Redefining Home Management

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Everything in a Basket

Does the busyness of spring hit you by surprise?  It sure sneaks up on me every year!  I used to think it was because I have 3 kids with all of their birthdays 4 weeks apart, between April 4th and May 2nd.  But, after talking to other moms, it’s not just me.  Spring sports are in full swing, end of the year school activities have begun, summer planning is underway…


Well, this year is no different and I found myself going 3 weeks without a blog post!  Holy cow, how did that happen!  Well, it was mostly due to a lot of family fun.  I won’t digress long, but here’s a little peek.


We’ve been at the ballpark!  Our family had it’s first baseball tournament weekend experience, with five games in two days.  I have to admit I thought it was a ton of fun, but it also has that mysterious effect of leaving your house in complete chaos, although you could swear you were never home.  How does that happen?!?  But seriously, so worth it!


Love Him!!


We also decided to skip kid birthday parties this year, and take a little family vacation to Kansas City.  It was a wonderful weekend of enjoying our kids, having them all to ourselves.  I was reminded how blessed I am to have this family and live this life.  Our kids loved staying in a hotel, eating snacks and swimming.  They also enjoyed many of the activities and shops of KC – what a fun city!



Thanks for that diversion – it was fun for me!  Now back to my laundry room / mudroom and how I attempt to control everything going on in there.  In my last post I told you about the great baskets I found, and now love!  But I really didn’t get into how I use those baskets.  Here they are again…



I already told you about all of the reasons why I love these baskets, but they have also been super functional.  Because there are so many random things in this space, I wanted a way to keep them separate from each other, while making them fit together visually.  This can be a challenge when dealing with a lot of stuff that isn’t the same in size, shape, or function.


The top row of baskets is for the items I don’t access on a regular basis.  I could rotate beach towels and winter gear into other areas of my home seasonally, but I’m not a fan of that concept – unless space absolutely requires it.  I move baskets from the top to bottom shelves for the seasons, but it saves me a lot time to not have to sort and relocate items to a different room in the house.  Since it is the end of April, I am REALLY hoping I get to move the beach towels down and the winter gear up really soon!!!



As you can see, this is a rather random assortment of stuff, but it doesn’t appear that way in the matching baskets.



With three kids I like having a good supply of beach towels on hand.  This basket will fit 6 of them, but they aren’t super thick.  I have a couple big, fluffy beach towels for my husband and I in our linen closet if we need them.  But, I’m a fan of the cheap/thinner ones for my kids.  They take up less space to store, dry faster, and I don’t mind as much if they get torn / lost / trampled on with muddy feet!




As you can see, this is a really random and not organized collection of light bulbs!  Light bulbs really aren’t something I want to take time organizing, so I just toss them in a big basket and call it good!  They are safely out of kids reach, and easy for anyone to find that feels like changing a light bulb.  As you may recall I have another canvas bin of bulbs in my cabinet storage, because we buy our recessed lights in contractor bulk and it is easier to keep them separate.  Everything else, just gets tossed in here.




My basket of table linens is stuffed full of everything I own: runners, cloth napkins, place mats, napkin rings…  Since the laundry room is directly off the kitchen it is a convenient place to store them that doesn’t take up precious kitchen space.  I kinda have an obsession with pretty dishes, serving pieces and bakeware that tends to take over my kitchen space.  And honestly, I really don’t pull out the fabric table linens all that often these days.  I tend to use the plastic Pottery Barn Kids mats that have a nice wipe clean surface and a bit of padding – which protects our wood table from children and their utensils!


The lower set of baskets in our laundry room get more heavy use, and seem to be holding up really well!



Again, these baskets of hats and gloves stay in the mudroom all year.  Unfortunately, here in Iowa I really need them almost all year long!



This is obviously the sports basket, and yes it is a totally random basket of stuff that doesn’t necessarily all fit together!  When I first designated a cubby for sports equipment my vision was that it would be a handy place to store the sporting equipment we were using for that season.  I would rotate in the soccer stuff, basketball, baseball…  The reality has been quite different, however I think it works great!


Let me pause and say, I think it is really important not to force something in organization.  If it isn’t naturally working for you, don’t be afraid to go with plan B, or C or D!  Trying to make something work that just doesn’t fit how you live not only fails to keep you organized, but also makes you more frustrated than you’d be if you just left it a mess in the first place.


So, how do I use this basket?  It is my catch all, contain the clutter, set a boundary basket.  I use this basket for several purposes.  First, it holds the few random things I need to keep track of for the short term that lack another home.  Right now I am coaching my daughter’s soccer team.  I have a small ball pump, my whistle, stopwatch and the team medals for the end of the season in there.  The medals get placed here, because one season I went out and bought medals because I thought they would be fun for my team at the end of the season.  I had forgotten that the league gave us medals at the beginning of the season to hand out at the end.  Not so organized of me huh!!!  Fortunately I was able to return them!


The second use for this basket is way less intentional!  I find a million sporting items in our mudroom on a regular basis – it is a definite clutter issue!  I don’t always have the time or energy to relocate every single item.  So, I just plop it in the basket until someone is looking for it again.  It is like the other catch-all’s in my house (the hardware & toy part bins in my junk drawer, the toy basket under the t.v., the stair basket for things that belong upstairs…)  These locations allow me to clear our floors, counters and other surfaces of clutter quickly without losing or throwing things away.


Another important component to these catch-all locations is that I sort their contents and put things away / throw things away a couple of times a year.  But, having things sorted by category makes them easy to find if someone is looking for something specific, and it makes it a quick 5-10 minute project when I do sort them.  I’ll grab a basket to sort when my kids are taking 45 minutes to eat a sandwich, or I’m waiting on my husband to get home/leave…  Organization is so much easier when we can break it into small, quick tasks!



The next basket is hats, gloves, scarves… for Jason and I.  There isn’t really anything super fancy about this basket, I just like having our stuff separate from the kids – so someone doesn’t give my Ann Taylor hat & gloves to a 5 year old!




And the final basket is hats, gloves, etc. for the kids.  This basket is a bit of a hodge-podge, but it is very handy.  During the winter months my school-aged kids keep their hat and gloves in their backpacks.  It is only in the warmer months that I stash their stuff until the cold hits again.  I like having an easy place in the mudroom to store this stuff, because you never know in Iowa when you might want your winter gloves in May or September!


My youngest really doesn’t use his hat and gloves all that much, so I just toss them in this basket when we don’t need them.  The rest of the items in the basket are back-ups or things that my oldest has outgrown but my youngest can’t wear yet.  Since I only have one daughter, I remove her stuff as soon as she outgrows it.


I like having extra stuff in case someone loses something or left it at a friends and we realizing last minute they need stuff for school… a friend comes over to play and needs to borrow something… It would drive me nuts if the extras were in  their room – because I’d be late, running upstairs, tearing apart a closet looking for extra gloves and then yelling at my kids would follow to get everyone out the door.  For me, that is how I could easily lose order in our busy house.  Having things handy to grab, go and quickly put away when we are done with them goes a long way in helping me maintain order and sanity.


Wow, that ended up being a long post!  I was originally worried it might be too short.  No one ever accused me of being short on words!  In seriousness, there is a lot of stuff in those six baskets, and they bring a lot of order to one of the busiest rooms in our house.  And if I do say so, they look pretty good doing it!


Storage Baskets & Labels


I am  starting to think that spring may actually arrive here in Iowa this year!  I love when the weather gets warm for a million reasons.  Like right now my kids are outside playing and my house is really quiet!  Ahhhh!!!


I also love that I get to clear the boots & gloves & hats & snow pants & 3 layers of outerwear & coats… out of the mudroom.  Well I don’t actually clear it all out, but it gets stored out of sight until next fall, and the melting, muddy snow is gone!


I told you about the crazy, random assortment of stuff that gets stored in our laundry/mud room in my last post, where you also saw our built-in cabinet storage.  I loved our mudroom when we first moved in.  We were a small family of three, and Carter was only a year old.  Crazy how time flies!  Now that our family has expanded to five and everyone has bags, snow gear, beach towels, shoes, boots, hats… our three lockers just don’t seem as big as they once did.


I began to feel like our mudroom room was an awkward mismatch of stuff stashed in a not-so-hidden space.  Not terrible, but obviously not great either….



Everything had a home and it functioned quite well.  But it really was not much to look at!  With as much work as it takes to keep this space in order on a regular basis, the hodge-podge visual outcome of even a  good day was leaving me a bit frustrated.



The first thing I really wanted was a more visually cohesive way to store everything in the top cubbies.  I also really wasn’t loving the moss green canvas bins I bought when we first moved in.  They functioned fine, but were a lot smaller than what the cubbies could hold, and I wanted to better utilize that space.  The moss green was just not very happy with the new orange walls either.  I knew those lockers had way more potential!


So as we all do, I began looking at  beautiful mudrooms in magazines and online for a little inspiration.  As I’ve said before, I am obsessed with baskets!  Naturally my eye gravitated to basket storage solutions.  I began my hunt for cheap, sturdy, beautiful baskets that fit perfectly in the cubbies – to maximize the space.  I also started loving the baskets with chalkboard tags that are very in-style right now.


Anyone know me well enough yet to know what comes next?  Yup!!  Found lots of gorgeous baskets that were exactly what I wanted, for a price I could not justify.  I was getting a little frustrated with my options.


O.k. I’ll admit that I can get a  bit obsessed with finding the perfect thing and end up going to 5 different stores, 2-3 times each trying to make up my mind.  BONUS for you all – if you ever need storage pieces I can tell you what’s out there, where to find it and usually how much it costs!  Feel free to comment or email if you are looking for that “perfect” piece to order a space in your home!


I considered these baskets from Ballard Designs…

They are nice and tall, which would hide the contents.  They would look nice and be sturdy, plus the color would go great with our wood lockers.  However at $60 for a set, they weren’t cheap.  They were also a little smaller than I wanted, which would have again left unused space in the cubbies.


I then found some baskets at Target that were the perfect size, and $25 each.  They maybe weren’t as sturdy and didn’t have the chalkboard tags, but otherwise they were great. I had originally thought I just needed three baskets for each cubby, but while I was searching for nice baskets, my ideas transformed a bit and I now wanted six!  This would allow me to store items on top of the lockers, and keep it all uniform and tidy looking.


I’ll admit it, was holding out a little – hoping I’d still find something better.  Every time I went to TJMaxx or  Michael’s (my two favorite places to find baskets on the  cheap) I would search high and low for the perfect set of baskets.  I just could not find anything that seemed as good as those Target baskets!  However, $150 for six baskets was still stressing me out a little.


Then one happy day I found them on clearance for $13 a piece! Yeah!!!  Isn’t that the best when you find what you really want for half what you were expecting!  Really it wasn’t totally luck, I have developed a habit of stalking the Target shelves when I want something but don’t like its full-price sticker.  If I’m patient, I can often find what I  want on clearance – but there is that devastating risk of it selling out before I buy it!





I drove to three different Targets, at nap time, to track the baskets down – unfortunately another common casualty of wanting cute Target finds on the cheap!  But I was a happy lady, even if my toddler was exhausted!  Don’t judge!  🙂


Now I had my fab baskets that fit my lockers perfectly, but I was still lacking the cute chalkboard labels.  With the help of my father-in-law (yes he rocks, and yes I’m lucky!) we cut a piece of 1×3 pine ($6 at Lowe’s) into 4 inch pieces and drilled 2 holes to be able to tie them to the baskets.  If you don’t want all that hassle, Michaels has great pre-cut tags (some with, some without holes) in their unfinished wood craft section.





I used black, chalkboard spray paint ($7 from Walmart) to paint the front side of each tag.  I placed the tags on top of a plastic cup, so I could easily paint the sides at the same time as the face.





To ensure that the tags would be durable over time, I applied four coats of paint.  The chalkboard paint dries really fast, so I finished the painting in one day.  I used Jute Twine ($2.90 at Home Depot for 190 feet) to attach the tags to the baskets and my liquid chalk pen to write on them.  I love! the liquid chalk.  It looks just like chalk and washes off chalkboard surfaces, but doesn’t rub off like the traditional (and kinda messy) kind we had as kids.





My handwriting is far from elegant, but it is legible.  So, I simply printed the contents of each basket on a label, and tied it to the basket.





And here they are in their new home!




I love them! 



~ That the color is medium toned and looks good with our wood lockers.

~ The chalkboard tags are easy to read and easy to re-write on.

~ There is a ton of hidden storage!

~ All of the baskets are uniform, simplifying the chaos!

~ They fit perfectly, maximizing our space!

~ The baskets let air flow a little – especially for sports stuff.  : )


Did I say that I love how they fit perfectly and maximize storage?  SO much better!!!



They are nice and tall too, hiding the mess inside.  Not that there is a mess inside, of course it is orderly inside too.  ; )



I really do love the new look and function of our locker storage.  And, for those of you that are wondering what is actually in all of  those baskets… more on that next time!  But first, we have to see the before and after!!!!



Do you think it was worth the searching and painting?  I think they’re perfect after all!  Do you have any basket storage solutions you’re loving?