Thursday, August 27, 2009

size it up!

Have you ever found yourself asking….”is this hung too high?” or “should the legs of the chair or sofa touch the edge of the rug?” or “does this chandelier look funny?” How about…”do these pants make my butt look big?”

Well, I can’t answer that last one for you, but here are a couple of staging tricks and guidelines that will steer you in the right direction for those other pesky questions.

Area rugs: use a rug to ground or define a space. Most people buy their rugs too small. A typical sofa and chair or loveseat configuration works best with a 5 ft. x 8 ft. rug.

If you are creating a conversation area, have all front legs of your furniture sitting on the rug by at least an inch.

If you decide to use a rug under your table and chairs (not recommended if you have nice floors), look for one that is 24 to 30 inches wider than the table and chairs.

If you are putting down one big rug in a room to cover most of the floor, leave 25 to 36 inches between the edges of the rug and the walls.

Artwork and photographs: ground your art to furniture pieces. Place the bottom edge of the artwork 4 to 6 inches above the surface or the back of the furniture.

If the art is alone on the wall, hang it 54 inches from the floor to the centre of the art piece. This is a comfortable eye-level for most people.

Chandeliers: to hang a chandelier in an entry way, measure the height of the space from floor to ceiling. The chandelier should hang down 3 inches per foot of the height. For example, if the height is 12 feet, the bottom of the chandelier should hang down 36 inches from the ceiling.

If you are hanging a chandelier in a dining room, the bottom should hang anywhere between 30 to 42 inches above the table top.

Hanging curtains: be sure to place the brackets a couple of inches on the outside and a couple of inches above the moldings around the window. When the curtains are pulled back, you don’t want them to obstruct the view or the light. When they are closed, you want a nice clean line that covers the top of the window & molding.

Never, ever screw anything to the face of the moldings. It looks bad and it’s much easier to repair the wall where the brackets were, then trying to repair damage to the face of molding surrounding the windows. (Of course, hanging window treatments -- like blinds made to fit -- on the inside of the window is fine.)

If you want a window to look bigger, mount the curtain brackets well beyond the edges and the top of the window and make sure your curtains are large enough to cover the entire space when closed.

Miscellaneous tidbits: if traffic flows around a table, make sure you have at least 48 inches between the edge of the table and other furniture or walls.

Be aware of what’s being reflected in your mirror. Put it where you are reflecting greenery, light, the outside view, a backyard or garden. Rethink it if you reflect the ceiling, wall, closet...etc.

As for the pants question, well…I know there is a theory about what the back pockets are like and where they hit you, but I'm never so sure... that’s why I’m mostly a “dress and skirts” girl!

Friday, August 21, 2009

99 low cost organizing tips (part two)

{Note: As promised, here are tips #51 to 99. For tips #1 to 50, check out last week's blog. Remember...start small and try out one or two tips at a time!}

by: Claire Smith, newsletter (july 20 issue)

51 Don’t limit closet storage to hangers. Hang hooks on the door for frequently used items.

52 Tackle that kitchen junk drawer problem head on. Today. Purge, edit and keep things in place with a drawer organizer.

53 Are you a piler, not filer? That’s fine, just keep piles of paperwork organized by using folders and write-on clips.

54 Recycle leftover gift-wrap ribbons by using them to tie up extra electrical and other cords in your utility closet.

55 Dedicated tie, belt and scarf holders are closet must-haves.

56 Upgrade your address book for a classic Rolodex. They’re retro-chic and easy to keep updated.

57 Buy a framed corkboard, hang it in the kitchen and pin up favourite recipes, clipped from magazines.

58 Make space by putting your CDs in organizers, by genre. Recycle the jewel cases or put them into storage in the attic.

59 Or, purge your CD clutter once and for all by having your CDs converted to digital files at Sell or donate the used CDs.

60 Buy a hotel-style hairdryer that can be installed on the wall to save space, time and energy in a small bathroom.

61 A pot-lid holder puts the vertical space behind a cabinet door to good use.

62 A wrap-organizer does the same, creating the perfect spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and waxed paper.
63 Organize vanity essentials on a vintage tray. Très organized and très chic.

64 Use an extra wine rack to hold rolled-up magazines.

65 Use cutlery trays in your drawers, but to save even more time, stash everyday flatware in a countertop caddy.

66 Shrink-wrap out of season clothes, blankets and duvets to save space while storing.

67 You’ll never fit sheets back into those reusable vinyl zip pouches they were sold in, but you can stash cloth napkins in them. Use one pouch per set and label the quantity with a Sharpie.

68 Buy 10 pairs of the same gym socks, to minimize sorting.

69 Do the same for your hubby.

70 Do the same for his dress socks if he can get away with always wearing the same black ones during fall/winter at least.

71 Stash kids’ art supplies on a lazy Susan so everything is easily accessible.

72 Organize household bills in an accordion file with month-by-month pockets.

73 Hold onto paint chips, fabric swatches and brochures from your last redecorating session. You never know when you’ll need to reference them. Store them in an accordion file.

74 On your mudroom wall, hammer in two nails, then string wire between them. Provide clothes pegs and have your kids hang their wet mittens and gloves to dry overnight.

75 Banish tiny piles of coins and start saving in style. Get a designer piggy bank and keep it by the entranceway, laundry or kitchen—wherever you’d like to dump your change.

76 Tired of that circa-90s cast-iron pot rack? Move it from the kitchen to the garage or potting shed and use it to keep garden tools organized.

77 Get – and use – a garden hose caddy.

78 Edit your hangers. Choose: wire, plastic or wood and unify the hangers in every closet.

79 Use pillboxes to stash your earrings and rings when traveling.

80 Use a soda-can dispenser in the fridge so you can access your pop easily without tipping.

81 Use a wall-mounted broom and mop holder, or tie ribbon loops on the end of poles and hang them from hooks in your closet, garage or utility closet.

82 Make a party kit. Stash napkins, extra glassware and plates, votive candles and holders, extra vases, cocktail picks and other necessities in an old wine crate and pull it out pre-party or pre-holiday entertaining so you don’t waste valuable cupboard space.

83 Use a binder to store all medical records and information for everyone in your family, including each pet. Use dividers for each family member and include plastic pouches or expandable pockets to contain receipts and tiny record cards.

84 Stash awkward, easy-to-misplace necessities (extra hairbrushes, lint roller) in decorative reusable tote bags. Hang them off a doorknob in every room.

85 Burn digital images to CD once a month so you’ll never lose them if your computer (gasp!) crashes. Or print them ASAP!

86 Store photos in archival-quality, acid-free boxes until you have time to organize them in albums.

87 Get a heavy-duty paper shredder for peace of mind – and efficient shredding without risk of overheating.

88 Place your shredder where you intercept daily mail. If that’s the kitchen, so be it.

89 Put a small plastic caddy in your gym bag so you can manage hair care and skincare products without dropping anything. Excess water will just drain out.

90 Stop losing lock combinations and computer passwords once and for all. Jot everyone’s codes and combinations down in a notebook and store it in your family’s fireproof lockbox.

91 Store reusable shopping bags one inside the other.

92 Always keep one cute, foldable shopping tote in each of your heavy-rotation purses so you’re never caught without.

93 Avoid the last-minute drugstore run by always having a kit of your favourite travel-sized toiletries (and common OTC meds like allergy pills) packed and waiting in your suitcase.

94 Get a gift-wrap organizer and stock up on a year’s worth of wrap and ribbons, or ready-to-fill bags and tissue.

95 If perishables regularly go to waste in your fridge, start planning weekly dinner menus. Just buy ingredients for those meals, plus lunch basics. Post the menu on your fridge so you’re on track.

96 Mount a magnetized knife rack to a wall in your utility closet or basement, to keep your most commonly used screwdrivers and wrenches handy, not buried in the toolbox.

97 Donate your battery-powered emergency flashlights and stock up on windup models so you never have to worry about replacing batteries.

98 Stop stressing over the emergency preparedness kit the Canadian government recommends all families have. Just make one and get on with your life. Visit to learn what to put in it. Stash it in a rolling suitcase so it’s mobile in case you have to be, too.

99 Plan a closet cleanout once per season. Less mess makes staying organized a lot easier.

Friday, August 14, 2009

99 low cost organizing tips (part one)

{Note: I can't take any credit for this one, but thought it was worth posting here. I know all of us struggle to get and stay organized. There are so many great tips in this newsletter article, I've found myself skimming over it more than once -- each time finding a new idea that works for me. So, I've copied the whole thing for you.

Well...I'm breaking it into two parts as to not overwhelm those who may find organizing a bit daunting! Check out next week's blog for tips #51 to #99. In the meantime, start small and maybe pick up a useful trick or two!}

by: Claire Smith, newsletter (July 29 issue)
Getting and staying organized isn't easy. If you're struggling to conquer clutter once and for all, our simple 99 organizing tips should help get you started.

We know, we know: getting organized can be easier vowed than done. But even if you’re short on time (and budget), there are dozens of ways you can get your house in order. Here are 99 of our favourite low-cost organizing tips; many of them are environmentally friendly, too!

1 Use old baby-food jars to hold spices. Stash them in a drawer upside down so this recycling trick looks sleek, not cheap.

2 Store all your instruction manuals in one binder in the kitchen or pantry.

3 Collect your takeout menus in a binder. Or stuff them into a Ziploc bag and stash 'em – where else? – in the fridge or cupboard.

4 Use a cardboard six-pack container to carry condiments from kitchen to deck in BBQ-casual style.

5 Keep a tray or basket on the kitchen counter where kids can drop off permission slips and adults can put mail requiring immediate action. A second tray can handle lower-priority paperwork.

6 Don’t waste time constantly topping up cereal-sized food storage containers with dog or cat kibble. Use a metal trashcan to store one bag at a time in rodent-proof style.

7 Use a recharging station to keep your cell phone, MP3 player and other portable device cords untangled and your gadgets fully charged.

8 Can’t find fresh garlic or onions? Keep them in clean knee-high nylons. Hang in a cool, dry place.

9 Post a sheet of paper on the fridge and note groceries and supplies needing replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.

10 Reduce spoilage of fruits and veggies by “rotating” your crops. Put new ones underneath ones that were already in your crisper.

11 Use small jam jars to hold cotton swabs, balls and other essentials inside your bathroom vanity drawers.

12 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold bath and hand towels.

13 Cut the amount of time you spend going from linen closet to bathroom by installing extra towel storage via a hotel-style double towel bar.

14 And a stash of bath towels rolled inside a basket helps, too.

15 Store kids’ bath toys in a fine-laundry bag. Hang from the faucet 'til fully drained.

16 Use a shower organizer and just the basics: mild shampoo, conditioner and a body wash.

17 Stash extra shower products in plastic caddies – one per family member.

18 Keep cleaning products in a caddy, too.

19 Post a sheet of paper in the bathroom and note bathroom supplies that need replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.

20 Assign teens and tweens their “own” towel sets by colour. Sorting laundry becomes super-easy and sharing-aversive kids are content.

21 For the living room or family room, get an ottoman or bench with hidden storage under the seat.

22 Large woven or wooden baskets stash clutter effectively, so stock up.

23 Got kids? Get large tubs that can be used to deploy toys – and quickly move them out of living spaces when company’s coming.

24 Don’t hold on to magazines. Just rip out any pages you want to keep for future reference, keep in a file folder, then recycle the rest.

25 Toss dirty socks into mesh fine-laundry bags. Orphaned socks will be a thing of the past.

26 Dollar store plastic caddies are perfect for grouping cleaning products upright in cabinets – no tipping!

27 Recycle old plastic shopping bags. Store them in an empty Kleenex box ‘til you need them.

28 Store batteries in plastic berry baskets until you’re ready to drop them off at the recycling centre.

29 Ditto for compact fluorescent bulbs and orchard fruit baskets.

30 Big, busy family? Paint one entire wall in your mudroom in chalkboard paint so everyone can easily leave messages for one another.

31 Keep one basket per person in your mudroom or front entrance, so everyone knows where to drop off/find their personal on-the-go essentials like keys, bags, homework etc.

32 Designate a back-to-car zone by your entranceway, and put anything there that requires returning to the trunk – i.e. reusable grocery bags, empties – so the next person to use the car will remember to bring them.

33 Remove the front and back from a picture frame and string rows of wire across the centre. Hang it or lean it against the wall and hook earrings onto each wire.

34 Use an old dressmaker’s dolly to hang necklaces and hook earrings into.

35 Shopaholics can put those pretty boutique bags to use by hanging them on the wall or arranging them on a shelf, where they can store scarves and belts.

36 Do a card run – birthdays, holidays, new baby etc. – once a year and store cards in a file tote.

37 Use ice cube trays to hold clips, erasers and other desk-drawer essentials.

38 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold books.

39 Use white address label stickers to label what each cord in a power bar is for.

40 Paint an oversized canvas in one bold colour and hang it from the wall. Pin a rotating collection of your kids’ artwork on it.

41 Post a sheet of paper on your bulletin board and note office supplies that need replenishing.

42 Use a canvas over-the-door shoe organizer to organize small kids toys and art supplies.

43 Those ubiquitous Danish butter cookie tins can be both an art project and art storage unit for kids. First let your child decoupage it. Then use it to hold crayons and pastels.

44 Post those novelty basketball rings above anything you want your kids to slam dunk stuff into rather than the floor: garbage cans, laundry baskets, etc.

45 For preschoolers too young to use hangers with ease, install a low bar in the closet and simply drape dresses and pants across it to keep them wrinkle-free and easily accessible.

46 Have your child plan their wardrobe one school week at a time. Store outfits within five stacking cubbies or on five combination hangers (hangers with a bar and clips to hold pants as well as a top) to streamline their morning routine.

47 Keep sheet sets organized by folding and storing the fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcase inside the second pillowcase.

48 If you don’t want to buy stacking shoeboxes, recycle the cardboard boxes your shoes came in by cutting out a panel at one end for visibility and ventilation.

49 Install a closet organization system: it’ll pay itself off with time and aggravation saved!

50 A well-lit wardrobe is easier to keep organized. Install a Solatube, skylight or adequate artificial light for your needs.

Friday, August 7, 2009

let's rethink your patio / outdoor space

I realize you may think it’s a little late in the game to talk patios and outdoor spaces. However, I think this is exactly the right time to talk about it.

Now, I know there are lots of you out there sheepishly hanging on to your old patio sets, thinking it’s ok, because they are tucked away in your backyard. Sorry to break the news to you, but it’s time to let that old, plastic, oval table and chairs go. I’m sure they’ve served you well…they are plastic, easy to clean and you don’t care what happens to them when they are left outside in all types of weather. I know. And I get it.

Still – let them go. Really.

There is a big wide world of wonderful outdoor furniture waiting for you. There are a lot of styles and price points to choose from. And the best part? EVERYTHING is on sale now. It’s the very best time to buy new stuff…you can still get some enjoyment out of it now and it will still feel new and exciting when you bust it all out again in the spring.

The key is to stop thinking about your patio as the collection place for “who cares?” kind of pieces. I know you love your home, and you take pride in what it looks like on the inside. You put considerable time into choosing furniture and accessories for each room. Please, please, please start thinking about your patios, decks and outdoor spaces in the same way.

Treat this space as an extension to your home. What you can do with this extra / new found space is amazing.

The first step is to really consider what you want to do in your outdoor space…bbq? eat? lounge in the sun or shade? curl up in a comfy chair and read? play games with the family? entertain? Plan to create specific zones for each activity. Careful furniture placement will go a long way here, so don't forget to measure your space and take a tape measure with you when you go shopping.

Next, start looking around and choose a style that you like. Consider the design style of the inside of your home and choose something that goes well with it. This will ensure your style flows well from inside to outside. In most cases you can see your outside space from different vantage points on the inside, so some sort of cohesion is key.

Check out the big box stores…designers have been telling us to extend our living space to the outdoors for a few years now, but we’ve really only started listening. Thankfully, by now the big box stores have caught up, so there is no need to buy crazy expensive stuff to have nice stuff. Let’s face it, the reality is that we have a relatively short season and some hard winters. But that’s no reason to ignore some of the most precious and most often under-used spaces in our homes.

Home Depot, Rona, Canadian Tire, Winners and the good ‘ol Atlantic SuperStore have some very stylish options. We’ve come a long way in terms of combining durability, functionality and style in outdoor furniture. Whether you choose teak or eucalyptus woods, resin wicker, aluminum…etc, you’ll find these babies can withstand the wear and tear of our climate.

Don’t forget to add in a few, well-chosen accessories. Outdoor fabrics are not what they used to be. They are comfy, cushy and look great. Think cushions, curtains, or small canopies. Consider a couple of lovely planters that work well with your new furniture to hold a few plants, flowers, veggies/ herbs or other greenery. Remember to grab some solar lights too, to add a bit of mood lighting and to make an inviting space that will draw you outside after dark. There are lots on the market – and best of all, they won’t increase your energy consumption.

Think about extending the season and enjoying your newly fabulous space much earlier and later than your neighbours by investing in a table top or free standing propane heater. They have come way down in price over the last year or two and are well worth it!

Snap up your goodies now, while you see those “on sale”, “discount”, and “summer clearance” signs. Everyone loves a good sale, don’t they? You will never get a better deal.

But act fast…within the next two weeks or so, it will all be gone and you’ll be left hiding your sad, old stuff again next season.