Jun 26, 2009

Finding Time to Organize

Few people thrive on chaos - I mean, who in their right mind likes spending time looking for lost keys, important papers, or the ice cream scooper (when there is a hot, hot date on the line with Ben and Jerry?)

Each day is already jam-packed with so many things to do, we may feel there is no time or energy leftover to get things in order. But the next time you spend 20 mins looking for Bobby's left shoe, think about what is NOT working with the current system and how you can come up with a solution that does work. If there's always one shoe getting lost, do you need to tie the laces of the shoes together so they stay together? Do you need a large tray for shoes near the entrance to the house? Would a container with sides work better? How about a low lying rack with multi teired shelves? Cubbies for each child? Would it help to have a little bench or stool there for the kids to sit while shoes come on and off? A well thought out solution could save you oodles of time and frustration down the road.

Sometimes it's a matter of stealing a minute or two from another task. For example:

  • While you're waiting in line at the grocery (or on hold with Muzak) you can organize your coupons, clean out your purse or wallet, meditate, file a chipped nail, etc.

  • When the toddler is splashing around in the tub, you can wipe down the mirror or counter.

  • While the coffee is brewing you can do mindless chores such as throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, water the plants, prepare breakfast.

  • When in a waiting room at the Dr. or sitting in a parking lot waiting for your kids to get out of school, read an article in the paper, plan the next day, make an appt.

Sometimes getting organized is about rearranging the ORDER of your tasks. For example, I have a life long habit of being late for appointments. I tend to do things around the house, and put off getting myself dressed until the last minute. I'm not sure why I do it. But I'm always early and relaxed for the appointment if I get ready first.

You can choose to live life with your adreniline pumping, always running behind, careening from one fiasco to the next. But why live in a constant state of crisis management? Every little step you take towards some semblance of order is an investment in the peace of tomorrow.

P.S. Here's an example of what 10 mins of stolen time can do: while on hold with the utility company, our medicine drawer went from this . . . .

. . . . to this . . .

Chip Clips

No matter how many of those chip clips I buy, they dwindle down, apparently disappearing into the black hole of missing socks and ink pens.

Target had these colorful plastic as well as stainless steel clips to offer at $9.99 in the kitchen gadget section:

But I went to the laundry section and bought a package of 50 wooden clothes pins instead for $1.56:

And believe it or not, there is a How To out there on how to get FREE chip clips:

I cant imagine that the money saved is worth the time, but it's clever!

*Photos courtesy of target.com

Jun 24, 2009

This is for the Birds!

One of the things we like about our neighborhood is that it's home to lots colorful birds. Cardinals, blue jays, finches, nuthatches and doves will grace your yard every day if you tempt them with food they like. We go through so much birdseed that we buy it in 40lb. bulk bags that are too heavy to take out to the feeders. Bringing the feeders inside the garage where the bag is kept is not the most efficient of methods either.

I like efficiency. So I’ve been keeping an eye out for a container to transport the seed out to the feeders. There are lots of Tupperware/Rubbermaid products that we've used, but more seeds fell on the ground than made it into the top of the feeder.

While in Lowe’s yesterday I came across this birdseed dispenser made by Garden Treasures. For $10 you get two containers – one is smaller and perfect for thistle seed. They are made of durable plastic with a tight seal, and each has a cool little pouring spout so that there’s less spillage. Like their tag line says: ‘No scoops. Less mess.”

Jun 21, 2009

Tiny Baths, Big Fluffy Towels: Can They Co-exist?

My sister and I shared an apartment for almost seven years in NY, and it seemed no matter where we hung our hats, we could not find bathrooms with enough storage. We put organizers over the toilet and on the shower head. We installed a Pogo-like stick with shelves in the shower corner. We hung hooks everywhere. But it still wasnt enough.

It wasn't until my husband and I moved into our home last year that it hit me how to eek out just a little more space from a bathroom with inadequate storage. And it's so obvious, I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. I should have thought of it long ago . . . should have been inspired by old movies with passenger trains, and the dozens of hotels visited over the years. Those big, fluffy towels are rarely kept on the counter, never stacked up on the toilet seat, and never stored in a closet in some other hall or room. They put them on the wall - high and dry, leaving that valuable real estate available for other bathroom sundries. If trains and hotels can do it, why cant we?

Fortunately, retail stores are not as slow on the uptake as me, and train racks are available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Restoration Hardware, and home improvement stores. They come in many finishes
and styles, ranging in price from $21
to $300. I, of course being a frugal homeowner, was scouting for a $300 alternative, and just so happened to find styles to complement our bathrooms at TJMaxx for $50 each. These particluar products are from The Hotel Collection.

We also put one over the tub in the master bath, with a shiny chrome finish to match the other hardware.

These train racks have been such a great find, I tell everyone about them. A friend who is settling into her NYC studio this month, found that The Home Depot carries train racks for about $20 each. But because they are on the small side, I suggested she buy two and install them side by side on the long shower wall. She's going to love how much space she'll create in her closet that is currently bursting at the seems (even though she'll have to tip toe to reach the racks - she's petite!)

If you have tile all the way to the ceiling and must utilize other wall space, a train rack could still work as long as its placed high enough so that no one bumps their head. Another option is this type of chrome towel rack, also utilized by hotels:

It looks a little industrial without the towels inserted, but softens up quite a bit once the towels are fitted into the slots. If you have more towels than this rack can hold, try installing one on top of the other, or placing them side by side. The important thing is find a solution that makes your life easier! (find this product on Amazon.com by a retailer called YouRemodel, http://www.amazon.com/Chrome-Hotel-Towel-Rack-Guest/dp/B000MKKSZ0.)

Photo for Chrome Hotel Towel Rack - 3 Guest Size is courtesy of YouRemodel.

Jun 19, 2009

Renew Rusted Metal Cabinets

Have an unsightly mess under your sink? Even rusted metal cabinets can get an inexpensive makeover with little elbow grease and fresh coat of paint.

Cabinets in post-war apartments are often metal, such as this one pictured below. After years of neglect from the previous owner, the kitchen cabinet was was dirty, rusted and unsightly. The new homeowner was depressed by its dingy appearance every time she opened the doors. Rather than have her renew her Tetanus shot just yet, we improved the condition of the cabinet with a few simple steps.

1. Empty the cabinet of all items. Purge or giveaway what isn't being used.

2. Using sandpaper with a rough grit (the lower the number, the rougher the grit) remove as much rust as possible, or use an electric sander or screwdriver with metal brush. If there is not a great deal of rust, skip to the next step.

3. Thoroughly clean the sides, shelves and bottom with TSP, a heavy duty cleaner found in the paint section of most home improvement stores. It comes in either liquid or powder form. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands.

4. Buy Killz for heavy stain coverage or similar primer. The primer seals in the old stains so they don't bleed through the primer or a top coat of paint.

5. Paint all the awkward areas with a bristle brush, then apply two coats of primer to shelves, sides and bottom while watching for drips. Dry according to manufacturer's instructions. Paint a color over the primer if you want to take it to the next level.

6. Measure the space under the sink, taking note of the clearance above, below, in front and in back of the pipes.

6. Install or insert products under the sink that maximize the space, such as garbage pails and baskets that slide out, or adjustable shelves that work around pipes.

7. Most products will require a few holes. To drill holes in a metal cabinet, you will need a drill bit made for metal. Pick one up just barely smaller than the width of the screw. (You should still be able to see all the threads of the screw if you hold the screw and drill bit over each other. )

8. Most metal cabinet doors are hollow, and you don't want your drill to go through to the other side. Be careful not to punch through.

The homeowner was very pleased with the change from cave-like and scary, to bright and clean!

Jun 12, 2009

Small spaces and TVs

A friend just moved into a NYC studio apartment where her TV can be seen from the couch but not from the pull down Murphy bed on the other side of the room. Because the TV sits on an antique console, twisting and turning the TV could mar the marble inset. A simple swivel under the TV will make it easy for her to view her favorite shows from anywhere in the apartment without scratching the surface.

By Googleing "tv swivel," you'll find there are plenty of mounting options . . . from swivels that sit on a base to wall mounted swivels. They are also available for purchase at stores such as Circuit City, PC Richards & Sons and HHGregg. (There was a time there was a Best Buy on every strip mall corner, but those stores are few and far between now.)

For my friend, I suggested an oval swivel made specifically for flat screen TVs such as this one from Stacks and Stacks http://http//www.stacksandstacks.com/solid-mdf-flat-panel-tv-swivel/?id=176&sku=11555&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_source=googlebase. It's easy to put together, has rubber feet to keep it stable, and will not hurt her console.
Even if you don't want a swivel but need more space in a small area, take a page from some upscale European-style hotels. They sometimes mount TVs on the wall or ceiling, which not only solves the furniture congestion problem, it keeps visiting children from messing with the equipment. Simply type "TV wall ceiling mounts" into your search engine, and voila! newly found space is at your fingertips.

Pictures courtesy of Stacksandstacks.com and avmounts.com.