7th House on the Left

Happy Monday, everyone! We hope you all had a great Mother’s Day weekend. On Saturday, Greg and I made a trip to Ikea (yes, we were crazy dumb enough to go on a Saturday) and had the chance to spend some time with my mother-in-law on Sunday afternoon. Sunday night, I had a special 2-hour phone date with my mom out in California. Well, who am I kidding, my mom and I have a 2-hour phone date pretty much everyday, haha. All in all, it was a good weekend and we’re ready to “get back in the saddle” so to speak.

Attic Organization // 7thhouseontheleft.com

As I mentioned in the last post, we’ve been in “Spring Cleaning mode” around here. It’s still underway – so the house still looks like a bomb went off – but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Last week, I had the chance to share one of our current organizing projects over at my good friend, Jen’s, online domain, iHeart Organizing.

With our “every square inch” mantra, we finally got around to tackling… the attic. Dun dun dunnnn. Before we started, the attic wasn’t a complete war zone or anything, but it was neglected, not as conveinent as it could have been and was in dire need of a tried and true organization system. I’ve wanted to start some sort of system up there for some time, but didn’t really come up with one I really liked and thought would make a big impact until it finally clicked last week. You can read all about what we did (and what else we’re going to do) right here.

Are any of you guys in “Spring Cleaning mode” right now too? What’s the most dreaded room on your list of to-dos?

Seven Under $even

posted by Ashley  /  16 Comments

First of all, thank you all for the encouragement and support last week for our week “off”. After a long week of late nights, we had our first services in the new (to us) building this last Sunday, and we all couldn’t be more thrilled. Some of you asked for photos of the renovated space, so while we still have some things to finish here and there, I hope to share a few photos/projects either here or over on Instagram sometime soon. Also, some of the artwork I designed for the children’s church classrooms will be available over at Brown & Barkley really soon, so be on the lookout for that. Moving on!

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

So… Just so you know, none of you guys would want to be around our house this week. We’re currently in the midst of some serious Spring cleaning and purging action. We’re going through every single square inch of this house and getting rid of things we don’t want/need anymore, simp-li-fy-ing and then organizing what’s left. So while the kitchen counters are covered with contents from the panty and the dining room table is covered with things we need to box up and take to Goodwill, it makes me happy because as I always say, things always look worse before they get better.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Ya’ll know all too well by now that I love to organize. Give me a label maker and you won’t hear from me for hours. But, organizing can get expensive. At first, $12 for a storage basket doesn’t seem so bad, but when you add up the number of baskets you need to organize a small closet, you’ll be looking at $100+ in no time. Since we’re currently consumed by all things Spring cleaning and organizing-related, I thought it would be fun to share seven of my favorite organizing tools under seven bucks…

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

01 // 3M Picture Hanging Strips // Once I realized that these little guys aren’t just for hanging pictures, they quickly became a go-to favorite. I always make sure we have some stocked up in our “organizing arsenal” just in case because the uses for these things seem to pop up at the most unexpected moments and the most random spaces. They’re great for holding things in place that you need to easily remove if necessary. Recently, I was helping out with organizing a classroom storage cabinet at church and used a Picture Hanging Strip to attach the First Aid Kit to the side wall inside the cabinet. That way, it’s not in the way or taking up valuable shelf space, but can easily be taken down if a teacher needs to use it and snapped back into place when they’re done.

In Action: At this point, I’m pretty sure we’ve used these for something in every single room in the house. Check out how I used them when organizing the junk drawer in the kitchen here.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

02 // Sterelite Shoebox Containers // Not only are these little guys amazing and oh so useful, but you can find them at Target or Home Depot for only 97¢ each. Yes, 97¢!! I’ve used them to store everything from office supplies to makeup to first-aid necessities. They’re the perfect size for compact spaces and stack on top of each other really easily. A little unintentional feature of these containers is that there’s a very faint line in the plastic right in the middle of the container that serves as a guide to attach a label perfectly straight. Another thing I love about these containers is that the product labels (the labels with the brand, barcode, etc) come off so easily and you don’t have to use any kind of cleaning agent to remove the annoying gunky stuff – which makes organizing projects go so much faster.

In Action: I’ve used these all over the house, but my favorite place I’ve used them so far has to be the linen closet in the hallway. If I recall correctly, I think this is the first organizing project where I fell in love with them and realized their awesomeness. Check out that project here over at iHeart Organizing.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

03 // 3-Ring Binders // Give me a 3-ring binder and I can conquer the world. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on a $4 office supply item, but it’s totally true. I think my obsession with binders started when I transferred to public school in 11th grade. At my previous school, the teachers were big on having an individual spiral notebook for each class. When I transferred to public school, all of the teachers encouraged a binder system. Cue: “A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew…”. More where that came from here. I fell in love with organizing papers and took pride in my extensive color-coding system. My dad always said if I spent as much time on my schoolwork as I did organizing my schoolwork, I’d have better grades. He was not wrong.

In Action: Through the years, my love for binders hasn’t faltered and I use them to organize many areas of life including this blog, magazine clippingsour home finances, party planning, home maintenance (which, yes, I still need to post about that) and the day-to-day.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

04 // Martha Stewart Bookplate Labels // I’m positive I’ve raved about these a bajillion times, but I can’t have a “Seven Under $even” list without them. Whoever on Martha’s team came up with the concept for these, needs a raise. Seriously. You can find regular bookplates at craft stores, but what makes these bookplate labels so great is that they have an adhesive backing, which makes them super easy to use. In all of the many places and surfaces I’ve used these, I’ve never had one fall off or come loose. Unfortunately, they’re currently out of stock online and have been for some time. On top of that, the stock in Staples last time I was in there was really sparse. These two facts have me worried that they’re not going to make them anymore. If that’s the case… my life is over. Okay, not really, but my organizing-loving heart would be extremely sad.

In Action: The question is… where have I not used these things? For more gushing and how I sometimes spray paint them black for different projects, check out this post.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

05 // 3M Command Hooks // Yet another favorite 3M product. I love using these hooks inside cabinet doors and in random “secret places”. For instance, I have two hooks just inside the linen closet (on the wall, right next to the door frame) that holds a pair of scissors and a small sewing kit. If I’m in our room and need to get a price tag off something, a pair of scissors is just right there, a few steps away, rather than way on the other side of the house. The fact that the hooks are easily removable and won’t mess up the surface is a major plus.

In Action: For more Command Hook love, and the run down of our linen closet organization, check out this post.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

06 // Target Dollar Spot Containers // Every time I walk into Target, the Dollar Spot reels me right in. I try my best not to hoard all the cute containers that debut every few months (especially now that I’m on a simplifying kick), but once in a while I stock up on particular containers that I think will be really useful and last a long time. About three years ago, they came out with these small galvanized metal tubs for $2 a piece. Thinking they would be pretty useful, I picked up four of them. Well, three years later, I’m kicking myself for not buying more because they are so stinking useful. Right now, we’re using two in the laundry room (one for spot cleaners and one for rubber gloves) and two in the pantry (for corralling small pre-packaged snacks). I always keep my eye out for these guys, hoping Target decides to bring them back. So far, no luck. Last year, they came out with ones very similar but they had imprinted leaves along the side, so I passed them up. I still have hope for this Fall though… Fingers crossed!

In Action: I’ve mainly used Dollar Spot containers in our laundry room, my office and in the pantry. I’ll be posting a pantry-organizing post in the near future, but see my favorite Dollar Spot containers in action in this post.

Seven Organizing Favorites Under $7 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

07 // Mason Jars // I love mason jars. They’re classic and fun, you can find them pretty much anywhere and they’re reusable. You can purchase a set of 9 to 12 mason jars for somewhere between $7-$12, but you can also buy them open stock at Michaels for about $1-$2 each. Sometimes it’s difficult to add labels to the side of mason jars – especially if they have that etched quilted surface. However, my go-to alternative is to insert a piece of card stock between the lid and ring.

In Action: I’m currently using mason jars to organize a few things in our pantry (more on that soon), but you can see some small “Jelly Jars” being used for touch-up paint storage in this post.

What are your favorite affordable organizing tools? I’m always excited to hear about how other people organize (I’m a dork like that), so be sure to share your tips, tricks and favorites in the comments.

File Organization 101

posted by Ashley  /  22 Comments

In honor of Tax Day, I’m going to delve into the most exciting thing ever… filing! I don’t know if you caught that, but that was supposed to come across as sarcastic. Though, I do actually think it’s kind of fun. I’m weird like that. My first “job” when I was about 14 was filing at my grandpa’s office. I say “job” because I’m pretty sure it only lasted a month or so and then I was off to summer camp for four weeks. But, nevertheless, I wanted something to do and even in that short period of time, I think the organization bug got a hold of me.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

January is normally the time of year where everyone breaks out the new office supplies, warms up the label maker and gets things organized. I’m the same way, but I always end up getting my office in gear around tax season. Going through all of our financial documents and organizing everything for our accountant makes me realize what we could have done better throughout the year (both organizationally and financially), which makes it the perfect time to refresh our filing system.

As of about 5 years ago, I had gobs and gobs of files. I filed ev-er-y-thing. Since then, I’ve learned what I do and don’t need to file, so I created a system to keep a majority of the important documents on my computer. As for what to file and what to throw away, that’s different for everyone, but I’ve boiled it down to the basics for us so when next tax season rolls around, I haven’t collected a lot of unnecessary stuff.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Over the past year, I’ve switched a lot of my filing over to digital – especially in the work department. In light of that, this year, I set out to find a smaller, more streamlined storage and organizing solution. During a trip to Target a few weeks ago, I picked up two of these Threshold file holders (they aren’t listed online quite yet, or I’d share a link). Needless to say, I loved the wood and brass combo, but I also liked the fact that they were open on top and I could easily get a glimpse at the files without dealing with a cumbersome flap or lid. When I got them home, I attached a Martha Stewart bookplate label (from Staples) that I spray painted flat black to the end of each file holder. I labeled one box “Home” and the other “Business”.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Before I got started on all of the actual organizing, I made a list of all of the different files I needed. (I’ll get to those specifics in a second.) Thinking all of this out on paper before diving in really helped me think through what categories and files I needed as well as what order they should go in – which probably ended up saving some time in the long run. Once all of that was squared away, I gathered my three boxes of multi-colored hanging folders (these from Office Max), scissors and label maker and got to work.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but whenever I make labels for things like files or lots of boxes at once, I type everything out (as much as the label maker allows at one time), then hit the “Print” button to print them all out in one fell swoop. You’ll have to cut between each word by hand rather than with the machine, but you end of saving a lot of label tape. Speaking of label makers, I’ve been using this one for a little over a year, and I love it. There are a bunch of fonts to choose from, and customization options galore – but not to the point where it gets confusing. If you’re looking for a super simple label maker that’s still great, but has less bells and whistles, I also highly recommend this one. Is it sad that I could seriously write a whole post about label makers? Anyway, back to filing! One more thing, because I always get this question, the small pair of scissors are from here.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

HOME // Every household is different, but here’s a rundown of what we keep in our “Home” filing box…

Blue. The blue files are for all things related to taxes. We have files for our taxes papers for the last five years (one for each year) and one called “Current” for important random papers we need to keep on hand for this year’s taxes come next April. We also have a file for income records.

Green. Green means money. We keep the majority of our finance information in our Home Finance Binder (which is a life saver when it comes to monthly budgeting and for fining info fast) but this is where we keep hard copies of the important things. The file names in this section include Bank Accounts, Donations, Investments, Mortgage, Greg’s School Loan, Paid Off (letters and account information for things that have been paid off) and Retirement.

Yellow. The yellow files are for house and auto. The file names include Home Insurance, Warranties (home warranty papers as well as large purchases like appliances), Auto Insurance and one for each vehicle. Obviously, there’s more home-related things you should keep on hand, like contractors names, serial numbers, maintenance and so on; but we keep all of that info tucked away in our Home Maintenance Binder. I know, I still haven’t blogged about that. Adding that to my list of things to blog about!

Red. The red files are for all things medical. We have a folder for each of us (including Bentley) as well as Insurance (for extra cards and the benefit summaries that come in the mail every year or whenever your plan changes), Paid Medical Bills, Dental, and Vision.

Purple. Finally, the purple files are for miscellaneous important papers and memberships. Our files include: Passports, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Diplomas, Alumni Info, AAA, Hotel Rewards and Frequent Flyer Miles. The passports, birth certificates and the marriage certificate are better off being kept in a fireproof box – these are just copies.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

BUSINESS // Eighty percent of my business-related files are kept on my computer. Everything from design client contracts to writing gig agreements are kept on my computer and backed up on a remote disk. That being the case, all I keep in the business file holder are incoming and outgoing expenses.

Green. This section differs for every type of business, but for this category, I have files for Design Projects, Writing Gigs, Advertising, Affiliates, Shop Sales and Awards & Misc.

Blue. This is for all of the outgoing receipts. The file names include Printing, Shipping, Packaging, Mailbox, Office Supplies, Hosting, Legal & Accounting, Donations and Equipment & Misc.

Purple. This section is dedicated to storing and sorting my favorite samples for future projects. Especially with graphic design projects and the store, I tend to collect a hefty amount of paper and printing samples. So, having a place to keep all of my favorite and frequently used ones together really proves to be handy. For this section, I have Paper, Printing, Collateral, Photography, Paint and Fabric.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Lastly, I put a few extra files in the back of each box for when I need to add a file down the road. I also put a little pouch filled with extra labels and tabs. That way, next time I need to add a new file, everything is right there at my fingertips.

That about wraps up the rundown of our new, streamlined filing system. Like I mentioned earlier, every household and home-based business is different, so while this isn’t really a “guide” on what to file, hopefully it will be helpful in getting the organizational ball rolling.

Now that our filing system is all organized, it makes me even more excited to move on to other organizing projects around the house – like the neglected foyer closet. That’s what I love about organizing – it’s a beautiful, perfectly labeled vicious cycle.