Holiday Organizing and Getting Creative with Dishes

We have a hutch/cabinet in our dining room that has been home to our ‘not-often-used’ dishes as well as some of our holiday decorations. It has served its’ purpose well, but between my husband and I, one of us hates it….I won’t say which one of us. 🙂 So we have decided to add this item to the whirlwind of Craigslist and see what happens. Here is what it looked like with everything on it.

DR Hutch Post (1)The shelves held the dishes we really only use for Christmas and Thanksgiving and the cabinet and drawer held small decorations for the minor holidays. It also held extra place mats, napkins and tablecloths too. I actually reorganized the cabinet and drawer in a post here. So all of these items went real estate shopping for new places to live in my house.

My first challenge was the serving dishes. They are big, bulky and breakable….hardly the kind of thing you can toss in a closet. I managed to put the trays in the back of a deep cabinet in the kitchen. But the pitcher, salt and pepper set, serving bowl? Where in the world???? Then my husband had a brilliant idea! We have a space above our cabinets where we put our holiday garlands and decorations, but the rest of the year it sits empty, pining away for some decorative accent. My husband said “just put the dishes up there.” Awesome, right? Now they are prominently displayed in the kitchen.

DR Hutch Post (3)Not only do they take up an empty space that was just crying out for a little love, but they also allow us to somehow enjoy the dishes all year long. The best part is that when we have to put the garlands up, it’s the same time of year we actually serve food on these dishes, so they have to come down anyways!

Now the next challenge….all those pesky little holiday decorations. Except for Christmas and Halloween, I usually only put a few holiday accents around the house. However, I like to have a little something for each holiday. Enter the ‘under the bed organizer’! I decided to put all of these little doo-dads underneath the guest bed in a large, flat bin. It’s totally perfect. They are out of the way, but easily accessible. Another win!

DR Hutch Post (1)I also put the extra tablecloths, napkins, etc in a smaller organizer under the bed.

DR Hutch Post (2)The lessons here?

-Sometimes items you want to keep and don’t use often can become part of your decor. That way they aren’t taking up valuable storage space.

-Under the bed or guest room storage is a great place for smaller seasonal items. Sidenote….I also just moved my wrapping paper under the guest bed as well!

-It’s a good idea to re-evaluate the larger items in your house at least once a year. A couple months ago, we created another doorway through a wall into our dining room so that is why we decided to get rid of a large piece of furniture in that room…there just wasn’t the wall space anymore. I think we are also just a Craigslist post away from parting with a never used futon. It’s good to periodically survey your home for items, large and small, that are no longer needed.

-Think outside the box when it comes to organizing!

~Erin

 

Advertisements

Mommy, what can we label?

So my 3 year old came up to me holding my labeler today and said “Mommy, what can we label?” A kid after my own heart, I tell ya.

Labeling (1)

Well, mini-me organizer, I’ll tell you what we can label…everything!

Here are just a few things I label around here:

Bathroom organizers:

Labeling (2)File Folders:

Labeling (3)Spice Jars:

Labeling (4)Fridge organizers:

labeling (5)

Jars for pantry items:

Pantry Jars (3)

Labeling obviously helps me keep things organized. But it has a few added benefits:

-It keeps my family organized. When we are all on the same page about what goes where, it makes it easier for us to put thing where they belong.

-The labels help my older son learn to read. He loves typing out the word and hitting the ‘print’ button on the labeler. And he loves being able to put his own belonging where they go. As my younger son grows, I have no doubt he will love to read and learn just as much!

-It helps house guests keep your house the way you want it. I have to admit, I sometimes stealthily follow guests around making sure things are in their right places. I try not to, but I can’t help it! When things are labeled, I tend to ease up a little because my systems tend to stay in place.

-It helps to unclutter my mind. When I don’t have to think about where things go, I don’t spend time worrying about it nearly as much. I just put things where the labels tell me to put them!

-It takes less time to clean a room when everything has a designated space. It also takes less time to put away groceries, do laundry, file papers, pay bills and countless other tasks. And who doesn’t want more time???

~Erin

 

Kid’s Craft Organization

I had way too much fun with the organization for this post.  I had a 3 drawer plastic drawer system where I kept all of the kid’s crafts in addition to a couple of small plastic bins for the overflow. It was a good system, it was an effective system, it was a small system. The problem was that, as my older son got, well, older, he used a bigger variety of craft supplies. And now I have a 1 year old who is also capable of scribbling, flinging finger paint and lovingly tearing up every piece of paper I give him. So now I need more supplies….and a bigger place to put them. Well friends, I have found the perfect place. Who remembers when I did a 15 Minute organization on my den cabinet? The bottom half of the cabinet ended up empty and was just waiting for the perfect organizational project. I moved the CD cases elsewhere and freed up the whole cabinet for my new Craft Storage System!

I knew I wanted a good way to store construction paper so that I could easily grab any color I wanted for the kids. I also wanted the kids to be able to reach it. Before, a search for one piece of construction paper resulted in a giant rainbow mound of paper on my floor. Enter the office organizer…

Kid's Craft Organization (2)

I was a little giddy when I realized that we had this organizer in our office and it was currently empty, awaiting it’s organizational life mission. So I spent a ridiculous amount of time separating our construction paper by color and ta-dah!

Kid's Craft Organization (3)

I put this on the top shelf of the den cabinet and used the bottom of the cabinet to stack several craft items, such as a travel craft case, a box of stamps and ink, and a large markers set.

Kid's Craft Organization (4)

I purposely left space in this cabinet for future craft kits that I know will magically appear in our house.

I still had a million other craft items though and needed a place for them. I decided to use the original 3 drawer storage system for 3 categories: Paint, Coloring Books and Play-Doh. It’s amazing how Play-doh seems to breed when you’re not looking and suddenly you have a litter of little Play-Doh containers.

Kid's Craft Organization (1)

I had also acquired a collection of craft idea books and seasonal craft papers, along with sticker sheets and scraps of construction paper, which I know I’ll absolutely use so I can’t throw them away, right?  I needed to organize these and I shopped my home office once again. I had a small file box that wasn’t being used effectively so it became home to all of these loose papers. I also busted out a few of my favorite organizing tools…file folders, my labeler, and some pretty decorative tape.

Kid's Craft Organization (6)After a little labeling, here is what I came up with:

Kid's Craft Organization (7)

Kid's Craft Organization (8)

The first section is for craft books, then I have a folder for each major holiday that we do crafts for. Keep in mind, this is different than my Holiday Organizing books that I made for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. Those books include some craft ideas and photos, but the craft folders pictured here are for coloring pages, holiday cutouts and the actual items needed for the crafts. I also have a folder for sticker sheets and another folder for the construction paper scraps.

By the way, I know I’ve mentioned my little ‘helpers’ before, but I just had to share a photo illustrating how I usually organize around my house.

Kid's Craft Organization (5)It’s not easy, but it’s fun!

Anyways….I wanted a good way to organize all of the little craft supplies that end up tangled in a giant crafty mess. I have 4 clear storage boxes which I grouped items into and labeled the boxes.

Kid's Craft Organization (9)

I also had a storage ottoman that was underutilized, but so very cute.

Kid's Craft Organization (10)And it just so happens that the storage boxes I had fit upright in the ottoman.

Kid's Craft Organization (11)So now I have all of our craft supplies perfectly organized and there is even room for more! I’m so excited to have this project done and to be able to craft without drowning in a pile of felt and googly eyes. 🙂 And my favorite part is the construction paper!

Construction Paper Holder - B&Y

~Erin

Taxes be done!

Ah, the dreaded tax season. I know just the word ‘taxes’ can make people’s stomach turn into knots and anxiety creep into the forefront. It’s an important task, it can be time consuming, it can help or hurt a financial decision or big purchase you’re planning on. So there is a lot riding on doing them correctly. Right now, taxes are a big focus in blog land, so I won’t go too much into how to do your taxes this year so I don’t repeat too many of my fellow bloggers! However, I have decided to list out my tips and tricks for staying prepared for taxes all year long. Hopefully that way, they won’t be such a burden at the beginning of each year.

Banner - Tax Preparation

1) Designate a folder for the current year’s tax documents. – This is the first and most important step into staying organized for tax season. I just label mine ‘TAXES’ and anything that comes up tax related goes in the folder. Throughout the year, if you get a receipt for a charitable contribution, a 10-99 or other tax statement from an individual or organization, a copy of a real estate tax statement, etc, put them in this folder so you will have them when you need them. If there is an item I also need to file somewhere else (such as a real estate settlement paper in the real estate folder), I make a copy for the tax folder. There are some things (such as medical records) that I don’t copy throughout the year because there are a lot of papers for some categories. I do this all at once at tax time if I’m itemizing these or another type of document. But for the most part, I try to keep track of things in the ‘tax folder’. This helps in two ways:

-You won’t be searching through endless folders and piles when it comes time to pull all of the necessary papers together.

-You won’t forget about a crucial transaction, deposit, donation etc and miss claiming it on your taxes.

2) Keep tax returns from previous years together and in a safe place.  – The typical statute of limitations for the IRS to audit previous returns is 3 years, which means that you should definitely keep your returns for the previous 3 years. However, several states have longer statutes of limitations so it’s best to check with your state’s guidelines. The S.O.L. also increases to 6 years automatically for you if you fail to report more than 25% of your gross income in a year. There are also recommendations on how long you should keep documents concerning the sale of property, securities, retirement fund rollovers and many other types of documents. It is always good to discuss these kinds of concerns with a CPA or other financial professional if you have detailed questions. Simple Tip Time! My personal preference is to keep documents for 7 years. This covers the Statute of Limitations by the IRS as well as time limits for other misc transactions. The returns only take up about 6″ worth of space in a file cabinet and I know I’m covered.

3) Know the supplies you will need when you start doing your taxes. Here is my list:

-Pen and pad of paper – As I start going through the tax preparation documents, I know I will have questions and will also be making a list of any papers I need to submit. Before I even open my file drawer, I make the list so I know what I’m looking for. That way, I only have to pull the files one time. Our accountant sends a questionnaire so I have that as a guideline when making my list.

photo(1)

-Post it notes and paperclips – Once I start pulling out documents, I want to be able to keep everything straight. I use the large Post-its to make 3 categories – ‘Documents to send’, ‘our copies’, and ‘originals-no copies sent’.

photophoto(2)

There are items which I note in my taxes (such as medical bills), but I don’t actually send in copies of the papers to our CPA. So that is why I have the ‘originals’-no copies sent’ pile. If you are doing your taxes yourself, you probably won’t need the ‘documents to send’ pile. The key here is to keep everything organized and to use a system that works best for you. I use the small post its to separate other misc piles that I might want to keep separate.

-I also pull a blank manila folder out that will hold this year’s return and all related paperwork.

4) It is also a good idea to put a blank piece of paper in the front of your revolving ‘tax folder’. If you think of questions throughout the year, write them down on this paper so you won’t forget them when the next tax time comes around. This is particularly true if you have had an event that is outside your norm, such as the birth of a child, purchase or sale of a property, or atypical charitable or gift contributions.

5) If you file your own taxes, make sure you are up to date on any changes to the tax laws which have occurred in the previous year. There may be an added allowable deduction that could help you out!

I’m no tax expert, but I am a believer that if you have a system for something that is tailored to your individual needs, any project can be made easier and more manageable!

Now it’s time to start preparing your taxes for next year 🙂

~Erin

Organizing your reading

Recently I mentioned in my post here that I love my Kindle. It helps me organize my reading in a few ways:

-I can create sections on the Kindle to organize the books by topic, genre, etc.

-It saves me space because I don’t have as many ‘hard copy’ books coming into our house.

-If there is a quote or a passage I want to remember, I can ‘highlight’ it on the kindle or ‘share’ it on Facebook.

-I can also read my Kindle books on my iPad (brand new for me and I love that too!) using the Amazon Kindle app. This means that my husband and I can be reading our Kindle books at the same time.

Yea Kindle!

kindle

But I also have REAL books too. And we have a lot. Here’s how I keep those organized so they don’t look like this:

books

-We mostly only keep books in two places to prevent them from overtaking our house. In our den, we keep anything we want on display because they are either pretty or really interesting, such as pictorial books, travel guides, or books we’ve read that we would really recommend and lend out. That way guests can see these books and browse through them if they want to. We also keep many of our photo albums here so that they have a better chance of actually being looked at.

-We keep the rest of our books in a small closet that has a lot of shelves. These are mostly paperbacks or informative/manual type books, such as our book on dog training….If you knew our dogs, you would understand why the dog training book is in absolutely pristine untouched condition. I also have several signed or more rare books in here because I want to keep them looking good. Someday, I would love to have a collection of extremely rare books. I worked in a bookstore for years and have a deep appreciation for the entire process of writing and making a book. That is why I still keep a collection of books, however enamored I may be of my e-reader.

-The only other place I have a few books is in the guest room. They are paperback novels that are in a basket with some magazines.

-We separate our books based on genre and also by size to make them easy to find and a little nicer looking.

And here are two ways I use the internet to organize my reading:

-My sisters, my best friends and I just started a book club. Since we all live in different states, it’s hard to schedule a way to meet. My sister Kelly had the idea to start a Facebook group page for the book club. That way we can all comment and keep up without having to work out everyone’s schedule.

-I also am a TAD obsessed with the website goodreads.com. This site lets you:

~Record and review books you’ve already read

~Keep a list of books you want to read in the future

~They also have a function where you can create groups, but we used Facebook as mentioned above because not everyone in our bookclub is currently on GoodReads.

~The site will make recommendations based on books you’ve already read and liked. You can add their recommendations to your ‘to-read’ list or you can mark ‘not interested’. These choice will help tailor future recommendations for you.

~You can add friends and create a social network around the books you are reading. Finally! A social network I can jump whole-heartedly into. 🙂

~My friend Kristi showed me the other day that GoodReads also lists quotes! I love quotes, but it takes me FOREVER to find ones that I really like online. GoodReads has an astounding collection of quotes and you can search by keyword or author. You can even ‘like’ the quotes so they are saved for you to view later. Seriously, people, this is a great and useful website.

I am currently reading 5 (count em, 5!) books from different genres. I usually don’t have that many going on at one time, but that’s how it ended up right now. However, between my hard copies, e-reader, Good Reads, and Facebook, I’m managing to keep it all straight. Expect a couple of book reviews in the near future, my friends.

And by the way, don’t even get me started on how many kids books we have at our house. I didn’t even include those in here at all….that is a post for another day. Happy reading!

~Erin