Organize Your Shopping Codes

Just the other day I was cleaning out my desk and I found a pile of cards from last year’s Blogher. For those of you who aren’t familiar Blogher is a conference that I attend that also has an expo center for all their sponsors. It’s very typical to get coupons and discount codes from the vendors. The pile that I found in my desk drawer contained a slew of discount codes for various products and services. I keep my regular coupons in my car but these were coupons and codes for shopping and services I would mainly do online. I missed out on a lot of great stuff by not having the information readily accessible.

I just got back from this year’s Blogher and again I came home with a handful of really great coupons and discount codes. There are a lot of great offers sitting in this pile, trust me.

I don’t want to miss out again so I decided to organize all my codes and discounts in one place. My go-to for digital organization is Google Documents. I know a lot of people use it for sharing spreadsheets and documents online but it’s also a really great organizational tool. The best part is you can access the information from anywhere. I routinely pull up Google documents on my phone when I’m out and about. It literally took me 15 minutes to set up a basic spreadsheet and enter all the information. Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like.

I kept it really simple listing the store/vendor name, the discount amount, expiration date if applicable, the code needed, the website and then a space for any extra notes. See the pink arrow up at the top? I wanted to point out that I marked this document as a favorite. Which is important for this next point.

This is a screenshot of my Gmail inbox, I have enabled the “Google Docs previews in mail” lab so I can easily access my favorite documents. If you aren’t using Gmail you could also just bookmark your document or place a shortcut in the bookmarks bar.

I think this system is going to work really nicely for keeping track of coupons, discounts and special offers for shopping that I do online. As soon as I get a flyer, coupon or even an email code I can quickly add it to my list and then shop when I have free time. A quick look at my spreadsheet will let me know which offers are about to expire so I’m sure (or at least more likely) to not miss out on any great deals.

The Linen Closet Minus The Linens

One of my best general organizing tips is to think outside the box and use objects and spaces in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

For example: Here is our linen closet, a tiny closet located between the guest (kids) bedrooms. Normally you would use it to store extra sheets, blankets, towels and kitchen linens. We use it for everything but.

Here’s a closer look at the shelves. I use them to store cleaning products, a few bathroom extras and a few other miscellaneous items. The bathroom extras consist of spare bathroom/cosmetic bags (we all know how I like to keep those on hand), extra soaps and shampoos (things I buy in bulk) and items that don’t get daily use like tanning lotions and sunscreen. There are only a few cleaning items here because all my bathroom and kitchen cleaners are kept under the sinks in their respective areas. The larger shelves on bottom hold my steam cleaner, a small tool kit, water softener salt and extra toilet paper. I save the very top shelf for seldom used specialized cleaners and extra paper towels (we go through those much slower than toilet paper)

On the back of the door I hung a clear pocket shoe holder. In reality it has four pockets across but because of the size of the closet I couldn’t fit the whole thing on the door so I folded it in half. It’s all about making what you have work where you need it too. I use these pockets to store all kinds of small toiletries like travel size bottles, extra toothbrushes, disposable razors and even my various gel inserts for my dress shoes.

It’s always important to me to use every bit of available space and this closet is no different. The shelves are an inch or so shorter than the depth of the closet leaving a small gap. I’ve used a combination of small nails and wire hook command hangers to hang up my feather duster, swifter duster and my small swifter sweeper.

For those of you that are curious about where we hide all our linens, I’ll tell you. We only have one set of sheets for our bed, and our guest sheets are stored in space bags in our storage room. I keep all of our towels in their respective bathrooms and honestly I don’t own dining room linens of any kind. Someday when I grow up I’ll clear out a spot in my dining room hutch or a shelf here for them.

So tell me, if you have a linen closet, are you making the best possible use of it?

Gaming System Overload

It used to be that gaming systems only existed in the rooms of teenagers, college dorm and bachelor pads. These days more and more families are investing in video game systems as a way to spend quality time together, this means that the consoles, games and all the accessories are finding their way into family rooms. It can quickly become a chaotic mess of controllers, cords and game boxes. A few retailers carry video game caddies or stands but these can become cumbersome and may be an eye sore if stored in your gaming area doubles as your general living/entertaining area.

Here is a closer look at my entertainment center. All told our unit houses our cable box, wireless router, internet modem, computer back-up system and all of our gaming consoles, games and accessories (Playstation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS). The cable box and game consoles do run a little hot so I don’t recommend stacking them, if you are short on space invest in a wire shelf organizer (generally made for kitchen cabinets) to keep allow for air flow. To help disguise the shelf spray paint it to match the color of your entertainment center.

As you can see I keep our Wii Board underneath our entertainment center and our collection of gaming guitars are hidden behind the unit in the corner. If you aren’t able to use space behind or underneath your entertainment center consider keeping bulky items in a nearby coat closet, hanging on the wall behind the TV, or stored in another piece of furniture like an ottoman.

For the bottom shelves I purchased small canvas bins to keep all the games and accessories together. The bins on the left hold all of the Playstation games, cords and extra controllers and the bins on the right hold games and accessories for the Wii and DS. No matter what gaming system you own I can’t recommend enough that you spring for wireless controllers and a charging stand, it helps cut down on cord clutter and you’ll save a ton on batteries.

Happy gaming!

Friday Favorites – Cosmetic Bags

Friday Favorites is where I share with you all the fabulous little things I find. It may be a product, it may just be an idea, either way I think it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you. Enjoy.

It may sound silly but one of my favorite “products” is zippered cosmetic bags, I would venture to say that I have at least 30 of them hidden all over my house.


Here are a few of the places that I use them:

  • Bathroom: My everyday make up is kept all neat and tidy in a drawer organizer but I use bags to hold my make-up that stays in my travel bag. I also use them to hold extra toiletries such as spare sample/travel size shampoos and lotions.
  • Bedroom: I keep a couple in my nightstand drawers to hold small items such as pens and pencils, extra remote batteries and my stash of mints. I also use a long flat bag (more like a pencil case) to store my jewelry (wrapped in paper towels) when I’m traveling to keep it from becoming tangled.
  • Kid’s room: I keep small bags in each of the kids’ suitcases packed with travel bath products and their medicines as well as some other small toiletry type items. I leave the bags in their suitcases so it’s one less thing we have to think about packing. Larger bags are also the perfect size for holding a few small toys or crayons to keep little hands occupied at restaurants and doctor’s offices.
  • Office: I use several large bags to hold various electronic accessories such as camera cords, spare batteries, chargers and other odds and ends such as lens covers and headphones. I also keep a bag of my daily electronics like my spare camera battery and charger, phone cord and SD card reader.
  • Car: I keep a couple small bags in my center console, one to hold some emergency beauty supplies and another to hold my various car chargers.
  • Diaper bag: Small cosmetic bags are the perfect size to organize diaper bag necessities if you are using a bag that doesn’t have enough pockets.

Cosmetic bags aren’t hard to come by and can often be found for little or no money. Most of mine have been free gifts with purchase from a cosmetic counter at a department store. I’ve also purchased them at thrift stores and garage sales. Target and Wal-mart also usually have a pretty good selection with reasonable prices.

Efficiency in the Laundry Room

In a perfect world this would be my laundry room. It would be right off my kitchen. Ample storage for all the kitchen run-over, plenty of space to prepare, wash and fold my family’s laundry.

Instead I have a tiny six by ten foot room that houses the furnace, water heater, water softener AND my washer and dryer. Despite the small space I have managed to create an organized space for laundry and a little storage to boot.

The first thing I did was paint the room a bright cheery yellow. Let’s face it laundry isn’t the most festive of chores so every little bit helps. I’m not going to lie and say that I wish I had more laundry to do because I enjoy the room so much but sometimes I do hide from my kids in there. The smell of clean laundry is far better than the smell of a bathroom after all.

The next thing I did was put up a tension rod and hang a long panel curtain to hide the heating and cooling appliances. A shower curtain would have worked just as well but I happened to find this window panel on sale. It’s also worth noting that I bought the fabric panel first then bought paint to match, much easier that way.

When we moved in there was only one shelf above the washer and dry hook-ups so I added another in order to have room for all the laundry essentials. I keep everything I might need close at hand so I’m not running all over the house when it’s time to do laundry. On the top shelf I keep a small set of drawers that holds extra buttons, safety pins and a small sewing kit. There is also a wicker basket where all the unmatched socks go, once a month or so I sort through and see if the matches have managed to find each other. On the far left is a milk crate style basket that I keep old towels and cleaning rags in.

In order to keep my various spray bottles organized I hang them by the trigger from the edge of the top shelf, this keeps them all upright and orderly as the smaller ones have a tendency to fall over on the wire shelving. The second shelf holds all my large detergent bottles and a few lint rollers. On occasion I buy large boxes of powdered detergent and in that case I store it on the floor between the washer and dryer.

Another thing you will notice is the array of empty hangers, I found that keeping them in the laundry room made it so much easier to hang clothes directly out of the dryer and yes I keep them sorted by straight, slotted, padded and child sized. It may seem overly anal but it has drastically reduced the amount of time I spend getting clean clothes put away.

To add a little additional storage I added a small wire rack to the wall beside my washer. I found a rack that attaches directly to the wall but you could also buy an over the door rack (made for a pantry door) and modify it slightly. I use it to store a lot of odds and ends little things like light bulbs, flashlights, shoe polish and vacuum bags.

Here are a few more items I recommend keeping on hand in the laundry room:

1. Laundry sorter or basket. I keep laundry baskets in each persons room for dirty clothes but I also keep a double sorter in the laundry room for items like wet towels, bedding and kitchen rags.

2. Paper towel holder. I can’t tell you how many times I spilled laundry detergent or softener before I put this up.

3. Trash can. It may seem obvious but I’ve seen a lot of laundry areas without one. Keep a small bathroom sized can for dryer lint and clothes tags, mine is in the small space between my washer and dryer

It may not be my dream laundry room but for less than $50 I was able to make a really workable space that I actually enjoy.

Friday Favorites – Contain the Trash

Friday Favorites is where I share with you all the fabulous little things I find. It may be a product, it may just be an idea, either way I think it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you. Enjoy.

I came across this little dandy on Pinterest, it’s a plastic cereal dispenser turned trash can for the car. The flip top allows you to keep it closed to prevent spills and the tiny bathroom trash bags are a perfect fit.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

Source: bhg.com via Jen on Pinterest

My Chaos is Organized

My name is Jen, and I’m an obsessive organizer.

(crowd mumbles…hi Jen)

It’s true, I love to organize, I live to organize things. After poking a little fun at me people usually start to ask me how I organize certain areas of my home. It is my firm belief that you can have a perfectly organized home WITHOUT being Martha Stewart, WITHOUT having your house look like it was ripped from the pages of Good Housekeeping and WITHOUT spending a fortune. A good friend of mine told me that I should turn it into a blog series wherein I share my best organizing tips. So without further ado….

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It’s a proven fact that nearly all women love jewelry. From the time we are little girls we are drawn to things that sparkle and shine. Problems can occur however when it starts to accumulate. Earrings get lost, necklaces get into knotted tangles, favorite pieces are stashed away and forgotten. I have devised a solution that works for me based on ideas I gathered from various magazines and websites.

Here is a photo of my “jewelry corner”

I know, I know, I have a lot of necklaces. The only way I would ever be able to keep them all in rotation is to see them all. I made this board myself for about $15. It is just a bulletin board covered with fabric that matches my bedroom decor. I have my necklaces sorted by like kind, all the long strands together, all the pendants together, all the short beaded ones together, you get the idea. Other variations of this idea include painted cork board or using decorative doorknobs as hangers.

Moving on to the jewelry boxes.

As you can see I have two, and yes, one is in fact a Tinkerbell music box. I keep my rather tiny collection of rings in it. The other jewelry box is actually a hand carved piece that was brought back from Afghanistan by my cousin. I keep my vast collection of watches in the top section and my earrings in the bottom drawer.

This is the earring drawer.

Confession time. I have a total of 6 holes between my two ears and I hardly ever wear earrings. On the off chance that I decide to trouble with them I like to be able to find the exact pair I’m looking for in a hurry. I keep them all separated by type in the lids of jewelry boxes. It makes it easy to find matches when there are only several pairs in each lid.

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I want to know what your organizing questions are! Send me your problem areas and I will help you organize them without trying to Martha Stewart you. Also I will send a prize of some sort to the person who comes up with the best name for this feature. Help me out here people. Email me at jen (at) sarcasminaskirt (dot) com.