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A Healthy Abundance vs. Too Many Toys

Fisher Price Little People Toy Cars on a shelf

Abundance requires simplicity — because in order to have abundance in one area, you must reduce something else. You can either use your toy budget to buy a roomful of random toys or you can decide to focus on investing in only two or three open-ended toys: say, wooden blocks, a wooden dollhouse, LEGO.
— from Camp Creek Blog, Project Based Homeschooling

Yesterday, I read a post called Parenting with abundance and simplicity. The timing could not have been better. I had just spent hours organizing and sorting the kids toys that morning – a task always fraught with indecision, nostalgia and little hands trying to undo the progress I’m trying to make. I only have enough energy and motivation to do this every once in a while, so when I decide to do it, I make it count. Some things are perfectly clear, like how all the stuffed animals have a designated bin Chloe’s room, all the small junk toys (party favors, happy meal, or dollar store stuff) goes in a “travel” bin (since I don’t care if they get lost) and all play tools and most vehicles go in Leo’s room. This is not to say, for example, that Chloe doesn’t play with the trucks, it’s just that she almost never does, but she’s free to play with them whenever she wants.

One of the toys that has gotten the most cooperative play in our house from both kids is the play kitchen. You may have seen it in the background of other photographs because it is near the dining table and family room. The concept written in the Parenting with abundance and simplicity post clearly reflects what I’ve seen in the kids’ creative play: That because we have an “abundance” of play dishes and pots and foodstuffs, there is almost never a reason to fight over anything. They are content to play together. The kids have tea parties, pretend to make dinner, feed each other… it is a pleasure to watch. They get really involved and I can almost see their little brains at work while they concentrate on their self-directed tasks. It’s usually quite peaceful… until Leo decides it is more fun to throw plastic fruit across the room (or at each other). Or it’s time to clean up. Even then it’s fairly easy because its fine with me as long as everything generally makes it back into the cabinets.

The Abundance concept makes me realize something else… Chloe and Leo often fight over the blocks. We have four different types (duplo, classic wooden, mega blocs and a generic brand – not including Legos). I always thought it was cool that we had a variety, and rotate bringing them each down for play. But what if we had double of just one or two sets? Would the kids play longer and possibly collaboratively? Would Chloe complain because she is out of a certain color before she is finished implementing her idea? Would she stop trying to steal them away from her brother causing him to then knock down her structure in frustration? Also, now that I am thinking about it, Chloe usually says she’s ‘finished’ once she’s used up all the blocks. So what if there were a lot more blocks to use? Would she then spend twice as long and be twice as involved in her project as she currently is? For example, the photos in the previous post were taken when she was ‘all done’ – both times because she didn’t have anymore blocks left. Do you see my light bulb moment here?

This leads me to the other things they most often fight about. The biggest one, naturally, is the iPad. I’ve taken to putting Chloe’s Netflix shows on the regular TV (using the appleTV) and letting Leo have uninterrupted time with the iPad. Otherwise, it’s a pushing/pulling match with Chloe yelling and Leo pulling her hair. Another thing the kids have been fighting over lately is Leo’s new cozy coupe that his Aunt Katherine sent for his birthday. But there is no way we are fitting another one of those in the house, despite how much play it gets!

Anyway, this whole abundance thing really makes sense to me. Yes, kids should learn to share, but yes, providing an abundance of well-chosen open-ended toys also allows for meaningful benefits I hadn’t considered before. This is a parenting concept that sort of rocks my world.

 


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Food Storage Organization + Free Kitchen Label Printable

Somedays I’ll imagine what it might be like years from now, when the baby and preschooler cease to create havoc and destruction wherever they go. I imagine actually being able to “style” the rooms, instead of keeping all surfaces kid-friendly (or kid-cluttered). For now, I get my kicks occasionally sneaking peaks at I heart organizing (I did this with our DVDs right away!) and Centsational Girl. They’re great for inspiration and little boosts of motivation.

A while ago I noticed how ridiculous the base corner unit in our kitchen was getting. Its an Ikea Rationell lazy susan that holds mostly canned and some bulk dry goods, plus odds and ends like coffee and reusable containers. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I cleaned it out. There was spilled salt (did we really need the 10lb Costco bag?) crusting in leaked cooking oil, and speaking of oil – every single bottle down there was expired. Hmm. Guess it was time for a cleaning!

I was surprised how quick it went. Like any good anti-clutter/cleaning project I pulled everything out and wiped everything down. I sealed up the salt, tossed all the oil and expired items, then divided items by category. I found 10 main categories – Veggies, Fruits, Beans, Tomatoes (diced, paste, etc.), Soups, Meats, Sauces, Condiments, Dry Goods and Plasticware. Everything was placed back on the racks in its designated spot. To make future sorting even easier, I spent some of the kids’ naptime making kitchen labels. What is it about a label that makes everything seem so neat and official?

Do you have a Rationell unit or need some handy labels? Feel free to download this pdf. The first page is pre-labeled and the second page is blank so you can personalize as you need. Enjoy!

Kitchen Label Download (53kb)

 

 


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Make Ahead Meals + List Progress

I’m making progress on my list!

1) On Friday night I got a much-needed massage – it came as part of a Groupon, and also includes 7 drop-in workout classes I hope to start later this week.

2) Last night David and I processed a big batch of garden tomatoes. This is our first year having a stand alone freezer, thanks to David’s parents. We followed these directions on how to freeze tomatoes from your garden. I’m looking forward to using them in mid-winter sauces and soups.

3) We’ve begun cleaning and sanding the craigslist dresser for the hallway (more info about that later).

4) Also, this past week, I found some affordable recipes to make good freezer meals. These are the five I’m starting with:

• Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas (shown above)
• Taco Chicken Bowls
• Chicken Chili Verde
• Lentil & Sausage Stew
• Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

(The last four recipes come from a food blog called Budget Bytes, which has appetizing, step-by-step photos and also provides an interesting cost break-down of each ingredient). Around midweek I made a list of all the food I would need, and then Chloe and I went grocery shopping on Wednesday evening after dinner. On one hand it was nice to have a list to stick to – usually I just wander the aisles looking for things I hope my family will eat, not really thinking in terms of “meals.” That leads to lots of impulse buys, I can tell you. But having a list meant that if I forgot something, I had to go all the way to the other end of the store to get it. Luckily this just happened once, since I had organized the list by food type (meat, dairy, canned, dry and fruits & vegetables).

The first recipe I wanted to try was the Spicy Pork Tinga Enchiladas, planned for Thursday. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the recipe until the afternoon, and then noticed it required 6-8 hours in the crock pot. Bummer. Lucky for us, friends invited us over to dinner that night. On Friday, I forgot again about starting the crockpot, and instead made salmon using the Teriyaki Glaze (yum!) from the Meatball recipe, which I paired with rice and vegetables. On Saturday, I forgot again and at the last minute decided to use this recipe for Parmesean Crusted Chicken. It was super-easy and quick, and will definitely go on my make-again list. The leftover chicken was perfect in today’s lunch of chicken salad sandwiches.

This morning, I finally remembered to prep the ingredients and start the crockpot (good thing I set the alarm on my phone!). Everything is in there simmering as I write, and the smell of slow-cooked pork and chipotle peppers is beginning to waft through the house. It makes a pretty large batch, and I’m thinking there will be enough for dinner, leftovers tomorrow, plus enough to freeze at least one or two meals. I’m pretty excited!

P.S. Can you imagine meal planning an entire month of meals? That is what Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler does. She’s posted her meal plan for the month of September here. It was really inspiring to see the entire month at a glance, and gave me recipe ideas to add to my list (Tater Tot Casserole anyone?).

 

 

 


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List Therapy

Last week felt pretty hard. Part of it was coming off the wonderful high of being at the beach for the three-day labor day weekend. Our vacation home was perfect – bright, clean, and kid-and-dog friendly. It was paid for by David’s work, since it was a “work party” weekend, and included social gatherings for meals and playing on the beach, including lots of kids. Thanks to friendly co-workers who briefly watched Chloe and Leo, I even got to surf for the first time in about 5 years! It was amazing to get in the water again. So many times that weekend I thought to myself “I am so happy!”

Then, we returned home. The kids got sick. Leo had trouble sleeping and there was tons of post-trip laundry/organizing/cleaning to do. So many small things – like Barkley wandering in with muddy paws right after I mopped floors – wore me down bit by bit. The worst point, though, was when I got an email saying the wonderful teacher Chloe was supposed to have for preschool was changing jobs and a new one was hired. Someone with less experience, and a man to boot. I know, it is not fair of me, but I just did not want a man as Chloe’s teacher. I looked into changing schools but the other three I’d considered had no spaces left. With no other options, we attended the meet-and-greet on Friday. It was hard for me to keep an open mind, but I think he’ll be okay. But will he be great? We’ll see. Academically, Chloe is already kindergarten-ready, so that isn’t a concern. She knows her shapes, colors, numbers and counting, the alphabet, and some phonetics. We are just beginning to learn reading skills, and when prompted she can sound out small words – up, cup, at, the, cat, hat, etc. Preschool for her is more for the social aspect – learning respect for others, better listening skills, cooperation, etc.

And that brings me to the “what would make me happy?” list. Instead of focusing on the negative, I started writing down what I felt might make me happy. Here are a few examples: from simple, to more complicated, to future planning:

• Getting a cake pop from starbucks. Yes, sometimes its the little things. A salted caramel for me, a pink birthday pop for Chloe.
• Finding a cheap, temporary storage solution for our cluttered hallway. Done! I bought a $20 dresser on craigslist. It needs some work, but the important thing is that it fits the space for now. Eventually we want to do built-ins.
• Meal planning and making freezer meals. It seems like so much of my time involves shopping for, preparing and cooking meals. There has got to be a better way. Plus, we spend A LOT on food. I want to start making double batches of recipes that I can freeze for later, and start putting my crock pot to use.
• A light tube for the hallway. This is more of a future wishlist item. Our hallway is dark, and I’d love to introduce some natural light there. Yes, there are overhead lights, but it’s not the same. David says he can do it, but he is understandably worried about putting a hole in the roof. I think my best bet is just to keep asking. 🙂

Of course there are other things – get more exercise, drink more water, carve out some “me” time, but those are perpetual list items that I never seem to do anything about. Either way, I’m feeling much better this week. I may have some projects (like a painted dresser!) to share soon. I urge you to try it, too. Good old list therapy!

 


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Dress-Up Storage Organization

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.50.17 AM

Following up on the previous post, I realized I never shared the awesome dress up storage rack that Grandma Sandy built for Chloe (although I did mention it on Facebook – I need to figure out how to link to those status updates here, instead of my long unused twitter feed). Anyway, it is fabulous, and a really nice way to store and organize all the costumes, play clothes and accessories that Chloe has been given. It is just the right size, and a fraction of the cost of buying one pre-manufactured. I have some beautiful metal dragonfly hooks that I’ll attach to each side, and eventually get some vinyl lettering to personalize the front. I would say Chloe uses it almost every day. Here is the link to the easy-to-use plans we found on ana-white.com. We chose to do the shelf-on-top option, which I highly recommend.

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.45.57 AM


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Tackling the Toys

I FINALLY organized the toy drawers in our living room. I think its been about 2 years since the last time, and that was just to pull some of the infant toys Chloe no longer touched. Talk about procrastination! And honestly, once I finally sat down to do it, it went pretty fast.

The dresser is a Malm that we use as a console table (not the bins shown above). Of the dresser’s 6 drawers, the 4 lower ones were dedicated to Chloe’s things. One drawer is for Chloe’s jackets and hats, so she can put them away by herself when she comes in the door. The other three were full of toys and random junk. I wish I had taken a “before” photo, just to prove what a mess it all was, but the energy to do it came on suddenly. I mean, I had thought about doing it a million times, but this is the first time I sat down to do it. That is the hardest part, in my opinion, just setting down to the task.

Getting Started
I started with 2 large empty bins and one paper bag for junk. Junk equaled anything broken, useless, missing pieces, or not worth giving away. The first bin was for donations and the second for holding items to keep, so I could fully empty a drawer and vacuum out the accumulated dust. After a short time I brought over one of Chloe’s little play chairs, to help my back. Once I saw a pattern emerge, I began to group items in organized piles on the floor, a lot of which needed to go somewhere else. In our house this means:

Bathroom
Bath toys

Chloe’s Room
Books to the bookshelf
Play clothes to the dress-up bin
Play jewelry in a play purse
Finger puppets bagged together (closet)
Games (closet)
Play doh/ Art supplies to the art shelf (closet)

2nd Bedroom (soon to be Leo’s!)
All Legos and blocks

Great Room (aka kitchen/dining/family area)
Baby toys for Leo in the baby toy bins (more about this later)
Play food and utencils to the play kitchen

Living Room
After sorting and putting toys away that belonged to the above areas, the remaining toys that stayed in the Malm drawers now fit into just two drawers. One drawer is for all stuffed animals, dolls, and doll clothes. The second drawer is divided into musical instruments on one side and tiny figurines, knick-knacks, cars, wind-up toys, small balls, bean bags, and anything that Leo (now 8 months) shouldn’t play with. Also, any very small toy that was worth keeping, but that I didn’t care about losing, were put away into a separate grab bag for taking on trips.

The remaining empty drawer will be used for Leo’s jackets and hats, and to help ease Chloe’s jacket drawer for now, which is completely stuffed thanks to generous hand-me-downs. Through the winter she mostly rotates between only one coat and a jacket, but once spring comes she’ll be using her lighter-weight ones, too.

The biggest accomplishment in all this, at least for me, is that now everything has a place. No, I don’t like that things are spread over four rooms, but the fact is that Chloe would rather be where we are than playing by herself in her room. Right now her room is for sleeping, getting dressed, and reading. Otherwise, she spends most of her time in the great room or the office where she is allowed to watch occasional shows on the computer (via Netflix or PBSkids.org).

Leo, being the baby, is also, naturally, wherever we are. Thus there are 2 of the large Target bins (shown above) of baby toys in the great room. And honestly, Chloe plays with them, too. Someday I’d like to add structure and storage to the great room (maybe with some Besta?), but that won’t be anytime soon.

The hardest part of this whole experience was keeping Chloe from undoing the work while I was trying to cull and organize. She would want to play with some newly uncovered toys and then walk away with them, or scatter my piles before I had a chance to put them were they belonged. I also had to take breaks to entertain or feed Leo. So I would suggest doing this while the kids were elsewhere, if possible. Even if, by some miracle, both my kids napped at the same time, our house is too small and the noise of shifting toys would certainly wake them.

So there you have it. I feel I should add that I am by no means naturally tidy, and I don’t expect everything to stay put, because it won’t. But, when I occasionally attempt to maintain it, it is much easier to do now. Chloe is able to find things easier and enjoy her toys more. It is a really good starting point for an organized (if not tidy) future.

If only I could organize my office as easily…


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Who me? Organized?

I’ve been on an organizational kick lately. I had just begun with some preliminary things (like my desk) when I came across a Go Paperless post at Styleberry Blog. The timing was perfect as motivation to keep going.

So far the biggest thing I’ve tackled is our office closet. The best way I could describe it was train wreck. It was a horrible, frustrating, dark hole made up of piles of stuff. One culprit was paper, especially design samples we kept as “inspiration” from our student and early designer days. Another culprit was boxes, including packaging we had designed and were keeping as portfolio pieces… all that stuff we paired down, tossed, or put up in the attic space. Then there were random items to go to Goodwill – a beautiful red leather Franklin Covey binder I don’t use but had trouble parting with for years, holiday ceramic jars that I’ve kept meaning to re-gift with holiday goodies, my ten-year old Toshiba laptop… you get the picture.

Bye-bye stuff, hello space!

Here are two excellent pieces of advice I’ve read recently:

  1. Put things where they belong. If something isn’t used where it is, then it needs to be stored somewhere else – kitchen stuff in the kitchen, office stuff in the office, etc. This may be obvious, but it was handy in helping me make decisions.
  2. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Ah. Right. I was reminded of this William Morris quote thanks to Pinterest.

One thing I’ve moved from the office is fabric. It is now in the bedroom where the sewing machine is (soon to be Leo’s room, but oh well). On a photo tour of Melissa’s studio, I noticed she keeps her fabric in an Ikea Antonius frame with wire baskets. A lightbulb went off in my head – I have one of these! I emptied the top two shelves (full of clothes I hardly wear, which I moved to my closet) and replaced them with my fabric piles. Now, instead of digging down into a box, I can see at a glance all of the fabric I have on hand. Brilliant! (And yes, I agree, that is an awful lot of fabric for a person who hardly sews. Must do something about that.)

Isn’t that one of the greatest things about blogs? The way they can inspire us? Maybe you’re ready to tackle a project of your own now. Best of luck!

 

 


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Before & After: Cubbie Storage Bench + Greatroom Update


There has been a little sewing going on around here. We purchased this Martha Stewart cubbie-storage bench from Home Depot to put right inside the french doors in the great room. It came with a plain cushion so I bought some home dec fabric during the labor day sale at Joanns. What I really wanted to do was a whole entry-style unit including wall hooks for hanging jackets and such, and use the cubbie for shoes, dog items and other outdoor paraphenalia. David didn’t agree, saying that it would just accumulate junk, so we comprimised. We got the cubbie, but instead of hooks we hung our new tree of life print above it.

Do you remember this photo of our under-construction great room? Well, besides the cubbie bench we’ve finally started furnishing it to a point it is somewhat livable. We’ve been really budget conscious, so it remains on the bare side as we decide over time how best to use the space. The sofa was a happy hand-me-down from David’s parents. Otherwise the most expensive item in the room was the Ikea Bjursta dining table and bench (which we keep in the bedroom unless we have company for dinner). This is a bit of an older photo, but you can get an idea of the layout (a rare moment not toy strewn). I’ve since changed that stretch-frame fabric for a different print in an actual frame (see below). That wall is so big, I’m not sure what we’re going to do there. Shelving? A collage of frames? One huge piece of art (that we likely can’t afford)?

The only other purchases I haven’t mentioned are the 8×10 rug we bought for $100 at HomeGoods and that coffee table ottoman that we bought on sale at Fred Meyer for $50 (which I love because it is soft – no bumped heads and such). Everything else we’ve had.

P.S. After re-reading this I realized I wanted to mention that quilt above the sofa. My mother-in-law made it for us from  an old Pottery Barn sample book of discontinuted (mostly) velvet swatches of upholstery fabric. For the backing and sides she used an old deep burgundy velvet table cloth we were getting rid of. Its very heavy and very cozy. 🙂

 


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Closet Makeover

My closet was a disaster. If you promise not to judge me, you can see a “before” photo here.

Pretty awful, right? And yes, that is all my stuff. When we moved in to our original house, David kindly used the closet in the other bedroom (which is now Chloe’s nursery) and let me have this one all to myself. It wasn’t always this messy, but it got worse during the pregnancy weight gain transition. I’m still 20lbs heavy, so it will be some time before I can give up my pregnancy/nursing clothes for good.

Thankfully, moving into our new bedroom forced me to take stock of all that was in there. I purged, gave away, and re-organized. In our new bedroom closets (separate his and hers in the same room!), David and I both chose to use a ClosetMaid T3 custom shelf and rod system from Home Depot (plus one drawer for me), and we were finally able to make the switch.

Here is what it looks like now:

Amazing, right? I had to show it in two photos, because now there are sliding doors and not two swing doors that open at the same time like the old closet. Can you believe the new closet is actually smaller? The new organization makes it much more usable. Now everything has a space (and you can’t see it, but at the very top is a shelf that hold all my purses and shoulder bags, as well as a box of “skinny” clothes that I may or may not wear again. Also, those pink boxes are Ikea Drona boxes ($5) which happen to fit perfectly if set in sideways, much cheaper than adding drawers ($36).

Now the question is what color to paint the doors?


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Chloe's Nursery Mural and Decor

It seems I’ve never gotten around to sharing anything about Chloe’s nursery. Probably because it was rainy the day I took these photos and I think they look a tad gloomy. Anyway, like most parents on a budget we outfitted Chloe’s room mostly using white Ikea furniture. With the room barely measuring 10′ x 10′, and the closet taken up by David’s clothes (I take up the one in our bedroom), storage and organization were our biggest issues.

To increase storage we have two side-by-side 4-drawer Malm dressers , plus a Billy bookcase. One set holds clothes, shoes, and accessories, and the other set holds diapers, wipes, blankets, linens, toiletries, some future clothes and other items.

Chloe sleeps in a Gulliver crib. I like it because you can see the baby from all sides, plus it can convert to a toddler bed. For a while we were able to store boxes of future clothes underneath it, hidden by a beautiful bedskirt made by her Grandma Sandy. Then Chloe learned to stand, so we had to remove the bedskirt to lower the mattress, and now the bins sit out in the open next to the crib. Not so pretty, but not much choice. Grandma Sandy also painted the lovely flower and branch wall mural for us, following the design on this birth announcement. The ABC and 123 wall prints are by Sandra Isaksson. The only other piece of furniture is a navy fold down sofa that we already had. Originally we also had a rocking chair I bought through Craigslist, but David removed it to make room for the bins. Overall, it is a bit of a squeeze, and it continues to overflow despite our efforts to contain it all thanks to generous hand-me-downs that we won’t get to for a while. It is pretty functional, though, at least for now. 🙂


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More Ikea Organization

We’ve been to Ikea twice in the last week. We went to buy shelving for our laundry room, a narrow 6×12′ section in the back corner of the house that holds our washer and dryer, the hot water heater, and anything else that we can possibly fit into it, including all of our extra dinnerware (which is considerable – see this post), electrical appliances (bread maker, pasta maker, 3 coffee makers, ice cream maker, panini press, kitchen aid mixer, blender, food processer… the list goes on), linens, vases, dog food and supplies, boxes of candles and holders, bulk items, etc. It doesn’t sound like a lot upon reading mere words, but trust me, we’ve got A LOT.

David has been wanting to re-organize this room for some time now. Before, the storage mostly consisted of salvaged cabinets from our kitchen remodel and some metal shelves (we’re still keeping one set of wall cabinets and the metal shelving). Decidedly unglamourous, but at least partially utilitarian. Except that there still wasn’t enough nooks and crannies to hide it all.

And so, with a happily accepted birthday donation from my wonderful in-laws, we were able to purchase this new IVAR shelving and two ANTONIUS wire baskets from Ikea. However, when we got there on sunday, we were stunned to find that they were all out of the size we needed. Thus our second trip a couple days later (after calling to confirm there was indeed a new shipment of IVAR parts). And now look, it is all organized! Things aren’t crammed together and hidden within the dark recesses of our old cabinets. Now everything has a place, easy to locate and easy to access. All that’s left to do is to paint the old wall cabinet (not shown) white and for David to hang a sliding door in front of our new shelves. What a difference!

Click here for a detailed explanation of what is on each shelf.

P.S. This room isn’t as blue as it looks in the photo. Only two walls are blue, and the other two are white.

Other posts I’ve written about IKEA are Ode to our home office and The perfect craft table.


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Ode to our home office (or, yay IKEA!)


What my corner of the office looks like when it’s neat.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about our office space. Not that I think this small room is particularly great in any way. However, when it’s tidy and not too strewn with supplies or works-in-progress, it is decently comfortable and serviceable for two people sitting in desk chairs less than two feet apart.

The first thing I’ll say is IKEA. Over the past 5+ years, we’ve slowly rotated out ugly, semi-useless, and cheap office furniture and replaced it with good-looking, functional and affordable IKEA pieces. The only remainder from that bygone era is David’s ugly, stained, worn-out, circa 1998 Office Depot chair. I don’t know why he won’t replace it. Well, actually he did buy a new one once. He gave me that old one, and used the newer one for a while until he spilled coffee on it, which ended up suspiciously looking like a large urine stain. So disgusting. Eventually, I got fed up and purchased a white IKEA Jules Swivel Chair just so I could throw it out. I like the Jules chair fine, but David doesn’t because he says it’s too hard and has no armrests. Boo hoo.

IKEA items in our office (left to right, top to bottom): Helmer drawer unit, Jules swivel chair,
Handklaver pendant lamp, Expedit bookcase with optional Lekman boxes, Antifoni work lamp,
Salma storage boxes, Erik file cabinet, Galant drawer unit and Kila work lamp.

Basically, our IKEA office consists of these things: two modular Vika Amon desks that butt up against each other on one side of the room (straight for David, slightly curved corner-style desk for me), a wall-sized Expedit bookcase (with 6 Lekman storage box/drawers), a Galant drawer unit, a Helmer drawer unit, and three sets of Effecktiv wall cabinets with doors. Most everything is either birch or white. If we had more space, I would be all over getting an Alex drawer unit perfect for stacks of specialty papers, notions, and general easy-to-see-and-access storage. Instead we use a much smaller flat file organizer from Staples that fits in the closet along with the many Salma clear plastic boxes with lids that hold everything from inspiration and paper sample books to old portfolio pieces and ribbons. Now that I think of it, all of our lighting is IKEA, too: my Antifoni work lamp, David’s Kila work lamp, a Tarby ceiling lamp, and a Handklaver pendant lamp in the corner that we bought as a wedding decoration and never used. Even our old dark blue Vinde rug is IKEA, and matches the two dark blue and two light blue walls of the room. Where else can you find a decent rug for so cheap?

All of these pieces work really well for us. The only problem, especially for me, is taking the time to neaten up my work space and put away my tools every once in a while.

Some Things I’ve Learned

  • Higher wall space is too often overlooked as usable storage space.
  • Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and make a purchase that will outweigh its initial cost by providing long term organization and clutter control.
  • Prioritizing and purchasing individual pieces over time is much more affordable than overhauling a whole room at once. We bought some of these pieces back in college. The good thing about Ikea is that it is easier to match other items later because their styles and colors are pretty standard.
  • Consider buying a few of the additional organizational items, like the Lekman boxes that fit perfectly with the Expedit bookcase, or plastic drawer dividers for filing cabinets to help keep things organized.
  • Don’t overlook lighting. Overhead lighting is important, but individual space lighting comes in handy, especially if it can be repositioned for each job.
  • IKEA furniture alone can look sort of bland, but it is easy to jazz up the space with a colorful rug, complementary wall paint, nice curtains, wall art and/or some easy-care plants.

I should note here, that most of these furniture ideas came from David. He does a really good job of organizing space and choosing the right tools to do it properly. I think part of that skill he got from his mom and part of it from a stint at Pottery Barn many years back. Sometimes it takes him a while to talk me into getting new furniture, like the Effective wall cabinets. I didn’t want to spend the money (despite their comparative affordability) and I didn’t think I’d like the idea of cabinets looming over our desks. However, we were in serious need of more accessible storage. He eventually wore me down and now I’m glad for that extra hidden space.

Now he’s trying to talk me into re-doing the back wall of our laundry room.

We’ll see, honey.


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Free Holiday Gift Tags

Free Holiday Gift Tags

What happened to this past week? I could swear I blinked and suddenly it’s Monday. I’m happy to report that the working from home business has picked up quite a bit in the last few weeks (thus hardly any real posts from me). However, I was able to whip up a page of free holiday gift tags to share with everyone tonight. I printed the set shown above on plain white cardstock from our laser printer and I have to admit they turned out pretty damn good for such a short turnaround. Hope you guys enjoy them too!

Download the above pdf with outlines or this pdf for a version with cropmarks.

Be sure to check out the other free downloads listed at the top right sidebar if you haven’t already!


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Free Holiday Gift Checklist

checklist

checklist

I am a big fan of list-making, and with the holidays coming up I thought this Holiday Gift Checklist would be an handy way to get organized. It’s a single-page printable pdf that you can use to plan out recipients and gift ideas while keeping track whether the gift has been purchased or made, wrapped, and given or shipped. Plus, in the upper right I’ve included a small at-a-glance calendar for November and December. This way you can see where you are and how much time is left for shopping, crafting and/or shipping. Hope you find it useful!

Next week: Free Snowflake Placecards

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning to provide a free download each Sunday from now until Christmas. It’s my way of saying thanks and giving a little back into the blogosphere this holiday. Feel free to check back next week!

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