Sunday, December 19, 2010

Digging Out the Paper Piles

If you are like most people I bet you have a least one stack of papers waiting to be dealt with. This client had several with sentimental family papers she gathered over the years.

She tackled a pile, sorted them and surprised relatives with a package of memories selected just for them.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Holiday Socks

Maybe someone gave you some holiday socks and you're not a holiday sock kind of person. An unexpected way to re-gift them is as a wine bag. They would be cute as wrap for any kind bottled product like root beer, spirits, olive oil or even shampoo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Cards

Just in time for gift giving, here is a quick and satisfying rePurpose project that will save money and the environment and make you look very clever indeed.

These gift tags - formerly art announcement cards -  were made with a 2" hole punch. Use a standard hole punch for the ribbon and you are good to go. Personal and classy, the card stock possibilities are limitless: greeting cards, playing cards, old calendars, postcards.

Better yet, make a stack and give the gift cards as a gift themselves!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Photos Under Control

The picture below is pretty typical of most homes I visit. Memories are stashed away in boxes and bags and you can't lay your hands on the one photo your want for the upcoming wedding or memorial service. The photo collection has grown too large to even begin to try to organize it.

This is a case where technology can be your friend. If you scan your photos, when you import them into your computer the organizing possibilities are limitless. The same photo can go into multiple albums. A photo of Cousin Ryan at the Coliseum can go into albums for Summer Vacations, Italy, Family, Ryan, etc. And sharing them with friends is easy and free by posting them on-line or emailing them.

You may be tempted to balk at paying for scanning but ask yourself how much you spent developing all those pictures in the first place. It is wasted money if you can't find the photo you want. And scanning them on a home scanner would take a lifetime.

The service I like for photo scanning is They have a pre-paid box that holds about 2,000 photos. Just put them in size order and in no time at all the pile above will be reduced to a single CD.

For slides I had great results ScanCafe.

When you get your order back, hard as it may seem, toss the originals. And then enjoy your new free space.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fall Garden De-cluttering

Although her tools were neatly organized, this avid gardener spent too much of her precious time roaming her yard looking for just the right pot for each plant. They were stashed under the eaves in random places around the house. Here they are mixed in with compost piles.

In less than an hour we gathered all the pots from around the yard and put like with like for an easier gardening experience. We stored the various bags of potting soil in a large garbage container and put it all next to the compost pile. Now everything is within easy reach for the next potting job.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hello Fall!

Its time to put your warm weather clothes away and get out your winter ones. 

If you used the the hanger trick this is where it comes in handy. Remove the items on the backwards hangers. Then inspect your winter clothes for wear and fit. Those that don't make the cut can join your summer rejects for donation or re-sale.

To make the spring wardrobe switch easier, be sure to use the hanger trick on the clothes you keep. 

Here' s a testimonial from Lisa in Menlo Park:

Every time I opened my closet I was filled with dread. I couldn't make decisions about what to wear every morning, because nothing was organized and a lot of it didn't fit. I used to really love coordinating new outfits and felt good about how I looked when I left the house in the morning. But dressing became a chore, and my outlook and appearance was beginning to reflect it.

I had moved and downsized and had tough decisions to make about paring down my wardrobe. Indecisive and reluctant to face reality, I actually had a rack of clothes in my bedroom and was using part of my daughter's closet. I also had gained weight and was storing three or four sizes of clothes -- wishful thinking! It just added to the clutter. Normally a decisive person, I was having a difficult time parting with quality clothing that seemed in good shape. But I was no longer able to judge what looked good. Procrastination ruled and my closet was a mess for almost two years.

Enter Catherine, who was frank about outdated styles. (Shoulder pads? Gone. Ankle-length dresses? Gone. Clothes from the 80s and early 90s, out of there.) She also was not hesitant to tell me what looked good and didn't. And she was efficient -- tackling one closet section at a time, making huge progress in one hour increments.

We separated everything into piles: Toss, donate, consign, and to accommodate my real reluctance, store in the garage my favorite pieces until that day that a diet may actually get me back to a size 6.

I couldn't have done it without her firm guidance. Now, I can open my closet in the morning and have fewer decisions. I don't waste time digging through things that looked good long ago. I know what is there fits, looks good and I am starting to get creative again about outfits. It's a huge relief to look at a less cluttered, more organized space. The first step was admitting I needed some help!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Garage Miracle

You've seen them, people who have gads of organizing products from the Container Store and still can't find anything. Maybe you are one yourself. One reason I rarely advise clients to purchase organizing gear is that products do not make people organized. People make people organized. You can usually make sense of your stuff with what you have on hand.

Here is a big exception: Fast Track by Rubbermaid. Look at this garage! It is neat and things are up off the floor and easy to find.

This easy-to-install handing unit has tool-specific hooks you can add to it. This one is holding:
2 bistro chairs
1 beach chair
1 folding stool
1 long outdoor extension cord
1 weed trimmer
1 garden fork
1 shovel
2 leaf rakes
1 kneeling pad
1 hedge trimmer
1 stepladder
1 large framed camping backpack

And all in four feet of space!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seasonal Closet Switch-out Part II

Here is some simple math. If you have 100 feet of hanging space in your closet you should have 100 feet - or less - of items to hang.

When she ran out of room in her closet, this client set up shop at the foot of her bed. Not only is this unsightly, but it invades her a space which should be serene.

We were able to move all this to her actual closet after discarding some outdated clothes.

Now her room no longer looks like a yard sale.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seasonal Closet Switch-out

It is evident that this client really loves clothes. She has loads of them! Even with abundant closet space, she eventually ran of room and started hanging clothes on a portable rack in her bedroom.

The photo below is only about one-fifth of her closet space. 

The change of season seemed like a good time to review her wardrobe and discard what was out - worn out, out of style, out of her current size.

After removing SEVENTY-TWO POUNDS (!) of clothes to be consigned, donated or stored - and we're not done yet - this is the result: room to see what she has.

The goal is to have everything in her closet fit, both her and in the closet. The next post will show you where she hung the clothes that spilled over.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A dream job

How fun is this job? My clients moved into a home with a wine cooler.  My assignment: pick up their last five cases of wine stored at The WineBank, a climate controlled wine storage building, and organize it all in their new cooler.

As you can see, they underestimated what was in storage but my little Mini Cooper hauled all SIXTEEN (!) cases.

Then the fun began: unpacking those juicy gems and labeling them for their later enjoyment.

With the wine organized by type it is now easy for them to make their selection for dinner.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Favorite t-shirts

A ubiquitous "collectable" is the souvenir t-shirt. Every home has one and in some cases, many, filling up dresser drawers and shelves. The kids won't let you part with the ones they adore but have outgrown.

Here is a way to resurrect them so they are wearable and not just clutter. Simply cut out the design and applique them on a new, inexpensive solid color t-shirt. Easy peasy and the kids will be thrilled!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Metal Racks

Metal record racks and plant stands from the 50's come in handy keeping pots and saucers at the ready for gardening inspiration.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: for Good!

I recently helped a client move from this spacious home.

They needed only a fraction of the furniture in this house for their new home - and you can imagine how much furniture a house like this can hold - so they did a very generous thing. They held a family and friends furniture sale and donated ALL the proceeds to the Parkinson's Foundation.

What an ideal way to dispose of unwanted items and do some good at the same time. Hats off to them!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Wrought Iron Dish Towel Rack

Moved from the kitchen to the dressing area, this towel rack has a new life as a cool sculpture holding jewelry.

The jewelry is visible and easy to select and the towel rack is destined to become a useful family heirloom.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

His Side of the Closet

This closet does not look that bad but what the camera didn't capture are the open cardboard boxes sagging under unruly piles of computer cables.

A single plastic storage box with a hinged lid took the place of the two cardboard ones and created a solid space for stacking other storage. Then we could get more stuff up off the floor.  Now it is more inviting for him to choose his clothes, don't you think?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Multipurpose Closet Solutions

Off-season clothes and shoes, household cleaning supplies, gifts and gift-wrap were housed in this closet.

A quick straightening of the gift wrap area made the entire space feel neater.

As you can see, this closet's owner has the room to save and recycle wrapping paper, tissues, ribbons and boxes. But if you are short on storage space try limiting yourself to one "signature" roll of wrapping paper and ribbon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Clean Chicago Coat Closet

This front hall coat closet had plenty of room but it felt messy and disorganized when you opened the door.  The floor was crowded...

...and things were cockamamy on the overhead shelves.

Getting stuff off the floor was the first step. We hung the beach towels for quick access, leaving easier retrieval of the heavy yoga pad on the floor.

Then we prioritized items and moved what is currently being used THIS SEASON to the lower shelf.

Twenty minutes tops was all it took to end closet chaos.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tidying the Bookshelf

Back at the Maine vacation home, the bookshelves are bursting. Look at this one! Chaos! It's hard to even find a summer novel to read.

Without eliminating a single book the shelves now look better and are more functional. 30 minutes did the trick.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Showing Off Your Stuff

Unless you lived in a catalogue, you would not ordinarily think of displaying the contents of your linen closet. But the owner of this Maine cottage had a different idea.

Her tiny closet lacked doors, so she put her resources into colorful baskets that compliment her towels and - voila! - her closet is a work of art.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vacation Home Straightening

This vacation home on the coast of Maine has hosted generations of the same family and has enough dinnerware to serve dozens. As you can see, the shelves are overflowing. There was no rhyme or reason to what each one held. Gorgeous blue and white china was scattered throughout all the shelves

Because the home is jointly owned by several family members, I was not allowed to toss anything so I simply follwed the  "like with like" rule to clean it up.  See how pleasing it looks with the blue and white china clustered into a focal point on the top shelf? Total straightening time: 40 minutes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Gold Jewelry

Some inherited jewelry is gorgeous; you may have coveted it for years. Others you would not be caught dead wearing. You can keep the memory of the giver alive by rePURPOSING what you won't wear into a new piece of jewelry you will wear.

This thick gold bangle bracelet was made from a set of thin, dented ones. It gets lots of compliments and the wearer can tell the story of how it come into being.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Hanger Trick

The hanger trick is not original but it is so wonderful I want everyone to know about. It is so cool that I hope it inspires you to clean out your clothes closets right now!

After you remove everything from your closet and decide what clothes you want to keep, hang them back in the closet the "wrong"way, with the hanger hook facing forward. When you return something to the closet after you have worn it hang it in the "right" way, with the hook facing the back of the closet.

At the end of the season it is easy to see which clothes to discard - the ones with the wrong way hangers, the ones that had never been worn.

If you want to gain some extra hanging space, try this with your coat closet. Coats are bulky and take up a lot of room and you'll get some space by removing just two. But I am a little more lenient when it comes to discarding coats. They tend to be expensive and you don't want to make a mistake tossing a fabulous raincoat you didn't wear one year because it rained less than the year before.  So I have a longer time line for coats: the ones on backwards hooks at the end of the second winter get donated.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kid's Art Gallery and Storage

We want our kids to be creative and proudly display their art work but we may not want it to take over the house. Sometimes sheer quantities turn their art into visual clutter.  And then there is the issue of what to do with each masterpiece when it time to replace or remove it.  It's hard to throw out the first dinosaur drawing they ever did.

Inexpensive acrylic box frames are your answer ($3.99 at Target). Just pop new art into the acrylic display box and rotate the older piece out, storing it inside the paperboard box support. So simple even your child could it. Now you have a neat little family art gallery.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

rePURPOSING Things:Grandmother's Hankies Part II

The quilts on the last post took lots of hankies to make. Here is an idea if you only have a few - baby quilts!

Monday, June 21, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Grandmother's Hankies

Cleaning out a parent's possessions to move them to assisted living or to close up house after they have died is very painful and exhausting. There are so many of their memories, and some of yours, tied up in every little item.

Here is how I transformed a surprise discovery at the bottom of my mother's dresser to a family heirloom on my daughter's bed.

When I was packing up mom's things I found dozens of hankies with goodbye notes neatly folded and preserved under her lingerie. Apparently when my parents moved in the 40's my mother's friends gave her a hanky party.  She had carefully saved them for 60 years!

I unwrapped,  laundered, and ironed each one.  Then I sewed them into a queen size quilts for my two daughters.

The older daughter got the fun, colorful ones in her quilt.
And the younger daughter got the sweet white ones with little flowers embroidered in the corners.
This labor of love linked our generations and warmed my daughters with memories of their grandma.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Moving Out, Moving In

Moving is traumatic in a bunch of different ways. Taking stock of our possessions is just one of them. I like to meet with a client BEFORE they move to help them really evaluate what they need to take with them but that is not always possible.

Here is an example of why the pre-move meeting is desirable.

This client has loads of beautiful clothes. This is the space available in her new home for her tops:

Even though she didn't measure the linear feet of her hanging tops ahead of time she managed to fit them all in - very tightly. But after settling in she realized she had too many things for her new home - clothes included - and decided to hold a yard sale.

These are the tops she discarded:

She had a yard sale before she moved. It was unfortunate that she had to give up an additional weekend morning having another. Also unfortunate was the time, money and energy she spent moving the things that didn't fit - resources she could have used having fun, being creative or following her passions.

But the happy outcome is that now her new closet is roomier, easier to navigate and, better yet, she absolutely loves everything in it.

The next time I see her I will  teach her the "hanger trick."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: Mints Tins Hold iStuff

If you like green tea buy these mints at Trader Joes and then keep the tin.

The label peels off easily leaving no residue and making the perfect size, see-through, stackable storage container for earbuds, usb and firewire cables. Tuck them in a drawer and easily retrieve the correct connections with no tangles and no mistakes. Antioxidants for your clutter!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

rePURPOSING Things: A New Angle on Your Art

This project was not a true rePURPOSING as the art remained art. I just wanted to show you a different way to look at things.

When the new owner of this condo was moving in she faced a blank wall and didn't know what to do with it. But something on the wall the bookcase loomed over the couch. She wanted this spot to showcase her children's nicely framed art but it was the wrong size and aspect ratio. 

Lucky for her that her children were abstract artists. BY simply rotating the paintings 90 degrees and hanging them side by side they balance out the tall bookcase and add a pop of color to her living room.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hall Closet De-clutter

Their hall closet is an essential center for this young family's busy life. Two small children and two working parents use it many times a day. It holds their linens, games, toiletries, and lots of fun craft supplies that keep the kids creatively entertained.

Only after we cleared off one shelf for re-organizing did I realize I forgot the "before" photo. The other shelves give you a good idea of the chaos they faced when they opened the doors.

We tackled the most critical shelf first: that cleared-off one that held first aid supplies and toiletries. After tossing the expired or the why-did-I-buy-that-I-never-used-it items, we put like with like. First aid items in one bin, body care in another. A bin with "grab and go" items for a trip to the park - wet wipes, sunblock, etc. - was placed front and center for easy access. Now there is even room to store little used or seasonal items behind the bins.

Then we sorted linens, eliminating tired towels and no longer needed crib sheets and saving three sheet sets per bed (with limited storage I recommend having only two). We tucked them into their pillow cases and stacked it all neatly. Read more about this here. 

The final bit was the two jumbled shelves of craft supplies. Now there is one shelf for the mom's crafts and one for the kids. Each child has their own bin for finished projects and materials are easier to find... and to put away!

Total time: 90 minutes which included moving items to other like-with-like storage areas in the house.