Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Master Closet Organizing

In this project, my client wanted an organizing facelift for her amazing master closet! Because of a lack of clear organization, the beauty of this closet was hidden. You will notice in this first "before" picture that her shelves held a variety of different types of items. It was difficult for her to find what she needed because her belongings did not have a specific "home" in the closet. She had the right idea with the large basket under the shelves; however, it had been filled with a wide variety of pieces: winter gloves, bathing suits, summer cover-ups, hats, gloves, and more. Additional hats were stored on the shelves, and many paperwork items were mixed in here and there.

In the "after" picture from this same viewpoint, you'll see that I started by removing the items from the basket and making the basket the permanent home for nothing but her extensive collection of hats! The items that had been on the two shelves under the window were sorted. Many of them were boxed and included in her hall closet. (See previous blog about the "junk" closet makeover.) Other odds and ends were placed in cute baskets on the shelves that previously housed hats. Clothing pieces that had been placed amidst the hats were neatly folded and placed in the canvas baskets beneath the window. Both sets of baskets were found at Wal-mart and were relatively inexpensive. Be sure to measure your space to make sure the baskets will fit BEFORE you purchase them. As I sorted through the closet contents, I found many different purses and handbags - all in different locations in the room. I found a great hanging purse file at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $7.99 and used it to house the purses. The pockets are large enough to fit most bags. 
These next "before" shots reveal her hanging clothes. Because they were not organized in any way, it was difficult for the owner to find what she needed AND she was unable to get a good picture of what she actually owned. When clothes are all mixed up like this, you may find yourself buying pieces you don't really need or forgetting about some of your old favorites!

I began by sorting the clothes by style. All of the strapless shirts were hung together, as were the sleeveless shirts, the short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, and sweaters. Pants, shorts, and skirts were done the same way. Then, within each category, I sorted by color. For example, all of the client's black pants were hung together. When I finished, she realized that she had over 10 pairs of black pants. Now she's ready to purge and will have great yard sale items! I also used all new hangers to create a sense of continuity and visual order in the closet. These white plastic hangers are only $1.17 for a ten-pack at Target. Replacing your hangers may be something that you don't want to budget for all at once, but you can buy a pack a week and have a nice, neat closet in no time at all. 

So, what happened to all the items that were overflowing in the large basket on the floor? I actually sorted them into four medium-sized wooden baskets that we placed on the shelf above the hanging clothes. These baskets came with liners we had monogrammed so the contents would be easy to find: winter accessories, swim suits, cover-ups, and summer bandanas and accessories. This part of the project was the biggest expense because they were high quality baskets and we had the additional cost of monogramming. However, they were a needed element to make the project complete. If you are on a tight budget, try to shop around and look for sales and clearance items. Occasionally, stores like Michael's will have 40% off sales. If you are patient, you can find good deals!
Whatever your budget and whatever the size of your closet, you can use these basic concepts to create order instead of clothing chaos!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"I'm just not a morning person..."

As early as I can remember, this statement has been true. When I was in high school, my mom and I used to fight in the mornings because I wouldn't get out of bed. She would stomp to the top of the stairs and enter my bedroom fussing and fussing. In true teenager style, I would moan and groan and refuse to budge! One morning, she came upstairs to my bedroom six or seven times trying to get me up. The final time she topped the stairs, I mumbled some smart-mouthed comment and rolled back over. About that time, I hear "boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom," as she tumbled down the wooden stairs. I remember reaching the top of the stairs to see her lying at the bottom motionless. All I could think was "I've killed my mother." Fortunately, she escaped the fall with only a badly bruised arm, but it could have been much worse! For some time after that, the guilt caused me to try a little harder to get up in the mornings...but guilt will only take a person so far!

Fast forward a few years...my younger sister moved into an apartment with me during her first semester in college. It also happened to be my first year teaching, my first year in the "real world." I think they left out an important part in my College of Education coursework. No one, I mean no one, had bothered to tell me that teachers had to be at work at ridiculously early hours in the morning. Yes, I had completed my student teaching the previous semester, but I had not a clue that showing up for work at 7 A.M. would be a regular expectation! What a disaster...it was a miracle that my sister and I didn't kill each other that year. She can attest to this day that I made her life miserable because I was so cranky in the mornings.

So, at the end of that year, I married the man of my dreams, my high school sweetheart! You would think that after dating for almost seven years, very few things would surprise me; however, little did I know that he is what I like to call an "early bird." I don't just mean that he wakes up early. I mean that he wakes up early acting like he just won the lottery!! He is happy, cheerful, energetic, and full of life - long before I can even open my eyes, much less utter noises that even remotely sound like words!

We are polar opposites in this way; even after 14 years of marriage and two kids, I still struggle to get out of bed each morning. Instead of my mom standing over me fussing for me to get up, it is now my husband who has to fret about my morning habits. Quite honestly, all three of my guys are usually up and moving before I am truly awake. Yes, I am out of the bed when the kids get up, but it takes me two cups of coffee and an hour of peace and quiet (try getting that in a house full of "early birds") for me to get going each morning. Now, here's where the problems arise. My sweet husband has usually cooked breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, and started the kids on their morning routine before I even make it out of the shower.

Now I know what you "early birds" are thinking: this woman is just pure lazy! And I know that at times my husband thinks the same thing. Nevertheless, I know that I have tried to become a better "morning person." It just doesn't come naturally to me. It's something I have to work on each and every day. I have not yet become the Proverbs 31 noble wife who "gets up while it is still dark." And if I do, I ain't too happy about it! (Pardon the grammar...just trying to make a point!) So, I've set a little goal for myself. This week, I'm going to get up when the alarm goes off, without hitting snooze or moaning and groaning. I may not sing a happy tune or dance a jig, but I will try to be a pleasant person for the short time we four have together before we begin the busyness of our daily lives. I challenge you other "non-morning people" to join me on this little journey, and for all of you "early birds," don't forget to encourage us along the way!

Spinach Fiesta Casserole

   My husband and I created this new recipe together in the kitchen one day last week.  I was browning chicken for stir fry when he came into the kitchen and started digging through the pantry and freezer.  He began adding random ingredients into the skillet with the chicken, and this yummy meal was created in no time at all!  It's a delicious dish that will have your kids begging for seconds.  Another great way to get them to eat spinach.  Hope you enjoy!!

vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 bunch green onions
1 bell pepper
1 onion
(I know I've mentioned this before, but I use Pictsweet frozen chopped bell pepper and onion to save prep time.)
1 16 oz. bag frozen spinach, thawed
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can white queso
3 cups cooked rice (Use instant to make this a quick n easy meal.)
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 stick butter

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Make 3 cups instant rice.
3.  Lightly coat a large skillet with vegetable oil.
4.  Over medium-high heat, saute chicken, green onions, bell peppers, and onions until chicken is done and onions are clear.
5.  Add thawed spinach, Rotel, queso, cooked rice, monterey jack cheese, and butter.  Stir until butter and cheese are melted.
6.  Pour mixture into a 9X13 casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hall Closet Before and After

   Last weekend, I had the exciting opportunity to complete my first "professional" home organizing project!  The first phase of the project involved a complete overhaul of the client's hall closet - which she called her "junk" closet.  Now, not everyone has a completely separate closet to earn this affectionate title, but most of us have at least one space in our home that accumulates "junk."  In this particular closet, the client and her children had stashed all sorts of items:  art supplies, school supplies, craft items, snapshots and other pictures, home movies, kids' artwork, even a sewing machine and foot bath! 
     I began the project with just one shelf - the one that appeared to house most of the kids' stuff.  I used $.99 clear plastic shoe boxes, as well as several larger (and slightly more expensive) similar containers.  You can find these Sterilite containers at Wal-mart.  You'll find that as you begin an organizing project, you will first have to make a big mess!  I covered the floor in containers and just started sorting!  Be sure to have a garbage bag on hand for the broken crayons, dry markers, and other odds and ends. 

     I continued with this process, shelf by shelf, until every item had a place!  The biggest challenge with the entire project was the photos.  I bought six photo boxes from Michael's.  We labeled one for each of her five children and left the final one for family pictures.  Each box held 1200 pictures, and we filled every one!  I think the client was relieved that 20 years of her precious memories were now protected and neatly stored in the closet. 
      I can't stress enough the importance of labeling the contents of each box.  The client's 4-year-old daughter can't read the labels yet, but she will easily be able to recognize the contents of each clear plastic container and be able to put her art supplies back in the appropriate box.  One idea for younger children is to decoupage pictures of the contents onto the outside of the box.  Be sure to include a word label as well to help with early word recognition! 
     You'll also notice from the "after" picture of the project that I placed the items that aren't regularly used on the top shelf.  The client doesn't sew often, so her sewing machine got placed up top.  These items may require a small step stool.  However, the items used most often, especially the kids' supplies, are placed within easy reach.  From start to finish the entire project took about four hours on a Sunday afternoon.  I was pleased with the final result, and most importantly, so was the client!!

Breakfast Pizza

Looking for a great recipe for Saturday morning breakfast?  I found this recipe in a family cookbook several years ago.  It was submitted by a friend of my Aunt Nell, and my family just loves it!  It's an easy way to feed your family a great weekend breakfast!

1 lb. pork sausage
1 can crescent rolls
1 c. hash browns
1 1/2 c. mozzerella cheese
5 eggs
1/3 c. milk
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Brown sausage and crumble, set aside.
2.  Spread crescent roll on bottom of 9X13 casserole dish.
3.  Sprinkle hash browns on roll, add sausage.

4.  In small bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper and pour over dough.
5.  Sprinkle top with cheese.
6.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More than just menus!!

     Well ladies, I've decided to make this blog about more than just menus!  I recently started a part-time organizing business and wanted to include my experiences helping others get organized!!  The earliest recollection I have of being an "organizer" is from elementary school. Around fifth grade, I decided that my extensive collection of books needed to be organized. I put them in alphabetical order on the bookshelves and numbered each one so they had a specific space on the shelves where they belonged. As I moved into high school and college, I became the queen of lists. Even to this day, I have checklists for absolutely everything! As a young wife and mother, I realized that running a household was much harder than I had ever imagined. I created a "Mommy Notebook" that I have used for years, including calendars, schedules, important letters and flyers, even Biblical or other motivational passages to help keep me focused.

     Today, this need for structure and organization continues. My clothes in my closet are sorted by style and color. They all face the same direction on the same style hangers. My pantry is neatly organized by food type...breakfast foods, canned goods, staples, etc. The odd thing about all of these behaviors is that while getting these systems in place is very easy for me, maintaining them has often been a struggle for me. I have a natural tendency to become overwhelmed very easily. I have a short attention span and can quickly lose focus. I need structure and order in my life to keep me sane! When I was much younger, I can remember looking at other women who seemed to "have it all together" and wonder if I could ever be that way. Time and maturity have taught me a great deal about managing my life. For several years now I have felt compelled to help other women, who struggle like I often do, to become all that God has designed them to be.
     So what have I learned?  I've come to the conclusion that spiritual and mental clutter are often the causes of physical clutter.  And the more physical clutter in our lives, the more prone we are to spiritual and mental clutter.  It can often be a vicious cycle.  By learning to control the physical stuff, we can free ourselves to focus on our spiritual and mental health!!  My goal with "The Busy Mom" is to share my successes and failures in leading an organized life in hopes that other women will learn from my experiences.  Thanks for joining me on this journey!