All posts tagged: Organization

Tools of the Trade

Part of clearing out my shame from Eva’s room last week involved facing a harsh reality. I’m not nearly organized enough. When space is at such a premium, however, something has to be done about that.

The tools, in particular, were in crisis. Check out the hardware drawer in my Ikea Pax Wardrobe. Shudder.

And to add insult to injury, here’s what Eva’s room vomited out, most of which also needed to fit.

One thing about the 39″ wide PAX wardrobe is that those drawers are HUGE, which makes them exceptionally hard to organize on their own. So off to the Container Store I went, naturally.

After a bout of sorting and organizing, here it sits. The containers are just those basic Container Store brand plastic boxes (the big ones are shoe boxes and the small ones are accessory boxes). The tops are fussy, so I don’t use them. I love these containers– well made enough, only $1.79 each, and offered in tons of different sizes to quell your psychopathic demands for uniformity in your organization.

In case you noticed a big something missing, the drill found its way into a shelf where it takes up less space.

Big manly drill... next to the sewing machine. Foiled again!

I promise I’ll stop showing off my messes soon. Because there won’t be any, of course.

The Picture of Domesticity

Confession: I love 1950s/1960s kitsch. I do. I’m not really talking about classy, Mad Men-style glamorous here. I’m talking like crazy atomic barkcloth, wacked-out color schemes, and toadstools as a decorating motif. I know, right when some of you thought I had decent taste. Hear me out.

The good news for our apartment is, I don’t really want it in the living room, bathroom, or my bedroom. I have no intention of living in a time capsule, despite our inclusion of vintage furniture and otherwise retro stuff. I respect people who go balls to the walls mid-mod, and I feel like I could be friends with a modern-day rockabilly, but a modern mix is more what I suppose we’re after.

Except in the kitchen. God, 50s kitchens are cool. Those ladies were organized, they had cute stuff, and between sneaked sips of the cooking sherry, they really seemed to have their shit together. They did weird things with eggs and they could ice a cake with their eyes closed. I want to get in on that. Between you and me, I’m pretty excited for Eva to move in and thoroughly creep her out with exciting casseroles, the leftovers from which I’ll then “refresh” into different exciting casseroles on subsequent evenings. We’re going to have a blast.

Our undeniably 1980s kitchen is sort of primed for the retro treatment, too. Which is a good thing because 95% of the stuff in it came from the incredible Regina, Saskatchewan thrift stores. And I’m exceedingly proud of my kitchen stuff. Once, I saw the matching tumblers to my ice bucket holding scotch for Don Draper on Mad Men and I almost peed myself.

Back to our kitchen. Almost everything is some shade of washed-out pink. The countertops are pink faux-marble formica, the cabinets are a vaguely pink laminate, and the floor is  12″ square pink and grey faux-marble ceramic tile. Sometimes I wish it was pinker. Like, come on kitchen. Commit. Go big or go home. Like this lass:

Photo from Retro Renovation.

Like I said, the kitchen is totally 80s and a little ugly. I think trying to force any sense of cool, beautiful modern in there would just be sort of lost on it. So even though the bones we have to work with aren’t quite so amazing as that picture, I’m not sure I can stop myself from incorporating a few lessons of 50s kitchen design in the hopes that the kitchen accepts them gracefully.

For instance, check out the avocado green paper holder I stuck to the tile wall with industrial-strength velcro! I love it, and it makes my shameful paper towel use oh-so stylish. It also holds tin foil and parchment paper. In a perfect world, this would be built into the wall like my grandmother’s or Louis Armstrong’s.

See, Satchmo himself had one in his swingin' 60s kitchen. Photo from Apartment Therapy.

Moving around the room, we find this strange little built-in next to the stove. For about a month I had no clue what to do with it and then I had the most tremendous epiphany. It’s perfectly sized for the tacky tins that hold my baking ingredients!

Snug as a bug.

Please ignore that hideous mound of grout where the pipe goes through the floor. Something must be done about that. But it’s kind of like the shelves were just made for those tins, right?

In a display of very questionable decision-making, I also affixed these ceramic toadstools next to the fridge. You can’t see them when you walk in the door, so it’s kind of like a special surprise when you actually walk into the kitchen instead of just through it and into the living room. They may or may not stick around. I think I’m going to replace the beige switch plates with cheap aluminum ones, only in the kitchen though. It’ll cost like three dollars and I’ve convinced myself it’s the right thing to do. Speaking of things I’d like to change are these really boring knobs. I’m thinking some shiny polished chrome would really liven up the place.


Okay, enough with the crazy. As I mentioned, one of the things I admire about vintage kitchens are the organizational tactics. But when vintage isn’t coming through for you, sometimes you have to go to IKEA.

I’m pretty please about this little organizational innovation. The Rationell baking sheet holder is supposed to be hung on the interior sides of the cabinet, but this seemed like a better space-saving solution.

And I’m completely smitten with my Rationell Variera spice racks. They’ve been bookmarked on my computer since Anna installed them at Door Sixteen a year and a half ago. Yes, these are the things I dream about. And now they’re mine!

Glamor shot

Anna has far cuter handwriting than I do, so I bought some little round labels from the Paper Source and used their handy Word template to print these out.

So that’s where things stand. The kitchen needs a lot of work. There’s nothing on the windows and it hasn’t seen a lick of paint. I’m thinking about a color. One that isn’t pink.

Bedroom Storage, Part 2

Since I’m currently living all by my lonesome until Eva moves in the fall, it’s always a little daunting and slightly depressing when those pictorial IKEA instructions show two people putting something together. There they are, working in tandem to achieve a common headache-inspiring goal, mocking me in black and white. But so far I’ve done just fine assembling a few big things without breaking my new furniture or myself. It’s been a long time coming, but the latest is completing my PAX wardrobe system.

When we left off, I’d decided after much deliberation to keep the existing 39″ wide and 93″ tall PAX wardrobe that came with the apartment, buy an additional 19″ wide unit to put next to it to create even more storage space, and try to really maximize that space with a bunch of KOMPLEMENT pieces that IKEA makes to go inside these things. To remind you (and me), here’s what I started out with.


This unit was left by a previous tenant who clearly wasn’t… me. Ikea makes these in a number of finishes, and they chose the dark brown-black, which just made it look more enormous and overwhelming. Seriously, the thought crossed my mind that it might spontaneously tip over in the night and kill me. And as it was, it didn’t provide nearly enough storage space to hold everything I needed it to.

I’m sure they were using this exclusively as a closet with maybe a few miscellaneous items thrown in. I should note that the average tenant in our building is middle-aged and uses the apartments as one bedrooms with an office as the second bedroom. So I’d guess that they used what is now Eva’s closet to hold most of their usual closet-dwelling stuff. But since there are two of us, I needed to be able to hold a lot more than clothes. So the single clothing rod, two shelves, pants hanger, and one wire basket wasn’t really going to cut it. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of the brief moment where I attempted to make it work– but trust me, it wasn’t pretty.

So the first project, which I showed in the first post, was to remove the doors, the basket, and the pants hanger. I sold them on Craigslist for a total of $50 ($10 for the basket and pants hanger, $20 each for the doors). I probably could have sold the stuff for more since the doors actually retailed for $110 each (crazy, right? I promise, they were still classically cheap-o IKEA stuff), but I didn’t know how much people would pay and I really wanted to get rid of them quickly. Then I painted the existing unit white and bought my new doors, all the KOMPLEMENT components, and the new unit in white to help minimize the visual weight of this enormous storage unit. And here’s the result:


While it’s definitely still big, it seems less big and more like it belongs here. For extra points, I painted the right side of the unit the same Benjamin Moore Moonlight White as the walls, which helps it blend just that much more. But you want to see the inside, right? I know I do.

Most people who know me know I love the show Clean House (the makeovers suck, but who couldn’t love Niecy Nash?), and I aspire to organize things much like Trish Sur, the “yard sale diva” who shamelessly plugs the Container Store Elfa storage system nearly every episode. And with this, I feel like I’m on my way there. This post is long already so I’ll do another at some point that delves a bit further into just how all my important things fit in here (I know you can’t wait), but check it out! Everything in its place, and with room to spare! To be honest, there are some things, like cans of paint and tools, that haven’t found their way in here yet because I’ve been using them too often to keep them really neat. But with the second drawer up on the right side completely empty and that whole empty shelf on the left, I’m not anticipating any problems with that.

For the hardware, I used IKEA METRIK handles (I found them in the kitchen section), and I think they fit the overall proportion of the unit quite well. Usually I get bogged down in some crazy John Nash-style math trying to figure out exactly where things like this should be placed, but I basically just held them at different levels until they looked right, attached one, and used a level to figure out where the other ones should go. I think they came out well and I like that they’re hung below the midline of the doors.

So that’s where it stands. It’s definitely an evolving space, but for the moment I like how all the components are laid out and excited that I finally have a functional place to put things that made me feel like a pack-rat before.

Bedroom Storage Progress

When we first looked at our apartment, I was so distracted by the separate kitchen and the living room larger than a postage stamp that I didn’t even notice the lack of closets. Even the teeniest, tiniest apartments we looked at all had closets, if I recall. So once the real planning started, this dearth of usable storage space raised a few questions. For instance: where do I put all my shit?

We do have one closet, in Eva’s room. But given that her room is quite small, I don’t think it’s fair to use this as a catch-all storage space. I mean, let’s think about all the things you have to store, besides clothing. A vacuum cleaner, a ladder, suitcases, extra linens, spare lightbulbs, oppressive security gates you stripped off your window like a total badass, secrets… and that’s just off the top of my head.

Blessing or curse, my room didn’t come completely devoid of storage. Instead, there was actually the biggest wardrobe imaginable, presumably left by a previous tenant. I think once they realized it wouldn’t fit through the door without being disassembled, they just said “screw it, just leave it here.” That right there is the Ikea PAX wardrobe, measuring in at a whopping 93″ high, 39″ wide, and 2 feet deep. Someone ate their Wheaties.

My first instinct was to get rid of it. It’s so large that it felt kind of oppressive visually and physically, but more importantly it really wasn’t taking advantage of the space in an efficient or logical way. If we’re talking storage, let’s use that whole wall, right? Or at least something less massive-like-it-could-crush-me-in-my-sleep. I knew I could do better.

I considered a few different options. Ikea makes a number of more compact storage units that would have been a great fit on this wall, perhaps using the top to hold some nice-looking storage boxes or something of the sort. Then I thought about removing the doors on the existing unit, building some kind of modular shelving system next to it, and curtaining the entire thing off. I also considered one of those “I’m so post-modern” closets using a plain metal clothing rack, some shelves, maybe a dresser– in a I-don’t-give-a-fuck-but-really-this-is-super-neat-and-curated kind of way.

Like dis

In reality, I’m not freakishly neat enough for much open storage, nor am I really comfortable letting it all hang out like that. I also own more than a dozen hanging garments and my clothes don’t form any sort of subtle, artistic gradient when hung together (more like Plaid threw up all over his friends, Grey and Denim). At the same time, since this storage solution isn’t something that’s likely to extend beyond this apartment, it’s nothing I wanted to spend too much money on in an already tight budget.

So in the end, the best solution was turning lemons into lemonade. I’m saying this optimistically because there’s still a ways to go. But on Sunday, I took a trip (on the ferry! Really fun and pretty!) to my favorite Scandinavian furniture superstore to make that enormous PAX work for me. Before I left, I wrote out a list of everything I’d have to store and tried to find places for almost all of it. Or at least the big stuff. Then I left for Ikea with a very precise plan:

you get the idea

I ain’t no artist, but here they are. The Ikea PAX unit comes in several sizes, 20″ wide, 29″ wide, and 39″ wide. The existing unit is 39″ wide, and I planned to buy a new 29″ unit, which would have fit on the wall with a few inches to spare. But for no apparent reason, Ikea doesn’t sell a door for the 29″ unit. What’s with that?

So in the middle of the Ikea, I was at a crossroads. Go with the 29″ unit anyway and either make my own door/go back to the curtain solution, or go with the 20″ unit and sacrifice 9″ of storage. After about 30 seconds of strenuous deliberation, I went with the 20″ and got everything home delivered yesterday.

So when I got home from Ikea, I got to work. One of the things I really disliked about this thing was the color. I think the trick to dealing with really massive storage like this is to visually minimize as much as possible, but this thing couldn’t have possibly stuck out more. So I removed the doors and all the components, all of which I’m selling on Craigslist except the clothing bar. Then I sanded, primed (2 coats!) and painted.

Unfortunately the new PAX was broken upon arrival, so Ikea should call me tomorrow to arrange a replacement. And despite my best efforts, things didn’t exactly go as planned with the drawer components– I didn’t account for the placement of the door hinges, so only four of the five drawers actually fit in the end. I might rearrange things a little bit (definitely a shelf above the rod, for starters) since it’s important to squeeze every last usable inch out of this thing, but for now I’m just glad my clothing storage no longer looks like this:

The shame!

Yes, those Harry & David boxes were storing my socks and undies. Deal wid it.

More to come.


The most arduous part of unpacking has definitely been the kitchen.

This was the state of things after (almost) all the boxes were unpacked. And after all the moving and the direct contact with grimy newspapers, all those dishes needed to be washed. So having made the decision to forego sleep the other night, I did it. I washed and dried and put away all the dishes. Keep in mind: we have no dishwasher.

Things are starting to come together. Note that the stove knobs were busy soaking in the sink when this picture was taken, but have been put back squeaky clean.

The kitchen still has a ways to go. But we were really glad to find a place that has a separate kitchen and one that hasn’t been renovated in a while. I’m thinking the kitchen is probably from the 80s, however it actually has many qualities of a retro 50s or 60s kitchen, which makes all my little kitschy vintage kitchen things feel right at home. The cabinets are a very pale pink laminate (which is stereotypically 80s-90s, but is actually a material used in many 50s and 60s kitchens right along with the knotty pine and the steel cabinetry), the countertops are a pink faux-marble formica, and the floors are 12″ square ceramic faux marble with pink and grey tones. It doesn’t sound too appealing, I know, but we’re going to work it. Trust us.

So after all that hard work, it occurred to me that I could actually cook a hearty breakfast for myself. I missed being able to cook so much in the dorms. Not that I’m an extravagant chef, I just like cooking little meals and knowing what’s in my food. Thanks for the pots and pans, Mom and Dad.

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