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Organization | Manolo for the Home
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Living Room Storage Plus Toys: Is Chic and Uncluttered Possible?

The wonderful and lovely Tiffany wrote with this query:

Um, Miss NTB? Do you take requests? If so, may I request a home entry on incorporating kids toy storage into your living room? I mean like, serious storage. Not just one or two cute baskets for decor. We have the world’s smallest living room, which is now also the world’s worst decorated (thanks, kid-proofing). I have been TRYING to come up with something somewhat stylish and utilitarian, but I end up with dumpy and cluttered. I WOULD LOVE YOU FOR A BAZILLION YEARS.

A bazillion years? I like the sound of that. Of course, before I could effectively answer Tiffany’s question I needed to know just how small the world’s smallest living room actually is. The answer? About 14’x12′, which I think is about the size of my own, so I can definitely sympathize with the very real fact that a tiny space plus childproofing plus toys can equal a major bummer of a room. The good news is that you don’t need to be all LOOKIT MAH TOYBOX!

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The Kitchen Dump

Ever notice how people congregate in the kitchen during parties, even if all the food is in the dining room and you’ve set up a darling little bar on a side table right by the front door? Science has yet to discover why guests will stand for hours in the kitchen while all the chairs (moved into other rooms for just this reason) sit lonely in the living area, but there must be something magnetic about kitchens because it’s not just people who cluster there.

Things mysteriously find themselves in the kitchen, even when the front door is nowhere nearby. I myself am writing this at a kitchen table that has an embarrassing amount of stuff on it – a diaper bag, class notes, a decorative plate my MIL gave us as an engagement gift, craft paper scraps, an non-working cell phone, and a copy of will making software The Beard and I have yet to open.

Can you feel the waves of shame emanating from this post? All I can say for myself is that I’m usually quite the neat freak!

The kitchen dump, you might call it. Rare is the house that does not have an area where mail gets left and keys are tossed, and for whatever reason, this spot is frequently in the kitchen. (Note: If your dump is not in the kitchen, the following advice still stands.) What’s nice about the kitchen dump is that all of those envelopes and your purse and whatever end up in the same place, so if you can’t find the water bill or your wallet is missing there is a good chance it’s there in the dump.

What’s not so nice about the kitchen dump is that it usually looks messy. If you have an unexpected visitor, the contents of the kitchen dump gets crammed into a drawer, leading to further disorganization. And finally, the kitchen dump can become so psychologically overwhelming that cleaning it up it seems impossible.

I’m not suggesting you do away with the kitchen dump, since it serves a purpose, i.e., having a kitchen dump means you don’t have to focus on cleaning and organizing the second you get home. I am suggesting you prettify your kitchen dump. Get some pretty baskets and spray paint them some dynamic color. Put up a few hooks for your keys and even your bags if you have the room. Easy, particularly if you have the space to hide it away in a cabinet.

Hidden or not, make sure you have space for your mail and your briefcase and all the other stuff you typically have in your hands when you walk through the door on a normal evening. If you have the space, you can even set up what one blogger calls a kitchen command center, which is basically a workspace right there in your kitchen.

Have I mentioned I am now working in my kitchen until some renovations get underway? No one needs a kitchen command center more than I do right now.

Don’t Look In Unopened Boxes! (And More)

I’m a sucker for keeping things neat and clean, to the point where I’d rather sacrifice sleep to straighten up and wipe down the counters before bed then wake up to dishes in the sink. So you can imagine that I spend an inordinate amount of time reading articles like “The 10 Habits of Highly Organized People” (which appeared in O Magazine). I can’t get enough. In fact, it’s probably a little unhealthy, but I don’t care. So what if they parrot the same tips over and over? It’s good to have a reminder, and even better, I have my own tips to share, right here, right now! What follows are five of my very own tips for clean livin’.

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Can’t Hide ‘Em? Display ‘Em!

For whatever reason, visible electrical cords drive me nuts. Which isn’t to say that my house isn’t full of electrical cords running to outlets – there’s even one snaking down the wall in a tube for the CO detector – but my not having lived up to my own ideals isn’t a reason to toss them out the window, right? Sometimes something needs to be plugged in and there’s just no short-term, inexpensive way to mask one’s electrical cords. Or isn’t there?

You might, for example, purchase and install one of PA-Design‘s cavaliers de printemps, which turn your electrical cords or computer cables and such into a branch upon rests a richly-colored bird. Or you could do what Maisie Maud Broadhead did (in an art installation, sadly, not in real life) and turn your long and winding cables into art using U-clips.

Unless you’re not at all bothered by snaking electrical cords… which I can only imagine some people aren’t.