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Scattered Squirrel

Scattered Squirrel: September 2012

September 26, 2012

Good Reads for Organzing

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so please welcome back the
I read a lot!  As in, normally, I've got a couple of books on the go, plus I spend at least 2 hours a day reading online.  Whether it's some of the fabulous blogs out there, tutorials, news, emails ... I like to read!  (I think it's moved passed obsession into addiction, but there are worse things one could be addicted too!)  One of the great things about reading, is finding those gems of resource.  Those sites or books that are full of useful information; ones you turn to for inspiration or to help find motivation.  Lately, I've had organizing the home on my brain, more than usual, which is saying alot, because I think about this often.  So, I thought I would carry on with that train of thinking and share with you some of my favourite books for organizing the home.  Here they are in order of what I have, what I've read and want, and what I've heard is good, but haven't had the chance to read.

First up, is "House Works" by Cynthia Townley Ewer of


It's a great book full of a wonderful mix of organizing and cleaning tips.  "House Works" would make a great gift for someone just starting a home of their own, or for someone looking to make changes to their own home.  Tons of ideas, and you can find even more over on the website  This one is in my own library, and I find I look through it when I'm tweaking systems or trying to get a new idea on how to solve an organizing dilemma.

Next up, is a book I've read and loved.  It's topping my list of Must Purchase books.  It's titled "Clutter Rehab" by Laura Wittmann.


You might know her as the fabulous blogger over on "I'm and Organizing Junkie!"  If you haven't checked out her site yet, I strongly recommend you do.  It is full of wonderful ideas, great tips, fantastic advice, and oodles and oodles of information.  This book was great!  I seriously need to pick up a copy to have, here, at my finger tips.  The book is full of information, tips, and quick little things you can do to not just get organized, but to stay organized.

Next up is my final selection for this post.  It's a book I've heard wonderful things about.  I've flipped through it in stores, and really, am just waiting to get my new library card before checking it out.  I give you...


As I said above, I've heard some great things about this book, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.  If any of you have, please share your thoughts on it in the comments.  I love the RealSimple website, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to like the book, and I can't wait to check it out.

And there you have it.  My "have", "want" and "must check out" picks for Home Organizing reference books.

Do you have a go to book for Home Organizing?  Have you heard of any that you can't wait to read?  Have any suggestions for other ones I should check out?  I'd love to hear about them!!!!

* All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I was not compensated in anyway for writing this post, or for including these books.  All of the links in this post link back to the authors, their websites, or both.  For information on where to buy them, either check with your local book store, or click on through to the other website for links to where to buy.  *

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September 24, 2012

Pantry Pandering

Last week, I took some time to get our pantry reorganized.  When we first moved in, I loosely organized it by sort of grouping like items together.  It was a quick fix until I had time to a) see how it functioned and how we used it; and b) pull everything out and put it back in according a plan.  Knowing that every space presents its own challenges I started by trying to identify the problem areas, such as the depth of the cabinet. It's going to be easy to lose items in the back.  Until I can figure out a renter friendly way of making the best use of the depth, I knew I was going to have to keep that in mind when organizing.

In our old pantry, space was limited (see here), not so much in our new one.  But, with more space, comes more possibility for mess, as you can see in the before photos below.

Pantry Before!

As I said, when we first moved in, I organized the pantry loosely by category.  Over the weeks, it became a jumbled mess.  Not very efficient, and lots of wasted space.  The first thing I did was pull everything off of the shelves, and cleaned it out (AGAIN!)

All Empty!

The shelves are adjustable, and I toyed with moving some around.  In the end, I opted to leave them where they were.  I have more plans for this down the road, and at that time I might play around with the shelf heights.

I didn't take any pictures of the items scattered around our kitchen, so I'll just give you a run down on what I did.  Before emptying the pantry I collected a bunch of baskets and bins from around the house.  These items were serving no purpose, and I wanted to know what I had to work with.  I also pulled out any food storage container not currently being used and had them ready to be filled.  As I pulled items out, I grouped them together in categories, such as: baking, soups, canned goods, sauces, snacks, breakfast, etc...  I stored what I could in the containers and used baskets to help corral the rest of it.  Then I popped everything back into the pantry, trying to keep like items with like, as much as I could.

Muuuuch Better

My inner organizer is beaming from ear to ear!  What a difference a little bit of time, and a little bit of planning can do.  Want a closer look?

A Home for the Kitchen Binder

I kept it really simply in how I organized it.  The lefts side of the two top shelves holds spreads and snacks.  That round basket was perfect for holding the smaller items like fruit snacks, nuts,  and granola bars.  The right side holds soups, stocks, and other items I use for either a quick lunch or a quick sauce.  And of course, my Kitchen Management Binder has it's home up top!  I am loving having room for it in the kitchen.  I find I'm using it more now than I did before.  Another day I'll share that with you.

All Lined Up

The next shelf is dedicated to all things baking!  Baskets help keep smaller items neat and contained, while food storage containers and ice-cream pails keep bulkier items looking uniform.  The bottom left side is for breakfast stuff like cereal, oats, and pancake mix.  Bottom right is pastas and rices.

Room to Grow

As you can see, we still have plenty of space that isn't being used.  Which, to me, is heavenly.

There are a few things that still need to be done to finish this space off.

  • Labels:  Need to get things labelled.
  • More Cannisters/Containers:  To help utilize the space a little better.
  • Shelf Liner: Something pretty and that can be easily removed
  • Big Baskets for potatoes and other produce.
  • Pantry Inventory:  To make sure nothing gets forgotten in the depths.
Now that I know what I need, and have a rough idea of measurements, I can start keeping my eyes open for items on sale.  I'm itching to get some pretty shelf paper in here, I just haven't found the right stuff yet.  I want something that is easy to clean, but pops with color.  Weird?  Yeah, ok, maybe a little, but when you can only change so many elements in your home, it makes the ones you can a little more fun!

Here's the Before and After one more time:



And that's our pantry!

Do you like it when your pantry/food storage is neat and tidy?  What tips and tricks do you use to keep it that way?  Anyone recommendations for where to find a good shelf liner?

Organize and Decorate Everything
Practically Functional

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September 20, 2012

Laying the Foundation and a Free Printable

There is nothing I like better than a good organizing project, and currently our home is FULL of projects just waiting for me to tackle.   Now that we've been in our new home for a month, I'm starting to see that there are plenty of areas that need some good systems put into place, and I'm itching to get them done.  The problem is that there seem to be sooo many of them, and I'm not sure where to begin.  I feel like they all need my attention NOW, and that none can wait.  Instead of working through them systematically, I haven't done anything.  (unless you count organizing the linen closet ha!)  I can't stay stalled forever though, so I sat down to figure out what was really important and what could wait.  I've spent alot of time thinking about this, too much time really, and came to the conclusion that thinking about it isn't going to find me a magic formula, what I need to do is just pick a place and start there!  My Mom and Travis are probably shaking their heads at me, because this is what they both ALWAYS tell me, but I don't think I did it quite the way they meant.

So what room or area did I pick to start in?  None of them!  Yeah, my starting point isn't in the house, it's in my head.   Usually, I look at the space or stuff that needs to be organized and plan from there, and change it up as our needs change.  In our old home, we were very limited on space which made organizing almost a weekly task.  Our new home offers us, not just more space, but more spaces and I'm hoping that with some careful planning now, I can avoid massive reorganizing projects later.  This means taking time to really think about the spaces and rooms, what they are used for, who uses them, what really needs to be in them and what doesn't.  I know that some of these things will change as time goes on, but a good foundation will serve us better over the long haul, than a quick, make it work for now, approach will.

I'm a planner by nature, and my first inclination is to brainstorm on paper, then make massive amounts of lists, and generally over think it all before going back over it and finding it all a jumble.  Precious time is lost trying to decipher my own notes, and weed through the information before getting a solid plan in place.  I'm tired of being scattered, even when I'm trying to not be, so I thought I would hop onto the web, surf around blog land, and see if I could find a printable to help.  I found some great printables out there, (just type "room organizer printable"  and you'll find a ton!  There are some crazy talented people out there) however, none of them were quite right.  I was looking to simplify, no more pages upon pages of info.  So, I did what I always do, and made up my own.

free home management printable for organizing the home
Room Organizer

Enter the "Room Organizer."  It's just a simple little printable to help me keep track of my ideas, and, hopefully, keep me on track.  Here's how it works.

So, I decided to start with the obvious, the top shaded area is for writing down the room or area to be organized and the people who will use it.  Why include who uses the space?  Well, I believe that who uses the space helps to lay the frame work for how the space will be organized.  An area that the whole family uses will be different from spaces that are just for the kids, or a parent's office.  The next step is to figure out what the space is used FOR.  That's what the box on the top left is for.  Here I'll write down all the uses of a room or area.  Some will only have a few, other will have more.  Knowing what happens in the space is essential to forming a great organization system that will work with the space, rather than against it.  Once you know what it's used for, you can roughly plan out zones.  I call them zones, but really it's just a way for me to breakdown the space into more reasonable chunks.  For example I'll use Liam's room.  His room is used to sleep, play, dress, and read.  The zones would be closet, for clothes storage and bulky toys; small book shelves, for toy and book storage; and bed, for sleeping, a comfy place to read, and, because his bed is a captain's bed, for storing off season clothes and extra books or toys.

Under the "Uses" box, moving down the left side of the printable, are three more boxes.  These I've labeled "Musts", "Needs", and "Wants".  This is to help me keep track of the items in the room.  Using Liam's room again, "Musts" would be: bed, teddy bears, toys, books, clothes, shelves (or other storage solution), etc... Under "Needs"  I can list anything I might need to find for his room, things like, storage bins with measurements for the space they need to fit, wall shelves for display items and keepsakes, a dresser, and so on. The "Wants" area is for things that we don't necessarily need, but that I/we want for the space.  A new bed, new bedding, some fancy wall mountable option for book storage, and the list goes on.  This box is there to help me keep track of my ideas, and also to help prioritize what projects or purchases need to be done for the space.

The last bit is a place for trouble shooting and dreaming..  There is an area to identify any problems the space has.  These could be things like, not enough storage, poor use of closet space, any problem you see with the area, and also a spot for jotting down any ideas you may have for a solution.  That's followed by the "Ideas for Later" section.  This is kind of like the sister to the "Wants".  It's the space I use to dream and plan the changes I want to make.  This is the fun part of the planning, where I'll jot down ideas like, wire storage boxes for books, small wooden crates for toys, or gallery wall of fun art, new curtains, anything I can think of that I want for in the space.

I plan to print one out for every room and space in our home.  I'll use them to keep track of my thoughts and ideas for each space, but more importantly, I'll be able to use them to keep myself on track.  It's not about thinking outside the box right now, it's about laying the foundation for future project successes.  After I've printed them and filled them out, I'm thinking I will store them in my HMB's Home Care section.  When/if I notice something isn't working about the space, I can refer to the original plan, and figure out if it needs a tweak or total overhaul.  It will also allow me to track what I've already done, which is really important if I want to avoid the same mistake in the future.

And there you have it!  My "Room Organizer"!  One page, with one purpose, to help keep me organized as I organize our home, and to also help me appreciate all the different areas our new home offers us.

Are any of you tackling any major organizing project?  Do any of you ever find yourselves stalled on a starting point for a big project?  If so, how to get yourself unstalled?

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September 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Move and Reviewing the Printables

The move was crazy!  Crazy exciting, crazy stressful, crazy planned... and now that it's over it is slowly becoming a distant memory, and before it completely dulls and loses its hold on me I wanted to share what worked, and what didn't work.

As you probably already know, I made up a bunch of printables to help keep us organized through this move, and I'm happy to report that, for the most part, they worked just like I hoped they would.  My original plan had been to put them all into a binder with neat, orderly sections ... yeah that one didn't happen.  I ended up putting most of them at the front of my HMB.  Despite not having a home all their own, they worked so beautifully for me, that I wanted to share my thoughts on them with you.

First up, the packing kit I put together I cannot say enough how happy I was with this.  

At first I thought I was just being a little on the OCD side of trying to organize our packing, but it really helped to make things that much easier.  (the post on that is here, if you want to check it out)  A quick summary of what was in it:

  • Clipboard:  for holding labels once they're made, and the packing list
  • Packing List:  because, this time, I'm determined to have a good idea of where everything is
  • Pen: 
  • Permanent Markers:  for the labels and/or writing on the box
  • Packing Tape:
  • News Paper:  for padding
  • Plastic Bags:  I use them to cover dishes and breakables before wrapping in newspaper.  Makes it soooo much nicer when unpacking!

It made packing so easy, I could move from room to room, and I had just what I needed with me.  No hunting for anything.  The only thing I didn't end up using was labels.  I ended up just writing on the boxes.  

QUICK TIP:  Label to top right corner on all sides of the box, including the top.  This way, no matter how it is stacked, you can always see what is in it!  Thanks so much for that tip Dad!  It really saves the day!!!!

Next up, was the only real failure of the bunch, the Project List! 

 (find post here)  It was a great idea when I was organizing the house, and I've used it in the new house already for projects I want to tackle.  But when it came to the move itself, it didn't help at all.  

Then I had the Change of Address form.  

This was great, I didn't have to try to remember what was being cancelled, what was being transferred and so on.  And, it's a good thing I had this, because when we were up north at the old house, I looked at it and realized I hadn't called the utility companies to hook up the new house!  Eeek!  Thanks to the form, I had all the information I needed to get it done.  Whew!

QUICK TIP:  If you're thinking about moving, it's a good idea to double check cancellation and transfer policies for all the companies you deal with.  Some might require up to 30 days or more notice.  It's always a good thing to check that out.  Also, if you had to pay a deposit, find out how you go about getting that back.

Move-In Day Checklist!  What can I say about this little baby?

It helped!  Alot! (see post here) We had brought a fair amount of stuff with us to my parents, and thanks to them (I will never be able to thank them enough for their love, support, and for how much they helped us.  I am truly blessed with the best parents in the whole universe!!!) we were able to leave much of it with them when we headed back up north to do the final pack and move.  This little checklist helped me make sure I packed only what we needed to bring.  It also helped with the final packing, and unloading.  I was able to have what I needed at my finger tips!

And finally, we have come to the STAR of the show!  My Packing List! 

I'm going to be super honest here.  When I made this one up, I was thinking in my head, "This is going to be a waste of time for me, but maybe, someone out there will get use from it."  Ha!  The packing list was, by far, the best printable of the bunch. (see post here)  I kept a detailed list of what got packed where, or in what.  I numbered the boxes from each room as I packed, so the higher the number, the greater priority it was to us.  (with the exception of the summer shoes, they didn't get listed on this, an oversight on my part!)  It came to the rescue more than once.  Especially when the inevitable "Do you know where this is?" happened when got back up north, or the "Did you already pack that?"  There were a few times when we needed an item I had already packed, and I was able to quickly find it on my list, we were able to retrieve said items with relative ease, and put them back with no problems. When it came to unpacking, oh my, it was so nice to have an idea of where everything was.  And it was soooo handy to know, just by looking at the list, what boxes could wait to be unpacked, and what ones we needed right away.  Because of this handy dandy little printable, I was able to whip up a simple lunch on unloading day, and not have to resort to paper plates!  LOVE LOVE LOVE it!  I will use it over and over, and not just for moving.  I plan to use this to help keep track of what is stored in the garage, in the garden shed, and under the stairs, if we ever decide to use the crawl space, I'll use it for that too.  If you have a storage unit, something like this would be perfect for keeping track of what you have it in.

And there you have it!   My review of the printables I made up.  All in all, I'm quite happy that I took the time, not just to make them, but to use them.  I hope that some of you find them helpful too, after all, that's a big part of the reason I share them here.  Right now they're scattered through the blog in various posts, and I was thinking that maybe they need a page all of their own, what do you think?  Would it be easier for you if the printables were all in one spot?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  In the mean time, if you would like the full "moving" package, (all of the printables you see in this post)  leave me a comment, (make sure your email is either linked to your comment, or in your comment) or send me a note to:  and I'll send you a copy of all them!  

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Friday!  Have a safe and happy weekend, and I'll hope to see you here on Monday when I'm going to be sharing a new free printable with you!

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September 13, 2012

New Spaces, New Challenges

Our New Home

Welcome to our new home!  Isn't she pretty?  As you can tell, I haven't really had a chance to jump in and decorate the front porch type area yet, we just put out a couple of chairs for now.  My focus has been more on the inside rather than out.

I have officially reached the unpacking phase where I am sick of unpacking.  It's not really unpacking anymore, it's more "finding a home for the last of the odds and ends".  I say odds and ends, but most of the items left to find homes for are items that are needed and useful, and frequently called upon.  Mostly I just need to get motivated, find a place to put them and call round one of organizing this place done!  What better way to get my butt in gear and find that motivation than to share it with you fine folks! (the house, not my butt!)

Our New Front Door .  No wreath yet, but I'm kind of liking the sunflowers.

Not much to really share today, just the entry and linen closet, and perhaps the world's most boring before and after pics.  (no, seriously, they are boring!)  But why take my word for it?  Come on in and see for yourself....

This is what you're greeted with when you first walk in.  That little table is actually our old baker's rack, I just asked Travis to remove the upper shelves.  It's working ok in here for now, but I have plans to change it out down the road.  

Just a closer look at the decorations.  The flowers and leaf garland are from my wedding, the little basket is from around the house.  The book is life's contribution.  Time will tell how this set up will work.

This is one of the things that I really love about our new home . . . the stairs!  Not just because two levels means more room, but the stairs themselves are open and bright, and I just really like them.  lol  That closet you see there?  That's the linen closet!  Remember the one we left behind at our place?  (Here)  It was more like a cupboard.  The extra space is really nice, and it is going to take a little thinking and using before I figure out how best to organize it and keep it organized.  

When we first moved it, I just quickly put stuff in there, to get it put away and out of the way.   Over the last few weeks I've noticed that it is really easy for me to just sort of toss things in, and this is what it was looking like.

Kinda Empty, Kinda Messy

There is no rhyme or reason to how things were put away.  I think I was trying for a system but I'm not quite sure.  As you can see there is LOTS of space, and it helps that it was linen laundry day, so it's more empty than normal, ha ha ha.  Are you ready for the after?  This project literally took me ten minutes.  Making up my wish list took longer than the actual organizing did.  

Nice and neat once again!  It really didn't take much.  Refolding a few things, grouping like items with like, you know the drill.  And wasn't I right about the boring before and afters?   Boring or not, it felt good to get it sorted out.

I've got things loosely organized for now.  Top shelf is sheets, pillow cases, mattress pads, and a few things like vacuum bags, frilly curtains that belong to the house, but totally could not stay hanging up in the "man cave".  

Next shelf, is towels.  Again I have them loosely organized.  The boys' towels on the right, ours and guest towels on the left, and hand towels and face cloths in the middle.  The shelf underneath has no real purpose yet, though part of it could be used for extra bathroom supplies down the road.

Finally, spare blankets!  It's really nice to be able to store everything together, I plan on using part of this shelf for guest items, like sheets, blankets etc... Now that we have the room, not just for linen's for the guest room, but room for guests, I can't wait to start putting together stuff to help make guests feel at home.

Though I am thrilled with the extra space in our new home, I'm realizing that more space doesn't really make organizing any easier, it just presents different challenges that need to be overcome.  Willy nilly stocking of the linen closet is just one example.  And I now realize that having systems in place are just as important in larger homes as they are in smaller ones.  To help me keep focused on staying organized, I made up a wishlist for items/ideas for the linen closet, so that over time I can slowly get it set up and prettied up.  They are, in no particular order:

  • Clear bins/containers for smaller bathroom extras
  • Labels, labels and more labels
  • Shelf dividers to help keep folded items contained.  
  • Pretty baskets to hold items for guests
  • Small cubbies or wine rack for hand towels and face clothes.
  • Cleaning caddy for upstairs cleaning  (more on that in a different post)
  • Hooks or other wall mountable solution for holding a broom/dust mop

I can't wait to slowly start making this new home more suited to our needs.  Being renters presents nice challenge of working with what we have and getting creative and thinking outside the box when it comes to decor choices or organizational solutions.  

And that concludes the tour of the entry way and linen closets.  I know it's not much of a sneak peak, but I'm hoping to add more and more pics up as I finish up spaces.  Has anyone else tackled a small project lately?  Or a large one?  Any tips for not accidentally creating drop zones in our new home?

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