Posts Tagged ‘organizing’

kitchen wicker baskets

When a lot of people think of ‘organising’ they picture heading to a big storage shop and shelling out lots of cash for specialised storage items. But creating a well-functioning, organised home can be done on a budget and in fact some projects may even be free.

Here are some of the ways I like to make sure my organising frenzies don’t turn into spending frenzies:

Declutter it

Why organise more than you have to? Once you’re done you may find that all you needed was to clear out some junk and that you don’t actually need to do any organising after all. As a bonus, you’ll have less to maintain and put away in future, plus you might even make a bit of pocket money if you have good quality items that you can sell.

Cover it

Wrapping paper, contact paper, leftover paint and fabric can turn your less-than-trendy storage into something really cute. Clipboards, trays, memo boards, boxes and tins are all prime targets to receive a colourful makeover.

Reuse it

Before you head to the shops to buy new storage, peek your head in the recycling bin. Cereal boxes, tissue boxes, soup tins, yoghurt containers, coffee jars and sauce jars all make great free storage. Cover cereal boxes in paper and turn them into magazine files and use empty coffee jars to store your pantry staples.

Rethink it

Hunt around your home for items that could be repurposed into storage. Think: old muffin trays to store jewellery, your favourite mug with the broken handle becomes a pencil holder and that cute bowl that you never use for serving becomes a great place to toss your keys.

Shop it

Stop! Don’t head straight for the storage aisle, as it’s full of ultra-specific tools with boring and utilitarian looks. Head to your favourite second-hand shop to source rustic crates and wire baskets and try homewares stores for bowls and trays. Other great places to try are bargain shops for your basic storage gear such as plastic drawer organisers and storage tubs.

Label it

Labels don’t need to be expensive. Fancy up some coloured paper scraps with corner punches or paint some cheap archive boxes with chalkboard paint and let your kids label and decorate them.

Un-specify it

There’s not much you can do with a key rack that says ‘KEYS’ or a jar that says ‘PASTA’ after you’ve decided you longer need it for that purpose. Opt for versatile storage pieces that can be used in various rooms in the home for various purposes. Floating shelves, baskets,  over-the-door hooks, magnetic strips, shoe hangers and drawer dividers are all great multi-purpose options.

Add your budget organising tips or questions in the comments!


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I’ve already shown you my newly-organised underwear drawer so why not keep on with the intimate drawer trend?

The top drawer of my bedside table had become a bit of a catch-all. Over the years it had attracted enough hand lotion for a (well-groomed) army, two unused alarm clocks, notebooks, pens, batteries, half a dozen sets of earplugs, miscellaneous medications and other paraphernalia.

Five minutes later I had cleaned out the junk and was left with only what should be there. Namely: my epilator, phone charger, sleeping mask, earplugs, morning tablets, a single bottle of hand lotion, chapstick, aircon remote and body lotion. You will also notice I wasn’t kidding in this post when I referred to my lifetime supply of perfume.

You can’t beat a quick and easy drawer makeover for some organising instant gratification.

Which drawer in your house has you cringing at the clutter whenever you open it?

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This post is sponsored by Target.

handbag before

Um, yes, so this attractive display is my seen-better-days handbag and its contents in all their glory.

It was a bit of a lucky dip. You might find ten pens/lipsticks/hairties or you might find none! Plus tissues (used? unused? can’t tell), earrings, loose change, shopping lists on scraps of paper, receipts from a year ago…

Yikes, no wonder I couldn’t find anything in there.

I had been wanting to replace a couple of my existing handbags – including the one above – because they were totally worn out (it doesn’t look that bad in the pic but trust me, it was looking very daggy in the flesh leather vinyl).

handbag organiser

What I didn’t want was for it to end up in the same mess, so I went and picked up a nifty handbag organiser from the storage department at Target. I also picked out this gorgeous red handbag (totally loving their range of women’s accessories that are on sale right now).

It’s a bit hard to see inside the depths of the black organiser, so here’s what’s in there now:

handbag contents

A few changes I made to keep things neat:

  • I switched the loose tissues for a packet (no more scrunched-up questionable looking new tissues).
  • I use a notebook to list errands to run / things to buy and tear out the page when I’m done (paper scraps be gone!).
  • I’ve since started using this so I only need to carry a tiny stash of emergency lady things (can’t believe I’m sharing this on the internet).
  • I’ve been better about taking out receipts (and either discarding them or saving a photo of it to Evernote).

Apart from keeping everything compartmentalised, the other obvious benefit is being able to simply plonk the insert into another handbag. Because I am way too lazy to transfer all of my daily essentials between bags for the sake of fashion.

handbag after

The bag itself is super roomy; I’ve even thrown my camera in there when I didn’t want to take my whole camera bag. Plus I’ve had heaps of compliments on it which is a bonus!

What are your tips for an organised handbag?

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Tea & coffee station

About this time last year, we installed a small rack in an awkward, unused corner of the kitchen to form a tea & coffee station.

It has been working quite well, but it still meant I had to go to various drawers, shelves and cupboards for some of the essentials like teaspoons, mugs and sugar. Actually, the term ‘station’ was probably a bit of an overstatement now that I think about it.

I didn’t want all these little things cluttering up the kitchen benchtop and having to move them to wipe up every day. What I needed was a tray (“You’ll need a tray!”).

Tea & coffee station

Turns out I had the perfect thing already under my nose, in the form of this adorable strawberry crate that I bought for this shoot. There’s lots of red and a bit of green in the kitchen already, plus I’ve been wanting to add some natural textures to soften the stark whiteness so it couldn’t have worked out better!

I already had the mason jar, sugar dish, milk jug, mugs and hooks (the latter I borrowed from the spice rack) so it was a totally free project. Gotta love that!

Tea & coffee station

We only use the milk jug and sugar for guests now (I’ve succeeded in one of my 2013 goals to eliminate sugar from my coffee – go me!) but I still wanted to have that all in the same place too. When we entertain I can now just remove the kettle, add some teacups and take the whole tray into the lounge.

I love how streamlined the process is now. Sure, it only saves a few seconds, but instead of needlessly fussing about getting out my coffee making things, I can do something more useful like put away last night’s clean dishes or open some mail.

The only thing I haven’t managed to find a solution for is the teabags. They’re currently in a divided box in the pantry – it’s too large to fit here as is, and I quite like how it separates the flavours so I’m not sure what I will do about that yet.

Tell us: how do you store your hot drink essentials? Convenient and out in the open or neatly tucked out of sight?

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I think you’ll all agree when I say that paperwork is one of the biggest clutter culprits in most homes. ‘Going paperless’ is a semi-regular series on eliminating paper from your home in order to save time, reduce clutter and benefit the environment.

Step 2: Digitising

Oh Hello Friend

I make a lot of notes. And not pretty scrapbook-worthy notes like in the above photo by Oh Hello Friend. We’re talking scrawled scraps of paper all. over. the. house.

Not only is it clutter-producing in the extreme, it’s also not even very effective. I know I wrote down the address for the party / that blog idea / Mum’s birthday present idea somewhere. Is it in one of my (many) notebooks? Is it on a post-it note hidden under a pile of papers on my desk? Is it on a piece of paper stuffed in a handbag? (Sounds like a not-very-successful children’s book.)

Since life doesn’t have a ‘search’ field, I had to work out a better system.

I started using Evernote a couple of months ago and I am loving it.

I’ve set up a handful of broad categories (‘Stacks’) including Akimbo, Atypical Type A, Inspiration, Orgainising, Personal and Finances, but you can organise it in a way that makes sense to you. Within that I’ve created sub-category ‘Notebooks’, for example within Personal there’s Travel, Parties, Gift ideas and Recipes.

From there you just create individual notes from your preferred device. I like the fact that it’s cross-platform and -device so if  I’m in the studio I’ll jot dwn ideas using the desktop version, if I’m on the couch I’ll reach for my iPad and if I’m out and about I’ll use the Android widget.

I mainly just type in notes but the I’ve found the photo note function on the phone version quite useful too (there’s also audio but I’ve never used that). I have no idea how I lived without the Web Clipper tool – seriously it is so handy to be able to save articles for later, all with the original URL intact. The image previews are great for visual browsing.

Gawd, I sound like an ad, don’t I? I promise I’m not being paid to say any of this, I’m just really digging the product and wanted to share it with you.

It’s a really powerful tool and I’m quite sure I’m only using 10% of its functions. I’m still trying to break the lifelong habit of writing paper notes so I’m currently in the transition stage.

I’m definitely keen to dig further into it, but for now here are some ideas on how you could use it to reduce your paper clutter in your life and work:

  • Receipts
  • Articles to read
  • Bills
  • Recipes (either favourites or new)
  • Business cards
  • Blog post ideas
  • Gift ideas
  • Crafts to try
  • Places to visit
  • Books to read
  • House projects
  • Home references
  • Work ideas
  • Things to buy
  • Items lent/borrowed
  • Meeting notes
  • Activities to do with spouse/kids
  • Instruction manuals

I’ll be talking about a few of these in upcoming posts (next up: Manuals & warranties).

Do you use Evernote or some kind of digital note-taking system? I’d love to know what you use it for. Let’s discuss more ideas in the comments!

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Coupon storage before

We’ve had this little basket in the washstand in the living room to corral all our vouchers (coupons) and gift cards. It needed a good cleanout anyway (why were there piles of business cards and expired ID/membership cards in there??) and I decided to take the opportunity to somewhere we’d be more likely to remember to check before heading out shopping or ordering a pizza.

Coupon storage after

I picked up this cute magnetic box for $2 at a random Japanese bargain store in the market district (seriously they had the best stuff! I could have gone nutso on the cute storage on beautiful glazed stone and bamboo tableware).

Turns out it was the perfect way to keep our vouchers neat and tidy. I put it on the side of the fridge so it’s out-of-the-way but still easily accessible.

I should point out that here in Australia there’s no such thing as ‘couponing’ – the supermarket price is the supermarket price. It was a foreign concept to me until I started reading US blogs. So thankfully we don’t have a zillion vouchers to cut out, store, use and keep an eye on the expiry so there’s no need for a complicated category system. We only have the occasional pizza flyer (which we rarely use) and a handful of gift cards from birthdays. (Which reminds me, time to go shopping for free!)

How do you organise your vouchers/coupons and gift cards?

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Manicure bag

Whenever I do my nails (which, let’s be honest, isn’t very often these days) I grab whatever I think I’ll need from the bathroom drawer and plop myself on the couch… and invariably remember I’ve forgotten the clippers/buffer/file/lotion and have to go back upstairs to get it.

Then when I’m done, chances are I’m well into a Breaking Bad marathon and putting away all my bits and pieces in their various homes is the last thing I want to do.

So, the other day when my mum gave me a(nother) cute Clinique freebie bag, I knew I could put it to good use. I gathered up my nail polishes… then promptly threw away 80% of them because they had gone all hard and gross. Yes, those three bottles is now the full extent of my polish collection – sadly no Pinterest-worthy ombre glitter chevron designs here.

I collected the other essentials and put them in the bag so I’m ready to go whenever the manicure bug hits. I now have everything together and pack up is as simple as throwing everything back in the bag. My meagre collection takes up very little space in the bag which means there’s plenty of room to grow. It would actually make more sense to store it downstairs since that’s where I do my nails, but with no spare storage down there it remains in the bathroom cabinet.

How do you store your mani pedi gear? And are you low-maintenance in the nail department like me, or do you have every colour of the rainbow at your disposal?

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I think you’ll all agree when I say that paperwork is one of the biggest clutter culprits in most homes. ‘Going paperless’ is a semi-regular series on eliminating paper from your home in order to save time, reduce clutter and benefit the environment.

Step 2: Digitising

recipe folder 1

Going paperless with my recipe collection was actually not something I was ever planning to do. My chunky lever-arch file with the dog-eared category ‘tabs’ (aka Post-Its) had seen better days and was very full, but I was planning to do up really cute laminated cards and use my old card catalogue drawers to organise them.

The nostalgic in me feels that when I’m old my kids aren’t going to wistfully flip through a digital folder of recipes in the way that you might with mum’s tattered, splattered and scribbled family favourites.

recipe folder 2

In the end, though, practicality won (sorry, grandkids). As you can see from the photo above, even when I’ve gone to the trouble of formatting recipes in a nice template and printing them out, I continue to scribble notes and tweaks I’ve made.

Much like my shoe collection, I also don’t want my recipes to be limited by space. I have a number of stiletto-equivalent recipes – sure, I’m not going to make that fancy cake very often, but I still want to keep it for future special occasions. I don’t want to have to go through my collection and cull just because my folder or drawer is full.

So, digital it is!

recipe organisation app

I did a bit of research on all the free apps for iPad and there was always a feature or two missing, for example, you couldn’t add your own recipes (what?!), or you couldn’t add recipes straight from the internet (or only from selected sites), or it didn’t have photos, or it was all in imperial measurements… or it had a completely heinous design that would make me want to poke my eyes out every time I started cooking.

So I bit the bullet and bought my first paid app (why is it that we don’t hesitate to drop five bucks on a grande latte but balk at the idea of paying the same for a valuable tool that will help us every day?).

recipe organisation app 2

It’s called Paprika. The best feature is the ability to download recipes from ANY site. The majority of my recipes come from so I could kick-start my collection in a cinch. The rest (from cookbooks and my own creations) I’m slowly copying over. It will take some time to transfer everything but it’s an easy job sitting in front of the telly.

It does have a shopping list and feature but I find it a little pointless (I mean, I don’t need to buy oil, salt, pepper, spices, rice etc for every meal I cook). I also can’t work out how to view by multiple categories, for example, if I’m looking for a vegetarian main course I have to view either everything under ‘Vegetarian’ or everything under ‘Mains’.

Apart from that, it’s working great!

Tell me, how do you organise your recipes?

Oh, and I haven’t been paid to write this – or any other – post. I just really like the product!

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I think you’ll all agree when I say that paperwork is one of the biggest clutter culprits in most homes. ‘Going paperless’ is a semi-regular series on eliminating paper from your home in order to save time, reduce clutter and benefit the environment.

Step 2: Digitising

This series is definitely not about me telling you how I’ve got everything under control (I don’t) or that there aren’t piles of paperwork around my house (there are). It’s about me sharing how I tackle the paper monster that we all face.

I say this because going through this process with you has prompted me to make some changes to my own systems. Only a few weeks ago I wrote about my meal planning strategy and how I use a paper shopping list template that I created myself.

shopping list app

Since then, we’ve switched to a mobile app. I chose one called MyGroceries, because of two main reasons: it’s cross-platform (that’s The Man’s iPhone on the left and my Samsung on the right) and because you can share lists between more than one user (we both do the shopping).

shopping list app

We’ve split it up into different shops for the groceries, such as supermarket, butcher, greengrocer and Asian grocer. We’re both loving the fact that we can pop something on the list whenever we remember it, rather than forgetting about it by the time we’re next in the kitchen with a pen.

I’ve also added custom lists such as hardware store, bottle shop, craft store and errands. This is especially good for non-urgent items, like when I’ve used the last of the Mod Podge but don’t need it for anything right now, but next time I’m at Spotlight I want to remember to pick some up. Anything to avoid getting home and having that annoying ‘Oh sod, I should have remembered to get x while I was there, now I have to do another trip!’ moment right?

The only issue is that the supermarket categories are in alphabetical order rather than the aisle order, but this should be easy to fix by numbering the aisles.

Has technology changed the way you do your shopping?

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I think you’ll all agree when I say that paperwork is one of the biggest clutter culprits in most homes. ‘Going paperless’ is a semi-regular series on eliminating paper from your home in order to save time, reduce clutter and benefit the environment.

Step 2: Digitising

Google contacts

Certainly address books are not a main culprit of paper clutter, however going digital can still streamline your life. Just recall the last time you were looking for a phone number and couldn’t remember whether it was stored in your phone, on a business card in the bottom of your handbag, in your paper address book or scrawled on a piece of paper lying around god-knows-where.

Eek! Yup, it’s happened to me more times than I’d like to admit.

Now, though, I use Google Contacts to manage all of my contact info. I can add the details once and, once I linked it to my email and phone, it automatically updates across all my devices.

So that covers contacts, but what about business cards? Well, of course I am a stationery lover so I keep the pretty cards from favourite businesses. But those run-of-the-mill cards can probably be tossed once you’ve recorded the details. Remember that locksmith’s phone number is much more useful in your phone than somewhere inside your house!

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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