SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{December 29, 2016}   Decluttering the Closet. Again.

Hello, my readers!  It’s been a minute, no? Crazy year, not much to say, etc. 

I’m on Christmas Break from school this week and next. Due to the decision makers at the school board, we have a really interesting schedule this year, but I’ve adjusted, as much as someone who hates change can.  My pool game is improving (just don’t ask Coach), I’m developing closer relationships with some amazing folks, and my family is still breathing. Productive as heck, I think.

I talked to Jeepnmom the other day and set myself a couple of staycation goals. 1) swap over to a capsule wardrobe and 2) straighten out the hall closets.  Don’t I do this EVERY year?  Isn’t Jeepnmom ALWAYS my accountability partner? Even though she’s checking on me daily-ish, I’m pretty off-task.  But today was a good day.  

When Grizzly is at work and the monkeys with their Nana, I’m either going to nap or I’m going to accomplish something around the house. And because I felt motivated, the linen closet became goal #1.  As the photos show, my linen closet has become a random Hodge podge of hot mess.  I really do tackle it every year, but I’m not the only person living here, using these spaces.

Lightbulbs, medicine, toothpaste – they go together, right?

Cleaning rags, washcloths, vacuum cleaner parts…who even knows?

Sheets, towels, toilet paper, and so forth.

This  is the “before” of my linen closet. Yes, we’ve been here before.  But because we’ve been here before, it was a little easier to unload.

Um, this isn’t all of it.  But my bed gives me a big workspace to sort through things.  And sort/cull I did.  I realized we have enough pillow cases to supply all of SoBo.  I still have a pretty tablecloth – that goes with my old table.  Things that belong in the toolbox in the garage don’t go back. And we no longer have a twin bed anywhere in the house…. So decluttering before restocking was completely necessary.

It always amazes me how quickly and easily things get out of order and just clustered together.  But after years of working with this mess, I was able to sort my piles with remarkable speed – in between texts from my bestie, calls from my girl down the street, and snapchats from Monkey #2.  And I already had a plan in mind for putting it all back together.

Bins from an unused organizer

I was given two bin towers a few years ago. One is in my front hall, cluttered with half-finished projects. The other never made it in from the garage.  Upon careful examination, I thought the bins might fit the closet shelves more effectively than the Rubbermaid boxes I’ve been using.  And they do!  I can add labels for shampoo, conditioner, and whatever the last one will be. 

3 drawer desktop organizer

Next to the “new” bins, there’s plenty of room for a 3-drawer organizer.  I repurposed this a few years ago to store toothpaste, lotion, and soap.  It’s great for all of the samples I get in the mail from Freebies in Your Mail.  I also store extra toothbrushes in the toothpaste drawer.

Ignore the cleaning rag – that doesn’t live right there.

Because of the height of some shelves, I took apart a plastic bookshelf to add some more function to the space.  It makes my life easier to have it divided up like this.

Easy peasy added storage

The rest of the bookshelf is combined with another set.  This is where I keep a small basket of feminine products and the height of these shelves is perfect for toilet paper.  I can fit a 6-pack on each shelf.  And as much as the House of Cheaptitude uses?  I should fill  every shelf.

Functional, pretty storage for cleaning supplies and blankets

Years ago, I was a consultant with Thirty-one Gifts and I absolutely love their totes.  They’re roomy and well-made.  The one on the closet floor is full of throws and small quilts that don’t get used all the time but I still like to keep handy. It fits the space much better than the round basket I used before.  The smaller one on the shelf holds mop pads and cleaning rags.  Most of my totes are earth tones and go together without being matchy-matchy.

My lightbulbs stay in the original packaging until they’re needed.

A small toolbox or tackle box in a bright color makes a great first aid kit.

The top half of this closet is where I’m keeping those things that we don’t use regularly or things I don’t want the Monkeys to bother.  I have lightbulbs one one end.  On the other is the toolbox I repurposed as a First Aid Kit, as well as a basket of cloth napkins and placemats. Down below, I use photo boxes for deodorant and shaving items. Notice the whole shelf is dedicated to personal hygiene?

All the bath stuff on one shelf!

I keep a decorative bowl on top of the single shelf to hold washcloths.  Underneath, I can fit two small baskets for extra storage.  The frog is from Scentsy, a goodie from a home party.  They sell scented things that go in the toy to make everything smell better.  I did keep it in the Monkeys’ bathroom for years but I’m changing the theme in there so now it can keep my closet fresh.

More bath shelf

I folded some towels and shelved them, checking the best fit.

Finishing the tallish area

The crate acts as more shelving in the part of the closet.  I’ll keep plastic containers of odds and ends in the bottom part.  The blue 4 drawer organizer doesn’t go with the color scheme (it does  go with the frog!!) but the drawers are great. I have my Scentsy bulbs and bars, plug ins, and batteries. This is my favorite Avon purchase ever.

Kitchen and cleaning, minus table linens

Beginning the bedding shelf

I did end up with the ill-fitting Rubbermaid tub after all.  We have twelve bazillion pillowcases. Most of them are actually made by Grandma Cher, my mama, and go with quilts she’s made, so I don’t mind having so many. Dollar store baskets hold my dishcloths and potholders.

A more complete view

The frog makes me smile.

I wish all the baskets matched, but im a firm believer in “use what you got!”

I ended up with more bins than I need right now but am pretty pleased with the way it turned out!  Hopefully my motivation will stick around and I can move on to the closet in the front hall.

What’s on your project list?

~ SBM



I love the concept of an organized life.  I have a bookshelf full of how-to organize and how-to declutter.  In theory, it creates a sense of peace.

I’m not so hot at the application!

Most of what I’ve read on organizing and decluttering goes room by room.  Well, that means I get a room nice and neat while the rest of the House of Cheaptitude is a hot mess.  My bedroom, for instance, usually looks like it’s been ravaged by Hurricane Mama.

On Pinterest lately, I’ve seen a lot about a “Konmari Method.” Apparently, Marie Kondo is a professional organizer with a ginormous waiting list for her services in Japan, and she’s written a bestseller about her method.  She details the order of decluttering, even giving instructions on how to fold and store your clothes.

Have I read her book yet? Naw.  It’s got a waiting list at my local SoBo library and I’m certainly too cheap to purchase it.

My takeaway from other blogs and articles, however, is that you gather your crap target items in one central area.  Instead of room by room, you do categories – in a hurry!  And category #1 is clothes.  You take everything out, physically touch every single thing down to your socks, and ask ” Does this Spark Joy?”. If not, it needs to leave.

Can my drawers really spark joy?  I mean, my super dee duper VS bras spark lots of joy for me.  But for real?  Everything else I put on is for function and to be a law-abiding citizen.

But with the kitchen and living room straight (and I’m still mentally blocking lesson plans!), I need a project.  So this seems to fit.

I’m not sure why clothing is the first category. Using this method, you put all of your clothing in one place (I keep reading “floor” but I have a queen-size bed and aversion to laundry!). Please keep in mind, I have 3 baskets in the family room waiting to be put up, but since those are clothes I wear all the time, it makes sense that I won’t declutter them. Right?

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Closet before


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Closet before


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Closet before

So my closet is obviously overstuffed. Not only do I rarely get rid of clothes I purchase, my mom has sent a bunch of clothes when she worked at Coldwater Creek (for Monkey #2, but they fit me!), and I have a ton of hand-me-downs from family and Pioneer Woman. Many items are too big and need to be altered but time/Cheaptitude keeps them hanging out in the closet.

There’s also crap a lot of stuff that belongs elsewhere, to be dealt with later.

I did not realize just how much clothing was on my side of the closet until I saw this mess on my bed!
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I share closet space with Grizz and had this much on my own! And I broke a rule of the strategy, choosing to ignore shoes and accessories for right now. This was literally just clothing.

My dresser (which I don’t share was not much better.
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The top needs clearing, sorting, etc. The drawers were all closing (recall the 3 baskets in the family room?) and all of the clothes were in their proper pieces of real estate, but…decluttering was definitely in order.
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See the pretty striped bin? Bed, Bath & Beyond, from Aunt Janice for Christmas. I have 2 that size. Until this point, they have both been overflowing with tightly rolled spirit shirts for school. Who needs that many tees? There are maybe 36 Fridays in a school year and I always wear an 8th grade or Yearbook shirt. Cheaptitude at its worst, I suppose.

The worst part is I also had 2 full drawers brimming with other tees and knit tops. Plus my top middle drawer is full of tanks. Oy!

Once I unloaded all of my clothes onto the bed, I started the process of touching each piece and asking if they sparked joy. OK, not really. But I did cull 8 grocery sacks of clothes to donate, added to my T-shirt quilt pile, and filled a bag to be altered. The donation bags traveled straight to the trunk of the pimpmobile before I could second guess myself. The other items that weren’t going straight back to the dresser or closet were relocated as not to be in my way.

The Konmari method is very specific about how to fold and hang your clothes once you’ve removed the joyless stuff. I went to my good friend Google and found a YouTube video so that I could fold and file my clothes. Tees and tanks are still the bulk, so I tackled those first.

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Spirit shirts


Now my spirit shirts are easy to locate and take up only a bin and a half. I feel like I fit more rolled, but that lent itself to a bit of a mess, honestly. I can locate my options more easily. The extra bin has several non-work t-shirts now, which frees dresser space!
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Loving the semi empty T-shirt drawer!


I watched two YouTube videos and still cannot “file” my jeans or drawers properly. I gave it the old college try and it’ll work for now. Because the underwear drawer is so flipping neat now, I needed to create a divider. Use what’s on hand, right? I happened to have an old shoebox left over from Monkey #2’s much smaller feet. I could go purchase something cute, but I’m the only one who sees it, and it’s just not necessary.
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Neat and organized drawers drawer 😉


I felt really accomplished by the time I finished re-loading my dresser. With it being a league night, I just hung stuff back in the closet and didn’t really organize it. That’s tentatively on my list for tomorrow. I also didn’t take after pics of everything yet, but it was so great to pull clothes out today! Most of what I still have I actually love. As I folded the three baskets this afternoon, I added to my next donation pile. Laundry is going to be so much easier now!

I’m so excited to declutter the monkeys and Grizz next….

Have you tried the Konmari method? What are your thoughts?

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{March 25, 2015}   Organizing: Schedules

The older I get, the crazier my schedule seems to be.  The monkeys have more going on at school, church, karate, grandparents.  My husband has work obligations and pool league.  I’ve taken on the school yearbook this year, as well as regular 8th grade activities and school obligations.  Hubby and I, now that the monkeys are more self-sufficient, have a lot more social doings as well.

How in the crap do we keep it all straight?

I have a calendar with my Google account on my phone.  It makes the grands nuts, but EVERYTHING goes in that calendar.

I have my paper planner.  I love love love it.  My mother-in-law ordered it for Christmas from a blogger I adore.  I had it printed and spiral bound at Office Depot and it’s probably my favorite Christmas gift this year.

I also keep a calendar in the kitchen, where everyone in the house has easy reference.  The monkeys have learned that if it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t happening.  Everyone has their own color on the calendar, just my CDO in overdrive, but I love it.

I’ve noticed the monkeys write things now, too.  “Military Ball.”. ” Sleepover with Karate BFF.” They know. They don’t color code, but that’s coming.

Do I still get overwhelmed, over worked, and over extended? Of course.  I’m a mom and I forget to ask for help.  But this system is working for me.

How do you organize schedules?

~ Katie

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{September 28, 2014}   Applesauce Autumn

I don’t recall ever having store bought applesauce as a kid.  I never ate the soupy yellow slop in the school cafeteria that was touted to be applesauce. I’m spoiled.  I ate homemade applesauce.

I remember chunky, not too sweet,  applesauce in quart jars from Gram’s fruit room in the basement. Sometimes, she’d make a fresh batch to go with dinner, and I’d sneak chunks of apple from the dishpan. I wasn’t so slick – she knew exactly what I was doing. And I never saw her canning it, but she must have, because there were always jars downstairs, pretty and golden and full. These days, canning is too much bother and she freezes containers instead.

My absolute favorite was always Great Grandma Sweitzer’s pink applesauce. Was it sweeter? More cinnamon flavored? Or was it simply that it was an infrequent treat? And I may be the only one who really liked it. I never can get Gram to make it for me.

When the weather turns a little cooler, my comfort cravings arrive. I watch for good prices on acorn squash and roasts. And as apples go on sale, I walk through the grocery, Droid to my ear, asking Gram which ones and how many I should get for a batch of applesauce.

Honeycrisps are good for eating, but no good for applesauce, and too pricey by far, she advised yesterday as I strolled through my Brookshire’s.

So I purchased several McIntosh, a few Red Delicious, and some Braeburns.  It takes a variety to get a good flavor, according to Gram.

As forty lurks in the not too distant future, and I’ve been away from home over twenty years, one might think these phone calls unnecessary. After all, I’ve made applesauce, baked Mac & cheese, and acorn squash on my own hundreds of times now. And I probably don’t have to call her every time. (“Don’t you ever write things down, Katherine?” “Do you have your pencil and paper ready?” I always lie and say I do, and she always knows it’s a lie). By this point, I do it out of habit. It’s an extra excuse to call my grandma.  She’s getting older, and someday I won’t be able to call and bother her with silly kitchen questions that I can answer myself or Google. So I’ll do it as long as I can.

So here is the off the top of my head because I never really write it down instructions for easy applesauce:

Easy Applesauce
3-4 varieties of apples, totaling about ten pounds
Sweetener and cinnamon, to taste

Peel, core, and cut your apples into chunks. You can run through the blender, but you may as well buy it at the grocery for that.

Place your chunks into a good-sized pot.  Add some water till your chunks are just barely covered. They should not float.

Bring to a good boil for a few minutes. Turn down and simmer till soft.  I test mine once in a while with my potato smasher.

Once soft, you can mash them easily. Give a taste and start sweetening. With the right apples, it won’t take much.

I live hot applesauce on a little ice cream.  I like it chunky and tangy. You just can’t buy it like that.

We will eat some of it, but I’ll can the rest.  It’s one of my autumn routines.

What are some of yours?

~ Katie

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From the beginning of August until Memorial Day, the weekends feel rushed and crazy. I feel like I’ve accomplished something major if everyone has clean clothes for the week and I’ve been to the grocery.

Yes, I am a Middle School teacher.

In a typical school year, my Friday nights consist of grades and recorded TV.  Sunday – most of the day – is spent writing or revising lesson plans.

Friday has a different look this year, with date night, but the only really exciting thing about my weekends right now is sleeping past 4 am.

I set a goal at the beginning of the summer to have my house situated (read clean and organized) by the start of school so that the first few weeks of August wouldn’t be so rough. While I made major progress, this goes on the list of incomplete projects. Labor Day weekend is my make up!

I can often accomplish more on a 3-day weekend than a 2-week holiday break.

My list of projects this weekend looks something like this:

1. Inventory and restock the pantries. I’d like to reconfigure the shelving while I’m at it, but Grizzly has a tight work schedule this weekend.

2. Catch up my freezer meals.  Y’all know I’m all about my freezer to crockpot and I only have 3 in the deep freeze right now.

3.  Laundry. Need I detail this? Oy.  I do need to make another monster batch of laundry soap while I’m projecting.

4.  Deep clean the kitchen.

5.  Deep clean the living room.

6.  Straighten my bedroom and bath.  It looks like my classroom has vomited on my side of the bed!

7.  Cut back the front flower bed and do some miscellaneous yard work.

8. Monkey #1’s closet.

The rewards for this, apart from a livable House of Cheaptitude? I’ll allow myself some scrapbook time and do my monthly hair treatment.  But I have to get the rest done 1st!

I should be able to knock a lot out today. Monkey #1 is cousin timing at Comic Con. Monkey #2 is having girly time with her Nana – pedi and a movie! And Grizz is working.  My friends are all out of town, so my distractions should be very few.  Wish me luck!

What are your big plans this holiday weekend?

~ Katie

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{August 23, 2014}   Project: Cute Wooden Catch All

Many years ago, I picked up the cutest wooden wall box on clearance at a hobby store.  Love love love.  My original intent was to hang it by the door for mail and such. Now I’m not so sure.

It’s collected dirt and dust for years, sitting in my project bucket. Recently I decided to bring it out again.

My plan now is to use it in my kitchen. I cleaned up the years of grime and pondered. I’m working more black pieces in all the time, so I sprayed it with flat black.
image image image It isn’t perfect, but I see the potential. I’m going to add fleur de lis, of course. It’s meant to hang on a wall, but I’m thinking of adding strong magnets and putting it on the fridge. I can see adding a clip for recipes, and using the storage for restaurant certificates and coupons. What do you think?

So it’s painted, but that is as much progress as I’ve made with my little project. I may change my mind and use it someplace else – oooh, oooh, my bathroom? The monkey’s bathroom??

I’m totally open to suggestions, folks. What purpose can my little project serve?

~ Katie

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{August 20, 2014}   Monkey Spaces: DIY Organization

The little monkey is growing up quickly!  She decided recently that she’s outgrown Tinker Bell, along with a lot of her books, toys, and decor.  Her papaw promised her a new headboard and footboard if she kept her room clean for a month. I think she’s doing a great job! She’s picking up toys, books are shelved, dirty clothes are hampered, and she’s making her bed daily!

I’m hopeful she’ll earn that frame she wants.

While cleaning and reorganizing, we moved a lot of things around, including her dresser and bed. We dismantled the desktop computer and removed the old-fashioned school desk, creating great space. She still has “room for activities” yet her space looks more tween appropriate.

One thing she showed an interest in was a set of shelves in the garage. Yo Yo’s sweet husband, the Fireman, and I built them many years ago for Grizzly’s diecast collection. Once we moved, they didn’t really go with our new direction, so we put them in the garage, where the got dirty and became a dumping ground for crap.

I measured the shelves, measured the wall, and realized it could be done. The shelves were built for 1:24 model cars, though, not books and games and toys.

We stacked several books on the shelves, but there was a ton of leftover space. Monkey put some of her Littlest Pet Shop and Lego sets in canvas bins on the shelves. Her awesome 31 totes are too tall. I had an idea, though.

Soup can organizers!

She picked out stickers and paper and pretty duct tape for her organizers.
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I envisioned labeling them for her arts and crafts, but she snatched them up as soon as the decoupage was dry!

Another goodie we have on hand this time of the year is the oh so versatile shoebox. I decided to cover one to match her other organizers. She can keep some of her other little toys in it.
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I glued the paper down, Scotch taped it in place, and then sealed with decoupage. I think it was a great idea and it fits on her shelves.

I haven’t taken a photo of monkey’s organized shelves, mostly because it’s an unfinished project! But it’s a fun one.

How do you organize your kiddos’ spaces?

~ Katie

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{August 19, 2014}   Organizing: Greeting Cards

I like to keep cards on hand.  However, I cannot find a single one when I actually need it.

I’ve bought cutesy organizers in the past. That works for about a hot minute.

I’ve seen really cool strategies on Pinterest. But nothing I think will necessarily work for me.

And I love to repurpose.

Once upon a time, I was addicted to those photo storage boxes. When the craft stores would run specials, I’d purchase a bunch. I was pretty particular – black, with a handmade scrapbook label. VHS movies = organized.

As I’ve decluttered those dinosaur tapes, I’ve kept the boxes. Of course. Everything can be repurposed. I now have one for razors/shave preps, deodorant, etc. These boxes are great for my stockpiles. For the longest time, I had one dedicated to loose game pieces, and one to Nintendo DS and gameboy games.

I had a feeling one of these boxes might be an easy solution to my greeting card issue. One year for Christmas, my father-in-law gave me two very pretty photo boxes. I decided to create my card organizer from one of these.
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It’s very pretty, without being too horribly girly.

I had to search high and low for the dividers. I had nearly given up and decided to create some when I located them in Grandma Sweitzer’s cedar chest.

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The “index” side does nothing for me. I flipped the cards over, and created my category labels.

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These are the categories I’ve chosen so far:
Birthday
Baby
Get well
Christmas
Holidays
Just because (blank notes!!)
Thank you
Thinking of you
Wedding

I’ll probably throw anniversaries in with wedding. I have more blank cards than anything, and need desperately to stock up on birthday cards – Aunt YoYo and Ace say it’s not a birthday without a monkey card.

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It may not be as big a project as I usually take on, but it is functional. All I have left is to tape a small calendar of important dates to the lid.

And I actually use it!

How do you keep up with cards and such?

~ Katie

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{August 19, 2014}   Mini Project: Whiteboard Redo

In a valiant attempt to avoid lesson planning and paper grading, I’ve been working on projects around the house. My favorite was my bathroom. Lately I’ve been working in the utility room.

My utility room is an awkward little space between the garage and kitchen. It has a full sized dryer, a stackable washer and dryer (dryer conked out years ago but washer works!) and 2 little cabinets above the big dryer. All that is on one side. On the other are a small pantry and a utility closet turned pantry.

I’m dying to paint. My pantry shelves need work. But there’s only so much I can do.

I’ve reorganized the mess out of the pantries and laundry stuff. And, if you’ve been reading, I’ve been revamping things I’ve already had in order to decorate that room. My green scrapbook paper seems to be the unifying element, since I’ve been using it for everything.

Several years ago, I picked up a small whiteboard on clearance at Michaels with the grand design of writing my objectives on it. Ha! I can barely fit a readable “I (the learner) can….” on that board. So I brought it home and eventually hung it near the pantry. Occasionally I’ll leave notes for Grizz or the monkeys, little reminders, etc. The monkeys draw lots of silly pictures on it.

But I never dressed it up.

And everything else is getting cute.

Time for a quick project?

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I painted the frame a green that matched my standard paper. Then, I used a heart punch with black paper to add interest in the corners. Finally, I “monogrammed” it using a polka dot green scrap stack letter. I decoupaged to seal it, them hung it horizontally (it was vertical before.)

I goes well with my other utility projects and it serves a purpose.

Do you dress up your utility room?

~ Katie

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{August 17, 2014}   The Laundry Fairy

There is a laundry fairy at the House of Cheaptitude.  She’s the one who finds the Lego’s, the forgotten receipts, and the candy wrappers that are left in pockets. She often finds pennies and quarters, never enough to get rich, but loves it when she finds dollar bills and one time? She found a twenty.

The laundry fairy is so busy with her chores on Mt. Washmore that she doesn’t have time to out things away immediately. And we end up with a ridiculous pile on top of the dryer.

In the past, she had a small basket, but that got out of hand. She had a piggy bank, but it was regularly robbed by monkeys for concessions at school. There are some neat projects on Pinterest involving boards and jars, but our wall space is so limited in the utility room that they’re not practical.

Of our efficiency apartment sized stackable washer and dryer, only the washing machine works.  The dryer has become a magnetic memo board. I decided to create a “bucket” for the laundry fairy and hang it from that useless dryer.

I consulted my soup can collection to find one that wasn’t too awfully big.  The point is to put crap away before there’s much!  To punch holes for hanging, I filled it with water and froze it (Pinterest tip!). After that, it was easy to hammer a nail in the sides.

I went back to my stash of scrapbook paper I’ve been using in the utility. I traced the edges of the can, trimmed the paper, and glued it on using a rubber band to hold while drying.

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Once the glue was dry, I added a layer of decoupage.

Next, I labeled and decorated it with some cute scrapbook stickers.
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I re-punched my holes through the paper so I could run thin black ribbon through as a hanger.

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And presto! The finished product:
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It hangs from a command hook on the old dryer. It’s working really well since it’s small and gets emptied frequently!

Is there a laundry fairy at your house, too?

~ Katie

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et cetera
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