Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Huge Jewelry Organizer

I love chunky, junky jewelry, and I'm always looking for a way to put them out on display as they are too beautiful to be hidden away in a drawer.  I have made a smaller version of this padded jewelry display before, but since my collection has grown, I was looking for something bigger with more impact.  Luckily, I already had all the materials on hand, and it only took me 30 minutes to complete this project.

I re-purposed a mirror I made to stage my last place for sale.  The 20"x40" frame came from Goodwill for $14.99.  I bought a piece of plexi mirror for $20 and cut it down to fit the frame.  As a temporary mirror, it did the job,  but the silver behind the plexi mirror began to peel, and the mirror began to warp slightly, making it look like one of those carnival mirrors.  The batting and muslim came from my quilting stash.

I cut the fabric and muslin slightly bigger than the mirror.  You'll need this extra fabric to wrap around the mirror.

Next, I wrapped and taped the fabric to the back.  Be sure to pull the fabric taut so it doesn't sag.

Place the wrapped mirror in the frame.  I got a kick out of the original price of the frame:  $158.95.

I didn't have any brackets to hold the mirror in place, so I improvised by bending some nails in place.

Flip over and enjoy your work.

Now comes the fun part - hanging your jewelry.  I had extra T-pins I used to hold the jewelry in place.  This was a super easy project, and the best part was that I didn't have to spend any money as I already had the materials.  Now I have to figure out a place to hang this where the cats won't to swat at the jewelry.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Organizing Tip: Organize your Car

Many of  us spend more time in our cars than our homes.  Some of us have long daily commutes.  Others use their cars as mobile offices for sales call.  Moms shuttle their kids to school and numerous after school activities.  Considering all the time we spend on the road, its no surprise that clutter and trash tends to accumulate in the car, usually on the floor.  Here are some products and strategies to keep your car tidy.

Back seat organizer

This organizer comes in many variations, but they all do the same thing - provide a convenient place to stash your stuff and keep it off the floor.  This is particularly helpful with kids as they tend to have lots of stuff to distract themselves in the car.

Stash Your Trash

Talus Litter Bag
This is another variation of the back seat organizer designed specifically for trash.  As a cheap alternative, I slip a plastic grocery bag around my stick shift.  When it gets full, I slip it off, toss is in the trash and slip on a new one.

Office organizer
Auto Express Desk

This handy office organizer sits on the passenger seat and  is perfect for sales people who visit many clients during the day.  The hinged top opens up to provide a work space for a laptop.  Handy compartments hold files and office gadgets.   It's a desk on the go.

Trunk organizer

Some of us use our trunks as external storage lockers, which is perfectly acceptable if you have sales samples or weekly sports activities that require lots of gear.  To prevent your items from rolling around and getting damaged, keep them contained with a trunk organizer. 

Tidy the car when pumping gas:  It only takes a couple minutes to fill the car, so take this time to clean the car.  Toss out the trash, pick up items from the floor and put them in their proper place.  The car is actually a very small space, and you will be surprised to see how much you can accomplish by the time your tank is full.

Keep a trash can in the garage: For many families, the garage serves as the main entry and exit point of the house.  Keeping a trash can in the garage makes it easy to quickly rid the car of trash.

Don't leave the car empty handed:  Anytime anyone gets out of the car to go in the house, they need to grab something and either put it away in the house or throw it away.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wishful Wednesday: Dream Pantry

I wish I had a pantry like this.

Design Sponge

Beautiful Labelling

I usually rely on my trusty label maker for quick labeling as I appreciate the instant gratification. The labels aren't beautiful, but they do the job.   If I had more time, I'd probably try something more decorative.

Chalk Board Paint

Make erasable labels with chalk board paint. 

Glass Etching

Customize glass storage jars with glass etching.

Free Printable Labels

There are many artists out there who have generously donated their talent to the general public with free labels.  A quick Google search on "download labels" yields some beautiful labels.  Simply download, print and afix with a glue stick or double sided tape.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dual Purpose Dining Rooms

My last house had a formal dining room that we rarely used.  Our lifestyle in northern California is very laid back, and we would only use the dining room for Thanksgiving or Christmas if we happened to be hosting.  Every time I walked past my dining room, I would think to myself  "what a waste of space."  It never occurred to me that my dining room could do double duty until I came across these rooms.


This is a room completed by Mica Ertegun of MAC II published in Architectural Digest. Not only is it a lovely dining room but it doubles as a library.  There's something about walls of beautifully bound books that create a warm, cozy feeling.  Also, books are a great conversation starter during dinner. Though this dining room has 3 walls of built in bookcases, all you need is a couple of bookcase to mimic this look.

 Here's a modern variation of the library dining room.  Love the pop of yellow against the dark walls.

Game Room

Convert your dining room into a billiard room by lifting off the top of this table. You can even use it as a poker table with the addition of a poker felt top.  Full disclosure - my husband and I bought this table for our dining room a couple of months ago. Yes, it is stupidly expensive, but it is exquisitely designed, very beautiful and highly functional as both a dining and game table.  We find ourselves spending more quality time with our friends at home playing pool and hanging out.  This table has really changed the dynamics of the room and how we interact with friends.  Costco sells much a more affordable versions of this table, tough not as good looking.

Dining Room Office

If space is at a premium, use your dining room as an office. The dining table becomes a generous work surface.  File cabinets can double as a buffet.  Office furniture has come a long way, and you can find beautiful file cabinets that look like high end furniture.  Pottery Barn has some great examples. If you're crafty and on a budget, you can customize generic file cabinets with beautiful wrapping paper.  There's also office organizers pretty enough to be left out on display.  Container Store has a great assortment to choose from.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Organizing Tip: Archiving your Children's Artwork

If you have young children, chances are you are flooded with their artwork.  There's only so much you can display, but you feel too guiltly to throw it all away.

I have a client who was struggling with the same problem.  She is extremely sentimental and kept almost every piece of her children's artwork.  Imagine all the papers she has been collecting with 3 kids.  She was quickly running out of space and wanted a more efficient way of archiving all her kid's artwork, so I suggested scanning the art and making a photo book.

First, we took inventory of all the art.  As much as we love our kids, not every piece of art they create is a masterpiece, so we worked closely with her daughter to select the best art that had the most sentimental  meaning.  Next, we sent them into ScanCafe to have them scanned into jpegs.  If you have a scanner, you can do this yourself, but given the quantity and the large size of some of the artwork, it was easier to have a professional do it.  Once we received the DVD, we uploaded them to Mixbook and made a 12x12 photo book.  There are many other photo book sites, but I prefer Mixbook because you can add, resize, move and delete pictures and text boxes very easily.

I chose a simple white background for the photo book because I didn't want anything to compete with the artwork, but there are many background and embellishments you can add to jazz it up.  Take a look at the finished photo book.  It's arranged chronologically, and it's interesting to see how her daughter has grown and matured over time.   At the end of the project, we were able to condense two large boxes of artwork into one slim photo book.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Style your Bookcases

I always strive to combine beauty with form and function.  If a room is gorgeous and pleasing to the eye, my clients are more inclined to keep things neat and tidy.  When it comes to bookcases, most of my clients treat them as  functional pieces of  furniture and unimaginatively align their books upright across the shelf.  Bookcases consume a significant amount of visual space, and in some cases, they are the focal point of the room.  Below are some easy examples to add decorative style to your bookcases.

Stack books on their sides to create lifts that highlight personal treasures.  The different levels across the shelves create a dynamic flow.  Note the use of empty, negative space.  This helps the bookcase feel light and airy.  Simple boxes on the bottom are a great solution for additional storage.

Mirror backs lighten and brighten large bookcases that would otherwise take up too much visual space.  I love how mirrors add a touch of glam to these modern bookcases.

Unexpected wallpaper on the bottom of floating shelves draws the eyes up to amazing ceilings in this loft.

In this room, books serve as a background for art.  I see this look in magazines all the but question the practicality of it.  This set up only makes sense if you don't access your books frequently.

 Paint the back of your bookcase to add a splash of contrasting color.

Wallpaper backs adds a touch of wimsy.  The large scale of the pattern suites the large bookcases.  Usually, all it takes is one roll of wallpaper.

One of my favorite bloggers, I Suwanee, has a weekly feature called Bookcase of the Day that highlights mouthwatering bookcases.  Lots of beautiful inspirations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Organizing Tip: Selling on Craigslist

Craigslist is a great place to make some money by selling things you no longer need.  After years of buying and selling on Craigslist, I've learned a couple of tricks to make the transaction go smoother.

Price: Do your research before deciding on your list price.  Look for similar items on Craigslist so you understand your competition.  If you price your item too high, you will get very few leads.  Price it too low, and you will miss the opportunity to maximize the sale.  You may want to mention the original retail price to help prospective buyers get an idea of the savings, but don't rely too much on this tactic.  The second hand market is very different from retail.  If you are selling mass market items, like Ikea furniture, you will have plenty of competition, and the only way to differentiate your item is through price.

Pictures:   A picture is worth a thousand words, and pictures are even more important now that Craigslist includes thumbnail images on their listing pages.  Personally, I skip listings with no pictures even if the description is detailed and complete.  Be sure to take good pictures from multiple angles.  Also include pictures of any damage so prospective buyers will enter the transaction with their eyes wide open.  You don't want any undisclosed flaws to be an opportunity for the buyer to make a lower offer.

Description:  Be as complete and accurate as you can.  For example, if you are selling furniture, be sure to include the measurements.  If you are selling electronics or computers, include all the specs.  Be honest and disclose the true condition of the item.  Note any damage or flaws.  Prospective buyers will appreciate the complete description.  The last thing you want to do is mislead the buyer who may have traveled quite a distance to view your item.

Contact information:  I prefer to use Craigslist anonymous email system for initial contact to protect myself from spam.  I only give out my address or phone number when I know I have a serious buyer who is ready to schedule a viewing.

Respond quickly:  Given the volume of activity on Craigslist, chances are that buyers are inquiring about many other items in addition to yours.  Respond quickly to help your item stay fresh in their minds.  A timely response will help spur them into action.

First come first serve:  If you have a popular item for sale, you will get many inquiries.  Some people with scheduling conflicts may ask you to "hold" the item so they can view it later in the week.  My first priority is to get the item sold asap.  It's fine if they can't come immediately to view the item, but I reserve the right to sell it before their appointment if another customer is more proactive. 

Show around your schedule: I've had many great transactions on Craigslist, but I've also had people flake out on me and never show up as promised.   After learning this the hard way, I now schedule showings that are convenient for me.  For example, I tend to show items in the evenings when I know I will be home, so if they don't show up, I'm not inconvenienced in any way.  If someone really wants the item, they will find a way to work around your schedule.

Be prepared to haggle:  Don't get insulted if someone offers you a lower price.  That's the nature of the secondhand market.  If I'm more interested in getting rid of something instead of making money from it, I will negotiate a lower price.  If I know I have priced the item fairly and will eventually get the full price, I will hold out for a better offer.

Cash only:  I only accept cash.  I will not accept checks, wires, money orders or Paypal payments.  I want a clean transaction with no chance of fraud.

All sales final: I am very accurate and honest with my descriptions.  I point out every flaw at all my viewings so the buyers knows exactly what they are getting.  There shouldn't be any questions or ambiguity about the item at the end of the transaction.

Take down listing:  As soon as the listing sells, take down the listing, or you may continue to get emails

Safety:  Craigslist had some bad press with fraud and theft. Some people feel safer conducting the transaction in a public place.  Since I sell lots of furniture, I have no choice but to show items at home, so I make sure to have my husband around during the showing.  Learn more safety and scammers on Craigslist. 

I've made a lot money selling on Craigslist.  It's a highly effective platform if you take note of all the tips.  Everyone I have met through Craigslist has been kind and polite.  Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated, and you will have a positive transaction.  Most importantly, use common sense and trust your instinct.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Touch of Wallpaper

If you love wallpaper but are too commitment phobic to use it on all four walls, here are some options to use it as an accent in your home without depleting your pocket book.

Striped wallpaper highlights the fireplace as the primary focal point.

Wallpaper adds a feminine touch in a closet.  Don't forget the doors.

Wallpaper on the ceiling draws the eyes up, making the room appear taller.

Create a patchwork pattern with wallpaper samples.

Summer Thornton inset wallpaper in molding to create a modern twist in a traditional structure.

Are you a renter? Cover a panel you ca
n take with you. Learn more at House & Home.

Create a simple headboard with leftover wallpaper. Details at Style at Home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Peek Inside My Ugly But Fuctional Office

Even though we've been in the house for 9 months, I'm still in the process of getting things just right in the office.  The previous owner installed ugly but functional bookcases and desks.  One of these days, I'll redesign it, but in the meantime, I have set up the following to be efficient: 

Mail System:  I have 3 baskets to help me manage the flow of papers - In, Pending, and To File.  The In box is self explanatory - unopened mail goes here.  The Pending box holds items that need action  like bills and invitations.  The "File" box is where papers that need to be filed are kept.  I have successfully set up variations of this system for my clients to help them keep track of all their incoming paper work.  I make a conscientious effort to go through all 3 boxes at least once a week, otherwise, I drown in paperwork.

 Active Files:  I have several on going projects or clients where I have to actively reference their files.  I like to keep their files on top of my desk  for easy access.

Frequently used office supplies

I prefer an uncluttered desk, so I keep frequently used office supplies within arms reach in drawers with dividers.

Extra office supplies/reference materials

Reference materials like magazines and paint swatches are kept in magazine files.  Extra office supplies go in matching boxes.  Whenever possible I try to buy matching organizers for a cleaner, streamlined look.

What I haven't showed you are other areas of the office that need work.  There's a corner in the closet where I have old tax records that really should go up into the attic as I never reference them.  We also have 2 printers in the office, even though we only need one.   The other bookcase holds decades of old photographs stored in random shoe boxes.  One of these days, I will finish the office.  I sound like the old shoemaker whose children had no shoes - I'm so busy with my clients that I sometimes don't have time to do my own home!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Org Porn

I'm always looking for new, inspirational ideas for organizing, and I'm amazed with the variety of creative and unexpected examples I see on the internet.  Yes, organizing can be fun and creative!  Here are some of my favorite sites I visit frequently to get my creative juices flowing.

No one knows how to keep house like Martha.  There are hundreds of beautifully photographed organizing ideas on her site.  You can also sign up for her organizing tip of the day email.

Real Simple breaks down their organizing ideas by room, and their instructions are easy to follow.  I especially like their "new uses for common items" themes.  Very clever and easy on the pocket book.  Goes to show you that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get organized.


HGTV has great video clips from their shows.  They also have lots of DIY  projects. offers curated collections of beautiful organizing themed photographs.  There's nothing like  visual examples to inspire and spur you into action.