January 2011: Rental Rescue


 Let’s face it. ’Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, and most of us are better at breaking them than making them. “I’m going to lose 25 pounds” or “I’m going to read more” are classics. Cut to a stack of unread books on the night stand and an elliptical machine that looks like a coat rack. We have to make New Year’s solutions before resolutions, and for many of us, the first step is to get organized. The holiday decorations are put away, you’re out of excuses, it’s time to get it together.

Give additional purpose to items you already have by using your colander as a fruit bowl, or your favorite pitcher as a flower vase.

Start the new year off on an organized foot by reducing, reusing, and recycling many things you already have.

1. Be real. Many of us are guilty of letting form beat out function. However, when getting organized, we have to plan for real life, and often the spaces we inherit aren’t designed to best meet our needs. Developing systems that are both attractive and functional for your daily life will be most successful and sustainable. For starters, try creating a warm welcome for your space. In the same way you would place a container of cooking tools near your stove, place an attractive basket by your front door for gloves, scarves, hats, and extra shoes. Stowing your rain boots by the door can double as a functional and sculptural umbrella stand, keeping everything on easy standby for the next winter storm with visual appeal. 

2. Double duty. Our spaces work overtime: Guest rooms double as home offices, coffee tables double as dining rooms, and kitchen counters are expected to literally catch all. Consider this as an approach to organization. Look for furniture pieces and items that are multi-purpose—like an old foot locker or chest that can serve as both a bench for seating and as storage for blankets or board games. Give additional purpose to items you already have by using your colander as a fruit bowl, your favorite pitcher as a flower vase, or an unused, weekly pill dispenser to hold earrings and jewelry. The possibilities are endless. 

3. The secret life of keys. Think of how much time we could all save if we weren’t constantly looking for things. I believe most objects should have a deliberate place. Try clearing some desk space or coveted counter space to establish an organizational hub for your home. Use a metal bin to hold mail that needs to be sorted. Create a unique message center by clipping invitations, shopping lists, unpaid bills, and messages to a vintage house fan (from Circa on Allied Street) using small clips or clothespins. Create a valet for personal items (keys, watches, cell phones, mp3 players) out of a vintage cigar box. Using a utility knife, cut holes in the back for charger cords and charge your electronics right inside the valet box.  Form and function happily marry in this organizational hub, a New Year’s solution that is both time-saving and aesthetically pleasing. 

Design for your day! A decorative basket by the door makes a perfect and practical spot for everyday items.

4. Don’t get hung up. As you start to get better organized, you find a great opportunity to create more space. Many of us clamor for coveted closet space and additional storage. Starting in the new year, try hanging all of your clothing with the hook of the hanger facing outward. Once you wear something and put it back, hang the hanger in the opposite direction. Based on the direction of the hanger, you can start to see which pieces you wear and which ones are merely taking up your valuable space and weighing you down. Take this same approach in other rooms of the house. Take a critical look at your kitchen cabinets and realize what you really use. If you have three sets of dishes and you always use the same five plates, put the others in storage and pull them out for dinner parties. Don’t become a slave to your possessions. 

5. Make the right investments. As a renter, it’s wise to always invest in organizational tools and pieces that not only can move with you, but adapt to your ever-changing life. Consider stackable, folding bookcases (available at World Market). One year, the bookcase could hold books in a home office and the next year, tuck neatly into a hall closet to hold shoes and accessories. When it comes to storage containers, there are options for every paycheck. A nice stainless steel bucket (available at The Happy Cook or The Seasonal Cook) can double as both an ice bucket and to hold kitchen tools. If a bucket isn’t in the budget, clean and sterilize an old paint can to do the same job.

These time and space-saving solutions are sure to help keep you better organized in 2011 and help give you more time to stick to those New Year’s resolutions.—Ed Warwick

Bonding time


Walk down the adhesives aisle at any hardware store and you will be met with an astounding array of products that claim to magically bond anything to anything, forever. 

Familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of a few types of adhesives is going to enhance your D.I.Y. know-how immensely.

Wood glue is, most often, water based, blonde-colored goop that comes in plastic bottles (ranging in size from a few ounces to gallon jugs). Spread the wood glue so that it evenly covers the area you are bonding; using a squiggly line works well. Clamps are almost always necessary and should hold the pieces tightly in place for at least a half an hour. To clean up wood glue, use a dry or a lightly damp rag. Because the glue is water based, too much water during clean-up can actually seep into the glue and loosen the bond.

Another adhesive that I use for most small repairs is 5 Minute Two-Part Epoxy. This wonder product usually comes in a conjoined syringe-type tube. Proper ventilation and safety glasses and gloves are recommended when using epoxy resins. Make sure the pieces to be glued are ready to go: You have a limited amount of working time (as suggested by the “5 Minute” designation). Thoroughly mix equal amounts of the epoxy and spread thinly on the surfaces to be joined. Immediately wipe away any excess and either hold in place, manually, or slap on some masking tape. Give it a few more than five minutes to set and you’re done!

Happy gluing!—Christy Baker