Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christmas Dog

Thought I would repost this holiday blog for all my fellow dog loving friends.  Don't forget all the abandoned dogs (and cats) that need a home for Christmas.

Two days before Christmas of last year I received a call from my friend, fellow realtor and neighbor, Kelly, asking for my help.  Kelly had sold one of her listings and the sellers had moved away.  Earlier that day, she had been at the now vacant house overseeing some repair work that the buyers required before closing, only to discover that the sellers had moved away and abandoned their dog.  After trying, without success, to convince one of the workers to take the dog home, she loaded up the orphan and took him home with her.  Now Kelly and her husband already had 2 dogs and 2 cats at home, so I chided her about bringing in another dog, but she is way too tenderhearted when it comes to rescuing animals (Her husband, a pilot, even volunteers to fly rescue dogs across the country to their new homes!).  The problem was, Kelly and her husband were driving up to Oklahoma on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with family, and although they were taking their two dogs, Chewy and Rufus (cute, cute, cute Brussels Griffons, you know the "As Good As It Gets" dog that stole Jack Nicholson's heart) with them, there was no way they could risk taking a strange dog as well.  She asked if I would check on the dog and feed him for the 3 days they would be gone.  I said sure and went over to her house to meet the dog before they left town.

Upon arriving at Kelly's house I was greeted by a friendly, black and white, mix breed of a "yard dog" if there ever was one!  He was obviously a good dog, but pretty skinny and so dirty his white fur was a dull gray color, and he was a little all over the place, the way dogs in a new enviornment are.  Not knowing what his original name was, they had decided to call him Dexter, because, well, he looked like a Dexter.  Kelly assured me he would be fine staying in the backyard until they returned and showed me where she kept the dog food.  The next day, Christmas Eve, Kelly and her husband, Garrad, took off for Oklahoma.  I wasn't due to check in on Mr. Dexter until the next morning.

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by the noise of howling wind and rain outside.  A big old cold front had blown into San Antonio and temperatures had dropped down into the 30's.  I couldn't sleep another wink the rest of the night, worried about poor Dexter stuck out in the cold and wet.  Even though I knew Kelly had prepared a dog house for him to sleep in, I couldn't wait for the sun to come up so I could rush right over there.  When I got to the house,  I ran to the back door calling and calling for Dexter.  I didn't see him anywhere and the dog house, which I was glad to see was nice and dry inside, was empty.  Oh crap!  I just knew that storm had spooked poor Dexter to jump the fence and I had lost him!  Then, thank God, he suddenly came running around the corner of the house...tail wagging and clearly none the worse for wear.  I didn't care how dirty or flea covered that dog was, I hugged and kissed him like a long lost brother!  Well, suffice it to say, Dexter and I made it through Christmas.  When Kelly and Garrad came home they made Dexter a permanent member of the family.

Well, just a few days ago, Kelly called to ask if I could watch the dogs and the cat for a few days while she and Garrad went down to Mexico on a family holiday trip.  I was happy to help and I even drove them to the airport yesterday morning.  Yesterday afternoon, around 4:30, I jumped in the car and scooted over to their house to feed the animals and spend a little time with them.  When I walked in the door, Chewy and Rufus, barked and barked then, looking past me to the door, seemed a little let down that Kelly and Garrad were not right behind me.  Frankie, the cat, wandered into the room, also a little let down that it was just me.  Then Dexter came bounding in, tail wagging and pushing his head up under my hand as if to say "Why Hello my old friend".  I couldn't help think about the Dexter of just one year ago...this dog's coat was clean and soft, fresh from the groomer, he was practically shiny and, well, a bit fat!  In fact, I think we both had put on a few pounds since last year.  When I had sufficiently scratched him behind the ears he turned and streaked back through the dog door (take a note Dixie, if you're reading this) to run circles in HIS backyard.  I hung out for about an hour and half, tossing toys to the Brussels and petting the cat, with Dexter running in and out to check on me.  Once everyone settled down, I washed my dish (thanks for the great tamales, Kelly), turned out the lights I had turned on, and counted furry heads to make sure everyone was accounted for.  Chewy and Rufus were snuggled together on one end of the sofa, the cat was perched on the back of the sofa at the other end, but I didn't see Dexter.  I walked back to the master bedroom and there I found him, curled up asleep, smack in the middle of Kelly's king-size bed, snoring the way only fat, happy dogs can.  I tell you it was a picture that could knock the Bah right out of your Humbug.  I didn't move past the door, I just whispered, "Good night Christmas Dog", and mosied on home.

Happy Holidays, Ya'll!

Post Script.  Dexter is still "living the life" with Kelly and Garrad.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life in Dixieland

Dear Hearts, I have completely lost control of my house (and most of my life) to an 8 lb, four-legged tyrant named Dixie!  With winter around the corner, I finally got off my duff and installed a little doggie door for my yorkie, so I could avoid leaving the back door open or getting up and down every time she wants to go outside.  Now, little Miss Dixie had a dog door the first two years of her life that she navigated beautifully.  She has gone without her own door for the past 4 years, until a few days ago when her loving mommie risked life and limb to cut a hole in the back door!

I trained Dixie to use her first door in about 2 minutes....a couple of passes back and forth with a treat on each side and success.  This time around Miss Thang has, apparently, figured out how to train me!  For the last several days she has stood on either side of the door, refusing to pass through without a treat.  Even if I just give up and open the door she will not come in or out unless I produce a treat.  I was really beating myself up thinking the door was too small, or too high, or I'm not patient enough....yea, that was until yesterday when a squirrel appeared in the backyard and Miss Thang was through that door in a shot!  3 points...nothing but net!!  Cool, right?  Wrong.  Today we're back to staring at the door like it's some kind of torture chamber she could not possibly pass through without the proper coersion.  Oh, it's on!  Like Donkey Kong!  But, not just yet, because I just ran out of treats...

Happy Holidays, Ya'll!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Pick for This Season's Best Gift

Of course, it's the Amazon Kindle!  I love books.  I love receiving books, and I love giving books to all those bookworms among my family and friends (and there are quite a few).  But, as an organizer the Kindle warms the cockles of my old librarian heart.  When I think of all those cartons of books we lug around, dust covered bookshelves in our homes, stacks of books on our bedside table, etc., etc., I could just scream!  So this amazing wireless reader, which holds 3,500 books, weighs less than a paperback, downloads books in seconds at a cost of around $10.00 per book is a great way for book lovers to begin living a less cluttered existence.

 OK, OK, don't get your knickers in a bunch!  I am not suggesting you should put your treasured book collection in the recycle bin.  But, I do have some suggestions for paring down that collection to something more manageable and meaningful.

To begin with, I keep art books and coffee table books on subjects I am interested in.  These books make beautiful accessories around the home and I love to look through them again and again.  I also keep any books that were signed by the author or contain sentimentally significant written messages from the person who gifted me the book.  And, lastly I keep any "collectible" books like first editions, limited editions or antique volumes.

All others I donate to libraries, hospitals, senior living facilities...whoever needs them.  You can donate your magazines as well...I for one, love a good magazine, but if there is an article that I really want to hang on to I tear it out and file it, and recycle the rest of the magazine.  You can also download your favorite magazines and newspapers on the Kindle as well....can I get an Amen?!

Now, am I going to stop hanging out in Barnes & Noble on Sunday afternoons?  No way.  Will I stop buying hardbound books all together?  Definitely, not.  But, as an avid reader I would love to find the Kindle in my stocking!

If any of my readers have more good ideas about what to do with used books I would appreciate your comments.

Happy Organizing

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm Published!

I recently received an invitation from to submit articles as a "Real Estate Examiner" for San Antonio.  Today I published my first article, "12 Reasons to List Your Home During the Holidays".  You can go to and check it out!  I am really excited by this opportunity and look foward to contributing many more articles about buying, selling and staging residential real estate.  And, to think it all started with this little blog.

Happy Organizing

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Here!!

The amazing Julie Neill, Elizabeth chandelier that I won in the Cote de Texas giveaway has arrived!!  My beautiful niece, who coincidentally is also named Elizabeth, was on hand to join me in opening the package and we were both mesmerized by the contents.  We just stood there in the middle of my garage, peering into the box as if it were a meteorite from outer space that landed in my garage and cracked open to reveal a baby Superman inside.

Elizabeth meet Elizabeth

My darling niece had come over to help me install a doggie door and go onto my laptop computer to show me a picture of the engagement ring she and her fiance had picked out.  This was a bonus day for a doting aunt, dear hearts.  If, like me, you don't have children of your own, take my advice and invest heavily in a niece or nephew.  I have shamelessly done whatever I could to buy Elizabeth's affection over the years and, in return, she has been the light of my life.  So, it's no wonder, after opening that big box in my garage she just had to give it a shot...  Wedding gift?  Not a chance.  Inheritance?  Absolutely.

Happy Organizing

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Today's Favorite Thing: The Battery Store

A big part of creating a more organized life is finding those shops and services that make our life easier.  One of my favorite finds is BatteriesPlus+, or as I call it, The Battery Store.  It all started with a drawer full of wristwatches with dead batteries and little coupon in the mail from BatteriesPlus+ for watch replacement batteries for $3.99.  I was thrilled to find such a bargain.  I had always taken my watch to the jewelry store and paid $20 to $25 for a battery replacement.  The nearest BatteriesPlus+ store was less than a quarter mile from my house, so I gathered up all my watches and trotted right over.  The moment I set foot in the store I felt like Columbus landing in the new world!

In our gadget-filled universe, this store had it all.  Batteries for everything you could imagine from plain old AA's to batteries for cells phones, laptops, appliances, tools, cars, etc, etc, etc.  The sales staff was wonderful and very knowledgeble.  They changed out all of my watch batteries for me and sold me some long lasting AA and AAA batteries at a great price.  Before I left they gave me several coupons for savings on future purchases.

They also provide recycling services for batteries, laptops and cell phones (you know you're not supposed to throw those in the trash, right?).  So, if you're on a mission to clear your clutter, this is a wonderful resource for recycling all that old technology laying around.  But, before you replace that cordless rayzor or power tool whose rechargeable battery is no longer good, call the BatteriesPlus+ store near you or go online to because they sell replacement battery packs for hundreds of products.

Bottomline, BatteriesPlus+ is a terrific, one-stop solution to keeping us powered up and running, and with Christmas right around the corner, you don't want to land on Santa's naughty list for not having plenty of fresh batteries on Christmas morning.

Happy Organizing

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who's a Lucky Girl?

I'M A LUCKY GIRL!!!  Dear hearts, the Clutter Diva really hit the jackpot this time!  I entered a giveaway contest on my favorite blog, Cote de Texas, and out of 1,000 entries, mine was picked.  The prize?  This fabulous chandelier from Julie Neill of New Orleans.


I cannot express my appreciation to Joni Webb of Cote de Texas and Julie Neill for this amazing giveaway.  I lived in New Orleans for ten of the most wonderful years of my life and Julie's work is such a stunning representation of that city's charm and elegance, with just the right touch of whimsy.  I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined I would have something so exquisite for my own home.  I urge you to go to the Julie Neill Design website at and take a look at her beautiful lighting collection.

In the meantime, I'll continue as an avid devotee of Cote de Texas.  The mere mention of my name on her blog spiked my blog visitors yesterday to well over 400 in the first couple of hours.  Now friends, that is some following!  I tip my Stetson to you, Miss Joni,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Homestaging FAQ

When putting your house on the market it's imperative to have lots of photos of your home, inside and out, to post on the Mutiple Listing Service and the internet.  Homebuyers and their real estate agents begin their search for a new home online, and those listings with few or poor photos will not make the cut!  I am fortunate that my broker employs professional photographers to take photos of our listings, so I make sure my sellers know how to stage their home for photography as well as showing.

These listing photos should include plenty of exterior photos that showcase the home's "curb appeal".  But, how do you get the best exterior photos when the season begins to change from spring/summer to fall/winter?  Exterior photos require a different treatment depending on the time of year.  In the spring/summer months when the lawn is green, flower beds are blooming and the trees are full of leaves, photos should be taken from a wide angle to take in large shade trees and sun-filled patios and lawns.  In the fall/winter months lawns may turn brown, be covered in leaves that fell from those now bare trees,and flower beds are without, well, flowers.  Now what do you do?

First of all, remove any "seasonal" decorations and items from the house and lawn (christmas lights, holiday specific door wreaths, banners/flags, etc.).  Although you may have the scariest Halloween pumpkins or the most Christmas lights on your street, these items rarely photograph well and will serve as a red flag to buyers if your house stays on the market past New Year.  Make sure leaves are raked (or snow filled walks and driveways are cleared) from the lawn and fill your flower beds with new mulch to make them look fresh, even if they don't have any flowers.  A fresh coat of paint on any wood surfaces like siding, shutters and, that all important front door will help your home show better from the street and in photos.  Powerwash driveways, patios and sidewalks so they look clean and fresh as well.  In your backyard, remove any covers from lawn furniture, grills or pools (just long enough for the photos to be taken).  Make sure your pool is sparkling clean and remove all leaves or debris.  Now you are ready for photos.

Keep your photos to a tighter angle...more house, less bare trees, grey sky and the brown lawns of your neighbors.  Include extra photos of architectural details like an attractive front door or patio french doors, decorative fencing, custom garage doors, covered patios, etc.  Also, if you have any good photos of your home's exterior during spring or summer, those can be added to the MLS to give the buyer an idea of how the lawn and trees look when they're green.

Remember, the more photos you and/or your realtor post online, the more time a potential buyer will spend looking at your home, and the better the photos, the better chance you'll have to find a buyer.  There is a lot of competition for buyers in the current homeselling market...great photos will help put your listing ahead of the pack.

Happy Organizing

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let's Rap About Wrap

I realize as I write this blog that this is Halloween weekend, but Christmas is truly right around the corner and it's not too early to offer up my tips for avoiding one of my clutter pet wrapping paper chaos!

Now if you are fortunate enough to have a craft room with paper and ribbons on dowels and in specially designed containers...move on, this blog is not for you.  However, if you are like most people, with a crazy collection of wrapping paper and ribbon from Christmas past stuffed in the closet or up in the attic with your artificial christmas tree, keep reading.  (The gift wrap organizer pictured is from Pottery Barn, and Santa, if you're reading, I would love to find this under my tree!)

Whether or not you love creating beautifully wrapped packages (like I do) or dread wrapping all those holiday gifts, this tip can serve you both.  When choosing your holiday wrapping paper limit yourself to two papers.  Yes, I said TWO.  Preferably one solid color and one complimentary print (if you really want two prints, make sure one is a small print to accomodate small packages).  By keeping your paper choices to two, you can splurge on ribbons and decorations to spruce up your packages, and that's really the fun part of wrapping.  I like using non-traditional holiday colors like purple or teal so I can use the leftover paper for other gifts throughout the year.

During the holidays it's now simple to put your wrapping supplies out of sight.  Put your ribbons and bows, along with the scissors and tape in one container.  This container and the TWO rolls of paper are easy to tuck into a closet or under the bed when company arrives.  No more just closing the door to that spare bedroom that looks like Christmas exploded in.  After the holidays you can add the leftover paper (there shouldn't be much) to your everyday wrapping supplies and the container with holiday package decorations can go up in the attic with the tree until next year.

If you really want to keep it simple, just use plain, brown kraft paper for wrapping. Kraft paper is easy and fun to decorate with twine, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, etc. The kids can color or stamp the packages to make them cute and personal...and you can save on gift tags by writing the recipient's name right on the paper with a marker.  I love to pair the kraft paper with pretty, print paper or dress it up with fancy, plaid ribbons and add stamping with silver and gold ink.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I live in a really small house, so my Christmas tree is small as well.  Also, my holiday decorating is kept at a minimum because I have so little space to work with.  When my packages are all wrapped with coordinating paper, they become a decorating accessory in my living room as opposed to a jumbled mess of paper patterns and colors, so the area around my tree looks pretty and pulled together.

I hope this tip helps trim some time and clutter off your holiday preparations.

Happy Organizing

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Write This Down

Is there anything that holds more promise than a new, yellow, legal pad?  I keep a legal pad and pen handy at home and on my office desk (actually they are letter size for easier filing).    On these pads I mostly write lists.  List making has become my cornerstone of organization.  I have filled these pads with lists of everything from daily errands and project to-do items, to my life masterplan.  Nothing is more fulfilling than crossing items off my lists!  It means I'm making progress, getting things done, mastering my universe, one line at a time!

Maybe this is a sign of old age.  When I was younger I prided myself on how much information I could keep in my head.  Now I find if I don't write it down the moment it occurs to me, it's liable to wander off into another room and crawl under the bed with the dust bunnies.  When I feel my world spinning out of control the act of making a list brings things back into perspective and all things seem possible again.

I love the idea of a large, framed chalkboard in a family kitchen. As opposed to the crazy quilt of magnets holding scraps of paper, calendars and crayon art on the refrigerator door (which, by the way, is the first area that has to be cleared when "de-personalizing" a house for sale), a chalkboard can be a fun and stylish way to keep track of family reminders and lists. Cork walls and french, upolstered memo boards work beautifully as well.

Like many of you, I have wonderful technology to help me function on a daily basis.  If I lost my iPhone or crashed my laptop....well, Houston we have a problem.  But, if God forbid, that should happen I still have my legal pad next to my bed with the really important list of things to do (not necessarily in this order):

1.  Travel
2.  Financial Freedom
3.  Health
4.  Entertain
5.  Relationship
6.  Joy
7.  Balance

Happy Organizing

Monday, September 13, 2010

The "Wait For Nate" Is Over!

This was the morning I've been waiting for all summer....the Nate Berkus Show premiered this morning at 9:00 am and it did not disappoint.  For those of you not in the know, Nate Berkus is the award winning decorator who came to national attention when he was pinned to Oprah as her show's decorating expert.  It goes without saying that Oprah is the producer of this new show.  Not only is Nate just downright precious, but his design work is wonderful.

The first show featured a terrific kitchen makeover followed by tips on decorating with "found" objects, how to choose a paint color, and more.  All delivered with that boyish enthusiasm and charm that has endeared him to me and his many, many other followers since Oprah first brought him into our living rooms.  I can see I will need to set my DVR to 9:00 am every weekday morning so I don't miss any shows due to annoying disstractions like work and clients (check for showtimes in your area),.

I noticed that Nate's website and show have lots of organizing ideas and hints that I know I'll be interested in.  Nate's decorating inspirations are almost always function over form, and his spaces are wonderfully livable as well as beautiful.  I have always been particularily impressed with what he can do with small spaces that require unique, muliti-purpose furnishings and storage solutions.

I was disappointed to see Oprah announce that this would be her final season, but I thank her for leaving us Nate (it almost makes up for her saddling us with Dr. Phil...almost).

Happy Organizing

Friday, September 3, 2010

Must Love Dogs

I'm taking a break from organizing tips in this post (I seem to be doing that a lot lately) to tell you about the love of my life, Dixie.  Dixie is my 6 year old yorkshire terrier.  She is a spoiled, pushy, diva, who absolutely runs my life.  If you are a yorkie person you will not find this alarming, and if you have not experienced the joy of living with a yorkie you probably will not understand.  But, suffice it say these are yorkie personality traits that, in addition to being cuddly, loyal and affectionate make yorkies great companions.

The photo in the header of my blog with the milk bone in the coffee cup is just one example of how this little girl never fails to inject herself into almost every minute of my day.  My friends will tell you that getting between me and my coffee in the morning is not a great idea.  Dixie loves her milk bones and she especially enjoys tossing them around and playing with them before settling down to eat them.  On this morning she managed to toss her milk bone so high it landed right in my coffee.  I couldn't resist the urge to grab my iPhone and snap a photo.  Of course, Dixie barked and whined until I fished the milk bone out and gave it to her...don't worry, I made myself a fresh cup of coffee.

Dixie's bio:  Miss Dixie hails from Fresno, California.  Because she's a California girl, she hates Texas weather...thunder, lightening, rain, and temps over 80.  She loves her backyard, milk bones, cheese, car trips, hanging out at Petsmart (because she gets lots of attention there), beauty sleep, and me.  She is not terribly fond of other dogs, cats, being ignored, and the motorcycle next door.

Dixie came into my life in the last years of my marriage and saw me through a divorce, the passings of my brother and my dad, moved with me from Monterey, CA to San Antonio, TX , all without missing a beat.  I have cried a river of tears into her soft fur and she's never complained, never judged, and never denied me "kisses".

I will interject one organizational note here.  Dogs, like children, need routine.  If you keep them on a good schedule for eating, walking and playing they will reward you with good manners and a good temperament.  Trust me, you could set your watch by Dixie's stomach!  My realtor's schedule can be eratic at times, but I keep her needs in mind when planning my day.  If you can't keep to a routine for a pet you really have no business owning one.

Thanks for letting me gush about my little girl.  If you have a furry friend in your life, then you know how lucky you are.  Heck, even our "goddess of good things", Martha Stewart, couldn't resist designing a line of dog accessories (the dog bowl with a rubber lid...genius!).  I believe you should live a life of gratitude and I am truly grateful for my Dixie.

Happy Organizing

Monday, August 23, 2010

At The Camp

Greetings from Cypremort Point, Louisiana!  Dear Hearts, the Clutter Diva has taken a few well deserved days off and joined my bestest friend at her brother's fishing camp in Cypremort Point....oh how I love it out here.  For the last two days we have hung out at Scotty Gordon's palatial camp, talking and laughing til' our jaws ache, setting out crab traps, cooking and EATING crabs, shrimp and trout prepared by Big Mike and Little Mike like nobody's business!!!  There is nothing like good food with good company.  I even whipped up bread pudding last night (something I have never made...thank goodness for laptop computers and Paula Deen).

Two swings hang at the end of the camp's pier.  Perfect for watching the sun set over the water.  We didn't get out on the boats...water was too choppy.  And it is hot here, but if I find myself about to complain, I just check the temps back in San Antonio (105 degrees...seriously?!!).

Sorry ya' organizing hints today.  Just picture me with my feet up, organizing my thoughts.

Happy Organizing

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homestaging FAQ

There is a generally accepted rule about neutralizing interior paint colors of a house when placing it on the market for sale.  Of course, as with most all rules, there are exceptions.  In furnished homes, paint colors that compliment the furnishings can go a long way in enhancing a home's "showability".  Take a look at builder's model homes...there's not a neutral wall to be found in these decorator dream homes.  Well executed paint treatments can be used to highlight architectural features, warm up large, cold rooms, or make small rooms seem more spacious.  However, poorly executed paint treatments can take a potential buyer's enthusiasm down several notches.  It's OK by me if you let your children paint their own rooms, but when the FOR SALE sign goes in the yard, your child's artistic freedom could cost you potential buyers.

Ask your realtor, a homestaging professional, or an interior designer if you have concerns about your wall colors.  I have often recommended that homeowners repaint their walls before taking photos and putting the house up for sale.

When is it best to neutralize?  For certain when the house is empty.  Striking accent walls and faux finishes that look spectacular with your furnishings can look downright crazy once those furnishings are gone.  In a furnished home, if the wall color is too bright or too dark that it's distracting, for instance the black walls in your Goth teen's room or the vivid colors of your favorite sports team in the gameroom.

Now when I say "neutral" color, I don't necessarily mean white.  Warm earthtones of brown/tan, gray/green or soft gold/yellow are preferrable.  Blues and pink/rose hues can be tricky.  When in doubt, you can always go with an off-white or eggshell.

On a final note, freshly painted walls always help a house show better whether you're neutralizing the color scheme or adding a fresh coat of the existing color.

Happy Organizing

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Cure For Neck Pain

I was asked the other day, by a friend, if I had any good ideas for storing costume necklaces.  You know, those long strands of beads and such that are the fashion these days.  She told me her costume necklaces were all jumbled up in her jewelry drawer and getting them untangled each time she wanted to wear one was, well, a pain in the neck.  I said, "Sister...I am way ahead of ya".  I had worked out a solution to my necklace dilema months ago.  I used an area of blank wall in my closet, added two inexpensive hook fixtures I bought at Target and, VIOLA, no more tangled chains and beads.  Not only can I view and access my necklaces more easily, but, because they are hanging in my closet, I can also see which outfits to pair them with.

 Of course, this was my solution (and a darned good one I might add), but, you may not have an available blank wall in your closet.  In fact, my friend was not sure this solution worked for her.  So we came up with some other creative ways to organize our long necklaces.

For instance, using a clear, over-the-door shoe organizer, and instead of shoes, place a necklace in each slot.  Check out your local crafts store for clear, plastic, lidded containers with individual compartments used in storing beads or sequins .  These containers come in many sizes and can sit on a closet shelf or in a bureau drawer, keeping your necklaces separated.  Of course, there are lots of cases and organizers made specifically for jewelry on the market and are good for storing your fine jewelry, but you might want to consider these more inexpensive solutions for your costume pieces.

Now, I love these necklaces, but if you're like me, you are constantly breaking them!  I've popped a link adjusting my seat belt, closing the desk drawer on them, hooking them on any and everything.  Because I have so many necklaces, I felt it was wise to invest in a repair kit.  So, off I went Hobby Lobby, where I picked up a few different kinds of links and crimping beads, and a pair of crimping pliers.  As you can see, I used an oversized pill case (a gag gift from my 50th birthday...ha...ha) to store the links and beads.  I keep these items in my jewelry drawer and now I can fix my necklaces easily without using my teeth or eyebrow tweezers.

So there you have it.  A small problem solved, but a big step towards living a de-cluttered life.  We spend so much money on clothes and accessories, it's a sin not to keep them organized and in good condition.

Happy Organizing

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We Have A Winner!

After living with paint samples taped to the wall of my guest room for a week, we have a winner.  As you may have guessed, it's the swirl shaped sample on the left.  It's called "Ozone".

Although I love decorating...choosing furniture, fabrics and curtains, and arranging rooms...I am completely intimidated by paint colors.  I think because I made some truely dismal choices in paint colors for apartments in my twenties, I lost confidence in my ability to pick a paint color.  Fortunately, the previous owner of my little house painted the interior walls in colors that I love and that work perfectly for my furnishings, so all I had to do was move in.  However, she left the guest room walls white and now I dearly want them to be blue.

Taping paint chips to the wall is step one in this process.  These nice big samples make it easy to see the colors in all different lights and next to the furnishings.  Next I will paint a sample square of "Ozone" on the wall just to make double sure it's the right color before I paint the entire room.  I know I'm being overly cautious, it's only paint, but trust me I've made some big mistakes before.  I really want to realize my vision of this room that is pretty and soft.  I know once the perfect color is on the walls the rest will be easy, and way less stressful.  Wish me luck,

Happy Organizing

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guest Room Re-Do

So I took my own advice and sold the home office furniture and computer equipment that were occupying one half of my guest room.   My big plan is to rearrange and redecorate my spare bedroom and I've decided to take everyone along on this journey via my blog.

It's important to mention that I live in a small (980 square feet), 2-bedroom house.  Decorating small spaces have their own unique challenges and when you have just two bedrooms they usually need to serve multi-purposes.  Since I decided to eliminate the home office area in this room I thought long and hard about what different purposes this room make-over should serve.  Clearly I need this room as a guest room for visitors, but when you have a small house, living and storage space are at a premium and here was an opportunity to add both.

Shoes, shoes and more shoes.  Since moving into this house I have struggled to find a good storage solution for all my shoes!  Yes, you heard me, my shoes have been a disorganized mess for the past three years.  I know, it's shameful, but there you have it.  I have a small walk-in closet in my master bedroom, but, although there is enough room for my hanging clothes, the closet layout just doesn't provide enough room for shoes.

Design dilema number two.  I prefer to put on my makeup while seated at a dressing table as opposed to standing under the harsh lighting in my bathroom.  Not to mention the fact that at my age I seem to need the assistance of a magnified mirror and as much natural light as possible to see what I'm doing.  It is also my habit to steam or iron whatever I am wearing that day rather that do my ironing all at one time like my mother did, so I need an area where I can access my steamer or iron easily.

I think you know where I'm going with this.  My spare room redesign will be a combination guest room and dressing room.  I am really excited about this plan.  I love the idea of creating an attractive and welcoming room for my occasional guest AND a pretty dressing room that I can enjoy every day.

So now I have a "concept", next I need a "game plan".  As you can see from the photos, my spare room is in complete disarray.  This room is also the only room in my house that has not been painted a nice color.  In the coming days I will need to pack up everything in the room that doesn't serve the new purpose of the room, decide on furniture arrangement, come up with a closet design to accomodate my shoes and pick a paint color.  I've gone online looking at shoe storage units and I have a pretty good idea for the closet makeover.  Choosing a wall color, however, is another issue.  I think I will need to visit the paint store and get a few paint color testers to put on the wall before I can decide.  Stay tuned...

Happy Organizing

Friday, June 11, 2010

9 to 5

OK, fess's your office looking?  Is your in-basket flowing over onto the floor?  Is there a stack of file folders sitting on top of the file cabinet that should be inside the cabinet?  Well kids, we're half way through 2010 and if you can still see evidence of 2009 hanging around your desk it's time to clean up your act.

Now in a perfect world, we would step into each new year with a clean slate, having kept our daily work neat and organized all along the way, but who has time for that?  At the end of each year I'm also faced with the task of boxing up the year's files and putting my office in order to face the new year.  But, after over 30 years of office work I have developed some good systems for staying organized so that at the end of the year that task can be done quickly with a minimum of detective work.

Although, each work environment is different there are a few basics that anyone who works in an office can put into practice:

First, create "zones" in your office and on your desk for your daily work flow.  Files for active clients/work and information that you need to access on a daily basis should be zoned close to your desk so you can put your hands on them without getting up from your desk or putting down the phone.  Keep active files in your desk file drawer or a cabinet near you.  I keep a vertical file rack on my desk for those files that need the most immediate attention.  Reference information, phone lists, or other general information that I need to refer to often, I slip into clear page protectors and place in a 3-ring binder which I keep on my desk so I can grab it quickly when I need to.

I am not a fan of the "in-basket".  I think it's just a license to let things pile up and it's a constant reminder of all the work you haven't done yet.  However, I do get a lot of miscellaneous paperwork, mail and fliers placed on my desk each day.  That brings me to the next zone.  Instead of an in-basket on my desk, I keep a real basket under my desk.  No, it's not the waste basket that I'm referring to, although it does reside right next to the waste basket.  As is the case with most of you, in addition to memos and mail, I get a lot of fliers, newsletters, professional publications, etc. on my desk each day.  Those items I don't need to address immediately, I put into that basket under my desk and at least once a week I pull out the basket, read my newsletters and fliers, file the ones I wish to keep and toss out the ones I don't.  The beauty of this basket is that all that paper is off my desk, but close at hand until I can get to it.

The last zone is your storage area.  This is the file cabinet or storage box where you put files and paperwork that have been completed or that you need to refer to only occasionally.  Now every business's file storage needs are different, but the rule of thumb for this zone is that the organizational method, be it alphabetical or numerical, should make sense so that if you're not there anyone could find what they are looking for.

See, it's really just that simple.  Your desk doesn't have to look like a picture in an office furniture catalog, but if your clutter and disorganization are affecting your ability to get things done at work, and be honest, do your best job, then it's time to turn over a new leaf and get it together.

Happy Organizing

Friday, June 4, 2010

Homestaging FAQ

As a realtor and homestager assisting clients prepare their homes for sale, the most frequently asked question is, "how important is it to de-personalize your house for showings?"  The answer to this questions is, VERY IMPORTANT.

Very few buyers have the ability to look beyond the furnishings, decor and personal items in houses.  If you watch televsion shows like "Designed to Sell" and "Sell This House", you will hear the designers talk alot about a buyer's need to see themselves living in the house, and I can tell you from showing hundreds of houses to potential buyers, that is absolutely true.  Once a buyer has found the house with the location, size, and amenities they require, the final deciding factor to making an offer is their emotional response.  This emotional response is what we look for as realtors to let us know this is THE house.  The best indicator of emotional response is when that buyer can visualize their lifestyle in the house...where their furniture will go and how much their family will enjoy the gameroom or backyard.  This visualization is difficult to achieve if the house is full of personal photographs, trophies, collections and all that other general clutter like laundry, toys, unread mail, etc., that fills our homes in daily life.  In essence, when preparing your home for sale you want to create that feeling you get when first walking into a nice hotel room.  Fresh, clean, inviting and impersonal enough for buyers to visualize making it their own.

So, what's the best way to get started "de-personalizing"?  Start packing!  You're going to be moving when your house sells...get started with your packing right now.  Box up all those photos, your beer stein or doll collection, and seasonal clothing to make your closets look bigger and organized.  In your bathrooms, place all your shampoo bottles, shaving cream, razor, lotions and potions that you have on the counter  and in around the tub/shower in a basket or shower caddy that you can bring out when you're bathing and put away when you're finished.  And, even though it's a bit more work, remove just-used towels and washcloths, and keep out pretty, un-used towels so your bath looks as if it's never used.  This rule extends to the bedroom as well.  Tuck away in a drawer or bin that tissue box and nose spray on the bedside table.  Put away your makeup, hair brush and perfume bottles on top of the dresser.

These are just some basics for de-personalizing a home, but your best source for suggestions is your Real Estate Agent.  Ask your agent to walk through your home with you and help you make a list of all the personal items that need to be packed away and provide suggestions for staging your furniture and accessories for showing.  I usually bring photos of some of my other listings that have successfully staged their home and thus sold quickly, so my new clients can see the result they want to acheive.  You may even want to hire a professional stager.

These are tough times in the real estate market.  Competition for home sales is brisk, so you want to make sure your home stands out among the competition.  It's also important to note that most homebuyers begin their search for a home on the internet.  All of your staging preparations need to be done before photos are taken and posted on line.

Happy Organizing

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Redefining The Home Office

Has the "home office" in your house become more of an eye sore than a convenience?  Is that cpu on the floor and big monitor on the desk gathering dust because every family member is sitting elsewhere working on their laptops?  And, all those cords and cables!!!!!  Time to redefine your home work space.

As a realtor I work from home a great deal, but I recently got rid of my big home office desk along with my HP PC and my Canon printer that were taking up valuable space in my guest room.  Between my laptop, my notebook and my iPhone...I found I was rarely using that workstation and the idea of decorating my guest room without the office equipment was all I needed to put the desk and computer in a garage sale.

Of course the biggest obstacle to this process is the realization that all that expensive equipment will bring in a mere fraction of what you paid for it.  Technology is moving at lightening speed and depreciates by more than half the minute you take it out of the box.  GET OVER IT.  If your old home office can become an economical homework station for a student or someone else that really needs a computer but can't afford to buy new, that's a good thing.  Donate your equipment to the local YMCA or school, and get a tax write-off.  Even if you're holding on to some really old equipment, there are organizations that will take it for the parts.

As an organizer I love, love, love wireless technology.  I feel like Pinocchio when he became a real boy and his strings disappeared.  This morning, I'm writing this blog on my little notebook while sitting on my patio enjoying my first cup of coffee.  I have struggled for years trying to think up creative ways to make my home office look more "home" than "office" without success.   Now, I have one central spot to "recharge" my wireless equipment and my guest room is cleared for redecorating.  So cut the strings and reclaim that space your old home office is taking up.

Happy Organizing

Friday, May 21, 2010

Label, Label, Label

Say "Hello" to my little friend.  No, I'm not going to to go on and on about my labelmaker.  I think everyone knows the merits of labels.  In fact, I don't really think you need a labelmaker if you have nice handwriting...which I don't.  As a matter of fact, my handwriting is so bad I can't even read it most of the time.  So, if your handwriting is as illegible as mine, you might want to invest in a labelmaker.  This Brother model is my weapon of choice...simple with a typewriter-style keyboard.  Quick and efficient labels can make organizing your office and your home easier.

However, I wish my handwriting was better, because I love the look of handwritten labels, cards and notes.  I get a warm feeling every time I see my mother's or my grandmother's handwriting on the back of an old photo or a recipe card.  Making fun, handwritten labels can also bring some style to your organizing, the way scrapbooks give your photos an attractive presentation.  Attach your homemade labels to storage jars of buttons or nails, or use the file folders specifically designed with "writable" tabs and mark with different colored pens.  I have a very creative friend who uses vintage suitcases as decorative storage...a modern, stick-on label just wouldn't look right on those cases. 

Organizing and de-cluttering can be fun and creative.  Writer Julie Morgenstern author of "Organizing from the Inside, Out", talks about how organizing should be personal, designed to meet each individuals needs and work style. 

Happy Organizing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tools Of The Trade

As an organizer, a realtor and a home stager I know the importance of having the right tool for the job.  But long before these labels attached themselves to me, I began a love affair with tools and gadgets.  And it all began with my first cordless drill.  Before that drill, my tool kit consisted of a nail file, a wooden platform shoe and my good looks.  It would be in my early thirties that I purchased my first real tool...a Black & Decker cordless drill.  A whole new world opened up for me on that day.

These days, I keep two tool kits, one in my car and one at home.  My "traveling" tool kit contains extra items I need to put together real estate signs and my home kit has a more traditional grouping of tools.  Even if your husband or significant other has a garage full of tools, I believe every woman needs her own.  Here's a list of what I consider the basics:

Ratcheting Screwdriver with exchangeable heads
Pliers (standard and needle nose)
Wrench (small one to handle bolts and small pipes)
Allen Wrench with assorted sizes
Tape Measure

Extra items I use a lot, so I keep them handy:

Hot Glue Gun
Zip Ties
Laser Level (you really shouldn't hang pictures without this)
Exacto Knife
Scissors (yes, keep a pair of scissors in your toolbox so you don't ruin your good sewing scissors opening hard plastic containers or cutting zip ties)
Yard Stick (I keep a yard stick at home and at the office...they are great for quick measurements and retrieving dog toys from under the sofa or socks from behind the dryer)

Tool manufacturers have recognized the rise of the "handywoman" and make tools designed just for ladies in pretty colors like pink or floral patterns...I have no problem with using a pink handled tool as long as it works.  And be creative with storage options for your tools.  You can certainly opt for a traditional tool box, but I found a great canvas handle bag designed to hold scrapbooking tools at the hobby store that I love.  Also, put your tool kit in a place that you can access easily like the pantry, or laundry room, or a linen closet.  Do not...I repeat, do not store your tool kit in the garage.  If you put your tools in the garage your husband might be tempted to borrow them, and besides, the garage is dirty and full of icky spiders...pretty soon you'll be back to tightening kitchen cabinet door hinges with a butter knife just so you don't have to go into the garage.

So the next time you feel the need for "retail therapy"...skip the shoe store and hit the tool department at Home Depot.  And if you think you're woman a cordless drill.

Happy Organizing

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How About A Big Hand For The Little Lady

Dear Hearts, let us now sing the praises of the great, American Housekeeper.  I don't mean those frazzled wives and mothers trying to keep their families and houses in order while working full-time jobs.  I mean those wonderful gals (or guys) who are paid to come into your home weekly or bi-monthly, and, like magical elves or Snow White, clean your house while you're at work.

For soooooo many years, like many of you I suspect, I never saw myself hiring someone to clean my house for me.  I thought only frivolous and neglectful women admitted to being unable (or unwilling) to scrub their own floors and bathtubs.  I saw this as particularily sinful and indulgent for myself because I didn't have any children to blame, just me and my husband.  Then one day, said husband made a fatal mistake.  When I asked him to help clean house because I had a really busy schedule at work, he joked that he, "was in charge of the outside," and I, "was in charge of the inside."  That's when it dawned on me that he had hired a gardener 10 years earlier.  We didn't even own a lawnmower!!  I immediately overcame my previously held notions about housework and grabbed the classifieds.  That is the day an angel named Julie came into my life.  Julie turned out to be a wonderful soul with a sunny disposition, a love of animals ,and she was a darned good housekeeper,  Every other week, for 5 years, Julie worked her magic on my dirty house.  My heart would quite literally skip a beat with delight on those days as I turned the corner on my street coming home from work just knowing she had been there all afternoon putting my nest back in order.  And why not...I deserved it.

When I decided to move from California, back to Texas after my divorce, I think I cried more about leaving Julie behind than I did over my failed marriage.  I can remember her helping me clean my house after the movers had loaded up my furniture.  We stood in the driveway and hugged like sisters being torn apart by CPS, then I gave her all the contents of my liquor cabinet, my yorkie licked her kind face one last time and she got into her Lexus (Julie had a very successful cleaning business) and drove out of my life.

Ladies, if you don't think you can afford a housekeeper and you are killing yourself trying to do it all...think again.  We all have busy, busy lives and there is more shame in denying your family and yourself precious time together than there is in paying someone to scrub your toilets.  I could kick myself for the days I spent cleaning when I could have been doing something I love.  Besides, getting your environment clean and keeping it clean is a big component of getting organized.  It's a lot easier to focus on cleaning out that closet in the guest room or sorting out the papers on your desk when you're not stressed about housework.

Whether you're a full time employee or a full time mom, consider hiring a housekeeper.  Then enjoy those precious days every two weeks when you can walk into your house after a long day and without a worry in the world, pour yourself a glass of wine, kick off your shoes, sit back and smell the Pine Sol.

Happy Organizing

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Think Inside The Box

I confess an obession with boxes.  Boxes, baskets, bins and containers of all kinds.  The thought of gathering related objects and storing them together in one box or container is my idea of nirvana.  Quirky?  Maybe.  But this obsession is really the cornerstone of my organizational philosophy which is to organize the "stuff" essential to your life and work so you can find it and utilize it fast, efficiently and easily.  I like to create storage bins for essential tasks or items that I have to perform or utilize on a regular basis.  For instance, I have to bath my little yorkie, Dixie, about every two weeks.  I keep all the essentials for her bath like shampoo, grooming spray, brush, her little hairbows and even the apron I wear to keep from getting soaked, all in a pink plastic bin on the shelf in my laundry room.  Of course I have to make sure I have Dixie under one arm before I reach for that bin, because she has learned to recognize it and will hide if she sees me bring it out.  Aside from a towel, all I need is in that pink bin...once she's bathed and groomed, and looking so cute, everything goes back in the bin and back on the shelf, ready for the next bath.  Other bins on that shelf include one for light bulbs (I have a lot of lamps in my my age ambient light is essential!), one contains dusting supplies (I'm allergic to dust and in Texas you get a lot of dust), and my toolbox resides on that shelf as well.  Your repititous tasks are probably different from mine, but identifying them and gathering the essentials for those tasks and keeping them handy will organize your life and save you tons of time.

My favorite box is a 2'x1.5' plastic, Rubbermaid container, whose lid I lost somewhere along the way, that I call my "project box".  Whenever I have a specific project to work on, I gather all the items needed to complete that project in this box so once I'm ready to begin I have all I need in one place.  For instance, several months ago I decided to sew curtains and cushions for the window seat in my dining room, I thought I'd re-cover my dining table chairs as well.  Bit by bit, I began placing fabric, thread, sewing notions, staple gun, etc., into the project box.  I was pretty busy and I didn't know when I would get the time to put the window seat together, but when I finally found myself with some free time I had everything for the project in one place, ready to go.  After completing the window seat, I then used my project box to gather up all the papers I needed to file my taxes.  Currently, the project box contains a jar of spackle and a small paint roller...I have holes to patch and paint where I installed new curtain rods.  I don't know when I'll get to that project, but because of the box I know I WILL GET TO IT.  The project box resides on the daybed in my home office so I can easily toss in the things I need and serves as reminder to eventually complete that project.

I said I was obsessed,

Happy Organizing

Friday, May 14, 2010

Leave It At The Door

OK, let's assume you have tossed out all those lovely garbage bags full of your old "paper piles" and you're feeling pretty good about yourself.  Not so fast.  Now you need to keep those piles from cropping up all over the house again.  Don't worry...I have a solution.

Solution:  Leave it at the door.  Place a good sized basket or deep tray with handles right inside your front door (or whatever door you always enter through).  Drop the mail, door hangers, shopping receipts, flyers, etc...all of the day's incoming paper right into that basket.  If you have groceries, after putting your groceries away, drop in one of those empty plastic bags (you could even drop your car keys in if you're one of those people that has to search for their keys every morning).  Later that evening, while your favorite TV show is on or even from the comfort of your bed, grab that basket.  Go through its contents, setting aside bills to pay (or grab your checkbook when you grab the basket), sign the kids' permission slips, set aside the magazines you want to read and clip any good coupons.  Once you've gone through all the contents, stuff all the paper you don't need to keep into that plastic bag and...HELLO...throw it away.  Put the basket back by the door and enjoy a good night's sleep.  If you are an early riser like me, you might wait to go through your basket while enjoying your morning coffee.  This system works even if you can't get to the basket for two or three days.

Happy Organizing!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Let's Get Started

Welcome to my blog! I have never blogged before so, dear reader, please pardon my baby steps. I decided to venture into this medium because for years my friends, family and professional colleagues have called on me to advise or help them get organized. Quite frankly, I give really good advice on this subject so it occured to me I should put my organizational tools and tips out there in cyberspace. It is my hope this blog will provide someone help and inspiration to get organized or live a more clutter-free life. It is also my hope readers will feel free to ask advice on specific organizing or de-cluttering problems, or even better, like-minded individuals will write back and share their own organizational tips. So here's my first tip for getting organized and cutting the clutter...Get Started. If you are a real "Clutter Bug" this may feel overwhelming, but getting started doesn't require a master plan or huge block of time. You also don't need to drop a fortune at the Container Store before getting started either. My de-cluttering always begins with one simple tool...a garbage bag (if I'm organizing an office a shredder is really helpful as well). Getting rid of all the unnecessary junk mail, magazines, newspapers, and all that paper that piles up so quickly is a great first step to clearing your decks. I know throwing things away is often the hardest step for some people, so those folks might want to get a friend to lend support. How ever hard it is to toss out that first garbage bag, the sense of empowerment you get as the garbage truck drives away is intoxicating and well worth the effort.

Well, it seems I've gotten started on my blogging journey and it wasn't so hard after all and the best paper to throw away!

Happy organizing,

The Clutter Diva