under-the-sink organization & plastic bag recycling

Before I started this blog, I was a big hide-my-mess person. I would shove all the extra stuff I didn’t know what to do with into closets and dresser drawers. Then, I’d feel better, because while my place wasn’t exactly organized, at least it appeared that way from the outside.

The problem with this strategy? It’s only a temporary fix. Any time I would open up an overflowing closet or dig through a stuffed-to-the-brim drawer trying to find something, all the stress I had slapped a Band-Aid over by shoving my mess out of sight came barreling back into my life with full force.

In starting this blog, not only am I trying to organize on a budget, I’m also trying to organize honestly and thoroughly, from the inside-out. And that means tackling the hidden places I might otherwise prefer to ignore. Like: the space under my kitchen sink.

Umm… yeah.

Every time I had to reach under there to get a trash bag or cleaning supplies or dishwashing soap, I felt depressed. I would grab what I needed and quickly shut the cabinet up again. And then wash my hands, because it just felt grimy under there. {Ironic for a place I store cleaning supplies, huh?}

Finally, I decided it was time to tackle this problem area for good! My first step was taking everything out and giving the space a good wipe-down. I tossed some crusty sponges, raggedy dishtowels, and empty cleaning bottles that I found way in the back. Then I consolidated products, like my multiple three-quarters-empty bottles of Windex was poured into one bottle.

The biggest mess-factor was the barrage of plastic bags I’d saved to use as trash bags for small trash cans, to bring my lunch to school, etc. I try to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but every so often I forget. Over the past year or so I’ve accumulated quite a few, and they were completely taking over the entire cabinet!

Yikes!

Then Mike found this really neat bag holder for me, and it made all the difference! This one is from the company simplyhuman, but there are many other similar versions available.

All I had to do was gather up the plastic bags and cram them into the container, and then hang the container up on the back of the cupboard door. It fit perfectly!

In all, the project only took about 15 minutes, and now I feel even more motivated to clean! It’s an all-around win. I’m feeling more inspired than ever to tackle the other hidden messes in the closets around my apartment. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress!

Hope you’re having a great week —
❤ Dallas

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Time spent: 15 minutes
Cost: $12.00

marvelous monday: the magic of to-do lists

There’s something about the way my brain works that makes me really drawn to lists. These lists permeate my life and range from the motivating {goal lists, markets-to-submit-my-writing-to lists} to the mundane {grocery lists, thank-you-notes-to-write lists} but no matter what the topic, it all boils down to this: lists make me a happier and less-stressed person.

And the mother of all lists is the to-do list, which I write pretty much every day. I kinda feel bad for the to-do list. It gets a bad rap. People complain all the time about their to-do lists. {Sometimes I feel like people compete on the lengths of their to-do lists just to have more complaining leverage!} But I think the to-do list can be a really wonderful tool to boost your feelings of motivation and accomplishment, not to mention your sense of organization over your time, work and daily life.

The trick is to use the to-do list in a way that helps you, not hinders you. You want the to-do list to make you feel good about yourself, not stressed out or overwhelmed.

I think the first step in coming up with an effective to-do list system for your life is to take an honest look at how you spend your time. Is there something you wish you were doing more of? Is there anything you feel like you waste time on that you wish you wouldn’t? How much free time do you feel you have every day/week/month? Honesty is crucial here! I think the biggest mistake people make when writing to-do lists {and believe me, I am guilty of this too} is putting waaay too much on the list, more than anyone could possibly get done in a day, and then feeling bad about themselves when the day draws to close and there are still a lot of un-crossed-off items on the list.

So, Tip #1: Be honest and realistic with yourself.

Another thing that works for me is to break to-do list items up into categories of “big” and “small” … sometimes these categories morph into “things I need to do but keep putting off” and “things I need to do and actually like doing.” Then I try to even out these tasks throughout the week. In a perfect world, I’d do at least one “big” task every day, and one or two “small” tasks. When life gets hectic, a good balance for me is to aim for three “big” tasks every week, and maybe 6-8 “small” tasks.

Here are some examples of “big” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I want to keep putting off but shouldn’t}: get my car in for an oil change; put some items up on Craigslist that I’ve been meaning to sell; go through my closet and weed out clothes to donate.

And here are some examples of “small” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I should do and don’t mind doing}: go to the Post Office to send out play submissions with upcoming deadlines; try a new recipe I found for Morning Glory Muffins; write & mail a couple thank-you notes; order prints of photos from a recent trip Mike & I took to Chicago; hang up a new picture I got for the guest bedroom.

At the beginning of every week, I jot down a list of the “big” tasks and “small” tasks I want to get done that week, and then every day or every other day I choose a big task and a couple small tasks to tackle. This works for me because:

  • It really helps me focus on one thing at a time and not get overwhelmed by all the things I want to get done
  • It helps me structure the week {for example, maybe one day I’ll focus on running all my errands to save on gas & car time}
  • It makes it much harder for me to put off or procrastinate on certain tasks because I’m just focusing on one per day or one every two days.

There are also a few tasks on my to-do list every day! These relate to bigger goals I want to accomplish in the year. For example, one of my goals is to read 52 books this year, so reading time is on my to-do list every day. I also have a goal of writing at least 400 words every day {which I track on this super-motivating free website www.joesgoals.com — can’t recommend it enough!}

Chores I designate on a weekly basis, and I go through phases. Sometimes I like having a “chore/cleaning day” where I try to get all my cleaning/laundry/dishes/housework stuff done in a single swoop. Other times I’ll go for a few months when I prefer splitting up chores into smaller tasks that I will do day-by-day. I think it’s all about what works for you, how you’re feeling, and what your free time/schedule is like.

For years I’ve saved envelopes and written my to-do lists on the backs of them. Then Mike got me this pretty notepad from the $1 bin at Target — isn’t it adorable? How can you not be excited to tackle your to-do list when you write it out on paper like this? I still save envelopes though because I am always writing lists and I like to be eco-friendly!

It can also be helpful to keep a pad of paper somewhere you pass by every day so you can write down ideas or reminders when they first strike you. {If I don’t do this, half the time I completely forget!} I keep a notepad on the fridge where I jot down items to get at the store, reminders to myself of things to add to my list or places I need to be:

Do you write to-do lists? What sorts of tips work for you? What do you find helpful when organizing your daily or weekly tasks?

Have a marvelous week!
Dallas

quick bathroom organization

I have a confession to make: I have a cluttered bathroom sink.

I am still using {and loving!} the toiletry organization system I put up on the back of the door using a shoe organizer — it’s the perfect way for me to store extra toiletry items, medicine, and items I don’t use all that often.

But what about the items I use every day? As you can see, they were completely cluttering up my countertop, creating a totally stressful environment and making it a big chore to clean.

My inspiration came from actually right across the bathroom: my shower. The tub used to be cluttered with various shampoo and conditioner bottles, body soap, shaving cream, etc. Then I found these vertical shower shelves and {hooray!} the result is a much more organized shower with all my products within easy access.

All it took for me to transform my cluttered bathroom sink was this $1 navy blue shower caddy. All I had to do was plop all my everyday-use toiletry products in the basket, wipe down the sink, and it’s like a whole new bathroom!

I’m really pleased with the transformation! And it is so much easier to clean now. All I need to do is pick up the basket, wipe the counter down, and put it back. Easy peasy!

Have you ever struck upon a cheap and simple solution to transform a cluttered space?

Have a great weekend!
-Dallas

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Cost: $1.00
Time spent: 5 mins

the linen closet

The linen closet isn’t the most glamorous of spaces, but it’s an important one. Mine has become even more important since my introduction to freezing cold Indiana winters, because it’s where all my blankets live! {And I have a LOT of blankets!}

But my linen closet had become a jumbled mess.

As a result, many of my blankets and towels have stopped living in my closet and are more likely to be flung haphazardly across this poor chair:

Every time I passed this chair it made me feel bad. I knew it was time to do something about it!

My first step was clearing out the closet and deciding how to organize each shelf. I chose to put extra sheets, pillowcases, and not-much-used blankets on the very top shelf. I folded them all neatly and stacked them up on the shelf.

Next, I designated the middle shelf for towels. I have always just folded and stacked my towels, but I’ve read on some other organization blogs that rolling your towels can keep them more accessible, better organized, and also save space! So that’s what I did. I made one section for my big bath towels, another section for hand towels and kitchen towels.

On the third shelf, I folded and stacked the blankets I use more often — the ones that are in hiding now that the weather is getting warmer, but that I will definitely want to pull out again next November when the snow returns!

Here is what my newly organized closet looks like:

Hooray! I’m so happy about it that I’m leaving the door open today, and every time I pass it, I can’t help but smile.

What organizing projects are you working on this week?

Happy Wednesday,
Dallas

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Cost: $0.00
Time: 15 minutes