Monday, February 17, 2020

20 Simple Changes I Made Around the House that Have Made Life Easier - Part 1

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I declared 2019 my year to get things DONE and one of the main tasks that I focused on was identifying pain points around our house and changing things to eliminate said pain points, in turn, making our lives a whole lot easier.  At the beginning of the year, I walked around our entire house, observing each of the different rooms and spaces.  I made note of what was working and what wasn’t and then I made a list of all of the things that I thought could be improved.  Once I had my list, I was able to tackle each space, tweak the things that needed some TLC, and I was able to “make our home work for us,” which has made a lot of our daily processes faster and easier. 

I have 20 things to share and I had intended to squeeze all 20 into one post, but by the time I finished writing, the post was more than 4,000 words.  Y’all know how long-winded I can be… even though I prefer to call it detailed.  ;o)  So instead, I decided to split the long post into two shorter posts and I’m going to be sharing ten things with you today and the other ten next week.  Sound good?

O N E – Added a tray next to the kitchen sink to wrangle common-used items

I throw as many things as I can in the dishwasher, but there are plenty of items that we own that have to be hand-washed – I’m looking at you, fancy wine glasses and lunchbox inserts!  Therefore, I do spend a decent amount of time hand-washing at the sink each afternoon and evening.  I used to keep our dish soap in the cabinet under the sink along with my beloved Thieves multi-purpose cleaner and my hand lotion (hello, dry hands!) and it was just so inconvenient having to open the cabinets and dig the items out every single time I needed to use them.  I always thought it would be nice to leave all of the frequently used items on the countertop, but it just looked too cluttered. 

Well, I snagged the cutest little metal stand at Hobby Lobby and I thought it would be the perfect way to wrangle all of the commonly-used items in plain sight without giving things a cluttered look.  Everything I use frequently is right there within arm’s reach (hand soap, dish soap, hand lotion, Thieves cleaner, and a scrub brush), and it’s not only convenient, but it looks really lovely, too.  Also, the tray catches all of the soap drips so that’s nice, too.  I can’t find my exact tray online to link, but I did find a couple of others that are similar.

T W O – Hung a drying rack for our dish rag

Another issue that killed me in the kitchen was that we had no appropriate place to dry our dish rag.  We used to lay it over the sink faucet after each use, but inevitably it would get knocked into the sink or soaked by the faucet, and therefore it never really had a chance to dry.  Because it never dried properly, rags had to be changed and washed nearly every day or they would start getting smelly.  Yuck. 

I found this handy dandy Command Towel Bar on Amazon for just $9.99 and I installed it under the kitchen sink on the inside of the cabinet door.  It’s the perfect width to allow me to spread out the entire rag so it dries thoroughly every time.  No more stinky, bacteria-filled rags and no more rags falling into the sink!!

The rack was super easy to install, and since it’s Command brand it won’t damage the cabinets.  I also love this one better than the over-the-door hangers because now I don’t have to see the silver hooks hanging on the outside of the cabinet.  Yessss.

T H R E E – Added a sponge holder to the inside of the sink

We keep a scouring sponge in the sink to get all of the really nasty gunk off of the dishes before putting them in our dishwasher, and we use it constantly, so we like to keep it in the sink.  The problem with keeping it in the sink is that it gets lost under dishes and continuously stays wet and gross.

We do have a little pull out tray under the sink especially for sponges, but we use that tray to store our cleaning sponge, bottle brushes, and straw brushes… those are the ones that we use to clean and disinfect, so we don’t like to put our scouring sponge in there with those since it touches lots of gross stuff.

I bought a metal sponge holder with suction cups that sticks to the inside of the sink, and it’s THE BEST THING EVER.  No more scrubbing sponge laying in the sink and getting in the way or getting buried under the pile of dishes.  It’s now safely in it’s holder where it can dry appropriately and not get lost.  I stuck our sponge holder to the side of the sink opposite the wall, that way it’s not visible in the rest of the kitchen.

F O U R – Created a lunchbox zone

Making lunches is the bane of my existence, and we have two very picky eaters which means I’m making them at least 4-5 days per week.  We use lots of supplies to make lunches and prior to creating this space, I was constantly running all over the kitchen to round up everything each day. 

Last year, I created this lunchbox zone and it has been wonderful.  I cleaned out a cabinet right next to the countertop where I prepare the lunches, so everything is within arm’s reach.  It houses the kids’ lunchboxes, plastic food containers, snack boxes, food thermoses, napkins, plastic bags, paper bags, plastic silverware, and even a joke notepad as well as a regular notepad with a sharpie for the days when I want to write them a little note. 

I also typed up a list of all of the items that the kids eat, I put it in a plastic sheet protector, and I secured it to the inside of the cabinet door with command strips (they won’t ruin the cabinets!) so I have all of the meal ideas right there.

Now the only two places I have to go to in the morning when making lunches is the refrigerator and the pantry to grab the actual food.  This has saved me so many steps and so much time each morning and I LOVE IT.  I dedicated an entire post to this space and you can see it here if you missed it.

F I V E – Created a homework station

The kids both have homework daily and they always do it at our kitchen table.  Prior to having the homework station, there was a daily struggle to find a pencil or the scissors or the iPad and it was such a pain just to round up the supplies they needed to do their homework.

Last year, I cleaned out the buffet table next to our kitchen table and I filled it with everything they need to do their homework.  The left drawer holds a basket of freshly sharpened pencils, a basket of crayons, a couple of pairs of safety scissors, glue, and a few extra erasers.  I also included a battery-operated pencil sharpener right there in the drawer so the kids can just sharpen their own pencils if they need to. 

The right drawer holds blank computer paper, lined notebook paper, and our iPad and charger (for Jacob’s web-based homework).  I also added two big baskets underneath the table, one for Jacob, and one for Olivia.  They often remain at the table after homework is finished so they can color or draw, and those baskets are perfect for housing their artwork and creations that they make at home.

The kids now have all of the homework supplies that they need right at their fingertips and they are now able to get their homework started on their own each day without my help.   

S I X – Created a drop zone to wrangle all school stuff

Once Jacob started Pre-K4, we really started getting flooded with homework and reminders and school paperwork.  I also struggled to keep up with remembering to do certain things on certain days and I was always worried about dropping the ball on something. 

Unfortunately we didn’t include a mudroom when we built our house (I seriously don’t know what we were thinking!), so we don’t have a designated drop-zone.  Backpacks and jackets and school papers were everywhere and it was just a hot mess in general. 

A couple of years ago I turned the itty bitty space behind our garage door into a super-functional drop zone, and it has completely saved my sanity.  I hung a piece of soundboard (super cheap at hardware stores and great because you can cut it to any size to fit any space) covered in a cute fabric on the wall to serve as a bulletin board.  I type up all of the notes we need to remember each school year and hang that along with the school calendar on the top of the board, and then each child has two pockets hanging on the board as well, one for their class syllabus and schedule, and one for homework items.  They also each have a checklist of daily chores/things they need to be doing each day on the board.

There’s a rack just under the board that holds all of their coats and outerwear, and then they each have a basket that holds their backpacks and any other items that they take to school.

The rack on the right holds all of the school papers that they bring home that we want to save (everything else immediately goes in the recycling bin) and twice per year I clean out, photograph, and file all of the items we want to keep.

During the summer, we use the bulletin board to house our summer bucket list and other fun ideas, and then I just switch it back to school mode in the fall. 

I actually dedicated an entire blog post to this and you can see it here.  This thing is seriously heaven-sent and I’m positive I’ll be using it for years to come… or until we build a custom home with an actual mudroom.  Brian’s rolling his eyes right now.  Haha.

S E V E N – Rearranged the kitchen cabinets in zones

I’ve always been a very organized person, so our kitchen cabinets have always been neat and tidy.  However, some of the items that I was storing together in the cabinets didn’t really make sense, and some items were stored in cabinets that were nowhere near the spaces where they’re typically used, so last year I rearranged some things. 

I dedicated an entire long post to this and you can see it here if you’re interested, but I’ll touch on a few examples below just to elaborate for the sake of this post.

I made a “paper towel zone” in the cabinet over the paper towel holder, a “kids zone” in the kitchen island so all of their things are together where they can reach them, a “serving zone” in the dining room, an “adult beverages zone” by the refrigerator, a “leaving the house zone” by the garage door to store all of our things that we take with us when we leave the house, and so many more.

E I G H T – Switched out phone charger cords by the bed

I had the standard iPhone charging cord next to my bed for years but it was so short that it was constantly falling down behind the nightstand, which meant I’d have to get out of bed to retrieve it.  I also couldn’t use my phone in the bed while it was charging because it wouldn’t reach all the way into the bed.

This was probably the easiest fix on this list.  I bought a super long charging card (duh) and now all of my problems are solved.  No more cord falling on the floor under the bed each night.  No more struggling to charge my phone while in bed!

N I N E – Hung a pocket organizer in our coat closet

We have a coat closet just by the door that leads to our garage, but the problem with that closet is that it’s teeny tiny.  For the longest time we only stored coats in there, and all hats, gloves, and other winter accessories were stored upstairs in each person’s room.  That meant that every single time it was cold, we had to run upstairs to three different rooms to grab everything we needed and that was just dumb.

Since our coat closet is so tiny, it has a very narrow door, but I managed to find this super narrow plastic over-the-door pocket organizer that fits on it perfectly.  I hung it on the inside of the door, and now we have a place for every single person’s toboggans and gloves plus ponchos and other outerwear.  The kids’ accessories are in the bottom two pockets so they can reach their own stuff.  Yes, yes, yes!!!!  No more running upstairs!  Everything is right there by the door exactly where we need it. 

Side note, I also have the wider version in each of the kids' closets to hold all of their shoes!

T E N – Bought a dish drying pad

We run the dishwasher every single day in our house, and I used to spend time towel-drying off each of the dishes before putting them away.  Having to towel-dry everything wasted at least 15 minutes each day, so I set out to find a solution for that.

I knew I didn’t want one of those bulky plastic dish drying racks because I didn’t want it sitting out on the counter all the time taking up precious counter space, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.  My mother-in-law happened to show us one day that she had gotten a dish drying pad and I knew that was the solution to all of my problems!

I bought one immediately and now each time I unload the dishwasher, I sit my dish drying pad on the counter right above the dishwasher.  Anything that’s already dry (plates, bowls, pots, and pans usually are) goes straight in the cabinets and everything that’s still wet (cups, lunchbox containers, silverware, various other items) goes straight on the drying pad.  Items usually air dry within an hour or so and then I just put them away and pop the dish drying pad back its place in the cabinet. 

The dish drying pad stays out of sight when not in use and it doesn’t take up permanent counter space like a plastic dish drainer would.  It comes in tons of colors and patterns to match any kitchen and it’s also machine washable which is wonderful!!  

And that’s where I’m going to stop for today!  Stay tuned for the second half of the post… it will be live Monday, one week from today! 

If you do decide to find solutions for the pain points in your homes, I’d love to hear from you!  Be sure to tag me in your posts and stories on Instagram @lindsayssweetworld!  I’d love to get some ideas from you, too!!

Happy Monday, y’all!

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  1. Lots of great ideas! I have a dish drying pad, a sponge holder in the sink, and an over the door organizer in my coat closet as well and love them all.

  2. I like the way you did all of this organizing in your home!

  3. Organization is literally one of my favorite things - there is nothing better than not having clutter! I love all the touches you added to the kitchen! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  4. I love our new sponge holder... but I still can't get the rest of the family to remember to use it and find it on the counter more often than not. Hopefully it will start to become routine soon.

  5. Another post going straight to my Organization Pinterst board! So many great ideas. We put in a mini-mudroom when we rebuilt, and ironically I'm the only one who uses it. I wish I would have had it when the kids were little. Now they carry their backpacks to the study where they do their homework. Great ideas!

  6. The in sink sponge holder is one of my most prized possessions, hee hee!

  7. Great tips! I added that sponge holder to my amazon cart. Why have I never had one??

  8. I have been searching for the perfect basket/tin to hold our daily vitamins that sit out on our kitchen counter, it drives me crazy I haven't found what I'm looking for yet!! I also use an over the door organizer for all winter accessories!

  9. These posts are the best! I need to get one of those sponge holders for the sink! And one of those paper towel holders - I just throw mine under the sink and while it works, having a holder would be much easier to keep it at the front of the cabinet and pull off a piece or two when needed. Can't wait for part 2!

  10. These are all amazing things. I have done a few of them around my house, but I definitely need to add more.

  11. It's the simple things we tend to forget. I grew up with a towel rack under the sink. My mom couldn't stand having the dish clothes on display. How soon we forget. Great organizing you've got going on here.

    1. It really is! And yes, it's so brilliant and yet something I never thought to do until just recently.

  12. My goal this summer is to convert part of our closet to a "mud closet" so that each girl will have a place to hang jackets/backpacks and put shoes. I also love your lunch station... something I'd love to do too. :) Great job getting stuff accomplished!

    1. Do it! You will be so thankful you did! It's been a complete game changer in our house!

  13. You have given me so many awesome ideas!

  14. Isn't it true that little things make a big difference!

    1. It really is true! I can't even tell you how happy these tiny little changes have made me this past year. And it's especially been great lately since we've been spending so much time at home!

  15. Wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ's.


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