whenever these items come into the house, they get tucked into the appropriate spot. When I’m heading out shopping or need to make a return, I know exactly where to find my coupons and receipts. When it gets too full, it’s easy enough to sort through and discard outdated items.
8. Ribbon Scrap Storage Rings. This project is an oldie but goodie, for sure! Years ago, long before most of you were probably reading, I sat on my couch for several nights in a row and wrapped all my random ribbon scraps onto plastic bobbins that I then organized onto book-binding rings by color. These rings hang on a curtain rod in my craft room. Yes, it was a bit of work to get all the ribbon wound, but I have not once regretted the time it took. I love being able to see what I have when I’m wrapping a package or working on a random craft. These bobbins are easy to see, easy to take down, easy to un-wind and wind back up. This is an impractical system for yards and yards and yards of the same ribbon for sure, but for small spools and scraps, I haven’t been able to come up with a better alternative!
9. Paper Scraps Storage. You all know I have re-organized my craft supplies over and over again, but one system that I haven’t touched (because it is working so wonderfully) are these plastic boxes to hold small sheets and scraps of cardstock. I have my full, un-cut sheets of paper in a different spot (also organized by color), but once the paper is cut, snipped or punched, I slide it into these boxes so that my full-sheet piles can stay nice and tidy. When I just need a bit of paper, these boxes are most often my first stop. Instead of using full sheet after full sheet, this system has really helped me conserve paper by having a neat and convenient way to store mis-matched shapes and sizes of scraps!
10. Crate “Drawers”. Last summer, I organized our garage. Instead of leaving open shelving full of random cans and jars on the work benches, I put crates on the shelves to corral all the loose items instead. Now, these crates act as drawers that I can just slide out to look for whatever product I need. Instead of having precarious stacks of paints and stains and tools and cleaners, each item is tucked into the right basket that I can either slide out/in or carry with me as needed!
Again, none of these organizational systems were complex, revolutionary, or expensive…but each of them has significantly improved how our house functions!
Now, let’s take a peek at those projects that were created with the best of intentions (I rarely produce content for the sake of producing content), but for whatever reason, just didn’t work out. These are not bad projects. These were well thought-out and executed systems that I had high hopes for. It’s just that for our particularly family in our particular season of life, these systems didn’t quite work out as I thought they would! Let me tell you why!
1. The Purse Portfolio. When we first moved into this house, I was on decorating/makeover/project overdrive, and I was having a heck of a time keeping my plans, measurements, shopping list, and project ideas organized. I devised this Purse Portfolio as a way to keep track of measurements, swatches, and samples while out and about. While it certainly came in handy, it wasn’t quite durable enough to stand the test of time. The cardstock got wet and crumpled in the bottom of my purse, and the ring eventually pulled out the punched holes. The concept is a good one, but a small binder or notebook would probably be a more durable solution!
(You’re going to see a few of our command center projects make this list. Our command center was one of the VERY first projects/spaces I completed in this home before we really had a chance to live and work here. Again, all these projects were made with good intensions, but some systems that I set up never got used or didn’t work as well as I hoped. This dropzone for mail, coats and important papers is still one of the best things we’ve done in this house, but the actual systems within it have been tweaked over the years!)
2. Mail Sorter. The mail sorter was wonderful in theory, except that I lack the discipline to ever clean out the folders or regularly shred or file what needs to be shredded and filed. Once the folders got too full, we stopped using them. (Well, except the “Shred” folder – we still use that as our landing ground for anything that needs to be shredded.) Another mis-step? Anything that requires “Action” should not be tucked into a folder because it gets forgotten. And the “Megan,” “Greg,” and “File” categories somewhat overlap. All that said, this is a system that with some tweaking will work for our family again. My plan is to actually re-label the files into these categories: “File,” “Coupons,” “Catalogs,” “Magazines,” and “Shred.”
3. Sticky Note Board. This original task board was something I was really, really excited about when I first made it. It was before I started using a planner, and I had all these projects and tasks floating around in my head. It did work very, very well. The reality is that I was the only one who used it (the Henry and Greg and Life categories were never used), and over time, I started using a planner to keep track of daily and blog tasks. When I really needed this frame for Henry’s gallery wall, I was okay letting it go because it wasn’t getting used. I still think this is a great system, and in a different context (would be great for blog project-to-post organization!), it’s one I would re-visit again.
4. Routine Prints. When we first moved in, I had a 15th month old baby and was desperate for a schedule and ways to fill our really empty days. I made these prints in an effort to create structure for our weeks AND force myself to clean (I love to de-clutter, I hate to clean…yes, there is a difference!). So why are these on the “Miss” list? I HATED cleaning every day. There, I said it. After trying this system for a few months, I found that I really did rather spending an entire Saturday cleaning than doing a little bit every day (and I felt oh-so-guilty when I missed or skipped a daily task). The weekly activities printable was very useful for that season in our lives, and I did use it for a while. But it didn’t take long for us to fall into a routine of usual activities, so my reliance on this chart died away quickly.
5. Bathroom Caddies. Over the summer, I gave our master bathroom cabinets a much-needed organizational makeover. After considering lots of different options, I finally settled on these somewhat expensive acrylic bins from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I loved how sturdy they were, that they were clear, and that they stacked neatly. While I still love that everything is organized and corralled by category, these babies are tough to lift apart from each other and somewhat awkward to move around. Getting into the bottom caddies is a total nuisance, and I avoid it when I can. A better solution would be to repeat the concept of the crate “drawers” in our garage (se above) by adding a shelf that the top bins can sit on. If I could access all the bins freely, this would be a “Hit” for sure!
6. Book Storage in an Office Credenza. I bought this solid but battered old office credenza at our local Re-Store for a great price. I loved its storage capability and had a total blast giving it a funky, retro makeover. Design-wise, I LOVE it in Henry’s bedroom. The greens are so bright and fresh, and it adds really nice balance to his room. We use the credenza for some blanket/linen storage, but mostly we store all of Henry’s books on the shelves behind the sliding doors. In all honestly, it is a nuisance to get books in and out of those little shelves behind those doors. It’s working fine for now, but books become easily tipped and disorderly, and finding the right one can be a bit of a headache. Not to mention, some tall books don’t fit at all. We already have plans for this piece in our next house, and I can pretty much assure you, it won’t hold books!
7. Jewelry Board. (Accck, it pains me to write some of these!!) This is another project that I gave a TON of thought to before execution, but once all was said and done, I realized I overlooked some things. First off, I love the whole concept of a jewelry board, and those bottom pulls holding the necklaces are truly awesome. Honestly, part of me wishes I had done an entire board with just those pulls. The pulls on the top are great for holding small earrings and studs, but the board is hung too high on the wall for me to see into them…and so they sit empty (besides the earrings that are hanging off the sides). The knobs in the middle give great visual interest to the whole display, but can really only hold one bracelet at a time. Even with all that, my biggest disappointment is that it doesn’t hold everything I have, and I hate having the same stuff stored in different ways in the same room. This board still hangs in our room just like this photo, but I am still trying to figure out a way to remedy this organizational “miss.”
8. Towel Baskets. For the most part, our linen closet still looks exactly like this picture and works great. However, the one organization “miss” here is trying to stuff huge, bulky bath and beach towels into these small white baskets. This is not really a good way to store towels. Not only are the towels stuffed in and busting out the tops, but they all don’t fit AND they are stretching out my baskets. I’ve started storing the towels free and loose on a top shelf, which bothers me because they become disorderly. Bigger baskets or an alternative system are needed to remedy this “miss!”
9. Fabric Stacks. When we first moved in and I organized the craft room, I wrapped all my fabric onto cardboard “bolts” and stacked them by color on open shelving. The fabric stacks, as seen below, sure looked pretty. But they toppled oh-so-easy, and getting fabrics up and down was a compete hassle. For those of you who have followed along my craft re-organizing adventures know that over the summer I switched to storing my fabric (still on bolts) in cubby shelves. I can now pull out fabric as you would a book, without disrupting all the rest. I think stacks of fabric work great if they are uniform quantities in small numbers. Long yardage, slippery fabrics, and tall stacks just create a mess!
10. Magnetic Task Board. Last but not least, I had to include the project that inspired this whole post. The amount of thought I gave this system is a embarrassing now knowing that I’ve abandoned it. In general, the color-coded system was working fine, but I honestly didn’t like the overall look of the board and it didn’t leave me enough open space to make lists, jot down notes, or have some flexibility. Used in a different context, I still think this system is a winner, but my new dry-erase boards work so much better for my purposes!
It’s certainly a little humbling to look back at some of my project “fails” – these 10 projects represent a good amount of time, energy, thought and money that feel somewhat wasted. However, the reality is that creating a home and making a home function just right for your family requires some trial and error. Sometimes you get lucky and things work out just right. Other times, projects need a bit more tweaking in order to make just the right impact on your day-to-day living. While sometimes frustrating, I honestly don’t consider my time making these projects a waste, because each of these “misses” was a stepping stone to figuring out how our family works and how to use the space we have better. An organized and functional home is a fluid thing. The biggest key is to re-evaluate and adjust as life marches on and situations change. If something in your home is no longer working, tweak it (if it just needs a bit of refinement) or clear it away and start from scratch.
I really enjoyed pulling this post together for you guys. It’s always interesting to look back and see how our homes and our lives evolve, isn’t it? What about you? Do you have any systems in your house that are working great? Or do you have a system set up that involves more effort than it’s worth or just plain not working? I hope this post gave you the motivation (and courage!) to re-evaluate!
We’ve been smothered in rain this week, giving me the time and motivation to clean up some of our disorderly cupboards. On Friday, I’m going to show you a quick organization project that has rocked my little world! See you then!