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DIY Expanding Envelope & a Freebie

I don't consider myself to be a crafty person at all, but since discovering blog world, I have gained mountains of inspiration that has pushed me to stretch and challenge myself to do more.  My recent DIY project did just that.  It's pretty and it's organized...sigh...it's the best of both worlds.  My heart is fluttering with excitement!
The Background
In my quest to clean house, I recently bought a great new desktop file box to keep my current year's records {financial statements, bills, etc.} in order.  This year, I adopted a new system of organizing my paper and wanted to find a better way to file all those pesky little receipts that seem to find themselves everywhere.  In years past, I've tried a couple different methods of organizing receipts.

I tried to use a small accordion file to hold all my receipts and sorted it by month.  That little file quickly overflowed and just became too bulky, not to mention I still couldn't find what I was looking for quickly or easily when I needed it.  So I tried filing the receipts with my other files {also filed by month} in their previous home, the portable file box.  This system also crashed and burned.  Those receipts were too small and too many to just leave them lying in and amongst the regular files I had.  Needless to say my entire filing system wasn't working for me up to this point and corralling my receipts was just one small part of that.

This year I am filing my paper by categories {everyday, wealth, wellness, home & fun} and within each of those categories lives my specific life.  Receipts would belong in the everyday file folder, but I needed them to be more specific, so I also categorized the filing of my receipts within the receipts folder {bank, clothing, eating out, grocery, home goods & kids stuff}.  I determined that each receipt category would need to have its own envelope for easy referencing later.

The Mission
Now that I planned out how to organize my receipts, I needed to contain them.  I hunted around what seems like every office supply store and website, and nearly settled so many times for almost the right envelope.  But no, I was determined.  How hard could this be?  It's just an envelope, right!?!  Well so I thought.  I had many requirements for one small envelope and it turns out no one makes them at all.  So that meant that I was going to have to make it myself.  I guess the crafty part of me was forced out due to lack of options.

Here is what I was looking for in an envelope:  needs to be expandable, slim enough to file several envelopes side by side in my interior file folder, tall enough to remain inside the folder without covering the file folder's label, and the pattern needed to fit onto a letter size {8.5" x 11"} paper, so I could save the pattern to make more envelopes in the future.  So in my hunt I began to search for DIY envelope inspiration.

My online retail search kept drawing me to these envelopes, which were the closest match to what I needed, so I began to study the inner workings of this envelope and make a few prototypes.

The first couple of experiments were done free hand.  When I felt like I had something close to what I needed, I began drawing up a blue print on my computer.  Next was finding paper, and this was going to be the fun part because I got to be all girly and crafty and choose any paper I wanted; however, what started out as exciting quickly turned into jaw dropping.  Now because I am not typically a crafty girl, staring at a wall full of paper is terribly overwhelming especially when you have a 40% off coupon in your bag and clearance stickers scattered all over the place.  This paper is less that $1 each in most cases, but for some reason I couldn't wrap my brain around picking 6 different styles of paper, just 6!  Eventually, I bought a 12" x 12" stack collection similar to the one pictured below and decided to get to work.

The DIY Part {with step by step tutorial}
First I took the latest prototype I had drawn up and tested the pattern on a sheet of the brand new stack.  I picked my least favorite design knowing it would be a rough draft.  Having said that, figuring out the exact sizing from concept to construction was the most difficult part because I had to consider a few things.  Where to put the final seal, how to close the envelope, and how they fit in the folder as a group are just a few of the speed bumps I hit along the way.  It took a couple of tries, but I finally got just the right size and shape.  The only sad thing this is that the new and final template would not fit on a letter size paper, but I'm okay with that since I just made an extra pattern to keep as a master.  Let's see it already!

Materials needed: Pattern Template, 12" x 12" cardstock paper, scissors, pencil, ruler, tape or glue, label
  1. Take the pattern and trace around it on the back of the paper
  2. Mark the expanding seams on each end of the envelope
  3. Connect the marks
  4. Cut
  5. Score expanding seams with scissors edge just enough to aid in folding
  6. Fold sides along the scoring
  7. Secure loose ends {I used tape because it was all I had...told you I'm not crafty, I don't even own glue}
  8. Cut a slit to hold envelope closed
  9. Insert receipts and close envelope
  10. File envelope away and smile
DIY Mission: Accomplished!
When a DIY project goes well, it feels so great!  Not only did I solve my filing problem, but I used my own resources to put together what I needed all by myself.  No wonder so many people DIY, it's addicting!  Let's take another look at these little babies in action and see if they met all my other requirements.

The bottom and sides expand for those categories that tend to bulk up fast

The envelope is slim enough to fit several envelopes side by side {6 envelopes in 1 folder, nice and cozy}

Perfect length for remaining in the folder

Labeled with same size label used for the file folder {bonus for efficiency!}

Pretty paper to distinguish one category from another {bonus for pretty!}

Filed so neatly, I could cry {tears of joy, of course}

A group shot for good measure

When it comes to DIY and crafting, I may be a novice, but it doesn't take long to see the benefits and reap the rewards of doing something yourself.  I really grew on this project and have come to think that the crafty girl in me has been waiting to be released.  Slowly, that is.  I'm still terrible at cutting and need lots and lots of time for research and development.  After all is said and done, all but one of my requirements were met by doing it myself, but I was left with something even better in return.  It just goes to show you that you never know what you can do until you do it!

What do you think, challenge complete?  Did this inspire you to take on a DIY project of your own or pretty something up?  Let's hear about it!

*** Update! *** Thanks to a good friend's suggestion, I am including my first printable!  My gift to you: a template pattern of the envelope you saw here!  Click the button below for a free PDF version of the envelope, complete with notes and instructions!  You're welcome!

Technology and Me: An Introduction to my Tech-Filled Life

With most of my house now organized, and rooms still waiting to be "blog ready", I thought I'd take a moment to talk about another one of my great loves, technology.  I just love how easy it makes my life and how I am able to connect with so many.  Take this blog for instance, without the use of my computer or internet connection, you wouldn't be reading anything!  Gift!  So with that, I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to my tech filled life and how {and why} the gadgets that I have give my life convenience and ingenuity.

Disclaimer:  I am not being swayed by anyone to promote or "endorse" the products below.  This is how I use my own money to use the technology available today meeting my own personal needs.

The Hardware Goods
My laptop is my personal computer gone small, which works well for us since we don't have the money or the space to house a full computer right now.  It takes care of all my computing needs {writing/updating blogs, running reports or working on other projects}.

My iPhone is the single greatest invention that has blessed my life, tech-nically speaking.  My iPhone has replaced my bulky organizer and serves as not only my cell phone, but in a way, my life line to my family and the world around me.  I use my phone for things like my grocery and chore lists, my family's calendar, expense tracking, and so much more!

My iPad is a blessing!  Like many, I wasn't sure what I could use it for at first, but once I got a hold of it, I don't know how I lived without it!  I use my iPad for casual internet browsing, reading news and blogs {who am I kidding, mostly blogs and organizing articles}.  I also use it to create a newsletter for a mom group that I am a part of.

The Software {the muscle behind the machine}
I would never be able to do what I do with these gadgets and gizmos without the right software.  My phone is not the most recent model, but by running the most recent software, it runs like a champ, so I'm not missing much by not having the newest phone on the market.  Applications and programs are the blood that flows through the machines in order to make my life a living dream!  I use many different apps for a multitude of different things.  Today I will cover only the basics of time and to dos.  Here's a look at how I use the gift of software to gain control of my life.

Taming and Sharing Time

If you own a smartphone, you know that apps are the life blood that sends your phone to a whole new level.  That's certainly is true for me.  One of the biggest problems modern American families face today is keeping track of how each person is spending their time and getting everyone on the same page so there's no double booking.  Many families do this by creating large elaborate calendars that take up an entire wall of the house.  I do it by combining my Calendar app with the gift of Apple's iCloud service, taking up a small bit of memory in my ever compact phone.  What iCloud does for our family is allow us to each maintain our own calendar and share it in real time.  I have created several calendars for our family as you can see below {and of course they're color coded}.

And the best part about it is if I don't need {or want} to see certain calendars, I can simply hide them from my view without totally removing them from my phone, so I can access them when I do need them.

Tons of To Dos

Another major function I have in my phone is that I can put all my to do lists in one spot to create clear lines of thought, allowing me to focus on one thing at a time.  Because I'm a female {and a mom}, my brain has a tendency to go from one place to another in the blink of an eye {any other moms relate to that?}.  But going from one thing to another is as simple as pressing a button {or in some cases, double clicking}.  Here's just a sampling of my different lists.

iCloud also works well for reminders and we used to utilize this feature between my hubby and me, but since my to do lists have gotten to be a bit too much for my hubby, we decided to turn off that feature and keep our to dos to ourselves.

Oh Technology, how I heart thee
We only covered two tiny little apps that do a ton of heavy lifting when it comes to organizing time and to dos.  I have a plethora of other apps that help me to do other things like store and access my digital photos, socialize, and manage my finances, so stay tuned for more on how you can use technology in your real life too!  The gift of technology may be burdensome to some when it comes to learning new habits and program applications, but for me, the return you get out of the few simple things like calendar sharing and focused to do lists, much more outweighs the burden of learning something new.  I find it fascinating and give major props to the smarties who think up and build this stuff so my life can be a bit easier and more streamlined.  The gift of life is a journey, and we should always be willing to learn something new {to grow}, especially if it means that it gives us that much more control of how we spend our time {love and serve}.

Are there apps you use that you can't live without?  Or maybe you want to know if there is an app for this or that?  Share or ask away and I'll let you in on my techy secrets!

Operation Clean House: Pantry Palooza

How many of us have a pantry full of food, but look inside and find nothing to eat?  It's the same dilemna we {or I} faced when looking into my closet; it's full of clothes, but nothing to wear.  There must be something to having storage that is closed off and hidden from view.  It's almost like an invitation to chuck whatever we bring into the house in whatever space is left and hope that we find it again before it expires {or is out of style}.  Well my clothes are no longer a problem, since I cleaned out my closet!  And now the same can be said for my pantry too!

Pitiful Pre-Clean Up
Before the big clean out, the pantry was one of my biggest kitchen pet peeves.  It houses all our essential food items, but it was in such disarray that it drove me bananas!  Let me show you what I'm talking about...

From top to bottom, this pantry tried to be organized, really it did, but it would find itself disheveled after each and every grocery trip when more when in and less came out until finally my mess was too much to handle.

Taking Stock
So the first thing I did was take an inventory of what I had while throwing out what was old or expired {sadly, there was quite a bit that had to be thrown out, what a waste!}.  Once I did that, I rethought how I used the space.  What wasn't working for me?  Well, let's start at the top.

The canned goods lived at the very, very top shelf which is nice for stacking, but I never, never used the food we had there because it was too high up and I could never reach it when I needed it, so I learned to ignore it all together...no bueno.  The next shelf down housed my taller bottles on a lazy susan along with our medicine/supplements and rolled goods like foil, wax paper and ziploc bags.

Traveling further down is the snack shelf with a poorly used basket that blocked my view of what was inside, and scattered bags of half eaten snacks.  Below that was the cereal, nuts and grain also carelessly scattered on the shelf and a new box of cereal shoved in waiting to refill the plastic container that we use daily.

The lower end of the pantry is where the bulkier items live.  As you can see, I tried to tame the madness by using a storage container as a drawer, but that quickly became it's own catch all and the giant bag of chips that doesn't fit anywhere crowds the rest of the newly bought boxes of granola bars and graham crackers, but all in a terrible tizzy.  And the final space that uses up floor space is our supply of water bottles and "recycling" {just a trash bag tossed next to the case}.

If that isn't chaotic, then I don't know what it is.  But thankfully, I am not alone in my living with a messy pantry.  I have talked to a few friends who have the same problem with their pantries!  My problem is that I'm the probably one of the rare ones who will actually blog about it and display her mess to the world!  But I came across a great quote the other day "All great changes are preceded by chaos".  Well this is my chaos and I'm going to do something about it now!

Re-Organizing My Thoughts and My Pantry
After ridding myself of the chaos that lived in the pantry, I was left with a clean slate.  Ah, I just love then I get to begin again with a blank canvas {sigh}.  I had to rethink my use of height in this space.  If something was going to live at the very top of my pantry it needed to house something that was light weight and less frequently used.  A light bulb went off in my head and I quickly grabbed the stock of paper towels that was living under my powder room sink {I know, random, but it was space that I "needed"}, and placed the remaining rolls on the top shelf! Perfect!  My taller bottles needed to remain on the second shelf because they didn't fit anywhere else and my shelves are not adjustable, but I made it work!  I removed the rolled goods and placed them in a drawer by the stove where it would be better utilized in a drawer that had practically nothing in it and I repurposed my snack basket to house potatoes and took a shallow glass bowl to use for my onions and garlic.

The next shelf down was right at my eye level, so I needed to use it wisely.  Because I was so upset at how much food I had wasted in my pantry purge, I decided that the canned foods needed to be right where I could see them and reach them so there would be no more waste.  Notice how I spaced the cans, this makes it easier to see exactly what I have from front to back and can easily reach for what I need.  The far right side is where I keep the grains {rice and bread crumbs}, boxed meals {trying to keep those at a minimum}, and pastas.  Just below that is the dry goods shelf for cereal {in front for easy access}, oatmeal and pancake mix in the back ready and waiting, and next to that is our medicine and supplements.  I already had a small basket for the hubby and my needs, but reused an old cookie tin for the kiddo's vitamins and meds and stuck a post it note on the bucket with what was inside and when it expired so we keep things new.

Now for the lower shelves.  I still have a plethora of half eaten bags of snacks, but now they are corralled better in the storage box I already had and used another smaller box to house smaller snacks like granola bars and other kid friendly snacks that my son can just reach in and take without my help.  Lastly, the floor space still houses my water bottles, but I got a plastic bin to contain the recycling.  

Here's a look at the whole pantry from top to bottom.

How sweet it is to have order back in my pantry!!!  
It's like a breath of fresh air after living with a crowded, cramped and chaotic mess before; now it's easy, breezy and beautiful!  What gifts can you take away from this re-org?  For me, the biggest gift in working on this space is rethinking my needs and repurposing my containers.  Putting cans at eye level helps me to see exactly what we have so I can create a better meal plan for my family.  That means using what we have and spending less money on things we do not need.  Gift!  Repurposing a couple of old pasta sauce jars for nuts created a better looking system for storing nuts and using an old cookie tin gave me a fun looking way to keep my son's vitamins and meds in one easy to grab container.  This was a no cost re-org that has given me mountains in return!

Are you desparate to control your pantry?  Or have you just recently tackled yours and found it to be sweet bliss?  Tell me about it!

Operation Clean House: Entryway done!

I can't believe it took me this long to post an update for such a tiny space.  My last entryway post, left little to be desired by my eye.  It was clean, more fuctional, but still lacking a few things.

This is where I started with the space {blank canvas, inefficient use of space and messy}.

Ready my entryway progress here!

Beautifying the space
The entryway has a great little niche that is just the way to make a great first impression of our home.  It is small and simple, so beautifying the space needed to be simple as well.  Because we rent, I wanted to put something there that was simple to take with us and didn't require painting or lots of adhesive, like wall paper.  I lucked out when wandering around The Container Store and stumbled upon a great piece.  Decorative wall panels!  They were cheap {under $10}, easy to install/remove {just nail in the premarked holes}, and beautiful!  Even though this was a fabulous find, I still needed something to unify the space a bit with some of the other colors that were in the space {like the bamboo in the shoe rack and the green of the ottoman}. I accomplished this by taking some frames from the random side table we moved and quickly printed some words that just so happened to match the colors of the space perfectly!  A perfect little plant doesn't hurt either.  Check it out...

Finding Function in the tiniest spaces
Along with this statement piece, I needed a home for all things miscellaneous.  So I picked up a couple of  boxes at IKEA for under $20 and it really finished off the space and maximized the function!  The boxes I picked were a fun shape to break up the rectangles that dominated the space.  Now it houses all our hats, gloves, scarves and other fun little items that can easily clutter the space and drive me nuts!

Ah, now that is finished!
Finally, my low cost organizing project is finished and now we have a place to house our belongings, a nice greeting when we walk through the front door and cozy seating to get ready to head out once again.

My space and my budget were super tiny, but the gift of discovering a great find for a great price did wonders for a space that wasn't much to look at then, but is a my favorite way to enter the house now!  If you are restricted by how much you can do with your space, you'd be surprised what you can find to make a space that isn't completely yours feel like home.

Have you ever found super cheap, super great items that completely changed the look and feel of a space that has been bugging you for a while?  Please comment and share!

Operation Clean House: Part 5.1 {Master Closet: Clothes}

The clothes are the essence of the closet.  Cheesy, right?  Well for our closet, the clothes are just half of the closet now!  {Hooray!}

So the last time I left you all with my grand master plan for the closet.
It has shaped up quite nicely if I do say so myself!  Our everyday use clothes are now living on one side of the closet leaving the other half to all things miscellaneous.  It took a lot {and I mean a lot, like 3-4 trash bags full} of purging on my part, some purging on my hubby's behalf {all items I know he wouldn't even miss}, and switching out of hangers.  I don't know how we manage to accumulate so many random hangers, but once all was said and done, everything looks and feels clean once again.

The purge process
This part was easy for me and I felt like I was on an episode of What Not to Wear, but this was the most liberating part of the whole process for me.  Some people look in their closet full of clothes and think "I don't have a thing to wear"; this was precisely my dilemma time and time again, but my husband didn't believe me...why should he with a closet full of clothes taking up what was then "my side" of the closet.  

After I purged everything that was old, damaged or didn't fit, I was left with my bare bones wardrobe, and an interesting thing I discovered in my purging was a flaw in the organization of my clothes.  In my dresser were my underwear, camisoles, t-shirts, jeans, and active wear pants.  In my closet were my everyday going out clothes, pajamas, other active wear shirts and shorts, and some golf outfits.  I had things scattered that really should all go together.  So, I had to rethink my clothes organization.  Now in my dresser, I placed my underwear and camisoles {which I use as undergarments anyway} together in one drawer.  In my dresser drawer, I placed all things I wear around the house, pjs, t-shirts and active pants together.  Now the only clothes that are in the closet are the clothes that I wear out in public.  If I'm not going out, I stick to the clothes in my dresser.  Simple, right?  I love epiphanies!  

Here is what the closet looks like today
My clothes now take up the center portion of the closet using top and bottom shelf units and my dresses share the longer space adjacent to it.  Notice some of the hangers are facing out...those are the "I'm not totally sure I want to purge that yet" pieces.  After a few months, if I haven't worn it, it's out for sure.  It's one way of semi-purging those pieces that you may think you are still attached to.  The baskets on the shelf house His and Hers accessories like scarves, gloves and hats.

My hubster's clothes take up the top rack and shelves and are organized by shirts and polos, golf wear, dress shirts, jackets {light to heavy}, and suits.  Our little man takes up the last portion of the top rack with his cute little dress up suits and jackets.  Because I didn't have all white hangers to unify the space, I did what I could and grouped my hubby's clothes by hanger type.  It's a visual way of helping him see which clothes are where.  It works for us to break up the clothing sections and kept us from having to buy a bunch of white hangers.

The bottom half of the closet now houses our son's clothes in their dresser-ish unit.  When we move and give him his very own room, we'll get him his very own dresser, but for now, this works and didn't cost us anything.  The baskets above the drawers are home to my hubby's basketball shorts, socks, baseball hats, and belts and ties.  I used to keep my hubby's basketball shorts on the upper shelves, but putting his clothes away got very annoying because some of those shorts are super slippery!  Keeping them in a basket tames the slip and slide and also controls our desire to buy more shorts than we need.

What maximizes this space?
In regards to efficiency, my epiphany on clothes placement has made this space even better and made room for the clothes I will only wear out in public.  No more going back and forth between the dresser and the closet to put an outfit together.

In terms of beatifying, my biggest task was clearing out the random hangers and sticking to just a few styles and colors.  It makes the space more pleasing to the eye, and allows my husband to differentiate one section of shirts from another.  He knows just where to go to pick out his best golf outfit and that's a gift!  Using baskets to control harder to fold and slippery pieces adds another layer for the eye to focus on and keeps our spending in check too!  If it doesn't fit in the basket, do we really need it?  If so, then as one goes in, one comes out.

My biggest investment in re-organizing this space was my time.  Not a single penny was spent on this project and we have already reaped the benefits many times over!  Often we feel overwhelmed with an organization project thinking that it will cost a pretty penny to buy containers to get us organized.  More often than not, it really only takes an investment in our time.  Time spent evaluating the current space, time to think about goals for the space, time to plan your attack and so on.  I hope that this project has encouraged you to tackle that eye sore in your home and I hope it does cost you a cent!

Do you have a big closet that is still overcrowded?  Maybe it's time to do a good purge.  It will free you from the "what if" in fashion and your heart will soar once you find there is plenty of space in your closet after all.  Gift yourself the freedom to let go and clean out the old and make room for the essentials.

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