Monday, March 1, 2010

Organizing Challenge

I am so excited for today's post!  For a month I've been working on a room in our basement so I could enter it in the OrgJunkie organizing challenge for the month of February.  

This was perfect timing for me because after the activity of the holidays I started thinking that I finally wanted to tackle our basement office/craft space.  Just as I was gearing up to take action, Laura posted the challenge.  It has provided great motivation for me to keep plugging away at it and I'm so happy to say that the room is FINISHED.

(Ok, it's not 100% finished since I want to get some artwork on the walls, but for functional purposes, it is finished.) 

Before I show the photos, I have to say that my wonderful husband was such a help throughout the process and put as much (or more) work into the room as I did.  Thanks Honey!

Here is a quick look at the before photos - I have bigger photos below where they are put right up against the after photos.  The room essentially has three corners (the fourth "corner" is just the door):

Two different angles of my craft corner:

Mike's corner and the window corner:

Oy.  What a mess!  When we moved in this was one of those catch-all rooms. It was a place to pile things that we didn't know what to do with, or didn't want to deal with at the moment.  I'd think "we'll deal with that later," but "later" never came. 

It's the classic organizing struggle - the longer I put off organizing everything, the more I dreaded the task and found reasons to avoid it.  However, ignoring it doesn't make it go away.  Things kept accumulating whether I liked it or not - more accumulation, more mess, more putting it off, more dreading it.  What a vicious cycle!

My mantra for 2009 was to take termite bites - instead of getting overwhelmed by a large task, I focused on tackling it one tiny bite at a time.  My mantra for 2010 is to keep moving forward.  Just do it, so to speak. Both of these mantras came into play as we tackled this room.

Our goal here was to create three distinct spaces.  One for me, with space to 1) do crafting, 2) work on my computer, and 3) pay bills.  Mike needed desk space where he could work on his laptop, and we wanted a third space for Kaitlyn to sit and do her own thing while we work on our projects.  I think we accomplished these goals quite nicely!

Here are the side by side before and after photos with my commentary, and then at the bottom are my required answers to the five questions for the challenge.

Mike's corner:

Even though this is a corner desk, one thing that kept Mike from sitting at the desk was having his back to everything else going on in the room.  We turned it 45 degrees so it's out of the corner, and even though it takes up more space it's worth it because Mike is much happier with the arrangement and more likely use the desk.
Another view of Mike's desk:
The blue basket on top holds printer ink, tape, scissors and other various office supplies.  The silver stacked organizer on top used to be crammed full of papers, but those have now gone to the recycling bin or the filing cabinet and this is now clear for "to-do" items. There is a smaller blue basket on the main desk for pens and pencils.

The window corner before and after:
We now have space for this purple table that we bought at a garage sale for $2.  (It has a second chair, which is currently in Kaitlyn's bedroom.)   This is a perfect spot for Kaitlyn to sit with some toys or craft supplies - she feels like she is a part of what we are doing but she is busy enough on her own that Mike and I can get our own things accomplished.

Here is a close up of our newly arranged filing cabinet and cubes:
These were already in the room (they are hiding behind Mike's chair in the before photo) but we moved them to a different wall and stacked the cubes so they take up less floor space.  They used to have a variety of books stacked on them which made everything look cluttered.  We cleared some things off a bookshelf upstairs and moved most of the books up there, with the rest of them going into the cubes with doors on the front. The metal basket on top of the filing cabinet is for papers that need to be filed.

The open cube is now designated for Kaitlyn:
There is scrap paper for her to draw on or to use with my punches (which she loves - you'll see those in a minute.)  The white basket is empty, but leaves room for her to add new treasures.  On the bottom shelf are her coloring books and crayons (yes, they are in a container that previously held parsley flakes); in the blue container are miscellaneous note pads and stickers, and in the yellow card file she has her Curious George stamps and stamp pad.

For the grand finale, here are my corner's before and after photos:

I love it!  We spent about $100 in the course of our makeover - $50 on a chair for me, and $50 on the shelving, magnetic board, command hooks, and various doodads.  Not too bad for having such a big transformation!

I used to sell Stampin' Up products, so I have an obscene amount of stamping and paper-crafting supplies.

Here you can see my paper and stamps:
The cart that now holds my stamps used to be incredibly underutilized - in the before photo you can see it sitting to the right of my colored drawers, holding a few stacks of books. It really wasn't a convenient place to put anything and the size/construction of it is a little odd, so I thought I'd have to get rid of it. But then I discovered that it was a perfect place for my stamp sets, which had previously been spread out over several different shelves.  Now they are all in one place, and the cart is being put to good use!

Above my paper and stamps are some of the shelves we put up.  I love the look of this and it was fairly easy (and inexpensive) to do:
On the top shelf you can see one of my obsessions - photo boxes.  Every once in a while Michael's will have these on sale 3 for $5, and twice now I have stocked up on them. (I probably have 25 or 30 scattered throughout the house.) I love them because I can have them out in the open and they look neat and organized, and they are great containers for a wide variety of things.  

One of these boxes is for Kaitlyn and her various keepsakes; one is for Mike, with a bunch of miscellaneous things that I have no idea what to do with, but he doesn't want to get rid of; one is for the child we sponsor through Compassion and contains all of her information and the letters she's sent us; and the other three have other photos, keepsakes, computer software, blank CDs and DVDs, etc. in the them.

On the bottom shelf is a cute (and cheap!) trifle dish I found and put decorative stones in. (At some point I'll add a candle.)  The purple container has small pads of patterned paper.

Here is the second set of shelves we put up, above my desk:

On the top shelf there is one box with cards I've created, and the other three boxes are empty (for now.)  The bottom shelf has a blue basket for envelopes, stacking trays with paper and stamping supplies, and three glass containers I got at the dollar store to hold my ribbon scraps.

One of my favorite things in the room is the space under the bottom shelf.  A long time ago I bought some small white shelves and we hadn't used them for anything.  They work perfectly here to hold some of my stamping supplies.  There are two tiny metal buckets on one of the shelves - I bought three of these for a dollar at the dollar store and am using them for small supplies such as paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands.

I think Laura will also appreciate my command hooks on the wall, used to hold my scissors.  On the right you can see my desk lamp and the caddy that holds all of my ink pads and re-inkers.  This is the side of the desk where I normally stamp, and now I have more of my supplies right at my fingertips.

Here you can see another of my favorite things in the room - my new magnet board:
I found this idea here, but made my own adjustments.  I bought a piece of metal at Lowe's, used Mod Podge and patterned paper to decorate it, punched two holes on top and threaded ribbon through, then hung it on a command hook.  I bought some heavy duty magnets in the craft section at Wal-Mart, and had the intention of using them with these round metal containers I got at the dollar store. 

However, sometimes there is a good reason why things are sold at the dollar store... I will soon be throwing the metal containers away because they aren't very durable!  I bought some magnet clips to use on the board and will also buy some containers to replace my dollar store tins.

On the desk you can see a white basket that holds my hole punches and a few other tools, and on the turn-table are additional ink pads, pens and pencils, paint brushes, and other miscellaneous supplies.

Next up are all of my paper punches and my computer space:

The punches are on a CD holder.  I came up with this genius idea when we first moved in and it is such a great way to organize my punches!  They are easily accessible, and most importantly, it's so easy to put them back where they belong when I'm done using them.

Right below my computer is a small space where I now keep my bill file:

This desk has seen better days and this spot is where part of the keyboard tray used to be, but now it is the perfect spot for my little file holder where I file this year's bills and keep track of the bills that need to be paid.  It is a convenient spot since I do all of our banking online - I have my computer right there and can easily pull out the bills, do my business, and then file everything away.

Lastly, here are more shelves and drawers:
I didn't change a whole lot with these, since they were pretty organized to begin with. Each drawer holds one specific type of supply - ribbon, adhesive, markers, file folders, scrap paper, embossing supplies, magazine pages with ideas I want to use, etc. The open shelves hold my stamping wheels and supplies, catalogs and magazine, and the green box has supplies related to my new Etsy store.

(Yes - you read that right... I just opened an Etsy store!  It's still under construction, but feel free to stop by and take a look.)

To make my entry in the contest final, here are my answers to the required questions:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?
The hardest part was making my way through all the clutter.  There was so much paper clutter, which doesn't take up a lot of space (compared to other types of clutter) but it can be so difficult to sort through it all and make decisions about what needs to be filed and what should be tossed.

I was able to overcome the challenge by taking it in small pieces - I focused on one attainable pile at a time, following my "termite bite" mantra that I mentioned above. When I first started the project I would go into the room and just stare at everything for several minutes, overwhelmed by not knowing where to start. I decided that I had to block out most of the room and focus only on one five-minute task.  I picked one thing that seemed attainable and told myself that I could quit when I finished that one thing.

This attitude helped a lot!  Since I was trying to fit this in at night after working a full day, cooking dinner, etc., it was really important for me to take it in small bites and for me to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing each small bite.

Mike was such a help in tackling some of the big piles I was dreading the most. Just when I would lose motivation, he would get a burst of energy and work on some areas, and then when he was losing motivation I would get re-energized by his progress and jump in again.  We made a great team!

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?
The major change is that there is now a place for everything, making it easier to put everything in it's place. This weekend I had been working at my desk and when I quit I was in a rush to get upstairs.  I wasn't going to clean up but then I decided I could put just a few things away.  I got on a roll and ended up putting EVERYTHING away, and it only took me a minute.  It was easy because everything has a designated place!

Another thing that will help in maintaining this is that we accomplished our goal little bits at a time.  In the past we've tended to have big bursts of motivation that lead to us jumping into a project, but we have very little staying power and some projects go unfinished or are not maintained.  Since we tackled this 15 or 30 minutes at a time in the evenings, this has helped us to establish a habit of doing a little bit here and there, which is all we'll need to keep up with general maintenance.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
We did a combination of giving things away, throwing things away, and putting things away. We had two or three bags of trash/recycling and two large boxes of papers that need to be shredded.  There are some items (keepsakes, storage containers, decorations, etc.) that were moved to our storage area in our laundry room.

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?
This was my favorite part of the process!  Adding the shelves has created so much storage for us, and the photo boxes are a great way to establish limits and boundaries. If a box gets too full, it's not overwhelming to thinking about purging and reorganizing that one box.

Other storage solutions include the magnet board, re-purposing the metal cart to hold my stamps, creating a space for Kaitlyn's craft supplies, and my new space for bills that need to be paid.  Two of the storage solutions that I love the most (but are really small) are the hooks for my scissors and the glass containers for my ribbon scraps. I love them because in the past I wouldn't have considered them storage solutions, but now I see how I can create storage in a way that is fun and beautiful and maybe even a bit quirky. 

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?
When we started this project the room was a constant reminder to me that I was unorganized.  I hated going into the basement and seeing it because it made me feel like a failure; it made me feel like I was maintaining a mess and would never be able to conquer the mess. I avoided the basement because of this and as a result, I also avoided other activities that I can do there, such as exercising or hanging out in the family room with Mike and Kaitlyn.  I felt like a prisoner upstairs; I felt like I didn't have any options for my evening hours except to sit on the couch like a bum.

Now when I go into the basement, I am productive.  I don't sit on the couch as much because I have a revitalized space where I enjoy spending my evenings and weekends.  For a year and half my paper-crafting and stamping supplies sat idle because I didn't want to spend time in the room.  Now I am finally stamping again (putting hundreds of dollars-worth of supplies to good use again!) and I've even followed through with my goal of starting an Etsy store, all because I have a space I want to use and a space that is organized enough for me to be productive.

In addition to this, I feel better about my upstairs space because I finally have a designated space for all of my paper clutter, which used to accumulate in various hot spots in the dining room and living room. I now have a basket where I put any papers that need to go to the office, and when I go downstairs I grab the basket and file the papers accordingly.  It's amazing how such a (seemingly) small thing can make a huge difference, physically and mentally.

I think I should win the challenge because not only have I dramatically reorganized a room, I have seen how clutter has held me back from fulfilling my goals and the negative effect it had in many areas of my life. Now that I've conquered this space it has motivated me to tackle the two remaining problem areas in my house, and it's inspired me to find creative storage solutions throughout my house.

Laura, thanks so much for hosting the challenge!  Having this "carrot" dangling out in front of me has certainly helped my motivation for finishing the project.  I'm so happy with the space and can't wait to spend more time in it!!


Angie said...

Very nice! That cute little kid table makes me happy. Nice to have the space for it, huh?

Rana said...

Your space looks great. Isn't wonderful to be all done?

sara luke said...

I'm so impressed.

Jenn @ Beautiful Calling said...

Ok, I am completely and utterly amazed/impressed/envious!

I just love your space. It looks so function and is full of such fun toys. I dabble in home made cards and such and hope some day to be able to devote a little more time/money/space to it.

WOW. I bet you will really enjoy creating now that everything is easy to use and find! Great job!!

Michelle said...

I really enjoyed reading about your space! Your solutions for your stamps/craft tools are really inspirational!

I also like how you found a way to use the 'broken' part of your desk for the bill file. Sometimes those types of repurposing ideas are the most satifying!

Good luck in the challenge!

The Jesse said...

your space looks amazing! and i'm so jealous of all the craft supplies. isnt it so wonderful to be done and oragnized? does it make you feel more inspired? i sure am. i'm going to start another room this weekend :)

thanks for stopping by my blog to check out my room overhaul :)

ter@waaoms said...

great job!!
I just started up as a stampin' up demonstrator. I'm looking forward to all the supplies I'll have soon!

Anonymous said...

what an inspirational post! and kudos to you for all that hard work (AND for giving your husband due credit and praise for his part/help!)!! i enjoy your blog when i occasionally get a chance for a little computer time .
jenni blodgett

Katie said...

It looks wonderful! How could you have been a demo and only own that many stamp sets? lol! I'm bookmarking your post for future inspiration!