organized living

DIY Step-Stool Gift Wrap Organizing Solution

DIY Step-Stool Gift Wrap Organizing Solution

Several years ago I came upon an organizing idea I found on Pinterest for how to store your wrapping supplies. Because it involved wheels (and I love anything on wheels) I decided to give it I a try. With my own “spin” of course :)

The basics of the organizer that I made are this: I bought a wood step stool from Target for around $20. Then I went to Home Depot and bought six rubber caster wheels. I wanted rubber so they wouldn’t scratch our wood floors. And they have a full turning radius. For all the side pockets I just scavenged around my house for various solutions: a plastic IKEA plastic bag holder, a paper towel holder for holding spools of ribbon, I cut up an old mesh shoe bag I wasn’t using for individual pockets, and lastly, hooks to hold a bag of gift bags. Talk about being meta :)

This has been the best organizing solution for my wrapping supplies. I love it because

In Organizing: Try "An Heir and a Spare"

In Organizing: Try "An Heir and a Spare"

Call it a cute quark of our relationship, but occasionally Drew and I like to come up with names for stuff. It can be a nickname for an actual object (like when we had a GPS and we named her Rosie) or a phrase like “I’m a slow waker-upper) which translates to mean, I’m not a morning person. We have one other phrase we love and use a lot and it is called “heir and a spare.” We co-opted this somewhat crude British colloquialism (that refers to the Queen giving birth to a second child to secure the royal succession) to mean: buy an extra, when you can.

And that is the relative part, right? When you can. Affordability and practicality definitely impact this idea. This suggestion applies more to groceries and household staples than more expensive things like computers or cars. Also to be considered is the utility of the item. For example, just because a blanket is on sale, doesn’t mean needing to buy two of them because ideally, just the one blanket should last a while.

In our home, “Heir and a spare” comes in the most handy for things like a jar of mayonnaise, a box of ziplock bags, or a tube of toothpaste. We tend to buy our paper products like toilet paper and paper towels in the largest single quantity available so we don’t buy two of those at a time, simply because we don’t have the room to store it all.

Cleaning Solutions That Really Work!

Cleaning Solutions That Really Work!

Can I make a confession? As much as I love having things clean, I don’t love the task of cleaning. My motivation is the end result. That is why I look for methods that are quick, easy and most of all: effective.

Over the years I have tried and tested the following cleaning methods and found they have worked with surprising success.

Boiling hot water for sugar: There is nothing worse than burnt sugar on pots and pans. I made the mistake once of not using protective aluminum foil when cooking something, and I paid the price. Luckily, the internet came to my rescue and provided this tip that really does work. Check out the video I made to demonstrate. Never under estimate the power of really hot water. Just use caution not to burn yourself.

WD-40 for soap scum: I don’t remember where I read this tip, but unbelievably, it does work. Our master bath shower has a challenge with really bad soap scum. Probably because we use a bar soap that doesn’t have a lot of sulfur or other chemicals. It’s really just soap. What a concept!

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets and Tools

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets and Tools

I love it when I have time in the kitchen to cook a nice meal for Drew and I, or when I can bake something to share with others. Ever since we remodeled our home and built a truly accessible kitchen, preparing food in that space has become a joy.

But what makes it just as fun is being able to use some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and tools while cooking and baking. They made the process more fun, less stressful, and because I have them placed in strategic places throughout the kitchen, always easy to find.

These are my top five must-have kitchen gadgets and tools. Some are more obvious than others, but either way, I recommend them all.

1) IKEA Cheese Box Graters

I’ve had these box graters for years, and I just love them. I use the larger tooth grater way more than the finer tooth. But having either as a lid, makes for quick cheese prep with practically no mess. I put the lids in the dishwasher and hand wash the container. They have held up grate, over the years!

Inexpensive Storage Solutions

Inexpensive Storage Solutions

People think that organizing storage solutions have to cost a lot of money. And if you walk through a Container Store, indeed, you might have some sticker shock. But real-life, practical solutions don’t have to come out of a glossy catalogue. Even tidying guru Marie Kondo advocates for using simple and inexpensive materials to help organize your home and all of your belongings. She is a self-confessed box enthusiast.

I think the following are some of the most under-utilized and under-appreciated, easily accessible and affordable organizing solutions. I know, because I use many of them myself. Here are some of top recommendations, in no particular order.

Cardboard: Obviously, you think of cardboard and you think of boxes. Cardboard can also make for a really cheap organizing structure, especially if is a thick cardboard. For example, cut off the top panels and tip the box on it’s side. Or, just flip it over and start stacking. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box ;)

Ziplock bags: They come in a lot of sizes and can be useful storage for practically anything.

Rubber bands: Can bind together stuff that needs to stay together. I’ve been loving the extra large rubber bands lately to help keep stacks of papers together.

Velcro: Similar concept to rubber bands only can be a little more sturdy. Velcro is also great for binding together electrical and computer cords.

Shopping Organization Tips that Save Time and Money

Shopping Organization Tips that Save Time and Money

Let’s just get to the point: I love shopping. I need to be in the *mood* to shop, but nonetheless, if shopping were a sport, my training schedule and technique would be on par with the elites.

One of the things that helps me to love shopping is I often have a strategy heading into the mall or store. Whether that is a list of items I need to buy, or a list of places I want to go. I also really try to budget my time. I think about how long I have in total to shop, and then divide up how long I can spend at each store, or searching for a certain item.

Now, you’d think that this kind of pre-planning would really only be necessary at the holiday time, when the lists, and the lines, are the longest. But I say no, that rules for organized shopping can apply to any time of the year. The following suggestions will make shopping more fun, more efficient and hopefully way less stressful.

Tip #1: If possible, try to go to the store or mall at time when it won’t be so busy. I find the hours between 10 and 2 the best during the weekdays for the mall (but steer clear of the food court for the lunch time rush). Grocery stores and big box stores tend to be more quiet in general on weekdays verses weekends. But if weekends are the only option, early mornings, or near closing are the quietest.

Tip #2: Think about the weather. If it is a gorgeous day out, odds are most folks are out enjoying the outdoors doing recreational activities. Also, I tend to head to outdoor malls when it’s raining because I’m a Californian who grew up in the Seattle area and so a few pesky rain drops aren’t going to deter me from a good shopping trip.

Office Supplies Every Desk Needs

Office Supplies Every Desk Needs

I know it might sound odd, but there are times throughout my hectic schedule that working in my home office is really going to my “happy place.” I think it is because it is a space that offers limited distractions and maximum efficiency. Plus, I have made small decorative touches that are personal, motivational and aesthetic. Despite being somewhat of a cramped space, it has a good vibe.

One of the ways that I help keep it an efficient and productive space, is the handy reach and purposeful storage of some of my favorite office supplies. In a wide spectrum of functional to sentimental, pricey to pretty cheap, here are my must-haves in no particular order:

What I'm Loving About Marie Kondo

What I'm Loving About Marie Kondo

Oh, Marie Kondo, where do I begin? It seems like so much has been written about this Japanese organizing juggernaut since she first introduced the idea of how to “spark joy” back in 2014 in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I read her book shortly after it came out and really liked parts of it. I liked how Kondo wrote of her own organizing journey. She wrote about growing up in a family that didn’t like tidying quite as much as she did, and how she evolved her organizing techniques over the years.

The essence of the Kondo-credo is that your belongings have a “life of their own” so to speak. That they are in service to you, and you should use and appreciate them while you own them. And when your use for them is over, “thank” them and then pass them on to someone, or somewhere, else. She says that you should only keep things that “spark joy.” Of course that is a highly subjective description. What one person finds “joyful,” another may not. I heard her giving an example of describing the “sparking of joy” as the feeling of holding a new puppy for the first time. As a dog-lover this immediately resonated with me. I think her intention is for an emotional connection to be made to an object that ascribes it a high enough value to be kept, used and cherished.

Tips and Strategies for Meal Planning for Two People

Tips and Strategies for Meal Planning for Two People

I’m not going to lie, meal planning for just two people is a struggle. It is something that has taken me years to get better at, and still, there are many meals where we are eating leftovers for days. The one thing that has helped most is my utilization of the freezer. But more on that in a minute.

On the one hand it might seem like meal planning for two would be a breeze: fewer preferences, food allergies, or picky eaters; less to buy, a quicker prep, etc. While there might be aspects of these factors that make meal planning for just two people easier, there are an equal number of challenges.

First off, there is the fact that most recipes aren’t written for just two people, but rather, four to six. Additionally, while there is some control over how many servings to make in one meal, the prep process is for the most part unchanged. Whether two chicken breasts are getting baked, or four, there is still the same amount of dirty dishes.

There is one additional challenge that is a specific to Andrew and I. In addition to just being the two of us, we also have small appetites. We are small statured people so it literally doesn’t take as much food to fill us up. But just because we can’t eat large quantities of food in one sitting, doesn’t mean we want to be deprived of good quality.

Ideas to Get Rid of Stuff Ecologically

Ideas to Get Rid of Stuff Ecologically

The end of the holiday season is always a special time of year for me. Special because it taps into one of my guilty pleasures: throwing things away. From one organizing enthusiast to another, that might not sound so odd. After all, a key aspect of being neat, tidy, and uncluttered, is not having too much stuff.

But for me, it goes a bit deeper. I actually get a little bit of a happy rush when I see a full garbage can. And the week after Christmas provides a full neighborhood of streets lined with garbage cans and recycle bins overflowing with the remnants of holiday cheer. It is so expected that the garbage company even allots for additional waste the first pickup after Christmas.

As with all guilty pleasures, I'm not particularly proud of my Oscar the Grouch affinity for all things trash. But hey, that is what makes it a guilty pleasure. I know the importance and necessity for proper recycling and reducing and reusing as much as we can, to help the environment and the future of our planet.

So even though I feel a glee for a full garbage can, I know the importance