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Sunday, September 30, 2007

tip time! *and* where in the world are the sprucegirls...

all rolled into one! this week the sprucegirls helped a busy family get their house ready for a party. toys were corralled, the mail sorting station was tamed, and all horizontal surfaces were weeded of errant items. the house is now looking very festive and ready for its close-up.

you can perform the same disappearing act for your own party-pooping piles--with a little strategy and prioritization. your job here is to make things look good. don't get bogged down in details that won't give your house visual party-bang--alphabetized cds are great, but not the best use of your time in this mission. focus on the obvious: the surfaces. the idea behind this tip is to think like a party guest--take a good look at your house like you're seeing it for the first time. go out the front door and come in like a guest even, and focus on the trouble spots that catch your eye.

next, do a sweep and gather. take a laundry basket with you and pluck all the visible items not invited to the party. now this is the important part: sort and distribute them *immediately*. seriously. no party until that basket is empty. it'll go quicker than you think--don't linger over each item, just hunker down and dispatch them to their homes.

lastly, make sure categories that do live out, haven't grown to un-party-esque proportions. if the kids have a basket of toys in the kitchen, make sure *all* the toys fit in the basket. you might not notice the overflow on a daily basis, but your guests will. the same goes for mail. nothing kills the fun mood like a pile of bills. neaten and contain your everyday paper, thin out your message board area--the less that's out, the better.

now make a few pigs-in-a-blanket and party already!

Friday, September 14, 2007

tip time! the rule of seven...

this tip mines the history vault. benjamin franklin may just be the genesis of this idea by commenting that fish and houseguests stink after three days. what does that have to do with organizing, you ask? simple. ol' ben had a deadline in mind, and no matter that fish and guests seemed like different problems altogether, he knew that one deadline kept his life simpler.

we take this approach to paper archives that have a habit of building up in filing cabinets. we've seen some magazines advocate for a complicated system of different deadlines depending on the type of paper--frankly, it makes our heads spin. so our solution? seven years. keep your paper trail for seven years. at the start of every new year, pull all of last year's paper, tuck it into sturdy envelopes and (this is important) add seven. this becomes your destroy date. write it clearly on the envelopes, and when the date rolls around, the paper heads to the shredder. simple.

oh, and ben may have said a little something about death and taxes too--and that's our one exception to the seven year rule: taxes stay forever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

where in the world are the sprucegirls?

today the sprucegirls are busy working with a client to prepare for her upcoming remodel. the client, who has lived in her house for over 30 years, has wisely brought us in to help clear her storage room for demolition. we're busy dividing things into four categories: things she needs access to during the remodel, things to store during the remodel, things to store after the remodel and (our favorite), things to pass on to someone else.

remodels and additions are the perfect time for a good sprucing. most people need to move quite a bit of stuff around so, if you're touching it anyway . . . you might as well consider what's worth keeping. after all, you're about to have a fabulous, new space. the last thing you need is to junk it up with the same old stuff that junked up your old space.

Monday, September 10, 2007

the right stuff

yup, it's a file folder. this is one of the products we use most in our organizing work. the key to making it work well is the tab. we always choose third cut files with tabs on the right (also known as position 3 tabs). line these up in your file cabinet and you're suddenly free to add a new file any time without "messing up" your order. what a great and simple product. they're right there in your giant stationery store among the regular boxes of assorted tab files. seek them out . . .

Saturday, September 08, 2007

tip time! easy on the eyes...

quick--what's your favorite color? if you can answer that, you're well on your way to a streamlined and clutter-free house. often, even our best organizational intentions are tripped up by that spice of life: variety. our eyes are smart. it's not just things piled out of place that we perceive as clutter--we're constantly playing the "one of these things is not like the other..." game, whether we realize it or not.

this holds true with the storage containers we select as well as the decor we choose to display. too many colors or patterns, and our eyes give up--without cohesion, anything can become exhausting visual clutter. defy this phenomenon by embracing uniformity. one key color will make a landscape of unique objects, read as a clean, inspired design choice. make that favorite color your best friend when selecting items for your home, and you'll be--and LOOK--organized.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

where in the world are the sprucegirls?

last week we completed a home office. here's a look at a little piece of the project . . .

the challenge here was that there was virtually no hidden storage. that meant no place to hide office supplies or software or electronica. (the good news for us was that this client did not have a huge paper problem. she actually had a pretty reasonable amount but needed help with systems to keep track of it.)

enter the boxes . . . our solution here was to use all manner of boxes and holders. the magazine files hold paper and, you guessed it, magazines. the document boxes hold more paper, memorabilia and photos. the larger boxes stacked like a pyramid hold office and craft supplies. the client's files are now stashed away in file boxes. the key to all of this is that while the boxes come in all shapes and sizes, the color and feel are unified. this ensured that we weren't substituting one source of clutter for another.

the "after" picture also shows a complete lack of clutter on the shelves. the "before" situation meant that to get a book out, you probably had to move a photo or tchotchke. it's usually fine to do that because the book is desirable and worth taking the extra step for. putting it away, on the other hand, is a whole other story. nobody wants to move the photo or piece of tchotch to put the book away so . . . it doesn't happen. we lightened the load here in terms of these small items and found other places (like a window sill) to put the client's favorites.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

tip time! stop clutter at the source...

it's labor day weekend! that means picnics, roadtrips and days at the beach--and lest we not forget that most sacred american tradition: the labor day sale. everything from mattresses to tires, at slashed prices. what's a bargain lover with a matching desire for an organized home, to do?

here are some spruce hints for savvy shopping (and it begins way before you swipe that card...):

-ask yourself, if you would you pay double. if not, perhaps you don't really want it in your home, and you've been tricked by the thrill of the "bargain".

-challenge yourself to name three instances when you'd wear a piece of clothing, or imagine three ways you'd use an item-- before you buy. make sure the utility matches the price.

-if the goods have passed the above requirements, then decide which item the new treasure is going to replace. swap them, new for old, immediately when you get home.

-and watch out for bulk deals: 10/$1 spiral notebooks seem great, if you can imagine where you're going to put the other 9 in waiting. if you don't have space, it's not a steal.

shopping and organization aren't mutually exclusive, as long as you buy thoughtfully with an item's home in mind.