Category Archives: Tips and Articles

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.

Let’s Get Organized… One Bite at a Time

Welcome to January!! It’s National Get Organized Month and YOU’RE INVITED! Let us help you stow away your Christmas peacefully, organize your spice drawer simply, or tackle your hall closet with gusto. We also make great empathetic ears when you wade into an organization project with much enthusiasm only to have your happy thoughts blown to smithereens when it turns out to be a little more intense than you expected. We’re here for you. Seriously. No matter how big or small the project, we’ve got shoulders to cry on, products to rely on, and ideas to grow on for your Organized 2013.

 When it comes to organization, most of us are guilty of trying to eat projects the size of an elephant in a just a single bite.  Actually, we tend to do that with A LOT of things in January!!  We make lots of New Year’s Resolutions and try to tackle them all at once instead of understand that most change is gradual and giving our bodies time to adjust. 

 We think you’ll find that if you take your time, you can actually accomplish those goals you gave yourself, which would be an awfully nice change, wouldn’t it?  Using our simple calendar, we dare you to break things down into chewable pieces and challenge yourself to make organization a year-round habit, instead of a once-a-year fiasco.  So go ahead, learn yoga or French, give your vanity cabinet or silverware drawer or stern organizational smack-down, and give-a-go at that DIY headboard you’ve always thought about making.  Just try it… one… bite… at a time!

Below is a link to our PDF calendar WE use to keep calm, cool and collected and carry on with our own overwhelming organizational goals.  Feel free to download and use ours or make your own.  (I generally fill mine out in pencil because I like to move things around as I plan my year.  However, it’s also configured to work with Adobe so you can type your goals in making legibility or lostness no excuse for lack of accomplishment!)

 With that… Ladies and Gentlemen: start your Organization ENGINES!!!  (And remember, we’re just a phone call away!)

Organization Calendar 

 

Are you ready?

Fall is just around the corner and already our phone has started to ring with closet emergencies as teachers gear up to go back to school. I’ve seen this pattern every year. As the evenings grow shorter, it dawns upon us that summer is almost over. We need to get ready for the busy fall season. After Labor Day our schedules are insane and in just a few weeks, shorts and tees will be replaced with blazers and slacks. Don’t you want to revolutionize the way you get dressed?

Timely Tips for 2011

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love the beginning of the year. Now, don’t think me geeky but on January 1st, while many are recovering from carousing, I am organizing my calendar, switching files around and strategizing on how I can make the New Year better than the last one. Often, being organized is just about setting up the right systems that can be repeated. If I can save you just 6 minutes a day, you will have accumulated almost 40 hours to call your own by the end of the year. Here are my best tips to help you accomplish that:

1. What is your single biggest aggravation? Hate grocery shopping, bill paying or cleaning the bathroom? (Don’t tell us all of the above!) When there is a task you hate hanging over your head it impedes your ability to get anything else done, as you busy yourself with other nonsense in an attempt to avoid it. Worse yet, you do nothing while waiting to get in the mood to knock this job off. Solution? Assign it to someone else. Maybe you can trade one of their tasks for the one that eats at you. Let someone else do your grocery shopping from a list or pay your bills. Hire a cleaning person just to do the bathrooms if that’s what it takes. Your energy for the other jobs in your life will rise once the onerous task is removed from your list.

2. Don’t think you have to be Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker perfect. An orderly house is desirable but if you have 4 kids and a job, maybe something has to give. Make it easy for your kids to be neat. Children don’t like anything that takes more than one action to complete. Provide easy systems for them to use. For example, arguing about them hanging their coats in a closet is pointless. Put up hooks they can access easily and a basket they can toss hats and gloves into. Make that hook a double prong so they can hang up their backpack too.

3. Decide how much time each week you can devote to cleaning. For most of us, it’s not realistic to think that a whole day can be dedicated so break it up into hour long chunks and create a schedule. After all, you usually accomplish things that are scheduled. No reason why you can’t dust the family room while you are watching an hour of HGTV. Better yet, make a game of it for your kids. Hide nickels or dimes around the room and have them hunt for them while they are cleaning. You can get them into a lot of corners with this plan.

4. Run errands on a route. This may seem like Organizing 101 but it’s still worth mentioning. I rarely leave the house to complete one task. I leave this up to the guys. According to Marti Barletta, expert on marketing to women, men set their sights on one task at time. Send him for milk and that’s just what he’ll get. Send a woman for milk and on the way she’ll drop off the dry cleaning, return the pop bottles and stop at the post office. If you send your guy on an errand, give him a route. Keep track of those errands right at the back door with a message center.

5. Are you always looking for your keys or sifting through a mail pile. Why? What a waste of time. Spot these trouble spots during your day and create a place for everything- a real go-to spot. Key racks make total sense as do mail cubbies.

6. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about your kitchen junk drawer. Every kitchen has one. It’s another time waster. Why do you stand there sifting through it all when an inexpensive drawer organizer will reduce that to seconds?

7. You need our stair-step basket. Seriously. Load it up during your day and take everything upstairs in one run. Don’t even think about it. Just buy it. You won’t have a moment’s regret.

8. Set aside 1 hour the next time you are in a gift card store and buy your occasion cards for the year at one time. Honestly, you know your son’s birthday is coming up. It makes no difference that it’s in June. How many times have you stopped on your way to a wedding to pick up a card? Why, why, why? While you are in the store, also pick up a couple of sympathy, get well and blank cards for the events you don’t foresee. Once home, store them in a monthly dated binder or organizer specifically for cards so you can find them quickly. Ah….done.

9. Don’t put off until tomorrow something you can get done today. That needs no more description in my estimation. Procrastination is the biggest time waster of all.

10. On-line banking. I started this kicking and screaming but holy smoke, this is the biggest time saver of all time. You can even set up regularly monthly payments in advance if you like. I still like to decide when to pay things but it’s priceless to hit a button and have the payment go without having to address an envelope or get a stamp.

Now go, be organized and use that saved time to your advantage!

Happy New Year!

Judicious Back Hall Space

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Oh, if the back hall was really just for hats and gloves and jackets. While there is plenty of that, we can’t overlook the shoes, backpacks, camera equipment and dog leashes that we have there as well. How can we keep all of that from over-taking our lives?

1) Be judicious about paring down the gear between seasons. No need to look at your heaviest down jacket in May or your sandals in January. Keep off season garments in the basement or attic in a garment bag to avoid dust.

2) Depending on your space and personal style, there are several methods to contain shoes. Large baskets that you toss everything into are an easy fix but may not suit those who are more finicky. Shoe shelves project out 12” regardless of whether they are angled or straight. Allow 11” per pair of men’s shoes and 9” per pair of ladies shoes on a shelf. See tip #1 regarding paring down off – season shoes.

3) Hooks are obvious for backpacks but be sure they can hold the weight by installing them into studs or pre-mounting them on a board. Always choose a double hook so a jacket can hang over the backpack.

4) Locker systems are excellent long term organizers and shouldn’t be overlooked if space allows.Typically 12-16” deep for jackets and up to 24” deep with bench seating, a good custom closet company can build this for you. Find a professional at http://www.closets.org/.
When building a locker system, take advantage of your ceiling height by putting in cabinets above your head for items like camera equipment and picnic items. Lockers aren’t just for kids stuff either. They make a great landing place for mail, your purse, keys and all the other items that seem to collect at the back door.

5) A pleasant off-shoot of the locker system is the creation of an environment of accountability. It’s their space so they need to keep up with it. Loose items that are found around the house can be placed in the lockers where the kids can find it. It will help Mom with picking up every day.

6) If you have no room for lockers, then divide your wall into “lockers” by mounting a line of hooks for each member of the family. Add a shallow wall-mount basket above each row of hooks for hats and gloves. Make sure the hooks are high enough to allow something as long as snow pants to hang. Don’t worry about hanging all the hooks at the same height. Adult hooks can hang higher. The alternating heights will add visual interest.

7) Consider color coding your hook areas. A graphic that uses shapes and colors to identify zones adds visual interest.

8) Consider a mail center for the family. A mail center will turn the chaos called everyday mail into a manageable task. No more piles on the kitchen counter.

9) Consider converting an area in your basement to a coat room. Good lighting and flooring will make the space feel more inviting. Include a bench for putting boots on.

10) Consider lining the wall with a slatwall system or peg board. You can hang any array of hooks and baskets to take advantage of the entire wall. Because this items are adjustable, you can move all the hooks and baskets as your family grows. Slatwall systems have a wide array of accessory items that will organize everything that you own.

Top Ten Tips for Starting College Dorm Life

luggage stuffingWe won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be in college anymore, but we do know what it’s like to be a parent packing a kid off to college.

Here’s our best advice: Portability is the word!

1. It will be your inclination to buy inexpensive items that you won’t have to feel bad about if they break or disappear. That’s a fine perspective for some items but when it comes to storage, especially storage furniture, it would be helpful if you can easily take it apart and put it together time and time again like, for four years. Look for sturdy connecting hardware and quality material. When dorm days are done, it will move to his/her first apartment.

2. Buy items that are compact when they break down, so they can easily fit in the family wagon -along with everything else you’ll have to transport. Laundry hampers can be collapsible, for instance.

3. Watch the weight! It can be a long walk to the dorm room from the car; be aware of how heavy things are.

4. Don’t over pack. Life on campus is casual and storage space is very limited. Pack like you are taking a trip. Pack for seasons and switch clothes out when they return home for the holidays. Choose clothes that are multi-purpose and match well. Taking a sweater that goes with only one pair of pants is probably not the best decision here.

5. Most schools have very strict guidelines for use of appliances in the room. Read these carefully so you don’t wind up owning an extra toaster.

6. Shoes…watch your teen’s current habits. They might own 30 pair but are only wearing 5. There is little room for a big shoe wardrobe in a dorm. There are many shoe storage options to fit your space needs. A shoe rack that collapses or expands will be the best bet here. Consider a hanging shoe bag that holds up to 10 pairs or an under-bed shoe bag that holds 12. If your teen is like ours, you may want to consider a basket that they can just toss everything into. The easier, the better for a teen.

7. Nearly all the clothes they take will be short hanging. Buy a closet doubler that requires no tools to install to instantly increase the available hanging space.

8. Because portability is the word, items like cups and silverware may disappear so don’t spend much money here. Choose cups and bowls that stack and nest tightly. Not only will they be easier to store, they’ll pack better. Melamine is lightweight and indestructible but often can’t be put in the microwave. Read the back. A product like Corelle would be a better choice.

9. If your teen will be in an apartment or quad that allows cooking, look for multipurpose tools and cooking implements that collapse. We have put a focus on those products in our kitchen category.

10. And finally, remember that college is an adventure. It’s tough to know EVERYTHING they may need. That’s why we have our online store and Fedex! So relax and enjoy the trip!

Gathering Ideas From a Tour of Homes

perlick-double-drawer-freezerWe never think we know it all. We are always out there looking at what others are doing which is why we hit the Lewiston, NY Tour of Kitchens this weekend. This is not an ordinary event. The kitchens, main floor and gardens of 8 homes were open to the public. Restaurants offering food and wine tastings at each location made for a full afternoon. We saw some fabulous interiors and jaw-dropping views over the Niagara River. More importantly, we picked up a great tip in the kitchen design arena. Standard refrigerator/freezers often don’t provide enough of either space. Try installing a full refrigerator unit and put separate freezer drawers elsewhere in the kitchen. This substantially increases the amount of cooling space you have and eats up very little cabinet space. Genious.

What Kind Of Closet System Should You Buy?

If you are thinking about purchasing a closet organizer, how do you choose from the myriad of options? There are non-adjustable wire systems, adjustable track systems and what we call, full board systems (systems that are all melamine with partition panels that are drilled for adjustability). Here are some tips to help you choose:

1) Wire shelving is durable and inexpensive. It’s a good solution for rarely used closets or very basic plans. If installed to stud, it will support up to 75 pounds per foot. It’s readily available and can add extra space to any closet. Here’s the pitfall- the bottom garment on a wire shelf will always pick up the pattern of the grid. In a pantry, any appliance that has feet may get tangled beteween the wires. Lastly, wire is very hard on the binding of books. In some areas, adjustability may be worth paying for making the inexpensive appeal of this product, less attractive.

2) Track systems come with wire or wood shelves. Completely adjustable, these systems deliver a lot of function and are the easiest to install for the do-it-yourselfer. They are very weight tolerant as long as you don’t place your tracks more than 36″ apart. The pitfall- it has no partitions which can leave you feeling like things might fall off the sides of the shelves. These systems are particularly cost effective when you are creating wide sections of hanging. The Schulte Freedom Rail track system we sell at Creative Storage has drawer and shoe boxes that hang off the adjustable track, increasing it’s effectiveness. This system will manage more shoes in less space that a wire system. One of the best features of a track systems is that the shelving is pushed off the wall by 1 1/4″ allowing you to span a window or access panel with your system.

 3) Full board systems are more expensive than the other products but they have the most features too- adjustability, solid surface for small items, partitions that create cubbies and the unique ability to look like furniture, not just shelving. Once you have determined function, a board system goes a long way towards making your closet pretty with the addition of crown moldings and decorative drawer fronts and doors for example. These systems will be the most efficient at storing large quantities of shoes and have the most flexibility when it comes to adapting to the style of your home whether it’s contemporary or traditional. In a pantry, the partitions that are part of a board system allow you to store cleaning products next to noodles with comfort. The pitfall- these systems must sit flush to the wall so any existing cleat or wall defect must be dealt with prior to installation. Also, of all the systems, this can be the most difficult to install as it is very parts intensive and must be completely level to look good. Lastly, be aware that the expense is indicative of the time it takes to deliver a well-designed, well-built and well installed system. A bargain when purchasing this usually translates to less product, less features or less customization, none of which may be obvious when comparing drawings. Ask a lot of questions when comparing features.

So there you have it. Hopefully, when you go shopping for your closet, you will have a better idea of what you want.

Shopping for architectural salvage

I fell across the most wonderful website for architectural parts and I thought I would share. Located in Rochester NY, the actual store is just as wonderful as the website. At Historic House Parts, everything is organized, tagged and priced. So many places that do this throw things into barrels and make you rummage for what you want. While the treasure hunt can be fun, it can also be time consuming. It’s clear they love what they do as they really respect their merchandise. The staff is readily available and very knowledgeable but all this came after I found them on the web looking for something in particular. Everything on their site is photographed meticulously and if there is a flaw, there are multiple photographs. Thanks for not trying to fool us. There are pages and pages of hardware and bath accessories but even so, if you can’t find something, don’t assume they don’t have it as things come in every day. A call to Cindy Hunt in their office yielded a quick picture of something I needed that was not on the site. Oh, and they have a great selection of reproduction hardware too. So there you have it. Visit Historic House Parts in person or on the web if you need something to complete your vintage project.