DIY Storage Closet Organization for Under $150

American financial journalist and author Jean Chatzky said,

Every minute you spend looking through clutter, wondering where you put this or that, being unable to focus because you’re not organized costs you: time you could have spent with family or friends, time you could have been productive around the house, time you could have been making money.

She's absolutely right. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind is a cluttered life.

We've been extremely busy here at the office lately. (Noted especially by the fact that this is my first blog post since December 28th.) When work (or life) gets busy, it's vital to have an organized environment to keep things running smoothly. In an effort to continue to organize the office more efficiently, last week, I tackled the storage closet.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

The storage closet in its pre-organization state.

Now, the storage closet wasn't in awful condition. Everything was mostly grouped by item type, and nothing was overflowing out of the closet. But it was in a state where we didn't know what we had and didn't have because office supplies weren't easy to find. For example, a couple months ago, I ordered envelope openers because we thought we didn't have any. Not including the extras that I ordered (because apparently they came in a two-pack and I can't read so I ordered two two-packs), we had two envelope openers already. But I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't gone through the entire left-hand side of the shelf they were on.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

The main culprit: the daily-use office supplies.

STEP 1: EMPTY THE SPACE

In order to really see what we had in that closet (a 96" tall, 67" wide space), I first pulled out everything from the closet.

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I tried to pile everything in one area, but our poor little conference room got overwhelmed, and multiple piles in multiple spaces started to spawn. Here's a bit of a look at what was in the closet:

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STEP 2: VISIT THE STORAGE GODS

I spent some time on the Container Store website, browsing all the goodies they had to offer. After taking some measurements of the closet space and coming up with a fairly solid plan of how I wanted to go about organizing the closet, I hopped in the car and drove the only Oregon Container Store at Bridgeport Village (where I was helped by the mom of one of my good friends from high school - small world, much?).

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

(Okay, so this actually happened before anything else, but since we're going in order of taking things out of and putting things back into the closet, so we'll keep it as step two.)

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

Yes, I bought a shoe shelf - it was the only long shelf and I wanted something that would cover at least half the shelf space. I know I could have just bought two of the smaller ones that are marketing specifically for the office, but it was the same price for one of these as it was for two of those, and it was one less thing I had to try and wrestle out to my car and back into the office.

. . . six Mini Stackable Storage Bins, two Silver Mesh CD Bins, and two Small Silver Mesh Stackable Storage Bins. Plus, I already six filing shelves, a three-drawer storage container, and a small assortment of various medium and large plastic storage bins that had been sitting in the closet just begging to be used.

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STEP 3: START GROUPING

After taking off all of the packing and tags from my Container Store goodies and setting them up, I began going through my large piles of stuff that had come out of the closet, sorting it into general categories: electronics & tech, paper goods, office supplies, and marketing.

I then started putting all of the electronics and tech away. Because we don't often get into this closet for the tech stuff, it all got stored in places that were not front-and-center real estate: the bottom corner of the closet, the corner of the shelf right above, and the very top right-hand shelf (which you can't see in any of these pictures because it sits above the exterior trim opening of the closet doors and I have to maneuver my body in complicated ways while standing on a ladder to even reach it to put stuff on it).

The paper goods are what we go into the closet for most - things like folders, labels, actual paper, notebooks, and the like - so they scored the most prime real estate. Before organizing the closet, they had all been thrown together in a few different locations, but they weren't sorted by type or use, so I made sure to put all of the envelopes together, all of the folders together, all of the files together, the colored paper, the labels, etc.

The office supplies are generally small items, so in order to keep them from going everywhere, about half of the storage containers I purchased were for them, plus some of the storage containers I already had. This area was more a matter of keeping things sorted with like-items and putting them away in such a way that they wouldn't explode all over the closet again.

And finally, the marketing items (things like plastic stands for business cards and informational brochures) got put on the highest left-hand shelf, also not visible in these pictures, because we use it so rarely

Et voilà, the finished product:

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

Sooo much better. Looking at this makes my heart happy.

All in all, including my trip to the Container Store, I spent just under $150 and about 4.5 hours on this project, and it made a significant impact on the space and the office in general. My boss loves it, and we now know exactly where everything is and don't have to waste time searching through the closet to find what we are looking for

What about you - What spaces have you organized recently? How did you go about the process? What were the results?

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Winterize Your Home + Free Downloadable Checklist

It's the first of December, which means there are only 20 days till it's officially the winter season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, that means a lot of rain, ice, and potential for snow. Protect your home with our handy winter home maintenance checklist:

INTERIOR - 

1. Have a professional clean and inspect your chimney/fireplace

2. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans (and make sure you clean them so they don’t fling dust everywhere when you turn them on – in fact, you should dust the whole house before you bring out your holiday decorations)

3. Replace the batteries in your smoke and CO2 alarms

4. Test your furnace and thermostat – have a professional take a look as needed

5. Pull out the space heaters and thick blankets – make sure everything is clean and in working order to keep you warm throughout the winter

6. Clean out your fridge and freezer – pull everything out, give the appliance a deep clean, and only put things back in that aren’t expired – pull the fridge out from the wall and clean behind it too

7. Give your oven a deep clean before you start your holiday baking

8. Rotate and/or flip your mattresses

EXTERIOR - 

1. Inspect the exterior of your home for any small holes or cracks and make sure they’re sealed up to keep bugs and rodents out

2. Turn off the water to your exterior faucets to prevent them from freezing and potential pipe bursts; drain, roll up and stow away your hoses

3. Check your roof for potential leaks and formations of ice dams

4. Clean out your gutters

5. Remove excess lint from your dryer vents to prevent fires

6. Cover your A/C compressor to keep it from freezing – you don’t actually have to cover the whole thing, but Family Handyman recommends putting a piece of plywood on top to protect it

7. Put away your gardening tools for the season and put your snow shovel and sand in an easy-to-reach place

8. Plant bulbs for the spring

9. Check out this helpful list of garden chores from The Oregonian

OTHER - 

1. Have snow tires put on and replace your windshield wipers

2. Put together a winter weather vehicle emergency kit – here’s a checklist from 5 Minutes for Mom

3. After the holidays, carefully go through, organize, and store your decorations or give décor you don’t use to charity

4. Once your holiday décor is put away, give the house a deep clean

 

You can download this checklist for free here.


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Choosing the Right Countertop Material for Your Lifestyle

There is an abundance of countertop materials to choose from when renovating your kitchen - marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, butcher block, concrete, granite, limestone, laminate, recycled glass, stainless steel, terrazzo, ceramic tile, and even paper composite. But which material is right for you and your lifestyle?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of some of the most popular materials:

MARBLE

Pros: The look (obviously); marble is as classy as it gets; it's mostly heat durable; and it's timeless so you maintenance aside, you won't want to change it.

Cons: Marble is a porous surface so it will absorb liquids and stain and etch, meaning it needs to be resealed every year or two. It gets nicked, cut, and scratched easily. Plus it's the one of the most expensive materials you can pick for your countertops.

If you watch home improvement shows at all, you've probably heard the phrase "carrara marble" thrown around a lot. Carrara marble is a variety of marble that is one of the highest qualities of marble, and it comes in the typical white and blue-gray color people picture when they think of marble. Marble is absolutely beautiful, but it is also extremely expensive. If you are going for a kitchen that is luxurious, timeless, and more show-than-tell, marble might be the right countertop for you.

QUARTZ

Pros: Quartz is the man-made version of marble, so you get the beauty of the real stuff, combined with great engineering that has gotten rid of the flaws, making quartz stain, scratch, head, acid, and impact resistant. It's also a non-porous surface, so you don't ever have to reseal it - you gotta love low maintenance.

Cons: Like the real thing, quartz can get chipped, particularly on the corners and edges, and the repair work requires a professional.

We here at Square Deal Construction Company love quartz. We always include it as an option in our kitchen remodel estimates because we think it's so great! If you like the look of marble, but you have a budget and you actually use your kitchen on a daily basis, quartz is probably the countertop for you. To see what your kitchen would look like with quartz, check out Cambria's online app DragonVision, or if you have iOS, you can use the Cambria AR app.

GRANITE

Pros: Granite comes in a huge variety of color options and variations, and it can be polished (shiny) or honed (matte). Once it's been sealed, granite is non-porous so it's easy to clean. It's also mostly resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches.

Cons: Needs to be sealed! Seriously, granite absorbs absolutely everything if it's not professionally and properly sealed, and periodically resealed. Another con is how easy it is for the corners to get chipped.

Because they are anything but man-made, granite countertops are one-of-a-kind. If you don't mind a little more maintenance for your counters, and you are possibly interested in more rare colors, granite just might be what you're looking for. You can see what different granite colors look like in a kitchen with the Keystone Kitchen Visualizer.

CONCRETE

Pros: Because concrete is so sturdy, it's almost completely stain, heat, and water resistant, as long as it's been properly sealed. It's also super easy to customize - everything from the thickness to the edges to the color to the finish can be customized.

Cons: Concrete will patina (darken in color) over time and it does require periodic maintenance such as resealing to keep it in tip top shape.

If you're going for a more unique, very stylized aesthetic in your kitchen, concrete might be just the countertop you need.

RECYCLED GLASS

Curava  Recycled Glass Surfaces from  Keystone Granite

Curava Recycled Glass Surfaces from Keystone Granite

Pros: Recycled glass countertops are super unique and fun. They have large pieces of glass to significantly more finely ground pieces. It's also mostly resistant to cuts, scratches, and heat, although that varies by manufacturer.

Cons: The two biggest cons for recycled glass surfaces is that they can stain and how wide a cost range there is.

If you want a more colorful, eco-friendly kitchen, recycled glass is a good way to go, although you should definitely do more research into which manufacturers are better.

BUTCHER BLOCK

Pros: Butcher block brings some often much-needed warmth and character to a kitchen, and it is a great way to have multi-use surfaces. They are also extremely sanitary when they've been properly sealed. 

Cons: Butcher block needs to be sealed and oiled regularly to stay in good condition. It's not a great material to put around a sink because of how wet the sink area usually is, but it's a good option for a counter space near the oven or as an island top. The wood is also susceptible to scratches and dents, just like a regular cutting board.

If you like a more natural look, and you need multi-functional space, you should consider adding some butcher block to your kitchen.

 

You can find more information on countertop materials at these locations: Studio McGee's rundown of countertop surfaces pros and cons; Consumer Reports "Best Countertops for Busy Kitchens" report; Stock Cabinet Express's comparison of granite versus quartz; the Countertop Preview consumer toolbox Countertop Comparison Chart; Jenna Burger's helpful rundown of materials; Zillow's guide; and Lindsay Stephenson's revisit of quartz countertops.


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8 Things Every Great Laundry Room Needs

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated room for your washer and dryer, here are some ideas to consider upgrading the space for optimal function.

1. CABINETRY

Space to store things like detergent is essential. Check out this beautiful before and after from Gather & Flourish:

Or, if you don't have enough room for the full size cabinets, try something smaller like this pull out by Manhattan Nest

2. HANGING RACKS

Those "hang-to-dry" pieces need their own space too, like these wall-mounted beauties from Bolig Magasinet:

3. AN IRONING BOARD

And so much the better if it has it's own designated space. We all know what a pain it is to pull out and put away.

You could even DIY this Ikea hack:

4. CLOTHING RODS

Of course, you'll need a place to hang things up when you're done ironing them. I love the location of this one:

5. COUNTER SPACE FOR FOLDING

Even if it's as small as this clever pull-out:

6. A HOME FOR YOUR HAMPERS

How many times a day do you trip over or into hampers that are sitting on the floor? If you're anything like me, it probably happens every time you go into the laundry room. Give your hampers their own place to hang out, like this DIY by Ana White:

7. SINK SPACE

Bring a sink into your laundry room and stop handwashing those delicates in your kitchen.

8. DISGUISE THE BIG GUYS

If your laundry room doubles as your pantry, or if you just don't like the look of your washer and dryer, here's a great idea for disguising them:

Hopefully as you've been scrolling through this post you've noticed that these inspiration photos all feature at least two of the elements I've mentioned. When it comes to the laundry room, it's all about creative use of space. Plus, you want it to be pretty - you sure spend enough time in there.

You can find more laundry room inspiration here.


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A Deck for All Seasons

We love capped composite decking materials, and with the ridiculous rise in cedar prices over this last summer, composite decks have become quite competitive in their pricing. But don’t just take our word for it – here are some of the many reasons composite decking is better than wood:

Maintenance

Of course, one of the most important things to consider, second only to how well the deck is actually built, is maintenance. Wood decks require a lot of maintenance. They have to be thoroughly cleaned and re-stained every year to protect against rot and fading. Plus, it needs to be sanded down and re-finished every couple of years. Then you have to check and spray for bugs, and pray that the beetle you just saw running across your deck is in fact a beetle and not a termite. That’s a lot of time you could be doing something more relaxing, like enjoying sitting on your deck. Composite decks do not require more than an hour of maintenance every year – they just need a good soap and water washing once a year.

Eco-friendliness

Composite decking helps the environment. Wood decking means cutting down trees that protect us from carbon dioxide and replenish our oxygen, using more trees to create the energy needed to power the machines that refine the wood and make it construction ready, and having to replant more trees to start the process all over again. Trees are what makes our home here in the Pacific Northwest so stinking beautiful. (Especially like right now at the end of October when the leaves are turning the most brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow and the whole area is just glowing.) Composite decking is mostly made out of recycled plastic materials, keeping them out of dumps. TimberTech advertises that their decking is made from 73% recycled materials, and Trex’s is 95% recycled materials. You can learn more about turning plastic into composite decking in this Trex video and this Fiberon video.

Sturdiness

Wood decks splinter and twist and rot and warp. Composite decks do not. Plus, composite decking is more weather-resistant. Wood decking materials last at most 10-15 years. Composite decking materials last at least 25 years and longer if you take good care of them. That’s almost twice as long! And considering cedar and composite materials are running about the same price-wise right now, you end up getting so much more for your money’s worth with composite decking – a longer lifetime with significantly less maintenance time.

The Look

If the only thing holding you back from going with composite rather than wood is that you are afraid it won’t look like real wood, please come into our office and let us show you the 30+ samples of composite decking we have from four different companies that are designed with a wood grain finish. (Or just look at these samples on Trex’s website.) Composite decking has the look of real wood, without the hazards and dangers of real wood. And you don’t have to stain it to get it the color you want. Plus, most composite decking materials have color all throughout the material, rather than slathering on a coating at the end, so you don’t have to worry about fading or staining.

Let us know your thoughts on capped composite decking in the comments below.


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The 35 Best Home Hacks of All Time

1. Don’t throw away dryer sheets once you’re done with them – use them to clean your baseboards instead.

2. Clean your sponge by throwing it in the microwave for 30 seconds to kill any lurking bacteria.

3. Use WD-40 to clean stainless steel appliances. It can also remove shoe streaks from tile and wood flooring.

4. Keep your sneakers looking new by scrubbing them with toothpaste from time to time.

5. Bread isn’t just for eating – you can use it to pick up miniscule pieces of broken glass or set it on top of a cake fresh from the oven to keep the cake perfectly moist.

6. Don’t have the time (or space) to pull out the iron? Use a hair straightener to smooth over any wrinkles before you run out the door.

7. Magic Erasers really are magic – use them to clean basically everything!

8. Need your clothes to dry faster than the eta on the dryer? Toss a dry terrycloth towel in the mix.

9. Make store bought cookie dough mix taste more like homemade by adding in a bit of cinnamon.

10. Use Scotch tape to make a grid over the top of your vase before inserting flowers to keep stems exactly where you want them.

11. Those over-the-door shoe hangers make great snack pockets to amplify your pantry space.

12. Add a second shower curtain rod to your shower for storage space. Use “S” hooks with clips to hang up stuff that normally clutters up the edges of the shower.

13. Soften up the gunk in your microwave before you clean it out by heating up a glass of water in the microwave for about 2 minutes.

14. Cut a lemon in half and use the insides to clean hard water stains off faucets in sinks, tubs, and showers. You can also squeeze the juice out, add a little bit of baking soda to it, and use it to remove rust. Toss the lemons in the microwave first for about 20 seconds to optimize the amount of juice you’ll get out of them.

15. Put a magnetic strip on the inside of a bathroom drawer to keep bobby pins from taking over the space.

16. Remove fake drawers from under the sink in your kitchen and put in a dowel to hold paper towel rolls.

17. Put a Lazy Susan under the sink to keep things accessible.

18. Keep your fridge full – it will cut down on your energy bills.

19. Put a rubber band in between a stripped screw and your screw driver to have better control over the screw.

20. Don’t throw away all that trash – check out this Country Living article on trash you could be selling on eBay.

21. Stop spending money on fabric softener and use distilled white vinegar instead.

22. Use an egg slicer for more than just eggs – you can slice kiwi, strawberries, avocado, mushrooms, and pears with it! Just make sure you clean it in between uses.

23. Put cooked chicken into a mixer for some hands-free shredding.

24. Fix scratches in your wood floors and furniture by rubbing a shelled walnut over it.

25. Throw some marshmallows in with your brown sugar to keep it soft and clump-free.

26. Use a pizza cutter to slice herbs like a pro.

27. The sticky side of a Post-It note makes a great dust collector for keyboards.

28. Stuff newspaper into your shoes to dry them out and remove any odors.

29. Wipe your windows and mirrors with newspaper to avoid any lint leftovers.

30. Use empty toilet paper rolls to wrap and store extension cords.

31. Put rubber gloves (or old shoes) on the ends of a ladder to keep from scuffing the wall.

32. Heat up those annoyingly sticky price stickers with a hairdryer to make them easier to remove.

33. Aerate your wine much faster by putting it in the blender for 60 seconds.

34. Get rid of grease stains with chalk.

35. Leave a wooden spoon across the top of a pot water to keep it from boiling over.

 

For more useful home hacks, check out www.homehacks.com.


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Cleaner Windows, Less Effort

Take a moment and look at the window nearest you - not through it, at it. Notice how it looks, if there are water spots, dirt, etc. on it. Unless you are a glass expert or a window cleaner, you probably hadn't ever noticed before just how dirty your windows get. Or maybe you have noticed, but going through the effort of cleaning them, or finding someone you trust to clean them for you, is too much of a hassle. What if I told you that needing to clean your windows could become a thing of the past?

Yes, that's right. With a simple switch to new windows, you could forgo ever cleaning your windows again. But not just any old windows - you need windows with Neat Glass.

The glass geniuses at Cardinal Glass Industries have come up with a new kind of glass called Neat Glass. Glass used in normal windows appears smooth to the naked eye, but when you look a little closer, you can see it actually has a slight indentation pattern to it. Unlike ordinary glass, Neat Glass is completely smooth. This has some incredible implications.

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When water hits normal glass, it bubbles up and holds itself intact, either drying in place or slowly moving down the glass to the bottom of the pane and dripping off. When water hits Neat Glass, the ultra smoothness of the glass means that the water does not form any sort of bubble, but rather falls straight down the pane and off the glass, leaving no annoying droplets or dried water marks.

Watch this video to learn more:

There is a layer of titanium dioxide in Neat Glass that causes dirt/bird poop/etc. to decompose because of the way the it chemically reacts to the sun. Then, when it rains (or you spray it down with a hose) the dirt/etc. instantly washes away, making Neat Glass is super easy to clean - you can literally just shoot it with a hose and call it good.

The best part? Cardinal Glass has a manufacturing plant here in Oregon, in the southern part of Hood River. We love locally made products! Cardinal Glass is used to make Prime Windows. You can learn more about Cardinal's Neat Glass and check out their interactive guide here.

Ready to switch out your windows? Contact us about our window services and take advantage of rebates on energy efficient windows while they're still available.


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