Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bedroom Elegance: The Clothes Valet Stand

clothes stand

A valet stand lets you do "outfit staging" - you can "plan the next day's outfit and ... pull it out of the closet," says Furniture Fashion.

I've seen some pretty special valet stands lately; let's start with the one that Furniture Fashion noted, from Italian designer Porada. This clothes stand is called Clip.

clothes stand

And here's another one from Porada.

wood valet stand and stool

This valet stand and stool, by Buechley Woodworking of New Mexico, is a lovely piece; it's made of maple, padauk and leather.

But the one that really amazed me comes from Australia: the Et Tu valet by designer Simon Alexander Cook. OK, it costs about AUD $3000 (plus delivery charges) - but it's a real work of art, with its boomerang look. And it's made from "urban salvaged timbers of Camphor Laurel (an Asian exotic yet scented ‘weed’ species in Australia), or indigenous Sydney Blue Gum and Blackbutt Eucalypt trees that fall or are demolished in the Sydney City region." Simon promotes his valet as a way to store "those clothes worn again, but not ready for the wash basket." It sure beats the floor, or the treadmill machine!

Related Posts:
Care for Your Clothes with a Valet Stand
Semi-Dirty Clothes: 9 Approaches

Friday, February 26, 2010

3 Ideas for Organizing the Paint

Do you have mystery house paint - leftover paint of unknown color, age and usage? Join the crowd!

paint can label

While it's easy enough to label the outside of the can with any basic labeling product, many of us seem to skip that step. So to make things even easier, you could use these paint labels.

Paint Buddy touch-up paint storage

Another interesting idea is to use the Paint Buddy to store touch-up paint. For some reason, this product isn't shown on the manufacturer's web site, but it's still being sold many places on the web.

E-mail update on March 8, 2011 from Shur-Line: This item will ultimately be discontinued. Shur-Line is currently manufacturing this item exclusively for the Ace and Do-It-Best centers.

As Jeanine Brennan wrote on Apartment Therapy: "We used to store old cans of paint for years in the basement just to touch-up after failed picture-hanging projects. But even then we'd procrastinate prying the cans open because it meant stirring old separated paint, and making a big mess just for a little job. Paint Buddy changed our life. Its a touch-up paint roller that keeps paint fresh and is ready in a few shakes and a squeeze." [more information at Business Week]

magnetic paintbrush holder

Want to stay organized while you're painting? The magnetic paintbrush holder might help! [via The Gimpy Girls]

[Photo of paint cans by Haukur Herbertsson, licensed under Creative Commons]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sentimental Stuff: When Teddy is On His Last Legs

portrait of toy dog

What do you do when a beloved toy is falling apart? What about taking a photo of it, and then discarding it? Organizers suggest this all the time.

But if you wanted to go further, you could have a portrait made of that favorite toy. Jennifer Maher paints custom toy portraits, like the one above. [via Cool Mom Picks]

before and after - stuffed animal repair

Or you could have the doll or stuffed animal repaired; the Teddy Bear Hospital of Pittsburgh is just one of many places providing this service.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Before and After: More Closet Organizing, with Kittens

childrens' closet, before organizing

childrens' closet, after organizing

That's my closet? -- one of Stephanie's sons, looking at the "after"

Remember Stephanie (who knits some amazing jewelry) and her office closet make-over? Here's the next project we did: de-cluttering and organizing her boys' bedroom closet. Pretty dramatic change, huh? No wonder her son was shocked!

Here's what we did:

1. We removed the sliding doors that were very hard to move. No wonder the closet got out of control; it was a struggle to open the doors, even for an adult! Stephanie could stick with the no-door look, but she's also thinking about adding a curtain rod and some sort of curtain.

clothes, linens and toys that got removed during the decluttering

2. We de-cluttered. The photo above shows what got removed from the bedroom - and most of that had been in the closet or dresser. We got rid of the clothes the boys had outgrown, or just didn't like. (We donated them to a local thrift store, or gave them away to other people with small children.) We also got rid of the beat-up linens; they went to the local humane society.

3. We looked for the easiest possible storage possibilities for things that are used on a regular basis. With two boys sharing one dresser, not all the clothes fit in there, so we added a bin on the closet floor to handle one boy's undies and pajamas. That's easier than trying to fit them into those hanging sweater shelves; the younger boy couldn't even reach the top shelves!

Sweaters and jackets are hanging up for right now - hidden in the lower left - but hanging things up can be a hassle. So Stephanie was going to buy another bin to hold those items; you can see just where that bin will fit on the floor. (The jackets that are used all the time are stored on hooks by the front door.)

Another bin, tucked away in a corner, holds spare linens. Some sentimental quilts got stored on the top closet shelf.

kittens in hanging organizer

4. Again, we made do with the storage products we had. OK, Stephanie is going to buy two more big bins for the closet floor - one for the jackets and sweaters, and one to replace her laundry basket that is serving as a bin. But those are minimal purchases, and products that can get re-used in numerous ways over the years.

Stephanie would also like to have shelving built in on one side of the closet - a relatively inexpensive project - but for now, we made due with those hanging sweater shelves for storing miscellaneous smaller items: baseball caps, a belt, the Disneyland stuff.

organized toy baskets

5. We put like with like, in appropriately-sized containers. Things went so well with the closet that we carried on and decluttered and organized the top of the dresser, the bookshelves, and the toy bins. In the closet, you'll see a bucket that now holds small balls; they used to get buried in the larger toy bins. The bins above hold larger balls, including some that Stephanie knit. The toy chest holds a few larger items.

middle of the organizing project - a big mess

6. We didn't freak out at the mid-project mess. We'd pulled things out of the closet for sorting - so for the short-term, things looked worse, not better. But the end result made everyone happy!

Many thanks to Stephanie for agreeing to share her experience - and these photos - with all of you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disaster Preparedness of the Computer Type

Jeri Dansky, Professional Organizer web site, with universal 'no' symbol imposed on top

Have a contingency plan and know when to activate it.

I worked in an Information Technology department for many years, and this was one of our mantras. So it's been interesting to deal with contingency planning myself over the past two days.

Here's what those past two days have looked like for me, with approximate times:

Saturday, 6 p.m.
I came home from working with a client, went to my computer, and checked e-mail - and when no messages came in, I knew something was wrong. I went to my web site - and there was no web site! Horrors! But I could browse the web just fine.

So I called the company that hosted my web site, and was told there was a significant data center problem, but everything would be fixed by midnight. I wasn't happy - that would mean almost 11 hours of downtime, since the problem had started a bit after 1 p.m. - but I went to bed confident that all would be fine in the morning.

Sunday morning, 8 a.m.
Still no e-mail, no web site. Now I was told things should be fixed by 7 p.m. The phone support person did all he could do - he acknowledged the problems this extended downtime caused for me, and gave me the best information he had - but that didn't make the downtime situation any better.

Sunday morning, 8:30-noon:
No longer trusting the estimates, and unable to accept this extended downtime, I went searching for a new hosting company that met my requirements, which include around-the-clock phone support in the U.S. Fortunately, I already had some leads that I'd noted from prior reading.

Sunday noon:
I placed my order with my new hosting company.

Sunday, early afternoon:
I did all the technical work required to get my site moved and e-mail running again. Fortunately, I understood what needed to happen, and that went pretty smoothly. There was one glitch, but having a friend test my new site uncovered that one.

Sunday, 3 p.m.
My site came back up, at least for some users. E-mail started flowing again.

Sunday, 5:00 p.m.
My new hosting company sent me a welcome message on Twitter.

Sunday, 5:15 p.m.
My original hosting company provided updated information; service was now expected to be restored by 7 a.m. on Monday.

So what did I learn from my web site hassles? Being organized for such an eventuality really helps! Here are the basics of being prepared:

1. Have a plan.
I could have saved about four hours if I knew exactly what hosting company I would move to if mine ever had a catastrophic failure. But having some leads was much better than starting from scratch.

2. Review and modify the plan.
While I'll pick a "next in line" hosting company now, I know I need to review that decision periodically; companies change, for better and worse.

3. Know when to act on the plan.
While I hadn't put my decision criteria into words, I think I made some good choices here. I made the leap when:
- I no longer trusted the information coming from my old company.
- The probable downtime from staying put was long enough that the probable downtime associated with moving seemed like the lesser of the evils.

And these same lessons apply to other areas of our lives - which can be much more important then a web site problem. For example, I've had similar issues when one of my cats got sick on a holiday weekend. Where do I go when my vet is closed? When do I decide it's time to go, rather than wait for my normal vet to be open?

We know we need plans to deal with major issues - a fire, a serious earthquake or hurricane, a medical emergency. (We may not have those plans, but we're aware of the need!) But it's easy to overlook the more mundane blips in our lives, and make sure we're reasonably ready for them, too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Beautiful Bags for Your Dirty Laundry

polka dot laundry bag with a bow

Dirty laundry is usually kept in hampers, baskets or bags. If you're a laundry-bag type, this post is for you! Let's start out with the laundry bags made by Vintage Yum. Update on June 22, 2012: The Vintage Yum web site has disappeared.

landry bag, floral, rose colors

Pouch provides handmade bags made from vintage fabrics. Update on June 22, 2012: Pouch doesn't seem to make laundry bags any more.

laundry bag

Jennie20 makes laundry bags in 3 sizes, in a wide range of fabrics. Update on July 8, 2010: Jenni is moving her everyday size laundry bags (but not her travel-size laundry bags) to her new site: The Laundry Bag.) Update on June 22, 2012: Neither site has much in the way of laundry bags at this time.

hand wash laundry bag with sheep

Here's a fun bag for separating out any hand washables - made by Ulster Weavers, and also sold by Amy's Gifts. Update on June 22, 2012: This bag is no longer available.

laundry bag with removable stand - becomes a hamper

And finally, Flaura Design makes laundry bags with removable stands. Update on June 22, 2012: There's nothing in the Flaura Design Etsy shop right now.

Older Posts with More Wonderful Laundry Bags:
11 Alluring Laundry Bags
7 Striking Laundry Bags

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Out of the Closet: The Vacuum Cleaner I No Longer Own

In January 2009 I bought a new vacuum cleaner. I knew someone who had the same model, and she raved about it. The reviews (at that time) were pretty good.

But it was a problem from Day 1 - or rather, Day 2. The first time I used it, it worked fine. The second time I went to use it, it wouldn't power on.

Fine: It was under warranty. (I'd even bought the extended warranty.) I took it back - and found out it took six weeks to process a repair.

OK: I borrowed a neighbor's vacuum cleaner until mine got fixed.

I picked it up, brought it home, went to vacuum - and it wouldn't power on. And yes, the outlet was working just fine.

By this time, I was disgusted. I shoved the vacuum cleaner in the closet to deal with later.

But I never did. The thing to do would have been to take it back, right then, and ask for a refund. But for whatever reason, I didn't.

Fast forward to February 2010. I've since bought another vacuum cleaner that works fine, and has that well-made feel that the first vacuum cleaner never had. But that darn non-functioning one was still sitting in my closet. I saw it every day. It brought me down. So I decided it was time - OK, way past time - to deal with the silly thing.

I posted it on my local Freecycle, explaining it was non-functional but could be repaired under warranty, and many people were interested. But when I wrote on Twitter that I planned to just give it away on Freecycle to get it out of my life, someone wrote back and convinced me to try returning it.

I wrote to all the Freecycle people who had expressed an interest, and told them of my new plans. They were all very uderstanding, and cheered me on.

So today I took the vacuum cleaner back to the store. But customer service at the store was close to non-existent; it was hard to even find a sales clerk in the vacuum cleaner section, much less a manager. The only person who might have been able to make an exception to the normal return policy was not in the store today. If I wanted to pursue the return, I'd need to come back another time.

But I noticed another issue, more significant than the extra time I'd need to spend for a doubtful result: I didn't like who I became when I started dealing with the vacuum cleaner. Somehow it brought out the worst in me.

So I came home and gave the vacuum cleaner away on Freecycle, after all. A very nice person came and took it away, within hours of me writing to him.

And I feel wonderful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fabulous File Folders: Six Ways to Make Filing More Fun

file folder with fish picture

Hardly anyone enjoys filing - but would it be less repulsive if you had interesting file folders? How about these fish file folders from Waste Not Paper? Update on Sept. 19, 2011: I'm no longer finding these folders for sale.

file folder, green and white pattern

Whitney English has some interesting file folders; one place to buy them is Silver Papery. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: I'm now finding Whitney English file folders — two patterns, but not the one shown above — at Charming Cards.

blue floral file folders

Thomas Paul sells file folders in sets of nine - three each of three patterns. Some places to find them are Velocity Art and Design, Red Stamp, and See Jane Work. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: Thomas Paul has also stopped making file folders.

file folder with green and white pattern

Most of the Filex file folders don't do much for me, personally - but here's one I really do like. You can also find Filex file folders on the Cube-Star web site, and some of them (but not the one shown above) are at See Jane Work. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: See Jane Work no longer carries these products.

pink floral file folder

Caspari is another source of interesting file folders. Update on Oct. 8, 2012: I'm finding some Caspari folders for sale at Office Candy.

map file folders

And finally, over on Etsy, you can get map file folders from Donovan Beeson. Update on Sept. 19, 2011: These don't seem to be available any more.

Related Posts:
File Folders: Moving Beyond Manila
File Folders: Four More Eye-Catching Alternatives
File Folders: Declare That You Are Organized (or Not)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Organize and Display Your Jewelry with a Jewelry Mannequin

mannequin jewelry organizer

Jewelry mannequins were something totally new to me in 2007, when I first wrote about them. Now they're a familiar option - but the choices have changed over the years, so it's time for an update.

First, let's admire the mannequin jewelry organizers from YoungWorks; they're all hand-made. This one wears a Victorian-period style gown, but many different styles are available. Update on Oct. 18, 2011: I don't see an jewelry mannequins at this site any more.

butterfly lady jewelry mannequin

EchoMerx makes a wide range of jewelry stands. One of the more unusual options are the butterfly ladies, such as this one. Update on Feb. 9, 2011: The "jewelry stand" tab on the EchoMerx web site now takes me to JewelryNanny, which has the butterfly ladies.

jewellery mannequin

Over in the U.K., you can get jewellery mannequins from Home Interiors. Update on Oct. 18, 2011: This product line appears to have been discontinued.

2 jewelery mannequins, African-inspired look

Lady Sophisticate has some unusual mannequin jewelry organizers, including these African-inspired ones. Update on Oct. 18, 2011: Lady Sophisticate no longer carries these products, but I found them here.

dress frame jewelry holder

Finally, the dress frame jewelry holder is another, related choice. "Drape with jewelry or push earrings and pins into the foam/linen bust."

Related Post:
The Joy of Jewelry Mannequins

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Organizing Messages for Valentine's Day

candy hearts: Home filled with things I love - yes!

My friend Kat is working on a vision board; me, I'm sitting here creating inspirational candy hearts, ever since Margaret Lukens reminded me of the very neat candy hearts generator with her own productivity-focused hearts.

candy hearts: Love giving old things new homes.

The message above goes out to all my fellow Freecyclers - and everyone who finds good new homes for things they no longer need.

candy hearts: Gave old towels to SPCA today.

OK, I actually gave one towel and one bathroom rug to my friend Debbie, who took them to the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA when she went there to do her volunteer work. But that doesn't fit on the hearts.

Want to show some love to the dogs and cats in your local shelter? If you're not ready to adopt one, how about sending off any unused towels or blankets to the shelter?

candy hearts: Google means I need much less paper

Here's a reminder that I don't need to keep paper copies of information I can easily find on Google if and when I need it. (And the information I get that way will be more up-to-date, too.)

candy hearts: Who's that? Don't know? Delete photo!

And here's a reminder that not every photo is a keeper, either.

candy hearts: This year: taxes done before Apr 15

And finally, an affirmation for all of us (in the U.S.) who procrastinate about filling out our tax forms.

Anyone else want to play? Send me your photos, and I'll get them posted! Or post them somewhere else, and tell us about it in the comments!

Related Post:
Just For Fun: Organizing Messages in 36 Characters

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chinese New Year: Time to Declutter

Chinese New Year dragon

February 14 marks the beginning of Chinese (or Lunar) New Year 2010 - a holiday I've always associated with parades featuring lions and dragons, and with firecrackers, and with really good food. But there's also a distinct connection with decluttering.

Over on Life Coaches Blog, Alvin Soon explains the Chinese New Year's tradition this way:
It’s that time of the year again when we Chinese prepare for the Chinese New Year. ...

For days before the new year, we sweep out the house, wipe down corners that haven’t been seen for ages, throw out old stuff and buy new ones. It’s an old tradition to start off the new year with a clean house and new clothes, and there’s a Chinese saying that translates to; "if the old doesn’t go, the new doesn’t come."

If that isn’t reason enough to declutter, I don’t know what is!
And Stephanie Roberts explains the holiday preparations this way:
Traditional Chinese New Year celebrations focus on home and family, and on ensuring that the New Year will bring lots of good luck. Much of this activity centers on thorough house cleaning to clear out old energy and make way for the new. In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the New Year marks the start of Spring, so it's a good time for "spring cleaning" even if the weather is still wintry in your part of the world.

If you don't have time to clean and de-clutter your entire home before New Year, concentrate on your kitchen. A clean, food-filled kitchen is the center of family life and a symbol of health and prosperity, so it is especially auspicious for the New Year.
Finally, over on Slashfood, Sarah Gim suggests you make this the time to throw out your useless kitchen gadgets. Note added in reply to a comment I received in e-mail: Getting rid of useless (to you) kitchen gadgets is a fine idea - but please consider giving them away, not just tossing them out.

[photo by Paolo Camera, licensed under Creative Commons]

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Interesting Combination: Wall Stickers and Coat Hangers

coat hanger wall sticker

Hooks provide a super-easy way to hang up clothes. Combine some unobtrusive hooks or pegs with this "magic hanger" wall sticker, and you've got something pretty eye-catching! [via From Europe]

coat tree wall sticker

For a different look, there's this coat tree wall sticker.; besides the vinyl sticker, you also get the hardware to hang the coats and scarves from. [via Apartment Therapy]

Related Post:
Hang Your Coats from a Tree

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Person's Story: Moving and Decluttering

PODS storage container

This guest post comes from reader Lee in the Midwestern U.S.; she sent me an e-mail with this message, and then gave me permission to share it with all of you. I thought Lee's story might resonate with many other readers.

We just moved out of the house where we had lived since 1974. It was the home where we learned about renovating an old house. It was the home we brought our two babies to after they were born (they're now 31 and almost 26). It was in the neighborhood where we and our children made lifelong friends. And it contained almost everything we ever owned (excluding real trash, pet waste, etc.).

I had saved toys and baby clothes for our someday grandchildren. I wanted to be the grandmother who had Daddy's old toys to play with. By the time we were ready to move them, almost all of the plastic toys (Fisher Price, Little Tykes) had deteriorated so badly that they had to be thrown in the dumpster. Fortunately, the Legos - and surprisingly, the stuffed animals - survived. It saddens me to think of the joy I could have given a child by giving him or her one of the plastic toys when they were still usable.

I have five bottles of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner that you squirt under the bowl rim and four cans of Lysol cleaning foam. We only had two bathrooms. We had at least six pairs of Fiskars scissors and countless scissors of other brands. I think everything was so cluttered that we couldn't find something, so we just bought another "whatever."

We found lots of small pieces of glassware and other antiques in the basement. We didn't like them well enough to use them upstairs and couldn't remember whose relative's estate they were from or if they came from someone's garage sale. Really special, huh?

It took us months to move and we finally rented the biggest POD available and bagged the rest of the stuff and threw it in the POD. What an unnecessary expense.

I'm happy to report that the POD has been emptied and sent back, but the garage spaces are full of "stuff" and the cars are parked outside in the snow. We are trying to be very ruthless as we go through things.

Two things have helped me to be ruthless as opposed to my usual sentimental self. A friend who had just helped her parents move from a huge home on Long Island where they had raised their three daughters to an assisted living facility insisted that I read Peter Walsh's It's All Too Much. We rewrote his questions based on how we wanted to use the rooms in our new house and if something isn't needed in a room, we don't need it and it's "out."

Also, we got to know many missionaries who were coming off or preparing to go to the mission field. One woman, who had several children, talked about having to pare her family's possessions so they, along with the washer and dryer, would fit in a 10 foot square shipping crate. If I'm now having trouble deciding the fate of an object, I just ask myself if it would earn a spot in the crate.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 2010 Organizing Tips and More

nesting boxes for Valentine's Day

nesting boxes with crows

My February 2010 newsletter is now available.

Tip of the Month: The Many Reasons to Let Things Go

Organizing Products of the month: Two sets of nesting boxes

Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month: Old 35mm film cameras and related equipment

Also included: Organizing Quote of the Month and some Twitter tidbits