Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wrapping Up More Home Organization

I think of myself as an artistic sort of person. Most of the time when I say that, I mean writing; but I dabble in other things. I sew, cook, enjoy garden design, and other things people would consider to be artistic in one sense or another. Or at least crafty.

Which is why this truth about me makes me cranky:

I cannot wrap gifts.

There, I said it. I'm pretty clumsy at it, and packages from me look like they may have been scotch-taped together by a drunk raccoon. All my crafty efforts in other areas seem to make no difference when I'm confronted by a roll of paper and a gift box. It makes me highly, childishly irritable.

Over time, it's dawned on me that part of my problem with gift-wrapping is that it was such a big production in this house. I had two places where I stored some of the supplies. Tissue paper was scattered in multiple places too. And then I had to run down the tape and scissors from wherever the kids had squirreled it away.

By the time I got to the actual wrapping, I was already annoyed. Not a good way to go into anything crafty, or what's supposed to be an act of generosity. So it made sense to have a dedicated place to do this: a gift-wrapping center.

I actually resisted that idea for a long time. Because gift-wrapping centers smack of all the things I dislike about the Land of Lifestyle Magazine Make-believe-- that everyone's got loads of space in a blank slate of a suburban house and all the money in the world to customize it for a single-purpose use. And all the stuff on the shelves is color-coordinated with everything else and the room itself.

I am not saying that I wasn't attracted to the idea of that. This layout from Country Living is relatively simple and sweet and entirely doable:

Photo Source: County Living
But even doing something like that added a lot of time, effort, and costs to a household that already has several projects ahead of it in priority.

I did decide that finding a dedicated space for gift-wrapping was worthwhile. It just wasn't going to be beautiful.

This was a few hours of effort, with mostly existing stuff, in the corner of the furnace room in the basement. The table is a surplused metal lab/study table from the local university that I moved from another area. The shelves and pegboard were already hanging there. The boxes and basket I already owned, and they hold bows and gift tags.

I purchased the dish organizer on the shelf to hold folded gift bags, and I bought the small metal trash cans to hold the giftwrap. Um, about that. I have an embarrassing amount of giftwrap, I know. I am of the opinion that about 5 rolls at a time are plenty. But my mom gave me her stash, and I got carried away at a sale, and here I am with two buckets of gift wrap. On the upside I should be good for giftwrap for the next 5 years, and I hope to empty out one of those cans for another use down the road.

The window a/c units under the table, which I use in the upstairs bedroom windows during the summer, were already there and I didn't have the gumption to move them just for this picture. They'll be stored elsewhere next season, and I might hang some curtains under the table to store extra shipping boxes out of sight. I also haven't really done anything with the pegboard, but that can also come at a later time.

One other small expenditure: this tape dispenser.

It's a double dispenser, with a small reel for adhesive tape and a larger one for box tape. It has a cubby for scissors and pens. It's also hard to walk off with.

I need to stock up on tape and fill the dispenser, and I'll be ready to go the for the next round of birthdays, or Christmas. I cannot promise that my gifts won't still be looking drunk-raccoon-esque, but at least getting the job done will be less of an ordeal.

As a bonus, the area is not completely dedicated to gift wrapping alone; it will be multi-tasking, and soon. But that is another blog post.

What organizing projects are you up to in your home? What's working for you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Sweet Serenity Of Nooks

I have to apologize to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The quotation actually reads "the love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books." It's from the poem Morituri Salutamus, and one of my favorite lines.

Nooks can be serene, too. Especially when your bed is in it:

It's been there for a few months, practically speaking to get it out of the way of the rest of the bedroom wall and floor work.

Aesthetically speaking, it's because having your bed in a nook is like sleeping in a tent.....if that tent happened to have temperature control, down comforters, lots of fluffy pillows, and a little lamp to read by.

It's sequestered. It's also serene. This is just what I need in a life that doesn't have much of either.

I started off with a pretty grubby space:

Which included some awesome but unsalvageable cowboy wallpaper:

With help from my sister and my son it gradually became a more finished space:

With a low-cost painted and stenciled plywood floor:

And just before Christmas I scored some great midcentury dressers: 

But now the time has come to start making progress on the area the bed vacated, and the rest of the room, mostly with drywall plastering.

In other words, playing with mud indoors. It sounds so much more fun when you say it that way, doesn't it? I also like how this photo looks like a before and after montage. Only it isn't. That is actually what the room looks like, right now. Serene Nook meets Plaster of Disaster. 

I'm not really close to done right now, but I am feeling like I could see it by the end of this year. In the meantime, it's nice to have the nook. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


How sick was I of January? So sick of it, I waited until February to write about it. 

If my last post and this one seem in a similar vein, it's no surprise. I don't do winter very well even in the best years. This time I thought I'd survived the holidays in good enough form and started the new year intending to be all productive and reasonably even-keeled mood-wise. 

And then it all sort of fell down into a giant pile of meh, which included a stubborn head cold, stressful work days, a hellishly itchy eczema outbreak, insomnia, carbohydrate abuse, and sullen spells. 

My sister had given me an electric fleece blanket for Christmas, and it took pretty much all I had not to just crawl under it and tell people I'd see them in April.

Yes. This is a whiny post. I'm not proud, but there it is. However, I'm beginning to come around from my winter pout. 

Yesterday I went to the hardware store for the first time in months. Months! Hard to believe. And I have a few things going this weekend that I'll blog about soon. 

Think of this post as my little way of letting you know that I've finally put down the bowl of cheesy mashed potatoes and the winter helping of self-pity. Spring is on its way! 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

In Search of: a 2-step Organization Plan

How's January going for everybody so far?

I'm feeling a big "meh." I've had a head cold which of course doesn't help. But even if I felt better I still would rather not get out of the flannel sheets in the morning, and in the evening I feel like going on a kitchen strike. (Why do these people want to eat every day?!)

While I'm always relieved when the holidays are over, I seem to be struggling through a case of the winter blahs.

This is the time of year when most bloggers are reviewing the past year and thinking about goals for the twelve months ahead. But I can't seem to think past my next cup of coffee (that would be cream no sugar, please).

What I'm trying to say is that this is a bad time to talk about planning or organizing, and yet I seem determined to muddle through.

Because muddle is the operative word. A household of four kids and a working single mom never runs super-smoothly at the best of times, and there are just days where my life's not only not magazine pretty, it's sort of a ghastly storm system of shoes, dishes, sheet music, and homework papers that hovers over the household the entire week.

I'm not a naturally neat person, I know (my sister got that gene). And most of the time I consider that to be okay. There's always something I'd rather be doing than cleaning house. Who wouldn't?

That said, the clutter builds up to a point that I am tempted to endorse a simple two-step organization plan:

1. Prop open back door

2. Throw annoying shit out of it.

Doesn't that feel good, just thinking about it?

I don't think our family is any more consumerist than the next American family, which I realize isn't saying much. We live in an incredibly wasteful society. I like to think we are less so. But even with all the best efforts, with four children there is a constant downstream flow of outgrown clothing (this, especially), outgrown books, outgrown toys. And with a house that's got ongoing renovation projects, there's also a lot of building/redecorating refuse. I'd like to get a better handle on this, without resorting to my previously described 2-step system.

Gosh. That sounded like a goal, doesn't it? (It's not a resolution, though. I don't possess the backbone for those.)

I've been heading in that direction for awhile already, like this day in early November where I temporarily destroyed the twins' bedroom in a big clothing weed-out:

Or the items, including an end table, glassware, and artwork, I consigned to a shop in October:

I still liked this, but it just didn't "fit" in my current house or decor plan. Time to let someone else love it.

It's a big relief to move things out the door, whether they are going to consignment, charity, or the curb.

And I want more of the kind of relief I felt getting all this crap out of my garage: 

Pitching the clutter makes the remaining items much easier to live with, as I discovered with the hall closet organization that took place earlier last year. 

I'd just like to do more of it, and when I'm not in the throes of a tantrum of irritation like I was with the closet. 

I'm not sure what form "manage clutter better" will take this year, yet, I just know that the results are worth shooting for, whether it's a cleaner closet, fewer possessions, a more smoothly operating household, or all three. 

What have you got on your plate for 2015?