Category Archives: Bedroom

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Criticism

birds-communicating

As Valentine’s Day approaches we are reminded of the challenges couples face managing clutter in a shared space. “Clutter” is incredibly subjective. One person’s state of chaos is another’s state of total harmony. Do a quick Google search on “couples and clutter” and dozens of articles and statistics come up. You’re not alone if you’re feeling frustrated.

What to do when your styles and thresholds for clutter don’t match up?

Relationship researcher and expert John Gottman identified 4 key behaviors that undermine relationships and are barriers to communication: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote. In our next 4 posts we are going to illustrate how each one can show up when navigating clutter between couples. First up…Criticism.

Expressing a legitimate complaint is different than launching into a criticism. Criticism uses blame which can backfire and hinder communication. Talk about your feelings using I statements and then express a positive need. What do you feel? What do you need?

The antidote to criticizing is to state your complaint in a gentler way. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Criticism: You never put your clothes away. Why are you so lazy and messy?

Complaint: The laundry on floor is making it hard for me to move through room. You said you would put them away today – what happened?

Example: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Criticism: Who told you you could move my stuff without asking me? You’re such a neat-freak!

Complaint: I’m having trouble finding things after you clean up. I was late today because I couldn’t find my work bag. I want to be part of the process for deciding where my things live. Can we choose a dedicated spot for my things?

Example: Paper Issues

Criticism: PG&E is going to shut off our electricity! Are you so busy that you don’t have time to take care of this simple task?

Complaint: We just got a late notice from PG&E. You are in charge of the bills and this isn’t the first time they didn’t get paid. Can we talk about how to resolve this?

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Successful couples learn how to manage and live with differences by honoring and respecting each other.

Our next post is about Conquering Contempt.

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Making Room for the Clothes You Love

clothes-i-cant-get-rid-of-1

If you’re considering a closet makeover – the best first step is to purge your clothes so you know exactly what types of things, and how much of each category, you need to store. Good closet design is based on an accurate picture of what you’re keeping. Exactly how much hanging space will you need? Do you need shelves or drawers or both? How many accessories such as belts, ties, scarves, purses do you want to accommodate in there? Where will shoes go?

Can you imagine the lightness you would feel if you opened your closet and loved everything that was in there?

But I Paid A Lot of Money For It!

Purging clothes can be hard! As organizers, we often hear these reasons for holding onto certain items of clothing:

  • It reminds me of a fabulous event
  • It reminds me of a past self I don’t want to let go of
  • I know it’s coming back in style someday
  • It’s a little scratchy, but I think I can wear a camisole underneath it
  • If my husband/wife knew I had gotten rid of it s/he would feel bad
  • I wish I was still that size…

And the list goes on…

Does keeping this hold me back or move me forward?

There is one simple question to ask yourself as you consider a piece of clothing: “Does keeping this hold me back or move me forward?”

  • If it makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s holding you back
  • If it sparks feelings of guilt, shame, regret, or frustration – it’s holding you back
  • If you love it but don’t use it and keeping it crowds out room for clothes you actually wear – it’s holding you back
  • If it allows you to envision a positive future self, it moves you forward
  • If it makes you smile inside and feel great, it moves you forward

Hold onto what helps you lovingly accept yourself for who you are today.

Sometimes an item of clothing won’t spark joy, but it performs a valuable function. For example, don’t immediately get rid of the only pair of black pants you have (if you wear them a lot) until you get something that you love to replace them. If you’re having trouble sensing how a piece makes you feel, find an item clothing that definitely sparks joy and compare it to that.

Now that you’ve decided what you are keeping, reward your hard work with a closet design that makes the clothes you love to wear both visible and accessible.

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering

Living With A Cluttered Valentine

courtesy of Donna Smallin Cooper of Organized Greetings

Cartoon courtesy of Donna Smallin Kuper of Organized Greetings

Do you and your sweetheart have wildly different ideas about what clutter is? Do you find yourself fed-up and frustrated by their organizing “style”? Do you feel like they’re trying to take over the world one surface at a time or leave things out just to piss you off?

Stress between couples over clutter is very common. Here are a few Valentine’s Day tips to manage the stress with your loved one.

What doesn’t work:

  • Purging behind their back
  • Nagging
  • Storing empty boxes on surfaces to prevent their things from landing there
  • Surprising them with a gift certificate from Crime Scene Cleaners
  • Deciding that if they can be cluttered, you do them one better and be messy yourself

What does work:

  • Realize that it’s not about right vs. wrong… it’s about compromising BOTH your styles because you’ve chosen to share space together.
  • Agree to de-clutter together. Set a shared goal that you both agree will improve the quality of the home. Make a game plan and work together to implement it.
  • Give each person a dedicated space (a room or a portion of a room) that they can control completely.
  • Take responsibility for managing your own clutter before trying to “fix” your partner.
  • Get objective outside help: use an organizing book, online resources, a couples therapist or a professional organizer.

What easy-to-tackle project could you and your Valentine take on that would create a little more space at home?

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Strategies

5 Tips for Designing an IKEA Armoire

Here's one kind of "closet" that can be made using the PAX system from IKEA.

Here’s one kind of “closet” that can be made using the PAX system from IKEA. The final product had sliding glass doors. In 2016, this unit cost about $1,700

An armoire is a free-standing closet. If you have minimal closet space or just need more closed storage, an armoire can be a lifesaver. IKEA’s PAX product line is one of the most customizable; it allows you to design the exact kind of storage that you need. Here are 5 useful tips for designing an IKEA PAX armoire:

TIP: Before starting to plan, take an accurate inventory of your clothes. How much hanging space do you need? Are most of your clothes short-hanging (less than 40”) or do you have long robes, gowns or slacks hanging with clips? What kind of folded clothes do you have? Socks, underwear, jammies? Are you going to store shoes in the system or not? At this point you don’t need to know HOW you’re storing everything but you need to know exactly WHAT you’re trying to store.

TIP: Be mindful of prime real estate. When designing your system, know that the prime area of storage is the zone from forehead to hip height. Plan to stow most-used items in this zone.

TIP: You can design the closet yourself using the online planning tool. This tool enables you to drag and drop all the components and features. Is it user friendly? Hmm…you have to be fairly computer-savvy to use it. You can also get help from an IKEA staff person in the store. Some of the staff actually have knowledge of how to build your system.

TIP: These are modular units, but the very first decision you make is what kind of doors you want to use; sliding doors or doors that open out. This is because the basic frame is different for these different door styles. Also, you need to choose the best height for your PAX system. It comes in 2 different heights. Generally, you want to maximize your vertical storage (the taller option) if your room can accommodate it.

TIP: You can save money by going full DIY including pulling all the pieces from the warehouse and assembling yourself (2 people required) or you can get IKEA to help as much as you want. With your design, the IKEA staff can gather the components, deliver it to your house and install it.

* Note: If you are going to purchase their installation, it is important to know that you are responsible for removing the baseboards in the area you want the armoire installed so the IKEA installers can attach it to the wall.

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Living Room, organizing, Products, Storage

Easy Solutions for Keeping Kid Keepsakes

kid art - 1

Do you have a unwieldy stack of kid creations in your garage or closet? Do you love to see the creativity in the various objects they create then feel paralyzed by the thought “Now what do I do with it?” Rest easy, you’re not alone. In our decades of organizing, kid art and memorabilia is one of the most common clutter challenges we deal with.

Here are 3 tips to manage the overwhelm:

Show it off before stowing it away

Dedicate a bit of wall and surface space to display the most recent creations. It gives time for everyone to appreciate the items and for attachments to wane a little. When new items come in, it’s time to decide whether the older items really make the cut at true keepsakes.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

They aren’t all keepers. Really. Remember, the goal is to keep a representative sample that catches a snapshot of their life. This includes homework. Routine worksheets and tests aren’t nearly as personal as original writing – kids talking in their own words about their lives in that moment. Also, don’t delude yourself that you’ll “make time to go through it later”. Be honest, you’re life is likely too busy and there’s far better uses of your time.

Use the right containers

Oversize art portfolios (available from craft & art stores) work perfectly for the preschool/early elementary years. Regular size art, homework, awards, cards/letters, and school/sport photos fit perfectly in a plastic file storage box with box bottom hanging files for each school year. Definitely have separate containers for each child. Object art does best in it’s own box, tissue wrapped for protection.

Bonus tip: Go digital! Take pictures of your child’s creations and put them in a system – folders, iphoto albums or sites like Picasa. And there are many apps available to memorialize your kids’ art.

Imagine your grown child coming back home to clear out their things after they’ve launched. They find a discreet amount of their memorabilia – a portfolio and a box – with the special art they created in their childhoods and are able to enjoy the memories and revel in their creativity while not being overwhelmed by dusty heaps of tattered paintings and dog-eared papers.

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Memorabilia

Purging Toys With Your Kids

toy jumble

Is your child’s play area overwhelming?

US children make up just 3.1% of the global kid population, but American families buy 40% of the world’s toys. Time Magazine, 3-23-15

When parents recognize the limits of their space and try to get the kids involved in purging, they often can’t get past the kids’ resistance to letting go — suddenly everything is precious. Here are some suggestions to keep the kids involved but meet the goal having your stuff fit comfortably in your space.

Let kids help, not lead. Involving kids in the decision making process helps them learn about limits but YOU need to stay at the helm. If you defer to your kids to lead the project it will rarely progress. If it’s an overwhelming situation it’s just fine, and often appropriate, to pull rank and make purging decisions without their input.

Have-to-Have vs. Nice-to-Have. Kids always approach the purging decision from the perspective of “do I like/want this?” When you have more toys than will comfortably fit in your space, “like/want” can be a first layer of purging but there will need to be a second layer of tough choices that is solely about space constraints.

Narrow the focus of decisions. For example, “We have room to keep 10 (pick a number) board games, pick out your 10 favorite” or “We have room to keep one box of little cars/planes/vehicles; here’s a box, fill it up with your favorites”. This way you are leading the process and setting boundaries on the volume but the child gets to make choices. Choosing one specific category to work on prevents overwhelm and distractions. It’s much easier to decide favorite puzzles, for example, if you’re looking at all of them at one time instead of randomly as you come across them.

Set specific timeline goals. For example, pick one category of toys per week to purge. Sample categories:

  • Balls, bats, small sport equipment
  • Action figures, character toys
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Electronic games
  • Large environment toys – play kitchen, activity centers
  • Building toys
  • Art supplies: (easiest to do these separately) markers, crayons, pencils, paints, stamping, stickers, etc.

As a last resort. If you’re not quite ready to let something go, it OK to pack it up and move it to a garage or closet in “limbo” until a little more time passes and the attachments lessen. Date the box and commit to revisiting these items.

Let’s be clear – toys are all about WANT, not about NEED. When faced with an overflowing playroom we like to remind parents of the Little House on the Prairie story where the kids were thrilled to get a small doll made from a used sock each year. For centuries kids were perfectly content to entertain themselves with their imaginations and their natural environment. Our modern culture has shifted to pressure parents into providing an endless variety of “stuff.”

As we approach the gift-giving season, it’s the perfect time to re-assess the old and make room for the new. With fewer toys there is less clutter and less cleanup. It’s much easier to hold kids accountable for picking up when toys can be put away easily. The biggest bonus – more time to actually play with the toys you keep!

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5 Interior Design Tips to Enliven Your Home on a Budget

Rachelle Padgett Design

We’ve asked our design colleague, Rachelle Padgett of Synthesis Interiors and Color to share some tips. We hope you enjoy them as much as us!

Just like a doctor gains critical information using a microscope, an Interior Designer uses visual cues to assess the impact of what you may think is insignificant. We can take what seems small and make it grand in importance (“Your fluorescent overhead lights make this space feel like an operating room, which is why you don’t want to spend time in here.”) and we can turn what feels like an overwhelming prospect (“Our house is too small and we have to move!”) into a manageable project (“Your furniture is too big for the size of the room, and you need more efficient storage.”) While nothing quite substitutes for having a designer into your home, there are plenty of changes can you make yourself that will have a big impact, without breaking the bank.

  1. Get organized. Congratulations! Since you are already reading this blog, you are in excellent hands, and well on your way! Frequently on an initial appointment, a client will tell me they need more space, more storage, more something. Many times, my response is that I feel they actually need less. I give them homework of de-cluttering, after which we can re-assess their needs for that particular area. Sometimes this approach can save people money, if it turns out their current storage is sufficient once they’ve donated long-forgotten clothing and recycled all those old college essays!
  2. Repurpose. Revamp. The list of “re-” can go on and on! Have an old tripod you never use? Have it wired by a local shop into a lamp. A table you like that’s seen better days? Refinish it! An heirloom sofa from your Great Aunt Ida that’s in perfect condition, but doesn’t suit your taste? Reupholster! Pinterest is an amazing resource for DIY project ideas.
  3. Lighten up! Time and again, I’ll go to a friend’s house for dinner, and we sit down to a gorgeous meal under a single, glaring, overhead light. I’ve been known to covertly borrow bedside table lamps and set them up in the dining room while the host is still cooking! The powerful psychological and emotional impact of lighting cannot be underestimated. Think about how good you feel in the fading, early evening light of late summer, or how pretty candlelight makes you look.

Clean your light fixtures. Dust and dead bugs accumulate quickly and can dramatically decrease a fixture’s illumination.

Change your lightbulbs. I prefer these warm, dimmable LED alternatives to an incandescent 60W. Not only are they super energy efficient, they have a pleasant color temperature.

Put everything on a dimmer. Yes, everything. Even the bathroom. Try these from Lutron. They are easy to install with just a screwdriver.

  1. Paint. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to make a huge change! What colors make you happy? For cues, go to your closet and pull out what you wear and love the most. Look around at your art and your favorite things. Go outside. Thumb through National Geographic. Color inspiration is everywhere!
  2. Decorate with fabric. A beautiful textile can cover up a multitude of sins, and is one of the most affordable and easiest art objects to bring home from travels abroad. Etsy and Ebay have great deals, too. Don’t be bound by the description on the tag. Fabric is fabric. A handwoven Mexican tablecloth folded in half can offer fantastic color, pattern and texture to the end of a bed or the back of a shabby sofa. A table runner can serve as a wall hanging in an awkwardly narrow space. Embroidered or hand-painted napkins can be laid on the diagonal over a dresser, creating a perfect spot to rest delicate jewelry while protecting the wood.

I know good design isn’t just about making things look pretty (though, of course, that doesn’t hurt) but about having a sometimes profound impact on your well-being; from health and happiness to rest and productivity. Make a few changes in your home, and see what happens!

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies