Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Freebie: Why Creative People Shouldn't Work 9 to 5

cohdra via
I love it when a Friday Freebie falls into my lap.

Yesterday, my writer friend Cerella Sechrist posted this article on her Facebook page -- and on a day when I was feeling very much as though normal business hours were overrated.

One of the best things about being retired from full-time work and pursuing part-time work with a huge creative element is having a (somewhat) flexible schedule. If I start out slowly, I'm not late for anything. If I want to take a break at 1 PM and relocated to Starbucks, I can. If I need a nap in the afternoon to make up for the fact that I'm not an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kinda girl, I can take one. And sometimes it's nice to know I have company.

Thanks, Cerella.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Closets and Drawers, Part 2
When I started writing these posts, I had three junk drawers. In one room.

In my defense, they weren't actually the traditional junk drawer with a hodgepodge of things from stray receipts to nail files to thumbtacks. Each drawer contained specific sorts of things, but the drawers themselves were a mess, separately and collectively. More junky drawers than junk drawers, they were clutter catchers, and, in the state they were in, they were a waste of prime real estate. The sad thing was that they'd been this way for years. I'd fallen into the habit of putting certain things in certain places, and I only realized how little sense it made when I needed space for a new crock pot and had to re-assess my available storage space.

No matter what room or piece of furniture they reside in, drawers are a blessing and a curse. Like closets, they are open, rectangular spaces, and as such, they make it far too easy to drop and run, cram and jam or stash our stuff "somewhere" -- and then close them and hide the evidence.

Regardless of our personal and organizational styles, large, rectangular spaces work best when we can see what's in them, which is one reason professional organizers frown on junk drawers -- singular or plural. Fortunately, there's one simple strategy that can make a difference. Like Give it Five! and Don't put it down, put it away! this idea can be personalized to fit your life and styles:

Divide and conquer.

Admittedly, I have an I need to see it bias, but I think the drawer organizer might be the best thing ever created. Okay, when you factor in caffeine and chocolate, it might only make the top ten, but my point is that simply subdividing the space inside that drawer so that you can see what you have makes the whole space work better.

Consider the flatware drawer in your kitchen -- forks, knives and spoons all neatly cocooned in their own little subdivisions. If we don't give a second thought to putting our flatware away that way, it's not such a leap to organizing our other rectangular spaces in a similar fashion.

Take my recently rehabilitated junky drawers. I have everyday flatware and nicer stuff. The everyday knives, spoons and forks live in the kitchen drawer described above. The nicer ones (now) have a home in a dining room drawer that wasn't subdivided. I lined the drawer with shelf liner and added narrow plastic bins from the dollar store. The drawer looked so good after I was finished that I periodically opened it up when I walked by just to see how organized it was.

The drawers in my bathroom are similarly divided with plastic (i.e. wipeable) bins of various depths and sizes so that when I open the drawer, I can not only see what I have, but I know where it goes when I'm finished with it, so I'm more likely to put it away.

Those bins at the end of last week's post? Yep. I got them -- or, more accurately, grabbed an unused one from the basement, purchased a second one in a contrasting print and ordered a third from Thirty-One (I even splurged and got it embroidered because now I know it works for that space). My sweaters fit inside and the shelves in my closet look so much better. When it's time to put summer clothes away, I'll simply change the contents of the bins. For now, I'm adding bins one at a time, and not buying new ones until I fill the ones I have.

I had the right idea in one of my junky drawers, but hadn't carried it out fully enough. I had a bin for collecting receipts and another with candles in it, but the rest of the drawer was a free-for-all. Mistake. That was an invitation to junkiness. Cleared it out, relined it (nicer spaces stay organized longer), found bins that fill and subdivide the space....much better.

While subdivision isn't necessary for every drawer, cupboard or closet in the house, it helps keep catch-all rectangular spaces organized.
There's really no need to spend a lot of money to do this. Sure, you can go to The Container Store, (and I've purchased drawer organizers when I was fortunate enough to find exactly what I wanted), but bins from discount stores work, as do gift boxes, shoe boxes and cardboard dividers. Think back to the containers that work for you and determine how you can adapt them to subdividing your large, rectangular spaces.
  • As an I need to see it person, I'm partial to unlidded containers that I can color code, label or see through.
  • Subdividing helps I love stuff people to organize collections and keeps supplies for the I love to be busy person's many activities easily separated and accessible. 
  • When the rectangular space is subdivided I can (literally) drop and run and my I know I put it somewhere husband has a better chance at remembering which "somewhere" he put something in. 
  • As with other containers, size will be essential for cram and jammers -- too big and the visual is gone, too small and, well, just forget it. It'll never happen.
After many weeks on the Y of STYLE (Yes, it has a home!), we're ready to move on to the part of the process most of us have a love/hate relationship with: Let it go. (Don't worry. I'll be gentle). Chances are, you've already done some of this: if you got rid of containers that weren't working for you or reorganized a space, I'm sure you let some things go along the way. Next week, we'll talk about ways to make that as painless as possible.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Little House with Louisa May Alcott Wallpaper
It's hard to believe that this July will mark 21 years since we first walked into our house. I loved it immediately, despite the fact that there was a list, even back then, of projects we wanted to tackle. The dining room wallpaper that looked as though it had been selected when Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. The pumpkin kitchen (orange and green) that was a throwback to the 1970s. The heating system that did not include central air conditioning. But these were little things compared to finding a house we could afford that met the three criteria most prized in real estate: location, location, location.

When we first moved into the house, I tackled a new project (or two) every summer. I had the whole summer off and was only working on freelance magazine pieces, so giving up a week to repaint a room or strip wallpaper (even when it turned out that the Louisa May Alcott wallpaper was only the top layer of three, each uglier than the one that had replaced it) didn't seem like a big sacrifice.

Then my daughter was born, and finding the time for household renovations that could be done during nap time or without endangering a curious toddler became more challenging. We'd already replaced the heating system and repainted much of the house by then anyway. Replacing the roof, enclosing the side porch and gutting the kitchen were projects beyond our skill set, so those came next. When she was a little older, we re-did the downstairs bedroom (my former office/clutter catching room became her playroom) and eventually added on to the house and re-did the downstairs bathroom.
It's been a busy twenty years. And we are slowing down.

Along the way, we considered finding a bigger house -- one that came with all of those renovations already taken care of -- but after one disappointing foray into the housing market that resulted in my declaration that once we took that sign out of the front yard, we were never putting another one up again -- we settled in, and went back to chipping away at turning our little house into our dream home.

We still have house envy from time to time, especially since the days when I looked forward to summer home projects are behind me. These days, giving up summer writing and/or leisure time to paint and strip wallpaper seems less exciting, and, thanks to equal parts waning youth and waning enthusiasm, it takes much longer to complete the projects I used to knock out in a couple of days.

But lately, I've been feeling a resurgence of those old decorating pangs. It still requires more motivation than I can muster up to paint a room, but I'm having fun freshening things up in smaller ways. A closet makeover that makes switching out clothes from one season to another a bit easier. A re-envisioning of cluttered space that makes it less so. Re-lining drawers and reorganizing their contents.

It feels a lot like nesting.

Maybe it will lead to a renewed desire to put the finishing touches on those painting projects begun over previous summers. But maybe it won't.  For now, it's breathing a little bit of life back into the house that, over two decades, has become our home.

Messy and imperfect. But home.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's on Sale!

$1 off the Kindle edition of Casting the First Stone, for a limited time. Anybody thinking beach reads yet? :-)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Special: Closet Inspirations
Inspired by this week's thoughts of organized rectangular spaces, I tackled three of my (kitchen and dining room) drawers yesterday (when really all I meant to do was empty the dishwasher). Now, if only the dining room table looked as good as the insides of the drawers!

I've also been spending some time on Pinterest, looking for pictures of drawers and closets that inspire me with not only the end product, but how easy it would be to replicate. This board is a work-in-progress; it's very small now, but I'll keep adding to it during future Pinterest binges.

And that was the driving force behind today's Saturday Special. I wanted to find something photo-heavy -- pictures of closets that look good, but don't require a budget that rivals a month's pay, and would be do-able for someone (like me) who suddenly gets inspired to make a change, but only has a few hours to kick off that change.

Since HGTV's (now defunct) Mission: Organization (recommended by my sister) got me started on this journey, it seemed only fitting to use an HGTV resource today. And for those who dare to drool, check out the last picture in this Babble piece!

Whatever you're doing with your Saturday, have fun! And, if you're making progress on your organizational journey, please share your successes in the comments here!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Freebie: Mysterious Lyrics
As someone who has fond memories of singing "American Pie" (in harmony, no less) over pizza after theatre rehearsals, I had to choose "'American Pie' and the History of Mysterious Rock Lyrics" as this week's Friday Freebie. This song, like so many others, brings back a flood of memories, including discussions about the "deeper meanings" of song lyrics.

My favorite one of these chats took place in my friend Alison's room our senior year in college as she and Cindy and I attempted to decode "Jungleland" one Friday evening. We never did come to a consensus, but we had a great discussion nevertheless.

How about you? What song lyrics leave you puzzling?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Big, Rectangular Space
Imagine a typical bedroom. What large storage spaces come immediately to mind? 

Closets and dressers, right? Great for some styles, but a nightmare for others.

If they're a nightmare for your style, what do you do? These aren't exactly organizers you can replace at the dollar store. 

Ah, but you might be surprised.

Take another look in the closet. What's neat and what's not? Are clothes hanging from the rod, or strewn across the closet floor? Are shoes lined up in pairs, or tossed haphazardly? Can you see what's in your closet at a glance, or is your closet more like Fibber McGee's?

If you're a cram and jammer, that last description probably fits. If you're an I need to see it person, clothes are probably hanging from the rod, but they may be hanging from other hangers, too, as you mixed and matched in an endeavor to put outfits together. And the I know I put it somewhere person may find all sorts of forgotten treasures tucked in among the clothes.

So how do you make these large spaces work? 

Let's begin with the closet. At its most basic level, a closet is a big, rectangular space. Once upon a time, a Type A organizer decided that closet should come complete with hanging rods and a shelf (or more, if you have the luxury of a walk-in closet). And the Type A organizer, a rule follower who likes hanging rods and shelves, lived happily ever after.

Maybe -- just maybe -- you're not a Type A organizer. If you aren't using the space as it is, redesign it to suit your style. 

Take another look in the closet, keeping in mind that everything you see is a style clue, not a character flaw. What parts of that rectangular space are you using well? 

Cram and jammers might love the lone shelf -- so much so that it's packed with clothes. And the rod? Well, it may have clothes on it, too, even if they're draped over the rod rather than hung on it.
I need to see it folks may have the opposite problem. Because hanging things on the rod allows them to see what they have, the rod may be packed. It might even be "coded" by color or season. The shelves may be sparsely populated, so the owner of the closet can see what he or she has, or they may house a haphazard mix of colors and fabrics. If the I need to see it person has figured out his or her style, the shelf might even be neatly organized. 

Similarly, I know I put it somewhere organizers might actually be using this particular space very well, with the possible exception of those buried treasures. But, if they remember that the closet is where those treasures are housed, and they have space for them there, who am I to say that they should go somewhere else?
If your closet is working for you, take a moment to celebrate. Maintaining an organized closet is no small feat. If it's not working for you, it's likely that the set-up is the problem. Re-think. Re-organize. What would work better? Can you use your containers to make that happen?

Next week, we'll talk about the personal styles when it comes to closets and drawers, as well as ideas for rearranging the narrow rectangular spaces that are drawers. Meanwhile, here are a few things to think about.

Standard issue isn't always standard. Do you need to ditch the rod? Add another one below it for shorter hanging things? Add more shelves? Roll in some clear drawer units?

Divide and conquer. If you're storing more than clothes in your closet, how can you create distinct, logical homes for everything that's housed there so you can find what you need quickly?

A season for everything. If your closet is overstuffed with clothes for all four seasons, what might be a logical home for your out-of-season items? 

But I live here! Is your closet a logical home for everything that's stored there? 

One final caveat. I'm not suggesting a complete (expensive) closet overhaul -- just a re-vision of your space and how you're using it. Even if you can't replace your closet itself with organizers from the dollar store, you might find a few things there that will help you whip this large, rectangular space into shape in a budget-friendly fashion. I'm thinking that the bins below might be a great way to organize my closet shelf.