Thinking out of the box..

Maura63February 25, 2005

Finding a purpose for something other than what it is intended for.Or putting a new "system" into use that makes your life run more smoothly.

Its what we like to do, right? (However, there is fine line between doing this, and reinventing the wheel.)

What have you done in the "organizing department" that youve stood back and said, "Boy that was clever of me!"

What ideas have you stolen, I mean inherited, either from forums, TV shows, magazines, or in person, which you have found useful in your life? What has someone commented about while visiting your home?

Some examples that come to mind:

* When using a table cloth, my Mom always put a sheet beneath, probably to protect the DR table since she did not have pads. I do use pads, but I also use a twin-fitted flannel sheet between the pads and the top cloth. It keeps the pads from sliding around, adds extra protection and absorbancy (spills). A friend came by and LOVED the idea. I think if I still had small chidren doing messy crafts I would employ this same concept at my kitchen table. I have also used fitted bassinet-size sheets to put over a child's plastic picnic table (which tend to get icky after living outdoors) when entertaining small children indoors.

* My DS made me a trivet that is cute and treasured, but doesn't fit into my decorating scheme. After displaying it openly for a time period, I now store this upright in the rear of my kitchen cabinet, on the spice shelf. Now when I reach for spices (which are on two plastic turntables, side-by-side) there is a trivet between them that makes me smile :-)

Share and post here When it comes to organizing and reorganizing, old dogs can be taught new tricks!

Have a great day :-)

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Great topic, Maura!

I use a Rubbermaid "garden" garbage pail that can fold flat when not in use inside the house when organizing. It holds a large garbage bag so it is easy to throw trash into it.

I put a large tray on the bathroom counter between the sinks. I put a flat basket on top of that which holds everyday items. It is much easier to move the tray and clean underneath than it is moving separate items. I just started using the basket and find that this keeps everything neat. Also on the tray are a box of tissues and a very small garbage can with a lid.

My bathroom drawers are filled with small flat baskets organizing everything in them. I have done the same thing in a couple of my kitchen drawers. I used to have to go through a mess of stuff when looking for small rarely used items. I had tried plastic bags but it was ususally difficult to see the item in it. Now I know exactly where these items are. Also, I am beginning to see which items I never use.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 11:04AM
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My new system:
I live in a splitlevel house - split into three levels to be exact.

Bathrooms, laundry, things that need cleaning on every floor.

I used to buy one of cleaning items. Now I buy either 2 or 3. I have a clorox wipe container in every bathroom. I have two vinegar bottles, one in the laundry and one in the kitchen.

I used to be frugal to the point that it was a real pain to do household chores.

Now, I have a container of whatever is needed for each room, IN EACH ROOM.

Wow! What a timesaver!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 11:37AM
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These are not very innovative, but I've been delighted at how much they make things easier and cut down on extra steps.

I keep a "mail bin" right where I bring the mail in. It's a simple canvas wrapped wire frame thingee that I got at Container Store. It has that Post Office look to it, which I kinda of like. Yes, I am strange I suppose :)

It's big enough to keep catlogues and all the bigger junk mail that comes. It holds about a week or so worth of mail before it starts to look pretty full. Very simple but elegant. If I don't have time or make time to sort the mail right when I take it out of the mailbox, I tell myself it's to land no where else but right into this bin. Keeps it all in one spot.

Then when I do sort it I have a recycle bin (a platimum mesh basket/bin thingee) right there next to my desk. I also have a 3 shelf file sorter that sits on my desk. All the envelopes, junk mail, etc. all make it into the mesh bin right away. Then the stuff I am keeping goes onto the top shelf of the file sorter the way it is or if I want to take the extra time right then, then the mail gets flattened, stapled and filed into the file cabinet for bills that are auto-paid or if I'm being lazy get put into the second shelf for filing later. Other stuff that needs to be reviewed, i.e. something like an EOB (explanation of benefits) from my medical insurance which I like to correlate to the provider's bill (i.e. a doctor or a lab), well that stuff winds up on the bottom shelf in the file sorter. And anything else that can be filed straight away gets filed or goes onto the second shelf for filing later.

And for anything that needs action on my part to get payment done goes into a manila folder labeled "PAY" that sits on the bottom shelf of the sorter. Only stuff that needs a check written, pay by phone, or online payment (like my DMV car registration is sitting in there right now) gets in there. I don't want any cluttering stuff. Also if I receive a check that needs depositing it winds up there. I check this bottom shelf and the PAY manila folder pretty often.

I also try to jot the info down in my PDA for the stuff that's so far out (like a month or more) and also the bigger amounts (like my Niners (football) season tix) that require some budgeting, etc. This may not sound like anything special but you should have seen my old system which wasn't even a system. I was really bad about keeping on top of bills and all the paper that they could generate.

The other biggee is having as much as possible set up on auto-pay, be it pre-authorizations, direct debits, or something else. The rest I try to pay by bill-pay online through my main bank. Things like my mortgage pymt that I want to control exactly when they go though. Also I pay my credit card online as well for the same reason. And for others like my cell and occasional things like the aforementioned car registration and also my drivers license which are very infrequent items (but both of which are sitting in my PAY folder right now :), I'll pay them through their respective websites.

Basically online banking and online bill pay makes things much easier and things get paid on time. No fuss, no muss, no fees.

I moved recently and am tweaking things a bit since things are a little bit different. I have curbside recycling now and it has slightly different policies and whatnot. So the way things worked in condo living are a little bit different than single family home living.

Also the other big thing I want to change is that I really NEED to make use of a shredder. And since I don't see myself shredding everything (due to time) as I'm sorting the incoming mail, I'll probably have a bin for the stuff that needs shredding vs the stuff that doesn't. Or perhaps I'll shread everything anyways? It depends on how the "mixed paper" curbside stuff works to some degree. I have to look over their website in more detail.

Pretty low tech, well I guess using online services is not, but it still has some paper handling aspects to it so that makes it "low-tech" or at least "old fashioned". Everytime a biller gives me an option to take online ONLY statements, etc. I always decline, since I still like a paper trail. I keep all my regular stuff, one manila file folder each... SBC phone and DSL, City Utilities. PG&E, Comcast, etc all the way to a folder for each doctor, etc. They are in reverse chron order. So whenever I what to know what I was billed for on the last cycle, something I like to compare when I get the next "whatever" bill, I just pull that folder out of my rolling file cart and I can look instantly.

What I haven't figured out yet though is what to do when they start to get full, which they are since I've been doing this about 2 years worth of stuff. I think I will go through and pull out at some point all the stuff that's greater than two years (say) and maybe group it togther and put it in my other bigger file cabinet.

I know that I'm saving too much paper. But at least it is organized, which is much better than me before, which was everything into heaped into piles everywhere and then when I couldn't take the sea of paper around me anymore, I would scoop it all up and stuff it in a box. Unforunately, a lot of junk mail crap would wind up in these boxes making it all kinda of useless. Very hard too when trying to go thru and find stuff for taxes or other reasons...

Well incoming mail bin, recycle bin and bill sorting works for me. Not too outside the box I'm afraid :)


    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 4:25PM
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Jan, for now you might consider putting any papers that are not tax related with dates prior to your new place away in a box. You can label it Condo from the start date to when you moved. I have done this when I've moved and if I need papers from that "time frame", I know where to look.

Your mailbox from The Container Store sounds exactly like what I've been looking for. I like the idea of it having a post office look to it. Can you post a link to it?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 4:57PM
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Well,I know there are probably more things, but right now my mind is blanking out. The one thing I did think of is sort of small and silly, but it does help. I wash my face each morning with Oil of Olay Disposible Wash Clothes. They are pre-soaped. You just wet your face and scrub. Well, after I am done with my face, I wipe the sink with it and my sink has been staying spotless ever since I started that. It takes about 5 seconds!


    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 7:48PM
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Hi Marie,

Thanks for the suggestion on the file separation. That's a great idea. Nice and simple. Thanks.

The bin thingee that I use is actually called an "Open Canvas Bin". I use the medium size one as my drop all the incoming mail into bin. It's big enough to hold magazines and catalogs but not so big to get too heavy when full. Also when it does start look more full it makes me sort thru the mail...

The link's below...


    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 3:24AM
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Good thread!

Our bathroom closet was constantly cluttered by small containers & other items. These are extras & things that we need in there but don't use every day. I took clear plastic shoeboxes & labeled them - First Aid, Bath Items, Dental, etc. Even DH has learned to look in them.

I think one of the best things we've done is digitize our music. I'd been wanting a larger cd changer so we could store our cd's in it & get rid of the jewel cases. Then we began looking at Apple's AirTunes. Now we have this neat little gizmo plugged in & we can play our music wirelessly from the computer to any room in the house with speakers. We've put our cd's in storage & now we very seldom buy cd's, we just buy the digital version from iTunes. I know something like this isn't for everyone, but DH & I are both "computer geeks". It has helped me with organization - no cd's to organize, no need for storage space.

I made a small "button book" using a binder. I attached extra buttons, in their little plastic bags, to sheets of paper with double-sided tape. Next to each one I wrote what clothing it went on. It only took me about 15 min. to put it together, & now I know exactly where to go to find a button. And I don't have to spend time looking through a jumble of them to find the right one.

Marie, you may want to check Wal-Mart. Ours had bins like that last week.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 9:06AM
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Jan and Greta, I had seen this bin before but never thought to use it for mail. I'll be looking for the medium sized one the next time I get to the store. The only thing I might add is a divider so I can put the items that need filing in the back of the file. My island has become the place for the the mail and the filing cabinet is in the office so this should work. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 2:13PM
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I have a small wooden "valet" type stand in my bathroom. Every night I put the next day's outfit on there and it's sure made it easier to get ready in the mornings. Everything, including underwear, shoes and socks are all there together. Sure beats digging around in the morning when I'm in a hurry!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 5:09PM
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The idea I love most is putting a closet shoe pocket thingy on the inside of my pantry door. It would hold 12 pairs of shoes, so there are 24 pockets. I hated my miscellaneous kitchen drawer which was always overflowing, so I had great fun filling the pockets: Matches and lighters, elastic bands and ties and string, recipes, maps, gluey stuff and tape, some small tupperware, extra rubber gloves and toothbrushes for cleaning, etc, etc, etc. Don't know how I lived without it!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 8:09PM
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I was in Target and looked for the "post office" bin for my mail. I found instead on sale for only $6.10 a container to hang up that has an oval spot in the front with a label in it. The color of the wood matches my furniture as well. Anyways, I hung it up in my entry way and it fit on this one small wall that is next to the hall closet perfectly. I am so happy with it! I just wish they had two left because it would have been great to have one for the mail and one for filing. At least there is nothing on my island now except a cutting board and the cell phone plug.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 12:30AM
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I cut down a closet shoe pocket thingy and staple-gunned it to the back of the sink cabinet door in the bathroom. I put feminine hygiene articles in there, and it's great--when I swing the door open, they swing closer ot me--I don't have to get up!

I put one on the OTHER door, and stuck the box of trashbags in there--no more rummaging around for them!

I'm just now thinking that perhaps I should put those kind of pockets on the other bathroom door--there is NO storage in there--it's SO small. I used to have shelves up, but I can't find ones that don't make me think they'll be too big. But hanging a shoe-pocket thing would certainly tide me over!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 10:35AM
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LOL, Talley. We are remodeling our bathroom in the near future, and I will have to factor the "not getting up" feature into it's design! (Currently, the vanity is out of reach.)

Hanging things on doors goes against my DH's engineering training. We've come a long way though, so maybe.....

Hanging things on doorknobs, however? Never in this house. (And they look so handy for handbags, a jacket, etc.! I consider it therapeutic to have to resist!)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 10:46AM
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Tally Sue, I love the idea of putting shoe pockets on bace of cabinet door - for all those small things that get lost in the shuffle. I'm definately going to try it.....Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 1:33PM
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