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This blog is currently undergoing some updates. Please pardon me as I do some long overdue housekeeping!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Making Your Home Work for You: RE-Purposing Old Things

This is the 2nd installment in an on-going series. You can see the first installment on identifying your home’s problem areas here.

After 13 years of marriage, 4 kids and 6 moves, I’ve found that every time we move (or the kids hit a different stage in development) we need to rethink how we are using what we already have. Like most people, we simply don’t have the luxury of running out and buying new stuff every time our needs change.

So I’ve become pretty adept at “re-purposing” what we do have. I’m also slow to turn down anything someone offers me for free, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Sometimes what doesn’t work in one situation is the perfect (or at least workable) solution for another situation. That’s why the pictures we took last week (did you take your pictures?) are so important. They’ll show you exactly what isn’t working and will (hopefully) give your brain some ideas on what will work.

Remember this?025

And this?

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First you need to diagnose the problem or figure out why things are the way they are. The pictures helped me with that, too.

The media shelf is easy to explain…an open, short shelf, sticky toddler fingers…need I say more?

The reason the books are on the radiator is because otherwise they would be on the floor. Winking smile

The living room is the place where Littles tend to look at picture books, either on the floor or the sofa. And there’s no bookcase or bin or anything in that particular room for pictures books, so they end up on the floor. Duh!

This one was easy.

First we moved out the media shelf. My 7-year-old daughter is now enjoying it very much as a personal bookcase in her bedroom.

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And it solved 2 of her problems: where to put all her books and where to put little breakable things she wanted to keep away from little sis---the top shelf is within Mary’s reach but out of Em’s reach. Perfect!

I decided that we obviously needed a full-size bookcase in the living room. Having the book shelves a few feet away in the library wasn’t cutting it.

This one is a cheap laminate bookcase that was in my kitchen being used for homeschool things (I’m totally re-doing and actually moving my school area). 017

Wii controllers and accessories on the very top so none of the kiddos can get them without permission. DVDs on the top 2 shelves. VHS on the middle shelf (Em doesn’t mess with these as much and frankly I just don’t care much about them) and the picture books on the bottom 2 shelves.

Now, this is not an ideal solution, the top shelves are really too far apart from each other for DVDs (you can see that I have some stacked on top of each other), ideally I would find a way to add an extra shelf (although this cheap bookcase may not react well to me drilling new pin holes, so I think I’ll skip it). Not the perfect solution, but a good solution for now. In another few years, our needs in this room will change again.

The only real problem is that the kiddos (even the bigger kiddos) find putting books back into a bookcase a challenge. This is a developmental issue. Think about how hard it can be to hold a shelf full of books upright (so they don’t slump down on ya) while you are trying to put a book back. Now imagine being about a foot shorter and weighing a 1/3 as much and having arms as skinny as rails and this might give you an idea of how my almost 11-year-old feels about it. Never mind the younger ones. Again, in another few years it probably won’t be an issue.

One possible solution for now: Just don’t worry about it and let them stack the books on the shelf instead of standing them upright. But this makes it harder to get out a single book without toppling the whole stack.

Or: Straighten up the books on the shelf myself at the end of each day, enlisting some help from the kiddos according to their ability, but not worrying too much about where the books are during the day (in other words, don’t sweat the general messiness during the day, just clean up the big mess at the end).

Or: Put some books into a bin that’s easy to peruse and rotate the books periodically from shelf to bin. We’ve actually tried this in the past and it doesn’t work for us. Any bin that someone can pick up or move will get dumped in my house. Time and time again.

I do have another solution, but it costs money and is the subject of a review I have coming up. I’m willing to bet there are a few enterprising souls out there with the know-how to take the idea and do something similar on their own...so stay tuned!

But in the meantime…have you come up with any cheap/free solutions for keeping your picture books neat and tidy, but still accessible to the kiddos?

3 comments:

  1. I think it's TIME FOR SPRING for all of us, and so we can get out and enjoy the world. I've been going through similar and it's a good thing we aren't locked into some kind of fixed and firm idea of how things outta be~I'd put those pic books in a basket on the floor and let them dig all they want~I put baskets on my bookcases when mine were littles and still use them for some stuff now. In a basket it won't really matter how neat they are in there~and it can sit on the shelf or on the floor in a corner or 'reading zone' someplace. I'm enjoying your thinking aloud about all this and wondering IF I ought to join you~we've already tore up and redone our school area, but it's the REST of the house I NEED to tackle...;-)) Like I said, WHERE IS spring??? LOL..hugs!

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  2. Yeah, I've tried the basket/bin route and they always end up dumped all over the floor...and then someone slips on a book and then, well, you probably know the rest.

    In another year when Emma is beyond her "dump" stage, that might work again. Right now she dumps just to dump. And then you pick them up. And then she dumps again, lol.

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  3. I'm actually considering getting a few of the 'cheap' bookshelves at Target this week while they are on sale. Boxes holding books just doesn't work that well...

    While I love baskets to hold things, I can relate on the dumping stage. J is there... However, it's easier for toys to be tossed back into a container for whomever helps him pick up.

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