Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

I heart Fred.

We gave these to my stepmom for Christmas.  Aren’t they great?  I almost kept them for myself, but decided that would be so un-Christmasy.

I’ve seen the clever products from Fred&Friends for many years, but this was the first time I bought.  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Image credit: M-Cups from Fred&Friends (I got mine — er, my stepmom’s — locally at Paper Source)


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As a risk-averse working mom who has many creative interests outside my day job, I am inspired when I hear about women who have left a career track to start a cottage business.  I’m even more inspired when that leap has been taken by a close friend.  But the absolute best is when that close friend has started her own biz creating ridiculously pretty and simple paper goods that you want to fill your desk and the desks of everyone you know.

Such is the story of Christine Koh, one of my oldest and closest friends, and the self-taught designer behind Posh Peacock.  Deciding she would rather “perish than publish,” Christine left the academic world (she is a former music and brain scientist) to pursue her creative interests…and we are all the luckier for it.

I started buying Posh designs before the business really launched in 2006, and have been a customer ever since.  Christine’s design work ranges from custom paper goods to web design to small business and non-profit identity, and it’s all beautiful.

Some of my favorite picks?  Semi-custom stationery, calling cards and the limited edition bird cards (I’m such a sucker for birds).  And because Christine operates at light speed, there’s still plenty of time to order for gift-giving.

Image credits: Posh Peacock

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One of my favorite gifts to give is a piggy bank.  Not only are piggy banks classic, but fabulously functional, inspiring a trait I wish I had.  If 2009 has taught us anything, it’s that you can never go wrong saving your pennies.  So here are my three favorite piggies, at least one of which some luckies on my list will be receiving this year.

Sort of creepy and very cool, check out Harry Allen’s Bank in the Form of a Pig, made from the cast of an actual pig (no piggies were hurt in the cast-making process).  Available at AREAWARE for $95 in pink; also available in white, chrome, gold, copper, hot pink, mint green and black to fit into nearly any color scheme.



For a piggy that will blend in anywhere, go for Roost’s Glass Piggy Bank, available at Velocity starting at $18.  Also, check out similar ones available locally at Hudson.

For the perfect amount of sparkle, and the perfect price tag, hit your local Old Navy for their bling-y piggy.  My shop only had them in gold, but I hear they’re available in a disco rainbow.  At a mere $5, you can get this one for folks on your list and yourself.  Y’know…if you needed a bit of inspiration to become budget-minded in 2010.  Not that I know anyone like that.


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I’ve made it a personal mission to ensure that my kids don’t grow up creatively stunted (like their mama who didn’t find her inner creative streak until age 35).  So when I was given an opportunity to test IdeaPaint, I was stoked (as were my kids).  Check out the full review in my latest column at Boston Mamas.  Enjoy!

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JA BarbieWhen I was a little girl, I was forbidden to have a Barbie.  My parents had this thing about bringing inaccurate female stereotypes into the house, and so I suffered an incomplete girlhood (sniff).  As it turned out, after a brief moment of Goth-ness in high school, I ended up being just as girly as the girliest girls out there (seriously, if there was even a 1% chance that I wouldn’t be laughed right out of the gates of the esteemed institution of higher ed at which I work, I would be sportin’ my Blair Waldorf headbands daily).  Anyhoo…my heart let out an extra thump-thump the other day when I got my weekly e-mail from Jonathan Adler announcing his new line of Barbie-inspired bath accessories.  Seriously, what could be better than pink lacquer in my house full of boys?  I might just pick up the Adler-donned Barbie and her very own mini-Lampert Sofa since I never got my Barbie-fix growing up.

Image credit: Jonathan Adler

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to spend the better part of a day with my good friend Marianne, helping to create a beautiful, practical space in her home.  About year ago, Marianne and her husband Jim had a carpenter build three walls of bookshelves in a small pass-through room that would become part-playroom, part-library.  But after having the shelves installed, life took over, and they became a mass collection point for anything and everything…books, piles of the kids’ artwork, kitchenwares that were too big for the kitchen cabinets, toys, even laundry.  It was time for an intervention.




In four hours, using items Marianne already owned, we transformed her stuffed shelves into works of art.  Here’s how we did it:

1) Cleared the decks: Using tables in the adjacent rooms, we cleared off everything from the shelves and made distinct piles — framed photos, accessories, art supplies and artwork, books, and so on.

2) Decided on an approach: I quizzed Marianne….did she care how her books were arranged?  By author?  By genre?  Did she care if I mixed accessories among her books?  Was there anything that was critical to remain on display?  Nope, she said, the only thing she wanted was to be sure that her cookbooks were together.  Other than that, I had free reign.  

3) Checked the angles:  After the shelves were clear and I knew my parameters, I stood back and took in the views.  Because of the central location of the space, it could be seen from almost everwhere in the house, so I needed to be sure that I was taking the purpose and feel of adjoining rooms into consideration.

4) Created vignettes:  This is the part that is trial and error, more art than science.  I reviewed the piles we had made (which were many), and began creating vignettes among the shelves.  I started with the knowns — she wanted all of her cookbooks to be together, and I knew I wanted to group their many, many travel guides.  I knew I wanted the children’s artwork and art supplies to be accessible (low shelves) and breakable items to be inaccessible (high shelves).  I knew I wanted the wall that faced her coastal-inspired living room to be calming, artistic and elegant, and the main wall of the room to be filled with energy and color.

4) Hunted for treasure: After establishing the vignettes on each shelf, there was still a lot of space remaining (there were 28 shelves to fill artfully), so I went treasure hunting around Marianne’s house.  After hijacking a painting from a bathroom, a chinese teapot from her office, and a few other items, I filled the empty spaces and the shelves were nearly complete.

5) Assessed the situation: After finishing all the shelves, we took a hard look at what was missing, and it was only two things: a container to keep drawing paper accessible (but not all over the place), and a basket to hold the work of Marianne’s prolific little artists.  We made a quick run to the Container Store, and voila!, the space went from messy to marvelous. 





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Oval Nested Woven Nylon Bins from Container StoreToday, I’m sharing my latest contribution to the stylish and sophisticated BostonMamas.com, *the* resource site for moms in Boston and beyond.  Enjoy!

Before I (or any of my friends) had children, I remember walking into the houses of those who did and being horrified…blocks in a tumbled-down heap on the kitchen floor, dress-up clothes strewn all over the couch, cars under the toilet.  My house will never look like this, I thought.  But just a few years and a couple of kids later, I realized that toys creeping out from the requisite toybox is inevitable, and takes a huge amount of energy to combat it.

Since that moment of realization, my husband and I have tried a slew of products meant specifically for organizing toys, but it was only recently that we faced the truth.  It’s not the product but the process that can free you from having toys take over your home.

1) Purge, divide and conquer:  Take a good hard look at the toys in your home. Does your four-year-old use the Fisher-Price farm set?  Do you have two dozen puzzles? Too much stuff can be really overwhelming for kids, not to mention the adults who have to live among it.  Once your child has gone to sleep, spend an evening dedicated to purging the toy collection and organizing what’s left based on the way your child plays (dolls and clothes together, trains and tracks together, Legos separate from Duplos, etc.).  If there are items you can’t make a decision about without the child’s input, make a pile and review in the morning.  Donate or sell the rest. 

2) Choose a home:  You don’t have to have a playroom to have a “primary residence” for toys.  Dedicate a corner of the living room, your child’s room, or a room in the house that’s not used very often.  Depending on how your home is laid out, you may want to select one more “vacation home.”  This allows for distribution of different types of toys, particularly if your child plays on two different floors.  For example, the majority of our sons’ toys are kept in our sunroom on the first floor, but we keep big trucks and the bowling and ring toss sets in the basement.

3) Store based on your décor:  Where you store your child’s toys doesn’t have to be plastic and primary-colored, but it does need to be child-accessible or else you’re going to be called to action whenever your child wants the Duplo blocks.  Consider where in your house you’ve chosen to store toys.  Go vertical with shelving and baskets if you have enough wall space.  A console with sliding doors works nicely in a room that isn’t just for toys.  A storage ottoman is terrific for a living room. 

4) A place for everything and everything in its place:  In our house, we use IKEA shelving with a combination of plastic beverage tubs (to hold chunky toys like bristle blocks and train tracks), plastic lidded boxes (to hold toys that have smaller pieces like Legos and Playmobil), and built in rattan baskets for puzzles, games and dress-up clothes. Once you’ve selected your storage system, explain where everything “lives” to your child (if he or she is old enough) – this will go a long way in both playing and cleaning up.  If you have the time and inclination, take pictures of the contents of each container, then laminate and affix them as labels for pre-readers (even better, include the word and the picture).

5) Collect in key areas:  It’s inevitable – toys will make their way from where they’re stored to other areas of the house.  Figure out where those areas are (for us, it’s the kitchen and the car) and create runaway toy collection spots

6) Get on schedule:  This is the key step, because the first five won’t mean a thing if you don’t get into a regular clean-up schedule.  Whether it’s every night or the end of every week, you and your child can work as a team to clean up – return the runaway toys to their homes and pick up the main play area.  If the system is working, and every toy truly has a place, this part shouldn’t take much more than a few minutes each night or 15-30 minutes once a week.

Image credit: Oval Nested Woven Nylon Baskets, The Container Store

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