Tag Archives: organization

Putting Your House in Order in 2013

Happy New Year!

To get an early start on my resolutions, I spent the last few days of 2012 tidying my apartment before school starts. As a reward for my hard work, I tuned into a marathon of House Hunters International. Having lived abroad, it always makes me laugh to watch North Americans bemoan the lack of storage in the typically smaller homes found in Asia other parts of the world.

But we can learn from these tiny spaces, especially as condo prices rise and square footage shrinks in cities like Toronto.  I love to tour model units for design inspiration but I always wonder if I could find room for all my stuff. After all, I have the luxury of splitting it between my permanent home and my apartment at school!

Image: mi casa via homedit

But I am trying to pare down in both locations. When we downsized from a spacious three-bedroom house to a cozy two-bedroom condo almost 10 years ago, I packed up several boxes that went straight to storage and were forgotten. When I opened them several years later, I couldn’t imagine why I had kept any of the items inside. One of my resolutions is to edit every few months.  For each Christmas present that I received, I am looking for something that I no longer use to donate, sell, or throw out depending on its condition.  I apply the same system for clothes that I don’t wear for an entire season.

Image: I love my apartment on tumblr

We have slowly replaced our hand-me-down furniture with new purchases and always try to pick pieces that have built-in storage, like our bed frame with large drawers or the chest that holds our board games and serves as our coffee table.

Image: Greentea Design via Facebook

Multi-functional furniture has been our godsend, allowing us to keep our open-plan first floor a lot less cluttered. I am coveting the wheeled bench in Greentea Design’s soon-to-be-released collection. I can see it in the front hall with a bin on each end for hats and gloves, or wheeled into the living room for extra seating at parties, or even an impromptu sideboard at holiday feasts.

Image: Wayfair

Perhaps the most important thing I have been doing over the last few months is spending a few minutes at the end of each day putting everything back in its place. Of course, that means that everything we own needs a place. Sometimes this takes a little creativity but the vast array of organizational products out there really helps to maximize nooks and crannies. I have a few seasonal knickknacks that I swap out from time to time but I try to keep this to a box or two.

Image: Dear College Student

There are still a few wayward items that I need to deal with but at least I feel like this might be one resolution that gets accomplished, at least until I have to consolidate my two homes!

Boxed Up

Antique boxes from Tibet featuring hand painted tigers

Hand painted antique storage chests from Greentea Design

My partner is King of Clutter.  It can be so disheartening because while I don’t like a mess, the stuff can be hard to battle as it piles up and up and up.  But I am happy to say that I think I have finally won the heart and mind of the king vis-a-vis this crap,  and together we waged war against it, tackling the clutter pile by pile.  Several trips to Goodwill later, many hours at the shredder, this place is looking fresh!

Here’s how we did it:

The Closets

organized closet via Simplified BeeSuper organized closet via Simplified Bee

boxes in a closetImage via BHG

Clothes ClosetImage via I Heart Organizing

We started by cleaning out the closets which seems counter-intuitive.  But it’s a step I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re like us and stuff your closets with the stuff you rarely use.  We set a stale-date for the closet discoveries:  if it hasn’t been used (and in many cases even thought about) in a year, can we really make a case for keeping it?  So this is how we started the giveaway pile: toys, books, CDs, furniture, clothes, kitchen gadgets.

The next step was to get on with organizing the closets, which included putting up extra shelving so to best maximize space.

While this closet purging created waaaaay more chaos in the already chaotic apartment, it was necessary.  Not only do we have more storage space in the closets, it got us in the right Get-Rid-Of-It frame of mind, which is how you want the stage set. No namby-pamby sentimentality about that TTC transfer from that “special day”.

The Do-We-Need-It? Box

The next step, which we return to in a couple of weeks, was to go through the kitchen drawers, the “miscellaneous” drawers, the counter and renegade surface piles.  We filed what needed to filed, returned home the articles that had a designated space.  The rest we boxed and will return to in 4-6 weeks.  If in that time we don’t go in the box for it, then it gets tossed. Whatever we do use gets a permanent home.

Organizing The Rest With Pretty Boxes

It turns out that boxes are my best friend! (Or at least in the inanimate category.) Lidded ones and decorative ones especially.  They are beautiful and functional and hide the crazy so perfectly.  Greentea Design has the most amazing collection of antique storage boxes from all over Asia.  I’ve got one that sits prettily in a display nook, hiding of all things, tools, lightbulbs, tape and batteries (hey it’s out of reach of tiny curious hands, but still easy to access).

Here are some others in the showroom right now:

Tibetan fur chest

Tibetan chest adorned with fur

Antique Tibetan Box

Handpainted antique storage box

Tibetan Skin ChestChest from Tibet adorned with leather

We stocked up on boxes of various sizes from IKEA, office supply places, etc.  There seems to be no better time to find this stuff then during this Back-to-School season. Many of the things that were sitting out now have permanent homes in these boxes that are stored neatly on top of our bookcases, in closets, and the loveliest of them in plain sight.

It’s been a lot of work, but well worth it.  Home should be relaxing, the place to recharge, and your environment needs to reflect this.  And finally ours does.

How do you control clutter?

Storage Solutions for Every Room

staircase bookcasebookcase staircase via Apartment Therapy

Seeing as we are nearing the end of our steps and storage event here at the store I thought I would put together a little roundup of storage ideas for every room in the house. Is adequate storage something you struggle with in your home? I know around my house it’s in short supply and I am always thankful when I see a new organizational solution that I haven’t seen before. Hopefully these storage ideas will bring a little inspiration your way.

suspended storage for the hallwayimage via housetohome


If you have a large family trying to keep track of whose stuff goes where is a never ending battle. This hallway cubby idea gives each person in the house a spot for stashing keys, mail, homework or anything else. You could recreate this idea by painting letters on larger containers or cubbies if you need more storage.

kitchen island storageimage via Design Mom


Industrial touches in the kitchen always get my attention, and that is why I am digging this locker island. The deep stainless steel shelves are practical and easy to access. I imagine this would be an island that you could easily DIY.

bedroom built-insimage via Young House Love


Who would have thought romantic ambience and oodles of storage could go together so seamlessly? I am over the moon in love with these around-the-bed built-ins by Sherry and John of Young House Love. As usual, they provide step-by-step instructions on how to complete this project on their blog if you want to try recreating it in your home.

Playful clothes treeClothes Tree by Pkolino


If you have kids who are dress-up fanatics, or maybe just kids who need a little encouragement to pick their clothes up off the floor, then this clothes tree could be a welcome edition to your child’s bedroom or playroom. The tangerine orange colour and fun shape make this perfect for little ones.

Elm Burl Step Chest by Greentea DesignElm Burl Step Chest from Greentea Design

Living Room

One of these step chests really could go anywhere, but it would be especially useful for hiding media and odds and ends in the living room. The best thing about this piece of furniture is that it gives you plenty of room for displaying as well as storing.

Secret Spaces

I spent much of my childhood reading Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie mysteries, dreaming of living in a stately English manor filled with secret passageways hidden behind library shelves and fireplaces. That fantasy has given way to a slightly more practical aesthetic but I still yearn for a home with a few cool clandestine spaces.

Swing Door Bookcase(Photo: O Hello Friend)

Everyone wants to conceal their messy bedrooms from guests, so why not go all the way and really hide the bedroom? Replacing the door with a swinging bookcase is a win-win solution: the bedroom becomes a truly private oasis and the door provides a place to display that murder mystery collection.

Murphy Library via Dornob(Photo: Dornob)

I’ve seen Murphy beds before but never a Murphy library. This is a perfect way to create separate zones in a studio apartment without taking up valuable floor space.

Office in a closet(Photo: Apartment Therapy)

This closet-office is another (and super-cute) way to create a second “room” that can be hidden on a whim. However, I can’t imagine having an “extra” closet to devote to this project!

Bank Door Pantry(Photo: My Home Ideas: Cottage Living)

I love kitchens with open storage but am not enough of a neatnik to pull it off in my own home. The owners of this house used a door from an old bank safe to hide the pantry and create a cool, vintage vibe.

Trap Door Wine Cellar(Photo: The Kitchn)

Looking for even more kitchen space? Think down. This trap door covers an impressive wine cellar that is sure to make oenophiles drool, though I wouldn’t want to climb these stairs after indulging in a few glasses.

Staircase storage(Photo: The Kitchn)

In my small condo, staircases take up about a quarter of the square footage without providing much of a wow factor. But imagine if each one opened to reveal a secret hidey hole, like something out of a James Bond movie. And I would finally have a place to store my off-season clothing!

drawer stairs(Photo: Pinterest)

As to my childhood dream of secret passageways behind bookshelves, this is about as close as it gets in modern design: the owners of this Portland home hid their stairs between two elegantly curved bookcases, helping to focus the eye on their impressive library and not the utilitarian passageway inside.

hidden stairs(Photo: Ready Made)

I may never live in English manor but at least I know that a secret space isn’t completely out of the question in my future.

Posted in Design | Tagged ,

Bookcase Bonanza

Are you, like me, in a constant battle to control clutter? As I complete my spring cleaning, I am reminded of the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” and have come to the realization that I need more storage space.

(Photo: Style at Home via Centsational Girl)

Since I don’t have a home office, my bookshelves double as filing cabinets. I use magazine files to hold important paperwork as well as past issues of my favourite periodicals, while baskets contain miscellaneous items that I don’t necessarily want guests to see. Book organization is a matter of personal taste; designers often advocate grouping by colour but I like to arrange them by theme and then by alphabetically by author so that I can always find what I am looking for quickly.

(Photo: Cupcakes and Cashmere)

I like my bookcases to be more than repositories for books and use them to reflect my interests by displaying personal treasures. The trick is to keep these items to a minimum and scatter them amongst the shelves to create visual appeal.  Cupcakes and Cashmere offers some excellent tips on how to do this without going overboard.

(Photo: Greentea Design)

If you are worried about breakables around children or pets, consider shelving units with glass doors, which also help to keep dust off your shelves. Green Tea Design’s glass bookcase features pocket doors for easy access.

(Photo: Fab)

When space is limited, built-in shelves can be used  in otherwise unused spaces, such as under the stairs.

Stella Blue Designs Pipe Shelves(Photo: Swag So Fresh)

To create even greater visual interest, consider different shapes and materials. Stella Blue Designs pipe shelves are wonderfully sculptural whether empty or full and are configured to fit in tight spaces.

Roberto Corazza Tree Bookshelf(Photo:  Yanko Design)

Roberto Corazza’s tree bookcase offers a whimsical way to display your collection and can be placed against a wall or stand on its own. I think it would look great in a child’s room; after all, it’s never too early to teach youngsters how to stay organized.

Bold, colourful modular storage from Muvom(Photo: Archiproducts)

Colour doesn’t just have to come from what sits on the shelves. Muvom offers modular bookcases in vibrant hues. If you want to brighten up ones you already own, paint or wallpaper the back panels for a pop of colour or the whole piece to either stand out from or blend in with your decor.

(Photo: Real Simple)

With the increased popularity of e-readers, people may be buying fewer books but bookcases will always be my go-to storage solution.

Posted in Design | Tagged