Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Organize A Closet: Renter's Edition

I am no stranger to struggles with organization of my clothes. Once hitting college, it has been 8 years of different residences from college dorm rooms to itty bitty college apartments, to moving to 3 different rental properties after being married, and now, in military housing.

Common factor shared by all the places I live? None have been a permanent residence that I can modify however I want.

I see endless ideas for decorating and organizing for homeowners like wall painting ideas and installing or anchoring furniture or shelving to the wall. For the majority of us renters, these ideas are not options for us. That's my biggest complaint is that there are not enough ideas for those of us who do not own the property we live on! We are allowed to make these modifications, but then we either pay the penalty upon move out for "damages" or have to repaint the walls back to their original color. No thanks!

I am getting the hang of organizing all of my wardrobe items into any closet I have. I never know exactly what the closet will be like, if there will be any shelving, or if I will have to share it with my husband!

I use fabric covered bins, stacking shoe racks, and the plastic drawer system. These things are not ultra durable nor very attractive looking, (well, the fabric bins are actually pretty good) but it gets the job done and they are guaranteed to fit any closet due to the customization they offer. Unlike "assembly required" closet storage solutions or built-ins, you can modify them to FIT ANY SPACE. Plus, if you decide you need more, just go back to the store and pick some up. No biggie.

Here is my closet:

(Ok, so I'm writing this post from my phone, and I haven't used this feature before, so I'm not really sure where photo will show up. I might have to modify this post the next time I'm on my computer. Bear with me, please! We are in the process of wiping it clean and reinstalling everything).

Let me explain the areas of my closet.

Starting from the bottom left of my closet, I have a drawer that I have mostly used for boot storage. This has fit about 5 pairs of calf-height boots in them. THEY DO NOT LAY FLAT. If you prefer to have your boots unfolded while in storage, do not expect this to work for you.
Next I have a drawer tower, as I will call it. Currently it has 4 drawers; the last place we lived I had it 6 high because I had a walk-in closet with a little open wall space where this fit perfectly. Try to keep an open mind for how many drawers will FIT, as opposed to how many drawers you WANT to fit. There is a difference. :) This time, I generously gave my husband 2 drawers for the bottom of his closet. I will say that while having 6 drawers in my tower was great, it put a lot of stress on the bottom drawers. Since they are made of plastic, THEY WILL CRACK IF OVERLOADED. It is important to keep heavy clothes in the bottom drawers (jeans) and light items at the top (swimming suits, scarves). I just switched out my summer clothes for my winter clothes, so right now my drawers have casual work pants, long sleeve shirts, and sweaters in them.

On the bottom right I have my shoes. THIS IS NOT ALL OF THEM. You are probably thinking "there's no way all my shoes would fit there!". Do not fear - under the bed storage containers are your best friend. That's where the other half of my shoes are and my summer wardrobe! Because my clothes hang down so low, I put one shoe rack up on top for flats that I wear often.

So, up to the top shelf - I stack my jeans and pants into two piles on the left. I used to keep them in drawers. I finally came to my senses and use that space for tshirts and workout clothes. The jeans are much easier to get to up here!

Then I have a few buckets. These are great catch-alls for whatever you want. I use mine for scarves and winter accessories, one for belts, the big one has bras, and the 2 stacked ones are empty. The great thing about these bins is the ease of taking them down, rummaging through it, and then shoving it back into your closet. And it's STILL organized!

I also have a hanging jewelry organizer that is handy for seeing (almost) all your jewelry at once.


I organize my clothes based on how much hanging space there is down below. I keep my long dresses against the wall on the left, followed by the rest of my dresses. You will need short hanging clothes to go above the plastic drawers, so my dress pants go here. I am sort of obsessed with cardigans, so I decided to put all of them together along with other layering pieces to wear on top of other tops. Then on the right is all the rest of my tops that I keep on hangers. No rhyme or reason to this area. Then on the far right is where I keep the jewelry and my hanging travel toiletries organizer.

It's taken me several years to figure out how to make this constant moving and relocating business work. I may not know how to organize the rest of my house to fit this lifestyle yet, but at least my closet is under control!

Hope this helps any renters and frequent movers (and homeowners) out there!

EDIT: Please know that I also use a dresser for tank tops, lounge pants, tshirts, and workout clothes. I just don't want anyone to be discouraged if they can't fit all their clothes in their closet - because I can't, either!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Welcome Home Baby Wreath

Out with Halloween, and in with Christmas. Where did Thanksgiving go? Don't ask me. Stores have been putting Christmas decorations out since July, for goodness sake . For whatever reason, I am not opposed to hearing Christmas already. It's already started at my new job - the first song I heard was the Glee Cast version of Last Christmas. I was actually excited to hear it!

My mailbox is already filling up with Holiday shopping catalogues and circulars, and my Pinterest wall is full of fun holiday decorating and gift-giving ideas. And the polar bears have come out to play again on the Coke cans!
Holiday decorating reminds me that I made a super cute wreath for my niece when she was born, but I never posted anything about it because it was a surprise! I am excited to show it off now, haha!

I purchased a grapevine wreath from Hobby Lobby (mine was much larger in diameter than the one on the website) and some blue, green, and brown ribbon that matched the theme of my niece's room. The wreath will look best when you choose different patterns, widths, sheerness, and textures. I also selected wooden letters that were already painted white to spell her name. You will also need a hot glue gun.

I began by cutting ONE strip of ribbon and doing a "test tie" to see if it was long enough to be tied and have the ends long enough to hang nicely. I think mine ended up being about 16 inches in length - a little bit longer than I originally thought it would be. Try not to be too excessive with the ribbon length because you will run out of ribbon faster.

Then I spent a bit of time cutting all my ribbon the same length so I could begin tying without having to stop to cut more. I chose to alternate the ribbon styles as I tied them around the wreath, but randomization could be cute, too! 

It is up to you how far around the wreath you tie the ribbon, but it will take a ton of ribbon if you choose to go all the way around the whole thing. That will get pretty costly! I did about a third or so of the wreath; that way there was room for the letters for her name. If the name you are doing is longer, be sure you choose small enough letters to fit. Making your ribbon section smaller than a quarter of the wreath will make it look lopsided and unbalanced. If the name is just a few letters, consider going farther around the wreath with ribbon to fill in the "blank" space.

It was kind of tricky to find good placement for the letters on a grapevine wreath because the wreath itself is not level. So I had to work around the bumpy vines. They sometimes ran right where I wanted the letter to go. Just be aware that perfect letter placement may not be an option with this type of wreath! :)

I laid the letters where I wanted them, and then lifted one at a time to glue it. Just a few spots under each letter is all you will really need to anchor it to the wreath; you don't necessarily have to go glue-crazy. But a glue gun is fun, so I could understand if you have the urge to!

Let the glue cool for a little bit, adjusting the letters if they are crooked, but be quick! This glue isn't very forgiving!

The finished product:
 I used a wreath hanger to hang this over the front door when baby and family came home from the hospital. You could also tie a loop of ribbon and then hang the wreath from the ribbon if it's too thick for the wreath to hang on the hanger alone.

The look of the wreath can be changed by using only thick ribbon - I used all thin ribbon - and also by making the ends of the ribbon shorter. For my first ribbon wreath, I think it turned out pretty good!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Momma's White Chili

People, you all need to have this recipe. Amazingly comforting, perfect for this time of year, HEALTHY, and so easy just to throw together - literally.

This recipe comes from my mom's recipe notebook, so I'm not sure where it is originally from. She often got recipes from newspapers and magazines, but this one is hand-written. This was one of my favorites growing up. It's very flavorful and almost spicy, but has a nice richness to it that even kids can enjoy. This White Chili is great paired with cornbread, yeasty rolls, or even on top of a simple refried-bean burrito, which is how it was always served at my house. It borders a soup as opposed to a chili; I'm not really sure why it is called "chili", except for the fact that it has so many beans in it.

Momma's White Chili

1/4 cup chopped onion
1-16 oz. can of chicken broth
1-4oz. can of chopped green chilies
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. cilantro leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
4-16 oz. cans of Cannellini beans, drained (or any white bean - Navy beans, Great Northern beans)

1. Saute the chopped onion in a small amount of chicken broth for about 2 minutes, then add the remaining broth.

2. Then add the green chilies and the spices - garlic powder, parsley, cilantro, cumin, and red pepper flakes. 

3. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Add the cooked chicken and beans; cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. My mom added a note to the bottom of the recipe with a tip for thickening your chili - mash one can of beans! Perfect.

5. Eat and enjoy!

I made more than this recipe calls for and used WAY more chicken broth. I really like the flavor that the cumin adds - sort of a smoky, spicy, mexican flavor, so I added extra of that. I ended up cooking my chili down a little by simmering with the lid off - it brought the liquid level down about a half-inch in my giant pot. 

Here's a great cheat for this recipe - use a rotisserie chicken! It decreases the health factor a bit, but overall it is still a very healthy meal packed with protein and warm-your-soul goodness. I used half of a "family size" bird, although it looked just the same size as the "regular size" birds next to it. The use of a rotisserie chicken truly makes this a one-pot dish: my kind of cooking.

This White Chili is a great alternative to the traditional (and sometimes very boring) chicken noodle soup. My husband had the idea to add rice to this, although I think that would change this traditional recipe a bit too much for me. :)
Happy Cooking!!