Organizing Kids Art and Craft Supplies

A little over a week ago I declared our house an organizational nightmare. And this was after I spent all of January organizing crap. I’m choosing to believe that this is nesting, but in reality, it was probably that I couldn’t find my favorite scarf – my go-to pregnancy accessory – and noticed a week’s worth of laundry had piled up. So on a Friday afternoon, I handled the laundry problem and found my scarf. On Saturday morning, B took both kids to the grocery store and I stayed home and cleaned the kitchen (so we could have a clean kitchen to fill with food) and then started tackling the playroom organization, making a list of everything that needed its own container since the bins I’ve been using aren’t handling the situation. And the art supplies were at the top of the not working list.

 

For Christmas, we replenished both kids’ art supplies for their “needs” category of our gift giving. Thomas is not at all detail oriented or artsy – speeds through his coloring assignments like it’s nobody’s business. He is definitely my kid in this regard: I have vivid memories of my 2nd grade teacher laughing when I turned in a coloring sheet before anyone else so I could go out to recess. She told me it would be okay if I wanted to use more than one color and stay in the lines. Meh. So, Thomas needed scissors, glue sticks, fine tip markers, etc to practice those every-so important fine motor skills and arts and crafts that he naturally does not come by. And Nell lives for anything arts and crafty (definitely not my kid in that regard, but definitely my mom’s grandchild and my sister’s niece), and since we’ve already established that her mother does not, we were lacking in the appropriate for toddlers art department over here. So that was an easy need to fulfill for Christmas this year.

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What was not so easy, was organizing all that crap. I’ve had their art supplies sitting in a massive bin since Christmas, and it’s an organizational nightmare. Digging around to find the right markers, scissors, etc…not my thing, and therefore, we just don’t do that much art stuff. Not to mention the tub was so big I only had a place for it in the basement…and trekking a heavy box up and down the staris whenever we did a craft meant that crafts were few and far between. But a lightbulb went off when I saw that Claire pinned this organizational roundup – the blog that posted the over-the-door hanger was no longer around, so I did my own search and found this. When we went off to college, my mom sent each of us kids off with an over-the-door shoe organizer to keep all the little stuff in on the back of our dorm room closet doors: chargers, deodorant, makeup, etc. I toted that thing all through college from dorm room to sorority house to rented hovel my senior year. I even hung it on the back of B’s and my closet door at our first house – where it went unused because I had an entire house full of drawers to put things in, and we finally threw it away before we moved. Bad move, Emily. Bad move.

The basement door is right off the kitchen where we usually do any arts and crafts beyond coloring, so that was the prime location for my new found arts and crafts organization. Take a look at that gorgeous door – complete with a cat door. For the cat we don’t – and will never due to B being allergic – have. Add it to the replace someday list. Along with the curly-q door handles.

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With a new shoe hanger purchased, I tackled the bin of arts and crafts supplies. Coloring books and paper lay flat, so they got moved to an unused drawer. And every art supply got a shoe cubby. It makes me happy…and more likely to paint with my kids since I don’t have to lug a big bin up from the basement, and then sort through it, to find something to do. I will say that I don’t plan to put anything I’m not cool with the kids having access to in the bottom three rows, the scissors quickly got moved to the top row when Thomas flocked to them like a moth to a flame upon opening the basement door, but as long as I’m aware of tiny, curious hands and plan accordingly, I think this will work out beautifully.

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So that’s the latest and greatest around here organization-wise. Beats the pants off the bottomless tub of art supplies. What do you think? How do you organize craft and art supplies?

January Organization: Kid’s Closet Makeover with Rubbermaid® All Access™

I made two other January resolutions is addition to our commitment to “No Spending January” (which I’ll have an update on for you tomorrow!). The first was to order a credit check as a result of the hacking fiasco before the holidays, and the second was to organize 31 spaces in my house before the 31st. My goal is to get our entire house in order before February so that I can focus February on getting the baby’s room ready, and spending every extra second with my family before we become 5. So, when I was challenged to makeover a space with the new Rubbermaid® All Access™ storage containers from Home Depot, I readily accepted.

Rubbermaid All Access Containers

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Cleaning Out Before Christmas

Every January I clean and purge and try to make sense of the new things that have come into our house over the holidays and determine what we no longer want or need. But this year, I decided to do my simplifying – or at least round one of it – before Christmas for a couple reasons. 1) I used to rotate toys frequently – like, every six weeks. But, we haven’t gone through the toys and purged things or even rotated things out since we moved six months ago, and it was long overdue. 2) I want my children to focus on the true reason we celebrate Christmas, not accumulation and greed. Presents are fun, and we absolutely celebrate St. Nicholas and his giving spirit in Santa Claus, but cleaning out, and giving to others, is the first step for Thomas (and soon Nell) to start to appreciate all he has and not all he wants. 3) Cleaning out helps me remember what the season is about, too. I mentioned last year that I can start to feel like I’m cycloned into the commercialism and feel like I’m not doing or giving enough. But enough is just what works for your own family, not what works for others. So by taking some time to take stock of our house – and to decide what we truly can do without and others might benefit from – helps me to remember the reason we give at all during this holiday season and also allows me more time to focus on things like lighting our Advent candles and talking about the birth of Jesus than worrying about keeping up with some other ideal.

 

Last night, I pulled all of the toys out of the playroom and the hidden storage between our living room and back hallway and sorted like crazy. I have always sung the praises of toy rotation – it keeps toys interesting for longer, gives me a good opportunity every few weeks or months to assess what we have and the shape it’s in, and also let’s me observe how something is played with. I’m a firm believer that if kids are surrounded by tons of things, they forget what they have. But, right before we moved we did a major clean out, so upon moving into our new house, I just put all the toys in the playroom and basement. Most things got put in the toy rotation pile – almost every toy we had in the playroom got moved to a bin in the basement, and I brought up the peg puzzles that lost T’s interest about a year and a half ago for Nell to play with. The few toys I’d stored away when we moved in were returned to the playroom, and we kept our go-to favorites: the magnets, cash register and letters out to play with. My rule with toy rotation is that if I reintroduce a toy and it doesn’t get played with, it’s time for it to go away, so I’ll keep a pretty good eye on what gets played with and what doesn’t and likely have more to give away before December 25th.

 

After sorting what should enter back into rotation, I decided what we could do without. Toys that were missing parts or broken got taken straight to the trash. And toys that just weren’t holding the kids attention anymore – or things that never clicked with them – got put in a pile for Thomas to sort through. He can pick what he gives to other boys and girls who don’t have as many toys and what we’ll keep for a few more months to see if they get played with.

 

And then I kept going. I got rid of Christmas decorations I never put out – I was mortified that I’d not only kept for this many years but moved twice the cheap ornaments I’d bought to decorate my Christmas tree in my old Boulder rental. Old, frumpy garland went to Goodwill – someone, somewhere, might be able to resuscitate it. I went through our old electronics, cleared the memory and took them to Target to be recycled. And it feels so good! Our house is not minimal right now – there’s garland on the mantle, and lots of Christmas decorations everywhere you look. There are toys strewn about the floor of the playroom regardless of how many times we put things away. But it feels manageable, and I feel at peace.

How do you prepare for the onslaught of things for Christmas? Any thing you’ve put into place for teaching your young kids about the reason we celebrate Christmas? And read more about why how we keep gifts for our kids at Christmas under control here.

 

Live More With Less: Wrap-up

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter! On Easter Sunday I gorged myself on M&Ms, my #1 chocolate vice. And I did the same Monday and Tuesday. And now chocolate makes me ill. My other Lenten resolution ended last night: to purge and clean my house so that I’m content with what I have and not so worried about our home’s shortcomings.

The final week of my challenge I decided to focus on the main floor of our house. My mom and I cleaned, reorganized and purged unnecessary items in both of our kitchens last Fall in preparation for Christmas – we gave each other replacement items we needed like new cookie sheets, etc and the first step was cleaning and organizing so we knew what we needed. So our kitchen was in good shape. And the rest of our house, with the exception of the office/playroom, remains pretty clean most days.

 

Well, Mr. B and I disagree about that. To me, clean is a vacuumed floor, dustless surfaces, and cobweb free corners. To Mr. B clean is tidy. It’s taken me 6 years of living with Mr. B to realize that instead of being offended when he comes home and “cleans” when I feel like the house is clean, I just need to accept that he and I define “clean” differently. Now, Thomas and I do a “10 minute tidy up” before he and Nell go down for their naps to get the toys off the floor so that Mr. B can walk into a house that’s tidy and not stressful to him. I do my cleaning – scrubbing the counters, swiffering and vacuuming the floors, before we go to bed at night. And we’re both happy.

So all of this is to say, the house is clean, but nothing really eventful happened downstairs. Except, I took a page from Claire’s book and decided to clean up our computer – namely our pictures. I ordered our 2012 family book, transferred all of those pictures to our external hard drive (after two computer crashes I keep our computer permanently backed up now with Apple Time Machine, but I still transfer pictures to the external hard drive for storage purposes. And I started making our 2013 album – my goal is to work on our 2013 family book each month so that I remember the events as they happen. So here are a few pictures of that:

Our 2012 album on its way to our house:

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Our 2013 Album in progress:

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I switched services this year. I’ve used Blurb in the past and don’t love the quality, so this year I went with Shutterfly. I’ll let you all know how the quality compares when I get them, but price wise, for our 100 page book, Shutterfly (with a coupon code)  was the way to go.


Live More With Less: Basement Organization

Our basement was actually in pretty decent shape going into this challenge. We don’t spend a ton of time in our unfinished basement, but we do have a TV down there (mostly for workouts) and a couch, a little workout zone and a kids’ play area with a storage zone. Until about a year ago, our basement was purely overflow toy storage for kid’s stuff, but right before Nell was born, T started to enjoy playing downstairs with the downstairs toys.

We’ve been realistic about the basement – we don’t feel like we’ll live here long enough to get enough use or our money’s worth out of finishing the basement, but we wanted the space to be functional. When we found out I was pregnant with Nell, B had a slight panic attack feeling like our house was too small for two kids (which is funny because I feel that way more now and B is more content where we are). Anyway, in January 2012 we had more lighting and outlets installed downstairs so that the basement could be a functional, though not finished, space. And it made a huge difference. Our neighbors’ gifted us with their interlocking foam floor when they did finish their basement, and that makes for a soft space to play knee hockey and play when we’re down there with the kids, and do situps and planks when we’re working out.

So, we’ve kept the basement pretty tidy, but the storage and kids’ toys can get a little bit out of control. We have just recently entered the realm of toys with multiple or smaller pieces that need to be kept together, and so my first order of business was to decided what needed a different storage solution and figure that out. I sorted through the toys – I keep a bin of toys that we rotate between the playroom and the basement out of reach for the kids so that when I bring them upstairs, they’re fun and new again. But the rest of the toys in the basement are free reign. I purchased small plastic bins and used my label maker to label the toys accordingly. We don’t have a lot of toys that need this storage solution yet (I would say that up until 2 1/2 most toys come in their own self contained storage container), but I see a lot more of these bins in my future.

Here was the kid’s play area before: Basement Before

And the kid’s area now with labeled, individual storage bins for multi-piece toys:

Play Area After

And just because I’m not sure I’ve ever shared them before, a few pictures of our basement. It’s nothing special, but it does the job: our workout zone, our TV zone, and the kids’ play zone.

  Basement Zones

I’m tackling the entire main floor in the last few days before Easter – perfect timing as we’re hosting Easter! If you cleaned out or organized this week, please link up!


Live More With Less: Garage Cleanup

Quick Notes:
1) Follow my blog with Bloglovin – Google Reader is going away, and I’m switching to Bloglovin to read my favorite blogs, and you can follow mine there, too.

2) My brilliant friend Kim has started a great new blog – Work Your Wardrobe – a young woman’s guide to affordable office fashion – and I’m featuring pretty much my go-to look for days at the office today. Check it out and spread the word about Work Your Wardrobe.

Confession: I didn’t finish the garage this week. We started – everything you see against the walls in the pictures below was cleared out, we got rid of tons of stuff, but the kids got sick and the weather turned cool this weekend and I didn’t get around to power washing, etc. So I don’t have afters for you. Come along and gaze at our embarrassingly messy garage befores though. And know that they’re a lot better now, but not good enough to share, yet. My plan is to finish this up this week (weather providing) along with our basement and post afters of both next week.

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Just picture all of that junk and scrap wood gone and the bikes and stroller stored neatly. The biggest thing left for me to do is the power washing – which will help us determine if we should epoxy the garage floor to cover up 6 years of messy cars and paint spillage, or if it’s good enough just clean. I’ve been working on getting rid of the pennants lining the walls since I came home from a business trip and found them up 4 years ago. So far, no luck.

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If you are more productive than me and did finish this week (or even if you didn’t – I need company!) link-up below!



Live More With Less: Backyard Cleanup

I picked a great week for our backyard cleanup – a huge snowstorm hit our neck of the woods on Saturday morning. So, when I saw the weather report, I hustled to get the backyard as cleaned up as possible before the weekend. I put Nell down for her morning nap on Friday and Thomas and I cleaned up, cut back and raked the back yard for two hours. My goal was to plant our lettuce, kale and spinach today, but an unforecasted snowstorm came again last night. It made me cranky – when I’m ready for the seeds to be planted, I want Mother Nature to cooperate. Is that too much to ask?

So, some quick before and afters. My goal was to fill two trash bags with leaves, grass and cut back plants, and I got half of our big trash can and three trash bags filled during Nell’s naptime and just in time for the first snowflakes to start falling last week. My grandpa always filled two yard cans a week in his spring yard cleanup until summer, and I feel like that’s a totally manageable goal.

Before: Backyard Cleanup

The during:

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And the afters:

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It’s a start. I have a list of things to do now once the snow is gone: reseed a patch of our yard, new mulch in the gardens this year, plant our vegetable and herb garden, etc. And now I have full fledged Spring Fever. Come onnnnn, nice weather! Can’t wait to see what you accomplished this week, link up below! This week we’re clearing out the garage and starting fresh. It’s going to be another big week!



Live More With Less Week 2: Nursery Organization

7 Weeks to a Clean Home

Nell’s room was the target for Week #2 of my self-imposed Live More With Less challenge for Lent. Much like Thomas’s room last week, my main focus for Nell’s room was cleaning and organizing the closet. We were given so many clothes when Nell was born and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it all. But now that she’s grown out of most of the things we’ve been given, I feel like I can make sense of the closet again. I made piles of everything that belonged to someone else that we needed to return and boxed up the clothes we can keep that I love to move to the basement during basement week.

Here’s the progress. Nell’s closet before:

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And Nell’s closet now.

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Let’s break that picture down. The wire tower holds socks and shoes in the top drawer, along with leggings. The 2nd drawer holds pajamas. The 3rd drawer has bibs, and blankets, the 4th holds sheets and linens and the bottom drawer is my outgrown drawer:

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As Nell outgrows things, I just toss them into the bottom drawer of the tower, and then when she’s outgrown everything in that size range (some she outgrows faster than others – like one pieces, might as well just stop buying those for my tall kid), I transfer it to a storage bin. I tried putting them all into storage as soon as she outgrew them, and it was a daily chore, so this is how I handle it now. Everything into the bottom bin, every two months or so I relegate the too small clothes to storage.

On the right hand side of Nell’s closet, I hung up all the clothes she has to grow into over the next six months (or fits into now but needs warmer weather to wear) so that I don’t forget about them sitting in storage. I used to put everything she had to grow into into storage, but I would often forget we had something until she was too big for it. So this is my current solution – it’s a big closet, might as well use it. I do still have a tub on the floor of her closet for clothes that are more than six months out – as soon as I transfer the outgrown clothes to a bin, I’ll move the clothes she fits into over, and add more to the right hand side of the closet. I never had this problem with T – he wore onesies and sweat pants for the first 24 months of his life.

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While I was cleaning her room, Nell decided to give pulling up to stand a try. She was so proud of herself.

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And so I moved that little mover and shaker’s crib down to the lowest height. She didn’t seem too phased.

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And with the closet as organized as it’s going to get until Nell’s wearing sizes for longer periods of time, I turned my attention to the deep clean. Vacuuming, dusting, and Room #2 is checked off the list.

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This week I was supposed to take on the backyard, but it’s buried under a foot of snow. So I’m switching up my schedule and taking on the master bedroom. The kids rooms were just about getting rid of clothes and making sense of our storage needs. But our bedroom is a big project and needs a lot of TLC. Wish me luck.

If you were motivated to clean out a space this week, link up! Can’t wait to see what you did.



Live More With Less: Week 1 Link-up

7 Weeks to a Clean Home

The first week of my Lenten Challenge to get rid of clutter and clean our house within an inch of its life is done. I started with Thomas’s room, mostly because of the closet. His room is pretty bare right now – a crib and a twin bed take up most of the available floor space, so there’s not much to declutter in the room itself, so that just required a deep cleaning.We’ll get to that in a minute, but let’s focus on the closet to start.

Thomas has a big walk-in closet with a window in his room. Because it’s big and he wears the same Peyton Manning jersey every single day, he doesn’t really need the huge walk-in closet. So I tend to just throw things that don’t have a place on the floor – meaning that it was the perfect place to start this challenge. My secret hidden clutter zone.

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I started by taking everything out of the closet and sorting through all the boxes of outgrown clothes, hand-me-downs he never wore, and random stuff that has accumulated in there. I ruthlessly went through his clothes – anything I didn’t love, got put in the hand-me-down or Goodwill box.  I put all of his clothes that I’m keeping into three diaper boxes – one for 6 – 12 months Spring/Summer, one for 12 – 18 months Fall/Winter, one for 18 – 24 months Spring/Summer.

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After I finish Nell’s room this week, I’ll buy bins and assign a color to each kid, but for now the diaper boxes do. And everything else that isn’t something he currently wears? 1 big box of clothes marked to give to friends. I dropped a load off at our neighbor’s house yesterday – it felt great. Here’s what his closet looks like now:

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Just the clothes he’s currently wearing, a box of his winter bed linens, and a mementos tub (things that he’ll want down the road but we don’t have surface space to display right now with two beds in his room) live in his closet now. Thomas walked in and said, “Wow! What is this place called?” Sorry kid, I’ve been depriving you of a secret hang-out.

And for his room, I washed all the sheets and put on his rugby stripe duvet for summer, vacuumed and scrubbed everything, including baseboards. The room needs to be repainted and I’d like to change out the window treatments, but Thomas has successfully slept in his big bed for naps and nighttime this week, so once we take the crib down, I’ll turn my attention to the painting and decorating portion of his room. But here’s how it looks now:

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How did you do in week one? In week two I’ll do the same to Nell’s room – focusing on the toys and clothes and deep cleaning. Link-up below if you have any cleaning or de-cluttering progress to share this week!



Live More With Less: Week 1

I’m thrilled that so many of you want to follow along – loosely or strictly, whatever works – with my Lenten Goal to love where I live and get rid of the unnecessary items that are causing me to feel overwhelmed by things and too little space. I’m going to check in every Wednesday with an update on the previous week (Wednesday – Tuesday giving me the weekends to really tackle big projects), and I’ll add a link-up for you all to share your progress with everyone, too. It will be so much more fun to have other people doing this, too!

 

7 Weeks to a Clean Home

 

For week 1, I’m starting on Thomas’s room. We don’t really keep toys in his room, so up there it’s just a matter of sorting and purging all the clothes in closet and deep cleaning everywhere else. I’ll also put on his Spring/Summer duvet cover and get his room ready for the coming, warmer months. Here’s What I’m tackling in the boy’s room.

1) Closet

  • Take out and wash all clothes. Toss anything with holes or stains. Get rid of all existing socks and buy new. Rehang and fold what currently fits for Winter into cooler Spring days
  • Have T try on all of his summer clothes from last year to see what will still work for this spring and summer, and what we need to replace. Make a list so I can shop strategically.
  • Sort through the bins of outgrown clothes to determine my favorite things we’ll keep for a potential 3rd child, and make a pile to pass down to others. This one’s going to be hard for me, but I have to keep telling myself that I can’t keep it all! If we do have a 3rd child, we’ll buy and receive some new clothes for that baby, too, so I only need to keep my favorites.
  • Move clothes that I’m keeping to labeled plastic bins by size and season and relocate to the basement crawl space.
  • Vacuum

2) Room

  • Vacuum and dust all horizontal services
  • Vacuum all high-up corners and windows
  • Clean windows inside and out
  • Scrub baseboards
  • Prime and paint windowsills
  • Spackle and touch up paint where needed
  • Wash all linens – mattress pads, sheets, comforters, duvets and throw pillow covers
  • Organize bookshelf – make lists of any books that need to be replaced due to damage

What room or area of your home are you going to focus on this week?