Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Need help with a storage dilemma

K, I'm turning to the blogosphere to help me with my storage problem. Our apartment is fairly large but it feels like we are bursting out of the seams.

But first some cute pictures.
Sometimes Katrina doesn't want to wake up from her nap.

We let her lay there and just do our normal tasks around her until she decides to get up.

She normally sleeps on the bed, but occasionally sleeps on the floor. She only naps a couple times a week, but when she does, she sleeps for hours.

She is obsessed with her daddy's bike. We took her to the bike store on Monday and let her ride a bike around. We're definitely planning on getting one for her birthday. I drew a bike for her yesterday and then she erased it and drew this:
Definitely a bike!
K, here's the storage problem. Adam and I have embarked on a quest to organize our apartment better and make better use of space. As a part of that, we moved the large bookcase into our room to free up space for his bike, moved a bunch of books into our closet, and I moved some of my fabric and craft storage into those free shelves.
Our biggest issues are toys and closets. We have a storage closet bursting to the seams. We organize it regularly and it gets messy again. It could definitely use another go-through, but we can't put much more in there, so that's not really an option for storing.
The kids' closet is a huge problem. Inside there is a hanging organizer thing that holds mostly just cloth diapers that are too small. On the right side of this organizer are several garbage bags and a big pile of clothes that are too small for the kids. We can't just toss them or give them away because we'd like more kids someday and I'd rather not start over. It is conceivable I could go through and get rid of some of these clothes, but that still leaves a lot. We have considered vaccum pack storage, but I heard mixed reviews about those. Another option is a bunch of storage tubs with the sizes of clothes. Either option could get pricey. I should probably mention that we can't afford to buy much. But I am willing to put some money towards this project.
On the left side of the closet are the bassinet, the bouncer, and bags and bags of clothes for the kids to grow into that we've been given by friends. These clothes are basically inaccessible at this point and in a bunch of random bags and boxes, so there's no organization. The top of the closet has the carseat, some extra blankets, and stuffed animals we're not willing to get rid of yet but aren't played with. We already got rid of a bunch of stuff in the top of that closet.
The living room always has random toys in it. I occasionally go through it with a big plastic bucket and pick up all the random things and try to organize them better. Basically extra toys just get stuffed in the storage ottoman. We've done a couple of toy purges. I'm sure we could get rid of a little bit more, but mostly we just need better storage.
Another issue is that Katrina is currently in a fun phase where she likes to empty out her cubbies (like this) onto the floor so that she can put them all in a circle and pretend she's driving a car, or sit in them and pretend they are boats, or various other things that are super cute and a wonderful use of imagination, but very messy. She also likes to pile up her clothes and pretend they are a snowman, or a sand castle. Also cute, also messy. We have one other dresser, a pale pink, small thing that we use in our room. I have proposed to Adam that we give her the dresser (drawers are harder to open and not as much fun to play in) and take the cubbies. They are unsightly in a grown-up room, so I think we could squish them into our closet. But they wouldn't hold as much. If her closet were organized better maybe we could stick them in her closet. But she can open closets, so that's not a perfect solution. At this point, I'd rather not make it a battle between us and her about whether she's allowed to play with that stuff, because it will be full of tears and fights and I'm of the opinion that if you can removed the temptation you'll be happier than just trying to stop the kid from playing with it. Also, whether I clean it up or make her help me, I still end up doing all the work (if you have a toddler, you know how you have to direct every single move).
Sorry for the mammoth post, I just need some suggestions. Adam is too stressed out with work and studying to brainstorm with me. I really wish I had somebody to physically be here to help me organize things, but maybe you guys can still have ideas that I can use. Thanks so much!

(Oh, and under our bed we have our coffee table, and under the crib we have food storage, and under Katrina's bed we have the packnplay, so there is limited under-bed space. And Craigslist is definitely an option for buying stuff, but remember that we own a jetta and don't have any friends with trucks for picking up furniture).


Anna said...

I happen to LOVE to organize lots of stuff into small spaces. I don't know what your preferences are or your budget, but I have a few suggestions to start with.

If you look at an IKEA magazine (they are so good at this) they always have walls that are solid shelves. Because the whole wall is all the same shelves, it looks like a whole and many times can just blend into the wall or background. IKEA shelves can add up if you are trying to cover an entire wall, but you can actually get a lot out of Walmart shelves. I think they are $25 and stretch 29-30" across. OK, here is the secret on how to get the most out of those shelves: They come in several colors and it is a two pack. You can fit two on each shelf, and 8 on an entire bookshelf. They look neat and clean from the outside, but can hide your crazy mess or project on the inside. The down side is that they will hang over your shelf for 2 inches, but it isn't really noticeable. These bins collapse (so easy to store if you change your mind for a time), and they are 14" x 14" x 14"! It ends up being a lot of space. We have lots of toys in our living room, and when they are all put away, it looks really titty.

I would say don't worry about the plastic bins. They always have a lip on them where the lid goes which ends up being a huge waste of space. You can't fit as many in your space. I would instead suggest storing in boxes, all the same size so they stack easily. Someday when you have an attic or storage room you can get the bins. I know you don't get them, but diaper boxes work great for this. They are often long and skinny and can slide into a closet floor. Find someone else who buys Costco size disposables and ask them for their boxes.

Just some thoughts. Let me know if you want to talk more. I could could also make a day trip and come brainstorm with you if you'd like. You aren't that far are you?

Anna said...

excuse me! Spell check messed up my spelling, ahem... I meant tidy.

Elise said...

This sounds like a complicated problem! I do have a couple of thoughts, based on our 450 square feet living last year.

1) Get rid of as many clothes as possible. There will always be opportunities for more hand-me-downs, or buying things second hand (do you have a Once Upon a Child? All of my kids clothes come from that store, even now!). It is worth paying, say 20 bucks for a lot of clothes on craigslist than stressing over storing a huge box of them for years. You would be paying the money for a storage solution anyway, right?

2) I made a bunch of drawstring bags in bright colors for Everett and Ashley's toys. I hung them from a board with pegs in it that I had gotten at hobby lobby or something. Later, I hung them from hangers in the kids' closet. (until lately I haven't really used their closet for hanging their clothes) It was awesome. Everett couldn't just dump everything out because he couldn't reach them all. I did have to help him get them down, but it helped me not be (as,I still am) lazy and it helped control the mess.

It sounds like your closet space is really tight. That has been my biggest frustration until the past couple of months. It really drove me crazy. You have a really good attitude about it, but I know it is tough and I don't think there is only one good solution.

The one thing I learned from living in our tiny apartment at Notre Dame was how liberating it felt to get rid of things that I thought we needed but that actually cost us a lot in stress and disorganization. It's really surprising.

Anyway, I'm not really very smart with organization (you should see my closets right now, and they aren't even full), but I thought I'd throw those ideas in the pot anyway.

I've always admired your brains. I'm excited to see what you come up with. I'm sure it will be clever!

Elise said...

P.S. I second the diaper boxes. Ask everyone you know who isn't as environmentally-conscious as you for their extra boxes. I've always used the normal (not cost-co) size and I would limit one box per size of clothes (birth to 6 months, etc.). They always just lived at the tops of our closets, all the way to the ceiling. It wasn't perfect, but it kept things organized (never mind the fact that I wasn't good at putting the clothes away in the right boxes. . .haha)

Elise said...

Oh, I also wanted to say that I know what it's like to worry about spending the money to replace things you are throwing out. There is stress in all aspects of it, but it is also very freeing :).

(3 comments in one day--got to be a record. Shutting up now.)

Momza said...

My own rule of thumb has always been "if there's no room for things, then we have too many things."
So purge until you do and don't buy more stuff to replace the outgoing things unless absolutely necessary.
IKEA has some nice storage ideas, so I'd check them out too.
You can get those under-the-bed boxes for somethings you want to keep.
Good Luck! I'm purging my own house this week and I love empty drawers and closets!!