January Cure 2019: Week 3

Another tardy January Cure check-in! Catching up was more difficult than I expected, but I was able to take off from work on Monday and that helped. Week 3, here we go!

Assignment #6: 30-Minute Closet Cleanout

As promised, my closet cleanout focused on the linen closet in our hallway. I don’t think it’s particularly stuffed, and generally everything in there belongs there, but the arrangement inside is constantly shifting. If it’s been awhile since I’ve washed towels and there’s empty space on the towel shelf, the first aid kit or the box of bathroom trash bags has a tendency to migrate there, only to be moved again when the towels come out of dryer. It’s not a problem, exactly, but every now and then I find myself having to rearrange things in order to put other things away.

Taking a cue from Stephanie Sikora of Life Made Simple, who was on a recent episode of Young House Love Has A Podcast, I tried to put the most-used items within easy reach, and to move less-used items up top and out to the sides. A few items, like extra toilet paper and hand soap, were moved into the bathroom cabinets—it’s two steps from this closet into the bathroom, but Stephanie recommends putting everything as close to where it will be used as possible, and that sounded like a common-sense tip that’s easy to follow in our situation.

The inside of a closet containing shelves full of towels, boxes, and baskets before being organized
The inside of the same linen closet after being organized, with empty space on two of the six shelves

The difference isn’t dramatic, there’s no fancy new system or pretty bins, but the extra breathing room in here is nice.

I also took the opportunity to clean out the basket with our over-the-counter medications. Duplicates were consolidated and expired medications went into the outbox to be dealt with properly at the end of the month.

Assignment #8: Clean the Kitchen & Treat Yourself to Flowers

The kitchen didn’t really get the attention it deserved. I was strapped for time because we were having guests for brunch on Sunday, so I focused on getting the trash and recycling out, getting all of the dishes washed and put away, wiping down the counters, and wiping down the top of the stove. I really need to go back and clean the top of the fridge and the insides of the oven and microwave, but those will have to wait for another day.

No flowers again. I really want to be better about this! Fresh flowers are a treat any time of the year, but a real balm to the soul when it’s dark and cold.

Assignment #9: Do a Bathroom Cabinet Cleanout

We actually have two cabinets in our bathroom: a double-wide “vanity” with a single sink and a built-in cabinet over the toilet. (I say “vanity” because it’s not a freestanding piece of furniture but another built-in, and not a particularly well made one at that). I opted to work on the former, which has three cabinets and two drawers, since it holds our most-used stuff; the other is just storage for cleaners and such.

I started by taking everything out and removing the grimy, crumpled adhesive shelf liner that was still clinging in the backs of the cabinets and drawers. I found another layer of a different liner in the drawers, but it was stuck so firmly that I couldn’t lift a single corner, so I gave up trying to peel it off. I wiped everything down with Method’s all-purpose cleaner (I really like the pink grapefruit scent), then applied new adhesive shelf liner.

I sorted everything that came out into piles: stuff for hair, stuff for eyes, stuff for skin, stuff for teeth, cosmetics, and other. (Justin walked in while I was putting up sticky notes that just said “skin” and “teeth” and so on. He declared it creepy, but what else was I supposed to do? Parents keep their children’s baby teeth, and my sister-in-law accidentally received someone’s order of human hair at Christmastime. I’m not the weird one here.)

After tossing anything used up or broken, consolidating duplicates, and putting anything I knew we wouldn’t use in the outbox, I was able to reuse a three-tier organizer and a couple of recycled cardboard boxes to corral most of our stuff. Once again, I tried to think about keeping similar things together to make getting ready in the mornings easier.

I made two major improvements to our setup. First, I realized that one of the drawers would be the perfect size to keep my hot tools (hair straightener and two curling irons) and hair accessories. After a trip to the Container Store, I landed on this:

A top-down view of a narrow drawer containing a hair straightener, two curling irons, a collection of hair accessories in clear acrylic tubs without lids

I added a silicone baking mat rated for use up to 450°F to the bottom of the drawer. Generally I wait until my styling tools have cooled completely before putting them away, but on mornings when I’m in a rush, it’s reassuring to know that I can throw them in the drawer without worrying they’ll scorch or melt anything. The hair elastics and bobby pins are in stackable clear acrylic tubs.

The second major improvement was taking my cosmetics out of a travel bag and putting them in a dedicated storage system:

Stackable clear acrylic makeup storage holds a variety of lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes, and creams, and another plastic tray holds makeup brushes and cosmetic tools

The clear acrylic storage units are part of the Luxe Acrylic Modular Makeup System from the Container Store. The makeup organizer sits on top of two medium short drawers; the pieces don’t snap into place, but the combination of their weight and sturdy rubber feet keep it from sliding around. The grey tray actually came with a set of EcoTools brushes I got for Christmas. The rest of my brushes (mostly larger face brushes) are still in the cases they came in inside the cabinet below.

There’s a little room for expansion here, but not much, and that’s okay. I have plenty of options to choose from each day, and more than enough powder products to last through this year and the next too. In the short term, I’d like to get a couple of small cups to hold my brushes upright. In the long term? This unit is taking up an awful lot of counter space, and I’d like to move it to a dedicated battle station in my bedroom (which I don’t have, or have space for, yet).

Everything else went back into the cabinets, in what I hope is a more efficient layout. Now that I can see how things fit together, I may make a return trip to the Container Store to get a few pull-out drawers to take full advantage of the counter’s depth.

Assignment #10: Plan a Get-Together

We host our D&D group anywhere from every other month to twice a month, so I don’t really need any extra motivation to invite people over. It’s actually a secret goal of mine to try to change or improve one thing about the house between every session. There are several artists in the group, but none of them seem particularly interior design-focused, so I don’t know if they actually notice. Still, it’s a silly personal challenge that keeps me excited about making improvements, even if they’re small and simple. Whatever works, right?

Assignment #11: Find & Frame Artwork

This might be my new favorite thing. Once we finally broke the seal and and bought and framed some artwork last year, it’s made us both much more open to searching for—and bringing home—art. Here are our latest additions:

Left, a pen and ink drawing of a hooded, roguish woman with a dagger and sack; center, a selectively colored line art print of Beast and Belle dancing; right, a black and white print of an original Nintendo controller

The pen and ink drawing on the left is a portrait of my current D&D character, Mischa; she was commissioned by my husband from our friend Jorren for our D&D Secret Santa gift exchange. The print in the center is Beast and Belle dancing; it was a gift to me from my sister, who purchased it from Amourable Art. The print on the right is another piece of Amourable Art from my sister to Justin.

While hanging these, we also took the opportunity to hang an already-framed photograph and an unframed canvas that had been waiting on us for a permanent home. After 3.5 years, it’s finally starting to look like we live here!

Assignment #12: Work on Your Project

Massive whiff on this one. I ended up working the Friday that had good weather, and it’s been too cold since to do anything in our guest room. Instead of cleaning out our home office, which was plan B, I got really fixated on changing up our entryway and living room. I’ve since moved an armchair, added a skinny desk, and rearranged the books and boxes on our media center to be more balanced and visually pleasing. So I didn’t complete the brief, but I’m really, really happy with what I did instead.

Assignment #13: Clean the Bathroom & Treat Yourself to Flowers

We cleaned most of the bathroom while we were doing the cabinet cleanout. The tub needs special attention: we have a recurring stain around the drain that I’ve learned is caused by dissolved copper in our water, which is almost certainly caused by a lingering bit of copper pipe in the wall (all of the pipe exposed in the basement has been replaced with PEX) and slightly acidic water. Replacing that section of pipe isn’t practical—we’d have to open up the wall, at which point we’d better be doing a reno of the whole bathroom—and the staining can be removed with cleaner and elbow grease, so for now I’m just looking for ways to deter more build-up to make the cleaning last longer.

As I was working through these tasks last weekend, I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Was I really doing the January Cure if I was skimping on or skipping tasks? I wanted to work faster and longer and have everything completely finished instead of having several half-done tasks (like partially cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and leaving one cabinet empty due to a repair that needs to be made). I was beating myself up over it, until I’d listed out all the things we’d done.

Writing it all down and telling someone about it made me realize that actually, we’d touched a bunch of different places in our house and made all of them a little bit better in some way. Sure, a lot of those things aren’t permanent, either because they can get messy again or because we might need (or come up with) better solutions down the road, but we put the time into making things that much nicer, and trying to make things work better for us. Even if things don’t stay nice, there’s a chance we’ve introduced a setup or a process to make it just a little bit easier to reset things to nice tomorrow/next week/when we deep clean again. And less time spent cleaning means more time making messes, right? 😉

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