Cleaning-Up the Cleaning Supplies

I’ve been writing about organizing areas in the home for several weeks now, and I know some of you have just joined us.  I wrote an article to kick us off about how I think through organizing, and as I sat down to write today, I realized I needed a quick refresher so I could write about how I organized our cleaning supplies.  It’s been done for so long, I kind of forget how it happened!

As a matter of fact, I pull out this list of questions when I set out to organize anything:

  1. What do I need to do in this area and what tools do I need to accomplish it?
  2. Where do I need things to be placed so I can reach them quickly? What is sitting here that is just in the way?
  3. Where will I put things when they are not in use?
  4. Who do I need to tell/inform/educate on how/where to put things away?
  5. How can I keep it the way I want it? When will I replenish consumable items?
  6. What do I do with things I need sometimes, but not very often?

So, when I start to think about cleaning supplies, to answer the first question, I have to define my “area.”

I clean lots of areas.  I also need to consider factors like:

  • storing dangerous chemicals out of reach of children (for their protection)
  • storing cleaning supplies where kids can help (if you want some ideas on how they can help, read this article)
  • which chemicals I need
  • what about chemicals which are useful in multiple locations

First things first: where/what do I need to clean?

  • bathrooms
  • kitchen counters, cabinets, and appliances
  • dishes
  • ceiling fixtures
  • that little corner where the ceiling meets the wall
  • picture frames
  • tops of furniture
  • items on top of furniture
  • floors – we have a combination of tile, laminate, linoleum, and carpet – all of which require different tools
  • windows, mirrors, glass doors
  • towels
  • clothes
  • bed linens
  • cars
  • walkways
  • and this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Of course some of these things we need to clean more frequently than others.  Maybe someday I’ll write more on how to clean, but today I just want to focus on where to keep what I need to get the job done.

For our purposes, I decided to sort cleaning by type and to store frequently used items together.  We are short on storage space and big on helpers, so I am trying to manage having enough tools for everyone to participate with one small shelf, high (but not too high for my teens/tweens to reach) in the hall closet.

Cleaning-Up Cleaning Supplies

I bought four small cleaning buckets and filled them with supplies for:


We have a feather duster for each person.  I found a great deal on feather dusters at an industrial cleaning company.  I bought one high quality one with a long wood handle and long feathers.  A teen or adult usually uses this one.  I also bought less expensive, shorter, retractable ones for each of the kids.  There’s something cool about having a light-saber-style feather duster.  🙂

Bathroom cleaners

In the bin in the closet I keep:

  • an old toothbrush
  • sponges which are retired from kitchen use
  • multi-purpose, disinfecting cleaner (we like Dow Scrubbing Bubbles)

In each bathroom we keep:

  • a container of Homemade Cleaning Wipes
  • a roll of paper towels
  • a pitcher with an inch or two of soapy water and a toilet brush.  (You can read about our daily bathroom routine, if you’d like to know more.)
  • and I store a small roll of trash bags in the bottom of each trash can, under the bag in use, of course.

Window cleaners

  • multiple bottles of windex
  • multiple mostly-used-rolls of paper towels (so they are small enough in diameter to fit in the bucket)

Specialty cleaners

  • lemon oil for caring for our wood tables
  • covers for the dust mop
  • spray for the wood laminate floors

We also use the walls of the closet

  • a clear acrylic wall pocket hangs up high for vacuum cleaner bags and spare belts
  • hooks high on the wall to hang a broom and dust mop
  • a small hook hung low on the wall for a whisk broom and dust pan
  • the vacuum cleaner and a hard-floor vacuum stand in the front of this closet

There are some things we use primarily, and regularly, in the kitchen.  I have a high shelf in an upper cabinet where I keep:

  • Dish soap
  • Lysol
  • Goo Gone
  • Drain Cleaner
  • Efferdent (yes, denture cleaner.  It’s great for removing stains and odors from carafes, vases, coffee pots/cups, etc.)
  • The big container of hand soap for refills
  • Homemade Cleaning Wipes
  • I keep light bulbs specific to our kitchen in this cabinet as well
  • dishwasher detergent tablets hang in a small bucket on the wall near the dishwasher
  • trash bags go under the sink, since little people can take out the trash 🙂

If you think about my 5S questions, you can see I have everything within quick reach of where I use it, but don’t clutter my near-storage space with refills or infrequently used items.  I still need to have a place to store refill containers & infrequently used supplies, though.

Since I don’t need these on a regular basis, I store these in a cabinet in our laundry room (I’ll talk about laundry room organization in a future post).

  • I keep an entire shelf of pre-cut paper towel rolls for making Homemade Cleaning Wipes.  On this shelf I also keep bottles of rubbing alcohol, a bottle of vinegar, and a plastic measuring cup.
  • Our hand-held vacuum with a bin of attachments and hoses lives on the bottom shelf of another cabinet (easy to reach for little helpers)
  • a small basket on another low shelf holds kitchen and hand towels which need washing
  • the same shelf has room for spray starch, the refill box of dryer sheets, a refill bottle of windex, and a bottle of ammonia
  • on the next shelf we keep extra laundry soap, unopened bottles of bathroom cleaner, and a basket of infrequently required chemicals – lysol, pinesol, a refill for our laminate floor cleaner spray bottles, extra rubber gloves, powered cleanser, surface cleaners, etc.
  • the highest shelf holds unopened refill bottles for hand soap, a large bin of baking soda for cleaning purposes, refills for the dishwasher tablets, extra boxes of dust cloths, refills for oxy clean, spot cleaners, etc.
  • the very top of the cabinet, accessible when it is closed, hold spare light bulbs in the variety of forms we require for everything from under cabinet lights, to lamps, chandeliers, fans, floor lamps, and outdoor flood lights.  {The only lightbulbs which don’t live here are the kitchen lights, since it’s inconvenient enough to change those without having to go to the basement to find them.  Plus, the kitchen is the ONLY place we use that style of bulb.}

When something is empty in our regular-use items, we have one place to look for refills/replacements.  When we take the last item from the cabinets in the laundry room, it goes on the appropriate shopping list.  When I am planning a trip to Sam’s Club, I have one place to look to check stock on our bulk items.  If the refills are empty or nearing empty, even if no one told me they emptied the dishwasher tablets (and left the empty box sitting innocently on the shelf.  Of course, that never happens… lol), I will see it and get it on the list.

So this is what is working for us, right now.  If I didn’t have smaller kids, I’d probably keep bathroom cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink in each bathroom.  When our kids are older, I might reallocate their dusters to bedroom closets to have them handy.

As it is, our chemicals are within reach of people who should use them and out of reach for those who shouldn’t.  We can team-tackle a room by taking all the buckets to a room together  or divide and conquer with each person grabbing the tools they need to get a cleaning task done.  With our space and our floor plan and our kids, the one-shelf-upstairs-refills-stored-downstairs plan works to keep our cleaning supplies clean.  🙂

What works for you?  I’m always looking for new ways to do things!

The Entryway

True confession:  Last night (at the time of this writing) I took a child to church with no shoes.  It wasn’t intentional, but we were running late and I couldn’t find any of his shoes and it’s kind of embarrassing for the pastor to walk into the service late.  Somehow it’s more noticeable when you have to go up front and lead worship.  I figured it was better for me to be embarrassed about a barefoot child than to exhaust the pianist with lots of prelude music and embarrass my husband by making him walk to the front of the church 15 minutes late.

So I took him barefoot.

Most of the time, our system works well.  But I don’t want you to think I’ve got this whole thing figured out, so I thought you should know my kids go to church barefoot sometimes. As a matter of fact, one child almost went to church in pajamas in the morning.  For promotion Sunday.  When said child would be reciting a Bible verse in front of everyone attending Sunday school.

Yesterday was not a banner day in the Quillen house.

This doesn’t often happen to us because our entryway/exit path is fairly organized.  But even in the best of systems, there is sometimes a breakdown.  Apparently, convincing a two-year old to keep his shoes in his cubby by the door is one of those break downs.

I’m sure you have experienced your share of barefoot or pajama-clad children and don’t need my help in orchestrating such events.  They seem to come organically.  🙂

Getting out the door well, on the other hand, doesn’t happen organically.  It requires organization and planning.  So, let’s talk about what works well, when it works for us. lol.

We enter and leave our house through our back door.  The back door opens into our living room.  I created a mudroom of sorts by dividing the living room (its awkwardly shaped) with Expedit shelves from Ikea and some pictures (they hang from the ceiling and have images on front and back).

One side looks pretty and faces the living room.  The other side is a highly functional mud room.

Please Enter!

Each of the lower openings in the Expedit is filled with a plastic bin.  You can’t see these from the living room side because they are behind the sofa.  My kids store their shoes in these bins.  They are easy to wash, durable, and hold several pairs of shoes.

The upper openings are filled with decorative baskets.  My older kids use these as a launch pad of sorts.  It is where they keep the things they will need to take with them when they leave.  So, if they have a card they want to hand deliver on Sunday, they pop it in their launch pad as soon as they’ve written it.  My eldest daughter keeps her purse in her launch pad.  My son’s keep their Sunday school binders in theirs.

We have hooks for backpacks and jackets.  This time of year the wall is fairly empty, but come winter it will be packed.

The buffet by the door hides a bin of items to be returned to stores, a bin of items to be returned to people we know, a bin of give-away items, and a basket of hand-sanitizing wipes.  I need to add a trash can to the area so people can throw away the little things they cart in from the car, but I haven’t found one the right size just yet.

My husband has a decorative box on top of the buffet that acts as his launch pad.

I added a clock, so they know how late we are running,and a mirror, for last minute visual checks on the way out the door.  There are even hooks nearby for keys.

Most of the messy parts are hidden from view in the living room.

Since we all like to go without shoes, it’s not usually a problem to take shoes off when we walk in the door and pop them into our shoe bins.

Except the two-year old.  He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of this yet.

Which is why he went to church barefoot last night.

Behind Closed Doors

When we remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, I considered open shelving to replace the upper cabinets.  Since it would also have cost a lot less, I almost convinced my husband it was a good idea.  Then he pointed out it could negatively affect our resale value if we ever go to sell the house.

Have you ever seen those kitchens in magazines with open shelving instead of upper cabinets?

Shelves vs. Cabinet with DoorsThe reason those pictures look so refreshing and open is because the contents of the shelves are neatly arranged.  In reality, many kitchens need the cabinet doors to keep chocolate chip bags from tumbling out onto the counter or to hide the disorganized stacks of dishes mixed with canned goods, school supplies, paper products and appliances.

We decided on traditional cabinets with doors we could close.

But that doesn’t mean I have to hide a disorganized mess or trap falling chocolate (just eat it already, right?) behind closed doors.

I feed at least nine people three times per day.  We require a lot of dishes.  We require large cookware.  We need lots of place mats, flatware, cups, and food.

How do I organize my kitchen for efficiency and house the size and quantity of items I need?

  1. I am ruthless about what we keep.  If it’s not pulling its weight in the kitchen its gone.  For me this meant getting rid of the microwave.  It took up precious counter space and we only used it to melt butter, sterilize sponges, and make popcorn.  {What about leftovers, you ask? Leftovers for nine people take longer to heat up in the microwave than doing it in the oven or on the stove.  Whether you do it plate by plate or multiple dishes at a time, the microwave loses the contest when you have a lot of people for whom you are re-heating.}
  2. I am careful about where I store the things we keep.

In our house there are eight people who can put things away, and a ninth who can wreak havoc on a cabinet at lightning speed.

In addition to being creative with chemicals to keep them out of reach of the havoc-wreaker, I have organized our kitchen for ease of use for the people who most often use the various kitchen-y items.  There’s nothing amazing about our kitchen or what we use in it, but sometimes its nice to see alternative ways to organize or store things.

Our quirky kitchen would not work for some families, but for us, for now, it’s working well.

Here are some of the little things we’ve done in our kitchen:

Base Cabinets

Dinnerware (plates and bowls of various sizes) is stored in base cabinets.  This allows me to load them up with 27 place settings (dinner plates, salad plates, bread-and-butter plates, cups, saucers, bowls) without fear of the cabinet falling off the wall.  It also means my five-year old can unload the dishwasher independently.  We keep our paper plates and plastic/melamine plates with the dinner plates, so there is one place to go for plates when it is time to set the table.

We have a lower cabinet directly behind the sink in our island.  It contains storage containers – glass and plastic.  Above it is a drawer with baggies, and on the door is a rack to hold foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, etc.  Everything we need to handle leftovers is together.  And after the food is packed away, we can just turn around and set the dishes on the “dirty side” of the sink.

Foods my children regularly get on their own or serve for the family are stored in a pair of base cabinets.  This includes things like chips and crackers and fixin’s for s’mores, as well as breakfast foods like pop-tarts and cereal.  Each child also has a small “candy bin” and one pull-out shelf is dedicated to these.

Baking supplies (mixing bowls, hand mixers, measuring devices) and small appliances all have homes in lower cabinets as well.  My kids can easily reach a mixing bowl to pick strawberries or whip up a batch of cookies.  Since we regularly cook for a crowd, I have a couple of sets of mixing bowls, several liquid measuring cups, half a dozen sets of measuring spoons, and a couple of sets of measuring cups.

Next to the baking supplies cabinet, also down low, is a cabinet housing pie plates stacked by size and bread pans.

One lower cabinet is a pull-out drawer with two trash cans: one for recycle, one for trash.  We have this neat system where my recycling expert (a.k.a. 9-year old) takes the recyle and sorts it every morning.  While he’s gone, my waste management expert (a.k.a. 11-year old) takes out the trash.  When the recycling expert returns with the empty bag, he lines the trash can with it.  Then he uses a new trash bag for the recycle can.  In this way we get to reuse our recycle bags for rubbish.

Under the sink I have a plastic drawer that holds rags, drying mats, and extra towels.  On top of this drawer we keep a small strainer and a large colander.  Next to this I have upright separators to hold my cutting and carving boards.  And in the middle, I keep a roll of trash bags.

Another base cabinet holds small appliances – blender, food chopper, waffle irons, electric skillet, juicer, cotton candy machine (confession: I LOVE cotton candy!), air popper for popcorn, ice cream maker, bread machine, etc.

One lower cabinet holds our pots and pot lids.  Pans with handles hang from a rack near the cook-top.

Another lower cabinet has separator racks to hold cookie sheets, jelly roll pans, pizza pans, and muffin pans upright.

We have a small base cabinet that holds cookie cutters, decorative sugars, birthday candles, muffin-cup liners, and other fun food-project items.

We also have one lower cabinet, on the table side of the island, which houses play dough and school supplies (usually the lab kit for science goes here, though occasionally the chemicals needed are stored separately in the chemical cabinet near the sink.)


We have a drawer under our double oven where we store placemats.  Since it’s a the floor level, even the two-year old can help with setting the table.

I keep parchment paper, rolling pins, thermometers, and oven mitts/hot pads in a drawer between the oven and the cook-top.

Just to the right of the cook top is a small drawer where I keep spoons and forks that don’t match anything.  These are handy for tasting foods while cooking.

One drawer near the cook top is dedicated to serving utensils – large forks, slotted spoons, tongs.  You get the idea.

And I have a drawer for specialty utensils like pizza cutters, cheese grater and cheese slicer, egg slicer, micro planer, basting brushes, etc.  This drawer is in the island and can be reached from the island (where we do a lot of food prep), cook-top, and sink.

One drawer is dedicated to scoops and metal whisks (plastic ones used in non-stick pans are in a crock near the stove).  I have a cookie scoop, mini-muffin scoop, and a muffin scoop stored here.  And I keep two balloon whisks, a flat whisk, and a ring whisk laid neatly in this drawer.

We use one drawer for our kitchen towels and twist ties, rubber bands, and chip clips.  I keep two towels for each day of the week – and they are actually embroidered with the name of the day of the week so we can tell if we’ve changed them.  Since there is a max of 12 towels in the drawer at any given time, it doesn’t take a huge drawer.

Yes, I have the proverbial “junk drawer.”  It has a multi-compartment organizer in it to sort broken toys from clothes pins from glue and tape, etc.  Nothing startling here!

We keep silverware in a drawer on the table side of the island.  It’s pretty far from the dishwasher, but we decided it was more handy to have silverware near the table for table setting and to grab something quickly while eating than to have the drawer near the dishwasher.  The dishwasher silverware tray lifts out and can be carried to the drawer for easy unloading.

I also keep trivets and coasters in a drawer near the table for the same reason.

Upper Cabinets

I have a cabinet over the ovens (we have a double wall oven) full of casserole dishes, bundt and tube pans, and cake pans of various sizes and shapes.  I also store my cupcake safe up there because it’s the only place large enough. 🙂

Serving dishes are in upper cabinets near the stove.  It makes it easy to grab a dish and serve right from where I’m cooking.  Most of the kids who cook are tall enough to reach the serving dishes, so they don’t need my help to get dinner from cook top to table.  Since several of our serving dishes are special gifts from others, I like having them out of reach of the two-year old.

I have another upper cabinet that holds open packages of paper napkins, special party plates/supplies for the next birthday or special event, and sometimes I put potatoes in this cabinet to keep them happy until I’m ready to use them.

In the kitchen, we store only the chemicals and cleaners we need in the kitchen.  Open bottles are kept on the top shelf of an upper cabinet.  If we buy in bulk, unopened bottles stay downstairs in our “Market” until we need to put them to use.

I also store all medicines in the kitchen.  Most of the time someone needs water to take it anyway, so the kitchen is a handy place.  Our medicines stay on a medium-high shelf in the same cabinet with chemicals.  My older kids can reach them if necessary, but my two-year old can’t, even if he climbs onto the counter.

We do keep glasses and coffee cups in an upper cabinet between the sink and the refrigerator.  The coffee pot lives nearby as well.  And one drawer, under the coffee pot, is dedicated to an extra set of spoons and ice cream scoops to make drink preparation easy.

I have an upper cabinet with pitchers and vases so kool-aid and fresh picked flowers can be quickly dispatched.

I only keep one upper cabinet for food.  Food that stays in the kitchen is food that will be used in the upcoming week.  By shopping day, it is essentially empty.  I say essentially because I also keep honey, soy butter (we have a peanut allergy), ketchup, tea bags, and kool-aid in this cabinet and they don’t get used up every week.

Oh!  And I do have this awesome piece of furniture my step-dad made for me years ago.  It has served as a bookshelf, closet, tool chest, and pantry over its many years.  But right now it acts as a baker’s pantry.  This cabinet sits next to the refrigerator and holds all the ingredients needed for baking – flour, sugars, chocolate chips, oatmeal, salt, baking soda and powder….  It also holds my cake decorating supplies and cookbooks.  Since I store all these products in plastic bins (we buy 25# bags of sugar and 50# bags of flour), it takes a large cabinet.  This one is 7ft tall, 3 ft wide, and 1 ft deep.   Spices for cooking (not baking) are stored near the stove in racks attached to the wall.

Out of the Kitchen

Most of our food lives in the “Market” downstairs.  The Market is a small room with the water heater and air conditioner/heater units.  But it is large enough to hold our chest freezer, a second refrigerator, and long shelves of non-perishable food.  I buy commonly used foods (for us) in bulk when it is less expensive and we store it all in the Market.  {My kids LOVE to “run down to the market and grab some green beans, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk.” “)} I also store little-used items in the market: canning supplies, roasting pans, coolers, buckets for brining turkey, baskets for picking fruit, and 20qt and larger stock pots.  These are all items I actually use, but not very often.  I don’t want them cluttering my kitchen, but I need them someplace clean and convenient. Cooler bags are stored in the back of our van.  This keeps them right where I need them when we head to Sam’s Club or if it’s hot when I shop for groceries.  It also keeps them out of the house. 🙂

Photo Credit:
Open Shelving by Brian Stansberry (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Hammer Time

Wedding Hammer

One of my favorite wedding presents was a beautiful leather-handled hammer. Yep. A hammer. The couple that gave it to us told the story of receiving a hammer for their wedding – and how over the years, that hammer had woven its way in and out of their life story: building doll houses, repairing roofs, laboring with sons and daughters to build a shed, hanging pictures, restoring toys and furnitue…

So, a beautiful, expensive, well-made hammer became their standard wedding present. I love it.  And we have all kinds of stories tied to our own hammer now.

At one point, though, I started to declutter our house. I found at least eleven hammers. None as beautiful and well-made as our wedding hammer, but serviceable and useful, nonetheless. Several were claw hammers, an upholstery tack hammer was among the lot, and a tack hammer or two made the pile.  Perhaps it was a bit excessive…

Before I carted the excess off to Habitat for Humanity, I decided to remove some barriers to home repair. I found that a quick fix took longer if I had to go to the garage.

So, I created a tool bag of things I frequently needed in alternate locations from our excess. I still had some to give away when I was done…

My tool bags have morphed over the years as we have moved house and mastered different types of repairs, but I still love the idea of duplicate tools IF it removes a barrier to getting stuff done. I’m all for reducing duplication if it’s just adding clutter or hoarding.

That said, don’t go out and buy duplicate tools for every room in the house.  However, if your efforts to simplify and declutter your home reveal a lot of duplicate tools:

  1. figure out what projects you do and where you do them
  2. find a container you already own and aren’t using and make it a “tool bag” suited for that project
  3. look for a nearby place to store it
  4. then get rid of the rest without guilt
  5. if you are still using the heel of a shoe for a hammer and a metal nail file for a screwdriver, save up to buy some tools. 🙂

Not everyone tackles the same projects I do, but the idea is to have a complete set of tools organized by project type. Sometimes there is duplication, but often the tools are unique for the project. It is ALWAYS nice to grab a basket, bag, box, or bin & jump in without having to round up tools. I store the tool “bag” in a location that makes sense for the place I’m likely to use it and for the frequency I will need it.  (Incidentally, I do this everywhere in our house, not just with tools.  This is a great way to organize a kitchen, bathroom, office, playroom, etc.  More on that in future weeks.)

Here are the tool sets we have and where/how I store them:

In-House Projects

This is a basic set of tools that any household could use – the other sets of tools we have are fairly specific, but if you are looking for a list of basic tools that will allow you to accomplish most household “first aid,” this is one such list.

  • Years ago I repurposed a small (12.5″ long x 8.5″ wide x 6″ tall) scrapbooking bag with handles.  It is perfect for tools needed for small jobs around the house.

In-House Tools in Scrapbooking Bag

  • I keep it in my hall linen closet with a cordless drill (& charger).  My husband installed an outlet in the closet for the drill and a rechargeable vacuum to plug in. [If you are going to add an outlet inside a closet, be sure to locate it where folded or hanging items will not block it.]
  • I set the bag on top of a ratcheting screw driver set that is in a case & has socket heads, driver heads, and a host of star, hex, and other shaped heads for unique projects. Incidentally, these fit in my drill as well.
  • Thescrapbooking bagcontains:
    • drill bits
    • scissors
    • three screw drivers – one two sizes of Phillips head and one average sized flat blade
    • my leather-handled hammer
    • a small container of various sizes of nails (I used a plastc hinged box that came with first aid supplies to hold these)
    • a small container of various sizes of screws and wall anchors (another first aid box)
    • a small container of picture hooks, cup hooks, and small brackets (another first aid box — I got these in the trial size area — and I labeled them on both ends so I can tell them apart & it doesn’t matter which way I slide them into the bag)
    • two mechanical pencils
    • one ball point pen
    • one Sharpie “Rub-a-Dub” Laundry Marker
    • a box cutter
    • safety glasses
    • a tape measure (at least 25′)
    • two adjustable wrenches (different sizes)
    • two pair pliers – ratcheting handles for an easy grip
    • one pair  needle nose pliers
    • wire ties (I keep these in order by standing a toilet paper tube in the bag)
    • teflon tape
    • small tube of silicone caulk
    • Lock-Tite Gel (super glue)
    • duck tape
    • masking tape
    • WD-40 pen
    • small, magnetic level
    • stud-finder (in case my husband is lost, lol)
    • small pad of paper
    • solar calculator
    • bandaids & antibiotic ointment (you know you are going to need one at some point… why stop what you are doing to round up a bandage?)
    • putty knife
    • mini razor-blade scraper with extra blades (these fit in my box cutter, too)
    • glue
    • a small flashlight


  • I have a closet where we keep touch up paint in the colors we have around the house. It also holds stain for furniture or woodwork in the house that we have stained.
  • In that closet I keep two baskets of supplies: one for paint and one for stain.
    • The paint basket is an old laundry basket. It holds:
      • a claw hammer
      • a flat blade screwdriver (for opening paint cans & removing switch plates from lights and outlets)
      • a Phillips head screw driver (for removing door knobs)
      • painters tape (wide & narrow)
      • roller covers (in various sizes & thicknesses)
      • roller handles (in sizes appropriate for the covers we use)
      • roller pans & liners
      • paintbrushes
      • Fast-and-Final spackle
      • a couple of putty knives
      • sand paper
      • a 13″ x 4″ aluminum paint shield
      • a 12″ wide roll of kraft paper
      • a roll of paper towels
      • nitrile gloves (with lots kids in the house, I often need to help someone quickly without time to wash paint off of my hands)
      • a small dishpan (in case I need to bring water to the site, or to set the paint can in while I work for stability & to contain spills)
      • and I just realized I should put my drop cloth in there – can’t imagine why that never occurred to me before!
    • The stain basket is smaller, it’s a plastic bin we used for shoes in seminary – I thinkit’s original purpose was a foot bath…?  Anyway, it holds:
      • sand paper in various grits needed for finishing wood
      • palm sander
      • wood glue
      • gorilla glue
      • rags cut from old t-shirts
      • steel wool
      • tack cloth
      • sponges and other lint-free stain application tools
      • paint brushes
      • chemical masks
      • flat blade screw driver (for opening cans of stain)
      • a claw hammer (for closing cans of stain)
      • a rubber gripper jar opener (for opening screw-on-lids on stains, oils, and cleaners)
      • nitrile gloves


  • I keep upholstery tools in a traditional tool box. Itis stored in a closet in the garage because I don’t use it very often. Nearby I keep a roll of rush fiber for repairing rush seats. This tool boxcontains:
    • staple gun and staples/brads in various sizes
    • Upholstery tacks
    • tack hammer
    • magnetic upholstery hammer
    • webbing tools
    • webbing
    • grommets
    • grommet tools
    • awl
    • upholstery needles
    • button covers & kit for covering them for furniture that has tufted upholstery)
    • cording

Plumbing Repairs

  • I do most of our plumbing repairs myself. I keep plumbing repair supplies in a small plastic bin. It stays in the garage closet because, thankfully, I don’t need it very often.  Itcontains:
    • plumbers putty
    • small caulk gun
    • latex (paintable) caulk
    • silicone caulk
    • caulk removal tools
    • mini razor-blade scraper with extra blades
    • teflon tape
    • various wrenches in sizes for our pipes & fittings
    • spare pipe fittings, hoses, brackets, and useable pieces left from past projects
    • flappers
    • wax rings
    • a dishpan for catching drips
    • a 25′ pipe snake
    • a flash light
    • a small measuring tape
    • a pad of paper and a pencil
    • a Sharpie “Rub-a-Dub” Laundry Marker (this particular permanent marker dries quickly, doesn’t “bleed” on fabrics, and doesn’t rub off when wet, frozen, defrosted, etc. I keep them almost everywhere!)
    • we keep plungers, paper towels, and rags in the kitchen and every bathroom, so I don’t need those in this basket

Electrical Repair

  • My husband does most of our electrical work & repairs. Since I am always finding great places foradditional lighting and outlets, he needs tools toaccomplish these projects. He keeps electrical supplies in a plastic bin like my plumbing supplies. It stays in the garage closet andcontains:
    • wire caps
    • volt-meter
    • current tester
    • wire in various sizes/for various purposes
    • a wire snake
    • old-work outlet boxes
    • outlets
    • outlet covers
    • light switches
    • light switch covers
    • flat blade screw drivers
    • phillips head screw drivers
    • small drywall saw
    • stud finder with electrical current & pipe detector
    • pliers
    • wire cutters
    • measuring tape
    • hole saw bits
    • light boxes
    • ceiling fan/light fixture support brace
    • sometimes spare parts from past projects that may be useful on future projects
    • and he has to grab the drill from the hall closet

Workshop Tools (woodworking/home repair)

  • We have shelves in the garage closet and a small workshop areain the basement of an outbuilding in our property. Depending upon how large the project, we may work in eitherlocation. In the garage closet we keep:
    • the Saws-All (it really does saw everything from iron railings to rolls of paper towels for cleaning wipes)
    • a subset of screw drivers, wrenches, sockets, Allen wrenches, etc.  in various sizes
    • a claw hammer
    • tape measure
    • hand saws
    • crow bars
    • corded drill
    • organizers for screws, nails, hooks, and fasteners of all types and sizes
    • portable compressor with parts
  • In the workshop we keep things like:
    • compound miter saw
    • table saw
    • circular saws
    • band saw
    • jig saw
    • drill press
    • drill bits
    • a huge selection of screw drivers, wrenches, clamps, blocks, sockets, Allen wrenches, etc.
    • a couple of tape measures
    • squares
    • levels
    • metal meter/yard sticks
    • tape measure
    • portable lights
    • extension cords
    • router, router table, router bits
    • saw horses
    • lumber
    • sanders
    • sand paper
    • pressure washer
    • work bench/cabinets
    • furniture in process of being made, repaired, or up-cycled
    • glues
    • dowels
    • brackets
    • metal plates for repairs
    • rags
    • we have a half-bath in the basement, so water is readily available
    • we don’t have a third hand drill, so we have to remember to take one if the project will require it.
    • this is pretty much where typical workshop tools live (and get used)

Garage Tools (car and lawn equipment maintenance and repair)

  • Car supplies also sit on the shelves in our garage closet. It is the closest location to the driveway where we are likely to do car or lawn equipment repairs.  Car supplies aren’t easily contained, but we do have a bin for wrenches and such. Additionally we store things like:
  • oil
  • oil filters
  • drip pan for changing oil
  • washer fluid
  • air filters
  • belts and hoses
  • repair manuals for our current vehicles
  • radios we’ve replaced in our vehicles that we might want to put back in before trading/selling/shooting the vehicle
  • brake fluid
  • brake pads
  • chemicals for cleaning the cars
  • car wash sponges & bucket
  • trash bags
  • paper towels
  • rags

Yard and garden tools live in a backyard shed.

So there you have it.

Specialized tool kits for all the projects we typically tackle created from excess tools lying around the house.  Since we had most of these tools anyway, I didn’t need to add storage space – I just organized it.  By doing so, I removed one barrier to getting a job done.  We were also able to get rid of a lot of tools we really didn’t need.  Now all we need is handy.

Don’t Throw It All Away!

Last week I strongly encouraged you to make use of the trash can when de-cluttering — which is something we should do a lot more often than we think! 🙂

I hope you didn’t go out and trash everything you could find, because there is another option for SOME of the things you might consider discarding if you bring a little creativity and initiative to the equation.

Woman Gleaning

Are you familiar with the biblical concept of gleaning?  Gleaning was a method of providing for the poor among the Israelites – whether they were of Jewish or foreign descent.

Gleaning isn’t mentioned a whole lot, but verses like Leviticus 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:19-22 along with Leviticus 19:9-10 give the command:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19:9-10

We see this in practice in ancient times when we read the story of Ruth:

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers,

Ruth 2:2-3

When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.  And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”  So she gleaned in the field until evening.

Ruth 2:15-17

The modern term for gleaning – where food is concerned – is Food Recovery.  And, while we don’t have laws insisting we all participate in gleaning, there are all sorts of regulations and guidelines for Food Recovery.

I have been the beneficiary of gleanings – in seminary a local bakery donated their day-old breads to the seminary twice per week.  Students volunteered to pick up the bread and deliver it to the community center, where anyone could select from the bags of food.

I read an article once, though of course I cannot find it now, about a Christian business owner who generated a lot of wood waste.  Instead of selling the shavings, scraps, and saw dust, he donated it.  Think that’s a weird thing to donate?  Pet stores, schools, and woodworkers regularly use all three.  Alameda County in California put together a whole document on how to inject wood waste back into the economy to keep it out of landfills.

Bringing it a little closer to home, I recently received an e-mail from a reader (a friend of my mother-in-law in Arizona) who blogs here – and yes, I asked and she granted permission to share this story.

She is a quilter, and therefore generates (and uses) a lot of fabric scraps.  It turns out, fabric scraps were a major source of clutter for her.

She wrote,

Being a seamstress and quilter, it’s really hard to through those little pieces away. I might be able to put them in a quilt someday. Well, the hands can no longer hand quilt, but I still have the problem.

In God’s providence, a conversation at Bible study led to the discovery that a friend worked for a dog shelter in need of fabric scraps.  Apparently,

… she was part of a group of ladies that made dog beds for the animal shelters and they preferred to stuff the dog beds with material scraps. If they used batting, it was expensive and the dogs would just tear the beds apart. So, we have been able to get rid of our scraps to a cause that is great!

So, sometimes there is a place, other than the waste bin, to donate our “gleanings.”

I’m not giving you permission to donate trash to the local GoodWill or Salvation Army.  I’m simply suggesting, if you have a lot of some kind of scrap, do a little bit of research to see if there is someone or some organization out there which could use your “gleanings.”  If not, I still highly recommend sharing them with Oscar the Grouch.  🙂

Photo Credit: Alawite Woman Gleaning by Whiting, John D. (John David), 1882-1951, and Matson, G. Eric (Gästgifvar Eric), 1888-1977 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons