Thursday, May 31, 2012

Organizing gift wrap

Today I want to share with you how I organize my gift wrap, gift bags, tissue paper, bows and ribbon.  I know there are lots of great organizational systems out there and mine may not be as "pretty" as some of them but I like it and it works really well for me.  Sorry I don't have "before" pictures but I completed this organizational project before I started blogging. 

I can be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to gift wrap.  It's probably the Dutch in me, but I do not like to throw things out if they still have life in them, especially if I know I'll need to spend money on the very same things in the future.   Keeping lots of gift wrap, bags, bows, ribbon, etc. can get overwhelming though, and if it takes me a long time to find what I need, then it's not helpful.  I needed an organized system for all of it. 

As I mentioned, we reuse gift bags, tissue paper, bows and even gift wrap, as long as they are still in good condition.  After our wedding I saved all the wrapping materials.  I did not need to buy gift wrap, bows, gift bags or even wedding-ish tissue paper for wrapping wedding gifts for about 10 years, and we went to a lot of weddings in those 10 years!  Same thing after my baby showers, the birth of our son, and the birth of our daughter (although those items didn't last as long as the wedding wrap - we had a lot of friends & family having babies around then too!). 

When we have to wrap something, it's very handy to just have what we need on hand, rather than having to run out to the store to buy it.  Plus, reusing these items saves a lot of money.  Sometimes wrapping a gift can cost a lot! 

I recently went through all my bags & wrap and threw out some of the items that were looking too worn, used, or torn.  I also gave some away in categories where we had too many.  And I gave away nearly all our bows since we rarely use them now that we use gift bags so much.  I also took the remaining wrap off a few rolls and just folded it flat (takes up less space to store that way).  I'm trying to simplify and downsize things in our basement so it is less overwhelming, and, as part of that effort, the gift wrap section needed a purge.

We still buy wrapping items once in awhile, mainly at the dollar store, but also other places when we see a good deal.  There's a warehouse sale a few times a year at a place called Mr. B's and sometimes they have a "fill a bag" sale.  One time I stocked up on dozens of packages of tissue paper and several rolls of gift wrap for a few dollars.  That purchase lasted me several years!  Or when we were on vacation in Florida I bought this tissue paper pad at Big Lots (love that store...wish they had them in Canada!). 

See the price?  $5.00 for 275 sheets.  That's less than 2 cents a sheet!  I haven't even cracked it open yet but it will last me a long time when I do!  And there are plain sheets as well as pretty patterned sheets so it will be great for all our wrapping needs.

Now, on to how I organize all of this.  My systems have evolved over the years.  Each of them worked to some degree but not to the extent I wanted.  I think I've got the best system now but I'm sure I'll find a reason to change it again at some point (organizing is a very "fluid" thing!). 

My first system was to sacrifice a few gift bags and use them to store other gift bags, tissue, wrap, ribbon and bows.  I tried to group bags by theme (all the birthday bags were together, baby bags together, etc.).  This worked fine for bags but the gift wrap, tissue paper, and bows didn't hold up well in the bags when they were standing up (they kept getting squished). 

Next I stored everything in a large Rubbermaid bin, but that wasn't practical since it was so deep and I was constantly digging around trying to find what I was looking for.  Plus the large gift bags were a bit too big so they either got squished or had to be kept beside or on top of the bin, which looked messy. 

So, I thought about what kind of shallow bins I had and used 2 under-the-bed storage bins for awhile.  They worked better because I could find things quicker and the rolls of wrap fit in nicely, but everything slid around in these bins because they were so long, so it was hard to keep things organized within the bins. 

What I really wanted were shallow bins that were not as long as under-the-bed ones.  The problem is that those size bins are usually rather expensive, running anywhere from $10-15.  I did not want to spend a lot of money just to organize and store my thrifty wrapping supplies!  I kept on the lookout for sales on bins but had no luck.  Then, one day I happened to pass the clearance section at Staples and found the perfect sized bins.  There was no price on them so I took them to the cashier and they were only $2.49!  I bought 4 of them and went home happpy.

Here they are on the shelves, all organized:

There's that pad of tissue paper underneath, just waiting to be used :)   The bins overlap slightly, which ordinarily I wouldn't really like.  Despite the fact that the measurements on the label said they were small enough to fit side-by-side on these shelves, they still overlap a bit.  But, I can live with that since I got such a great deal on these bins!

Also, you probably noticed that only 3 of them contain gift wrap items (you are very observant - and if you didn't notice you can pretend you did - I won't tell!).  I'll post soon on how I organized my greeting cards in the 4th bin. 

Here are some pictures to show how I organized the inside of these bins.  This is the gift wrap and tissue paper bin:

On the bottom is this great wrap set I was given as a gift but haven't used yet.  Looks very pretty and I think it will last me awhile too!

This is the inside of the gift bag bin.  In the bag with the golf clubs on it I keep all the small gift bags and in the orange bag I keep all the very small gift bags, so when I have a small sized gift I can easily find a small bag without having to rummage through all the other bags.  Underneath those 2 bags of bags are all the rest of the medium and large size bags, sorted according to size so it's easy to see what we have.  On the one side (top of this picture but it's a bit hard to see) are a couple of bottle bags. 

This bin has ribbon and special gift bags or wrap.  This includes various seasons and special occasions (winter, Valentines, Easter, graduation, teacher, etc.).  There's also a beat up (sacrificed a long time ago!) bag with a few remaining wedding wrap items and a similarly old bag for baby gift wrap items.  Since these are only used once in awhile it's easier to have them separated from the generic wrap/bags or birthday wrap/bags that we access all the time. 

So those are my gift wrap bins.  Without an organized system all of this would overwhelm me (and my previous systems did).  I love how it's set up now and it's really working for us. 

How do you organize your gift wrap?  Do you reuse like me or buy new each time so you don't have to store it at all? 

Happy organizing!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Storage Shelves Makeover

We inherited some metal shelves in our basement when we bought this house.  The previous owners used them for canning so each of the shelves is somewhat short.  We've changed what types of items we've stored on them over the years, but their height (or lack thereof!) has always been a bit of an issue.  I like shelves that are big enough to put big bins on so I can keep lots of things organized and accessible but these are too small for those.

Currently the shelves are in the furnace room and things just kind of get crammed in there.  See??

Please ignore the insulation on the wall beside the shelves...this is an unfinished furnace room :)  About these shelves:  we kept a few boxes on them, which was an attempt to organize, but this mess was getting overwhelming!  We've also had problems with overhead water pipes leaking so I really wanted to store everything in plastic bins. 

Here are some closeup shots of the shelves before:

They are a mess!  So, I took everything off the shelves and sorted it all.  I purged some things (garbage, give away, or freecycle), moved some items to other places in the house or garage, and organized what was left into piles (like items with like items). 

The contents of these shelves are a real mish-mash of things, but, once I grouped things, I was better able to see what I needed for bins.  I really needed to look at these shelves with fresh eyes to come up with solutions that work for us. 

I had 4 of the smaller sized Rubbermid bins available because I purged some other items a few weeks before this.  I don't know why I never tried these bins on these shelves before, but I decided to try now, and surprisingly, they fit perfectly on most of the shelves!   Guess those fresh eyes helped :)  So I bought 2 more of these bins (even found the same colour!) and started filling them with groups of like items. 

I grouped all the household bits and pieces of things together:

And gathered golf items & golf memorabilia:

I also put my old Bobbsey Twins books in a bin to preserve them better (my son is starting to like them...they are mysteries after all...and I can't wait until my daughter is a bit older so she can enjoy them too!)

I also had 2 large Rubbermaid bins available (same colour too!) so I grouped camping items (including all those loose jugs/bottles) in one bin and sports equipment in another:

Because I purged so many things from these shelves and grouped things better, I was actually able to fit some items on these shelves that were not able to fit before, including our big cooler (with a beach cooler inside).  It had been "living" on the kitchen counter in the basement, adding to the clutter of the overall basement, so this is a much better home for it!

Now, since the Rubbermaid bins didn't fit on the smallest shelf, I had to think about what to do with that shelf that would still be organized.  I looked into buying smaller bins that were short enough, but they were so much more expensive than big bins and I just couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money.  Maybe someone can explain to me why a bin that is a fraction of the size of a bigger bin costs 2 or 3 times as much :) 

Then I remembered I had an empty "under-the-bed" storage box that might fit.  I tried it and it fit perfectly!  Fresh eyes to the rescue again :)  This bin just needs to be put in from the side of the shelves because it's so long. 

These baby clothes weren't on these shelves earlier either (they were in another part of our cluttered basement) but they fit perfectly here.  I only kept a few favourite outfits from each of my kids... so cute!  Where does the time go?

Moving on... time to put the bins on the shelves:

Yes, that is duct tape on the bins to label the contents.  It's my secret weapon for labeling bins (both short term until I make pretty labels or long term in places where I don't necessarily need fancy labels).  It sticks really well and it's so easy to use (and secretly I feel a little like MacGyver when I use it!). 

For this space though, I made some nicer labels a little while later.  Here's what the shelves looks like now:

So much better!  I'm really glad to be using the vertical space on the top shelf more than before. Those large bins are perfect and the picnic basket and cooler fit perfectly on top of them and the slim cooler fits beside them. 

The only thing I'm not crazy about is that, because of the pipes from the furnace, I can't put the left bin on the far left (it's too tall).  So, to get it out, I have to move the right bin first. Normally I don't like having to move something to get at something else but in this case we only get into these 2 bins a few times a year so I'm OK with it. 

Here are a couple more "after" shots:


It's great to have nearly everything off the floor!  No more tripping over skates!

Here's a picture of the label I created for these bins. 

So that's it!  These shelves went from completely overwhelming to organized!  Now everything has a place so we can find thing quickly AND put things back where they belong so it stays organized.  It feels so much better!

One last before and after picture:

How about you?  Have you given your storage shelves a makeover lately?  Have you found creative solutions when you've looked with fresh eyes?  I'd love to see pictures of what you're working on as you go from overwhelmed to organized!

Happy organizing!

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Garage Clean Out Part 2

In Garage Clean Out Part 1 I told you I joined the Great Garage Clean-Out Challenge and showed you how I followed the first 3 steps of Laura from OrgJunkie's PROCESS.  Today I'll show you the last 4 steps and reveal what the garage looks like now.  Here's a before and after shot of the whole garage:

Now for the steps:  Step 4 is Containerize, which involves finding storage solutions (containers establish limits and boundaries), designating a space for items to be kept, and consolidating where possible.  I already had plastic bins for our Christmas things and our camping equipment so those items were fine.  Keeping with my goal of not spending any money, I looked for containers from other parts of my house that I could repurpose for the various piles of like items I'd made in the garage. 

I found 2 old refrigerator drawers that were perfect for garage storage.  And I had 2 small clear plastic bins that I bought at the dollar store for another project but didn't use.  I had a fruit basket and a small foldable bin in the garage already and I had a small clear backpack that was previously in the backyard deckbox.  I broke down and spent $1 on a cute pink plastic basket for my daughter's sidewalk chalk (it was too cute to pass up and I wanted a bit of colour in the garage!).  You can see some of our containers here:

I made labels for each of the containers so we'd be able to see what's inside (and put things back where they belong!).

Next I designated areas in the garage for various purposes rather than having things all over the place like before.  One of my goals was to have as little as possible on the floor on either side of the garage so it would be easier to get in and out of the van without knocking things over, so I utilized the space on the wall to hold things up and added some nails to hold the big gardening tools up.  I also had more space on the shelves after purging so more items were able to be stored on them.  Here's a picture of the side of the garage now:

There's nothing left on the floor on that side except a few hockey sticks in the corner beside the garage door!  The other side of the garage just has the green organics recycling bin in the corner beside the garage door (the angle is slightly different on some of my pictures so it doesn't actually show up in any of them).

I'm excited about how the shelves turned out...I can see everything on them and if I want to take something off the shelf I don't have to move 3 things first or worry about things falling off!  On the shelves I designated zones for sports/activities (on the left), gardening (in the middle), and car/van (on the right). 

Yes, there's a big extension cord in the car/van section (didn't really have anywhere else to put it!) & the items flow into other sections a little bit, but overall it so much better!  Here's the other section of the shelves which is designated for camping items:

 The next zone I designated was for seasonal items / things we don't use often - on the big shelf at the back.  I kept the Christmas and camping bins up there and added winter items (snow shovels, toboggan, etc.), some items we don't use often but want to keep (golf cart, extra set of golf clubs, and a bin with car/van items such as the original floor mats), and there was space for the step ladder up there so it's not on the floor in the way of the hose anymore.  There's even space up there for more things!

Underneath this big shelf I designated a zone for seasonal things that we are currently using (golf clubs, bikes, and the hose reel).  Check it out now:

I LOVE how much space there is under there now!  We can access these things so much easier now.  And it is much more inviting to use these things when it's not as cluttered around them!  The only other things on the floor in the corner there are some extra tiles that we will use to replace a few broken ones and a couple of strollers which we are almost finished with but still use sometimes on day trips. 

The last steps in the process are Evaluate, Solve/Simplify any remaining issues, and Smile.  I pretty much evaluated and solved & simplified all the way through this project so there's not much to say about these steps.  So all that's left is to smile... and I definitely am smiling when I see these before and after pictures!

What a difference.  I'm so glad we tackled the garage!  It was so overwhelming before but it is much more usable now that it's organized.  And I met all my goals (except for the $1 I spent on that pink basket but I think it was worth it!).  From these pictures I can see we really need to paint the shelves and walls but I think we'll tackle that project after some of the other overwheming areas of our house are organized :)

Thanks OrgJunkie & Mom of 6 for hosting the Great Garage Clean-Out Challenge! 

Has anyone else turned their overwhelming garage into an organized space?  I'd love to see your pictures!

Happy organizing!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Garage Clean Out Part 1

For the last few weeks I've been "watching" other people clean out and organize their garages through the pictures they've shared on their blogs.  It inspired me to tackle our garage so I'm joining the Great Garage Clean Out Challenge (a few weeks late but better late than never right?!).  This challenge was designed to be completed over the course of 4 weeks (and 4 blogs) but I'm catching up so I'll do this in 2 blogs.

First of all, let me say that our garage was LONG overdue for a major clean out.  The amount of stuff that gets dumped there or accumulates there makes this an overwhelming area so we keep putting it off.  But no more!  Last weekend my husband and I took on the challenge.  Here's a "before" picture of the whole garage:

From this view you may be thinking, "that doesn't look too bad...look at all that floor space!" BUT we have to park a van in this small garage so that's why the centre is clear.  We also moved 6-7 large Rubbermaid bins from the garage into the house a few weeks before this picture was taken so it was even more cluttered then.  Here are a few close-up shots to show each area better:

Laura from OrgJunkie has applied her PROCESS steps to this challenge so I started with step 1: Plan your project.

Here were my plans & goals for the garage:

1.  Purge as much as possible so we can better use what we want to keep in the garage.
2.  Organize things better so we don't have to move multiple things to get at an item we want (e.g. kids bikes, golf clubs, garden hose, etc.)
3.  Free up as much space on the floor on either side of the garage so that it is easier to get in and out of the van without knocking things over or tripping over them.
4.  Get most of it completed in 1 day so we can park in the garage again that night.
5.  Do not spend any money on the garage right now.

Here are a few more pictures of what we were dealing with (yes those are items stored up in our ceiling!)

The second step is Remove, then sort & purge.  People thought we were having a garage sale because we had so much out on our driveway and our lawn but we emptied everything out of the garage (except the Christmas & Camping bins on the big shelf & the empty boxes on the ceiling since they were pretty well organized and where we wanted them already).  Here are some in-progress pictures:

We grouped like items with like items in bins & boxes in the centre of the garage.  The garage looks so much bigger with everything off the shelves!

Step 3 is to Organize into piles (donate, toss, keep, relocate) and purge excess.  We've never done a good purge of this garage but it was time to be free of the clutter.  Here's a picture of our garbage pile:

It was "big garbage week" so we were able to put all this out a few days later.  About half of it was picked up by people before the garbage truck came so it didn't even end up in a landfill!  This is our donate/giveaway/freecycle pile:

I was able to freecycle almost all of this and the last few items will be dropped off at Goodwill soon.  Here's our relocate pile:

We set up our umbrella table in the backyard and moved the rest of this into the house or the backyard (the umbrella table will have to move back into the garage in the fall but I'm confident that our organizing system will still be in full swing so we'll have room for it then!).  So we were left with the bins of like items and this pile of larger items:

Once we had everything out of the garage we cleaned as best as we can.  Our concrete garage floor is deteriorating so when you try to sweep a huge dust cloud is created (which continually settles on everything).  Believe me we were disgustingly dirty while we were working on this! 

Now that everything was out we could see what we wanted to put back in and figure out the best storage solutions to meet our goals.  This brings us to the remaining steps (Containerize, Evaluate, Solve/Simplify, and Smile) but I'm going to share those in another blog post so you'll have to wait a bit to see how our garage went from overwhelmed to organized!

Click here for part 2 of my organized garage!

Happy organizing!

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