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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.
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 kitchen boasting restaurant-design pedigree
Trendy meets traditional in this family home built from scratch.
Homeowner Tanya Krpan (pictured here) saved on accessories by loading the family room sectional with an assortment of ready-made toss cushions.
Tanya isn’t afraid to play with negative space, as seen in the home’s grand entryway. “Normally, you’d expect a mirror or big piece of art hanging above the wainscotting,” she says. Leaving the wall blank and layering small pieces on the console allows the millwork to shine.
Black casement windows and decorative accents create contrast in the neutral space. Tanya scored the vintage coffee table when her office was being redecorated.
The family room’s classic-cool mix feels right for a young family.
The kitchen, of course, is the true star of the show. Tanya’s restaurant-design pedigree shines through in the room’s floor-to-ceiling tiles, mix of open and closed storage and high-end appliances. She opted for white Shaker-style cabinetry and warmed up the space with a walnut island and brass hardware statement lighting and fixtures.
Another bistro-inspired touch was her choice of dark honed-limestone tiles for most of the main floor. “The tile grounds the space since there’s an abundance of white everywhere,” Tanya explains. “And it’s proven great for hiding dirt.”
Everything in the Krpans’ home is designed for everyday life and entertaining, from the large sectional in the family room to the round tables in the dining room and the kitchen’s eat-in area. “It’s more social to sit at a round table,” says Tanya. “You see everyone’s faces.”
Cabinets with glass doors allow Tanya to display her favourite serving pieces and special glassware. She had the back of the kitchen cabinets tiled to highlight this focal point of the kitchen.
Tanya and Jure – with their sons, Ivan, 3, and Cruz, 2 – have recently welcomed a baby girl named Belle.
The living room’s crisp white, grey and black scheme gets an energy boost from fresh greenery, pops of pink and plenty of pattern – check out the Moroccan-style rug, the ikat-print and chevron-patterned toss cushions and the graphic stool fabric.
To offset the costs of the more expensive permanent elements, Tanya was meticulous with her decorating budget. She incorporated secondhand pieces, such as the family room coffee table, and sourced inexpensive art for the living room mantel. Affordable colourful accessories add youthful edginess to the living spaces. “I love the femininity that the splashes of pink add to the living room and family room,” she says. “Plus, by the time I got to the decorating, I was living with three boys!”
In the dining room, Tanya likes the juxtaposition of the modern Sputnik-inspired chandelier with the traditional coffered ceiling. The artwork was a DIY project Tanya and Jure painted together on her 30th birthday.
Though this house has been well loved for years, there’s a sequel in the works: Tanya and Jure are in the process of building a new home. “We’ll keep some of the same elements but go a little more modern in the kitchen,” says Tanya. We’ll definitely stay tuned.
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.