June, 2010

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Michael Graves Closet Organizing System, A Review

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

When I first saw the Michael Graves closet organization system, I thought, “No Way! That will be too much weight on one closet rod!”

With further thought about the possibilities, I have come to the conclusion that the ClosetMax system will work for some folks provided their needs are within certain parameters. Think with me to see if you “qualify” to use this system.

The Michael Graves ClosetMAX System

  • You are committed to keeping only the amount of hats/shoes, sweaters that fit in the hanging bins – a clear “one in, one out” mandate.
  • You want to use the double hang rod in a child’s closet to put his/her hanging clothes within reach.
  • You will use only 3-4 of the hanging storage bins to keep weight at a minimum.
  • You are able to reinforce your existing closet rod that is 6′ or more in length.
  • You are ready to keep the essentials of a spartan wardrobe and let go of mistakes, mismatched items, “weight loss” wannabes, stained and irrepairable items.
  • You will only keep linens used in the adjoining bath here, not the entire linen closet!
  • You want to use the 6 shelf bin to sort and label children’s clothes for each day of the school week.

OK, I am convinced that this system has merit provided it is used carefully. These are the pros and cons to consider when making your decision.


Versatility and cohesive look – The many choices of organizing bins  give lots of options while the neutral palette ties all pieces together.

No tools required – Everything hangs from your existing closet rod.

Multiple double hang options – Each piece has the double hang bar holder, so you can use the lower bar in any configuration.


The weight issue – Everything hangs from your existing closet rod. Be ruthless in trimming down your wardrobe and use this system to keep it in check.

Wasted space – Each of the hanging bins will take 10-20” of closet rod space. Only install the pieces you will fill from top to bottom

Wide access needed – this system may not work for the older narrow closets with limited entry or sliding doors. In order to find what you need quickly, the bins should have direct “reach in” access.

The ClosetMax Collection is now available at Target. You can view the collection online at NeatFreak. This manufacturer blog states that you must purchase from retailer. I guess The Shopping Channel counts because that site sells the above configuration for $89 (S&H extra).

Like any other tool, this closet system will work for the right application. I have been known to hammer the 1” nail I need to hang a picture using the end of a screwdriver. Not the best idea. Use the right tool to get the best results.

Extreme Downsizing… So Tempting!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I had just returned from a week’s vacation in Arizona and was feeling footloose and fancy free. Then I read Sean Ogle’s guest blog on Unclutterer entitled “Less stuff, more adventure”. It brought back memories of my first year of marriage to my Army Lieutenant when we could fit everything we owned – literally!- in the back of a Chevy Vega.

Tiger Balm Garden, Hong Kong

Sean went a step farther and sold the car! Now he is a world traveler living out of a backpack. He was writing from Bangkok, Thailand.

Obviously, Sean is not living in a tent and he must have a bank account he is drawing from. He is making his living with freelance writing and other online ventures. When not punching a computer keypad, he is meeting the Thai people, learning their culture and enjoying the bustle of a very cosmopolitan city.  Read Sean’s article here. Very motivating to lose the stuff that ties us down!

Did you visit the Tiger Balm Garden yet, Sean? Jeff and I were there in 1976, great place to celebrate the Bicentennial. Congrats on taking the steps to follow your dream!

Downsizing In Place, Part 1: The Benefits

Monday, June 21st, 2010

After the children leave home, the house that once was bursting with bodies and activity is suddenly over-large, like a shirt on a successful dieter. Nature abhors a vacuum. Likewise the tendency is to fill up the nooks and crannies. This is especially true of empty nesters. The emptiness is less glaring that way.

A professional gathers the tools of his/her trade – professional books and clothing, awards and accolades – only to find at retirement that these are remnants of a past life. These objects represent an enormous amount of effort and perseverance. How to hold onto the memories of achievement  without keeping things that will never be used again is a dilemma.

For many of us as we change roles, while moving to a smaller home is possible, the prospect is not appealing. Statistics show that  the desire to move from the family home diminishes inversely with age.

A U.S. Census geographic mobility survey indicates that 11% of Americans between the ages of 25-64 moved during the year March 2007 to March 2008.  During that same period, the number of people over 65 years of age who changed residences was drastically less at 3%.

“The American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] found in a survey of peopled aged 45 and older that 82 percent want to stay in their existing homes for as long as possible rather than move to a smaller home or retirement community,” stated CNN in May 2000.

The combined result of “rich” Americans with disposable income and their staying in one home for decades is a house that does need to go on a diet! Downsizing in place is the answer. Clearing out the collected “stuff” from 15-40 years of living in one place takes determination and lots of hard decisions, but is worth it! These are just a few of the benefits:

  1. Ease of movement – The floor and the stairs are not great storage areas.  When these are cleared, the chances of tripping are greatly reduced.
  2. Air quality – When your surfaces are covered with things, it becomes difficult to clean the dust that accumulates everywhere. Living in air conditioned spaces does not solve this problem. Common sources of dust pollutants include human skin, animal dander, sand, insect waste, flour (in the kitchen), and good, old-fashioned dirt. Clearing away the clutter and cleaning all surfaces greatly reduces air pollutants.
  3. Access to stored items – The less “stuff” there is to store, the easier to contain like items in a specific place. In crowded conditions, even if you know where something might be, it can be difficult to get to. Moving 6-10 boxes to get to the one you need becomes a major deterrent.
  4. Thoughtful distribution of valuables – Why not give family treasures to the person who will cherish them NOW while you have that choice? This is a win-win situation. You experience the joy of giving and seeing the appreciation of the receiver. The receiver gains a valuable piece of family history and feels honored in the process.
  5. Peace of mind – a cluttered environment is like a having constant roar in the background. Your eye has no place to land that does not scream, “Do this!”,  “Take care of that!” You will be surprised at the calming effect an ordered environment has.

There are seasons in life that require accumulating specific information, furniture, and tools. When one season ends and another begins, it is difficult to let go of the remnants that hold so many memories – both good and bad! Two opposite forces are usually the catalysts for lasting change: the pain of staying where you are becomes too great OR you become convinced that the benefits of moving forward will outweight the hassle of making the change. I hope you will make the wisest choice for you where you are right now.

Look for Downsizing in Place, Part 2: Where to Start

Do You Love Your Quilt Enough to…? Care and Storage

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Looking at a well designed and well executed quilt is akin to gazing at a beautiful salsasunset. Both sights represent acts of creation that somehow satisfy your soul.

Jeff’s grandmother, Cordie Browning, gave us a bowtie scrap quilt that she hand-pieced and hand-quilted as a wedding present. We used it on our bed, loved it, washed it, and wore it to pieces. I wish I knew then what I know now and that I had preserved her labor of love.

Here are a few tips on quilt care and storage gleaned from experts Ann Russell a conservation consultant, and Deborah Roberts, a quilt historian and appraiser.

1.       Display your quilt on a bed at least 10 ft. from a light source, a wooden rack that has at least one coat of polyurethane varnish, or hang the quilt using a full length fabric sleeve on one end and a sealed 1X4.

2.       Protect your quilt against its enemies of light, oils, humidity, acids, and other chemicals. Since our skin secretes oils, wash your hands or wear white cotton gloves when readying your quilt for storage.

3.       Store your quilt in a low-light, moisture-free area. This eliminates basements and attics as proper storage areas.

4.       You will probably have to fold your quilt to fit the space you have available. To keep from putting stress on the folds, use rolled up batting or acid-free tissue paper to cushion each fold.

5. Place quilt in an archival box or a sack made from washed unbleached muslin or an old cotton sheet. The Hollinger Corporation manufactures archival storage materials or you may be able to purchase an archival quality box from a local dry cleaner (used for wedding gown storage.)

6. Another storage possibility is to roll the quilt on a cardboard roll from a carpet or fabric store. Wrap the roll first with an old cotton sheet.  Lay the quilt top down on another sheet. Roll from one end.  Cover with another sheet if needed. Tie loosely with cotton strips every 12″. Store flat and turn the roll every few months.

7. If you must “wet wash” your quilt, use a quilt cleaning solution in your bath tub according to product directions. Drain, rinse. After the rinse, let the tub drain moisture from the quilt for several hours. Be careful lifting the wet quilt as the weight will put strain on seams and fabric alike. Roll in an old sheet to absorb moisture. Dry flat on another sheet in a low-moisture area away from sunlight.

Two more suggestions from Deborah Roberts:

· Sew a label on your quilt and document its origin.

boots2Your quilt history will survive to the end of the next century if is labeled and documented as thoroughly as possible. Take a photograph of it and keep the photo with your documentation, in a separate area from your quilt. Place a label on your quilt. Your label should contain at the very least, the following information: Your name, (or maker’s name) the city and state where the quilt was made, or where it came from if it is an antique quilt. Also include the date it was made, or a circa date if unknown. It would also be nice to include quilt care instructions, as those who will have the quilt after you may not know how to care for it.”

· Have your quilt appraised.

circuit breaker

If your quilt is well made, you will be surprised at its worth. QuiltBroker.com is a site that sells quilts online. Take a peak to see the going rate for a quilt today.

Of course, the true worth in a family quilt is the heritage it represents. Someone was creative and talented, persevered through hardship, and gave of themselves to their family. That is what we want to preserve and hand down to our children.

Thankfully, each of my children has a child-sized quilt made by Grandma Browning. They will receive a copy of this article.

Help for Getting Organized This Summer: ListPlanIt

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I am a list/form junkie. As much as I love creating my own lists, having ready-made lists available for a quick brain dump is awesome!

ListPlanIt has done all the work and made available hundreds of lists for business planning, meal planning, family matters, travel, financial planning, student planning and time management.  These are only a handful of the list categories available. Moms – there are lists of age appropriate chores!

The three ways you can gain access are:

  1. Annual print membership – $20 for access to all lists to print only. Print and write on lists as desired. For those who like a pen in hand and a paper list to post or use in a notebook.
  2. Annual download membership – $30 for download capability for all lists. With this option, you can type your information directly onto the lists and save.
  3. Individual ePlanner – Choose one category of lists and get the downloadable files for a one time charge of $4.95.

Check out the trial section to see seven sample lists to print. While there, click on the trial ePlanner to experience the download /write-in option.

Think of the possibilities! For summer travel, you can have a “to do before you leave the house” list, a “what I must remember to pack” list, and a “places we want to see, with the contact info” list. The frustration you avoid will more than pay for the investment. Enjoy your carefree summer!

P.S. If you are reading this and thinking of the person who REALLY needs lists to help him/her get organized, there is a gift certificate option!

Got Stuff? Where You Gonna Stuff It?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Got stuff? You love it. You need it. You gotta find a place to keep it.

After you have sorted and purged, you are ready to assign a home to your belongings. You will want to keep in mind your habits and preferences (where does it usually land?), where the items will be used, and the nature of items to be stored.

These are the 7 basic storage options available to you. You can mix and match (a hidden  built-in) to your heart’s content to find your perfect storage solution.

  1. Hidden storage – Drawers and cupboards that hide contents, keep items safe from damage
    Drawback: more effort to retrieve and replace, out of sight = toss it in and forget it
  2. Display storage – open shelving, glass cupboards when well organized, double as a decorative feature
    Drawback: storage of too many objects can look crowded and unappealing.
  3. Built-in storage – efficient use of space with no footprint, no cleaning around it.
    Drawback: location is set, cannot rearrange for different decorating option.
  4. Freestanding storage – portable and adaptable, such as bookcases, carts, metal shelving.
    Drawback: takes up floor space, usually not enclosed so can become unsightly dumping ground.
  5. Compartmentalized storage – used to keep like items separated, such as partitioned drawers, matching baskets, jars, bags, or a system of hooks/pegs.
    Drawback: the designated holder takes up more space than the objects alone.
  6. Item-specific storage – well designed to hold specific shapes or fit in a particular space, such as shower organizers, CD racks, jewelry trays.
    Drawback: limited use, hard to repurpose.
  7. Dual duty storage – versatile furnishings that double as storage, ex. trunk used as coffee table, ottoman with inner storage compartment.
    Drawback: Can’t think of one unless it is the option to keep more stuff!

Don’t forget to leave a little empty space for expansion. Otherwise all your organizing work will be undone by a few new additions!

When you get all your stuff stored in perfect order, step back and breathe a sigh of satisfaction. Better yet, take a picture and tack it up where you can see it and duplicate the same order as needed.