Only the Shadow(box) Knows

Posted By on March 11, 2011

Simple, colorful vintage jewelry displayed in shadow boxes by Do It Yourself Ideas Magazine

Give your grandmother's vintage jewelry a place of honor and add some bling to your walls at the same time with these simple shadow boxes. Photo and how-to courtesy of Do It Yourself Ideas Magazine.

My friend Carol and I were sorting out her craft room a couple of months back, and we came across some treasured items belonging to her grandparents and father.

She showed me the cool, vintage eyeglasses belonging to her grandmother and said how she wanted to display them. I suggested displaying them in a shadowbox so she can enjoy them.

Organizers talk a great deal about honoring the things you do love and treasure. If you love something, you should display it or keep it somewhere you can easily enjoy it.

Shadowboxes are a great way to do that. Since many movies are 3-D these days, think of shadowboxes as 3-D art.

Display antique rolling pins in this shadow box by Martha Steward Magazine

Do you come from a long line of bakers or cooks? Liven up your kitchen walls with a shadow box display of heirloom kitchenware like these vintage rolling pins from Martha Stewart Magazine.

Get crafty with your treasures

March is National Craft Month, and creating a shadowbox filled with your treasured objects is a great way to celebrate.

Several years ago, my mother and her three sisters each created a shadowbox with mementos of their parents. My mom lost her own mother when she was 12, and her father at age 18. Each sister had a piece of their mother’s wedding gown, her disintegrated veil, rosary cards, rosaries, eyeglasses and other odds and ends. Mom and my aunts have their shadowboxes to honor their parents’ memories.

I should point out that my mom and the aunts did not cut up my grandmother’s wedding dress. My grandmother herself cut up her own dress to make a dress for the oldest daughter.

Me and my (Barbie©) Shadow(boxes)

Before I moved into my house, I bought a large shadowbox to display my old Barbie© dolls. I lined the back with some vintage-inspired fabric and used Velcro© squares to fasten the dolls to the back of the box.

The finished product, like any shadowbox filled with treasure, is a personal, fun memento, and I plan to make a couple of others too.

Using an unfinished piece of a quilt her grandmother made, my friend Carol lined her shadowboxes and can now display her own treasures.

Some other ideas I’ve seen for shadowboxes include:

  • Concert memorabilia.
  • Sports memorabilia (gloves, baseball hats, uniforms)
  • Travel souvenirs
  • Wine cork collections
  • Childhood board games and toys

What ideas do you have? What ways do you honor your treasures?


Creating Your Own Notice Board

Posted By on March 9, 2011

Yellow and pink Pottery Barn Kids ribbon board

If anyone knows how to inspire a DIY project it's the good and crafty folks at Pottery Barn. Check out this beautiful Printed Ribbon Board from Pottery Barn Kids for inspiration.

Since March is National Craft Month, I decided to highlight craft projects that will help you become more organized.

Notice boards are functional, and, thanks to clever crafting, they can be pretty too.

Three ways to notice how organized you are

One way to make one is to convert a bulletin board into a ribbon notice board using pretty fabric and matching ribbon. Check it out here.

I made one once for my old apartment, and I used a picture frame and cut foam board to fit the picture opening. Then I decided to slide a thin magnet board underneath the fabric. This way I could slide pictures into the ribbons or use a magnet.

Converting an old cookie sheet into a notice board is easy too. You need glue (either Tacky Glue or Mod Podge), scrapbook paper, scrapbooking embellishments and ribbon. Find some pretty magnets to finish out the project.

For a more hard-working notice board, I like these boards with fabric pockets. Very handy to hold bills and other papers.

There you go! Three craft projects to help you add some color and organization to your life.


Organizing Your Home Office

Posted By on March 7, 2011

I love my home office. It’s so pretty, fun and hot pink.

You too can have the home office of your dreams, or at least you can make it less of a nightmare. And why not do it now. After all, March 9 is Organizing Your Home Office Day.

No, this is not my office. But this swanky home office makeover from Country Living magazine sure is inspiring.

What’s Hot, What’s Not

When deciding where to put things, think hot, lukewarm and cold.

I keep the hot things within arm’s reach. For me, my hot things are pens, desktop file folders, paper, notepads and laptop stand.

Lukewarm items are the ones where you may need to stretch to reach or lift your behind out of your office chair. Note cards, tape, the stapler and other items that I don’t need as often are just out of my reach.

Cold items need to go further away, out of your immediate work area. Extra office supplies and older files (think taxes) go in cold storage.

Dealing with the Paper: The Mail

The number one question I’m asked about organizing issues is how to deal with the paper. When I ask more questions, I discover that most of the time there is a great deal of procrastination when it comes to handling the mail.

Elle Decor features cubbies for mail, etc.

If you leave the mail to stack up, it will be a bigger issue later. I tell my clients that they have to open the mail and deal with it. Yes, I know it sounds easy enough to say, but taking a few minutes of action each day, helps you in the long run.

If you don’t check your mail every day, at least check it every two days so it doesn’t build up. Thieves look for overflowing mailboxes to see if people are not home. Plus your postal worker will thank you.

When you pick up your mail, sort out the junk mail right away. For me, the sales ads, business cards and flyers posted on the front door (grrr!), postcards from companies and catalogs I’m not interested in (yes, I’m talking to you, Harbor Freight Tools!) get dumped into my giant green recycling can. The can sits strategically in the garage next to the door into the house.

Credit card offers and such things with more sensitive information go in the shredder in the office. It’s okay to have a box next to the shredder to shred later. If you don’t want shredding to pile up, shred it right away.

Now you should be down to the mail you actually need and are interested in. Open all of the envelopes. If it turns out that its junk mail, dump it.

Bills and to-do items should have an assigned home. The amount of mail I receive went down dramatically several years ago after I began paying bills online and opted for paperless statements. Also, I opted out of credit card offers but still receive the occasional one.

More inspiration from House Beautiful. See all the filing cabinets.

File the Piles

Another essential element to a home office is filing space. If you don’t have a file cabinet, using a couple of file boxes will work just as well.

Going paperless is a great way to save space. Scan in everything and save it to Dropbox, Evernote or an external hard drive. In Dropbox or an external hard drive, sort documents into folders. On Evernote, create digital notebooks for your categories and file them accordingly.

For a high speed scanner, check out Neat Desk or ScanSnap. If you’re not concerned about speed, using a regular flatbed scanner works just as well.

If you still deal with paper, here are a few ways to conquer the piles:

  • Bill folder. Park the bills here.

  • Action folder. Your immediate to-do’s go here.

  • 2011 Taxes. Any receipts and papers for your taxes go into this folder. This keeps them rounded up so you can have them at your fingertips to do your taxes.

  • To Go. Put coupons, lists, and other things you need to take with you when running errands.

  • House Renovation folder. If you’re doing any sort of house renovation, keep all of those torn magazine pages, print outs, and catalogs in one place.

  • Travel. If you come across an article about a place you want to visit, drop them into the travel folder. If you are into traveling, you may need folders broken into categories. For example, you can have folders for U.S. Travel, Europe, Asia, etc.

  • Bucket List. Before the movie of the same name came out, I used to call this my “Master To Do List.” When I turned 30, I made a list of places I want to travel to and things I want to do. When I turned 40, I redid the list, but gosh it was nice to see things checked off! To remind yourself of your goals, keep your bucket list handy and review it.

Don’t make your home office a catch-all. Keep it functional.

Arrange your space so it works, deal with the incoming mail and paper, and create file space – whether it’s digital or paper. Then you too can have the home office of your dreams.


Organizing for Singles

Posted By on March 4, 2011

I’m a single chick myself, and I know firsthand how hard it is to keep up with everything you need to take care of.

So let’s talk about Organizing for the Single Person.

The first major issue with singles is that we don’t have anyone to delegate to unless we pay them. If friends help you, you still have to pay them in food, beer or both.

I know the women faculty members at work always talk about how they need a “wife” at home like many of their male counterparts. The wife packs for trips, takes care of the house and kids, etc.

Meanwhile, members of the women faculty, like many married women with or without kids, are pulling double-duty in most cases.

Stay organized by hiring help

Just this past week, I had a talk with a single male doctor. His work life wasn’t the problem with time management, but his life at home had some issues. He doesn’t like cleaning and doesn’t want to spend the time doing it. I suggested he hire a housekeeper to take that burden off his plate.

I’ve encouraged clients to make these choices. If you hate doing the lawn, can you afford to hire someone? What can you take off your plate and make your life easier?

Delegating can cause feelings of embarrassment, guilt and shame, and I encourage my clients to stop that kind of thinking when it comes to delegating. Delegation is a sign of good leadership, a sign of knowing your boundaries.

Organizing tips for my fellow singletons:

  • Make sure clothes and shoes in your closet are wearable.
  • Get ready the night before when possible:
    • Lay out clothes
    • Pack the gym bag
    • Pack lunch
  • Create a schedule of what rooms will be cleaned when
  • Post cleaning schedule on the refrigerator.
  • Make a laundry schedule by asking these questions:
    • How much do you need to have dry cleaned?
    • Do you need a laundry service to do your laundry for you?
  • Buy freshly prepared food if you don’t like cooking.
  • Keep a shopping list at the ready on paper or smart phone.
  • Pay your bills online.
  • Get budgeting help, use services such as Mint.

A recent article on bartering between friends has spurred some people I know to start a Facebook group on bartering. Each of us can describe our skill sets and can exchange bartering services. It’s a great way to save money and get help.

Have a discussion with your friends about bartering and see if they’re interested. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a village of singletons to rally around other singletons.

So my fellow singletons, what organizing tips do you have to make life easier?


Quality over Quantity

Posted By on February 28, 2011

One of the tenets of my organizing belief system is “quality over quantity.”

He or she who has the most toys is not the winner.

I’ve seen it time and time again in my organizing work and even long before I became an organizer.

Waste not, want not

One of my friends was always on the hunt for the perfect pair of black flats. She had at least 50 of them in her closet – all variations of the black flat, and when we went shopping, I would ask her, “Don’t you have some like that?” I’m sure that annoyed her, but she always had a reason why THIS pair was different.

As you can imagine, many never saw the daylight outside of her closet.

I’ve had clients who have a vanity full of make-up, moisturizers and hairsprays. Talk about searching for “hope in a jar.” They didn’t even use half of what they had but kept buying more, each time hoping the next one would be The One.

My mom has several new irons packed away in the cabinet. You know, just in case her iron dies. Granted she is devoted to ironing everything (including pillowcases and jeans), but how many irons do you need to have on stand-by?

Have a talk with yourself before buying anything

I encourage clients and myself to question purchases before buying. Do I need it? Do I already have one like it? Will I use it? Am I buying it because I need it or because it’s on sale? If it’s clothing or shoes, what can I wear with it that I already have?

Clients and I have had talks about quality over quantity, and some even go on a shopping moratorium and instead shop at home with the stuff they already have.

Clients who have lots of baby clothes have a hard time going through them. We make a decision to keep only the best pieces, the ones most treasured. The rest become ordinary.

Tips for limiting:

Perfume. If you like perfume, keep the few bottles that you actually like and get rid of the ones that you don’t like.

Makeup. If you like make-up, keep the cosmetics you actually use. Give freebies away if you’re not going to use them.

Shoes. If you like shoes, keep the ones that you wear and don’t hurt your feet.

Clothes. Same goes for clothes. Toss the clothes you don’t like and the ones that don’t fit. Only keep the clothes you can wear.

Vases. If you receive flowers regularly and have a bunch of vases, eliminate duplicates and only keep a few.

Now that I own a home, I have to keep myself from buying everything I see. There are so many cool things out there for houses. I have to remind myself to be patient and finish renovations before deciding what I need for particular rooms.

When I had a small apartment, it was easier to say no to home décor since I didn’t have space. With a house, the possibilities are endless to me. And so are the bloody renovations. But that’s another story.


When Organizing and Staging Collide

Posted By on February 25, 2011

After: Behold, a clean, spacious living room after clutter was removed and items were organized for home staging.

Before: The same living room as above before toys and clutter were taken out to prepare for visits from potential home buyers.

By Professional Organizer Liz Jenkins

Staging a house is all about making it attractive to potential buyers, but one of the biggest issues in most homes is – you guessed it – clutter!

The way you live in a home has nothing to do with the way you sell a home. Creating a welcoming atmosphere for potential buyers where they can see themselves living in your (former) house is key. With all of your “stuff” lying around, that’s impossible.

Here are the objections clients have (until they “get it”):

  • “But it’s just stuff. Can’t they see around it?”
  • “This isn’t going to be here when they move in. Why is it a problem?”
  • “I still have to live here!”

Yeah, I get it. But … I tell them their buyers won’t. All that the buyers see is a bunch of stuff laying around that isn’t theirs.

Here’s what goes through their heads:

  • “Are these people slobs?”
  • “If it’s this cluttered, I wonder how clean this place is?”
  • “If it’s not clean, I wonder if they’ve maintained the house.”
  • “I can’t imagine my things in here because it’s so messy.”

So, in order to sell your home, I recommend that you:

Hide: Yes, pack up everything in your home that is moving with you that you don’t use regularly. This may include seasonal items, rarely used kitchen appliances, keepsakes, etc.

Purge: Don’t pack things that don’t get used much because, honestly, why would you pay to move things you didn’t use in this house? Are you really going to use it in your new one? Donate unused items to charity or have a yard sale.

Pack: Pack and find a hiding spot for personal items such as diplomas, family portraits, kids awards, mail (basically anything with your name or identifying information on it). This is a safety issue, as well as a clutter issue.

You don’t want people to know who you are or where your kids go to school. Not only that, but your family photos don’t say to a buyer that this could be his or her home. They say it’s still yours.

Organize: Make your pantry, cupboards and closets neat. Potential buyers look everywhere, and if these areas are messy and jam-packed with stuff, it reflects poorly on your home. Use matching hangers; leave at least 25% “white space” inside; and place items in bins to conceal them.

Edit:Home staging experts remove between 25% to 40% of the furniture and accessories in each room of a house. It may look somewhat bare to you, but the buyer is looking at how much room there is in the home. Generally, most homes have too much furniture and accessories.

You want clear paths to walk through and, in each room, clearly defined spaces with a purpose (sitting area, office or playroom). The25-40% rule doesn’t always apply. Some home owners never really furnish their homes. This is where a stager can come in and add furniture and accessories to make the place shine.

Some storage tips:

Be creative with storage! Angle a sofa against the wall and put storage bins behind to conceal kids toys or as a quick place to toss things if you have an impromptu showing. Repurpose sideboards or cabinetry to hold items. Use bed risers to create storage under a bed (nobody will look there) and conceal the space with a bedskirt.

Create a storage place for mail and bills that isn’t visible.Do not put these items in a permanent fixture such as a kitchen drawer – people will open those. I recommend a box with a lid, a briefcase or tote you can take with you, a drawer in a free-standing piece of furniture, etc., something that will keep your privacy but that you can still access.

Bins conceal a multitude of sins. Anything you want to keep but not have looking cluttered? Put it in a bin. I love wicker baskets for closets, family rooms and entryways; white plastic Sterilite bins for pantries, kitchens and baths; pop-up hampers to contain stuffed animals and toys; ottomans with storage inside.

Create a strategic exit plan for a quick showing. Inevitably you’ll get a call that someone is sitting in their car at the end of the block and want to come see the house. Keep a laundry hamper or a couple of big tote bags in a convenient location so you can dump any clutter in it and take it with you. I had a client leave with an entire chicken cut up on a butcher block as she was in the middle of prepping dinner – the laundry basket held it nicely!

Organizing is probably the most economical thing you can do when staging a home, and it has the biggest impact.

The act of decluttering not only makes your home look so much more appealing to prospective buyers, but also it makes your move easier. It allows you to reduce how much you have to transport and helps you start off in your new home the right way – with only the things in it that make your life better and more enjoyable, which is what organizing is all about.

Liz JenkinsLiz Jenkins, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of A Fresh Space in the Nashville, TN area, specializes in helping people in their homes or small businesses streamline their lives so they can be more effective, productive and not so stressed out and frazzled.

A self-professed life-long organizing geek, Liz wields a label maker with style and can sort and containerize with a wave of her magic wand (not really but wouldn’t it be cool?). Decluttering, figuring out what to do with all the papers, wrangling the kids toys, managing emails and calendars, creating order out of chaos . . . these are the things that make her day. Find more organizing tips on her blog, A Fresh Space.