Friday, November 6, 2015

The Last Harvest

Couldn't help but fall in love with this sunflower in my garden last month.

The older grandfellas helped me harvest the last of the tomatoes and peppers before the first cold snap of autumn.

Goodbye summer, thank you for your warm, sunny days.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring Open House

I'm getting ready for Tidy Brown Wren's Spring Open House.

And you're invited!

Saturday, May 9, 2015
Wren Acres in Chesapeake, Virginia

If you missed the Fall Open House, you'll want to make sure that you make it to this one.  Most items are one-of-a-kind, so you'll want to arrive early to get your favorite piece.  

Email me for directions

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How to organize and clean your bedroom

Most of the time, when I'm called in to help stage or organize a home, I encounter an overstuffed master bedroom. What I mean by overstuffed is too much furniture, too many clothes, and too many items that don't belong in a bedroom.

A lot of people, including myself, tend to put stuff in the bedroom that doesn't belong because we don't know what else to do with it. It becomes a staging area for projects, laundry, exercise equipment, and "stuff".

So how do we get from ransacked to restful? I thought you'd never ask! Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. What do I want this room to feel like? Restful retreat, romantic getaway, or an inspired haven?

2. What pieces of furniture could be gotten rid of? Bookshelves, dressers, chairs, exercise equipment?

3. What items end up in your bedroom that don't belong there? Toys, paperwork, laundry?

4. Are there any repairs that need to be made? Loose handles, broken curtain rods, stuck door?

5. What activities will take place in the bedroom? Reading, bill paying, television watching.

After you have wrapped your brain around what you want your bedroom to be like, it's time to get to work.

I like to make the bed first.  Somehow that one little job makes the room 25% better.   
Then I usually follow this process:
1. Remove all furniture, exercise equipment etc. that does not belong in the room.

2.  Collect all clothes that are laying around and put them into a large pile or clear          garbage bag (Make it a clear one so you don't accidentally throw it away or             donate it).  You'll work on clothing later.

3.  Clear off each dresser and bedside table (basically every horizontal surface).  
     Place everything you want to keep in the room on the bed.  Everything else will 
     placed in a bag for donate, a bag for trash, or a box to be taken elsewhere in the        house.  Don't mess with the inside of the drawers yet - you'll do that later.  

4.  Clean and polish every surface.  Pull out the furniture and vacuum the floors and      clean the baseboards.  Also, clean the backs of all of the furniture.  Take down          the drapes and clean or replace them.  Wash the windows and window sills.

5.  Place all of the stuff you collected from the horizontal surfaces (that you want to      keep) and put it back onto the newly cleaned dressers, bedside tables, desk etc.

6.  Now that your bed is clear, it's time to work on the clothing.
      a.  Pull out your pile or bag of clothing that you collected from around the room.       b.  Working with only one person's clothing at a time, sort the clothing into piles             of types of clothing (pants, shirts, dresses, etc.).
      c.  Open your dresser (or whatever you keep your clothing in), pull out the                    clothing, and sort it as before.  Continue this process with your closet if you              have the room.   If you have tons of clothing, just do your dresser first and                then your closet.  
      d.   Take one sorted pile at a time and go through it. Ask yourself "Do I love it".             "Do I wear it"?  "Does it make me feel good when I wear it?''  "Is it worth                 the space it takes up in my bedroom?" "How many of these same items do I             need?"
      e.  Only allow clothing that you decide is a keeper to make it's way back into                your dresser.  Put all of the clothing back, keeping like items together.  
      f.  Continue with all of the piles until all of your clothing is put away.  

7.  Take your bed apart and put on fresh linens (or new ones you bought for your          newly cleaned bedroom)

8.  Remove all trash and throw it away.  Put all clothing donations in the car so you      can drop it off tomorrow at the thrift store.  

9.  Light a candle in your room and relax.  Your hard work has paid off!

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!