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Posted on: April 21st, 2015 by Darla | No Comments

Bench seat cushions are one of my favorite, easiest makeover tools of all time. With just a little fabric, you can have a custom look in your home that really finishes off just about any space. Just look at the before and after with this bench seat cushion.

Before: A horizontal space bench seat like this is just a clutter catcher.

bench seat without cushion

After: This bench seat with cushion in a fabric that matches the curtains is a comfy spot that will resist clutter.

Bench seat with cushion customizes the room

This fabric coordinates with window treatments elsewhere in the room, so we now have a custom, coordinated look throughout. Of course, you can DIY this pretty easily if you sew,, and you can even leave off the piping if you want to make it even more simple.But any sewing workroom can put this together with 2″ foam pretty affordably for you, which is what we used here. I’d love to have time to sew like this, but it just doesn’t happen all that often.

It’s often the little things, like a custom bench seat cushion, that can really cozy up a space.

Do you have a little nook or bench that you can cozy up with a simple bench seat cushion?

Posted on: April 14th, 2015 by Darla | No Comments

What are some wacky, perhaps even extreme ways to really get a handle on organizing paper clutter? Sure, a match is the quickest way to getting rid of it, but maybe not what you had in mind.

how to organize paper clutter

Get a PO box. Really. Most people grab their mail on the way in the house after work, skim it for “anything good”, slap it down on the counter, and then never want to look at it again. That’s how the piles grow to mountains. But if you have a PO box and check it only once or twice a month, then it’s a lot easier to get rid of the junk mail and trash all at once. No one ever said that just because the mail is delivered every day means you have to look at it every day.

Get on every do not mail list there is:
And here’s the one most people don’t know about. Contact each of the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) and block your records. You can request that they NOT provide your information to general inquiries, which is where most of those credit card offers come from. Block data mining, and you won’t be included in every mailing done by the large credit sources who know your basic data, such as age, location, and income. (But you’ll still get the ones from your alma mater, sadly.) In order to reach each of the three credit reporting bureaus, start at

Stop filing by category. Most people file their household bills and records away by category, but that is HARD! You have to put things in order, then put them in individual file folders, usually 20 or 30 deep. And there’s no way to know when you should clean them out, so they get full, and pretty soon your file drawer breaks, so you don’t even want to try to file anymore. Instead, file receipts and paid bills by month, on a 24 month rolling basis. Bills and receipts (not including tax items and major purchases) get filed away in ONE folder each month. (Even year- January through Odd Year-December). You never even have to re-label them. You cut down on filing time. (Just paid your bills? Dump them all in the Odd Year- February file and walk away. 30 second filing.) And the system cleans itself out, because on the 25th month, you’ll dump the records from 2 years ago and fill that folder again. This one tip alone can save hours each month.

Does that sound too complicated? Fine. Narrow it down to JUST TWO boxes. Odd year. Even Year. Put the lid on the box for the year you aren’t in, and put it under the current year box (odd year for 2015). Keep the lid off the top box, and throw receipts and paid bills in the Odd year box for 2015. At the end of the year, put the lid on the top box (Odd year), switch it with the bottom box (now EVEN year for 2016), and start piling information into that box. You are still filing, and the only one you’re cheating is the clock.

Who cares that it’s not traditional? Stats show that 80% of what we put into a file cabinet never see the light of day ever again. Don’t spend time filing the 80% if you hate or don’t understand filing. Just pile it by year into Odd and Even categories/boxes, and dig through the box if you need something.

Where does all the paper end up? In the kitchen. It’s a hassle to move the paper, even if we have a home office, which some people don’t. Make record keeping easier by retrofitting an existing kitchen drawer with one of my favorite products, a fitted file frame. File right where you spend your time and where the paper lands anyway. If you don’t have a drawer you can retrofit, use an attractive file box, like this sea grass file box, right on your counter.

The biggest tip is to stop clutter before it starts. If you aren’t opening up your bank statements anyway because you look at them online, then contact your bank and have them stop the paper statements. It’s silly to receive, shuffle, file and store an unopened envelope that you never wanted anyway. (Not everyone should stop paper statements, by the way. Check with your tax advisor.)

This is, of course, just the physical part of dealing with paper clutter. When possible, get off of most paper, and move to apps like Evernote. Type, import, draw, record voice memos, and scan all types of data into this free app that has an extremely powerful search capability. Anyone with a smartphone or tablet should have this app loaded so you can break the sticky note addiction.

Do you have more wacky ideas to stop the paper clutter? Please leave a comment!

Posted on: April 9th, 2015 by Darla | 6 Comments

It’s only spring, but it’s hot in here already. That’s because I unboxed my new HomeRight SteamMachine today. You need this machine.

Steam clean the house without chemicals

I got oodles of spring cleaning projects done today, and I haven’t even STARTED on what this baby can really do.

Did I tell you I turned down this machine twice already? Really. I feel like I’ve got too many gadgets, but when I was talking with my friends at HomeRight, the list of what this could do just kept mounting. So I said, sure, send me one. What the heck. I’ll give it a whirl. I’ve been more than happy with their power sprayer and the Paint Stick.

The thing is, I’ve thrown out TWO steamers within the last year. My stick mop from that big company kept clogging. That little green spot machine…same problem, plus I had to keep special shampoo to feed that. The third steamer that I own is a mid-sized garment steamer that isn’t quite powerful enough. This ONE little gadget replaces all three of them! The fewer appliances you have, the less you have to organize.

The three projects I lined up for today were:

  • cleaning the entry rug
  • cleaning the oven
  • cleaning the bathroom tile and grout

They were supposed to send Scott McGillivray over with this machine to help out, but I had to go it alone. I was surprised how fast I was up and running with this machine. I highly recommend you watch Serena from Thrift Diving’s video, both for ideas and safety info. Love her. And then unpack all the goodies. Most of them get stored on board on the front compartment. Love that!

HomeRight SteamMachine accessories

The first project was kind of a fail, but I think it’s really my fault. This wool rug (above) hasn’t been professionally cleaned in at least a decade (or ever). I can’t even believe I’m admitting that. But instead of steaming it, I ended up throwing it in the tub and thoroughly washing it. If you are starting with a relatively clean-ish rug, then you can keep it clean the way Laura shows you how to steam clean an area rug.

My second project, cleaning the oven, WIN! Who else is afraid of the self-cleaning oven feature? I usually just get in there with some baking soda and elbow grease, but the steam machine gives me a way to get hard to reach places. LOVE! You don’t really need for me to point to the before on the right, and the after on the left, do you? I would recommend, though, using the nylon brush head and not the brass one that I used.

HomeRight Steam Machine cleans an oven

The third project was a laugh for this little machine. I mean, it just laughs at grout. It was born to clean grout. I’ve had the whitener/sealer to rehab my bathroom grout for a few weeks, but you need to thoroughly clean the floor first, or you won’t get a good application. Well, with just a few minutes, all of my tile, grout, and nasty corners are CLEAN! I guess I’ll have to touch up those few spots and apply the sealer, now. I almost don’t even need the whitener. Compare the upper left corner of these pictures. Yep. Really.

HomeRight SteamMachine (9)

HomeRigh SteamMachine cleans grout


Did I say three projects? Right. I couldn’t stop myself. This little mess on my closet carpet has been there for years. I tried spot treatments, but thought this carpet was a lot cause. This steam machine nailed it! About 10 minutes of alternating steam and scrubbing with a plain old microfiber cloth almost got it out. I scrubbed with a little baking soda for just a minute, and now those stains are history.

That was the moment this little steamer won my heart.

HomeRight Steam Machine cleans carpet stainsCarpet stains after- GONE! The darker spot you see if just because it’s still drying. No more spots.

HomeRight SteamMachine cleans carpet stainsChecking under the carpet, the steam did reach under the pad, so if you are doing spot treatment on top of a hardwood floor, protect the floor underneath from the water with a silicone pad or additional layers of carpet. If you are on top of a plywood or cement subfloor, I wouldn’t worry at all.

I couldn’t put it away without doing the kitchen floor, which hasn’t been scrubbed since I gave away the stick mop last year. The very expensive, frustrating mop. I hated that thing. Never got hot enough. Would cycle steam on and off. And always clogged! With the HomeRight steamer, as long as I’m pulling the trigger, that thing is smoking. Kitchen and bathroom floor are sparkling tonight. I can enjoy those clean floors for an entire 10 hours before the little ones hit the floor tomorrow morning. Sorry it’s a grainy picture. I know I’m not the only mom who cleans floors at night.

HomeRight Steam Cleaner on kitchen floors

One last project…the wood floors in the foyer where I started the day. With the foyer rug still drying in the tub, I took a quick swipe at this floor. I had no idea how many “scratches” were actually just dirt. It looks amazing right now. Sorry, no picture of this one. By then I was beat.

If you’ve read through this whole post, you are truly a friend of mine. I’ve written about sexier topics, but this one can be super important, especially if, like me, you are trying to reduce the chemical load in your household. I’m down to just a handful of cleaners, and baking soda is the one I reach for the most. You don’t want to ever add chemicals to your steamer, but steaming something you’ve treated with Oxi or baking soda is just fine. For those of us with allergies, having a steamer on hand can help keep the house healthier with less dirt AND fewer chemicals.

I have got a long, long list of projects for this little machine for the future. I’m amazed at what it’s capabilities are:

  • freshen and de-crease drapes
  • de-wrinkle sofa slipcover (Did that this week at a home we’re staging. LOVE!)
  • clean baseboards
  • clean grill
  • sanitize mattress and kill dust mites
  • remove pet stains on carpet
  • clean front door glass
  • steam clothes for consignment sales
  • REMOVE WALLPAPER. Oh yeah. I’ll be doing that, but probably not for another year.

I’ve never seen HomeRight in stores. You’re going to want to head to to look for this SteamMachine under products. I don’t think they stock them at the big box stores. But I could not believe when I saw the price. $99 is so worth it for all that power.

Guess what? HomeRight is going to pony up for another SteamMachine for me to give away to YOU! I can’t keep all this steamy goodness to myself. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Posted on: April 7th, 2015 by Darla | 2 Comments

Organizing. Labels. It’s an occupational hazard that I collect little labels, string, blackboard stickers, and the like. I swear they are harder to keep organized than Lego’s.

It’s been hard since trading up to a van last year. You see, my van is basically my office when I’m with clients, so I need to have my supplies in the car almost all the time. And this “system” of folders, bags, and random stuff thrown in my briefcase or tool bag was just not cutting it.

need to organize my labels

I am really committed to re-using or re-purposing before buying something new.

I am not a fan of plastic storage.

I am cheap.

But in a moment of weakness at Michael’s, I ended up with this: (Cue the angel choirs.)

craft case for organizing labels

The beauty here is that it is roughly the size of my label maker case, so it will stack nicely in the storage area of the van. It has an upper and lower tray, customizable for my stash. It even has enough room for the scissors, hole punch, tag die cutter, letterpress stamps and ink. Ready to peek?

Organized Labels- Bottom Tray

organized labels for professional organizer

Organized Labels- Top Tray

how to organize labels

And, of course, I started by labeling my pretty new case.

how to organize a case of labels

You know what they say…when you get your act together, the creativity just starts flowing. I no sooner had the case organized than I turned around and saw the scrap cardboard packaging from some craft paper, and realized that it would make perfect hang tags. So my die cutter got busy, and I added a dozen more tags right into the hang tag slot of the bottom tray!


make new labels and keep them organized

Why yes, I am an organizing dork, but if you’d been following me, you already knew that. And hopefully my organizing compulsion gives you at least a little inspiration. If you need some ideas, check out how to label without hardly trying.

Are you working on any labeling projects this spring?

Posted on: April 3rd, 2015 by Darla | 2 Comments

Is your mailbox outside your house cluttered? Of course not!

Have you ever thought about why?

Every day, the mail gets dropped in a specific place, then you pick up the mail, and remove it from the outside mailbox.

But then where does it go? The kitchen counter. The dining room table. The corner of the desk.

What if you had an inside mailbox?

Then your mail would all collect neatly in one spot, and you’d be forced to empty it out when it got too full.

You can make an inside mailbox from a Kleenex disposable towel box that is cute, and literally calls out, “Put the mail HERE!”

How to Make a DIY Mail Station for Organizing Mail

Make an inside mailbox from this, and get rid of the piles:

make a mail station from a Kleenex box

Washi tape makes anything cuter.

washi tape a mail station

A blackboard label from the office supply store states the purpose clearly.

mail station for organizing

Now, the mail has a home of it’s own, looking sort of like a mini messenger bag.

organizing mail with a DIY mail station

The best thing is that there’s so much more counter space! So simple, and so beautiful. By the way, if you are new to my blog and love my granite counters, you might be amazed to learn how you can have them, too.

organizing with a DIY mail station

You could make one of these DIY mail stations for each member of your family, and never have piles on your counter again.

Would this DIY mail station help you keep your counters clear?