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Follow these simple tips to keep clutter at bay and keep your home looking effortlessly organized.
Piles of bills on the kitchen counter, DVDs strewn about the living room and a beautiful antique dining room tabletop that's buried under piles of paper. Oh, and you can't find your gym pass either.
Can you relate to the above scenario? If so, you and your loved ones may slowly be drowning in a giant pile of clutter.
Clutter can be a big weight on the state of your mental health. "Clutter is like pollution. It's all-pervasive: It's in your thoughts, in your way, in your space. It robs you of peace of mind and that feeling of being at home," says Kristie Demke, President of Professional Organizers in Canada. "It can also rob you of time," she adds, "because you spend a lot more time moving things to dust, sweep and vacuum around. And, you spend more time looking for things."
Many of us dream of neat and tidy rooms like those showcased in our favourite design magazines like Style at Home. Here are 10 quick and easy ways to start clearing out the clutter in your home.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
1 Identify clutter hot spots
Kitchens attract mail pile-ups, home offices store endless piles of bills. Books and hand cream samples seem to love night tables and the weekend's newspaper becomes a permanent fixture on your living room floor. Once you identify your clutter hot spots, consider purchasing an attractive basket to house items you like to have at your fingertips. But remember, a basket can organize chaos for a while, but will also need a frequent purge a few times a month to avoid pile up.
Purge and do it often. Why are you using up valuable space storing that mixing bowl set you think your niece might want when she leaves for university in a few years? Go through your stuff and think about the last time you used it, why you're keeping it around and if it would be more useful somewhere else. After your first few big purging sessions, you won't need to go at your storage closet so frequently (and ruthlessly).
We all have important keepsakes we don't know what to do with and purging these can be difficult, but don't keep these things buried in the bottom of a box in your garage. Find a space in your home where you can show off its beauty and take good, constant care of it. "There's really no point in owning something if you can't use it," Kristie says.
3 Deal with a little every day
This may be the hardest tip to follow, but it's by far the best. Focusing a mere 15 minutes of your day on clearing clutter will make your life a whole lot easier (and your house a whole lot tidier)! When you're finished your bowl of cereal, put the dish in the dishwasher right away, rather than placing it in the sink. When you get home from work, deal with your mail immediately. File away bills and recycle junk mail then and there. If you have the luxury of half an hour, says Kristie, you can manage to sort through a closet of clothing, determining what you don't need anymore. If you don't let things pile up, your home will be a lot tidier and cleaning up much less of a daunting task.
4 Stay focused
When you're taking on a clutter-busting task, it's important to be energized and focused. Even if you're just spending 15 minutes on cleaning off your desk, ignore the buzz of your Blackberry and the ping of your e-mail inbox. Just focus on the task at hand so you can be done with it once and for all.
5 Look at the big picture
It's hard to decide on the fate of a beloved old sweater when you're looking at it on its own, but when you put it beside all your new ones, you may notice that it's stretched out of shape, faded and really, you wouldn't be caught dead in it in public. Conundrum solved!
6 Make use of unused space
You can add hooks over your bedroom and bathroom doors, bins and baskets on closet floors, storage bins under your bed, and bulletin boards and file pockets to your office walls. Be creative when looking at unused space and it can become a great new place to store items out of the way.
7 Get your kids involved
"Kids come with a lot of accessories," Kristie says, "so you have to be pretty vigilant to make sure you stay on top of it." Kristie recommends sitting down with your kids for an hour every month to sort through what they have, then storing or donating what is no longer being played with. "And make sure whatever storage you have is at their height and within their ability [to use]," she adds. "Even a toddler can put away soft toys into a bin if it's at the right height."
8 Identify a place for things
So you knit, sew, run, bike ride, cook and have two dogs. Your hobbies require you to actually own stuff, and therefore have created a good deal of clutter. "You really have to identify an amount of space - a place - for things. If you have a dog, make sure the leash and bags are all kept in one area," Kristie advises. In finding a home for your hobbies, you may discover you don't have room for all of them, helping you to identify which ones should be a priority.
9 File things ... now
Kristie says that one of the best organizing investments is a filing cabinet. Just think: All of those piles of papers in your home office can be put away in mere moments. And you won't spend hours of your precious time trying to locate your donation receipts come tax time. Don't worry, not all filing cabinets are of the old, stacked metal variety. You can find ones with classy design elements at places like West Elm, Ikea and Pottery Barn.
10 Give away
Dedicate a specific spot in your house or garage for giveaway items, and place a box there. When you come across something you no longer need or want, you can discard it to the giveaway spot immediately, rather than setting it back down and forgetting about it. Plan a monthly trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off location to get rid of the goods you no longer have room for.
Find the perfect gift for anyone on your list with these beautiful gifts all under $50.
We know: Expenses tend to add up over the holidays. From festive decorating to holiday entertaining and gift giving, of course, it’s hard to keep a budget under control. But giving a beautiful gift that will be loved and appreciated doesn’t mean spending a small fortune. Lovely, thoughtful gifts can be inexpensive yet meaningful. To help inspire you, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite gifts under $50!
1 Time For Tea Set: The perfect gift for the consummate tea lover on your shopping list this Christmas! This adorable tea set comes with a mug, a single-serve stainless steel tea infuser and a ceramic stir spoon, all perfectly perched on a wooden tray, making this easy to use any time. Trust us: Any tea lover will love this gift. Time For Tea Set, Indigo, $24.50.
2 All Natural Body Butter: Who doesn’t love the luxurious lather of a moisturizing body butter? This richly formulated, fair trade shea butter has vitamins A and E to quench dry skin and also has sweet almond and avocado oils for added moisture. Plus, this lotion’s hotel-chic packaging makes it a pretty countertop display, too! All Natural Body Butter, Bambeco, $22.
3 6x6 Instagram Collage: Help someone bring their Instagram photos to life with this beautiful Instagram display. Using Masterpix, photos are printed directly onto Corning® Gorilla® Glass, which is really thin, durable and clear. This is a great personalized gift that anyone would be thrilled to receive so they can display some of their favourite photos around the house. 6x6 Instagram Collage, Masterpix, $30.
4 Milk & Rose Glass Taper Candle Holders: Candles are a common Christmas gift but this year, why not give something a little different? These taper candle holders are absolutely exquisite and will delight any hostess who loves to make her table extra special when she entertains. Milk & Rose Glass Taper Candle Holders, White Lilac, $50.
5 Wood Calendar: We love the idea of personalized gifts and this wooden calendar is not only perfectly personal but also very handy heading into the new year. Choose 12 beautiful photos and turn them into a 12-month calendar. The printed pages sit in a handcrafted clipboard made from reclaimed beetle pine. This is a gift that will be treasured for years to come. Wood Calendar, Artifact Uprising, $30.
6 Pryce Bowl: At just $49.95, this bowl looks a lot more expensive than it is. Made of blown glass and featuring a hand painted platinum silver ring around the polished rim, this bowl will make a great centrepiece on any table. Its clean, classic look gives it an enduring appeal and it will look right at home on tables for generations to come. Pryce Bowl, Crate and Barrel, $49.95.
7 Cable Knit Pillow Cover: These super soft cable knit pillow covers are made from 100% organic cotton and will turn any sofa into an ideal napping spot. In a stylish shade of metal grey, this neutral pillow will easily slip into any decor scheme., Plus, check the website for the matching throw! Cable Knit Pillow Cover, Boll & Branch, $45.
8 Striped Marble and Wood Bookend: The bibliophile on your Christmas shopping list is sure to appreciate this gift. These bookends are made in India from interlocking pieces of mango wood and marble so not only will they help keep their bookcases in order, they’ll do so in some serious style! Striped Marble and Wood Bookend, West Elm, $49.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
A modern dining room punctuated with shades of green. Image by: Michel Dube
Enliven your living space with this vibrant and refreshing green shade.
Welcoming cheerful hues into your home is one of the best ways to fend off the winter blues – and Pantone's colour institute agrees. The company recently named "Greenery" its official colour of 2017. The vibrant and uplifting shade signifies rejuvenation and the importance of connecting with nature, especially as we welcome a new year.
Here, we've rounded up 12 products inspired by the shade that will give your home new life.
Granada Juice glasses in Green, Anthropologie, $40 US per set of 4.
Master dining chair in Green, Structube, $99.
Cotton patterned rug in Green, H&M Home, $35.
Cotton velvet Cirrus sofa in Grass Green, Article, $1,099.
KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer in Green Apple, Canadian Tire, $600.
Stoneware Century vase, CB2, $60.
Falling Leaves print, 18” x 24”, Minted, $86 US.
Le Creuset stoneware pitcher in Palm, Hudson’s Bay, $100.
Draget shelf unit in Green, IKEA, $40.
Linden toss cushion in Leaf Green with feather-down insert, Crate and Barrel, $42.
Kate Spade New York porcelain Greenwich Grove teapot in Green, Indigo, $150.
Thimblepress Pattern Pieces coasters in Green, BRIKA, $20 per set of 4.