Monday, June 27, 2011

Closet Storage

If I told you this mass of crazy mess lived in my house would you believe me? Well if I told you that today, I'd be lying, but if I told you last week I would unfortunately be telling the truth.

Sometimes even organized people have contained messes. It's true. Don't let us fool you too much!

The story behind this mess is simple. Due to lack of motivation and utter laziness this closet became a bottomless pit. I have seen this happen in so many people's homes. It is so easy to let the space fall by the wayside and allow junk to build up and take over. It became a problem in my house right off the bat when I moved in because no shelves were installed and nothing in particular was done to create an organized space. But that is no longer the case in my house! All I needed was a little motivation and a couple of hours.

Here's what I did to fix the problem:

I went on a mission to Target and Lowe's and found some stackable containers and a few shelves and I came back not having spent a whole lot of money, then got to work.

Small items now are housed in stackable containers and clearly labeled. Thank goodness for this shelf! You can also maybe see that I have photo albums and old yearbooks lined up here too. My loose photos are contained in either gift boxes or photo boxes.

I found these shelves at Lowe's - Target has a similar version. They are extremely inexpensive (yes, they look inexpensive too, but they do the job!) and easy to put together. They were just what I was looking for. I used the shelves to neatly store games, candles, magazines, old 3-ring binders and college paperwork that I am just not ready to part with, and wrapping paper/accessories. Hint: I use stackable bins to store ribbon and miscellaneous accessories and I use a gift bag to store other gift bags in. Wrapping paper is happily standing next to the shelf waiting for next Christmas.

These drawers I have had since I was in college, and boy did they come in handy in my dorm room! The top drawer is mostly an organized junk drawer - there is everything from a 3-hole punch to my camera to a box of checks. But! It's organized. In the bottom drawers I keep wires and electronic stuff. The wires are all coiled up individually and secured with a zip tie. If you don't have any zip ties, rubber bands or the twist ties that come on a loaf of bread work just as well!

We still haven't decided on any bookshelves that we can both agree on. So all of those books that were causing the problem in the first place are still here. But now they are neatly stacked in the corner instead of piled on top of each other.

I have high hopes that this new system of organization for the closet will work for me because everything is easily accessible, it's well-displayed and I am able to see everything inside the space to know what's there. No more laziness here! All I needed was a little time and a lot of motivation and the rest is history.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Organizing with what you’ve got… Free ideas for organizing!

We’ve all got a house or apartment full of stuff, right? I’m sure that if you put your creative cap on and take a gander through the house you can come up with some pretty good stuff to use to assist you in being more organized. This might be a tall order, but let me take you on a tour of my house and show you what I found.

Yes, that is a box. A cardboard box. It is the easiest thing I could think of in terms of organizing so that’s why it comes first. A box is perfect for storing just about anything, and chances are high that you’ve got one somewhere in your abode already.

Do you have what seems like a million half empty travel size shampoo and conditioners? I do! And I have at least 5 toothbrushes that I received from the dentist over the last couple of years. My idea for organizing these and other travel size toiletries was simply to use a gift bag. I keep this under the sink in my guest bathroom.

Another obvious. This is indeed a bag. And it is a bag of bags. Makeup bags to be exact. I love the idea of using a large bag to store makeup bags. Plain and simple.

I’ve blogged here about recipe organization but this is my new file folder for keeping recipes that need to be filed or stored somewhere. File folders have so many uses I could probably write an entire blog post about them and their many uses.

How about this one – I think I got this mesh container in a 5-piece set with a waste paper basket, a business card holder, a pencil cup and a mail file when I was a freshman in college. I still have all 5 parts of the set. This one happens to hold my pens, pencils, rubber bands, kitchen post-its and Costco coupons. It lives in my pantry. I can’t think of anything better to use here.

This one is really genius. This is a cookie tin that I got from my aunt for Christmas one year. Its job now is to hold miscellaneous granola bars and snacks. I really don’t like keeping the entire box of granola bars with one measly bar in it, so when I get down to one or two bars I transfer them to the cookie tin and recycle the box to better utilize the space. This tin also lives in my pantry.

Let’s move to the bathroom. I have all sorts of organizers in my bathroom and they all came from somewhere else in my house. This shot here is below my sink – I used three votive holders to hold various items – cotton swabs, cotton balls and my makeup brushes; randomly one year my “gift with purchase” from Clinique was the organizer I use to keep my bobby pins, headbands, hair binders and other hair gadgets in. I use a big ole’ basket to keep my hair dryer and assorted curling irons and brushes in, and finally I have another simple plastic basket to hold my lotions, hair goo and clips. These were all things that I had in my house.

Last stop is the bedroom. I’ve got shoe boxes and a cigar box hanging out in the bedroom. Shoe boxes can come in handy for so many things – tools, photos, recipes, kids’ school or art supplies, or even your shoes. The cigar box is more of a memento to me than anything, but clearly it could be the perfect home for some cigars, otherwise photos or small memorabilia.

I hope this inspired you to go fishing in your own home for some creative ideas to keep you organized without spending so much as a penny!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Meal and Menu Organization

When you make a grocery list do you do so with a menu in mind for the week? Or do you just spontaneously buy what is fresh or looks good? Do you go once for the whole week or run to the supermarket each day to buy dinner? How do you prepare for a trip to the grocery store? Let me tell you a couple of my secrets for meal, menu and grocery organization.

I spend about an hour each Sunday preparing what I am going to cook for the upcoming week. I try to incorporate meals from various cultures and select recipes that will utilize food that I already have in my refrigerator or pantry (money saving tip!). To go with every meal, I try to come up with new ways to prepare vegetables and throw in some bread, pasta or starch every now and then to make the meal more well-rounded. I make every effort to have a vegetarian meal each week and limit the amount of red meat I eat, as well as limit the amount of chicken each week because it can get old quickly. As I am selecting the meals and their accompaniments I mark things on my grocery list that I need. I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all of this if I didn’t have some form of menu organization.

My new favorite menu organizer is a member-only feature of All Recipes, but I’ll give you a sneak peak! Another menu organizer is offered by Epicurious, which I have not yet tried. I have to tell you I was very skeptical about trying All Recipes’ menu planner, but I jumped in with both feet and love it.

Above is an image from All Recipes of a menu I planned for two days of the week recently. The planner allows you to select various dishes either from the website or you can type in the title and/or ingredients from a recipe you found elsewhere. I get a lot of my recipes and meal ideas from All Recipes, but as mentioned in earlier posts I am subscriber to numerous food magazines and read several food blogs to get inspiration. Oh, and I have a cupboard full of cookbooks. Because my recipes come from a variety of sources I need to keep track of what they are and where they came from so that I can find them again when it comes time to prepare the meal.

What I was looking for in a menu planner was something versatile that I could easily access and modify as necessary. Until I started using it, I didn’t think that All Recipes’ Menu Planner was going to be able to offer that. Thankfully, I was wrong. A few of my favorite things about this helpful resource are: for each meal the nutrition facts are calculated per serving which help me make smarter choices (sometimes), all of the ingredients can transfer to an online shopping list and the recipes I have already stored in my online recipe box can be easily accessed and dropped into my menu for the week. Lastly, the menu planner also features pre-created menu/meal ideas for one specific meal or a week of meals, usually based on a common theme, such as BBQ, entertaining, Cinco de Mayo, or $10.00 dinners.

Before using the online menu planner feature I simply wrote out my meal ideas on a large sticky note and mounted it in my pantry for extra easy access. Alternately, there are a few cute notepads on the market to aid in menu planning if you’re after something flashier. Another idea if you get your recipes online would just be to print them out and arrange them in a file folder for the week. Be sure to file them away in their home after the week is over, though. Any of these options will work equally well I just wanted to share with you my recent findings and the change I made in the way I organize and keep track of my weekly meals.

Bon Apetit!

All Recipes has not endorsed this blog post in any way. I happen to be a faithful All Recipes user and hope that you will check out their website for some awesome recipes created by people like you (and me!).

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Organizing on a Budget

While the current economic state is still in recovery mode, I am in spring cleaning mode, so I thought that I'd put together a melange of options and ideas for organizing on a budget this spring. It is completely possible with some creativity and time!

Let's start with the kitchen since that's where I started my spring cleaning this year.

Stackable Bamboo Organizers

These are perfect for silverware, utensils or even your junk drawer or office drawer. As low as $2.99 at The Container Store - wow!

Mesh Packet Holder

I have to admit, here, that I had never seen this before! I love this idea and really think I'm going to get one of these. We all have single packets of this that and 12 other things in our pantry, but this is an excellent idea on keeping them together and organized. Nice job Container Store.

Silver Mesh Storage Bin

If only I had more of these! I've got a mesh storage bin like this in my pantry where I keep coupons, pens, pencils and post-it notes.

Cupboard Shelf

I have a couple wire shelves that I stick in my cupboards for extra elevated storage. They are wonderful! The best ones I have are in my bathroom cupboard and under the sink - they maximize space and promote the ease in finding your stuff.

Cabinet Organizers

If you have as many spices as I do - this is a great organizational tool for being able to find spices in the back of the cabinet.

Spice Jars

I love the idea of transferring store-bought spices into cute individual jars. These are adorable. And totally multi-functioning - you could use this easily as a multi-tasker.

Ceiling Pot Rack

This is a fantastic space-saving idea if you have an excess of pots & pans and not much extra storage space to give.

Let's move to closet and storage organization.

Over the door hooks

These are a wonderful space saving option for bathrooms, closets, storage rooms and kids play rooms. $2.99 from The Container Store is a great steal!

Over-the-door shoe organizers

There are tons of options for over-the-door shoe organization currently on the market. Here is Crate & Barrel's take.

Shoe Storage

Keeping your shoes off the floor allows for a clutter-free closet. This is a great solution to storing your shoes on the floor.

Sweater Bag Drawer

Don't have enough room in your closet for your winter and summer clothes? That's ok - grab a few sweater bags or containers and slide them under your bed with your seasonal apparel.

The Container Store is currently in Spring Organizational Sale mode - click here to find the closet location to you.

I happen to enjoy Crate & Barrel and The Container Store; neither company knows who I am or is in any way affiliated to Organized Ali. I write about products I use or would like to use.

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Craft Room Organization

Here is a great organizational blog post from my friends at Etsy. Check it out here. Because Etsy is an artsy craftsy website, the article provides inspiring ideas for craft and scrapbook room and inventory organization. Love.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Spring... Cleaning!

Spring is finally here! I know much of the nation has had a very rough winter and is thrilled at the sight of spring. Now that it is officially here, it's time to jump into spring cleaning! Well, in my house it is anyway. I know that spring cleaning is a daunting task for anyone, myself included. It's really not that much fun to spend hours or days inside cleaning the house. I like to break up my spring cleaning tasks so that it doesn't feel quite so overwhelming.

Yesterday I marked the start of spring by tackling most of my kitchen. Sometime this week I plan on scrubbing my bathroom until it shines. Other spring cleaning tasks will just have to wait until April.

If you're one of those people who is too busy to even think about spring cleaning but knows it needs to happen, I have some tips for you on how to do just that:

*Start by making a list of what needs to be cleaned in your house - if you've got a really long list, as most people do, break it down by room or section of your house.

*Choose the one room or project that is of the highest importance and continue to rank order your list of tasks until it is prioritized.

*Now it's time to take a close look at your #1 priority and break that down into specific tasks. For example, in my kitchen I made a specific "to do list" so that I could cross off the little things I did instead of having to clean out the entire kitchen all at once.

-Wipe out refrigerator
-Wipe out freezer
-Clean cabinet faces
-Wipe down pantry shelves, clean out
-Scrub oven inside
-Wipe out oven drawer
-Detail appliances
-Complete recipe organization

*Once you have come up with your specific task lists for each room or area in your house it's time to dedicate some time to accomplishing these tasks. I think it's perfectly acceptable to spend all spring getting this stuff done because, well, it's no fun and it's a lot of work. If you're one of those people who'd prefer to get everything done in a weekend - fine, clean your heart out!

*I like allocating part of a day most weekends to spend time knocking out tasks, plus I can usually afford to sacrifice one night each week to get some stuff done at home. After all, it's lighter out now and I usually have more motivation to be productive when I can see daylight.

*Don't forget about adding projects that you've been putting off to your spring cleaning list. Some of mine are: hanging art on the walls, vacuum cobwebs/clean out unfinished portion of my basement, and clean the car!

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Organizing using Microsoft OneNote

I have found my new favorite computer program. Microsoft OneNote. Have you heard of OneNote? No, you say? You’re in luck: if you have Microsoft Office 2003 or later, I believe you will have OneNote.

What in the world is OneNote, you ask?

It is like having a notebook on your computer that you can do anything you would do with a regular old notebook or piece of paper.

Here are some things I have come up with where you could use OneNote:

*Taking notes in class
*Writing notes from a meeting at work
*Making a to-do list
*Creating a shopping list
*Managing a project
*Minimizing paperwork/messy buildup
*Maximizing productivity for work and school by connecting OneNote projects with Outlook (!!!!)

What makes OneNote so special?

If you're familiar with Microsoft Word, you'll probably find a lot of similarities to OneNote; however, there are a lot of things that you can do on OneNote that you can't do on Word. The most important being linking your OneNote notes or lists to your Outlook. If you create a to-do list on OneNote you can link it to your task list on Outlook with the click of a button. Better yet, you can pin a "side note" to your desktop to remind you of something that needs doing.

For those of you who are doodlers, getting bored in class can now be spent doodling in the margins of your electronic notebook just as you would if you were using a piece of paper. Drawings or mathematical formulas can be turned into text or a computer generated symbol.

Best of all: OneNote reduces clutter and saves time by eliminating the use of paper. I don't know about you, but I would much rather sort through a well-organized folder on my desktop than page through a spiral-bound notebook trying to find a to-do list or my notes from Biology 101. You can use OneNote on your PC or on your smartphone. I have not downloaded the app yet, but plan to do so!

My Current OneNote Project:

I am preparing to embark on some new housing projects, mostly filling my house with furniture, adding some organizational features to a couple closets and work on making our outdoor space amazing so we can enjoy every moment of the sunny Seattle summers (I think we’re on day 143 of rain right now). I decided to use OneNote to help organize some of my thoughts and ideas.

By using OneNote I was able to create a page for each room or space that we’re looking at making changes to. Each page lists the items we are planning to purchase or the projects that need to be done. Because of how OneNote allows you to make notes like it’s a piece of paper I can copy and paste pictures, images or swatches to help me keep track of different options. With things like our “Major Projects” I can keep track of bids and estimates we get, as well as the contractors and their contact information. I can highlight different items to note their priority status. I can check things off when I purchase them or complete a task (or I can cross it off).

So far I am really enjoying OneNote. I plan to utilize this program to be more organized at work by linking notes/to-do lists to my Outlook. I haven’t gotten this far yet, but I can tell you I am really looking forward to it. I think that OneNote and Outlook are the two best organizational features you can have on your computer.

For more information about OneNote, check out these websites:

Demo of OneNote

Download a trial

More to come next time: Windows Live SkyDrive and why it deserves a gold star.

Microsoft Corporation has no idea who I am. I am only writing about their products because I use them and love them. Microsoft is no way a sponsor of this blog.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Glass Food Storage Containers

America's Test Kitchen just posted a review of glass food storage containers. Last summer I made the switch from plastic reusable containers to glass, due to the hype about microwaving plastic. I really like using glass containers and feel that they will last much, much, much longer than plastic ones.

Click for the review from the experts.

I use Pyrex glass containers and really like them! I purchased 2 sets of 3 various size bowls, as well as a set of rectangular storage containers. One thing I like about the bowls is that it's great for portion control because it lists the number of cups that it can hold.

The rectangular containers are terrific for sandwiches.

Of course, all of these containers can be used for other things than bringing your lunch to work or school. Keeping paperclips and office supplies or storing bobby pins and hair binders are the first things that come to mind on how to make these multi-taskers.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recipe Organization

The need for a recipe organization makeover comes with a love of cooking. Pursuant to a conversation I had with a friend, Nora, over the holidays, I decided to revamp my need to maintain organization with all of my “loose” recipes. I have my fair share of cookbooks, which require little effort to keep organized, but where the challenge lies is the recipes I print off the internet and the recipes I rip out of my many cooking magazine subscriptions.

I was able to house my loose recipes in file folders until I filled two to capacity and couldn’t find anything. If you only have a few favorite recipes, this could work well for you; however, those of you who see a picture of something delicious and decide to rip it out of the Food Network Magazine like I do… well, you need something bigger and better to stay sane and also to save time.

One of the problems I had with keeping all of my recipes in file folders was that I would have to sort through hundreds of recipes just to find something to eat for dinner or to find a favorite recipe that I wanted to try again. No fun that is. So I picked a beautiful rainy evening (living in Seattle, I have had many to choose from!) and went through all of the recipes about four times trying to consolidate and weed out the recipes I just knew I would never ever try. You’d be surprised how many I got rid of!

Then….. I came up with several categories and sorted recipes based on categories, including: baking, breads, meat, chicken, fish, brunch, sandwiches, slow cookers, sauces, soups, salads, beverages, holiday, ethnic, pasta, etc. After categorizing the recipes I went out and found a recipe organization book on It took me quite a while to narrow down which book to buy; my selection was based mostly on the categories on the dividing tabs that it came with. I chose a C.R. Gibson recipe organizer; C.R. Gibson makes a lot of different recipe organization paraphernalia you might be interested in. I’d recommend browsing Amazon to find a wide variety. There are certainly plenty to choose from! Be advised that these binders don’t come with too terribly many sheet protectors, so you may want to run out and get a pack of them. I quickly ran out!

Aside from the greatness in organization, one of my favorite parts of the new recipe binder is that all of my recipes are kept in sheet protectors, which allows me to wipe off all of the cooking remnants after I’m done with the recipe. I can always tell what recipes I’ve tried before because they have been destroyed.

Another organizational tool I employ for my recipes is for the 3x5” notecard size recipes I print from the internet. Mostly these are from, a personal favorite site of mine (I keep an online recipe box here, too!). I keep these in a little notecard box that I used to use for school, I think. There are some great notecard boxes on the market that will fit 3x5 or 4x6” recipe cards. I like this idea, too, because it’s alphabetized. I usually remember the name of the recipe that I am looking for if I liked it, so I can find it pretty quickly; but regardless of the recipe’s name, I keep all chicken in the “c” and all pasta in the “p” instead of having, say, “Anniversary Chicken” in the “a” category or “Lemon Pasta” in the “l” category. I just think that’s easier to keep track of everything.

I have to tell you, though, my dream kitchen would include a touch-screen computer in my that pops down from under the cabinet and magically stores all of my recipes and allows me to view online recipe collections for easy kitchen access. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming for a while.

P.S. – you may be wondering how I keep this system up! That is a “resolution” for me this year. I have subscriptions to three (or more?) food magazines. I have formed some new habits around ripping recipes out of these magazines, due to the fact that with all of the recipes in my house I would need to try a new recipe every day at every meal time for about 900 years in order to actually try something, so I am only allowing myself to rip out a recipe if I am really going to make it. I do look through the ingredients and determine if that’s something I’m even remotely interested in, and if so, then it comes out and goes into a file folder. Yes, a file folder. Also, I should note, after I page through each magazine and determine what I'm going to use, I recycle the magazine, so as to avoid messy buildup. Well, actually, I keep my Cooks Illustrated magazines, but only because every page is filled with delicious goodness and fantastic tips.

From that point, I plan my weekly menus around new recipes. Err, I try to, anyway. If I try the recipe and enjoy it, it goes in my recipe binder, if not, it goes to the curb. So far this is working for me, but I have a lot of new recipes to try and a very, very excellent new cookbook from friend Nora that I am ecstatic about (Williams-Sonoma’s Cooking at Home)…. Off to the kitchen I go!

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011... A Year of Organizing

Happy New Year!

I don't really do the whole "resolutions" thing at new years, more like a "wish" or a "goal" for me. You better believe I have some serious organizing goals and wishes for this great new year. I will share how and when they become accomplishments as we continue through what I hope to be a great year.

I'd really, really, really like to get my recipes under control. I cook a lot, therefore I have at least a million recipes in my kitchen. This is a great project for rainy Seattle winter evenings.

File cabinets for my files would be a great goal to strive for this year.

A place to put the mail that isn't on my kitchen counter is something I'm hoping will come very, very soon! Nobody likes clutter or bills in the kitchen. That's supposed to be the happiest place in the house.

My home office could use some attention and love and de-cluttering.

I'd like to figure out how to use Google apps to its fullest potential. Google/"G" anything and I are not the best of friends. I am an Outlook/Microsoft girl all the way.

Lastly, I resolve to write on this here blog more! Stay tuned.

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