Small Home + Travel Improvements.

By: Jen Shoop

*Seen above: travel skincare bottle set.

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Last Friday, we drove up to Deep Creek Lake for a low-key weekend at the lake. A few hours before we departed, I went for a walk with two girlfriends that I had contemplated canceling at the last minute because I was running around my house getting things organized — packing snacks, grabbing swimsuits and sweatshirts (“just in case it gets chilly at night!”), planning out our activities and according footwear, contemplating whether or not to bring the pourover coffee gear, last-minute loads of laundry, etc! I decided to honor my commitment and carve out a little time for myself by going on the walk, and I joked to my girlfriend, “Every time I go on a trip, it’s as if I’ve never traveled before. I’m always a whirling dervish getting everything ready at the last minute!” She nodded knowingly, and then added that COVID’s temporary suspension of travel had really made her rusty getting back into a travel groove, especially since her children had aged out of baby/toddler years and she was returning to entirely new packing needs. She shared that two things have helped: 1) creating packing lists (she uses Google Spreadsheets so she can share with her husband — I will probably use the Apple Reminders app, which we already use for things like grocery lists, “STPs” (Shoop Talking Points), gift ideas, to-dos before big events), so she’s not recreating the wheel and trying to think about all the things she might need each time she travels, and 2) buying separate sets of products to permanently keep in travel pouches in her suitcases. By this she means she already has an entire set of travel beauty products and medicine/first aid, and even keeps her travel hairdryer in her suitcase, ready to go. Absolutely brilliant!

The conversation reminded me of my yearly January audit where I sit down and write down everything that interrupts or irritates my day — petty nuisance type stuff — and then generate possible solutions. For example, this January, I noticed that every single night, I’d wake up and drink the entire glass of water on my bedside table and still want more. This would mean I’d have a nightly inner monologue about whether I was thirsty enough to go downstairs to refill my cup, or whether I could just muscle through til morning. What a ridiculous nightly waste of energy! I started going to bed with a back-up water carafe and the problem was promptly solved. I’ve had similar “aha!” moments when I tackle areas of my home that feel always-cluttered with the right organizational solution. These small home life improvements clear my mind and enable me to move through my day with less friction!

Below, a few great product ideas targeting similar areas of potential home life friction:

01. FABRIC BINS. We all have those random piles of clothes, sweaters, shoes that seem to never disappear. These bins are fantastic as catch-alls in the bottoms of closets (I’m thinking currently of the huge mound of hats/gloves in one of our front hall closets) that would do nicely in this home), for out-of-season clothing, for miscellaneous toys and accessories, etc. I like the handle in front so you can easily retrieve from a top shelf.

02. DIPTYQUE SCENTED OVAL. A nice way to perfume a mud room, coat closet, laundry area, etc without needing to constantly light a candle.

03. WALL MOUNT BROOM/MOP ORGANIZER. So they no longer tumble out as soon as you open the closet door.

04. TRAVEL HAIR DRYER. My girlfriend recommended this brand in particular!

05. TIERED WIRE SHELVES. This is THE BEST BRAND for utility shelving. Gets highly rated year after year. We own a bunch of these in our basement and garage and they are heavy-duty. Would also be great in a pantry. SUCH A GOOD WAY to keep clutter off the floor of a garage/utility space/storage area/pantry.

06. KITCHEN DRAWER ORGANIZER. Expands to your exact drawer dimensions. LOVE having the individual implements in their own sections.

07. CUTTING BOARD ORGANIZER. SO helpful. We all have a cupboard where the boards just lean against one another. These make the process of removing one cutting board at a time a cinch. Also good if you live in Manhattan and don’t have a whole cabinet to spare for cutting boards. We used to keep this out on the counter against the fridge so they looked tidy.

08. DECORATIVE WASTE BASKET. For years, my son had no waste bin in his room, and though I routinely found it inconvenient (no place for tissues, tags on his clothing, food wrappers!), I simply continued to walk down the hall to the bathroom? Add more wastebaskets to the home!

09. CHINA STORAGE. This is a great way to preserve and stow wedding china / formal china you don’t use regularly. This way, you can keep them in the basement or in a storage area without feeling like it’s exposed/gathering dust! My mother-in-law gave us a set of these after we were married and I’m so glad she did.

10. WATER CARAFE. As mentioned above, add this to your bedside table for back-up midnight water.

11. QUILTED SHAMS. A decorative sham can finish a guest room / bedroom so quickly! These are inexpensive but really add polish.

12. GARDEN HOSE HOLDER. Such a great way to disguise an unsightly hose!

13. HANDHELD LABELMAKER. Connects to your phone for quick printing! Love how compact it is. Would be great to keep in a kitchen drawer for labeling spices, expiration dates, etc.

14. YAMAZAKI WIRE BINS. I have lots of favorite organizational bins/caddies/containers, but these are fantastic catch-alls for ANYTHING bulky. Could be spare pantry items, towels, onions/allium, etc. Target has a look-alike version of this product for less that a few Magpies have upvoted / recommended as nearly identical to the Yamazaki brand, but I’ve not yet tried!

15. TRAVEL COSMETICS BOTTLES. Per my friend’s suggestion, I’m proactively decanting all my favorite beauty products into these travel-sized bottles. They are SO smartly designed, with wide mouths so they are easy to pour into and clean, and handy little stickers.

Three other random things I love in this general category:

  1. I keep a separate set of children’s oral care supplies and haircare supplies (mini spray bottle, hair ties, brushes, combs, detangler) downstairs. I was finding I was constantly going up and downstairs to retrieve these items in the morning and then again in the evening. Now we have two sets: one lives in their bathroom and one in the pantry area. BTW, this mini spray bottle is my best friend for getting my children’s hair tidy and presentable!, and these inexpensive wet/dry brushes are my absolute favorite brush for my daughter’s thick hair. I even prefer them to Mason Pearson. They really detangle and grab hair easily. And! This pomade is THE BEST if you have a little boy with a stubborn cowlick. You need just the tiniest amount and it holds hair in place without making it crispy. I keep these kinds of collections of products (hair care / oral care) in these bins so they’re always in the same place.
  2. I keep these tiny scissors in my purse at all times. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve come in handy opening a bag, trimming a tag, etc.
  3. Packing cubes are simply the BEST way to keep my children’s clothing organized and separate, and really help when you’re rushing to get your children dressed/off to bed/in swimsuits while traveling, since you know exactly where everything is! Can’t recommend enough. Also, some great car travel activities for children here.

What other home and travel organization tips do you have?

P.S. More of my favorite home gear here.

P.P.S. Children’s products we love and use daily.

P.P.P.S. The whole sky is yours.

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4 thoughts on “Small Home + Travel Improvements.

  1. My favorite use for the fabric bins is for “special use” or “themed” clothing. I have a bin that has sports shirts or jerseys, an ugly Christmas sweater, a Hawaiian lei, a cat ears headband, etc – all things I rarely need and only for random themed events, but it’s great to have them in one spot and out of sight in a spot where I always remember where they are.

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