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Posts Tagged ‘Organizing’

 

I’ve recently been thinking that I need to really get started on cleaning out the clutter in my house – and I don’t just need to, but I actually want to.  I’ve got a beautiful home, but far too much stuff filling it up, and it’s really started to weigh on me for a lot of reasons.  For one thing, the clutter keeps me from enjoying my home as much as I’d like to.  For another, I’d like to do some travelling and possibly rent the place out for an extended period of time so I can wander a bit, and it’s just not possible without a real clean out.  But most importantly, an excess of stuff is literally weighing me down in many ways.  My life has changed dramatically in the past couple of years, and I’m feeling in need of something resembling a fresh start to clean out the cobwebs of the many negative things that have happened, and to make room for something new to come into my life in this next phase of it.  If you want to know the condition of your mind, look in your closets and around your house.

I wonder what I can live without of all of this.  When I look at it, there are reasons for keeping all of it, and I start thinking it’s going to be a herculean task, and that I’ll feel deprived if I give up all this stuff.  But when I had a fire in the house several years ago and was left unable to access or use the majority of my belongings (thankfully they just needed deep cleaning), and had to live without 99% of this for nearly a year, I can honestly say I didn’t miss the vast majority of it – and didn’t even remember I had a lot of it.

These thoughts were literally keeping me up last night, so I got up early, only to find the following article in my email, sent by the wonderful kitchen and bath showroom DJ Mehler.  It seems this is a common theme these days.

What do you think you could never live without, and what are you sure you want to jettison?

Take a look at the following article reprinted from Family Circle.com for a list of 18 things you can get rid of today, and some great ideas on how to let the things you don’t need go.

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Just Say No to Too Much Stuff

Stuff. For many of us it’s worse than any four-letter word. That’s because “stuff” can weigh you down and hold you back, says Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things. And, in the end, much of what we accumulate in life isn’t all that important. As Marilyn Bohn, author of Go Organize!, points out, “No one ever says, ‘I wish I’d kept more stuff.'”

Still, getting rid of our discards can be a challenge. Carla Eskelsen, a mom in Farmington, Utah, admits she had trouble letting go of stuff until she figured out how to manage her “pioneer DNA.” Once she figured out that donating and recycling “honored” her pioneer ancestors, she found it much easier. “It’s about sharing and blessing others instead of keeping it all for yourself,” she says. Here’s how you can share and bless others with all of your stuff-and end up with a cleaner, more peaceful home while you’re at it.
1. Kitchen Utensils

Is your utensil drawer so full you can barely open and close it? You’re not alone. When Robin Austin started cleaning her kitchen in preparation for a move, she found she had plenty of duplicate utensils, the result of a new marriage that combined households and six kids. Many of us also buy new utensils but forget to get rid of the old.

Here’s a smart way to figure out what you’re really using, from Motherboard Mom Jeanne Smith, Overland Park, Kansas: Toss everything-all the spatulas, rubber scrapers, pie servers, and so on-into a box. As you use a utensil from the box, put it back in the drawer. After a month, check what’s left in the box. Keep those once-a-year items that remain in the box, like a turkey baster or candy thermometer. But donate the rest.

 

2. Coffee Mugs

Another item many moms find hogging valuable cupboard space: coffee mugs. “We had over 20 coffee mugs,” says Kansas mom Dawn Schnake. She and her husband each chose four mugs to keep and donated the rest to a church rummage sale.

“Even if you received something as a gift, it’s okay to let it go,” says organizer Marilyn Bohn. “You only need to keep what works for you.”

3. Plastic Containers

Mary Pankiewicz, owner of Clutter-Free and Organized in east Tennessee, suspects that plastic containers have a secret life (probably hanging out with those AWOL socks and hangers). How else can you explain why so many lids and bottoms don’t match up? She suggests holding a “lid party” to match up those errant tops and bottoms. Pankiewicz recently took her own advice. “I had 25 lids with no bottoms and six bottoms with no lids,” she says. After swapping with friends, she recycled the rest of the mismatched items.

 

4. Little-Used Kitchen Stuff

When was the last time you used that Bundt pan? If it was months ago, maybe you should give it to a friend. That’s what Suzy Ayres and a pal did when they performed a joint kitchen cleanup. They took everything out of their cabinets and only put back what they used regularly. “The things that we left out that didn’t get used much, we had to choose. If we put one thing back in the cabinet, we had to pick one thing to donate,” Ayres says. The two also traded items: “She had lots of muffin pans and I didn’t.”

An added bonus to the plan: They now know what’s in each other’s kitchens, and don’t need to buy some of those rarely used items, like a Bundt pan. “We’ve been trading the same ice bucket back and forth for years,” Ayres says. “I can’t even remember who it belongs to!”

 

6. Food

Cupboards full of food you’re not sure you’re going to use? Some solutions:

·Check the expiration dates on everything in your pantry, fridge, or freezer. If it’s about to expire, put it on the menu for that week, says professional organizer Bohn.

·Motherboard Mom Dawn Schnake gives her sons what they call “muffin pan snacks” to get rid of those almost-empty bags of cereal, crackers, and chips. She fills each of the 12 muffin cups with a different snack and throws in some veggies, cut-up fruit, and cheese cubes. “The boys think they’ve sat down to a feast,” she says-and she gets her pantry cleaned out.

·If you know you’re never going to use an item-and it’s still good-give it to your local food pantry.

·Have an “Eat Out of the Pantry or Freezer” week, says Marla Cilley, flylady.net. You’ll be surprised at how creative you can get with your menu planning when you’re only using the ingredients on hand. She also suggests this as a way to inspire creativity and frugality: “When you throw away food, imagine you’re throwing dollar bills in the trash can!”

Organize Your Pantry

 

5. Vases

Got vases from the last three Valentine’s Day bouquets? Take them back to the florist, says Marla Cilley, who lives in Transylvania County, North Carolina, and runs the flylady.net, an Internet site devoted to housecleaning and organization.

“It takes away your creativity and takes over your mind,” Cilley says.

 

7. Spices

They don’t mold and don’t appear to go bad, but spices don’t last forever, not even cayenne pepper. (Cinnamon’s an exception to the rule.) “Dried is one thing, tasteless is another,” says organizer Blanke. Give your spices the smell and taste test and if they’ve gone bland and boring, dump them. To find out how old your McCormick or Schilling brand spices are, go to http://mccormick.com/Spices101/HowOldSpices.aspx. And when you buy new spices, mark down the date on the package with a Sharpie.

 

8. Receipts

Computers were supposed to usher in a paperless society, but it hasn’t happened quite yet. “Most of us are still drowning in paper,” says organizer Pankiewicz. She suggests an annual cleanup. Check with your accountant about how long to keep important papers like tax returns but, in general, materials that support tax returns (receipts and so on) can be tossed after seven years.

 

9. Magazines

Do you have a stack of magazines by your bed that you haven’t read? If two months have passed and they’re still sitting there, consider donating them to a retirement home, hospital, doctor’s office, or school. Many take magazines for art projects (if not for reading material). If, like former magazine editor Cherie Spino, a mom of four in Toledo, Ohio, you “can’t throw a magazine away without reading it,” do the flip-and-rip. Spino rips out recipes or articles she wants to keep and throws the rest into the recycling bin. She’s putting the recipes in a binder.

Organizer Bohn suggests tearing out articles and putting them in a folder you can grab when you know you’ll be sitting and waiting (think doctor’s office). Or, if you’re a tech-lover, you can get many popular magazines as an app for your phone or electronic reader.

(more…)

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My friend Nicolette writes quite a bit about aging in place, disabilities, and interior design, and her posts usually get me thinking quite a lot, especially her one on strategies to deal with loss and aging.

It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my own heart as well, along with the related issues of universal and accessible design, all of which are really tied together and inseparable. There’s a lot of overlap among the concepts of aging-in-place and universal design in particular, but also with accessible design. These are issues that we all eventually face one way or another; it just happens to be the turn of my generation to learn how to age well.

Disability, of course, can and does strike at any age. In my own family, my brother has been dealing with an illness and injuries that will leave him disabled and mobility-impaired for life, and he’s only 50. At the same time, both my father and his partner are ill, as is my aunt. My now-former partner is facing serious medical problems in his own family as well, so we were both stressed out by these issues. I myself cope with several disabilities, and have found my mobility impaired by injuries, and even my ability to dress myself and take care of my own hair is greatly diminished at times. Age is taking its toll on us all in various ways – and these kinds of stressors impact all relationships.

Having the tragedy of my brother’s situation occur so suddenly, on top of trying to look after my father at a particularly difficult period in his own life, really brought these issues home for me in ways that even a decade as a paramedic, a stint selling life and disability insurance, and even my own travails never did, and is the reason why I finally completed the coursework I needed to obtain my credentials as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS designation) a couple of years ago. I will discuss what CAPS is more extensively in another post.

There are many, many things that can be done in a home or office to assist people in dealing with the physical challenges of disabilities and aging. Hundreds of websites and resources exist; there’s no shortage of information out there. I’ll be writing more about these topics as time goes by, but for the moment, let’s just take this as a given.

In reality, the physical changes required for designing a home that supports aging in place or dealing with a wide range of disabilities well are the easy part. The technology exists, and with enough ingenuity (and sometimes cash, admittedly), anything is possible.

Even if a major remodel is not possible, there are usually at least small modifications that can help improve the functionality of the physical space immensely, especially for people who do not require major changes for wheelchair access. Not long ago, for example, I consulted with a lovely, vibrant woman in her 70s who is feeling the losses associated with arthritis on how she can modify her draperies so that they are easier to draw, and don’t hurt her shoulders. She’s on an extremely tight budget, so a lot of the products I normally work with are out of the question, but even in a brief discussion, I identified at least four different ways she could modify things with cheap, readily available materials just from the hardware store that would still preserve the open, airy, minimalist kind of look she prefers, and we are looking now at more specific products. She’s got cafe curtains hung with a rod pocket, which take some pushing even for able-bodied people to move, so just changing to a style with rings or grommets will allow them to glide effortlessly on the rod. She won’t have to reach up any more, either.

This small change alone will allow her to deal with something she has to handle daily with much less wear and tear on her shoulders, and bring a measure of ease to her life that she never even thought she could have, especially without spending a fortune. When you are in pain, and your joints are deteriorating like this, even eliminating one or two aggravating movements a day can make a very big difference in your comfort level – and your ability to enjoy your home. An accumulation of several or many such minor modifications can really add up over time.

Willingness and ability to think outside the box to adapt common materials to the task at hand are critical skills for designers, especially those of us who work with people with physical limitations or tight budgets. A good interior designer is invaluable to this process – and to making changes that integrate well, still look beautiful, employ the same kind of quality materials of any other good design – and which don’t scream “disability” or “old people”.

People often don’t even know there’s anything that can be done to help some of the difficulties they have, so a sensitive, perceptive, and creative designer who knows how to ask the right questions and to observe well can open a lot of doors, and create solutions for problems that a client never even knew were possible and thus may have never even thought to ask about or request.

I was very gratified to see the face of the lady I consulted with just open up with amazement and hope upon hearing the range of possibilities I was able to come up with; that’s the kind of response that drives me to do what I do. And I didn’t even realize just how automatic it is for me to think this way until she herself commented on how natural it is to me. She’s been incredibly frustrated because she hasn’t been able to find a new kind of wand that would be more functional – but that isn’t where the best solution actually lies.

But what most stops people, especially from doing anything about modifying their environments before they absolutely have to, and which causes them the most difficulty, is undoubtedly the emotional component – the need to acknowledge the fact of these changes, whether existing or pending. And often, we put off making the changes we know we may need while it’s still easy, and end up in a crisis that forces decision-making at the worst possible times.

We don’t like to face the thought of our own mortality, even when the evidence continues to mount. It’s a natural human reaction. We don’t want to let go of who we once were, the things we could do before, the hopes and dreams for the future. We don’t want to acknowledge that there is indeed a sunset period to life, and that we must all face it someday. We don’t like the idea of letting go of cherished possessions, or moving to a place that doesn’t hold the same memories of our present homes. We are afraid of what life will look like as we lose abilities, and as our friends also decline – and inevitably die. We hang onto our stuff for dear life, as if it’s the only anchor that will remind us of who we are and where we have been, as if we can keep time from advancing if we just don’t change a thing in our environments. We hold onto our old ways of doing things, and outdated, nonfunctional homes, often because of fear that somehow admitting to what’s inevitable will somehow make it come to pass more quickly and take something away from us now.

Some people are lucky enough that they will be able to stay in their own homes for the rest of their lives, and without modifications. For many of the rest of us, though, changes are inevitable, even if only because of declining incomes, or desire to just not have so much house to take care of any more. But the first – and most ongoing – hurdle we have to face is the one in our own heads.

Also, as we Baby Boomers age, the stresses our sheer numbers will put on the health care and elder care systems will overwhelm both, and more and more long term care will have to occur in our own homes. We must plan in advance for these changes, if we are able to. Most people want to remain at home as long as it’s humanly possible anyways, but we are going to face the situation where there is likely not going to be any other choice for many of us who might actually prefer or need to utilize services such as assisted living at some point, just because of overload on the system.

Fortunately, there is a lot of help out there even for mental adjustments we may need to make. Good therapists and support groups can be invaluable, and there is no shortage of reading material. A good interior designer will also be exquisitely sensitive to needs, and can open doors that you haven’t even thought about. There are many strategies for combing through your possessions in an orderly way and deciding what to keep and what needs to find a new home, so that we can “right-size” our lives.

Identifying the things you own that have the most meaning to you and taking them with you if you move even if you have to jettison the rest can go a long, long ways towards helping ease the pain of change, for example. Do you really need that entire collection of decorative boxes you’ve amassed over the years? Or are there a few choice pieces that hold the most meaning for you, and which would help remind you of all of the rest? Can you photograph them and save them that way instead of taking them with you physically? Do you ever even look at all of those old photo albums that are piled up in the den, or would just keeping a few photos, framing them beautifully and using them in your new home still give you as much joy?

Start editing your possessions by asking yourself what single item you would take with you if you were told you had to evacuate your home immediately, and were only allowed to take one thing (ignoring whether it’s actually portable or not). Then repeat this exercise with the thought that you could only take one more item, and so on.

Looking at the move or remodel as an exciting opportunity to start afresh can help immensely as well. Even if the reason for remodeling your bathroom and kitchen is because you are now in a wheelchair, or expect you will be in a couple of years, if you can look at this as a positive thing that will help you continue to live as normally as possible, and increase convenience for you and everyone else living in or entering your home, you will be far, far ahead of the game. There’s no reason a fully accessible home has to look like a hospital, and it can easily be a showcase, just as any other home.

Consider, for example, that you get to have a brand new bathroom – focus on the wonderful new things you will have, and how simple things like taking a shower will now be much easier than they have been – or possible in the first place. Order beautiful cabinetry, tile, lighting, and fixtures. There are even beautiful grab bars made now that will coordinate perfectly with the rest of your bathroom fittings. The additional space you will need will make the room more functional for everyone. Make the space a sanctuary, not something institutional in character, and it will become a destination for the whole family – a source of joy, peace, and comfort, instead of a reminder of loss or impending loss.

Because loss and change are inevitable parts of life. They affect us in so many ways. The outlook we bring to the process, and to any home or office changes we must make, can make all the difference in the world – and that much, at least, need not cost a cent.

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If you would like an evaluation of your existing space to see if it is suitable for aging in place or accommodating a known or expected disability, or for assistance in designing a new home that will fully support your living your life to the fullest regardless of your own current or future physical needs (or those of your family members), and you want to ensure a beautiful as well as highly functional result, please contact me.

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What do you do if you want the look of a lot of books (or space for actual books), but your space is too small to install bookcases? Do faux books look real enough if you don’t have enough of the real thing? How can you make the most of the space you’ve got? A question from a reader on an Amazon.com discussion forum about faux books got me thinking about these things the other day.


Faux books look as fake as they are. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Faux books often look as fake as they are. (Click on image to enlarge.)

No, most faux books don’t look even remotely real. Because neither they nor the “shelves” they are on are real, they lack depth and characteristics such as shadows that would show in actual bookshelves with real books. They can be fun on things like cabinet doors or utility room doors to conceal them, but the moment someone goes to pull one off the shelf to look at it, they will immediately see what’s up for sure, and your hoped-for erudite image will be blown, so these things are not a great choice for other spaces, especially offices or libraries, where one would expect to find real books.

If you want the look of books but really cannot spare enough floor space to install bookcases for real books, or do need to just conceal an unsightly feature, one decorative (and much cheaper!) option is to just paper one or more walls or the offending element with a wallpaper design that shows books. There are several book designs available commercially, such as Brunschwig & Fils’ famous Bibliotheque design below, by Nina Campbell,

brunschwig-bibliotheque

but you could also make your own collage using photos of books that you take yourself or find elsewhere – or actual pages of books, magazines, or newspapers – and create a highly-personalized, one-of-a-kind design, which will save even more money, plus be unique, as in the chic bedroom image below. You could use images of books on shelves and try to make it as realistic-looking as possible, or tile and overlay the space with images of book covers, or get creative and play with angles and overlaps and adding in other elements as well, just for fun.

Newsworthy wallpaper via FabGreen.com.  Source unknown; if this is your image, let me know, and I'll provide attribution.

Newsworthy wallpaper via FabGreen.com. Source unknown; if this is your image, let me know, and I'll provide attribution.

The best way to have the look of books, of course, is to have real ones – and naturally, finding enough space in a small room if you do have a lot of them can be quite a challenge, so what’s a bibliophile to do?

1. Look up

Bookshelves don’t have to sit on the floor, and you can get a lot of mileage out of putting them on the wall, and virtually double your usable space. Hanging shelves over a desk or sofa, above and surrounding doorways and windows, and even completely encircling the room near the ceiling level with one or two shelves can add a lot of extra storage space without taking up any precious floor space at all. Use smaller furniture, too, and less of it, and you’ll be able to fit everything in.

via Cote de Texas.  Is this your image?  Let me know, and I'll provide attribution.

via Cote de Texas; attribution unknown

by Kenneth Jay Lane, via Cote de Texas

by Kenneth Jay Lane, via Cote de Texas

You can even store them in the rafters, if your ceiling is open.

from Apartment Therapy

from Apartment Therapy

2. Look around

Try narrow bookcases (maybe with pull-out shelves) on either side of a chair or sofa instead of or behind your end tables. Match these up with the shelves above the sofa and you’ll create a custom niche for the furniture but use very minimal floor space.

3. Look inside

· Use built-ins or systems furniture (even Elfa shelving, if you can’t afford custom cabinetry or ready-mades) instead of free-standing furniture to maximize the use of space, and integrate cabinetry wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Even a tiny 10’x10’ room can hold a complete library and all possible office equipment this way; I’m working in a space just like this as I write.

from Circa Lighting website

from Circa Lighting website

by Meade Design Group

by Meade Design Group, http://www.themeadegroup.com/

· Is there a closet in the room? Add at least one more shelf above the rod, or, if you can spare the space, fill the closet entirely with shelves. Or hang a closet organizer designed for holding clothing or purses and fill it with paperbacks instead. The clever pantry shown below could just as easily house books or anything else you might want to store and/or display.

attribution unknown - If this is your image, let me know, and I'll add your name.

attribution unknown - If this is your image, let me know, and I'll add your name.

· Look between the studs. Yes, remove the drywall and build it out a few inches, installing shelves between the studs, refinish it, and voila! – a whole bookcase anywhere you want one that only protrudes a few inches tops into the existing floor space of the room. Or replace the whole wall with a bookcase – maybe backed by a translucent plastic to let light in from (or lend it to) the next room over.

by Aidlin Darling Architects via Sunset Magazine website

by Aidlin Darling Architects via Sunset Magazine website

Translucent wall with shelving, by Vicente Wolf

Translucent wall with shelving, by Vicente Wolf

· Store some inside a multifunction piece of furniture, such as a storage ottoman.

Tribeca Storage Ottoman from Kaboodle.com

Tribeca Storage Ottoman from Kaboodle.com

· Build a window seat with shelves or a drawer in the base and/or side walls of the nook it’s in. Where drawers are shown in the images below, you could just as easily use open cubbies as bookshelves instead.

Windowseat nook with drawers and side shelves

Windowseat nook with drawers and side shelves

by Waldo Fernandez

by Waldo Fernandez, http://www.waldosdesigns.com


4. Look behind

If you’ve got as little as 6″ space behind a door when it’s open, with the addition of a large hinge, you can build a bookcase onto the back of the door. Or put the shelving on the front of the door. If you have the space, you can even do this on a bi-fold closet door, or a rotating door.

SpaceX door via Move Trends website

SpaceX door via Move Trends website

SpaceX Doors via Move Trends

SpaceX Doors via Move Trends

Folding bookshelf cabinet doors by SpaceX, via Move Trends website

Folding bookshelf cabinet doors by SpaceX, via Move Trends website

You could also try the Sticklebook, a really cool invisible bookshelf you could install on any wall, for about $28. http://www.sticklebook.com/index.htm

from Apartment Therapy via Marie Claire Maison

from Apartment Therapy via Marie Claire Maison

sticklebook2


5. Look down

Line up or pile books underneath your desk, occasional tables, or even the sofa, if you’ve got one that sits on relatively high legs and has no skirt. You can even put some shelves underneath the desk. Pile books artfully around the room on top of tables, desks, windowsills, and on the floor, and display your decorative objets sitting on top of the books. And finally, if your obsession becomes too great, do as Sharon Stanley Ruggiero confessed to resorting to at http://www.cotedetexas.blogspot.com/2008/08/living-with-books-lots-of-them.html in Joni’s fabulous post on living with masses of books, and place them between the spindles of the banister on your stairway.

6. Books as furniture

Forego one or more end tables and coffee tables altogether, and just use stacks of books. This can either be a permanent solution, or used just until you can afford (or locate) the perfect furniture piece. By themselves or mixed with other items, books are great decorative objects.

Webb Design stacks of books

Webb Design, Cote de Texas

//thepeakofchic.blogspot.com

Keith Irvine via http://thepeakofchic.com

7. Don’t forget other rooms

You don’t have to fit all of your books in one room; where else in your house can you place some? Even the bathroom, kitchen, and hallways are fair game for creative book storage.


8. Edit, edit, edit

Yes, it’s anathema to a book-lover, but eventually, almost all of us have to prune our book collections to some extent, so take a good, hard look at how many, and which, books are most essential to you, and find new homes for as many of the others as you need to, when the time comes.

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NOTE:

– Please pardon any formatting errors or oddities; I’m still learning how to use this software and deal with the graphics.

– For any images without attribution, if you know the photographer and/or designer, or it’s your image, please let me know and I’ll update it with your tag line.


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