Marie Kondo, the woman behind the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is experiencing an up-tick in popularity right now (I started this post in January, so just go with that thought!). She just hosted a show on Netflix, but her book has been around for a number of years now. Funny enough, I just got around to buying it and reading it. And while I haven’t yet completed the last 30%, I can still say it was a revelation. Not because I am a hoarder that desperately needed to rid myself of large quantities of unwanted items, but because she carefully explains what I knew in my heart, and allowed to flow freely. What is so life-changing about her philosophy is the understanding that some things we have do not end up serving the purpose that we originally intended them to serve, and it’s okay to let them go without realizing that intention.

Intention is a powerful word. When we pick something up and ask ourselves if it still brings us joy, we examine our intentions for the object. I hadn’t realized how much guilt there is wrapped up in storing objects. So many clients come to designers with the primary goal of ‘creating more storage’. And as I have said so many times in the past, ‘You don’t need more storage, Sis, you need less stuff!’ Too many times I have seen people hanging on to things because they represent something completely unrelated to the object. For me, it’s a bread maker. Store bought bread is loaded with preservatives, so I want to make home made bread for my family. In the 19 years that it has sat in my kitchen island, have I ever made a loaf of country white? Nope. But it sat there, representing the kind of mother I want to be, if I had more time. The truth here, though, is that it’s just a bread maker. It’s not the holy grail of motherhood. And I never once have used the thing. I have no intention of making bread, so I should give it to someone who does! That’s the subtle difference between intention and sparking joy.

When it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase something, the same idea applies. It’s asking myself, ‘what specific unmet need does this fulfil?’ When you ask, ‘why do I need this particular thing?’ instead of ‘do I like this?’, the buying decision becomes much less complex. If you are close to my age, you probably find that there really isn’t much out there that you need that you don’t already have. Further, a lot of the stuff you thought you needed, you really don’t. So when it comes to purchasing, the question boils down to, ‘do I not already own something that can do this?’ If the answer is no, by all means get it. But one of the most fun things is when you take something you already have and repurpose it to fulfill an unforeseen need. That armchair languishing in a spare bedroom would look amazing reupholstered and in the foyer. The frayed edge denim look is SO easy to accomplish by ripping the seam of those old jeans you haven’t worn for a year. Don’t just float along, really look at what you are doing and ask yourself why. The why is the intention, and that’s the whole point!

Finishing Touches, Function, Mud Room, Organization

A Hardworking Home

Happy 2019!

This week I am inspired by Joanna Gaines’s book, Homebody.  She has some amazing photos, sure.  But what really inspired me is her philosophy on design:  every nook and cranny of a home should be special, and work for you.

If you think about it for a second, it makes a lot of sense.  As homeownership evolved, and homes started to be kept not by a staff, but by the owners themselves, there became the idea that we would keep some parts of our homes to show others, and other parts would be closed and private.  We started to really buy into the concept of public and private spaces.    But then we took it a step further and started to pick out private places that were not worthy of investment.  Laundry rooms were in a dark corner of the basement.  Mudrooms were in the garage.  Pantries were shut behind closed doors adjacent, but not visible in, the kitchen.  Why?  Why did we take the tasks that people enjoy the least (laundry, gear organizing and putting away the groceries) and make them even more tedious by making the working environment they exist in so deplorable?

Thankfully, we are in a time of design where these spaces are being reconsidered.  I see plenty of second floor laundry rooms (depending on how you feel about that 😉 ), show stopping mud-rooms, and large pantries with spaces to sit and hang out.  But not many people have room for all of that.  So what I want you to take away from this is one small concept…make it intentional.

I love this laundry space…a counter top finished off the appliances.  Further, the homeowner brought in a lamp, a potted plant and a couple of other touches to make this space feel finished.  It’s especially important to finish these spaces when it’s the primary entrance to the home for your family (ie, it’s how you get from the garage into the home).  That first greeting the house gives you is so important, make it clean and inviting!

Here is another intentional space for a plant lover, I assume.  This is a great example of a space that more than likely brings the homeowner great joy, even if it isn’t each and every one of our’s dream laundry.

From this space, just admire the intention.  Fun cabinet hardware, friendly tile work, unique lighting, a throw rug.  These little touches make a space feel special.

For a pantry, consider clear containers to make the space more intentional.  It keeps food fresher, longer, and looks more uniform on the shelves.  If you don’t have a dedicated space for a pantry, these containers look fantastic on a high shelf in the kitchen.

And I have featured mud rooms before, but what I want to point out is that even a small hallway can be a mud room.  A few well anchored hooks, a couple baskets to toss smaller objects, and a small place to sit to put your shoes on, and you have a mud room!




Mud Room, Organization

Mud Rooms

Remember when I almost moved?  One of the big reasons I was so excited was that I was going to create a 400 sq ft mud room.  I still get a far away expression and have trouble completing my thought when I talk about it…in my mind, no backpack, running shoe, lacrosse stick, etc would ever make it’s way into the main area of my home with the mud room I was going to build.  No sir.

But it got me thinking…what’s going on in my mud room right now that is making me want to move rather than tackle it?  I can answer that truthfully…13 years now of layering on cork board push pins and stuffing in cubbies has it busting at the seems.  It was time to start over in that room, and I don’t mean knocking out the kitchen to create a giant mudroom.

The misconception is that the mudroom is where you store certain things.  That, for the most part, is not true.  While I subscribe to the theory that you should never put something down NOT in it’s place (just put it back now!), the mud room provides a transitional area to leave items that are either still being used, or are finishing their use.  Examples are wet raincoats, your purse, muddy shoes, anything that can’t just yet go back in it’s regular spot, or whose regular spot is on your person.  The problem in my house is that we have gotten away from it being a transition area, and have started to store things, inappropriately, in there.  It got claustrophobic.  Looking for sunscreen?  Check the ledge above the key rack.  What?

Yes, well, all of that has changed.  Because if you carefully read between the lines of my text here, you will hear a familiar falsehood…I need more storage.  No dear, you need less stuff.  Or more to the point, you need to find a more appropriate place for all that stuff.

The basic math of a mudroom is some sort of bench like run, with shoe keeping capability under it, and some sort of hanging capability at about 5 feet.  Mudrooms are, most of the time, that great small size where you can make a statement and it’s not too overwhelming (cough cough, cement tile floor).   Let’s look at some I found on Houzz…

Love the light fixture, love the floor, love the space.  You name it!

These next two I want to point out because they have fully enclosed fronts.  This is an awesome idea if you can get away with it.  Leave the clutter behind closed doors.

Of course, open lockers look adorable too, and in a smaller space, they feel a little more spacious, provided you don’t overload the hooks!

Those floors!

This last one is the inspiration for my mudroom reno…love!


Function, Organization

The Drama of Laundry

Today might not be the day to tackle this subject, because my 11, 13 and 15 year olds have been on summer break (translation: home and available for copious transport) for about a month now.  The build up and excitement of the Fourth of July is behind us, and this morning it seems like I am seeing my house for the first time in a month.  Where in the heck did all of these socks come from?

Admittedly, my dog Phillip likes to relocate them around the house.  But when you are a dog owner, you learn to take certain precautions:  don’t leave a plate of food on the coffee table, keep the bathroom doors shut, and (I thought we knew) keep your socks put away/on your feet.  Apparently not.

But further, various High School/summer sports mean wardrobe changes.  Many, many changes throughout the day.  Apparently, those changes must be executed on the first floor, which makes for a light dusting of various items of clothing through out the main living spaces.

Organization and function is always on my mind, so I start with the things that I cannot change, and the one big immovable truth of my home is that I have a first floor laundry room.  Back when we built our house, it was popular to have the laundry room on the second floor.  We opted not to do that, instead, positioning it off of the garage and off of the locker room, the main thoroughfare into the house.  I have never regretted that move, especially when we bought our front loading washer, who’s spin cycle rivals the decibel level of a jet engine.

As the kids have aged, I find that they are very good at packing clothing for themselves.  Meaning, the clean clothes put neatly away are easy to grab and take with them on the off chance they are needed.  But when they are faced with the daunting task of taking an unworn item back to their rooms to hang up, or just tossing it into the laundry room, well, it gets tossed.  This.  Will.  Not.  Do.  Aside from the fact that it’s not green to be washing unworn clothing, tossing it in the laundry so that mom will fold it and take it up grates my nerves.  Maybe now that the kids are older, a second floor laundry room is the answer?

This weekend I asked my ‘squad’ this very question.  Those with second floor laundry rooms swear by them.  The theory there is that the laundry never comes downstairs.  I am not convinced.  My fear is that my family will start to dress out of the laundry room.  Idea being, it’s all folded or hanging up in there, why move it?  I will have to do more research, because next month we go to Maine for a week.  And I think it will be hard to convince me it’s a better idea to drag those sandy, sea watery messes through the house and up the stairs than to drop them one foot inside the door.  At any rate, here are a couple of laundry rooms that I would GLADLY wash obviously clean clothes in…

I like the function of this room.  It’s gorgeous and white with a bit of bling, but I love the hanging bar.  I really feel like you can’t have enough hanging space in a laundry room.  Drying clothes need room to breathe!

This one makes me so happy to look at, the tile floor, adorable light, blue cabinets, reclaimed wood.  So freaking adorable!

Organization, Sustainability

Discarding Old Clothes, Sheets, Towels…

Yesterday, while shopping at the mall with my daughter for a last minute birthday present, I heard a PSA that caught my attention.  I was in H & M,  and the woman talked about bagging up old clothes, in no specific condition, and bringing them in to H & M for recycling.  They will give you a 15% off voucher to use on your next purchase.  I grabbed the nearest manager and asked for clarity…the policy is that they take clothes in ANY condition, because they send them out for textile recycling.  This is amazing news!

Past posts have talked about cleaning out closets and cabinets, and I always get nervous when people talk about a purge.  Purges happen when you start to think your closet is a little too full, or you feel, like me, that you do a ton of laundry and you just aren’t excited about what you’re folding.  They also happen when a pile of something undesirable gets so big, you get sick of it and just throw it out.  For me, that pile is a garbage bag filled with orphan socks.  So let me offer a list of what to do about these things:

Sheets and towels in any condition…find a local pet shelter.  I volunteer at a dog shelter and we love getting old baby blankets, towels, and twin bed sheets.  We line the bottom of the dog’s cages with them.  So comfy!

Nice clothes (suits, dresses, blouses, anything someone could wear to a job or interview that you don’t wear, but are in good condition)…find a local family shelter and see if they take clothes directly.  They may also have a consignment shop associated with them.  Donate there.

Clothes in good condition…Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul.  They turn around and sell them.

Ripped and stained clothes, towels, sheets, mismatched socks, etc…bag them up and take them to H & M.  Then happy shopping knowing absolutely none of your discards will see a landfill!

Kitchen, Living Rooms, Organization, Sustainability

Spring Cleaning

It’s finally Spring in Chicago and I have been bitten by the NEED to organize my home!  All of the May magazines are advertising articles for spring cleaning and organizing, and the glossy pictures of minimalist craft rooms and pantries has me drooling.  YES!  I need a wall mounted wrapping paper station!

But let’s take a beat here, because when we talk about getting organized, we are not talking about running out to our local hardware store and buying ‘organizers’.  Besides, I am more of a gift bag girl.  No, the first step to getting organized is, in a word, purging.

The sustainable side of me always cringes at that word because too often it means ‘send it to the landfill.’  But that is not what I mean.  When we talk about purging, we talk about a philosophical shift in your home.  Make due with less.  I marvel at my home every time I return from a vacation, because I have just lived my life for a week with the sum total of that which I can carry.  So what in the heck do I really need the rest of this stuff for?  Let’s give it to someone else who DOES need it and CAN use it.

Start with your cabinets.  What is in there?  Are they things you use all of the time?  Or are they ‘put away’, therefore have a place in your home.  Be honest with yourself here, but also be forgiving.  Is there something in there with the tag on it, that you thought you were going to use, but haven’t quite had the opportunity?  Let it go.  Get a big plastic bin and delicately place it in there…the lovely people at Salvation Army will sell it and do great things with the money.  The same goes with discarded items you ‘might find a use for one day’.  Also, anything that ‘when I find the time I am going to…’ and anything the kids haven’t picked up in a while.  They all go in the bin.  Forgive yourself by saying that it’s not fair to the next person that you are keeping these things when they, or their children, could be using them right now.  Recycle that which cannot be donated, of course, and now you have some serious storage space to place the items you trip over because you use them on a regular basis.

Rarely do I meet a client that legitimately needs more storage.  More often than not, they just need less stuff.  The reality is that if you build storage in the attic or the basement, you will actually store things on your stairs awaiting the person who will walk them up to the attic or down to the basement.  Once there, well, now they have a place in your home.  And there they shall sit.