The best things aren’t things

As I sat down at my computer yesterday to write, I had a note from the week before with a current list of projects we have going on at our house that I wanted to share. But this week, it just doesn’t seem to be significant at all in wake of the Oklahoma tragedy.

I love to decorate and remodel, it’s a serious passion of mine, and so is helping other people make their homes more of an enjoyable, simple haven. I try not to put too much emphasis on things, and I don’t hang on to clutter, but just like the next person, I do get attached to my stuff. The total devastation and the leveled homes on the news illustrate how quickly all of the “things” we work for can be gone…and we all know that the best things in life aren’t really things.

From donating blood to air miles to money, here’s a great article with many options on how to help the victims of the tornado. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/20/18381508-how-to-help-oklahoma-tornado-victims?lite

A verse that has been coming to mind this week and serves as a great reminder for me is from Matthew 6: 19-21.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them & rust destroys them, & where thieves break in & steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths & rust cannot destroy, & thieves do not break in & steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Got junk? What to do with your old stuff

We are now in the midst of spring cleaning season! It’s a great time to dedicate a weekend to clearing out rooms in your home and finding items that you no longer need or want. We help a lot of people get organized and purging is a huge part of that process. It can be a tedious undertaking, but one with great rewards!

So, once you figure out what can go, what should you do with all of that excess stuff? Many people ask us what we think they should do, and the short answer is that is depends on a lot of factors. You definitely have options, but what are your goals? Are you hoping to make as much money as possible? Do you just want to be done with it? How much time do you have to spend?

Here are some of your options:

1. Garage or Estate Sale – Many people have a lot of success with garage sales, others not so much. First of all, do you have the extra time? Setting up a garage sale, advertising for it, and pricing all your items can be very time consuming…not to mention the sale itself which is likely to take up most of an entire day. Next, do you live in a feasible place? If you live in a rural area or an apartment complex this is probably not the best option. It’s wise to make sure your neighborhood is even accessible. Thirdly, do you have the space? Can you store the stuff you’re going to sell until that day? If you have a lot of space and can store the things you are ready to part with throughout the year, then I say go for it. Personally, when I’m ready to get rid of something, I want it gone…especially if my reluctant husband has finally agreed to let something go. It needs to go before he changes his mind, out of sight out of mind. You don’t want your family shopping at your own garage sale before it even takes place!
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2. Craigslist – I love craigslist and I’ve had a lot of success with it. I have bought and sold many pieces of furniture, electronics, yard equipment etc.. It’s a great way to get rid of some of your bigger items and make a little money. I have also used Craigslist to get rid of construction materials and things we have needed to discard. There is a free section where I have posted anything from old ceiling fans, to bathtubs, to bricks. The stuff doesn’t end up in the landfill and someone conveniently picked them up right from our driveway without us having to haul it off. You would be surprised at what people are willing to try and repurpose! Freecyle.org is another similar site. However, if you don’t want people coming to your home, Craigslist may not be the best choice, and I always make sure my husband is home. However, if the item is not too big, you can always meet the buyer at a public parking lot.
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3. Ebay & other online sites – If you have collectible type items that are easy to ship, Ebay is a great resource to find a national, and even an international audience. While Craigslist is relatively easy to use, Ebay does require some research and knowledge to navigate. I recommend asking a friend or family member who has experience with it to assist you if it’s your first time. There are also now endless places to sell your items online. Some of the most popular include Etsy.com for handmade items, Poshmark.com for clothing and accessories, nextworth.com for electronics, and thredup.com for girls, boys, and women’s clothing. I have even recently discovered a local facebook page, “Yard Sale Queens of NW Arkansas”, another local, online resource for turning your clutter into cash!
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4. Consignment Stores – A few months ago we worked with a client who had recently moved from abroad and had two households worth of items in her new home. She had no idea what to do with all of the extra appliances, dishes, and household goods and did not have enough realistic space or need to store all of them. There are many great consignment stores that accept clothing, household goods, home décor, etc. and we found one in particular that accepted all categories. It is an ongoing process for her, but one that is worthwhile because she is recuperating a good portion of the money she had spent without actually having to sell the items herself.
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5. Donation Centers – This is probably our favorite choice! We love matching client donations with particular and specific needs in our community. Also, by the time most of our clients have called us, they’re ready to see an immediate change and this is definitely the quickest solution to clearing the clutter! It’s as simple as calling a donation center to send a truck or loading up your car and driving to the organization closest to your home. There are so many good local options for donating your stuff. If you live in NWA and are needing recommendations, please feel free to email us at info@simplespaces.us.
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Happy Spring Cleaning! And remember…

“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” – Mother Teresa

Living and living well

One of my favorite songs ever is by George Strait – Living and living well. The song is really about how you can have it all but none of it matters if you’re all by yourself and don’t have anyone to share it with. There’s definitely a lot of truth in that, but I’ve always thought that phrase to mean even more than George intended.

I think there really is a big difference in living and living well. Which one are you doing? I feel like a lot of people are just doing what they can to get through each day. Why are so many days filled with dreaded responsibilities and wished away weekdays?

In my 28 years, I’ve come to think there are two primary differences between living and living well…balance and gratitude.

It can be hard but we all have to keep a good balance between work, our commitments, and everything else in our life.  Any area of our life can get unbalanced, and when one thing takes an overwhelming priority, other areas in our life suffer; maybe even our health or our relationships. One of my favorite things my husband has taught me is that sometimes it’s ok to just do nothing…absolutely nothing.

The other living well lesson, I owe my parents for – gratitude. I think when we’re doing it right, we see and appreciate the value of the people and the things in our lives…everyday. Nothing is ever perfect, but there is always something to be grateful for.

If you can, think about what it would take for you to find balance and gratitude and let that be your difference in living and living well. Thanks for the wisdom George.

Mom & Dad remodel, restore, and go green

About a year ago my parents decided to buy and remodel an older East Fayetteville home. It’s just a few blocks away from where my mom grew up with her seven siblings in the historic Mt. Sequoyah district and was in need of some serious TLC. From concrete and studs, it has come a long way. It’s still not finished, mostly because of their work schedules, but it shouldn’t be long before the finishing touches are placed.

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Gutting and remodeling an entire home is definitely not for everyone. But, even small remodeling projects can make a huge difference in your lifestyle and even your utility bills. Northwest Arkansas is a relatively earth-friendly part of the country and we have access to lots of materials and resources for going green. Here are some ways they chose to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

When they first got the house, the previous owner had left a garage full of old electronic equipment, tools, and furniture. All of it was either donated or recycled and I even transformed this piece from the garage into a new tv console for them.

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Rather than adding to the landfill with the gutted materials, Habitat for Humanity received all of the doors, windows, light fixtures, and extra wood.

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USA Metal Recycling purchased the copper from old wiring, plumbing parts and the aluminum from the windows.

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They installed all energy efficient appliances as well as Kohler water-conserving toilets and faucets.

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The new windows and slider door are Andersen 100 series with low-E and are also very energy efficient.

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The new insulation is made from cellulose which is a plant fiber with low-thermal conductivity.

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The old brush and landscaping was picked up and delivered to the city compost facility and several trees became firewood for three different households.

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From start to finish, my parents have tried their best to make the most of the old and new materials for this remodel. I can’t wait to share pictures of the finished project!

Time for a change! What’s your design style?

In referring to my mom, my sister and I, my dad always says “you women, you’re always spending so much time getting your house just right, and when you do, it’s time to change it again.” It may be true, but I think, very justifiable. How much time do you spend at home? Shouldn’t you love how it looks?! For me, it’s a hobby…just like how my husband likes to play hockey or shoot guns or go to the golf course. And, it’s a hobby with something to show for it afterwards!

My parents are remodeling an older Fayetteville home and its modern finishes have really inspired me. I love the simplicity and the clean lines; I definitely want to emulate certain parts in my own home. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about or known what my particular “design style” actually is. This year, I want to do that. We always quote William Morris in our presentations – “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” It’s such a great rule to live by….what else do you really need anyway?

I took a few design quizzes online and discovered that my style is contemporary. I like the “less is more” theme but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean stark and cold, my husband and I are practical and definitely make comfort a priority. It also means that I like to keep the walls neutral and add color with bright accents. Also, I don’t want to over-decorate, but instead I need to take advantage of the architectural accents in my home and let them make the statement.

For me, going more contemporary will be a step by step process and will depend a lot on when my husband feels like tackling different painting projects. Greys and whites are much more contemporary than the beiges that can be seen throughout our home. He has already painted two bathrooms and our master bedroom and I love the impact it made! We chose Porpoise (dark grey) for the hall bath, Alabaster (white) for our master bath, and Dovetail (grey) for our bedroom…all Sherwin Williams colors. I love how paint is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to dramatically update a space.

Our bedroom before and after

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Shabby Chic Coffee table (Before)

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New Contemporary coffee table (thrift store find!)

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Are you curious about your own design style? Maybe you even fit into more than one category. Take a look at the styles outlined here! http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/design-styles-defined/pictures/index.html

How to overcome the top 5 excuses for clutter

I think we’ve heard every excuse there could possibly be for the excess clutter that people have in their homes. From day 1, my mom has called our business a “tough love business”. We’re not there to pass judgment, we’re there to encourage and to help our clients overcome the challenges that come with excess clutter; to help people turn over a new leaf and live a more balanced, effective, enjoyable life.

Barbara Hemphill says that clutter is “postponed decisions”. We love how simple yet profound that is! In order to help people conquer the clutter, we have to recognize the specific challenges and excuses that they have for their clutter. What’s keeping them from letting go? Here are the top 5 excuses for clutter that we hear and how to overcome them.

1. I might need it one day
Maybe you will! But, it’s very likely that you won’t…especially if you haven’t used it in the past year…or sometimes in the past several years. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if you did let it go? You have to weigh the cost of the prime real estate that that bread maker, or deep fryer, or crafting gadget is taking up and make a decision. Something that we do in our family is borrow those things that are rarely used. We don’t all have to own everything – things like camping gear, party items, tools, can be shared and borrowed.

2. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or seem ungrateful
This is a tough one. We have many many clients whose homes are overflowing, simply because they’ve kept everything that was ever given to them or passed down to them. A lot of times they just need someone to tell them, it’s ok to let it go. Ask yourself if you love it, if you need it, if you use it. If not, it’s ok to make a decision, do what’s right for you, and free up some valuable living space in your home.

3. It was free!
Or was it? Is your cabinet now overflowing with free coffee mugs and you can’t find the one you really like to use? Do you get frustrated in the morning looking for your cosmetics because the drawer is loaded with free sample products? Is your child in sensory overload because of the ridiculous amount of toys that were passed down to them? Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to take it. Or, take it and consider donating it to someone who could actually use it. If it’s causing stress and taking up valuable space, it wasn’t free.

4. It was expensive or might be worth something
We often work with people who have called us out of sheer necessity. They have to be out of their home in two weeks, their spouse is fed up, or their world is spinning out of control. In most of these circumstances, there is no time for a garage sale, or to post the items on Craigslist or Ebay. Most likely, you will never get back what you paid for something and this can be hard to swallow. However, if you have the time and the resources, we absolutely recommend consignment stores, garage sales, and selling your items on Craigslist…you just have be realistic about how much you can get. If that’s overwhelming and too much, bless a local thrift store with your donations and get a nice tax receipt.

5. It has too many memories
Kids artwork, travel memorabilia, trophies…all of these things take up lots of space! We recommend taking digital pictures of as many of these things as possible. You can still have a photo of the item for reference or reminiscing, but you don’t have to keep the item itself. Let your memories be heart attachments, not physical attachments. If you keep everything, then nothing has real value. What are the treasures? Pick out a few and honor them.

New Years Resolutions Choices

Getting organized is one of the top ten most common New Year’s Resolutions that people make. Therefore, it must also be one of the most commonly broken resolutions. According to Psychology Today, only about 10 percent of people who make a New Year’s Resolution have stuck to them one year later.

So what’s the point? Well how about instead of a resolution, we call it a choice.

This intention and choice can easily apply to our homes and how we live in them. If we want a better quality of life, we have to consciously make the choice to get our home and life organized. And, we have to choose to keep them that way.

Here are a few choices that I have settled on and if you’re looking for a better 2013, I hope you’ll do the same!

I choose…to only have things in my home that I use and I love.

I choose…my family over my stuff.

I choose…to clear out the clutter on a regular basis.

I choose…to be mindful of the things that enter my home.

I choose…to put things back after I use them.

That’s it. If you choose those things and stick to them, you can live a more organized life…a better life!

Christmas Gifts…time to mix it up!

My mom has always said that gift giving is an art – either you have it or you don’t. I think most of us really enjoy giving – it’s the shopping part that can sometimes be a dreaded, stressful event.

A couple of years ago, my side of the family realized that pretty much all we were doing for Christmas was exchanging $50 gift cards. It really had no sentiment, and no point. So, my mom had the idea to do a “Homemade Christmas”. While I’m pretty sure we will never do it again, we definitely won’t forget it, and a year later, we’re still laughing about some of the gifts. We had homemade beef jerky, 4 hours of free handyman labor, a thorough car detailing, homemade kahlua…you get the point. My sister gets the award for creativity. She made Brandon and I a sports trivia game that took her hours! Too bad we learned all of the answers and could only play it once. She also sent my parents on a scavenger hunt all over Northwest Arkansas. Good try Chere’, good try. 🙂

This year, we decided to just draw names and everyone sent out an email list of 3 or 4 things they would like. We banned gift cards and this way everyone gets something they really want and we can spend a little more.

If “Homemade Christmas” or drawing names aren’t for you, here are some of my favorite gift ideas. They won’t collect dust and they can even be great options for the person who has everything.

Give…

Experiences
• A trip! Maybe a girls’ weekend getaway to Dallas, or a ski trip for your entire family
• An annual zoo pass (If you live in NWA, consider a day at the drive thru safari in Gentry)
• Concert or play tickets
• An IOU for dinner & a movie
• Think outside the box and consider what that person really loves. My sister and brother-in-law gave Brandon a day of a Harley rental for the two of them for his 30th birthday. He loved it!

Give…

Services
• Cooking Classes
• Art Lessons
• Spa Services
• Car Detailing
• Dance Lessons
Or time with a…
• Lifecoach
• Handyman
• Professional Organizer
• Decorator
• Personal Trainer

Give…
Practical & Useful Things
• Food & Wine
• Bath products
• Label Maker
• Sheets
• E-Reader

Give…
Something Different
• Harry and David Fruit of the Month Club
• Monogrammed bag or beach towels from Lands End (my go-to gift!)
• Personalized address stamp or stationery
• Magazine or newspaper subscriptions

Whatever you decide to give, have fun with it, sit down and really consider the person – their personality, their interests, something they would never buy for themselves. And most importantly, I hope you’ll remember the ‘Reason for the Season’. Merry Christmas!
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Furniture Flipping…the how to!

When I started out painting and “ReJennaRating” old furniture, it seemed like I could find cheap stuff all day everyday and never run out. Now, that’s not so much the case. People have caught on and even many of my friends are doing the same thing. While it might seem like an increase in competition, it really makes me glad.

I love it when people are resourceful…when they use what they already have…or buy something inexpensively and transform it to function in their home or someone elses. Plus, the old stuff is no longer heading the the landfill…one man’s trash really does becomes another man’s treasure.

That being said, I don’t think furniture flipping is for everyone. Take my sister for example. She has come over on multiple occasions to borrow paint and attempt to refurbish a few things. There was a large picture frame, some old window panes, and even two arm chairs. At the time I had quite a few other projects to work on so I let her go ahead and paint her own stuff. She ended up painting each item about 4 or 5 times because she couldn’t decide on a color and she complained the entire time. FAIL. Chere’….just do us all a favor and take yourself to Pottery Barn to buy something new. 🙂

That being said…if you do enjoy painting, if you are a little handy, and if you love making old things new – you should definitely give furniture flipping a try.

Here is a quick tutorial on a typical dresser that I like to redo.

My husband picked this up for me at Salvation Army. It’s solid wood with dovetail drawers (which is usually a criteria for me.)

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1, Remove the hardware (Sometimes the old hardware is unique and can be salvaged…but not in this case)

2. Wood fill the existing hardware holes (Skip this step if you are using the original hardware. Also, if there are just single holes and you are putting new single knobs back on, you also do not have to do this. If you are replacing (two-hole) pulls with new ones, it is usually hard to find drawer pulls that you like in the exact same length.)

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3. Put on a mask & rough sand the entire piece – I use a rotary sander and it saves me tons of time! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but some sanding will help give it some “tooth” and hang on to your paint. If you did wood fill, do it again and sand them again.

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4. Thoroughly clean off all of the sawdust and dirt. You can use TSP or denatured alcohol. Wear gloves and make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area!

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5. Put your piece on a drop cloth (unless you’re going for a new look on your floors) and place blocks under each corner or leg of the piece. This prevents it from sticking to the cloth and allows you to paint the bottom of the piece thoroughly.

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6. Prime! As a general rule of thumb, I almost always use bonding primer. It’s designed to create a surface that the paint will definitely stick to. You can even use it on laminate furniture or glossy surfaces. It’s the reason why you don’t need to sand the piece down to the grain and ensures that your paint will stick.

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7. Pick a color & start painting! Take your time and be thorough…you don’t want drip marks to ruin all of that hard work. I usually start with the top of the piece (sides first) and do long strokes. Unless you are spray painting the furniture, it’s the best way to avoid choppy brush marks. It depends on the type of paint you are using and the type of finish you are going for but it should take about 2 coats on average. (For example, if you are going to be distressing the piece, you don’t need full coverage.) You can see some of my favorite paint colors here.

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8. When your final coat has had ample time to dry, you can reattach the hardware. This is easy if you are just replacing the original…or this can be where it gets complicated. In my case, this is when I call in the hubs. He has lots of lasers and drills so I let him attach my new hardware. (Hobby Lobby is a great inexpensive option for fun and unique hardware.)

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9. Last step – Protect your finish! If you did all of the other steps, including the bonding primer, the paint should definitely stick. However…you don’t want the objects placed on top to scratch it. So, I like to use Minwax Finishing Paste. I personally think it’s just as good as polyurethane but it doesn’t look like you have coated it at all. Also, if you’re doing a white piece it won’t yellow over time. And again, don’t forget to wear your gloves! Apply it with a rag then come back about 10 minutes later and buff it out in long strokes.

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That’s it, you’re done! It can be a lot of work but it’s so worth it when you put it somewhere special in your home. You have something new and you have the satisfaction of flipping an old piece into a masterpiece!

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Be in Control!

Life is busy…and stressful…and it can be complicated. There are so many things out of our control…I’ve definitely come to understand that truth.

But, we do have a say when it comes to our homes. We CAN control what we bring into our homes and what we allow to remain in our homes. With all of those external circumstances over which we have no authority, why would we also let ourselves feel helpless at home? It may sound a little silly, but it’s true; when we are surrounded by so much excess and disarray on a daily basis, we lose…the stuff wins.  

Don’t be helpless in your own home.  Ask yourself if you need it, if you love it. Be intentional when it comes to your home, be in control.