Monday, April 20, 2009

The shelf that cleans itself

We all have space to call our own. From a great big house with a bazillion rooms, to a tiny dorm room, we all have the same issue: How to organize the space we have with the stuff we have. If you have areas in your home that are habitually in complete disarray, no matter how often you pick them up, then most likely the space is not organized to fit your habits, lifestyle, and stuff.

One such space in my house was the back entrance. We call it the fake utility room because it is a non-purpose room. It is too small for a washer dryer or even a bench to take off shoes, yet it is the hub of our household. We go in and out the back door to the garage, taking stuff with us and leaving stuff behind. And it was ALWAYS a complete disaster, stacked with all kinds of clutter. When guests came, the back entrance was off limits. Sometimes people still came through there and I cringed with embarrassment. 

I've blogged before about a wonderful book called, The House That Cleans Itself. It helps the common person, born without natural "clean house" genes, keep her home presentable and workable. I used the principles from that book to organize, once and for all, this back entrance to our home.

First of all, I took a picture of the mayhem. I am sorry to say, I actually swept and picked up before the picture because it was SO bad, but you really aren't supposed to. The purpose of taking a picture of the mess is so that I can easily see what our family's natural habits are and what things need a home in this space. The idea is to not require a change in habits when you re-organize a space. Busy people on the go can't maintain the change and clutter piles up in no time flat!

The picture above it taken from the hallway that leads to the living room and bedrooms. To the left is a doorway to the kitchen. The door straight ahead leads to the garage. There are very narrow cabinets on the wall on the left that hold inside tools (hammers, screw drivers, nails) and between them is a strange little light with its own switch. The white cabinet on the right is where I keep my craft supplies. You can see an outline of a wood shelf/end table beside the craft cupboard. I put it there in an effort to stop the clutter collection, but it was too small and didn't work. Where all that junk is piled on the left, was a small sink unit that I had Jeff take out a couple of months ago. We never used the sink because it was always piled with stuff. On more than one occasion, the garbage disposal backed up into the kitchen sink on the other side of the wall and flooded the little sink that was perpetually full of stuff. Talk about disgusting. Something needed to be done with this area!

I made a list of what needed a place for this hub to run smoothly. My list won't be the same as yours would be, but it will give you an idea of how detailed you need to be when you are organizing. If you are not this thorough, you will be faced with the same clutter problem in the same area in less than a day -- take it from me. I've "organized" this space dozens of times over the last 7 years and it never stuck because I wasn't working with what was inevitable.

  • shoes (about 10 pairs of adults shoes, 10 pair of children's)
  • seasonal hats, gloves
  • loose change
  • car keys
  • recycling (cardboard, milk jugs, cans, glass). Containers are 14" wide and about 20" tall.
  • Camera bag and extra camera supplies
  • outgoing mail
  • library books and movies
  • Give away items for charity
  • items that need to be returned to the store or given to a specific person
My concern was to do this project for as little money as possible. I thought about getting a long dresser to put there, but I couldn't find one I liked for less than $100. With all these things in mind, I drew up a shelf with the specific dimensions needed to accommodate all this stuff. I also had some existing plumbing coming out of the wall to work around. I needed the recycling area to be a big enough to not over-flow and the shoe shelves out of sight, but accessible for my little ones. 

I am thankful daily that I have a husband who can do projects like this. He completed the shelf within a few days of me giving him the plan. Why did I take so long to do this? Jeff was resourceful enough to find some lumber that sat unused in the barn for the last 20 years. So far, my shelf was free. I used paint leftover from a different project and I bought baskets and fabric at Joann's with coupons. The total came to $20.

I really like the color of the shelf and think that it will wear well. I also really like the fabric I found at Joann's. It pulls the shelf color together with the strange lime-ish green of the walls (I wasn't in the mood to repaint the walls, so I worked around them).

The colors also work with a shelf I already had that now holds outgoing mail.

The baskets are for the seasonal hats/gloves, returnable items, and charity. I also have space for my camera bag and supplies.

Behind the curtains hung with tension rods, are the shoes on the left and recycling on the right. So far, my children think it is loads of fun to put their shoes behind the curtain when they come in the back door -- I hope that lasts forever and ever.

On top of the shelf is a place for loose change, car keys, cell phones. The wicker tray is designed to contain the inevitable piles of other stuff.

This is the view walking in from the garage, a much more welcoming sight as you enter our home. Please, come through the garage now. I don't mind!

The House That Cleans Itself doesn't actually clean itself. It just makes it easy to maintain instead of turning everything into an all day, frustrating project. With my functional shelf, sweeping up and doing small de-cluttering can be done in no time. Plus, I smile every time I walk through this space now because it is so pretty.

I am inspired now to work on other areas in my home that aren't working. I hope you are too!


Lisa said...

It looks very nice. I really like the color of the shelf and the fabric. Some day I may need to borrow that book from you. My personal space is always much too cluttered.

Tawny said...

That last photo make the space look stunning! I love the changes you are making slowly but surely and with so much thought. Anyone can throw money at a problem, but you make it a project (because I know all the ooodles and oodles of money that you actually have to hire a decorator to do this for you). I just love green.

Sara said...

I love it! Thank you for the inspiring blog! Unfortunately, my husband would never get around to building me something and I have no idea how to sew....but your project still gives me hope and ideas. I love all the greens together - very peaceful. Good job, Alysun! It looks fantastic!

One last thing, I dare you to blog again about this space in three months or so and tell us how it went. Will your girls give up putting their shoes behind the curtain? Will your recycle items overflow? Will the top of the shelf become covered with clutter? Hopefully not! But it would be interesting to see how well the area holds up over time and to see if you have to make any adjustments and changes in order to accommodate your family.

Leah said...

Your new entryway looks great, and very manageable!

Kellie said...

Looks great! It's great that your husband is handy enough to build you the shelf you wanted. I'm lucky to have a talented woodworking father in law. I just don't know how people without woodworking family members survive!

Kari said...

handy farmer husbands, I don't have any idea how I ever lived without one! I will definitely keep this in mind as I design my new entryway, which we have already ordered lined with cabinets on one side, but the shoe, glove, hat, misc, pile is inevitable and will need to be addressed!

Cathy said...

Great job!

Lindsay said...

It looks so nice, what a great idea. I like the idea of a curtain in front of the shoes, and LOVE the basket idea. We have a shoe rack when you come in our front door, but when shoes just get thrown at it (instead of neatly placed) it looks kinda messy. Your compartments look so nice and neat, and pretty too. I am inspired!

Anonymous said...

I love it! We struggle with some utility room issues, especially with shoes of the "smaller" size. This makes it all look so streamlined, organized and simple! Thanks for the inspiring post!

Stacy said...

Your area looks SO good! We also have a utility room clutter mess...I'll try the steps you outlined.

Andee said...

I used this meathod on my utility room about a year ago. It has lost some of it's crisp, prisine beauty (ha!) but the top of my washing machine is still empty except for whatever is supposed to "lay flat to dry." The principal of "a place for everything" makes life so much easier!

Elaine said...

Wow! I am impressed. That looks so nice.

John and Kelly and our lambs: Joshua, Jacob, Josiah said...

Sooooooooooooo cute! Love it! You are so blessed to have such an area to work with! J-E-A-L-O-U-S!

Nathan said...

Just a quick browse of the internet tonight. Still no internet connection at home, except when Nate's home from work, which ends up being a couple hours at night before bed. So I just was able to see these before and after pictures (hopefully I'll actually catch up on the blog fully at a later time). But had to comment on how great this looks. I organized today too....canning jars of rice/beans/baking stuff, under my kitchen sink, and my pantry. It was actually quite fun.


Linds and Manda said...

I love it! I have a similar problem in our entry way but I do have a few cupboards above the shoes I just need to remember to put my shoes back when I take them off. I would love it if they were hidden behind a cute pattern like the one you chose. Do you think I could hide the play room under something like that?