My husband and I have been talking about a kitchen remodel for years, and when the doors to our cabinets literally began to fall off, we knew it was time! We are still a ways from a final product, but I'm very happy with how the process has gone so far. I planned more for this project than any other home improvement project, and it's been worth it!
What I've learned so far:
I like to be self-sufficient, and I enjoy learning new things or figuring out how to accomplish a new task. There are some types of tasks that I won't even attempt, but for most things, I'll at least do a little Googling or YouTube video watching and give it a go. Though this "I can do it" attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family! Over time, I've learned that there is real value in finding the right person for the job!
At work and at home, it's impossible for us to do it all, though I'm guilty of trying to do it anyway. I used have a hard time with the group project concept. I felt like it would just be easier to do it all myself. At least that way, I knew it would get done. Doing it myself meant that I knew the progress of the project and the barriers to getting it completed so I could figure out ways to overcome the barriers and meet the deadline. This mentality causes stress, burnout, and ultimately leads to lower quality work and delayed results. Why is it then, that it's so hard to relinquish a little control and trust others to help me?
"Though this 'I can do it' attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family!"
A great example of how finding the right person to do the job produced fantastic and quick results was when I wanted to create a logo for my blog. I had an idea in my head, but I thought it would be too difficult for me to articulate that to someone else, so I tried to do it myself. I tried and tried to bring my vision to life, but without the proper tools or expertise in graphic design, I just couldn't produce something I was happy with. I considered hiring someone, but I talked myself out of that by rationalizing that I was saving money by doing it myself and I could remain authentic to my own creative plans for my logo. Well, what happened is that I didn't launch my blog because I didn't have what I felt was the perfect logo, and I became more and more frustrated and wasted a LOT of time.
I finally got over myself and hired someone to design my logo. But, even then, I tried to maintain control over the process giving her very specific instructions about what I wanted, what colors I liked, etc. It wasn't until I gave the designer greater creative space that I got exactly what I had been dreaming of! I finally got down to the core of what I wanted to accomplish - a clean logo in soothing colors that showed you could be creative and have beauty while still being orderly. The graphic designer quickly created several mock ups for me. I chose the one I liked best, asked for a couple of tweaks, and tada -I had a beautiful logo that I love as if I created it myself. I think that I actually love it even more because I didn't create it!
I now am much more inclined to hire work done or ask for help and suggestions. The old saying, "time is money" is so true. I could spend ten times as long doing something that would be a lower quality than if I hired the right person for the job. I could use that time in a different way to produce real results. I'm a big believer in frugality, so of course I don't hire someone to do everything for me! I pick and choose what I can afford, what meets the biggest and most urgent need, and what I don't want to or don't have the capacity to learn how to do myself. There are some things that are just fun to dabble in and the difference in the end result of me doing it versus a professional wouldn't be that noticeable, but then there are all the other things where an expert is definitely the right choice.
This concept also applies to situations at home or work where we would should delegate a task to someone who is best equipped to do it. Best equipped can mean they are an expert or they have the capacity to become an expert or simply that they have time to do the task. When we delegate, though, we have to learn to accept the results may not be exactly as if we had done the task ourselves. I have my kids do certain chores at home, and maybe the cleaning isn't quite as thorough as I would have done it, but it's done and I was able to complete other tasks instead.
I also try to remember that it's all about choice. By choosing to do something myself (or learn how to do something on my own), I am also choosing not to spend that time on something else. To get and keep my life in order, I have to learn to choose to spend my time wisely so that there is time for the things I'm good at, time for the things I enjoy doing, time for the things I am required to do, and most importantly, time for the people I love.
In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to share some tips I've learned from my dad over the years. He's the guy who passed on a love of labeling things to me, and he has so many great ideas for keeping things organized!
On a serious note, I'm so blessed to be my father's daughter. He and my mom have been married for 42 years and my dad has been the best example of hard work, good morals, and generosity that I could have asked for. He was an involved parent attending countless piano recitals and school activities, driving our family on summer road trips, moving me in and out of my college dorm room, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, providing advice on car purchases, and helping with lots of repair projects! He's now a devoted Grandpa and setting the same examples for his grandchildren.
Top 10 organizing tips from my dad:
1. Label your board games
You know when you're playing a game that has questions on cards and someone starts suddenly knowing all of the answers and you realize someone put the cards back on the wrong end of the box last time you played. Well, my dad has a simple fix for that! Simply put a piece of masking tape on whichever end you designate the front. To make it even clearer, write "FRONT" on it.
2. Keep track of dates of purchase and maintenance on your owner's manuals
For large purchases, most of us keep the owner's manuals. My dad has always written the date of purchase and noted and maintenance and the date on the cover. You could also staple the receipt to the manual. Not only is it interesting to see how long things last (he had the manual from his record player from the 1970-something), but it's helpful when dealing with warranties, or knowing the timing of preventative maintenance.
3. Hang a tennis ball on a rope from your garage ceiling
My dad has a nice garage and he maximizes the space in front of where the cars park with built in cabinets and hooks on the walls. To keep my mom from pulling the vehicles in too far (and likely also to make sure the vehicles were in far enough not to get caught in the closing garage door), he long ago installed a hanging tennis ball. You pull the car up until the tennis ball just taps your windshield, so you know you are parked in the perfect spot.
4. Customize your belongings to fit your space
The bathroom I used growing up has an area that juts out just past the tub (which my dad did on purpose when he built the house, of course, for plumbing access.) The problem is the only rugs that would fit in the space were too small to really do any good. No problem, Dad to the rescue! He cut a notch in the rug so it fits perfectly against the wall and a side benefit is that it can't slip around either. This applies to so many things in my parents' house beside rugs. My dad coined the phase that my brother and I still jokingly use, "You know what a guy could do..." Whenever he said this, you knew he had a great idea!
"You know what a guy could do..."
5. Don't let sentiment cause clutter
My dad is somewhat of a minimalist. He doesn't care for a coffee table in the middle of the room or many knick knacks sitting around. My dad had a decent sized record collection, some of which he'd had since he was a teenager. They were stored in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors. Several years ago, he wanted to use the record cabinet for another storage purpose (in the garage on that wall in front of the vehicles - thank you hanging tennis ball for keeping it safe!) In order to use it for garage storage, he got rid of the records. I remember feeling sentimental about him getting rid of them and they weren't even mine. He didn't let sentiment cause any unnecessary clutter. I'm grateful that my husband and brother got several of the records for their own collections!
6. Research and analyze which is cheaper and better - fixing/refurbishing or buying new
This one may only apply if you have the ability to fix things yourself. If you know my dad, you know he can fix just about anything! There are times that most people would have just gotten a new (insert whatever is broken in your house) but my dad did the research to fix it. For instance, he put a brand new bottom in the bathtubs instead of replacing them. It was cheaper and less work in the long run than tearing out the old one and installing a new one. There are times though, were you've fixed as much as you can fix, and it's just time to buy new.
7. Label generously
My dad has been making labels as long as I can remember! His go to is masking tape and a sharpie. Putting labels on things helps to identify them (the reason spices of similar colors are labelled in my mom's spice cabinet) and helps us remember where things go (this is why I label my clear bins in my refrigerator - I certainly don't want my raw meat to ever go in the bin where my yogurt is supposed to go!) I have to admit, I did think my dad took it a little far when I saw that he had labelled the tape dispenser, "TAPE."
8. Take notes and keep things you want to reference later in a central location
My dad takes notes and records things he wants to remember later. Even if you have a good memory, you can't remember everything! Dad has his own system for reference in an Excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs, where I use Evernote to keep track of things I want to refer to later. Your system doesn't have to work for everyone - just for yourself!
9. Do things the right way the first time.
I say this to my kids often, "Do it right the first time." Often there's a shortcut or an easy way out, and if that can qualify as "the right way," by all means, take that path of least resistance. But too often, the easy way is not the right way, and then you end up having to redo the task or fix a mistake later on. Sometimes tasks take my dad longer than I would expect, but it's done right and it lasts! Several years ago, I had some issues with the caulk around my bathroom tub and my dad fixed it for us (yep, I'm lucky, I know!) It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but because he used the right materials, fixed his mistakes while the caulk was still wet, smoothed it with the correct tool, and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry - it looked great, served its correct purpose, and has lasted a long time.
10. Use your talents to help others
As I said earlier, my dad can fix just about anything and everybody knows it! This was demonstrated yesterday when my almost-4-year-old nephew picked up a toy that wouldn't work and bypassed everyone to go straight to my dad and say, "Grandpa this is broken, will you fix it?" Being good at something does usually mean you get asked to help people do that thing, and sometimes that can feel like a burden. Though I can't read his mind, it doesn't seem like he minds when he's asked to help with someone else's project. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to solve a puzzle while helping someone out. He's certainly helped me out more than I could ever thank or repay him for. I think because I saw my dad using what he was good at to help his family and others since I was a little girl, it seems natural to me to share my talents, too. I also think that we improve our skills, become faster and more productive at things when we do them more often - practice makes perfect, right? If we can improve our skills and become more efficient at them while helping someone out, it's a win-win!
My dad has taught me much more than these 10 things (some of them I've written about before) but these are some that I thought you might like to try out. I'm so fortunate to have a dad who has been present my entire life, and it was really fun to think of some of the things he's taught me. I challenge you to make a list of some specific things someone important in your life has taught you - and share it with them! Happy Father's Day, Dad - I love you!
Let me set the scene...half-built Lego creations on the basement floor with all of the remaining pieces strewn about. The remnants of well-intended organization cluttering the dedicated Lego space, while rogue pieces invade nearly every square inch of the thoroughfare of the basement. Unopened Lego sets stacked in the corner, never getting played with because the unfinished basement is such an undesirable destination.
It was time - it was time to create a Lego storage system in an area of the house that the kids actually wanted to use! But how? and where? Here is the process I used to get creative about how to use a small space to meet a storage and organization need.
1. Determine the location
I surveyed the options for Lego storage in my house - they were limited! Since both of my kids like Legos and often share pieces, it made sense to store them in a shared location rather than in one of kids' bedrooms. We don't have a spare bedroom or a rec room, so I was having trouble wrapping my mind around where I could possibly store these Legos! I had to stop looking at my house as it was and start thinking what it could be. I landed on two possibilities: the breezeway between our garage and kitchen (which was used as a mud room and craft room) and the nook under the stairs (which was used for toy storage.) After considering the size and shape of each spot as well as how I wanted to have the mess contained and hidden, I settled on the space under the stairway.
2. Clear the new space of old stuff
We first had to empty the area of what was currently stored there. In this case, we had a toy shelf with bins, a small table with multiple containers of toys and games on and under it, and a bin of puzzles (and maybe a few dust bunnies!) Because my kids understood the end goal was to make a cool place for them to play with and store their Legos, they were on board with doing some purging and relocating. We went through every bin and separated into keep, trash, and donate piles. We also had to repeat this process in each kids' bedroom to make room for the items we kept from the nook under the stairs. We were able to get rid of enough that we could rearrange one bedroom to reuse the toy shelf. We also used this as an opportunity to purge some Lego accessories - mainly instructional booklets that were no longer needed. We recycled a huge pile, and the remainder fit nicely into a hanging file organizer that I mounted to the wall underneath the table allowing to use some otherwise wasted space!
3. Plan to maximize the space
It was fun to plan out how this very small space could be filled with functional solutions. Drawing pictures is the most helpful way to map out your plan, and using grid paper makes it easier to draw to scale. Sometimes things you visualize in your head just won't work when you get out the measuring tape! Use resources like Pinterest to get inspiration and ideas. I created a whole board for Lego storage! Browse online for product ideas, but also go to a physical store so you can see and touch the materials you are considering. And don't forget to check your own house for items you can reuse or repurpose. If you are creating a space for someone else, be sure to include them in this process. They are the ones that will use it, so they may have ideas that may never have occurred to you. Don't forget to make use of vertical space and the space under tables and counters. The final product in our Lego cupboard under the stairs (a little Harry Potter humor!) was very close to my original sketches, but I had to be flexible in a few things like getting a smaller pegboard than planned because the large one wouldn’t fit in our vehicle!
3. Buy, build and reuse
Shop around for the best deals, and don't shy away from building custom pieces. When you are at a physical store, don't get caught up in wanting to take home the supplies right then. Make sure to comparison shop online, and purchase what is both best for your space and is the best value. I took my kids to the hardware store to actually see and touch pegboard bins, and then we ordered cheaper ones online in the size and colors the kids preferred. Make sure to measure, measure, measure! Don’t assume your space is square or level (especially if you live in an old house like mine!) Our project included a fairly simple table and shelf that my husband built and a pegboard we painted and cut to size (materials list at the end of the post.) We got creative with covering up our imperfections with some adhesive Lego tape. In addition to those supplies, the kids helped me pick out folding stools that fit nicely and could easily be stored under the table. We also purchased some new rolling drawers, a hanging file holder for instructions, a floor mat for easy Lego clean up, adhesive battery operated LED lights. Everything else was reused or repurposed! Because the space was awkwardly shaped, there weren't studs in all the right places, so for some things, I used anchors and for others I used industrial strength velcro with an adhesive back.
4. Relocate, decorate, and enjoy!
This is the fun part - moving into the new space! We slowly brought up Legos from the basement giving the kids time to sort and choose the best location in their new Lego room. I overheard them talking about how they were going to sort their Lego swords into some of the pegboard bins separating them into gold, silver, and other colored swords. This MAY be an indication we have too many Legos, but what had taken up a huge area before now fit nicely in the little nook! We have space for displaying finished masterpieces on the shelves, a spot for unopened sets, lots of storage for the Legos themselves, an area for instruction books, and even have a plan for when the Lego playing gets so serious it needs to move to the floor! The mat I purchased cinches up into a bag so the mess can quickly and easily be picked up! We added some finishing touches that we reused from it previous Lego space - some wooden letters I painted in Lego blue, red, yellow and green that I adhered to the side of the shelf with Command strips and a poster frame filled with Lego wrapping paper. We also mounted a Lego mini figure display box that had been a Christmas gift on the wall above the pegboard. Now the kids are enjoying their new Lego retreat. It looks great, but yet it's hidden from view!
If you want to use any of our ideas, here's a supply list and some instructions:
I'm so happy with how this area turned out! I love Legos and even wrote about how the process relates to getting your life in order in one of my first blog posts. After this project, I am inspired to plan out more functional areas in other small spaces in my home and garage. Next on the list - a sports equipment storage area in the garage!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!