Amy Beth

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Coat Closet Makeover

Way back before I had a baby, I mentioned in this post how I had big plans for our tiny hall coat closet. I actually managed to accomplish most of those plans before the baby came along, but a few last details were left undone. Until today! I banged out the few remaining tasks during nap time today and can finally share my coat closet makeover with you!

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So here’s the deal on the coat closet. It’s tiny. Like a foot and a half square. It’s also just as deep as it is wide, so even what little space we had wasn’t used very efficiently with just a single hanging rod to go across it. I wanted to come up with a way to use the space from front to back as well as side to side.

So I did some measuring, some shopping, some drilling and screwing and I made a coat closet that feels a lot more functional.

First I took out the hanging rod. Instead I got several hooks and attached them to the three sides of the closet. From these we can hang coats, purses, keys and umbrellas. Already it was a lot more functional than the hanging rod. I even made sure to add a couple of hooks low down on the wall so Charlie can hang up his own coat (in theory, at least).

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Then I got three nice storage boxes and screwed them onto the back wall. These hold all our scarves, mittens, and hats for winter.

The final touch was the addition of a low shelf to set bags on. I’ve learned that the number of bags you need in your life increases exponentially when you have children. So we needed a place to put the bags.

Did you know you can get wood boards cut to whatever size you need at Lowe’s? Super handy. I don’t have a saw, nor do I see myself needing one often enough to invest in such a tool, so this service is just what I needed to get this little project done.

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Under the shelf is a basket for shoes. Now our closet can hold everything we need to head out the door!

Here’s a “styled” picture to show you how everything has a place.

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And here’s real life. It’s stuffed to the brim, but it’s a lot more useful than the before.

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It even still fits a small child!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Super small space storage

As a part of my quest to get to the house ready for a new baby, I realized that making some of our closet and storage areas more functional would be a key component. When you live in a small space, you really have to use what you have wisely.

So this past weekend I made some plans and got some supplies to fix a few of these areas in our home. One space on the agenda is our hall coat closet.

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Here it is right now. I have big plans for this tiny space, but first I had to do a little something with an even tinier space. You may notice that on the floor of our coat closet sits the parts to a vacuum cleaner. I have a Dyson Digital slim, which I love. It transforms easily from a floor vacuum to a handheld and runs on a battery so I never have to mess with a cord while I’m using it. But it comes with several attachments that just get thrown in the bottom of the coat closet, simply because I don’t really have a better place for them. Until now…

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Here’s our hot water heater closet. This is right off the kitchen in the middle of the house. It would be a convenient place to store things if it wasn’t full of a hot water heater. But as it is the door rarely even gets opened. When I was assessing our storage situation I realized that I might be able to make this tiny space useful after all. So I did!

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I managed to squeeze in just enough storage to hold my vacuum and all it’s little attachments. I can finally keep my vacuum off the floor! I can finally devote my coat closet to only coats! So exciting!

Here’s how it went down.

First I measured. That was essential. It really is a tiny space so I knew I would have to be careful to get supplies that could actually squeeze in there.

Then I went shopping. I bought 3 plastic bins, some shelf brackets, and some screws with washers and nuts (A big thanks goes out to the helpful Lowe’s worker who helped me pick out the right screws. Who knew there were so many overwhelming options?)

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Along with those new supplies I needed a drill, a screwdriver, and a measuring tape.

Then I measured again, this time knowing the size of my bins and brackets. I made marks on the wall of where each screw should go for my brackets so the bins would be spaced nicely apart.

Then I drilled. I made pilot holes for each of the screws to make everything go in a bit easier.

Then I screwed the brackets in place. By far the most difficult part of this project was maneuvering around the hot water heater to get the screws in the right place. If you do a similar project in space where you can actually stand in front of the wall you’re working on, I guarantee it will go much more quickly for you.

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Once all the brackets were in place it was time to attach the bins. Since these bins were transparent I could just sit them on top of the brackets and make a mark for where each of the screws should go. Easy!

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I then used my drill again to make holes in the bins where the screws would go. Then I fastened the bins to the brackets using the screws, washers, and nuts.

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Even though these bins are pretty cheap and slightly flimsy feeling, the brackets provide plenty of support so I feel confident that they will be able to hold anything I need them to. My vacuum cleaner is thoroughly enjoying having a tiny space of it’s very own.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

measuring tape, scissors, and graph paper

We have about 11 weeks until our baby is born. As you can imagine, this means that the nesting energy is running at full force.

I want to clean.

I want to organize.

I want to rearrange ALL the furniture in my house.

I need to make room for this baby!

(Of course, as my husband so practically reminds me, if the baby came today we wouldn’t actually have to do that much to get ready for it. Buy a little co-sleeper and do a load of laundry to freshen up the diapers and we’d be pretty much set. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to be a little more organized and stylish than that.)

So as a first step toward getting my house together I did one of my favorite things – I made a to-scale floor plan drawing of my home and all the furniture in it and moved tiny pieces of paper around.

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I learned as a kid that my enthusiasm for trying new furniture arrangements was far greater than anyone else’s enthusiasm for helping me physically move said furniture. So I made up for it by trying infinite arrangements on paper. Then only when I really loved one would I solicit the help of others to make it happen. The graph paper model has helped me numerous times in convincing my husband that a certain arrangement would work. It has also saved us the trouble of trying something that would end up being awkward in the space. It’s a solid system.

I’ve found that a ratio of one square of the graph paper for one square foot works well. It’s certainly one of the easiest ways to go. I also discovered that at that scale my entire house fits on one sheet of graph paper. Convenient.

After drawing the measurements of each room (I didn’t bother with the kitchen or bathroom since there really isn’t anything to move in those rooms) I measured and drew each piece of furniture. It sounds like a tedious process, but if you just keep pad of graph paper with you and draw each piece as you go it really doesn’t take that long.

Pro-tip: Outline each piece of furniture with a color (I used highlighters). It can be hard to see tiny pieces of white paper against a larger piece of white paper. The color helps them stand out.

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I spent an evening shuffling the tiny pieces around until I settled on something that I think will work. I went ahead and included pieces to represent a few possible purchases we’ve been thinking of making to make sure they would work in our home. I learned a few things in the process:

  1. The baby will, indeed, fit in our house if we get a co-sleeper to go next to our bed.
  2. The baby (and all her stuff) will fit even better if we purchase an ikea dresser to serve as her changing station.
  3. We don’t actually have to move around ALL the furniture in order to make room for the baby. Most of it will actually work best right where it is. This is both relieving and mildly disappointing to me. Sometimes I like a reason to do something totally new.
  4. Some of our furniture is not necessary. There are a few pieces sitting in our house that don’t really serve a useful purpose; they just take up floor space. We’ll probably remove those.

This little project has given me a good start on planning for the baby. I have several more projects in mind for this weekend. Probably more than I can actually accomplish. I’ll be sure to share the progress though. Stay tuned. This house is about to get baby-fied!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Growth Chart

A couple years I stumbled upon a cute growth chart idea on Etsy. 

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From Bean Signs on Etsy

I loved the simple ruler look of the charts and thought it would be a great way to record a child’s growth through the years while still looking attractive and stylish in a home. However, the charts were a little more than I was wiling to pay, and shipping for a giant wooden board was steep!

For a while I entertained the idea of just making my own. It couldn’t be that hard; just a wooden board, black paint, number stencils, and good measuring skills is all you would need. But I’m not great at getting around to crafty projects, so instead I hinted to my crafty and poor college student sister that such a thing could make a fun and affordable Christmas gift someday. Thankfully she took the hint and made us our own ruler growth chart!

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This past weekend I finally got it hung up on the wall in our hallway. Because I’m not a good blogger, I didn’t take pictures of the process, but it wasn’t very difficult. I simply drilled a pilot hole near the top and bottom of the board, found some long screws, and screwed it into the wall, using a level to make sure it was hanging straight. I chose to attach both the top and bottom because I didn’t want to tempt a small toddler I know into grabbing the wooden board and swinging it back and forth. 

I went back and looked at Charlie’s doctor’s records to get his height at different stages over the past couple of years. The first mark shows how tall he was when he was born. Later marks represent 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years. I’ll eventually add the heights of Chris and me, baby sister when she arrives on the scene, and possibly the dog. I’ll continue to update the chart each year as our family grows. It will be so fun so see it fill up over time!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to keep stuff from overtaking your home

I am by no means an expert in minimalism. In fact, I default toward packrat. I’m pretty good at seeing the potential in things and I can always convince myself that there’s a really creative use for whatever stuff is taking up space in the back of the closet. But I’ve learned that for the most part, this tendency just adds extra stress to my life. What I really want is a calm and clutter free home that I don’t have to constantly clean and reorganize. So there are a few things I’ve learned that can help a packrat like me live a more minimal life.

Give your stuff physical boundaries

Anytime I find it difficult to find the space to keep my stuff, I know it’s time to purge. It’s natural to think that you just need to get more containers and boxes and storage units to hold your stuff, but in my small house I don’t have the space for those things either! So rather than try to squeeze things into the space I don’t really have, I find it’s useful to decide on the space I have first, and start filling it from there. I make sure I include the best/most useful items first and anything that doesn’t fit when I run out of space gets kicked out of the house.

One example where this has really been useful is with kid’s toys. We recently started to feel like Charlie’s toys were taking over the living room. So we gave them some boundaries. He can have the amount of toys it takes to fill one drawer in our console cabinet, the shelves on a small bookcase, and a couple of cubbies in my desk. Everything else had to go! My living room is now able to be used by adults and Charlie hasn’t missed any of his old toys!

Find a worthy cause to take your stuff

One of the hardest things about getting rid of excess stuff is getting over the feeling that you’re “wasting” it. Especially if it’s something that is perfectly useful and sometimes barely used! I’ve found that it really helps when you have a plan to give that stuff to a person, cause, or organization that will appreciate it much more than you ever did. Goodwill is always an option, but if you look a little harder most communities have ways to make donations that will go directly to people in need. For example, a homeless shelter can always use good clothing, coats, blankets, and shoes to give to the people it serves. Our town has a ministry that helps refugees set up house in their new country. These people sometimes come into our country with nothing, so donations of furniture, household and kitchen items, and bedding can go a long way to help these people get settled and comfortable. A crisis pregnancy center could make good use of all your old baby gear. Getting rid of that perfectly good set of pots and pans feels a lot better if you know it will be used by someone who really needs it.

Be honest with yourself before you start purging.

I find this tip to be most helpful when dealing with my closet. Even though I may have good intentions to mend that hole in that shirt I wore once, or make some simple alterations to make that cute dress actually fit, the truth is that I will never actually get around to doing those things. So before diving in and trying to decide what should stay and what should go, I find it’s good to think about the reality of my life. I’m not going to do any sewing. If something is uncomfortable, I won’t wear it, even if it is super cute. And if something doesn’t fit, chances are neither I or the clothes are going to magically morph size or shape. When I have some guidelines in mind it’s a lot easier to be ruthless when getting rid of things that are just taking up space.

I’m pretty sure I will foreverandalways have more stuff in my house than is necessary or useful, but I feel like over time I’ve slowly but surely started to open up the space in our home by following these guidelines. I might need to work a bit faster in the next few months though. We have to make room for a whole new person!