Friday, September 28, 2012

Seven Simple Steps to Dealing with a Mess

There are mornings when I wake up, look around my house, and think I am a fraud for trying to write a blog about home organization and decor. Today is one of those days. 

It's more than just negative self-talk (which can be a really effective motivator for me, although it is not nice--I would never say to my friends or children the things I say to myself), this house IS kind of messy and out-of-control pretty much everywhere I look.

Rather than wallow in gloom, though, I have a few easy steps that I know I can take that will make a difference in how I feel about how this place looks.

1. Put something away. Toss something out.
Notice what is NOT on this counter: no box of cereal yet to be returned to the pantry, no half-finished lamp project or costume that needs to be stitched up, and no yesterday's newspaper. Put something away. Toss something out. These tasks take less than a minute but make a big difference in how your space feels. Plus, they compound. So once you put away the cereal box, you see yesterday's newspaper and can put that in the recycling or garbage. Before you know it, your counter is clear!

2. Make a decision & take action.

In the last tip, I mentioned the half-finished lamp project and the costume that needed to be stitched up. There are times when these types of projects overtake my house, either because I don't have the time to finish them or I haven't decided yet what to do about them. While the ideal situation is to "make a decision & take action" even deciding to move the project to a less conspicuous spot can be a good solution. For now, the lamp is in a corner of my bedroom (where it will eventually "live" once the project is finished) and the costume is in the laundry room near my needle and thread.

3. Return things to where they belong.
I bet this gal is going to hang her coat in the closet and not drape it over that blue couch (speaking of hanging, the source article has a great tip about hanging art in unusual spots around your home). Have a place for things and put them there. If you are struggling to figure out where things should go, start to pay attention to where you use whatever it is and what's available. For example, we had a huge mess of chargers on a kitchen counter AND we had an empty drawer in a nearby table. Voila! A charging drawer.

4. Organize your entry.

Line shoes up and put them under a bench or table, or just against the wall if neither of those are in your entryway (like mine currently). It makes a big difference visually to see a neat line of shoes versus things kicked off wherever they land. Bonus, you won't trip over anything lying in the middle of the floor AND you'll know where those Nikes or glitter boots are before you need to head out the door to get to school or work!

5. Fold it, fluff it, straighten it up.

If you love to snuggle under a blanket or afghan, don't leave it in a pile. Fold it. And fluff the throw pillows or couch cushions. Not only does it look neater, but it will preserve the life of the sofa or armchair. Move on to straightening the items on your end tables, and before you know it, your living room or family room is neat and tidy!

6. Pick it up. Clear the floor.

This is my mantra for dealing with toys. We see it all here--Pokemon cards, Legos, Polly Pockets, and other random assorted kid stuff. While it's truly great for the kids to be able to spread out to play, a time comes when it all gets picked up or else someone will a) step on it and either injure themselves or break it, or b) suck it up in the vacuum. A variety of baskets are handy for collecting these items as well as making it easier to carry their stuff throughout the house. And as the above photo demonstrates, it can be cute!

7. Make the beds and open the curtains.

On the best of mornings I make my bed and the kids make their own. Even little Bela can pull the covers up and straighten her pillows. It's just one of those little routines that you can feel good about. 
And, it doesn't feel like the day has started until I've opened the curtains to let the sunshine in!

Each of these steps takes only a minute or two to accomplish. But when done together as you wait for your coffee to brew in the morning, or at night before you hit the hay (minus #7, of course), or even all throughout the day, it will make a huge difference in how you experience your home.

**My month-long blogging extravaganza "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" begins on Monday. Join me here as I transform some of the less functional spaces in our home.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Dream Home

The other night I dreamed about my house. These dreams occur regularly enough, and over the years I've figured out that they aren't really so much about where I live as who I am. In dreams, the house represents my identity. 

For a long time, I would dream that I found a fantastic house, but it had shadowy, hidden rooms filled with ghosts. I was terrified by the mystery of these rooms. Another time, I dreamed that I had the perfect house but it was making me very sick.

After I got divorced, the house dreams changed. I now had the courage to go into these hidden rooms and found that they weren't scary. In fact, it was exciting to have the extra space. Usually there were two kitchens (I'm not sure what that meant). And one night I dreamed that I had a really nice house if I could just get rid of all the junk the last owner had left there. 

The other night, though, the house in my dream was so like the one I live in today it seemed like an omen. Like I am where I am supposed to be. The only difference was that the ceiling was more like the one in the photo above (mine is just drywall and no beams). 

If only I had photos of some of the other dream houses... :)

Do you ever dream about houses? Do you think they represent your identity (or are they just places)? Please let me know in the comments section. I'm very curious!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bedroom Update

This is the West Elm bedspread I purchased for our master bedroom update over the weekend. It was on sale but is back-ordered until November. Which gives me lots of time to get the rest of the room ready...

I didn't buy the shams. Instead, I have a plan to make the bed not so matchy-match. What do you think?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Happy first day of Fall!

The leaves on the trees are changing color outside and football is on TV later today.

I traveled out of town this week for work to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and stayed at the luxuriantly beautiful Amway Grand Plaza Hotel for two nights. The photo below is a view of the lobby, near the Starbucks entrance. And I have to say: it is so much more impressive in person. Go there if you get a chance.

Right now is a perfect opportunity to visit Grand Rapids. Art Prize, an open art competition with the world's largest monetary prize, started Wednesday and runs through October 7th. The above photo is one favorite of the contest. Entitled "The Starting Gates", it shows horses made of apple tree branches running through the Grand River.

"The Starting Gates": Photo by State Bar of Michigan News
While the Amway Grand is beautiful and Art Prize is exciting, there is no place like home... I am so happy to be back in my own little house today, watching my big lovey work on a home improvement project while my dog lays at my feet. Tomorrow the sound of giggling (and very likely, squabbling) will return, and I cannot wait!!!

**For the final two weeks of "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" I'll be in the living room and master bedroom. As the weather outside gets cooler, it's nice to focus on these indoor spaces. Additionally, we made purchases this month that won't arrive until after "31 Days" concludes, and we need to prepare both rooms.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Defining Your Style (Plus Week Two Theme Revealed)

I love books, and this is a banner year for titles from my favorite authors. Gretchen Rubin's second happiness project Happier at Home is #2 on the NYTimes bestseller list; in two weeks J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, will be released; and next month Nate Berkus publishes his second book, The Things That Matter, as well as debuts a collection of furnishings at Target. 

As part of the lead-up to the book release, Nate is everywhere. Today he is interviewed in the Home & Garden section of the NYTimes where he discusses both the purpose of the new book and his design inspiration for the Target collection. 

 But it was his article for House of Style magazine that got me thinking. It opened with the line, "The first time I tried to envision what someone’s home ought to look like based on the person I perceived them to be, I was 12 years old and my little sister had just gotten a Barbie Dreamhouse." 
Since I'm up to my eyeballs in Barbies that hooked me immediately. He goes on to talk about how our homes represent who we are on a soulful level. And, that we can make some educated guesses about what a person's home will look like based on their personal style: their clothing, their habits, their place in the world.

Which is about the time I began to get uncomfortable. Are my decor choices really reflecting who I am? Or just helping with my bottom line? Worse yet, are they good??? Because the boring character in the article sounded a bit too much like me. Would Nate Berkus think I am boring??? Take note that my style icon above is wearing a beige sweater. Oh the horror!

The skirt in the forefront is the one I am wearing today.
Image from eBay.

I was redeemed on my way into work this morning, then, when an older woman I don't know complimented me on how nicely my orange moccasins match my abstract hibiscus-patterned orange & pink A-line skirt (from J.Crew). She even called me a fashionista! So I'm probably not boring. 

But I do LOVE white and beige and other neutrals. They are soothing colors that allow wilder patterns to do their happy dance. Which also makes neutrals an excellent skeleton when you are decorating on a budget. 

Sofas are one example. A sofa is one of the single most expensive purchases in a home decor scheme so ideally you want the purchase to be one you will like for several years. With throw pillows and accessories, you can change the entire look and feel of a room. Here are a few of my favorites from vastly different rooms. 

Originally from Houzz

To see more of the rooms I've pinned on Pinterest follow me there. Ninety percent of them have white sofas, I think. ;)

***The week two theme for next month's "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" is Tastes of Fall. I'll spend the week organizing and decorating our kitchen, and I made some exciting purchases yesterday to help with that task!***

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prepping for 31 Days: Week One Theme

Part of my plan for blogging every day in October is to prepare now, even though it is not quite mid-September. Prior planning is the key to being more organized. So I've made a list of all 31 projects, which I then organized into weekly mini-themes. 

Fall has always been associated with homecoming, and week one will focus on making ours more peaceful. Specifically, I am planning to do a lot of projects in our mudroom/laundry room.

This is the main entrance for the four of us, and it is where I do the wash. For such a tiny space, it carries a heavy burden. Making it functional is hugely important to whether we get to school on time and if we are doing so in clean undies.  :)

 Inspiration photo from Prudent Baby

So a question for you: as I accomplish my organizing goals should I take a "Before" picture to share here? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One More Contest

A week ago, Gretchen Rubin's new book Happier at Home was released. It felt like forever, but I finally bought it on Friday and have been thoroughly enjoying it. This book is a second happiness project, in which Rubin resolves to find more happiness at home over the course of a school year (September through May). 

The bluebird is a symbol of happiness that Rubin uses in her books. This little nightlight is for sale at October Moon, a charming boutique in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood. 

You can enter to win a copy of Rubin's new book here. She is giving away one copy daily for the month of September.


There are a few fun little contests going on right now.

Serena and Lily are giving away a $5,000 shopping spree for joining their mailing list. I received my catalog in the mail yesterday and was floored by the gorgeous photos. I especially loved the sofa in this picture. Pretty sure that white will never fly in my house, though, unless maybe, just possibly, it is a very durable slipcover.

The second contest is from Benjamin Moore to win a personal color consultation with Candice Olson, plus $5,000 and more great prizes. You have to enter through Facebook and once you do you'll receive a link for a $5 Benjamin Moore coupon. Perfect for a little fall spruce up! They are also promoting their chalkboard paints right now, which come in any color.

And real people do win contests on the inter-web! Remember the morning makeover contest I mentioned last week? I won!!! I am getting a morning makeover by Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, among other titles (she's been on my list to read for awhile...). Bonus: the Happiest Mom very graciously said she would provide a link to Cosy Carolina.  :)

So good luck! And let me know in the comments what you think of the new "wallpaper" on the blog. It's loud, but I like it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces

Besides having a passion for organizing and interior design, the purpose of starting a blog was to learn something new. 

The writing flows easily enough, which is a good indication to me that I have picked the right topic. But there's a lot of technical stuff I am learning how to do. For one thing, you can't very well have a blog about design without making it look nice. And without readers there's very little point to sharing what I know here.

So I am learning how to make graphics and trying to increase traffic to the site by connecting with other bloggers. 

Enter "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces". It's my take on this year's challenge from The Nesting Place to write about one topic daily for the entire month of October.

My project "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" was inspired by this photo from the reader space on IHeart Organizing. Isn't it just lovely?!? Definitely check out the post to see the before photo and all of the detail shots.

Luckily for me (eyeroll), I have LOTS of cabinets, closets, and drawers that need a makeover. Some things need just a little tweak to get them right and others (like my linen closet) could use a major overhaul. In "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" I will tackle all these nagging tasks and share my progress with you.
But how??? How in the world am I going to get all these projects done (31 of them, remember?), write a post daily, and live the full and busy life I already have? The answer, as always, is in a book. ;)
I have been wanting to read the ebook What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--And Your Life for a few months. And since school started this week, I have been thinking more than ever about how to  effectively use the early morning hours. But it wasn't until I read the Happiest Mom's interview with Laura Vanderkam this week that it all clicked. 
The Happiest Mom and Laura Vanderkam had teamed up for a giveaway of the ebook and a personal consultation to transform a reader's morning. All you had to do was answer the question "What would your perfect morning look like?" 
But I really had no clue. Without a purpose for getting up early, I'm going to stay in my cozy bed next to my big lovey for as long as possible. But while on vacation last week, I had popped out of bed one morning. A nonprofit group had asked me to write an article about organizing. Having to get the article done on a deadline--and not wanting to lose any sightseeing time with big lovey--was all the motivation I needed to get up early and get it done.

So perhaps "31 Days to Lovely Little Spaces" is possible! Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Customized Furniture

One of my favorite things to do before bedtime is to scroll through the furniture listings on Craig's List. While there are plenty of pieces that are in "like new" condition, there are also some pieces that could be great with just a little TLC.

Becky Roberts, an East Lansing interior designer and mom from my kids' school, did just that last month, creating this lovely & updated chair.

Rebecca Roberts Design

She writes, "The wingback chair was given to me from a friend. It was her mom’s, presumably from the late 80’s or early 90’s. I liked the shape, so I decided to try my first slipcover. It took me about 3-4 hours to complete it, and I used just under 5 yards of fabric. The cushion has a zipper, and the whole cover for the chair body comes off for laundering. I am happy with the results! I am planning on making a little bolster pillow in the same fabric as the cording."

I absolutely love the fabric that Becky chose! I also love that she made a slipcover, rather than re-upholstering the chair. A slipcover makes it easy to keep the chair clean (important with kids in the house!) and can even be changed out in the future or for a different look seasonally.

Rebecca Roberts Design

Becky can be hired for sewing and interior design jobs. Check her out at

I frequently see listings for wingback chairs on Craig's List. A classic style, the Craig's List wingback chairs can be purchased inexpensively simply because the upholstery is usually dated.

The pink fabric on this recent listing is probably from the 1980s, but the "bones" of the piece are still good. The legs, wings, and arms are whole and the seat is not saggy. And as a bonus the seller offered to throw in the matching pink lamp. Using paint to transform pieces is a post for another day, though...

The new book Good Bones, Great Pieces: The Seven Essential Pieces That Will Carry You Through a Lifetime, has some great tips for classic pieces to look for. Helping you to furnish--and customize--your home on a budget!


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