Now, Where Did I Put That Manual?

This morning, a friend called to ask if I'd check on her house, as she was away.  A strange noise was heard emenating from somewhere within, and concerned neighbors had called. When I arrived, I found nothing amiss but I did notice the furnace was flashing a series of letters and numbers so I called her back to locate the manual so that I could look up the code.

Here's the fun!  She was able to tell me right where to go to find it.

Consider for just one moment...where do you keep your manuals?  

If you are like most people, they are scattered in various places throughout your home.  

My clients tell me that this is one of the best benefits of getting organized.  They have been able to locate their manuals!

(and thus have saved themselves a lot of time and aggravation, not to mention money.)

The furnace is an easy one.  Put your manual in the holder that many manufacturers built in, just for the purpose.  Then it's a cinch to locate the manual and

also to look up the type of air filters you need.

If you're smart, write the name and number of the installer

(or whoever you like to call for repairs)

on the cover of the manual.  Then you are all set in case of an emergency.  September is 

National Preparedness Month

 after all!

If you have an older furnace, 

like we do

.  Tape a clear plastic folder to the furnace itself and slip in the manual.  

Instead of tape,

I used my latest 



Is there such a thing as a vintage furnace?

For all other manuals, they should be sorted into categories, then either filed in your filing cabinet in these hanging pocket files...

Office Depot

Or sorted into clear plastic sleeves, placed into binders and set on a bookshelf.  

Be sure to label them! This is an especially handy way to store them if you have many of the same type of items or own a very large house with lots of different items.

Categories can include:

  • Appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, airconditioner, microwave, air purifier, dehumidifier, humidifier, TV, washer & dryer, portable heater)

  • Household (furniture, cookware, clothing)

  • Outdoor (lawn furniture, gas grill, lawnmower, weedwhip, camping equipment)

  • Technology (computer, printer, camera, video recorder, watch, cell phone, gps, thermostat, watch)

  • Tools (power tools, hand tools, crafting/sewing equipment)

Once you gather all of your manuals in one place, it will be easy to determine the categories, but be sure to check that you actually still own the item!

What about warranties?

Personally speaking, I keep each warranty clipped to it's corresponding manual.  That way, if the item breaks, I locate the manual and I can easily see if it's still covered.  

If you're really organized, you can log in warranty expiration dates on a separate calendar as you make purchases. (

I love Google Calendar for this, as it allows you to create as many calendars as you want that are then linked together

)  Then you can easily see if a warranty expiration date is coming up to return something that hasn't worked out as planned.  

We had a defective printer that we returned 3 times and the company replaced it 3 times

for free

over the course of 3 years as we kept a close eye on the warranty expiration date for each subsequent printer.


henever you go to look up a manual, take a moment to rifle through the pile to see if you still own the items there.  If not, they are easy to pull out and toss.  And, if you decide to sell an item, you can quickly locate the manual that goes with it.  The new owner will thank you heartily.

When you're all done, check to be sure you have all the manuals you need.  Don't despair if  you find you're missing one.  Remember in this digital age, you can always go online and find it to print out.  I have a Singer sewing machine circa 1958 and guess what?  I found the manual online!

So what happened with the furnace?

It was flashing an operating code not an error code and now all is well.  

Did you just check to see where your furnace manual is?

Are you one of the brave who throws out all manuals, knowing you can access them online if needed?

Where's The Tape?

Have you heard this question asked at your house lately?  Chances are you have, and not only tape, but scissors, the stapler, a favorite pen, 

(just ask my husband!)

and more!  

Today's subject is desk drawers.  The place where these necessary items for daily life are most likely to be found.

This shows the contents of a typical desk.  Spread out like this, you can see lots of items that if not organized, can quickly shift into chaos.

I see lots of tape piled here!

Desk drawer #1

Desk drawer #2

Realize that these drawers are pulled out and sitting on top of the desk.

When they are actually in the desk, the contents are even more crammed and inaccessible.

Drawer #1

 Drawer #2

The first step is to pull everything out and sort into categories.  Then decisions are made as to what to keep in the desk drawers.

 In this case, not everything is going to fit!

 Anything broken or unusable is thrown out.  

Items to toss include:  old contact lens cases, old phone cases, phonebooks, movie tickets/event stubs, expired coupons, ink-less markers, broken crayons, broken sunglasses, old hair accessories, broken flashlights, dead batteries, address labels to previous home, and last year's calendar.

If there are many of the same items, decide that some are going to be kept and stored elsewhere 

(or donate them!).  

Restocking post-it notes can be easy.

The desk owner had 

this handy piece of furniture

 for the overflow items.  We labeled all the drawers! It seems like these drawers were tailor made for labeling.  I may be overly excited about labeling things.

When it comes to labels, use names that make sense to you.

 You'll want to be able to find the thing you're looking for!

Next, we set up a "practice" system using any old containers

(plastic food storage?)

we can find around the house.  We're not looking for beauty at this stage, merely functionality.

Drawer #1 

Pardon my foot!

                                                      Drawer #2

Then we see what happens...

The desk owner will quickly know if items are in the right places and if the right items are in the right drawers.  Trust in the process.

A few days later we install the correct


 for the items that the desk owner has decided to keep...and finally, beauty


functionality reign,

Drawer #1

Hey, where did everything go?!

  Drawer #2

Pared down to the easily-maintained minimum.

I love that the labeler made the cut!

So what about that tape dispenser and scissors and favorite pen?  We placed them on a pretty tray above the desk.  Easier access for all.

What household item are you constantly on the hunt for?

What's the most interesting item in your desk drawers?

(Leave a comment, I love to read them.)

Take Pleasure in your Collections

Everyone collects something...even if you don't consider yourself to be a "collector", chances are you have something lurking in your home that has accumulated beyond what is considered a useful amount that a person should own.

Remember this photo from a few blogposts ago?

Or how about this one?

When doing a little research for this post, I came across this apt definition:




  1. 1.

  2. a person who collects things of a specified type, professionally or as a hobby.

  3. "an art collector"

So, there's a BIG difference between accumulating the stuff of life (e.g. bookmarks and pens) and collecting things that give one pleasure as a specific hobby or as part of one's work life.  It could be said that one could have a beautiful bookmark or special pen collection, and it could also be inferred that these collections above are indeed to related to hobbies of mine - reading and writing.  But the reality is that these piles of things, because that is what they really are -


 - were quickly reviewed for a few special items which were kept to revive a sweet memory, and the rest?  Well the rest were bagged and donated or simply thrown out.  So they are not collections in the true sense of this definition, rather they are just part of the detrius we humans tend to accumulate throughout the course of our lifetimes and left to pile up, become just that - piles,

not collections.

So now that this difference is squared away, let's talk about the collections that people have that give them joy.  And let's talk about where these collections are kept.

I can say from working with clients that the things they profess to "collect" are often hidden away in boxes, or tucked away gathering dust in dark corners on shelves or worse, crowded together in a central place of their home, so many, that it's hard to discern what exactly one is looking at. Neglected and thus forgotten, often covered in layers of dust and even grime, depending on the location.

What to do?  Upon rediscovery, it's best to start off asking a few questions.

  • How long has it been since you've seen these things?

  • Are they intact or broken?

  • Have you missed them?

  • Are the memories that flood back positive or negative?

  • Are you plagued with guilty feelings or feel that little thrill of joy?

  • Would you rather spend your time dusting these things or living life?

  • Is there someone that might enjoy this collection and take good care of it, such as a museum?

Let your feelings guide you to determine what to do next.  It's absolutely okay to pitch the entire collection into the trash

or bag it up and donate it.

But if you

feel joy

then it might be time to find a creative way to display your special collection so that you can feel that thrill of pleasure everytime you see it.

Here are a few ideas that have worked for me!


 I've collected buttons since I was about 10 years old, in fact, as a child, I belonged to 

The Michigan Button Society

 where I learned all about the history of all sorts of buttons.  I enjoyed countless hours sorting and trading buttons with friends in the Button Club we formed at our school. For years, I kept them in Mason jars, but a few years ago, I created this out of an old framed mirror that I happened upon and a hot glue gun.

I've also seen buttons sewn into necklaces, bracelets and brooches, sewn on to wall hangings, made into Christmas ornaments etc.  You get the idea. I love buttons; they are a happy reminder of my childhood, so it makes sense to me to display them as something useful.  This mirror is the last thing I look at when I leave the house

to make sure there is nothing in my teeth!


 My married last name means "owl" in Polish.  I

t also means "noodle" in Japanese, one can only imagine what that collection would look like!

 When we were first married, family members delighted in giving me owls.  It was thoughtful and sweet, but I quickly realized that I could only manage so many owls in my life.  

When I'm surrounded by too much clutter, it clogs up my brain and makes it hard to focus.

So when we moved into our house, many years ago, I set them on top of a door frame in our bedroom Every morning I wake up and smile seeing all my owls in one place, but that's the only time I see them!  It's like a special greeting just for me.  


Found objects:

I like collecting rocks, feathers and other ordinary things found in nature and the man-made world.  These glass bottles came from swap meets in Los Angeles, antique stores and from an outhouse excavation at a century farm.  Yes, that is where people used to dump their trash!

Place another object in the mix to liven it up!  

That mosaic ball was a gift from a girlfriend and it's sitting atop a glass candlestick holder!

When choosing where to display, consider an area that has lots of natural light or install stick-on LED motion sensor lights like 


 to really brighten up a shelves in an otherwise dark cabinet.

Arrange your items so that there is space between them and even though you may have a large collection, consider only displaying those that you really love so that they easily fit in the space.  Too many in too small a space looks cluttered.  3 to 4 larger objects fit easily on one shelf.  You can always rotate items in for the season and thus display an entire collection over the course of the year.  

Remember, the less you display, the less there is to dust!

Thank you for allowing me to show you my collections!

What special collections do you have that bring you pleasure?

How do you display them?

Crafts Anyone?

Craft spaces are near and dear to my own creative soul so organizing this darling craft cabinet for a special child was a little dream come true.



While there are many craft supplies available in here, they are hard to find in the piles.  There are also some items that don't belong...e.g. canning jars and a purse.  

Just because it fits, doesn't mean it belongs.


The goal was to make it easy for this child to see the choices available to her, find the supplies she needs and have them organized so that she could work independently.

 Ah, this is what we all hope for our children, isn't it?

What's in the drawers?

Scarves & ribbons for make-believe play.  These went into a tote in the playroom.

Oh my, a crafty junk drawer!

The first step was to pull everything out and sort it into categories.  Some items were easily discarded such as wrinkled paper and used up projects.  Others were saved as memorabilia for a scrapbook, such as little drawings.  And some were donated, such as extra unused bottles of  glue.

 When you're not sure if you have it already, it's a temptation to buy more. 

It was clear to see after sorting, what items needed to be in their own spaces.  These clearly are the craft items that bring this child joy.

Origami paper

Workbooks, coloring books & sketchbook, Tray with pencil sharpener and pencils to be sharpened. Tray with note pads/post its.  Tote filled with colored pencils, glue,tape, staples etc. to carry to her workspace table and chair.

What became of the other drawer?  Just a few cherished items including her own labeler!  

A child after my own organizer heart.

Junk drawer no more!

Hidden amongst all the piles were all these colorful tins that once contained tea and biscuits.  They add so much beauty to these now empty shelves.

Lots of room for craft supplies as this child grows and develops more interests!

We also found quite a bit of spare change for that adorable piggy bank! 

We sorted out this messy paper file into categories of white paper, colored paper, construction paper and cardboard and installed it.  

It is not shown in these photos.  

Every child needs lots of paper!

Wow!  What a difference a little empty space makes.  No need to fill it up, just breathe and enjoy.





My favorite moment was when all of the calendars and notes were removed and we shined up the beautiful glass windows underneath.

 Visual clutter wears down our energy.

Now this cabinet beckons to be opened, whereas before it kept us away.

There is talk of paiting the interior a bright yellow and lining the shelves and drawers with pretty paper.  

When we mindfully take care of our belongings, the joy they give us grows!  

I can't wait to see it unfold.

Amidst all the clutter, we discovered this find!  Time to celebrate!

Click to hear it!

What was your favorite space to work in as a child?

What space would you like more organized for your child to use?

The Traveling Trunk

Very soon, I will be driving across the country to deliver my youngest to his college campus and move him into his dorm room...this is only a small part of the load we will be carrying...ahem.

Clearly some organization is needed.

Behold the traveling trunk!  I say traveling because it has been in my family for 3 generations and has traveled to Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, & Wisconsin so far, as well as 2 colleges; University of Michigan and Michigan State University (

Go Spartans!


They don't make them like this anymore, real metal on the outside and real wood on the interior.

Remnants of stickers from 

Interlochen Arts Camp

, where my mother attended as a camper.

Real leather handles and markings from being mailed UPS to 

Camp Timbertops

 and back

where I worked as a counselor; teaching rock climbing/ropes course for 4 summers.

When I took possession, the interior looked something like this.

I love this vintage 1950s print now,

but my 20 year old self did not.

So I changed it to this.  Contact paper circa 1982

My youngest is not going to

enjoy this print as much as I did.

 So I changed it again.  Contact paper circa 2015.  Contact paper has been around 


I chose a neutral gray.  Gray is trending.  We are so on point.

Notice the real wood pieces on either side?

Try as I might, the contact paper wouldn't stick to them.  I think they look better this way, don't you?


 Turn off the fans when using contact paper!   It was a hot and humid day and as we don't have air conditionning in my art studio, I had a fan running full blast.  Let's just say that contact paper and wind don't mix. 

I also got out my toolbox and reattached this broken hinge.  This girl has skills.

Then I got the most brilliant idea!  I created a surprise inside the lid.  I stuck postcards of our little town and pictures of family and friends; even our dog is in the mix.

Another brilliant idea came to me...

Wouldn't it be fun to have all the guests at his grad party write messages in here?

Ah too late the grad party was 3 months ago.  (

Somebody do this for your senior


And now the best part!  Nearly everything from all those shopping bags, fit inside the trunk!

And the finish.  He's all packed and ready to go.

Trunks make excellent companions for college students.  They serve as storage as well as a seat, or even a table.  I hope my youngest loves it as much as my mother and I.  Isn't it amazing it's lasted this long?

Do you have a trunk?  What are you storing in it?

Where has it traveled to?

What's Lurking in Your Clothes Closet?

Before I arrive for the first organizing session with a client, I tell them,

"Don't pick up anything before I arrive!" 

Every single item tells a story and if they move it, there's a possibility that it will continue to cause problems for them as we didn't have it to work with from the start.

So, of course this is


how the closet looked.


It looked like this.


Shoes piled vertically supplies?

Hiding Squirt from the kids - good idea, but not in a closet.

And this...

What you see is what you can reach...the doors not able to open as they are blocked

by 2 large nightstand tables.

The goal was to get all of the client's clothes, including outerwear!, shoes & boots, purses, and accessories in this one closet thereby emptying out 2 dressers and getting all of the scattered shoes off the floor.  

The client was a bit skeptical, visualization helps.

First we gathered


the clothing; outerwear, hats, mittens, tops, bottoms, skirts, pants, dresses, scarves, belts, undies, socks, workout wear, gardening clothes, and all the shoes, boots etc.  

The bed makes a perfect sorting "table", just be sure to cover it with some sheets first to protect your nice bedding.

Let the keeping begin!  Remember, only keep what brings you the thrill of joy!  Hold it and ask yourself, will you want to wear this again next season? 

Do you love wearing it?  

Focus on what you want to keep and discard the rest.

If it still has the tags on it from the store, cut them off and make the garment yours.

Discard anything that A. you don't love and B. inspires guilt

(spent too much money)

or fear

(afraid a relative will be upset


Visualize looking in your closet first thing in the morning and loving everything you see! So many beautiful choices, they all fit, feel good, are in good repair and make you feel happy!  

Donate or throw out the rest.

Check every might find this!

But we also found this...uh-oh...mildew.

We sprayed bleach on it, then wiped it clean and did a quick paint job with 


 to finish it off.  Just in time to move all the clothes back in.

 (The client did find the source and fixed that too.)

The keep pile is much smaller


, and everything is off of the floor, including the shoes.

We were able to utilize matching containers from other closets by switching some things out.  I encourage clients to use what they have on hand!

We rolled or folded clothes to stand them up in the large totes and then labeled them by category:  socks, underwear, bras, shorts, work out tops, work out bottoms, gardening clothes, etc.

(Of course the socks are folded!)

The totes are labeled as is their place on the shelf.  So easy for the client to pull them all out to put away laundry and then place them right back where they belong.

On the left side we hung coats, jackets, fleece, sweaters, dresses, pants and skirts and after removing those bulky nightstands

(and replacing with a sweet little oak table that the client had in another room)

, dressy tops are hung on the top right side and casual tops on the bottom right side.  

Belts are hung on a hook just inside the door and scarves and gardening clothes are in the white totes on the left shelf.  J

eans are folded in a neat pile.

Boots were placed in plastic shopping bags and stored on the very top shelf to the left along with handbags, and all the shoes were placed on the bottom shelf - nothing on the floor!  

Voila!  All of the client's clothes, for all seasons, well organized in one visually pleasing space.  

There are still some minor tweaks to be made....changing out to 

velvet hangers

 which eliminate clothes slipping off... and placing shoes inside 

shoe boxes

(always keep your original shoe boxes, they keep your shoes dust-free) 

But what is most important, is that the client was thrilled!  Here is what she had to say about the experience.

"Here is how I feel now:  more peaceful, empowered to do more rather than overwhelmed, positive, encouraged, motivated to do more organizing, energized, helped to do more for myself, educated on tricks I did not know, wiser to know how long a project should actually take (much longer than I would expect if I count the hours I put in apart from your time), excited about how this will spill over into my family's spaces.  And I also feel like I understand myself better.....what I like and don't like, and how when things don't feel right, I am not able to focus.  Wow, if everyone could get to that point, what could they accomplish?  How would their lives be different?  It's an amazing thought, isn't it?"

What's lurking in the back of your closet?

What is the feeling you have when you get dressed in the morning?

*All pictures and testimony used with permission.  

Jewelry Storage

It's come up in casual conversation and with clients this week, "What's the best way to organize jewelry?"

The best way is the one that works for you.

We all dislike untangling chains, playing "Eye Spy" as we match up tiny earrings and have felt the dismay and regret at finding jewelry that has broken or bent from being piled in a box.  

There is a better way.

Sorting out to see what you have is the first step.  Invite your children to help you, it can be satisfying to share the stories behind each piece.  I recently gifted a set of pearls to my neice that has been in my family for 6 generations!   

Focus on what you'll



  • Keep everything that makes you happy; that looks great on you, that makes you feel wonderful.

The size of this pile may surprise you!  

  • Keep the sentimental.

I confess I have a large gold chain necklace with a huge gold cross outlined in rhinestones (


Mr. T

), that I've only worn once.  My youngest gave it to me for my birthday one year when he was quite small and I remember wearing it to church

(hoping no one would comment - it was so not my style

), but loving the way he lit up when he saw me wearing it. I hope I'm buried with the thing.

  • Keep it if you love it, but will never wear it, but only if you'd like to make something out of it or if you plan to gift it to a relative or friend (but be sure to ask if they want it first), or you make an appointment at the jeweler to have it repaired.

I happen to have a lot of jewelry kept from my teenage years; little 4-H pins, lots of orphan earrings that I adored etc.  I plan to make a little ornamental wallhanging with them, as they make me smile.

Keeping what you love first, makes the discard process much easier.

Set aside all the bent, broken gold and silver chains and the missing earrings.  

Do not throw them away

.  If they are real gold or sterling, they could be worth some $$$$.  I had a job buying gold at one time and some women I waited on, literally had a small fortune of unwearable jewelry stashed in their jewelry box!  It's hard to tell what's real, so leave it to the professionals to decide.

Donate everything else.  

Now let's organize!  To me jewelry can be art.  It is colorful, beautiful and can be appreciated all of the time when it's on display.

One DIY idea I've used myself, is to repurpose an old picture frame or bulletin board and hang jewelry within it; either on hooks or tacks.

Instructions here

This idea is even simpler and more beautiful and would work especially well if all of your items are neutral and natural in color.

You can order this on etsy

But, if simplicity is your aim and you've got enough art on the wall or want to reduce the visual clutter, this might be the perfect solution.

Ice cube trays!

They easily fit into a drawer, they can be stacked and no dust.  Pick some up at a thrift store today!


I couldn't resist showing just one more creative idea from the internet...this is so tempting to make.


What do you store your jewelry in?

What is your most sentimental piece of jewelry?

Were you surprised by the size of your "keep" pile?

Closet Clean-Out

I set a goal this week to tackle this mess of a basement closet that I showed off last week.

This closet contains art, office and school supplies, sewing materials, craft stuff, WIPs (

Works In Progress

), boxes of photo CDs and other memorabilia, and an 8 year collection of Suzuki piano music, books and materials.  My objective was to sort out all of my art & sewing stuff and move it to my art studio and hopefully purge and relocate the rest.  

A girl can hope right?

From basement to attic - sounds easy enough.  I set aside a few hours one afternoon.

First I moved everything upstairs to the living room floor.  It's important to take things in stages; pace yourself, go get a big glass of water.  This might take awhile.

To start things off right, I set up 3 bags:  White (

to donate

), Black (

to throw out

), Paper

(to recycle

).  I use different colored trash bags because...

Have you ever thrown out something perfectly wonderful that you were saving because it was in a black trash bag?  I have



The end result!

Sorting is the first step.  My preference is to sort out everything by category and purge as I go.  It can be challenging to remember to sort


 purge.  No need to keep anything that you aren't using, just because it belongs in that category.  Someone else might love it!

These are the items I kept that were relocated.

                  Photos & Memorabilia

Supplies for  our college students

Musical memories

I also started a pile for all the items that I'll move to my art'll see that soon. This took care of all of the loose stuff.

But, I still had to deal with all of these containers FULL of stuff!

I have to admit, I got a little misty-eyed sorting the piano music and remembering all those years of helping my boys practice; all the lessons, the competitions and their devoted teacher.  

(Yes, I'm keeping all of this for their future lives.)

Sorting can be emotional work!

So I took a break...breaks are necessary when doing hard work.  I ate a bowl of delicious red raspberries and sat outside and smelled the flowers for awhile.

Then it was back to sorting...

Look!  More stuff for my studio!

More office supplies for the college students

The "To Donate" pile got bigger...

Who remembers stick-on letters to make signs?  I am dating myself.

The items for my art studio grew too.

Lots of empty containers - such a good feeling.  Save containers until the house is organized. They really come in handy.

Finally, all done!  The basement closet is completely empty and below is the stash I kept for my art studio.  I was happily suprised to find many projects that need finishing (

as well as starting

), so I am excited to have everything I need in one room.

Now to find a home for it all!

Now, I've learned over the years that  some families collect wine or art or books...


ot mine!

We collect writing utensils!

At least our college students will be well-stocked.

What hidden collection is lurking in your closet?

Craft Room Clutter

One of the perks of being an almost-empty-nester has been to reclaim our finished attic,

previously a playroom, then a teen hang-out space, then storage

and remake it into my own art studio!  

I painted the space in blues and grays to match the carpet and give it a dreamy feel.  I look over the trees and rooftops of our neighborhood and the space reminds me of the sky on a cloudy day.  It is my favorite retreat when it's raining and when it's sunny, the light pours into the windows.

For years I have carted my supplies upstairs and downstairs to create/sew/craft on our dining room table and then,

so we could eat

, carried it all back and put it away in the various rooms it was stored. Maybe you can relate?

This is only


of my art stash... 

Messy art closet

My fabric stash

Sewing notions - yes that is a toolbox!

I continue to work on relocating many items in the attic to other oldest son's collections...the "take to college" pile for my youngest husband's life scrapbooks and memorabilia and various other stuff that no one knows quite what to do with.  So, I'll be showing the before and after photos once the transformation is complete. For now, there are quite a few piles of boxes around the perimeter of the room. 

Patience is a virtue.

In the meantime, what to do about storage for all of my art stash items?  I happen to love old things and so Ikea was out.  Instead I  thrifted a couple of cool pieces of furniture at 

The Beldenville Flea


Rusty  and stained top of the cabinet

This dingy Army issue card file cabinet was being used for automotive and electrical parts.  The first step was to clean it all out.  

Time to put on the gloves!

Look at all the cool stuff inside!  My husband kept quite a bit of these items as the fuses were exactly the ones we needed for the garage.  It was like a treasure hunt although I could have done without the mouse nest...yuck.

After scouting around the Flea for awhile, I came across this old oak dresser that seemed the perfect height and width to put the card file on.  It's even on wheels!

It was badly stained and the original ornate drawer handles were missing.  In the past I wouldn't have dreamed of painting good wood furniture, but as Myquillan Smith, aka "The Nester" from 

The Nesting Place

, recommends, if you hate it anyway, why not paint it?  

So I did.

But first, as it was all coming apart, I glued it all back together using wood carpenter's glue, then I sanded all the gunk that was stuck to the top and I used 

this product

 to make the drawers slide easily into place.  

(I'd never done anything like this before, thankfully bloggers are in my friend group.)

I primed it and then used up some floor and porch paint that I had laying around.  This color reminds me of the ocean.  I purchased sleek new modern drawer handles and lined the drawers with contact paper from 



This pattern brings to mind all the little stones one might find on a beach, it seems so perfect in my nature inspired space.

Then on to the card file cabinet!  

I chose the sun as my inspiration and picked out a golden shade of yellow spray paint to match and went to work.

Here it is in my attic space...but it's not done yet!

The inside of many of the drawers were rusty and stained from water damaage, so that contact paper came in handy and adds so much fun to the cabinet.

I also painted all the drawer to organize and label them.  

(They are the same shade of yellow and that contact paper is white not blue..who knows what happened here?


The final touch was to add the labels.  I used my own handwriting!

And now...

The missing drawers created space for my origami paper, large rulers and beads.

I used this product for organizing my beads. The plastic containers have lids that screw on and off and 12 of them fit into their own plastic case.  Perfect for seed and bugle beads.

Let's review!  



Wall stencils courtesy of 

Alabama Chanin

I do believe this is Pinterest worthy!

What I haven't mentioned was the fact that I didn't buy the card file was more than I wanted to spend, so I went home empty-handed. The next morning I felt convicted that I was meant to have it,

if it was still there

.  I drove back to the Flea and there it was sitting in the rain...just for me. The vendor who took my $ told me, that instead of an impulse buyer, I was a "fate" shopper.  

I loved this compliment!

This prescription bottle I found inside one of the drawers sealed the deal.

The last 4 digits of the phone number are the same as mine!

If you could repurpose any space in your home, what would you do with it?

What would you put in your very own card file cabinet?

Tiny Tool Closet

This tiny tool closet had an organization system in place, but over time, the white wire shelving became a "dumping" ground for items that didn't have a designated place and the labeled drawers didn't match the contents within.  

And, the two household fuse boxes were virtually inaccessible behind these plastic drawer units!

Heavy items on top may collapse these drawers over time.

Lots of lightbulbs, but hard to get at.

It was quite frustrating for the homeowner to find what they needed, as items often didn't go back to their rightful place after use.  

 First we pulled everything out and sorted it to decide what would be kept in this closet and relocated/discarded the rest.  

I then created a different floor plan for the existing shelving and drawer units.  Instead of an L shape, I moved everything into a narrow U shape.  

This made everything in the closet accessible, including those important fuse boxes!

Behold the U Shape!

Let's take a tour!

Starting with the white wire shelf on the left:  The very top shelf is empty on purpose.  It's important to have a "landing place" to rest items before putting them away.  Also, if a family member doesn't know where to put something, it can go here, rather than buried in the wrong drawer.

Heavy tools

(and lightbulbs!)

are on the first shelf.  I


how the protected saw blade cover fits neatly inside the wires, when the saw is resting on the shelf.  

On the middle shelf, I consolidated all the lightbulbs by putting all the indoor lights in plastic totes so they are more protected. These totes are labeled for appliances, lamps, rooms etc.

The bottom shelf holds the red tool box and a box of ratchets.  The tool box has small tools like a hammer, screwdriver etc. to do minor repair.  The homeowner can easily fill it with items they need from the drawers or they can quickly grab it and go.

Against the wall are the plastic drawer units.

The contents of the drawers were shuffled depending on the quantity and sizes of the items that we sorted out.  Heavier items are in the bottom drawers.  Then the drawers were relabeled.  

Plastic drawers like this tend to warp and sag over time, and can become hard to shut, so it pays to be mindful of the weight that is kept in them as well as how much they are used.  For heavy use and heavy items,

metal drawers

 are best, but are more expensive of course.  

On top is the little screw/nail cabinet and next to it in the red crate are all the outside floodlamps.

To the right of the plastic drawers on the floor, is a white tote with supplies for repairing screens.

Above the plastic drawers is the pegboard as it was before.  So handy for hanging up items.

No need to change what's working.

One more time...



This tool closet worked as it was, but now it is really functional!

Did anyone wonder what was in this black tote?

Electrical Cords - Brilliant!

What closet in your home contains items that you cannot readily find?  

Creating a Cozy Corner Library

All my life, I've wanted a library in my home.  I am a voracious reader and one favorite way to spend a day is curled up in a comfortable chair, thoroughly engrossed in a book, blissfully unaware of the time.

As a shy, introverted child, I had a hard time making friends, so I often escaped into books to pass the time. A good book is an old friend; one to return to and reread again and again.  

My husband loves books as well, so between us, we have a lot of books!

I've tried putting bookshelves in every room and separating my books by genre, but it was frustrating when I'd search for a particular book...which room was it in again?  

I felt my books really wanted to be together, all in one place; to be perused as a collection.  

This was my latest attempt at a home library...mismatched bookcases, piles of books that didn't fit on the shelves, games and photo albums, a table filled with scrapbooking supplies and a Papasan chair. And, a lot of my favorite books were in another room, on shelves in the basement!

A close up of the clutter

The bigger picture

First, all of the scrapbooking supplies were packed up and relocated and the table removed.  It's best when possible, to use a room for only one purpose or to declare separate zones.  The opposite half of this long narrow room has a desk for a home office space.

Scrapbooking overload

Then the sorting began...first by genre.

I removed the white bookcase, as it didn't match the others, and suffered a small injury when a shelf unexpectedly fell off.  When organizing, ask for help!

I donated 136 books that I no longer wanted - no joy lost there, and took another bag of books to a 

used bookstore

 and made a few $!

Then I sorted my books by color.  I've always dreamed of a color-coordinated library!

Ta-Dah!  All books sorted by genre and color.

I brought in the wing back chair from our living room, the antique lamp is from a bedroom and all the shelving matches better!  No piles, no games, no scrapbooking supplies. 



 Instead, a cozy corner library with all my books in one clutter free place. 

Now to find some pretty artwork, a small decorative rug and a vase of fresh flowers to finish off the space.

And look

 at all the bookmarks that were hiding in my books!   Bonus!

Where do you keep your favorite books?  Do you have them organized a particular way?

Cleaning Up Arizona - Part I

My first real organization job happened quite by accident, although

there are no accidents!

My mom lives outside a small town, 9 miles out on a dirt road in Arizona.  This quote seems to sum up why she enjoys life there so much.

"I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams."

                                                                                                                   ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Except the something throbbing and gleaming on her beautiful piece of land, was this huge trailer filled with "STUFF".  Check out those wheels!  This baby was going nowhere fast.

Last year on a visit, I listened while she talked about how much she dreaded going through everything in this storage trailer and I saw first hand how overwhelmed and stuck she felt.  So, I hatched a plan to sort it all out with her.    

I may have used phrases like

"It will be fun!"

over and over and exuded a sense of confidence that belied the pressure that the plan had to be completed, start to finish in exactly

4 days.

At any rate, I was convincing

(and cute!)

, so we went to work.  

I'm going in!

The entire trailer was filled with decades of various hobbies, items of interests, memorabilia, photos, books (25 boxes!), household items and furniture that belonged not only to my mom but also to 4 other people.  

Now I have a rule that one should not organize anything for someone else unless one has permission...except that of the 4 other people, 3 are dead and the 4th is not to be found.   

Permission granted.

Step one.  Pull everything out, and I do mean everything. Over


boxes of everything.

Can you find my mom?

Step 2:  Sorting

My mom took on the task of wiping the gritty, desert dust off of things while I sorted into rows; the items that were saleable.  The smokin' burn barrel contains items that she discarded  

(no trash service in the desert!)  

and the truck?  

It's a dog's life.

The truck contained items we bagged up to drop off for donation and also specialty items that we sold to various stores such as musical instruments (3!) and deep sea fishing tackle.  

Deep sea fishing tackle in AZ?  I know...right?

We moved some things to a covered porch to sort in veritable comfort.

Itwas hot, it was dry, it was dusty.  We had a lot of laughs!  Whenever my mom asked me if she should keep something, I said "NO, take a picture of it".  We did not drink nearly enough water.   The wind may have have come up and blown some burning items out of the burn barrel...oh my.

After many, many trips to town to drop off donations, dropping off larger items  that needed to go to the dump, selling some items to specialty stores


and neatly storing all the items for sale back in the trailer, 

(a garage sale is planned!),

this is all that was left. 

When I left to fly back home, she had just 10 boxes of photos left to sort.

 A few weeks later I received this photo....priceless.

Fun and Done!

Can't you just feel her exuberance?!  

Last week I received an email from her expressing her gratitude from our time together 16 months ago.

She writes,

"I can't thank you enough for the inspiration you have brought into my life!  Getting me started on sorting out my stuff and bringing in 

Marie Kondo

.  it really has been life changing for me.  I have always made do with things or Heaven help me if I got rid of anything before it was totally worn out.  It never mattered whether I actually liked it or not and joy never entered the picture.  I think I never felt worthy of surrounding myself with beautiful things and for most of my life unable (or so I thought) to afford those things.  I cannot believe how differently I feel now and how I look at everything in my life from a different point of view."

Thanks Mom.  This experience inspired me to start my business!

What items have you inherited that are taking up space and sapping energy from your life?

What's Under Your Stairs?

Do you have one of those closets built under a stairway?  Often they are used for storage and can over time become a "black hole" for the homeowner.  

In this case, everything was pulled out and sorted - including to the right and around the corner from that file cabinet.

Good thing the homeowner found me a lantern to illuminate the space!

Usually there are quite a few items that are no longer needed, such as 5 bags of different types of tiling grout from when the home was built.  In the event a tile has to be replaced, the contractor will prefer to use fresh, new grout.

Some items I relocated such as this filing cabinet.  It was nearly inaccessible underneath the shelf, so it was moved to an office room and placed inside a closet, where it is much more likely to be used.

These cans of paint under the stairs were difficult to access (

and see!

) and a dried up spill was discovered as well.


I moved the paint cans completely out of that space and replaced them with boxes of tile, carpet tiles, and an extra piece of granite countertop.  These are items that the homeowner will rarely need to access

(Knock on wood!).

I installed a stick-on LED light with a motion-sensor so that the space now lights up whenever someone is in there.  

Let there be light!

With the construction materials to the right and stowed neatly under the stairs, I moved all the extra shelves from various closets in the home to be stored here in back of a few empty appliance boxes and a roll of carpet.  

This now clear path was formally clogged with items.

These shelves were reorganized with room for garden chemical storage in the winter (top shelf), household cleaners (2nd shelf) and spray paint, glues etc. (3rd shelf).  Notice all the paint cans on the floor where they can easily be accessed?

The gray tote holds painting supplies.  I recommend putting one together to hold everything you need for quick touch ups as well as for painting a room.  Then the entire tote can be easily carried and moved to the painting area!

Next I put together an "Inventory" binder of everything that is located in this closet as well as a separate inventory of all the paint; including brand, color # & name, and room where that paint is located.  This makes matching paint colors later a cinch!

Finally a few hours later, the closet is all put back together with items that the homeowner needs and wants in the space, and everything is labeled, for easy access.  

The binders on the shelf hold all the instruction manuals and home warranties for the various systems in the home - electrical, plumbing, lighting, appliances etc.  When something breaks, having the manual handy makes for a much easier and time-saving fix.

      Before                                                                                             After

Oh!  Where can you find that handy light?

Light Angel

Do tell!  What's the most unusual item you've found under



Clothes Horse

I am a self-described “clothes horse”.  I love wearing beautiful clothes and don’t mind spending money on myself.  I also like to wear what’s in style and consequently have accumulated far too much; far more than I can possibly wear.   This realization was made along with these three facts.

1.  At  my age it’s quite unlikely that I’ll ever be a size 8 again.

2. With the start of my new venture, I’ll probably never wear business attire again.

3. My husband and I live in a circa 1917 house with a very small closet which we share and said closet is overflowing with my clothing!

4.  Because of said small closet, I was forced to rotate my clothes with the season which resulted in a sorting day twice a year when I’d rather be outside having fun.

Here’s the “before”…

I followed the 


 method of organizing my clothing and as Marie Kondo says, one starts with clothing by gathering all of it, 

(and she does mean ALL of it)

 in one place to begin the sorting process.  So this is ALL of my clothing, accessories, purses, shoes, winter clothing, jackets etc.  She says, anything which you come across later on, will have to be discarded.  Oh my!  The idea of throwing out something perfectly good that I used to wear (

think ballet gear and wedding dress!)

 made me really think hard while I was gathering so that everything would be included in the big sort.

I used the following criteria to decide what to keep,  and the rest was discarded.

1.  It had to fit and fit well – no itchy tags, no baggy, saggy.

2. It had to bring me joy when I held it up to myself.  Any felt sense of negativity, or bad memory association and out it went.

3.  It had to look perfect – anything that needed extensive mending went in the discard pile.

4.  I held out a few exceptions for my clothing “Hall of Fame” that in all likelihood I will never wear again, but couldn't bear to part with;  e.g. a college sweatshirt from my alma mater and a pair of coral colored high heeled pumps that make me feel oh so sexy.

And here is the after…many, many hours after…

Our closet…all of my seasons in one place!

My purse collection – sparkly purses are my thing!

My sock drawer – it’s like origami for socks!

My pajama drawer...I'm embarrassed to put my underwear drawer on the internet!

My apron collection – doesn’t every woman have an apron collection?  Okay, there’s a bathing suit in there too.

My scarves; they really like being folded rather than hung and a shoe box worked well to stack them in.

My shoes!  I’ve always wanted a shoe photo gallery!

And finally, the donation pile at curbside.  I also consigned 25 like-new items at a local shop.  Cha-ching!

When’s the last time you sorted through your clothes?  What’s the most interesting item in your clothing Hall of Fame?

My New Venture

Today is the day I started my new business, “Winnow & Spruce Organizing”.  This past year I’ve been on a journey to get re-acquainted with myself; to know and to love the real me and quit pretending to be who I thought I should be and searching for what I thought I should do.  It started with suddenly and unexpectedly leaving a job followed by a deep plunge into the depths of my life to understand and examine the roots of how it all went wrong. The introvert in me was awakened and  along the way I rediscovered my passions; creativity, writing, nature, reading, and organizing.  It’s been within me all along.  Organizing is a touchstone for me; an activity that makes me feel safe and appreciated and a skill that I love to share with others.  Today feels like I have come home to myself.

It’s been said that to discover what your life purpose is to go back to when you were the magical age of 8 and consider what you did for fun.  For me, it was organizing!  As my friend, Maureen, a co-worker said to me a couple of years ago, after watching me arrange and rearrange, “Val, you have a highly developed sense of order.”  I do feel at peace when everything is in its proper place.  I do feel a sense of joy when a room is put back to order or when a closet’s belongings are returned.  I do feel a sense of accomplishment helping a friend sort through their clothes and I do love to plan and organize a special party for a loved one.  An early childhood memory is of patiently waiting for my mother to leave the house on some errand so I could quickly organize the spices above the stove to happily surprise her

Organizing is a way of life for me.  I look forward to sharing ideas, projects and insights as my new venture unfolds.