Archive for Organization

Recycled Gift Wrapping Hack

Tissue box gift wrap hackWell, Happy New Year!

I know. I haven’t posted for a while and this post may seem a day late and a dollar short, BUT it’s still useful if you, like me, have plenty of birthdays coming up in the new year!

Backstory: It was Christmas Eve and my daughter confided in me that she didn’t have a gift for her brother. I told her that all shopping was done and that she would need to either find or make something. A moment later I remembered that I had an extra container of gum, which would be the perfect gift for her to give her brother. She agreed. {disaster averted}

At the same moment that I was suggesting the gum gift to her, I picked up an empty tissue box with the intent of throwing it away. And then it all seemed to magically come together. I set it on the kitchen table and noticed some used tissue paper on the counter. It coordinated with the box perfectly. Whoo-hoo, my lucky day.

Empty tissue box, recycled tissue paper and "the gift."

Empty tissue box, recycled tissue paper and “the gift.”

I wrapped the gum in the tissue paper and stuck it inside the box.

I wrapped the gum in the tissue paper and stuck it inside the box.

In a flash, the gum was wrapped and under the tree!

Ella added a gift tag.

My daughter added a gift tag.

I just picked up another empty tissue box. How convenient! My son’s birthday is only a couple of weeks away!

{I've got some big plans for this little guy.}

{I’ve got a plan for this little guy.}

Mudroom Upgrade

Our mudroom/laundry room/pantry begged for some attention. As you can tell by its name, it serves many purposes and was overcrowded and under-organized.

This is where we were a few months ago:

mudroom before

This wall has generally looked this way for the past several years. Remember this winter when I had a super productive day and changed around a few areas of our house? Well, I began the ball rolling in the direction of change for our mudroom, but for several weeks it remained in this rather awkward transitional state:

mudroom temporary

Thankfully, my husband {who is a physical therapist by trade} is financially savvy and quite a talented DIY’er, so we combined some cash we received around Christmas time and took advantage of a Menard’s promotion where we could earn 11% store credit on purchases, and Ken began accumulating the supplies needed to build a shelving unit to meet our needs in this room.

We worked together to draw up a design for the space. Ken figured out all the measurements:

shelving unit blueprint

And I filled in all the spaces to make sure it could contain everything I needed and wanted it to:

pantry storage map

As he had time on weekends and after work, Ken began to build the shelving units in sections.

woodworking project in garage

We used each section as it was constructed, although not completed.

mudroom in progress

painting project

Piece by piece, it came together.

mudroom shelves in progress

mudroom lockers

completed mudroom unitI found this cute bin at Kohl’s, of all places, and am using it to hold coupons and odds and ends that would have previously stockpiled on the kitchen counter.

coupon organizer

I picked up this row of hooks at Hobby Lobby and Ken mounted it on the wall opposite of the wall unit. Here I hang aprons and the kids’ “play” coats. Now the kids know which jacket to grab when they are going outside to play. That alone has solved a great recurring problem that we had.

decorative coat hooks

mudroom coat hooks

Eventually, we hope to add some enclosed storage across the top of the shelves. I would like to store vases and out-of-season items in them, out of sight. In the meantime, I plan to use storage bins up there to keep things accessible, yet tucked away.

Everything in its place:

mudroom organized

When Motivation Strikes

Today, I was a driven woman. I got so much accomplished and it felt great! Although that great feeling is wearing off and being replaced with stiffness and pain. Uugh. I thought I would document my accomplishments since I’m not sure I will ever accomplish this much physical work in a day again.

Everything started in the mudroom. Several days ago, Ken drew up some plans for some built-in shelves and lockers. We’re saving up our money to buy supplies and when he has the time he’ll get working on it. In the meantime, I decided how I would repurpose the shelves and bench that are currently in there. And that got the ball rolling. Needless to say, I decided not to wait until he started his project before I started mine.

Here’s how the mudroom looked this morning. This is the wall on which we plan to add the built-ins.

mudroom beforeHere’s that wall this evening. Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better, but it’s still very manageable and remember, it’s only temporary.

mudroom temporarySo that left me with a deacon’s bench that needed relocating after I emptied it of its contents. I thought it might be an improvement to this area in Nickolas’ room:

cluttered boy's roomAnd look–it was!

deacon's bench

DSCN6635I moved the dresser that had been at the foot of Nickolas’ bed to the other side of his room. But now that left me with a bin organizer that I needed to find a new home for. Hmmmm, maybe it would work well here, in our basement stairwell.

basement stairwellYep, that’s better.

basement stairwell afterI moved the bookcase from here to the bottom of the stairs and will deal with that another day…maybe tomorrow.

Now, remember that tall shelf unit that was in the mudroom, where all this began? I had been planning to place it in the closed-in area under our basement stairs and use it to help organize items that I am storing for our church. As I was cleaning up that area in preparation for the shelf, I realized I needed to do some thorough scrubbing. But it turned into a muddier mess than I was anticipating.

muddy basement floorGetting there.

cleaning muddy floorSo, after the clean-up, I got the shelving unit downstairs and with a great amount of work and physical contortions, it was in place.

shelving unit in basementFinally, I was able to start cleaning up a section of the basement floor and stacking things away. Here’s a view from the other side of the non-existent wall:

labeled items on shelvesAnd here is the view from the inside of my little under-the-stairs storage area:

under stairs storeage areaAfter that, I took some acetaminophen for good measure as I felt the soreness kicking in, made some quick snacks to have on hand for the kids to eat when they got home from school, and then shoveled the driveway so it was clear from the inch or so of snow that we received today.

Now dinner is over, kids are bathed and in bed and I’m callin’ it a day!

More Scrapbooking Shortcuts

Continuing on from my last post, I wanted to include a couple more scrapbooking shortcuts that I use to help me keep track of my kids’ growing-up-years.

This is the book that I use to store memories of their birthdays:

Birthday memory book

Birthday Memory book

Each year has a place to post a picture and record details about the day and their party. The pages are also pockets that hold cards, invitations and photographs from their special day.

Finally, I use these School Memories albums to record general information from each of the kids’ school years:

School Memories book These pages are also large 8 1/2″ x 11″ pockets to store report cards and a few other items.  {For ideas on how to store larger school papers and artwork, check out this post.} It will be fun to look back on these and see how their signatures changed as they got older.

semi-homemade scrapbooksSo, as you can see, I record a lot of things, but it’s not terribly time consuming and I’m pretty happy with the end result. When we go on trips, I try to shove all of these irreplaceable albums into our fireproof safe, but needless to say, I am running out of room.  If I ever get their Disney scrapbooks done, I will definitely need to ask for a bigger safe for Christmas!

Do any of these albums look like items that would be helpful for you? Do you have other items that have worked well or other ways of recording memories? Let me know in the Comments section if so.

Semi-Homemade Scrapbooking

In my last post I mentioned scrapbooking. I have done some of this in the past. Real scrapbooking, I mean, and that’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time, creativity and materials. Although I love the final outcome, I fear that these days if I insisted on “real” scrapbooking I might not ever get finished {and might be afraid to even start}. So over the last few years I have done some quasi-scrapbooking, or semi-homemade scrapbooking you might say, and that has made a big difference in my motivation level and my completion factor.

Christmas Memories Journal

Here is an example of what I mean. At Christmastime I have used this scrapbook/journal over the past five years. Last year I finished it up and ordered another to have on hand for this year since I love the design of it so much. This book calls for more journaling than I care to do {well my heart would like to do it but my hand and neck problems keep me from fulfilling my heart’s desire at times}, so I fill the pages in with lots of pictures and it turns out just great.

Christmas Memories Scrapbook

I bring this album out after Christmas is over and work on it, but this year it hit me that during the holiday season I should have it out on our coffee table for my family and guests to browse through to enjoy seeing our Christmas celebrations {and cute kids} through the years.

Wedding Anniversary Memory Book

This is another album that I have kept up over the years. It’s a place to record yearly happenings from one wedding anniversary to another. I hope my kids will enjoy receiving this someday. I’m thankful that I have all of this recorded in on place.

Annivesary Memory Book

Since we didn’t have our kids for the first year(s) of their lives, they don’t have an official baby album, but I do have this album which records Nickolas’ first year with us, month by month. It’s a nice little adoption journal—the best one I’ve found so far, and I highly recommend it for parents who have younger kids who are adopted.

My Family My Journey Book

Adoption Journal

Ella was given her own wonderful scrapbook made by the caregivers from her orphanage in China. It holds priceless pictures and memories.

Orphanage Scrapbook

We are so very thankful to have this book. It was an incredible surprise for us to receive such a precious gift.

I have a few more books that I use for recording my kids’ birthdays and school days. I’ll share those next time!



Storing Kids’ Artwork

Does anyone out there have a great system for storing their kids’ artwork and school papers? The stuff piles up so quickly! And I don’t know about you, but it usually accumulates on my kitchen counter. It seems like I’m constantly battling the clutter on my countertop.

I thought I had a decent system established last year, but as it turns out, I really didn’t. I had purchased a couple of over-sized expandable file folders for their kindergarten work, but this school year I dreaded filing the papers away, because oversized or not, it was tough to get some of the artwork into the folder compartments. As a result, I occasionally moved the overwhelming pile from my countertop to the top of a desk upstairs, and there the pile sat…and grew…from September until last week {March}! That’s pretty bad, and it was a pretty big pile.

But I think I may have a workable system now. I’ve been experimenting with some craft projects that use scrapbook paper, and I purchased a plastic container to hold and protect the paper.  The container was 40% off at Michaels so I thought I got a pretty good deal. I was putting the container away in my upstairs hall closet and got a glimpse of the pile of artwork and school papers on the desk and thought, hmmmmm, I bet most of that stuff would fit into one of these…and the ball started rolling. And would you believe, the next week those containers were on sale for 50% off, so I stocked up.


I took the time to make some fun labels for each container which will allow me to quickly identify whose artwork it holds and from what year in school.


My plan is to have one container per child per school year, or as long as they are needed. Once the school year is over, they will get stored on the top shelf of each kid’s closet. During the school year, they fit nicely into my hallway closet, which also holds pictures, scrapbook supplies and games. I can add to them easily, so the piles of clutter will {hopefully} be no more.


I did sort through the artwork and discard some, but I took pictures of it first and will include those photos in the storage container. Chances are, I will not point these photos out to my kids right away though, because they never take it well when I throw ANYTHING away.

Even ROY G. BIV fits in these containers, after one little fold.

Even ROY G. BIV fits in these containers, after one little fold.

Do you have any storage solutions that are working well for you? Please share them below. We can all use a good idea on controlling the clutter.