Most people who know me know that I love organizing. I even tried to start an organizing business a few years ago. It didn’t end up taking off, but I still “freelance” organize for friends and family from time to time. (Not letting the dream die!)
Yes, what I’m saying is that I organize for fun. And, like the sicko that I am, I really, really do enjoy it.
Which leads a lot of people to think that my home must be super organized all the time. And it is with great shame that I must admit…it’s not. ALWAYS. I do my best, I really do. Joey will tell you that I’m quick to toss any errant object and my favorite question is, “Do you still need this?”
But I live with two other people (and a Bogey), which means I can only do so much when it comes to paring down our belongings.
Recently, I’ve gotten on a tear about our closets. Some of you may remember from my moving-in post, but our apartment is a weird labyrinth of winding hallways and strangely shaped rooms. It also has nine closets.
This is unheard of in New York City living. And while it’s great for storing stuff out of sight (yay!), it also means it’s wayyyy too easy to hoard things we don’t really need.
“Hmm, what to do with all these extra bits and bobs from IKEA? Let’s just put them in this drawer in case we need them later.”
“Dang, these kitchen items don’t fit in the drawers…let’s tuck them in here for now.”
“I mean, I might need eleven tote bags at some point, so I’ll just put them in this closet until that day arrives.”
You see how this can become a problem.
For a long time, I’ve intended to clean out one of our back closets that I lovingly refer to as The Junk Closet (TJC). TJC has become the home of everything from old paintbrushes to baby-proofing items to Joey’s hockey equipment, and it’s safe to say I got stressed out just thinking about looking for anything in there. I also had a sneaking suspicion that the seven or so things I have “lost” in the last year were probably buried somewhere in its depths.
Finally (fortunately), Joey had a few days off this week, so he was able to watch Vivi while I attacked the closet. And, I’m pleased to tell you, it has been brought into order and is actually super functional now. It actually thrills me to open the door and look inside.
I ended up throwing out two full trash bags of junk and did find those missing items. I also learned a few lessons along the way:
1. Waste not…unless it means creating more useful space.
Listen, I get it. You don’t want to just throw out something that, at some point, you paid good money for or that technically someone else could probably use. (Just not you.) I think the hardest part about cleaning out a closet for most people is that feeling on, “But it’s not broken…” So you tell yourself that you could use it someday. Or sell it. Or find someone who could use it. And you put it back in the closet and it sits for another couple of years until you pull it out and have the same internal struggle yet again.
You need to change the way you are thinking about this. That useless thing is actually bringing down your life. It’s taking up space that could be used by something useful to your actual life. Throw. It. Away.
2. But if you really can’t just toss it…
Okay, okay. Let’s pretend you have a really good reason for not just ridding your life of this space-sucking object. Put it in the sell or donate pile and set a deadline for yourself. That means you have exactly one week to sell or donate said item. If that deadline passes, it goes in the garbage. Ain’t nobody got room to store an item they are actively trying to get rid of for more than a week. I currently have three items for sale in my Poshmark closet that are on rapidly dwindling deadlines — and then they will immediately join their pals in the “donate” pile.
3. And if you MUST save it…
Set a space limit for yourself. I’m not a total sadist — I understand that sometimes you really will use something in the future, even if you can’t use it now. You just shouldn’t dedicate an entire closet (or, *shudder*, room) to these items. I let myself have one bin of items that could potentially serve a purpose in a different apartment or house. But you have to really mean it. In my bin, I have a pair of white curtains, a few wall hooks for keys and coats, and a ceramic deer head. Like I said, limits.
4. When you’re done, label everything.
Now that you are purged of junk and neatly organized, you want to keep everything that way. I am the biggest fan of chalkboard labels because they allow for the possibility that one day you will no longer need a bin of baby-proofing items but will instead need a bin of lightbulbs (or something). And since chalkboard labels can get a little pricey when you need a million (because you will want to label everything once you get started), I love this chalkboard tape. It works just like masking tape and can be cut to fit any size bin or drawer.
What are your tips for conquering TJCs in your life?
I’ve realized I am a much more creative cook in the fall and winter. It could be that the summer months are usually too hot in NYC to even think about cooking. (Turn on my oven on a 90-degree day? Are you insane?) But I also think I’m just a lot more inspired by fall produce.
One thing I’m especially fond of is squash. Pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti — I dig ’em all.
My mom tends to cook acorn squash a lot, so for a recent visit of hers, I decided to create a stuffed version made with ground turkey (one of Vivi’s favorite foods) and quinoa. It turned out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you fine folks. Enjoy!
Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
3 T olive oil, separated
1 c quinoa
2 c water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T rosemary
1/2 T thyme
1 t nutmeg
1/4 c pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt (optional)
It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.
A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.
For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.
Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.
That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.
But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.
So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.
But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.
Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:
If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.
A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.
I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.
And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.
The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.
You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?
I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.
If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.
But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.
Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.
I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.
Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.
At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.
Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.
But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).
You live and you learn, right?
I know Memorial Day is not actually the start of summer, but it certainly feels like it. It might just be the humidity, but especially in the city, things just start to feel a bit more festive.
Of course, there is a downside to summer sneaking up on you: You may have officially missed the boat on spring cleaning. (I know. I’ll give you a minute to stop weeping and pull yourself together.)
But just in case you didn’t get around to deep cleaning the curtains and finally organizing that back closet you’re afraid to open (what, just me?), I have a solution. Recently, I discovered three areas of one’s home that can be cleaned and/or organized in about 15 minutes (TOTAL), meaning you can invest a little and feel smugly superior in less time than ever before.
Let’s. Get. Clean.
#1 Your magazine stash: 2 minutes
Maybe it’s a rack, a basket, or just a big pile that doubles as a side table, but odds are that you’ve got a pile of old magazines lying around somewhere. You’ve probably been telling yourself for a year or so that you just can’t toss those old issues because one of them has that recipe you’ve been meaning to try/haircut you want to show your stylist/workout you’re going to do in your living room/etc. But, let’s be real. It’s 2016. We have Pinterest. It’s time to cut ties and set those pages free. In about two minutes, you can whittle down that pile to a handful of favorite issues or even dump the whole thing. Just remember: Magazines can usually be recycled, so do the earth a favor and do that.
#2 Your makeup bag or under your bathroom sink: 3 minutes
Did you know it can actually be dangerous to use cosmetic products after they’ve hit a certain age? Unless you like slathering bacteria all over your face, it’s a good idea to toss makeup after a certain point. (Here’s a guide for how long to keep each item.) Today, spend three minutes checking every item in your makeup bag and throwing out anything past it’s expiration date. Don’t have a makeup bag? Settle for clearing out the area under your bathroom sink (you know you’ve got a million-year-old bottle of shampoo or something under there).
#3 The fridge: 10 minutes
Is there anything worse than getting a whiff of something foul every time you open your fridge? Today, spend ten minutes tossing all the old food and organizing what you want to keep. (Hint: Store all leftovers at eye level or on the top shelf so you’re more likely to notice them and actually eat them before they go bad.) In ten minutes, you’ll probably even have time to wash any newly emptied Tupperware, too.
Look at you! Fifteen minutes later, and you’re surrounded with evidence that you’re a responsible, neat adult. Well done.
What are your favorite quick cleaning chores?
A funny thing happened when I decided to planning my blog posts: I started seeing potential projects everywhere.
A bunch of leftover bottles? That could be some kind of cool vase, right? A messy closet? A total how-to waiting to happen. By choosing to try to be more creative, it seems I switched my brain into constant maker/doer/creator mode.
The same is true of when I go shopping for my home. Typically, I’ll have an idea in mind based on something I’ve seen in a magazine, on HGTV, on Pinterest, or in a friend’s home, and I do what I can to bring that idea to life. In the past, I might just buy what I wanted, but now I actually look for ideas that I can create.
Then again, sometimes I’m also just struck with inspiration.
A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Target for items I needed for our master bedroom redo (as one does) when I decided to take a spin down their crafting and DIY aisles. One of their sub-brands, Hand Made Modern, was having a 20% off sale, so I decided to peruse in case there was anything I could use. In the ceramics section, I spotted an unfinished vase/container and a small octagon-shaped tray. Immediately, I knew they would be perfect details for our new nightstands.
The paint was on sale, and I was excited to find a gold paint and a rose gold paint. If you know me, you know I love gold. And if you REALLY know me, you know I love rose gold.
I knew I wanted to turn the container into a pot for succulents and the tray into a jewelry tray. I started by taping off an asymmetrical line on the container to give it a dip-dyed effect. For the tray, I created a heart stencil out of a piece of tape.
It took about three thin coats of Hand Made Modern’s metallic acrylic paint to achieve the opaque finish I wanted. Be sure to peel away the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off any paint later on.
I gave each piece 48 hours to dry before handling. The paint says it takes about a month to fully cure, but I knew, even in use, the painted parts of my ceramics wouldn’t get a lot of handling.
I also used a Sharpie to add a little message on the jewelry tray. Because who doesn’t need a daily compliment from their decor accessories?
The final results were exactly how I hoped they would be:
And they look even better in their new homes on our newly painted nightstands.
Not bad for an impromptu DIY, right? So what have you been making lately?
I’m going to be honest: I do not have the best track record with household plants.
Pets? I can house train a dog within a week and my family once had a carnival goldfish for two years. Babies? I mean, I don’t exactly have years of experience, but Viv is by all accounts thriving.
But a houseplant? This is the last houseplant I had:
Not a good look. But when I decided to redecorate our bedroom, I knew I wanted to layer in some texture in the way of greenery.
And that’s how I found my way to succulents.
Like the rest of the millenial western hemisphere, I’ve found myself charmed by this chubby little flora in the last couple of years. But I was wary against bringing them into my home because, to be honest, they look complicated. Fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Succulents are oft lauded as nearly impossible to kill and for being able to survive in almost desert-like conditions.
Sounds like my kind of plant.
As hardy as succulents are, though, there are still a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when growing your own. Here is what I learned:
1. Choose the right soil.
Most guides agree that you can either opt for a cactus potting mix or make your own by blending equal parts gravel and traditional potting soil. Even though these little plants don’t need a lot of moisture, they do need a good drainage system. A grainier soil will provide that.
2. Keep the succulents high in their container.
Unlike other plants where you want a bit of space between the dirt line and the top of the pot, succulents do best when they grow right along the edge of their container. In fact, most of the pros recommend placing the plants so that the succulent hangs over the edge a bit (also called a “spiller”). This prevents the leaves from getting trapped under any water and rotting or discoloring.
I also planted an aloe vera plant in another container. These don’t need to be planted quite so high up in the pot, but they do need the same cactus/gravel-and-soil mixture for proper drainage — they can’t take standing water of any kind. Be really cautious against over-watering both plants. To be safe, only water once a week or so when the soil feels dry.
3. Get the right light.
Succulents don’t need constant bright light, but it is good to give them an hour or so of sunshine a few times a week. Ours will live on Joey’s nightstand most of the time, but I’ll make sure they spend some time near the window. Aloe vera, on the other hand, need plenty of light. Since our bedroom tends to be a little darker, I’m planning to keep this guy on the window sill full time.
And really, that’s pretty much it! I’ve had the plants for a little over a week, and they both look just as healthy as they did when I planted them. Giving myself a big green thumbs-up over here.
Also, did you notice that cute gold-dipped succulent planner? Wouldn’t ya know it, that’s a DIY post for another day. (AKA, next week.) Stay tuned!