Dealing with your stuff

Posted By on July 23, 2012

At work, I went to our kitchen clutching my ceramic cup and an English Breakfast Tea K-cup. Before I could put in my tea, I had to remove the previous user’s K-cup that someone left behind and toss it in the trash.

While I was waiting for my tea to brew, I noticed the microwave was blinking 44 seconds because someone didn’t clear the remaining time after heating up their breakfast. With a sigh, I hit the clear button, muttering about people who don’t deal with their stuff.

After I finished brewing my tea and tossing my used K-cup in the trash, I went back to my office and saw my gym bag sitting on the floor by my desk – the same spot it had occupied for almost two months. Oh, hell. I had wanted to start working out at the gym at work and brought my workout clothes, but I had not gone.

I realized I needed to deal with my own stuff, and in that moment, I saw how ridiculous I was and made a decision. At 4 p.m. that day, I changed into my gym clothes, went downstairs to the gym and got an exercise bike for the first time in over a year. I started out with 20 minutes. It felt good. I felt like I had accomplished something. By making a decision and taking that first step, I dealt with my own stuff.

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Homemade Gifts

Posted By on June 18, 2012

In January 2011, one of my Facebook friends made a simple post saying she would make five homemade gifts for the first five people who “liked” that offer. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I not only clicked “like”, but also re-posted it, making my own promise to create homemade gifts. Five of my friends clicked “like.”

Then the panic set in. Here I promised to do something in a very public way. The last time I made a homemade gift it was either cookies for Christmas or one of those grade-school projects you make out of macaroni for your parents. My skill set for crafts was rusty if not downright questionable.

A couple of months later, I discovered this little website called Pinterest, and the virtual clipboard had a plethora of craft ideas. Excellent.

I didn’t make my 2011 projects until this past spring because I had been ill most of the year, but I kept thinking of ideas and surfing the Pinterest craft boards. In January 2012, several of us wound up posting the same Facebook post. Now I had 10 gifts to make, and I decided to experiment.

Wooden Blocks

For one group of gifts, I had wooden blocks cut, sanded them and painted them black on both sides. Using Mod Podge, I glued scrapbook paper to one side and trimmed it with an X-Acto® knife – the same kind I used to wield during my journalism days back in the day.

Wood blocks painted, then Mod Podged with scrapbook paper and letters

I wanted to put words such as “Love,” “Hope,” “Star,” and “Home” on the blocks. I painted cardboard letters with Mod Podge and glued on more scrapbook paper. I cut the letters and glued them to the blocks. I added some hearts and adhesive jewels to decorate them.

I also experimented with large chipboard letters I found at Hobby Lobby. I painted the letter and glued on scrapbook paper. I had a shadow frame from IKEA, lined the back with paper and glued the letter to it. I added some bling and the words “Be Fierce,” a phrase this particular Facebook friend had used several times.

Shadow box, cut-out letter, scrapbook paper and bling

Heart Art

I had several small canvases that I painted black. Once again, I used Mod Podge to glue on scrapbook paper. I decided to make rows of hearts, and I discovered how hard it was to find a heart punch two weeks after Valentine’s Day. My timing was a bit off, but I did find one from Martha Stewart’s line at Michael’s.

If I used black and white scrapbook paper for the background, then I punched out colorful hearts. I fastened the hearts in three rows and bent the upper corners of the heart to make them stand out. To personalize the gifts, I put a jeweled letter as a monogram. Well, except for one gift. Two of the jewels fell out of my last “L” so I used a simple jewel.

Wood blocks, pain, scrapbook paper and Mod Podge

What I Learned

I learned I can still wield a pretty mean X-Acto® knife.

I learned I have some sort of obsession with scrapbook paper even though I don’t scrapbook in the traditional sense.

More importantly, I learned gifts made with heart and love are still valued. Since the economy tanked, more of us have looked at what we really value, and our relationships are more important than anything we can buy.

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How I Put Together My Home Office

Posted By on June 9, 2012

When I bought my house, I was excited to have a home office. In my previous apartments, I only had tiny niches devoted to my office area.

I’ve been working on my office space since I moved here in 2009. First, I painted the walls. One wall is hot pink and the other walls are gray.

The Chalkboard.

Using chalkboard paint, I painted a large chalkboard on my hot pink wall. I did attempt to use the magnetic paint primer to make it magnetic, but the paint didn’t really work for me. I’m pretty sure it was user error.

To trim the chalkboard, my brother met me at a home improvement store where I bought a couple of baseboard molding with a pattern on it. My brother loaded his saw in the back of his pick-up, backed into my garage and cut the pieces in the lengths I needed.

I laid the pieces in the backyard and spray painted them silver. When my parents were here for Thanksgiving in 2010, my dad – a lifelong carpenter – nailed them up for me.

Since the magnetic paint didn’t work, I simply screwed a long magnetic strip from The Container Store onto my chalkboard area. I also glued a couple of strips of magnetic tape onto the chalkboard wall as well, but I may pry those off and cover them with another magnetic strip. I added a tiny nail to hang my annual Houston Firefighters calendar (what can I say? It’s for charity!).

Check out my DIY Chalkboard Wall

The Desk and Furniture

For my desk, I used the IKEA table I used for my dining table at my apartment. When I bought the table years ago, IKEA had it displayed as a dining table, a desk and a conference table. My apartment came with a built-in desk, and I decided to repurpose the dining table as my desk since I needed one. When I got to renovate the dining room space, I decided I needed a table with leaves so I could expand.

In 2010, I came across the bright green rolling chair at Target. The chair was marketed for dorm rooms, but I snatched it up for myself for $20.

My friends Christina and Randy bought a new dining buffet for their home and gave me the old cabinet they had been using. Since it was just plain pine, I painted it black and added two crown door knobs that someone else gave me.

The other piece in my office is a simple white book shelf from The Container Store. It had to be fastened to the wall because the carpet in the room was causing it to tip forward.

Nice and neat

My office also has a black chair that’s actually a cushioned folding chair I originally bought for my niece’s dorm room but was too big for her space. There’s a pillow in the chair that’s actually a Cameron University sweatshirt my mom made into a pillow (UCLA – the University of Camera, Lawton America).

I also have a cart with skinny drawers that was a Sam’s Club find, and I use it to store fabrics, scrapbook papers and other craft-related items. I bought a black metal chandelier for $20 at the close-out sale for the former Houston Historical Salvage Warehouse. It was a newer one so it didn’t require any rewiring. I want to add some crystal prisms to it.

The Files

I had a two-drawer, metal file cabinet, but I needed a bit more storage space for books and a sturdier place for my printer. During Thanksgiving weekend, IKEA had the four-cube Expedit shelves on sale for $20 instead of $40 each, and you were allowed to buy two at that price.

I cleaned out my files and moved them into individual file boxes. This gave me additional space for my decorating ideas that I’ve been gathering. I already had some other papers and things stashed in the Stockholm boxes from The Container Store.

My goal is to continue to make as many of my files digital, and some of the older papers will naturally “expire” as time passes.

The Decorations

I think I used to be a crow in a previous life because I am always drawn to shiny, blingy objects. One wall is my Hollywood Boyfriend Wall and features the Gladiator movie poster, photos from the first Ricky Martin concert I attended, and Duran Duran. If you put a poster in a frame, it becomes art, right?

The other décor in my office consists of items and doo-dads that used to sit on my desk when I worked at the newspaper and for the Galveston school district. There’s fun and inspiring artwork and wispy curtains that were too sheer for my bedroom.

I put a crown decal over my chalkboard and on the closet door. The door of the room has a wall decal I found on Etsy. Since I am not ready to replace all the doors inside my house, I decided to decorate them with wall decals to jazz them up a bit.

Adding decals to a wall or a door adds instant personality.

The Future Projects

A stack of picture frames and prints lean against one of the walls.

See. Professional organizers make messes too.

When my friends come over and see the stash, they say, “Hey I thought you were a professional organizer.” I always reply, “Yes, but none of us are perfect.”

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44 Things I Love

Posted By on June 1, 2012

Check out the 44 Things I Love - in honor of my 44th birthdayAh June! The summer months are upon us. But before we move forward, I must reflect on the month that has passed. For on a certain day in May, I always turn a year older. To celebrate my 44 years on Planet Earth, I created a list of 44 Things I Love.

Now I will forego mentioning my family, especially my nieces and nephews who I absolutely adore. That would be too easy. In the spirit of disclosure, I don’t receive any money from the products listed here with the exception of Party Lite as I am a PL consultant. Here’s the list in no particular order.

Dark chocolate. Okay, maybe that was a given for those who know me.

A nice cup of tea, preferably English Breakfast Tea or Afternoon Tea. Yes, I’m a bit boring.

Decorating magazines. This is the one thing I could hoard if I hoarded. The British ones are even more fun since the Brits don’t seem to be afraid of color.

Journals. I love the possibility and beauty of the blank lines waiting for my humble words. I have to stop myself from buying too many.

Photo from Barnes & Noble website

Mary Kay Microdermabrasion. I’ve used this for several years after a friend began selling it, and I love it. I use it once or twice a week.

Gay Boyfriend Posse. Every single woman over the age of 30 should have at least one gay boyfriend. Growing up, I was scolded many times for being sassy. A college friend told me he liked how sassy I was. Suddenly, the word took on new meaning, a good meaning, and I discovered that being sassy was a great thing to be. I don’t know how I would live without my posse, and they have always seen things in me that I never knew existed. We have what communication types call “authentic conversations” since we tell each other the truth.

Crave Cupcakes. Such a delightfully evil place! For my actual birthday, my brother picked me up a chocolate peanut butter cupcake. I also like their Red Velvet, Dark Chocolate, Coconut, Key Lime … well, you get the idea.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. It’s my comfort food. Throw in my mom’s roast, and we have a triple crown winner.

The Container Store. No surprise here, but I do love prowling the aisles to stir up my creative juices.

In Place Desktop File Sorter. This is one of my favorite organizing tools, and I have one at work and home.

Entertainment Weekly. I’ve been subscribing to EW since it practically began, and it’s my source for the latest on pop culture. It makes me look brilliant.

iPad and iPhone. Bloody brilliant devices.

Dropbox. My favorite cloud technology is Dropbox, where I can store my files and photos and access them wherever I am.

Evernote. The Evernote CEO describes Evernote as a digital brain, and I agree and love it.

Lola by Marc Jacobs. I discovered this perfume at Ulta, and I like it.

Ice cream on a hot day. Always chocolate for me!

Edna Buchanan’s books. When I was a police reporter in Galveston, Texas, I discovered Edna’s “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face”. She has turned to writing to fiction as well, and I was thrilled when I got to meet her twice.

History. I’m a sucker for history – books, movies and TV shows. We can learn a great deal from our own history – no matter how ugly it is – so we can change our future.

Brother P-Touch Labelmaker. Love it! And I use it.

Paint. Since buying my house, I’ve refreshed several things with a little spray paint. It’s amazing how painting a room can transform it. It’s the single best way to change your space.

Paint makes everything b-eautiful

Party Lite. I liked their candles so much that I became a consultant. For someone with allergies, I like how their candles don’t make me sneeze, and my favorite scents are Bamboo Mist, Black Orchid and Ginger Pumpkin. Their candleholders are multi-functional – an important element for me. It’s a quality-over-quantity thing.

Aussie Three Minute Miracle. An oldie but a goodie, and it makes my hair so soft.

Kelly Rae Roberts artwork. Very inspiring.

Etsy. You have a bevy of small business owners at your fingertips, and I always find unique gifts for the holidays or lovely items for myself. Thanks to Etsy, I’ve discovered artists Corid and The Dreamy Giraffe. For pretty jewelry pieces for gifts, I also love Karmelidesigns and Tzaddishop.

Kathy Womack’s Wine and Women Series. I just love her use of color, and you can never go wrong with a group of friends in ball gowns. I discovered her several years ago at the Bayou Arts Festival.

Thirty-One Bags. I received one bag for a Christmas gift, and I bought one at a friend’s party. They’re great bags, very sturdy and very colorful. I use one for all my tools.

Revenge. This new TV show has been a great deal of cheesy fun.

Office Space. Classic movie about office life. Watch it, and you will suddenly want to wear some flair and own a red Swingline stapler.

Casablanca. One of my favorite old movies.

Philadelphia Story. My other favorite old movie.

Goodwill. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve found a few transition pieces there to supplement my wardrobe. When they became too big, I donated them back. I’ve also found a couple of pieces for my house that I revived with spray paint.

The City of Houston’s large green recycling cans. When I bought my house, my neighborhood was piloting the recycling cans. I can toss in any paper, boxes, glass and plastics without sorting. I wish everyone in Houston had them.

Savvy Auntie. I met Melanie Notkin, the founder of Savvy Auntie, on Twitter, and as an Auntie myself, I love her desire to help women who are Aunties, Godmothers or just love the kids in their lives. I write for her site as The Organized Auntie. For the Auntie in your life, pick up her book. By the way, Auntie Day is July 22nd.

Thin Mints. I have loved these ever since I was a Girl Scout myself. Yummy!

Bobble. My Bobble water bottle draws quite a few questions. I like how I can filter plain tap water since I’m not into buying expensive bottled water. I noticed the website and Target both have the Bobble pitcher too, but I use a Pur water pitcher at home.

The First 48. I’m a bit addicted to watching this show on A&E devoted to following police detectives while investigating homicides. The saddest part of the show is seeing the waste of human potential. You have victims who have lost their lives for essentially stupid reasons by perpetrators who have irrevocably messed up their lives.

The Ballerina Project. Check out these beautiful photos of lithe ballerinas posing among nature and urban environments. So clever!

Noteshelf app. I love this note-taking app since you can write on your iPad with the rubber-tipped stylus. When I attended a conference at the beginning of May, I had so many people ask me what app I was using, and I wound up doing mini-tutorials between breakout sessions. I also came back with 32 pages of notes. Now that we upgraded to iPad 2’s at work, I’ve discovered you can take a photo with your iPad and insert it into your notes.

Scooby Doo and The Penguins of Madagascar. Yes, I know I’m a grown woman, but I still love watching the old and new versions of Scooby-Doo. Those wily penguins from the Madagascar movies are hilarious too.

Time Management Ninja. I love Craig Jarrow’s site filled with great productivity tips.

My therapist. The world would be a far different place if we all had therapy. You can tell watching the news that many world leaders really need it.

Pinterest. I love this virtual pinboard site as well as many of my friends. So many shiny objects there.

Love Pinterest

A great massage, facial or pedicure. Sometimes you just need to indulge and pamper yourself. If you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.

Positive people. Life is too short to surround yourself with toxic and negative people, and I make sure I spend quality time with those who are positive, supportive and inspiring.

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Organizing a Nail Polish Collection

Posted By on May 17, 2012

Guest post by Arlyn Parker

I have always LOVED nail polish, even as a small child.  However, I never liked my hands, they are very small and child like.  If I could have any body’s hands, it would be Lucille Ball’s. Her finger were long, elegant and graceful.

Since, I always thought my fingers were short and stubby, the only way I truly liked my hands was when my nails were manicured and painted. This is how my nail polish collection began and when I began organizing my collection – more on that in a minute.

Throughout my teens and early to mid ’20s I ALWAYS had acrylic nails. My best friend often made the comment “No matter what, Arlyn will have her nails done.” That was SO true. If I broke a nail,  I would get to the salon ASAP! I loved my acrylic nails.  Sadly, the damage they had done to my nails for 10 years was really adding up. My natural nails were thin, weak, peeling and just awful!  I decided to quit destroying my nails, as well as my nail beds, and grow my own nails.

I actually have very nice natural nails when I take care of them. Shortly after this decision, I got engaged! All of a sudden I had this amazing ring, I really needed to have beautiful nails to show off my hands!  So, this is when my “hobby” of nail polish collecting began (from 2007 to 2008).

I started out buying a few polishes every time I went to the mall or the drugstore. After a month or two I really had a nice collection started.

It is so much fun to change polishes!  It’s like the best and easiest accessory to switch!  I have what most people would consider a lot of polish.  Actually, in the “nail-polish community” I am still at “amateur” status.  I own just over 150 bottles, and most of the women in the nail-polish world who I speak with have 300-500 bottles! Some have even more. Because my collection is still relatively small, I know the names and corresponding colors of all of my polishes.

Spreadsheet organizes nail polish inventory

One of the ways I organize my polish is by using a spreadsheet.  I did not think I needed one  for my “small” collection, but with some persuasive friends I went ahead and made one.  It was SO easy and a lot of fun!! When I buy or swap polish, or get rid of a polish, I just edit my sheet!

I have found it easiest to list all of the polish brands alphabetically. I then list the names of the colors alphabetically.  I made columns for any notes or comments for that particular polish. I also listed the kind of finish each polish has.

Screenshot of Arlyn's nail polish inventory spreadsheet



I suggest that anyone with a collection (of any kind) create a spreadsheet.  I do think a spreadsheet is helpful and almost essential.

Good storage is a must

When it came to the actual “storage” of my polish, it has been a work in progress.  At first, I just needed a plastic storage shoe container. Then, as my collection progressed, I needed more storage so I bought two more shoe containers.  They are made out of clear plastic and they aren’t the sturdiest construction. So, they cannot withstand the weight of three full drawers of polish. The containers started buckling, and opening the drawers became a daily (yes, daily) challenge.

The  overflow of polish bottles was getting stacked on top and on the floor around the storage unit.  It was becoming one hot mess!

Michael's "melmer" from the scrapbooking storage section I had outgrown my three drawers (which I NEVER thought would happen).  I knew a fourth drawer would just add to the madness, so I bit the bullet and upgraded to a “melmer”.  What is a melmer?  A melmer is a storage container you purchase at Michael’s Arts and Craft store.  It is not actually called a melmer, but that’s what the polish community calls it. (It can be found in the scrap booking section.) It runs about $39, and Michael’s always has a 20-40% off coupon.  My melmer cost me $30.09.

Ikea, has a storage unit called a “Helmer”, that a lot of women use to store their polish.  So, that’s where the word “melmer” came from.

Depending on your personal preference you have to decide what you would rather have.  For my preference, I went with the melmer, and not the Helmer, for a couple of different reasons.  First, there is not an Ikea where I live. I also prefer the material that the melmer is made out of versus the metal that the Helmer is made out of.  I have never seen a Helmer in person, but from what I can tell, the metal seems flimsy and it looks more like office furniture rather than home furniture.  I like that the melmer is stackable with other units, and I think it’s all around a nicer piece of “furniture”.

I brought the melmer home and assembled it (with the Husband’s help).  I do think it’s very important to line the bottoms of the drawers with non-slip shelf liner.  If you omit this every time you open the drawer the polish will slide everywhere!  The way you choose to organize your polish is up to you, but I found it easiest to organize by brand I had the most of and then organize the colors.  I do own a few “randoms” polishes, but I put all of my polishes in the same drawer.  It’s what I call “The five-or-less” drawers.  I still use my plastic shoe boxes for my files, buffers, remover, cotton balls, etc.  My new set up is so much easier and efficient to use. It doesn’t make me fight it every time I try to go in there.

Making nail polish last

“Polishes, do have a shelf life, and after a certain amount of years they will get gloopy, thick and extremely difficult to use.  I have heard of people adding nail polish remover to the polish, but I have been told that this is not good to do.  Remover will change the chemical makeup of the polish, essentially “eating” the polish.  The best and recommended method is to use nail polish thinner.

Thinner doesn’t change the polish; it just thins it out.  I have never used thinner.

Some polishes do last longer than others. I have polish that is more than eight years old and still in pretty good shape.  I also have my absolute FAVORITE polishes. There are three that I drool over every time I see them! They are: Peridot by Chanel, Cajun Shrimp by OPI and Holographic by GOSH.  I have tried to work on a “Top 10” list but I can’t seem to get it under 12.

Take care of your nails too!

Nail Polish is a fun, easy and (sometimes) cheaper way to spruce up your wardrobe.  I was told once, “Nails are an extension of your personality”. I will never forget that because its so true.  All it takes is a little time, dedication and loving care, and your nails will reap the benefits.  Nail care doesn’t stop at the polish. Please treat your cuticles and nail beds nicely also.

They are where it all starts!  Diet and nutrition play a huge factor on the health of your nails.  Do the small things, and you should see a visible improvement in your nails.

Note from Janice: I met Arlyn Parker on Twitter, and she’s my go-to source for the latest trends in nail polish colors and styles.

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De-clutter Your Vanity

Posted By on April 27, 2012

The older I get, the more I stare just a little longer than I used to at those anti-aging moisturizer ads in magazines. It’s the old “hope in a jar” routine.

Some people take the hope in a jar issue just a little far, as you can see in the photo below.

Don't Do This!

This vanity belongs to one of my friends who graciously let me photograph it.

There are two issues. First, my friend’s house is similar to mine (1960’s style ranch house), and the built-in vanities original to the house have narrow drawers not conducive to holding a modern woman’s beauty regimen.

Second, this is an issue of overshopping. I’ve seen it before, and I’ve heard about every excuse in the book. They need more products because they have thin hair; they have curly hair; or they can’t find the “perfect” foundation or lipstick.

One of my friends was always on the search for the basic black flat since she had narrow feet, and she ended up owning 50 of them. Overshoppers get on a never-ending perfectionistic loop, always searching for the Holy Grail. The next purchase will be The One.

Not only does overshopping reduce the size of your wallet, it takes up valuable space – as you can see in the photo above.

When it comes to the vanity, this is what I recommend:

  • Take inventory and see what you really have.
  • Toss any items that you did not like
  • Toss things that have expired or changed in texture, color and fragrance.
  • Use what you have before buying anything else.
  • If possible, keep one item out for your daily use, and stash extras in your storage space.
  • Round up your daily use items and put them in a container for easy access.

Here’s an example of how to organize health and beauty products.

Nice and neat storage for beauty products

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