31 Days of Real Life Organizing

Last week I posted about whether or not your organizing measures up to what you see & read in magazines, blogs and on Pinterest. I feel strongly that you deserve to have a home that is organized, warm and welcoming for yourself and others who live and visit there. In addition, I am just as convinced that you can have that without putting the rest of your life on hold. There are lots of simple ways to start making progress towards that goal. I’m sharing what I’ve learned on my journey as a professional organizer and in organizing my own home.


I just learned about TheNester’s 31 Days Annual Writing Challenge and I thought it would be a good way to push myself to write more on the topic. I realize I’m a day late but I figured it’s better to get started late than not to do it at all, right? {a bit of foreshadowing into my second post…}

So for the next 31 days {well, 30, since I’ll post two today}, I’m going to share insights, projects, tips and tools on Real Life Organizing.

You can follow my blog in your RSS feed or follow the 31 Days of Real Life Organizing on Pinterest or you can even pin this post so you can refer back to it throughout or at the end of the 31 days.

Once it’s published, I’ll link up each day’s post in the list below:

1. How to Get Started Organizing at Home

2. Perfectly Organized

3. Oops! 9 Most Common Home Organizing Mistakes

4. Get Organized. Get Inspired.

5. How Long Will It Take to Get Organized

6. RA-RA For Organizing Paper!

7. The Four Step Foundation for Real Life Organizing & Free Printable

8. Redefining The Inbox

9. Are You a Perfectionator?

10. Get Organized in 15 Minutes or Less?

11. My Top 10 List of Organizing Myths

12. Get Organized. Get Inspired. {Useful & Beautiful}

13. 11 Reasons Your Home Organizing Projects Fail

14. Create Clutter-Free Holiday Decor: Halloween Edition

15. How To Organize Product Manuals & Warranty Information

16. What Organizing Isn’t

17. How Long To Organize a Room?

18. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room

19. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part I

20. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part II

21. My Favorite Containers- The Basics

22. Organizing Rules For Results

23. 3 Reasons To Think Outside The Box {Or Bin or Container}

24. Get Organized. Get Inspired.

25. Take Action On Your Paper Piles

26. Loathing Laundry?  4 Reasons We Love to Hate Laundry

27. Organizing Quickie in the Closet

28. Baby Steps for Tackling Paper Clutter

29. How Do I Get My Spouse Organized?

30. Organizing Solution for Kids Activities and Gear

31. Simplify For The Holidays

Ciao for now!


Mama DIY: Children’s Table & Chair(s)

For the Little Man’s first birthday, I was trying to distract myself from being emotional about how much he had grown, or how I might shed a tear each time he outgrew another clothing size.

I had no idea what to get for him for his birthday and to make matters more complicated, I have deep-rooted rules about acquiring stuff, more specifically useless stuff. We’ll chat more about that someday.  Anyway, I finally settled on the idea of purchasing a table and chairs for him. I usually go to IKEA for this type of thing and was eyeing the KRITTER or the SUNDVIK. One small problem- we now live 229 miles from the nearest IKEA! And while I love IKEA and I could always use a fix, I’m not driving 8+ hours round-trip to Charlotte, NC. While I could order a table and chairs and have them shipped, it would cost $30. That’s 50% of the total order- yikes!

So, I was itching to try out one of Ana-White.com’s plans for furniture building but forced myself to be realistic. I don’t have the time available to work with power tools in the garage with a 1 year old hanging around ;). When I came across Ana White’s plans for the Clara Table and $4 Stackable Chair, I thought it was the perfect opportunity.

I was able to follow Ana’s plans and make the table and chair {still have one to assemble} just in the nick of time. I didn’t have time to paint it but as it turns out, I’m kind of glad. He got some crayons for his birthday and demonstrated his art skills right on the brand new table top.  I wasn’t upset in the least, I love the idea of having his crayon scribbles preserved in layers of paint years down the line.



For my next project I’m going to sand, prime and paint first, prior to cutting and assembling. I realize that I’ll have to touch up where I cut but we’ll see if I like that process better.

I used my circular saw {on my table saw table}, Kreg Pocket-hole Jig and cordless drill/driver on that pile of wood with those materials and made both the table and chairs.

Circular Saw & Kreg Jig

Supplies for Table & Chairs

Wood pile for Table & Chairs

Oh, and before I got started I made a table saw cutting jig so my brain wouldn’t explode. I’ll provide more details on that in my next post.


Here’s a super-hot picture of me operating the circular saw and double-checking some deets on my very favorite tool {my iPad}. Though it kills me to print things I won’t need in the future, I think I’ll probably print out some of the plan on future projects.

IMG_1878                       IMG_1879

Some “during” shots: table cuts, chair cuts, table complete, tabletop assembled {left to right, clockwise}.



I definitely have a healthy fear of cutting tools so I’m impressed that I was able to do this all on my own. And, I’m even more proud of the fact that I built my son his first birthday gift 😀 Icing on the cake? He climbs into his chair and sits to play at his table almost every day. Awesome.

Have you built anything that you’re super-proud of? Or maybe have a DIY fail you’d be willing to share? Please share in the comments.

DIY Project: Sunburst Mirror

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y! I have completed this DIY Sunburst project I’ve been working on for over 8 months. Ok, well not really 8 full months. I purchased some of the supplies, finished 1/4 of the project, gave birth to a human, moved to another state, pretended to sleep for 7 months and finally finished it this past weekend. I originally started the project to hang over our bed in the master bedroom in another state.  And, while I would still love to have a piece to hang there, this niche {or whatever you call it} in our open-concept living room has been calling out to me {please ignore the black coaxial cable- that’s next on the list}

Niche above fireplace

I got inspiration from basically copied Shelley from Crazy Wonderful’s Sunburst Mirror DIY. I loved how substantial it was and, of course, the price tag. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own Sunburst Mirror, Pinterest has plenty here to choose from.  I’m not going to do a step-by-step because I basically followed Shelley’s post. But I’ll tell you what I did:

  • I found my mirror for $12.99 at Ross
  • Used the 18″ Shims from Home Depot as is- I did not trim them.
  • I used gray spray paint as a base coat for the pewter glaze

Some additional tips:

  • I glued my shims in groups of 5 & 7 like Shelley {It’s a great project to do while watching TV if you’re so inclined} and used my handy-dandy rubber band ball {Thanks, OfficeMax}. I made them flush on the front side by using a flat surface.  This made it a bit more challenging when it came time to glue the back side aka. uneven shim sides down to my wood flat.  So, after gluing the groups, I would recommend gluing each group together to give the piece more stability.
  • You’ll need more than 8 packages if you’re using them at full length.
  • I purchased my shims in two batches at separate times and they were distinctly different. One batch was more finely finished than the other. It was no big deal for me, I just mixed them up to make sure it wasn’t really noticeable in the finished product. It only adds to the charm IMO.

Some pictures along the way:

Aaahhhh. So glad this is finished and I loved checking this off my list- literally! Do you have any projects that you’ve been working on for a while? What’s holding you up? Anything you’ve recently completed that you’d like to share? I’d love to see it.

Thanks for stopping by and Ciao for now!


Another Closet Door Update

I recently posted about these sliding closet doors I built for my foyer. In preparation for the arrival of our little one earlier in the year, I took on another closet door update. We had the same type of doors on most of our closets. Though the doors in the nursery were made of some type of hardboard panel covered in thin vinyl instead of mirrored glass.


They had seen better days, to say the least. They vinyl covering was peeling, puckered and d-i-r-t-y. I had considered painting but I wasn’t sure if that would adhere and/or make the cover pucker more. I had briefly considered removing the doors but feel like curtains-as-doors is too reminiscent of dorm room decor {not judging, I lived with them in my entry for over two years}.

I shopped around for wallpaper and found that only commercial wallpaper comes in widths wider than the doors. That meant I was going to have seams. In order to get the most bang for my buck I needed to find a relatively small repeat in pattern. I also wasn’t sure how the creases in the vinyl were going to look, so perhaps something textured? Grasscloth wasn’t exactly the look I was going for in the nursery and I wasn’t sure how complicated it would be to hang. So, I finally settled on some Anaglypta-type wallpaper. I considered this faux beadboard but was afraid the vertical lines would only highlight if the doors or walls weren’t square. I found this pressed tin paintable wallpaper and at $12.97 per roll, it was the winner!

To prep the surface first, I used my handy Magic Eraser to remove all of the dirt and grime. It even worked to remove the arrows that someone had drawn on in marker. Next, I used a carpet knife to cut the edges of vinyl and pull off where it wasn’t adhered to the backing.

After prepping the surface, I followed the directions on the wallpaper and hung it on the closet doors. I would have liked to take down the doors to place the paper on a flat surface but was too afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get them back in the track correctly. Anyway, the seams were surprisingly {for me} easy to line up due to the geometric pattern. I just needed to keep going back and sliding the paper into place as it dried. The result…

And a little closeup of the pattern, which is more distinct in person.

And a little Before/After comparison for you. Even in the sub-par photo you can see a huge improvement this project made.

I love them {even though we don’t live there anymore}. Have you made any closet door improvements that you’re in love with?

Ciao for now!


10 Ways to Guarantee Your House Doesn’t Sell

House Won't SellWahoo! It is official. We closed on our condo sale last week…mortgage paid off and check deposited. We were on the market for 2 weeks when we received a full price offer!

We all know that the market is particularly challenging but our situation posed two additional obstacles.

Obstacle #1- Our condo fees were through the roof {just over $1,000 per month- no, not a typo}. Yes, we lived within 10 miles of DC and our complex had fantastic amenities like utilities included, indoor/outdoor pools, fitness center, parking, tennis, convenience store, etc. However, when you’re listed at a specific price and your condo fees put you in another bracket for monthly housing costs, it’s a challenge.

Obstacle #2- Since we lived in a condo complex with four high-rise buildings there were plenty of comps that matched our floor plan exactly. They were listed between $25-50,000 lower than ours due to short sales and foreclosures. So not only did it not bode well for an offer, we had to hold our breath until the appraisal came through even though the finishes and fixtures in those may have been over 30 years old. Otherwise, we would be paying for someone to buy our home.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. We feel like a ton of bricks has been lifted from our shoulders. Anyway, I’m still amazed at what sellers will and won’t do for a sale. I hear people complaining about how their house isn’t selling but yet they don’t feel that they need to do anything to help it along. So, I thought I’d share my Top 11 (had to add one more) list of ways to guarantee your house doesn’t sell.

1. Don’t pick up your dirty laundry. There is nothing a buyer wants to see more than your dirty underwear lying around the house.

2. Leave the clumps in the kitty litter and pet hair tumbleweeds rolling around. The aroma of pets is attractive to all.

3. Leave the repairs to the new owner. Who cares if the door knob is falling off or the light switch is broken? Buyers love to DIY and pay full price for a property.

4. Smoke a bunch of cigarettes and leave your ashtrays lying around. I don’t know about you but I want my next home to have the aroma of ashtray permeating the walls, carpet and window treatments.

5. Paint the rooms in your house a rainbow of colors. Potential buyers will also love that mustard colored room with your ketchup accent wall. {OR paint it all white OR leave your ten-year old paint job as is- the scuffs and pencil marks give it real character}

6. Place a dusty, silk plant in every corner. The dated and dusty allergen will add such appeal…oh, and they look so real, too!

7. Leave dirty dishes soaking in the sink. Everyone wants to see what you had for dinner last night and the night before.

8. Stuff your cabinets, closets and built-ins until overflowing. Buyers will see all the storage potential your home offers.

9. Use all of your kid’s primary-colored toys to decorate the floors of the dining and living room. Who doesn’t love a trip hazard along with some physical and visual clutter?

10. Don’t answer or be flexible when a Realtor calls to show your property. They should work around your schedule.

11.  Insist on being present and following the buyers around when the property is being shown. Buyers appreciate when you’re breathing down they’re neck and chatting their ear off about the improvements you paid a lot of money for. Oh, better yet, elaborate on the roof leak or humidity problem you have in the basement.

Please join in the fun and hear any additions you have to the list!

Ciao for now!


How to Make Sliding Closet Doors on the Cheap

Hi there! So happy to have you here and I hope you find this post helpful. If you have a question, please leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to provide an answer.  Hopefully, as time goes on, I’ll get better about taking more before and during pics, take better quality photos and be more detailed in my how-to’s.  I am learning that I am a closet perfectionist {don’t really think I strive for perfection, but just think I can do it better} and working on getting it done instead of getting it perfect. So, here you go…

In our condo, we had two 4-foot wide reach-in closets in the foyer. I was thrilled to have so much closet space AND it was open from floor to ceiling.  No pesky walls to limit my storage.  The downside? One set of mirrored closet doors was broken and the other was missing.  Since we had just purchased a foreclosure and had plenty of other priority projects to tackle like the broken toilet, leaky kitchen faucet, toys stuck in the ice dispenser, puke yellow and pepto-pink walls in the office to list just a few, I decided to purchase some curtains from Ikea, install some shower curtain rods and call it a day. {Yes, I was constantly fixing and rearranging the curtains to hide our stuff but it was cheap and provided easy access to the closet contents.}

I didn’t take an official “before” photo and happened to stumble across this real life example.

Throughout the three years that we lived in the condo, we contemplated proper closet doors and researched numerous times but alas, since the opening was 94″+ tall, it was a custom order and out of our budget. There was always something more important to invest in.  Some suggested framing out the opening so it would fit standard doors but I couldn’t fathom eliminating useful storage space.

Fast-forward to December, 2011. Hubs received a job offer in North Carolina and we had to get the condo sale-ready in 2 1/2 weeks. A tall feat for anyone but we had a three-month old at the time which meant organizing & regular chores that could wait, did; I was not in great shape from my delivery and did I mention it was December? Right-smack-dab in the middle of the holidays when we had planned to travel home for ten days.  The photographer was scheduled for January 3rd and open house that weekend. Oh, AND we had to fit in a house-hunting trip so we actually had somewhere to live when we arrived in North Carolina.

I knew that the curtains-as-closet doors were not going to cut it for showing, especially in the foyer.  Once again I was on a quest for a feasible solution…Finally, after convincing the hubby to buy me a pocket-hole jig to facilitate the project, I decided to build them myself.  They are officially referred to as bypass doors, btw.

I used this tutorial for inspiration.  I wanted it to BE cheap but not LOOK too cheap.  It wasn’t worth tackling if it was going to detract from the appeal of our home.  If we were going to continue living there and had more time, I would have invested in better materials and a more complex design- but we weren’t so I didn’t.

Keep in mind, I was working with a finished opening (of course, they each measured slightly different) and an existing track on top and bottom.  I also had three other sets of similar doors in my home.  Since my ceiling and sub-floor was concrete and I had an existing track, I did not even consider purchasing a complete bypass door hardware set. I would highly recommend it so you won’t have to hunt down parts that work together.

In order to simplify the planning process because I was slightly overwhelmed at this point, I used the method I use for organizing planning with clients- the Clear & SIMPLE™ System.

See It- I began by sketching a rough drawing of what I wanted. I love the look of the shoji-type doors in the tutorial but since I had four matching panels to build in a limited time frame as my first project of this kind, I decided a two-panel door would work for me!  You’ll need to consider if you want dividers, how many, spacing, how much overlap of panels {I chose the width of one 1X3, which is actually 2 1/2″}, thickness of panel material and dividers, etc.

M.A.P. It (Make a plan)


  • Clamps
  • Drill/driver
  • Circular saw
  • Kreg pocket-hole jig
  • Router with rabbet bit
  • Staple gun & brads
  • Hand saw
  • Sander


First, I measured the height of an existing set of doors {not including the hardware} to work from for the height of my new panels.  The width, however, was a different story.  So  as not to add to the confusion I’ll provide calculations here for one set of doors.

Width of Opening/2 + Desired overlap/2 =
46 3/4″ divided by 2 + 2 1/2″ divided by 2 =
23 3/8″ + 1 1/4″  =
24 5/8″ wide

Now I had my finished panel dimensions of 93 1/2″ X 19 5/8″. I used a standard paneled door to determine where I wanted to add my divider and calculated my supplies/cuts for the 1X3’s:

1X3’s @ 93 1/2″ QTY. 4 (Two uprights for each panel)

1X3’s @ 14 5/8″ QTY. 6 (One divider, top and bottom board for each panel; measurement less the width of two 1X3’s since I wanted to mount the divider and top/bottom pieces inside the uprights)

Do It- In order to test out if I could even do this and cut my losses if it didn’t work, at this point I purchased my 1X3’s and the Kreg Pocket-hole Jig. I figured $12 wasted wasn’t bad…and I could return the pocket-hole jig {or at least that’s what I told the hubster}.  After I spent some time figuring out how to use the pocket-hole jig, I cut my 1X3’s using the circular saw and drilled pocket-holes in both ends of each of the short divider pieces to create the frame.  I immediately fell in *love*. Yes, I love my Kreg Pocket-Hole Jig. It makes quick work out of building any type of frame or joining boards.

After I actually built the frame, I proceeded to attach the hanging hardware to see if this would actually work. Then, I built the second frame and added the dividers.  And confirmed that both panels would actually function as closet doors. Baby steps *wink*.

I was so excited- this was going to work!  Maybe. Not done yet. All I had were hanging frames. I finished building the last two panels and used my router and rabbet bit to cut a lip on the inside back edge of the frame.  This would allow the lauan panel to sit flush with the back of the frame.  I didn’t want to mess around with cutting the lauan myself so next up was to build the additional two panels, router and take measurements for each panel.  Then, I mapped out my cuts and had Home Depot cut 2 4X8 sheets of lauan into the 8 panels I needed.  It was much quicker and a lot more accurate than if I would have made the cuts myself {plus, my table saw was in “storage” aka. my BIL’s}

Almost there. I realized when I was routering {not a real word} that I was going to run into a small obstacle here.  The lauan panels were rectangular with 90 degree corners and because I routed the edges once the frame was assembled the corners were rounded as you can see here.

Routing with frame assembled results in rounded corners.

So, I carefully marked the corners on all of the panels and used a handsaw to angle the corners. Finally ready to assemble! I used my staple gun with brads to secure the lauan panels to the frame.

Attaching lauan panels to the frame

It’s a good thing all of the hard labor was done- phew. I kid. I still had to sand, fill cracks and crevices, prime and paint {yes, you need to prime lauan!}.

The finished product!

I think they turned out pretty decent for my first door building project. What do you think? They certainly paid off because we closed on the sale of our condo earlier this week. {Happy Dance!}

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Real Estate Readiness- Preparing Your Home For Sale

Well, since I just spent every waking moment of  two of the last three weeks prepping our condo for sale, I thought I’d share some of the things that we did.

1. Clean your windows inside and out.

Living Room staged
Open blinds, clean windows and turn on the lights

2. For small chips in floor tile, white out or nail polish works wonders. For chips in furniture, a similar colored sharpie will do the trick. {yep, I admit to using these tactics.}

3. An ice cube {let it melt} and a wide-tooth comb will help eliminate depressions in carpet where furniture used to be.

4. Remove anything installed that does not convey. For example, I had a wall of Elfa Shelving in my office and two Capiz Shell Chandeliers in the bedroom. When the buyer sees things attached to the property that don’t convey, they may start subtracting dollars from your list price. Plus, they may see more work from damage to walls, etc.  I removed and stored my shelving {parts & contents are ready for packing}, repaired and painted holes from wall anchors {less for me to do on move day} and purchased two neutral and inexpensive drum shades to replace the chandelier ‘shades’. A little bit of effort and no one’s the wiser {except you}.

Remove/replace what doesn't convey

5. Double check your caulking around tubs and sinks- Eliminate mold and mildew with diluted bleach and re-caulk. It’s worth the effort.  Here’s a great tip for easy (and neat) caulking with painter’s tape from YoungHouseLove. LOVE this tip!

6. Use real closet doors- Curtains are fine for everyday living but for showing your home you need real closet doors. Though, when we bought our place, it had one set of entry closet doors missing and one broken set {it was a foreclosure}. As an organizer, I relished my floor to ceiling closet openings {hate those pesky walls impeding perfectly good storage space} until it came time to buy new doors. Can you say C-U-S-T-O-M? aka. Expensive! So I built my own with the new pocket hole jig my husband happily purchased for me {post to come}. Yes, that’s my purse on the counter in the background. It was removed for MLS listing pics and for showings :).

Closet doors in Foyer
Show with closet doors

7. Remove items from your counter tops- We removed everything including our toaster oven, bottle drying rack, kitchen utensil cup, etc. Only a few items remain…If you have a decent amount of space one appliance such as the coffee maker is acceptable {have to keep my husband sane}.

Kitchen counter tops
Keep counters clear

8. Eliminate signs of pets- This includes food bowls, pillows, cat towers, toys, etc. Oh, and it goes without saying {or does it?}, get rid of the pet hair, too!  We don’t allow our pup on the furniture so we only need to contend with the flooring but that’s a full time job in itself.

9. Replace or update outdated fixtures and shades- I had previously updated one bathroom fixture with spray paint {a girl’s best friend} and chose not to on our others in order to retain the matching finish with bathroom fixtures.  I did, however, visit my local Habitat ReStore to replace the dated glass shades for $1 each.

10. Trays & baskets- If you absolutely must have some items on a counter or other surface, placing them in a basket or tray somehow makes it look more polished and less like clutter.  Additionally, accessorizing a flat surface with a simple tray keeps the space from appearing too sterile.

Decorative trays
Use decorative trays and baskets to corral items on surfaces and add warmth/color

11. Hide your wastebaskets- Place them under your vanities or remove them entirely. The space will appear cleaner and less cluttered. We kept on in the baby’s room {only wet diapers allowed} and one in the kitchen. It was no more work than going around the house emptying the trash every time we had to show the place.

I’m not an Accredited Staging Professional® and I don’t play one on TV.  But being a Professional Organizer has given me much of the insight necessary. I received quite a few compliments from real estate agents showing our condo and one suggested that I have a backup career.

Ciao for now!