29 Day Organizational Challenge–All Done! {#29DOC}

Well, it’s the end of the month and therefore the end of the 29 Day Organizational Challenge I participated in (you can recap my progress here, here and here).

I’m really glad I participated in this challenge as it forced me to get moving on a room that I was continuing to put off. It now looks SO much better and I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

What room did I organize?

I chose Isabella’s playroom because it’s the first room you see when you walk in the house and it has a lot of “stuff” so it needs a good system.

Here are the before pictures:




Eeh gads.

I’ll give you that I took these pics on a particularly messy day but unfortunately, those messy days were becoming more the norm. With no real system in place, cleaning up seemed like such a laborious task. One that I was often too tired to bother with.

My goals with this room were pretty simple. Basically, I wanted to simplify, organize, coordinate with the adjoining dining room, and do it all without breaking the bank. I’d say I achieved all those goals, which feels great!

Here are the steps I took to ensure I completed the space in the 29 day timeframe: 

1.  I started out by making a plan of everything I needed to do to get it done, making sure to include my goals. I wanted to set up a course of action that would make sense and be doable. It wasn’t anything complicated. Literally my plan looked like this:


1. Simplify so that the room looks less cluttered

2. Use vertical space better

3. Unify color scheme with dining room so that the 2 rooms complement each other.

4. Visually separate the 2 rooms while still allowing for easy movement between them.

5. Keep costs down – try to use what we have first before buying


1. Paint cube organizer shelf white or use contact paper or find another shelf

2. Paint the canvas storage bins blue and yellow OR buy cheap new ones (around $15 for a set of 2)

3. Empty both LEGO bags into one of the canvas bins. Use remaining plastic bags for storage in basement.

4. Give each bin a distinct purpose and put labels on them

5. Put stuffed animals in ottomans and use the toy box for storage in basement  


1. Bench/ottoman

2. Possibly new canvas bins if painting doesn’t work

2. Next step was taking inventory of everything in the playroom and decide what to keep and what to purge (either trash or donate). Items that were kept were either relegated to storage (if they were something Isabella had outgrown but we wanted to keep for the next kid) or remained in the playroom.

3. Then I bought some new storage bins and ottomans and figured out a system of what goes where, labeling each one.


4. I also used a shelving unit we had in the basement to reorganize and “pretty up” her books, which also gave us more vertical space to play with.


After that it was a matter of re-evaluating how things were working and make adjustments. One thing that was bothering me were all the medium to large sized toys that were sitting out with no real “home”. I looked around and realized that the buffet we have in the dining room was full of junk and would be a perfect place to hide toys not in use. All I had to do was clean it out!


This picture gives you an idea of how the drawers were being used before.


Most had random toys, books, games, tablecloths, etc. in them, with no rhyme or reason. I went through each drawer and got rid of, moved or organized what was in them. Here’s that same drawer after my cleaning.


I was actually able to free up enough space to put several of Isabella’s bulky toys inside the cabinets of the buffet!


When the doors are closed, you wouldn’t even know there is a Sesame Street house and pirate ship in it!

After putting up some curtains, laying down a rug and finding some decorative items to finish off the room, we were all done!

Now for the big reveal!

Here are the “after” shots of the whole playroom!


I love how it still looks open and airy, yet there is a clear separation between the 2 rooms. It also feels grown up in all the right ways (like with the curtains, valances, rug, canvas bins and ottomans) while also having just the right amount of kid appeal.


(It’s a good thing Samson coordinates with the color scheme of the room!)


I also love how the dining room remains its own space yet the 2 rooms tie in together nicely (and the buffet hides some toys and coloring books)!

Close up of the bins/containers along with some decorative elements on top of the shelf (frame and flowers from Goodwill, lamp on Clearance at Target)


Finished bookshelf (2 items on top shelf on 80% off clearance at Kohl’s, yellow frame on clearance at Target, blue candle moved from another room). The Muppets paintings were actually done by my grandfather and given to me when I was 3! Such a cherished treasure!


What was the hardest part of the challenge?

Getting started! At first it seemed really overwhelming. I’m the type of person who wants to do it ALL right away but didn’t have the time or energy to knock it out in one afternoon. But once I made my plan and had a good place to start –as well as a vision of upcoming steps – it made it seem much more doable.

One of my proudest moments during the challenge…

…was when I saw my 2-year old daughter using the bins and figuring out where things went. Thanks to the labels having both words and pictures on them, when I told her to help clean up, she knew that her little cars went in the “little toy” bin and her blocks went in the “blue blocks” bin. She also thinks the “secret compartments” in the buffet are super cool. That’s when I knew the effort had been worth it and that this system would work!

If I had to give anyone advice as they begin their organization journey, I would say…

Make a plan and start small. As I said before, getting started is the most daunting part because it’s hard to know what exactly to do and what will work. Take a few days to think about it and write down a plan of action – including what you want to change in the space, what you want to get rid of, what you need to add (e.g. containers or labels) as well as what your final vision is. Also include the baby steps you’ll take to get there. Once you have that, the rest just falls in to place!

There you have it! A finished playroom – organized, tidy and still beautiful!

Next up for me? The kitchen pantry! I already got a head start today by snagging 5 bins from the Goodwill (for $.39 each)! Look out pantry, here I come!

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29 Day Organizational Challenge: Progress Update 2 {#29DOC}

If you don’t know what the heck the 29 DOC is, you can catch up by reading here and here.

Now, 2 weeks in to the challenge, it’s time for another update.

We actually got a TON done over the weekend. In fact, I’m nearly done!

As a reminder, here is a BEFORE shot:


And here are my goals for this project:

1. Simplify so that the room looks less cluttered

2. Use vertical space better

3. Unify color scheme with dining room so that the 2 rooms complement each other

4. Visually separate the 2 rooms while still allowing for easy movement between them

5. Keep costs down – try to use what we have first before buying

Last week we de-cluttered, bought some new canvas storage bins and some new ottomans to use for seating and storage.


This week we re-arranged, organized, re-labeled and decorated.

It was a job that took the whole family. I wanted to put in a new bookshelf (well, new to this room. It’s a shelving unit we already had from the old house that was just sitting in the basement here), hang up some valances I had ordered weeks ago that finally arrived, re-arrange the remaining furniture and toys and re-label the canvas bins. To do all this, we first had to move out a bunch of stuff.

Most of it ended up on the dining room table.


CJ got to work drilling holes in the shelving unit. We wanted to attach it to the wall to make sure Isabella couldn’t pull it over.


Isabella helped too by trying on Daddy’s safety glasses.


Once the shelf was installed, the books were moved over and we started hanging the curtains.


Then it was a matter of moving stuff around until it looked right to me. There was no real process for this part, just trial and error.

Here are the bins with their new labels.


These canvas bins don’t have a slot to put a label so previously I had taped one on. I didn’t really like how that looked though and it didn’t stick real well so I needed something else. I got the idea to make labels out of scrapbook paper and tie them to the handle from another blogger participating in the challenge. I love how they turned out! Oh, and not only did I write what goes in each one, I also put stickers of the items so that Isabella knows (since she can’t read yet)

The white stacking bins are a new addition to the room. They were previously used in Isabella’s old bedroom for clothes because her closet was so small. She didn’t need them in her new room so I repurposed them down here! I added the yellow and blue paper to the front to make them more decorative and fun and then attached tags similar to those on the canvas bins, for consistency.

Now for the big reveal!



I am really loving how it turned out!

The new corner shelf adds the height I wanted while also utilizing valuable space. The new bins fit in with the color scheme of the dining room to make the 2 rooms more cohesive. And the valances add that extra pop of color that also helps tie the playroom to the dining room! I also love that I was able to use items we already had so I didn’t have to go spend a lot of money! Having the labels on the bins is really working well too and makes clean up a breeze!

We are ever so close to being done!

After living with it for a week, there are a few tweaks I want to make. The books on the corner shelf need some help as right now they’re kind of stuffed on there. There are still many bigger toys sitting out that make it look messy. Not sure yet what to do with those. I also want to add some decorative items to the top shelves of the corner unit, to make it “prettier”, along with a  rug for the floor.

I’m really happy that we’ve come so far so fast though. Definitely feels like we’re over the hump and what remains is simply touch ups.

I’ll be back next Friday with another update!

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29 Day Organizational Challenge: Progress Update {#29DOC}

This has been harder than I thought. For those of you just tuning in, I decided at the beginning of the month to take part in a 29 day challenge (over the month of February) to get ONE “problem” room in the house organized once and for all.

I picked Isabella’s playroom. It’s the first room you see when you walk in the front door and I want it to look nice. Play rooms by their very nature tend to be dens of insanity. But given the location of ours, it needed to have some order to it.

Here is a before pic.


Ok granted, I took that pic on a particularly bad day after she’d been playing hard. Still, it needs help, wouldn’t you agree?

Before I got started, I made a list of goals for this project. You can’t start unless you know what you really want to do, right? It’s too overwhelming otherwise.

Here are my goals:

1. Simplify so that the room looks less cluttered

Seems counterintuitive with a kid’s room. Isabella has a million toys and they’re all small and easily lost. But we’re really trying to keep the junk to a minimum and regularly cull through it to get rid of or put away things she’s not playing with anymore.

2. Use vertical space better

Kids are short. Therefore, their stuff is low to the ground. I get that. But it also breaks up the room into 2 distinct halves – the top and bottom. Most rooms have a nice medley of short and tall things so that it’s one unified space. The playroom doesn’t. So I need to figure out how to go “up” while still keeping everything accessible.


3. Unify color scheme with dining room so that the 2 rooms complement each other

My thought when buying all the pink and green stuff originally was that Isabella is a little girl and should therefore have things in pretty, girly colors. That works ok for her bedroom, which is all hers. But in a room like this, which everyone will see and also has to “share space” with the dining room, we need more visual cohesion. Besides, the toys themselves will keep it plenty colorful.

4. Visually separate the 2 rooms while still allowing for easy movement between them

This seems counter to #3 but it’s not. On the one hand, we want the rooms to work well together because visually, your eye will see them both at the same time. However, we also want to show that they are 2 rooms with different purposes. Another bonus to this is that it keeps Isabella’s stuff corralled so that it doesn’t take over the whole house.

dining room2

5. Keep costs down – try to use what we have first before buying

This is a biggie. I could go crazy and buy all new furniture to “do it up right”, but who can afford that? So instead I’m going to try and use what we have. If I have to buy something, I’ll look for sale/clearance items. Gotta watch the pennies!

Here’s what I’ve done so far.

I went through everything and made 3 piles: keep, toss, and donate. The keep items were then split in to 2 groups: keep in the playroom or store in the basement for future rotation or the next kid.

Next, the bins had to be changed up, per goal # 3. The green and pink wouldn’t work with a blue/white/gold dining room. I originally thought of painting or dying the bins a different color but decided against it. First of all, the bins are flexible so paint would have ended up cracking and peeling off (even fabric paint). Dye might have worked but I didn’t think the colors would end up looking very “true” since the base color of the bins was green and pink (as opposed to white). So, I bought some new ones on sale at Target for $6 each. I think they look better than doctored up ones would have. Besides, now I can use the green and pink ones in Isabella’s bedroom (which will be an upcoming project).


And for fun, here’s the pic Samson photo-bombed.


The pink shelf will be moved upstairs into Isabella’s room eventually, when we’re ready to switch things around. The pink hippo bin will go with it.

From there, I looked at what we could do to consolidate the items in the bins. Up until now, they didn’t have a particular purpose other than as “boxes for stuff”. I devoted 2 of them to the Mega Bloks (which allowed us to get rid of the extra bags we had sitting atop the bookshelf) and the other two were split between balls and toys. I added labels so that we’d remember which was which.

To help with goals #1 and 4, we bought an ottoman set.


But Sarah, I thought you weren’t going to spend a lot of money? You’ve just mentioned 2 sets of things that you bought! I know, I know, but hear me out. The ottomans were a set of 3, on sale, and I had a coupon, so we were able to get all 3 for $85. If we had bought them at full price, it would have cost us almost $200. PLUS, since the ottomans all double as storage units, we were able to move Isabella’s stuffed animals in to them and get rid of the tupperware toy box (that has now been moved to the basement and repurposed for storage). By adding the 3 ottomans, we have additional seating, storage, a visual separation between the 2 rooms and were able to get rid of another box that just wasn’t working.  


Newly freed up space where the old toy box was.


No more big and bulky bags of blocks.

I have several more ideas and projects to do before the room is done. I’m super excited to see how they work and to share them as I go! So far I’m happy with the accomplishments. I’m the kind of person who wants it all done RIGHT NOW! I have to keep telling myself to take baby steps…it’ll all get done eventually.

Stay tuned!

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29 Day Organizational Challenge {#29DOC}

I’ve talked before about how “messy” Isabella’s play room is. Relax Sarah, you may be thinking. It is a play room after all.True, but it’s also the first room you see when you enter the house and I want it to at least by organized.

I’m a realist. I know Isabella will take stuff out of bins and make messes. That’s totally fine, so long as everything has a place to go back to.

I also have as one of my 2012 resolutions to figure out a way to divide up her play room from the dining room while at the same time flow together.

To help get my booty in gear, I’ve decided to participate in Org Junkie‘s 29 Day Organizational Challenge. This will hold me accountable and also hold my hand through the process, because let’s face it, tackling a big project like this can be daunting and easy to put off. Plus, I love that Org Junkie doesn’t advocate spending a ton of money to get it done. She’s all about using what you have or buying on the cheap. A woman after my own heart…

Here are some before pics:

I know those aren’t great pics but it’s all I have at the moment and it’s enough to give you the idea. I promise I’ll take better ones!

Wish me luck! I’m looking forward to this challenge!