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The Zen Shed Renovation

I am sure you have heard of a “She Shed,” yes? It is defined as, “a small building separate from the home, reserved specifically for the use of an adult woman, in which she can relax and pursue her interests.” This trend is gaining in popularity to its’ counterpart, the “man cave,” and definitely has more style than most man caves around. Here is a great article from Dwell that illustrates some of the greatest she sheds around.

This blog isn’t about She Sheds, it is about the Zen Shed, “a small building separate from the Piper home, reserved for the entire family (even @harveyandcrash), in which they can relax, rehearse, unwind or get to the grind.” Hanna, the youngest Piper, created the name so that it was inclusive to everyone and how they planned to use it.

Here is the story:

Good Bones

Fair to say that the Zen Shed’s previous owners didn’t see its’ potential. It was in all ways just a shed with good bones. There was insulation and plastic sheeting falling from the studs and ceilings… bees had taken up home in between the siding and peg board walls, and a partially rotted plywood floor. The exterior was charming, but also feeling the pains of weather and sun damage, and of course, old age.

It was 100% necessary that we completely strip her down from the inside out and, basically, start over. Once we cleared everything out, we were able to find that the basic structure of the shed was strong and in-tact, although, not to any kind of building code.

After removing the dormant bees nest and the pieces of siding that had seen better days, we went to work on the exterior of the structure. It took about 20 new siding boards, some new shingles on the roof and new skirting all the way around. We also added a rain diverter to the roof and removed the gutter that was home to mostly gumballs from the neighbors tree (thanks a lot).

On the interior, we need to replace the rotted subfloor and add some additional stud boards in order to bring the structure up to code and make it easier to work with down the road. The shed already had power, but we added outlets in several spots, based on what was to come. We added brand new insultation from top to bottom, and replaced the window and door.

From the window…to the walls…

With the installation of the custom window and custom door finally behind us (thanks for the delays, Covid), we were finally able to start installing the material for the walls and ceilings – you guessed it, shiplap. We used the LL Flooring shiplap, which is pressed wood and not actual shiplap. In hindsight, I wouldn’t do this again. It was an attractive option at the time since it was a finished product that was available when we needed it and would be a one-step process: install, done.

We had considered a couple of options for the ceiling: wainscoting panels, corrugated metal roofing, or mirroring the cork flooring – but we ended up doing shiplap from the floor up – it is gorgeous. We left the beams exposed because the color of the wood was gorgeous and would tie in with the boho vibe of the room. My one and only IGTV post is of this process, you can check it out here. It was my first experience using a miter saw and a brad nailer, and it was a stellar experience, seeing as there were no injuries to report.

Next up, floors. After a quick sweep we were ready to start installing the cork flooring, it is also a LL Flooring product and I love it. I wish I had taken a video of this process, it started out a little rocky so I just focused my way through it. What I’ll say is this, after watching YouTube videos on how to do this, I did what I always do. I did it the way that I wanted to, because guess what, my way worked better. Instead of installing piece-by-piece, we actually joined a full row together and then connected it to the previous row. Ta-Dah…

Oh So Boho Pretty.

This is the fun stuff, the boho pretty stuff, and, as a designer, my favorite part. I had been collecting items for the better part of six months and more than ready to get them to their home. As it implies, “Zen Shed,” is just that, zen, and what is synonymous with zen? Boho.

Where do you go for the best boho vibes? First stop: Facebook Marketplace. I found so many great pieces including the mirror, daybed, the mid-century magazine rack, and the vintage wall wicker baskets, all from Richmond, down to Newport News. I also found @hillheadandco on Facebook and commissioned several macramé pieces. At Urban Outfitters we sourced our sconces and the must-have moon lamp, floor pillows, and our layered rugs. And Anderson’s Garden Center for all things plants, duh.

All of those photos are by @thekiaandco

There were personal touches along the way too. We included pieces of art from Erica’s collection, pictures of family, quotes that remind us to live the good life, but most importantly was a piece of wood, from family property.

Since it really was just a piece of wood, we took some steps to make it something beautiful and functional, while maintaining the memory and integrity of the piece. There was some sanding, some planing, some cutting and some staining, but from one piece of wood we made a foot rest and a side table.

Go forth, and be Zen.

This project was a lot more than I bargained for, but just like my corporate events, everything comes together in the end. I may not have gotten there how I planned, and things might not have gone how I expected, but the end result is beautiful and my client is happy. That’s all that matters to me.

We are so in love with it and spend time in it almost every day.  Husband meditates in the morning before his early morning workouts, I have worked from in there when I need some quiet space to relax and I also use it as a place to read and enjoy my coffee during the early morning on weekends.  Hanna uses it as a place for singing and hanging out, and Danny and his girlfriend relax in there some nights before dinner.  The dogs love it too!  They lay in the sun spots when the door is open and we have a dog bed in there for them to take a snooze. 

I think one of our favorite things is to have a glass of wine or bourbon at the end of a long day and just sit in there and relax and listen to the birds.  We put an electric fireplace in for chilly mornings in the winter and also a Bluetooth speaker to stream music.

Erica, Zen Shed owner & my best friend
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A Curated Refresh

Have you ever looked at someone else’s things and thought, “Ohmigod, that is the coolest thing I have ever seen! Where did you get that thing?” Usually their response is something like, “Target,” or “TJ Maxx.” But, not this client, her responses were, “Paraguay,” or “Italy,” or some random antique store in Amish Country. Her collection of art and antiques is unique and eclectic. It was my pleasure to refresh two rooms on her main floor and curate her precious items in a way that would bring them back to life.

Ilene has lived in her home for 18 years, she and her husband built the home and raised their two children there. When you have lived in a home for that amount of time you stop seeing things the way you once did. The, “this is just how it has always been,” mentality grabs you and you focus on more important things! Inevitably, you will wake up one day and realize that you are long overdue for an update!

That’s when you call me.

An Appropriate Office

Does anyone really use that small formal living room space?  Mine was a “holding space” for furniture – some items that we love and items we just had (got from family members, but never really wanted or loved).  I needed a space to work from home and I was tired of sitting at my dining room table.  Alyssa to the rescue – keep what you love, get rid of what you don’t (even if it does have family ties).  The result pushed me a bit out of my comfort zone, but – WOW – I love every square inch of everything in this room.

Ilene, Homeowner

During our initial consultation and walk-through of the space, the formal living room looked just like you would expect. Traditional furniture, outdated window treatments and the cold-feeling of an unloved space. The room held obligatory things that represented memories or people that likely didn’t care whether those things were still there, or not.

So, we got rid of them.

Ilene has a big, important job, at a big (not so important) company. Since the pandemic hit, she’s been working from her dining room table – overlooking the unused, unloved formal living room. With no signs of her returning to the office, the transition from formal living room to study seemed like the obvious change to make.

The Comfort Zone

Ilene and I have a history, she’s a previous client from my corporate event planning days, she and her husband, Rick, have become a dear friends. We have planned elaborate parties with beautiful themes, and to my knowledge, she was never disappointed with the outcomes. For that reason, I knew I would be able to push her a bit out of her comfort zone.

When starting a new project I like to find something that inspires the overall design of the space – in this room it was the hand-knotted Pakistan Bokhara area rug. I’m telling you, it is the most beautiful rug that I have ever seen – it is timeless and would compliment any design style that one might enjoy.

It is a busy pattern, but with only a few colors: navy and rust. Immediately I knew that an accent wall with killer wallpaper was the best way to take advantage of the rug. Ilene immediately knew that since it was a busy rug, she wanted a simple wallpaper – so, I showed her options and convinced her that my way, was the best way.

Tell me I was wrong. We used the Wallpaperie’s Chinoise Reverse Peel-n-Stick paper . It. Is. Banging.

The Wood.

With this major decision behind us, it was time to focus on the furniture. Ilene did not currently have a desk, but did have an idea in mind. My father-in-law happens to be a master woodworker and also happened to be for hire. We took notes about what was important to her and he got to work. The desk is made with maple and stained in Dark Walnut by Minwax , selected to compliment the antiques that would live next to the desk. It has a curved front and fully finished panels that face out into the main entrance of the home. For functionality, the desk features pull-out trays that were built to hold Ilene’s printer, a keyboard tray, standard size drawers, as well as a drawer for hanging folders, and finally, power access built into the desks top.

Then there are the antiques in Ilene’s collection – pieces that she and Rick had acquired over the course of their 35 year marriage. I had my choice of items that were throughout their home and pulled in what I felt would compliment the room.

I drooled over an Early 20th Century American hutch with a butterfly-like detail at the seam of the doors, it is soft but makes such a statement at the same time. The room already housed the mid-1800’s Korean blanket chest, made of burlwood and lined with rice paper featuring detailed metal accents, but instead of blending into the room, it now stands out.

The Art.

I know a lot of people who have “art,” on their walls – you know generic pieces that go with the décor but have no real “art,” to them. And, there is nothing wrong with that, at all, I am one of those people.

But, then there are people who collect specific types of art and are truly inspired by them, in this case, Rick. He has a collection of Japanese wood block art that is ornate, rare and beautiful. Unfortunately it had been professionally framed in the 80’s in a manner that was doing no justice to the piece itself. So, we reframed them and rearranged them.

The Fluff and Stuff.

Any friend of mine knows that “fluff,” is not my favorite – and many of these friends are of the same mindset. The fluff in this office are acceptable brands of fluff: plants, lighting, window treatments and a gorgeous mirror.

We wanted to choose lighting that looked modern but felt like art, and naturally, we wanted the lighting to coordinate with the other fluff and stuff. We headed to West Elm and chose a beautiful collection of gold pieces and these stunning sculptural ribbed glass sconces – to die.

The fabric for the drapery was found at U-Fab in Richmond, VA and custom tailored in-house as well. (Head back up the blog to see the detail of the fabric, selected to let lots of natural light into the room) In order to keep with the minimalist approach, we opted for one curtain rod that extended the length of both windows and installed it several inches above the window frames to create additional interest and height.

Across the hall.

In conjunction with the office, we also worked on updating her formal dining room. With these spaces being across the hall and open to one another, our goal was to create spaces that were cohesive and complimentary.

The art, antiques and collectibles were also the primary focus of this room. We framed some items that were previously kept in drawers and reframed dated pieces to blend with the décor.

Down the hall.

Ilene and Rick have a great open concept in the main part of their home, the eat-in kitchen is large and overlooks the family room. As with the rest of the home, it hadn’t been updated much since it was built, so we made some changes that brightened up the space.

In a design/planning session one day as Alyssa and I chatted in my kitchen/family room area, I just blurted out “look how dark this room is – all of this beautiful sunshine outside and it’s dark, brown, dark”.  Well Family Room design now in scope.  Alyssa’s design ideas changed the size and feel of the room just by flipping focal points, adding built-ins, getting rid of bulky cabinets, and paint.  We decided to add the large wood and glass door to showcase the renovated 3-season porch we had just completed in 2019.

Ilene, Homeowner

All Good Things Must End.

As with any good Covid-based project, we faced our share of delays on this project, starting discussions in August, project starting in November and ending mid-February. Luckily Ilene and Rick were gracious and understanding about the delays, but were over the moon when everything finally came together. And of course, so was I, and all good things must come to an end.


Photos By: Kia & Co

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Voting for the President of the United States of America

Today is Election Day in America. We are fraught with anxiety, anger, hate, bitterness and resentment. This is my fifth time voting for the President of the United States and I hated every minute. In previous elections I have been excited to vote, I have been well educated on my vote. I felt a genuine priviledge to be an America who had the opportunity to vote.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Here is why.

*** DISCLAIMER*** I am not asking you to read this. These are my thoughts, opinions and frustrations.

Truth, Lies & the T.V. Guys.

I doubt very seriously that I am the only American who struggles with finding the truth in all of the lies. It’s fine that we all have our sources that we turn to: news, blogs, experts, parents, friends, influencers and celebrities – hopefully some combination, but no one really knows the truth. I don’t even think that POTUS himself knows the truth – it is impossible to find it in all of the lies.

My combination is listening to the thoughts and opinions of my friends and family. I am able to get a well-rounded argument for each side. From there I am able to do my own research on topics that I find important to my family, to my life and to my goals.

The celebrities and influencers that use their voice for political intention is a freedom that they have as Americans. I admire that they are willing to get on their platform and talk about their opinions and beliefs with a big ass microphone. After some research, a majority of them do not actually have an impact on the outcome – Lebron James and Taylor Swift are the exception.

Sometimes I wonder if celebrities are pressured to feel a certain way, like journalists are.

SIDEBAR

Does anyone else find it utterly annoying when you hear ANYONE talk about how horrible POTUS is, how horrible a human, a leader – how he needs to be kicked out and rolled in the mud, shamed and broken… but also, we need to be kind to one another and respect each other…. Umm… you are as bad as he is.

continued….

If news is your primary source of political education I hope that you watch a lot of it, on a lot of different channels. Otherwise, just stop watching and vote according to the station you prefer. You are only educating your preference, not actually learning the whole story.

Every channel that I can stand to watch for even thirty minutes has a different spin on whatever topic is trending in D.C. – and it is SPIN, it isn’t truth. And it is spun according to that stations financial backing. Each network has an agenda, the agenda is to make money. This is not a newsflash. Our journalists, researchers, reporters, anchors – what do they know except that they have to produce numbers, viewers?

I wish I could say that somewhere in a news story truth could be found, but I can’t.

The Study of Journalism

I studied journalism in college, I intended to be a journalist. I feel utter relief that I chose a different path.

Journalism by definition is the “unbiased production and distribution of reports on current or past events based on facts and supported with proofs or evidences. The word journalism applies to the occupation, as well as citizen journalists who gather and publish unbiased information based on facts and supported with proofs or evidences.

Believe it or not there is a code of ethics that journalists should follow, principles that each should garnish:

  1. truthfulness
  2. accuracy
  3. objectivity
  4. impartiality
  5. fairness
  6. public accountability

These seem to be principles of the past, or a pick and choose principle policy. It certainly doesn’t seem like a code of ethics that modern day journalist feel important to uphold. Is that because it isn’t popular, it doesn’t make money? Yes and yes.

I don’t vote for this.

DISrespect

The disrespect in our country today is nauseating – for each other, for opposing party members, for other colors, for other orientations and for POTUS. And, is that solely to blame on POTUS? Just because he tweets horrible things means that you do too? Americans are choosing to rebuke his bad nature, not rise above it (see also my previous sidebar) and be better.

Why is it ok to dislike, go as far as hating someone, just because they don’t believe as you do? We have become so self-righteous in our own beliefs that we cannot let a fellow American have theirs to rest in? Isn’t that what our country was founded on? Our freedom to choose.

My group of friends and family are all over the map. Like… all over it. I have staunch democrats & republicans (one republican is even a gay man – crazy), ones that ride the wave of libertarian, some that don’t vote and probably one that voted for Kayne. Guess what. I don’t care. And when we talk about politics what we find ourselves saying is, “How did it get this way?” Not, “You are a shit person with shit beliefs, you should be shot, tarred and feathered.”

As humans we were given a brain that thinks and feels and as Americans we were given the freedom to indulge in those actions. We were given the ability and freedom to choose our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. It is possible to choose respect.

I vote for that.

At the Polls.

I went at 10 a.m. to vote. There was no line, I assume everyone in my area voted early. I stood there staring at my ballot. I was so sad. It felt icky. There was not an ounce of pride in my body. These two men are not what I believe, they are not what I stand for. They do not conduct themselves in a manner in which I relate or appreciate. My heart hurts for our country, regardless of the outcome. Neither man understands what it means to be an average American, with average American problems.

When will political reform come? Who is going to lead that charge? Will there every be a breakdown in party lines? What will bring us together? You guys?!?!? I need answers.

I want to vote for a human that will genuinely work across the party line, or break down the party line altogether. A human that can campaign like the guys in Utah. Maybe a human that is younger and understands that term limits are beneficial to the evolution of society. This person could be a woman, a man, they could be any race and of any sexual orientation – it is what they stand for that is important. It is how they conduct themselves on their platform that is important.

The Future.

My daughter is too young to understand the importance of today, but she is not too young to feel the impact of today. She was all I could think about while staring at my ballot. This isn’t the world that I want for her. I find myself apologizing to her for willfully bringing her into this country of turmoil.

I vow to raise her to be a strong, independent thinker. She will be raised to be kind, to love without judgement. We will teach her how to forgive, how to pray and how to learn. She will learn how to be respectful and appreciative. My husband and I will teach her to do hard things.

Moms and dads, let’s spend time teaching our children how to run the world. Let’s teach them that there is good and that love will find a way.

In Conclusion.

I love being an American. I will love being an American regardless who wins the office of President of the United States in this election, or any other. My life and my daily choices are not predicated on one position and I do not live my life for the show of it. I will respect the office, I will respect the position, regardless of who fills it.

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2020 & the Concept of Time (or lack thereof)

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with friends that go something like this, “It was like, I don’t know… two weeks ago? No wait, maybe a month or so ago??” Only to conclude that whatever “it” was happened back in the Spring. I just don’t have any concept of time anymore, what day of the week it is, what month it is or why it even matters.

This year has done this to so many of us, right?

If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would be completely unaware about the days of the week and the months of the year. But, even with her, time is crazy. I saw a picture of her on my husbands watch (so it was pretty tiny), and I asked him whose baby that was, his response was, “Um, yours?” No kidding. She was a month old. Now she is 18 months old. And it seems like yesterday that she was born but years ago that she was that small.

But, now that we are entering Fall things are going to change for us again. Our kids are virtually learning or homeschooling. Parents will be navigating working, teaching, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping – ALL. THE. THINGS. It is a lot. The potential for a meltdown is imminent. How can we prevent a meltdown, or at least minimize the blow?

Get to know yourself and your concept of time.

To start, it is important to know when you are the most productive during the day. Here is a great article to help you determine your morningness or eveningness (yes, these are real words) and what to get done when. VITAL to getting better control on your concept of time.

I am the most productive in the morning. My workout is better in the morning and more likely to get done at that time. My brain can process difficult tasks and focus on more complex issues first thing in the morning. I was taught to get all of the “things” done first, starting with my least favorite “thing.” This also taught me about procrastination, which is now my least favorite characteristic in human beings. It makes sense, why spend time dreading things and then rushing to get them done? I feel anxiety and stress just thinking about it. Here are some tips to help you overcome procrastination.

For parents who are becoming homeschoolers, I recommend sitting down with your kids and finding this out about them as well. And just as a quick vent, I never understood why my guidance counselors didn’t do this with me. Wouldn’t it have been better to have my difficult subjects like math and science classes in the morning when I am the most sharp? They were ALWAYS in the afternoon and I always struggled, got frustrated and wanted to quit.

Establish a Routine

Routines are so important, all of the time, but especially in 2020. A routine can help you recognize the concept of time by identifying what time it is based on an activity. For example, I eat lunch in the 12 o’clock hour. Simple routine. The New York Times just published this article discussing the how-to’s and benefits of establishing a routine. I concur, NYT.

I live and die by routine. My daughter thrives with routine. As a single parent, it is how life gets done without meltdowns, for her and me. While living through 2020: the quarantine, the unemployment and the perpetual summer, routine allowed us few surprises, more structure and less stress on a day-to-day basis.

Yes, it is easier to have a routine when you are physically going to work, or the kids are physically going to school. But just because you aren’t going into an office doesn’t mean that you should stop the routine of getting up, getting ready and starting as you would. And just because our kids aren’t getting on the bus doesn’t mean they shouldn’t brush their teeth.

When you are establishing your own routine, consider your morningness and eveningness – those peak times of productivity. If morning is your productive time, create a routine that supports what you need to get accomplish in that time. Don’t schedule your grocery pick up at 9 a.m. when you need to be focusing on completing an important task. I don’t think I need to provide additional examples, but if you are still struggling, please reach out to me and I will help you.

All of these actions require a time to start and stop them. Thus, helping you in your search for the concept of time.

Set Goals.

Typically went I set a goal, it is to be met by a particular date or time. These are the goals that I set and most consistently achieve. Because of that deadline, I become more sensitive to the time that is passing as it approaches my goal – establishing a…. you guessed, concept of time.

I’ve learned not to set loose goals like, “by January 2021 I want to be a millionaire,” that’s wrong on several levels. One, I already established, it is too broad, the other, it is unrealistic. If you are not used to setting goals, or sticking to them, start small and make them realistic and achievable. Connie Stemmle wrote an article on goal setting/achieving for developgoodhabits.com, it is lengthy, but worth it.

To clarify, the goals we are talking about here are not weight loss goals, or monetary goals, but productivity goals that will help you gain structure in your day/weeks/months.

Be Productive

So how do you do all of the things that we just went over and regain your concept of time? You become productive. Sounds simple enough, right? For some yes, for others, not so much. I think everyone has experienced a moment in their life when they said, “It is just too much. I don’t even know where to start.” If they hadn’t before 2020, I am sure that have now.

Nothing gets done by doing nothing, am I right? While you are figuring out your morningness and eveningness, learning to set achievable goals, we might as well figure out how productive you are (I scored a 53, share your score with me in the comments). This quiz is great because you can go back to the questions that you scored low on and find specific solutions for them. Genius.

Some of us are not into making lists and checking them twice. My experience would tell me that people who do make lists are more productive than those who do not. But, shoulder-shrug. Maybe you like post-its everywhere. Or color-coordinating calendars. Of course, there is an app for that too. Bottom line, find your method, start using it and notice how life becomes a little easier and a little less stressful.

In Conclusion

The concept of time in 2020 is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. But that doesn’t make it impossible, it just makes it new. It is ok to get overwhelmed, but don’t let that feeling keep you from moving forward. I promise that if you take some time to work on time, you’ll have more of it and enjoy life more.

You can visit my Time Management Pinterest page for other helpful hints or reach out to me directly and we will figure it out together!

“And suddenly, you know, it is time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings.”

-Drake.

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5 Reasons to Love Houseplants

This time last year I was just settling into my new work environment and getting to know my co-workers. Most of them had a plant or two at their desk, but Fagel had four or five and would talk about them like they were her children. I never cared for plants. My husband used to beg me to have more houseplants and I flat out refused. I feel a little silly about that now. For the purposes of this blog, I counted how many houseplants I actually have indoors, 42. And come the first freeze, that number will grow to 60. Unless I buy more between now and then, which highly likely.

Here are five reasons why I love houseplants, and I think you should too:

Peacefulness.
I am not going to site the research that has been conducted by NASA because there is all of this other opposing research, so who really knows… So, for now, just think about when you go outside (when it isn’t hot or cold AF), the weather is just right, don’t you feel at peace? You take a deep breathe and look up at the sky and the trees and suddenly feel a little better, right? Well, I do. I’m not going to grow an Oak tree, or paint the ceilings blue, so the next best thing to do was to get a shit ton of plants.

Everything was going a little crazy in my life at the time. My husband was in and out of rehabs for alcohol addiction and was battling his own demons; severe depression and anxiety. I was a single parent to our first baby, suffering from PPD/PPA, and going back to work full time for the first time in two years. It was a lot. When I saw the joy that Fagel had when looking at her plants, or just talking about them, it was contagious and I needed that in my life.

My employer required that I take an hour lunch break, which I thought was dumb… until I started using my lunch break to go to Lowes Garden Center, or Anderson’s Garden Center. I found peace walking around all of the plants and the people, (you can’t help but be nice and friendly when you are around plants) and I knew I needed to bring that feeling home. So, 50+ plants later, I do feel pretty damn peaceful.

Health.
I’m putting this one as number two, because it is a bleed-over from 1. And again, because this is my blog, I’m not siting research, you can find it on my Pinterest page. I’ll just write about how houseplants have improved my health, my child’s health and maybe even my husbands’ (who doesn’t even live here).

Most of my houseplants are concentrated in my office, which is also the rec room, craft room, workout room, guest room and portal to my other plant oasis, my back deck. This is a space that I gravitate towards and enjoy being in. I breathe better, relax more, find more focus, and I take my time. My anxiety is less, my stress level decreases and I smile a lot. All of these things contribute to my overall fantastic health.

My 18 month old daughter also likes to come out here to take care of our houseplants. She helps me deadhead the houseplants and wipes up the water that spills on the floor. Anyone who has met her will tell you that she has to be the happiest, sweetest baby on the planet. She’s also only been sick once. So, for all of those judgers about formula-feeding versus breast-feeding, I raise your breastmilk to my 50+ plants.

And then there is my husband, Christopher. Maybe I should have added houseplants all of those times he asked me to – or maybe he should have taken his ass to Lowe’s and bought some houseplants for himself. Who knows if that would have helped him, but I think it helps him now. When he comes over he is happy and calm, and most importantly, sober. I have given him five houseplants to have in his room at his sober-living house and I think they definitely contribute to his continued happiness and sobriety.

Personality.
Don’t think plants have personality? Yours might not, but mine do. Some of them are fussy and dramatic, like my Fittonia. I love her though, she actually tells me when she needs water by wilting to a near death look. Others of them pray, like my Rattlesnake and Maranta leuconeura – they do this to conserve energy, basically. A couple of them love light, like my Peperomia caperata frost and English Ivy. Others don’t care, like my Heartleaf Philodendron (also that link goes to a really great blog) and all of the Sansevieria plants (these are both great houseplant for beginners, as they are indestructible).

Accomplishment.
Out of my 52 plants, 18 of them are approaching a year old. They are my original babies that I am proud to say I didn’t kill. There were a few fatalities along the way, and I was devastated each time. But, oh my my, when you see babies popping up, or blooms beginning to blossom, it is the best feeling! I am so proud of myself and what I helped that plant create, and I am so proud of the plant for thriving under my care!

Variety.
Y’all, they are just like us. There are bazillions of houseplants. They each require something different to thrive and grow (think: babies & kids). Each one offers a different color and shape from the next (think: the human race). Houseplants will return your love and care by growing to its best ability (think: good humans). They are living, breathing, beautiful pieces of art, just like each one of us.

“Sharing is caring and subscribing is smart, so do those things”

Alyssa Kelley

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Minimalism, My Way.

“…minimalism is used to describe something that is stripped down to its most essential elements or uses only what is needed. Both minimalist and minimalistic can be used to describe things that are simplified and include only the most basic components, without embellishment.”

-a single definition out of many

If you think about “minimalism,” you probably have a different take on it than I do, frankly anyone who thinks about it likely has a different perspective and definition, (God Bless America) from the next. As a general concept it can be overwhelming, but so is all of the stuff that surrounds you. These days where we find ourselves amid a tumultuous election season and dealing with COVID (and all that comes with it), we can all feel a little out of control. Living minimally has helped me fight off anxiety and feel some sense control throughout my life, I’ve been practicing since birth, basically.

I was born Alyssa Claire Eidson. This means nothing to most of you, but it does mean something to all of my Eidson cousins. Our parents were raised to be clean, organized and borderline OCD, so as a result, we were too. It has been in my blood to create order and follow it. The concept of “put that back where you found it,” isn’t just a way to keep things straight, but (aaa-haa) know where your shit is without having to think too much about it. So, put your keys on the key hook, or your glasses on the bathroom sink, or maybe even try putting your clothes away on laundry day.

I have learned how to save time by being organized and live without a whole lot of stuff in my home. But, minimalism doesn’t just relate to my home and how I keep it, minimalism is also my way of being. It is important for me to be genuine and honest with myself and with those who seek my opinion or friendship. I don’t want to spend my energy creating an emotion or reaction when I already have them naturally occurring! For me this is living with intention or without duplicity – either way works. I am me no matter who I am around and I will always live my truth – even the parts that are really ugly.

Basically, here is how I do minimalism…Let go of that which does not serve you. For me, I try to steer away from the news, unrealistic reality tv shows, unnecessary drama and negative people. And, in my home, I let go of things that we don’t use or wear, and things that hold no sentimental.

If you really want to achieve a minimalistic approach to your home and to your life – you absolutely can, don’t be overwhelmed. Just simply ask yourself, “Does this* serve me well?” If you can be honest in your answers you will be on your way to living minimally. If you can’t be honest, call me, I am really honest and I really hate clutter.

Visit my Minimalism Pinterest page to find blogs and books that I have found inspiring, motivating or hilariously unachievable.

love, love.

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You Worry About Yourself.

I am a mom. Which means that my brain, emotions and actions are no longer 95% about me, but 95% about her and everyone else. It also means that I suffer from “mommy guilt,” and thus, I now neglect self care. I feel like this affects most moms and it makes me sad! Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers and this is really just a quick blog about my recent revelation on the subject.

Background Recap

Let me give you a quick background recap into my situation

My husband and I just celebrated six years of marriage and holy shit – there has been a lot of rocky road (not the yummy) kind along the way. We have dealt with so many major issues in our short marriage: baby-mama drama, lost jobs, house floods, loss of a parent and alcohol addiction.

After having our daughter, Moseley Rose, 2 years ago, my husbands addiction to alcohol sent him to several emergency rooms, several jails, several detox centers, several rehabs, and several sober living homes. I legally separated from him when Moseley was only 6 months old and became a single mom.

I am proud to say that Chris will celebrate 16 months of sobriety tomorrow. And, like I said earlier, we just celebrated six years of marriage. He’s been back home since February and we’ve been working on healing all of the broken pieces – kind of.

Mommy Expectations

Have you heard of the term “matrescence?” It is basically the transition into parenthood, for a woman, men do not experience this, but 100% of women do. Here is a great article from TheEveryMom regarding the subject – enjoy.

This is when your brain tells you that you are supposed to do everything and be everything for everyone – including your grown ass husband.

And you know what, we are only human – we make mistakes.

I am not saying that doing everything for your child is wrong, I mean, they are babies at some point and do actually need you to do everything for them. But, if you are lucky enough to be partnered, this isn’t your burden to bear 100% of the time.

What I am saying is that the mommy expectations that I have set for myself were only hurting me and my marriage. And that shit has to stop.

Self Care: His & Hers

Before I had my daughter self care was just my daily life, even after I was married. I had no problem doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I would have a night out with the girls whenever I wanted. I’d head over to TJ Maxx on a whim. And my favorite, I would take a long, hot bath several nights a week. When I look back, I have a fond appreciation for those times, but I wouldn’t trade my daughter for them (matrescence).

Since self care was basically my lifestyle, it is amazing to me that is has completely fled from my nature and has become such a foreign concept. Now my definition of self care is the :45 that I spend at Burn Boot Camp six days a week. To be clear, that is enough self care time for this girl.

Chris has no problem hitting the golf course, or running errands, or seeing friends – he asks me if it’s cool and I say yes. Chris has no problem leaving the room to go do something that he needs to do – like go to the bathroom, or watch something besides Cocomelon. But, when is he going to let me have a break? When is he going to let me leave the room (by myself) for some me time?

Is the answer to these questions obvious to you? It wasn’t to me, until this weekend.

Mom, You Worry About Yourself.

I love that soundbite that comes up on my IG Reels, it is a little girls voice and she says, “You worry about yourself.” I love that little girl – she is a genius.

It is not my husbands job to give me a break, or permission to go do something, it is my job. My husbands job is to be my partner and her other parent. Now that he is sober, he is fully capable of doing all of the things for her that she needs.

This revelation, while it may seem obvious, has changed my perspective on parenting and being a partner in my marriage. It is up to me to own my self care. It is up to me to work with my husband on how to make sure that I am getting what I need.

If you had told me prior to having my daughter that this would be something I would experience, I would straight up laugh in your face. But, this is where I am and this shit has to stop.

Commitment

This is something that I take VERY seriously. It is beyond important to me to stay true and honor my commitments, whatever they may be. So, in order to keep myself on the right track to regaining some semblance of self-care, I am going to make a commitment to myself:

I am going to make myself a priority, I am going to do what I want, when it works for my family. When it is “my time,” I am going to be present and engaged. I will kick my mom guilt to the curb when it is “my time,” and I will enjoy myself.

Feel free to use this commitment for yourself, if you need it. It is my new mantra and it will keep me focused.

In Conclusion

This is part of my story, part of my journey. I share it because this has had such an impact on me and I am excited about how this is going to change my life. Hopefully it has enlightened you, or at least entertained you.

As a general rule, I try to be as open and honest as I can – about everything. I want to share my story with you, so that you feel comfortable sharing your story with me. We all have things in our lives that we are not proud of, things that we struggle with, feelings and emotions that seem wrong. But, you are not alone and you are not the only one who has ill-feelings about watching Cocomelon, again.

You got this momma.


One of “Those Days”

UGH FUCK THIS SHIT!

I am feeling that today. It is one of “those days,” where absolutely nothing is easy, fun, or going the way that I want it. It seems like everything is exponentially more difficult, taking me twice as long as it should and making me want to scream bloody fucking murder.

Ya feel me?

So what am I going to do about it? Cash in the day at noon? Call it quits? Um, no. That’s not the answer – ever. Here are some things that I do to get out of the funk and reset the day, try all, some, or even just one before you drop the mic on the shit day you might be having.

Time Out.

You know when your Apple Watch notifies to “breathe?” And you are like, “Damn it, I AM BREATHING!!!” Well, when you are having a shit day, don’t wait for your watch to tell you to breathe, stop yourself in the middle of your meltdown and put yourself in time out.

I’m not Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lama, but those guys are onto something: meditation and affirmations. For me, meditating is so difficult, affirmations are even more so. But, taking the “time out,” that used to be imposed by your parents during a temper-tantrum does wonders to bring you back to Earth.

I’ve learned that the best thing to do when “meditating,” is not to set expectations for your time out. Maybe you head over to YouTube and find a guided meditation, as per the usual, there are bazillions to choose from. I love Boho Beautiful for my guided time outs, this channel also offers a ton of free yoga. When it is gorgeous outside, get out there, put your face in the sunshine and just breathe at your own pace. If laying in savasana is your thing, get your ass on the floor and chill out.

Affirmations are also on the table for your “time out.” Pinterest is a great place to find all of the affirmations you need; whether you are looking to combat fear, find success, or build your confidence, it is there for you. Here is my Pinterest board “+ words,” for you to peruse during your next time out. My personal positive affirmation goes something like this, “Fuck them, fuck that, fuck this. You are stronger, more capable and been through worse shit. Love you, mean it.”

Phone a Friend.

I mean, who ya gonna call? That’s right, Ghostbusters, aka, your person. There is no one in this world who knows you better or who wants the best for you more than your person. I personally don’t “phone,” anyone very much anymore, but I can promise that if I went as far as “phoning,” my mom or my best friend they would do their damnedest to pick up the phone and make sure all is well.

If I am just in the shittiest of moods and I’m having the shittiest of days, and I need to get it out, telling someone who will be on my side is so important. The last thing I want is to get lectured about why my temper-tantrum is less than ideal for shattering the glass ceiling. Having that someone who will also say, “Yes girl, fuck them, fuck that and fuck this! Now, get over it because you are better than this,” is pretty fantastic. So, figure out who that person is and give them a ring (text, snap or whatever).

Turn It Up.

Music undoubtedly plays a role in your mental status. The study of music on the mood is relatively new, but I don’t think you really need research, just some personal experience will prove this hypothesis. It is like when you are working out, the playlist can totally make or break your work out, so why would it be any different when it comes to your current shit mood?

It can bring you up, down, and spin you around. So, try tuning into your favorite station on your favorite streaming site. There is likely a song that was written about the exact emotion you are feeling right now. Or maybe an artist that just speaks to you and makes it all better. So, tune in.

For me, when I am writing, I love having instrumental music playing or classic piano, I don’t need any additional words floating around in my brain other than my own… But, when I am pissed off or just ready to say “fuck the bullshit,” I start with my favorite rock song and let the streaming service deliver the goodies from there.

Find your Smile.

My husband and I had a conversation yesterday about the energy it takes to be mad, sad, mean, and just generally, a rotten human. We determined that shit is fucking exhausting and a giant waste of time. So, stop wasting your time throwing this temper-tantrum.

If the options above don’t work for you, find something that does! Here is a list of other things that you could do to defunk yourself and restart your situation:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Eat – blood sugar has a major impact on mood.
  3. Drink – preferably water, but maybe wine is just what the doctor ordered
  4. Cuddle with your fur baby
  5. Water your plants
  6. Watch videos of animals
  7. Go through pictures of your baby
  8. Pray
  9. Color
  10. Throw an axe
  11. Punch a bag
  12. Sit in your car and scream really fucking loud
  13. Donate to a charity
  14. Volunteer at a local organization
  15. Do laundry
  16. Clean something
  17. Watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek – here is a link to my favorite episode
  18. Dance
  19. Read a chapter of a book or check in on your favorite blog (subscribe below)
  20. Cook or bake something

Personal Note.

Yall, believe me when I say, I have had some shit days… a couple of shit years, quite frankly. But listen to me when I say that it will be ok. It is 100% possible to overcome the darkest shit. Don’t let the shit take you over, don’t let it be stronger than you.

You have the power to turn a pile of shit into a pile of gold if you want to. Don’t let mean people, bad experiences, and frustrations turn your spirit inside out. Find that fire in your soul and put it out there.

Quick Pep Talk:

Hello, you bad ass bitch. You’re killing it. Keep going. Love ya.

-unnamed.

Closets: Friend or Foe?

Closets are a girls’ best friend, they house our favorite pair of jeans, our coziest sweatshirts, our fancy thingimabobs and thingimajigs (you like that Little Mermaid reference?)! Or wait, is the closet our biggest enemy? Hiding our fat pants, mismatched socks and useless crap we don’t even know we have because it is buried under a mountain of procrastination and resentment.

So, I ask you, is your closet a friend or foe?

If you change your mindset a little bit, a closet can be a great many things. In 2020, I believe the closet became the greatest flex space in the home! Here are a couple of ways you can utilize a closet in a non-traditional and still fabulous way!

Lego’s, Trivial Pursuit & board games – Oh My!

I just wrapped (this is a pun, you’ll get it in a minute) up a client’s flex closet project. She came to me with two closets in her home that needed storage solutions and organization – and neither closet had a stitch of clothing in them.

The first closet we worked on was in the bonus room, which her girls use as their playroom. The room is spacious and the closet was a generously sized walk-in. Like most closets, this one featured the bar for hanging clothes and a top shelf. But since there were no clothes in this particular closet, its contents were piled on the floor here, there and everywhere.

What’s the Fix?

A basic and inexpensive solution to consider is additional shelving. This quick and easy fix is attainable just by going to your local hardware store and purchasing shelves, cutting them to size and installing them with some brackets.

After your new shelves are installed, take inventory of everything that needs to go back in and get it categorized. For this particular closet, we were dealing with mostly games and toys, some for the adults and some for the kiddos. As we all know, Cards Against Humanity is not kid-friendly and as such should go way out of reach, so store those types of things on the top shelf. Also consider games with lots of parts and pieces for the top shelf, along with any game that includes glue or glitter.

Since we want to encourage our kids to learn, grow and function independently of us, start with how you organize. The lower shelves and storage spaces are great for their favorite board games, maybe some dress-up attire and educational games. When items are where they can get to them without your help, they are more likely to play with them and, ideally, more likely to put them back. If putting them back isn’t their strong suit, add a reward board to the door, they can add a sticker every time they put something back where they got it and get a treat when they’ve met whatever goal you have set. Eventually, you won’t need to bribe them, they will just do it naturally, and the phrase, “Mom…where is the blah, blah, blah?” will become a thing of the past.

Wrapping & Gifting Galore.

Same client, next closet.

All attics are not created equal, some are better than others, while some shouldn’t even be considered usable space at all. For this client, her attic had its own entry way, its own foyer, but it looked like most of our attics with stuff just kind of in there haphazardly. Its features were similar to a closet with top shelves and hanging clothes bars. Again, not a stitch of clothing in this closet and only small visible areas of the floor.

The closet was home to the wrapping paper, and storage bins full of mystery – some had gift bags and ribbon, some had craft supplies. Since this closet is behind lock and key, it was also home to the glue, glitter and puff paint that her girls can only play with under supervision. A lovely desk sat in the room acting as placeholder for something greater, a proper solution.

What’s the Fix?

Cabinets and countertops, obviously! It seemed only natural to make these additions, the storage and workspace that would be provided would more than handle what the client needed. In working with her budget, we went with basic, unfinished cabinets from Lowes – Project Source. After taking our measurements, we pieced together the perfect section of cabinets to fit oh so snuggly into the room. To dress it up some, we added fancy pulls from Amazon that didn’t break the bank and used a marble laminate imposter from Lowes.

We used the drawers for ribbons and bows, crafting supplies and additional school supplies (gotta love that End of Summer School Supplies list!). Above the counter we installed tension rods that would make wrapping paper easy to store and use, as well as easy to change out for different seasons or celebrations.

The hanging clothes bar wasn’t necessary to remove and we found great uses for them when it came to gift bags and coloring kits. Binder rings!! This solution is so amazing for gift bag storage – we grouped by celebration and then by size – with the ring it is easy to see what you have and get to it quickly and easily! For the coloring kits, it keeps them upright and visible for the kids to see what they have, but still out of reach!

All-in-all this was a low-cost, high value solution that can be used in a variety of ways as the family’s needs change.

The Cloffice.

I, for one, think that the cloffice is the most ingenious use of a closet and one of my favorite things to come out of the disaster of 2020 (that link will make you laugh). For those of us that found ourselves working from home…from our sofa or from our kitchen table… struggling to find a place that allowed focus and no screaming kids or barking dogs, I share with you the cloffice.

(these images are courtesy of: petitemodernlife.com, thecrazycraftlady.com, Studio McGee & thecofranhome.com)

I have not had the pleasure of converting a closet to an office yet, but oh boy, oh boy when I do!!!! There are so many great things that you can do – adding color, fun wallpaper, great shelving, storage, function – I could go on and on. If you have a closet that you want to convert, check out the links above or just search “closet desk,” in your favorite search engine. And, of course, if you would like my help creating a cloffice, you can find me here.

Closing the Door on Closets

Closets are valuable square footage of your home and can be utilized in so many ways, these are just a few examples to get the creative juices flowing. The closet is your friend. It doesn’t have to be the scary place where the monsters hide from us. If your closet is home to a mess, clean it up, make it useful and beautiful. And, remember, I am here to help if you need it!

“The first step in crafting the life you want is getting rid of everything you don’t!”

Joshua Becker

Moving Day How To’s.

It happens. Life changes and with that, so do addresses. Moving day is inevitable across the timeline of your life. On average, Americans move about 12x in their lifetime (I just turned 40 and I have already moved 8x)! That’s a lot of packing and unpacking, right? For some, that is the worst part of it all, the packing and the unpacking. Moving day itself has its’ own stressors, but the heap of boxes and the things inside – that goes well beyond moving day. I like the process of moving. I see it as an opportunity for improvement, even if the place you are moving to isn’t your dream home, or your ideal zip code, you get a fresh start at making a home. Here are your “Moving Day How To’s.”

Purging before packing.

Yes, this isn’t fun for a lot of you, for a lot of you purging is the worst part. But, why? This is the IDEAL time to go through all of the things and let go of all of the things. It is the best time to find the items that matter and put them to work in your next home. Why are you moving something that does nothing for you, your spouse, your kids, your pet, your home? It is a big ole’ shoulder shrug for this girl.

But, how do you do it? How do you get rid of the things that you have been holding on to? How do you decide what stays and what goes?

Step 1: Ask yourself (&/or your family members) these questions.

  1. Do we use it: daily, weekly, monthly or seasonally? If so, keep it.
  2. Do we like it: a lot, a little, kind of? If you like it a lot, keep it. If you like it a little or kind of, pack it and reconsider it on moving day.
  3. Is it helpful to my/our life? If yes, keep it.
  4. Does it hold valuable or sentimental meaning? If yes, keep it.
  5. Marie Condo it, “Does it bring you joy?” Obviously if it doesn’t, you get rid of it.

Step 1a: Let’s clarify some things…

One thing that I run into at my clients’ homes are excessive kitchen items. Coffee cups, cookie sheets, spatulas, oven mitts, pots and pans… I get it with coffee cups, I am a Rae Dunn, the bigger the better, coffee cup kind of girl, so I sacrifice other things in order to keep those. I can also answer affirmatively to multiple questions above, which means keeping them makes sense, for me. But the oven mitt that is charred and stained beyond recognition, isn’t, even if it was my Dandi’s and he gave it to me because I liked it when I was five. And last time I checked, I can only use two oven mitts at a time, so that’s how many I should have, two, just the two.

Step 1b: Reconsidering…

When I offer the solution of “reconsidering,” items, what I mean to say is, check your emotions at the door. It can be hard to let go of certain things, things that don’t meet any of the above criteria. You are holding on to them for other reasons, emotional reasons all your own. How do you decide if you purge it, pack it and keep it, or trash it on moving day?

If you are moving to a home that has all the space for all the things, you can be generous with yourself and your things. Do you have the space to store it, or display it? Maybe you can prioritize in your new home differently than you did your current or past homes – in this case, it is yours, in this home, during this stay. Enjoy.

Packing the unpurged.

Yah! I am so proud of you, you purged the things!!! That is so great! Now pack what remains. The end!

Just kidding, it definitely isn’t that easy.
So… pay someone to pack you!!!
The end!!!

Just kidding, I think that’s the worst idea ever.
So, priority pack yourself. You can do it, you are an adult!!

Priority packing means that you take inventory and consider these things when putting an item in a box:

  1. What room is it going in at the new house? Label the box.
  2. Is it seasonal? Label the box.
  3. Clothes, pack them seasonally. Label the box.
  4. Kitchen, pack it by cabinet. Label the box.
  5. Is it valuable? Label the box
  6. Is it sentimental? Label the box
  7. Is it going straight to the attic? Label the box
  8. Is it going to the garage? Label the box
  9. Are we reconsidering it? Label the box

..sensing a trend? Labeling is important. For seasonal items, you will clearly know what items you need immediately and what items can be stored – I recommend packing the items you will store, as you would like them stored. Just because you are packing does not mean that you have to put everything in a cardboard box.

Unpacking, quickly and efficiently.

Quickly and efficiently, I say? Well, yes. If you have properly purged and priority packed, then unpacking should be quick, efficient and over before you know it! Your boxes should be out of your house lickity-split.

If this is overwhelming for you, you may suffer from “where do i start,” syndrome. It afflicts the best of us. But, the secret is simple, you just start. Pick a box, any box, open it and start. If you are looking around your new house and you don’t know where it goes yet, don’t let that stop you from getting it out of the box and put away. It may take you and your family some time to learn how you move around your new house. And the good news is that none of your stuff is glued down, that’s right… IT MOVES!.

There is another option though, one that I am quite fond of… hire a professional organizer (like me). This is the ideal time to get the help you need in setting up your house right from the start. This is the time to get it done and have confidence that your house is going to feel like home, sooner rather than later.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, knowing what they are and surrounding yourself with people who have your weakness as a strength is a skill. If you are a procrastinator, or a “where do I start,” person, or maybe you are the half of a couple that doesn’t seem to mind the chaos, but the other half does… these are the types of people that could benefit from hiring someone like me.

Someone like me, or me.

Organizing comes naturally to someone like me, or me. I am a Type A control freak with borderline OCD tendencies, I have strong opinions, I’m relatively detached and mostly impartial. But, mostly, I have a deep-seeded need to fix. Character flaw? Maybe. Certainly in some instances.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again. This isn’t a job plucked from thin air, it is a passion that I have for the place we call “home.” If we have learned nothing over the last year, I hope that one thing we did learn is that home really is where the heart is, home really is our safe haven. I had a client who told me, “This house is my safe haven, but it is also my jail.” I hated that for her. It shouldn’t be that way, for anyone. And I want to help.

Hiring someone like me, or me, to help you on moving day may be a luxury, but it might also be the best decision you make in the process of buying, selling and moving. As a professional organizer I can work with you during each step of the process. We can pack according to your future space, we can plan where items will go and consider the space we have at our new address. This way you aren’t paying to move things that you have no intention of keeping, using, or needing. That’s a huge cost savings right there, trust. I can work with your moving company on how to pack items and where to place items in the new home. And, of course, the unpacking and setting up of your new home, which we have discussed at nauseum.

Welcome home.

Who says, “welcome house?” No one, because it is meant to feel like home, not like a house. “Home,” is a feeling that you have about your house when you look around and you see the people (first), the pets (second), and the things (last) that bring you happiness, that make you feel the warm, fuzzy feelings. It is drinking your cup of coffee in the morning while you enjoy the new view from your front porch. Home is not cardboard moving boxes of the things, chaos on the counters, clothes you don’t wear piled here, there and everywhere.

The priority on moving day is making your house a home. You might need help doing that, that is ok. We all need a little help sometimes, don’t we? I am here to help. I want to get you cozy on the couch in a living room free of clutter! It is possible!

No one ever said, “I regret organizing my house.”

Alejandra

Three Easy Steps to Make Your Kitchen Function

If you want to read this blog for great tips and tricks for baking or cooking, you’ve come to the wrong blog, I’m not your girl. However, if you are here for a “how to” on creating a functional kitchen, you are in the right place!

A Working Home has recently completed several kitchen projects and I wanted to share some insights from both. So, read on and maybe you will find something that is applicable to your kitchen… if not, I hope to razzle dazzle you with my witty banter.

Step One: What am I Doing in Here?

Let’s answer the question, “What am I doing in here?” How do you do that? First and foremost, think about how you use your kitchen; are you a “Carrie,” and you use your oven for storage, or are you a “Joanna,” and you have $60k oven? Are you a “Duff,” and love to bake? Maybe you want to “Beat Bobby Flay,” and you concentrate on making meals…

If you are me, you like to sit in the kitchen and watch someone else make the food, sweet or savory. I need to know where only a few things are in my kitchen: the wine glasses, the coffee mugs and the fluid that goes in each.

Step Two: Do Whatever it is, Efficiently.

Ok, now that you know what you are using your kitchen for, take everything out of your cabinets and put everything back in the right spot. What’s the right spot?

For me, I have a coffee station, pictured above, everything I need is right there. But, let’s say that your coffee pot is on your kitchen counter. In order to make life easier on you, especially in the wee hours of the morning, use the cabinet above your coffee pot for your essentials: filters (if you use them), coffee and mugs. No sense in running from one side of the kitchen to the other for a silly cup of coffee.

For others, it is more serious in the kitchen. Consider your pots and pans in relation to the stove, you want them nearby, they are big and cumbersome, so moving them across the kitchen doesn’t make sense. Cutting boards, we like to have ours near the sink, so we can wash whatever we are about to cut and go seamlessly from one action to the next. We also keep our spices in the same cabinet for quick seasoning.

Are you into making that dough? You can use one of your upper cabinets for the goodies needed to whip up a yummy batter! For my client, we used items from Amazon for this and that and the other thing. With your mixing bowls and cookie sheets, choose a base cabinet directly below. In an effort to save space and increase functionality, I like these mixing bowls, they stack well and the lids are easy to store with your cookie sheets… especially if you use this to store your cookie sheets.

Step Three: For Heaven’s Sake, clean up.

Want to know my best kept secret when it comes to being in the kitchen? Cleaning as I go. On the rare occasion that I am the chef behind the stove, the last thing that I want is to clean on a full belly. I don’t think I need to go into the step-by-step process of what cleaning entails, but for clarity, I’ll enlighten you.

There is a recipe when cooking, typically it entails cutting and chopping, then combining, then cooking. So, when you are done cutting and chopping, clean the cutting boards and knives – loading the dishwasher counts. After you are done mixing, assuming you are using a mixing bowl, wash or load the bowl. Or if you are transferring from a pan to a pot, clean the pan (after it cools a bit, of course). Wipe down your surfaces while the juices of your meal are coming together in that perfectly delicious way. Pour yourself your beverage of choice and wait for your efforts to become food in your belly.

Of course, my husbands method is to make the biggest mess possible and then peace out of the kitchen after meal time…. because if you cook, you don’t clean….

“Books [blogs] train your imaginations to think BIG,”

Taylor Swift

The Piper Project

Let’s get it out of the way that “Piper,” is the last name of my best friend. To protect her privacy, I’ll say her first name rhymes with “America.” I was lucky enough to have her as my first client and without a doubt, lucky to call her by bestie. She is in the Top 3 of the smartest people that I know, as well as being beautiful, fashionable, and I can’t fail to mention, she already has a killer décor style all her own. I wasn’t sure why she wanted or needed my help – but a friend in need…

The Before

So, Mrs Piper has a super important job, hiring super important people at a super important company. She spends countless hours in her office, behind her desk, and on the phone. Of course, like most everyone else, her home office was just somewhere she worked when she wasn’t required to be in the office. And, like most everyone else, that changed with COVID.

After a few months of working in this not so inviting, not so motivating space Mrs Piper decided it was time for a change. This was only solidified when her super important company told her that she wouldn’t be back in the office until 2022.

As I said before, she has a home with style that could be published in a magazine! Why is she calling me? I still don’t know, but I also don’t care – she called. When I first saw her office I was shocked, it was like the afterthought in the rest of the 3000 square feet that she calls home. Definitely drab, definitely lacking in character.

The Challenges

Through conversation and brainstorming we identified the biggest challenges that faced us in the remodel, aside from the lack of character:

Problem #1: Dog crates. I really shouldn’t have to elaborate any farther – dog crates suck, they are eye sores and at this size, they take up ungodly amounts of space. But, the challenge itself was more about the dogs – they needed to stay next to each other, they had to stay in separate crates and they had to stay on that side of the room.

Problem #2: Work space & Storage. Mrs Piper’s desk didn’t accommodate everything that she needed it to – her monitors were awkwardly placed and her printer was on a table made for a bedside.

Problem #3: Power & HVAC. There weren’t many options for power and only two air vents, located in the floor.

The Solutions

I designed a huge custom desk with a waterfall edge. The single solution to all of the problems. Thank you, Lumber Liquidators for providing the butcher block and thanks to the handiwork of my husband and FIL for making a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Problem #1: Dog crates. What dog crates? It certainly isn’t what I see when I walk into the room. The dogs are still side-by-side, in separate crates on that side of the room. The unattractive nature of them is disguised by gorgeous wood, stained in Minwax’s Provincial wood stain. I also worked with TheDoormatory on the custom doormats and love the layered look with the washable base rug, found on Amazon. Problem solved.

Problem #2: Work space. This desk measures 11′ L on the front and 6’4″ on the extension. It is not lacking in space. Also, with the desk going from wall-to-wall, it helps make the room feel wider than it really is.

Our printer on the bedside table was moved to its’ new home on the desk. Power dropped perfectly behind the dog crates and the bedside table moved, back to the bedside.

Since Mrs Piper uses her laptop monitor as well as an additional monitor, we opted to mount it on the wall, freeing up desk space. The monitor is also located close to the outlet on the exterior wall, so cords trailing the border of the room are no more. Lovely.

She needed drawers and stuff. Everybody does. The beauty of the piece from Wayfair is the size and mobility. There are plenty of drawers for the things and a cabinet for the other things. Mrs Piper is able to roll it out of her way without being concerned about it covering up a floor vent or blocking power!

The Character

As I mentioned before, Mrs Piper’s house legit could be in a magazine, or at least featured on ApartmentTherapy. There are unique pieces of furniture and art. There are plants galore (I taught her that). And lots of books, pictures and meaningful trinkets. It was now my job to bring that vibe into her office…

If you have been thinking about using removeable wallpaper, think no more. It is great. Here we used Spoonflower’s Boho Tribal Wallpaper on the focal wall – aside from the delay in getting the order in, I was thrilled with the product. The calming blue color on the paper helps set the tone for less stress during the work day.

I’m still obsessing over the Boerpine Oriental Blue & Pink Indoor/Outdoor Rug that we purchased from Wayfair. Bonus that it is indoor/outdoor, so cleaning is much easier. But the colors, y’all, the colors are perfect. And it picks up on that boho vibe, in a subtle, charming way.

The shelves on the wall are scraps of butcher block from the desk. Genius. And the wall brackets are from Csonka’s Custom Rustics. The shelves hold memories and touches of Mrs Piper’s spirit animal, the cardinal.

The art that I curated, either from other rooms of her house, or the stack she had in waiting, fit perfectly. There is an ode to her alma mater, Roanoke College. Her family is ever present in photos around the room. And “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz is a focal point for Mrs Piper to reference throughout the day.

The End of One, Beginning of Another

I watch a lot of HGTV, and I always laughed when the designers would say to the homeowner, “It was an honor and a privilege to work on your home.” And I think in their case, it is a little silly, but in my case, it really was those things and more.

Starting this business was scary, still is, not gonna lie. Spending someone else’s money, super scary. But when you have the opportunity to start with friends, best friends, it makes a world of difference. And I really am so thankful and honored.

We are starting our next Piper Project in the coming days. A Zen Shed perfect for a super important person, who does super important things and needs a break from all of the importance.

What She Said

So grateful to Alyssa and A Working Home for reimagining my home office, where I spend a majority of my days at the moment!  I needed a space that felt comfortable and inviting, as my days are quite frenetic and ever-changing, and the prior set-up felt cramped, dingy and quite boring.  In addition, my loyal fur babies spend most of their day in the office with me, so I wanted a place where they would be comfortable, but also “out of the way” since I spend quite a bit of time on video calls.  I was beyond thrilled with the beautiful final reveal of my new office space – the custom built-ins, personal touches and what feels like an increase in space are all just incredible!  Not only do I need to work here, I WANT to work here – it’s much more warm, inspiring and comfortable. 

Alyssa was terrific to work with from Step 1 to the final reveal – clear, honest and regular communication, fair pricing and correct time estimates.  I would highly recommend – so much so, I plan to hire A Working Home for additional projects in our home!

Mrs. “Rhymes with America” Piper

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