My k.i.d.s. formula for organizing with kids

Organizing with KidsWhile I don’t have any children of my own, I do know that children’s toys, clothes and other items need an organizing system just like the rest of the items in our lives. This is especially true for all those toys! And with birthdays and holidays every year, the toys quickly add up!

As a parent or caregiver, you might be tempted to just grab a big bin and throw in everything together, or even grab a trash bag and start hauling items to the dump.

But take a deep breath and remember my K.I.D.S. formula for organizing with kids.

  • Keep it at their level
  • Involve them in the organization
  • Designate a home for everything
  • Set up systems and stay supportive

Keep it at their level

  • Set up closet rods and shelves so that your children can reach items. Store seasonal and less frequently used items higher.
  • Hang some Command hooks within your children’s reach so they can easily access and hang up jackets, backpacks and bags.
  • Create storage solutions with fun and attractive containers that are convenient for your children and where they typically play.

Involve them in the organization

  • Consider your children’s needs, wants, frustrations and concerns. They may be upset because their toys always end up broken, they can’t find something when they need it, they lose their homework and get in trouble, or they are bothered by something you didn’t even realize. They may really want a place where they can store their rock collection or have a dress-up area for their dolls.
  • Help your children understand that it is important to donate items they are no longer using, or to throw away broken items that cannot be fixed. Provide guidance and support, but let your children make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.
  • Teach them the importance of putting items back after they are done with them. Items are less likely to be broken, lost or messed up in some way if they are put back where they belong.

Designate a home for everything

  • Create a place for everything – every toy, every art supply, every memento, and every piece of clothing. If something doesn’t have a home, your children will have no place to put it and it will look like “clutter.”
  • Make sure your children know where the home is for everything. Use labels wherever possible. If the child cannot read yet, use pictures.
  • Keep a bin in the closet, or somewhere else in your children’s rooms, that can be used to gather items to be donated.
  • Create extra space in a room by using over-the-door hanging solutions and under-the-bed storage. A bunk bed with a desk or play area underneath is also great for small bedrooms.
  • Create memory boxes or books. Every year gather all your children’s creations and take photos of them. Then pick out your favorites together. Include the originals of the favorites and the photos in your chosen memory container and toss the rest. Over time, you and your children will create a treasure that will be cherished forever, and be reasonable in size.

Set up systems and stay supportive

  • Create family rules to help keep everything and everyone organized. For example:
    • Make your bed every morning.
    • Tidy up the living/family rooms and bedrooms every evening. (You can even set a timer and make a game out of it.)
    • All items that need to be taken upstairs at the end of the night should be placed in the basket on or by the stairs.
    • All outside toys must be put back on the patio or deck before coming in for the evening.

Basically whatever rules will work for your family and home.

  • Stay supportive. Once you and your children organize all the items and have a place for everything, reward yourselves for your hard work. Make sure your children feel proud of their accomplishment. However, remember that it needs to be maintained and that requires new habits to be formed. This takes time, reminders, support, patience, and adjustments as your children grow and things change. If your children start to become disorganized again, reframe from blaming the children or yourself, or getting angry. Talk to your children and run through the K.I.D.S. formula again to find the real problem and the right solution.

Products that can help organize children’s items:

  • Chrome Locker Baskets
  • Double Duty
  • Gear Pockets
  • Handbag File
  • Peek-a-Boo! I See You
  • Peek-a-Book! Treasure Box
  • Toy Hammock
  • TuffTotes
  • Bin There
  • Bin Pulls and Cubes
  • Stuff It
  • Over-the-Door Pantry Organizer
  • Clever Bucket

Visit my website at http://clevercontainer.com/kristystephens to order these and other products.

Contact me if you would like any suggestions for your organizing dilemmas!

What tips do you have for organizing with kids?

 


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25 Kitchen Organizing Tips

kitchen

The kitchen is where people gather. It is the heart of the home. It is the most important room in the house, or at least one of the most important rooms. But with everyone using it daily, it can quickly become disorganized.

Here are 25 kitchen organizing tips for your cupboards, drawers, pantry and fridge.

You can save a lot of money by knowing what you already have in your kitchen, what you really need, and what you should eat before it goes bad!

Tip #1: The first thing you should do is throw away all expired items and questionable items. When in doubt, throw it out! Donate working kitchen appliances and extra dishes, glasses, utensils and other gadgets. By removing what you don’t use or like, you’ll be able to find the items you do use and love.

Toss:

  • Broken items
  • Duplicate items that you don’t use (and consider donating those)
  • Pots and pans that are burnt or rusty
  • Items you don’t like or think are ugly
  • Excess plastic containers – keep your best ones and ones you have a matching lid for!
  • Appliances and gadgets you never use
  • Expired items
  • Bruised or rotting produce
  • Food you are not eating or really didn’t like

Tip #2: You can organize a pantry or your cabinets by packaging type or by item type. Organizing by packaging type means grouping items by their packaging – such as cans, small boxes, or large boxes. Organizing by item type means creating groups such as pasta night ingredients, baking supplies, BBQ items, soup ingredients, etc.

Products that can help:

  • Expandable Pantry Shelf
  • Corner Shelf
  • Over the Door Pantry Organizer
  • Chrome Locker Baskets
  • Drawer Designers (yes, they can be used in the pantry too for lightweight items and they don’t have to be placed in drawers!)
  • Fridge Cubes (also think-outside-the-fridge when it comes to this handy product!)

Tip #3:  When placing items in containers, use a label marker and label everything clearly so you know what it is.

Tip #4: Make sure heavier and fragile items are placed on the lower shelves, and lighter and bulkier items are placed on top.

Tip #5: You can gain more space by taking items out of their bulky packaging, such as individually wrapped bags of chips, crackers and cookies. You can store these items in Chrome Locker Baskets, Bins and Cubes, and ZipVac Bags.

Tip #6: If your pantry and kitchen shelves are adjustable, adjust them to fit items in your pantry and cabinets better. The Expandable Pantry Shelf, Over the Door Pantry Organizer and Corner Shelf will also help provide needed space, whether or not your shelves are adjustable.

Tip #7: Open, breathable containers are perfect for potatoes and onions. They extend the life of the produce. You can use the Chrome Locker Baskets.

Tip #8: Create an information station to control mail, papers, messages and reminders. All these things seem to make their way into the hub of the home – the kitchen.  Consider the Black Scroll Letter Holder, Single Chrome Letter/Key Holder, Magnetic Message Central, Magnetic Clips Set/3, File the Pile and Panic No More, the Project Board, or Pretty Paper.

Tip#9: The fewer items you have on the counter, the easier the counters are to clean. In fact, the less stuff you have anywhere, the easier those areas are to clean! Try using the walls, the inside of cabinets, and any vertical space you have. Try products such as Wraprack, Under the Shelf Cup Rack, Over the Cabinet Towel Bar, Over the Drawer Double Hook, Over the Door Pantry Organizer, and Hold Everything.

Tip #10: Organize your drawers by using products as the Drawer Designers, the Drawer Organizer or the Basket Bins.

Tip#11: Everything in your kitchen should have a home! And each item should be put back in its home when you are done using it.

Tip#12: Use a dual garbage bin for trash and recycling sorting. Or use a Chrome Locker Basket to temporarily store recyclables.

Tip#13: Place plasticware containers and lids in a dedicated deep drawer. Use the Drawer Designers to keep them separated and lined up as needed. You can also store plasticware in the Chrome Locker Baskets. Use plasticware containers that have stackable lids for easier storage.

Tip #14: Create zones in your kitchen, such as a baking zone by the oven, a dishes zone by the dishwasher and sink, and a cooking zone by the stove. Do not fill any extra space in a zone with unrelated items. Pick the appropriate “home” for each zone based on the best location and how many items the “home” needs to hold.

Tip #15: Keep an “Out” list on the fridge where family members indicate what they are out of. This could be a blank sheet of paper or it could be part of a shopping list that includes typical items you buy, organized by the layout of your favorite store. When you need them, check them off. Take the list with you and cross them off while you shop.

Tip#16: Use containers to organize food in the fridge. The see-through Fridge Cubes and Bins are great for holding lunchmeat, fruit drinks, yogurt, bottles of water, fruit cups, cheese sticks, and more. Organize your items by type such as meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, dairy, beverages and ingredients to make a meal. You can also organize by person or by size and shape. By having an organized fridge, you can save money by eating what you have before it goes bad and by not buying items you already have.

Tip 17#: If you need more space in your kitchen and you have a dining room, move serving pieces, tablecloths, napkins, etc. to a cabinet in the dining room. You can even store your cookbooks in the dining room. Appliances or pans that you only use for special occasions or holidays can be stored in the basement, if available. For dishes you inherited from family members – consider taking photos of the pieces and donating them. If you really can’t part with them, store them securely in the attic, basement or a spare closet.

Tip#18: Stack pots and pans by using cookware protectors between them. You can purchase cookware protectors from Pampered Chef (#2888 Cookware Protectors from pamperedchef.com).

Tip #19: Organize pan lids, baking sheets and serving trays with the Wire Chrome Dividers.

Tip #20: Store plastic grocery bags in the Chrome Plastic Bag Recycler or by using the over-the-cabinet-door Plastic Bag Holder. Use a Double Duty cube to store the reusable bags and easily transport them from the kitchen to the car.

Tip #21: Organize takeout menus in the Takeout Menu Organizer and organize recipes in the Collected Recipes Cookbook, Accordion Recipe File, or Recipe File Folders and Bamboo File Folder.

Tip #22: To help remember what goes where in your pantry and cabinets, label the shelf edges with a label maker. You might create labels for areas such as pasta, canned goods, snacks, and beverages. This is also helpful so others in your household know where to put items.

Tip #23: Clean off the front of the refrigerator and toss old coupons, notes or duplicate magnets. Keep what you need, and organize it in a way that makes sense. Take a picture of your children’s artwork and store your favorites. You can use the bottom part of the Peek-a-Boo! I See You for artwork storage.

Tip #24: When storing your drinking glasses, create columns for each size glass. For example, let’s say your cabinet allows you to have 5 rows of glasses and you have 3 types of glasses: short, tall and wine. You might then have two columns of short glasses, two columns of tall glasses, and one column of wine glasses. The point is to be able to easily see and reach each type of glass you have.

Tip #25: Go to bed each night with an empty sink and clean countertops. Put things away as you use them, when possible, and wash dishes or load the dishwasher after each meal. Wake up every morning to a clean, organized kitchen. It will be rewarding!

You can purchase many of the items mentioned in this post at www.clevercontainer.com/kristystephens.

What other kitchen organizing tips do you have?

 


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7 Closet Organizing Tips

If you struggle with locating your clothes, putting away your clothes, or you just find the experience unenjoyable, it is time to organize your closet and dresser drawers.

By getting your closet and dresser organized, you can:

  • save time by being able to find outfits when you need them, and put them away easily on laundry day.
  • save money because you will be able to see what you own and realize that, yes, you do have clothes to wear – they were just a little buried!
  • start to love your clothes again. Having an organized closet and dresser makes getting ready in the morning much easier and enjoyable.
  • feel more confident because you will be able to dress your best with less stress!

Here are 7 tips to help you get your closet and dresser organized this spring!

Closet photo

Tip #1: Make your closet look more organized by using the same hangers – same size and, if possible, same color.  White or light colors work best because they are neutral. My goal is to have all white hangers, but we still have a few colored ones. You don’t have to throw away good hangers, just try to always buy the same ones. Also, use the plastic or wood hangers instead of the wire ones.

Tip #2: Americans tend to wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time. Here’s a simple trick that you can do two times a year to help keep your closet overflow to a minimum. You’ll start this one in the fall for your fall and winter clothes and in the spring for your spring and summer clothes.  To figure out what you really use and what you need to lose, turn all your hangers backward in your closet.  After you have worn a piece of clothing and are returning it to the closet turn the hanger around before putting the piece back.  Do this for 6 months.  At the end of 6 months, you’ll see what was left untouched.  Strive to empty out half of the unused clothing.

Tip #3: Roll socks instead of folding them together.  They’ll last longer since the elastic will not stretch out each time you wash them.  You can keep socks organized by using drawer designers. You can buy these from my website under the Closet category.

Drawer Designer Combo

Tip #4: When placing socks, underwear or bras back into the drawers once they’ve been washed, move them to the back of the drawer.  This way you’ll be wearing each item in cycles and you can extend the life of your articles.

Tip #5: Make sure your closet has very good, bright lighting so you can actually see all your items.

Closet Ceiling Light

Tip #6: Keep a “Donate” container nearby so when you find something you never wear or don’t want anymore, you can easily drop it in. Once it is full, take it to Goodwill or your favorite donation place. If you struggle with giving something up, think about how it can benefit someone who needs it much more than you. You can use the Jumbo Eyelet Tote as your “Donate” container. You can buy this from my website under the Storage category.

Jumbo Eyelet Tote

Tip #7: Use every inch of closet space to its maximum potential. The single rod-and-shelf configuration that comes standard in most closets is not practical and wastes tons of storage space. Use a double-rod configuration for short hanging such as shirts, skirts, and jackets. Use a regular rod on top and pant hangers on the bottom, if possible.

Closet photo

Place a shelf above the top rod and use shelf dividers to separate clothes and to keep them from falling on top each other. You can buy shelf dividers on my website under the Closet category.

Curved Shelf Dividers

Consider storing those bulky winter coats and sweaters. To save space, you can use the Clever Cache – just fill, seal and roll and you can go from 10 inches of sweaters to 3 inches of storage. You can find that product in the Storage category on my website.

Clever Cache

Use clear shoe boxes or a shoe rack on the floor to organize your shoes. You can buy shoe boxes under the Closet category.

Shoe Boxes

Use a “hanger hamper” to store extra hangers. You can find the hanger hamper online at my Amazon store.

Hanger Hamper

What closet organizing tips do you have?

 


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Simple solution for hanging tanks and camis

It’s getting hotter outside, and our wardrobes are going from warm and cozy to “help keep me cool!” lightweight fabrics, with, well, less fabric! It’s time for summer tanks and camis. While these little tops are cute and cool, they are tough to hang on traditional hangers. You might find more of them lying on your closet floor or stuck between other clothes than actually on the hangers.

Here is a simple solution for hanging tanks and camis: use a belt hanger!

Sure, a belt hanger can be used for belts, but it is also great for tanks and camis.

Belt Hanger with Tanks and Camis

Need a belt hanger for your tanks, camis, or even belts? You can buy one by visiting my website at http://clevercontainer.com/kristystephens and looking for the belt hanger in the Closet category. Just click on Shop Now in the upper right-hand corner of the site and then click on Closet.

What other clothing items do you have trouble hanging, storing or organizing?

 


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10 solutions for the what’s for dinner dilemma

Dinnertime comes around every night along with that dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?”

It is always a challenge to come up with ideas for dinner, to keep dinner interesting and to still make it simple, easy and not stressful.

Plate with question mark

Here are 10 possible solutions for the “what’s for dinner” dilemma.

Find dinner ideas:

1. Look through the coupons in the Sunday’s paper or gather coupons online. Not only could you find some coupons for meals you typically make, but you could also find new dinner ideas.

2. Grab a cup of tea, dust off your cookbooks and take a look at them! Also check Facebook and ask family and friends.

3. For 40 quick and easy recipes, you can download The Confident Mom Got Dinner? e-book for $4 (affiliate link).

Got Dinner? Quick & Easy Recipes

4. Look at various sauces or marinades while at the store or online. If you find an interesting topping for meat, you can just add some complementary side dishes (potatoes, rice, noodles, vegetables, etc.) and you’ll have a new dinner idea.

One of my favorite brands is Stonewall Kitchen. They have several different sauces, seasonings, chutneys and more. Look under Specialty Foods on their site (affiliate link).

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

5. Check the back of boxes, cans and other packages for recipes you can use. See my post on 5 simple back-of-the-box recipes for some of my favorites.

6. Use sites and apps to find recipes based on ingredients. Here are a few you can try:

Free version:

Pro version:

7. When people ask you what you want for your birthday and you are not sure, suggest restaurant gift cards. That way you can have a night off from making dinner, guilt-free!

Get Organized:

8. Take a few minutes to write a meal plan for each week. Grab a piece of paper and write down each day of the week. Then next to each day write a dinner idea. Start with some meals you typically make to get you started. Try to add one new recipe every week.

When creating your meal plan, consider the ingredients. If one recipe requires carrots and celery, or example, think about something else you could make that would use those same ingredients. This will make sure no food gets wasted, will reduce costs, and will shorten your grocery list.

Try to make at least one or two of the meals on your weekly plan ones that usually have leftovers. This will give you a night off from cooking. Pasta meals typically work well for this, but you can always double a recipe to make extra as well.

9. Make a shopping list based on your meal plan so you buy everything you need to make dinner each week. Remember to also add items you buy regularly to your shopping list so you don’t forget them (milk, yogurt, juice, bread, etc.).

Organize the items on your list the way your grocery store is laid out. This will get you in and out of the grocery store faster.

10. Organize your recipes. This may seem like an overwhelming task but if you work on it 10 minutes at a time, you will be amazed at how quickly you can get them organized. This will make it easy to find recipes, and to get a sense of what recipes you already have to work with.

When you find a recipe you like either in a magazine or online, make sure you save it and/or print it, if you want a paper copy. You will need something to store and organize your paper recipes. You can buy the Collected Recipes organizer from my Clever Container website in the Kitchen category. This recipe solution has 8 pocketed tab dividers and 36 two-sided magnetic pages to hold your recipe clippings.

Bonus: If you collect and organize a book of recipes, you can share this treasure with family members. My husband’s family gave me a “collected family recipes” binder as a wedding gift! 🙂

Collected Recipes Book

If you like to store your recipes electronically, create a Recipes folder on your computer or a folder in your browser bookmarks so when you find a recipe you like, you have a place to store it.

 How do you solve the “what’s for dinner” dilemma? 

 


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Create convenient storage solutions

You want to find the best “home” for all items in your home. If items do not have a home, they become clutter. All items need to have a purpose, be used or loved, and have a home. Otherwise, why do we have them?

When trying to organize your home, you may move items from one area in a room to another, or one room to another.

Have you ever…

  • Relocated items from one place to another, and within a few days, those items have returned to the place where you had moved them from?
  • Been “cleaning up” or “straightening up” around the house and moved items that belonged to another family member and then that person gets upset and puts the items back where they originally had them?
  • Moved items and then forgot about them (unpaid bills, greeting cards to mail, items to take to the dry cleaners, etc.)?
  • Decided that you think some items in your home should be stored in a certain location, but other family members never return them to that location?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a deep breath and read on.

What’s the secret to end such madness? Create convenient storage solutions. Stop relocating the items and create storage where the items tend to end up anyway. If the storage solution or location is inconvenient, it will be not be used.

You may want everyone’s shoes to be stored in their bedroom closets. But if it doesn’t happen, create shoe storage by the doorway. You may really want all the toys to remain in your child’s bedroom. However, they always end up in the living room, so create a storage solution for toys in the living room (e.g. a storage ottoman that doubles as a coffee table, or a storage bench that can also be used for extra seating).

For me, I wanted an more organized way to store incoming mail and paperwork. I prefer for paperwork to be in the office; however, my husband likes to work on stuff in the living room and if his to-do items are not in sight, they are out of mind. He prefers for papers he needs to look at, bills we need to pay, etc., to be either on the kitchen table or the coffee table.

My solution: Two attractive paper trays that sit on the coffee table. The top tray is his to-do pile. I place items there that he needs to do something with. The bottom tray is for filing. When he is done with a paper, but we need to keep it, he places it in the bottom tray, and then I know to file it in the office.

File tray

This system works great for both of us. The papers are not scattered all over the coffee table, but they are still where my husband can easily access them. The paper trays offer a convenient storage solution.

File tray

You can get these handy trays from my Amazon store.

What items in your home could use a more convenient storage solution?

 


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Master Bedroom Closet Remodel

Before the closet had one rail that went around the entire closet. Additional storage space was not being used effectively above or below the rail. The clothes and accessories needed to be sorted into keep and donate piles and then rearranged in the closet with a system that offered better options and containers.

Closet photo

Closet photo

We sorted all the clothes into two piles; clothes that were being used went into the keep pile and clothes not being used went into the donate pile. It is much easier to find the clothes you do want to wear if they are not being overcrowded by the ones you don’t. And really, how many clothes do you really need! 🙂

We installed beautiful hardwood floors in place of the old gray carpet to really give the closet a finished and clean look.  We painted the closet white and added a brand new, and larger, ceiling light to brighten up the area. You are not stuck with builder-grade ceiling lights, and one way to improve your chances of finding something in a closet is to add sufficient lighting.

The light is so bright that I couldn’t take a good picture with it on so that is while this picture is dark.

Closet Ceiling Light

We purchased and installed a closet system that provided areas for long and short hanging, pant hanging, shoes, drawers for additional clothes or accessories, belt hooks, and shelves. The system also included an accessory tray, which was perfect for storing cufflinks. Baskets were used for storing winter scarves, hats, gloves and other items.

Closet photo

Closet photo

Closet photo

Closet photo

We added wall hooks for hanging extra jackets above the area where the hamper was placed. The hamper is a 3-bag sorter to make laundry day one step simpler.

Closet photo

Every inch of the new closet is utilized, including the angled wall by the doorway. A hanger hamper for extra hangers fits perfectly in this spot.

Closet photo

By eliminating items that were no longer needed and by taking advantage of every inch of closet space, this closet is organized and extremely functional. Every piece of clothing and accessory has a home and can be easily found.

What do you use to organize your closets?

 


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