Tag Archives: storage

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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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!)