Archive for the ‘Style and Decorating’ Category

Office in your bedroom? Don’t lose sleep over it

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Desk as bedside table

How to keep your office organized when it’s is in your bedroom

You are finally in bed after a long day. You cover yourself with a blanket; feel the warm comfort of your pillow beneath your head and the soft, cool sheets against your tired body. You begin to relax into a night of slumber when you are suddenly startled by the pinging sounds of your computer sending notifications about tomorrow’s busy day. You get up and turn down the volume and get back in bed. That’s when you notice the pile of papers strewn across your desk, in varying heights and reminding you of a slew of unfinished tasks, unpaid bills and projects still yet to be started. You shut your light out, hoping in darkness you will forget the site of all that you have left undone. All of a sudden you see the blinking of all your devices in random rhythms, your router, your modem, your phone.  Your room lights up with a blue blinking glow. You cover your face with a pillow and somehow manage to fall into an exhausted sleep.

In general, I don’t think a bedroom is a great place for your office. Your bedroom should be a place of respite, relaxation and most of all sleep. Yet sometimes, there is no choice. Space is at a premium. You share a home or an apartment and there is no other available space to work.

This doesn’t mean you should lose sleep when your office is in your bedroom. Here are some ways you can minimize those distractions without sacrificing your personal productivity.

  • Hide your desk. Space permitting, hide your desk behind a free-standing, decorative folding screen or room divider. You can buy them online or in most home decor stores. When it’s time to leave work, simply pull the screen around your desk.
  • Shut out and shut down. Turn off or block digital noise and distractions. If you can’t hide your electronic equipment, things like your modem, router, or fax/printer behind or under your desk, place a small piece of dark blue painter’s tape over the lights that blink. Painter’s tape will not harm your equipment and can be easily removed or re-placed. This is especially recommended if you use a guest room for your office. You don’t want your guests losing sleep from all the pings and blinking lights.
  • Re-purpose and reposition. If your room is configured for it, why not turn your desk into a combination bedside table-workspace. That way, you are no longer looking at the desk from your bed. You’ll need a lamp on your desk anyway, so why not make it your bedside lamp. You can also leave a little room nearest your bed for a book or notepad, a place to put your reading glasses, a small plant or decorative item, and a clock or device with an alarm.  In other words, all the things you would need nearby while you’re working.
  • Clear the decks. Surfaces are notorious clutter catchers. No matter what size the surface, they have a way of getting covered with things. Just like you have a home, everything in your home should have a home. Take the time each day to survey what you have on your desk or work surface and decide 1) Can I toss it? 2) Does it need to live on my desk? 3) where else could it live in my home?  Then toss it, move it or take it back to where it lives. No more homeless items!
  • Create vertical storage. Install simple bracket or wall-shelves above your desk area for less frequently used items, books, or reference materials. Use decorative boxes in like colors to contain surplus office supplies. Get these all off your desk and on to a shelf to free up space for working, creating and being more productive.
  • Equalize your workspace. Before leaving your desk for bed, take 60 seconds to put loose items in drawers, loose papers in a stack or contain them in a shallow box (e.g. an “in-box”). Review your calendar and most important to-dos for the next day. Then shut off your computer (or put it in “sleep mode”) along with all other unnecessary electronics. You’ll save money on your electric bill and may even get a few more Zs tonight.


Let’s Make Room For The Holidays Checklist

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Let's Make Room ChecklistUse this convenient checklist to create reminders for yourself or your family for the Holidays.

_ Make up your guest list

_ Create your gift list for friends, family as well as those hosting you

_ Decide on your menu

_ Schedule your food shopping and place special orders

_ Shop for food and beverages

_ Buy food items your guests can prepare themselves for breakfast

_ Create send out invitations, either electronic, email or paper

_ Put up any holiday lights

_ Shop for or decide on party clothes you’ll wear

_ Borrow or order chairs if you need extras

_ Clean your house

_ Organize and tidy up guest rooms and baths

_ Get your kitchen and pantry in order

_ Make sure you have nice, clean guest towels and linens

_ Decide on music for your holiday events

_ Decorate your home

_ Dust, polish or clean off your serve ware

_ Order flowers

_ Set aside food storage containers

_ Send out thank you cards

Before the Remodel Comes the Premodel

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Courtesy of DMS Interiors

Remodel in progress. Photo credit: DMS Interiors

Courtesy of DMS Interiors

Remodel after. Photo credit: DMS Interiors

So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge. You’re going to do a remodel.

Before you pick up the phone to call your designer/contractor/architect, take a look around. What do you see?

Chances are you’re not seeing what your contractors will want to see the day they get started – an empty space.

More likely you’re looking at stuff – the good, the bad and the ugly: Furniture, household goods, artwork, paper, personal items and in all likelihood some amount of indistinguishable clutter on your floor and other surfaces.

It doesn’t matter if you are remodeling your whole house or just one room, before the first nail is in, you’ll need to think about how to organize and empty the room of all its contents. This is especially true if your remodel includes a new floor.

Before you pull the plug on the whole idea, consider this the first phase of your remodel. I call it the Pre-model – as in plan and prepare for the remodel.

Essentially, the Pre-model involves organizing, de-cluttering and emptying the project space before the remodel begins. It’s as necessary to the process as getting the right permits. Build this into your timeline and your project will start on time.

Delay or avoid the Pre-model and your project will come to a screeching halt before it has even started.

There are two ways to approach the Pre-model: The smart way and the hard way.

Here’s what the hard way looks like:

Your contractors are due to begin demolition tomorrow. You wake up at the crack of dawn and dump everything you own, wanted and unwanted, into boxes before stuffing them haphazardly into another area of your home – that is, if you’re lucky enough to have room. Otherwise you take it to an expensive self storage unit that is twice the size of what you need because that’s all they had available – and promise yourself you will deal with it later.

If you choose this method, don’t be surprised when you finally go to move all the stuff out of storage and you hear yourself say more than once, “I can’t believe I actually kept this!” (And paid all that money to store it!).

The smart way, on the other hand, looks more like this:

You are comfortably moved into a new, temporary home or area of your house and getting back to your routine. Your contractors congratulate you for making it possible for them to start on time and everyone is eager and excited to get started.

The smart way involves taking time to plan and prepare for your Pre-model.  If you do it yourself, this is what the Pre-model requires:

  1. PLAN
    Determine if there are any items you will need access to during the remodel. This is particularly important in a kitchen remodel where you may be without a functioning kitchen for several months. Consider setting up a “temporary kitchen” in a less used area or room of your home with basic kitchen appliances such as a microwave, mini fridge, electric water kettle, plates, utensils, etc.
    Determine what household items you want to keep. Skipping this step will cost you in the long run so make it a priority to sort and organize these items by category.
    Just as your contractor would, make sure you have the right “tools” for your Pre-model. Use large plastic bags for trash and for items you want to donate; paper bags for recycling; packing boxes or bins and other moving supplies for things you want to keep; and, a 4’-6’ table or surface for working.
  4. PURGE
    Make arrangements to sell or donate furniture items you no longer want. Take pictures of these items and email them to your preferred consignment store or charity. These services will review the items and decide whether or not they are interested in them.
  5. PACK
    Pack what you’ve decided to keep in boxes, labeled by category. This will make the process of unpacking that much easier when your remodel is done. Pack heavy items like books in small boxes; fragile items like dishware, lamps and crystal in double weight “dish-packs” and small appliances and lighter items like linens and lamp shades in larger boxes.
  6. STORE
    If you are lucky to have extra space in a garage or spare room to store the household items you retain, consider hiring a moving company that specializes in small moves to help you move those items for you.
  7. MOVE
    If you are planning to remodel your entire home, it’s likely you will need to relocate for a period of months. Consider consulting with a professional organizer/move manager to help you plan for this type of temporary move. They can also recommend reputable moving and storage companies in your area as well as execute your Pre-model and get you unpacked and organized when it’s done.

Doing the Pre-model is what allows your remodel to happen. By following these simple steps, you’ll experience far less stress during your remodel and discover how quickly you can live in and enjoy your new kitchen, bath, bedroom or newly remodeled home, when it’s done.

Are You A Hider or A Piler?

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Is your stuff – paper, possessions, or supplies – out in the open where you can see it?
Do you forget, ignore or lose what you can’t see?
For you, is out of sight is out of mind?’

On the other hand do you prefer to have everything you own tucked away  – in a drawer, cabinet, or closet?
Do you feel unsettled, anxious or out-of-control when things are not stored, stowed or put away?
Do people always remark at how tidy your home looks?

If the first example sounds more like you, consider yourself a Piler.  On the other hand, if the second example resonates more strongly with you, you are probably a Hider.

The terms Hider and Piler represent two types on an organizing continuum. Generally people fall somewhere along the continuum preferring one kind of organizing habit over another. These are not absolutes. Understanding your – and others – preferred type can help you learn ways to be and stay organized as well as to help you better understand the habits of others. For couples, its common for one partner to be a Hider and the other a Piler. Understanding your partner’s style and how they think about organizing will help keep the peace at home.

The most important thing to know is that both Hiders and Pilers can be equally organized or disorganized.

Take a look at the pictures below:

The column on the left represents two versions of a Piler organizing style: An organized Piler, as represented by the store that sells beads and other jewelry making s

upplies and a disorganized Piler  as illustrated by the photo of the cluttered office.

The column on the right represents two versions of a Hider organizing stye – an organized Hider as  represented by the physician’s examination room and a disorganized Hider as exemplified by the cluttered drawer.

Organizing styles can be dictated by function – such as the need for safe and sanitary conditions as in a doctor’s office or the need for customers to find what they are looking for quickly and easily as in the bead store example. For most people, however, organizing styles emerge from our individual personalities, learned habits or in some cases, physical or emotional conditions.

It’s helpful to think of Hider and Piler as preferences, rather than extremes, with most people falling somewhere between them but leaning towards one or another at varying degrees.

While I have not conducted a scientific study about organizing preferences, in my experience as a professional organizer, I have found that Hiders and Pilers also share some other characteristics.

For example, Pilers, because they like items out where they can seem them, may not benefit as much from conventional organizing methods.  An example of this is a standard two-drawer file cabinet.  A better solution for a Piler is an open file drawer on wheels that allows them to see and file their papers and then stow them away as needed.

Many of my clients who I would consider Pilers are artists, creative types or visual learners. They are stimulated by various forms of color, design, objects, and words. A Piler who does not feel comfortable expressing himself in a particular environment may find substitutes for filling the space in other ways.

An example of this are artists who earn income in an office setting. To compensate for the design of a standard office cubicle – with things like closed, overhead bins – artists and other Pilers often fill their surfaces with paper, piles or other bulky supplies. When I notice a client doing this, once we’ve worked together on organizing the paper,  I often recommend they find objects, artwork or photographs to fill the space (in lieu of the paper) that inspire them.

Conversely, a Hider may feel torn between her need for order and the desire to consume, purchase or own items of perceived value.  From the outside, everything looks fine, even beautiful. Until you open a drawer, cabinet or closet.  Then suddenly everything spills out in a jumble.   This is what I call the “Jack-in-the-box” phenomenon.

Typically hiders call me when their clutter starts creeping out from the drawers, cabinets and closets because they’ve run out of room.  I often recommend to Hiders that they examine their beliefs about what they value so that they can begin to edit down what they have.  I also remind them that storage areas are valuable ‘real estate.’ If they want to cut down on the clutter-creep they are either going to have to maximize the real estate, through editing, or else be at risk of spending more to house thier stuff. The worst case scenario is when people buy bigger homes or invest in expensive storage units to accommodate items they don’t use, want or need.

A hider can also lean towards the other extreme, purging themselves of all but the minimum necessities, sometimes prematurely, maintaining a tidy space albeit a bit sterile or overly staged.

In the fall I will be conducting an online seminar about Hiders and Pilers. If you are interested or want more information, email me at