Thursday, February 21, 2008

"School Stuff"

I hear this phrase over and over when I ask clients what problems they are having with paperwork and things they need a solution for. I have some pretty strong opinions about what to do with that A+ reading comprehension test or 1st hand print or creative drawing or funny story or ladybug mobile or or or or, should I go on? I cherish and love all the things my kids make at school. But I cherish a fresh, clean space just as much! Here are the steps I recommend as things come in the door. Before you can follow these steps, you need 2 things--a display center and a school in box.
1. Sort. Work that you LOVE, display it. What is worthy of keeping (really neat writing on a test you are proud of, interesting grade you want to hold onto, hard math homework that they did well, etc), put it in the school in box.
2. The rest (same old math sheet that's been graded, indifferent art work, repetitive spelling tests, etc.) TOSS! Yes, TOSS. You do not need it. If you have a child with learning issues and do need to hold onto everything for reference, I will address this in a future post--please look for that as I have my own child like this too!
3. Important, if you have more than one child, especially young children, make sure their name is on it and perhaps put a date on it if it is a 'first' or a writing assignment at the start of 1st grade for instance to compare to at the end.
4. As you display, let your child decide what should come down as you put up something new. They must learn limits when it comes to spending or eating or getting enough sleep and they must also learn limits when it comes to 'stuff'. If the wall is full, we can't make the wall bigger, we must make choices!
5. If something needs to come off the display, either toss it or put it in the school in box.
6. Summer requirement--at the end of the year, sort each child's work into their own stacks. Then sort each stack into categories that are important to you or your child--art, tests where you want to acknowledge grades, writing if you are documenting their progress, etc. Now, get out your scanner or head to kinkos where you can use a color copier. Scanning--print them 4x6 or upload them to a site like and order prints. Copying--copy them smaller so they end up the size of a photo--4x6 or 5x7. Now toss that important work. The paper, pen ink, pencil marks, cheap glue and even cheaper paint are NOT archival so if you feel you are doing the most loving thing by holding onto the originals, realize that what you have in 20 years will be a mess (paper will yellow, paints will chip off, pencil marks will smear, etc.) and those photo prints will still look fresh and clean and perfectly capture the real work they created.
7. Scrapbook or archive. I have one album for each child that is just for school. Each year gets around 10 pages and is done in the summer. I have an order to how I set up each year and the last 4 pages have the art work with a pocket page on the last page for extra work I couldn't fit in.
Rules--never let a year overlap with the other. Summer's requirement is essential to make this work.

Okay, this was a long post and a LOT to do but once you get it sorted and set up, I promise it is an easy system!!!!

Pretty Neat Tools

Has "well I wanted to put pictures there but my husband hasn't done it" ever been spoken by you? If so, this post is for you! First, you need your own tools. If your garage is a mess or your husband 'loses' tools or they are so dirty you don't want to deal with it, get your own! You can buy a small tool box or just a few basics. You will feel WONDERFUL when you do it yourself! Ask for help if you want it but if he doesn't help, then DO IT! He will be a bit stunned and perhaps annoyed that you didn't need him or let him make the decisions necessary to complete the project. He will certainly ask you if you used an anchor as men are obsessed with anchors. Frankly, if it weights 1/2 lb and I don't intend to touch it again, I don't use them. If it's supporting anything or is heavy, I do use them. Don't get confused by trying to match screws with anchors--just go buy the box where they come together.

One 'husband issue' is that they take the tools and you can't find them. SO, here is my hammer--all the little things above it are the tiny screwdrivers that hook together in the handle!! He hasn't stolen this and I don't expect he ever will. I also buy 'girly' versions of his tools like a small level and a Coach tape measure and even a leopard print broom that I'm sure he won't take out to the pool deck and leave outside ever.

Take ownership of your projects and if he is type A and wants to be in control, he will JUMP off the coach once he hears you with your pink hammer! If he doesn't, then you really don't need his help. If you don't know how to do something, it is ALL online--there are no excuses!

If you need some help hanging pictures, the number one rule is to hang them at eye level. Grouping pictures together makes a large statement on a wall and seeing one or two puny frames on a large wall is a huge design mistake. If you don't want to get into centering and leveling lines, get a few picture ledges, make sure you leave enough space in between them for pictures and hang them. if it's too hard to line them up perfectly (again, a level!) then set one to the far left of the wall area and the other to the right. About 2/3 of the shelves should be on top of the other with 1/3 of each shelf sticking out on the sides. Make sure there is enough room in between them for the frames you have.

Ultimate Girl Trick. Okay, I feel badly suggesting such an unprofessional solution to my readers. I mean you are here because I know what I'm doing after all! BUT, if you want to make a collage on a wall and don't want to deal with measuring or leveling, I would like to provide you with what I will call "Kim's Wall Kiss". My sister has many beautiful collages. In order to get them spaces correctly, you should be measuring and leveling and marking each picture. Some people will tell you to template the frames and tape them up, measuring everything and marking all nail holes. Some tell you to lay it out on the floor and template it on graph paper and draw it on that way. I recently learned her secret to her beautiful collages. She hangs the first picture where she wants it. Then she visually decides where she wants the next picture. She makes sure it's spaced right and then she takes a tube of lipstick and puts it on the back of the frame where the nail will go, then she holds it back up to the wall where she wants it and pushes a bit. The lipstick is now on the wall, she hammers in a nail at that spot and voila, she's done. Kim's Wall Kiss--it works! :)

Magazines and a "To Read" bin

These are often an issue in homes where they collect on counters or side tables or even stack on the edge of couches. Just like everyone needs a 'to do' bin, everyone needs a 'to read' bin. But remember, they should be pretty! Here is the one on my coffee table. Not only do I put magazines and catalogs in it, but also the school newsletter, a flyer that came in the mail that I want to check out or a manual for an item that I just bought but haven't gone through yet. It all goes there but there are 2 rules to this system:

1. If the stack starts to fall over, it's time to sit and read! Pour a glass of wine, send the kids to play in another room and read, read, read! My extended family members can tell how busy I am by how tall my stack is. Sometimes you just have to make yourself sit for a while!
2. Toss it or file it. Do not read it and put it back in the stack. If you don't need it, toss or recycle it. If the item or article is a resource that you need, file it. Most likely, these items should be going into a magazine bin or into your Family Resource Binder. If you are saving it, think about why you are saving it. Just make sure there is a future use for it and that you aren't collecting catalogs. Remember, almost all of it is online anyway! FYI, most often I need to have my calendar nearby during my reading time too. School newsletters for instance have dates I need to add to my calendar. I don't recommend just moving it from reading to a new stack of 'to do'--just have your calendar handy and do it at the same time!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I love a good catalog!

I do, catalogs are wonderful! What are my favorites? Anything scrapbooking, Ballard Design, Oreintal Trading (but only if I have a party coming up soon!), Frontgate, Company Kids and J. Jill. But I don't want to see them cluttering my home! We all get the same Pottery Barn and Oriental Trading catalog that is easy to throw away but what about the ones that you don't receive all the time? The collection that you love and you found a complete catalog in a boutique, Tastefully Simple or Southern Living at Home that you received at a recent party, or the scrapbooking catalog that you probably won't order out of but it is great inspiration so you don't want to toss it! They need a home! They could be in a specific drawer or in a labeled magazine bin. In my home, they are in a magazine bin by my back door. The hook holds our random keys that don't need to be on my daily key ring, the left clip gets used for things like bank deposits, mail to put in the box or things I need to put in my wallet and the right clip gets gift certificates that I need to use! If they are lost in a drawer, I will never use them!

I also have a magazine bin section for many other books/catalogs I want to hold onto. Kids yearbooks, old scrapbooking magazines I want for inspiration, old school pictures and other resources that I need access to but don't want in my way. You can buy expensive magazine bins but I prefer to get the ones that are sold for just a few dollars for a set and are literally cardboard that you put together and then decorate away!!! Here is a picture of mine. I bought these at Ikea and they were quite affordable! I love the finger hole because they are high up on a shelf but I can still easily grab one when I need something. These bins should be used when you are sorting your mail. For example, you receive a great scrapbook catalog that you want to hold onto for future reference, don't set it on the counter, put it in its bin!

Calendars, post its and pens!

Are you always looking for these things? How many times have you said 'just a second, let me find a pen' or 'let me get a piece of paper . . . '? And what about that calendar? I'll admit, I had my years when my husband was able to say, I didn't see that on the calendar! Well, now he can't! I love scrapbooking and whenever I can find a way to make something that helps me stay organized, I go for it! My board is right at our side entrance where we can't miss it! The events pocket is where I slip a child's bday invitation or concert tickets or a printout receipt for an upcoming convention I have registered for--anything that is on that calendar that I will need for an event! The emergency contact tag is quite simple--numbers a babysitter would need most likely but poison control is there too and I may need that someday. The post it notes are obvious but where are the pens? The flowers! My now 9 year old helped me make those when he was 4 and I love to be reminded of that sweet day. My husband and children would never walk off with these so I always have pens just for me! Of course, I bought my favorite pens because this is all about making something work for the person using the space! If you aren't into flowers or even the scrapbook look, this can be done with a memo board and very classic labels and the post its and pens could be in a stainless steel hanging system or drawer built into a cork board.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kids School Work

How many of you are SO proud of the hand print flower or first short story that your child brought home but don't want to put it on your fridge? This is a universal Mommy Issue! There are many solutions, depending on the space and layout in your home that will allow you to clean up the clutter on your fridge while letting your child display their work that you are so very proud of!

Here is a picture of what I have done in my own home. I really wanted to take it all down and 'clean it up' before I took a picture. But really, the beauty of it is that the kids put up whatever they want, it looks a bit messy but it is all in one place, they are proud, it's not in boxes or on a counter and it is in a part of my home that you don't see unless I have truly invited you in. Win/Win! At the end of the school year, I will take it down to preserve what I would like in their school albums.

During a consultation, I can help you determine the best place and items needed for you to create this yourself or I can provide all the items and install one for you if you like the way this looks! My kids love to switch out their work and this is a GREAT place to post all things school related. Where do you put the lists of things you need to send in for a party in two weeks or the list that comes home in the spring with back to school info? Or the monthly kids lunch menu if they must check to make sure that it's not refried beans day! These things will never get lost in a 'to do' bin again! There are many options that will work in your home to pull all your family's school stuff together!


I believe kitchens can be functional and that things can be in easy reach without being cluttered. As a kitchen designer as well as Mom to two boys, I strongly encourage appliance garages. This kitchen, which I designed for my own home, has two. The one in the corner has a plug in it and the toaster is always plugged in. The one on the right hold those 'all the time' things like bread and salt and pepper and the butter dish. The paper towels are even on the counter but you can't tell because it is behind the hand towels on a beautiful rack I found at I have many ideas when it comes to where things should be placed and how food should be organized and would love to help you reorganize your kitchen so it functions better for you. If you are building in the future, I can assist you in two ways. #1--I can work with you through out the entire design process. I am the designer for our family owned cabinet company, Interior Cabinet Design and we sell 4 brands that can cover any design element you require from the very high end where the options are limitless to our lower price point that provides gorgeous, high quality cabinets with flexible yet affordable design features or #2-- if you have a cabinet company in place but want to ensure you are maximizing your new spaces for the way your family will live, I can provide a design consultation to ensure you are maximizing your storage, space and functionality. Everything CAN be in your reach without it being seen!

A bit about The Pretty Neat Company

Welcome to The Pretty Neat Company's first post! I am Kiersten and I LOVE to organize and decorate. I am obsessed with finding ways to make life easier when it comes to running your household. I feel that every aspect of your life can function easily if the correct system is in place. I have been a kitchen designer for several years for our family owned cabinet company and am married to a residential builder who owns his own construction business. I have been organizing and decorating people's homes for years and have been told more times than I can count that this is what I should do, "officially". There are many amazing designers and many creative organizers in their fields and what has always been missing, in my opinion, is merging those two aspects to make a space not only gorgeous but also function for you. I call it "Decorating for the way you live". I can not decorate without organizing and vice versa and have decided to offer my unique approach to Design and Organization through The Pretty Neat Company.

I am the mother of two amazing boys and will understand all your kiddy issues. Your problems with craft supplies, homework and artwork piling up, pictures that you really want to scrapbook someday, messes in closets, dirty socks by the back door, wii remotes on the floor--none of it will scare me!

I also have experienced the challenges that come to your home when you are self employed or run any aspect of your business from your home. That personal experience helps me tackle any business, whether it's in your home or in a large office. My experience is broad, from organizing mortgage companies with their massive amounts of paper and systems that are legally mandated to a computer consultant's home office where he was buried in cords and needed simple sorting solutions to find the largest harddrive or the smallest USB plug.

I hope you enjoy my blog! I have created it for inspiration, information and a visual resource of my work! Whether you are in the NorthWest and are checking me out or in the Greater Orlando area and are considering hiring The Pretty Neat Company to help you create better spaces in your home, I hope you enjoy what I have shared on my blog and would love to hear from you!