28 Day Organizing Challenge: Before & After

And it’s done!  I finished my sewing room today, the last day of the 28 Day Organizing Challenge.  The way it actually went down is that I finished because it’s the last day of the Challenge, and would have kept doing various things if there were more time.  I like the results.  As my boyfriend said tonight when he helped me move out an old dresser: “There’s a floor in here?  Huh, I hadn’t realized that…”  And now for the pictures!  They’re linked to slightly larger versions if you want to see more detail.  The Before pictures are on the left and the After versions are on the right.  Answers to the Challenge questionnaire are after the photos.


I also have a few pictures that don’t have Before shots for the comparison; they show my new bulletin board and sewing table accessories.

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?
The hardest parts of this challenge were emotional and mental rather than logistical.  One of the hardest parts was just walking into the room to work on it.  I’d be sitting on my laptop in the living room, reading the various internetz, and I’d say to myself, “Go work in your sewing room!  You know you’ll like it!”  Usually I didn’t do it.  Whenever I finally did I was always glad, and tried to remember the feeling to encourage me to go the next time.  I didn’t successfully overcome this difficulty.

Another hard part was throwing away stuff that could maybe possibly be used in a theoretical future project perhaps.  I didn’t like feeling wasteful, or like I was adding more garbage to the landfill.  I overcame that by using a critical eye to realize that it was mostly garbage and didn’t deserve to be in a project.

One last part that caused me trouble was when I would open a box of papers, notebooks, and pictures and find myself reliving years gone by.  For example, I came across my journal from freshman year of college and when I opened it just to find a date to know where to put it, I got sucked into reading about falling in love with my best friend a semester before we got together.  (He broke up with me a year later, and we stopped occasionally seeing one another a year and a half after that.)  I decided I wasn’t prepared during this particular project timeline to delve that deeply into the emotional aspect of purging and organizing decade-old papers, so I grouped such items together by category knowing that at a later date I will go back and select which letters/notebooks/pictures/etc I want to actually keep and which can be reminisced about and then tossed.  In the meantime, I simply organized these items into storage, purging some that were clearly trash.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?
I added a small cutting table in place of the dresser to minimize the amount of in-progress fabric and projects that I used to work on the floor and to make to it difficult to stuff things away in a closed drawer and forget about them.  There are now two small trash cans, one within reach of each main station in my sewing room.  The large plastic bins in the closet are stacked with the least-used one on the bottom.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
A lot went into the garbage.  The dresser moved to the guest room, lots of boxes of keepsakes were consolidated into much fewer boxes and stored in the spare room closet until I go through the papers individually to purge ones I don’t want to keep (see question 1 above), and some items moved to more appropriate permanent homes in other parts of the house.

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?
By consolidating multiple containers and boxes that weren’t even half-filled, I opened up more storage space.  Other than that, I didn’t use a lot of creativity, it was more that I took the time to put things where I already knew they belonged.

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?
I’m not convinced I should win it, although that’s hard to say without seeing all the other participants’ results.  Despite the mess, my sewing room has always had the bones of good organizational structure.  The Before and After shots aren’t extreme, and I didn’t so much implement many new organizing systems as I did enforce the existing ideas.  Also, I still have a few cardboard boxes of items to thoroughly sort and purge at a later date — notebooks, papers, folders, pictures, letters, notes,…   They’re no longer in my sewing room, although they’re still out there.

Update #1:

  • I do plan to mount the thread holder on the wall above my sewing table after I buy some nails.  Apparently we don’t have any nails, not even in the junk drawer.  A complete tool set, yes.  Screws, yes.  Pushpins, yes.  Nails, no.  Wait, maybe I could use some of those heavy-duty removable poster-mounting squares I found in a drawer and carefully collected together to put with other office supplies.  Hm…
  • The left side of the closet is in fact prom dresses, cocktail dresses, and vintage gowns from the ’60s handed down from my mom.  Other costumes and nostalgia-wear are in the bottom tub on the closet floor.  The hanging dividers contain fancy shoes and purses.  The clothes on the right side are waiting for alterations, tailoring, and refashions.  Actual everyday clothes don’t live in my sewing room.
  • The plastic basket on my sewing table corrals sewing tools like scissors, seam ripper, and pins, as well as some basic office supplies like tape, pens, and a scratch pad.  I put a pretty note card box in the bottom of one half to raise the level enough so that the smaller items didn’t disappear in the bottom.  It will also be able to store items when I find the need.  It’s still empty as of yet because as I’ve learned, just because I have a container doesn’t mean I should put something in it.  Let the contents determine the container and not vice versa.

February 28, 2010. Tags: , , , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 12 comments.

New pretty fabric bulletin board


I bought a large bulletin board from Goodwill during the last 50% Off Saturday Sale.  My original plan when looking for another bulletin board was to pull off the frame, paint the borders, and reattach the edges.  The only large one at the store that day was half bulletin/half whiteboard, and the pressed wood edges didn’t seem like they’d take kindly to being pulled off and reattached.  I bought it anyway because at $3.50 the price was right.

As I mulled it over, I realized the back would work with pushpins.  I painted the whole thing with my favorite paint leftover from my dining chairs.  (You can see one of the dining chairs in the bottom picture.)  I didn’t even have to take it outside because I had left some cardboard trash by the back door for several days somebody was storing a cardboard box in the sun room and it was a great protective surface when flattened out, and the low VOCs paint didn’t fill the house with poisonous gases when painting indoors.

A piece of turquoise print fabric was the perfect size, thus validating my purchase of the fabric when I hadn’t had anything particular in mind for it at the time besides really liking the color.  The fabric is attached with clear pushpins, which means I can change it with ease down the line.  I might give the same treatment to the other bulletin board with a quieter fabric.

February 21, 2010. Tags: , , , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 2 comments.

New thread holder

I bought myself a thread holder at Joann a couple weeks ago.  I decided it was time: my spools  had outgrown the two plastic sandwich containers I’d been using, and I really like lining things up in order.  Organizers were on sale for half off, so I bought the larger one to give me room to grow.  Right now it stands on the corner of my sewing table, although at some point it will move up to the wall to clear surface space.

Having all the spools lined up makes it easy to see what to buy next time.  I need light blue, which I’ve forgotten to buy twice now because I didn’t write it down, and I just finished a spool of gray.

February 20, 2010. Tags: , . Pictures, Words. 2 comments.

Valentine’s Day cards

I had a few friends over last week to make Valentine’s Day cards using my carft supplies.  I brought out a few bins of fabrics scraps and manned the sewing machine for anybody who pinned their own fabric.  One of my friends was sick and couldn’t come that night, so she came over a few days later and I got to make some more.

“This is so much fun!” she said, as she cut pieces of things and glued and pinned other things.  “We should do this again!  Really!”  I agreed.

February 19, 2010. Tags: , , , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 2 comments.

Picture frames to little message boards

Over the weekend I helped a friend clean her desk.  I sat on her bed and said “Toss it…  Throw it out…  Give it away…  Put it in the cabinet in the bathroom–no, don’t just put it in another pile to deal with later, that’s what we’re doing now, don’t just make another pile in a different spot on the desk…  Toss it…  Keep that, so file it in its forever spot…  If you had to think about it that long then you don’t need it and were just trying to come up with a justification for it…  Toss it… ”  Sometimes I just pointed at the garbage.  It took an hour; at the end her desk was clean  and she appreciated my help.  (Really, she did.)

I took home a bag of items, including two frames that used to hold cheesy watercolor pictures.  I turned them into a matching set of mini bulletin boards, just like my jewelry frame except this time I added corrugated cardboard to be able to use pushpins.  I’m not sold on the color of the frames, which is more of a blueish gray in real life, and I might end up painting them the same dark gray as the jewelry frame and dining chairs because man do I like painting stuff that color.  (More coming…)  I don’t currently have a use for these new mini bulletin boards, which means they’re sitting on my kitchen counter looking pretty behind some apples as I turn my friend’s clutter into my own.  I’ll think of something, though, something real useful like holding keys by the door or handy phone numbers inside a cupboard door, and then we’ll see who “wasted” 30 minutes making more of those “weird fabric frame things”.  (I’m not quoting anybody in particular there, it just seems like a thing that could be said.)

February 18, 2010. Tags: , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 1 comment.

The sleep of a champion

He got home from CrossFit yesterday around noon and came into the bedroom to see if I was awake yet.  “Hm, she’s not in bed and she’s not in the bathroom or living room, so where is she…?  Oh.  There she is.”  Sometimes I’m asked how I can regularly sleep in until noon or 1:00 or sometimes even 2:00 in the afternoon when I’m catching up on sleep.  It’s pure skill, people, it’s pure natural talent that can’t be taught.

February 7, 2010. Pictures, Words. 2 comments.

Red apron for swap

My partner for the Cheap Hot Mama Apron Swap requested “RED<RED<RED<” and chose the Wild and Crazy theme.  We were supposed to use only things we already had, thus the Cheap part of the title, and red is not one of my main stash colors.  I could do anything with a blue or green request, and I was struggling with finding enough red for her.  I pulled out my few pieces of reddish fabric and let them sit for a few weeks.  Several days before the deadline I remembered a new full apron I won in a contest last fall and I decided to refashion it.

The pictures make the apron look more orange than it really is.  The ruffle is a shimmery sheer orange and the rest is red.  I covered one of the existing pockets with a darker red print and did two bands of tomato across the top and bottom.  I used the original apron’s narrow ties.  It’s the first apron I’ve made for a swap that’s not lined or reversible.  When taking a picture I was asked, “What theme did she want,’gaudy’?”  I said she requested “wild and crazy”.  “Ah, that works too,” he said.

February 7, 2010. Tags: , , , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 3 comments.

Sewing Room Progress! Plus fabric drawers

I worked in my sewing room tonight for almost two hours, unpacking several bags and boxes of what turned out to be a lot of garbage.  I found a picture of me from senior year of college looking softer around the edges than I realized at the time — 15+ extra pounds will do that to a woman who is 5’2″.  I also found quite a few stamped addressed envelopes with nothing in them.  Apparently I planned to send a lot of letters whatever year stamps were 37 cents and didn’t follow through with all of them.

I put away the goodies I won in a Confessions of a Sewing Dork giveaway awhile ago.  As I picked up the fabric, I experienced a twinge of anxiety as to where I would file it.  With the yellows because of its chartreuse background, or with the purple because of the print?  When I opened my drawer I saw the fabric and said out loud, “Oh!” in delight.  For some reason, the yellows and purples were right next to each other in the drawer!  I didn’t have to choose!  It was so perfect!  Perfect for today, anyway, I’ll do a rainbow-order update of the drawers before the end of the 28 Day Organizing Challenge.

In other news, I found a lone unwrapped Swedish Fish in a sack of old papers and cds, sitting in the collection of lint and  occasional dog hair at the bottom of the bag.  It had been there for at least 18 months.  After much consideration, I did not eat it.  Barely.

February 4, 2010. Tags: , . Links, Pictures, Words. 2 comments.

New swap apron!

I received a delightful apron from Ruth in the latest Hot Mamas apron swap.  I wore the apron that very same day — within an hour of opening my package, actually — while making cupcakes and I didn’t want to post about it until it was out of the laundry pile and ready for a picture.  It’s a perfect apron for me: vibrant colors with a precise ruffle at the bottom and simple as I like it (not a lot of unnecessary frippery mucking things up with cutesy-ness) and I know I’ll use it frequently in the kitchen.  I love the red fabric.  As a certain man said, “It looks like an apron a dinosaur might wear,” meaning the pebbled pattern could be the skin of a dinosaur.  It even looks good with my workout clothes, short socks and all.

In addition to the apron she gave me a set of salt & pepper shakers, a votive candle, and a bag of Lindor truffles.  I set them on an open shelf in the kitchen and I looked forward to enjoying the chocolates as a fancy treat when I wanted an indulgence.  Several days later I picked up the bag to find it already open and half empty.  I walked into the office and asked, “Did you open my bag of chocolates from the swap?”

He looked around at the empty wrappers strewn across his desk.  “…Yes. I thought you didn’t want them because you hadn’t opened them yet.”

“I do want some, so don’t eat them all, ok?”  I said.

“Ok,” he agreed, before excitement got the better of him and he continued, ” The yellow ones are white chocolate and the red wrappers are milk chocolate and the blue ones are a darker milk chocolate and they’re all truffles, all of them, within creamy chocolate filling inside!”

Yes, they were all truffles.  I liked the white chocolate ones the best.  Thank you Ruth, from both of us!

February 3, 2010. Tags: . Links, Pictures, Words. 1 comment.

Sewing room curtains!

I made some curtains for my sewing room using a twin-size flat sheet that was on sale for $3.50 at Ikea.  I am generously calling this a refashion because hey, these sheets are up in my window instead of on my bed so it sure sounds like I did some refashioning from their original purpose, doesn’t it?  I didn’t even have to hem anything, I used the side and bottom hems from the original sheet.

My sewing room used to have blinds.  It stopped having blinds the day I pulled on the string to open or close them and the whole thing came crashing down on me.  That was awhile ago, last spring I think, and since then I’ve simply let anybody who goes down the street at night look into my window and see whatever I’m doing in there.  They can see in during the day too just without as much visibility.  I tried to keep the sewing room door closed so that passerby wouldn’t get an eyeful of anybody walking through the hallway, coming out of the bathroom right there after a shower, for example.

After I had already put up the curtains I realized that the bottom was creased in a few places and they weren’t hanging right.  I didn’t want to deal with taking them down, yet again, so I taped some quarters to the bottom on the backside to weigh it down.  Working beautifully so far.

The second picture shows that I took the doors off the closet on Sunday, see the empty hinges on the left side of the closet?  They were just getting in the way because I never had them closed, and after the 28 Day Organizing Challenge is done at the end of February the closet will be organized and beautiful and won’t need any doors to hide behind anyway.

February 2, 2010. Tags: , , . Pictures, Projects, Words. 3 comments.

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