boston sunday globe

 

Mom and Dad want peace and quiet -- and these designsNo biggie.

Just sharing an article from The Boston Globe where I’m interviewed.

The SUNDAY Globe.

In which I am quoted 3 times.

On the front page article of the “Address” section.

With color photos, and other quotes from folks like the style director for Joss & Main and the editor-in-chief of HGTV Magazine.

Because I’m an EXPERT in designing for families.

Yup. Me and my interior design and organization business. WOOT!!

 

Read it here : “Mom and Dad want peace and quiet — and these designs”

 

 

 

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the ultimate decluttering secret

I need to get something off my chest. I’ve been taking advantage of people who ask me for organizing help. I have discovered the answer to society’s clutter epidemic but haven’t told anyone until now.

In helping families declutter and get organized over the past few years, I’ve observed a common thread that connects them. I have to conclude that it is the cause of all the clutter problems.

It’s Amazon.

Okay, so it’s not always exactly Amazon. It’s Overstock, eBay, Peapod, Everlane, or other website du jour, but it IS online shopping. More specifically, it is the “Amazonized” attitude towards shopping that values convenience, quickness, and getting a good deal.

I’m not talking about procurement, margins, and what happens at Amazon-the-business — that’s not my gig. My concern is that the ease of shopping online is causing an epidemic of cluttered, disorganized homes, leading to unhappy families.

Every time I visit a client for an organizing session, I see boxes in the entry waiting to be unpacked. People are paying me to get rid of stuff, but they just bought more stuff.

WHAT??!?

cluttered entryway

We no longer need to take time out of our busy schedules to physically go shopping. Nor do we need to exert ourselves lugging our purchases home on the subway or into and out of the car. We feel we’re being responsible by restocking before we run out of something. And we’re obviously getting the best prices on everything because of our promo codes and cash back and the streamlined supply chain an online retailer is able to achieve. We don’t even need to open our wallets.

In a single click, or just a tap on a mobile device, purchases are magically en route, in some cases, arriving within hours. We come home from work, juggling laptops and toddlers, texting our partners about what to order for dinner, to find humongous brown boxes smiling at us from our doorsteps, boxes that contain 60 rolls of Charmin, a brick of AAA batteries, a case of Goldfish crackers, and a collector’s edition officially-licensed replica Kylo Ren mask because it was the Deal of the Day.

amazon box

Don’t pretend this doesn’t happen to you. A similar humongous box arrives at least — AT LEAST — twice a week. Since we’re ordering one item, might as well get another if it all comes in one box. How often do we order a new something because we aren’t sure where our something is (hello, charging cables!)? If spending another $17 gets us free shipping, doing so becomes a moral imperative. Twice a week, non-essential impulse items come into our homes along with well-intentioned orders of Swiffer cloths. That’s 104 humongous, smiling boxes a year.

Let’s not forget about the oh-so-handy monthly subscription services that send us maker kits for our elementary schoolers’ enrichment, eco-friendly toys and treats for our beloved and deserving pets, diapers in the size our baby just outgrew, and organic healthy snacks from around the world for the whole family.

The packaging alone is more clutter than one person can handle. If we don’t have time to go to the store, we don’t have time to unbox and put all this crap away. Especially if it entails going through the crap you got last week to make room for the new crap.

Enter baskets, boxes, bins, and organizational problem solvers. We can’t find space to put all our stuff, so we throw money at the problem. Custom closets, Elfa systems, attractive woven baskets, clear stacking boxes with lids, super-slim hangers, label makers… and yes, professional organizers.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I really ought to tell clients who hire me for organization to STOP SHOPPING ONLINE.

I should just say :

Make a list of what you need. Go to Target and look at how much space 60 rolls of toilet paper takes up. Compare that to the size of the space you have to store toilet paper, and you’ll buy 12 rolls. Bring the kids and see if you have 90 seconds to look at Star Wars collectibles before someone has to pee, and you won’t buy Star Wars anything. Walk around with Goldfish in your cart but swap them for fresh grapes because you realize your cart is full of salty carbs. After a few months of this, you also won’t buy a brick of AAA batteries because you won’t have bought more battery-operated Deals of the Day that you never needed in the first place. You’ll also cancel the automatic subscription once you see that you already have 4 sealed bottles of plant-based, cruelty-free cleaning products.

True story.

honest

There is mindfulness to be discovered in planning a shopping trip. Taking inventory of the consumables in your home will help you plan meals and save money by not ordering take-out. The life-changing magic of making a list of the things you need and buying them will mean you can stop reading books about what sparks joy.

And please, bring your kids to the store with you. I agree that shopping with kids is one of life’s most trying experiences. Bring a friend if you’re scared — I’d go with you.

Like all life skills, if our kids don’t see us do it, they won’t learn how.

nobody’s perfect

I can create organization systems, but they have to be maintained. It takes a village, people. Here’s a prime example.

Remember this?
shared boys room bunks and play area

After last Saturday’s blizzard here in Boston, it looked like this:
boys room in real life

Accept the chaos, and know in your heart that all that crap has a home.

collections

My husband and I have a slightly klepto tendency to collect bits and pieces from the places we’ve visited: sea glass from the Jersey shore, coral from a beach in Mexico, stones from a river in Vermont, sticks from the forest floor in Northern California. I never unpacked our bits and pieces when we moved into our house 5 years ago, because knew I needed the perfect piece to display them. So our poor little box of bits sat on a shelf in our laundry room.

Last fall, I found printing type drawers from a dealer at SOWA Vintage Market in Boston. They were in great condition — no cracks, stains, or mold — so I picked up two, thinking I’d keep one and hold onto the other for future client. And buying two gave me a little negotiating edge to get a better price.

vintage printing type drawers

Thanks to Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, I put this project on my list of things to get done this month. First, I wiped it clean with a damp cloth, and used a Q-tip to get into the corners of all those compartments. Some of the residual black ink came up, but I didn’t go crazy trying to get it pristine. Then I rubbed the wood with a few layers of danish oil to deepen the color and give it a slight sheen. I installed a cleat-style bracket on the back to hang it on the wall, which also helps keep it level.

display collections of small objects in a vintage printing type drawer

This vignette in a corner of my living room brings a warmth and character to the space that had been missing. Displaying your personal collections can help make a house feel like a home. Don’t worry if they “go” with your décor — they go with you, and that’s what makes it work. Just find the right way to display them.

Here are a few pieces I’ve had my eye on:

cb2 alcove wall shelf
alcove wall shelf, cb2, 149.00
pottery barn cubby organizer
cubby organizer, pottery barn, 149.00
room 86 hexy wall shelves
hexy wall shelves, room 68, 300.00 each (2 shown)
ferm living the little dorm shelf from finnish design shop
the little dorm shelf by ferm living, finnish design shop, 138.00
toy car display picture ledges by lacey carroll interiors, via apartment therapy
picture ledges by lacey carroll interiors, via apartment therapy

out with the old…

When we arrived home from spending Christmas with our family, an Everest of new toys came with us. Where were we going to put it all? I had already prepped my boys for the impending purge by saying, “For every new toy you get, we need to get rid of an old toy that’s the same size.”

Key words: The Same Size.

I had tried this tactic around birthday time without those key words, and my 6-year old outsmarted me. For the Harry Potter Diagon Alley 2024-piece Lego set, he traded in a single Matchbox car. My other failing at birthday time was to let HIM choose which toys to part with. This time, I did a 2-hour speed-round of purging while they were out sledding with their dad.

A few words of caution: For a Ruthless Purge — where you have to get a lot done in a short amount of time — you need to be in the right mindset. It’s not for everyone or every situation, so if you have hoarding tendencies or a strong emotional attachment to the items you’re sorting through, or if you are sifting though valuable antiques stored in your family’s attic. This is about making quick decisions about a large quantity of low-value items.

I start with 3 large empty bins. Any clear plastic lidded totes from your local hardware or big box store will do. Label your bins thusly:

sterilite clear plastic box

  1. DONATE: Items in fair to good condition that can be reused or sold at a thrift store. Be sure to have a charity in mind, and even schedule a pick up in advance, so that your donation tote doesn’t sit by the front door until next year.
  2. TRASH: Things in poor condition that cannot be reused or things with minimal value; also for the odd candy wrappers, Kleenexes, and old grocery lists that you will inevitably uncover.
  3. STORE: Things that you have a future use for, or have monetary or emotional value.

Alternatively, you could label your DONATE tote SELL instead. Planning a tag sale, however, is an endeavor unto itself, and you’ll need to be able to store these items until you are ready to have your sale. Selling things individually on craigslist or eBay or some other online venue is effective, but also time consuming, so this would need to be planned in advance.

Start sorting! One by one, pick up everything in sight and put it in one of the bins, or in its home. With my kids’ toys, I already had an organization system in place, we just hadn’t picked up for a while. So for the things I decided to keep, I put them into their correct places straightaway. Toys they had outgrown or no longer played with — shape sorters, stackers, board books, trucks — I tossed into the DONATE bin. Tchotchkes and little bits from goodie bags and Happy Meals got tossed in the TRASH bin, along with anything broken beyond repair.

I ended up putting only a few items in the STORE bin.

  1. Their wooden trains and tracks. These get passed over for more exciting, colorful toys, but are not obsolete. I stored these in their own plastic bin and put it in their closet. This helped free up space for more frequently-used toys.
  2. Giant trucks that make sounds and move. These are an eyesore, and an earsore, and my kids aren’t as into construction anymore. I put them away and they haven’t been missed by anyone.
  3. Stuffed animals that they used to love, and one that was made by my cousin. My boys may not remember when Monkey went to daycare with them every day, or how much they laughed at Bunny when they first learned to laugh, but I do. These ended up in a bin where I’m storing handmade sweaters, their ‘coming home’ outfits, special gifts, and other stuff of memories.

It took about 90-minutes to sort and put away, and then another 30 minutes to dust and vacuum their finally clean room. When the kids got home, I gave them a tour of their toy area, and they helped choose new homes for their new toys.

Where do you need to employ a Ruthless Purge?

20130107-132937.jpg

a home for living in

Stylist, editor, and designer, Sarah Alba, had her home featured in Apartment Therapy. It is a lovely example of how a family can live comfortably and stylishly on a budget. She uses affordable furnishings from some of my favorite national retailers — Crate&Barrel, Pottery Barn, IKEA, West Elm, and Serena & Lily — but mixes different styles together so it doesn’t look off-the-shelf. An eclectic mix of baskets, boxes, and shelving help corral the clutter throughout the home and keep it casual. The look is livable, welcoming, and elegant. Can you tell they have a dog, too?

Sarah & Matt's Expertly Styled Home House Tour | Apartment Therapy

Get the full tour at Sarah & Matt’s Expertly Styled Home House Tour | Apartment Therapy.