I’ve been looking for ways to simplify life, to free up some time and energy so I can pursue everything that I want in life.
This past month it was a 30-day detox and clean eating program that has revolutionized how I think about food.
Starting tomorrow, my monthly quest/experiment will be trying on a capsule wardrobe. For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, let me explain just a bit.
I was first introduced to the concept of a capsule wardrobe last holiday season while reading Jennifer L. Scott’s lovely book, Lessons from Madame Chic. Jennifer uses a ten-piece wardrobe each season. That’s it! Ten pieces! How could this be, I thought? Doesn’t she like clothes?
Well, yes, she does — and her goal for all us is creating a wardrobe we love to wear. The pieces she chooses are perfectly her, for her style, and they are impeccable. Definitely a case of quality over quantity. I should point out, those ten pieces are the core wardrobe and do not include outerwear, occasionwear, shoes, accessories, or layering tees and tanks. Whew! Thank goodness! (Here’s a video of her explaining her capsule theory.)
I’ve done a bit more research on this idea of capsule wardrobe, and I’ve learned that lots of theories are out there. Two blogs that I found particularly instructive and inspiring are Pinch of Yum (easy step-by-step for beginners like me) and Un-fancy (who is credited with popularizing the concept of a capsule wardrobe). Each offers a great printable download to map out your capsule.
Now, I love clothes and always have. I remember what I was wearing on my first plane ride to Orlando when I was 4 years old. (I felt very fancy with my mom’s magenta and purple scarf around my neck.) I had a pink boucle sheath dress with a matching coat with white and brass anchor buttons for Easter when I was 8. One my favorite shopping memories is buying my first designer cocktail dress with my dad at Marshall Field’s department store.
So the idea of having less than my full closet at my disposal for an entire month much less a whole season seemed challenging. Until I really started looking and seeing what I actually wear. The outfits I go to again and again. What colors are really best for me. What pieces fit the best and make me feel fantastic. Ahhhhh. I see.
Using the worksheets from Pinch of Yum and Un-fancy, I fashioned (pun intended) my own version of a capsule wardrobe that fits my life. These pieces are my “going out of the house” outfits for work at my law job, coffee with a friend, dinner, brunch, the movies, etc.
My Capsule Wardrobe – Fall 2016
Dresses – 3
Bottoms – 6
- 2 dress pants
- 2 jeans
- 1 leggings
- 1 skirt
Blouses – 5
Sweaters – 5
Jackets – 4
Tees, tanks & camis – 15
Shoes – 5
- 1 pair leopard print flats
- 1 pair black flats
- 1 pair nude wedges
- 1 pair black pumps
- 1 pair strappy coral sandals
Overcoat – 1
Not included here are “stay at home” leisure or work clothes (working in the yard, cleaning house) or sleepwear. I do think including shoes is a good idea for me. What fits, works with all the outfits and provides enough support for a busy day. I can quickly choose, grab and go!
I admit 15 tees, tanks and camis seems a bit much, but I’ve included a long sleeve, short sleeve, tank and cami in teal, orange, black and white/ivory to go through the entire season. Living in Las Vegas, it can be in 100+ degrees well into September and I may not transition to long sleeve layers until sometime in October. (I may need to add a turtleneck for Thanksgiving in Chicago and trade my trench coat for a wool winter coat as well.)
Should be interesting!
For more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board. What are your go-to pieces? Do you think a capsule wardrobe would work for your life?Read More
Time is relative. Fifteen minutes may seem like an eternity if you’re stuck in traffic and late for work. Or, it may seem like the blink of an eye when you’re in the zone working on a project. It’s the same quantity of time, and it will pass whether we are sitting still or moving fast.
When decorating your home, you can make an enormous difference in a room just 15 minutes at a time. So without further ado, here are 7 ways that you can start to refresh your entire home. Simply set a timer and work for 15 minutes. You might be amazed at what you can do.
Who says there’s no time to decorate?
1. Clear some clutter
Sometimes refreshing a room is like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Meaning, there’s just too much stuff in the way of seeing the room and its features and furnishings.
I’m not saying you’re going to completely de-clutter and organize your entire house in 15 minutes. But what can you do? Maybe it’s just cleaning off the kitchen table or the counter. The room will look and feel better instantly!
Nearly every decorating plan starts with cleaning and decluttering—removing anything that is not used frequently, belongs somewhere else, or gets in the way of the room’s purpose. Examples might include shoes, toys, magazines, papers, clothes, dishes and glasses, or even furniture.
Look at your room with an objective eye. What really doesn’t belong there? Unless you belong on a show about hoarding, chances are if you slow down and look at the room from a new, fresh perspective, you’ll see lots of items that can be removed.
When in doubt, ask a neighbor or friend what they see as clutter in your room. (Or try my Clutter Clearing and Organizing audio course.) There’s a great Polish proverb, “A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year.” Sometimes we just get comfortable with all the stuff. Pare it down and let the room breathe.
2. Let there be light
Light is one of the most overlooked elements of interior design, and yet it’s one of the easiest to acquire and manipulate.
Light makes a room feel larger, brighter and fresher, so take some time to assess the lighting situation in your room. If the room has a window, wash it inside and out to let in more sunshine. Open any shades or blinds during the day to maximize natural light. If there are window treatments, are they too heavy, dark, or outdated for the room? Just taking down drapes—even if you don’t have anything to replace them with just yet—can have a dramatic impact on a room.
Then look at the light fixtures and lamps in the room. Is there enough light to move around the room at night, or if there are no windows? If not, add more lamps to the mix. Check the maximum wattage stated on each fixture and lamp, and install higher wattage bulbs to bring in more light.
3. Rearrange the furniture
Arranging furniture in a room is a lot like a puzzle. And once we think we have it figured out, we keep it that way. For years. (I’ve certainly been guilty of this!)
But what if there was a different way? Switching up the furniture arrangement can shift the feeling of a room in an instant.
Before you start moving anything, play with the arrangement on paper. Create a scale drawing of your room on a piece of graph paper, measuring the walls and noting any doorways and windows. Then measure and draw shapes to represent the furniture pieces and place them on the room drawing, playing with different layouts until you find one that feels right. Pay attention to traffic patterns and how the room is used, and try to create “zones” for each use. I’ve created a design tool that makes it super easy to try this designer trick. You can get it FREE here.
And, it may be that the current arrangement is the best for the room, and that’s great! At least you’ve looked at other options.
4. Get your group on
Have you noticed most of these tips so far have been fast and free? #4 follows that lead with a “use what you have” approach to accessorizing your room.
Shop your house for accessories—objects, candleholders, vases, picture frames, figurines—that have a common, unifying theme or motif. Maybe they’re all red, or they’re all ducks or apples or sailboats. Chances are there’s a collection of something hiding in plain sight around your home. Bring everything together and display items together on an end table, dresser, sideboard, console.
Displaying similar items together gives them more presence and makes the room more personal. Visually link smaller items together by placing them on a tray. This is a heart display I put together for Valentine’s Day a few years ago.
5. Update with textiles
One of the easiest and fastest ways to change the entire look and feel of a room is with fabrics.
Look around your room. What fabric elements could be changed, either by bringing in something new or swapping them with something from another room? Think about:
- Area rugs
- Toss pillows
- Table coverings
- Shower curtain
As a bonus, updating the textiles also means bringing in new (or more) color, texture, and/or pattern.
6. Add life … literally
Live, leafy green and/or blooming houseplants (not silk plants or cacti) are great additions to nearly any room. Their green color is automatically calming to the eye, and they produce oxygen. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and can easily fill a large area—like an empty corner— if need be. Or, opt for one or two smaller plants placed around the room. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, ask your florist to suggest a hearty variety, or add a self-watering tube like an Aquaglobe®.
Fresh cut flowers are also a great decorating secret. Their color, life, texture and fragrance can be elegant or fun, indulgent or whimsical. And with most supermarkets now selling flowers, they’re convenient, too!
To get the most from supermarket bouquet, be sure to re-cut the stems when you get home and make sure the vase is scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from killing the blooms prematurely. If it’s a mixed bouquet, consider making smaller arrangements and tuck them all over the house, in the bedroom, bath and kitchen for example.
7. Alter the art
Art can set a mood, reinforce a theme, or be just plain wonderful to behold. Like light, art is often an afterthought in a room’s design plan, but it deserves much more attention.
Art is also fairly easy to swap from room to room and season to season. Think of your rooms like a gallery with an ever-changing collection. Look around your room. Does it currently have or need some art? Is there a focal point piece, for example over the bed or fireplace? If so, is there another piece in the house that could be traded out to give the room a fresh look?
Anyone who’s followed this blog knows that at holiday time, I love to change up the art all over the house. Here’s a quick and easy seasonal tip: Use the same frame and mat, but swap out the image. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from some simple silver frames in the guest bath, with a rotating display of everything from calendar pages to greeting cards and trip photos to scrapbook paper.
Children’s art is also a great addition to any room, and can be updated as the child creates new masterpieces. Nearly anything can be art!
A few tips about displaying art:
- Be sure to hang it at eye level. Not too high and not too low, although most folks hang their pictures much too high. Look at magazines and home catalogs to get a feel for placement.
- If there’s any doubt about how high to hang something, make a template of the art piece with some newspaper or kraft paper and tape it to the wall, then stand back. How does it look and feel in comparison to what you’ve seen in magazines or on design shows?
- As a general rule of thumb, the top of the frame should be no more than 6 ft. from the ground.
- Or, hang up on hanging art and use a gallery ledge instead. By far the easiest way to swap and rotate your favorite works of art.
What’s your favorite 15 minute life or design hack? Share your comments and stories on the Facebook page!Read More
Cutting boards are workhorses in a kitchen. Nary a day goes by that I’m not using one for something: chopping an onion for dinner, slicing a tomato or an apple for lunch, or serving cheese and crackers. They’re endlessly useful.
And, since they’re made of wood, they tend to dry out over time.
That’s why a monthly coat of mineral oil can help them last for years. Mineral oil is food safe and helps protect the wood, keeping it naturally antibacterial. It prevents cracking, splitting and drying.
Some helpful hints:
- Set aside one day a month, say the last Sunday of the month, to oil your cutting boards.
- Use only food-safe mineral oil like this one from Tree Spirit. DO NOT use olive oil, vegetable oil or any kind of oil you would use for cooking as they go rancid.
- Make sure the cutting board is clean and dry. To apply, use a soft, clean cloth or a paper towel and pour some oil onto the cloth. Apply to the cutting board with the grain. Allow to sit for a minute and then wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.
- Add more oil to the cloth as needed to treat all of your cutting boards.
- Use the same oil-soaked cloth to wipe the wood handles of knives, cutlery, knife blocks … any unfinished woodenware will benefit!
All said, it will take about 15 minutes or less a month to keep your woodenware looking and performing its best.Read More
The second Monday of January is “Clean Off Your Desk Day” and although its exact origins are unknown, it’s not hard to guess why we need to designate a day to clearing the clutter from our workspaces. Most of us feel unorganized and tell ourselves we need to make an effort to “get organized”—a perennial and popular New Year’s resolution.
The start of a new year, just getting back into the swing of things at the office, is the perfect time to begin again with our good intentions towards keeping a clean and organized desk.
And yet, setting aside one day for what can feel like an insurmountable task feels somehow unrealistic. So here are 5 tips to use Clean Off Your Desk Day as a starting point to a more clutter-free, organized and efficient work space.
1. Schedule time to work on your desk. One of the most common excuses for keeping a cluttered work space is not having enough time. Ironically, the busier we are the more important it is to be organized. An Office Max Work Space Organization Survey (2011) revealed that 90 percent of Americans feel that being unorganized has a negative impact on their productivity, state of mind, motivation, happiness and even their professional image.
Therefore, make an appointment with yourself to clear some clutter from your desk. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and give yourself that time. It can be as little as 15 minutes or all day. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as the activity. Just getting started can help motivate you to keep going. Then make a reoccurring appointment every week to stay on top of clutter before it’s back to feeling insurmountable.
2. Use a system to sort the contents of your desktop. Many years ago when I was fresh out of college I purchased a Franklin planner to use for my daily schedule, and I signed up for a seminar on how to get the most from the planner. During that course, I learned a simple but effective system for cleaning off my desk that I’ve used ever since. It’s TAF – Trash, Action, or File.
Before getting started, it’s a good idea to create areas for each of these categories. It could be a space on the floor or an empty bin or box. Nearly everything will fit into one of the three categories.
TRASH – The no-brainers here are things that no longer work, are broken, or expired. Where it gets more complicated is knowing what to keep and what to toss. This is the #1 challenge to work space organization cited in the Office Max survey.
For work papers, always consult your company’s recordkeeping policies and any applicable state or local laws and professional rules on document retention. For home and personal papers, use this handy chart to help determine what needs to stay and what can go.
Anything that you no longer need but is still in working order can be allocated to a separate “donate” bin or pile rather than trashing it.
ACTION – Lost in the sea of papers on your desk might be time-sensitive documents that require a response or some other action. If you need to remind yourself what action needs to be taken, put a sticky note on the document (I put it in the upper right corner) with the action and date, if applicable. Current projects go in the action pile.
And what about all those newsletters, reports and articles you’ve been meaning to read? One system that might work for you is to create a separate “TO READ” file and write a “read by” date on the article. Then schedule time each week (or each day) to read something from that file. The next time you’re doing a clean out, if the article is past its read by date, then chances are it’s really not that interesting or important to you and it can go in the trash.
FILE – In my office, this is always the biggest pile! For purposes of cleaning off the desktop, anything that is not part of a current project or doesn’t require action goes in the file pile. This includes reference materials and notes that can be stored. If you have someone helping with you filing, make a note in pencil in the upper right corner of the document where it goes.
The bigger task here is usually creating a filing and storage system that makes sense for your home or office and then creating a time to actually file things away and maintain the system. For now, we’re just getting these things off your desk.
One final tip while using TAF: stand up when sorting your desktop. It’s an active position, whereas sitting down you’re more apt to open that magazine and start reading or reminisce about the event where that photo was taken. When you’re standing, you’re in action mode.
3. Dust and clean your desk. I’m always amazed at where dust can collect! Even if you don’t have time to sort through all of the piles and stuff on your desk today, take a moment to dust, clean and polish your desk. (Move the piles if you have to and clean under them.) Microfiber cloths and Swiffer® dusters are perfect for this. If your desk is wood, apply an appropriate oil or polish. I make a ritual of cleaning off and oiling my teak desk twice a year and it always gives me a lift to know I’m prolonging the life and beauty of one of my favorite pieces.
4. Think of your desk like the cockpit of a plane. The top of your desk and the top drawer are the most precious pieces of real estate in your office. Be mindful when arranging your desktop. Think about HOW and HOW OFTEN you use an item. Does it really need to be in easy reach?
The only items that should permanently live on your desktop are those things that are essential to your daily tasks as well as a few items to inspire you such as flowers or family photos. Your desktop is for working, creating and inspiring—not storage. Any non-essential items such as old notebooks, files, that box of 2,000 staples and the like should be stored elsewhere.
Of course while you’re working on a project, things will collect on your desk like files, papers, samples and what not. One of the most important steps in keeping your desk clutter-free is to remove those things when the project is complete, or better yet, when you’re done working with them for the day. Consider open boxes or trays to keep project-specific paraphernalia contained and place it on a credenza or bookcase when not in active use. I used this trick when I worked as an attorney, lining one wall of my office with active files.
5. Give yourself permission to take more than a day. As they say, Rome wasn’t made in a day, and chances are your desk won’t be clutter free and pristine in a day. Particularly if you’re fitting in some organizing time into your workday calendar. Take the pressure off yourself to “get it done” and realize that organizing isn’t an event, it’s a process. It can take time to find a system and a flow that works for you, your work style and your life.
Congratulations! You’ve taken a huge step towards a more clutter-free and productive workspace. For more tips on creating an inspiring and enjoyable office, grab my free resource “5 Essentials for Home Office” success here.
Recently I participated in Dawn Mena’s Captivating Copy Blog Summer Camp to get fresh ideas for blog articles. One of her tips included a recap of most popular articles. I’m using that tip for this look back at my top five most pinned and repinned original non-holiday ideas in the last year. (Stayed tuned for Halloween pins next month!)
#1 College Dorm Checklist
When my nephew Mitchell graduated high school last year, I came up with a “college dorm checklist” to include with his gift. My brother was impressed with the checklist and encouraged me to post it online. (Click the image above to download the pdf.)
Lo and behold, as of this writing, the checklist has been pinned more than 1,000 times from this blog! On Pinterest, the pin has been been repinned 19 times, and liked 2 times. It is by far my most popular offering. Who knew?
#2 College Survival Kit
Continuing the college theme, the College Survival Kit gift bag idea has been pinned 65 times from this blog, repinned 77 times on Pinterest and liked 18 times. It’s hard to find a camo gift bag, but the graphic I designed is easy to print and adhere to any gift bag for a similar look.
#3 Summer Fruit Salsa
This is one of my yummiest pins so far … a light and easy summer fruit salsa with cinnamon sugar tortilla chips. Pinners are eating it up, posting it 47 times from this blog and repinning it another 37 times. Three have liked it. (Note for Pinterest users: The “like” button is a great way to save ideas without adding them to a particular board.)
#4 Baby Shower Gift Wrap
Rounding out the top five are a couple of gift giving solutions. The first is a simple embellishment idea that people seem to like for baby showers: tie a rattle on the gift with the bow. Easy and fun! It’s been pinned four times from this blog, repinned 12 times and liked once.
#5 How to Make a Gift Basket
Gift baskets are a great way to give a lot of small or theme-related gifts at once. A few simple guidelines ensure anyone can put together a gift collage like a pro. This article has been pinned seven times from the blog, and repinned 11 times and liked once.
It was fun to revisit these blasts from the past, and it inspired me to add to my Gift Giving Solutions board for August birthdays, too. Be sure to check it out if you need any gifts in the next month.Read More