Monday, March 3, 2014

Organizing a Home: More Tips for Organization, part 2 of 2

In part 1 of “Organizing a Home” I shared with you some general principles of organization that I keep in mind for our home, and I shared with you why organization in a home is valuable.  I shared three rooms of our home and gave you tips on how we choose to organize each one, including photos:  The Play Room / Computer Room, The Kitchen, and The Master Closet.  *smile*  In this part I will cover the rest of the rooms in our home.

Remember, if a home is not organized we waste:

1.  TIME by looking for things we need, or shopping for things we already have;
2.  FINANCES by spending money on items we don’t need and already have but don’t know it; and
3.  ENERGY that we don’t want to waste! 

- The Family Room
- Hallway
- Our Desk
- Dining Room
- 3 Bathrooms
- Kitchen Pantry
- Linen Closet
- Master Bedroom
- Boys Bedroom
- Girls Bedroom
- Laundry Room
- Under the Stairs Closet
- Garage Kid’s Clothing Closet
- Garage “Mud Room”
- Garage Elliptical Trainer & Tools Room
- Storage Shed
- Back Yard

The Family Room

- It’s nice if all books can be vertical on shelves, never horizontally stacked on top of the vertical ones (which gives a piled appearance).

- We’ve cleaned out our book shelves many times.  There is room for only as many books as fit on our bookshelves... as much as we tend to be book-a-holics.  We've learned that realistically if we haven’t referred to a book, re-read it, or loaned it in the last year or two, it’s not going to happen.  In the past we’ve held on to some books for 13 years because we were sure we would re-read it some day – and we never did.  *smile*  There’s so much great new material to read!  So it was time for those valuable but no-longer-read books to go.  By the way, a good way to earn money for organizational projects is to sell your unused books on, or on Ebay.

- We don’t have a coffee table in this house as we'd rather use the space for people, and this is our only family living space really.

- We intentionally leave open wall space, and do not over-clutter with objects or picture frames. 

- We personally don’t collect magazines, but if you like to do this they can be kept in a shallow 4-inch-deep basket on an end table or coffee table.  Or, an attractive magazine rack can be put on the wall to keep magazines off of tables (and when the rack is full, out-dated issues can be thrown out). 

- My husband removed the two small light fixtures that were on the ceiling when we bought the house, and replaced them with 8 recessed light fixtures.  We love this – every inch of space is filled with light.  No shadows.  We purchased each fixture individually over time, $25 each for the can and the trim, as we could afford them until we had enough to install them all.  And Bob added a dimmer switch to control how bright, or dim and quiet the room feels.

- I also keep the light in the entry way stair well adjacent to our family room on during the day time because it makes the family room and hallway feel larger and more open and spacious than it really is.

- Also, we've had questions as to why we have the tall desk/shelf unit blocking the visual openness of the stairwell, and the shorter couch where it is placed.  The reason is that we were not able to train kids to stay off of the half-wall, overlooking the stairwell.  Our middle-age kids were climbing over it despite training, and then the youngest 4 were starting to lean way over it and try to climb, too. Very dangerous of course especially for the littlest kids.  So we had to create a wall for now by that stairwell to keep them safe until they have the self-discipline to do it themselves.  *smile*

The hallway

- We keep wall space open in our home.  This looks spacious and uncluttered.  As a general rule of thumb wall decor is supposed to be done in odd numbered groupings, which is naturally pleasing to the eye.  Some how this seems to work to use even though it is a grouping of 10; perhaps because the 'S' is not a picture frame.

Our Desk

- All paper items need a home as well.  They either get thrown away (junk mail, old school work, newspapers, magazines) or need to be given a ‘home’.  They do not sit around on counters, tables, or any other furniture.  They need a file if they’re important or my mom uses a basket for newspapers or magazines. 

- If paper items are stored vertically they look orderly (or in a shallow, small pile in a basket).  Even works-in-progress on a desk can be stored upright with a clear plastic upright file so they’re still easily accessible and visible to us but not a pile collecting dust and taking up our work space.  My husband is a natural “piler” *smile*, but he is fine with keeping his pile vertical to create an orderly, clean look in our main living area in the family room (the left side of our desk top).

- We have only two small office supply drawers in our desk, so I put a basket on one of the shelves for the rest of the needed-0n-hand office supplies.  The drawers hold only a few pens/pencils, scissors, tape, post-its, stamps & return address labels; the other drawer paper clips, erasers, rubber bands, rulers, and a calculator.  The basket holds chapstick, permanent pens (up out of reach and sight of young ones), dry erase pens (also out of sight and reach), window marking pens, nail clippers, phone charger, measuring tape, a ziplock baggie of safety pins, and white out.  The extra office supplies (the rest of the box of pens, or the rest of the package of post-it notes, etc.) are in a large clear plastic drawer in the playroom closet. 

- The drawers have organizational containers in them for all the small office supply items.  For pens I keep only 2-4 ball point pens in our desk drawer, a couple high lighters, and a couple of my husband’s favorite pens.  That’s it.  After many years of having piles of pens in the “pencil drawer” that I never used because I like blue ink and a smooth running ball point I finally threw the rest away!  *cheer!*  *laugh* 

- I keep one tablet each of 3 sizes of post-it notes on hand in the desk drawer; when that is gone I go to the large storage drawer in the supply room and get a new one.

- I keep my husband’s headphones in a basket on the desk top (he uses these for listening to the news or educational videos online)– easily accessible, and no cords lying in a tangle all over the desk top work area.

- We have a small file drawer in the desk for things we refer to all the time, but all the rest of the files are in a 4-drawer filing cabinet in the garage.

- Our camera is stored in the desk where it's easily-accessible, as well as my homeschool teacher correction books that I use daily and my school record-keeping binder.

The Dining Room

- We took the chandelier down to open up the room more, and my husband put in some recessed lighting that we love, on a dimmer switch even.  Nice.  *smile*

- The dining room and kitchen is painted a light latte brown color to give it a warm, spacious feel.

- I display white mugs of varying styles.  It's a Pottery Barn look I like - but we do also use them.

- Each of our children has a water bottle that stays on the dining room table all day for them to drink from when ever they’re thirsty; one of the children fills them all every morning as part of her morning routine.  This saves us storing and washing a ton of glasses, saves me time serving drinks of water all day long, and helps me keep track of how much water each person has had per day. 

- We have our homeschool supplies shelf unit in the back left corner, but only for the supplies we use every day: binders and notebooks, clip boards for writing/drawing on (so pencils don't mark the wood table), pencil/eraser box, pencil sharpener, bucket containing colored pencils (our children's favorite for drawing and coloring), and the top basket contains math manipulatives.  Extra supplies such as additional work books, teacher books, other curriculum are kept in the play/computer room.

Our 3 full-size Bathrooms

The upstairs main bathroom

- Hair clip flowers are kept on the wall clipped to a hanging ribbon.

- The coffee mugs contain flat cotton rounds (like cotton balls, but flat) and Q-tips, to match the coffee theme with the candle and coffee beans on the counter top, latte brown painted walls, and coffee-colored brown words on the back wall.

The master bathroom.

The downstairs bathroom

- Drawers can have organizational trays or open-top containers/boxes in them to keep small items sorted (hair holders & clips). This makes it easy to quickly locate items you need, see what supplies you have (and don’t need more of), and not waste your time looking for them.  For things like hair ribbons, headbands, large clips, scrunchies, we keep these in gal-size ziplock baggies in another drawer, so we can easily find what we need, but don’t have to paw through drawers full of tangled stuff to find something specific.  In essence we can pull the whole “pile” out in a baggie and look all around all sides of it! I love it.

- Tooth brushes, tooth paste, floss, are all in a small container in the drawer as well (just like all other drawers in the house).  This keeps the drawer from becoming really dirty which is difficult to clean, and the plastic box is easy to take out once-in-a-while when it’s real dirty and just take 10 seconds to rinse it out with my finger tips.

- I supply clear liquid soap for each bathroom.  Bar soap is too messy for my taste, and with clear soap there is only invisible mess when it gets dribbled around.  I can buy refill soap in bulk at the dollar store and it can go in to any bathroom we have.

- I like tissue box holders to fit over the top of the tissue boxes which also give the room a nice, matching, simple yet attractive look.

- There is always an extra roll of toilet paper available at the back of each toilet, in a basket.

- There is an inexpensive ($3) clock in each bathroom.  For some reason the bathroom is always a place to think about what time of day it is and what’s happening next in the day – so a clock is always appreciated.  *chuckle*

- If you like to have some reading material in your bathroom this can be stored in a basket on the back of the toilet, or if your bathroom has space, in a basket on the floor (I encourage you not to put reading material near the edges of the toilet, however; it typically gets “sprinkled” by boys – eww, not so great now to pick up and handle.)

- The garbage can is emptied twice a week by one of the children; this keeps it from overflowing.  It is also lined with a plastic garbage bag so it does not get filthy and have to be scrubbed.  The child who empties the garbages just throws the whole bag away once every several weeks and puts in a new one – no cleaning necessary.

- Floor mats are not kept on the floor permanently to get really dirty.  They’re kept draped over the bathtub edge or draped over the towel bar on the wall where they can dry (and not smell like mildew) and stay clean.  They’re used after a shower, then hug up behind the shower curtain out of sight.  (Except for our master bathroom, which does have a rug; but only Bob and I use that room pretty much so the rug stays clean and in place.)

- The downstairs bathroom has towel racks for 2 towels each on the back of the bathroom door and one on the back of the laundry room door (adjacent to this bathroom).  This way we can have 4 towels dry and therefor smelling nice.

- We use the towel bar above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom to hang the large, thick bath mat to dry as it’s too thick to dry draped over the edge 0f the tub.  I use a very large bath mat in this bathroom because I bathe the toddlers and babies here, and I like to have a nice, large, soft place to put them when I take them out of the tub; also a thick, padded place for me to kneel beside the tub while bathing these 4 muffins.

- The master bathroom has one double towel rack on the wall so that both towels can dry completely and, again, smell nice.

- There is a stool in both children’s bathrooms for them to use at the sink or when short little people are using the toilet, but I’ve made sure that the stool is a size that can slide on the floor between the cupboards and the toilet, so it’s out of sight and out of the way.

- I keep the kids bath toys in a zippered mesh laundry bag (for washing unmentionables and other small, fragile laundry items).  This way the pieces can all dry (especially the foam picture bath toy pieces that stick to the tub walls, but also stick to each other and take days to dry out completely in a plastic bag) and they’re not in the way of older children who shower every day, like the bulky mesh bags that suction cup to the walls get in the way.  I also keep only a minimal amount of bath toys.  They don’t need tons, and it is just too much to store and manage.

- There is a toilet brush kept in it’s open-top container (so it can dry out thoroughly) underneath each bathroom sink; I do not want to carry those dripping over the carpet from bathroom to bathroom.

- There is a container of disinfectant cleaning wipes underneath each bathroom sink.  This way I or the children can within about 10 seconds easily and conveniently pull out one wipe, clean the counter tops, sink/faucet, or back of the toilet when really necessary, and throw it away.  This is especially nice if company has arrived and I want to wipe up some tooth paste, or toilet mess real quick.

- I have one bathroom cleaning supplies bucket with a handle that “lives” underneath our master bathroom sink (which is child-proof locked).  Instead of having cleaning products in the childrens bathrooms, which we have found to be dangerous, I simply carry this bucket from bathroom to bathroom to clean.


- We created a food pantry from our hallway coat closet.  *smile*  (If you’d like to see how we did this you can read about it here).

- I utilize 14-inch turn tables and labeled clear Rubbermaid containers in this space to organize regular and bulk food items. 

Linen Closet

- My husband installed white wire shelving for me.

- Here I keep all of our linens:  bed sheets (I buy only white ones that can match any child’s bedroom, this way I only need to have a few extra sets), pillow cases, a couple extra towels (we just wash the ones on our towel racks and then put them back, so we don’t need to own lots of sets), a few extra hand towels, a couple blankets, beach towels (which the kids also play with inside year-round), a dozen or so cleaning cloths, and placemats (for adult company).

- Also on the floor is a basket with diaper changing supplies so that when our 4-year-old son is napping in our bedroom closet (in a sleeping bag on the floor) where the changing table is, I can still change a diaper easily in the upstairs bathroom.

Master Bedroom

- We keep our audio book collection and our library books on the tall shelf unit, separate from our personal books, protected and not likely to get lost. We check out about 80 books at a time on average every 3 weeks, so they really needed their own shelf (found inexpensively used with my phone app Offer Up, which is like Craig's List - awesome.)

- I put out-of-season clothing/ shoes, and gift wrapping supplies in a clear under-the-bed storage box. 

- I also keep all wrapping paper, ribbon, and gift bags in two of these large, easily accessible storage boxes underneath our bed.  But I only keep these three boxes (for clothes and wrapping stuff) so that there are none stored underneath the side of the bed where others could see them from the door way, so our bed also looks uncluttered.

- We make our beds every single day first thing upon getting up in the morning.  It’s usually not very successful for people to try to remember to come back to it.  Bob and I get out of bed in the morning and turn right around and make it together right then before leaving the bedroom, and we train the children to do the same.

- If you need to store things underneath beds, and they’re not in baskets or decorative boxes, you can use a bed skirt to cover those things up from view.  Until we became master de-clutterers *wink*, we had bed skirts on our bed, our children’s beds, and on the baby’s crib because we were using all of that storage space.  But I got sick of knowing that there was stuff stored everywhere, and so I cleaned out extra stuff until we had space.  I much prefer space.  After many years I finally realized that to have the spacious, clean look of nothing stored under our bed all I had to do was get rid of one under-the-bed storage box that was visible from the door way, but not even all the rest of the stuff stored under the bed (and there's a lot of space under a king-size bed)!  So I organized a few of those out-of-season clothes back in to our closet, gave some of the clothes away that I haven’t worn in years but still liked, and took off the bed skirt.  Yay!  It may sound funny to you, but I totally delight in those little ideas and triumphs that create a more spacious look and feel!  *chuckle*

- In one drawer of my dresser I have 4”x12”dresser-drawer organizer boxes for full-length nylons, knee-high nylons, thigh-high nylons, slips, tights, and under-the-dress pants.

- Our bedroom night stands also have drawers instead of shelves, again so that everything is enclosed and out of sight, uncluttered, and not dusty:  books, tissue boxes, pen and post-it notes (of course!), and Bible study notes to myself.

- We keep a baby gate up at our bedroom door all the time.  We do this for several reasons:  it keeps kids and toys out, enabling us to keep this space as mine and Bob’s sanctuary; it’s not child proofed, which then feels like our romantic adult space; we can change kids pants on the changing table without having other children disobeying in the room or unloading things while we’re “tied-up” in a diaper change; when we have babies they can have some play time on the floor without risk of being stepped on accidentally; older kids are allowed to do a larger puzzle in there on a card table or play with sets of breakable things for a while where young children cannot get to it.

- I have sheer white curtains on the window so give the room an open, airy look about it.  And there are blinds for privacy.

- The master bathroom is painted the same color as the master bedroom, to give a uniform, simple look.

- I have electric wax candles on top of my dresser which I can flick on with a remote whenever we'd like a nice mood set, but without the danger of exposed flames. Love these.
- There is nothing stored behind the bedroom door and almost nothing underneath furniture (nothing you can see), which provides a clean, uncluttered, orderly look and feel in “our place.”

- We very intentionally keep open wall space, again to give an open, spacious, uncluttered look and feel.

The Girls Bedroom

- We have a trundle bed that my husband made underneath one of the bunks, and that daughter's comforter and pillow live at the foot of the bottom bunk bed when the trundle is pushed in during the day time.  Our twin baby girls sleep on the two bottom bunks (if one was right close on the trundle they'd just play all the time, so they're separated...unless they climb in to bed and sleep together *chuckle*), the 14 and 15-year-olds are on the top bunks, and our 8-year-old sleeps on the trundle.  There is only enough floor space for the trundle in the room, but this works out just fine since bedrooms are really only used for sleeping (we like to promote family time, not isolation time).

- We keep toys specific to the girls (Polly Pockets, Sweet Street houses, 18” dolls) in their closet instead of clothes.  (All of the children’s clothes are in our kids clothing closet.)  This also helps kids go to sleep more quickly at night when there are not toys visible to tempt little ones to get out of bed.  We also keep in the closet the older girl's jewelry boxes so that the 3-year-old twins don't get into them, the girls' hats and slippers, and drawers containing doll clothes. And we keep this closet locked with a bi-fold door lock so that it's not emptied at an inappropriate time.  *wink*

- On the white wall shelf unit are just photo frames currently because the little girls would get in to the jewelry boxes when they were kept there, and get in to books, too.  And it was dangerous for the little twins to be leaning out that far to reach those items from the top bunk.  So those things are in the closet currently.

- Some of the drawers hold each of the oldest 3 girls personal things.

- The girls floral duvet covers are reversible, which is fun sometimes, and the colors are the same on both sides (stripes on one side, flowers on the other) so if one girl changes her duvet cover over it still matches the room.  The pink comforter at the foot of the bottom bunk is for the trundle bed at night. 

- I choose to use light-weight down comforters for all of the kids’ beds (which I get on sale for $99 each) because they’re easily washable, warm in the winter, and breathable in the summer heat.  I’ve always washed feather down things on cold, gentle cycle, with half the detergent and no fabric softener; and then dried them in the dryer on very low or no heat for a couple of hours, and with 3-5 tennis balls that fluff the feathers up while they bounce around in the dryer.  They last for ever.  Very worth the investment to us.

- Each of the kids twin mattresses has a fitted, padded cotton mattress cover protector on it, and then where appropriate a fitted rubber water-proof mattress pad cover (in case of throw up or a wet bed), then the bed sheet.  And young children who wear pull-ups have on top of the fitted sheet a rubber/flannel crib pad so when their pull up leaks I can just easily scoop that pad up and throw it in the wash without having to wash bed linens.

Boys Bedroom

- We created an all-kids clothes closet in the garage (Thinking Outside the Box), so our children do not have dressers or clothing in their bedrooms.  This leaves the necessary space for beds in each small bedroom.

- I do store sleeping bags underneath one bunk bed, but they’re back against the wall out of view.

- The boy’s closet stores the youngest 7 kids' sweatshirts, personal-stuff boxes, extra blankets, extra wet mats and one white sheet to change a wet bed with, a basket of cloth bags and backpacks, and a large tub on the top shelf for all sizes of children's underwear and girls'/young ladies bras currently not being used (organized in to gallon-size ziplocks and labeled with the size).

- We chose a light color of paint so as to not shrink the feeling of the room.

- I prefer solid colors (sage green walls, and I made denim duvet covers) with an accent of detail like the blue plaid in their pillow shams.  This just feels simple and not too "busy".  And the denim duvet covers will match any wall color should we choose to change it some time.

- We usually have a really cute shelf unit in the boy's room for books, personal boxes, hats, and stuffed animals against the wall below the picture frame, but our boys would not stop climbing on it so it is currently in our master closet until they're a little more self-disciplined.

- We don’t have paper on the kids walls as it always gets curly edges and dusty and looks and feels cluttered to me.

Laundry Room

- All 3 laundry baskets are kept nested on top of a single shelf above the washing machine.

- I keep several hangers on this same wire shelf for items that need to hang-to-dry; if they’re small items they hang right there in the laundry room, if they’re larger then I hang them on the shower curtain rod.

- On the first of two shelves above the dryer I keep several dish tubs, for children who have the flu and need something to keep beside them in bed or on the couch.  There are also about a dozen cleaning cloths, and 3 cleaning towels (for those rare bigger messes).

- The second shelf has laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain removing chemicals, a mesh bag for putting delicate or small things in to the wash (bras mostly), and 3 tennis balls for fluffing up down comforters, pillows, bath mats or towels, or down vests that were washed.

- I keep dusting tools (a short feather duster, and a long-handled duster) hanging on the wall.

Under the Stairs Closet

- I know this looks like a heap!  *chuckle*  But we actually do know everything that is in there.  It is not a catch-all closet, but everything stored here is very big, bulky, and oddly shaped making stacking almost impossible.  So, frequently-used items are in the front such as violins, less used (or out of season for babies such as the crib, booster seats, etc.) items are in the back.  Storing items here also keeps them cleaner for later use. 

Garage – Children's Clothing Closet
(1/4 of the total 2-car garage space)

- There is a row of baskets for each child's clothes.  The boys have a basket for their pants, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, pj’s and pull-ups, and underwear/socks/under shirts.  The girls use them for the same items except instead of pants they have an under-dresses pants and tights basket.

- A couple of the rows have blue canvas boxes that were much less expensive and I was hoping to decorate the boy's shelf unit with, but when I needed more of them the company was no longer making them.  *dislike*  Lots of stores have boxes for these cubbies, however they are pretty much always a couple/few inches smaller and it does make a big difference in how much can fit into one box or basket.  If I have containers (like these baskets from Ikea, where the shelves also come from) that utilize the entire 12" cubby space then the kids can fit two piles of clothes in a basket; the smaller canvas boxes more commonly available in stores fit only one pile.  There are also available in stores boxes that are 1-2" too big and will not fit in the cubbies, so if you do this idea I encourage you to just measure your containers carefully before purchasing them.

- The top cubby/shelves are actually (not pictured) currently used for the oldest girls' purses and things. 

- We keep girls’ dresses and skirts on a stainless steel commercial hanging rack on wheels in the garage closet (Thinking Outside the Box) and not in kids’ bedroom closets. 

- I use only white plastic hangers for a uniform look.  This is easy to do inexpensively by purchasing one package of several hangers at a time for a couple of dollars per weekly shopping trip.

- This can also be a play space for children if they roll the dresses/coats rack over the other side of the garage, to the mud room side.

Garage – Storage Room & “Mud Room”
(1/2 of the total 2-car garage space)  -  you can click on photo to enlarge and "zoom in" if you like.

- Our full-size van does not fit in the garage, so we made it a “mud room”.  We love it.  Bob put a large piece of carpet there (no carpet pad, just carpet on cement) and we made it the area for shoes, coats, gloves etc.  When kids come in from the car they can go strait in to the garage and on to the carpet to put away all of their items, and all of the water, snow, sand, and dirt is captured there and remains in the garage instead of going into your house.

- This is also the room where we keep bulk Costco items on shelves, serving dishes that I don’t use all the time (platters, extra pans), extra folding chairs, our filing cabinet, coolers, extra bed blankets in plastic bags, a 6’x3’ plastic folding craft table for projects in the garage, and a large upright freezer. 

- Stored on the wall shelves in the garage are mostly kids clothing/shoes/boots/coats we’re not currently using, stored in cardboard file boxes and labeled with the size they contain.  Also there are things like box fans, beach supplies, the fake Christmas tree, sewing machines, an Easy-Bake Oven, a potty training chair. 

- Also on the shelves in clear plastic labeled boxes are:  party supplies, disposable dishes, extra dishes for company, toys for the park, maternity clothes, Christmas decorations, plastic picnic dishes, kids snow clothes, hats/scarves/gloves, house paint supplies, painting clothes, baby items I’m not currently using, a few home decorations I use sometimes but am not using right now, some seasonal items (humming bird feeder, Easter eggs, etc.), two “keep sake” boxes for Bob and myself (school annuals, childhood videos, memorabilia).

- In clear plastic drawers on the shelves are:  light bulbs, batteries, safety devices (outlet covers, door knob locks), shoe polish supplies, hair clippers, flashlights, replacement vacuum bags, computer stuff, and other house hold items we don’t need access to every day.

- We keep adults and kids shoes each on large shoe racks (we use free-standing garage shelving racks from Lowe’s) in the garage.  Both adult's and children's coats are kept in the mud room as well; and I teach kids to fasten the neck of their coat with either the snap or velcro at the neck or hood so that the coat stays on the hanger (especially for winter coats that are bulky and tend to fall off the hangers all the time).

- Children can learn to put away their shoes in an orderly way, as a pair – not thrown on to the shelf, causing time to be wasted trying to find matching shoes when you’re trying to get out the door.  We keep boots on the bottom, tennis shoes next up, church shoes middle shelf, the 14-year-old's shoes near the top, and our 15-year-old's shoes on the very top (which is hard to reach much less keep organized in pairs).

- We have one large storage tub in the garage for everyone’s hats, gloves, and scarves (leave the lid off for easy accessibility during the appropriate season) – ready to have items taken out on the way to the car, and put back in before going into the house.

- Toddler baby idea:  We used to keep a pack-n-play open in the mud room for a clean, safe place to set down a toddler or baby while we’re loading or unloading the car.  We’ve loved this tool. 

Garage – Tools & Elliptical Trainer Room
(1/4 of the total 2-car garage space)

- Some of the boxes listed above are in this room

- There are also all of Bob’s power tools, Craftsman tool boxes, step ladder and a 7’ ladder, some yard & lawn supplies, car wash supplies.

Storage Shed in the back yard

- The shed is 6-feet by 8-feet in size, plastic.  Purchasing this enabled us to move all of the following items out of the garage to make room for our kids clothing closet.

- Here we keep the lawn mower, lawn maintenance supplies, younger kids bicycles, two large plastic tubs for yard toys (which are kept in the yard during the summer), a large plastic tub for cul-de-sac play (Frisbees, balls, cement chalk, jump ropes), and camping gear.

- Bob built wood shelves inside of the shed to organize our storage there.

Back Yard

- We have large plastic tubs with lids in the back yard to contain all yard toys (not in this photo, though, as it's spring/mud season and the kids aren't playing out there yet this year).  Not only does the yard stay picked up when not in use and pleasant to look at, but toys don’t rust when left out in the rain, cloth toys like gardening tool bags and gardening gloves don’t grow mold, and Velcro ball-catching toys don’t lose their “stickiness” getting packed with mud.  This plan also makes packing yard toys away for the winter very easy.

- We keep a plastic baby gate outside on our back deck.  This way the kids can get fresh air, but if we are getting ready to go in the car and I don’t want the kids getting dirty or getting out lots of toys (and a lot can be gotten out in a flash with so many of them out there), I can put this gate up as a reminder for them to stay on the deck at that time.  Also, our 1 and 2-year-olds can come and go from the house to the deck freely during the summer days but be kept on the deck when they do not have the supervision of my self or other kids outside.

- We’ve also chosen to fully enclose our yard with a 6’ privacy fence, again so that the children can come and go from the house to the yard freely without adult supervision while still being restricted to the safety of our yard.  This fence also prevents dogs from entering our yard, prevents our children from being in the street unattended, and prevents strangers from being able to remove our children from the yard.  We have great peace-of-mind with this fence in place – it’s worth every penny.

So!  I hope that tour of our home with organizational tips was useful to you.  It may seem like organizing would take a lot of time – but it doesn’t compare to the amount of time, finances, and energy that can be wasted through disorganization.  *smile*  I would really love to hear about any great organizational strategies you’ve implemented in your own home!

Blessings on your efforts,

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