Organization Part 6 – Clearing Out the Junk Room

One of my deep shames is a room that should be an extra guest room but has instead become a junk room. Yes. I have a junk room. It’s easy when you have more bedrooms than people to occupy them and that’s what happened when the kids grew up and moved out. It was just too easy to put things in a bedroom with the intention of storing it properly or getting rid of it later. In my mind it now resembles an episode of “Hoarders.” Now it’s necessary to turn that room back into a functional bedroom. I have a solid reason for clearing out the junk room and a time frame that won’t allow me to up and quit.

 

flea-market-1262036_1920-01Our out-of-state grandkids spend a week with us each summer and I really need to separate my 7 year old granddaughter from my 2 1/2 year old grandson. They discovered during their last visit that giggling and goofing around is more fun than sleeping. I’m hoping that keeping them in separate rooms will prevent tired babies in the morning, not to mention a very tired Bam.

I looked in the room that will be my grandson’s room. There’s a bed in there, sans frame. I’ve also stored his Pack ‘n Play, high chair, his big sister’s old car seat, camping gear, a box of pictures I’ve been meaning to get into photo albums since the ‘90’s, and two large boxes of toys. We’ve stashed camping gear and old electronics in that room. Generally, everything I didn’t quickly decide on a storage space for or thought I might use soon has been put in that room. I’m pretty sure there’s a floor but I can’t really be sure at this point. So I’m determined to get this room cleared out and ready for the big visit.

Perhaps my battle plan will help you with yours.

My Plan:

  1. Gather the “equipment” I’ll need to get the room back in shape. This means:
    • Boxes for items that will be stored and a few extra boxes for my yard sale items and things to donate.
    • I’ll need a few garbage bags or one industrial size one (the kind that’s so big you could use it to dump a body). Once an item is in the garbage bag it doesn’t come back out.
    • Packing tape will be used to reinforce and close boxes of things that will be stored in a proper storage area.
    • Permanent marker(s) will ensure I know what’s in the various storage boxes.
    • Notepaper and pen need to be right there to note anything that needs to be fixed. In the case of this room, where many of the grand kids’ toys are kept, that means noting if batteries need to be replaced.
    • Small box for stray crayons, toy pieces, and any other tiny objects I find while clearing out the room. They’ll be put away with like items after the general cleaning is done.
    • My most important “equipment” is my youngest son. I need him for the heavy lifting. Did I mention there’s a TV in that room that’s the size of a Volkswagen Bug?
  1. Move the large electronics (several TV’s, a couple of old computer monitors, and a VCR) to the living room. This will give us more room to work in the bedroom.
  2. Move the items that can be stored in the basement to their proper places down there. This means they’re stored properly and gives us even more floor and closet space. This includes holiday items, camping gear, and anything else that is only used seasonally.
  3. The baby’s crib and high chair will also be moved to the living room. They were cleaned thoroughly after the last visit but they’ll both get another cleaning before the grand kids arrive.
  4. Things belonging to my adult children will be separated by owner and they will have a very limited time in which to decide if they want it or if it will be tossed. If you don’t have adult kids this also applies to those living at home.
  5. All toys will be sorted and those they’ve outgrown will go in the yard sale box.

Once the room is emptied of things that don’t belong I can put the bed on the frame (currently in the basement because one of our kids didn’t like the bed being “so high.”) and wash the walls. I’ll give the room a quick dusting and vacuuming. The day the kids are arriving I’ll vacuum and dust again and make the bed.

While we’re clearing out the room:

  • I’m going to play upbeat music to keep us moving.
  • I’ll set a timer so I don’t wear myself out. First I’ll set it for 15 minutes and, if I can keep going without a break, I’ll give myself another 15 minutes on the timer. I’ll take short breaks when I need to rest.
  • While we’re clearing out, with each item, I’ll ask myself if I absolutely cannot do without it. If it’s been lost in that room for a very long time I probably don’t need it. To make it easier I’ll ask myself if I’d be willing to spend money to replace it if it were gone. The answer to that is usually that if I’d really needed it I would have already replaced it or found it.

Give myself and my son a sincere compliment on the work we’ve done and admire how great that once junk-filled room looks. Then I’ll insist on being taken out to dinner.

Organization Series Part 5 – Tips for Organizing

There are so many wonderful ideas for organizing that it’s hard to share them all with you. Not everyone will decide to use every idea but, in my world, the more organized things are the better. I love being able to find things easily and to know where things I don’t use every day are stored. Here are some of the great tips for organizing I’ve discovered recently.

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  • Use an accordion folder for storing appliance and electronics booklets. Keeping the booklets for these items is always helpful. They almost always have a troubleshooting guide and you can keep the receipt and other relevant paperwork like warranties stapled to the inside of the booklet. The easiest way I’ve found to file them is by what they are rather than manufacturer; I file the dehydrator book under “D” rather than “E” for Excalibur.
  • Shoe boxes make great places to store…shoes! Keep the shoeboxes when you buy a new pair and store out-of-season footwear in them. On one side of the box write the description of the summer shoes and on the opposite side write the winter shoe description. Then, as you store the shoes for the off-season just flip the box so you’ll easily see what shoes are in the box.
  • Tension rods make great scarf hangers. You can also hang tank tops on them.
  • Clear plastic shoe organizers can be used to organize baby clothes if you don’t have enough dresser space. Hang the organizer on the back of a closet door and simply fold the clothing to fit the pocket. You can easily see which outfit is in what pocket. The organizers are also great for storing kids’ socks and underwear.
  • Ice cube trays are for more than just freezing things. Place a few in a drawer to organize tiny accessories like earrings and rings.
  • Put up a magnetic strip near your sewing area to store bobbins, needles, and scissors. Magnetic strips are also great for organizing tools.
  • When you buy new clothing store the buttons and extra thread that comes with the clothes in a photo album with pockets. It’s much easier than trying to rifle through the sewing box when you need to replace a button.
  • Organize your closet by storing “like use” items together. Keep all sportswear in one section, work clothes in another, night out/formal clothing in a third, and casual/weekend in a fourth.
  • Clutch purses can be hard to organize. You end up with them all piled up in a box or in a stack that falls over all too often. Try using an upright wire mesh desk organizer to keep clutches neat and visible.
  • Wooden shelves with deep brackets can be hung upside down creating built-in compartments. They’re great in guest rooms to keep towels, sheets, and other items your guests will need.

Organization Part 5 — Spice Cupboard

Today I’m going to spice it up! Okay, bad pun, I know. But the spice cupboard is so important to the kitchen. Cooking and baking would be incredibly bland without the right spices and I hate wasting time searching for a specific spice. When I’m gathering ingredients for a recipe I want to be able to pull the spices out without getting a headache. And our youngest son and his lovely girlfriend often come over for dinner which he usually takes over making so I want him to be able to find everything easily.

Cleaning out the spice cupboard is important because spices and spice blends don’t last a super long time. They begin to lose their potency and an outdated spice can ruin your recipe. While I’m cleaning out the old bottles I like to wash down the cupboard as well.

So, first things first, empty the cupboard for your spices completely. Wash the shelves while they’re free of bottles and jars. Now pat yourself on the back for a job well begun. Next it’s on to arranging the spices.

Many people like to store their spices in groups; the spices they use for stuffing in one group and the spices for pies or pot roasts in other groups. I’m a little more O.C.D. about my spices. I find it easier to arrange them alphabetically and by size of jar than by the recipe groupings. It’s also easier for any cook’s helper to locate things if they’re not trying to figure out your method for grouping items.

Having some kind of sliding drawer or carousel makes it easier to locate a bottle than having them all just stacked on behind or on top of another.  Right now I have a couple of Lazy Susan-type carousels but my dream is to have slide out spice racks. I’m working on getting enough brownie points to tell my husband I want him to build me a few.

While all the spices are out of the cupboard go through and discard any old bottles and jars. They’ll last a bit longer than their “Best By” dates but not a lot longer. Wipe the jars down with a damp paper cloth to get rid of anything that’s gotten on them. You don’t want to open a jar and have dust from the lid get into your spice.

Now it’s just a matter of putting everything back. Choose the method by which your spices will be arranged. By group, alphabetically, or any other way you like. Just make it simple to use so you’re not hunting for something in the middle of cooking.

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organization part 5

Organization Part 4 – Organizing Your Pantry

A chore that is often forgotten or ignored is organizing your pantry. If you’re lucky enough to have a pantry you may know how easily it can sometimes look like one of those closets in movies where, when the door is opened, everything falls out. It can require a little discipline to keep your pantry organized but it’s worth it. Time spent re-organizing is wasted time. Money spent on things lost in there is wasted money. And having a well-organized pantry makes meal-planning and creating a shopping list much easier.

There are some tips to organizing your pantry –

Size Doesn’t Matter: Arrange the pantry by groups, not size. I like to keep breakfast items together. I keep pastas and jars of sauce together. Snack foods are another grouping. I don’t store oils or spices in the pantry but if you do it’s a good idea to store each group together. Decide how you use the foods in your pantry and group them together.

Location, Location, Location: In general, you’ll want to keep the items you use most frequently on the shelves easiest to reach; that’s chest to knee level. Items you rarely use or that are too heavy for the shelves can be placed on the floor.

Make It Easy for Others: My husband helps put the groceries away and, if he happens to be visiting, so does my youngest son. While my son is as disciplined about organization as his mama (his closet makes my heart swell with pride) my husband is the kind of guy who’d rather just throw things where they’ll stick and be done. I label each area of my pantry so my husband knows where each item should be stored. Most of the time the labels aren’t really needed since it’s obvious that a box of spaghetti should go with the pasta but the labels keep him from saying he didn’t know where to put something.

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My Pantry Layout: You’ll want to arrange your pantry to suit your needs so this is just as an example of one layout.

Top Shelf – Cake mixes, chips & snack crackers, popcorn, dried fruits, marshmallows & marshmallow crème, and the sugary cereal my youngest grand kids get as treats.

Second Shelf (moving down) – Breakfast cereals, oatmeal (instant and quick cooking), syrup, honey, peanut butter, and jellies.

Third Shelf – Saltine crackers, canned soups, canned fish, salad dressings & salad toppings (croutons, etc.), sauces (barbeque, chili, pepper jelly), gravies (in jars), breadcrumbs in various flavors, and cornmeal.

Fourth Shelf – Pastas and pasta sauces, tomato paste, canned fruit and canned vegetables. I also have an ice holder from an old refrigerator on this shelf. I keep small boxes of baking mixes and seasoning packets in it.

Floor – White and cider vinegar, canned foods I use only when the grand kids visit (Spaghettios® and canned chop suey), a 6 lb. box of baking mix and potatoes.

Organization Part 3 — Everything Under The Kitchen Sink

In 2000 I had a spinal cord injury that left me with central nervous system damage. It’s very difficult for me to bend and getting up and down from bed and chairs is difficult and sometimes impossible without help. Since getting up from a chair is hard you can imagine how hard it is to get down and back up from the floor. I avoid putting my bottom end and floors together as often as I can!

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Organization Part 2 — Organizing your refrigerator & freezer

In times past I felt I had a pretty organized refrigerator. After all, I could find what I needed…usually. And things tipped over and drooled down the side of the refrigerator and pooled at the bottom under the crisper drawers only occasionally. But one day, as I was lying on the floor halfway in the refrigerator, trying to scrape up a large, thick pool of what once had been barbecue sauce, I’d had enough! I was tired of finding fuzzy fried chicken. I was done with opening a container only to find a moldy, semi-liquefied glob of who knows what. I was sick of wasting money buying things that I already had three or four of because they were lost in the back of the refrigerator or freezer. I didn’t want to waste one more minute cleaning congealed blood from the back wall. There was a better way!

This post is intended to help you save money, save time, and save frustration.

I’ve seen so many friends and family members storing milk on a shelf in the door. They may wonder why their milk seems to go bad very quickly. Others (like I once did) spend hours scrubbing away sticky, cold pools of unidentifiable goo. Food that could have been packed as lunches or used for a leftover night ends up in a landfill. And the freezer is no better! Food is purchased only to be sent to the freezer like an Antarctic explorer. It’s only found after it has died of freezer burn and the only thing left to do is give it a proper burial.

But you don’t have to experience any of that again! I’m not saying you’ll never have to clean your refrigerator/freezer again but the chore can be much less time consuming and you can save money, too!

Did you know that your refrigerator has different temperature zones? If you’re just throwing things in where they fit you’re wasting food and money. In order to get the full benefits of your refrigerator you should keep the temperature set at 40°F or lower. The freezer should be kept at 0°F. This will prevent foods (if stored in the right area) from spoiling and potentially making your family sick. But don’t just depend on the temperature you set for the refrigerator and freezer. The closer to the cooling element of the unit the colder things stay.

Here’s the breakdown:

Air circulation: Air needs to circulate through the refrigerator to keep temperatures consistent. Don’t over pack the refrigerator or you’ll find food spoiling more quickly.

The Door: This is the warmest place in your refrigerator. Juices (especially high acid juices like lemon juice), non-dairy sauces, and condiments (a word on that later) are candidates for door storage. The door is also a good place to keep pop (soda) and bottled water. Do not keep dairy products or eggs in the door!

Crisper Drawers: Crisper drawers are designed to maintain moist conditions that help preserve fruits and vegetables but many fruits like apples, peaches, pears, cantaloupes, and pears produce a chemical that helps them ripen (ethylene). The ethylene they produce can also cause ripening in other plants which means your vegetables turn yellow, grow limp, and may even sprout! Keep vegetables in one drawer and fruit in another. You’ll want to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating but moist isn’t wet. Dry these items with a paper towel after washing. Berries are very delicate so wash them when you’re ready to eat them or no more than a day or two before. Ideally, berries should be stored on the top shelf. Store greens, after washing, in a plastic bag or clear container with a paper towel to soak up the extra moisture. Change the paper towel if it becomes very damp. The back of the crisper drawer is the place for greens.  Herbs can be stored in the crisper drawer in the same way as other greens but I prefer to keep mine like little bouquets. I wash herbs then blot them with a paper towel and keep the cut ends in a glass with a little water and cover them with a plastic bag. And to prevent the water from becoming a waterfall I turn to my trusty plastic bins.

Lower Shelves: These shelves are the coldest part of the refrigerator. Eggs, raw meat, seafood, and dairy should be on these shelves. Never store raw meats/seafood/fish above cooked items. The best way to prevent bacteria from spreading is to keep the raw meat in its packaging in a plastic bin or on a plate larger than the package.

Upper Shelves: One of my sons was a restaurant manager for many years. He taught me that the upper shelves have the most consistent temperatures and foods that don’t require cooking should be stored there. Tortillas, leftovers, and deli meats are examples. And remember berries are best stored on the upper shelves. I keep a plastic bin with salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, etc. on this shelf. If a not-quite-closed bottle tips all or almost all of the spilled contents end up in the box not down the wall and into the bottom of the refrigerator.

The Top of the Fridge: Please don’t store any you’re going to consume on the top of the refrigerator! While the inside is cold the condenser coil is pumping warm air out and we all know warm air rises. If you’re storing bread up there it will mold very fast. A friend stored wine bottles up there and couldn’t understand why it was “off.” Wine + heat = bad wine. I try to keep the top of the refrigerator clear of anything but I have been known to put a vase or two up there.

What not to store in the refrigerator: Tomatoes should be kept at room temperature. In the refrigerator they lose their scent and become mealy. Onions, potatoes, and squash prefer cooler temperatures with low moisture. A dark cupboard or a root cellar are best for them. But don’t store your onions next to the potatoes! Most fruit does better on the counter top but you can refrigerate them to slow ripening.

What can but doesn’t need to be stored in the refrigerator: Whole grain flours contain healthy oils and will last longer if stored in the refrigerator. The same is true of oils low in saturated fat like canola oil, safflower oil, and olive oil. Nuts, nut butters, and nut flour do fine in the cupboard but refrigerating those items helps maintain the natural oils and keeps nut butters from separating. If you’re not going to use these up within a few weeks put them in the refrigerator.

The Freezer:  Unlike the refrigerator, your freezer works at its best when it’s tightly packed. Of course you’ll store ice and any foods you purchased frozen (unless you’re thawing it immediately) in the freezer. But your freezer can store a lot more than frozen peas! Pasta, pasta sauce, tortillas, and even flour can be frozen. I put shredded zucchini measured out for zucchini bread in plastic bags in the freezer. To save space flatten freezer bags containing things like shredded vegetables, shredded cheese (only freeze cheese you will use in cooking. The texture changes and, although it’s fine to use frozen mozzarella in lasagna it won’t make a great snack.)  I even flatten my vacuum-sealed bags of hamburger to make them stackable. Keep things well organized. I keep an inventory of what is in my freezer so when I make my grocery list I don’t buy unnecessary duplicates. Bread can be frozen for up to three months. But refrigerating it dries it out.

By storing food in the proper place and leaving room for air circulation in the refrigerator and packing your freezer tightly and knowing what is in it you’ll save time and money.

Sample Freezer Inventory

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Organization Part 1 — Getting Started

Becoming an organized person requires both a plan and determination. But everything starts at the beginning. Organization Part 1 — Getting Started will help you begin your journey to an organized home. When our kids were little I was super-organized. Our boys were only 18 months apart so I didn’t have time to waste. Two babies in diapers is a tremendous motivator to save time and steps. Some people thought I may have taken it too far; even my spices were alphabetized. But getting little ones ready for everything from bath and bed to a vacation out-of-town takes organization. As the kids got older and I was working outside the home some things slipped a bit.

Organization Part 1 -- Getting Started

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