Guest Post: Meet Megan from 421 Design!

It's Friday! Woo Hoo!

Do you know what that means? 

Well, it probably means a lot of things, but for you. Here. Today. On this blog. It means that I have a guest post to share with you. 

Megan from 421 Design is a fellow Iowa blogger and has some DIY and design ideas to share. Megan is immensely talented when it comes to architecture, design, and all things DIY. She also embraces the title of Craigslist Queen. That girl can find anything for a bomb price on Craigslist. 

Anyway, let's let her have the floor, shall we? 

Take it away, Megan!

Hey everyone, my name is Megan and I want to give Kelli a huge thanks for letting me guest post at The Sustainable Couple today. I've known Kelli for about 15 years as I'm married to Kelli's cousin, Brandon. Catch all that?

Since we started dating way back in high school, I've watch Kelli grow from a sassy teenager to driven college student to accomplished educator and a girl who marches to her own drum. I think it's really cool that John and Kelli have found a lifestyle and purpose that is meaningful to them, and they just make it work.

I've been blogging for about a year at Moxie Design Studio, but just recently have started my own blog to focus on interior design, which is what I went to school for. I know that Kelli sometimes dips her toes in the home renovation and updating category, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks on some little ways that I keep my home organized, with my husband, 4 year old son and 18 month old daughter trying to undo my organization at every turn!

Here is my disclaimer though...I'm not a professional organizer, so trust me, you won't want to make that  finger-down-your-throat gesture when you see that every space in my home is perfectly organized, categorized and labeled with a chalkboard sign. That just isn't me. I'll show you a few spaces where I actually have my shit together, and then if I'm brave, show you some spaces that are in dire need of help.

So let's get right into it. I'm not going to give you a list of 5 handy ways to organize, I'm going to share with you just a couple secrets that have worked in multiple rooms in my house.

Take the doors off. 

Boom, done. Blog post written. Just kidding. I swear, this is really good advice, you'll have to see my pictures to believe me. Do you guys have closets in your home that are just a disaster behind the doors? Like, if visitors accidentally opened those doors you would just die of shame? Or, are they in such high traffic areas that the doors just never get shut and it looks messy? Well, we had two of those spaces in our house and they were embarrassing.

First, we have our main bathroom. It's our only full bath in the house, and there were a set of 2 bi-fold doors that held some deep and wide shelves. This closet held a TON of stuff. Here's the problem with a bathroom closet that holds a lot of stuff....I put a lot of stuff in it! How many curl sprays did I really need? How many travel-sized shampoos did we really need? Yeah, the more space, the more stuff.

Also, you would think that I could just slide those doors shut and forget about my bathroom hoard, but they just never got shut so I was forced to look at the mess every single day. Last winter we did a complete remodel of our bathroom (you can check it out HERE) and I had the opportunity to finally address the eyesore. We ripped off the doors, snazzed it up with paint and new storage and didn't look back. I went through all my bathroom supplies and did a major purge, deciding what was really necessary and what was not. Having the closet doors off FORCES me not to junk up the shelves. I've got all my bathroom supplies, medicines, first aid, and girly stuff in various pretty storage containers. The bottom shelf holds all of our linens that I try to keep nicely folded and stacked.

bathroom closet

upper baskets
I try to keep the items in a similar color palette to give my storage a more cohesive look. All my storage items are white, silver or brown so the shelves don't get too crazy-looking.



Don't be afraid to use unexpected items for storage. I got these little galvanized tubs for $1 at Hobby Lobby. They are the perfect size for storing Q-tips and all those travel-sized toothpastes the dentist loads you up with!

The other area of my home that I have taken the doors off, is our hallway closet-turned mudroom. This is one of the best transformations we have made to date, in terms of functionality for our family. We have a small entry off our garage that leads into the kitchen area, and like most families, it's the entrance we use all the time. As you enter, there is a door to your left that goes into the laundry room/half bath, and on your right was a closet with a hanging bar, shelf above and sliding doors to close it off. It was a very similar situation to that of the bathroom closet...the doors were never closed, there wasn't good storage for shoes and hats, and it generally just looked messy and uninviting. I decided this space would be a perfect "mud room".

mud room

I convinced my hubby to completely remove the doors and the tracks, and we got to painting. The inside of the closet got a dramatic color, and I added several items to help our organization. First, we added a nice shelf above to hold baskets for each member of our family. These baskets are actually flower pots that were on-sale at Lowe's! I like the shape and the size and the price was perfect at $4 each! I drilled a couple holes and looped some hemp rope through to create handles. I knew I would quickly blow my budget if I had to spend $20 on each basket, so it's helpful sometimes to think outside the box when it comes to storage items.

mud room

Below the shelves we added a TON of hooks. I wanted to have plenty of space for coats as the quickly-changing seasons in the Midwest sometimes dictate having several coats in use at once!
The benches below were a lucky find from Ikea. The top is perfect for sitting and tying up shoes, and the shelf below holds our big assortment. We use this space everyday, and with have little ones who need help with getting shoes on and zipping up coats, it is a priceless area in our home. Also, as we get into winter season, I am so thankful everyday that all our hats and mittens get thrown up into our baskets, so there is no hunting for that missing mitten in the morning...well, sometimes.

mud room

mud room

Use unexpected items for storage 

My next tip is near and dear to my heart, as I feel this is one thing that can make your home stand out from all the rest. It seems like there are endless things to store in our home, especially if we have children. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars for a big entertainment center or bookshelf at a furniture store, why not use an unexpected item to store life's odds and ends?

Card catalogs are so hot right now, and would be great storage for legos, or little figurines that my kids seem to love. In our own home, I use a big, metal office credenza as storage in my dining room. I love the clean lines, the chrome legs, and to be honest, it's capacity. The shallow drawers on the top hold piles of paper, stickers, coloring books and paint. The bottom file drawers serves as my filing cabinet, and a place for play-doh and board games. I love that these items are out in the open and accessible right to the dining room table, where we gather to color or to play games.


I've already done a faux-quartz look for the top, which was previously a woodgrain laminate, and I'm thinking about painting it someday, but for right now it's just perfect. The credenza is extra deep, which is great for displaying seasonal items, or holding a buffet if we're having a party.


In my living room, instead of the standard wooden bookshelves, I used industrial metal shelving from Home Depot (about $30 per unit, plus the countless tears involved in assembly) to create unique open display. After 4 meltdowns during the assembly process, I took the plain gray metal from flat to fabulous with bright yellow spray paint.

I love the flexibility these give me with styling...I use accessories, fun little tchotkes and books to keep the shelves bright and vibrant. We used to have a TON of books as my husband was a history major and I was a book hoarder, but with the advent of the Kindle and commitment to pare down to our most well-loved books, we've kept our collection manageable and able to be displayed and used often.

yellow shelves

Take it out of the box. 

My last tip can really apply to any area of your home, but I use it most often in my pantry and in my bathroom drawers. When I come home from the grocery store and starting putting things away in the pantry, I try to collect similar items in bins or baskets, and throw the cardboard boxes into the recycling bin. I find that it enables me to visualize better if we're running out of something, and we're not storing a big box with one granola bar in it until the next trip to the store.


My jewelry storage in my bathroom is one area that I feel like I'm pretty accomplished, and am happy with my system. I like collecting cheap but fashionable jewelry, so I have quite the collection built up from high school. I've found the best way to organize all my bracelets, earrings and necklaces is to use 2 quart plastic boxes, small jewelry ziplock bags, and the snack sized ziplock bags.

All my earrings go into tiny clear ziplock bags that you can get at Hobby Lobby. All the necklaces go into the snack sized bags, or into sandwich size if it's a big chunky necklace. I've got 5 of the bins and my jewelry gets organized by color: earrings get their own container, silver gets one, black in another, golds and browns together, and multi-colored jewelry in the last one. The plastic bags allow me to quickly flip through to see what I have, and organizing it by color allows me to quickly find my one pink necklace, rather than wading through the hundreds of silver necklaces I own.


My house still needs a lot of work

Lest you think I'm an perfectly organized freak, let me share my junk drawer….

junk drawer

I have organized these things at least once a year and somehow they manage to keep getting junked up, I suppose that will always be the case with something named "junk". Maybe I should label them something else and be committed to keeping them clean.

I also need a lot of help with toy storage. My son loves small little toys, so it seems like we have them ALL over the house, and nothing is really matched up with the toy it came with, which drives me insane.  I don't know that we will have this problem solved until our kids don't play with toys, so right now I'm taking the extremely laid-back approach...which means I throw it all in a basket in the corner of the living room.

My very last bit of advice is to take it easy on yourself. I think it's great if you can have one or two spaces in your home that are perfectly organized for the way you use them, and then have a couple spaces that are better left behind closed doors. I find that if I get on a big kick to get everything in it's place and be really strict about it, I get lots of pushback from my husband and then pretty soon I'm unhappy with him too. Find your groove and find what works for you.

With that being said, is there a good tip I'm missing out on? Have any of you used these ideas in your own homes?


1 comment:

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