Category Archives: Organization

Accidents happen…

…especially if you have pets.

I am a big fan of pets. Huge! My local ASPCA uses the lovely phrase,  “Discover the warmth of a cold nose.” and I couldn’t agree more. I talked about great online pet supply sources clients have recommended in a post last week. Today, I’m back with a tip I give my clients for handling a common household issue that comes with our furry family members.

Image courtesy of p49gar.com

Awwwww! Happy animals make me smile! If only they could talk in a language I could understand. Okay. Back to my point…

If you have four-legged pets, you may be familiar with the household issue I was referring to. It looks a little bit like this:

Yep.

As an interior designer, these types of pet stains cause the same kind of unhappy surprise and general need to yell that they do when you find them in your home. (Which is hopefully not while you are in your bare feet. Been there.)

I have a solution for you. This solution works for…well…let’s call them “upset tummy” accidents, “liquid” accidents and “solid” accidents. You know what I mean. And don’t worry. I’m not showing any pictures of the two most icky types of accidents in this post. Use your own imagination or experience.

There are two issues that we need to solve in the clean up of this situation. It only takes two steps, but the second one is almost always forgotten:

The Stain

This is the most obvious problem to solve. I hardly need to tell you to clean up the “solids” first. If you need to soak some of the solids out off a carpeted surface, use water to loosen them. Do Not rub a carpet to get a stain out. Just keep flushing the surface until all the solids have been removed.

If you are dealing with a liquid stain, first blot the surface with a paper towel. To do this:

  • Place a large wad of paper towels over the stain then press down on the paper towels with the palm of your hand.

  • Keep pressing in different places on the paper towel to make sure you cover the whole stain’s area. Your paper towel will soak through, just keep replacing it until there is no more liquid to soak up.

The Smell

This is often the skipped step in dealing with ALL pet stains and it makes a big difference. Whether you are dealing with a solid or a liquid stain, you should never skip this step.

It is important to remember that our pets’ sense of smell is multiple times more powerful than our human sense of smell. Ridding our homes of the smell for us is not the same as ridding the stain’s smell for our pets. More importantly, if our pets can still smell where a stain was, they often take it as a sign of the right place to…leave a stain…again.

To battle this risk, this is our secret weapon:

White vinegar, which has no color, is a green cleaning solution that many  people already keep in the house. It can be used on solid and carpeted surfaces. (Although, if you are worried about rug/carpet discoloration, you can always try this solution in a discreet corner of the rug.) Vinegar is cheap and a wonder at getting out smells.

Here’s how to use it against pet stain smells:

  • Pour one half cup of white vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup.

  • Fill the rest of the measuring cup with room temperature water from the faucet.

  • Pour the water/vinegar mixture over the stain and let it sit for 30 seconds. Then blot all of the liquid up with paper towels, just like you did with the original stain.

  • Allow the stain to air dry.

Easy, right? You can even teach children to use this technique. I learned how to do this when I got my puppy as a little girl. It’s a great way to teach pet owner responsibility and you can relax in the knowledge that the cleaning agent is non-toxic to your kids, your pet or your floors.

If you like this tip, you’ll love the “pet vs. furniture” tip I’m writing for a post next week! Be sure to check back! If you have a question about solving other furnishing stains/accidents, leave a comment below. How can I help you solve a troubled “spot” in your home? (Had to use that pun somewhere, sorry!)

Advertisements

The magic cookbook

I have a little organization idea to share with you from my own home. I’d love to be able to tell you it comes from a Martha-like moment of both beauty and creativity, but I can’t. It really comes from years of wrestling foil and plastic wrap back into a drawer that has too many outdated take-out menus in it already.

And, lo! Inspiration struck:

“What is a ‘Magic Cookbook’?”, you may well ask.

It is a magical book of savory delights and cuisines from faraway lands. As you turn through its pages, you mouth waters at its every list of delicious foods. And the most magical part: By dialing a phone number on one of these savory pages, this food will be prepared for you to enjoy in your home. It may even *gasp* be delivered to directly your door.

You with me? The inside of this magic cookbook looks like this:

We love to cook, (check out some great recipes right here), but there are nights when we bow to the masters of other world cuisines to sate our cravings. We love food from Mexico, Spain, India, Thailand, China…almost any place that requires our passport to visit. (I did mean “almost”. After much open-mindedness, Ethiopian food is very literally off the table for us forever.)

However, all of this fabulous cooking is exactly what filled up our foil-and-other-stuff drawer in the kitchen. So, I made myself a cute little binder cover sheet on plain cardstock. You can download and print  my cover as a pdf right here if you like it, too. Then, I was off to Staples, where I picked up one of these:

This book is $4.29. (Click on the picture for the link.)

Next, I cleaned out our menus and slid one menu into every pocket of the presentation book. Done.

Now our take-out menus co-habit the shelf with our big cookbooks and we can find them all easily when we need them. And the foil drawer closes without either of us almost losing a finger.

Could this little idea help you at your house? It can’t solve the too-many-leftover-duck-sauce-packets-in-the-fridge issue, but I try to help where I can! Now dish with me: What is your favorite type of take-out food? Leave a comment and make the rest of us hungry for lunch…

Psssst! If you’re looking for the Toolbox giveaway results, the winner will be announced in a separate post this afternoon. Be sure to stop back by to see if it’s you!

One, if by land, and two, if by sea…

With the arrival of our July 4th holiday weekend, it’s time to celebrate our early American patriots. As the title of today’s Design Vocabulary post suggests, we are taking a look at the famous American patriot who also happened to be a very talented craftsman.

Portrait of Paul Revere, by John Singleton Copley (circa 1769), painted when Revere was around 34 years old. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

History

Paul Revere was born in 1735 in Boston to a French-born silversmith and his wife. He was the third of 12 children, and would eventually be the eldest surviving son. As was the custom of the day, Paul left school and became apprenticed to his craftsman father at the age of 13. His father died when Paul was only 19, which did not allow him to legally own and continue the family silversmith business.

Instead, Paul spent a couple of years serving in the provincial army during the French and Indian War. When he returned to Boston, he was old enough to take over his father’s shop in his own name. He married his first wife, Sarah, in 1757, after which they had eight children before Sarah’s death in 1773. Only five of their children survived childhood.

Paul was a popular and talented silversmith, as represented in his portrait above and evident in his creations shown below. He marketed his business through membership in the Boston Masonic Lodge, of which he was a founding member. Unlike most silversmiths, Paul was also a gifted engraver, which allowed him to decorate his own pieces in his own shop. Documents actually survive detailing that his shop made over 5,000 pieces of silver, including items as small as decorative buttons.

A sugar bowl and creamer from Paul Revere's post-revolution work, circa 1790-1800 Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Paul was a good provider for his family, which included his second wife, Rachel, and their eight children (of which only six survived). He also took care of his mother and older, unmarried sister. However, following harsh new British laws, like the infamous Stamp Act, the American economy took a nosedive and fine craftsmen like Revere were the first lambs to the slaughter.

We all know what happened next. Thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his heroic poem, Paul Revere is eternally remembered for his “midnight ride” to warn American patriots of the arrival of British troops for what would become the battle of Lexington and Concord. (The British troops arrived by land, in case you forgot your Old North Church lantern trivia.)

While scholars (and, apparently,  Sarah Palin) will debate the details of that midnight ride for the rest of time, I’d like to focus on a lovely piece from Paul’s designs that is still popular today. The Revere Bowl:

"Sons of Liberty Bowl", silver hollowware, 1768, by Paul Revere Jr. Image courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Click on the picture for more interesting details!)

All of the bowl photos shown in this post are linked directly to their sources for easy browsing.

Design

As you can see from the above photo, the design of a the Revere bowl is very simple. It is a wide, deep bowl on a foot of several tapering rims. While some of the most famous of these original bowls were silver, they were also very popular and practical in the more affordable pewter variety.

While these pewter bowls are not as shiny as the silver versions, they also requires less maintenance. I like the lovely antique-looking patina that the pewter bowls show.

Now that you can spot the Revere bowl profile you can find all sorts of variations available today. For example, many fine china companies use the Revere style footed bowl as a model for some of their patterns’ vegetable serving bowls.

Image courtesy of lenox.com

You can even find a few crystal bowls sporting the Revere bowl profile. Shown here as an etched commemorative bowl…

Image courtesy of jbaawards.com

…and here in a cut crystal style.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

Uses

There are as many uses for Revere bowls as your imagination can dream. I think this is one of the reasons Revere bowls are still so popular today. Linked below are a few of the most popular uses today.

Trophy Bowl with wood block base

Like the original “Sons of Liberty Bowl”, Revere bowls are great commemorative gifts. Dates and names for anniversaries, christenings, retirements and awards look gorgeous engraved on the curved bowl edge. Here’s another example that raises the foot of the bowl to give more of a classic trophy look:

Empire Pewter Trophy Bowls

Smaller Revere bowls work great as candy dishes, nut bowls and great accessory bowls for other uses in the house, like catching jewelry or holding potpourri.

This lovely Revere punch bowl would be a real show-stopper at any party. Can’t you just imagine it shining in candle light at a great Christmas party?

Revere bowls make great fruit bowls in a simple style that matches any room’s decor. You can now find Revere bowls with removable clear plastic liners to make any day-to-day cleaning a little easier.

They also make wonderful floral centerpiece holders. They can show a beautiful arrangement of flowers without a dominating height that blocks the view of those who are sharing your table. This makes these centerpieces very popular at weddings, like the example shown here:

Image courtesy of beautifulweddingflowers.blogspot.com

I have several Revere bowls. I love using them as beautiful catch-all bowls for smaller items on our bookcases. They look stylish and organize some of our smaller items that would otherwise look clutter-y. We toss in photos we need to put in albums, souvenir tickets or programs, small books that fall over on the shelves by themselves, etc. Here’s a Revere bowl at work in my home:

Do you like the classic style of the Revere Bowl? Do you have a Revere Bowl in your home? How do you use it?  I hope you all enjoy, or are already enjoying, a beautiful July 4th holiday weekend, from sea to shining sea.

Happy Independence Day! See you on Tuesday!

Wrapping it up

Today’s post is all about ideas to keep wrapping paper from over-running our storage spaces. Isn’t it amazing how needy a few rolls of paper and some bows can be when you want to keep them corralled out of the way?

Image courtesy of kevinandjenna.com

Frankly, I’ve been relieved when I heard clients grumble about this, too. Sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone in household organization issues, even if they are inconveniences.

I have a few solutions to suggest and not just about keeping everything tidy. There are two things I did to solve my own wrapping paper issues and I have since helped clients solve this problem. Here’s the first solution, which solves 70% of the problem:

Stop Buying It

The first part of this step is the examining the idea of wrapping paper. It’s beautiful. Its very nature promises to be a part of happy occasions in your future. When you need new/more wrapping paper, you can already picture yourself using it in a joyous setting.

In a way, a wrapping paper can also be a representation of your own style. It’s like a great wallpaper that you don’t have to really commit to and you can share it with friends as you give it away.

Have you ever bought a particular wrapping paper just for a special gift? Can you understand how seductive a product wrapping paper can be when it is all lined up beautifully in your favorite store? This is exactly what we have to stop buying into. Our overly-emotional connection to all-things-gift-giving is the need that so many smart retail marketers are capitalizing upon. This emotional response to pretty paper can lead to a lot of over-buying.

Image courtesy of woosterandprince.com

The second part of this first step is even easier: stop actually buying more paper. Many of us have a perfectly functional roll of wrapping paper, but sometimes feel the need for something different/less “old”. Or we see something new in a store and want to add it to what we have at home to “be prepared” for future gift needs.

Step away from that new wrapping paper. The paper you have at home is not “old”, it’s just not new to you. Is your gift recipient going complain that they saw the same wrapping paper on a gift you gave to someone else last year? Have you ever heard someone complain about a choice of wrapping paper?  I’m guessing you answer “no” to these questions. Let’s get down to what we really need and reclaim some of that precious storage space. On to Step 2!

Use What You Have

This step means exactly what you think it means. Use up most of what you have before buying any more paper. When you have worked down to almost-out-of-paper, I have a suggestion for your next paper purchase. This method works in our house, and now also works in the homes of a some friends and clients.

Buy three jumbo rolls of paper. Here’s how to choose them:

Paper #1: This paper should be elegant and sophisticated. I like a black and white pattern, which allows me to use any color bow with it. I also like a paper with black on it because it allows me to use it easily for guy gifts.

This is great example of Paper #1 and it's on sale. Just click on the picture to link to the retailer.

Paper #2: This paper should be a floral pattern. You can use it for feminine gifts and romantic occasions during the year, such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, wedding/baby showers, etc.

Paper #3: For Parents  Choose one great, all-purpose kid-themed paper (with balloons, confetti, puppies, etc.). This should cover you for the 1001 events that call for kid gifts, including those for your own child. You can also wrap gifts for kids in either of the other two papers listed above.

Paper #3: For Non-Parents Choose one more classic pattern using the same guidelines as Paper #1. You can now mix and match all three papers easily.

These three papers should be all that you need for “Everyday”gift wrapping. You can read about how I handle Christmas wrapping paper over-load right here. Most importantly, you’ve saved some money and you only need to store three rolls of wrapping paper.

Store What You Use

The easiest way to store gift wrap is to find a good container to fit your storage area of choice. Trash bags may work great for many people storing rolls of paper under the guest bed, but they aren’t really practical for a basement table or the back of a closet.

Linked in the pictures below are the gift wrap containers that we use in our home and that I recommended for clients based on their storage needs. Less is more in the world of storage. Less stuff, more space.

Many people like the under-the-bed storage plan, which is easy to get to and can be put away quickly.

This container holds many rolls of wrapping paper, which would cover your “Everyday” papers and your Christmas needs. It has four interiors tubs, perfect for tape and scissors and gift bows/ribbon. I like that you could even use the lid as a hard wrapping surface if you were wrapping gifts on carpet or a bed.

We don’t have room for gift wrap under our bed in our home (we keep off-season clothing there), but we do have extra space in our coat closet. This is the gift wrap organizer we use:

It hangs up nicely and we can get to it easily. I keep one wrapping roll pocket full of Christmas paper and the other full of “Everyday” paper. I really like the gift bags storage pockets on the back. I use one to keep wine gift bags handy and the other for tissue paper and kitchen gift goodie bags. It even has little side pockets for tape and scissors.

Fo those of you looking for something more flexible, this bag can sit nicely in a corner of a closet or any other room you may use for storage.

This zip-close bag could also lay flat on a shelf or under a bed, without any bows, ribbons or gift tags spilling out.

There are lots of larger containers out there for wrapping paper supplies, but I’ve passed on those on purpose. Sometimes these bigger containers just give us reason to hold onto things we don’t need. Consider downsizing your wrapping paper collection and see if this another great place to save money in your household budget.

What are other areas of your home do you find difficult to keep organized? Leave them in a comment below and I’ll pull together some solutions in a future post. We all have similar clutter issues. Why not share ideas for solving them?

Problem Solver: Emergency Soup

Is there anything more annoying than a summer cold?

I could probably think of some things, now that I think about it…but that is not really where I’m going with this today. No. Today I’m going to offer a little appeasement to the cold & fever gods so that we may all be protected for the summer.

I call this idea “Emergency Soup”. It seems like a really simple concept. So simple that once you understand it you might be thinking, “Well, I think she could have written about something more interesting than that for today!”

Let me assure you, you will only think that because you are feeling fine as you read this.

Here’s the concept:

  1. Go to your grocery store and find the soup aisle.
  2. Pick out the soup you prefer when you are sick.
  3. Buy several cans of said chosen soup.
  4. Store (hide!) those cans of soup at the back of your cabinet/pantry and do not use them, under any conditions, unless you are sick.

It does seem so simple, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many years it took me to figure out the brilliance of this plan when I was a workaholic single 20-something. But once I had experienced the joy of discovering the Emergency Soup, JUST when I NEEDED it most, there was no way back.

I defended my Emergency Soup from kitchen pillaging roommates, my husband’s random snacking tendencies and recipes requiring more chicken broth than I had remembered to buy. The Emergency Soup had my back whenever I

  • was sick
  • felt like I might be getting sick
  • made a highly questionable late night meal choice because I was in my 20’s

and Emergency Soup can be there for you.

Whenever someone wakes up to sinus pain and an important meeting on the same day, it will be there. Whenever a spouse can’t run to the store because “the game” is starting, it will be there. Wherever a child vomits in their bed at 2am but insists on chocolate pudding for lunch at noon, Emergency Soup WILL BE THERE!

Seriously, though. Pick up a few cans of soup on your next grocery trip and sock them away, out of the everyday reaches of your family. When you really need it, you, too, will exclaim:

“Emergency Soup to the rescue!”

Then you can write a comment on this post that starts with, “I LOVE Emergency Soup!” Or you can leave a comment now, if you like. Go, now. And stay healthy this summer, my friends!

Netflix Universe

There’s nothing like the start of summer and enjoying being outdoors to help us realize how much stuff we have lying around our homes that we’re not using. It’s that time of year when you start to see these pop up in your neighborhood:

Image courtesy of garage-floor.org

How do we accumulate all this stuff? Does everyone have this problem? I think may people do. In fact, I think so many people do that a lot of other people have come to see the market potential in helping them.

Here’s the answer:

Wait. I’m not suggesting you ignore the problem and drown yourself in past seasons of “Damages”. (Although, who can turn away from that show?!) No.

I mean that the concept of Netflix, movies rented by mail, is available for many other things in our lives. You know how that little red envelope makes you smile when you see in you mail? Part of the reason you smile is because you know you are saving money. (I know. We do it, too!)

So if you could find places that took the Netflix idea and used it for other things, you could save money and clutter. Sound good?

Listed below are 5 sources you can use right now. All the pictures are linked directly to the sites.

NETFLIX

Too obvious? How much do you pay in cable bills every month? Consider their plans and Roku player streaming options as a way to save money over the summer? Plans start at just $8 a month. If you’re new to Netflix, check into their current free trials.

TOYGAROO

This site delivers new toys to your door every month. They have over 500 toys to choose from and they arrive at your house having been throughly sanitized to meet EPA guidelines. Shipping is always free. Plans begin at only $25 a month and they even offer a free 14 day trial period.

COLLEGE BOOK RENTER

Guess what they do. You remember that ripped off feeling when you went to sell back your books at the end of each term? That scam is going the way of those Ramen noodles you abandoned after graduation. They have millions of new and used books you can rent and they cover the shipping costs to return them. They average 60% savings over college sponsored book stores.

GAMEFLY

This is as close to Netflix as any of these companies gets, but they’ve even improved on the idea. 7,000+ video game titles, free shipping, no late fees and plans start at $16. Plus: There is a “Keep” feature that lets you buy a great rental game that you don’t want to return. There is also a rewards program where gamers can earn discounts on future purchases. Win-win, so to speak.

BAG BORROW OR STEAL

You saw them mentioned in the Sex and the City movie. (The first movie, let’s agree outright to ignore the existence of the second one.) Get your Hollywood Superstar on here with rentals of bags, sunglasses, jewelry and watches. They offer free shipping, basic insurance, loyalty rewards and purchasing options. You even have access to some private sales. Shop like your last name is Kardashian.

So what do you think? Find some better clutter solutions here? Maybe a few wallet friendly treats, too? These are only the companies I know about now. Think what will be available in the next 5 or 10 years. Yaaaaaay Netflix! Here’s to fewer garage sales!

Are you having a garage sale this summer? Do you prefer an individual sale or a multi-neighbor sale? What are you always clearing out in your home? Leave a comment!

Junk in your trunk

Got a little weekend project to share with you! It only takes 10 minutes, or less.

So, what’s the project?

Clean out your car.

Specifically, the trunk. Do you really need all of the stuff in there to go anywhere? Really? I know we all throw things in there to deal with later, but “later” has arrived. Wanna know how I can tell? Take a look at this:

Image courtesy of blogspan.org

All that extra junk in your trunk is making your car less efficient and wasting gasoline. An extra 100 lbs of full-car-trunk will increase your gasoline needs by 2%.

What does this mean in real numbers? Suppose you spend only $50 per week on gas. (Lucky you.) Two per cent of that is $52 a year…more of your money into the large pockets of big oil.

I’m only one weekend ahead of you on this project. Here’s my trunk as proof:

It is now freshly vacuumed and holds only the necessities:

  • Recycled bags for grocery shopping…more on those soon
  • A small, cheap cotton area rug…for catching any grocery spills and for impromptu outdoor seating
  • A plastic box containing: a basic first aid kit & car-emergency tools

Who among us has never had days where they felt like they practically lived in their car? Why not make it a nice and thrifty place to live on those days, just like our homes? A cleaner car is a more efficient car. The planet thanks you for the consideration!

Image courtesy of cheapgasblog.com

Got more than 10 minutes?

Tackle a few extra car money-saver jobs. Listed below are ideas and some links to help you do them. (As always, check the owners manual of your own car first and use caution!)

  • Check your tire pressure (why & how-to link here)
  • Refill your windshield wiper fluids
  • Change your wiper blades
  • Check your air filter (why & how-to link here)
  • Check your oil (why & how-to link here)
  • Dust and vacuum the car cabin
  • Wash all of that leftover salt and new pollen off your car

Image courtesy of greencar.com

Want some more solutions toward our Greener Living challenge. You can read more about this plan here or at the link in the menu bar at the top of the page. How do you Spring-clean your car? Any additional suggestions to recommend? Leave a comment!

PS  Did you know that car “trunks” are called “boots”in the United Kingdom? If you’re reading this blog from the UK, please mentally replace this post’s title with “Boot-y-licious”.

Patriotic Upcycling

Do you have this problem at your house?

We have downsized our magazine consumption in the past few years, but we still get a few favorites and can build up quite a stack. We like to make sure we read them thoroughly before we declare them “done”. I’d like to be able to blame this little enabler:

This really deep magazine basket easily holds several months worth of subscriptions and by the time we clean it out, we have this problem:

These are really nice magazines. Even if we recycle them, it feels bad to throw them away after only two adults have read them. So, Mr. CARO and I found a solution. This solution will cost you some spare change, between $13-20 based on what you want to spend. However, this project achieves many extra goals beyond recycling. This solution will:

  • Help you with your Spring cleaning
  • Put your magazines to further use
  • Help the planet
  • Support our troops serving far from home

Betcha didn’t see that last one coming, did ya?  Here is one of the two tools that make this solution possible:

This box, called the “APO/FPO flat rate box” can only be used to ship items to an overseas military address. “APO” basically stands for Armed Services Post Office, which serves all the US military bases on foreign soil, all over the world. To know that you got the APO/FPO flat rate box, look for this logo on the box:

This box is free at any US post office. (Free!) Anything you can fit in this box that weighs less than 20 pounds can be shipped to any APO address for just $13. That’s right! For only $13, the USPS will deliver this box to American soldiers in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not a bad deal, huh? Probably less than you spent on one of those magazine subscriptions.

Okay, here is the second tool:

This is anysoldier.com, a fantastic website which can connect you with US soldiers serving around the world who need a care package from home.

At the top of the page you can link to “What to Send” to see the overall guidelines for shipping packages to APO addresses.

Be sure to scroll down to the “Things NOT to send” and “Tips and Hints” sections of this page and read them carefully.

Also, at the top of the page, click on the “Where to Send” to find the (very) long list of soldiers who need care packages, either for themselves, or more commonly, for their group. You can sort through the soldier requests by current country, branch of service, gender, etc.  Then, click on the soldier’s name for more details about them.

Read what they are looking for, what they really need, in a care package. The key is to find someone who is looking for some extra entertainment to help fill the down time when they are off-duty. It won’t be hard to find this need. Choose your soldier and then ask for their address. This step really commits you to really sending a care package.

I’m guessing you can figure out the next step:

If you have kids, try getting them in on this project, too. This can be an ecology and patriotism lesson in one. Kids can help gather up the magazines around the house and pack the box. Be sure all of your magazines don’t show your home address and are in nice condition when you pack them up.

Have extra room left over in your box?  Consider tossing in:

  • More magazines: Can you help your neighbor’s with their Spring cleaning? You’ll be surprised how many people will contribute when you explain your cause.
  • Good paperback books: Does your book club want to donate some great books? Maybe you can find some great ones at your favorite used book store to include.
  • Snacks to share: try a mix of salty and sweet snacks to please everyone’s cravings. Be careful of sending snack things that can melt in warm temperatures, like chocolate or hard candies. (No home-made food is acceptable, for safety reasons.) Pack the snacks in Ziploc bags to ensure no spills in the shipping and the ability that your soldier can keep them fresh in country.
  • A letter of appreciation: Those of us having a hard day at home often can not imagine what a hard day is like in a combat zone. Even just a few words of thank you and appreciation for their service may make a soldier’s hard day a little more bearable. Tell your soldier a little about yourself and that you’d love to hear back from them, too.
  • A pre-addressed, non-stamped (overseas soldiers get free letter postage) note card and envelope. Help make it easy for your soldier to write back. Be patient, their job is very busy and their post office is often not as conveniently located as your post office is.

Now tape that box up like you mean business. Cover every box edge with tape, so there are no shipping accidents on the way. Drop this box by your US Post Office, pay your $13 and you have:

  • Helped the planet by upcycling paper goods
  • Made a soldier’s day by sending them some love from home

Which one of those achievements feels better? Hmmm. That is a hard call. Try it and decide for yourself. You can do all of these steps in less time than it has taken me to write this post!

Do you like this Green Living idea? This post is part of the year-long Earth Day series started last week. You can read about it in this post. For some budget-best-friendly Green Living household solutions, check out this post and this post. Do you have a great Green Living tip? Post it as a comment to share!

The Perfect Guest Room, part 2

Here are the last easy how-to steps for making the Perfect Guest Room. If you missed the first part of the post, “The Basics”, you can read it right here.

Today’s list is the honest what and why of all “The Bonuses” that make your guest room easy to maintain and a step above the usual spare room fittings.  As you read this list, you may not think all of them are necessary, but just think how glad you would be to find these options when you needed them.

As I mentioned earlier, none of these tips are hard or expensive to do. You can implement them a little at a time, as your budget allows, toward a perfect end product. Most of the tips just require a little planning and organization. Once you set up a great guest room, it almost takes care of itself.

The Bonuses

Easy Maintenance

  • Store the guest towels in the guest bedroom.  Stack them, neatly folded, in the closet, a drawer or some kind of closed container.  When guests are on their way, all you have to do it place them on the bed.
  • After each guest leaves, wash the guest bed linens and guest towels immediately, then follow the above note for the towels and remake the bed so it is ready for the next guest. The bed is now ready for any unexpected company. No more digging around for the guest sheets when what you really need to do is vacuum the family room before your guest arrives in 10 minutes.

  • Once everything is in place for the next guest, whoever they might be, dust sheet the whole room. Just use old sheets and channel your inner Victorian parlor maid. Cover the bed, the dresser, the nightstand with lamps and any other pieces of furniture. Sound silly? You won’t have to dust this room before anyone else shows up. Just put away the old sheets and vacuum!
  • Extra points for rubbing a few fabric softener sheets across the clean pillowcases when you take off the dust sheets, before the guests arrive. Ah! Fresh linens! (I won’t tell if you won’t.)
Room Perks
  • Place a small tray or decorative platter on the nightstand or dresser. Men empty the change from their pockets and women take off their jewelry at night. This tray corrals everything safely and keeps people from searching for lost things under the bed (where your abandoned yoga mat is hibernating).
  • TV.  A small tv is all that is needed, if you want to include it. Just make sure the batteries in the remote are good.
  • Picture this scenario: Your cellphone dies just as you are going to sleep. You have the charger, but where is an outlet in this room? Do I unplug the lamp or the alarm clock? Where do these cords even run to? A free outlet that is visible is always a plus for cellphones, hair dryers, etc.
  • A tabletop or ceiling fan is always helpful for those who prefer to sleep with a cooler room or could use some extra white noise.

  • A small iron and ironing board are really useful and saves your guests having to sheepishly ask if they can use yours, wherever it lives. Any travel iron you take on your own trips can be used here at home.
  • Robes are often the first items jettisoned when travelers are trying to fit the stuff-they-really-need into one bag. A clean, fluffy robe on the back of the door or in the guest closet is very welcoming. If you happened to have an “extra” one from a great hotel (I know you have NO idea what I’m talking about) this is a great place to use it.
  • A small chair is lovely, but only if you truly have the room for it. Don’t try to throw one in just for the idea of it. You could also use a bench at the foot of the bed, if you have room.

Guest Perks

  • Small water glasses and a carafe of fresh water are a very nice touch for any guest. Many people like to take a glass of water to bed, especially if they need to take any medication.
  • In the bathroom the guests will be using, keep an easily accessible, basic collection of First Aid items. Band-aids, Neosporin, cough drops, thermometer, Tylenol, Imodium, etc. Think of the worst thing you would want to have to ask a host for and try to stock it for your guests.
  • Toiletry items. Sometimes 3 fl.oz just isn’t enough. Visit your drugstore travel bottle section and choose neutral, fragrance-free items. Lotion and sunscreen are also a great help. Put all of these small items in a small open container and leave them out in the guest room. (You can dust sheet right over these, too!)

  • A few candy treats and some good pretzels can be very nice for arriving guests. They can use them in their room if they are peckish or pack them for outings they are taking in your area. Just make sure you buy them in individual sizes and keep them all together in an open container on a visible surface. (Dust sheet over these, too? Yep!)
  • Maps and local area sightseeing brochures are great conversation starters, especially if your guests are visiting for the first time. Your local Chamber of Commerce has a wall of brochures up for anyone to shop. Take a few home for your guests.
  • Last, but not least, is reading material. This can be anything you think your guests might like: local area magazines, current news magazines, that great paperback you just finished reading, some beautiful coffee table books, guide books to area museums…use your imagination here.

And that is it! Whew!

Were any of these ideas eye-openers for you? Do you have any additional suggestions? What is most annoying thing you ever forgot to pack for a trip?

Need another perk?  Today is the last day to enter the current giveaway. Make sure you get in on the chance to win. You can enter right now, right here!

All of the items pictured today are linked to their pages on Amazon. I do believe that Amazon is magical and can be the source for almost anything you can ever need. (I say “almost” because I am still hoping to add “house-trained puppies” and “time travel” onto my “Wish List”. I’ll keep you posted…)

The Perfect Guest Room, part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a list of tips for “The Perfect Guest Room”. All of my tips are about making your guests feel really welcome and comfortable. I’ve divided the tips list into two posts so it won’t seem tedious to read. This also allows me to explain my “why” for each point, which I normally just talk through with my clients.

None of these tips are hard or expensive to do. You can implement them a little at a time, as your budget allows, toward a perfect end product. Most of the tips just require a little planning and organization. Once you set up a great guest room, it almost takes care of itself.

Forewarning: I’m gonna give it to you straight in these two lists. I’m gonna tell you all the things guests are too polite to mention. I’m not trying to be rude, either, just honest. Most people think their home is the exception to the rule. Or, that any guests “won’t really notice” all the things about their guest room that the hosts already know, in their hearts, are really not so great.

The Basics

Bed

  • Quality matters. The guest room is not where your old furniture should go to die. Do not put your own old, used mattress in the guest room, especially if you KNOW it is uncomfortable. Replace that old mattress with something comfortable, basic and on sale.
  • Size matters. Less-than-a-queen-size bed is most adult’s version of a bad night’s sleep, even if they are alone in that bed.
  • Use a bed skirt. We all store things under the guest bed. It is prime real estate for storage. Just don’t make you guests look at your jumble of stuff. A good bed skirt in a neutral color (white, cream, etc.) hides a multitude of sins AND all of your Christmas wrapping paper.

Linens

  • Use a mattress pad.  For just the same reasons you use one on your bed, buy a basic one for the guest room and use it.
  • Guest linens should be used in the guest room only. Keep them separate from the rest of the household and they will last longer.
  • Have four pillows on the bed.  One pillow per person just looks like a prison bed nowadays. Decent pillows are only $10 a piece at Target. You won’t have to replace the pillows for at least 5 years, because they are on the guest bed.
  • Two of those four pillows should be “soft” and the other two should be “firm”. Put a firm pillow behind each of the soft ones when you make the bed. Every guest can choose just what they need to sleep well.
  • Always have a spare blanket visible in the guest room. You don’t want guests digging through your linen closet in the dark at 2 am.
  • Keep the bed linens luxurious feeling, but neutral. The bed should be inviting to everyone.  No heavy, dark stripes and no pink, swirling flowers.  Classic, neutral bedding also needs less updating.

Nightstand

  • The bed should have a nightstand on both sides of  it. If you can’t fit in a traditional size nightstand, consider a small but sturdy table as an option. Just make sure there is enough surface space for a book or a pair of glasses.
  • If you have the room, use a small dresser with drawers as each nightstand. You can keep the guest towels and linens in the drawers.
  • Place an easy-to-use alarm clock on one nightstand.  A small travel alarm clock works great here.
  • Place a box of tissues on each nightstand.
  • Place a small, nicely lined trash can next to one of the nightstands.

Lighting

  • Change your ceiling fixture bulbs to be 100w or less. If you have more that two bulbs in your fixture use 75w for each bulb. Remember that a bedroom is for resting and winding down from the day. It seems obvious, but many people light their bedrooms as if they were offices.
  • Put a regular size lamp on each nightstand. Use 75w bulbs for these lamps, since people will only be using them for bedside reading or relaxing.
  • If you are using smaller tables as a nightstands, consider hanging two swing arm lamps on the wall above each table. You can find very reasonable prices on these at Home Depot and Lowes. to find the right hanging height, sit in the bed as if you were sitting up in bed reading. The bottom of the lampshade should be right above your shoulder.
  • Whatever window treatments you choose, make sure they are room darkening.  Allow your guests to sleep in a little, even if you don’t.
  • Visit your own guest room at night with the lights off. Are there any outside lights shining into the room? Fix them! (I once stayed in a guest room which featured the home’s outside architecture lights focused right on the guest room windows. All night I was expecting Batman to arrive.)

$4.50 for 8 wood hangers at Ikea

Clothes Storage

  • Leave clothing hang up space in the guest room closet for your guests to use. 1 foot of clothing rail space per person in a guest room is ideal. (There were actual studies done for this measurement. I’m editing the boring parts out for you.)
  • Provide hangers for this hang up space. Not old, bent dry cleaning hangers. Plastic hangers in a ten pack from Target work great.
  • If you have a dresser in the guest room, you must leave at least one, if not two of the top drawers empty for your guests. No one likes to stand on their head searching for socks in the dark corners of their luggage. You also don’t want to look like a candidate for “Hoarders”.
  • A luggage rack is nice, but floor space in the bottom of the closet for your guest’s empty suitcases works just fine, too.

Bath

  • Regardless of how you share the bathroom in your home, remember to leave space for a guest to hang their towels to dry. This can be a simple hook on the back of their bedroom door.
  • Every guest should have their own color of towels. None of these colors should match the towels you use. This saves everyone from that slightly panicked moment in the bathroom. (You know the one I mean.)
  • When you buy new guest towels, run them through the washer and dryer several times before putting them to use. This gets them nice and soft and really gets rid of any fuzzy towel shedding.
  • Have the guest towels stacked nicely and visible in the bedroom when your guest arrive. This is an old school technique, but it immediately shows your guests that you have planned well for their visit.

Those are the basics!  The rest of the list will feature “easy maintenance” and “simple perks”. Look for that post next week!

With one noted exception, all of the images in this post are courtesy of The Company Store. The Company Store offers a great selection of stylish and affordable products, including eco-friendly bedding products and solutions for those with allergy issues. I recommend them because I’ve used their bedding in my home for years. If you ever find yourself in the LaCrosse, Wisconsin area, they have a great outlet!

%d bloggers like this: