Trouble Spots: Kid Closets

In each of our kids’ closets, I have something that I call the “Outgrown Bins”, which are bins that clothes are thrown into once they become too small for said child.  My daughter has been wearing 4T since last summer, which means that, for the first time, we have four seasons worth of clothes in one size.  Which also means that her “Outgrown Bin” had reached capacity.  Actually, it was over capacity.  And there was a cardboard box overflowing with hand-me-down shoes that are currently too big for her in the bottom corner of the closet.  It was mayhem.  I broke down last weekend and pulled the bins and the cardboard box out in an attempt to reel in the mess.

Once I sorted through the bins and shoes, I was inspired to tackle the rest of her closet.

All of our bedroom closets came with built-in shelving that is not easily adjustable.  Translation: I have to work with what I have.

In my ideal world, I would tear out the wire shelving to create a custom solution.  Nothing fancy, but something simple that incorporates drawers and maximizes the space.  I’m drooling over these closets.

How to organize a toddler closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

Financially, neither of those awesome closets were options for us, so I made the best of what we had.

The shelving in my daughter’s closet isn’t that bad.  I love the idea of drawers/shelves through the middle of the closet, and the shelving configuration in her room lends itself to that with the addition of some baskets.

In addition to the overflowing bins and boxes, her closet was also storing stuff that it shouldn’t (an extra euro pillow, bedrail and window covering).  We order our kids’ diapers from The Honest Company in bundles and I never had a good system for storing the multiple packages of diapers that come in each bundle.

*I took these before pictures after I had already removed the full bins and box of shoes, so I drew them in order to help you envision the mess*

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

Most of her clothes are folded and kept in her plastic drawers.  The only clothes of hers that are hung are dresses and jackets/outerwear, so we don’t need a ton of hanging space.

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

The laundry hampers that we have fit perfectly between the shelving posts and for that, I am very thankful.  That makes a big difference.

In addition to the diapers, there were a few other items, such as her hat, scarves and backpack, floating around her closet that didn’t have a home.

My goals for her closet were:

  1. Contain the diapers
  2. Find a home for the random items
  3. Get rid of items that don’t need to be stored in her closet

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

I was so excited when I was able to empty her entire top shelf.  There will be a time when we will need that space, and now it’s available.  The y-weave baskets from Target are, once again, the star of this re-organization.  The 11″ basket fit perfectly in the middle column of shelves, which then serve the same purpose as drawers – just not as pretty or slick.  The more shallow 11″ basket was the perfect way to contain extra bedding (because I’ve never perfected the folding of a fitted sheet) and the taller 6″ baskets were perfect for containing the random accessories that didn’t have a home.  One basket now has “seasonal wear”, which is swimsuits and scarves, and the other has her accessories, which include her fedora and jewelry.  These baskets are deeper than the basket that we had holding the open package of diapers, which meant that we could get an entire package in a basket, so no more partially opened packages that needed to be stored.  The OCD part of me really wants to fill the gap with a fourth basket, but I have nothing that needs to go in there – yet.  When I do, I will gladly fill that void with a matching basket to complete the set.  I currently have an old diaper bag and her LL Bean tote in the large 13″ basket, but because those are the only things in that basket right now, I’m reconsidering putting hooks on the wall for those bags.

I sorted all of the shoes that we have that are currently too big by size.  They are labeled in my favorite, clear shoebox containers and can easily be accessed when her feet decide to grow.

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler girl's closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

My organization adrenaline was pumping when I was done with my daughter’s closet which was all the motivation that I needed to walk upstairs and tackle the mess in my son’s closet.

His shelving is a lot more haphazard and there are more unusable and awkward spaces in his closet.  I’ve been frustrated by this closet since we moved in, so I knew that when I had the desire to do something about it, I needed to take advantage of that. Otherwise, it would be a hot mess at least until he starts kindergarten.

In addition to the awkward spaces, my son’s closet is also the place for my overflow/out-of-season clothes.  I’m realizing as I type this that as a result of my new capsule wardrobe, I think I have some extra space in my closet, so maybe I could move that overflow back into our closets.  I’ll keep you posted.

My daughter is potty-trained and only wears diapers when she sleeps.  My son, however, is still in diapers, and in addition to our Honest Company bundle, I also stock up on them when they’re on sale at Target.  So, my son’s closet could also be called the “Diaper Storage Area”.  He also had his fair share of random items floating around that didn’t have a home.  All of this in addition to containers of paint supplies and play-doh because I decided to take them out of our coat closet, but haven’t yet found a better spot for them.

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

The issues with this closet weren’t all that different from my daughter’s.  Contain diapers & wipes and find spot for the random stuff that just gets shoved in there.

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

The boxes of diapers got moved up to the top shelf (that is above my hanging clothes where you can’t see it).  The bags of diapers and wipes each got put in a shallow basket that holds them neatly, but also makes it easy to grab a package whenever I need them.  The painting supplies and play-doh got put back in the coat closet where they belong.  Swim diapers got put in the dresser with swim trunks since they are always grabbed together anyway.  His hat sits on a low shelf so that he can grab it when he wants to wear it, along with his backpack, which is hung on the same shelf.  We keep a laundry basket of extra blankets on a high shelf.  We need extra blankets occasionally, so need to be able to access them, but don’t need them often, so that high shelf is the perfect spot.  The y-weave basket next to it contains other items that we need occasionally, but don’t need to be on a low shelf to be accessed often.

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

Again, I was left with some empty shelf space, and I love that.  I’m a firm believer in not filling a space to capacity when you organize it because you have to account for growth and accumulation that will occur.  Now, there is a great spot for that growth.

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

We don’t hang a lot of my son’s clothes, but this space is the only one that really works well for hanging his clothes.  But, there is room for growth there as well, which I’m perfectly happy with.

How to organize a toddler boy's closet - maxmizingdaysblog.com

What do find is the hardest part about keeping your kids’ closets organized?  What else besides clothes, diapers and bedding do you keep in their closets?

While this is certainly not my ideal solution, I feel good about it’s functionality and it’s longevity.  I’m especially happy with the extra space this organization opened up.  That might be my biggest win in this whole process.

How to organize a toddler closet when you can't adjust shelving - maximizingdaysblog.com

Trouble Spots: Hallway Linen Closet

As I mentioned last week, we have a small linen closet in our bathroom, and we also have a small hallway linen closet which is adjacent to the two upstairs bedrooms.  It is the ideal place for our dirty clothes hamper and medicines.  It is also the ideal spot for a number of items that don’t fit in the closet, so maximizing this space has more to do with being judicious about what goes in there than it does actually organizing the few things that do fit.

Hallway Linen Closet Organization: Too many rags and meds that didn't fit in the drawers - maximizingdaysblog.com

Linen Closet Organization - maximizingdaysblog.com

We keep our extra bath towels in this closet, and I would like to keep our beach towels in there as well – at least in the summer when we use them often – and this set up didn’t allow that space.  The shelving is fixed, so the space between them is something that I cannot adjust and have to work with what I have.  We store our medicines in the plastic 3-drawer organizer, but we were maxing it out for space, and it wasn’t ideal for larger bottles or liquids that had to lay on their sides and sometimes leaked.

Hallway Linen Closet Organization: Too many rags and meds that didn't fit in the drawers - maximizingdaysblog.com

My goals were simple:

  1. Tidy it up
  2. Store liquid and large meds upright in a different container
  3. Find a spot for beach towels

I started with goal #1 by facing the reality that I don’t need over 20 rags.  On my children’s messiest of days, I use 3.  Once a year, when I deep-clean, I may use 4.  So, change number one was relegating 3/4 of the rags from this closet to the garage.  Once I did that, I was able to get extra bath towels and the beach towels all on one shelf.

I have fallen in love with these y-weave baskets at Target.  They come in varying sizes and depths, and are CHEAP, so this tall, narrow basket was my go-to container for the medicines that I wanted to store upright.

Linen Closet Organization - maximizingdaysblog.com

Linen Closet Organization - maximizingdaysblog.com

Linen Closet Organization - maximizingdaysblog.com

Linen Closet Organization - maximizingdaysblog.com

The closet is now much more functional for us and the items we use most are the most easily accessed.

How to organize a linen closet - maximizingdaysblog.com

Trouble Spots: Bathroom Linen Closet

We moved into our house almost nine months ago, which is just enough time to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Our bathroom linen closet is the pinnacle of what isn’t working for us.  I didn’t give it a lot of thought when we moved in and haven’t since then.  Until last week when I reached the point where it bothered me.

We have another small closet outside of the bathroom in the hallway where we keep medicines, extra towels and extra linens, which means I don’t have to fit any of those things in our bathroom closet.  It is a narrow closet with fixed shelving (which means that the shelves can’t be moved) and has an area tucked behind the wall that doesn’t work great for getting things in and out.

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: maximizingdaysblog.com

I use my curlers a couple times a week, so having to get them off the top shelf and store them away up there wasn’t ideal.  We reuse our towels, so to keep them straight, I use the white and my husband uses the brown.  For that reason, I kept them in separate piles for easy accessibility, but that took up the entire shelf and didn’t maximize vertical space.  I put my blower dryer, curling iron and hair straightener in a small bin that we had lying around, but doesn’t fit them very well.  The plastic drawers hold my jewelry (which I’m considering moving to my room at some point.  Thoughts?) and my daughter’s headbands sit haphazardly on top because they don’t fit in the vanity drawer with her other hair accessories.  On the floor of the closet is our ‘Extra Supplies’ bin and a cleaning caddy.

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: maximizingdaysblog.com

Mostly, I wanted to make the items that I use often (towels, curlers, blower dryer) more easily accessible and do a better job of containing random items that were taking up more space than they needed by not having a home.  I also decided that I didn’t need the cleaning supplies caddy in the bathroom because the only cleaners that I use upstairs (where this bathroom is located) is toilet bowl cleaner, a spray bottle and Norwex window cloth, and my dust mitt; and I no longer wanted to keep these items on the floor.

I sorted through everything, threw out items that I no longer use (my own headbands, broken hair ties, old shampoo and conditioner and shaving cream that hasn’t come out of the spout for years).  Then I grouped like items together and went with my favorite containers to keep the items together in the closet.  I also moved the extraneous cleaning supplies to my other cleaning caddy (why have 2?!) in our downstairs bathroom.

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: Contain jewelry in drawers and use containers to group together like items - maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: Utilize vertical space by grouping items together in simple containers & put often-used items in easily accessible spots - maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: Contain jewelry in drawers and use containers to group together like items - maximizingdaysblog.com

Bathroom Linen Closet Organization: Contain jewelry in drawers and use containers to group together like items - maximizingdaysblog.com

Someday, I would love it if my husband could install another shelf between the floor and the current bottom shelf, but until then, I think that this will work well.  And, it only took me 25 minutes.  Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

Trouble Spots: Refrigerator

My former boss used to say that “work expands to the time allowed”, meaning that however long you have to complete a task is how long it will take you.  As is true with most of his mantras, I have found this concept to be true – and applicable to more than just work.  One example being refrigerators.  Food will expand to the space available in your fridge.  Think about it.  Have you ever seen a fridge that had large, empty space?  I haven’t.  And while I’ve come close, I’ve also never seen a fridge that couldn’t be shut because it was too full.  Whatever space we have, gets filled.  Bottom line.

That being said, when we were remodeling our kitchen and searching for a fridge, I started with the biggest models and worked my way down.  We had the advantage of working with a blank slate, meaning that we didn’t have a pre-determined space in which it had to fit.  That was pretty awesome.  We have the Kenmore Elite 29.8 cubic foot (!!!!) French Door refrigerator.  I fell in love with it when I saw it on the showroom floor.  My husband looked at the price tag and then told me to keep walking.  We ended up in the clearance section where we spotted the same fridge that had been returned to the store because it had numerous dings on the front.  Josh and I talked about it and decided that sacrificing the aesthetics of a non-dinged fridge to get the size and features we were looking for at a fraction of the cost was worth it.

We love it.  I see the dings every day and think “I don’t care.  I love the inside too much to care about the outside.”

And I fill all 29.8 cubic feet.  Looking at it empty on a showroom floor, I never thought I would.  But I do.  Every week.

A few weeks ago, it got to the point where I was approaching not being able to shut the doors, which meant that it was time to pull everything out and do some re-evaluating of where stuff went.

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

I found this infographic on Pinterest a few years ago and, generally, try to stick to these principles when deciding where items will go in our fridge.

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

My problem didn’t originate with throwing stuff in there haphazardly. What got me in trouble was not using the (plentiful) space I had well, which led to haphardly stuffing things in there because I didn’t have a better spot for them.

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

This was the whole sad state of affairs

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

Some fridges are made to fit gallons of milk perfectly in the doors, but that is one of the warmest spaces in the fridge, which can cause milk to spoil easily.  Also, the shelves on the inside of the refrigerator doors serve as built-in containers and, from an organizing standpoint, are the perfect way to corral small items such as dressings and condiments.  Milk isn’t any harder to grab from the inside of the fridge than it is out of the door, but you can’t say that about a bottle of ketchup.

I also didn’t need to do anything with the meat and cheese drawer.  You can see how that’s organized here.

I knew that I wasn’t going to dramatically change what was in the crisper drawers or the doors, so I emptied the rest of the fridge and cleaned it out.  That is a LOT of space.  How was that ever full?!

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

Then, it was just a matter of figuring out what worked (Milk on the lower shelf, leftovers on the top, yogurt in the middle) and what didn’t (overfull fruit & veggie drawers, not fully utilizing top shelf space & containers).

When it was all said and done – Ta Da!

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

 

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

Here’s what I did that made such a big difference:

  1. I had way more fruits and vegetables than I had space for in the two crisper drawers.  I used to cut up fruits and veggies when I got home from the grocery store, but had got out of the habit. Any of those that needed cutting up or were good grab and go snacks got put in containers in the new fruits & veggies section.  I cannot say enough about the value of uniform containers in maximizing fridge space.  It allows them to stack easily, which utilizes the vertical space you have.  For any food that doesn’t get reheated, we use these plastic containers.  Now the drawers have fruits that don’t need anything done to them (i.e. blueberries) or are surplus and vegetables that are for supper and will be prepped when I make that meal.  We are so much more apt to grab a container from this shelf and snack on these than we are to open a drawer, pull out a veggie, cut or peel it and then  eat it.  It’s really quite lazy, but it’s true.
  2. Extras that didn’t need to be accessed, such as eggs and yogurt, got put in the very back.  This is how you utilize the depth of the fridge.  Don’t put stuff back there that you need to get to, but use it as surplus storage.
  3. The miscellaneous dairy products that were only using half of a bin, but an entire shelf got redistributed to spots that fit their containers.  I pulled a fridge bin that I had in storage out and it now holds any dairy products that were too wide for the shelves in the door.
  4. Individual yogurts got put in the bin where they are now corralled.
  5. I took care of stuff that needed to be taken care of.  The chicken breasts got put in freezer bags and put in our deep freezer.  Old leftovers were tossed.  Leftovers that were in containers that weren’t ours got taken out and put in our containers so that they stacked nicely to maximize that space.  We use these glass containers for our leftovers and cannot say enough about them.

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

None of these are huge tasks.  None of it required an organizing degree (if there were such a thing…..).  Nothing needed to be purchased.  The entire project took me less than thirty minutes, and the payoff was huge.

How to Organize your fridge - maximizingdaysblog.com

What do you find is the hardest part about keeping order in your fridge?

Trouble Spots: Under the Kitchen Sink

A couple weeks ago, my sister-in-law texted me a picture of Mrs. Meyers Vinegar Gel and asked me if I had used it before.  I use my Norwex rags for almost all of my cleaning, but if I use a cleaning product, it is almost exclusively Mrs. Meyers., which was why my SIL asked me about it.  I told her that I hadn’t ever seen it or used it.

She then proceeded to ask me if I ever used vinegar to clean and what I used for certain cleaning tasks.  I told her that I’ve been meaning to use vinegar for a long time, but have never actually done it.  At this point, I got lazy and didn’t want to text a list  of what I use for each task, so I decided to take a video of under my kitchen sink where my cleaning supplies are housed.

Disclaimer: This is, in no way, a professional video.  I thought that my SIL would be the only person to see it, but once it was done, I decided that I had to show it to you to prove a point.

I am very intentional about not accumulating things, not buying stuff we don’t need, getting rid of things we don’t use – and this still happens.  ALL THE TIME.  It’s a good reminder that organizing and minimizing and decluttering is an on-going project.  And that no one does it perfectly.

As you can see from the video, we don’t have a lot of cleaning products, but what we do have makes up the majority of what we keep under our kitchen sink.  I consider this space to be “unfinished” in that I would still like to do more to leverage some of the vertical space that is currently unused.  But, for now, it works for us, so I don’t have a lot of urgency in crossing that task off of my eternally long to-do list.

What do you put there?

What makes this space a trouble spot for everyone is that the plumbing makes it awkward.  It’s tall and deep, but the pipes through the middle of it and gigantic garbage disposal make it hard to leverage those two assets.  As you can see, we use this space for dishwasher pods (our dishwasher is adjacent to this cabinet), Cleaning supplies & dish rags.  The majority of what is housed in this space is used in close proximity to here.  The exception being the Mrs. Meyers Vinegar Gel.  🙂

Where do you start?

The best way to maximize this space is to locate where you have the biggest chunk(s) of open space.  In the case of our cabinet, it is between the wall & disposal and between the pipe and wall.  These are unobstructed rectangles, which is storage perfection.

I bought this two-tiered drawer organizer (similar) knowing that I’d use it in this space, but not sure what I’d put in there.  It fits perfectly between the pipe and the wall.  I couldn’t put the drawers up against the wall because I needed to be able to pull them out and the cabinet door is in the way, so it sits in an inch or two in.  Our most used supplies, dish soap, cleaning wipes and sponges, are housed in the front of the top drawer.  The back of the top drawer holds our other less-used cleaning supplies.

The bottom drawer is the perfect spot for dish rags.  One of my favorite features of this particular organizer are the adjustable dividers which allow you to use every inch of each drawer.

After putting the drawers in, I moved over to the other big chunk of space and looked to see what the next tallest item is.  At least six years ago, a friend moved out of his house and had Swiffer wet mop and dry mop refills that he wouldn’t use.  I took them thinking that I could find a use for them.  You can see how that went.  The wet mop pads are used more than the dry, so they served as a step stool for the dishwasher pods, which are accessed daily.  The dry mop refills are all the way in the back.  I don’t know why…. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking that I should just throw them.  Six years, people.  It’s been six years and one of the boxes remains unopened.

What about the pipes?

Think of maximizing this space like doing a puzzle.  Match the spaces you have with the items that need to go in there.  Originally, I had put our dish drying mat between the drawers & wall, but it was awkward reaching around the side of the drawers to pull it out and it almost always got stuck on the cabinet door hinges.  The pipe that runs almost all of the way to the bottom of the cabinet created the perfect wall on the other side of the drawers to hold the mat.  This would be otherwise wasted space, so getting that to fit made me feel like I hit the jackpot.

I put lemons in my disposal at least once a week, so I threw those in a Rubbermaid leftover container and put them at the front of the cabinet.

At this point, I took the random hodge lodge of what was left and put it in a shoebox container, which fit between the pipe & the mop pads.  The trick to this part is that the disposal is low enough that nothing tall can fit in the back of the container.  We have a plastic bag holder attached to the cabinet door that, when shut, takes up space at the front of the cabinet, so the shoebox had to sit back a little bit.  This took some maneauvering of what went where and it’s not pretty, but everything is easily accessible.  And, most importantly, what needs to be accessed most is very easily accessible.

 

I considered getting rid of one of the bottles of vinegar, but didn’t pull the trigger.  Do you clean with vinegar?  What do you clean with it?  How do you use it?