Upcycling A Shoe Organizer

10.02.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One over the door shoe organizer
  • X-acto blade
  • Cutting mat (or cardboard, plywood, some type of surface you’re willing to cut into and can damage just a little bit)
  • 4 Safety Pins

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

 

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So I’ve owned an over the door shoe organizer for awhile. I didn’t use it a lot because I didn’t have many pairs of shoes. When I started to declutter my life and minimize my possessions, I kept it because I still liked the design and I knew I could use the material to create something else.

Because I’m not a fan of keeping items out in the open, much less hanging them out in the open, I knew I wanted to upcycle this shoe organizer into smaller organizers. I personally like things to be put away. My minimalist, zero waste lifestyle lends my living space towards clean surfaces and minimal decor. So I wanted to create two smaller organizers which could be hung up in the closets.

The goal was to create two separate organizers that were each 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertically on each side of the smaller organizer. So each side of the hanger would hold a grid of pockets that was 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertical.

First I cut the shoe organizer in half.

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I then folded each organizer in half (vertically) to find out where I wanted to locate the hangers.

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I then placed each hanger on each organizer, as I wanted them to sit. I wanted to place each hanger so that the top bars of the hangers would still be protected by the fabric. I only wanted the neck of the hanger to stick up and out of the fabric so the fabric organizer would sit higher on the hanger. The hanger would have more control of the overall weight of the items inside each pocket when it was hung up.

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I placed the hangers where I wanted each hanger to be located on each organizer and then marked the location of the bottom bar. I needed to make a mark at those locations, because that’s where the bottom of the openings for the hangers would pass through.

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Using the X-acto blade, on the folded edge, I carefully cut a straight line of where the hanger would stick out. I cut along the mid line of the fabric grid pattern and only cut enough for the hanger to fit. You can sew the edges of these openings if you want a clean and sturdy structure around the edge of the opening. I suggest using a running stitch to do that, if you choose to.

Types of Stiches

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Using the bottom of opening as a location marker, I sewed both sides of each organizer together. I wanted the backs folded and sewed to one another to create a more sturdy central structure. I sewed from the bottom of each opening, around and up to the other side, making sure I stopped at the other marker.

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The idea was that I wanted to seal the two flaps of pockets to each other, but leave enough room for the hanger to slide in and out of the design.

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Once the hanger is slid into place, the flap should allow the user to remove the hanger if necessary. I used a hem stitch to secure the top of the opening on the folded edge (see below). I did this because I know that the weight of the the organizer will tear the opening over time. I wanted to secure the top of the opening and reinforce the structure.

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I stitched an extra line above the hanger (towards the folded side of each hanger), but underneath the pocket flaps, to reinforce extra support for the organizer.

Using a safety pin, I pinned the opened edge approximately where the top of the hanger was located on the opposite side. This way, the hanger can be removed easily when it comes time to wash it or put it away. The safety pin will act as a closing mechanism to hold the hanger in place.

 

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So there you have it, this is how I upcycled my over the door shoe organizer. Although, I technically only created smaller shoe organizers, I had the idea that I could use these smaller organizer to store smaller items such as jewelry, scarfs, socks, etc., that can get lost in a closet. Basically, anything you might store in the top drawer of your dresser, you might use this for. I don’t use a dresser, so this product can be useful for me. Right now I actually use a few of the pockets to keep some running and workout items organized. I like this design for the fact that it’s double sided and it can be folded up and put away if it’s not being used. Hopefully this post might spark some organizational ideas for your life.

Until next time!

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Upcycling Denim Jeans

01.30.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One pair of denim jeans

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

So recently I started going auditing my traveling items such as my bath bag, travel accessories as well as my sport bags. I wanted to find 3 pieces of clothing to donate, but I also noticed that my bath bag wasn’t containing my bath items comfortably.

So I had the choice to go buy/find a new bath bag or find another solution. Out of the items I decided to donate, I found a tank top, sweater and a pair of jeans. Denim is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love upcycling denim into new items. The idea of donating the pair of jeans wasn’t exactly what I thought I would do, so I decided to make a stand up bath bag for myself, or at least a few stand up bags.

I’ve owned bath bags before, but the material was with a polyester or nylon blend. Over time, my bath bags would have soap or toothpaste residue stains. I figured that with a denim bath bag, I could simply throw it into the washing machine and it would clean easily.

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I divided each leg in half by folding it in half. I then cut the legs off from the pair of jeans and then divided each piece in half.

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I turned each of them inside out and designated the wider end of the pieces as the bottom of the bag and the smaller ends as the top of the bag.  I folded the top of the bags down to create the drawstring tube. This is where I wanted to install the drawstring later.

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I hemmed the bottoms of the bags by simply sewing a sew line across the bottom. I then sewed the drawstring tube. I measured 2″x2″ squares on the corners on bottom.

I marked these white dots on BOTH SIDES OF THE BAG, near the bottom section of the bag. These white dots will be used as guides of where you will sew in the next step.

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I then flipped the bag upside down, and so that the right side seam was facing up. I then folded the bottom of the bag to create a diamond shape. You should be able to locate all four dots that were created in the last step, when molding the diamond shape.

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The dots are guides to sew where you will sew horizontally across the diamond. After sewing the two lines, the diamond should look like this.

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Since I was initially thinking of making a new bath bag, I wanted to sew a small pocket inside of that bag. I had this extra pocket left over from my Handmade Handkerchiefs project, so I added it on the inside. To find the opposing edges of the box, you can locate it by finding the perpendicular lines of the top and bottom hemmed lines.

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If you want to make a small pocket inside, you can sew a piece of material to the inside of the bag, as long as you leave to top of the material open.

In this case, because the pocket was more than half of the height of the bag, I placed the pocket towards the bottom of the bag. I also knew that I would be folding the bag down when in use, so placing it towards the bottom gave me room for the top to be folded down.

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Once I pulled the drawstrings through the bags, this is what they looked like. They stand up pretty well, and I can fold them down to create a top frame for the boxes.

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This is what my bath bag looks like now.

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I like the fact that I can simply fold my bag down and be able to access everything I need inside. I also have the habit of attaching a ring to the interior of any bag. So I attached a metal ring to the inside seam of the bag, because I wanted to hang small bath items for easy access.

So there you have it. This was my solution to my travel bath bag issue. I genuinely love denim and to make these stand up drawstring bags with this material is one of my favorite kinds of sewing projects that I like to get involved in.

I used my other bags for some camera gear and for another bag I use for traveling. The denim creates a nice thickness for the bottom of these bags, which is why I like to use them for electronics.

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As a bonus…

I made a bag out of the top part of my denim jeans. I simply flipped the top inside out and hemmed the pant leg openings.  Due to the nature of how the jeans were cut and sewed, I folded the outer edges of the jeans inward when I hemmed them.

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I then sewed a zipper to the top opening of the jeans using sewing pins to hold the zipper in place and then sewing it to my pants. I used the same sewing steps to attach the zipper as to when I  Created Slim Hanging Organizers.

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Since my zipper wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the jeans, I closed off the jeans by sewing the top together.

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I used an extra tie to create the handles of this bag. This was a simple choice but some people may prefer to use a belt or something more to their taste. I chose the tie because I wanted to be able to throw everything into the washing machine.

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And as always, I attached a metal ring to my zipper for a slightly easier access.

I use this bag to hold some smaller items that need a bit of cushion like camera gear or smaller electronics.

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Creating Fabric Boxes

01.16.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Hanging Fabric Shelf Organizer
  • Quilt Batting (optional)

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine or thread and needle
  • Sewing Kit
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Iron and Ironing Mat

Hanging Fabric Shelf Organizer

So I had a hanging fabric shelf organizer which I had replaced by sewing slim hanging organizers from pillow cases. You can find that blog post at Created Slim Hanging Organizers. But once I replaced the canvas hanging organizer, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I decided to create small fabric boxes with the leftover material. I first took it apart, literally took it apart piece by piece. I recycled the cardboard and I was left with rectangular pieces of canvas.

This project works best if you have perfect square material, but I didn’t want to waste any material so my pieces were left as rectangular pieces. Rectangular canvas pieces yield rectangular shaped boxes. Square fabric pieces will result in perfect square boxes.

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So I first worked on the larger fabric piece. I first sewed the edges of the fabric so it wouldn’t com apart. I wanted these boxes to have a rougher look to them so I didn’t hem the edges. You can insert a fitted quilt batting piece in between your fabric pieces if you are using a softer fabric and if you want your box sides to be a stiff frame. I didn’t use batting because my material is canvas in this project.

I folded it in half (doesn’t matter which direction), and then I marked off a 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These triangle marks are the red lines in the photo. The larger the triangle, the higher the height of the fabric box will stand.

 

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I opened it up and I folded the fabric piece in the perpendicular direction, with the first set of triangle marks still facing upwards.

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I then proceeded to fold the fabric and mark off the second set of 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These are located with the blue lines in the photo.

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From there, I sewed over the lines of where I had marked each set of triangles. I sewed the blue lines first. I then opened up the fabric piece, lined up the other corners in order to sew over the red lines.

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Once you sew all of the four corners, when you open the fabric, it should look something like this. However, now you have to flip the box inside-out. Once you do that, the rectangular tabs you created should be on the inside.

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With the four triangle flaps sticking straight up, fold them down to create a straight edge of the box. You can pin it down with sewing pins to watch the shape take form. Once you fold down all of the standing flaps, you should have a similar box like the photo below.

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Now you just need to sew the standing flaps down to create sharper straight edges of the box and then sew the flaps on the inside of the box to keep them flat against the sides.

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I’ve used the large fabric boxes to organize items in my linen closet as well as my camera gear items. Although these aren’t perfect squares, I like the idea that these fabric boxes are easily modified to most objects.

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For the smaller piece of fabric, I hemmed the edges to keep the fabric together and then I measured a 2 inch margin all around the edges. Here, you can insert a piece of fitted quilt batting before sewing the edges together, to give your fabric box a more framed look.

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I folded each edge over and ironed the lines to define the bottom of the box.

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Using sewing pins, I folded in each corner and held them there. These smaller triangles will help define the corners of the box.

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For each triangle corner, I found the center of the triangle and folded it in half. Once the triangle folded in half, the edges of the box came together naturally. I hand sewed these edges together by using a running stitch pattern. I sewed the running stitch in one direction, then simple went back the opposite direction to fill in the gaps in the pattern.

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Once I sewed all four corners, I proceeded to sew the triangle flaps on the inside of the box to the walls.

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I’ve used the smaller fabric boxes to keep smaller items organized that sit on shelves and table tops. So there you have it, these were very simple boxes made from the canvas material I had left over from the hanging fabric shelf organizer. You can use pretty much any fabric you want, but you may need to use quilt batting to strengthen the sides of the boxes.

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How I Keep Long Cords Organized

01.02.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Velcro straps
  • Cardboard

Tools:

  • Cables
  • Rope
  • Christmas Lights

Organizing long ropes is always a bit tricky. There are many different methods and techniques that people use in different professions. I discovered a few that help me keep different types of cords organized.

Every cable has a natural coil. When you try to fight that coil, bad things happen. The cable eventually twists on the inside, and when you needed it the most, the cable will fail.

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For long extension cords:

For extension cords, I use the “Over-Under Technique” to keep my longer cords in a loop form but also to keep it from twisting was I’m wrapping it up. This method eliminates unnecessary twists in the cord and allows the cord to coil in it’s natural state (like it was wrapped from the factory). You can check out how this technique is used at Digital Photo: “Studio Safety: Coiling Cables”. The technique looks like this:

Digital Studio- Studio Safety: Coiling Cables

Basically, you take the cable at one, holding the cable in one hand with your thumb holding that end down. With your other hand, and your thumb facing the same direction as your other hand, bring the cable around to create a loop and let that loop sit in your holding hand.

Then create another loop but face your thumb away from the holding hand’s thumb, bring it around to create another loop, but when it reaches your holding hand, make sure your thumb is facing the opposite direction of the holding hand’s thumb. Repeat these two types of loops until you finish with the entire cable. When you coil your cables in this sequence, the cable does not twist while you coil it up.

If you need to use the cable, you can grab the end of the rope that is on the outside,  throwing the coil away from your or just pulling on one end, and the rest of the cable will unravel quickly.

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For shorter cables, I wrap the cable around my hand, using the space between my thumb and index finger.

With Christmas lights, I take a piece of cardboard and I cut it into an “I” shape, with small slits cut into the four inside corners of the cardboard piece. These slits are about half an inch and marked where the red lines are located in the picture. If you want to know the measurements for my cardboard holders, I included it in the image below.

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Tuck the female end of the christmas lights into one of the slits. Continue wrapping the cord around the middle piece of the cardboard until the entire cord is wrapped. Then take the male end of the cardboard and tuck it into the nearest available slit.

When you need to use the Christmas lights, simply plug in the male end of the cord and unravel while decorating your tree, or just decorating inside as needed.

I also label each cord using masking tape, with that type of light it is (marked with the yellow circle) so it’s easier to identify each year when we set up the Christmas decorations. I also write the length of each cord on both the male end and female end, which is identified with the orange circle.

  • White Solid = White lights that don’t blink
  • White Blink = White blinking lights
  • Color Solid = Color lights that don’t blink
  • Color Blink = Color lights that blink

 

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So these methods are how I keep my long cords organized and I’m sure there are more techniques as well. Hopefully these ideas will spark some new ways of how you can organize your cords.

 

Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

0700

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On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

Keep Life Simple

11.29.2016

0800

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So we’ve officially moved into the season between ‘fighting over products while shopping’ and ‘opening said products in one swift move’. I usually don’t go buy physical objects for this season, I tend to buy gifts in the form of experiences, however, I do understand that not everyone approaches this season the same way. 

The holiday season tends to bring on another level of stress, with the year rounding out and the pressures from the holidays added to the pressures from work and family, it can be an overall anxiety driven few months. With these additional stresses, I wanted to post some tips to help everyone to remind them to take care of themselves first and foremost. and perhaps to help keep the home front a little more simplified.

Life will always get more chaotic and complicated, but as long as we recognize it, we can counter it with with a well thought out defense.  I practice a lot of these tips, so even if you can try just one tip and simplify your life, you might be pleasantly surprised. So here it goes, I hope you guys enjoy it!

For Your Mental Health:

  1. Stop multitasking – Give your attention and focus to one thing at a time to complete a long list of to-do items.
  2. Stop driving aggressively – Take the steps to stop aggressive driving habits by getting enough sleep, planning ahead and using etiquette and kindness to other drivers. Remember that if children are in the car, they learn from watching you.
  3. Stop going crazy for holidays – Stop stressing to bake/cook a huge holiday meal. If you host during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish for a potluck style dinner and there will be less work for you. Stop over-shopping for the holidays. Try the 4-gift rule for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
  4. Accept that change is in order – Acceptance is the first step to changing bad habits. Once you have accepted that you need to change your life, take the next step toward a simplified life.
  5. Program your mobile photos/videos to auto-upload to a cloud account – Never worry about uploading photos again – Try Google, Amazon, Picasa, YouTube.
  6. Use a combined social media app (Instagram)– Try Hootsuite – it combines your social media accounts and shares a post on all sites at the same time.

For Your Home:

  1. Create a command center in your home – a command center is the ultimate hub to keep your family organized. For tips to create your own, see this post.  My favorite command center item is this dry erase calendar.
  2. Create a cleaning routine and schedule it on your calendar – Schedule laundry day’s, trash days, housecleaning days, etc.
  3. Downsize – Get rid of items you don’t need or move into a smaller home.
  4. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions – Read articles for free online instead.
  5. Stop buying trending clothes – Purchase classic, high-quality items in neutral colors and you will rarely need to update your wardrobe.
  6. Eat simple meals – Less thinking means faster, easier meals. Keep it simple with simple ingredients and meals that are fail-proof. Be sure to check out our post Clean Eating for Less Than $70 a Week for a family of 4 (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks included with a shopping list!).
  7. Make freezer meals – Double your dinner recipe and freeze the rest for later. If you do this every night, then you will have 7 additional dinners in the freezer for next month.  Here are 365 days of freezer meals for more ideas.
  8. Use your leftovers – Pack them for lunch the next day or use them to make another meal – many leftovers can easily be made into a soup.
  9. Use simple recipe ingredients – Stop buying spices/ingredients for one meal. Purchase basic spices and ingredients to minimize items in your pantry.
  10. Make one-pot meals – Reduce clean up by making an entire meal in one pot.  Here are 120 one pot meals for some ideas.
  11. Unsubscribe from junk emails – Try unroll.me for bulk removal.  I did this and was able to unsubscribe from 110 subscriptions in just a few minutes!
  12. Cancel cable – Try on-demand options like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Video.
  13. Print as little as possible – Read documents, books and recipes online. Save these items online or as a document to your computer. Less paper lying around means less to organize later.

For Your Organization:

  1. Consider signing up for an Elfster account or create an Amazon Wish List feature or giving Groupon experience gifts  
  2. Keep reusable bags in your car – These bags always come in handy for stores that give you money back for bringing your own bag (like Target) or those that charge for their plastic bags (like Aldi).
  3. Telecommute, carpool, bike, jog or walk to work instead of driving – take the stress of commuting with one of these options.
  4. Stop using credit cards and pay cash for everything – Get rid of the stress of paying interest for that T-shirt. Freeze your credit cards, pay them off and start using cash only – unless you are able to pay off credit cards in full every month.
  5. If you need a credit card, consider one with rewards benefits – If you absolutely need a credit card, choose one with big rewards. Pay the balance in full every month to reap the full reward benefits – otherwise the reward is not beneficial if you are paying interest.
  6. Upload/Download DVDs/digital copies to the cloud – Try Vudo/Ultraviolet to upload DVDs, digital copies to access movies on-the-go. Download/purchase movies online and store them in your cloud account, try Amazon Video.
  7. Share cloud files with family – Share your budget spreadsheet or contact list with your spouse.
  8. Write canned emails – Try the canned email feature in Gmail and save emails that you regularly send out with the same verbiage.

Choosing What To Keep

 

05.04.2016

0800

When it comes to choosing what to keep versus what you want to throw out, it’s a toss up between how you feel about the object and how will it serve you. I tend to approach the choice of keeping items based on function. I don’t have much of an emotional attachment to objects and for the items I am attached to, they’re usually small enough to fit into my photobox. For all of my paper items that are sentimental, I digitize them and keep a PDF or JPEG file of them in my external hard drive, as well as my clouds. For all of my other sentimental items that are larger, I select a handful to keep and I integrate them into my everyday life sceneries.

With living a zero waste life, I try to be aware of how much trash I’ll produce by donating items or simply tossing out trash. A lot of the times, when I donate items, I try to donate items in good shape so that it has a better chance of being purchased or picked up.

Recently, I had to make a decision about keeping my set of clear glass cups or keeping my mismatched mugs. Although my cups are a nice set, and none of them are chipped or cracked, nor have I lost one to gravity and clumsiness, I still wasn’t happy with owning so many beverage containers. I actually inherited these cups when one of my friends moved from California to Virginia to be back in her home state with her family.

I took all of my mugs and set them out on a table and then I compared them to my clear cups and honestly- the mugs had so much more character and history that the decision was easy. Although my mugs are of all different heights, thicknesses and diameters,  they can contain temperature better than my cups and have handles (always a plus when working with hot beverages). Each mug comes from a certain time period in my life and each evoke a fond memory. Although, I don’t want to own anymore mugs after I took a look at this set, unless I accidentally break one. This is the perfect amount of mugs for my collection and I’m glad to have it.

Owning mugs seems like such a minor issue, and it probably is. This post is written more for the sake of the moment when I decided that imperfection is perfect, at least for me it is. I’ve always been conditioned to own sets, sets of dishes, sets of cups, sets of books, sets of jewelry, etc. Even when I went into stores, items on display were displayed in sets with matching cups, dinner plates, bowls, gravy dispenser and so on. After I moved into my own studio I felt the need to have “perfect sets”. The clear glass cups that I traded out for my mugs were a perfect set too, yet I was not happy with them. Ironically, it was in my first apartment when I decided to live a zero waste life too, so perfection slowly went out the window.

Perfection doesn’t lead to happieness for me and I came to that realization when I donated the glass cups. However, I did wrap each individually and carefully and donated them to a local charity, so the next owner would receive a clean and carefully put together set.

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