Category Archives: organizing

My daughter’s room

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bench

Dorothy has been living in filth. She’s a hoarder by nature, tucking baggies of rocks and shells and old toilet roll tubes away like squirrels do nuts for the winter. The difference is that squirrels eat all their nuts in the winter, but Dorothy’s room just gets more and more crowded with junk. Telling her to clean her room didn’t even help, because she wasn’t sure where to put baggies of rocks and old toilet paper tubes. I drove to IKEA right after Christmas to pick up some storage furniture to replace daintier but less useful pieces and enlisted  her help getting organized. Fortunately, she got tired of helping after the first hour or so, so I got to spend all my “free” time for the better part of two weeks putting together furniture and throwing stuff away without her there to witness it. I’m sharing my after photos. She’s now one very organized 8-year-old, and my hope is that the new system will help her keep it that way. I bought 3-inch foam to make a seat on top of the shelf under her window. All her doll accessories are now tidily at hand. Don’t notice my measuring “oops” on the side of the seat cover! After spending that much time sorting through 3rd grade ephemera I apparently lost the ability to do simple math.chair

This chair was in her room before, but it got a coat of white paint and a new seat cover. On the wall behind her is a pouch she sewed herself to hold keepsake letters.cubes

This IKEA shelving unit got a little dressed up with pretty glass knobs on the cabinets and drawers. She painted the ruby slipper canvas at an art camp last summer.
earringsI found this earring tree on Amazon.com to keep all her ear candy organized. She had earrings crammed in boxes and baggies all over her room. We put some other pairs in ice cube trays in her top drawer.
labels

I made labels with a craft punch for all her bins. We use a velcro label system for toy bins all over our house. I staple hook tape to the bin, and glue the loop tape to the back of our labels. I keep a jar of the extra labels on hand for when we want to repurpose a bin. The bins can be exchanged for others in our playroom and in Worth and Daphne’s room when they want to rotate playthings.lamp

I bought a wall-mount lamp at IKEA and spray-painted it to match the room. Putting the lamp on the wall helped free up space on her desk and alleviated my long-standing worry that she’d knock it off and break it. Dorothy made the name banner hanging over her bed.
window-seatHere’s a final view of her new window seat. I left her doll-clothes storage system of a ribbon strung in her window intact because it’s pretty and functional. I think I’ve blogged about her quilt and curtains before. When we moved into this old house, Dorothy fell in love with the bedroom she now occupies and the specific wallpaper hanging on the walls. I removed wallpaper and repainted every other room in our house, but we’ve honored her wish to keep her vintage wallpaper. I collected old bedsheets in similar colors from thrift stores and made her quilt and curtains out of them. It’s made a sweet little-girl room, with a nice blend of old and new. I’ll probably flip out in a few weeks when she lets it get messy again, but I’m enjoying the view from the doorway in the meantime! Because of course, as soon as I was done with the job and turned the room back over to her all sparkly and clean, she shut the door and hasn’t welcomed any other family members in since. C’est la vie.

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Right Start Math bags

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math-bag math-bags

Since last spring I’ve had this niggling feeling that I should better organize our math manipulatives. We use the homeschool math curriculum Right Start Mathematics, which is a good fit for me and my third-grader, and it comes with lots and lots of little bits and pieces and sets of cards. I have a small secretary desk in my living room that is dedicated to holding our math supplies. The problem was that I couldn’t close it anymore because it was so crammed full with our manipulatives, cards, and the various sandwich bags or dog-eared envelopes I was employing to hold them. I bought some white zippers in bulk and used canvas left over from our field trip bags to make 13 zipper bags for our math supplies. I took the time to embroider a label onto each bag, which seemed like “OMG, have I really become a person who embroiders labels on to homemade canvas bags to hold math manipulatives?” but yes, it seems I have. Assuming we stick with this curriculum, I’ll be using these supplies for many more years, and I’d have been mad if my previous disorganized system had caused me to have to re-purchase supplies I could have kept track of better. I am not, under any circumstances, going to follow this project up by crocheting a cozy for our abacus. So here we go. Hopefully these bags and I will have quite a future together, and it’ll be worth the time spent when my current toddler learns her fractions with their help. And if there is just a little voice in the back of my brain that says, “really? You made special bags to hold math supplies?” I’ll just tell it to shut up. In Latin, because that’s all homeschool-y, right?

Oil cloth projects

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homeschool-org

I’ve been having some fun with some waterproof fabrics. I bought several yards of this cute apple oil cloth (which is actually vinyl, not oiled cotton like old school oil cloth) and have been having all sorts of fun with it. First I used it to cover the surface of my basement craft table and make a easy-clean surface under the kids’ easel, then I made this little pouch to attach to the outside of our homeschool bin. We have a few papers we need to access quickly or regularly, such as our agenda and our teacher/taught homeschool contract, so this pouch is for the storage and quick retrieval of those documents.

pouches

Then I made some zippered bags. Two are gifts for friends, and one got a grommet in the corner and is hanging by an S-hook to my homeschool pouch (above) to hold sticky notes and favorite pens.

car-bag

And since those little bags went together so easily and turned out so nicely, I got inspired to make this bigger waterproof bag to keep in my car door. It’s supplied with my waterproof zip-up rain hoodie, a grocery sack just in case we need it, and a small towel for the same reason. The contents won’t get wet if I open my car door in the rain, and it keeps all those sundries together in a handy and attractive way.

chair

I also recovered my kitchen chairs. These were covered in black and white polka-dot oil cloth (again, vinyl), but it didn’t wear well. The oil cloth split and got very worn around the edges after not all that much time. This time I covered the chair pads in laminated cotton, like I did for my dining chairs a couple years ago. I’ve had a great experience with the laminated cotton as chair seat upholstery fabric. It is comfortable, it wipes clean, it wears well, and it is easy to work with. I’m enjoying the pop of blue this new fabric is bringing to the room, too, in place of the black and white.

The continuing evolution of our playroom and studio

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playroom-w-curtains

This room has appeared on my blog a few times in the almost four years since we moved here. There was the time I made the futon and pillow covers, and the time I painted the sun on the floor (now painted over, due to water damage). We don’t use this basement space as our primary homeschool spot anymore. It has evolved and changed, and I work on it periodically–sometimes because I want to and sometimes because it floods (or did? Supposedly that’s fixed now). This summer I made some more changes to it to continue to meet our studio and play space needs. It’s just a basement room with a low ceiling and a concrete floor; it’s never destined for Better Homes and Gardens or to be the room we spend the most time in, but it is good space. It’s a place to put the bulky things that aren’t in the kids’ rooms or our shared living space. It’s the kids’ art spot, the dress-up spot, the home for games and toys. It’s the only spot in our home with a television. It’s the room where my fabric is stored, and is a cool place in summer and made cozy in winter with a fire in the fireplace. Some day it’s going to get a chair that doesn’t have an arm that falls off occasionally, a bigger and better rug, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve in other ways, but here are some scenes from this creative space right now. This summer I bought new storage furniture so the kids can easily access all the treasures.

craft-area

I set up a desk area dedicated to their crafty needs. Colored paper, art books, clay, melt beads, yarn and assorted other supplies are organized and at the ready. The labels are serving the dual purpose of reminding my little artists to clean up after themselves and helping Worth learn to read.

paint-bottles

I saved coffee syrup bottles, washed them out, and filled them with tempera paints. A color-mixing chart hung over the supply table helps the small artists mix their choice of hues. There is a bin under the table with clean, empty yogurt and applesauce containers we save. The older kids know how to wash the brushes out themselves so they are able to paint independently, without me dragging out supplies or cleaning up their messes. I hope to fill two more bottles with black and white paint, but first I have to drink more vanilla lattes.

easel

This is the easel, a half-turn from the paint-mixing spot. Bright oilcloth protects the floor, the canvas aprons protect the kids, and just out of the scope of the photo is a cord with clips for the kids to hang their masterpieces when they are done.

ribbons

My crafty storage area got a few upgrades too. I’m not very handy with tools but I knew just enough to drill holes in an old scrap board, insert some dowels, apply some paint, and enjoy my much-needed new ribbon organizer. For several years I’ve been buying ribbon every time I see it on sale because I can never find it when I need it. Now I see clearly that the problem was my storage method–not my lack of ribbon!

jars

And I used a Pinterest idea to transform some recycled glass jars into cute, quirky storage with the addition of one tube of little plastic animals and some spray paint. The work table beneath this supply counter is covered with the same apple oilcloth that is under the easel for an easy-clean, cheerful work surface. I sew upstairs in our living room, but this table houses all projects involving glue, paper, glitter, or general happy mess. (It is also housing me at my laptop right now, while my kids play in the room behind me!)

Laundry bags

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wash-me

This is certainly not the most exciting project I’ve ever blogged about, but it sure is useful. Each bedroom in my house is equipped with a laundry hamper. My usual laundry strategy is to fill great big TJ Maxx shopping bags with the laundry from the hampers, haul it downstairs, then drag it back up (clean) in the same bags. I have about six of the shopping bags and they are really just the right size for the job and have well-placed handles. The problem with them is that they are not very sturdy–the seams break easily–and I end up with empty plastic TJ Maxx shopping totes hanging all over the bedroom doorknobs, looking cluttery.

laundry-bagRather than replace these falling-apart shopping totes with new store-bought ones I decided to just make some nice, sturdy ones just for the purpose of laundry. I bought pretty blue canvas fabric and sewed six new totes to the same dimensions as the TJ Maxx bags. Then I embroidered their purpose right to the front of them, so they won’t run off to get used for something else. Finally, I hung a hook on the back of my bedroom door to house the bags not currently in use so these won’t clutter up my doorknobs either. Now my when piles of unfolded laundry collects in my bedroom it will look so much cuter!

Our playroom

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playroom

This is our basement playroom. This is also the room with the old fireplace insert and all my fabric on shelves. We bought an IKEA futon when we moved in and I would haphazardly cover it with quilts to try and combat our cat hair issue, since our cranky old cats have staked out this room as their particular habitat. I had a cheap butterfly chair in the corner and we tossed toys into plastic bins. It was fine, blah, a basement playroom. Last year we did most of our homeschool lessons down there, but this year we’re more likely to camp out with our stack of books and manipulatives in whichever part of the house seems most appealing on a given morning, so this room is really used exclusively for playing and crafting. Unfortunately this room also used to flood in heavy rains, which meant that our train table (not pictured) had yogurt cups around the legs, we couldn’t have a rug, and all the storage and furniture had to be made of water-resistant materials. Ugh. This fall, however, we had our basement waterproofed and I decided to improve on our newly dried-out space. I found a sweet vintage toy box to store the dress-up things, an old comfy rocking chair, and an inexpensive rug. I recovered the seat on the rocker and I sewed a new cover and pillows for the futon out of sturdy indoor/outdoor fabric that stands up nicely to the cat wear. A set of old wooden shelves became easy toy storage.

playroom-pillows

The pillow covers have overlapping back panels so they stay on well but also come off easily for washing.reboot

The old rocker now beckons you to the basement to “reboot” and relax. (Freezer paper stencil and fabric paint.)

kitty-litter-toy-buckets

I dressed up more old kitty litter tubs with scrapbook paper covered with contact paper to store small toys such as balls, matchbox cars, and little people. Now the whole family gets more (and more pleasant) use of our playroom space. It has a cozy cabin feel with the fireplace and the old pine walls. We appreciated it fully earlier this week when we spent part of the night down there, listening to tornado sirens howl outside!

A dog treat jar

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dog-treat-jar

Has it been almost a month since I’ve blogged? I can’t believe it! I haven’t lost interest, but somehow this school year I haven’t been able to build this into my schedule. I should, because I get a cozy little sense of accomplishment when I look back over my blog pictures, and sometimes when there is kid crap all over the floor and my dog is barking at the mailman and my son is peeing on the floor…well, I just need that sense of accomplishment! So I’m stating for the record that I AM going to blog three times per week until I get caught up on some of these projects I want to record.

First off, I’ve been obsessively covering things with scrapbook paper. I don’t “scrapbook” in the sense of sticking photographs on cute paper and adding stickers, but I do love to buy those big, awesome stacks of scrapbook paper they sell in crafts stores. Those pretty 12×12 sheets can be used for anything! Lately I’ve been recycling containers, such as this pretzel tub I’ve turned into a dog treat jar, by gluing scrapbook paper on them and then covering it with clear contact paper, which protects the paper and allows me to wipe the surface clean. This jar sits on top of my fridge and looks much better than the Target bag that was holding dog treats up there before.

reading-by-the-fire

This is not a crafty thing but is just a favorite recent photo. Kentucky is partaking in this Midwest cold snap, and we’ve never been happier homeschoolers than on these frigid mornings when we can roll out of bed and light a fire and read books by it in our pajamas. I snapped this photo a couple evenings ago, when the kids were ending the day basically the same way we started it.