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Clear the Clutter – Creative, Budget-Friendly Storage Solutions

shoe closet

Clutter is everywhere – in our mudrooms, closets, drawers and sometimes in plain sight! Storage is a problem in every house, no matter how big or small. And add a kid or two (or four or five), and a husband, and it’s a recipe for more clutter than you ever thought possible. I am not a clutterbug. I like everything in its place (okay, I’m actually a little OCD) and it drives me crazy not to have stuff in its proper home. The only thing on my kitchen counter is a paper towel holder, and only because my husband insisted after we got married. I don’t want to look at coffee makers, Kitchenaid mixers, and microwaves. Tripping over bins of toys and craft supplies makes me nuts. Because I’m always looking for furniture and accessories for my clients, I’m always thinking of new ways to use things to clear the clutter that inevitably invades my home. Here are a few things I’ve come up with over the years to keep my family’s junk under wraps (and way under budget-mostly!).

Shoes, glorious shoes (and coats)
We have a huge mudroom. Because it’s a big room, my family dumped their shoes and coats everywhere. When we moved in, we had one coat rack for all of our shoe closetcoats, and two boot trays for our shoes. The problem: no one but me put their shoes and coats where they belonged. So after two years of griping at everyone (and picking up after them-and griping about that!), I finally figured out a solution. My mother in law had given me an old cabinet a year before and I put it in my garage unsure of what to do with it. It was a shabby little thing with bowed paneling and stickers on the front. One day I was out in the garage, I saw the cabinet and thought with a coat of paint and some shelves, it might work for all of our shoes. I scrubbed off the stickers, painted several coats of bright red paint (my accent color), painted the existing hardware black, and had hubs add several thick pine shelves. The wood cost $35 but other than that, it didn’t cost me a dime.

I also had several antique iron hooks and had him mill up some beaded boards. I painted the hooks black andcoat hooks did a red and black distressed paint treatment on the boards to make them look old. I hung one row at a kid-friendly height, another at my height, and a third at my husband’s height (on another wall). Another issue was apple crate storagethe apparent procreation of our hats, mittens, scarves, plus the toys and garden tools. I had a shelving unit from Pottery Barn that once held my TV and stereo. I put that in my mudroom, filled it with wooden apple crates and designated one crate to each person, plus extras for the toys, helmets, and gardening things. The wooden crates cost me $15 from a local apple orchard. Just today I bought three more to store the inevitable mess that accumulates from thin air (or my family!). The mudroom isn’t perfect, but until we’re ready to rebuild it (it will eventually be torn down and rebuilt as a proper mudroom) it serves its purpose well and is somewhat organized.

Toys, Games, and Legos
If your family is anything like mine, your kids have more toys than 10 kids could ever play with in a Antique laboratory cabinetlifetime. We’ve cut back buying toys quite a bit in the last couple of years but our boys get so much for their birthdays and Christmas, we were just running out of room to keep it all. We moved from a much smaller house so we didn’t have a lot of furniture when we moved into our current home. For two years, we made do with bins for toy storage. I had bins everywhere – lined up along the wall, stuffed under the coffee table, piled on top of each other in the corners of the room. I really hated them. One year for our anniversary, we decided to buy a large piece of furniture to store all the toys. We looked at new furniture but nothing felt right.  On our anniversary, we got a sitter, headed to Troy (when it had lots of antique shops) and spent the day picking through shops. We finally came across a huge, oak laboratory cabinet that we both fell in love with. We hauled it home and filled it with toys (we call it the world’s most expensive toy box). After that, the rule was if it doesn’t fit in the cabinet, it doesn’t stay in the living room. It definitely wasn’t one of my bargain finds, but that’s okay. I don’t mind splurging every once in a while for something that speaks to me! And it’s really beautiful so we feel like we got double the pleasure from it!

Keep the Desk Clean
Once fall officially set in and I was freezing in my office, I decided to move to the living room for the winter (the woodstove keeps it toasty) andPottery Barn Printer's desk found myself in need of a desk (my kids’ craft table was not cutting it!).  I had my eye on the Printer’s Desk at Pottery Barn for quite a while so I did splurged a bit on the desk. But after that, I was out of money for accessories. I often write about “shopping” your own house to get a new look without spending a penny. So following my own advice, I walked around my house, gathering this and that to stylize my desk. In my home, everything has to be pretty as well as functional. I don’t buy things because they’re practical if they don’t look good too. My kids’ crayons and markers are stored in antique wooden cheese boxes, I use old wire baskets for magazine and paper storage, and keep my pens in pretty vases. I grabbed a stack of Pottery Barn design books, topped it with my boys’ marker box, and filled an antique milk glass dish with my business cards. I added a lamp from my other desk, an antique stapler and an old black phone and my desk was complete. It looks beautiful and the accessories cost me nothing! And, it gave me the opportunity to move some things around in my other rooms, making them feel fresh too! I am going to repaint my lampshade to match my décor and liven up my little corner of the world (when I find the time).

You don’t always have to spend a fortune to have the storage solutions that contain the clutter in your home. Antique dressers are some of my favorite storage solutions as are old wooden bowls and boxes. Have a piece that isn’t great but has the storage space you need? Try a new coat of paint and some new (or repainted) hardware. Look at the things you have and see if you can give them a new life with a little bit of imagination.  And when you’re done, post a picture on my Facebook page! Not sure how to start organizing your clutter? Contact me to schedule your in-person consultation today!

Spring Mini-Makeover #3 – A Painted Light Shade

Pottery Barn Silk Bulb Cover

This project wasn’t actually in my article in Your Hometowne in April but it has been on my spring to-do list for quite some time-maybe since last spring! I know all of the rooms in my house are supposed to look great, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, most of them are really cute and pulled together, even if I still need to replace a piece or two from my early twenties.

But I have two rooms – the spare bedroom and my office that leave me utterly confused. It’s mostly a matter of money and not that I don’t know what to do. Both rooms will eventually be gutted and renovated so I don’t want to put too much hard work into them. So, they’ve both become the repository of all things that don’t fit anywhere else; the old floral sofa, the clothes rack-I mean the elliptical, the mismatched furniture. My office doesn’t even have a proper ceiling fixture, just the bare bulb that we put in right after we moved in (the previous owner never put in overhead lights in most rooms).  I tried to dress it up with a silk shade from Pottery Barn, but with 9 1/2 foot ceilings, it just looks strange.

A friend of mine gave me two lamp shades from Pottery Barn because they didn’t coordinate with her decor; it turns out they didn’t coordinate with mine either but I figured I’d use them for something someday.  Here’s the before picture of one of the shades.

I love red so you’d think I’d find somewhere to use them but with the modern detailing in the rope design, they just didn’t work. I spent about a year moving the shades from room to room and finally permanently housed them in the basement (which is a bad idea because our house is on top of an underground river system).

One day, I was trolling decorating sites and I saw a lamp shade that stopped my heart! A gorgeous painted shade in watery but bright orange, yellow and pink poppies. I can’t tell you how much I love poppies but at $235, I decided I didn’t love them that much. Plus as brave as I am with color, I did not have a place for such a statement piece. So I filed the picture away in my mind of projects that I know I could do myself – someday.

About a month ago, I decided to try to turn this red shade into my poppy shade, but in colors that matched my decor. I used a sponge roller and three coats of primer but could not get the red pattern covered. So, back to the basement it went. Yesterday, I was feeling totally sick of winter (I know it’s technically spring but here in NY, it’s still in the 20′s & 30′s at night!) and sick of my mismatched office with bare bulb and decided I would make that shade work whether it wanted to or not!

After sketching a poppy design out on the shade while listening to my 5 year-old and his friend freak out because I was drawing on my lamp shade (you think he’d be used to it by now!), I went to the basement to pick through my huge collection of half used gallons and quarts of paint. I was set that this project would not cost me a dime. I picked out 4 or 5 colors and then a metallic gold for the inside to completely hide the pattern. After the boys went to bed, I quickly did the first coat over the whole piece as well as the inside and went to bed. This morning before I started work, I did a quick repaint on the poppies with bright yellow gloss paint because I was unhappy with the duller yellow satin wall paint I’d used. And them mixed up some bright green for the centers to brighten them up. I know you’re wondering why I used such a dark color for the background. Well, that pattern did not want to go away so I had no choice. I originally thought I’d do a yellow background with blue and green poppies to match my office walls and roman shades but you could see the pattern through the first coat.

After a few touch ups and wrestling with two spray glues and finally tacky glue, I have finished my masterpiece. Look closely at the picture and you will see the bright metallic gold lining. The paint ran a little bit while it dried but I actually like the way it looks. I left the dark teal background, my favorite Cupboard Blue by Old Village Paints, a little rough because I didn’t want it to look “perfect.” I wanted it to have some handmade charm, and I think it does.  I used a really nice, green fabric ribbon from a wedding present I received from Pottery Barn 7 years ago to finish the edges. Now, I have to figure out how to hang it up so I’m off to Lowe’s tomorrow. So, I guess I will be spending at least a dime after all.


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