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.
You'll love this cream pie with its layer of creamy caramel.
Recipe developer and food stylist Tanya Eng makes over an after-dinner favourite with a layer of creamy caramel.
To take a favourite recipe and update it with a twist is not a novel concept. But when said twist involves our 2015 go-to ingredient, dulce de leche, and a delicious standby like banana cream pie, the culinary world feels dazzlingly, delightfully new again. It seems our taste buds have been waiting forever for this scrumptious flavour infusion, and now that we’ve had it, we’re never letting it go.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a high-powered blender or food processor, pulse the banana chips to a fine crumb. Combine with the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a medium bowl.
2 Scrape the mixture into a 9" round springform pan.
3 Using a flat-bottomed glass or spoon, gently and firmly work the crumb mixture into a well-packed even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is light golden brown; set aside to cool.
4 In a small saucepan, make a custard by whisking together the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and transfer the custard to a shallow heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cooled.
5 To assemble the pie, spread the dulce de leche in an even layer over the graham cracker crumb crust; peel and slice 2 of the bananas and arrange the slices over the dulce de leche. Spread the chilled custard over the banana slices.
6 Using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream with the icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the custard; chill the pie until ready to serve.
7 Just before serving, peel and slice the remaining 3 bananas on the diagonal and arrange the slices on a baking sheet; sprinkle liberally with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Caramelize the bananas by using a brulée torch or broiling them in the oven. Arrange the banana slices over the pie and serve immediately.
Makes: 10 servings.
Cozy home office nook.
Creativity abounds in this cozy home office nook, which we've designed on both an entry-level and a CEO budget. Can you tell the difference?
1 Quartet cork wall tiles, 12" x 12". Staples, $13 (set of 4). 2 Powder-coated steel Bondis wall clock. IKEA, $30. 3 Umbra aluminum Lettro wall organizers. Urban Barn, $48. 4 Powder-coated steel swing-arm sconce in black. CB2, $90. 5 iMac 3.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 desktop computer with Retina 5k display, 27". Apple, $2,399. 6 KSP acrylic Ghost-style chair. Kitchen Stuff Plus, $125. 7 Painted particleboard Alex desk (top only) in white, $169. Painted fibreboard Linnmon tabletop in white, 2' x 4', $20. Lacquered bamboo Hilver desk legs, $20 each. All IKEA. 8 Kate Spade New York acrylic Strike Gold stapler. Indigo, $28. 9 White waste basket. Dollar Tree, $1. 10 Faux leather office bag in brown. Zara, $70. 11 Contemporary handspun wool Sync rug in Spring Rain, 6' x 8'. Weavers Art, $3,570.
1 Cork Tackboard harmony wall tiles with self-adhesive backing, 12" x 24". Jelinek Cork Group, $110 (set of 5). 2 Large stainless steel wall clock in black. Urban Mode, $113. 3 Powder-coated iron Revere wall organizers in silver. CB2, $30 each. 4 Powder-coated steel swing-arm sconce with brass details. Pavillion, $399. 5 Mac Pro 3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon ES desktop computer with Dual DPU ($3,499) with Thunderbolt display, 27" ($1,199). All Apple. 6 Polycarbonate Belle Epoque chair in Crystal Clear. UpCountry, $295. 7 Painted fibreboard Emerson desk in white with ash legs. Structube, $529. 8 Stainless steel Akto stapler. Urban Mode, $87. 9 Design Ideas spoxy-coated steel spoke waste basket in white. Neat, $30. 10 Royal Republiq leather Telegraph bag in cognac. Te Koop, $240. 11 Signature handspun wool-blend Terrazzo rug in Stone & Tan, 6' x 8'. Weavers Art, $5,370.
At times, tidying an office space can feel like a near-impossible feat (we've all been there). But before that pile of paper is mistaken for a mini mountain, rest assured: help is on the way. From wall-hung storage bins to fancy glassware, these three organizing solutions will have you conquering clutter once and for all. 1 Welcome wall storage: Free up precious desk space by storing stray items in sightly wall-mountaed storage bins. Ideal for tight quarters, they come in a range of sleek style sand can easily house everything from keys and office supplies to mail and magazines. 2 Get creative with glass: The glass message board has quickly become the new whiteboard. Simply hang a float picture frame (available at craft supply stores) on your wall and write notes on the glass using an erasable marker. Insert a favourite photograph or, if you're feeling crafty, line the inside with patterned paper. 3 Repurpose pretty dishware: Corral oft-used items like pencils and push-pins in gorgeous glassware or petite ceramic bowls set on a modern serving tray. Think of it as styling a glamorous bar cart, minus the booze!
Step 1: Assemble the Alex desktop as per the manufacturer's instructions (you won't need the frame that's included). Set the desktop aside. Step 2: To make the desk 30" high (the standard height), use a handsaw to cut off 3" from the bottom of each Hilver leg. Screw the legs into the pre-drilled holes of the Linnmon tabletop. Step 3: Apply a latex-based adhesive to the top of the Linnmon tabletop and carefully set the Alex destop on top, ensuring it's centred. Clamp the surfaces together while the adhesive dries overnight.
Aesthetically pleasing and practical for small spaces, the mighty sconce prevails in the world of office lighting. On the hunt for a style that suits your budget? We promise you'll take a shine to one of these swing-arm designs. From the top: 1 Brushed stainless steel vintage. gusmodern.com, $600. 2 Powder-coated steel with brass details. pavilionmodern.com, $399. 3 Powder-coated steel Tribeca Warren 1 in brass. wayfair.com, $350 US. 4 Powder-coated steel in black. cb2.com, $90.
Forgo securing a bulletin board to your workspace wall and opt for this textured and versatile cork alternative. The secret to any well-decorated space is finding a balance between style and function. In the case of cork, don't restrict yourself to a pre-made bulletin board. Perfect for adorning a wall, cork tiles (sold in an array of sizes and textures) will lend you a warm, tactile element to your home office. Jazz up the look some more by reusing bejewelled brooches as push-pins.
A spacious and stylish white kitchen flooded with natural light.
A spacious and stylish white kitchen flooded with natural light.
Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos updates a spacious family abode by adding tons of texture.
The house was beautiful the way it was. “A lot of people thought we were crazy to change it,” says homeowner Tanis Hill. “But it didn’t suit our style.” With sage green walls and an abundance of dark wood, the home was more heavy and masculine than Tanis and her husband liked. “Our aesthetic has always been light, airy and whimsical,” she says.
The couple purchased the 11-year-old French Provincial-inspired abode four years ago, when they were expecting their third child. “We actually put in an offer from the hospital room,” says Tanis. (Their children are now 7, 5 and 4.) In addition to light-filled wide open spaces and stunning architectural features, the 6,760-square-foot house in an established West Vancouver neighbourhood offered a convenient, tranquil setting ideal for raising a family – it’s four blocks from the beach and close to community centres, and there’s a babbling creek running through the backyard. “We picked this place for the children,” says Tanis.
To update the interior and give it a bright, casual Rachel Ashwell-esque vibe, the homeowners enlisted Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos, who now runs JV Design Group but was with The Cross Decor & Design when she worked on the home. During the six-month cosmetic renovation, Joanna transformed the space by painting the walls and millwork in soothing neutrals and replacing the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors with slightly greyed white oak. This created an airy backdrop for the cozy mix of natural fabrics and traditional and vintage-style furniture, as well as Tanis’s chandelier collection (“I love chandeliers – I own 10 of them!” she says).
But it’s the variety of textures and finishes that gives the home’s white, grey and linen palette interest and warmth. “You don’t need to add punches of colour for impact,” says Joanna. For instance, a weathered wood table keeps the dining area invitingly informal; linen and lace give the master bedroom a romantic yet unfussy feel; the chic crystal chandelier and pretty vanity chair enhance the all-white ensuite’s luxurious look; and custom-made burlap toy bins lend softness and uniformity to the playroom (“Plus, they won’t scratch the millwork like hard woven ones would,” says Joanna).
Indeed, the soothing space was decorated without ignoring practicality. “We did everything with the children in mind,” says Tanis. From the virtually indestructible leather covering the kitchen island stools to the stunning unadorned floor-to-ceiling windows (“I don’t have to worry about kids and cords,” says Tanis) to the durable hardwood floors, the house is a veritable indoor playground. “Once the makeover was complete, the kids got on their plastic toy cars and ripped around the rooms – it was their way of christening the place,” she says.
Transforming the kitchen meant replacing the dark granite countertops with honed quartz, spraying the dark wooden island white, adding extra cabinetry for a wall oven and panelled fridge and installing oversized wrought iron chandeliers. White cane-backed stools with grey leather seats match the chairs in the adjacent dining area.
Elements like the muted-toned bean bag chairs, subtle grey foam mats and a white-painted vintage piano provide the functional family playroom with a lively style that’s still sophisticated.
Tanis (pictured here with her three children) inherited the loveseat from her grandmother. The open shelves with burlap toy bins help keep the play area orderly.
The existing freestanding bathtub and marble floor in the ensuite were softened with fleur-de-lys lace café curtains and a linen-covered vanity chair.
A white caned bed frame enhances the master bedroom’s romantic French-inspired look. “It’s a place where we could layer lots of linen and lace,” says Tanis. An oversized chandelier suits the scale of the space and complements its delicate vintage vibe.
A decorative olive branch objet paired with an old hardcover and fresh blooms makes for an enchanting bedroom vignette.
Bergère-style armchairs paired with a scroll-leg pedestal table and cowhide rug define the sitting area in the master bedroom.
The interior’s neutral palette continues to the outdoor living space, which is accessible from the kitchen and dining area via white-painted French doors. “There are three sets of French doors on the back of the house,” says Tanis. “And when they’re all opened up, they reveal a beautiful setting.” Tanis and her husband love to spend time here relaxing.
The rustic stone fireplace, driftwood-toned coffee table and resin wicker sofas with linen-hued cushions give the covered lounge area an indoor-outdoor feel.
Stylish toss cushions and throws add to the outdoor sitting area’s cozy vibe.