Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reader's Questions: Organizing for Renters on a Budget

Aiisa asks "What do you tell people when they need to find homes for things, on a super budget and know they will not remain forever in their current apt?"

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to show that the best way to get and stay organized is not by spending a ton of money on specialty 'organizing products', but by changing the way you see your things and how you use them. I believe you should only take things into your life that enable you live the life you want to live.

The other reason of starting the blog is that people tend to overcomplicate things, so I'm trying to show that like most things, when you simply your thinking of organizing, you usually end up with the best results.

My process is to goal set, edit and sort, then figure storage for a reason. Most people have a lot of things that can be repurposed to store what's left after editing. I live on a budget as do most of my clients, and even those with money don't want to spend it so I only specify products that I feel will make a real impact. I should also mention that most of my client's are renters.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Living Better With Less... Clothes Moths

(image by Harry Campbell courtesy of the

The NY Times just ran an article on what to do if you have clothes moths. Pretty simple advice that I completely agree with; keep your closet and your clothes clean! Giving your closet a deep clean (all corners, walls, shelves) is one of the reasons I suggest (insist) on switching out your clothes twice a year as the seasons change; fall/winter and spring/summer. It not only forces you to get reacquainted with what you own, it's the perfect time to get in there and get the dust and dirt out.

Check out the Times' article here.

Build A Bookcase

(my first apt, the bookcase sat centered behind the curtain)
(behind the curtain)
(reused in my second apt, the tiny studio)
(showing the screw from underneath)
(base supports)

I figured since I showed you how I took a part the bookcase for my new bed, I should tell you how I made it in the first place.

The piece was in my first apt, sitting behind the bedroom curtain to store work materials that I didn't want out. The curtains were installed 10" from the wall so 10" deep shelves would fit perfectly. I measured the things to go on the shelves so I had the perfect height for each shelf. If I were making this for books, I would measure what I had to find out the deepest and tallest to make sure things fit nicely.

I went to my local hardware store (with a lumber dept) and purchased a 4' x 8' x 3/4" sheet of sturdy yet inexpensive wood and had them cut nine 10" shelves. The supports came in 8' length which were cut at 12" intervals.

I staggered the posts for aesthetic reasons and although I found out I glued most of them, I would suggest screwing it together from the bottom so you don't see the screws when upright. Drill starter holes and use 3 or 4" wood screws. I used four posts on their sides for the base for maximum support. I also pushed it so it was right on the wall (again for support), you could always attach it to the wall with L-brackets you can pick up at your local hardware store.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apartment Progress... Making An Oversize Bulletin Board

(picture hooks in place on wall)
(going through pics)

(click on image for a detailed close-up look)

The 2' x 4' leftover wood from the platform bed is now a wonderfully oversized bulletin board! Here's how I did it:

1 - Screwed two D-ring picture hangers on back, an inch from the edge, about 3/4 up from bottom and noted measurement down from the top.
2 - Held it up to the wall to see where it looked best. While holding it up with one hand, measured from the ceiling to the top of the wood.
3 - Measured the space of the wall horizontally. Subtracted width of the wood and divided by half.
4 - Hung two picture hooks by adding the measurement from step 1 plus step 2 to give me how far down from the ceiling, and the measurement from step 3 plus 1" to see how far in it should go.
5 - Hung in place, checked with a level and din't care that it's a little off!!

When I first thought of using the leftover piece of wood for the bulletin board I thought to add self-adhesive cork but found that my push pins went into the wood easily. Always one to save a step and $$, I had no hesitation to go without the cork.

I spent hours going through tear sheets in my inspiration file and bookmarked images on my computer to see what I wanted up. I printed images from the computer onto photo paper which I thought came out really nice. I love the wood push pins, though think T-pins would be great too....

Apartment Details: Bathroom Storage

(basket as it 'should' be)
(flipped over)

I wanted to show you how I'm using my bathroom basket. I used it in my first apt like this, and in my previous studio like this. For this bathroom, I wanted something that had the look of being raised off the floor so I just flipped it over. Now it has a whole new look and feel.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Apartment Progress... Making a Platform Bed

(before: the bookcase assembled)
(shelf from bookcase for base, sheet of wood for platform)
(waiting for glue to dry)
(making sure it's centered)

Here's how I reused the bookcase I made when living in my one-bedrm, to make a platform bed; using two shelves and four posts as the legs and a 4' x 8' piece of wood for the support platform.

I had two options with the legs; use the posts as they are which would make the bed, without the mattress, 13 1/2"H (12" post and two 3/4" pieces of wood) which was too high, or lay the posts on their sides making the bed 5 1/4"H which was too low. I decided to go somewhere in the middle and cut the posts down 6" for a height of 7 1/2". Luckily my landlord is working on the apt downstairs and cut down the posts for me saving me a trip to the hardware store.

For the platform, I bought a 4' x 8' plywood ($19.75 at Lowes) which I had 2' cut off to use as a large bulletin board in the office area. I laid the platform on the floor and measured out where the legs would go and lightly glue them into place. Admittedly, I didn't bother screwing the posts into place as the wood glue worked just fine.

Once dry, I turned the bed over and flipped the mattress into place, centering the mattress over the platform. For more detailed pics, check out my Flickr.

Blog Love: Door Sixteen

I just wanted to give a shout out to Anna at Door Sixteen. I have her on my blog roll but if you haven't been over to Door Sixteen recently or at all, you need to. The blog is focused around the Victorian row house in Newburgh, NY she and her husband are slowly renovating.

I mean, click here to see what she did to a once-hideous sconce in her new rental apartment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sale Alert! is offering 20% off and free shipping until January 29th. Use promo code HCJAN10 at checkout or over the phone. Beautiful and high quality hangers for all!!!

Their metal hangers are my absolute favorite.

Living Better With Less... Returns

Products I specify for clients are well thought out and researched. Since I think before I do (or WHEN I think anyway... no one's perfect) I have few second thoughts therefore very few returns. The key is there are five questions I ask before buying anything:
  • Does it fit the function? (know what you're storing before buying)
  • Does it fit the physical space? (always measure twice)
  • Does it fit the client's aesthetic?
  • Does it fit the budget?
  • How easy is it to clean?

How easy something is to clean is just as important as everything else. I hate products with so many little ridges and angles that collect dust and dirt. I've mentioned a few before.

I've said this before, organizing products are tools. I don't know anyone who would go into a hardware store and buy a tool without knowing what it is and how they would specifically use it. Yet people go into places like The Container Store and do just that all the time and wonder why they still aren't organized.

Sale Alert!

Shop now at The Container Store, and enjoy 30% off all Elfa products and installation. Elfa's not exactly my favorite closet system (looks wise) but it does have it's benefits:
  • sturdy
  • easy to install
  • adjustable
  • easy to uninstall and re-install
  • easy to add-onto

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apartment Progress... Coffee Table Inspiration

Since I don't have the cash to purchase the last few pieces I'd like for the apartment (sofa and chairs), I've been focusing what I can do to finish the space. Quick note on what I mean by finishing; I'm not looking to make the space perfect. I don't know how long I'll be here (hopefully for while) but I'd like to get it to the point where I'm happy and am comfortable having small parties.

My main focus is spending the least amount of money on each project so if I find a chair or lamp I love, I don't feel bad spending $$$. Because of this, I've decided to make what I can including a bed (the Malm Bed I had in the last place didn't fit here so I had to sell it), and a coffee/dining table. The bed is going to be a simple platform bed without a foot or headboard. Pics to come soon!

The table above is the inspiration for the coffee/dining table. I want it a bit higher than a coffee table (12-18") but a little lower than dining table (30") so I can comfortably eat there, but still keep it a more lounge-y feel. Will keep you posted on how I make it....

I'm sorry I don't know the source of the photo. I've cropped out the rest of the room, but if anyone knows who's photo or design this is, please let me know.

Apartment Progress... Painting A Radiator

The top pic is the 'new' radiator my landlord put in a few months ago. I painted the radiators in my previous apts so there was no hesitation to paint this one. I always hand painted them white but for this one I thought to spray paint it matt black. NEVER spray paint anything IN your home. What a mess!! (Even though I put paper around the radiator). The time I saved by spray painting was spent trying to clean everything the black mist landed on....

While I didn't go through the proper steps to make this look perfect, I still think it looks much better now :O)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sale Alert!

Just wanted to let you know Hable Construction is having a 'tag sale' and are practically giving away limited styles of their high quality, hand-made in the USA pillows (and other fun things). Be sure to check it out!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Living Better With Less... Chapped Lips

I wanted to share something with you. Some may think this has nothing to do with organizing but what I do as an organizer is geared towards lifestyle rather than strictly coming up with storage solutions.

Lately I've been running into people who suffer from chronic chapped lips. My first question to them is if they use Chapstick® which they all do. My next question is if you always use Chapstick® and always have chapped lips, WHY are you still using it? I think that stuff causes chapped lips!!

I speak from experience. Back in jr high I used Chapstick® religiously until one day I asked myself the above question. I stopped cold turkey, never to touch it again and have had chapped lips once since then (we're talking 20 years)...

To prevent chapped lips:
- always have something on your lips (lip gloss or lipstick is fine)
- never lick your lips
- after brushing your teeth (and tongue), brush your lips to exfoliate
- after exfoliating, and before going to sleep, use a moisturizing lip balm. I personally swear by Burt's Bees® Beeswax Lip Balm and Kiehl's® Lip Balm SPF 15

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What to Do With a Deep Coat Closet AND a Few of My Favorite Things From Ikea...

This deep narrow hall closet was a huge annoyance to this client. With hooks on the door and both sides it made accessing the back and upper shelves awkward. Things were getting 'lost' on the upper deep shelf. With no storage for small things like gloves and scarves they ended up all over the apartment including in the bedroom dresser.

The before shots are actually progress shots taken after we removed everything, edited and relocated a few things to other areas of the apartment. The upper shelf was designated for her suitcases, an extra yoga mat and shopping bags (kept together in the brown shopping bag).

We removed all the existing hooks and installed a
valet hook and full length mirror to the inside door. Storage was kept to the left wall to give as much room as possible to get to the back. Five clear acrylic bins (no longer available) hold hats, gloves, scarves, and umbrellas. The valet hook on the bottom holds frequently used tote bags. Two shelves (cut to size) hold sneakers (her nice shoes are in the bedroom). A few Flor carpet tiles finish it up. :O)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What to Do With a Large Open Bookcase

(gallery wall not complete)

I'm helping this client not only get organized (pics to come) but also to 'finish' the space. Her small studio has a beautiful mix of modern, industrial, and chic furniture. We started with the bookshelf; she was concerned about getting more books onto the shelves while still being able to access everything. I chose these kitchen boxes not only because of their size (they fit the shelves and the paperbacks fit inside them nicely), but the wood doesn't compete with the wood shelves, they blend nicely without being too noticeable. We used Muji bookends to keep everything in place.

The framed pictures originally on the shelf not only look cluttered, but limited access to the books and weren't standing out enough. I purchased a number of simple white frames which we mixed with them to create a little gallery corner. Not all the frames were ready to hang and we ran out of wire (and nails) so unfortunately you're not seeing the final result. Check here for details on what we're missing...

Cord Management

Making cords look good is important to all my clients. Instead of spending $$ on specialty cord organizers, I like to simply hide cords behind something like the TV console. When clients ask for advice on picking a TV console, I recommend ones with a solid back and not something with all open shelves. A top open shelf is fine but all open doesn't work, I mean why make it hard on yourself?

The above shots are from my apartment. The large piece of white acrylic is from a previous apartment that I just remembered I had so I have it leaning against the wall to cover the power strip. If I didn't have that acrylic already, I would purchase a larger piece and have it cut to fit behind the desk perfectly, but this will do just fine. Under the table are removable adhesive cord clips that I've had on there for a while. If I put the piece of acrylic first, I probably wouldn't have used them but they're something I use a lot for this purpose.

If you can't hide your cords behind anything, these work really well.