Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Monkey Boy's Closet Re-Do

My husband and I both grew up in houses filled with clutter. We realized, early on in our marriage, that is messiness is genetic, we were in big trouble. So how to combat the problem? Make a conscious decision to go against our upbringing and a commitment to teaching our son , Monkey Boy, better habits at an early age. Honestly, his room is probably more organized than the rest of our apartment, at this point. Even though he does tend to leave his toys out (he is only 4, after all) everything has a (neatly labeled) place to go when we do have a clean up party.

It's been very interesting for me to see how our storage solutions have necessarily evolved as Monkey has gotten older and taken on more responsibility for his own things (putting away toys, doing laundry, etc.). About six weeks ago I made the decision to remove the two adorable, vintage baby dressers from Monkey's closet and replace them with a bin system. I love the dressers, but they just weren't practical when he couldn't shut the drawers without assistance. Now that Monkey is putting away his laundry independently, that often resulted in a tip-over and clothes and drawers flying every which way. My husband thought getting rid of the dressers was a great idea, especially after having to repair 3 different drawers in less than a month. After doing some research, we found some cute, primary-colored bins at Target ($14.99 + tax for a pack of 3 bins, 1 lid and 4 wheels). They weren't exactly what we wanted, but we figured it was a good start and better than having Monkey's clothing piled on the closet floor while we waited for something better to come along.

The bin system the day I installed it, January 15. Total cost: $44.97 + tax

The bin system right before I removed it, February 28. What a diffe
rence six weeks and one 4-year-old makes! This wasn't a terrible system, it just couldn't hold up to our rambunctious little guy flinging things in and out and trying to climb the shelves instead of using his step stool to reach the hanging clothes. Additionally, I didn't feel like we were making the best use of the space.

I removed the tags from the bins to reuse with the baskets. Since Monkey is an emergent reader, everything in our house pertinent to him is labeled with both pictures and text. This is the nerdiness you are subjected to when your daddy is a teacher and your mommy is a therapist in a school district ;-)

The wooden shelving was a gift from another member of our local Freecycle group, which I picked up on my way to work on Tuesday. Freecycle is so awesome! Not only did I get this useful piece of furniture for free, but that's one less piece of furniture in a landfill! After doing some measuring during my lunch break (yes, I carry a measuring tape in my purse at all times), I swung by Dollar Tree on my way home and found the perfect baskets (identical to the mending basket in my sewing corner) for $1 + tax apiece. When I got home from work, I was very happy to find out that everything fit!

Checking to be sure the shelving actually fit in the closet before pulling the clothes out of the older bins.

After attaching the labels to each basket with packing tape, I sorted the contents of my son's closet on his train table.

The final product: organized, preschooler-proof wood shelving with baskets our son can pull out and carry to the laundry room when he puts away his clean clothes, hopefully cutting down on folded clothes falling out of his arms and un-folding on the way to his room! Total cost of project: $10 + tax for the bins and a 10 minute, 0.25 mile detour on my way to work.

A view of the entire closet: folded clothes on the bottom in the brand new shelving and baskets; accessories/church shoes/bike helmet on top of the shelves; hanging clothes on the rack (the only wall-attached component in the closet); labeled boxes of neatly sorted and folded clothing in the next three sizes on top of the rack's shelf. You can see a bit of the dress-up hooks on the right side of the photo (holding the Spiderman suit, a chef's hat & apron, and the superhero cape) and Turtle, the adorable hamper we got from Ikea when we first started teaching our son how to do laundry. If there are clothes on the floor, we prompt him with, "Hey, Turtle's looking kind of hungry..." and he scrambles to "feed" Turtle :-)

I am linking this to OrgJunkie's 28 Day Challenge - Small Space Category. I think I missed the deadline for actually being in the running for prizes (sometimes having a job outside the home really gets in the way of my job inside the home!) but I promised myself I would do it. Now, to answer the contest questions:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

The hardest part of this challenge for me was finding the time and materials to implement my vision for this space. Living in an apartment, we don't have the option of installing wall-mounted storage solutions, which are so useful in a closet. Working on a shoestring budget, I often rely on what pops up on Freecycle before revamping areas of our home. We always get what we need, it just doesn't always come in the timeframe I would like it to!

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area to maintain its new order?

Our son is going to be taking his clean clothes baskets to the laundry room and putting in the folded clothes there, rather than carrying stacks of folded clothes (which often end up falling down and un-folding in the hallway) back to his room. With the previous dressers and bin system, this wasn't possible.

3. What did you do with the "stuff" you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

While transferring clothes to the new baskets, I was able to systematically go through all of my son's folded clothes and make sure there was nothing too small, needing to be repaired, etc. I now have a large bag of outgrown clothing which will be picked up by another Freecycle member this afternoon. Not only are we keeping the closet clean, we will be helping another family in the process!

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?

Originally, I imagined I would need some sort of square containers to really maximize the use of these shelves. Buying baskets was a bit of a risk for me, but it turned out to be such a great solution, not only fitting well but also leading to changes in our laundry habits which will make the system easier to maintain.

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

I don't think my efforts are any more amazing than the others which I've viewed. I'm just another working woman/wife/mother who is doing her best to bring order and meaning to her family's lives in a world filled with disorganization and chaos. I appreciate challenges like this, which inspire me to be my personal best as a household manager.


  1. I am super impressed at your Freecycle finds! I need to start using that as a resource. Way to go!

  2. Yes, Freecycle is amazing! I joined around this time last year and love it so much I am now a volunteer moderator for my local group :-)

    Also, thank you for my very first blog comment. I now understand the excitement Amy Adams portrayed in the movies, "Julie & Julia," LOL!

  3. This looks great and I love that you got the shelving from freecycle.

  4. I'm so going to have to join a freecycle! You are the second blog I've read about it on a d I adore it! I also love the Julie&Julia reference!
    I have one of those baskets and love it, I wanted more but when I went dollar tree was sold out.

    Great space! Love the labels!

  5. Ok, I gotta say this is the best looking and idea I've seen....I need to use this in my closet(s), entry way, etc. Gotta love the 'dollar stores'too!
    Looks great! Good job!

  6. Great job! I'm impressed your 4-year-old helps with laundry--I'm way behind on teaching my guy any life skills. ;-)