Category Archives: organization

The Mother of Invention

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The old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” held true for me this week. Kids are returning to school in the Valley of the Sun, and that means dealing with cell phones in class. This year, my school is adopting a no-phone policy across the board during class time. (This is good news for those of us who battle the texting, gaming, and surfing that distract students from learning.) In order to make the edict more palatable I want to provide a space where students can park and charge their phones while we’re working on literacy and writing skills.

To my dismay, most of the classroom phone storage devices are hanging shoe organizers with pockets. Since all of my wall space is taken up with posters and academic language word walls, I want something that will rest on the counter at the side of my classroom. The few tabletop organizers I found were on the pricey side and wouldn’t arrive until after the kids report in a couple of days. So, I decided to make one.

I observed that the organizer I’m after is simply a series of boxes or slots that are large enough to accommodate any phone and provide access to a plug. So, here’s my low cost solution:

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I went to my local post office and picked up 19 of the (free) small Priority Mail boxes, which are about the size and shape of three DVDs stacked together. I drew a line down the center in order to get two open boxes from each piece. (I have 36 chairs in my room, so the 19 boxes cut in half  create 36 slots plus a couple of extras in case I mess up!)

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Here’s how the boxes look once they’re cut in half and assembled. (Just use the fold lines and pre-applied tape to put them together.)

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Next, I arranged the boxes into groups of four. The desks in my classroom are numbered and arranged into quads to create small tables and work groups for students, so it seemed logical to mirror this organization in the cell phone garage.

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I considered stacking the boxes vertically, but ultimately decided against it because I think the other arrangement provides more stability.

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Once the arrangement was finalized, I added labels that correspond to the group and seat numbering system on the desks in my room. Students will put their phone in the slot that matches their group and seat number. (I have nine groups of four students.) Then, I used left over box tape to form a set. After I finished the whole thing, I realized I probably should have “laminated” the labels with clear tape before attaching them just to add some durability to the card stock. (So, consider adding that step if you construct one of your own.)

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Once all the sets were created, I used left over masking tape to put them all together. I taped around the whole group a couple of times and across the bottom of each set both vertically and horizontally. (I have to confess that I changed tape here because I ran out of the box tape. I was determined to just use whatever I had to complete this project.)

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Finally, I used some shiny silver duct tape from my stash to finish the “garage.” This added more stability and durability to the project. (If you want to use spray paint to finish the piece, I suggest covering the whole thing in masking tape first to add that stability and create an even finish.)

When I take this to my classroom tomorrow morning, I’ll line up a couple of power strips in front of the boxes to provide a charging station for my students. Hopefully, this will entice them to willingly park their phones and give them a rest during Junior English!

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Finding Inspiration

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Sometimes I just need to spend a couple of hours browsing through antiques and artsy fluff to get a project rolling. Recently, Lochinvar and I wanted to create a photo studio space in our basement and a dressing room from a laundry catch-all area. These projects allowed me to contemplate some revamping in other rooms, too – including the guest room and our bedroom. With four spaces and plenty of furniture whirling through my head, I needed some thematic ideas. So, on a whim, I spent a quiet afternoon at Merchant’s Square in Chandler.

This is one of my favorite places to pass a hot summer day because I always leave with decorating ideas and a few chuckles from the quirkier items that abound. For instance, check out the wooden clogs that look like Lego blocks. These puppies would make a great Cosplay costume addition, but not something I’d wear on a daily basis. Can you imagine the noise?

 

0625181227.jpg  Then, there’s the knight-in-shining-armor themed table lamp. I fear my feline friends might try to stage a joust with these accoutrements. Or, worse yet, it might provide weapons for would-be intruders.

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And, as long as we’re talking about about weapons, whose bright idea was it to invent an indoor horseshoe game? Note it says “Rubber shoes reinforced with steel” on the box. I think my Ragamuffin would have destroyed every piece of glass in the house with permission to throw around these things. (And we won’t even discuss the fact that Father looks like he’s about to shout Ole! while young Betty appears to be practicing for the high wire.)

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After a bit of mucking around, the silliness factor gave way to more inspirational items like these romantic doodads. The doll themed coloring book would make wonderful artwork for a girl’s room or an antique style dressing room, as would the lace angel wings. (I have to admit, I looked at those for quite awhile trying to image where they might end up in my house.

 

Of course the porcelain meets paper doll also seemed to fit in with my romantic vision which would perfectly complement many of the whimsical beribboned tags. All of these items were the vision of a single vendor who had lacy French-feeling frippery to spare. I think I could have decked out an entire room in that one shop, and I felt an instant kinship to its anonymous owner.

As I continued to amble down the aisles, my eyes and hands were drawn to many pieces of painted furniture, but I especially fell in love with the old Paris maps on the drawers of this piece. The colors are so beautiful and delicate!

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I also love the wrapping paper lining on the drawers of this chest. Just opening up an empty drawer feels like an adventure among the flowers.

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In addition to the lovely romantic furniture and decor items, several vendors offered beautiful pieces of wearable art. Here, a plain linen shirt became a jacket bedecked in crocheted doilies, embroidered table toppers, and an assortment of vintage lace odds and ends. The maker had an entire rack of shirts, jackets, and dresses that I would love to wear about town.

Finally, I fell for this vintage purse with an adorable under-the-sea theme. This is the perfect piece for those always-be-a-mermaid days. (Sigh)

As I browsed, my brain considered that I could create the new dressing area as a homage to vintage frilliness and keep it for myself, but (alas) Lochinvar had design plans of his own (dark wood, leather, and a blue Oriental rug). So, I settled for cleaning out and rearranging the guest room with its antique bed, painted desk, and handmade yo-yo bedspread and pillow shams (Thanks, Mom!)

0626181056a0626181056bIn the end, Lochinvar also suggested that I could work some fru-fru magic on our bedroom. (Of course, he didn’t have to say that twice!) So, that project is currently underway. I have already added curtain panels from Goodwill (a bit of sheer lace over a print at the window and some dotted swiss in the archway), reupholstered the seat over the tub, hung some peacock art, and added a comfy chair to the space. Meanwhile, those map covered drawers continue to dance through my head as I survey two night stands, a headboard, and a foot board. I think they’re calling my name!

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The Crooked Path

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It’s time for a revelation. Are you ready? Starting a business while holding down a full time job is stressful. (Who would have thought it, right?) Some days – like today – I just feel stuck. So, this blog entry is my attempt to push through it.

My personal Catch-22 goes like this: I’m tired and stressed from work, so I want to play a stupid video game and sit in front of the idiot box instead of building the website, researching marketing information, or creating a product line. However, if I don’t spend time building the website, researching marketing information, or creating a product line, I’m further behind than I was before, and I feel like a waste of space at the end of the evening. Can anyone else relate?

I knew that committing to making the business work would mean long days, and it’s not really the hours that trouble me. It’s more about the “business” part of the business. When people think about selling their beautiful artwork and creations as a business, we envision ourselves spending our precious coins of time immersed in color and pattern and paint and ribbon and glitter and a thousand other bits and pieces of decorative minutia.

Unfortunately, the reality is that my hours have been spent in front of a screen trying to figure out where a computer engineer put the tools I need to resize a particular picture and link it to a successive page of the website. Since I’m not really the engineer type, this is often a bigger struggle than it might seem.

In addition, life seems to just get in the way. Have a 30-minute stress-relieving bike ride penciled in this afternoon? Guess again – a student who has been absent for a week needs to stay late and catch up.

Think you’ll be able to knock that blog entry out during lunch today? Wrong – you have to spend the time comforting a colleague who is having a tough day and just wants to quit.

Think you have a solid two-hour block of time to figure out the difference between copyright and trademark AND how to apply for either and/or both? Nope – a family member needs some love and support instead.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I will choose helping another human being – loved one, friend, student, etc. – over working on the computer every time. I don’t begrudge anyone I care about the time I give them. Still, prioritizing people sometimes comes at the expense of what I think I should be doing. I have extremely high expectations of myself and my ability to “do it all.”

Perhaps what I really need to learn is that I don’t have to do it all now. Maybe my take away is that it’s good to schedule my time, but it’s better to be flexible with it, and best to be kind to myself when things go awry. After all, I am here writing a blog instead of retreating into a game. I am doing my best to stay on track and follow the road wherever it goes – through the twists and turns that create a crooked path to success. I need to remember that the goal hasn’t moved, and I’m still making progress. Baby steps forward are still progress.

 

 

Success Is Measured Many Ways

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Have you ever sort of failed at something but felt like you succeeded? That’s the situation I’m in regarding some jewelry box items I made last week. In the end, I successfully completed the project (which can be a win all by itself sometimes), but the items don’t really measure up to professional caliber. (I’ll show you in a minute!) However, even when projects don’t end up the way I’d hoped/planned/schemed/dreamed, there is still a sense of satisfaction that comes from the DIY mentality.

It all started when I purchased an old secretary a couple of months ago with the intention of turning it into a cabinet for my jewelry. (Trust me, I have lots!) I discovered that keeping all of my stuff in plastic tackle boxes wasn’t really conducive to wearing it. I didn’t take the time to look for just the right necklace and bracelet, I just grabbed my go-to pieces on top. So, I thought if I found a way to make the pieces more accessible, I’d wear more of it. (Seems logical, right?) And what better way to do that than with a piece of beat up old furniture.

Step one ensued – painting. Once that was accomplished, I jumped online to find some jewelry trays to hold my sparkly happiness. Unfortunately, the inexpensive trays were not the right size for my shelves or the drawers below. Sigh. After much searching I did find some trays that would fit the parameters, but they were high end adding up to nearly $200! (To be fair, they were wood with a lovely blue velvet lining – pretty sweet!)

This led to step two – DIY the jewelry trays. (This is the part that isn’t too pretty. You might want to look away!) In the end, I think the plan was good, but the execution lacked finesse. (What can I say, I’m much better with paper and paint than fabric and hot glue.)

Since I didn’t want to fork over the cash for fancy trays, I decided to use whatever I had to create my own. As luck would have it, I had three boxes from Christmas candy what were the perfect size for my shelf. (yeah!) So I covered them in wallpaper scraps and used a couple of stained towels to make the rolls for the rings. Then I covered those in left over felt and turned in the ends. The result was usable, but not particularly professional. (In retrospect, I might have chosen a softer, thinner fabric which would have made the ends much easier to finish.

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Here’s how the trays look in the cabinet. I used Command hooks to hang all my necklaces above and removed the extra shelves. I ended up purchasing beading trays to hold my earrings in a drawer below, but how to get the bracelets out of hiding eluded me for awhile. I looked at some of the t-shaped bracelet holders, but they were too tall for the drawer and a little pricey. Then I saw a bracelet tray that basically had “humps” to put the jewelry across but was low enough to fit in the drawer below. So I decided to give those a whirl, too. (Ever the optimist I figured this project had to be better than the ring trays!)

This one is made from a cat food flat (which is about the same size as the earring trays) and toilet paper rolls. Luckily for me, when I was revamping the studio last week I found some batting, which made the job easier. The process was pretty much the same as above with the exception of placing a pad in the bottom of the tray before covering the cardboard rolls and adhering them to the tray. I do think the ends finished a little better since I found some cardboard circles to cover with fabric and act as caps.

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Unfortunately, about halfway through the project I had a rather nasty run-in with the glue gun (silly me!). But Lochinvar came to my rescue with burn gel pads which took the sting away pretty quickly, so I finished the tray as the walking wounded. In the end, the pieces were not perfection, but there were several successes here. First, I didn’t have to fork over any extra money since everything was made with scraps. Second, I didn’t have to wait for shipping. (I’m really all about instant gratification.) Third, I had a good time embellishing the story of my wrapped hand at work today, and (finally) I have the pleasure of knowing that I figured out how to do it myself. So I’m calling it a win. I hope when your projects go awry, you’ll still see the bright side. (Hey, that’s why I’m the Cockeyed Colorist!)

A Fresh Start

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As a January baby it has always made sense to me that a new year means a fresh start. Once we reach the day after Christmas, my wheels start turning and I contemplate what I need to begin anew. This year’s answer is my art. I want to move from the realm of part-time crafter to real-time artist. That means a new commitment to learn, grow, and practice art on a daily basis. Shockingly, this requires actual scheduling on my calendar. To that end, I purchased a goal-setting planner and spent several hours evaluating what I really want out of my time on earth and how to get it. (To be fair, I have most of it already – my sweet Lochinvar, my talented kiddo, supportive family members, and space to dream.) With these intangibles under my belt, it’s time to pursue some concrete goals, and the best way I know to begin a journey is with a clean slate, so I spent three days (yup!) cleaning out and reorganizing my craft room into an art studio.

I started by taking EVERYTHING out and changing the organizational structure. Previously, I had items sorted by “topic.” For example, all flower-related pictures/cut outs were in a box. Other boxes held bugs and butterflies, cats, watches and keys, words, etc. There were boxes of ribbon, boxes of lace, boxes of buttons and jewels, boxes of broken costume jewelry. Everything had its place. Having lived with this system for a couple of Januaries, I thought it best. However, upon really contemplating how I create, I realized that I didn’t open most of the boxes on a regular basis. I had one or two motifs that I used over and over, and then I dug through the box looking for a specific color. I didn’t always remember that other motifs might have that color. (For example, when I’m looking for blue, I don’t automatically think “cat.”), and thus I began to feel stuck. So… everything had to be resorted by color (and everything I hadn’t touched in a year or two had to go to Goodwill).

This, my friends, was quite the task. I honestly did not realize how many pieces of paper I had in my space. (Let’s just say I might be a candidate for a t.v. show about craft hoarders.) I even broke down and cried once when I hit the point that my basement was a huge mess, I had spent hours working, and I was only halfway done. (You know that feeling? The one in the pit of your stomach when you know you’re screwed because it will take just as long to clean it all up and go back to the way it was as it will to move forward and finish the job?) Ugh. However, I persevered, and I learned some things along the way.

First, I was inspired by many of the images that had been hidden away in boxes for a couple of years. All the ocean scenes, green leaves, seashells, cherubs, gilded edgings, and pictures of beautiful women made me want to stop in the middle to create something. Second, I realized I had been even more stuck than I thought. I had fallen into going to the “expected” image instead of the interesting one. Third, I found that some disarray made me happy. Now, usually I’m all about tidiness, but something in the profusion of color and motifs is inviting. A little (organized) chaos is good.

Take a look:

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dscn2436All of my “stuff” is resorted into baskets by color. This storage system from IKEA is inexpensive and ultra handy (I’ve had it in different parts of my house for several years). The color bins include white/beige, tan/brown, yellow/orange, purple, black, pink, red, blue, green, metallic, multicolored (for things that didn’t really fit anywhere else), and people. I left the “people” motif because that is the one element I always know I want. Other baskets have cardboard, original drawings, sketch books, etc.

dscn2437This is a close up of the side wall. All of the solid color paper and card stock of various sizes are sorted by color, too. They are stacked in open cubbies where they’re easy to see and grab as needed. The bottom shelf has books for cutting up. Some of them are quite old reference books with beautiful antiqued pages, while some are much more recent books with interesting pictures to use as clip art. Most of them were free from a library that was downsizing. The few I paid for came from thrift shops for only a couple of dollars. (Actually, I have a rule about not spending more than $2.00 on elements I plan to cut up and paste together.)

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Now the back wall items for craft shows including canopy parts, display pieces, inventory, office supplies, etc. This shelving unit and its contents used to be in the main area of our basement, but swapped places with my computer desk to clearly separate the areas and create a more open feel.

Though the space looks a little spartan at first glance, the lack of clutter is soothing and the real treat is pulling a basket for ideas.

The pink basket looks pretty unassuming by itself, but once you start unpacking all kinds of goodies appear.

Previously, if I needed something pink I would have gone for flowers, but now I see there are so many other options: cats, dragon flies, butterflies, bunnies, shells, and even crosses. This arrangement encourages diverse thinking and is just more fun.

As 2017 gets underway, I hope you find yourself moving forward. It’s your world; color it!