Source List: Storage Containers

>> Monday, June 3, 2019

A lot of you have asked me where I get all my organization bins, boxes, etc. It's a mix of Target, Walmart, Aldi, IKEA, and Dollar Tree. But because we don't all have these stores in our area, I thought I'd get a source list going of the closest matches I can find online.

Toy Organization

  • 20-pack clear storage bins. At just about a dollar a piece, these are great for separating out different toys -- like figures, puzzles, play-doh, etc. We keep extra toys in these all sorted by type and pull them out as needed.
  • IKEA Sortera Bins are AMAZING. They may be my all-time favorite. We use them for block storage and for doll clothing and accessories. Very sturdy and stackable.
  • Woven Storage Baskets -- helpful for organizing markers, crayons, and other things you want to keep in an open-top container.
  • Tall Woven Storage Baskets -- same idea, just a taller option. 
  • Chalkboard Labels -- these are reusable and dishwasher safe. You can use them anywhere. I recommend getting a chalk pen/marker versus using chalk.

Clothing Organization

Refrigerator Organization

  • Slim Storage Trays -- long a skinny, perfect for cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, and other small snacks.
  • Rectangular Storage Trays -- helpful for hummus, guacamole, cheeses, and other medium-sized containers.
  • I also find it helpful to buy a bundle of different sized trays that can serve many purposes and be mixed/matched in different spaces. 
  • Fridge Storage Bundle -- this includes an egg holder, can holder, and four other trays that fit cup yogurts, fruits and veggies, and other things. I like that these are clear.
  • Flexible Storage Baskets -- I use these in my freezer mostly. Great way to organize bags of frozen veggies.

Pantry Organization

The Rest . . . 

  • Husky Heavy Duty Storage Shelving. This thing is huge and perfect for all our storage in the garage. We have 16 bins on it. I hear they also sell it at Costco.
  • I use these Large Flex Tubs all over the house -- currently in the linen closet to hold all our sheets and towels. We also have one in the garage for dirty bathing suits/towels in our pool area.
  • Similarly, these Bendy Bins flex and work well for multi-purposes. I use them for bath toys, Eden's bottles, and storage in Ada's room.
  • Dollar Tree Rectangular Bins -- you have to order a multi-color case online or go to the store and hope you can find WHITE or GREY. The BEST.
  • Dollar Tree Square Bins -- same idea. Use them anywhere.
  • And if I had more money, I'd love to have all wire storage baskets. They are so classic and clean looking.


Why Minimalism Doesn't Work For Me

>> Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Alright, so I definitely do label myself as an "aspiring minimalist" -- but really, that's not really what I mean. I definitely like the basic idea of only owning what you need . . . and living with less . . . and valuing quality over quantity . . . and examining priorities with regard to purchases and stuff in general. I like the aesthetic of a space that is calm and empty aside from the essentials.

And I freaking LOVE the feeling I get after a good purge.

Ohhhhh, yeah. Clear it all out. All of it!

Where my feelings on the subject deviate, I suppose, is when it comes to what I consider the new challenge culture that we live in. The rampant trend of minimalism. The consumerism aspect of it, too (crazy, but it's a thing!).

I'm the first to admit that I'm not high and mighty on this subject. I've tried many, many, many challenges and trials in the last many years. But it's the whole capsule wardrobe -- only owning 10, 25, XX items of clothing. Or getting rid of everything to the point of it being almost too much. Or feeling pressure to buy "the RIGHT" things to make myself feel like a law-abiding minimalist (which is wrong on so many levels, right?).

I think there's this tendency when we as humans get interested in any particular thing to go ALL IN. (Or maybe it's just people who have personality types like mine.) If I don't, I feel like I'm doing a half-assed job of it. Or like I'm setting myself up for failure. Or like I shouldn't even bother. For example, if my kids clothes don't all coordinate or mix-and-match, I'm doing it wrong. If I have too many coffee cups, I've failed. If I hold onto much sentimental (yearbooks, I'm looking at you!), it's ridiculous. Etc.

What am I saying?

OK. I think it's hard not to get caught up in the Keeping Up With The Joneses version of minimalism that's circulating the internet. The closet challenges. The photos of neatly coordinated wooden toys. The clean white sheets and crisp slipcovers. THE IDEA THAT MINIMALISM WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE PERFECT AND EASY. Sorry to yell, but I have found living this way to actually be quite hard work. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. But I'm sure a few of you in the back seats know what I'm talking about.

The thing is, it actually should be easy. That is, if you're doing it right for you.

This last time I purged my house and organized my belongings, I tried very hard to separate out my own needs from the ones that I've drooled over on Instagram feed. The ones that I've read "SHOULD" be how I do things. I've decided that "minimalism" can have a different definition depending on your own family's needs. Maybe that's not technically true, but I'm declaring that you can pick and choose what you want from the concept.

And maybe we don't have to label ourselves at all!

(Wouldn't that be wild?)

Here's what I like:

  • Thinking before I buy new things. Taking a bit of time to ponder if I envision that new thing in a donation box in the near future. Or if we might already have something that functions just fine -- it helps me resist filling my cart at Target.
  • Being grateful for what we have. This means taking care of our existing stuff -- however mismatched or basic it is -- because we already spent money and energy on it.
  • Keeping what we are truly using. Versus just going through closets and drawers and tossing anything that doesn't fit my vision for my life, it's important to evaluate what we truly use. Even if it means keeping something like a gigantic tub of obnoxious plastic blocks because my kids LOVE them and haven't touched the blonde wood ones that were hand-carved and personally blessed by a mythical goddess (no disrespect -- but my kids like the plastic ones).
  • Regularly revisiting and purging. It's important to go through every so often to see if there's something that is no longer meeting our needs, that's damaged/broken, or that we can otherwise clear out.

So, I guess it isn't that minimalism doesn't work for me. I am -- instead -- working (very hard) to make a version of minimalism make sense for my own family.

Why bother? Because I truly see the merit in the general concepts. And we have way too much crap. I'm getting there with my own process on my own terms. In my next post on this subject, I'll share what I did differently this time around when it came to purging my house, as well as how I plan to actually make it work in the long run.


How to Clean Your Kitchen

>> Friday, May 24, 2019

I wrote recently on Instagram about the radical idea that cleaning my kitchen is a form of self-care. To me, this was kind of embarrassing and even seemed a bit silly. Cleaning. Self care? Seriously? I'm not a neat or tidy person by nature, so getting fire under my behind with organizing my house has been difficult. What I've found is a sense of serenity when thing are in order. And it's this feeling that seems to be filling me up with good vibes, even when everything else in my life seems a bit out of control.

So, I figured I'd share the quick things I'm doing each day to keep this particular space shiny and fresh. Now that I've got a system going, cleaning the kitchen when it's super messy/dirty only takes 10 minutes or so. And that includes getting dishes going AND steaming the floors.

What? I steam the floors? YES, and it's the best feeling ever.

Start with the 5-minute rule

I didn't invent the concept that you should do tasks that take just 5 minutes instead of letting them pile up. But now I'm the biggest cheerleader to this way of living life. Previously, I'd wait on the dishes and counters. They'd get beyond my ability to see the light. And I would feel like cleaning was a hopeless endeavor.

Things that only take 5 minutes or less:

  • Putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher and pushing START
  • Putting everything on the counters in the "right" home
  • Wiping down the counters and appliances
  • Vacuuming and steaming the floors (really! 5 minutes!)
  • Tidying open shelving and dusting containers
  • Taking out the garbage and putting a new bag in the can

Get the right tool and supplies

I use eCloth microfiber cleaning cloths on all surfaces. The company claims you can clean using only water, but I usually use some kind of spray. The advantage with these types of cloths is that they really seem to wipe up well.

I'm also a sucker for pretty and good-smelling cleaning supplies. I've recently become obsessed with anything Method -- especially the Sea Salt and Lime All-Purpose Spray. Their Stainless Steel Spray has also given me life. It's not that vinegar doesn't work. But to get inspired to clean, I needed something a bit flashy, if you will.

And my favorite floor cleaning supplies include my Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop and Shark Stick Vacuum. Again, you only need to use the steam to clean floors, but the Method Spearmint/Sage Floor Cleaner is divine.

Decant your groceries

This is an idea I got from Erica Flock (who, in turn, got it from another blogger). My pantry tends to be this black hole of craziness. The simple act of pouring my snacks and other foods into clear containers allows me to see how much is left, what exactly we have, and it keeps garbage from piling up. I can't tell you how many times I'd clean the pantry and have like two gigantic bags of trash/recycling to contend with.

Then all you need are flip-top containers. Try getting a set of clear containers that offers different size options, like this set of EAGMAK Food Storage Containers. Another favorite are the tiny containers that have flip-tops you can find at the Dollar Tree. They're similar to the smallest container in this awesome 10-piece Food Pantry Container set. In fact, I think those are the same exact containers I found at my dollar store. 10 pieces for $15.

I also use open baskets to separate out things like applesauces, granola bars, and instant oatmeal. And my bamboo bread box is my new favorite thing.

Clear out pantries and refrigerator weekly

Overwhelming, right? Stay with me.

Once you do an initial purge and start decanting, this step is very easy. When I do my meal planning for the week (or when I simply take a look at what we have before making a mad dash to the store), get rid of anything that is either past its prime (yogurt, I'm looking at you!) or that you don't think you'll ever use.

Example: We're not a pasta-eating family. My mother-in-law kindly gave us a gigantic bulk box of edamame pasta. It was sitting and taking up tons of space for months -- and we're just not going to use it. Stuff like that can go to a food pantry or even a friend.

When you clear stuff out, there's more space for the stuff you use OR there's just more space for your things to breathe.

Move stuff around

You need to make your cabinets work for you. Efficiency is key if you want to keep your kitchen clean and you want to do it FAST. If you don't have specific homes for everything, it's hard to unload the dishwasher in a timely manner. If you have some food in this cabinet and similar food in another cabinet across the room, it's hard to figure out where to put stuff.

Spend some time really mapping out your ideal zones.

  • We have a pantry where all the non-perishable food goes. 
  • We have a coffee/tea bar on the counter and right above it, I have the coffee/tea stored away along with Eden's formula (the bottle warmer is right there) and bottles. 
  • I have glass food storage in one drawer and in the drawer beside it are the lids. Separating them made everything so much easier.
  • I have a whole drawer that's down low dedicated to our kid dishes. This allows me to store all the stuff together AND gives my kids some independence.

Think about non-kitchen items

If things are living in your kitchen that don't belong in your kitchen, take them out and distribute to where they belong. It's that simple. Alternatively, if you regularly do non-kitchen things in your kitchen, consider making a special home for those things.

Example: I always do my girls' hair at the kitchen island. So, I now have a little bin of all their hair supplies (hair ties, bows, combs/brushes, detangler) right above the refrigerator. That way, I don't have all that stuff scattered on my countertops.

While you're at it, embrace the junk drawer. It's OK to have a junk drawer. I just polled my Instagram followers and 86 percent of people shared that they have this chaotic space. I recently went to the dollar store and purchased some organizing containers (similar to these) so we can at least categorize the junk. This has been especially helpful for charging cords and batteries. 

Reevaluate your stuff

We had beautiful Fiestaware dishes that we got for our wedding. I did hold onto some pieces, but they were bulky and heavy and annoying to deal with on the daily. So, I replaced them with simple white Corelle Dishes. They are super lightweight, they stack nicely in the dishwasher, and they take up very little space in our cupboard.

We use Ball Jars for food storage and drinking glasses. This is one of the best switches we've made because they can be used interchangeably to suit our needs.

If you aren't using certain appliances much, store them away or get rid of them. I actually don't use my KitchenAid mixer much anymore. I have it stored away in a lower cabinet and pull it out maybe twice a month.

BONUS: When you remove appliances from the countertops, they're easier to clean. (And there's less stuff to wipe down in general.)

Stay on top of it

Once you make some changes, just stay on top of cleaning. That sounds easier said than done, but once you get things organized and start doing 5-minute tasks . . . the momentum starts. And some of those quick tasks become even quicker. Before you know it, you'll be cleaning your entire kitchen in just 10 minutes.

Bigger jobs can come at your convenience. But do them regularly!

For example, I clean the stovetop once a week . . . and it actually only takes 5 minutes but is a bit harder because I have to remove all the grates. I used to just not clean it . . . and then everything would get burned onto the top and take FOREVER.

I try to deep clean the refrigerator monthly. That may not seem like a lot, but I used to only do it maybe twice a year. In fact, that's on my list of things to do this weekend. Monthly makes those stuck-on messes a bit easier to lift.

Anyway, these are some basics that have helped me transform the way I deal with our messy kitchen. I hope you find them helpful. If you have anything to share, please leave it in the comments!

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