25th Hour Organizing

"Because 24 Just Isn't Enough"

Don’t Buy Organizing “Solutions” – Instead Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle January 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine @ 7:02 am

I was wrapping up my “Get Organized, Stay Organized” class on Saturday afternoon and asking if anyone had questions. One woman spoke up, “What do you think about California Closets?”

Now if you have not heard of them, or it isn’t patently obvious, California Closets is a company that makes organizing solutions for closets and pantries.

“Mmmm,” I said, “Not so much a fan. I mean, yes, they make wonderfully organized areas…but they are pricey.” The woman nodded and laughed, as did others. I went on to clarify, “My goal as a professional organizer is to see that you get as organized as possible, while incorporating real solutions in your house, without having to pay through the nose.”

The irony of “organizing solutions” does not fail to strike me. First we are trained to consume, literally trained, a ‘go hunt for deals’ mentality, and then, when our crap threatens to overwhelm us, someone else comes along and sells us crap to store our crap in. The irony, the irony! It’s literally crap on top of more crap!

Irony aside, when you have too much stuff, you need to find/create places to put it. I will use another entry to make suggestions on how to reduce that pile into what REALLY should be kept and instead focus this entry on what to do with what you are keeping.

My family has been recycling for a while now, and that recycling, the act of sorting the tin, plastic, glass, and aluminum from what had previously gone to landfill is a vision I firmly have in mind when I urge you to reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Call them the three R’s.

Say you go out on a hot day and exercise, and purchase a bottle of Gatorade. Drink it down, rinse it out, and cut the top half of the bottle off and put it in the recycle. The bottom half can be a seat for a toilet brush, or it might hold makeup brushes in your medicine cabinet or pins or buttons in your craft area.

Keep your shoes clean and free from dust by putting them inside of their shoeboxes (or another shoebox) and labeling the outside with a description.

Naturalizer Brown leather pumps with 3 inch heel

Or you can take a picture of each pair of shoes, pick up the prints and tape them to the outside end of the box for easy storage.

When my maternal grandmother passed away in 2001, I quickly realized how much of an impact her thriftiness had on me. Not just that, her storage solutions were immaculate, beautiful things. Old beach bottles cut down to hold sundries underneath the bathroom sink, a cut down quart milk carton wrapped in leftover wallpaper proudly held her makeup (and matched with the decor).

She had grown up in the Depression and hated to waste anything. Coffee cans, empty and clean, lined shelves in the basement, waiting to be re-purposed.

I have taken her example to heart. Everything still goes to the recycle bins, which are located in a neat little row outside of our kitchen in the garage. I consider them ‘potential supplies’ and pick from them when I have a need.

Tin cans are used to start seedlings in the early spring. 2-liter plastic bottles often come in handy for watering remote areas of the yard (just poke a couple of small holes in the bottle, fill up the bottle with water and partially bury it near the plant that needs water, it will slowly seep  into the soil).

Even furniture can be reused and repurposed. I get the RSS feed from DesignSponge and it is full of daily ideas that include re-making tired old furniture into kitchsy, storage solutions. Take a look here at one of their recent re-purposing projects. And another is here.

No matter how you go about recycling, reusing and repurposing…have fun. There are so many things we can do with the items already in our house (or available for free on curbs) to better organize ourselves. Don’t be afraid to pull out a saw, a hammer, and some cast-off cans of paint or wallpaper remnants. What you will end up with will be uniquely yours, and far more personable than any humdrum purchased ‘organizing solution’.

I write in about twelve blogs…as I can or as inspiration hits…

Check them out for more on becoming more green, dealing with parenting/homeschool/life/career issues and more…

Gardening & Cooking: The Deadly Nightshade

Parenting & Homeschooling: Positive and Effective Parenting The Homeschooling Advocate

Living Green: Rediscover Permaculture

Life/Career Change: Coaching Through Thought and Action


Organized Exercise January 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine @ 4:39 pm

This post comes to you straight from my treadmill – in fact I’m typing as I walk a steady 2.3 mph.

It’s the beginning of the year and how many of us have vowed to get in shape, lose those love handles, and start eating healthier? Plenty, I’m sure, including me.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking on the treadmill, contemplating my “to-do’s” and itching to get started on them. Instead, I found myself frustrated and desperate to be done with “this whole exercise thing.”

That’s when a very clear vision hit – I had seen it months ago on Instructables.com, where someone had added a keyboard table to their treadmill. I looked at the setup and I could see it – laptop sitting to the side of the treadmill on the chest freezer, external keyboard and mouse on the ‘table’ that would rest on the treadmill handlebars, and the external monitor hanging at eye level on the wall.

It was perfect. I also knew it would help me cut down on my inefficiency when sitting at the computer (I tend to go on tangents, check Facebook and the newsfeeds obsessively) and, the best yet, I could increase my blog posts. Now that I have twelve different blogs to maintain, I need all the help, and the time I can find!

My wonderful, attentive and supportive husband (Hi sweetheart, happy birthday!) was kind enough to humor me and the setup is in place. My aching wrists and fingers have informed me that the keyboard table will need to be raised by 6-8 inches to be more ergonomically viable, but other than that, life is perfect. (Update 1/27/11 – done and this is the new picture at top)

This is day two of my exercise regimen and I just looked down at the clock to realize, to my dismay, that I must finish this post in less than six minutes. I’ve been walking, and researching, and surfing, and blogging for over 54 minutes now!

So the setup is not difficult. Use an old computer that takes time to boot up, or use a laptop that has a wireless connection to the internet. I highly recommend that you have at the very least a external keyboard and mouse. The laptop could sit on a shelf above the treadmill on a wall, but trying to just use the built-in keyboard could be problematic.

My treadmill is here in the basement, near our washer and dryer. I placed all of my workout clothes here on top of the dryer, shirts in one pile, pants in another, with the workout socks in between. My tennis shoes sit here next to the treadmill.

In the morning, at the ungodly hour of 5 am, you will find me here. I get up out of bed, do a weigh-in, come downstairs and pull on my work out clothes and get to exercising and surfing and writing.

When my hour is up I pull off the clothes, add them to the pile waiting to be cleaned, and often start a load, transfer the clothes over or even take a dryer full of clean clothes up to be sorted and folded and put away.

In other words, in one hour I manage to:

  • Get my daily dose of entertainment
  • Post in my blogs and lurk on Facebook
  • Research stuff (I was looking up MYO lip balm recipes today)
  • Exercise for a full HOUR, which currently burns in excess of 450 calories
  • Get the laundry done

How awesome is that?

I’m now at 65 minutes of exercise, so I’ll close with pictures of my setup. Happy Organizing!

Here was the original setup my husband cobbled together for me…


The Organized Home – Protect Yourself from Fire by Maintaining Your Dryer December 26, 2010

Filed under: General Organizing — Christine @ 6:47 pm

I’ve been a bit lax in recent years – but after a recent house fire, just a few doors down from my house, my three-year neglected annual dryer maintenance suddenly took high priority.

It was a quiet Friday evening, the day after Thanksgiving at about 7pm when I heard the sirens. Our street is peaceable, not much happens on it, so when I peeked out of the window and saw the red and blue emergency lights I pulled on a coat and shoes and went to investigate. Across the street and down at the corner, the firefighters were hard at work. Pretty soon they had the culprit out on the front lawn. It was a dryer, blackened with soot, still slightly smoking.

A month later, my neighbors still haven’t been able to return to their home. The smoke, fire and water damage from the hoses was extensive and their front door remains boarded up while professionals clean and restore the guts of the house to make it livable again.

According to the National Fire Protection Association…

In 2006, an estimated 17,700 reported U.S. non-confined or confined home*
structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines (including
combination washer/dryers) resulted in an estimated:
• 15 civilian deaths
• 360 civilian injuries
• $194 million in direct property damage

That’s some serious statistics folks!

So I took a good hard look at my own dryer. We bought the front-loading washer and dryer set when my daughter Emily was a baby. She’s four now, and I realized we had never done an annual check on the dryer. I put it at the top of my “Honey Do” list and this is what we found…

Pile of lint from the back of the dryer and the flexible dryer hose

I’d say we managed to haul out a good pound of lint. As you can see, I placed a paintbrush by it so that you could get a good idea of how much lint there was.

It’s easy to be fooled…you might think, “I clean out my lint trap with every load!” And well you should, but it still manages to get down into the machine, and catch on the flexible hosing that vents from your house. Dryers are hot, they have to be to dry our clothes quickly. So imagine what could happen with all of that heat and something as flammable as lint. And yes, lint is flammable. Keep in mind that survivalists often carry it as a handy, lightweight firestarter!

No dryer is assembled the same, so when you perform your annual maintenance remember to…

#1 – UNPLUG your dryer and pull it away from the wall so you can access the back of it.

#2 – Take a photograph of the back ( you may have to remove screws and plates, so keep track of where everything goes) or make a sketch.

#3 – Remove lint and wipe down with a dry, clean cloth

#4 – Make a note in Outlook or your Google calendar to do this again next year!

Regular dryer maintenance will not only protect/prevent a dryer fire that could destroy your home and endanger your life, but it will also ensure that your dryer is performing at the most optimum level. Which means less drying time and less energy costs!

Get to that dryer maintenance today!


Make Every Step Count January 29, 2010

Filed under: General Organizing — Christine @ 7:09 am

I talk about Economy of Movement in my organizing classes. In a nutshell, EoM is about making every step count.

I was reminded of this over the past two days. I have owned a housecleaning business for the past five years. My next-door neighbor just started her own housecleaning business with her sister-in-law and she’s been calling for advice. “How long should a cleaning take? What should I charge? Should I bill it out by the hour or as a set fee? How can we be more efficient?”

Cleaning a house, especially if you are doing it for a living, is a fine example of wanting to make every step count.

But honestly, if you could add an extra hour to your day by employing the use of EoM, what more could you get done or accomplish in your day? Imagine what you could do with an extra hour or two!

Economy of Movement is simple and complicated at the same time. To be successful at it, you simply need to be more aware as you move through your day. Let me give you an example:

Example: As you drive in your car, you look over and see a fast food bag on the floor, some dirty napkins strewn around, and other items that need to be thrown away along with some little figurines that belong in your daughter’s room. At the next red light, lean over and grab the bag and fill it full of trash. Pick up the little figurines and place them in your purse. (obviously, keep an eye on the light so that it doesn’t change while you are oblivious to it!) When you arrive home, grab the bag full of trash, your purse, and run past the mailbox. When you enter your house, drop the mail and any receipts from your purse (maybe the fast food receipt) into the Mail/Receipts bucket, hang up your coat, put away your purse after handing the figurines to your child, and toss the trash into the kitchen wastebasket.

Results: You have managed to keep all of your mail and financial records in one place (the Mail/Receipts bucket). Your coat and purse are put away. Your car is tidy and well-organized and it no longer has little figurines rolling around in it. Tomorrow, when you get back into it and are rushing to drop your child off at daycare/school, she’ll have a place to put her feet and you will feel less stressed without the clutter and garbage.

Economy of Movement can be as simple as taking that used or dirty dish from a snack in bed the night before with you as you walk towards the kitchen to make yourself coffee. Coffee takes a moment to brew and since you are right there, why not tidy the kitchen up? Load or unload the dishwasher. As you run the water it heats and you can use it to wet a dishrag and wipe down the counters or one of the shelves in the refrigerator. Just as the coffee finish burbling into the carafe you have a reasonably clean kitchen. It isn’t perfect, but then, not many kitchens are.

These are just a few examples of making every step count. Think about your life, become aware of your patterns, and come up with ways in which you can reduce your clutter in a few less steps. Make every step count!!!!


Organized Remodeling January 25, 2010

Filed under: Remodeling — Christine @ 8:10 am

For years I have wanted to transform an antique dresser into a sink. Over a year ago, after hearing me talk of it far too many times, my mother donated a dresser for the cause. It was lovely and it had a nice mirror that attached to the back.

I had set my sights on the hall bathroom and decided a complete ‘redo’ was in order. I would repaint the walls, and I wanted my husband Dave to install some nice tile instead of the ugly linoleum currently in the space.

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and found the perfect floor tiles, just $1 per square foot. This purchase got the gears moving and before long I had located a lovely glass vessel sink on eBay and a tall bronze faucet to go with it.

We sat down yesterday and began to plan it out, including what jobs each of us would be responsible for.

  1. Clear out the bathroom entirely – all knickknacks, etc (me)
  2. Remove the ugly sink cabinet and install shut off valves so we could turn the water back on (Dave)
  3. Demo the rest of the flooring and remove the toilet (Dave and me)
  4. Clean up (me)

We began at around 6pm and finished at 10pm. We also outlined the next steps we needed to take:

  1. Replace section of floor that has rotted (Dave)
  2. Patch all nail holes, remove old wallpaper from behind toilet, and prep walls and ceiling for painting. (me)
  3. Seal the dresser top with an epoxy solution (so that there will not be any water damage and the rest of the dresser with a marine varnish. (me and Dave)
  4. Paint walls and ceiling (me)
  5. Alter dresser by drilling holes for the sink and faucet and altering the drawers beneath to accommodate plumbing. (Dave)
  6. Lay tile and grout (Dave)
  7. Install dresser sink and bolt to wall (me and Dave)
  8. Finish out with new molding and touch up paint. (me and Dave)
  9. Move everything back into the closet organizing and labeling as I go. (me)

It seems like a lot of work and well, honestly it is. But in the end, I estimate we will have spent about $400 and have a lovely bathroom in place of the old, well-worn one.

I am a huge fan of do-it-yourself projects. They save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars and you learn handy, needed skills. Keep in mind the following before you begin a project:

  • Have a clearly defined vision
  • Be prepared for setbacks (like the rotted flooring we found!)
  • List out the steps you will need to take from start to finish and assign each member a task that fits their strengths. (Mine is obviously organizing and planning, but I will also be cooking meals and be available to Dave when he needs someone to run back and forth)
  • Keep track of your expenses (this helps you add it up in the end and realize just how much it really costs and how much you have saved).
  • Have a first aid kit handy
  • Have other arrangements (sleeping, bathing etc.) in case the project takes longer than you thought it would.
  • When frustrated – don’t give up and abandon the project. Work it through, consult experts, and finish it with a professional’s help if the work is too much for you.
  • Be ready to roll with the punches!

The last one is especially relevant for us. In January 2007, I talked my husband into taking a week-long vacation and installing a tile floor in our kitchen. I know, I know, that is wrong on so many levels! He obviously loves me because he actually agreed to do it. This was our first tiling experience and it would have been difficult enough except that the day we took everything apart (this included removing the stove and placing it on the back porch) our microwave died, leaving us with no way to cook food!

There is only so much takeout and sandwiches and cold cereal a person can eat before all they can think of is being able to cook their meals on a stove again. It was an incredibly difficult week for us, especially since we had a newborn who I’m sure was convinced she had been abandoned or left to be raised by the dogs.

We were so ‘under the gun to get it done’ that we rushed things and just three years later the grout is cracked and pitted and disintegrating. That’s next on Dave’s “to do” list. And this time, we will take the time to do it right!

So remember…

  • Take your time to plan it out
  • Make a list of all the materials you will need
  • List out the steps to take to complete the job from start to finish
  • Plan for hiccups and delays

Stay tuned…pictures and updates to follow!


Organized Gardening – Garden Expansion is Underway August 4, 2009

Filed under: Gardening — Christine @ 7:03 am

Well…partly underway. The rainstorm this morning will affect productivity dramatically. Despite this, I currently have two new 4×8 beds, assembled, filled with compost and topsoil, and ready to plant. Thanks to the small mountain of dirt in my driveway we will be able to fill all of the…

Seven 4x8s

Five 2x8s

Six 2x4s

With enough vegetables and fruits to keep me busy harvesting and canning next year! I plan to get in a fall harvest this year as well: cabbage, radishes, kale, beans, peas, potatoes & zucchini.

Raised beds really make things easier. We used 10 inch boards, so our planters are nearly 1 foot off the ground. You can sit on the edge, reach in and pick the errant weeds with less strain on your back than if you the plants were directly on the ground.

We also put structures to work – our privacy fence and even the outside walls of our house, have trellis or chicken wire attached in order to grow vining plants on. Check out my husband’s hop plants.

Just a few nails and twine is holding these plants up. Next spring we may get a little more ‘supportive’ and attach a trellis to the wall.We will also be doubling the space allowed for the hops. Hops grow quickly, up to a six inches in a day, and require something to climb on for best results. These plants are about 20 foot high right now and would happily grow all the way to our roof if we gave them the opportunity.

My husband is busy planning the new chicken coop and enclosed yard and we will be getting Araucanas in the spring. I expect that by this time next year we will begin to have eggs. Pretty little pastel-colored eggs!

I sat down and spent a good day planning my garden in regards to what plants worked best with others (look up ‘companion planting’ in a web browser). As much as possible I want to NOT use pesticides or even commercial fertilizers. This year I used none, but I did lose my summer squash crop to something (probably the squash beetle). I hope to remedy that problem by growing my squash with tansy, which repels ants, cucumber beetles, and squash beetles. Check out Louise Riotte’s books “Roses Love Garlic” and “Carrots Love Tomatoes” for more details on companion planting. And stay tuned…there’s more planting and beds to be installed!


Juggling Priorities & Wanting It All August 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine @ 12:51 pm

The other day I presented my class proposals to the Mid-Continent Public Library’s bi-annual meeting. Librarians from all 22 branches were in attendance and the coordinator gave the following introduction to the group.

“Every time I speak to Christine I end up asking her to send me a write-up for a new class! She has so many projects, so many different talents and interests that even just listening to her makes me tired!”

I get that from a lot of people. The ‘tired’ part, that is. The thing is, all of those things I do, happen one at a time with very few exceptions.

For example, right now I have set my two writing projects on hold in exchange for two very time-sensitive projects…a king-size quilt I am making for my oldest daughter’s visit and birthday this fall and the quintupling of my raised garden beds with cool season vegetables to be planted as soon as I have dirt in them.

I want to have the quilt done by the time Dee arrives in September and I can manage a crop of potatoes, cabbage, kale, beans, peas, zucchini & carrots before frost hits if I have the seeds in the ground by next weekend.

Part of me wants to dig out three other quilts that have been started but never finished. But those will probably wait until winter when I can’t garden! The book-writing is also a priority, but I think that, in a week, I will be able to return to them (one or both, depending on mood) and make significant progress.

Cropping up in my range of ‘priorities’ is the concern that my little one, nearly three, is lonely. So I’ve scheduled in daily kid activities, which usually entails dropping her off with kids her size at the community center and working out for an hour while she is having fun. I can actually do this up to nine hours a week if I want, since there are multiple activities available. This also fills another ‘gotta do’ in the exercise/weight loss department.

So many times in life we want it all, right now, and next week, next month or next year feels like forever. I have some beautiful bearded iris that I planted in my garden over a decade ago. I remember thinking that cool fall day that spring couldn’t come fast enough, I wanted to see them and cut them and put them in a vase on my dining room table! Ten years later, I’ve dug and divided them up twice and given away more plants than I ever originally bought.

Life is like that, we turn around twice and wonder where the heck five years went. Or ten, or thirty.

I realized about five years back that I wanted to see and experience quite a list of things. I wanted to learn, grow, dabble in a wide range of interests and that I had a lot I wanted to get accomplished!

Not everyone has the same mental list ticking away in high gear in their brain. And that is fine, perfectly fine as a matter of fact! What level of activity/interest do you want? What ARE your wants or needs? Find that acceptable level and go forward. And don’t worry about what others think.

I get a lot of head shakes, “I just couldn’t do what you do. I just couldn’t keep up.” I worry sometimes that what that translates into is the leadup to saying, “I can’t be organized. I just don’t have it in me to be like you, Christine, so your techniques simply won’t work.”

There are times when my desk looks like a hurricane hit it.

There are days, even weeks, when my house is well overdue for a thorough dusting and vacuuming.

In fact, it’s in dire need of vacuuming right now. I’m choosing to wait on that until later today. I have this post to make and I also need to build some raised planters and will probably end up tracking through the house if I vacuum now so why bother?

I’m not perfectly organized all of the time. My house is not neat and clean at all hours, ready and waiting for the surprise visitor. I have a preschooler for goodness’ sake! No one can keep up with her!

Everything I do, all that I do, still happens one thing at a time. I give up one thing, clean floors, in order to clean the garage or work on a quilt. I do this happily. I sacrifice order for progress or learning and I sacrifice cleanliness for experience – not every day, but enough of the time to never know quite what you will find when you walk in my house!

It’s hard to juggle priorities. Some days I’ve just had it, and then some, and it is easier to simply sit and read or zone out in front of the tv.

So what is this post all about? I guess I’m simply trying to point out that I’m not Wonder Woman. I do what I can, when I can, with whatever is within my means. And so should you. Don’t aspire to be anyone except yourself. Find your comfort level and to heck with what the rest of the world thinks.

It’s your life after all.