...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.22.12 / Wardrobe Function

Notice that doesn’t say wardrobe malfunction. That’s a totally different topic. What I’m talking about are the PAX wardrobes in our mudroom.

On Tuesday, I was feeling confident crazy enough to attempt a trip to IKEA with all three kids in tow. By myself. My local IKEA store is about a 25-minute drive away. That might not sound like a long trek but with a two-month-old crying it out in the backseat {Mabrey has yet to make friends with her car seat} it sure feels like forever. The good news is that once we were at IKEA, Mabrey was perfectly happy. I’m okay with that. The girl can detest her pumpkin seat as long as she’s an IKEA fan.

The even better news was that I discovered kids eat FREE on Tuesdays at my local IKEA. AND IT WAS TUESDAY! How did I not know this?! And speaking of other things I didn’t know…I’ve always assumed Småland, the childcare center at IKEA, cost money. Well, it doesn’t moms and dads. You can drop off your potty-trained 37″-54″ children to play for up to an hour free of charge. As if I needed another reason to love IKEA. And here I’ve been dragging my bored kids around IKEA for the past three years. I guess it took a third kid for me to finally drop the I-can-do-it-all-by-myself ball. What?! You’re going to give my kids free food then watch them for an hour so I can shop for house stuff? Yessssss!!!!!! {composing myself…} Yes. Please give me one of those short pencils to sign on the dotted line.

So, that’s just what I did. We ate lunch then I checked Layne and Everett into Småland. They were very excited to see a ball pit and a movie playing on a big TV. As for me, I felt like I was a contestant on one of those timed shopping spree game shows from the 90’s. Although I was spending money, not winning it. And I had a baby strapped to my chest. Thank goodness for my Moby. I was running around like Alan from The Hangover with baby Carlos in the front carrier. Good times. Within five minutes of fast-paced walking {think mall walkers}, Mabrey was sound alseep with her head falling forward and appendages dangling.

The night before, I had mapped out my IKEA shopping list which included PAX interior storage accessories, a shoe cabinet, book ledges, a crib {!} and wall shelves. I was focused and didn’t stop to browse. Didn’t even hardly look at anything that wasn’t on my list. {Okay, I might have run my hand across a gloss white BESTA storage cabinet.} A kind marketplace employee came to my rescue when she saw me trying to push the stroller and one of those squirrel-y flat carts all while trying to hold Mabrey’s head up on her flaccid neck. Seriously, the girl was lights out. In the one hour of free kiddie playtime, I managed to get everything on my list, pay for it all, load it {with some assistance} and pick Layne and Everett up at Småland with 2 minutes to spare. I was an endorphin mess. I’m pretty sure the boys were close to telling the Småland employees that I wasn’t their mom. No, sir. We have no idea who that crazy, smiling, out-of-breath lady is.

I was quite pleased with myself. Since my Tuesday IKEA trip {oh, yes, I am now an IKEA warrior on Tuesdays}, I’ve been trying to find the time to actually put together the stuff I bought. I started with the PAX wardrobe organization. And by ‘I’ I mean Handy Hubby. I had every intention of doing it myself but being at home alone with two loud boys and no interior doors makes for no baby naps – no free time for me to install a few shelves and clothes racks. We are still living with no doors on any of the bedrooms or bathrooms and I’m not sure how much longer I can do it. Mabrey needs a closed off room away from the boys to nap. And I need her to nap to get anything accomplished.

So, one evening after dinner, HH added the few organizational items I had bought to go inside the wardrobes. Take a look at wardrobe #1 {the wardrobe on the left}…

The links to the shelves and rails are here, here and here. I already owned the few wooden hangers. I wanted to use this wardrobe for storing cold weather outerwear, guests’ coats, the ironing board, kids’ shoes, reusable shopping bags, the kids’ pool bag and several floor cleaning aids. Here’s the wardrobe all filled up…

IKEA sells a bunch of bins and baskets to fit inside the PAX systems but I already had a bunch of bins and baskets of my own and didn’t want to spend the extra money just for things behind doors to match.

The white bin on the top shelf holds winter hats and gloves.

The woven basket on the top shelf holds ear muffs and scarves. I think I may have found one clothing category that my purging skills have no effect on – scarves. I have nine. Some are purely for keeping warm during winter months and others are purely for accessorizing but, really, do I need nine scarves? Nine? We’ve all got our kryptonite. Luckily, scarves are small and don’t take up a lot of space.

I bought these nifty hooks that slip onto the shelf. You can screw them in permanently but they fit very snug so I didn’t screw mine in. I hung all of our reusable shopping bags from one.

I did have to bend the hook part up a little to keep the bag handles from slipping off. I think these hooks are meant to hold clothes hangers but I’ll just bend mine to hang other stuff from them.

Below the clothes rails {one for adults and a lower one for the kids} are two more baskets.

The woven one on the left holds a broom, steam mop and Bona mop {I bought one after you all highly recommended it for our hardwood floors!} and all the removable cleaning pads that go along with them.

The laundry basket holds the boys’ shoes. I’ve had some difficulty getting the boys to take their shoes off when they enter through the garage or back door. It probably has something to do with me telling them to make sure they have their shoes on in the Underdog for the past nine months to avoid a nail in the foot. Now, all of a sudden I expect them to take their shoes off. The basket is working though. As soon as I set it up, I showed them where it was and what it was for. Ever since, they’ve gone straight to the wardrobe to remove their shoes and put them on. Success!

Again, IKEA sells something specifically for shoes in the PAX but I was trying to save money. Plus, the laundry basket will help keep any wet shoes from dripping onto the inside of the wardrobe. If you’re wondering where mine and HH’s shoes are, we keep them in the garage just outside the mudroom. I’ve also got plans to add a shoe cabinet just inside the front door for guests and us should we ever start using the front door more often. {FYI – We now keep a key inside the front door lock for fire safety reasons. Thanks for all your comments on that!}

The ironing board is behind the hanging coats. {You can see a bit of the yellow cover peeking out.} That should give you a good idea as to how often I use it. Practically never! I use it more for sewing projects than ironing clothing. I’m pretty sure I haven’t ironed a single piece of clothing in the past year.

Speaking of sewing projects…

The second wardrobe {the one on the right} holds my sewing machine and sewing basket. Other than a few old towels and the future dining room light {sneak peek!}, it’s pretty empty. Fine by me. That means we have room to grow. {Good thing because there are still unopened boxes in the garage.} And I have a plethora of bins and baskets to use on the shelves when the time comes. Btw, the shelves are adjustable but moving them around does require unscrewing then re-screwing. They’re very sturdy.

Things are slowly finding places to live around here and that makes me feel good. I’m sure I’ll be rearranging stuff for a while as we get into a better routine and I figure out what is working for us and what needs improved upon.

I’m off to tackle the last of the moving boxes. HH and the boys are going camping this weekend, so it’s girls’ weekend at the Underdog. And you better believe that more organizing and some cleaning are on the schedule, along with some cuddling and patty caking. Happy weekend and happy birthday to my beautiful, smart, strong sister, Rihana, today!

Click here to see who won this week’s artsy giveaway! And even if you didn’t win, you can score 25% off any Tenth Floor Decor purchase now through Sunday, June 24th by using the discount code HOUSETWEAKING.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hidden litter box 8

Before we get into this hidden litter box business, can we talk about how “helpful” toddlers are? Mabrey is a BIG “helper.” If you had / have / know a toddler, you know what I mean. In their lil’ minds they are busy doing something important (like washing dishes, dusting, cooking, mopping, vacuuming, feeding the family pet, etc.) but in reality they are making an even bigger mess.

After Mabrey washes dishes, the dishes are still dirty and everything in sight is soaked. When Mabrey dusts, one square foot area is dripping wet and she’s still spraying it because (to her) it’s just not wet enough. When Mabrey cooks, she uses all of the things: pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, toothbrush (?!), measuring cups, Hot Wheels (?), bowls, whisk, baster, timer. All of the things. When Mabrey vacuums, everything is fair game: her braid, Legos, Cheetah’s tail, shoelaces, jewelry, rocks, Hot Wheels, crayons. Don’t want to pick it up? Sweep it up! When Mabrey feeds Cheetah, there’s no telling how much food she’ll put out or where the food will be. Two days’ worth of food in the water bowl? Two pellets in the food bowl strategically placed in the dollhouse? A perfect scoopful in the litter box? Yeesh.

Of course, after I clean up her helping messes and relay the day’s events to Steve in the evening, it’s comical. Sweet even. So she keeps “helping” and I keep reminding myself that she’ll want nothing to do with helping in a few short years.

But when it came to the litter box, something had to be done. Every time I turned around Mabrey was trying to clean it or throwing random stuff in it. Originally, I placed the litter box on the floor next to the dryer but that spot was a little too accessible for a two-year-old. I googled a bunch of hidden litter box ideas but it seemed like everything I found required a new, separate piece of furniture: a solid bench, an end table, a freestanding wood box, etc. I really wanted to keep the litter box in the mudroom and I wasn’t willing to give up precious real estate for another furniture item no matter how small.

So I started looking around at what we already had. That’s when the a-ha! moment struck.

PAX wardrobe + cat door = hidden litter box. Boom. Done.

We purchased a cat door for big cats (the vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon which means we could end up with a pretty large cat when she’s full grown) that would accommodate the thin side panel of the PAX. If you’re curious, it’s this one. It doesn’t have the best reviews but it looks like they mostly pertain to indoor-outdoor use on an exterior door. Since we were going to be installing the door inside, we weren’t too concerned with the actual door function. We simply needed the large opening and the ability to install it into a thin panel.

hidden litter box before 2

hidden litter box 2

We removed the PAX doors and all contents (cat paraphernalia, sewing machine, sewing basket) from the bottom shelf. Using the included template, we cut a hole in the side of the PAX where Cheetah would be able to access it when the wood bench was in place (see first image of this post).

hidden litter box 3

Installing the door wasn’t difficult but it did require an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while another person screwed everything together. Because we installed the door on a thin panel (as opposed to an actual door) we did have to trim the screws to get a perfect fit. Again, not difficult but an added step.

hidden litter box 4

I made the executive decision to install the door with the red locks facing the interior of the wardrobe. I didn’t want them visible from the exterior. (The 4-way locks allow access only in / only out / both in & out / both locked.) We could have done away with the flap door all together and just used the opening, but we decided to keep the door in case we ever need to put Cheetah up for some reason. That way, she still has access to the litter box.

We taped the door to hold it in the up position. We want Cheetah to get acquainted with the new location of her litter box before we introduce the door. I lined the bottom of the wardrobe with two Flor squares leftover from the boys’ room. I had to trim one for a perfect fit. I plan on hosing them off outside when necessary, probably each month when I empty and clean the litter box. A rubber mat, a scoop and the litter box sit on top of the rug squares.


To accommodate the litter box, I raised the lowest shelf and reorganized all of the shelves. I moved my sewing machine and sewing basket to a different closet but, eventually, they will end up in the studio along with most of the other items in this wardrobe. The dark brown woven basket on the shelf above the litter box holds cat food, overstock litter, cat nail clippers and Cheetah’s brush. So I guess this is the cat closet now? Never thought I’d be typing that.

hidden litter box 5

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I like that the cat door is easily accessible for Cheetah but completely inconspicuous. Mabrey’s interest in the litter box has waned. For now. The other great thing about this setup is that the litter is better contained. I’m not finding as many stray bits as I was when the litter box was on the floor next to the dryer. I also have my rolling cart back next to the dryer which is another plus.

hidden litter box 6

Luckily, Cheetah has adjusted to the change swimmingly. She took to it right away and hasn’t missed a beat. I actually think she prefers this setup over the previous one. It’s her contained space away from toddler “help.”

hidden litter box 1

After we installed the door and put everything back together, I got to thinking that if someone really wanted to they could totally go wild with a DIY cat house design that takes up the entire PAX. THE ULTIMATE IKEA CAT HOUSE HACK! You know, cutting holes in shelves, adding scratching / climbing posts to allow access to vertical space, etc. It was just a thought. I’m not THAT crazy ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking