Friday, February 27, 2009

decluttering - tips & tricks

As promised last week, here are some tips for tackling the two most often cluttered areas in your home – closets and home offices. Take small bites. You can do it…and you’ll thank yourself later. I promise. Probably the very first time you are in a hurry, go looking for something, and you actually know right where it is!

Linen closets
This is a good place to start. Usually relatively small spaces and not too overwhelming a task.

Remove everything from the closet and sort into piles – according to use (towels, facecloths, hand towels / bedding, sheets, pillowcases / extra blankets…etc.).

Get rid of towels and linens that are stained or torn. These make great rags for the workshop, gardening shed or for cleaning up the aftermath of arts & crafts!

Fold towels neatly and stack them by size and color. This gives you a practical view of the contents.

Fold linens and stack them by the bed they are used for.

Hall closets
This is your guests’ first impression of the neatness to your home. It should only contain what is used on a daily basis and all clothes that do not belong there should not be stored there.

Leave empty hangers to hang guest coats.
Keep gloves, mitts, hats and scarves in a basket on the shelf.

Hang umbrellas on the bar or lay on the shelf.

Hang purses and bags on a hanger on the bar.

Boots and shoes should be the only thing on the closet floor. Place them on a rack or clean mat.

Bedroom closets
Don’t be afraid to clear out the clothes that you no longer wear. Bag them up and donate to any number of local charities.

Sort clothes and re-hang by category – shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, suits…etc – and by color. This makes choosing what to wear much easier!

Organized this way, you get a better handle on what you already have in your closet, so you avoid buying items you already have.

When you declutter or change clothes for the season, hang items on the rod with the hook turned backwards. Each time you wear an item, re-hang it facing forwards. After 6 to 8 months, cull out everything still facing backwards.

Use the one-to-one rule – for every item you purchase, get rid of something you have. This is an effective way to avoid an over-stuffed closet of unworn clothes. You will buy less, wear what you have, and save a startling amount of money.

Home office
A good filing system is key. Take time at the beginning to set this up in a way that works for you. You will increase efficiency and effectiveness. Neat, clean and accessible.

Unfortunately, you have to go through each piece of paper and decide to keep or toss.

(I know, I know...this stinks...and there are at least a million other things you can think of that would be less painful!)

Shred or throw out what you can toss.

Now decide where and how everything kept should be filed.

Not everything needs to be kept indefinitely. Check municipal and other government regulations to confirm how long certain documents (like tax records) need to be retained.

Many statement & bills are now also available on-line. Switch to electronic versions and be amazed how much paper you save.

It’s a good rule of thumb to keep all paid bills for a year, if you need to track annually. But credit card and other bills often don’t need to be saved once reconciled.

File insurance and medical records separately and keep for at least three years.

Use technology, such as a scanners, to help streamline files. Switch from paper to storing “soft” copies in well organized computer files.

Plastic storage boxes, baskets and similar storage solutions are readily available -- and better looking then ever! This is the best way to store items and keep them easily accessible.

One word of caution – don’t move the clutter from one room to another. You’ll never finish! Just remember, take small bites. Before you know it, you’ll be a de-cluttering expert. And keeping it up on a daily basis will be second nature.

Good luck!

Friday, February 20, 2009

decluttering – is it really worth it?

Let’s face it. “Decluttering” is not the sexiest part of a staging or redesign job. But I’d argue that it’s the most important. As far as staging goes, it can dramatically affect both the price and speed at which a house sells.

I recently read that “…an uncluttered home will help you achieve inner peace.” Wow. That’s a large, bold statement. Could it really be that easy to achieve inner peace? It made me giggle. Then, it made me think.

I’ll admit a cluttered space does make me crazy. Cluttered and cramped spaces do cause me some anxiety. I just want to clean and organize them. I can’t help myself. These spaces make my thoughts feel just as cluttered and cramped. I can ignore other people’s clutter to some extent, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also mentally organizing things around me when I find myself in such a space.

“Clutter” can be hard for home sellers to recognize. It can be as obvious as piles of newspapers, clothes, mail, files and magazines. But it can be photos, shoes, toys and dishes….the list goes on. It can also be an expensive collection of antiques or collectables.

Try to imagine what a potential buyer feels like when looking at a house that’s cluttered. They are not imagining themselves living in the space. Instead, they are distracted by, and focused on, the people who currently live in the space...and wondering what’s the story behind that collection of roosters?

They will likely leave your home feeling negative emotions that are daunting, overwhelming & consuming. They will identify your home as the one with the {insert item name here}, instead of the one with the {insert wonderful feature / strongest selling point here}. That’s it. You just blew your opportunity to make a good first impression. And first impressions are what will make or break you here.

Trust me, it has nothing to do with your decorating style or your taste. It’s not personal. As a home seller, you must remember that you are trying to sell the space, not your stuff. If a potential buyer can’t see past the things in your house, they certainly won’t be able to see and appreciate the space. And then you’ve lost them. This is why how you live in your home is completely different from how you stage your home for sale.

Let me say it again – this is why how you live in your home is completely different from how you stage your home.

Some say that your space is a reflection of your life. I whole-heartedly agree. It stands to reason then, if you are trying to sell your space, it should not reflect your life. Instead, it should reflect the life someone else could have in it.

Go on, be brutal in your quest to declutter your home. Let potential buyers be wowed by the space, the natural light, and all the wonderful details that they will want to own and enjoy for themselves. Pack up those treasures and safely store them while your house is on the market. You’re moving anyway, right?

Achieving inner peace? I’d say I’m a believer.

Be sure to read next week’s blog for room-by-room decluttering tips.

Friday, February 13, 2009

vintage gems

I spend a lot of time trolling around vintage, antique and second-hand stores. I have to admit, it’s not for the faint hearted. There is that smell…you know, musty. Musty like grandma’s attic. If you take the time to scout out some of these places, you get to know the ones that are well organized and clean. Even I have to be in the right mindset to go into the ones that are cross piled every which way, and seem to feature nothing but about 100 years of dust. Ew.

But here’s the thing. You can really find some wonderful gems. It’s true that “they just don’t make things like they used to.” Grandma has learned a few things in her days. You should listen to her. I like to think about the history and the stories that might be attached to each piece. My imagination soars!

This chair caught my eye because of the color and pattern of the upholstery fabric. Now, I am a more contemporary girl, no question. But a little something like this – after a good vacuum and a healthy spritz of Febreeze – has added a unique, vintage flavor to the bedroom. With the help of a modern throw cushion and a simple white cozy blanket thrown over one arm, I dare you to resist taking a moment to reflect here. All that for 50 bucks.

Another favorite find are these bedside lamps. They were found in an antique store while I was on vacation visiting some of my favorite people this summer. The shades were big, awful cone-shaped at both ends that had fake lace cording around the edge. You know the ones I mean, don't you? A good dusting and two black drum shades turned these into gems that add drama and romance to the still modern and contemporary space.

There a zillion examples of great finds. If you can get past the smell and embrace the experience, it will pay off for you over time. “Vintage” and “antique” don’t have to mean fancy and expensive. “Second-hand” and “used” don’t have to mean dirty and disgusting. If something speaks to you, keep an open mind, and find a creative use or space for it. Check to make sure the piece is sturdy, has no signs of pests (past or current – yikes!), and is/ can be cleaned.

Guaranteed you’ll have a story to go with it. Be very choosy. Grandma’s attic is probably not the ultimate look you want to go for.

Friday, February 6, 2009

big art in small spaces

I love big art in small spaces. It’s a fantastic way to make a huge impact in a room. And it’s an easy way to add personality into a small space that may otherwise go unnoticed. It gives that modern and contemporary feel I am always drawn to.

I discovered this painting at a friend’s place that was earmarked for the garbage (what? Are you kidding?). I rescued it and added it to the small wall in their entryway. What was once an unassuming (and necessary) spot by the door to dump your stuff, really draws your eye now. I think it welcomes you to the house with the pizzazz of those who live there.

Here’s a bedroom wall of a staging client of mine. It’s not the traditional focal point in the room. It’s an unexpected corner behind the door. As you enter the room, you see the bed and the beautiful vaulted ceiling and skylights. All key features important to highlight when selling a home. But once inside, with the door closed, you now see this small space and are drawn into the painting done by the client’s favorite artist. Moody and intimate, this is a small space that adds another layer to the tone and feel in the room.

Warning! Don’t go cramming lots of big things into lots of small spaces. Pick one small space and give it a try. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be your own work of art or that of an established artist to reflect your personality. It can be anything that speaks to you…a photograph, a wallpaper sample or beautiful paper, even your kid’s artwork.

Go on, use your imagination!