Two Organized Closets

In my dream life, I organize a space one time and it works forever.

In my real life, I have two closets that terrify me, one by the front door and one in my bedroom.

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What is even going on here???

You can see some semblance of me attempting to organize in each closet, months ago. The bedroom closet (top image) became the catch-all for all the things that couldn’t fit in the storage closet and the storage closet (bottom image) was somewhat functional, but the combination of the vacuum (similar here)and bicycle meant it was hard for my short arms to reach into the shelves, no matter where I put them.

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I was laying in bed one weekend and looking at my closet and it dawned on me: part of the problem is that the wrong things are are in the wrong closet.

There really is no better place for the vacuum or bicycle, so I need to move the things I use all the time into the closet that’s easier to get to. I feel like that should be a no brainer, but for me it wasn’t. I just kept moving things around in the same closet and adding things and changing them.

So I woke up this morning and decided to tackle this project. I started the way I always start: by doing some yoga, making breakfast, calling my mom…everything I could think of that would avoid tackling this. AND THEN… I opened all the curtains and made the bed.

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Curtains / Sheers / Brown Blanket / Similar Quilt / Similar Lamp / Dressers

Then, I pulled out what I knew was already organized: my travel bag (the blue one at the top of the bedroom closet) full of all my purses. I lucked out, and the travel bag fit perfectly into my tote!

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Leaving me with a pretty little package of purses!

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And then – joy of joys – that tote full of bags fit into my duffel bag! Combining three things into one made a HUGE difference.

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I kept pulling things out that I knew didn’t need sorting through: a big box of yarn, things from my childhood, boxes of pictures, etc. I stacked them all in my family room, near the storage closet.

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Anything that I was confused about went on the bed.

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I just kept doing that until the closet was mostly empty. I was left some weird items that I tossed, a robe and a scarf.

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The scarf was an easy fix: I keep mine on my super fancy hanger-and-dollar-store-shower-curtain-hooks-combo:

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The robe has been a constant sore spot. I finally grabbed a Command Hook and stuck it in a little corner behind the closet doors.

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I grabbed up my other robe that also had no home and put them both on it! Easy peasy!

Then, I walked back to the storage closet. Upon closer inspection, I found chaos.

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And even more chaos.
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So, I got overwhelmed and walked away for a few minutes. Then, I decided to move the things that were causing me the most trouble.

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Then, it got much easier to go back to what I had been doing: putting the things I know about in one spot and everything else on the bed. The result was… very different from before.

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As I pulled things out, I used a damp cloth to wipe all of the dust off everything I pulled out.

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And then I started in again using the same method: anything that was already “packed” got put into the bottom of the storage closet because the likelihood of me needing easy access to it is minimal, and the bike and vacuum are going to be in the way.

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Anything that I use on a regular basis got sorted through or cleaned up and placed in the top of the bedroom closet, so that I can easily get to it.

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Already things were starting to feel MUCH better. I was left with a strange assortment of things on the bed and pile of papers that I’d just been adding to without bothering to sort thorough. The pile of papers I put on the kitchen table so I would have to look at it if I wanted to do something.

SOn the bed, you can kind of tell, is gift wrapping stuff (including a box of boxes), my dolls from my childhood, and a backpack. The kitchen table is a another story. I decided I’d start with the backpack.

I do love Pusheen, but I haven’t taken that stuff out of there since August, so I texted a friend to see if she wanted it (she did), and the books went on to the bookshelf.

The dolls got tucked away in a safe spot at the top of the bedroom closet, and I slipped the gift wrapping supplies into another, larger bag that went into the storage closet.

When I sat down and examined the pile of papers, there was little that wasn’t expired or out of date. I saved a few letters from friends & some student loan paperwork and the rest went into the trash, except for an on-paper family medical history I’d written down seven years ago and moved from house to house. That got typed up and saved for my next doctors appointment.

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The most plaguing thing for my whole series of moves has always been the stacks of paintings that I carry with me from house to house. I love them, they are plaguing in that way, but finding homes for the pieces that don’t fit on the wall is tricky.

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So I walked between the closets and I totally lucked out that the ceiling in the bedroom closet was tall enough for the tallest piece, a picture from the childhood bedroom!

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I continued to stack frame after frame until I was left with this:

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And that was that! All-in-all, this only took me an hour and a half. I stopped when I needed to but never for more than ten minutes. Ready to see how it looked??

Here’s a quick reminder of the before:

And after:

SO. MUCH. BETTER.

And some side-by-sides just for funsies.

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I’m in love!

How to Plan a Grocery Trip

Usually on Saturday morning I do laundry and go grocery shopping. My Saturday morning has been halted a little bit by a combo of D having my keys (which let me into the laundry room and into my car) and my mother letting me know she’s not sure what I’ll be bringing for Thanksgiving dinner.

So I decided I’d use to the time to plan both my weekly and my monthly grocery trip.

A Little Background

I didn’t start doing grocery shopping this way until about a year ago. When I lived in Florida, I went once a week, bought what I needed and went home. Often I ended up going more than once a week because I forgot things. Typically I spent somewhere between $40-$80, depending on the week and if I needed shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc.

About a year ago, though, I noticed my grocery bill was through the roof and I couldn’t figure out why. So I did a very rough audit of my grocery shopping. I had started eating meat occasionally when I moved back to South Florida. And I often told D there was “more than enough” for him to have dinner with me, not accounting for how often I saved money by eating leftovers for lunch.

Plate / Glass Container / Bowl

So we talked about it. And decided that, once a month, he would buy meats and pantry/freezer items, and once a week I would buy perishables. We’ve found that this a) keeps us on budget because the desire to keep our relationship balanced forces us to look at the number and b) means that my dread for grocery shopping is turned into 20 minutes once a week, and 1-2 fun hours with him once a month.

How I Plan It

I talked a little bit in this post about using the sale ads and coupons to determine my groceries. That’s more true for the monthly list than the weekly. Week-to-week, there are certain things I know are going to be consumed: milk, fruit, vegetables, cheese and crackers. So, I’m more likely to just go to the produce section and look at the prices than to look at the ads. My baseline of what I get is so low (usually about $30) that if I decide to splurge on a super exciting dinner or need to buy both wet and dry cat food it doesn’t really break the bank.

But the monthly trip is a much more involved process.

Planning Essentials

It doesn’t really take many items to plan the monthly shop. There are certain things I know we’re going to buy: meat, potatoes, frozen vegetables, pop and quick freezer meals. That usually brings the cost close to half. So the other half is spent on “special” items (chips, cookies, spices, etc.). It’s the other half that’s hard to figure out.

Planner & Pen

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When I first started trying to figure out how to feed myself, I lived by the Meal Plan Printable made by Jen over at iHeartOrganizing. I still use it when I know I’m going to have a super busy week. But, typically, I just write a meal on a sticky note and put it in my planner. Since I’m just one person (with a plus one), I’ve found this to be a better method.

There are some standard meals I know I’ll make each month, but I try to add in two or three new ones. I know that doesn’t sound like much but I only cook 2-3 times a week. My standard meals are…

  • Tacos
  • Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole
  • Cheesy Chicken and Rice
  • Shake n’ Bake Chicken & Salad
  • Baked Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Salad
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Taco Pasta
  • Steak, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes
  • Breakfast for dinner

My main goal is to spend no more than 30 minutes standing in the kitchen, which is how these made the cut. I will work on actually writing down the step-by-step for each of these because who doesn’t need more 30 minute meals?

Slippers (similar here)

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I actually do a lot of walking while I’m trying to figure out the groceries. Okay, not like, a lot, but I’m back and forth between the kitchen table and the pantry probably 20 times.

But that’s really only half of why I wear these.

I’m what you’d call an emotional dresser. My clothes make me feel a certain way and certain clothes make me feel different than others. Slippers automatically mean home to me. I don’t often wear them anywhere else (except maybe at a family members house). So I wear them while I’m making the grocery list because it makes it feel more like a cozy activity and less like homework.

I decided a long time ago that whatever I can do to make this process more relaxing and less task-feeling, I’m going to do.

Notepads & Pen

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You could probably just use one notepad. I don’t though. I like to have one for the monthly shop and one for the things I know I’ll end up writing down that are actually for the weekly trip. I like to use this size of sticky note because it’s long enough to accommodate most of what I need, but it’s also small enough that I don’t get carried away. Also, the sticky part lets me prop it up on the cart baby-basket-thing.

Knowledge Base

There are some things you have to know and ways you have to mentally prep yourself if you’re going to plan out a month worth of groceries, at least, that’s how it is for me.

  • How much money do you have? I run my budget before starting this list. And I rank the list in order of expense so that if the cap is hit, the things that aren’t bought are easy to pick up if there’s extra at the end of a weekly shop.
  • How much meat are you (& whomever else you’re shopping for) going to eat? In this house, if D is eating, I make a pound of meat. I probably eat 1/6th of that, he eats about 3/4 (per the doctor), and the rest is my lunch for the next day. If he’s not, there probably won’t be meat. So, having a good idea about your schedule is key.
  • On average how much are you going to cook? This one is my achilles heel. Some weeks, I cook every night. Other weeks, not at all. I’ve found that, on average, I cook 2-3 times a week; D cooks about the same. So we’re eating a meal at home almost every night of the week. Before we were together, my answer was twice a month. So what I brought in groceries was a lot different.
    • If you don’t know how to figure that out, audit your grocery list. I think I’ll make a post about that.
  • Be prepared to list more things than you think you need. Every single month when I sit down to write this list, I find myself overwhelmed by how many things are written down. Then I remember that it’s for the whole month and it calms me down a little bit.
  • It’s okay to write vague ideas. Last shopping trip, I wrote down “frozen snacks.” What does that mean? It means snacks that are frozen – pizza rolls, tater tots, french fries, etc. I don’t need to list all of them out. I wasn’t going to get all of them. I just think it’s good to have a frozen snack on hand and when I got to the store, I bought the “frozen snacks” that were on sale.
  • You’re the only one that knows what you need. I once wrote “26lb. Granola” on a shopping list and judged myself really hard for it. Who the heck needs that much granola? Well, two people who eat it every day for a month need that much. It happens every week that I write something down and I’m like, “What is my life???” and then I remember, it’s mine. Then I keep going.

Where Are You Gonna Put It?

I don’t actually recommend doing a big monthly shop for non-perishables if you don’t have storage space for it. Prior to getting a bakers rack, if I had more than one box of pasta in the house, I was just annoyed every time I walked into my kitchen.

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Write your list anyway. You may find that many things can be frozen, or at you’re willing to find spots for your favorite cereal that went on sale. I day dream about having a beautiful pantry with beautiful containers holding all the sweet food items. But I live in an apartment and have student loans. So, for now, I’m making do with what I’ve got.

Shop the Sale Ads and Coupons

I’m not a couponer. I will never be one. But, you know that little coupon flyer that comes in the mail? Usually there’s a coupon for dish soap and batteries. I clip that. I always need dish soap and I don’t often need batteries but when I do I find their price overwhelming.

The Sale Ads are really where it’s at. Your grocery store probably puts theirs online (most do). Flip through it. What kind of long-lasting tubers and legumes are on sale? Cereal? Pasta? Chips? Don’t write it down if it’s something you don’t like. But if it’s something you do like that last a long time, write it down.

I usually start with the sale ad, then go through the pantry to see what’s missing, and then I use my grocery stores app to clip coupons for what I already wrote down.

It seems counterintuitive to clip coupons last. I know. What I found is that if I clip them first, I buy stuff I don’t like. Or I see the actual price of the stuff the coupon is for and I don’t buy it and I end up with a million expired coupons floating around my life.

That’s it

Use your planner/calendar/agenda book.
Make it a relaxing activity.
Try a fun meal every now and then.
Trust what you know about yourself.
Clip coupons last.

Here’s a little example of what a monthly grocery shopping list looks like for me:

Grocery List

How to Make Grocery Shopping Less Boring

I don’t like grocery shopping. I try to tell myself I do and it doesn’t work. But I’ve learned some things that make it more bearable.

Step One: Split it up!

I do two different kinds of grocery shopping: a monthly big shop and a weekly little shop. Once a month (sometimes every other month depending on the weather) I drop around or over $100 and I always buy certain staples that either go in the freezer or pantry. Here’s a little breakdown of what that monthly trip looks like:

Grocery List

So that’s a lot of food, but it accounts for usually eating with D, plus hosting people for dinner. I usually have left over of everything except chicken and vegetables. I’ve found that this makes it easier to budget and it’s much easier to grocery shop weekly for twenty minutes and only spend an hour and a half in the grocery store each month.

My weekly grocery list looks something more like this:

Get Some Groceries

Way more confusing. & mostly produce. This means that I can spend most of my time in one area, meaning I’m in and out much faster. The weekly grocery shop has turned into a game that I play, which makes it much more fun!

Step 2: Bring Minimal Supplies

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I bring a very limited amount of things with me when I go grocery shopping: reusable bags, grocery list, headphones, my clutch (similar here) & my phone. If you think about it, it’s really all you need and holding on to your purse just slows the whole process down.

Step 3: Treat Yo Self

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My grocery store has a Starbucks in it and when I do my big monthly shop, I definitely am all about a White Chocolate Mocha (or a White Chocolate Hot Chocolate if it’s night time). But I can’t justify a $4 coffee every week (that’s $20 a month!), so I bring my little coffee mug with me. Yes, I do feel slightly ridiculous. Sometimes I bring my travel mug instead, which makes me feel slightly less ridiculous. I’ve found that having a drink (even just some water) actually makes me feel relaxed, more than anything else.

Step 4: Rock Some Tunes

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My Driving playlist is my go-to for everything, basically, because it’s the right mix of feelings. I don’t always listen to music while grocery shopping if I go early in the morning. But if it’s the afternoon and I want to be in and out as fast as I can, I put headphones in and it helps me stay focused on what I’m doing, and also helps me to enjoy the fact that I get to pick through beautiful, fresh produce.

Step 5: Make it About Others

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I try to challenge myself on each grocery trip to find something for someone else. If it’s under $4, I get it for them (last weekend I got my Chicagoian dad a bag of this popcorn). If it’s more than that, I take a picture of it. My cousin’s girlfriend loves skulls and bright colors so I texted this to her with a little note that I was thinking about her.

My grocery store has more than just groceries; it’s more like a Michigan-only, super clean and friendly Wal*Mart. So I try to give myself a little leeway and spend some time in the Home section, not just strictly spend my time in the food area.

I also don’t always do this – sometimes I get all the way through the check-out lane and discover I got too focused and forgot, so I take a look at my coupons, and if I somehow ended up with coupons for baby formula or something, I pass them to another shopper who I see has a little one. And if all else fails, I give a stranger a compliment and a nice smile.

Step 6: Time Yourself

I know, I know. That sounds so weird. Here’s what happened: I usually do my grocery shopping in between loads of laundry. When I do the laundry, I set a timer because it’s in my apartment complexes basement and I will forget it. Like, for days. So one day, I thought to myself, “I have an hour. What can I do with an hour?” And my grocery list only had like, 10 things on it and my grocery store is 5 minutes from my house. So I tried it — what was the worst that could happen? I got groceries and laundry done at the same time! It. Was. Amazing! So, it became a thing. I do keep my timer on, but I also run the stopwatch on my phone to see if I can get below a certain time.

I tend to like any kind of game, and this is the most compelling grocery shopping game I could come up with.

Step 7: Don’t Leave Your Keys in the Car

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Do you know what that’s a picture of? My car keys, and my wet dress. Because in a freezing, torrential downpour the other day, I couldn’t find my keys as I was leaving the grocery store. I was partway through the parking lot and going through my coat and nothing. I don’t often lock my car, so thankfully, I was able to put the grocery bags in the back and shake my coat out and quickly toss it on the bags and didn’t end up too drenched (my hair would tell another story). I finally told myself to just sit in the front seat and start to retrace my steps, and when I sat down, I found my keys!

This a recurring problem in my life. Remembering what you did with your keys definitely makes for a more pleasant trip to the grocery store!

Step 8: Remember that it’s Okay.

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This was the most soothing image I could find.

Sometimes you spend more than you mean to (would it be good if I talked more about the money of things?). Sometimes it takes a literal 45 minutes to get through the check out lane. Sometimes you totally blank on the fact that you’re having six people over in the middle of the week. Sometimes you get home and learn that you now have seven boxes of pasta when you thought you had none.

Whatever.

That happens to everyone who goes grocery shopping and you know what else happens? Sometimes you spend less than you thought you would. Sometimes you get to talk to the awesome person in line behind you and make a new friend. Sometimes you end up making a super delicious brand new thing for your friends because you have no time to go back to the store. And sometimes, you learn that a friend is having a hard time and you just so happen to have all that pasta you can give to them right at that moment.

They’re just groceries. It’s only a very small chunk of your life and you’ll figure it out eventually. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I go.