Thursday, October 23, 2014

11 UHeart Organizing: Playing the Organizing Game

You know what gets me all revved up and excited to tackle my next project?  Seeing what someone else has organized.  Simple inspiration at its finest.  It could be anything from a junk drawer to a linen closet and even a storage ottoman.  In fact, when I first read Ashley's post for today, the first thing I did was go organize my Wii remotes.  Don't you love how that works?

Ashley is the talent behind the blog 7th House on the Left, and she is visiting here today to share how she recently organized a storage ottoman in her living room, which is game central station!

For the last few months, I’ve been on a personal mission to simplify our home. Honestly, I feel like I say that all the time - and I probably do - but this time around feels a bit different. Everything from decorative accessories to kitchen gadgets are being reevaluated and either organized, Craigslisted or donated. I don’t know if it’s the changing of the seasons or the fact that I had a birthday a few weeks ago (“another year older, another year wiser”, right?), but I’m on a mission to move towards a more simplified way of living.

Sometimes, it’s really easy for me to get carried away even when it comes to organizing. I often tend to overthink things and end up making it way more complicated than it should be. Often times, after organizing a space, I’m often asked, “Well, does it actually stay that organized?”. Sometimes, the answer is “no”, sometimes “yes”. But I’ve found the common denominator in the spaces that stay organized is simplicity.

As I mentioned, I had a birthday earlier this month and my aunt gave me this awesome and oh-so-functional storage ottoman. I love the classic color and it will incorporate really well with our new living room layout that’s currently in progress. Knowing the ottoman would be kept in our living room, I was excited to put it to work and organize something purposeful. After a few minutes of simple organizing, here’s what made sense for our little family of 2.5 (the .5 being our 8 pound dog, Bentley):

The storage ottoman is now home to our favorite blankets, Wii games / accessories, card games, assorted small games and “my tray” - which I will explain in a minute.

Over on the left, we have a few cozy blankets stashed away for movie nights. (The striped quilt is from Joss & Main and the plaid throw is from Target) Not only do I love having these on hand because Fall nights, a cup of hot tea and a good black & white movie are the best, but it’s also nice to have the cheerful colors saying “hello” each time we open the ottoman. (Yes, it’s the little things!)

Right next to the blankets (and under the tray), I stashed two good-sized storage boxes with lids. First of all, I must say, I love these boxes. You know how it is when you come across that perfect storage container that you just can’t get enough of? Well, these were my obsession late this summer. Every time I was in Target, I went to the storage section to hunt them down and purchased one or two more just in case they decided not to carry them in the store year-around. I ended up purchasing 12 of them - yes… twelve. Just as I feared, they have since stopped carrying them, so I’m glad I stocked up. However, I have seen a few in the clearance section from time to time, so if you end up coming across them, I highly recommend picking up a few (or twelve).

Sorry, back to the project at hand… I designated one box to small “coffee table games” and one to Wii games and accessories.

We used to keep our small games and Wii accessories in storage boxes in the foyer. However, now that we have this new piece of storage furniture in the living room, this is a much more suitable and practical place to keep them. Along with the controls and accessories, I also included a small bowl of extra batteries and condensed all of our games into one small disc case. Even though this storage solution for the games is so much more efficient, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of all of the cases. So, I ended up putting them in a plastic storage container and stashed it in the attic. Does anyone else do that or am I just being crazy?

The other storage box now houses our small games - or what we call “coffee table games” like cards, Bananagrams, Zip-It (so. much. fun!) and 20 Questions. We store all of our larger games and board games in the foyer closet nearby.

Both my and Greg’s family have a lot of fun playing cards when the we get together. About a year ago, I started started keeping track of our scores in a little spiral notebook. Along with the scores, I always write down the date, who’s playing, where we are, who’s birthday it is or what big thing happened that day. Without realizing it, it’s kind of turned into a fun little diary of family fun and is now one of our favorite sentimental possessions.

Now for “my tray”, as I call it. This is something I’ve just recently started doing and enjoy it so much I’ve been telling all of my gal friends to make one too. haha! I’m the type of person who is always making lists, doodling, or brainstorming; so this has been a perfect addition to my life. Ninety percent of the time when Greg and I are watching Netflix, the news or just generally having some down time, I have a notebook and a pen with me. Rather than having random things of mine float around the living room, I decided to make a designated space for all of my “down time stuff”. So, I pulled out a tray and turned it into “my tray”.

One thing I love about this concept is you can change out the contents with whatever is going on in your life at the time. For instance, I’ve recently decided to make a conscious effort to write/send more cards. (Snail mail is the best!) So, I have a small stack of blank thank you cards to remind myself to write a card or two when I have some down time. Aside from the notecards, my tray is currently housing the latest issue of HGTV magazine, a notebook with blank pages (perfect for drafting out ideas for new art/products), a fine-tip Sharpie, the book I’m currently reading and blank note cards. I have found this lacquer tray from West Elm to be perfect for this because it’s large, but so very light - making it very easy to take in and out of the ottoman.

So, that’s the tour of our new storage ottoman organization. We’ve been living with it like this for a few days now and I just love the simplicity and convenience of it. Now if we can just convince Bentley it’s not his new domain.

"I'm Ashley from 7th House on the Left - a blog where my husband, Greg, and I talk about renovating, decorating and living in our first house here in Hanover, Virginia. I’ve been an interior design enthusiast and a long-time fan of all things organizing. Yep, I was the kid with the perfectly arranged Disney stuffed animals, alphabetized coloring books and the categorized and color-coded sticker book. When I'm not busy writing or doing projects around the house, I love classic TV shows (particularly I Love Lucy) and curling up with Greg, Bentley (our 9-pound Pomeranian), a blanket and a good black and white classic movie – I’m a complete sucker for Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant films. I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the IHeart Organizing team and excited to get to work!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

15 Reader Space: An Office Full of Sunshine

There is so much happiness in this week's feature; I am pretty sure we all just won the lottery in organizational eye candy!

Organization does not have to be boring or sterile.  In fact, it should be playful, fun and pretty.  Those traits not only get us excited to work on an organizational project, but they drive us to want to maintain that space once it is completed.  Karen, the incredibly kind girl behind the blog A House Full of Sunshine, created a beautifully organized space to work.  Not only did she make a small area of her home a WOW statement, she really maximized the functionality.  Although her office was crafted out of a small nook, it works just as hard as any full sized room would.  I asked to her stop by today to give us the scoop and share how she was able to achieve organizational bliss.

What is the main function of your space?

"When we designed our new home, I knew I wanted to incorporate a family command center/study nook right off the kitchen. Basically, I was sick of everything being dumped on the kitchen counter when everyone walked in the door – mail, keys, wallets, iPads, sunglasses. I’d tried having a 'drop zone' in our previous house, but it was too far away from the kitchen and therefore was completely ignored by everyone. The kitchen is the hub of our home, and I’ve come to accept that we all want our stuff right there where we can access and use it. Instead of fighting against our natural tendencies, I decided to work with them. 

Also, I was keen to create an open-plan style office area where I could check email and catch up on blogging tasks here and there throughout the day, without secluding myself from the family. I have little kids at home, so if there’s a way I can stay right in the middle of the action and still get a few small things done when the kids are playing happily, it’s a win for all of us."

Any superstar tips for keeping it organized?

"The game-changer for me was taking the time to identify our clutter 'problem areas'. For us, it was mail, technology (iPads, phones) and personal items like keys and wallets. I then created a different zone to help us deal with each of these.

A wire basket on the shelf became a convenient drop zone for keys and personal items. 

I turned a Martha Stewart desk organiser into a charging station – it’s the perfect size to fit some iPads, an iPad mini and a couple of phones. I just cut a couple of slots in the end of the organiser for the chargers to fit through, and the cords then go down through a hole that our cabinetmaker cut out of the desk. It’s all invisible and very tidy. 

Lastly, I created a mail-basket system to sort our mail into incoming mail, action needed and bills. The wall-mounted system has been a great way to get mail off our surfaces altogether.

I think it’s important to think through how you really use a space and troubleshoot any problem areas, because everyone is so unique in how they do life. You need to organize an area so it works for you."

What items did you find were essential when organizing the space, and why?

"The Ikea floating shelves provide heaps of storage without making the space feel top-heavy. I used Ikea boxes to store items such as washi tape and scrapbooking supplies that are used only semi-regularly. 

An Alex drawer unit from Ikea fits perfectly under the desk to sort stationery supplies, camera equipment, leads and chargers. Having frequently-used items at my fingertips but hidden away keeps the space looking neat and tidy. 

On the left side, I have an Alex cupboard. On the lower shelf is a set of drawers with computer paper, colored card and white card, ready for printing. The top shelf holds my diaper bag. I used to just dump the bag near the kitchen island whenever I got home, because I had my hands full with kids and water bottles and just needed somewhere convenient to drop it. But of course, that’s where it often stayed. A simple shelf adjustment inside the cupboard gave me enough room to comfortably fit the bag - now I have somewhere to stash it where it’s out of sight but accessible. That’s been super handy, because that bag goes everywhere with me, and I love having it right next to the kitchen when I want to pack some snacks. 

The inbox with drawer from Martha Stewart Home Office is where I keep my current in-progress paperwork, instead of leaving it strewn over my desk."

What did you do to go the extra mile and "Make it Pretty"?

"I always knew I wanted this space to look beautiful, because it’s open to the whole house. I also wanted to inject a bit of femininity. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a study area just to myself, so it was fun to create a space that showcases my personality! 

I began by stenciling the wall (I used the Trellis Allover pattern from Cutting Edge stencils.) It was cheaper than wallpaper, and I was able to choose the exact shade of paint I wanted to fit with my color scheme. I added a vase of pretty pink blooms from Target, and chose some sweet accessories to style my shelves. I had a very utilitarian-looking grey mesh waste basket and pen holder knocking around the house, which I updated with a coat of turquoise spray-paint."

What items did you DIY to stay on a budget?

"The mail baskets were a stroke of inspiration that hardly cost me anything. I’d been searching fruitlessly for a set of wire baskets I could mount on the wall to sort our mail. When I couldn’t find exactly what I was after, I decided to make my own using a $5 cleaning caddy. This has been by far the most popular project I’ve ever posted on my blog – you can read about how I did it here.

I also DIYed my own prints in Photoshop to showcase some inspirational quotes and verses that are personally meaningful to me."

How has this space impacted your life for the better?

"I love everything about this space. I love not having mail strewn over our benchtops anymore. I love having a drop zone for all of our daily essentials, which makes it a breeze to keep our kitchen counters clutter-free.

I’ve loved being able to work without shutting myself away in a separate part of the house. This is the most practical makeover I’ve ever done, because we use this area every single day, and yet I still get a little flutter of delight when I look at the prettiness. It was a very rewarding space to create, and I feel inspired now whenever I sit down at my desk to work."

Karen really put a lot of heart and thought into creating the ultimate workspace.  Doesn't the site just make you warm and fuzzy inside?

The stencil did a great job in defining the workspace.  It sets the area apart from the rest of her home, and is just stunning to look at.  The white floating shelves keep the space light and bright, while the small boxes conceal itty bitty clutter causing craft supplies.  And can we take a moment to high five Karen for creating adorable rustic baskets out of generic off-the-shelf organizers?  She is such a creative cookie!

Karen mentioned quite a few helpful tips that can work with any organizational project.  The thing that really stuck out for me is that she recognized what didn't work previously, and addressed that head on with the new plan.  Having specific organizers for their daily items keeps the counters of the adjoining kitchen free and clear for what they are intended for.

A warm iHeart thank you to Karen for sharing her ultra inspiring office nook with all of us today!  She has definitely been clocking many hours there, as she just released a fabulous eBook appropriately titled "Your Beautiful Life" (which she is giving away for free on her blog here).

You can read the rest of Karen's office nook story on her blog, and if you love happy, family friendly spaces, stick around and check out the rest of her home as well.

*  All images courtesy of A House Full of Sunshine

ATTENTION!!  Want to be featured in a Reader Space edition?  Have an awesome organizing story to share?  I am looking for projects that have made a positive impact to your life, big or small.  They can be anything from an organized drawer or cabinet to an entire room.  Please submit your story and photos to, and I would heart to feature them right here on the blog!!  Photos should be high resolution and unedited.  Please include a description of the project, including any costs, inspiration, and how it has changed your life and routine for the better!  Oh, and no worries my friends, we will NEVER judge "before" pictures because that just wouldn't be nice!  Only love goes on at this blog!

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