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 Milk Crates to a Shoe Rack

02.06.2018

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Milk crates (about 12″ cubes)
  • Twelve 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws
  • (Optional) Three 1″ wood screws – (for creating the holes)
  • 2 Wood boards (12″ x 11-1/4″ x 1/2″)
  • 16 small screws for holding seats in place
  • Pencil

Tools:

  • Power Screwdriver
  • Table saw / Mitre Saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)

So I needed a small bench shoe rack piece of furniture. All of the designs and products I flipped through on the internet weren’t quite what I had in mind. I needed a fairly short lengthed bench that didn’t need to store a lot of shoes. I also wanted a compact design. I only own six pairs of shoes and I don’t wear them all in the same season so the rest of the room would be for my family.

I knew I had a few milk crates, which I saw the potential use for this project. It was simple idea and I knew what I wanted the final product to look like.

The interior space within each milk crate was 12″ wide, 12″ high and 10-1/4″ deep. The height of the crate was enough room for two levels for shoe storage.

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Since I was going to use two milk crates, I went ahead and found two random wood boards about 1/2″ thick. The boards I found were slightly wider than the depth of the crates, but I left the extra inch for larger shoes.

So using a miter saw, I cut each piece of wood board down to 12″ x 11-1/4″.

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Next I divided the interior height in half and created a guideline down the middle. Since the crate is plastic, I used an exacto blade to lightly score the midline.

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Using the wood screws and my power screwdriver, I pinpointed the locations of where I wanted my 2″ screws to be located. I like using the wood screws when locating holes in plastic because I can hold the shank of the screw and still guide the power screwdriver to create the straight hole.

wood screw Diagram

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After the holes are created, I took the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws and screwed them into the premade holes.

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For the four screws that were located further towards the back of the box, I screwed the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws inwards. And for the two screws located towards the opening of the box, I screwed them outwards.

I wanted the back of the box to be supported more since it was further back. Also, I didn’t want anything sharp located towards the front opening.

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I simply install each box with a board, placing the boards on top of the screws. The boards fit well and were snug enough where they didn’t move either.

Most shoes are longer than 10-1/4″, so leaving the extra 1″ helps with different sized shoes. If you need to store boots or shoes that wouldn’t fit the original designed space, you can simply remove one of the boards and the two screws closest to the opening. (I left the two screws here to show the original design)

So there you have it, you can create a simple seat and shoe storage very quickly and with simple materials. You can install a wood board on top to create a bench or stack these crates on top of a 2″ x 4″ frame to have one more level. There’s a variety of designs this can break out into. I might just do that when the spring season rolls around.

Hope this post jogged up ideas!

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Update:

I wanted to secure a seat on top of the crates so I took another extra piece of wood board and lined it next to the piece I usually keep on top of the creates.

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I took my pencil and traced the crate pattern on the underside of each board and then used small screws to outline at least two crate holes using the small screws. In order to know where I had to place my screws, I flipped my screws over so that they would be standing on their heads and then gauged where the sharp end of the screw would land. The head of the screws had to hug the insides of the traced corner, so I knew where to place it. Wherever the screw could touch both edges of the location, was where I knew I had to place the screw.

I measured the location for the screws in this manner because I wanted the screw to fit right inside of the hole I traced. The head of the screw as well as the thread of the screws had to fit comfortably into the existing holes, once it was flipped over.

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I didn’t screw the screws in the entire length of the thread, so be very aware of the depth of the wood piece you pick out and the screw length that you choose as well. The idea here was to still have the screws sticking out of the board so it would fit nicely into the holes that were traced.

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Once I placed the boards back onto the crates, the top was created into a quick seat to use while putting on shoes (or taking them off).

 

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So there you have it! I like this much more now with the seat on top, and secured into place.

 

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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Created Slim Hanging Organizers

08.01.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers (for one pillowcase design)
  • Two 12 inch, pink zippers (for the second pillowcase design)
  • Two Velvet Hangers

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine or sew by hand

I always try to take up less space than necessary when it comes to my home. It’s not that I dont’ have the room to spread out, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t like my items and possessions spread out over a large space because it takes more energy to find things and living a more compact lifestyle helps me keep my possessions to a minimum. As a designer, it’s an interesting challenge to minimize the space that I take up.

So I decided to create a slim organizer for my closet. I had a hanging closet shelf but I wanted to get rid of it. In order to get rid of it, I still needed some type of organizer in its place. The items that I needed to organize were small clothing items as well as small accessories. This slim organizer only needed to hold the weight of those items. I did move some stuff out of the original hanging shelf to other areas of the house, so what you see in the images below isn’t a direct transfer of items to the new slim organizer.

Hanging organizers actually already do exist in stores, but from what I’ve seen, these organizers tend to have the user access the pockets from the front of the organizer. It would be easier for a person who has a walk-in closet to use those organizers, but I wanted to make a slim organizer which I could access from the side.

So in the end, this organizer helped me reduce my space by half:

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Here is what I did…

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I gathered my pillowcases and designated one of the pillowcases to be divided into three sections and the other pillowcase would be divided into two sections.

I took one pillowcase and hemmed the open end of the pillowcase. I then folded the pillow case into thirds and marked the lines using sewing pins. This pillowcase would have the three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers sewed to it.

 

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I sewed along the lines to close off the three separate sections, then I placed my zippers down to mark the location of the zippers. Depending on how I wanted to access my slim organizer in the closet, I had to choose which side of the pillowcase to attach the zippers. Since I wanted this slim organizer to be on the right side of my closet, I wanted the openings on the right side of the pillowcase so that when it was hanging up, I could access the slots easier. I also left about an inch margin between the zipper and the edge of the pillowcase because the items inside will create a bulge that I had to take into consideration.

I used an ink pen to make tiny dots at each end of the zipper. I actually marked the dots in between the zipper teeth at each end, this way, it also centered the location of the zipper. I connected each set of dots to create the cut lines in order to fit my zippers into the pillowcase. I just used scissors to cut these lines.

 

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After I cut the lines, I inserted the hanger into the opening that was on the end of the pillowcase that was originally closed. I folded the pillowcase in half (vertically) to find the center and pretty much wedged the metal hook through the pillowcase. I chose to place my hanger on the original closed end of the pillowcase because if I used the hemmed end of the pillowcase for the hanger, the weight of the items in the organizer might weaken the that end of the pillowcase over time. I had to consider the weight of each pocket that was created, so I constantly thought about the overall weight that would pull on the material itself.

Once I placed my zippers into each slot that was made, I folded the edges of the pillowcase down to the zippers and pinned them together with sewing pins. Then I hand sewed the zippers to the pillowcase (making sure I sewed both the hemmed layer and the top layer of the pillowcase to the zipper).

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Once I was done, I used the same process to create the double pocket slim organizer. The triple pocket slim hanging organizer will be used for small items and the double pocket slim organizer will be used for some extra pieces of clothing items.

I don’t know if this is a favored design, but I personally like how much less space it takes up. this design works for me and, my space. Hopefully this design may jog some space organizing ideas for you as well.

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Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

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I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

So my family usually keeps leftover material from previous house projects or from items that were disassembled. A lot of the time wood planks are left over. These vary in sizes so I try to upcycle them around the house. My father had a book shelf a while back and it had two 42″ shelves that were 1″ thick and two 72″ shelves that were one inch thick.

I  knew those shelves could be used elsewhere in the house so I designated the shorter shelves for the upstairs kitchenette and created shelves with the other two longer pieces, in two other separate areas of the house.

I bought four grey Everbilt 10 in. x 8 in. Gray Medium Duty Shelf Bracket for the kitchenette and I bought two white Everbilt 9.75 in. x 7.75 in. White Elegant Shelf Bracket for the shelf in the bedroom. The shelf in the hallway will be mounted up with two wood 2x4s on each side.

For the kitchenette, I located the studs by knocking on the wall (you can also use magnets to locate the nails located in the studs as well) and since I wanted the top shelf to have at least 16″ of space from the shelf to the ceiling, I had to create two marks that marked both the top and bottom of the top shelf. I then measured another 11″ below the bottom line of the top shelf and made two marks for the bottom shelf. I wanted to leave at least 22″ above the countertop so there was enough room for using the countertop surface.

Because the shorter shelves didn’t reach across the wall of the kitchenette, I offset the shelves to make the weight of the items on the wall even. I measured the distance between the studs for each shelf, and transferred that onto each shelf. It’s easier to attach the shelf brackets to the shelves first, and then attach them to the wall. My studs were 30″ (on center) between each, so I knew to leave half an inch from the edge of each shelf edge and then measure inwards 30″ to mark the next center of the next bracket.

Once I attached the brackets to the shelves, I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws in the studs on the wall. If you screw in the top screw on the bracket closest to the wall (where the blue arrow is pointing to), and then place a  small level on top (where the violet arrow is pointing), then you can swing the other bracket up (where the maroon arrow is pointing), until the level shows that the shelf is at an even plane.  This seemed to be the easiest way for me to attach the shelves and also double checking the correct balance of the shelves.

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For the shelf under the window, I first located where my studs were and made sure I cleared the electrical outlet. Ideally, I would have place a bracket where that electrical outlet is located, but there wasn’t any room. I wanted the height for this shelf to have an 8″ clearance, so I simply measured 8 inches below the existing shelf and marked two lines for the top and bottom of the shelf. For this shelf I trimmed the edges so it would fit the width of this space better. I also drilled a hole above where the outlet was located, so there would be access to the outlet.  I attached the brackets to the shelf based on the width of my studs. For this shelf, I literally held up the shelf with one hand, and traced the inside of the drill hole locations with the other. As long as I continued to press the shelf against the wall, it didn’t move much. I did this because I wanted to mark where the drill holes were and also to pinpoint the center of the holes. There wasn’t room to swing the shelf up to level it out, (such as the kitchenette example), so when I placed the level on the shelf, I only had to adjust the shelf slightly to even it out. Once the first screw was placed, it pretty much held up it’s own weight until I could drill in the last three screws.

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The shelf in the hallway was mounted with a different method. I actually had to cut this original shelf piece in half. It was the other 72″ long shelf piece, and by placing each of the halves next to one another, I created a  18-1/2″ depth shelf. I first located the studs in each wall and measured 11″ height clearance for the space above this shelf.  The width of the space was so small, that putting up brackets would have taken up too much room. I pre drilled the holes in the 2x4s based on the width of my studs I had located. Always remember which 2×4 belongs on which wall, so you’re not accidentally drilling extra holes. After that, I placed each piece on the new mount and held the shelf pieces in place with finishing nails.

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This was just one of my upcycling projects using materials I found in the garage. If you can find materials that are still in fairly good shape, I would try to upcycle it for a useful piece of item that you may need. It’s cheaper than going out to buy brand new material- especially since you’ll still have your extra supply of material laying around.  I like to use up what I buy, it’s habit of mine and it’s saved me money over the years. I hope this post helped jog some ideas for you!

How to Store Vegetables And Fruit Without Plastic Bags

04.25.2017

0700

When I was growing up, I understood that fruits and vegetables were stored in the refrigerator. As I slowly transitioned to being an adult, I realized that my assumptions were pretty wrong.

Living a more zero waste lifestyle makes you more conscientious and aware of your choices as a consumer. Not buying excessive food and buying a reasonable amount of perishable foods so that extra trash isn’t produced is also a part of the lifestyle. I had to learn that even as I continued on this journey. This meant that I had to really understand how certain fruits and vegetables ripened and why. There are a lot of articles and diagrams for how to store vegetables and fruit, but I thought I would draw up my own diagrams and create my own chart (which you can download here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags)

It’s amazing what you realize you don’t have to store in your refrigerator and how much room that frees up is also a gift in itself. There are a lot of ways to store vegetables and fruit, which will keep them from ripening too soon.

I organized my chart by color coding them with the different ways you would have to store the produce. The images below illustrate how to store the produce listed in the chart.

  1. Vegetables
    1. Yellow = Open Container in a location
    2. Orange = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Green = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Dark Blue = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator
  2. Fruit
    1. Red = Open Container in a location
    2. Light Blue = Open container with shallow water on countertop
    3. Pink = Airtight/Open container in Refrigerator
    4. Violet = Dry/Damp towel in Refrigerator

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags

3d illustration of empty cupboard

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Countertop

Store Vegetables and Fruits Without Plastic Bags- Refridgerator

Download my chart in PDF format here, Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags.

I hope this post gives some helpful ideas as to how you can store your vegetables and fruit without plastic. I certainly have used it and it works great. It’s a lot less work in my own life to organize my refrigerator this way, so Happy Grocery and Produce Storing!

Ethylene Producing Fruits And Vegetables

04.04.2017

0700

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Storing fruits and vegetables can be tricky if you have too much and if they’re stored incorrectly, the speed of ripening can speed up unnecessarily. It’s one lesson I had to take time out to understand when I lived on my own.

As some fruits and vegetables ripen, they release ethylene, a gas that can cause other produce to become spotted, soft, or mealy. To prevent this, keep ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables separate from varieties that emit the gas.

A Few General Guidelines

  • Do Not Store Fruits and Vegetables Together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables. (Think of the “one bad apple” adage.)
  • For Vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.
  • For Fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

 

Ethylene Producing Fruits

•Apricots
•Avocados
•Bananas
•Cantaloupes
•Honeydew melons
•Kiwis
•Mangoes
•Nectarines
•Papayas
•Peaches
•Pears
•Plums
•Tomatoes

Ethylene Sensitive Fruits:

•Apples
•Asparagus
•Broccoli
•Carrots
•Cucumbers
•Eggplants
•Green beans
•Lettuce and other greens
•Potatoes
•Summer squash
•Watermelons

Try to keep the ethylene producing fruits separated from one another and make sure the ethylene sensitive fruits are kept in a separate section too. You can find storage tips and a more extensive list of how to store vegetables and fruits without plastic from Washington’s Green Grocer. The list originated from the Berkley Farmer’s Market, and you can  download their PDF of How ­To: Store Fruits and Vegetables and keep it for reference. There are still many different methods of storing fruits and vegetables, depending on how and if you prepare them before storing. I think this is a very helpful reference for those wondering how to go about eliminating it from fruit and vegetable storage.

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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Food And Bath Storage Containers

04.11.2016

0800

When it comes to using reusable containers to buy or store food in, it became a challenge due to the fact that bulk foods come in a variety of textures and consistencies. After a few trials, I finally found what work and did not work and I came up with these solutions.

32 oz Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth:

I use these jars to store my liquids in, and when I say “liquid”, I’m talking about Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint liquid soap. Because those liquids are quite viscous, these jars are easy to fill and clean out when needed.

 

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Ball mason Jars:

I use ’16 oz, Ball Canning Jars, Regular Mouth with Lids’ for bulk seasonings such as sea salt, peppercorn, flax seed, honey and almond butter. I  also use these jars for my bulk bathroom products such as my face lotion and body lotion. These jars are great due to the fact that they’re designed to handle wet ingredients over time, and they can also be used for canning as well. You can read more about Ball and the history of the company and their products, click HERE.

I also fill up my mason jars with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh almond butter. In the beginning of this journey when I first started buying bulk liquids, I noticed it was easier to just fill up the mason jars and then just put them away when I got home. I know it doesn’t “look” ideal, but to transfer the liquids into tall and skinny bottles like my Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, is one extra step I prefer not to take.

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I also love using Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars for containing my other bulk foods. I use the 1 Liter jars for bulk teas and a variety of snacks and the 1.5 Liter jars for larger supplies of bulk ingredients such as nuts, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, mini peanut butter cups and other bulk snacks. I use the 2 Liter jars for dried beans, baking soda and coffee. For my largest bulk items such as brown rice and oatmeal, I use the 4 Liter jars. One of the websites I follow suggests to use these types of jars for wet ingredients, but I’ve noticed that the gasket that comes with these types of jars, absorbs odors and stains easily. If you prefer to stick to only one type of jar design, then I say go for it. However, odors are a nitpicky tick of mine. It just seems strange to me to open a jar almonds and smell lotion, or when you open the jar with cane sugar and you smell balsamic vinegar. By using the jars for dry ingredients, I can switch out my bulk supplies and not worry about leftover odor from a previous use.

When I first researched on different types of canning jars with hermetic seals, a few different brand names popped up such as Le Parfait, Kilner and Bormioli. The reason why I chose Bormioli was because of their design structure for their jars. Most of the jars I researched on are designed with a round base, which actually wastes space. Bormioli uses a square shape base which utilizes shelf space and will organize easily next to one another. Bormioli has a long history of creating quality glassware while using high quality materials. You can read more about their history here Bormioli Rocco USA.

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I also use PYREX tupperware to contain items I find at the grocery store salad bar, but I also use these to store my lunches to bring to work. I did bring the 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup bowls to the grocery store to carve their tare weight into the lids, because I knew I would use them eventually. It did feel a little strange at first, lugging around glass tupperware, but using the PYREX bowls was essentially the same as using one of the grocery store disposable paper containers. I knew that my extra effort would count in a small way- in the long run. At the salad bar, I’ll fill up my PYREX bowls with olives from the olive bar, hummus, potato salad and anything else I feel like indulging in.

I really like PYREX because it’s made of tempered glass and it’s easy to clean, store and you can use these to cook in toaster ovens as well as larger ovens.

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For my spices, it is a collection of many types of seasoning jars I’ve collected over time. I did buy a set of seasoning jars, and those are on the bottom row. I initially did this to test out how to go about recording the tare weight as well as how to fill them up. However, it did seem simpler to just reuse the rest of my seasoning jars. They do all have different tare weights and I carved each tare into each lid. I do suggest to use screw cap seasoning bottles as they are quite secure when closed correctly.

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I hope this post clears up how I go about organizing and designating my bulk items per container. I honestly wished I had read about some type of reasoning and method before I started my journey because a few mistakes were made along my journey. However, now that I have figured out my system, I wanted to share it with you. So happy bulk shopping and I hope trips to the bulk sections are more efficient for you.

Ottoman Attachments

03.09.2016

0700

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Materials:

  • Cloth bags
  • Short screws that will hold the bags in place

Tools:

  • Screwdriver

With no coffee table as a furniture piece, means that I have to manipulate the uses of my ottomans. Coffee tables do provide a flat and even surface to place our items on but storage is also necessary. I personally need a place to keep my remote control and reading material. Sometimes that  storage is also where I keep a small pile of papers for sketching when I’m watching TV or my cell phone when I want it off of the couch when I’m sitting on the couch.

Since my ottomans have storage space under their lids, I decided to solve my  problem by attaching a few canvas bags. These bags are old bags that I’ve had for awhile and I thought they would work great here. I picked my canvas bags due to the strength of canvas itself and the colors are neutral enough that they won’t stand out too much from the ottoman color. I attached the smaller bag with a safety pin and the larger bag with two screws. If you’re going to try this method of attaching bags to an ottoman, I suggest you put a sample weight in the bag as you measure the height that it should hang above the floor. All bags are designed and sewn with different stitches and will fill out in different capacities. Some bags are designed to fill out more on the bottom half of the design and some will not. By placing a sample weight in the bags (ie. remote controls, some papers, a magazine), you will be able to see how the bag will sit against the ottoman with the tension relying on the screws or safety pin(s). If you decide to have a bag for magazines or papers, make sure that there is enough room on both sides of the object so that you can slide it in and out of the pocket with ease. This may take some adjustments when you’re trying to place the location of where the bag is going to sit above the floor.

This system works very well and I can store my remote control, my phone when it’s not being used and even reading material that I’m waiting to read. I’ve used these attachments for years and I actually have another ottoman which also has two bags attached to it with the same method. These bags are also great when you need to store an object(s) that you need access to quickly, such as kids toys. I hope this post was useful for those of you who may use it. Depending on the needs of you and your family, you should pick your canvas bags accordingly, by testing out different sized bags.

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