Category Archives: Organization

The Uncluttered Life: Kid’s Toys

Are you tired of spending your free time dusting, picking up toys or generally taking care of your possessions?  Wouldn’t you rather be reading a book, taking a walk with a friend or hanging out with your kids?  Around two ago, my husband and I decided to make a conscious effort to get rid of our ‘junk’.  Basically, we grew tired of not being able to find items when we needed them.

Fast forward six months, and I would say there is definite progress being made.  I am now a regular in the donating line at the thrift stores instead of in the purchasing line.

IMG_6144Donations ready to go!

I can easily find items in the kitchen, our bedroom and in every closet in the house. Progress has been made in every room, but one area that we are still really struggling with is the kid’s room!

IMG_2183

So, this photo was taken over a year ago, but if you really look at this picture, you will notice that our kids like to play with the laundry baskets, toy baskets, blankets and pillows.  I tried sorting toys into plastic bins and plastic shoe boxes, but the system is hard for my 5 and 3 year old kids.  I love sorted toys and the kids could care less.  I have also used pretty cloth baskets to corral toys, but they either don’t play with the toys inside or they dump the entire bag out to find what they are looking for.

In my search for a solution, I came across the book, Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home, by Joshua Becker.  I was sold from the beginning where he writes, “Living life is more enjoyable than managing and organizing stuff.”  We spend so much time trying to organize our possessions, only to have to do it again in a week or so.  If we owned less stuff, we could spend our time and money on efforts that actually bring us joy.

While the messages and tips in the book were very helpful for all aspects of downsizing, there were some great hints for making it work with kids.  One of my favorites was ‘periodic minimizing,’ where you go in every month or so and remove toys that aren’t being played with.  I’ll admit to ‘sorting’ toys into a toy basket that I then snuck out to dump into a donation bag. This eliminates excess clutter and allows kids easier access to the toys they love.

Another tip I loved was to be intentional in your buying (or not buying) of toys.  Instead of a lot of cheap toys that will likely break in 10 minutes, consider holding out for quality toys that encourage creativity and exploration.

Kids playing

Legos everywhere

We have eliminated a lot of excess toys over the past year, and the kids haven’t missed any of them.  These days, our biggest (littlest?) problem with clutter is Legos!  Both of our kids love Legos, and honestly, I do too.  Aspen is incredibly creative with all of these colorful little pieces, and Landry loves the Lego duplo sets.

Yesterday, the kids and I very purposefully went through all the clothes and toys in their bedroom once again.    They spent the remainder of the day playing in their room with their favorite toys.  I call that a win/win!

Any tips for keeping Legos in check?  I am all ears!

 

Disclaimer: UniquelyYouInteriors.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  We appreciate your support!

Bright and Breezy Office Update

Pretty much everyone has some sort of ‘office’ in their home these days, whether it be at the dining room table or in a room by itself.  It is where you sit to pay your bills, organize your finances, search the internet and maybe even do some paid work.  I am currently working on a home office remodel for a local couple, and want to share some of the thoughts and ideas in the early stages.

Bunker Office Ideas Numbered

1. Color Palette: BHG 2016  2.  3. Ceiling Light  4. Orange Mirror 5. Gray Bookcase  6. Corner Desk with Hutch  7. A Little Window Photo: Minted.com 8. Ranunculus Photo 9. Tape Dispenser and Stapler  10. Desk Lamp  11. Blue Monday Photo: Minted.com  12. Storage Basket  13. Desk (similar to client’s)  14. Succulents: Image  15. Blue Box Planter and Mint Planter  16. Orange File Cabinet

The first thing I like to do is to make a list where I break down the requirements and challenges of the space.  

-The office needs to accommodate two people and their furniture.  

-The room is small (~10’x10’), with three desks currently in it.  Two of the desks will be staying, because one is a family heirloom and the other is a corner desk that does help maximize the space.  The heirloom desk is nice looking, but the corner desk isn’t beautiful.  The corner desk is also the home of a desktop computer.  

-The office now has a tall almond colored filing cabinet and two shorter ones, which are topped with a printer/copier.  The closet is filled with books and other miscellaneous supplies.  There is florescent lighting and tan carpet, both of which need updating.

 Bunker Office window wall before_edited-1

My clients are a fun couple who will be retiring in the next few years.  They like bright and unfussy spaces, so there will be no dark ‘den’ or ‘man-cave’ designs here!  We both fell in love with Better Homes and Gardens 2016 color palette, which includes a light gray, dusty blue, bright orange, mint green and blush pink.  In the right combination, it is both masculine and feminine, which is ideal for this couple’s shared office.  Adding in black or a dark stain on the desks also keeps the look from being too soft.

 A few DIY projects using some of the existing furniture will help keep the budget down.  Their current filing system will likely be downsized, but we plan to paint the filing cabinets that remain, since they are high quality.  We will be working on the two desks to help them blend more cohesively.  My clients are happy with the comfort of their current office chairs, so we will be recovering at least one of them with new upholstery.  Fresh paint on the walls and ceiling will brighten up everything, as will the addition of a new ceiling fixture and a desk lamp or two.

The closet space will be reconfigured to store books and office supplies more efficiently.  Quality shelving might have a combination of open and closed storage, possibly with some baskets or closed doors.  They are considering a small chair for a reading nook, so we will see how the space goes together once we get the space plan worked out.  For now, check out the idea board I created for a bright and breezy office space. 

 

 

Ready, Set, Organize!

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but January was all about organizing.  And for those of us who didn’t get it all done in January, February is about organizing, too. 🙂

It seems that with a new year, people get excited about putting their possessions in order, once and for all.  I am right there with you, getting sucked into all the ads for storage containers and articles about shelves and colorful baskets and tidy bins being the solution for corralling our possessions.  But before you go out and buy 50 new containers to stylishly store all your shoes, let’s talk about clutter.

Those of you who know me personally are probably laughing right now.  I know a lot about clutter, because I deal with it every day.  My little family has made huge progress in the clutter department over the last couple of years, but we are still working on the tendencies my husband and I (and our two kids) have to collect various items.  And to not put things back where they belong.  We all like to create, and surroundings sometimes get a bit crazy during the creative process.  

IMG_5261

But, the important lesson we have each learned is that it is much more fun to work on a project when we can easily find all of our materials and when our environment is uncluttered.  

Aspen and legos

There are so many reasons why we as humans tend to collect too much stuff.  In fact, I teach a whole class about clutter Monday, through ISU Workforce Training. My biggest personal reason is that I plan to use it or ‘I might need it’ someday.  So while I wait for that ‘someday,’ the stuff is cluttering up my workspace and causing me stress.  Before I purchase any ‘get organized quick’ storage system, I must first declutter.  I know from experience that getting rid of anything that is not bringing joy to my life is incredibly rewarding (this does not include my son at 3 in the morning).

closet organized

While our home is small compared to the average, we really have more than enough room for the four of us.  We hope to downsize even more in the future, so learning how to keep clutter at bay is essential.  My husband and I are really good at repurposing items, but we also tend to buy ahead for future projects.

Goal #1: Stop buying ahead!  If I am not ready to do the project right away, I should leave the materials at the store.  What do I think is going to happen?  That I will finally have the time to do the project and the roads will be closed so I can’t get to the store?

Goal #2: Set a deadline and plan for projects I already have materials for.  If I am still not inspired to do it, get rid of the stuff because it likely won’t ever get done.  Only after all the excess clutter is gone can I even start to think about goal #3.

Goal #3: Organize.  By this time, all that should be left are the things that we really use and actually like.  I don’t want to organize junk, I want to organize things I care about!  And guess what, by this time I will probably have discovered I don’t actually need any more storage containers.  Well, except maybe those cool glass jars with the copper lids I saw over at Ross.  I am sure I could find a good use for them. Someday.

FullSizeRender (12)

 

 

Clearing some clutter before the New Year

Today I learned about a Japanese end-of-year tradition called Oosouji.  It literally means “big clean” and is very similar to spring cleaning.  Before starting the new year, Japanese homes, businesses and schools get a deep cleaning to get rid of dirt, clutter and disorganization.  I love the thought of starting the fresh goals and resolutions of the New Year with a clean home!

Instead of being overwhelmed at the thought of deep cleaning my entire home, I decided to start with the holiday stuff.  When I take down the lights and decorations, I make sure everything is still in good working order. If you happen to have some items that need replaced, do it now when everything is on sale!  When you dig things out again next year you will be able to get right to decorating, rather than having to go to the store for an overpriced string of colored lights.  

IMG_5256

Storage containers are also on sale right now, but I am refusing to buy any.  All of my current storage problems can be solved by decluttering, rather than buying more containers.  All of our holiday decorations fit into one lime green tote, with room to spare.  I actually threw in the Christmas themed books and cookie cutters too, so when we open the box next year, it will all be in one place!  Now I just need to make a label for it and put it back under the stairs.

IMG_5260

After the decorations are stored, it is time to think about where those holiday gifts are going.  If you received appliances or tools, can they replace other things in your kitchen or garage?  When you are making space for that new blender, take a good look at what you are storing in the pantry closet.  Did you use that bread machine this year? The cupcake maker?  Be honest and ruthless.  If your new blender is buried under so much stuff that you can’t easily get to it, you won’t use it either!

The same goes for clothes in your closet.  I can pretty much tell you which clothes I don’t like and rarely wear without even looking in my closet.  Those all went in the donation bag today, to make room for clothes that I am excited to wear.  Last week I went shopping with my mom, sister and sis-in-law and scored some awesome new clothes!  I am trying to get rid of two things for every one thing I bring in, but I have already gotten rid of most of the items I don’t wear.  One for one might have to work for now.

Our kids got some pajamas for Christmas, so out go a pair (or two) of old ones that are too small.  They are also outgrowing some of their toys, so clearing them out will make room for the new ones.  The tricky part for me is getting the old stuff out of the house before the kids ‘remember’ the toys they don’t play with anymore.  If you can possibly get your kids on board with the clearing out/donation process, I am sure it would be much easier.

I love the feeling of a decluttered home, so I am hoping to get to my little office space this week also.  I have a lot of personal and professional goals I hope to accomplish this year, and starting off with a clean slate seems like a great way to welcome the New Year.  Happy 2016!

Renovation Diary, Part 4: The Bathroom Reveal

Fifty-two days after the fateful peeling up of ‘just one’ vinyl tile on our bathroom floor, the bathroom renovation is complete.  Instead of feeling dated, grungy and pieced together, our bathroom now feels happy, spacious and clean.  Natural daylight floods the space and the bright colors are refreshing and uplifting.

Bright and Peaceful Bathroom Remodel, Black and White, Merona Tile, Ikea vanity, cb2 mirror

Details, details!  Who knew it would take over a month and a half to get a window in the bathroom and to finish caulking everything?  The most important parts of the bathroom–aka the toilet, sink and bathtub, were useable by the first week or two of September, but the missing window prevented the use of the shower for several more weeks.

Installing glass block in a shower

 Thankfully, the warm fall weather in Pocatello held out and my crazy plan to combine a regular window with glass blocks worked fantastically.  

Glass blocks and an awning window

Exposed cinder block, round mirror, Ikea vanity

Many aspects of our Do-It-Yourself bathroom renovation have been incredible learning experiences.  One of the more stressful lessons is that when you order tile shipped to your house, half of it may arrive smashed to pieces.  Luckily, I could take it right down to Home Depot for a refund and I quickly reordered the amount I needed.  It’s a good thing it was a pretty painless process, because next the glass block window I ordered arrived with about 12 chips in it.  I ended up just ordering loose glass blocks on the second go-round and Jer and I put them together ourselves.  We are much happier with the finished appearance and we were able to fill the window space perfectly with an awning window above the glass blocks.  I was pretty stubborn about wanting glass blocks in the bathroom, but with a large window on top that would open and vent.  Our awning window ended up being 32in x 16in, and the glass blocks were 32in x 24in below it.  I am really glad I stayed true to my vision, even when it seemed like such a hassle.

IMG_6820

Another eye-opener for us is that tub and shower fixtures are not all made the same.  Of course, we didn’t find this out until the end, when all of the tile was completely done.  We ended up coming in from the back side and cutting a large hole in our kitchen/dining room wall to replace the pressure balance valve.  What would have taken less than an hour while everything was out in the open ended up taking all day.  And now there is that little issue of the hole in the kitchen wall…

One of our favorite things about the bathroom is the statement tile on the floor.

Merola Tile Twenties Diamond

It completely fits our family’s style, but it will also work very well with other styles.  Simply changing the art and the color of the towels gives the bathroom a different vibe.

Bathroom Remodel: Black and White with a bit of color

 We also love the modern look of the vertically stacked white subway tile with the charcoal grout.  The tile fits well with the style and era of our home, but also has a fresh twist.  At the last minute, I decided to add black tile around the window, and I am so glad I did.

Target clock, DIY shelf

We no longer have to fear that the tub or toilet may fall through the floor unexpectedly.  Gone is the plexiglass nailed to the old shower window to prevent leaks into the wall.

Back of door hooks

 We know the amount of hard work and attention to detail that was put into every inch of the room.  There are a few details remaining, such as knobs for hanging towels and maybe a small cabinet for storage, but that’s all part of the fun.  

Wash cloths in a basket

Towel basket by tub

Can I just tell you how awesome it was to take that first shower in the new bathroom?!?

The Uncluttered Life: Office Revival

Whether your office consists of an entire room or a little desk tucked in somewhere, chances are it is a major clutter magnet.  Seeing your desk full of clutter can make the often stressful tasks of work and bill paying even more difficult.  Since I work from home and my office space is located in our living room, it was next on our agenda for decluttering and simplifying.  I was eager to get started, because I know I am a hundred times more productive and happy in a clean space.  Here are a few things I did to create some calm in the office:

1. Photograph the Before!  This is so important so you can see your amazing progress.  Every time I get discouraged, I look at the Before photo and see how much progress I have made.  Photos are also a more objective way to view your ‘stuff’ and can help you identify problem areas.

2.  Make a list of areas to work on: Mine are paper piles, shelf clutter, too many unused books, stacks of magazines and an inefficient desktop filing system.

3.  Tackle the most visible problems first.  I took care of the pile of papers and other miscellania to the right of my computer.  This also happened to involve my desktop filing system, which was taking up more valuable space to the left of my computer.  In the interest of simple living, I decided that I only want my computer on the desktop.  As I looked at photos of my desk area, I realized I could be using the side walls of my desk area much more efficiently.  I decided to hang a single file bin and a simple organizing system I found at Staples.  I used Command Strip picture hangers so I wouldn’t have to drill or pound a nail into my shelves.

4. What do we do with the paper!?  The main reason you could even see the top of my desk at all was because we go paperless whenever possible.  I set up automatic bill paying if it is available, and keep track of things on my desk calendar.  When I sorted my paper pile, I put it into categories and made a list.  Then, I made sure I had those files set up correctly in my file cabinet.

5.  Donate books that are outdated, no longer relevant or that you don’t plan to reread.  Be ruthless and realistic.  I also went through my magazines with a much colder eye than I usually do, and was able to part with a large number of them.  The extra room on my bookshelves allows me to see and use my remaining books more easily.

6.  Remember how refreshing it is to work at an uncluttered desk.  Even the process of clearing out has caused me to feel more energized.  Cheers to productivity!

IMG_6775

What are some things you do to keep your office space tidy?

Redo! Another Kitchen Challenge

When I was an elementary school teacher, I often gave my older students an opportunity to redo an essay or project if they wanted to improve their work.  By rereading or redesigning their previous attempt, they often learned much more about the topic (which was the ultimate goal) and hopefully even discovered a bit about their own thinking process.  It seems like a valuable skill to have, because let’s face it, many of us spend a lot of time at our jobs redoing or updating things.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, we often get stuck in a mindset where we think things need to stay exactly how they were when we moved in, or when they were built or when we first arranged them.

IMG_0865 IMG_0866Kitchen: When we bought our house in 2010.

IMG_6523

IMG_6519Refrigerator wall: a few weeks ago…

It is a good thing my husband and I are both used to working and reworking projects until we are happy with them.  A few weeks ago, we bought a new refrigerator, which ended up changing a few (very recently completed) key arrangements in our kitchen.

Our new fridge lured us in with the promise of much more interior space along with ice and water on demand.  Plus it was on a fantastic sale at Home Depot.  Unfortunately, the larger size meant we had to take down the recently added cabinet above the fridge, which meant things on that wall were looking unbalanced and a little crazy.  Also, the new fridge is stainless so it doesn’t match the stove and dishwasher anymore.  It was classic chain reaction where one thing leads to another.

IMG_2115

IMG_2116

Instead of bemoaning the loss of a storage/display cabinet, we decided to take the opportunity to rework things and try something new.  We took down the remaining cabinet on the fridge wall and put it over the stove, filling out that space a bit better.

Then, my handy hubby began building a wall of shelves using ½ inch galvanized steel pipe and 2 x 12 boards.  The mix of steel and wood fits really well in our kitchen, and the industrial modern look of the shelves works well with our simple 1950s home.  It also makes it so the mix of stainless and white appliances isn’t so obvious.

IMG_2150

Since we used pipes that screw together, we were able add to it as time and budget allowed.  IMG_6662

IMG_6655After considering a natural wood look via a clear coat, we decided to stain the wood gray.  I am happy we did, because it really makes the whole system work with the concrete countertops and the stainless refrigerator.

While I wouldn’t have spent all the time painting and caulking cabinets last month if I had known we were going to change things this month, I don’t regret it at all.  We gained a lot in the process, and I feel like we are really learning how to make our home more functional and beautiful within the space we have.  Our end result will greatly exceed what we started with, both in usability and appearance.

The lesson: Don’t be afraid to take a redo.

Check back Monday morning for completed shelf pictures!

 

The Uncluttered Life: Pantry Overhaul

This pantry project has been a long time coming. It has been a jumbled disaster for several months, but I didn’t bother to reorganize it because I wanted to do a complete overhaul on the pantry closet while I was at it.

IMG_1940
Horrifying.

IMG_1942
The problem with ‘overhauls’ at our house is that the rest of the house then becomes a complete disaster. Also, I usually have a lot of help.  This week, we finally tackled the pantry, and I am excited about the results.

To begin, I brought in a garbage bag and a donation box. I got rid of a toaster oven that burned everything, a Salad Shooter, a manual food processor and the Magic Bullet. I recently bought one nice food processor that does everything except burn toast. It was such a relief to finally send those appliances to the donation box! I tossed opened bags that were stale or that no one was going to eat. I took every item out of the pantry and washed the entire thing. IMG_6572

Then, I found some ceiling paint and a half gallon of paint left over from our bedroom closet makeover and painted walls, floors and ceiling. I decided to stain the shelves instead of painting them. I used a water-based Minwax stain in Pecan. I chose to use water-based stain because I was working in an enclosed space and it is less toxic and smelly.

IMG_2007
Dark phone photo, but it feels fresh!

One thing about our pantry is that it is the closet over the stairs to the basement. In the 1950s, they often made these closets with deep steps all the way to the back. I have been researching solutions for making our closet more user-friendly, but haven’t found any help. So, Jer and I decided to put horizontally adjustable shelves across the shelves we put in a few years ago. They can be pushed back if needed, but we pulled them forward so everything is reachable from the first step. I found that things would just get lost and piled in the deep cave, so the shallower adjustable shelves are nicer for us. (We can access the back, so I put a few very infrequently used items back there, like the dehydrator and angel food cake pan).

A pantry works best with multiple shallow shelves. When Jer and I added shelves to our closet, we made the ones on the sides 6 inches deep and the ones on the back 11 inches deep. This keeps items from getting lost in the black hole that often happens when shelves are too deep. If you happen to have deep shelves, consider installing pull-out bins or drawers.

IMG_6603

I also wanted to add a little fun to the steps, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on it. Jer suggested using half a grapefruit. The ones we had were pretty large, but I spotted some Cuties and decided they would be perfect! I found some orange and yellow craft paint and two paper plates. After practicing on a piece of paper, I started randomly stamping the Cuties on the steps. The final look is not for everyone, but I like the 70s retro look and think it will be fun for awhile. When I get tired of it, it will take 10 minutes to paint it again.

IMG_6601

After the pantry is clean (and the paint is dry!) it is time to put things back. I arrange items according to use and size. Most frequently used things go at eye level. For us, that means canned goods and cereals are readily available for easy grabbing. Multiple cans of the same food are stacked together.

IMG_6590

I prefer to take things out of larger packages so I know when it needs to be restocked.  At lower levels are individually wrapped snacks and things that are ok for our kids to grab. The highest shelves are reserved for empty glass bottles, extra spices and lesser used appliances.

IMG_6602

As far as other organization tools, I use plastic half gallon and gallon containers with labels for things like rice and granola. I also decant extra flour and sugar, etc into labeled containers to keep random bags from leaking everywhere.  I wish they were clear, but they are recycled (aka.free) so I like them. Clear containers of any kind are nice because you can see the contents inside and know when it needs replacing. There are many container options for sale, but make sure it fits the food and fits into your space before you buy. I am using baskets to corral picnic supplies, extra Kurig cups and bags of chips. I tried a few different baskets before I remembered this orange one that goes better with the ‘citrus’ theme.

We mounted a broom holder on the inside door of our pantry to keep them from falling out every time we open the door. I also have a grocery bag holder mounted to the inside of the door. Other options for the inside of doors are over the door racks, spice shelves and shoe holders. Painting the inside of the door is an upcoming project.

Now that the pantry is stocked and organized, the food will just cook itself, right?

The Rise of the Kitchen Cabinet

 

What happens when you try something new and don’t totally love it?  At our house, we try, try again!  Over the past year, I painted our kitchen cabinets white, and the walls a light gray.  I still am really happy with both of those choices.  Because our kitchen is pretty small, I wanted to make use of the space above the cabinets, and also try to conceal the lumps on the ceiling from someone else’s soffit removal job.  I tried using labeled bins and some other containers above the cabinets, and it actually worked very well for storage. IMG_6162The only thing I didn’t love was that it felt a bit crowded or dark for the high space.  I left it for awhile, because I really liked the increased functionality.

Then, I saw this image, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

Raised Cabinet InspirationImage Source

IMG_6476 I am not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but raising the cabinets to the ceiling and putting a shelf underneath was a brilliant solution!  It would work perfectly for a space like ours, and would also camouflage the wonky ceiling.

Right after I finished the concrete overlay on the countertops, we decided to moved the cabinets up.

It was a two person job a lot of the time, and the car jack was even involved at one point (ahem, rednecks).

Behind the cabinets was a bit of a mess, so I scraped off the big chunks and then primed and painted everything gray to match the walls.

IMG_6473I really like the open feeling of no upper cabinets, but since our space is smaller, we need the additional storage.IMG_6479After the cabinets were reinstalled, there were noticeable gaps along the upper edge by the ceiling.

IMG_6485

I ended up just using a paintable caulk to fill in the spaces.  It made a huge different in how finished and clean the final result looked.

IMG_6489The ceiling needs a bit of paint touch up when you get up close, but it looks so much better than it did.

IMG_6488We decided to leave the space above the microwave open for now.  I like the idea of building an open box around the space also, but for now it is perfect for large platters and a spiky plant.

IMG_6508We added an open shelf underneath the cabinets at typical cabinet height (18 inches).  We used the same shelving from IKEA that we used for the open shelves above the dishwasher.  We made a few modifications in the corner, and Jer reinforced underneath with some wood pieces.

I store most often used items on the open shelf, like spices and flours.  IMG_6528We opted to hang mugs from underneath the cabinet by the coffee prep area instead of adding a shelf.  We love the convenience and the added color from the mugs.

IMG_6526

IMG_6523

IMG_6502

IMG_6541

The cost of the shelves and a few brackets was our only expense for this project (so about $75).  It feels so much more open to us, and having the lower open shelf has been really handy for cooking and baking.  What do you think?

Before

IMG_6162

After

IMG_6502

 

 

 

 

IMG_6513

Creatively Displaying Collections

Collections are often a tricky design dilemma. While we really don’t want to be known as the ‘beanie baby lady’ or the ‘fast food toy hoarder’ most people have at least a little assortment of something that they value or find meaningful.  Whether your passion is rocks or crocks, stamps or lamps, if you have a collection of something you have probably wondered how to show it off in an aesthetically pleasing way.  The way I see it, at least if it is out of storage and on display, there is a chance it will gather compliments along with the dust!

The best piece of advice I have regarding collections is to gather items into one area so they become a focal point.

Freutcake-Bittersweet-4

Image Source

A dedicated accent wall, cabinet or row of shelves is more appealing than items scattered randomly around the house.

johnderian

Image Source

A high shelf mounted above a doorway is a simple way to group like items, such as baskets or vintage tins.  Use trays to gather similar objects for display on a countertop or coffee table.

Design*Sponge | Leah Verwey Photo

Image Source

If you collect really small items, consider displaying some of them in a divided wooden box.  This separates them out a bit and causes the eye to see them as one cohesive piece rather than fifty tiny things.

collection box

Image Source

The box can be hung on the wall, and items can be rotated occasionally so that each piece gets its day in the spotlight.  If you have an extensive collection, you might just pick just a few of your favorites to show off at a time.  This ensures that you and others will be more likely to notice and enjoy them.  Canned air is useful for the frequent and detailed dusting that small items require.

matchbox car arrangement

Image source: http://ultimatedisplaycase.com

A collection of various sized pieces look nice staggered along a shelf or mantle (much like a city’s horizon line).  Size variations are good in a collection because it makes it more dynamic and interesting to look at.  Find balance by grouping a taller object with several smaller ones.  If the collection has a variety of colors, consider grouping items by color, or create a pattern of sorts.  The trick is to be willing to tweak things a few times until you like how it looks.

bottles 

Image Source

I don’t collect objects for hobby, but I do enjoy displaying our white serving dishes and platters.  My favorite way to show them off is to use a contrasting background to make them stand out.  We recently installed a cabinet above our refrigerator as a home for my ‘white’ collection.  I removed the doors, sprayed the insides berry pink, and used retro floral duct tape on the back of the cabinet.  The white dishes really stand out and the bright colors add an element of the unconventional.

IMG_6513 

Bring your collections out of hiding and make them a part of your decor.  And for the love of simplicity, only collect objects you enjoy and that tell a story about you.  You do have to dust them, you know.

The Uncluttered Life: Kitchen Continued

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it feels to have our kitchen cleaned and organized!  I finished the cupboards and tackled the countertops early this week, and it was a full day job (with two little messers and lots of play breaks).  I feel so much less stressed that I am even more committed to keeping the clutter out.

I put everything that was using the kitchen as ‘limbo-land’ back in it’s proper place, and found places for things that used to reside on the countertop.  I decided the mixer wasn’t used enough to warrant a permanent place on the counter, even though I loved the cheery red color.  Having it in the corner just seemed to attract more items to want to congregate with it!  Into the lower cabinet it went, fitting in nicely with the red crock pot.  The only things on the counter are the Keurig and our kombucha brew. The kombucha is waiting for a hidden spot in the pantry, because really, it’s not the most beautiful thing to look at.

I am embarrassed to show you the ‘Before’ photos of my counters, but in the name of keeping it real and knowing that there are others out there just like me who are ‘creatives’ with a thousand things going at once, here they are:

I forgot to take photos before I put the mixer away…

And now the ‘Afters,’ our Fresh Start.

For those of you who love a true Before and After, here’s a comparison of when we moved in and how it looks now…

 

Lots of changes, and it feels like us.  Now that we can see the counters again, I have plans to resurface them.  But for right now, I am going to enjoy the simple feeling of clean and organized.

The Uncluttered Life: Kitchen

Last week, my husband and I had a “Light Bulb!” moment (I am saying that in my best Gru impersonation).  We occasionally chat on the computer during the day, and send photos and articles from our research that we think the other might find interesting.  Often we are both sucked into the world of tiny homes and how people get rid of all but their necessities and live very happily in extremely small and awesomely designed spaces.  During one of my searches on ways to get rid of excess ‘stuff,’ I came across the website becomingminimalist.com, and I was sold.  I especially loved the nudge from his neighbor that made him realize that he wanted to be spending time with his family, rather than cleaning a garage full of their possessions.

Lucky for me, Jeremiah was on board, and we committed to working toward a realistic minimalism for our lives.  For us, I know this won’t mean living without books or computers, and we will still enjoy our various creative hobbies.  What it will mean is taking a good hard look at what we really need, use and enjoy in our home and lives, and eliminating the cluttering excess.

I started with the kitchen this week, because this is where it all happens at our house.  I am not completely finished, but this is how I have gone about the process.  I hope to post more progress throughout the week.

1. Take photos of your existing space (even inside the cupboards).  Photos can help you look more objectively at your things and will give you some motivation to declutter.  They also help you take a good look at how things are stored and used.

Spices and Baking Items:Before

Storage Containers and Misc. Cooking Items: Before

2. Make a list of your problem areas.  Mine are: Spices, Storage Containers, Coat Rack, Shoe Basket and Countertops.

3. Take stock of what you really use, and how often you use it.  Do you really need four spatulas, three wisks, and five large water bottles?  Pick out the ones you use all the time, and donate the rest.  Take a deep breath, and let it go.

 

Yay! The donation pile.  Most of the stuff in the plastic bag came from the storage container cupboard.

4.  Remove all items from the cupboards, wipe them down, and only put back what you use.  I love using baskets or bins for their organizing benefits and because they look nice.  Measure cupboards and items when looking for organizing systems to make sure it will actually help you rather than just clutter up space even more.  It can be difficult to find containers to fit the 10 or 11 inch depth most cupboards allow.

5. Organize according to use.  Don’t use prime shelving or cupboard space for items that are only used once per year.  I use open shelves for everyday dishes, cupboards for baking items and container storage, and my base cabinet for the crock-pot, stock pot and dutch oven.  I also just moved my mixer to the base cabinet, because I don’t use it often enough to warrant taking up prime real estate on the counter.  Less frequently used items like the dehydrator, waffle maker, etc. go in the back part of the pantry.  The pantry closet will be a much later post, as we are designing a complete overhaul for our needs.

 

Spices and Baking Items: After

Storage Containers and Misc. Cooking Items: After

Base Cabinet: After. The mixer was added and a skillet taken away.

6. Remove things that don’t belong in the kitchen.  Right now, I have a box for the garage, a box for the basement and a box for donating.  I know this will be the step that I have to be the most vigilant about.  You know, so the boxes don’t become a permanent part of the kitchen.

Are you interested in spending more time with your loved ones and less time stressing about clutter? I am incredibly excited to be going through our house one room at a time (the garage is not safe either, don’t worry!) and getting rid of the clutter that is adding unnecessary stress to our lives.  I am also hoping this simplification of our lives has a positive and lasting effect on our kids.  Join us on our adventure as we discover our unique way of living with less stuff!