Category Archives: Tips and Articles

10 Things You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less

Things You Can Do in 2 Minutes or Less

The little things in life that constantly pile up around us at home are often more stressful than the big projects waiting for us back at work. Think about it. When was the last time you felt like melting down while cooking dinner over a spreadsheet you have due next week? Or was it finding yet another glass on the side table beside the couch that did it? I’m guessing it was the glass. Or the socks on the floor. Or the muddy footprints through the laundry room. Or, or, or…

There are plenty of lists out there and plenty of life coaches who advocate to just DO something if it’s fast and easy. You’ll spend more time writing these things down on a list than you will just doing them. We agree, and these are our favorite things to accomplish in our 2 minutes!

  1. Make your bed and check off the first thing on your to-do listMake your bed – This may actually take you less than a minute! And there’s more to it than just the amazing feeling of sliding between crisp sheets every night – making your bed prevents all sorts of dust and dirt and debris from settling on an unmade bed. Which means you can go longer between washes. Which means you’ll be doing a little bit more to save the planet.   AND… it will help you get your day jump started, because within moments of rising, you’ll be able to go ahead and check something off your list! Admiral William McRaven gave a great talk which you can find on YouTube about how you can “Change the World by Making Your Bed” – check it out!
  2. Collect stray dirty dishes and gather them in the sink – No one likes getting the dishes finished only to turn around and find a few more glasses on the countertop. (This is a good little two-minute-task to delegate to kids as well… “Dinner is almost ready! Scour the house for extra dishes, then come wash up!”
  3. Drink a glass of water – Honestly, you’re probablDrink a glass of water to restart your brainy drinking enough already. Wondering how much is enough? Sports dietitian Dana Angelo White, who is also an assistant clinical professor at Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Conn. says: “I often recommend half your weight in ounces as a starting point. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of fluid per day, and more if you exercise regularly.” So grab a wee glass next time you’re floundering through the kitchen feeling at loose ends. Maybe a shot of hydration will refresh your mind and giveDIY recipe squirt bottle you enough of a break to carry on.
  4. Wipe off your bathroom mirror – If you share yours with your kids like we do, there’s no end to the white spots and streaks that quickly gather on the surface. Keep cleaner nearby where you can spritz, wipe, and go. Next time you pop into the bathroom, life will be more sparkly and you’ll feel accomplished and on top of domestic menutia.
  5. Go through the stack of mail on your counter and THROW AWAY all the junThrow away your junk mail!k! Seriously. You’re not missing anything by not even opening it up. Save yourself the few moments of grief. Recycle the paper and spend the saved time inventorying your wine stash instead.
  6. Add an item to your Amazon list – how often have you heard about something in passing or thought of something while cooking dinner that you would like to have one day, or know you might need soon? Set up Amazon wish lists so that when these thoughts occur, you can add the items on the go. It will save you the trouble of beating your head in later when you can’t rememSwedish Dish Cloths are the answer to paper towels, sponges, and more!ber that “brilliant” idea. With online grocery shopping gaining in possibility and popularity, soon your groceries will be magically appearing on your doorstep… make ordering a snap by adding things as you think of them!
  7. Wipe down your countertops – we’ve expounded on the awesomeness of Swedish Dish Cloths before, and we’re SERIOUS! Having a dishcloth handy makes wiping down kitchen appliances and countertops easy, fun, beautiful, and FAST!
  8. Dust bust under your kitchen cabinets – dust busters are my #1 tool for sanity in child-rearing! All those tiny messes add up, especially at meal time. I keep my dust buster charged and tucked just underneath a rolling shelf beside my fridge where I can easily suck up life’s little, and continual, disasters.
  9. Refill the sink dispenser (a good chore to delegate!) – Soap getting low? Fill ‘er up! Kids ages 3 and up can help, and tend to enjoy this task. Conveniently, it also gets their hands clean before dinner…
  10. Take out the trash (another good delegation chore) – Especially the little bags in the bathrooms, offices and laundry rooms. Grab one a day and “trash day” will become much less chaotic!

Bonus: prep tomorrow’s coffee pot. I don’t know about you, but I definitely need fuel. And        there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and NOT being able to just push a button. So prep your next pot while you’re waiting for water to boil or chatting on the phone. It’s quick and easy to do even while distracted. You’ll thank yourself later!

What else can you do in two minutes or less? We’d love to hear about what you do to tackle procrastination and slam through your to-do lists!

 

Wishy-Washy Laundries ..a thing of the past

We have always mourned the lack of respect the  hardworking laundry gets despite being one of the most used areas of the house.  Often allocated little space, it’s as if it was a last minute thought. Most people will agree that a well appointed laundry is a pleasure to work in. Accessible cabinetry boosts the function up to utility room status where everything from light bulbs to hand tools can be squirreled away.

Laundry

Look up, look down, look all around for unused space….

drying line, Lofti, laundry drying rack

…behind a door where we found space for storing hangers used for hang-drying. This could easily be mop and broom holders also. Adjust your door stop so the hooks don’t hit the back of the door.

Hanger storage

…or like this drying rack that drops from the ceiling.

It’s hard to visualize where everything should go so utilize some professional expertise so you don’t waste any space. Our friends at Ironaway did a pretty good job with this project. Having the ironing board tuck away easily makes life so much easier. Good lighting makes up for the lack of a window. This project incorporates craft space which makes total sense.

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A pullout table can be hidden in drawer space, at your finger tips when you need it not only for your machine but also wrapping gifts or laying out a project.

Sewing room, craft room, pullout sewing table, pullout table

Divide at least one drawer for sewing supplies. Easily replace a missing button or tack a pesky loose hem which always seem to come loose in the dryer.

drawer dividers, sewing organizer,

At the very least, arm yourself with a simple sewing kit

sewing kit, mending, button

Small gadgets like the Neatfold can really add to your efficiency. This easy to install tool acts like a second pair of hands for folding sheets.

laundry folding, sheet folding, laundry tools

The perfect laundry accessory

Don’t forget necessary functions like sorting…

laundry hamper, laundry sortinglaundry hamper….and flat drying

laundry drying rack

Folds flat to the wall when not in use

…and perhaps a spot for hanging, even if you don’t have the space for a rod.

laundry hanging, hanging bar, laundry drying

Now you see it, now you don’t!

Lastly, you can consider this compact, do everything, laundry centerfolding laundry center, folding ironing board

So now you can see how your laundry, small or large, can really add value to your life. Go forth and make it as powerful as your high efficiency washing machine!

Chef’s Center

Fall is such a spectacular season which for many of us, culminates in that culinary holiday of all holidays, Thanksgiving!  Oh, how delicious it is!  All the things we love most about September, October and November: the warm colors, the crisp smells, perfect sunny days blended with moody, inspirational hours in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a book on our e-reader… every moment of existence has the potential to be extraordinary and filled with wonder as leaves drift to the ground and dance across the sidewalk, swirling around your bicycle tires!

Too much?

I can’t help myself! All the gardening, harvesting, canning and stashing culminates on the week of Thanksgiving — recipes are strewn about my counters, smudged with egg and dusted with spices; pies begin to fill my cooling racks; every measuring cup sports remnants of flour or sugar — it’s just so magnificent that I can’t help but burst forth with eloquence!

(I live in a house full of men and they’re all very annoyed by it at this point so I’m afraid I’m taking it out on all of you, now!)

And in  less than a month, we’ll do it all over again when we get together to feast at Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but I actually tried quite a few recipes that I had found on Pinterest last week.  And when trying a new recipe, I go back to read that recipe over, and over, and over again. Easier said than done I found, when the recipe was on a tablet and I was covered in many miscellaneous baking ingredients!

Between now and Christmas, I will hopefully acquire one of these which would have protected my kindle from my disastrous counter, (I’m a horribly messy cook!) but without taking up any more counter space than my kindle already did! And it would have made referencing the recipe much, much easier! Chef's Center

 

The pull out chart of weights and measures would have been really handy too — I referenced the Google Machine more than once last Thursday!! — and it would be unthinkable for me to add something to my kitchen gadget toolbox that didn’t store so easily, as this stand most definitely does!

 

How about you?  What will you do differently come Christmas Feasting? Or what was your favorite recipe? In another month, I’ll need a new collection of things to try!  Come find me on Pinterest to see what I tackled in my kitchen! https://www.pinterest.com/mcelf/

 

Let the Sun Shed some Light!

Sunlight has the power to 100% deodorize and fight the nastiest stains your laundry room can conjure.

Everything is better when it’s sun-dried! Despite the booming chemical industry, the sunlight is still the #1 best odor and stain fighting tool in our laundry room.

Do you have a stain that just won’t come out? Like, perhaps, something wet snuck into the middle of your laundry pile and *gasp!* some mold grew? Nasty black mold? It may take a few days, but sunlight will do it.

Cloth Diapering Mommas have tested the power of the sun

Test Diapers

For instance, what could possibly get smellier or more stained than a cloth diaper? We have spoken with cloth diapering momma’s who have tested and fully approve of the sun’s powers. If the remnants of explosive baby bums can be freshened via sun-power, then I’m willing to guarantee they can take whatever else you can throw at them!

The best part of many of the models we offer is that even if your neighborhood has outlawed the use of clotheslines (we know, ridiculous rules!!) you can choose among many a folding, collapsing or tripod models which set up quickly on your back deck and can then be safely stowed before the nosy police arrive with their smelly indoor knickers in a knot.

The Gullwing Dryer: http://morestorage.com/gullwing-air-dryer-p-1407.html

The Gullwing Dryer: http://morestorage.com/gullwing-air-dryer-p-1407.html

If you don’t live in a climate that’s sunny and warm all year round, squeeze those last deodorizing drops out of the sun this fall with any of our favorite clotheslines or dryers – just GET THOSE LINENS OUTSIDE for a blast of fresh air!

Do you use the sunshine to bring the ultimate in freshness to your favorite garments?  What do you look for in your ideal drying racks and clotheslines?

A Word About Quality

If I told you that this cutting board is 36 years old would you believe me? I bought it when living in Germany. It was the right size, made of the right wood and the price…not the cheapest but also, not the most expensive. It’s going to last me another 36 years I think as it still looks and performs pretty much like new. I have history with this little board. It sat beneath the chopped Thanksgiving mushrooms in 1978, an apple for my 4 year old in 1981 and under chicken for soup when my favorite aunt died in 1996. I use it nearly every single day and there is no replacement for the simple pleasure of slipping it beneath the blade of my knife.

0202142108a cutting board 2

I have long preferred to buy something once and buy it well. I’m convinced that this has saved me a LOT of money over the years. Am I occasionally tempted by cheap price? Sure. I have learned to look a little deeper into my purchases though. Some expensive things are just about the label. Some cheap things are simply made to be disposable and that’s ok if you’re buying paper plates and napkins. There are no hard and fast rules. What I do know is this- don’t let your eye drop to the bottom line price and let that be your driving decision to buy. Most importantly, will it give you lasting pleasure because it was made well? Consider the service provided. Look at the durability of the materials. And lastly, ask yourself how long you expect the purchase to last you. One year? 5 years? Twenty years?  Make your purchase accordingly and don’t expect to pay paper plate price for something you want to last like stainless steel.

An inch matters

There’s nothing better than having something fit perfectly when you are trying to maximize space. Whether it’s for a base cabinet rollout or a whole wall unit, measuring exactly is important. So, how is it that often things come back because they didn’t fit?

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You can’t use a wiggly piece of string or stretchy fabric tape when measuring for cabinet things. You need a real tape measure. Look up, down and all around…watching for pipes at the back of the sink cabinet or vents on a wall or how about that pesky window sill that protrudes 1-1/2″ past the window frame. All of sudden..oops! That wall unit doesn’t make it. Watch for wall switches, outlets and ceiling lights. In a cabinet, allow for door hinges and the sink drain. To make your life infinitely easier and keep peace in the house, choose cabinet inserts that screw to the base of the cabinet so you don’t have to shim them out to avoid the cabinet frame.

We know our contractor friends would NEVER intentionally make an a wall crooked. Nevertheless, walls are seldom square so measure above your head and 14″ from the floor as well as in the middle if you are placing something between two walls. Measure out from the wall about 16″ as well to be sure the opening doesn’t toe in or out.

Don’t think I haven’t made these mistakes because, sadly and regrettably, I have. I want to spare you the pain and prepare you for the eventuality that if you are cursory in your measurements in the beginning, you’ll pay the piper at the end.

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So What About Clutter?

I’d like to say a few words about clutter. I worked in my kitchen today and looked for a small tool, not often used, called a bean slicer. My mother tucked it into my Christmas stocking some 25 years ago and there is nothing else like it. It does one job and one job only- slices beans into french cut. It’s invaluable for those gardeners who inadvertently allow their harvest to over-mature yielding big, heavy, woody beans. The result is tender, succulent green beans that you might have otherwise considered tossing out.

Professional organizers will tell you that you should throw out anything you haven’t used in a year. If that were true, my little bean slicer would be long gone. The fact is, I don’t grow green beans every year but when I do, I’m one of those people who gets busy and all of a sudden my green beans look like something from Jurassic Park. I would be lost without my slicer.

I’m a little tired of this new “minimalist” attitude where we are made to feel guilty if we keep things on hand that we don’t use routinely. Now, it’s true that women with 100 pairs of shoes only wear about 20 of them on a regular basis. It’s also true that we get sentimental about things and find it hard to let them go. But part of my job as a manufacturer of storage systems is to help you find the space to keep the things that you do use, even if infrequently. I don’t want you to have to rid yourself of everything that you ever bought, loved or valued just because you didn’t use it in the last 365 days. Tomorrow, you’ll be looking for it and I’m sure I can find the space and make a perfect spot for it so when you need it, you can find it.

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Back to School Organizers (for Theoretically Organized College Students)

As your superstars head off to the dormitories, we’d feel left out not to chime in ourselves with some Back to School 2¢.  So here below, we’ve got 5 products, some obvious, some not so obvious, that may give you the momentary hope that your freshmen will weather the wrinkled rigors and survive their year the orderly bedside caddyabandon that only an underclassman can ever pull off.

6 POCKET POLYESTER BEDSIDE STORAGE CADDY

Bedside storage space is practically nonexistent in those cramped little dormitories.  I mean, there isn’t exactly room for an nightstand with drawers and shelves – it’s usually elbow to elbow desks, laptops and smelly shoes.  So tuck a little serenity between the sheets so that your student can relax and study up on a wee bit of Cosmo before getting a good night’s rest!

HMP-03542-2_2BRIGHT LAUNDRY TOTE

Unless your “young adult” is an established laundry A-lister, chances are, you’re concerned about failing grades due to the noxious gases those clothes will be emitting by week 5 of classes.  We recommend not skimping in any way on products that might encourage your teen to spend a few timely minutes in the washroom.  Lightweight, durable, easy to carry and brightly colored, this tote will be an in-their face reminder that dirty duds and necessary suds await.

lg_H12001CLUTTERBUSTER VALET HINGE-IT

Do you remember where your wet towels dried in your dormitory days?  Properly sopping wet on your bed.  Most rooms don’t exactly come with generous portions of towel racks.  And if your student has long locks and extra towel needs?  Well.  We can pretty much guarantee that the space they may have been given is fairly insufficient.  Attaching to the top and bottom hinges of most standard doors, this hanging system offers 4 bars that transform unused space into 6′ of functional storage paradise. A perfect piece to travel with them year after year.  And then into their first apartment.  Maybe even their first home, years down the road.

crt-01512

ROLLING OFFICE CART

Standard issue college desks are… how can we say this nicely?? Not always ideal on usable storage space.  Especially as new dormitories move towards slimline, utilitarian units, you may be at a loss to help your nervous student find a place for pencils AND paperclips.  Help them maximize on limited space, keep track of important accessories, and start learning the importance of filing, all in one rolling swoop.

BRD-01350_500pxOVER THE DOOR IRONING BOARD

Even we admit to some disbelief here.

However.

On the off-chance they decide to look 100% presentable for that presentation? We think the chances of them deciding to go the extra mile may well be determined by how easy that ironing board is to access.  And hanging right there on the back of the door, access is undeniably easy.

So go forth our young Jedi’s.  May the Force of Organization be with you.

Think Ahead

Life is about stages, isn’t it. This is not a question. It’s a statement. At each stage our interests are piqued and driven by events around us. What was a focus at 25 is likely not a focus at 50. Sometimes we give something up to make room for more pressing issues and then come back to it years later. Sometimes we never come back to it at all. Maybe it was a trend or perhaps we just lost interest. For me, sewing is a good example. At one point, I sewed clothing and pajamas for my children because I found nothing warm and cozy about flame retardant fabrics regardless of what the ads said. My head is in a different place now. I rarely sew anything of consequence. I’m more of a mender. The machine is there, just not up front and center.

This is why adding flexibility to your storage system is so important. It’s also an example of why a good designer can add value to your design process. Their exposure to the various stages of life through their own customer base is invaluable. They can envision how the space may be used years later and guide you to making choices that will add longevity to it’s value.

I will never sew as I did. My children are gone and I don’t have the time at home anymore but my sewing area still functions for gift-wrapping and craft projects that engage me so much more now. I’m glad I didn’t build a sewing center that was so dedicated to the one hobby that it limited my use later. May the projects begin!

Closets are Like Broccoli

January can be an exciting month: you’re motivated to start projects, learn something new, change something about yourself.  For some reason, the New Year brings us new motivation.  That initial excitement can wane somewhat when we find ourselves ¾ of the way through our shoe collection and out of storage space with not a millimeter of options left.  Or when you thought Rosetta Stone was just $400 to learn French… and it turns out to be just level one… and there are three levels after.  New Year’s is like a sugar rush and reality is just waiting in the wings to swoop in a crush us.  By the end of January, most of us will already have given up on our New Years Resolutions.

I know that isn’t nearly as apocalyptic as say, world hunger.  But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could throttle that energy we spring into the new year with and at least make it to March???

So, I was reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and he points out that “the principle of organization is built into nature…”  And he is so right.  This is something I already knew but Pressfield’s reminder in the context of creativity was powerful and inspirational.  We’re trying to organize our world the same way heirloom broccoli grows:

There is a geometry to art and life which we can feel in our bones and whether we realize it or not, we want our homes to reflect that same sense of peace and order.

AND WE SHOULD.

There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with organizing your desk, your calendar, your life.  It’s not so much that you miraculously become more efficient.  You do.  But to go deeper than that, it’s your bones sighing in relief that you know exactly where your keys are.  When you need to write something down, you didn’t have to tear through papers to find a pen.  Your scarf pulled off of its hanger without a single extra crease or crinkle.  Getting dressed was a JOY this morning.  And all these little joys make it easier to smile, easier to relax, easier to accomplish your mission, whatever that may be.  Miracle?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Hard work?  Most certainly.

Organizing your closet is really no different from painting a picture, taking a photograph, creating a sculpture, writing a book… let’s use the book.  We can draw PERFECT parallel’s there.  No one sites down to write a book in a single sitting.  It’s a habit.  A writer sits down at their typewriter every day for hours so that they’re ready when the perfect words are flowing.  They walk around editing in their head.  Getting your closet, desk, craft area organized is just the same.  It’s a habit that we form which we follow every day.  And we never tackle the whole thing at once – just like a writer could never write a novel all in one sitting.  We will start with shoes, move on to purses, then blouses, pants, scarves, belts etc.  This is normal, this is okay.  

Just because you get a brand new closet doesn’t mean it will be perfectly organized overnight.  But you will find your rhythm, your geometry with just a little bit of time and a wee bit o’ habit.

Organization is an art form.  Approach it like the creative endeavor that it is and give it the time and patience it requires and you are sure to be rewarded with beautiful broccoli  growing in your closet garden.