How I Share My Office/Craft Space With My Toddler

While sometimes I do dream of having a house in the future with a little more room (especially as a family with two adults working from home), we’ve definitely learned to make use of the space that we do have, and try and share most areas of the house for dual purposes. Our front room doubles as a guest room, our dining area doubles as my work table, and what used to be just my office/craft storage room is now also Lola’s playroom and where we’ve been storing the majority of her toys. As you can imagine, it takes a little bit of thought and planning to share a space like that with an active toddler. So I thought I’d share what works for us in case anyone else needs to have a dual-purpose room as well!

Harmless items are accessible while dangerous ones are not: Especially in my craft supply area, I have a lot of things like scissors, X-Acto knives, and other little sharp tools that I obviously do not want Lola to get a hold of. Even as she learns to use scissors (which she loves doing), her little scissor sets are up with my big ones high on a shelf where she can’t get to them on her own. It’s also a good idea to think about any stools or chairs in the room that could be used to stand on and make sure they are unreachable even standing on one of those. I don’t feel the need to put every item of mine up high though, if it’s not a dangerous thing. For example, she could get to my fabric supply that I keep in a low dresser or my paper collection which is on the bottom shelf of my storage lockers. But that would be more of a nuisance than a hazard. Of course, each age has its own things to think about, so while Lola can get to small wool balls and pom-poms in my craft storage (she likes to play with them in lots of ways), a younger child that’s still putting things in their mouth may choke on those so they would be in the “out-of-reach” category for them. Even things like art supplies are placed accordingly so Lola can get to crayons or colored pencils whenever she wants, but the permanent markers are out of sight.

Make use of storage cabinets (with lockable options): I got this storage locker specifically because it had shelves that were up high and out of reach and had an option to add a little padlock to a door if it was one you wanted to keep locked. At the moment, I’ve followed the above guide for keeping harmless things like paper on the bottom and sewing needles at the top, so I haven’t had to lock anything, but it’s great to know that if I needed to have the cabinet full of things I didn’t want her to get to, I could very easily.

Shelves for everyone to share: Rows of shelves are handy because they can be easily switched to store any kind of object and Lola has the bottom shelves for her items while I can use the top ones she would need help with reaching anyways. I have a cluster of built-in shelves that we share, but then I also have some lower ones elsewhere that she keeps some art supplies on.

Toys are easy to get to (and easy to put away): As there is actually SO much stored in this room with both Lola’s and my items, I wanted a toy storage system that made tidying up easy and something that Lola could do on her own. Things like open shelving and cube baskets make it possible for Lola to get things down and clean up and put away things on her own as well. It’s not every time, of course, but I find that a lot of toddlers actually like to put away toys when you have a clean up song they like, and they love throwing small items into bins and baskets. So it’s great practice for learning to be a helper around the house.

Make use of kid-proofing items: Of course, there are lots of kid-proofing items on the market, so make use of any that help keep your stuff out of your kid’s hands (we use magnetic locks in our kitchen and they are great), but the only thing that I have in the room is a childproof doorknob cover for the closet. I purposefully tried to find places to store anything she would need to get to in the room without having to use the closet, so I could just put whatever I wanted to in there and close the door. I don’t have anything dangerous down low in the closet just in case I forget and leave the door open for a minute, so it’s more like breakables or fragile things I’d rather not have destroyed. Haha.

I don’t know if there’s a perfect system for sharing an area with kids, but this seems to be working well for us so far. Yes, sometimes Lola gets paper out of my cabinet without asking or pushes buttons on the printer (I usually keep it unplugged and then she’s not interested in it), but those are just part of the normal conversations you have with small kids as they learn how to listen and follow rules. Like everything around the house, you’ll adjust things as kids grow to fit their stage of development (eventually she’ll figure out childproof doorknob covers so I’ll have to think of something else there if needed), but that’s a pretty normal thing that parents are always on the lookout for. I have noticed that there are items Lola could get to that I would prefer she didn’t (like some paints), but because they are in a different container than what she’s used to seeing her paint in, she has no clue they are there. Haha! I guess that one is a bit of a gamble, but the worst case scenario would be a mess to clean up, so I guess I’ll risk it. Hope this was helpful for your home if you have to share your space as well with someone small! xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

How I Organized My Fridge In One Afternoon!

I have a confession to make—it has been a long, loooong time since I have properly cleaned out my fridge. Like, embarrassingly long. The last time I cleaned it I was pregnant and I know that being launched into parenthood would probably mean it would be a while before it would be cleaned again (and boy was I right!). My daughter is turning 3 soon, so I’ll let you do the math on that one. It has been a goal for me to do a full clean/purge/organization of our fridge, so I finally ordered the supplies I needed, picked a day, and got it all done in one afternoon—YES! I basically did a similar approach when I organized my hall closet in one afternoon and I just love tackling one space at a time in my home as the opportunity arises. Feels so much more doable than trying to do it all at once! OK, here’s how I tackled the fridge beast and won!

1.) Pull out all food and group by category. First, I pulled everything out of my fridge and set it on the counter/floor so I could see it all. There were some things I wasn’t that worried about leaving out for an hour (like ketchup or veggies), but I kept things like meat in their spot until right before I cleaned that area so they wouldn’t be out of the fridge long. You could also add some ice to a cooler and keep them in there while you clean as well.

2.) Deep clean that empty fridge! I then wiped down and cleaned every surface of the fridge and took out all the drawers to wash them as well. Make sure to check and see how your shelves and drawers come out as you should be able to get all of those taken apart so you can clean each element separately. I wasted a lot of time thinking my shelves didn’t come out until I realized on accident that they do and it made cleaning those areas so much easier since I wasn’t trying to clean crevasses with a toothpick (maybe check your user guide or search your fridge model online to see how yours come out). I realized there had been two huge separate soy sauce spills in the main area and the condiment shelves at some point and as gross as it was, it felt amazing to clean all that syrupy gunk out. Blech! Make sure to check and wipe any bottles/jars that have sticky bottoms from fridge spills so you are putting clean items back in the fridge. I just made a quick cleaner in a glass spray bottle with some water, Sal’s Suds, and a few drops of lemon and sweet orange essential oils.

3.) Get rid of old/unused food! Once your fridge is clean, you can start to look over your food and toss out anything that’s past its expiration date or a food you know you just aren’t going to eat (maybe you found out about a food sensitivity recently or bought two of something but didn’t like the first jar, etc.). This is also when you will find any leftovers that you forgot about that have about 1″ of mold, so it feels super nice to get rid of any of those items too! Put any good giveaway food in a pile to see if a friend or neighbor can use it and then put the other containers in a pile to throw out or rinse and recycle. It really is amazing the amount of stuff in a fridge that you can get rid of once you know it’s there! I also got rid of anything that had ingredients I avoid buying now (like a few things with high-fructose corn syrup) and added them to my shopping list to find a better version at the health food store. I also realized that once I got rid of a ton of old/unused items I had way more room in my fridge door shelves, which has been great. I definitely had items stacked two (or three!) deep on those shelves, so it was always an avalanche waiting to happen and now everything has a spot.

4.) ORGANIZE! For food storage, we are constantly running out of containers for leftovers and packing lunches, so I got this set of stainless steel containers (also great for getting raw meat in if you are trying to do less waste when shopping), a set of glass containers with lids (they are oven-safe too which is nice), and these smaller round glass containers. I’ve used whatever mason jars we’ve had around the house for food storage for a while, but they kept disappearing (I swear they are like socks—I don’t know where they go!) and I’m glad I switched to something that’s a little more stacking friendly in the fridge than the jars are.

These organizers were perfect for putting jars of similar food together and the handles make it easy to pull out a drawer, take what you need, and slide it back in. I also added two of the small ones to the pull out drawer to separate sweet things like cookie dough and chocolate bars (I like my chocolate bars chilled) from lunch meat/bacon items. That set comes with eight drawers, so you should have some leftover to get a jump on organizing your freezer as well.

This bottle organizer is perfect for holding wine/sparkling water, and I like that I can put it on a lower shelf since they are horizontal and it doesn’t have to go up top where it always seems to get crowded with taller items that have to be there. Maybe it’s weird but I’ve always wanted one of these dispensers to keep your cans organized, and I chose that one as it has a lid on the top (some of them are open) so I can still set smaller containers on top of it—gotta keep that space usage in mind!

I love love storing/packing food in these Stasher bags (the snack size is super handy as well) and I made sure to get a container that would fit the width of the bags I have so I could stack them upright in the fridge—pretty and useful!

Look at that before and after! While there is still a lot of food in the fridge, it feels clearly defined what goes where, and there’s room for all the items we use. I love it!! Another nice perk of having more designated areas for foods is that it’s easier to find where things are after someone else in the house puts them away—berries go here, meat goes here, olives are here, etc. So far, living with a clean and organized fridge has made me feel like I have a house cleaner that came in and did it for me, but I know it was me so I’ll take all the credit!! Now I know if MTV Cribs stops by unannounced I won’t be ashamed to show them my fridge … come on by! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

5 Easy Ways To Declutter Your Countertop (This Time For Good!)

I am one of those people who is both organized and messy depending on the day of the week and how much is going on. Working from home adds another challenge since the dining room table is basically my office Monday-Friday, so usually my house is a mess during the week and then I do a tornado of tidying up—and it looks pretty dang good for the weekend. Repeat. Repeat. However, the spot that probably bothers me the most (and the hardest to keep clean all week) is our kitchen countertop. Maybe if we had a mudroom or entryway area that would divert some of the potential clutter to those zones, but we don’t, so it all seems to pile up on our countertop instead. We’ve tried to have “rules” about how long things can stay on the countertop, but they’ve never worked more than a few days. So I decided we needed to try something different and this time it’s been amazing how well it’s working for us! I’ll show you what I did:

Use a breadbox (or large tin) for storage: One of the favorite things I’ve done was get a cute breadbox to keep on the counter that I put all our supplement and daily vitamin type things in. Especially in the winter when we have a lot of extra supplements around to head off colds, etc., they all pile up on the counter and just make things look messy. I realized a breadbox would be the perfect thing to hide all those types of items but still keep them within easy reach when needed. Of course, you can use the breadbox or decorative tin to hide whatever you like, but it made a huge difference once I stashed them all in there.

Use cute bowls/planters/vases for small item storage: Instead of banning items like keys or sunglasses (or loose change—whatever!) from the counter, just give them their own spot! I got a planter—just the right size to hold a few pairs of sunglasses and it helps keep them handy for when I run out the door, but they are also contained (and almost invisible) in the whole overall countertop look. I definitely feel like a big part of the problem with messy areas is that things don’t have designated places, and once they do, it really helps minimize potential messes. You can also do a long tray like this and have smaller bowls lined up in it for things like coins, hair ties, or other super small items.

Choose colors that blend into the background for counter appliances: Even if it’s not cluttered, countertops that are stuffed with appliances can feel messy and overloaded. So I like to choose white appliances when I can and just keep the essential ones on the counter so they blend into the background and feel more integrated into the space (and that little white retro-inspired toaster is just so cute!). Of course, depending on your kitchen, different colors will do that better or worse depending on your color scheme, so take that into account when deciding what color to try. And for the record, I am never against a cute set of colored appliances (I was definitely torn between buying the white and the pink toaster!), but if your main concern is space and the counter feeling as open as possible, I would opt for the ones that blend in rather than stand out.

Have a designated place for papers and mail: This is a huge one for me. I have to have places for papers to go or the countertop ends up looking like an overworked lawyer’s desk a week before a huge case (or at least what I imagine that looks like from the movies—I’m not a lawyer!). Something like this or this is great because it gives you several slots so you can divide between checks to cash, bills to pay, important papers you may need to reference soon, tax documents—whatever (I also love Rachel’s DIY version as well)! Just make sure you get one with segments of some kind as it makes documents a lot easier to find if they aren’t all in one clump. You can also use something like this for your fridge if you are short on counter space (I still use mine)!

Add some shelves for more free counter space: I originally added those shelves in the kitchen to make room for some of the vintage glassware I have, but it’s also been great to keep things off the counter as well! Whether you are storing your favorite coffee mug you use every day, a Chemex, or some of your smaller containers I mentioned before that hold sunglasses or keys, shelves are an ideal way to keep things up and out of the way. And if those items also match the look and colors of the rest of your counter items, well then they really blend in and become part of the decor rather than random scattered items on a shelf.

I have to say I am thrilled so far with how it’s been going since I made these changes. It’s not that no other item is allowed to touch the countertop at any point, but it’s super easy to see where things don’t belong and then put them where they do belong at the end of the day, or when I have a few minutes to tidy up while I wait for tea to brew, etc. If you have one spot that is the hub in your home as well, I hope some of these tips will help keep your counters clear as well! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

5 Bathroom Storage Mistakes (And How To Fix Them)

If you saw my master bathroom renovation at the end of last year, then you know I’ve had quite a few changes happening in the bathroom department in our house. I feel like each bathroom I’ve had since college has gotten a little better and a little more storage efficient each time until I’ve reached my pinnacle bathroom arrangement in this remodel. This is actually one of the smaller master bathrooms I’ve lived with square-footage-wise, so making use of all the possible space options has been extra important here. I’ll show you the mistakes I’ve made over the years and how I’ve fixed them now in this bathroom!

Mistake #1: Not making use of wall space. In our last house, I figured out the wall was actually a great area to store bathroom items. I made this wall storage DIY to help store makeup brushes and my most used makeup and I loved it! For this bathroom, I made a hidden medicine cabinet to store my daily skin care items and it keeps a lot of items off my counter (helping to keep it cleaner) and you would have no idea that it’s storing so much—it just looks like a cute print!

Mistake #2: Not using shelves for storage. It’s not uncommon to have a shelf in a bathroom, but I usually see them with more decorative items than with actual items of use. The key to maximizing your use of a shelf is to have a mix of purely decorate items along with pretty versions of items you actually use and hidden storage containers—think cotton swabs and Q-tips in glass containers, room spray in a glass spray bottle, pretty beauty items, marble canisters … that kind of thing! I also keep a lot of my smaller makeup items in a little 3-drawer organizer I keep on the shelf which keeps them all together, tidy, out of sight, but nearby as needed.

Mistake #3: Not having enough baskets and segmented bins. OK, so this is one that I’d been doing, but I count it here because I hadn’t been doing it nearly enough. Having a few bins with segments to separate items is good, but I eventually realized that it was optimal to fill pretty much every inch of space that I could with either a larger basket or a smaller segmented bin. Once I filled up every nook and cranny with a container of some sort, it seemed almost impossible for the storage to get messy and disorganized—everything has a spot!

I got a bunch of divided bins like these and these to sort my smaller items, some deeper bins for taller beauty things, large bins for lotions/hairspray, and some small bins of various sizes to fit anywhere there was an open spot (this non-slip liner works amazing to keep all your bins from sliding around as well). I’ve also always wanted one of these to organize my straightener/blow dryer (they have over-the-door or wall-mounted options too) and I love how it keeps them (and the cords) all nice and tidy. Basically, I would take some measurements of your drawers and the area under your sink and then buy a bunch of containers in all different sizes and just play around to find a configuration that works best for your space and what you want to store. Then, once you have what you need, just return all that you didn’t use! It’s a huge pain to try and get exactly everything you think you will need on the first go, so now when I organize (like I did with my hall closet) I just buy half the store of anything I might possibly use and then return the leftovers later. 

Mistake #4: Not having a laundry/cleaning section. OK, I think I may be most excited about this new addition to the pack. I can never find a clean washcloth when I want one, and if I can, it just ends up sitting around on my counter once it’s used because I can’t seem to remember to take it to the laundry pile and both problems have been so annoying. I finally bought a pack of black washcloths (black will hide any makeup stains) and they are all folded in a long bin under the sink now with a matching bin right behind it for all the dirty ones. I also use my DIY reusable makeup wipes, so I keep my mesh laundry bags for those in the bin as well so I can wash them all at once with the washcloths. We also use cloth napkins/rags instead of disposable options, so I just wash them all at the same time to fill out a load. Also, I hate having to hunt down a scrub brush or sponge when it’s time to clean the bathroom, so I got a little basket to fit a brush, sponge set, and some cleaner to keep in the sink cabinet at all times.

Mistake #5: Not keeping my most used items handy. This is one mistake that you will know right away if you are making it! If getting ready or taking off your makeup (or washing your face) at the end of the day is always frustrating because you have to dig that one, or two, or three things out of the back of wherever you are currently keeping it, then you have a location problem. Everything you use on a daily basis should be easily accessible and you shouldn’t have to hunt for anything. Put everything you usually use in one day on the counter and make it your mission to find a nearby spot (on the wall, shelf, or clearly visible in a top drawer) to keep that item.

I know sometimes I’ve kept some makeup in my purse makeup bag, so I’d have to find the bag in my purse each day to finish getting ready and then hopefully remember to put the bag back in before I left. In those cases, having multiples of certain fave makeup items will make getting ready so much smoother and you can leave your touch-up bag in your purse where it belongs. I also tend to put on jewelry right after I do my makeup in the bathroom, so I use some Command Clear strips to attach this acrylic necklace hanger to the inside wall of my cabinet so they are nearby as well. Since we have double sinks now with our bathroom makeover (we used to have a single one in the old setup), there’s definitely less counter space. So I tried to keep as much as I could off the counter this time and only have a small vanity organizer where I can keep my most used makeup brushes, toothpaste, and a spot for my glasses and earrings that I take off at night. It’s a great way to keep a few things handy while keeping clutter to a minimum.

There you go! I must say that I’m pretty excited to actually use this bathroom on a daily basis and have everything I need nearby. It also feels good to know that if we ever move I’ll know my favorite ways to organize a bathroom and I can set up a way that will work for that space pretty quickly. If you have a must-have item or tip you love for bathroom organizing, let me know in the comments! Hope doing a little organizing will get your year off to a good start as well! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Our Favorite Organization Items (To Get Your Life In Order!)

I don’t know if there’s a scientific explanation for it, but I always feel like when January hits I am ready to get rid of clutter and make areas of my home more efficient. When I organized my hall closet in one afternoon last year, it really helped make me aware of how much change you can make in a short period of time. And since then, I’ve been constantly aware of the next areas to organize on my list. Since I’ve been trolling the Internet for different ways to keep my home tidy and together, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you for whoever else is in the same headspace this time of year!

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Let me say, getting a wall-mounted broom holder like that is one of my favorite things in our hall closet—no more falling over onto the floor and it keeps all the things with handles organized. I also have several pairs of these drawer dividers in our clothes dressers and they are great for dividing up the sections for exactly the size that you want. My fridge and freezer are on my “to-organize” list this year, so I’m planning on getting some of those fridge bins to keep that tidier as well (anyone else have everything fall out when they open their standing freezer? I totally see why people go for the freezers on the bottom now …). Lola has lots of little accessories like hair clips and sunglasses, so I got a hanging holder to keep them all together in her closer and it’s a big help. Hope you found something here to get your year off to an organized start! xo. Laura

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Hi friends! I have to admit I am one of “those” people who gets a bit emotional taking down all my holiday decor. We did it this past week and suddenly our home feels so empty and way less cozy to me. To combat this sad feeling, I like to dive head first into spring cleaning—basically immediately in January! It’s the only thing I’ve found that helps me feel refreshed and motivated this time of year! Good news: We created a a downloadable PDF for you to print at home for your own cleaning motivation!

This post is sponsored by Schmidt’s. You may know them from their popular natural deodorants, but they make great cleaning products as well! They are naturally scented with essential oils and plant isolates, which is perfect because we avoid synthetic fragrances in our home. They can be purchased at Whole Foods.

I love the Citrus + Minerals scent. It’s not too strong or perfume-y. I am enjoying using the cleaning vinegar throughout my home, like on my quartz countertops, as well as the laundry detergent. I recently discovered that another brand I was using (thinking it was natural!) contained synthetic fragrance, so this was a good swap for us!

There are SO many spring cleaning tasks, but my absolute favorite is purging and donating. Do one room at a time and really take the time to evaluate each item. Do you use it? Do you love it? It’s such a great feeling to donate anything you’re not using!

Click here to download our PDF. And here’s a second design option for you to use, too!

Happy spring cleaning! xx. Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Design: Mara Dockery. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.