I am an elementary school media specialist (librarian) and a new mom. My daughters (born 12/27/2010 and 6/27/2013) are teaching me all kinds of new things every day. One thing they have taught me is that sometimes, there just isn't room for much else besides learning. If you're not sleeping, eating, talking, blogging, or whatever, it might just be because you're TOO BUSY LEARNING!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Practical Application

I'm going to try to keep it short today, since I have an organizing project to finish, hopefully before Tyler gets home. :) (If I finish it, I'll post it tomorrow.)

So, I thought that today I'd share a little bit of how my (three) readers have used the suggestions here so far. I am so impressed by their creativity and inspired ideas!

Kimberly adapted the spice cabinet post for her needs, which is just what I hoped folks would do. Yay! She had the great idea of using a Rubbermaid drawer in a cabinet if your kitchen just doesn't have the necessary drawer space for a spice drawer. She also applied the same idea to her bathroom by creating a medicine drawer in the absence of a medicine cabinet! How I wish I had had the same wonderful idea in the last place that I lived...

Everyone loves Sharpies (especially the silver one), including Sonja and Emily.

Sonja was possibly inspired by the laundry room clean-up and says: "I actually did my laundry room this weekend too, although my space us a lot smaller than yours. I finally got a 3 bin sorting hamper and installed a rack for hanging. (Repurposed an unused shower curtain rod.)" She even sent me an awesome picture of her newly-organized space (picture on the right). I love the shower curtain rod for hanging stuff, and her laundry closet with stacking units on the right was what really gave me hope for my laundry closet in the first place, months ago. Update: For a more detailed description of her laundry room, see Sonja's laundry room blog entry.

So, thanks, readers, and keep the comments and photos coming!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Organization Project #2: The Laundry Closet

Having conquered the spice shelf and (lack of) pantry situation in my kitchen already this summer, I moved quickly on to Summer Organization Project #2: The Laundry Closet. While it really wasn't that bad to begin with, I knew I could use the space more efficiently and effectively, hence the project. Here's the old space:

This is right after my husband and I got our brand new pretty washer and dryer (Thanks, Ty!). I had originally wanted to take the shelf out and stack the units on the right where the washer is and then re-do the shelving to create a pantry-like space, since the laundry closet is in the kitchen. However, neither the dryer power cord nor the vent would reach that far, so we ended up with this alternative set-up. I like it fine, especially since I have room to leave the washer door open to air out (quite necessary for front-loading washers if you do not wish for them to smell of poo) and still close the closet doors. My plumber suggested that I get pedestals for the units, which basically stands them up higher and gives them a storage drawer underneath. That would be fabulous except that I already paid a crapload for the actual machines, and the pedestals cost a pretty penny as well. I was pretty sure I could get my space organized (and make use of vertical space) for practically nothing. And I was right.

The vertical space between the machines and the shelf turns out to be a great thing because I can hang wet stuff from the shelf on hangers, rather than putting a drying rack out in the house somewhere for a whole day with my bras on it. I was a little worried about how stuff would dry in the dark closet (mildew? gross.), but so far, it's been fine. And the top of the dryer actually works as a shelf for laundry products. Someday, I'll find some nice fabric bins to use to hold the stuff, but it works fine without them too. The washer moves around a bit too much on spin cycle to hold much on top, but a laundry basket can sit on it with no damage.

The real vertical space problem was with the shelf. There's a good amount of space between the shelf and the ceiling, so how can you maximize the space? Ladies and gentlemen, milk crates and dish tubs are two of mankind's greatest inventions. Behold....

Just pop a couple of milk crates onto the shelf, and you have instant stackability. Now, when I want my toolbox (which is frequently during the summer), I just slide it out of the crate, and everything else stays in place. Before, I had to unearth it from the stuff piled on top of it. Infrequently used stuff can go on top of the crates. If you have a bunch of little junk (vacuum cleaner bags, light bulbs, etc.), they can go in a dish tub on top of a crate. This works great for summer/winter rotations in clothes closets too. In summer, put the shorts and t-shirts in a crate and the sweaters on top. Swap them in the winter. If you want your closet to look cute, WalMart has some pretty stylish crate-like solutions that don't look nearly as cheap as they are. See?

And finally, for the Grilling Man, here's the grill corner of the newly-organized closet. I ended up with enough space to move this stuff out of the kitchen cabinets (more pantry space!) and into the laundry closet. Grilling tools can be affixed to the shelf rod with carabiner clips. (We had a couple of freebies leftover from an outdoor store sale event.) Here is also where all the ammo for Ty's veritable arsenal ended up, once again getting it out of the kitchen cabinets. The boxes contain my limited seasonal decor (other than Christmas stuff, which lives under the bed).

On my wish list for the laundry closet: over-the-door ironing board hanger if such a thing exists, wall-mounted broom rack for the corner by the dryer, fabric bins for the top of the dryer.

And now, having written this post with detailed description of my laundry room as though anyone is really that interested, I feel a little bit dweeby. This is probably along the same lines as learning Klingon so as to communicate secretly with other Trekkies, only I'm an organization geek instead of a sci fi geek (really, I promise). Oh well. Leave me a comment about your mad laundry room organizing skillz, or just ask me a trivia question about Star Trek because let's face it, I probably know the answer.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Reading for the Child at Heart

Today in Greensboro, it is hot hot hot. The perfect day to sit inside in the air conditioning with some lemonade and a good book. Here are a few of my top recommendations for your summer reading pleasure. These are all children's and young adult books selected from my school library specifically for my mom (but you'll like them too). Mom and I are pictured on the right. We both loved children's literature even before I was a media specialist.
  • Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan - This is one of my favorite authors, especially in the arena of multicultural children's literature. Ryan usually writes characters with roots in Mexico, and Naomi is one of the more brilliant of these. I love Naomi's transformation throughout the book, and I love that Ryan doesn't shy away from writing about complicated circumstances. Naomi's family and extended family are some of the strangest group of characters you might think to put together in a story, but the whole thing works.
  • Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter - This is especially for the North Carolinian readers. Blue is a piece of historical fiction written about the polio epidemic in Hickory, North Carolina, in the 1940s. Great use of imagery and symbolism in this book, and it's on a level that most fourth graders could grasp. And it made me cry.
  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker - Here is a modern-day Ramona the Pest. Clementine is lovable and mischievous, and the book is hilarious. I especially recommend this one to folks who may be affected by some level of hyperactivity, as Clementine certainly is.
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson - This is a recent Newbery Honor Book, and I read it because it had won the award. I gave it to Mom because my mental picture of Hattie's Montana is probably due as much to childhood road trips to the Midwest as to the author's fine descriptions. Montana, although it is the setting of the book, really could be considered a character as well.
  • Hidden on the Mountain by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland Desaix - I hate to read Holocaust Literature (too horrible), but I loved this book. It's a nonfiction account of a community in occupied France (Le Chambon) whose inhabitants hid Jewish children during the Holocaust. The authors did extensive research for the book, and all of the accounts are based upon interviews with real people who were hidden in Le Chambon. It's pretty thick, but I read it in about two days because I could hardly put it down.
  • The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron - The Newbery Award winner that caused a huge stink the year it was awarded. Why? Because the word "scrotum" appears in the book, and on the first page too! But seriously, once you grow up and read the book, it does belong in the library, thank you very much. Like Hattie Big Sky, the setting here is strange and wonderful and integral to the plot and character formation. And like Becoming Naomi Leon, Lucky is blessed with a highly peculiar family situation.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick - Here's the Caldecott Award winner for this year, which was a but of an upset because it's not a picture book, per se. Selznick has pioneered a new kind of "novel in words and pictures," as he calls it. After every section of text, Selznick tells part of the story with a series of pictures. Consequently, the book is physically huge, but that just makes elementary school children love it all the more. Mom has already read this one and commented, "it was good. I'm going to try to get Dad to read it, too. It would make a good movie (I'm sure the author hopes someone in Hollywood thinks so, too)." Actually, one of the reasons Selznick chose to write/illustrate his book the way he did was because he was thinking of it as a movie, and the "cinematic novel" format, as some have called it, fits the book's theme perfectly. My fondest hope is that it will not be made into a movie, but that's just because I want kids to read it.
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan - This is the first book in a series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians which has been quite popular with upper elementary and middle grades readers. After reading it, I can see why. Even the snippet I read to my children at school this year had them on the edges of their seats. When I stopped reading, they protested, which was music to my ears of course.
  • The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes - I try to read the Coretta Scott King books each year, and that's why I picked up this one. Nikki Grimes is better known as a poet than as a novelist, but her style carried over well I thought. This is a short and poignant read about a girl named Paris who struggles to figure her life out in the midst of a horrible family situation and subsequent foster care. At my school, we have a large population of foster children, and when I shared this book with classes, the foster children in the room showed a great deal of interest in reading a book about someone like themselves. The best part about the book is that although some of the situations are dismal at best, the overall tone is hopeful, and I loved the ending.
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord - You should click the link just to look at the cover, which is the best book cover I think I may ever have seen. Kids want to read this book before I even tell them about it because the cover pulls them in. And the book doesn't disappoint. It's a compelling story about a girl who has a brother with autism and a lot of questions about how her life should look.
How about you? Any summer reading recommendations? Does anything in the list look intriguing to you for this summer? Or perhaps you've already read one (or several)? Leave comments, and happy reading!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Spice Cabinet Wave of the Future

Thanks for all of the wonderful responses to the last post! It's good to know I'm starting off with a loyal fan base. :)

I was a little surprised that two of the four comments mentioned the spice cabinet solution as something they would like to hear about. I'm actually quite proud of it myself, although I figured most readers would probably be underwhelmed. Perhaps I was mistaken.

So, without further ado, here is my new spice cabinet, costing absolutely nothing:

(I can't take credit for the idea, but I don't remember where I read it. I have a sneaking suspicion it was Real Simple Magazine, but my apologies to anyone I inadvertently ripped off.)

So, as you can see, my new spice cabinet is something just about everyone already has in their kitchen. All of the spices are now labeled on the lid and stored alphabetically in a deep kitchen drawer for easy access.

While organizing, I discovered that because our spice shelf was in such disarray, we had three containers of paprika and didn't even know it.

The hardest part of this fairly easy project was clearing out a deep kitchen drawer. I only have two drawers in my kitchen deep enough to house spice containers, so I had to make some choices. Formerly, the drawers contained kitchen linens and cook books. The kitchen linens needed a drawer more than the cook books, so I moved the cook books. They now live very happily on a high cabinet shelf. The shelf is an ideal spot for the books because we can reach the front of the shelf to pull books down, but before, we could never reach the items at the back of the shelf without standing on a chair. The books take up the whole front-to-back shelf space, which is much more effective and efficient than the previous supply-hiding that was going on back there.

If you're ready to start this project, you won't need much, but I do recommend getting a good medium point permanent black marker and a super-spiffy silver permanent marker. Silver permanent markers show up on dark surfaces (like black spice lids) and are widely available. I use mine all the time. So go ahead and get started!

Oh, and what's the best thing about my new spice cabinet? It inspired me to re-organize the rest of my kitchen cabinets, giving me plenty more pantry space in my pantry-less kitchen! Yay!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Productivity and Organization Blog? But why?

Welcome to my new blogging home, known as Library Pendragon. My cute name comes largely from a children's book by Carmen Agra Deedy called The Library Dragon. In the book, a school librarian, Miss Lotta Scales, guards the books in the library fiercely: "She kept a fiery eye out to make sure no one removed any books from the shelves.... The very thought of sticky little fingers touching and clutching, pawing and clawing, smearing and tearing her precious books just made her hot under the collar." But in the end, the Library Dragon learns that being a librarian is not about protecting the books, but about sharing them with children.

In that vein, the purpose of my blog here is to talk about how to run libraries and homes in such a way that they can be used, since that is the purpose for which they are designed. As a rather typical librarian, I have a special place in my heart for organized spaces. However, the most beautifully organized space is completely obsolete if it can't be used for its intended purpose. Both in my library and in my home, I strive to make my space user-friendly, organized, and efficient. And I'm pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

This summer, I have really enjoyed getting into blog reading (about 5 years later than the rest of the world), and I have discovered an abundance of blogs covering the topics of organization and productivity. A few of my favorites of these are listed at the end of this post. So, how will my contribution to this arena be unique? In all honesty, it may not be, but until Unclutterer decides to hire me, I need a place to throw my two cents in too.

So, whether you are a friend of mine who would read my blog even if it was about photosynthesis of the deciduous flora of Outer Mongolia, or you are someone I haven't met who has a sick obsession with organization and productivity, welcome.

Here are my ideas for upcoming posts. Leave me some suggestions of posts you'd like to see:
  • review of (crappy) Mint.com on-line budgeting tool
  • thoughts on our vegetable and herb garden
  • the messy/clean debacle of mismatched mates and how to make it work
  • house cleaning schedule that won't make you cry or display avoidance behavior such as sitting in front of the TV eating chocolate
  • my current project: DVD consolidation and organization
  • efficient, effective, and stinkin cool library/school administration using Google products
  • my new and improved laundry room, even without stacking units, thank you very much
  • the spice cabinet wave of the future
  • minimalism for productivity and organization
And as promised, here are some of my favorite blogs on organization and productivity: