Category Archives: Budget

In Praise of Imperfection

{Image: Robb North}

Oh, goodness. Has it really been a month already?

So much is going on, and yet, at the same time, not a lot is going on in my life. I’ve had bursts of energy, spurts of hyper-extroversion in which I enjoyed lots of time with friends, extended periods of hyper-introversion in which I spent lots of time perched on my couch with a laptop while thinking or writing. I’ve had ups. I’ve had downs.

I’ve tried to eat healthier lately. I found out I have a mild case of hypothyroidism, on which I’d love to blame my steady weight gain since graduation from high school. Alas, I know the truth. I’ve had one too many McDonald’s value meals and never met a brownie I didn’t like. But that, among other things, has made me realize even more that what we eat truly does affect us. I’ve also tried to work out more. But don’t ask me how many times I’ve been to the gym or out for a run this week, because I couldn’t answer you. Although I do plan on going today. But even if that doesn’t happen, I feel stronger just knowing I’m taking my health seriously and I’m focusing on nutrition and activity to overcome migraines, hormone imbalances, and excess weight. I’m not trying to have a perfect diet or activity level all the time, but MOST of the time would be wonderful! I’m sure I’d feel so much better if I did.

I also think I’m in a down-cycle right now creatively. I need lots and lots of down time. Outside of working on a novel and experimenting with “clean” or “Paleo” recipes for dinner, I’ve not been super crafty or even productive. I’ve been focusing on improving things that aren’t really blog-worthy. Like, for instance, finally getting the hang of staying on top of doing my dishes. I know. It is shameful. I’m a grown woman who hates doing the dishes. I think it is latent rebellion against my grandfather who would insist I help my grandmother with the dishes immediately following a meal when I’d rather be out running around in the backyard. Grandpa would be glad to know I have finally understood why he was so insistent about that. When my counter looks like a mess and my sink is full, it seems the rest of the house follows suit not long after. It’s a pride thing. I guess that’s why Fly Lady says to start by polishing your sink.

It’s true part of the down-cycle is simply burn out from being productive for so long. (Can I get an Amen?!) However, it’s also true that I’ve avoided Pinterest for long periods of time, cut back on my Facebook time, ignored Twitter, and let my Google Reader feed get backlogged. It’s really easy to be busy without really doing anything. It’s also tempting to want all the pretty things I can’t buy or make. Suddenly my blank walls seem depressing when I see decorated ones. My lack of a headboard for my bed is lame and lazy. My bathroom’s cabinet chaos is embarrassing. Yet when I tune out the social media influences, I find myself content with my bare walls. I don’t envy the amazing DIYer’s tufted headboard. I don’t worry that I have yet to create a cute and functional first aid kit and have instead used a hand-me-down from the 80s that holds the gauze and Band-Aids just as well. I rejoice in the fact that I am living within my means. I am using what I have. I am focusing on being grateful for the present reality instead of eternally looking forward to deceptively better future.

How about you? Have you embraced simplicity for stretches of time? Have you been inspired or exhausted by the social media noise? Do you feel embarrassed if you haven’t produced something tangible to show off in a few weeks? Do you long for just living in your imperfect home with your imperfect family and laughing away the imperfect moments?

You’re not alone. I’m right there with you. And you know what? I think it is healthy! Take a sabbatical from perfection and thrive in all your imperfect glory.

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Filed under Balance, Budget, DIY, Home, Home Improvement, Life, Ponderings

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Today is the final day of this series! I hope that you have gleaned some nugget of truth along the way that will be useful to you in your home. We’ve already talked about Being Intentional With the Process, Making Specific Goals, Sorting the Major Areas You Use FIRST, and Not Getting Distracted by Details. Today we’re going to go a step further and discuss the importance of knowing what you need before buying those cool, snazzy organizers that are being promoted in every major home store these days (they aren’t dumb. They know how many people make home organization a resolution this time of year!)

I have to say, this particular post resonates with me because as that girl who liked to organize but hated to clean and sort to get the organized state, I went through cycles of binging on pretty, neat plastic tubs, bins, shelves, and anything else that caught my eye. I was operating under the mistaken delusion that more containers meant quicker organizing.

So here’s what would normally happen: I’d buy clear plastic shoeboxes with the newest hip shade of lid, a couple of big totes, and maybe some baskets for good measure. I’d bring them home, take them out and admire them, start putting stuff in them, and I’d eventually get stuck. My sorting method would leave too few or too many containers remaining. Or they wouldn’t fit under my bed or on the top shelf in my closet. Or they’d be cheap and fall apart within weeks. Or … something. But you get the picture.

Then there was the problem that I’d inevitably lose track of which tub or shoe box held the particular item I would look for months later, so I’d tear them all apart until I found it.

So, please, spare yourself that agony …

Step 5: Before you buy organizers, know what you need.

This might make you cringe, but live with your stuff for awhile before you make that next shopping trip to Target or The Container Store.

The beauty of organizing your home is that you don’t have to be confined to a particular method of cleaning, sorting, or decluttering if it doesn’t work for you. I like to keep my toothbrushes in my bathroom in an open mason jar. You might prefer a classier holder. I keep memorabilia in clear plastic bins, you might prefer baskets. I have the majority of my craft supplies in cubbies and fabric drawers in our garage, you might be horrified by that idea and choose a snazzy wardrobe (cast off from the big tv days) to house your crafts.

So, basically, if I was to give you a list of all the best things to buy to get your home organized, they wouldn’t necessarily work for you and you’d be stuck with even more “organizational” clutter than before.

My suggestion is simple; take a few days or even weeks or months to really get the feel for how you use your home. Not how you wish you used your home, but how you really, truly use it. Pay attention to where you put items out of habit when you are done using them. Notice where you wished you had a shelf, or a container. Gather all of like items with like (wooden spoons with the wooden spoons in the kitchen, printer paper with the printer, dirty colored clothing with other dirty colored clothing) and note how much room is needed to hold all the like items.

Once you have a good handle on this, take things a step further and break out your measuring tape. Measure the space available–height, width, depth–in the areas you need containers. Write the measurements down in a place you will be able to find them again (for me, this was a notebook I kept in my purse). Take the measurements with you to the store. You’ll be glad you did. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken this little rule and ended up making a second or third trip back to The Container Store to find something the actually fit. Shame on me!

Now, what kind of look do you want with the container you purchase? If it is for the wooden kitchen spoons, simply putting them in the same kitchen drawer by the stove might suffice and save you some money. But if your drawers are all full, or if you want them even more accessible, a pottery pitcher or a plastic lazy susan with upright dividers might be better. For your closet, matching baskets or sturdy fabric-covered boxes would add a certain polished look. In the office, a simple plastic drawer unit or lidded paper boxes would be appropriate for printer paper. Just make sure the item you buy matches your aesthetic, your space available, and your budget.

Speaking of budget, storage isn’t cheap. Even shopping at Wal-Mart, you’ll still run into sticker shock. I’ve had to deal with this by purchasing a few here and there and making do in the meantime. Sometimes making do for us means not having a drawer divider in a kitchen drawer for awhile, or swallowing pride and accepting to use an ugly boring plastic tub I have on hand, or even focusing on updating one area at a time to aesthetically pleasing storage and re-using the uglier storage from the updated locations in other, less visible locations. In fact, I have one plain brown collapsible fabric “drawer,” (first spotted in our old master bedroom closet, then in our laundry room storage area later) that has made its way around my house and is currently residing under the kitchen sink with all my cleaners.

So, before you go out and buy organizers and containers, make sure you know exactly what you need. Save up, take your time, and measure twice.

And that completes our 5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012 series! If you are just getting started reading and would like to learn more, links to the complete series are in order below. I hope you’ll also take a moment to subscribe to Behind Closed Drawers by email or RSS feed, both located at the top right-hand corner of the page. The one-year anniversary of this blog is coming up, and I have big things planned to celebrate!

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012

  1. Be Intentional With the Process
  2. Make Specific Goals
  3. Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST
  4. Don’t Get Distracted by Details
  5. Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Happy Organizing,

Andrea

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Filed under Budget, Organizing, Storage

Dining Room Sneak Peek

I don’t want to do a full reveal until I have some decoration up and go for a full SHAZAAM! but I’m thrilled with the lovely results and so I can’t wait until then … here it is a sneak peak with some fresh spring flowers I gathered after work today.

{Images: Andrea B @ Behind Closed Drawers}

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Filed under Balance, Budget, Budget Decor, Dining Room, Painting

Measure Twice … Buy Once

This afternoon I took about 30 minutes to an hour to go cupboard to cupboard, drawer to drawer and measure my remaining storage areas. In the past few organizational attempts, I’ve used and reused my available containers and have run out of options. Literally every usable container is, well, used.

Since I still have far to go in this organizational journey, the time has come to make another trip to our local shopping center and pick up some new, attractive, containers. I want to make sure I don’t have to make this trip any more often than I need to, so I’m measuring ahead of time so I can find containers that work with my space. It would kind of defeat the purpose of staying neat if I have to stuff, smoosh, replace, or set aside any of the containers outside of their intended place.

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Filed under Budget, Containers, Home Improvement, Organizing, Storage

WiFi Thermostat Slashes Electric Bill

Ok, peeps, so we  promised we’d reveal the results of the programmable wi-fi digital thermostat installation on our bill. We just got our new bill. Are you sitting down for this?

Pre-Thermostat Installation (January’s Bill): $266.00

vs.

Post-Thermostat Installation (February’s Bill): $152.17

Total Savings = $113.83

That little gadget paid for itself in the first month of use. Incredible! We definitely recommend it. (And no, I am not getting paid to say that.) Granted, we also adjusted our water heater and fixed a broken window that had been open, so those things contributed to the savings, I’m sure. However, the EPA-approved temperature program has done more than its share. Hallelujah!

{Photo: Home Depot}

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Filed under Budget, Home Improvement