Travel toiletry organizers

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Packing toiletries is probably the least fun part of trip preparation.  Even if you’re traveling by car and have plenty of space to stash your stuff (and no TSA restrictions), it can be hard to pack your favorite toiletries safely–and organized so that they’re easy to use when you unpack.

Luckily there are now some great travel toiletry organizers that make packing–and traveling–so much easier. Here are three of my favorites:

  • The TSA Travel Bottles Kit is completely TSA-compliant so you can take small amounts of toiletries with you right in your carry-on luggage. (The TSA Liquids Rule states: “You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces or less per item…)  The Kit consists of a one-quart-capacity clear vinyl zippered bag containing four clear plastic 2-ounce bottles (three with screw-caps and one spray bottle) and two 2-ounce clear jars.  The caps and lids are in three different colors so you can color-code the contents.
  • The Travel Toiletry Bag is a compact multi-compartment organizer designed to unfold into a sort of hanging mini vanity–it has a swivel hook that lets you hang it on a shower rod, door or towel rack; the hook tucks away in its own pocket when not in use. The organizer features a large main compartment with two elastic-top pockets plus two elastic straps for keeping bottles securely stored in the upright position. There are also three interior zippered pockets (two are PVC lined with mesh front panels for visibility) and an exterior zippered compartment.
  • The Travel Bag Organizer consists of two zippered cubes that slide apart to reveal a shelf designed to fit over a bathroom sink. It expands from 15 to 36 inches wide to fit over most sinks for instant counter space. Whether used vertically, horizontally or diagonally it’s designed to hold everything in place. Each cube has two large compartments with removable dividers, plus a spacious zippered pocket in each lid section.

For more travel organizing tips, read my post on travel organizers.

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Answer: Packing dress-up clothes for a trip

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Q. I’m planning a six-week stay with family in Oregon, but the only luggage I have is a couple of old-timey suitcases and I can’t afford new specialized luggage. Most of my clothes won’t pose a problem but I have to take a fancy lace dress and shoes to wear to a wedding. Can you suggest a way to pack them that won’t (a) wrinkle or crush the dress any more than necessary, and (b) arrange and pack the shoes efficiently so they don’t crowd out other necessities?

A. Since I’m not a packing expert, I did some online research and found these excellent step-by-step instructions for packing dresses wrinkle-free inTravel Shoe Case Image suitcases.                     There’s a recommendation (at the end) that shoes be packed in a separate suitcase, and the explanation makes good sense. But if you need to pack shoes in the same suitcase as your dress, a Travel Shoe Case should solve the problem.

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Board Game Organizers

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Board games are such fun…right up until it’s time to put them away. Corralling all those pesky little game pieces and cards–not to mention the boards themselves–can take the fun out of game night.

Whether your game collection consists of crumbling cardboard containers housing your heirloom Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit games, or you’ve got mainly display-worthy game boxes, there are several simple solutions for keeping your board games in order.  Here are three types of handy and helpful board game organizers:

  • When it’s time to replace those old cardboard game boxes, sturdy plastic Game Savers storage containers are a good choice.  Specifically designed to hold board games such as Monopoly, Life Game Savers - Blue Imageand games of similar size and contents, these organizers feature dividers to keep the game pieces organized, pre-printed game labels, and a snap lid (especially useful when traveling or camping). They fit game boards up to 15.75 x 10.5 x .5 inches, the size of a single folded rectangular board.
  • You can “file” smaller game boxes by storing them upright in a cabinet, using a wire bakeware rack to keep them neatly separated and easy to access.
  • If you prefer to stack your games, the Black A-Frame Shelf features three shelves sized forBlack A-Frame Shelf Image storing and displaying many types of boxed board games (each shelf is 30 x 15 inches).  You can stack up to five game boxes on each shelf.
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Travel Organizers

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If only we could travel without having to pack.  Packing is probably the least fun chore of trip preparation, which is why so many people put it off until the last minute.

Whether or not you’re one of them, it’s helpful to have some time-saving travel organizers on hand to speed up and simplify the packing process. Here are three that can make it easier for you to pack like a pro:

  • The Pack This! Checklist Notepad is a comprehensive categorized checklist that provides a thorough inventory of  Pack This Checklist Notepad Imagewhat to pack–everything from specific items of clothing and toiletries to travel aid and documents–so you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything you might need while you’re traveling.  The 6 x 9-inch pad of 60 pre-printed sheets is the ultimate reminder list for travelers–it even has slots at the top for Destination, Days, Special Events and Local Weather, and includes ideas for necessities you probably wouldn’t have thought of.
  • See-through Zippered Pouches and Mesh Packing Envelopes let you easily pack and organize all types of small items, from toiletries to papers.  The sets include a variety of sizes and all are moisture-resistant. These transparent organizers also make it simple to keep receipts and other papers organized during your travels.
  • The Hanging Toiletries Organizer features 10 clear vinyl zippered pockets that let you quickly view and access Hanging Toiletries Organizer Imagethe contents; a hook at the top so you can hang the organizer from a door, hook or shower rod, and also inside a garment bag; and a Velcro strap closure for easy packing.  The pockets are four different sizes and shapes, pleated on both sides to accommodate various types of toiletries; and the entire unit is water-proof and designed to contain spills or leakage.
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Answer: Handlebar organizer

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Q. I’m looking for an organizer that I could strap onto bike and baby stroller handlebars, kind of like a fanny pack. Is there anything available like this?

On the Go Organizer Image

A. The On the Go Organizer is exactly what you’ve described.  It has straps designed to secure it to handlebars and other types of bars, and four clear interior compartments for storing small accessories. The product description says it’s “ideal for bicycles, strollers, off-road vehicles, fishing equipment and just about any other items needed for travel or everyday activities.”

 

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Keeping your car clutter-free

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Trunk Organizer with Cooler by Picnic at Ascot Image

Nowadays there are multiple types of car organizers available for each area of your auto: glove compartment, seats, dashboard, visor, floor, doors, and trunk. Some have a specific purpose (such as sunglasses holders that clip onto windshield visors and notepad-and-pen systems that attach to the dashboard), while others are more versatile, such as:

  • The Trunk Organizer with Cooler has three roomy compartments for typical trunk stuff plus a removable cooler that can be used separately–great for groceries, picnics or travel.
  • The Automobile Catch-All Organizer makes it easy to store and access all the usual front-seat clutter culprits.  It has a roomy storage section with a movable divider on the inside and mesh pockets on the outside.

To help prevent your vehicle from filling up with discardable debris, I recommend keeping easy-to-use car trash containers handy in both the front- and backseat areas. Trash receptacles come in two styles: stay-open and closable. Which type you choose depends on the types of trash you create — and in which area. For example, let’s say food-related discards regularly create compost in the backseat. A sealable container that attaches to the back of a front seat (facing the backseat) may be a good solution. If papers or other trash pile up in the front seat, an open-topped minibin that sits between the seats or on the floor may be the best bet.

But no matter how wonderful your trash-stashers are, they’ll quickly become useless if you’re not in the habit of dumping out their contents frequently. So establish a regular ritual: Each time you stop to get gas, take a moment to empty the trash.

The best way to maintain an organized, clutter-free car is to move stuff out of it. To lighten your load, adopt this simple strategy: At least once a week, remove everything that doesn’t belong in your vehicle.

Just make sure all that stuff doesn’t end up in your garage.

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Vacation Organization Tips

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There’s no place like home, as Dorothy famously proclaimed while returning from her “travels” to Oz.  Of course, Dorothy was lucky to come home to a place where everything was in place, even after a tornado.  But for many returning travelers, the happiness of homecoming is tainted by the dread of facing a mess that was left behind in the frantic whirlwind of departure.

And even if you aren’t in the habit of leaving your home in disarray when you head off on a trip, it’s common to return with a certain amount of clutter in your baggage.  Let’s face it–no matter where you go, it’s hard to get away from paper even with all the current electronic options.  Tickets, checklists, brochures, receipts, maps, notes, postcards…these are the ingredients of “travel piles.”

So, whether you tend to leave your vacation mess at home or carry it with you, here are some tips to help you come home to calm instead of chaos:

  •  Include “housecleaner” in your travel budget. If possible, schedule an appointment for a housecleaning service to clean your home within two days before your departure date.  This will force you to get your house in order–and on time, too.  That old saying about “cleaning up before the maid comes” actually describes a useful process:  clearing clutter off of most horizontal surfaces makes it easier to clean them quickly and thoroughly.  This is true whether you get a housecleaner or do all the cleaning yourself.
  • Transform disorder to “dis-odor.”  Don’t worry about making sure everything’s in apple pie order before you leave.  What’s more important is to get rid of those leftover apples.  Plan to banish any potentially odor-producing items ahead of time.  Typical sources of smelliness include forgotten fruit left to molder on a kitchen counter, wet laundry mildewing in the washing machine, dirty dishes in the sink, an un-run garbage disposal, un-emptied kitchen trash pail and, of course, the “fridge from outer space” filled with mysterious furry substances.  (Note: Pet owners and parents of babies obviously have additional areas to address.)
  • Prepare for the paper trail.  A few simple, inexpensive supplies will make it easier to keep papers organized during your travels.  Transparent envelopes in different sizes and colors, sheer document folders (also in various colors) and clear plastic page protectors can help you separate or categorize the seemingly inevitable accumulation.   Unlike opaque envelopes and folders, these products allow you to see contents at a glance.  A pad of small Post-it notes or some self-adhesive tags are also useful for creating temporary labels.
  • Make packing and unpacking easier.  Travel accessories such as packable shelves (designed to fit inside a 21-inch carry-on suitcase and then hung on a closet rod) can save time as well as sanity by keeping your packed items organized and easily accessible while you’re away, and easier to unpack when you get back home.

But if the mere thought of packing–or the expense of travel–are more than you can handle, a “staycation” could be what you really need.  Check back next Friday for tips on making your backyard into an oasis of order for your home vacation.

 

 

 

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Organizing for House Guests: Part 2

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Giving your guests a comfortable place to sleep requires more than just a bed and bedding.  It’s thoughtful to provide some type of nightstand or bedside surface for holding eyeglasses, tissues or other necessities within easy reach.  Keep in mind that a standard-size night table may be too high for lower guest beds such as trundles and air mattresses.

Striped Gamer Ottoman Image Storage stools, hassocks and ottomans combine seating and storage functions at just the right height for guest night stands.  The Striped Gamer Ottoman  is a good example–it has a lift-off lid and multiple storage compartments, so you can use it for hiding away whatever you might pile on the sofa bed during guest-free times.
Antique Walnut Storage Table Image

 

A more classic option that combines a night-table surface with hidden storage is this Walnut Storage Table .

A three-shelf rolling cart can be rolled wherever it’s needed, doing double-duty for guests by serving both as a night stand and a place to stash toiletry kits, cosmetic cases and personal items.

Magazine tables — the kind with a flat surface above an area designed for storing publications upright — are another perennially useful multipurpose furnishing. Small and unassuming, this type of table works well day-to-day almost anywhere to keep your reading materials handy, and then instantly transforms into a guest night-stand.  The Dakota Wave End Table, designed specifically to hold magazines, is an interesting variation on this theme.

After your guests have left, you may feel ready for a vacation yourself. Check back next Friday for tips on how to get organized for traveling!

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