Introducing Your New BFF

We’ve been talking a bit about saving space in the closet with different folding techniques. Today I want to save you a little time on laundry day with the simplest idea ever.

Lingerie bags.

We have over a dozen lingerie  bags, some small, some large, and I rarely use them for lingerie.

Seriously, lingerie bags are about to be your new BFF (best friend forever), at least on laundry day.

i love lingerie bags

Do you have one of those sock monsters haunting your washer/dryer like every other household in America? Why waste space in the laundry room with a basket for mismatched socks, or a clothes pin board to find a sock mates, when you could eradicate the sock monster entirely?

Here’s how it works: I provide a lingerie bag along with a hamper basket for my girls. When they take off their dirty socks, they (supposedly, we are still working on this part) straighten out the socks. Then they put them in the lingerie bag instead of the dirty-clothes basket. On their laundry day, they zip the bag and throw it in the dirty-clothes basket and put the whole load in the washer together (we sort by person, not color in our house). After washing, the whole bag moves over into the dryer, and once dry, all the socks are still there together. It’s a beautiful thing!

Another great use for lingerie bags? Sweaters.

Or any items that should not be moved to the dryer. Yes, you can use a dry-erase marker to leave yourself a note to pull out specific items that shouldn’t dry, but what happens when the marker rolls under the washer? Do you really have time to track down another one or challenge the brown-recluse you imagine lives under there to get it back? If you have the “hang to dry” items in a lingerie bag, they are quick and easy to identify in any load. The only extra step required, other than putting the item in the bag in the first place, is to look to see if the lingerie bag is full of socks or not. You can even have a stated policy that nothing in a lingerie bag goes into the dryer, for the days when the shoemakers elves are bored and show up to switch your laundry when you aren’t looking. Worst case? A bag of socks has to dry alone. Best case? No more shrunken sweaters. 🙂

And last, but not least…

Lingerie bags are great for stuffed toys and other plush items kids occasionally need washed. Again, they are easy to identify so you can pull them out to air dry. I know, most plush toys say “surface clean only,” but, really, if your child has just saturated the thing with some bodily fluid or other, are you really going to just dab at the surface? We haven’t sent any collectors items through the wash, but they aren’t usually the items around when accidents happen, and all manner of other plush toys have made it through the floodwaters without harm. At least they are clean enough to keep, right?

 

3-Second Shirt Folding Method Saves Space, Time, and Frustration

Last week we talked about storing clothes in outfits to save space and time. That’s a great option if you have items you only wear in one outfit. Of course, you can hang mix-and-match outfits together, and still benefit from that method, but chances are there are some things in your closet that defy “outfit” type grouping. Think: t-shirts, undies, athletic wear, and jeans.

We have actually gone to storing undergarments in the bathroom instead of in a closet or dresser. After all, where are you when you need the under clothes most, right? (In a different house, we had room for the hamper in the bathroom, too, which was really awesome! We could do that in our current house, but then there wouldn’t be room for toilet paper in the bathroom, and toilet paper seemed to be a higher priority…)

Anyway, to get my husband’s undies and undershirts to share the same bin nicely, I had to learn a different way to fold shirts. This is really cool and it saves space by helping us store shirts efficiently. The one drawback is that it only works for short-sleeved shirts (I’m still trying to figure out how to adapt it for long sleeves and hoodies).

I didn’t invent this method, you can actually find dozens of videos online that show you how to do it. Here’s mine:

Pretty cool, huh?

By the way, when it comes to the “flat surface,” I don’t actually fold shirts on my dining room table, I fold them right on my lap in the living room.

Now this whole stack of undershirts can fit into just half of this bin, which saves space for undies in the other half.

Quick-Fold Shirts in Bin

And look what you can do with regular t-shirts, folded the same way, if you store your clothes in a dresser (we don’t use a dresser for clothes, so I had to borrow a drawer to take this picture – that’s how much I love y’all!):

Quick-Fold Shirts Filed in Drawer

Can you see how little room the shirts need? And you can see all of them at once, without having to dig through the drawer to find your favorite one!

For storing t-shirts on a shelf, I just eliminate the last half-fold so the stack doesn’t topple:

Quick-Fold Shirts on Shelf

This quick-fold method not only saves space in the closet, it also saves time on laundry day and when you are getting dressed, not to mention the time you won’t need to spend straightening the closet or dresser.

1 Simple Trick to Save Space and Rescue Your Mornings

One solution to a crowded closet is to get rid of clothes. It can be a good option, and likely, we could all make use of de-cluttering techniques where our clothes are concerned.

But sometimes the problem isn’t how much stuff we keep, but where to put it. A place for everything and everything in its place is a great motto, but you have to have someplace to put everything, and that can be tricky.

I have found experimenting with different ways to store clothes can help identify a space where everything can have a home. Fashion and organization experts both recommend hanging clothes in outfits – so the scarf hangs with the pants, shirt, and jacket with which you generally pair it. This idea saves time in the mornings, since less thinking is involved in figuring out what to wear, and it can save space, since you don’t need a separate storage item for hanging clothes, accessories, etc. Another twist on this idea is to fold outfits together, if you have items you don’t hang.

For years I’ve used a similar technique for my youngest children. On laundry day we fold their clothes in outfits before putting them on the shelf. Even a toddler can get an “outfit packet” off of the shelf to bring to you at dressing time. School-aged children benefit from outfits that (1) match, (2) have all the parts available, and (3) are easily accessible. Just think about how much time you could save in the morning by not having to send kids back to the bedroom for pants that match… socks… a long-sleeved shirt (why do they always pick short sleeves when it’s 26 degrees outside?!).

My folding method works better for us than just setting the pieces of outfits in a stack together. When we stack them together they seem to be more “guidelines” than “intentional choices” and everything gets all mixed up on the shelf as they tear the shirt from one outfit to pair with a hidden pair of shorts they found under the mattress…

So here’s how I fold our “outfit packets”:

(I’m going to go through a multi-layered outfit, since it’s the most involved)

Lay the jacket or sweater out, face down on your folding surface, like so:

Lay out sweater or jacket

Lay out the shirt or other under-layer for the top face down on top of the jacket this way:

Spread second layer over first

Fold the pants (or skirt) to fit the width of the shirt between the sleeves, like this:

Put folded pants between shoulders

Add socks (or tights, or leggings and socks) on top of the pants:

Add the socks

Next, fold the bottom half of the layered shirt/jacket/sweater combo up over the pants/skirt/socks/tights combo, as shown here:

Fold bottom of shirt up over pants and socks

If there’s a hood, fold it down over the pants/skirt/socks/tights this way:

If there's a hood, fold it over the pants and socks

Then fold the sleeves across the whole packet, one at a time, to “close” it up. See?

Fold sleeves over packet, one at a time

Now flip it over and you have an outfit ready to stack.

Flip it over & get ready to stack

Single layer outfits and summer clothes are even easier. For short sleeves, I lay the shirt face down, set the folded shorts between the shoulders, and add socks (if necessary). Then I fold the sleeves over the shorts first, followed by the tail of the shirt up over the shorts (the short sleeves simply aren’t long enough to “close” the packet and end up unfolding when you flip the outfit up so you can see the shirt). You still have a neat packet of clothes, and your child can see the design on the shirt, so they know what they are getting.

Incidentally, these little clothing packets save a lot of space on the shelf or in the drawer. You don’t have to have a separate place for socks, tights, shirts, and pants. While the clothes still have the same mass, folding them together will save space on the shelf, in the drawer, and in the margins of your morning.

When the Walls (of your closet) are Closing in

“My closet is just too big for all my stuff!” said no woman ever.

Closet Walls Closing In

More often we look into our closets and feel like the walls are closing in, right? Which may present the perfect solution for tight space in the closet.

One thing we’ve done to create space in tight quarters is to make use of the walls in the closet. Just inside the door of my closet, on either side actually, we have hooks hanging. My husband uses one hook for jeans he wants to re-wear and his belts. I use one for my pjs (and a sweatshirt during the winter).

In the back of our closet we have a double rod for hanging clothes. I hung a towel rod from Ikea behind the clothes on the top row and added curved hooks to hold all of my necklaces. It’s completely hidden when shirts are hanging, but they can be pushed aside so I can select an accessory for an outfit. Each necklace hangs on its own hook, so nothing gets tangled. The hooks and rod cost a whopping $6 (Bygel Rail $2.99 + Bygel S-Hooks $0.99/10-pack).  I bought three packages of the S-hooks and have a few hooks empty for future purchases. 🙂 The nice thing about this rail, in addition to the price, is that it measures 21 ¾ ” long x 1 ¾ ” deep x 2 ” high. Which means it really can fit in the space between the shirt sleeves or pant legs and the wall without interfering with the hanging clothes.

Our boys’ closet is a tricky space. the closet is 5 feet deep, but only 3 feet wide. The long narrow space works well with deep shelves at the back to hold their folding clothes, and a small space in which they can stand to dress. However, after hanging floor to ceiling shelves (so each of the five boys who share this closet could have one shelf, 36″ wide by 20″ deep), there was no space for hanging clothes. Again, I looked to the walls. I hung boards from the hardware store with inexpensive robe hooks at two levels down both sides of the closet. In this way we have 24 hooks that can hold robes and pjs, running clothes, baseball caps, or clothes on hangers. Since our boys don’t wear a lot of dress clothes or clothes that require ironing, most of their clothes can fold on their shelves, rather than hanging, but they do use the hooks for hangers with khaki pants or dress shirts, etc.

Another idea I’ve heard, but not used yet simply because we have enough space without it, is hanging hooks over the door of the closet (inside!) for hats, scarves, and other outerwear that is used infrequently (unless you are tall).

Our closet has a bifold door, but if you have a hinged door, you can consider the door a fourth wall and make use of door space as well. There is the standard array of over-the-door hooks, shoe holders, purse organizers, and jewelry racks, but you could also mount your own hooks for more tailored storage. If we had a hinged door, I’d hang my scarf sorter on it – with a mirror for cycling through the options as I dress (usually to arrive at the same exact combinations I always wear – lol).

So what about you? If you are stretched for storage in the closet, maybe a quick look at the walls would open up some creative options without sacrificing another storage option or eliminating “stuff” (which is another good option, of course, if your closets are bursting at the seams!)

3 Steps to the Seasonal Swap in Hand-Me-Down Heaven

3-Steps to Seasonal Swap squareMy sister is five years older than I am.  When we were growing up, I got a lot of her clothes after she’d outgrown them.  Sometimes we had matching outfits, so I got to wear it over and over again.  I liked the matching part.  I didn’t like wearing it five years later all by myself.  I was over it by then.

My kids get a lot of hand-me-downs.  It is one of the joys of having seven kids.  Plus, Mike and I are the babies of our families, so we have siblings with older kids who hand things down, too.

But my kids actually enjoy hand-me-downs.

One year one of my older kids complained because s/he wasn’t getting to wear anything from the cousins and had to have all new clothes.

A different time the older kids were lamenting that boy pants get ruined before they get to the fifth or sixth boy (since they often start out of our family) and poor Nate wouldn’t get to wear the outfits everyone else did.

And they were serious.

Go figure.

My childhood experience led me to believe hand-me-downs were a curse.  My kids see them as a delight and a blessing.

What is not quite so delightful is sorting, storing, and swapping clothes every spring and fall.  See, we get clothes when people grow out of them, but we might not fit into them yet.

Honestly there have been some years I’ve wished we had enough money to buy everyone clothes AND that I could be frivolous enough to just get rid of the good clothes at the end of the season.  Since it is highly unlikely that both of those things will ever happen, never mind simultaneously, I have had to work out ways to deal with piles and piles of clothes.

It takes a bit of organization. I’ll admit there have been times when I missed a whole size for one child because I didn’t know we had clothes in that size.

We keep our out-of-season clothes in the attic of our guest/school room.  Not incredibly convenient, but on the other hand, I can pull everything down and take a few days to process it since it’s in a spare-ish room.  (We can do school around piles and bins of clothes if necessary.)

Still, I get a lot of questions about how I handle hand-me-downs and the Seasonal Swap for seven kids.

Organizing the Storage Area

  • We have rugged plastic bins with tight-fitting lids.
  • The bins are labeled either by size + gender or by child.
  • Sometimes we have clothes that won’t fit anyone next season.  These get a size + gender label.
  • But when we are putting away clothes from one season, I  think about who will need what size the next time we do this.  I fill the bin with the child’s name with clothes for the next season which will likely fit him/her.  Sometimes I draw from clothes a sibling is just growing out of, sometimes I drew from clothes in a size + gender-labeled bin in the attic.
  • On Swap Day all the child-labeled bins come down from the attic along with any size + gender-labeled bins that may be appropriate.
  • I keep all winter coats, hats, mittens in one combined bin.  I also have a combined bin for swimwear.  These things are occasionally needed off-season or have size ranges and it’s easier to deal with them as a group.
  • Any boxes/bags of hand-me-downs that arrive from the cousins get labeled and tossed into the attic as-is until the next clothes swap day.

“Shopping” from the Attic

  • On Swap Day, I try to get a couple of loads of laundry done so all the clothes they’ve been wearing are clean.
  • While that’s happening, all the potentially needed bins come down out of the attic, along with any clothes we’ve gotten from the cousins since the last swap day.
  • I pull two children (same gender) at a time into the guest/school room to try on clothes from bins or fresh meat from the cousins.
  • Clothes that fit (and we like) go into a laundry pile (they often smell like plastic when they come out of the bin).
  • Clothes that don’t fit (or we don’t like – I don’t see a need to “store” clothes in our limited closet space if the child is simply never going to pull it out to wear it) go into a pile.
  • Clothes we don’t like either go into a give-away pile or put up for a different child who may still grow into that size.
  • We try to find nine outfits plus one dress outfit per child.  This lets us do laundry once per week with a little allowance for being off schedule with laundry or occasionally needing to change clothes halfway through the day.  I might keep a couple more outfits for toddlers.  Especially during the potty-training season.
  • I make a list of any clothes we need to purchase to complete our desired quantity of outfits.  I also list the size of the child with their list, and what colors of shoes would go best with the outfits we’ve selected, if shoes are needed.  Theres nothing like finding adorable ruby slippers for a sweet girl only to get home and find all her outfits are actually pink and orange.
  • Then I move on to the next two kids, and so on, until we are through all the “new clothes” selections and list making.
  • Eventually I get done.
  • Sometimes we are really short on time (I know, like that ever happens in a homeschooling family of nine, right?).  On those occasions, when I’m really desperate because the kids are wearing shorts and it’s snowing outside, we just pull down the kid-name bins until we have time to work through it all properly.

Emptying the Closets

  • After we’ve selected the next season’s wardrobe, I am elated.  Then I remember the closets are still full…. and that’s when I am tempted to just give it all away.  Who cares if anyone has anything to wear next summer.  It’ll be hot anyway.  Aren’t clothes overrated?  And how expensive could it really be to clothe all seven kids with brand-new clothes?
  • Then reality sets in and I get working again.
  • So, given that all their clothes are clean, I have them pick two outfits which still fit very well or run a little big.  We pop those onto their shelves as “transition” clothes.  Inevitably we have a cold snap right after we get out spring/summer clothes or a warm spell when we’ve just loaded shelves with sweaters.  Plus, chances are good, the weather will change before I have time to swap wardrobes at the end of whatever season we are starting.  It’s helpful to have a couple of outfits to mix in.
  • Then we go through all their clothes.
  • Too small?  Put it in a bin for someone smaller.
  • Too big?  Keep it in their bin for next year.
  • Holey?  Stained?  Tattered?  Faded beyond recognition?  Elastic no longer stretches? Throw it away.
  • Smallest kid hates it?  Give it away.
  • Whatever is left, goes into a bin.  We cart the piles over to the guest/school room and pack them up by child, if they are likely to fit someone next season, or by size + gender if they are not likely to fit someone next season.  At this point I also mix in new things from the cousins that need to go into a size + gender bin.
  • After the Swap, I affix new labels where necessary and the bins go back into the attic.
  • Any sizes/genders we definitely won’t need get put on the bottom of piles or in the back of the storage area.
  • All the child-labeled bins go near the front.
  • Close up the attic, turn off the light, and start more laundry…
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Photo by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1st Step to Organized Spending ~ Shopping Lists

1st Step to Organized SpendingOne thing many people don’t think to organize is their shopping lists.

I think this is crazy.  An organized list is the first step to organized spending.  Organized spending means I can stay within my budget.

I not only organize my shopping list, I maintain multiple lists and they are organized in a master list.

Now you think I’m crazy.

But I’m not.  At least not in this way…

I use an app on my iPhone to maintain my shopping lists.  I don’t really like the app I use for a whole host of reasons, so I’m not going to tell you what I use.  There are a lot of good apps out there, I simply haven’t had time to switch apps.

I’d suggest looking for a shopping list app with the following features:

    • Maintain multiple lists
    • Add headings to individual lists
    • Allow multiple users to modify and sync to the same list from a variety of devices (computer, phone, tablet)
    • Dynamically choose whether checking off an item removes it from the list or crosses it out (so you don’t have to recreate your lists every time you want to shop – especially when some items on the list are regular purchases like eggs and milk)
    • Operate offline

OK, so once you find an awesome app, here’s what you can do:

1.  Comment, e-mail, or text me with the name of the app so I can change too!

2.  Make a separate shopping list for each type of shopping/errand-running you do.  I have maintain these lists:

    • Groceries
    • WalMart
    • Lowes
    • Hobby Lobby/JoAnn’s
    • Sams
    • Staples
    • Clothing
    • Items I Want to Find
    • Ikea
    • Cookeville
    • Knoxville
    • Nashville
    • Texas/Oklahoma
    • Delaware/Pennsylvania
    • Library
    • Vacation Grocery List
    • Thanksgiving Grocery List
    • Gift Ideas
    • Car Travel Snacks
    • Homeschool
    • Replacement Parts

3.  Within each list I have subcategories or headings.

In my Grocery List, I have headings for each major area of the store in the order I like to shop based upon how our store is arranged.

    • Returns
    • General Merchandise
    • Dairy-Eggs-Refrigerated Breads
    • Deli-Hot Foods
    • Refrigerated Foods
    • Aisles
    • Raw Meat
    • Frozen Foods
    • Produce-Bakery
    • Check-Out Items

In my Replacement Parts list I keep information for odd things we need replaced at odd intervals.

    • Appliances:  here I list things like the model for our refrigerator filter, the bulb needed for the oven light, the filter for our air conditioning unit
    • Batteries:  it might seem obvious, but these are specialty batteries for key fobs, watches, and a variety of toys that use watch/hearing aid type batteries: Hex Bugs, Lego Hut, voice changer
    • Cars:  wipers, headlamp bulbs, bulbs for blinkers, model numbers in case we need to replace key fobs entirely
    • Clothing:  Here I keep sizes for people who don’t change – my husband’s undershirt size, neck size, pant size, etc. that I can never seem to remember once I start looking at all the different sizes.
    • Light Bulbs:  kitchen floods, under cabinet halogens, basement spots, it’s amazing how many unique light bulbs we seem to need!
    • Printers:  ink cartridge numbers for our various printers, paper feeding rollers, etc.
    • Contacts:  the current prescription information needed to reorder contacts for the many contact wearers in our house
    • Sewing Machine:  I can never remember which size needle, bulb, bobbin without having the information written down.  And since I have a sewing machine and an embroidery machine and my daughter also has a sewing machine, there are a lot of parts to get confused!
    • Misc:  I keep my hair color information, the type of flossers we like to use, razor blade info for the shavers in our family, and other little things I might not remember exactly what kind we use when it’s time to re-buy.

In my Gift Ideas list I have headings for all the people for whom we typically buy gifts. When I come up with an idea to buy or make, I put it on the list so I don’t forget to find it.

You may have different places and types of shopping than we do. But the concept is the same. For instance, I have lists for certain locations, too.

Since we live in a small town and infrequently travel to the “big city,” I want to make sure I don’t miss an opportunity to pick up things we can only get when we are in the city.

I also keep lists for where our families live so that when we visit we can pick up regional favorites – like Herr’s Salt & Vinegar chips when we are in Delaware or Doguet’s Roux or Fiesta Fajita Seasoning when we are in Texas.  These lists are a great place to list items I need to take with me when I make a visit as well.

One of my favorite parts of my list organization is that my husband and kids can add items to the lists when needed.  My husband usually puts the date he adds something as part of the item so I notice it’s on the list and not a mistake.  We can also divide and conquer when shopping – as we pick things up, we check them off, and the other person’s list is changed, too, so they know not to toss it in their basket.

We also use the list to divide and conquer on shopping trips. We’ve split into three separate teams and raced to see who could finish their part of the list fastest (without crashing into any other customers and while still checking unit prices to make sure we get the best deal).

So there you go – the first step to organized spending is an organized shopping list!

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Photo Credit:
Shopping List by Bruce Turner from AustinTX (shopping list) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons