Tag Archives: storage

Vacation 2019

Another two week vacation, another big outdoor project – perfect! But before I tell you what I did on my vacation I’ll give you a little yard history.

The upper deck existed before my childcare home opened. It separated the South facing backyard from the East facing side yard. The side yard was the dog’s yard and the vast space under the upper deck was her dog house. The play space in the back yard consisted of a 300 sq ft gravel area with a play structure and a 360 sq ft ground level deck. The outdoor toys were stored in a tarp wrapped wooden frame shed built against the West fence.

There was no back wall on that little toy shed because it was positioned against the fence. It was about 15 years ago that we moved the toy shed so we could use that spot for our first garden – it was the only spot in our back yard that was not deck or gravel. We then attached the toy shed to the South side of the upper deck where the open back allowed us to extend the toy storage to the space under the deck (after we made the dog house smaller).

The tool/garden shed was located by the carport – South of the lower deck and East of the gravel area. When we decided we needed a bigger garden space, we took the tool shed apart and rebuilt it ON the rarely used lower deck and attached it to the front of the toy shed. We then put in a bigger garden where the tool shed had been.

This picture was taken many years ago on the upper deck;

The shelf and framed white panel on the right side is the back and top of the old toy shed. The higher redwood wall beyond it is the back of the tool shed. Not visible in the picture – back door of the house behind me, stairs down to the back yard on the right, and stairs down to the side yard on the left. Also not shown is the bike shed which is in the side yard attached to the North side of the upper deck.

We had created ‘Frankenshed’ – it had a very large foot print but inefficient storage. You could enter the bike shed from the side yard, then crawl under the upper deck, go through the toy shed and then go out the tool shed into the back yard. However, it wasn’t a convenient path – more like a labyrinth where there was the possibility you could be lost for long periods of time. Sometimes when the children asked for toys that were stored I would tell them I’d see if I could find them on the weekend. I was never sure how long it might take me to find the toy and get back out of Frankenshed.

The only good way to get from the back yard to the side/front yard was by going over the upper deck. Even the lawn mower, snow blower, bikes and lumber had to be taken this way. It was frustrating at times. When the children and I were out in the back I couldn’t see the front gate because the upper deck and Frankenshed blocked my view. Consequently we rarely played outside later in the day when there was the chance parents may arrive.

So, on my vacation we;

  • built a new tool shed in the side yard
  • sorted all the stored items from all the sheds
  • took apart the garden shed, toy shed, potty house and bike shed
  • removed half of the upper deck and one staircase and moved the other staircase
  • built a new toy shed and a new garden shed/potty house
  • disassembled, repaired and reassembled the garden wall
  • created a new ground level walkway

We worked outside for 10-12 hours each day of my two week vacation. It was wonderful! Now I want to spend even more time outside in the yard. Some of the changes are actually quite subtle but almost every part of the yard has changed at least a little bit so I’ll include before and after pictures for each corner of the back yard.

NW yard in 2018
NW yard in 2019

The old potty house – by the water barrel in the back of the garden – was used only for potty training toddlers who couldn’t make it inside quick enough. Now that area is our new convenient toy storage shed.

SW yard in 2018
SW yard in 2019

Picture angle is slightly different due to the movement of the stairs so the entrance to the back yard is now six feet farther East. Many of the stumps, stepping stones and tables have been moved too.

SE yard in 2018
SE yard in 2019

Again, stepping stones, stumps and table moved. Added rope swings and removed sensory bins – the bins now have a spot in the gravel area with the toys instead of being in the active play area.

Construction area & kitchen

The pond was moved to make room for a larger loose parts/construction area. In the old fireplace mantle we added shelves for storage of dishes & pots which never had a dedicated space before. There is also a counter which can be used for ‘cooking’ but can also hold the sensory bins when we want to use them.

NE yard in 2018
NE yard in 2019

Here is where you see the biggest difference. The cinder block garden wall was originally built on the wooden cribbing for the gravel area. The wood was deteriorating and sections of the wall were tilting in different directions. The wooden cribbing was replaced with an additional row of cinder blocks. I doubled the size of the awning so we have twice as much shade. The ‘pond’, rocks, table, stumps etc were rearranged to create a larger construction area and make room for the sensory bin area (not visible in this picture).

The stairs and a portion of Frankenshed were visible in the 2018 photo but in the 2019 photo there is only the smaller garden shed/potty house. This new little shed was built entirely from wood salvaged from the old shed and deck. The potty shed half is large enough for diaper changing and also has running water.

This next picture shows my view from the bench by the carport – on the East side of the garden shed I can now see all the way through the side yard to the front gate! The ground level walkway (also built from recycled deck boards) has enough space for the art table which used to be on the upper deck and was not visible from the yard. There is a small gate beside the garden shed to prevent any of the littles from wandering into the side yard which is still not a play area.

That’s enough writing for now – I’m going outside to play…

Confession

This year, like every year, I planned multiple summer projects and so far I’ve managed to complete many of them.  There is however one project that is not proceeding as well as I had hoped.  The weather this summer is partly to blame – you see, I planned to work on reorganizing the basement on rainy days when it was too wet to work outside in the yard. There have been many days when it was too hot to work outside in the yard and it might actually be nice to spend some time in the basement but that little voice in my head always whispers ‘You are suppose to wait until it is raining‘ and of course it never does.

In my basement there is a twelve foot section of wall that is filled from floor to ceiling with plastic bins like this storing toys not currently in use;

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Yes, they all have lovely labels describing what each bin contains.  There are also labels on all the art supply storage boxes on shelves and other various spaces throughout the house.  Visitors always comment on how organized I am. LOL

The problem is that some of those bins and boxes don’t actually contain what the label says they do.  In fact, in the basement, beyond the locked door in the area that is off limits to the children there is loose stuff. Much of the loose stuff belongs in one of those labelled bins but it doesn’t fit in it because there is something in that bin that doesn’t belong in there. This is what happens when I plan too many weekend projects and don’t get around to rotating toys until late on Sunday then don’t have time to put things away properly.  ‘I’ll fix it later’ I say.  Well,  this summer I intended to fix it – but it hasn’t rained enough so it is not done yet.

That’s not the confession.  The confession is that – and this may not actually surprise anyone – I think I might be a hoarder.  You see, along with reorganizing and putting things in their proper bins I also planned to purge – yes, I was going to get rid of stuff we don’t use.  Stop laughing! I’m serious. That was, IS my plan.

Every weekend I get a little more done.  Loose stuff and mystery boxes get spread out on the tables;

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Some stuff gets boxed up to donate (it is kept out of sight so I won’t be tempted to take it back).  There are several empty shelves in the basement now;

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There are only a few ‘sorting boxes’ left on the basement floor;

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At one point there was barely any room to walk in the basement but now there is plenty of space, several empty bins, and new labels have been made so everything is accurate.

I’d also like to point out that I think that my ‘problem’ may have been caused by elementary school teachers.  It was my (now an adult) son’s Kindergarten teacher that asked me (and other parents) to collect milk jug lids and that is why I had a container full of hundreds of milk jug lids in the basement.  If you still need them – too late, I don’t have them any more.  I don’t have any shoe boxes either.  All those sleepless nights fretting about how my child was going to fail diorama making because I didn’t buy shoes that came in boxes with lids.  So, I started collecting shoe boxes – and now I just flattened dozens of them and overfilled my recycling bin.

I also have some extra space so I picked up a few more jungle animal toys.  Didn’t really need more – I had some already but now I have families of jungle animals.  I simply have to try and fit the new ones in the bin with the old ones.

I do still have a bin, two boxes and a shelf full of empty food and spice containers – I know I don’t need that many but I haven’t sorted through them to decide which ones are the most useful – remember, my recycling bin was too full.  I still have time.  Summer is not over yet and it might even rain sometime.  Besides, sometimes it is really cold in the winter and I might want to do things inside.  That is usually when I plan to defrost the freezers (which have a thick layer of ice now because last winter I waited too long and Spring arrived). Probably I should catch up on paperwork first though.

I may have other issues besides just hoarding stuff…

The Shed

It was back in the Spring of 2013 that we moved my husband’s tool shed to the side yard.  This plan allowed us to remove half of the backyard shed leaving more play space on the deck and add a second entrance/bridge into the garden area.

15-09-shed01The remaining portion of the shed was then to be used to store the gardening supplies and seasonal outdoor toys etc.  The problem with that plan was that I really didn’t have much seasonal stuff to store in the shed and so mostly it was a big, almost empty, box.  If I did unlock the door to get something the children would all gather in the doorway (blocking what little light I had) and stare into the spooky darkness.  It made me wonder if maybe it could become a more usable space.

So, this summer when we put the new box window in the dining room we also planned to put the old dining room window in the shed.  The shed renovation was one of the projects that didn’t get completed during my vacation but we did manage to work on it on weekends. There is still a small locked storage area on one side but the majority of the shed is now definitely not dark and stuffy anymore.  The West wall has a clear plastic panel for light and a screen door.

15-09-shed02  The South wall facing the garden is where we put the old dining room window to let even more light inside.  These windows can also be opened to allow airflow if it is stuffy and hot inside the ‘shed’.  There are also blinds that I can close if it is too bright and sunny.

15-09-shed03Inside there is a picnic table which the children and I have used for meals several times this summer – fewer ‘bad’ bugs than outside but the spiders really love this space.  We are also able to store art supplies here – handy for outdoor use but sheltered from the rain etc.

15-09-shed04The view from inside is a big improvement over the old spooky dark empty shed.

15-09-shed05I still haven’t decided how I’m going to finish the interior – paint? add more shelves? a magnet board/art display?  I’m in no rush to decide – I think it will depend on how we use this space now that it is so much more than just a storage shed.

The weather was so nice all summer that we haven’t wanted to spend much time inside it but I think it will be a really nice place on rainy or cold days.  It isn’t heated or insulated but it will still provide shelter in inclement weather especially with the Southwest exposure.  It may turn out to be an interesting indoor/outdoor space during our long, cold winter. I also think it may work well as a ‘greenhouse’ for our seedlings next Spring.   The possibilities…..

Loftless

Only one more day before my ‘vacation’ begins and of course I have some big projects planned.  I am usually very busy during my vacation and often go for several days without turning my computer on even to check email therefore it is highly unlikely that I will be writing any blog posts. So, before I get too busy to write I wanted to briefly tell you about a ‘little’ project that has been keeping me busy for the last few weekends.

You may remember back in December I wrote about the various lofts we have had in our play space over the past ten years.  In that post I explained that we were no longer using the loft as part of our play space but would instead use that space for additional storage.

15-07-loft02Admittedly it was a very convenient spot to store cots, bedding, books, toys, and other bulky items.  In fact, it may have been too convenient to store things in the loft.  As more and more things got tossed into the loft it was becoming apparent that getting anything out of the loft was going to be a major ordeal.  So, although it was not on my list of ‘fun weekend projects’ I resigned myself to the task of cleaning out and reorganizing the loft storage space.

Then there was another interesting development.  My oldest still-living-at-home son decided to move into his own apartment and took a bunch of his stuff leaving empty space.  So, I reorganized the basement toy storage area along with the loft storage area and when I was done there was nothing left to store in the loft!

An empty loft doesn’t really use up any floor space but it is an awfully big item in a small room and if it is not needed why not take it down.  Now, taking it down is not a simple project when there are other items in the room that are attached to the loft.  Once I had decided that the loft was going my first step was to make a plan for how to rearrange the items that were going to be remaining.  Things like the block bin which was constructed between the upright supports for the loft – it was going to have to be rebuilt as a freestanding unit.

It was a somewhat slow process that was done in small phases over several weekends.  The playroom went from this ‘using the loft for storage’ space;

15-07-loft01to this temporary arrangement with an almost empty, partially dismantled loft;

15-07-loft03-1And it is now a completely loft free zone;

15-07-loft03-2Here is another view of the new loftless space;

15-07-loft04-2There is still a lot of finish work yet to be done and I have to decide what to do about the flooring – that was going to be a separate blog post but this renovation forced me to remove the old mats earlier than planned and I still don’t know what I’m going to replace them with.  For now we’ll just have to make due with what we have because I have bigger things planned for my vacation. 🙂

Hanging Clothes

Over the years I have tried various methods to store the dress-up clothes in the playroom.  Bins seem to be the easiest for the children to use to put the clothes away but they have other issues.  Bins take up a lot of space – something we don’t have a lot of.  Smaller children have difficulty reaching to the bottom of the bin and it is often difficult to see/find the item you want when all the clothes are jumbled together in a bin.

I have occasionally used hooks to hang the blankets and dress-up clothes but found plastic hooks often break and metal ones sometime get caught on the fabric and tear the clothes.  I also have some safety concerns about using hooks especially around infants and toddlers.

So, most often I have used hangers to store the dress up clothes;

15-02-hangers01All the children can easily see the selection and pull it off the hanger.  However, putting the clothes back on the hangers was a frustrating – sometimes impossible – task for the little ones.  The hangers were a favourite toy for many of the children who used them for everything except hanging clothes;

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Which of course meant the dress-up clothes were always left strewn on the floor.  Then the older children and/or I would be tasked with hanging everything up over and over again resulting in a lot of grumbling.

Recently I bought a new hanger from Ikea and it has been working very well.

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There are no sharp pointy parts.  The hoops are accessible for children of all ages/sizes. The items are displayed to it is easy to find the one you want.  Even if all the clothes get taken out it does not take long to put them all away again.  The only problem we sometimes have is that the children tend to use the top hoops first thereby covering the lower hoops and making it more difficult to hang clothes on them.

Overall everyone is quite pleased with this new clothes hanger.  There are far fewer complaints about hanging up the dress-up clothes now.  In fact, many of the children use this new hanger for everything.

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Since puppets and stuffed animals so often get hung up here too I’ve now got another hanger – I just have to find a good location to put it.

Exploration

The bees love the giant hyssop in the garden and the children love to watch the busy bees.  Yesterday we were excited to have a new visitor who stayed for most of the morning;

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The children have been busy too, there are so many new spaces to explore in our yard.  The toys and loose parts are now spread out around the yard so the storage area isn’t so congested.

One of my vacation projects was to re-purpose our old rain barrels into loose parts storage bins. The two that cracked this past winter are now located in the North-East corner of the gravel area;

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The oldest water barrel – which has been waiting for years to get a new purpose – now stores all the larger pieces of scrap lumber.  It is located in the South-West corner of the yard by the tipi.

 

This ‘new yard space’ was created in what used to be the parking area and is now the children’s favourite space.

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The toy bin is in the South-East part of the gravel area.  I’ve trimmed the lower branches off the cedars and this is where the babies like to play.

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I took some close-up pictures of various objects in the yard and used them to create ‘Where-Am-I’ cards.  The children enjoyed searching the new spaces to locate each item on their card.

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These are also useful for learning to recognize our plants by the shape/colour of their leaves or the texture of their bark.

Most recently the upper deck has been transformed into a outdoor art area.  Yesterday was the first time the older children got to use it during quiet time when the little ones were napping.

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We’ve enjoyed exploring all the new spaces and are looking forward to many more adventures.

Added Features

Last week I wrote about how I renovated the playroom to improve the walkway issues.   As always, no renovation is ever truely complete so now I want to tell you about some newly added  features.

First, I was a little concerned about the corners of the items attached to the loft post;

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This photo angle may show it better;

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It didn’t cause any problems the first week after the renovation but I was concerned that it may at some point in the future.  To address the possible problem I added some pieces of pipe;

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One is there to soften the pointed corners but both of them are used for play.  The words ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’ have been used often in our daily conversations this week.  The toddlers have been experimenting with what toys slide best through the tubes;

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I used some pieces of the leftover pipe to create some more tool storage in the workshop area too;

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A mesh curtain was also added at the entrance to the block area;

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Which I have been informed now makes it a pirate ship 🙂

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That’s just a few of the added features – there will be more.