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Serving the entire San Francisco Bay Area | Gayle Grace, 510-654-7983

Monday, July 27, 2009

This old house

Every home has its challenges when it comes to organizing. I just finished helping a family move into their new older home and the results have been very gratifying. Things that would have been a problem actually came out well when we used the right organizing tools.

The kitchen presented some of the usual issues of odd shaped cabinets, shelves that are not adjustable, drawers that have the original metal bins that once held flour and sugar and not enough counter space. Fortunately, the homeowner's embraced the
challenges and we were able to get a really good result.

First and foremost, they agreed to purge many of their unused and unwanted items so that we only had to work with the things that they really need and use. They were open to trying new ideas and investing in containers and organizing tools to make the kitchen work and they understand that keeping things simple will help this kitchen feel spacious and open.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The too big kitchen

I know it seems impossible that there are kitchens that are simply too big. Hard to imagine, especially since most of my clients call me in because their kitchens are too darn small! However, there are kitchens here in the Bay Area that are equally a problem due to their size - too big, too many cabinets, too much useless space.

To be fair, the problem is not entirely due to their size, but mostly due to poor cabinet layout and lack of kitchen planning. This kitchen is a prime example...

Looks great...yes, but upon unpacking, not as useful a space as you would think. For starters, the stove top in the island took up all the bottom cabinets with vents, pipes and false drawer fronts. Pots and pans had to be housed on the opposite side and in cabinetry actually built to hold large platters. In fact, most of the island is actually false fronted drawers and cabinets.

Two of the upper cabinets actually housed giant spice racks - which means standing on a step stool to get the cinnamon down and the heavy wooden racks attached to the cabinet doors weigh a ton. The upper cabinets above the dishwashers (yes, there are two - side by side), turned out to be too shallow to hold the large dinner plates and pasta bowls, so they had to be stored in the cabinets below.

Most of the lower cabinets contained fixed shelving and a strange configuration of wire racks. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was meant to go in them. No where for a garbage or recycling cans to go. Drawers are either too shallow or way too deep to hold utensils and flatware. The perfect drawer across from the main sink which should hold dish towels actually had a built in bread box.

The appliance garage has no plugs and, in fact, there is only one wall plug per length of countertop smack in the middle of each wall.

So, the next time you have "kitchen size envy" remember that all that size does not necessarily translate to usefulness.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The best of intentions

Recently one of my clients went through a bit of nightmare when some seemingly innocent actions lead to near disaster...

In preparation for her move, we worked through the entire condo sorting what would be packed, what would be stored and what would go to donation.

Donation items where inventoried, boxed and placed in an area of the condo where they could not get mixed up with any other items. In addition, I photo everything that is being given away. We then scheduled a donation pick up directly from her unit.

However, before the pickup date, the client decided that it would be easier for everyone if she moved all the donation items from her unit into the lobby of the condo building, telling the housekeeper to let the donation people in and for them to take the boxes and furniture now in the lobby.

When the donation pickup people buzzed the unit, the housekeeper buzzed them into the lobby and over the intercom told them to take all the boxes and the furniture, which they did.

When the client return home that evening, she found the lobby of her condo building completely empty - not a stick of furniture left...yes, the donation agents had indeed taken all the boxes and ALL the furniture they found there - including the condo's lobby furniture!

It took days of phone calls and begging the donation site for help to finally locate most of the missing furniture. She had to rent a truck and a couple of guys to go dig through mountains of donation items to come up with most of what was taken.

So, while everyone thought they were doing the right thing, the outcome was not what had been anticipated. As we know,
&*$# happens!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How do I downsize my life?

Q: I've been laid off, I need to move to a smaller place and I'm depressed and overwhelmed. Where do I start and how long will it take?

A: Well, first, it sounds like you need to stop and take a breath... do something to give yourself a break from feeling overwhelmed. Take your notebook and head to a nearby coffee shop or a park, sit for a while and formulate a plan. If you can, call a friend and have them join you.

For me, having a plan in writing gives a feeling of control. I start by writing down everything that comes into my head about the situation, in any order it shows up. Then I start organizing the thoughts into an outline and then I elaborate on each item until I feel I have actions to take that will get me to where I want to go. Action items get put on my calendar and time is blocked out to deal with them.

When I start working on a space, I start with the things I know I can get out of the way quickly. If I walk into a room with stuff all over the place I look for the most like things and separate them from the others. For example, I just sorted and packed a spare room for a client.

I began by separating paper from "stuff". Boxes with papers, books and photos went to one side of the room while stuff went to the other side. Then I boxed like items of stuff together - clothes, ceramics, decorative items, gifts for others, wrapping paper, office supplies, etc.

What's in this room?

Paper on one side of the room and "stuff" on the other.

Now we can deal with one box at time, going through them one at a time and deciding what to keep and what to give away. Breaking the job down into smaller pieces gives you a sense of control.

How long it will takes depends on you - how quickly can you make a decision and how much time you can devote to the project. Ultimately, your attitude is going to determine your success with this project. Find a way to stay positive. Think of what you are gaining, not what you think you are losing.
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