Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to clean and organize your bathroom and keep it that way.

So, if you're following along with me in the process of organizing and cleaning your entire house this year, we'll be working on the bathroom in February together.  Well, not really together.  I mean you work on your bathroom and I'll work on mine.

I thought I would use some photos of bathrooms I've staged for my clients over the past year or two. 

 One of the things you will notice about all of these bathrooms is that I use all white linens and light colored accessories.

You'll want to work on only one bathroom in your home at a time.  

As usual, you'll want to check out each bathroom and do an assessment.

staged bathroom by
Staged bathroom in a home for sale.

After you've done an assessment of the bathroom it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  

 1. Remove everything from the cabinet or drawer. Wipe out the cabinet/drawer and line with contact paper if desired.

2. Toss everything that is expired or unusable.

3. Sort items according to type. Example: hair products, face products, first aid products.

4. You may find that you have several duplicates. A lot of people tend to not finish up products before they open a new one. Consolidate the duplicates and promise yourself to finish up a product before breaking out the new replacement.

5. Now that you know what you have and will use, put items into containers to keep them organized and easy to find. Shop your house first to see if you have containers you're not using in other areas. There's no need to spend money if you don't need to. Square and rectangle containers are the best as they use space more efficiently. If you need storage for small items, use a drawer unit to sit inside the cabinet.

6. Store items you don't use often or only seasonally in the back of the cabinet or in an out of the way closet. Keep your most often used items near the front of the cabinet. Before storing paper products under your sink, make sure you don't have any leaks. Paper plus water equals mess!!

7.  Hopefully, you'll have a trash bag full of trash and a bag of donations to remove from the bathroom.

staged bathroom by
Staged bathroom in a home for sale

So how do I keep my bathrooms clean? 

1.   I make my own bathroom cleaner and spend 10 minutes every other day doing a quick wipe up of the sinks, counters, and toilet. If you have small children you might need to do it every day.  If you're neater and cleaner than I am, you can get by with twice a week.

2.  Once a week, I wash all of the towels (unless they need it sooner) and 2 or 3 times a year I wash the shower curtain and bath mats.  I also vacuum and mop the floor when cleaning the rest of the house each week.  

3.  Now, I'm about to share one of my secret efficiency tips. Every 6-8 weeks I color my own hair.  While the color is sitting on my hair (25-30 minutes), I tidy up the cabinets and drawers, getting rid of anything we don't need any more.  No one wants to be near me with stinky stuff on my hair so I'm left to clean without any interruptions!

4.  Once a year, I vacuum the exhaust vent.

So, now you have a plan to help you clean and organize your bathroom and keep it that way.  Go forth and conquer!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Organizing your home in 2015-Start at the front door.

So. . . you've set a New Year's resolution to organize and deep clean your house this year.  Sure, sure - you said that same thing last year, but this year you really mean it.  But now it's almost the end of January and you don't know where to start. 

 Well, today's the day. 

 I'll be blogging each month about an area to work on .  We'll take one area per month.  Don't try to do more than that one area a month and overwhelm yourself  because you'll want to quit. 

 And quitters never have clean homes!

Ready?  Let's go!

In January, you should work on the area where you enter your home.  Front door?  Back door?  It doesn't matter.  We'll just call it your home's entrance.  

1.  Evaluate what you need in the area.  Think through your daily routine of entering and exiting.  Think about what you need to help your family get what they need and keep it organized.  Coat hooks?  Shoe racks?  Key storage?  Think also about new paint, a bench,  or a new rug.  

If you don't have a coat closet to hold your things, you can use ready made coat racks and shoe cubbies.  But here's the important thing - Don't buy anything yet!!  Just think about what you might want to get or do.

2.  Step two is the most important step.  Touch everything in that entrance area.  Pick it up and make a decision about where it belongs.  If it doesn't belong in the entrance area, set it aside. 

 If it's trash, put it in a black trash bag.  If it needs to be donated, put it in a clear trash bag.  If it belongs somewhere else in the house, put it in a large box or basket to empty out later. 

After you have made a decision about everything, put the trash in the trashcan and the donation bag in your car so you can drop it off to a charity.  Set the basket of items to be relocated outside of the room - don't put anything away yet.  

Anything that stays in the entrance area should be kept together.  Take another look at what you have decided to keep.  Only keep what is useful and what you like.  This is probably the hardest part for most of my clients (that's why they hire me!)

 The more clutter you have, the harder it is to keep organized.  Set all of these carefully chosen  things aside.  You'll put them away later.   

3.  Now for the elbow grease.  Clean every surface.  Start at the top, whether it's a closet or a wall.  Wipe down walls, shelves, and cabinets.  Finish with the floor.  If you need to make repairs, paint, or replace light bulbs, do it now.  

4.  Ahh. . . now you have a clean and fresh area to furnish.  Whether you have a closet, a hall, or a wall, decide what storage items will help you store what you need.  If your family is still growing, you'll want to take that into account.  Use what you already have or purchase new or thrifted items for storage.

5.  As you put your belongings away, keep like items together.  Put all of the gloves and hats together, all of the shoes together, etc.  Put items close to where you use them such as shoes close to the floor, kid's coats on a lower hook or bar to be easier to reach, etc. 

6.   Now you can step back and enjoy your hard work.  Grab the box of items that belong somewhere  else and put them away.

7.   Now for the second most important important step - maintenance.  Every week, tidy up the area by straightening everything and putting everything away.  Every January, go through the area and decide what items are no longer needed.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How To Recover A Chair With A Shoestring

I recovered a chair for my son's apartment a few months ago and I'm eager to show you the before and after photos.

This was the chair that we've had in our bedroom for at least 20 years.  My father in law originally got it from one of his older neighbors.  It was very sturdy, but very out dated and stained - and pink.


I took the cushions off of the chair and removed all of the old fabric.  The cushions were still in good shape.  Then I spray painted the frame with Oil Rubbed Bronze paint.  After that, I stapled the new fabric (left over from a previous project) onto the cushion forms.

 I needed to cover up some of the staples on the back of the chair but I didn't want to purchase anything.  Thankfully, I always save extra strings, ribbons, and trim.  Out of my basket of trim, came a wide brown shoe lace.  Perfect!


Not bad for using supplies I already had on hand.

I made a pillow to go with it - again, using extra fabric, trim, and pillow stuffing.  The cross pieces are made from a khaki colored belt.

My son appreciates the extra seating in his living room and was happy that I didn't make the chair too "girly".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Remodeled Utility Room Is Finally Done!

Our utility room is finally finished and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out.

We hired a contractor to remodel our kitchen last year but our budget just couldn't be stretched enough to work on the connecting utility room.

When asked what I wanted for Christmas last year, I asked if we could work on the utility room/pantry this year.  Poor Hubs, I think he would have rather purchased a gift from the mall.  Even with a very limited budget and schedule, we worked on it steadily all year and just finished last week. It took several months of planning to figure out the layout but my Hubs is a genius and is very good at space planning.  He was so sweet to carefully consider all of my storage needs.  He measured all of my containers to make sure everything would fit.

Some of the walls and all of the cabinets and the ceiling were torn out during our kitchen demo.  We hobbled along with our little torn up utility room for almost a year.  It was  already an awkward, narrow space with two doors and a hot water heater.  The lighting was poor, the walls were a mess, there was a lack of storage, and our electrical panel was smack dab in the middle of one of the usable walls.

We purchased a stacking washer/dryer set when we bought our kitchen appliances to take advantage of a great sale.  Parts of our old set were literally held together with a paperclip and some duct tape.  We also bought a larger deep freeze to replace our smaller one.

Hubs built a wall in sections to separate the long, skinny room into two spaces.  The space with the hot water heater has become a closet that holds our vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, and the high chair we use for our grandchildren.

There was a lot of staring, discussing, and mumbling in that odd space.  I think it taxed Hub's brain to the max.  Plumbing and wiring is never fun.

Our ceiling was a drop ceiling with florescent lighting hanging within it.  Broken, stained, and pathetic - it needed to go.

The old lighting was certainly not flattering.  We had the electricians add an additional light switch to the room when they rewired our kitchen, but Hubs did the actual addition of the new lights.

Our new ceiling is made of bead board panels that can be removed, if needed, to get to the plumbing pipes.  The lighting is just small recessed lights (4 in total).  The hanging system hanging over the freezer is from Ikea.  I wanted something to hide the large, black dryer outlet.

With the old cabinets removed, all of the many paint colors were exposed - I'm only responsible for 2 of the colors and yellow isn't one of them.  The black rectangle is the electrical panel that I previously painted with chalkboard paint.

Our son was able to help with the heavy lifting.  Hubs built each shelf unit separately and added them one at a time.

After everything was painted and a counter top was added, it was starting to look like what we had imagined it could be.

I used baskets that I already had to store paper products and extra food.  The chicken picture was a painting my mother-in-law painted many years ago.  She passed away and never finished it (notice there is only half a chicken?).  I'm looking for a piece of chicken wire or basket to place under the chicken to finish it off.  The picture is attached to a bead board panel that can removed to reveal the electrical panel.

The right side of the washer dryer is the spot for the deep freeze and lots of shelving.  I wanted to have shallow shelving for my jars of baking supplies and dry goods.

I already had a lot of large jars, but I added a few more that I picked up at Walmart and World Market.

The two sets of shallow shelves took forever to paint but I love all of the storage.

I made chalkboard labels by cutting ovals out of chalkboard contact paper.  I used a chalk/bistro marker to write the ingredients on each label.  So far, they are holding up pretty well.

Now, I actually look forward to doing laundry!  This is the best Christmas present ever!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Tidy Brown Wren Shop

 I've been busy preparing for a Tidy Brown Wren Open House this coming Saturday, November 15th.  

After all, what's a mom to do when her last child moves out of the apartment over the garage?  It's too great of a space to just leave empty.  Want a sneak peak?

 Lots of treasures that are upcycled, recycled, vintage, or just plain cool.

The shop will be open from 9:00 until 5:00.  Stop by and enjoy some delicious goodies and do some Christmas shopping.   Email me at for directions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keeping It All Together During A Hectic Season In Life

I almost forgot how to blog.  It's true - it's been so long since I wrote a blog post that I had to putter around to find my way again.  

In reality, I've been blogging in my head.  I really have.  I've been talking to you and showing you things around The Wren.  Projects we've worked on. . . food I've cooked. . . crafts I've made. . . and of course, the grandchildren that won't stop growing.  But of course, if I don't put my fingers to the keyboard and download some photos, then you have no idea what's going on.  

During the past year, my jobs have taken up a lot of my time and attention.  Most of my attention, actually.  The problem?  I had too many jobs.  I was teaching preschool, running the preschool ministry at our church, staging homes for Realtors, and helping clients with organizing their homes.  

Something had to give.  I felt the Lord was telling me it was time to give up teaching.  I argued with him for awhile.  I knew I needed to obey, but I didn't want to.  My penchant for uber multitasking was causing me to disobey my Lord.  I offered to give up every other job.  I offered to cut back my hours.  That wasn't his plan.   

"Yes, Lord", I finally said.  "Not my will, but yours".  

It really was freeing.  I can't explain it except that when you know you're obeying God, nothing else seems to be a big deal.  I didn't even cry on the last day of school.  And let me tell you, I've ugly cried  last-day-of-school tears every year for many years.  This year - nothing.  

As I looked back on the past year, I was wondering how I made it though the hectic-ness of it all.  How did my house not fall apart?  How did we manage to keep our bodies healthy?  How did we work on anything or help anybody during this crunch time?

So here are some of my personal tips for handling a hectic season (God ordained or self imposed).

1.  It pays to have an organized home.  Sure I am a professional organizer, but I'm not a perfect housekeeper.  One thing going for us is that everything in our home has a place where it lives.  If it doesn't have a place, then it can't stay.  I have a covered basket in my foyer where I put items that need to be donated.  When it's full, I take the items to the thrift store.

2.  Make sure your priorities are in the right order.  If my time with God and reading his word is compromised, I have to give up something.  Without my quiet time, I've learned that I'm a train wreck waiting to happen.  Time with my Hubs comes next, followed by kids, grandlittles, friends, jobs and home maintenance.  Everything else is extra and has to wait it's turn.  

3.    It's important to take care of your nest.  Hubs has a spreadsheet to help stay on track with the home chores.  He doesn't have to remember to change the air filters, check the tire pressure and fluid levels in the cars, or replace the smoke alarm batteries - the list tells him to do it.  I keep a weekly list of the basics - dust, vacuum, wash, iron, etc.  The only extra thing I do is clean out one drawer or cabinet each week.  Because everything is pretty organized, it takes me less than 5 minutes to do it.  

4.  Don't forget about your people.  We have regular family dinner nights when all of our grown children and our grandlittles come for dinner.  It's a set date on the calendar.  I knew that if we didn't have a regular date, then we'd never find the time. Have a few minutes with your spouse after work each day.  Just a little bit of time to reconnect and share your day will help to set the tone for the rest of the evening even if you have to go to a meeting or an event after dinner.   I also try to have time with friends whenever I can.  It ends up being mostly quarterly, but it's better than never.  Facebook and texting also help.  Just letting others know that you care about them goes a long way. 

5.   Don't believe the "Go big or go home" mentality.  Little things do mean a lot.  Even if you can't clean your whole house at one time, clean some of it.  Even if you can't sit down to a home-cooked dinner, sit down and eat (anywhere) together.   Even if you can't exercise for a half hour - walk and stretch every chance you get.  

6.  A little planning goes a long way.  I try to plan my meals out for a few weeks at a time.  I don't plan what we will exactly have for each night, but I plan to have the ingredients in my pantry/fridge/freezer for 14 meals so I am prepared to cook.  I do try to plan out tomorrow's dinner, today.  That way, if I have to thaw or soak anything, I'll have it ready.  I also cook double batches of many meals and we eat them for lunches or other dinners.  

7.  Evaluate what you call fun.  We all need a time to rest and rejuvenate, but sometimes we do something just because it's a habit or because we feel obligated.  During this hectic time, I've had to say no to to home-sales parties that my friends are having.  I've had to say no to movies (Hubs and I decided it wasn't quality time with each other).  I've said no to women's retreats and extra Bible studies - all very good things, but not the best thing for my life during this season. 

8.  Say yes to new improvements and goals.  I made a big change in my life this past year in regards to my health.  I decided to cut Gluten out of my diet.  Sure, it took a lot of effort initially, but my improved health and mental clarity made up for it.  Also, Hubs and I still continued to make improvements to our home - just at a much, much, slower pace.  We've stuck to our goals and dreams, but taken the step #5 approach.  We have taken small steps toward bigger goals.  As we're able, we will take more and more steps until the projects are done.  

Laying out the windows we will use for our new greenhouse.  We've been planning it for years!

So there you have my take on how to survive through a hectic season in your life.  What are your tips?  What helps you get through the tough times? 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Decor at Brown Wren Acres - 2013

 I'm so glad that red is my favorite color - and that shades of green can be found all around my house.  Why?  Because for the first few weeks of December, that was all that decorated my house.  Touches of red and green with one half-lit Christmas tree standing halfway between the family room and the dining room.  

It's been such a crazy busy summer, fall, and now winter that I barely had time to clean my house let alone decorate for Christmas.  And decorating for Christmas is something I love to do.  I managed to find about 20 minutes a day for a whole week and finally got some decorations set out around the house.  

Like I said before, the red and green colors I already had in our home really came in handy - all I had to do was add to it.  

Ready for a tour before I have to take everything down this weekend?

Here is the front porch.  My son found the old firetruck and refurbished it.  It is perfect to hold some greenery and a package.  

The foyer china hutch is the perfect place to hold my collection of snow globes.  You can see a glimpse of the card holder in the hallway.

 An antique mirror helps to reflect light in the dark hallway.

 The card holder is really fun.  The wire spirals don't hold the cards very well, so I use miniature clothespins to secure the cards to the wire.

 I always hang our stockings on the railing because we use our fireplace a lot and it's too much of a pain to have to remove the stockings every time we light a fire.  

 A just added a little touch of sparkle with glittered starfish ornaments in the powder room.

Our fireplace is difficult to decorate because the mantle is really high and the ceiling is low.  I just used some garland and metal stars.  I added some battery operated lights that I got at Costco but they don't work very well - bummer.

I had to doctor up our "pre-lit" tree since half of it decided to give up the ghost.   I love the size and texture of this tree, so I guess I'm stuck with putting lights on it like we used to.   It's not that big of a tree, so I don't think it will be too much of a problem.  

I use each of my children's baby shoes as ornaments on the tree.  I wrote their names and birthdates on the sole of the shoes.  Sweet memories!

I love the shelves that Hubs made for me last Christmas from old barn wood.  I also set out our grandchildren's nativity set on a tray on the coffee table.  Sometimes there are also green army men, matchbox cars, or a pink binky nestled in with Baby Jesus.

Some simple greenery picks and berry picks soften the rustic shelves and I wrote "Joy to the World" on my grandpa's old slate from grade school.  

Hubs found this old vintage tractor in a barn at an estate sale.  I found a small tree at Michael's to stand next to it.  Hubs is slightly obsessed with Farmall tractors right now and so this is a nod to his interest in them.

The dining room table is our only table to eat at, so the decor must be easy to remove.  A few lanterns and a small bird keep it interesting.

I added an old metal truck and some bottle brush trees (from our train set) to a small greenhouse and then sprinkled Epsom salt in for snow.

A little snowy scene.  This might be all of the snow we see this winter!

I had a fun time decorating my new kitchen (just finished this past May).  I mainly added some wreaths to the window, my Coca-Cola crate, and a Christmas plate.  The green stool and red dish cloths were already in the kitchen.  

A small pitcher and plate with pine cones was added to the glass cabinet .  

A star bowl holds candy and Hub's Nana's corn pudding mold holds mixed nuts with a nutcracker.

I guess you could say that I have a collection of angels since I have 3 now.  Two came from students and the one with a gardening shovel came from my dear mother-in-law.

My kidney donor surprised me with a "sisters" figurine this year.  We call each other "kidney sisters" because a part of her is now a part of me and we are also sisters in Christ.   I am so, so blessed.

I put this little vignette in the kitchen window every Christmas.  Hubs gave me the wheelbarrow ornament and I made the greenhouse out of another ornament, a milk glass urn, and a glass coaster.  I made the nest in the ornament from twine and buttons.

When the sun starts to go down, and the chickens are heading into the hen house, there's nothing like coming back into the house with all of the lights are on and enjoying the warmth of home and family.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014.