Organizing Small Spaces: Multimedia & Books

Seems like everyone is cleaning-up and reorganizing this time of year, so I thought I would do just that on my blog. Thus, the new cleaner and neater look. And speaking of organizing, my daughter is back with tips on organizing their rather large collection of multimedia and books.

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Multimedia: Remember the cluttered old days when music came as CDs and movies came as clunky VHS tapes? Yeah, me, too—and I still have a stack of CDs in the spare room and VHS tapes as well as DVDs in our apartment. We have a good system, though, and it seems to be working rather well.  Several years ago my mom found a set of DVD binders that look like books but are designed to hold DVDs (or CDs if you are so inclined) without the cases, just the actual media discs.

DVD Storage

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Each one holds around 128 discs, so they drastically minimize the storage space required for DVDs compared with keeping them in their cases—one shelf for four binders versus seven shelves for 60 DVD movies, 20 television shows on DVD, and roughly 20 old VHS taps that I’ve yet to replace.

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My roommate has kept her DVDs in their cases, though, and that actually works out better for us. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. I’ve never been one to buy popular movies, only ones that I happen to see on tv and love. My roommate, on the other hand, has a much vaster knowledge of movies because she sees them much more often and, therefore, has a better collection than I do. Together we probably have over 200 DVDs. This is problematic because the binders I use make it difficult to compare all of our movie options at once when we don’t know exactly what we are in the mood to watch—you can only see four DVDs at a time before flipping to the next page, whereas seeing all of her DVD cases makes it much easier to figure out which ones we want to consider. Additionally, because we are limited on space with DVD cases, we have to consider whether or not a new DVD is worth the purchase—will we watch it enough to warrant spending the money and donating a designated spot of our limited shelf space for the case? If not, is it a classic I really want to own? If it’s going to end up in my binder after a few watches, then it’s probably not worth buying.

And just go ahead and alphabetize your DVDs. Yes, it will take a while at first, but it saves so much time when you are home alone sick and looking for that one movie that will make it better. Trust me.

Books: This is a separate category for us; it is not the same as multimedia. If you are a book lover, you too, will understand what I mean. If you are not a book lover, my solution is easy for you: buy audio books on iTunes or on Amazon to put on your iPod, and the only storage problem you will have will depend on how much storage is available on your device. You need not read the rest of this section (so donate your books to your local office bibliophile and make her day). For the rest of us, however, we often run out of bookshelf space and are faced with the frustrating question of if or when it is appropriate to purchase a new bookshelf. If you are on a budget, a new bookshelf might not even be an option; if this is the case and you are a true bibliophile, you will eventually hit a wall…literally. Your apartment will hold no more bookshelves. Our answer solves two problems—space and budget. When we begin to run out of book space, we evaluate the books that we have kept, whether or not we will ever re-read them, or if there is a different reason we want to keep them, such as keeping our favorites to lend out to friends or books we might need to reference in the future. I’ll admit that I make some exceptions—I know I’ll never re-read some of the books, but I simply can’t part with them.  Our emotional bond is just too great. Once we decide who makes the cut, we box up the ones we are letting go and take them to Half Price Books, which will pay you a (low) price for used books as credit in their store to purchase (new to you) used books to read. This helps us keep our book collection smaller so we don’t outgrow our shelf space and gives us credits for free books to keep our reading habits going. It’s a small thing, but it goes a long way for us and our biblio-addiction.

Some areas have the same system available for CDs and DVDs. In Oklahoma, we had Hastings to trade in DVDs, and most areas have Game Stop for video games, which are much cheaper used and often come with a no-scratch guarantee. If you find yourself with a large collection of items, such as CDs, that you want to get rid of but can’t get yourself to donate them, check out eBay. Sometimes you can auction off items as a bulk to get rid of them quickly and make a little cash on the side as well.

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Mr. and I also use the faux book DVD binders. And yes, our movies are also alphabetized as well as individually labeled. :-) I also alphabetize my CDs in my case, although Mr. doesn’t. (I know, I’m a little weird like that)

I hope her tips are helping you get a little more organized in your life!

Y’all have a great weekend! Later gators!

Under the Staircase Closet Makeover: Walls & Floor

The closet makeover has started and it looks so much better!

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First thing we had to do was clean that sucker out. And I was amazed at the amount of stuff that was in this closet! I showed you pictures of the messy closet here and gave you a brief list of items that you couldn’t see in the pictures. Well…there were things in there that I couldn’t even see and didn’t know was in there!! Hidden among the chaos was a guitar case with our daughter’s classical guitar, her sleeping bag, a mod-podged ceramic cat that I made when I was a little girl, an electric can opener, and my yoga mat (which obviously I haven’t used in quite some time!). And remember the numerous yardsticks I mentioned? Well, there were six! According to Mr., you can never have too many yardsticks! :-)

Closet makeover - before

First thing Mr. did was remove the shelf and brace from the wall. This caused some minor damage which we fixed with a little spackling compound. After it was good and dry, we hit it with sandpaper just to take off any pointy pieces that were sticking out and smooth it out just a bit.

Closet makeover - during

Closet makeover - during

Closet makeover - during

We painted the sloped ceiling and three of the walls white, but I picked out a “fun” color for the back wall, Youthful Coral by Behr.

Closet makeover - after

We then removed the carpet & tack strips and scraped the glue off the concrete. A putty knife works great for scraping all the glue and foam pad that is stuck on the concrete!

Closet makeover - during

Closet makeover - during

When doing our DIY projects, there’s almost always something that Mr. and I have never attempted and know nothing about! Installing the hardwood floors was this project’s something. We found some flooring at Floor & Décor that we thought was pretty close to the hardwood that is already in the house. It’s slightly redder, but that also could be from the colorful wall that is shining down on it! :-)

Our VERY helpful sales guy at Floor & Décor spent about five minutes explaining the how-to’s and what-for’s to us, stated “you got this”, and sent us on our way! He apparently was a good teacher, as the only hiccup we had was at the door jamb. Mr. had to cut the bottom of the door jamb off so that the flooring would slide under it to meet the other flooring. I took a video of him cutting it out and will post about it soon. Due to the fact that we were so involved in laying the floor down, I forgot to take any pictures of the progress!

Closet makeover - during

To keep Mr. from having to rip the last boards into 1 1/2″ strips, we built a trim to attach to the baseboards that were already installed. We couldn’t find any trim or molding in stock at Home Depot or Lowe’s that was 1 1/2″ thick, so I came up with the idea to make our own. We found some trim that we liked, then glued and nailed a slat to the back of the trim.

Closet makeover - during

Mr. then nailed it to the baseboard. I caulked all the seams, and primed & painted the trim and baseboard with a glossy white. It now looks like one complete piece of trim molding.

Closet makeover - during

Closet makeover

It looks so much better than it did before! Next on the list…shelving!

Y’all have a great day! Later gators!

 

Laundry Room vs. Walk-in Pantry

While my mom was here visiting over Christmas, we were talking about having the washer/dryer in the master closet instead of a designated laundry room. She made the point that that is where we have our dirty clothes hamper and where we keep our clothes in the first place. Think of the time you would save walking back and forth from the hampers to the laundry room and then back to the bedrooms to put away your clean clothes. And if you’re like me, there is a path of dropped dirty clothes along the way as I attempt to carry the entire hamper of clothes in one trip!

Our laundry room is at the end of the kitchen, right next door to my little pantry.

Laundry and Pantry doors

And our laundry room is ALWAYS in disarray! It has the washer/dryer on one side of the room and wire shelves on the other side. I don’t know about you, but I hate wire shelving. Unless things are in boxes or baskets, stuff is always falling over.

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What I would love to do is move the washer/dryer to the master closet and turn the present laundry room into a walk-in pantry. I’m very fortunate when it comes to the size of our master closet, as it is 85.5 square feet. (our closet was approx. 30 sf in our last house) Therefore it is totally large enough to handle this, especially if I stack the washer/dryer. And I might even be able to fit a small folding table/island in the middle of the closet like this one. And you have to love a chandelier in a closet!

closet island

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And then I could have a walk-in pantry. A WALK-IN PANTRY!!!! (choir music should be played when these words are spoken!) And there would be…Storage Galore!

pantry 2

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I’m still on the fence about all of this. I know it’s what I would love to do, but not sure if it’s worth the money we would spend in the end. What are your thoughts on this idea? Designated laundry room or laundry in the master closet?

Y’all have a great day! Later gators!

Organizing Small Spaces: Organizing Yourself

The “Closet Under the Staircase” is coming along wonderfully! We spent the weekend ripping out the carpet and the old shelves, painting three walls & the ceiling white and the fourth wall a vibrant color, and laying wood floors. (you really didn’t think I could paint a room and not put at least one different wall color in it, did you?) We still need to install some quarter round around the base of the trim and choose & install new shelving. Then I get to pick out what kind of organization/storage items I want to use. Baskets, metal bins, etc.? Decisions, decisions!

My daughter is in the process of organizing her apartment and is sharing some of her and her roommate’s tips on living in and organizing small spaces. Today she is talking about organizing yourself.

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Starting on January 1st of this year, Netflix began streaming Friends—all ten seasons. Why is this a big deal? As a college student, my Saturday evening cleaning routine revolved around listening to the show in the background and reciting quotes out loud with each episode. (With over 240 episodes, they never get old!) Once television became too advanced, however, our non-HD, non-wide screen copies fell to the wayside and were replaced with DVDs of The Office and New Girl. As I’m sure you can imagine, my New Year’s Day experienced back-to-back episodes of the show’s first season and my cleaning routine fell into good, old habits with the renaissance of my favorite show—which got me in the mood for a little organizing.

With the new year moving in, a lot of people make resolutions to clear out their junky rooms and reorganize for a more productive year, and that is a great resolution to make! Organization can make all aspects of daily living easier, faster, and less stressful, but many times it can be overwhelming to open the closet door, see how many clothes you have to go through or how much stuff has managed to pile itself on the shelves, and think you have to go through all of it to make any progress. If you are living in a smaller space with limited storage, however, making room and being innovative in your organizational methods is an absolute must! We live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, which sounds like it would have a lot of storage—until you see how much stuff we have together. Because we’ve had to learn some organizational strategies to make the most of our space, we’ve become innovative in our storage and in our living. Here are a few tips to help others living in smaller spaces like us.

Organize Yourself: A lot of the time, especially in apartments, there is a designated space for storing items, such as a bathroom linen closet, but no built-in organization. All of our closets have great shelves and space, but there are no drawers or separators to help us keep things in their place. If you try to make simple, flat shelves work, you are likely to run into the problem of things overlapping or losing their space as your collection grows. Lotions move into medications as the bulk of toilet paper you bought on sale takes over the bottom shelf and moves your Kleenex into the front closet.  Suddenly, you can’t find anything you need and your well-intentioned work was all for naught.

The best way to avoid this is to organize yourself before you organize your items. Baskets are a fantastic way to separate items by their purpose, which is very helpful for bathrooms. For our bathroom linen closet, we use the top two shelves for towels and wash cloths; for the bottom two shelves, we use baskets for everything else: we have baskets for emergency aid supplies (because you usually need to find those in a hurry), non-emergency medications that we do not take regularly (such as Tums or Advil), hygiene products (spare razors or toothbrushes), feminine products, and even beautification products, such as facial masks and nail polish. The baskets occasionally get a little messy and require us to clean them out again, but they make finding the Excedrin Migraine much easier when I need it quickly. Baskets are great for small spaces when the items do not easily lend themselves to simply sitting on a shelf.

Shelf organization

Other smaller items similar to baskets will work for various spaces as well. Take for example our shower shelf organizer. I was tired of having rings in the corner of the bath tub where shampoo and bath wash sat every day, letting towel strings collect and keeping the water from washing everything off. I found a great shower shelf that suctioned to the tile and holds everything at arm’s reach. It is easier to use and keeps the tub cleaner!

shower organization

For larger spaces, such as closets or bedrooms, larger tubs work in the same way—they even make long, flat tubs to store seasonal clothing under the bed. Don’t forget to label the tubs, though. Digging through seven tubs to find that your sports equipment is in the last one defeats the purpose of organizing it all in the first place.

Lastly, keep in mind that, even though it might sound extreme, sometimes it does well to give everything its place and keep it there. My mom and I are the type that likes to assign a place to items and keep them there; that way we always know where things are and keep it all in order. This occasionally drives our other halves crazy, but it works. We have a small built-in desk at the end of our hallway. We never really use it as a desk, mostly just to keep our mail and important papers in order, so beneath it I keep our cats’ toys in a small cat bed so they are not all over the floor. For a few weeks, every time I would pick up the apartment, I would collect all the toys and drop them in the bed. After a few weeks, we noticed that our cats would go under the desk when they were wanting to play and come back with a toy. Even cats can learn that everything has a place for organization!

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Yep, that apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to wanting everything in its place! I hope she has given you a few ideas to help you begin your new year organization!

Y’all have a great day! Later gators!

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

I am sooo over winter, as I am not a cold-weather girl! I’m not even a cool-weather girl!! Give me 90 degrees everyday and I will be one happy-flip-flop-wearing gal! :-)

The only good thing about cool weather is the hot comfort food that comes with it. And one of those comfort foods is spaghetti. I love spaghetti, and for probably the first twenty years of mine and Mr.’s marriage, my spaghetti sauce came from a jar. But it was always a little too tomato-y for me, as I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes. So I found a meat sauce recipe, tweeked it to our taste, and have been using it for close to 10 years now.

Mr. loves spicy food (the hotter the better), so this recipe is on the spicy side. (check the bottom of post for non-spicy substitutions) And I don’t like my sauce soupy, so if you do be sure and add more water to the recipe.

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

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8 oz. spaghetti

1 lb. ground beef

2-3 cloves garlic

1 can Rotel

1/2 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 – 1/2 cup water

Salt & pepper, to taste

Bring water to a rolling boil in pot. Add spaghetti and cook according to directions.

Brown beef and garlic in large skillet. Drain grease, if necessary.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer 10-15 minutes.

When tender, drain water from spaghetti. Add sauce to pot and stir to mix.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

*If you like a stronger garlic flavor (like us), add garlic at the end of recipe instead of the beginning.

**For non-spicy, substitute 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes in place of Rotel. Add chopped onion to skillet to brown with beef.

Y’all have a great day! Later gators!

“The Closet Under the Staircase”

This title sounds like the next horror story. And by the looks of this closet, it may very well be! And it’s starring me as the villainess, and Mr. as the accomplice by association! Due to the fact that he lives with me and puts stuff in the closet because that’s where I tell him to stick the stuff! That closet has become the daddy of all catch-all closets! Things go in and they never come out! In the words of our daughter, “that closet has a lot going on”!

But very soon, this closet will become the new “Under the Staircase Storage Room”! But for now, no judging me for what lies behind the door of “The Closet Under the Staircase”!

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It’s in the dining room, which is just to the right of the front door. It’s the only closet in the house that isn’t in a bedroom, bathroom, etc. So of course, it collects everything that doesn’t belong elsewhere and then some. It’s a big coat closet, but who needs a big COAT closet in Houston?!?! We don’t! In fact, we took about 10 coats and jackets to my mom’s in Oklahoma last month that Mr. and I don’t wear anymore and she gave them away. And we still have more than we need!

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My cake and cupcake supplies ended up on the top shelf, as I don’t have much storage in the kitchen. Now they collect dust. (although I did make cherry cupcakes for Christmas this year. My favorite!)

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cherry cupcake 2

Then there’s my collection of plastic bags. I think I have more than enough, don’t you? There’s also a bag of artificial flowers that I haven’t used since we moved into the house two years ago; a tin can on top of something that I can’t reach; and a box of cupcake boxes covered in wrapping paper!

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I’m pretty sure a coat closet is the best place for a baker’s rack! No? You mean you don’t keep a baker’s rack in your coat closet!

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More flowers, holiday signs, miscellaneous mats/rugs that are no longer being used, and paper towels have found their way into this closet. What you don’t see is several decorative pillows, a couple of curtain rods, an ironing board, two crocheted afghans, a stack of paper sacks, a large sofa picture from our last house, numerous yard sticks (how many yard sticks do Mr. and I need?), a box of stoneware dishes that I need to find a place for, and two step ladders! That buried box peeking out from under the bright flowers has my grandma’s china in it. I have my red hutch that I redid a couple of years ago in the dining room, and I’m thinking that would be a great place for the china.

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The only thing missing from these pictures is my vacuum cleaner, which usually sits right in the doorway. It’s hanging out upstairs in the gypsy room (which is in limbo at this moment).

So now you know what is lurking inside “The Closet Under the Staircase“.

And now you know what I’ll be doing this weekend, so be sure and check back next week to see the progress. Also, my daughter will be doing a guest post very soon that relates to tips for living in small spaces, such as apartments. So watch for that!

Y’all have a great weekend! Later gators!

The Votes are In!

And the team that won this year’s Gingerbread Competition is……..Entry #1!

That means that Mr. and I get to display the Hippo Award on our mantel for the next year! Woohoo!!

Doesn’t he look great up there?

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I think he adds just the right amount of pink amid the turquoise! :-)

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We had a blast and look forward to next year’s competition. Comments have been made that the other team has already started planning next year’s entry! At least Mr. and I have 12 months to prepare!!

Y’all have a great week! Later gators!