Category Archives: Organize

A Few Inside Pictures

Not all of my house is camera ready at the same time, unfortunately. I really wish it was, but with three smalls who love rearranging their stuff, and mine, on a regular basis, it gets difficult to keep up.  So these pictures were not all taken recently, but not much has changed, other than being a lot messier now.

This is the “library”.

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We call it that cause it contains the majority of our books.  It’s also my sewing room and the kids play there too, which causes all sorts of organizational nightmares.

This is the other side, opposite the bookshelves.  The cupboards hold my vast fabric stash. Ha! Not really.  I also have a couple of bins under the sewing table on the other wall, which I neglected to take a picture of at the time, probably because it was an embarrassing mess. Now it’s even worse.

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This room really needs in intervention.  I caught it on a good day.  My sewing table is buried under stuff under the window, and the opposite wall has a bookshelf with the kid’s books and some of their treasures, and their play kitchen beside it.  And a couple of huge picture frames leaning against the wall.

This room serves mostly as a storage facility and hallway to the master bedroom, and the bookshelves serve as our wall until we get around to building one.  Too bad that’s waaaaaay at the bottom of our priority list right now.

This room is much better.

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I’ve never had a guest room that looked this nice.  Scratch that.  I’ve never had a guest room.  We squeeze all the kids into one room so that I can have one room in the house that always looks good.  And it’s not even finished.  The walls need another coat of paint, but we were just using up the leftovers from the entire upstairs and the colour is going to change anyway.  The blinds were whipped together using some curtains I already had and didn’t need anywhere else.  I just cut them to fit the window and sewed a hundred little rings on the back to make roman blinds, cause the sun beats in all afternoon and turns the room into a sauna.  They’re not the right colour, but they work.

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And the headboard I built way back when I was still a teenager is getting put to use!  And I just noticed it’s backwards.  The curtains are just sheets that I opened the ends of the top hem on and slid them onto the rods.  Easiest and cheapest curtains ever.  One day I will get around to showing you how I made the curtain rods for the entire downstairs for less than the cost of one curtain rod.

There’s also a dresser with a whole empty drawer!  This mirror was a share shed find that I spray painted with some leftover paint.  The clay bowl and pitcher were also from the share shed, unfinished.  I did the painting behind it.

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And here’s a little glimpse of my bathroom.  I took this one just to show the shower curtain I found after a few months of looking for one I liked.  It was only $11 from Jysk, which is in another town.  I had to get a friend to pick it up while she was there.

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That’s it for now.  I have a few pictures of the dining room, but they’re scattered around and need to be uploaded here first.

And right now, Sadie needs me to find her reader cause if she finds it, she doesn’t have to do the laundry.  Muahaha.  Motivation comes in many forms.

 

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Only The Beginning

 

 

Ok, I’m ready to show you my rearranged living room in it’s current state of not-finishedness.

I was kinda hoping I’d know what to put on the walls and where, but with Christmas right around the corner, this is about as done as it’s going to get for now.  At least before all the decorations go up.

I did have to move the bookshelves to make room for the new couch.

Here’s the before picture.

And now!

The new chair gets moved around quite a bit.  It started out at the other corner of the bookshelves in front of the floor lamp, but moved the the middle of the room for movie watching or just because.  It’s back by the bookshelf again right now.  That placement opens up the room a lot.

I use the little metal plant stand as a portable side table.  I got it from the neighbour’s garage sale for free.

Darryl’s Aunt gave us an old sewing table she found on he side of the road.  It’s been out on the porch for a while but I needed a side table.  It works well as a spot for the laptop.

I’m not finished with the top of the radio cabinet yet, but I’m showing you this because the tv used to be here.

I don’t know why it took me so long to finally measure the tv to see it if would fit in the bookshelves.  I thought about it many times.

It fits perfectly.

I had to move some books around and found a few I could get rid of.  The stereo used to take up a whole shelf, but now it’s in the radio cabinet.  Only about 2 books had to move to another location.  Not bad at all.

The vcr and dvd players fit together above the tv, and the sewing table hides the big, ugly, black sub and the receiver nicely.

So that’s my new living room, for now.

We like it.

I’ll show you a few Christmas decorations soon!

Farmhouse Kitchen?

My kitchen was not designed for much more than making a quick meal, though I’m sure a large percentage of mobile homes are on acreages.  The designers/architects/engineers left a lot to be desired (if there even were professionals such as these involved in this house).

Despite it’s gross lack of efficiency, it has no choice but to accommodate multiple projects simultaneously.

Case in point.

Here we’ve got 4 projects on the go at once.  Eggs drying, jam waiting for reprocessing, apples in the dehydrator, and yoghurt ready for the fridge.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and we’ve been systematically (ok, randomly) streamlining work processes and downsizing to just the basics since we moved in 4 years ago.  We recently bought some more stick-on hooks and expandable racks for a couple storage areas that needed to be more efficient.  We also bought a new set of plastic storage containers, just so they could all fit in the space easily (and now I’m having a hard time getting rid of the old ones. Go figure).  We don’t own a microwave because they take up way too much precious counter space and they turn healthy food into unhealthy food.  We don’t have a toaster oven or food processor or countertop griddle or grill (though I’ve considered a food processor, but not sure I’d use it enough to justify the space it would take up).

There’s not a lot we could do to make it a more efficient space without totally remodelling the whole kitchen, which I often fantasize about.  The traffic flow, while it doesn’t cut off any appliances from the rest, still goes right through the kitchen, and it’s cozy if 2 people are trying to cook.  Even cozier if Sadie brings a chair over to stand on so she can help.

There’s still a ways to go to make it more efficient the way it is now, but I have to come up with a creative solution for storing a few large, awkward pieces before I can go any further.  Like platters and large, deep containers with lids and (3) cookie tins.  But now that I think about it, I only use the big containers once or twice a year, and I’ve used one of the platters maybe once since we moved here.  I think I could let them go.  A couple of cookie tins too (I use one to store cookie cutters, which I also rarely use). Hmm.

Storage is a huge issue here.  Yet our cupboards and drawers are not crammed with stuff or overflowing.  There’s actually quite a bit of extra space in almost all of them.  I like it that way.  I can find everything easily.  I had to let go of a lot of extra things we didn’t need, but it was so worth it.  The few things I have to dig for are only used rarely (like the french press, pie plates, and extra bread pans–they work better for banana bread than my regular bread pans).  I don’t even have a junk drawer!  There’s no convenient drawer for silverware so it goes in a compartmentalized basket on the counter next to the knife block.  I like it better that way than in a drawer anyway.

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist by any means, but I like that my kitchen isn’t stuffed to the gills with extra things I don’t really need (or want).  I can breathe in there (when it’s clean).

This post did not go in the direction I was originally planning, but I hope it’s useful to someone.  Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are redundant (except flippers and wooden spoons!) or that you don’t use much.  There’s almost always another item that will substitute for the thing you got rid of the once or twice a year you would have needed it.

Get rid of the extra pots and pans, the small appliances you hate to clean, and the random one-purpose tools you forgot were there.

I cook from scratch and make yogurt, jam, beef and chicken broth, bread, butter, etc. and I only need 2 cast iron frying pans, 4 different sized pots + 1 large stock pot, and a crock pot.  I have a blender that I only need once in a while, because the stick blender works for most things.  The stand mixer gets used at least once a week just for bread, and Darryl likes using the hand mixer.  Other than the toaster, the only other appliance is the coffee maker, but Darryl recently quit drinking coffee so we can get that off the counter (yay!).  We use a regular whistling kettle because is doesn’t take up counter space (just a stove element).

I used to have a Pampered Chef parmesan cheese grater, but I nixed that because I used it once since we were married and it didn’t work for grating soap (for making laundry soap).  The regular grater works just fine for parmesan (and soap!).  We use the soup pot to make popcorn.  A breadmaker MIGHT save me 1 minute of shaping dough, but takes up way too much room (I make 4 loaves at once in the mixer).

We use the cast iron frying pan as a griddle all the time.  I would like to get a cast iron griddle that fits over 2 elements though, and it wouldn’t take up much room in the cupboard.

Despite it’s weaknesses, our kitchen still runs pretty efficiently because we’ve made it do that.  As long as we can keep things cleaned up as we go, there is room for both of us to cook, and there’s almost always something else going on as well, like the crock pot with yoghurt or chicken broth, something in the dehydrator (which I don’t count as an appliance because it only comes out in the fall), ginger beer or cream fermenting on the counter, beans soaking, etc.

Or even another vain attempt at keeping a plant alive in the house.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, make your home work for you.  Don’t be limited by poor design.  Do what you can to change it or make it better, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do.  And don’t let yourself be squeezed out by your stuff.  Make it easy to find things so you’ll be more inclined to use them.  Keep things that do double duty.  Get rid of the nifty gadgets you rarely use and the little-used appliances that take up precious storage space.  Do you really need 6 pots when your stove only holds 4?  Make your stuff work for you too.  If it doesn’t, let it go.  You don’t need as many things as you think you do.

Trust me. 🙂

Menu Planning and Inspiration

Check the side bar on the right and you may see something new.

If you click on the picture of the pot of soup (or here), it will take you to a page full of meal ideas.  I compiled it partly to declutter my fridge and as a reference when I’m stuck for ideas.

And I’m sharing it with you!

If you want details about any of the ideas on the list, let me know and I will try to link it to a recipe or do my own write-up, maybe even with a tutorial!

I don’t know about your house, but here we grocery shop every 2 weeks, with a quick stop for more fruit in between.  To do this, I have to make a list of two weeks worth of meals and use that to write my grocery list.  If I didn’t do that, I’d have no idea what we had in the house or what I should get.  This way I can plan for meals with ingredients I don’t usually have in the house and I don’t have to wrack my brain every night trying to come up with something to make.  I pick one off the menu that I feel like making that day.  I can also coordinate back-to-back meals that use the same ingredients to save time.  For instance, if I know I’m making Burritos (old favourite) and Tuscan Bean Soup (new favourite) at some point over the next 2 weeks, I’ll soak enough beans for both, cook them all at once and put the unused beans in the fridge for the next meal, which I can schedule for the next day or two.

I write all the meals on the white board so I can see them all quickly and cross off the ones I’ve already made.  I also like to check the list in the morning and pick something to make that evening, then mark it with a little arrow so I don’t forget.  Because it can totally slip my mind by afternoon and then I have to go through the whole selection process again.  Not cool.

I try to come up with 14 meals but that’s just as a backup.  There are usually at least 2 nights of leftovers, and sometimes an impromptu meal that’s not on the list.  Once in a while I don’t want to cook anything on my list, so I’ll resort to backups like pasta (any shape) and whatever veggies (or leftover meat) are in the fridge, either with tomatoey sauce or with a creamy/cheesy sauce.  I can have that on the table in 15 minutes.

It might all seem like a lot of work and planning, but it takes me about 20 minutes to come up with meals for 2 weeks and write out the grocery list using the menu, checking what I have in the fridge, and adding the stuff I wrote on the white board when it ran out. 20 minutes work for 2 weeks of ease.

I’ve been really REALLY wanting to buy grassfed beef instead of the cheap Costco packs of ground beef, but I didn’t think our budget could stretch far enough.  Meat wasn’t a priority so we cheaped out when we (thought we) had to.  Well last time we shopped, I changed the way I allocated funds.  I gave a full 25% of the budget to meat.  Fruits and veggies also got 25%.  The rest went to staples and other stuff.  I did have a bit more available for fresh fruit later in the week, but I kept our spending under budget, even with buying diapers and toilet paper.  Miscellaneous ingredients that I don’t HAVE to have yet or can be substituted with something I already have are the first to go if they don’t fit the budget.  Using this system, I got about 5lbs of ground beef and a 3lb roast, all grassfed.  I also got some beef bones to make stock.  Not a smoking deal but I value the fact that it’s grassfed more than the cost.  Filling in with some salmon and a whole chicken, the beef has lasted more than 2 weeks.  It’s about $6/lb.  I will save up and buy a larger quantity for half the price when I can.  For now, I’m happy I can feed good quality meat to my family.

Giving fruits and veggies the same allotment of funds gives it a high priority as well.  Which (I think) is the way it should be.  There are a few other things that are important to have, like whole wheat flour (for bread) and butter (for everything) so those are top priority for the rest of the budget (as an aside, we also bought coconut oil for the first time cause that’s another item I’ve been wanting to work into our budget since it’s so good for you).  Things like rarely-used spices, extra tea, cooking sherry, etc. are only purchased if there’s room.

Since I’ve only shopped this way once so far, I may have to tweak it a bit, but I think the overall idea is sound.  And our grocery budget?  $200 for 2 weeks plus about $25 for more fruit.

 

 

Less Is More

There comes a time when kids toys multiply to the point where they don’t know what they have anymore.

That’s when you have to intervene on their behalf.

Remember this photo?

That’s not even all of it.

I don’t think Sadie has a lot of toys compared to some kids, but she still has too many.  When the toy box is so buried in other toys that she can’t get to it and never opens it, it’s time to do something.

One day while she was taking a nap, I went through everything and sorted out half her toys to get packed away and got rid of a few little odds and ends or broken ones.  Then I re-organized the toys she had so they fit in her space better.

Look, you can see the floor!

I made her a little kitchen area by hanging that white shelf (that was destined for the bathroom but hasn’t made it yet) for her dishes.

I kept out all her animals and tractors in a basket, and put her doll clothes and jewelry in the now-empty toy box.  The fruit goes in another basket and I moved some of my books so all of hers fit on the bottom shelf.  She’s still got her cradle and babies and a couple stuffies and a big basket of lego, and that’s it.

That was almost two weeks ago.  Since then, she’s had much larger clean-up jobs to do cause she plays with everything!

And I like it cause there’s less clutter and everything has a place.

Try it sometime.  It feels great!

If you need some inspiration for de-cluttering any area of your home, try this website.  It’s one of my new favourites.

I don’t mean to bore you, but…

This is some fascinating  reading.  A post about the current state of my laundry room/pantry.  Wow.

It’s actually not in too bad of shape right now.  Except for the baskets of laundry on the floor, which I won’t be showing you.

The plastic bins on the far shelf with round lids are ancient.  My parents picked up a bunch of them for super cheap when a Cooper’s store was re-doing their bulk bin section.  That was way back when we lived in the cabin in the bush.  When I was like 15 years old.  That means these bins have been around for at close to 15 years.  I need to make new labels for them.  We use them to store dried beans, pasta, rolled oats, rice, flour, sugar, etc.

Apparently the baby bathtub is also storing flour.

I also have a large ceramic crock in the store room that I keep white flour in.  I should be keeping whole wheat flour in there since that room is usually cooler, but you can’t put whole wheat flour in when there’s still white flour in it, right?

I know, lame excuse.

Here’s some other organizing I’ve done.

The furnace doesn’t work (and likely never will) so I can hang whatever I want there.  I finally got a hook for the broom and for my apron.  The clipboard has a list of how many eggs we sell, another one to keep track of how many feed bags we buy (though I think Darryl’s a little behind in updating that one), and my own little experiment listing how many cups of white flour vs. whole wheat I use in my bread on any given day, as well as a rating for how well it rises and the barometric pressure and any other notes I make.  I have enough data for a decent graph, but I don’t know if it will show anything significant.  Maybe when the paper is full I’ll sit down and make a graph.

In the photo above you can also see my white board on the right.  I love it.  I write down groceries I need to buy as soon as I use it up or notice it running low, then transfer the items to my paper list before I shop.  I also keep track of appointments on there and make to-do lists if I feel like I need one that day.

We hang bibs on the wall in the laundry room too cause we have a serious shortage of drawer space anywhere else.  This works just fine though.  There’s also the bag bag I made from scraps that were already sewn in a tube.  It was a no-brainer to make it and it keeps all my plastic bags tidy.

The wall you can’t see has the washer and dryer and a bank of cabinets above that house extra boxes of ziplock bags, garbage bags, the iron, bleach, a box of extra rags, freezer paper, light bulbs, misc. hardware, and my tool box.  I’m sure I could make those cupboards more efficient, but not right now!

I have too many other projects waiting for attention.

I will show you another completed project soon, using this door.

Can you guess what it is??