Important Holiday Organization tip!

ImageThe most important holiday organization tip isn’t limited to just the holidays. Here is the most important organization tip ever: Make your lists! Write it down! There is nothing more effective at helping you to get organized than to write things down. I’m a fan of ye olde paper and pen but you can even put it in your electronic device if you prefer. The act of writing uses your visual sense and motor skills so there’s 2 parts of your brain working without additional effort. And then you are adding the memory of writing the items on the list which reinforces what you are trying to imprint on your brain. Simple, no? 

I can’t tell you how many times I write out a grocery list and then never refer back to it and still don’t forget items because I wrote it down. And the opposite is quite true: I’ll forget one of 3 things I was supposed to pick up because I didn’t write it down. You’d think there would be some memory threshold that would permit me to remember 3 things to pick up but that’s just not the case. 🙂

So make your lists: gifts to buy, food to make, cards to send, letters to write, parties to attend, coal to distribute…..Once you start, you won’t want to stop because you’ll be amazed at how this helps with keeping it all together. Your brain is a powerful tool but give it a hand with a pencil and some paper.

Happy organizing!


Great minds think alike…

So yesterday’s post was about makeup organization and look what was posted today on the Birchbox blog: an article on how to organize your makeup drawer! Brilliant!

Birchbox is a ton of fun to subscribe to and get new product samples every month. Plus their packaging is awesome and the boxes can be reused for storing small items or for shipping gifts. This makes a great gift, too.

Happy organizing!

Lazy person’s guide to painting furniture

One of the great inventions of the 20th (yes, it really was the 20th century. 1998 to be exact) century is Craiglist for the acquisition or relinquishing of household goods. I have used it personally for both and highly recommend it to family, friends, and clients. Whatever you are looking for someone else is trying to get rid of, which further reinforces my belief that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

I was in the market for a dresser and didn’t want to pay a fortune for it, nor have it be some generic, mass produced piece that didn’t have any charm. I believe that there is so much “stuff” already out there in the world and we should try to find a way to use what’s out there instead of creating more clutter. I like things that are unique, well made and I don’t want to have matching suites of furniture. My whole life has been devoted to  standing out in the crowd (in a good way) and since your home is a reflection of you, furniture selection and customization is right up my alley. Lastly, I get to participate in one of my passions which is painting. I started off looking at a couple of Goodwill stores but didn’t see what I wanted, which was a dresser that was long and low, hopefully with a chinoiserie look to it. I searched on Craiglist for while and ultimately found what I wanted. This is not an endeavor for those looking for instant gratification. You will not necessarily find what you want when you want it; patience, my friend. The blogosphere has a million pages devoted to painting and up-cycling furniture but I will share my version as well since I took a few shortcuts. It has been in use for a week and seems to be holding up well and I promise to report if these shortcuts are proved to be disastrous. I’ll leave out the part about search terms, negotiating the price, and picking up the furniture but I’m open to writing about that as well if you message me.

sorry it’s dark but there were a lot of shadows when I took this

So here is the dresser before its makeover. Make sure you clean it well and remove anything sticky or waxy. There was some candle wax I had to scrape off and clean that I had not seen originally. Simple Green is a great cleaner and can be used on a variety of surfaces. This one had a laminate top and the wood was painted so I didn’t use an oil soap which I would for a stained wood project. Remove the hardware. Fortunately, there were no repairs required which would need to be done now.

Pull out the drawers and lay them facing up on the floor. Sand the laminate top with coarse sandpaper; I used 220 grit for the first round. I also like to take a sanding sponge and wrap the paper around it so there is a flexible surface to work with.  You can also move the sandpaper around the sponge as it gets worn to refresh the surface.

Pretty drawers, lined up in a row, ready to be primed and painted

This is where I am lazy: I didn’t sand the whole piece, just the top because I knew the laminate would be hard to get the paint to stick. However, I did use a really good primer, Zinsser Cover Stain Oil Based Primer, and I highly recommend it. You can use it as a primer for oil or latex paints and it gives the paint something to grab on to. Since the top is laminate, I sanded with a 60 grit sandpaper, put another coat on, and then sanded with 220 grit. I also wiped and dusted along the way. The container says you don’t have to sand between coats but I had let some blobs and drips accumulate so I had to clean those up.

Then came the time for the true transformation with paint. I selected a satin finish black but I’ve seen some bright colors used and it looks great. Let’s just say the primary user of this piece wanted something on the masculine side and not as brightly hued as I would have selected. I can accommodate. I used a foam roller for the large, flat surfaces, and an angled brush for the smaller, detailed sections. If you don’t want any brush marks, you’ll probably want to try spraying which is beyond my expertise. Or you’ll want to hire a professional. The sealer covers some of this but there are still some stray marks that you can see. Watch out for drips as you’re going. They are hard to get rid of once it dries. It took 2 really good coverings and then a little touch up at the end. The top got the same treatment as when I was priming but I just used the 220 grit between the coats. I really wanted this to adhere plus the top gets all of the abuse.

Dresser mid-makeover

As you can probably guess, this is not a project that gets done in one day which is great for me. I like breaking it down into bite sized pieces and I get a great sense of accomplishment along the way. Even though I didn’t have to do any repairs and I wasn’t militant about brush strokes, it does take time and patience to get through this. There is no instant gratification but it is so worth it in the end.

nice and shiny!

The handles got special treatment, too. I did strip most of the paint off but wanted a shinier gold color to go with the black. Spray paint to the rescue! A couple of light coats with good, gold spray paint and they were done. I let the pieces dry overnight before touching and manhandling, though.

I love a box top for holding items to be spray painted–very handy!

So once everything had a chance to dry overnight, I moved to the final step which was applying a sealer. Think of this as the top coat in your manicure–it protects the surface and gives a nice finish. You can go with any type of finish but I am a semi gloss kind of person. It’s pretty shiny which you’ll see in the photos below. I should have turned off the flash but it was a little too dark. I used a Varathane semi gloss which goes on milky white and then dries clear. You have to be really careful here not to have drips so keep checking your work. I just used a sponge brush for this.

Lovely side angle of finished dresser

Once this is dry and cured you can put the hardware on, stand back, and admire your hard work. I am quite please with how this turned out and how it was not only an economical way to go but also one that used existing resources. Yes, I had to buy some supplies but they are already being used on other projects (stay tuned!) and it is rewarding to get what you really want and to create something unique.

Dresser post makeover. The rug that is shown on the edge is another Craiglist acquisition

So that is how lazy people paint furniture: have patience, look at what is already out there, don’t sweat the brush marks, and enjoy the process. Please contact Neatsmart with any questions about this project or if you’d like advice for your own furniture renewal project.

Happy organizing!

What do I do with my stuff? Part 2 of the wedding dress story.

Not a hotel I have stayed in but my dress did!

Part 2: So continuing with the last post about what to do with your wedding dress once you are ready to get rid of it. I understand not everyone is ready for this and there is certainly NOTHING wrong with holding on to it.  Just like everything else, though, it costs you to keep it in terms of storage space in your home or elsewhere.

I was a June bride and shortly after I got back from our lovely honeymoon, I received an email from the person from whom I had bought the dress, stating that someone named Lien was emailing her about the same dress. I hadn’t even gotten it back from the cleaners yet and I already had an interested buyer? I didn’t have to take the time to write an ad or take pictures and there was already an interested party? Sign me up! I’ll shorten the story and say that by the end of July I had sold the dress to Lien directly in Los Angeles and she was so excited to have this dress for her November wedding in Hawaii. I did keep my veil which was hand made for me by my lovely friend, Anne, although I have yet to put it on since my wedding day.

So let’s fast forward to November, shall we? I had to go to Hawaii for a business trip. I arrived in Honolulu on a Tuesday afternoon and decided to take a stroll across the street to a very nice hotel called the Westin Surfrider. This property was right on the beach and quite a pretty sight for jetlagged eyes. As I walked in the lobby, I searched for the Directory to see what restaurants they had and they had a display of their Events. I saw Lien and her fiancé’s name listed as having their wedding there in one of the ballrooms! I rushed over to the concierge desk to see if it were happening that day—how cool would it have been to see her in my/Robin’s dress? Of course, she might have called Security to have me removed since I technically would have been crashing her wedding. The concierge replied that the wedding had been earlier in the week and they had not updated the Events Board yet. But how cool was that? My dress and I had been in the same hotel 24 hours apart after it had made history in Lien’s life. When I went back to my less glamorous hotel and emailed Lien, she confirmed that she had gotten married on that Monday and was currently on her honeymoon. What a coincidence!

So I tell you this story for entertainment but also to remind you that it is a dress and this one was worn by at least 3 women who loved and adored how it made them look on that day. It made me feel special to know that others were experiencing the same joy and I did wearing it. Here are some other options:

  1. Your dress may be a little older and not current with the today’s fashion so you might have a little harder time selling it. There are other sites like Once Wed and, of course, EBay.
  2. It could be offered to another family member to use for her own design.
  3. Consignment stores are an option as well but I do have to warn you that you probably won’t get what you paid for it if that is a goal.
  4. Donating to Goodwill or another charitable organization is a great choice.
  5. You could even create a piece of artwork out of it, a la Adrienne Maloof.
  6. Some people save the dress and make a christening gown out of the fabric.

So if you are ready to pass it along, think of these options and know that it is going to a worthy cause no matter what you choose.  Your memories are what last forever, not your possessions.

Happy Organizing!

What do I do with my stuff now that I’ve cleared the clutter? The wedding dress story.

What do I do with this stuff now that I’ve cleaned out my closet/drawer/room, etc.? This is an excellent question and one that I help clients with regularly. First off, congratulations on letting go of whatever it is. That takes courage and should put you in a positive frame of mind. Generally speaking, it really depends on what IT is before I can help you determine what to do with IT so I am going to have a series of posts on various resources for getting rid of stuff and provide you some options.

For women, one question that I get repeatedly is what to do with their wedding dress.  This is a sensitive topic for many because it has such strong emotions associated with it plus it was most likely very expensive. It could have been borrowed from a family member or friend. Let me tell you what I did with mine.


A few years ago, I was on my quest for a wedding dress and, as a “mature” bride (yes, anyone over 30 is called Mature), I was struggling with finding one that suited my taste, figure, budget, etc. I tried the traditional, local bridal boutiques, EBay, discounted stores, resale shops, department stores and wasn’t getting anywhere. Finally, I stumbled upon OnceWed, an online store for brides selling their gently used and pre-worn wedding dress. What a miracle! You can check the site for yourself and spend hours searching for gowns by designer, size, price, which I certainly did! Another nice thing they do is list out the exact measurements so that you can determine whether it will fit you since most likely it has been altered. The catch is there are no returns so you’ve got to be really sure that this is the dress you want before clicking “buy.”  You can correspond with the seller to ask as many questions as you like and they typically post a ton of pictures.

So after a few messages back and forth with the seller, I took the plunge and bought my dress without seeing it in person or trying it on. The days before the dress came were nail biters for me because I spent more than I had intended but this dress was gorgeous! I just had a feeling that it was right and, you know what? I was right! The dress arrived at my office and I shut the door and tried it on right there. Thank goodness we hadn’t moved into cubes yet! The crazy thing is, I didn’t have to do any alterations. It was perfect as it was and I was good to go.

Since I had spent more on the dress than I intended, I already decided that I would sell it back once I was finished with it. And here is the main point of this post: it is just a dress and you only wear it one day of your life. This was the most beautiful dress I had ever worn but was I going to wear it again? No. Was I going to have a daughter that would want to wear it? Who knows? Did I have any friends that might want to wear it? No, and I’m shorter than all of my friends and they’ve already gotten married. Do not get wrapped up in possessions because your memories are what last forever, not the actual dress or piece of furniture or other object. Styles change and it is unlikely that you’ll be able to pass the dress along to someone else to wear. I’m not saying it is impossible but think about the cost of storing that dress properly to protect it from the elements and the space it takes up. Think also about the joy of another bride enjoying it as much as you did and feeling as beautiful as you did on her wedding day.

THE Dress

I’ll tell you the story of my selling my dress in a follow up post.

Happy Organizing!

How Disorganization Damages Your Relationships

While people say that opposites attract, I’m not sure that they can live together if they don’t share the same views on clutter and home keeping. Is the pile of dirty clothes/toys/mail left in the floor/room/table a sign that your spouse doesn’t value the family and home or is someone just tired from a long day? Everyone has different standards of cleanliness and order and it is important for your relationships that you are in synch on what those are. I have lived with people less organized than myself and I can tell you it is not fun to come home from a 4 day business trip with the same dirty dishes in the sink that were there when I left. I interpreted that as disrespectful and lazy and I vowed not to live like that ever again.

Be careful of how you keep your home and personal spaces. Clutter doesn’t help anyone and it may really be annoying the person with whom you live and love! If you don’t love it, use it, or need it, get rid of it. William Morris said it best:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Happy Organizing!