DIY Coat Rack for less than $30

We have a problem. It’s called not enough hooks to hang things on. This problem manifested itself recently when I received several new purses as gifts, and my hanging spot became a chair. And then I stopped hanging up my coat in the coat closet because it was too far away. And then our entry way turned into a pile of purses and coats and gym bags and our primary bag and I just can’t handle that kind of clutter. We decided that something must be done, so we got on the internet and looked for a free standing coat tree rack (we’re in a rental, so anything wall-mounted just wouldn’t work). We did a lot of searching, because we wanted something sturdy but inexpensive because let’s face it, we just need to hang our stuff up so it doesn’t look like we’re hoarders.
The more we looked for one to buy, the more we realized that we can make our own dang coat rack and it would look cooler and be cheaper to make! So we decided to make our own. I was inspired by the design of this one from Anthropologie (but not the price.. yikes!). So we went to Home Depot.
We bought: A 2x2x8 pine pole for $8, 4 L-shaped supports for just over $1 each, and two sets of hooks that were I think around $2 for a pair.
Other supplies needed: A hand saw and some sandpaper (although we could have had the pole cut at Home Depot if we had thought of it)
I forgot to take pictures of the actual process, but I think it took us about 30 minutes to finish, including hand-sawing the pole.
It’s the perfect spot for our jackets and my purses!
I really like how the industrial supports came together with the plain pine wood of the pole. 
This was such an easy DIY and it was fun for my husband and I to make together too :)
(I’m playing with the idea of making more of them to sell.. maybe! Stay tuned)

On priorities and compromises

I live in a lovely, 3-bedroom condo. One room for the parents, one room for the boys.  And one room that is MINE. Only mine. Oh, does that sound a bit stingy?  {Yes, it does.}  My family has been kind enough to support my desire to escape into crafty/sewing land at my every whim {I am a sometimes introvert} over the past five years.  And I got to feeling like I owned that room, like I deserved it.  As if it was a sacred, holy land of creativity.  And it was that, but one day we had to look at the facts.  My boys were sharing a room- which is just fine!  BUT they had gotten into a bad, bad cycle of not being able to go to sleep in the same room {we’re talking staying up 3-4 hours, until 11pm} and then the older one waking up at the crack of dawn, while it was still dark out- even with blackout curtains- and turning on the light and waking up the cranky little brother.  Each morning was a disaster.  Crying, fighting, yelling, tearing the room apart every exhausting day… I may have joined in the crying and yelling once or twice after being woken up to referee or triage at 5am.  They were not happy.  My husband was not happy.  I was not happy.

So on a Saturday at the end of May, I packed up my beloved sewing table.  I put away all my crafting supplies and my lovely decor.  All the lovely things brought back for me by family members and friends from their travels Japan, Korea, Thailand, China, and India, and maybe a thing or two from Africa and Spain {can you tell we love Asia?}.  All of it in boxes.  I cried.  I moved it all out.  In went a twin bed, an adorable little three year old, and a whole heckuva lot of toys.

And you know what?  Peace.  In so many ways.  My boys are sleeping until at least 7am now, sometimes later.  They play quietly in their rooms for a while, then ask to play in the other’s room.  When things start escalating during the day, I send them to their rooms for “calm down time”- with their doors sometimes open, sometimes closed, until they feel calm enough to play together again.  Much less crying and fighting.  A happier Mama.  Was it worth it?  Yes.

Lest you think my crafting and sewing days are over, think again! I cleared out some floor space and drawer space in my room, and my sewing table lives in there now.  I still have 1/3 of the closet space in my old sewing room.  My computer desk is crammed almost hilariously in one of the corners of my living room.  Whatever.  It’s not feng shui but it is a good compromise.  I do occasionally find myself walking into “my” sewing room only to remember that it’s not MINE anymore as I see toys and flip flops all over the floor. >sigh< The benefits do outweigh the sacrifice though.  And this small sacrifice of mine seems right.

Someday I will have a room to myself again, but for now, I will smile every time I wake up to… quiet.

Have you ever had to make a compromise that in the end was worth it?

Escaping the Clutter

I struggle with clutter.  Growing up, it took me years to realize why my dresser top and my shelves didn’t look tidy even after spending an hour “cleaning” them- or more accurately, re-arranging the knick- knacks and clutter on top of them.  I did eventually learn that cleaning was more than reorganizing a mess (without putting anything out of sight) and that the best look for my dresser was “bare, with 2 or 3 attractive accessories”.

My kitchen clutter “hot spot” (ala FlyLady)

These days I feel oppressed by clutter, stifled even, but still it accumulates… doo-dads in hidden nooks and crannies, baskets full of random items longing to be put away, and even stacks of mail and broken toys that dare to loiter in plain sight on my kitchen counters.  The clutter has become so much more offensive now that I am acquainted with the freedom of shiny, clear counters and dresser tops that imply endless possibilities.

Shiny dresser… ahh!

So what is a girl to do?  If only it were as simple as just putting all the clutter away…  Is anyone with me here?  A year ago or so I really got to work organizing and busting my clutter.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still an issue and I am working on it everyday, but when I realized that we were not going to be able to sell our condo (due to the economy) and move to a bigger home, I decided I was going to do what I could to be happy for as long as we end up needing to stay here.

Are you in a similar situation?  Have you reached a point where you know Something Must Be Done (!) or have you learned to embrace the clutter and just go with it?  Or maybe you are a champion homemaker and you don’t have this problem… (?)

I can’t promise that I can solve your clutter monster problem, but I can share what I did and what is starting to work for me.

Ack!  Another hot spot (office)

Here’s where I started: I looked at my clutter problem (which had me all antsy and irate about my perfectly lovely and comfortable condo, which we seemed to grow out of at an abominably quick rate) and decided to figure out what I could do based on where the clutter problems were coming from.  I think we can classify some clutter problems as “out of our control” issues and others, well, it is up to us to “take control”.

The “out of our control” issues:

  • Apartment/ condo/ home is too small; there just isn’t a “place for everything” 
  • Babies/ Toddlers/ Kids… need I say more?
  • Budget- to a degree, you have to work with what you’ve got as far as furniture, organizing materials, etc.

 The “need to take control” issues:

  • Tendencies to hoard certain items
  • Priorities- If you can’t stand the situation and there is something that can be done to improve it, then make it more important than browsing Pinterest, right?
A little closet organization never hurt anyone.

First, I addressed the “need to take control” issues.  I am not a hoarder per se, but I love a good recycling/ upcycling project, and sometimes I tend to get a little carried away in the materials collecting process.  There came a point that I had bags and bags of empty toilet paper rolls, boxes of glass bottles that I had washed and saved from various drinks or condiments, and containers of random pieces of junk that I “might use someday”.  I just had to realize that enough is enough.  I used quite a few of those toilet paper rolls for various projects, but when those were finished, I had to just be done with them, and recycle the rest.  Same with the glass bottles.  I went through all my craft materials and recycled, donated, or otherwise disposed of several huge bags worth of junk.  New rule for myself: I will not hoard craft supplies unless I have a clear plan of what I will be doing with them.  As for my priorities, I didn’t just try to organize the whole house in one day, I have been trying to pace myself a bit and work on one area at a time- and it is working, slowly but surely!

My crafting supplies (not counting sewing stuff) all fit in these bins (at least now they do)!

As a side note, one of my clutter problems stems from junk mail… half of it I can’t throw away because I feel like it needs to be shredded, so it accumulates.  Here is one solution I have found that seems to be working: Catalog Choice.  Just save your junk mail, go to their (free) website and enter the information they ask for for each catalog, and they will opt you out of mailings and name sharing. It’s pretty cool, and no, I didn’t get paid to tell you that!

Next, I got to looking at the “out of my control” issues and wondering if there really wasn’t anything I could do.  As it turns out, there really wasn’t anything I could do about moving to a bigger home yet, but I could rent a small storage unit and fill it with as much rarely-used stuff as I could possibly squish into it.  So I did, and that made a huge difference in how spacious my home felt.  Crib?  Gone.  Changing table?  Gone.  Unused furniture?  Gone.  Boxes of baby clothes too small for my kids?  Gone.  During this whole process I had to really ask myself “Do I want to pay to store this for x number of years?” each time I put something in a box to go to storage.  Consequently, I donated or tossed a lot of stuff here too.

Cheap shelf and baskets that add storage to our guest bathroom.

As for the kids?  Yeah, nothing I can do about the constant messes they make, but I did what I could to organize their toys, and I try to hold them accountable for at least picking up all the toys in the front room before going to bed (at a minimum).  Last week I changed my routine for the morning, so that we all do some cleaning together.  I have my 2 and 3 year old sons picking up items and running around the house putting them away.  They help me clean every room in the house, put away laundry, throw garbage out, and pick up their toys.  I pay them (mostly pennies and nickels) for each task they do, and they love putting the coins in their money jars through a little slot I cut in the lid (originally a small plastic peanut butter jar).  Last weekend I was shocked to realize that every single part of my house was decently clean- not perfect- but acceptable.  Today is more of the same.  It is because of this little routine change that we have implemented.

Now the budget was a tricky one, but I got my husband on board with me and we made a list in a spreadsheet of all the items we wanted or felt like we needed to make our home more comfortable.  That list includes things like smaller furniture for certain rooms, organizational materials like storage containers, shelving, paint, and a few home improvements that would add storage space.  We save our money and try to check a couple of things off the purchase list each month.

It is working!  I think I am always going to have to be mindful of clutter and work to keep it at bay, but for the first time in my life I am starting to feel like I am going to be able to conquer it!

What have you done to combat clutter from taking over your home?  Changed routines?   Are you a pro?  Still working on it?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

Rotating Toy System

My alternate title for this post was “Preventing the ‘I’m tired of all my toys’ problem”.  Not a great title, but accurate, and descriptive, nonetheless.  Those of you with toddlers know the feeling I’m sure: it doesn’t matter how many wonderful, educational, brightly colored, amazing toys with bells and whistles you get; after a few minutes, all your kid’s toys are boring to them and they are fascinated with trying to get into the knives in the kitchen.  Or rifling through your personal hygiene drawer >ahem<.  Or worse, playing in the garbage or toilet.  Anything off limits is nearly impossible to deter them from, because their toys hold no interest for them any longer.

'Playroom' photo (c) 2006, Elizabeth - license:

After a fairly difficult day/ days (think along the lines of a cup of water poured on the couch, box of cereal dumped on the floor, re-rolling the toilet paper, pulling my son off of the entertainment center 5 times, fishing a sock out of the toilet, marker all over the walls, and a few tantrums) I decided I needed to change something.  I was tired of trying to coax my son to play with his toys.  I was tired of picking all the toys up off our tiny living room floor several times a day (scattering toys evenly around the whole room was apparently the only interesting thing to do with them, and when the only room available for your kids’ toys is the front room, you may or may not live in constant fear of someone coming to the door and seeing the awful state of your home).  I was tired of feeling like I had nowhere to put our ever- increasing collection of children’s playthings.

I had a couple of under- bed and cheapo stacking storage containers which I proceeded to fill with almost all of the toys.  (The under- bed containers fit nicely under the bunk beds, or stack up well on the high shelf in the closet, and the other bins just barely fit in the closet.)  I left a few things out for my kids to play with, but everything else was g-o-n-e.  Ahhhhhh. What relief, what peace!

Today, the toys that are out have labeled zipper bags so scattering them isn’t as easy as it once was.  As we get more toys, I get more storage bins.  Yes, it sounds sad, but actually it isn’t.  I either use clear bins or put labels on the outsides of the bins so I don’t forget what we have.  There are some toys that stay out pretty much all the time (like the bag of matchbox and oversize cars), but we rotate what is out when the kids start to get tired of their toys and start getting into mischief.  I try to have just 2 or 3 bigger toys out, and a few smaller toys.

I am not going to say that it is a perfect system, that my house is immaculate, or that my kids always love playing with their toys and not the toilet.  But it has definitely helped, and it has probably saved my sanity.  One day I would love to have a kid’s “playroom” that the toys can be more accessible in, but for now, this is what works for me.

Do you have a great idea about toy storage or helping your child enjoy their toys?  Share it in a comment below (please!) and let us all benefit from it!

Toilet Paper Roll Saver


Got small children? Got pets?


If you just can’t stand the toilet paper being completely unwound one more time, then this project just might be for you!  >Insert crazy laugh here<

My three year old and 20 month old are usually pretty good about leaving the toilet paper alone, but they have each independently unrolled entire rolls of TP, shredded quite a bit of TP all over the floor together, and even dropped whole rolls in the toilet.  I was going nuts one day… well, ok, not just one day, but eventually I just had to come up with a quick solution or completely lose it.  I have seen contraptions like this online, which I’m sure are awesome but I didn’t want to spend $10 or wait a week for it to arrive.  So, I came up with my own version.  It was fast, and cheap (even if you count the whole pack of dowels and beads, which I don’t).

This TP Saver is easy for adults to unfasten, and not so easy for little fingers and paws to undo.  The elastic enables you to use this solution for any size TP roll, whether it is a full or partial roll.  Ready?  Go!

Toilet Paper Roll Saver

Materials needed:

  • Button hole elastic (white is best, and in a pinch, just use regular elastic and cut your own slits)
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • 1 Wooden dowel (3/8″ works well)
  • 2 Wooden beads with a hole the same diameter as the dowel (I found these at Hobby Lobby)
  • Miter saw or something to cut the dowel down to size with
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Paint (optional)


First, prepare the elastic.
Measure the elastic and cut it to 8 1/2 inches long.  Make sure to leave extra elastic beyond the button holes on each end (meaning: don’t make your cuts right in the middle of a button hole).

On one end, carefully cut straight down the middle of the elastic to join two button holes.

Repeat this for the next two button holes so your elastic looks like the picture below.

Fold the end of the elastic over onto itself so that the two large button holes you just made are lined up.  Pin the elastic in place.  The two purple lines below show where the stitches will need to go in the next step- they aren’t necessary for you to draw if you don’t want to.

Sew a zig- zag stitch on either side of the large buttonhole, as marked in purple.

Next, prepare the dowel.
Cut the wooden dowel to 6 1/4 inches long.  If you want to paint it to match your bathroom fixtures or colors, now is the time.  Remember to also paint the beads.  You’ll have to add dry time- or just skip painting it and go au naturel.

Grab your elastic band…

…and poke the dowel through the small hole in the elastic at the opposite end from the large button hole.  Make sure that later on, when you glue this end of the elastic down, the side of the large button hole with the raw edge will be facing in towards the TP.  It’s not a huge deal, but it will look better.

Put some hot glue on the end of the dowel and slide a bead on.

Dab a little glue on the bead and glue the end of the elastic in place.

You’re done!  Really, that’s it.  The only thing left to do is “install” it!

You can leave the toilet paper in the holder- no need to take it all apart.

Just push your TP Saver through the tube, with the glued- on elastic- end furthest away from the toilet.

Pull the elastic out and wrap it around the outside of the toilet paper.  You want the side that fastens to be facing the toilet- trust me.

Hook the large button hole over the bead.  Done!  (This is what I meant before about it looking nicer if the raw edge of the elastic isn’t showing on this side- you really can’t tell it’s there.)

Let’s not have any more crazy toilet paper messes, alright?!

What is the worst thing your kids/ pets have ever done with toilet paper?!

Memento Pin Boxes

Here’s another of my half-finished projects that I finished recently.  It seems like we pick up little knick-knacks here and there over the years, and while some of them just end up in the garbage or are given away, others are precious reminders of achievements or events that were important in our lives.  We tend to collect pins as mementos of our travels and accomplishments, but our pins were stored rolled up in a towel, inside of a box- not a great way to keep the memories alive!

I randomly got this shadow box at the dollar store a while back, and I realized that this would work well for my pins to go in, if I could find a way to add something to the back that they could be pinned to.

My husband had a lot more pins though, so I counted my lucky stars when I found this larger shadow box on sale at Michael’s.

I pulled the backs out and measured them.  At this point, I lost steam and let them sit for a few weeks (not recommended).

I came back to it, re-measured, and pulled out some fancy fabric and some batting, and cut squares.

I just sewed the batting and the fabric together, and pinned my pins in.  Then I hot glued the top of the fabric to the top of the cardboard frame back.  It popped right in to the frame, and I decided I liked it standing on my desk shelf rather than hanging it on the wall.

At this point, I lost steam again, plus I couldn’t find my husband’s pins, so I let his frame sit under the futon in the office for 3 months (also not recommended).  A couple weeks ago, I serendipitously found the pins, so I was motivated to go digging under the futon to find the parts of the frame and put it together.  Alas, I could not find the back, until after 20 minutes of searching led me to the depths of the closet, where I found the frame back wedged between the wall and the storage bins.  Whew- disaster averted!  Ten minutes and one hot-glue-burned finger later, it was finished, and I proudly hung it on the wall.


Finishing Half-Finished Projects

A while ago I talked about my procrastination problem– I mean the fact that I start tons of projects but don’t finish them.  Ever since then, I have been trying to finish up projects that I started or had the supplies for but hadn’t completed.  Here are a few:

1. Bibs. I bought a cheap pack of bibs a long time ago and intended on decorating all of them but most of them just sat in my closet for a long time… until this week!  I used scraps of fabric from past projects and vintage sheets to add some interest, and even gave a few away. 

2. Burp cloths.  I had a template at one point that I had used to make burp cloths before, but I couldn’t find it when I went to make these burp cloths out of flannel scraps, so I drew up my own template.   These were really quick to make; I just sewed them with right sides together and a little hole for turning them right side out, then I top stitched them together.

3. Marble maze game.  I first saw this idea over at Serving Pink Lemonade.  Again, I just used fleece scraps and marbles I had lying around.  This would be a good activity for preschool and school aged kids to stay busy while traveling, at church, at the dentist’s office, etc. 

4. Glass etching.  Between Marissa and I, we had everything we needed for this project months ago, but we never got around to it, and she went to Africa.  But now that she is back, we decided to give it a try. We followed this tutorial from make it and love it.  Here are a couple of things that I made.

We used the Silhouette to cut out the letters. I didn’t have any vinyl, so we just cut contact paper to an 8 1/2 x 11 size and ran it through.  It worked pretty well, although it didn’t want to stick on the carrier sheet very firmly.  Our etching cream seemed to work ok, although we had to leave it on for more like 30 minutes to get the desired effect.

5. Car seat protector pad.  I had seen the piddle pads that you can buy but I wanted something that would cover more of the seat.  I made it when I started potty training my son, but planned to continue using it after we finished potty training.  It has been really useful so far… it has kept me from having to wash the seat from potty accidents, spilled drinks, ketchup and cheese, all all sorts of other icky stuff.  It was easy to make… I just cut a slightly trapezoidal shape, put it in the car seat, and marked where to add the darts, make slits for the straps on the side, and a long button hole in the middle for the buckle.  I used flannel and part of an extra waterproof crib pad on the bottom. I am going to make another one for my other son’s car seat, and I think I will add a layer of batting to make it even more absorbent, and cushy.

I think those are enough projects for one post, but there’s more, believe me!  I will share a few other projects that I have finished in the next few days.  What projects have you all been working on?  Leave a comment with a link to your latest and greatest, and I will be sure to visit and comment on your blog too!

I have a problem….

Yes, I have a problem.  It is called “I-start-too-many-projects-and-get-overwhelmed-and-don’t-finish-them-until-many-months-later-if-ever.”  We can just call it procrastination for short.  I have so many ideas, and some of them I just don’t realize how big they are until I am in the middle, and then you know the rest.  It’s a very sad story.  I have an adorable apron pattern and project which I mostly finished- in March, like maybe 75% of the way, and then stopped.  I have been working on sewing and making a pattern for toddler training pants (for potty training) but temporarily lost steam on that too.  I have some yummy summer recipes I would love to share, I just need to write them down.  I intend on finishing all these projects, but when?  Who knows, right?  So I am telling all of you so I have some accountability.  Hopefully by stating my intentions here, I will be motivated to finish projects I have already started!  Ok, but now I feel a little insecure (haha) because it sounds like I haven’t finished any projects at all (besides what I have already blogged about).  Well, I have, but they are kind of little things, and don’t necessarily deserve a blog post all of their own.  But here are a few things I have worked on and actually finished over the past couple months:

Noah’s Ark cake for my baby!  Marissa and I did this together before she left.  We used marshmallow fondant to make the animals and cover the cake.

First pair of potty training pants- adorable, but a bit too small.  Still working on it!  I also made a car seat protector pad, but no picture.  Look for more on this!

I got to help prepare a gorgeous tea party as per tradition for my mom, aunt, sisters, and some of my cousins.

Just to prove I was there this time… (I am on the left)

I helped my mom re-cover the window seat cushions.  This was NOT a small job!  We worked on it in March when I was visiting, and finished it the last time I was there. 

The other cushion.  Yeah, I know it is pretty much the same, but you know, it has to be representative of the amount of time spent on it and all.

I bought this girly chair at a garage sale last summer for $2 and finally got around to re-covering it this year for my son’s Thomas the Tank Engine- themed 3rd birthday.

Ok, I am getting to work!

PS- If you are new to our blog, and would like to be among the first to be able to get new patterns and tutorials (once I actually finish them!) please follow or subscribe to our blog! 😀