Streamlining your morning routines

To know me is to know my love of coffee. My entire morning routine is structured around brewing the perfect cup and drinking it before the busy-ness of the day begins. Hanging on the bulletin board above my computer screen is my mantra: “When in doubt, drink more coffee.”

I’m not really addicted to caffeine, I’m more addicted to the routine of crafting an ideal cup of joe. If there were a caffeine-free drink I savored more, I would be consumed with making it. However, except for a glass of whole milk minutes after coming out of the cow or a Batida from Ceiba restaurant in downtown, D.C., there aren’t any other drinks that capture my attention so strongly.

Why am I telling you all of this? First, it’s a way for me to talk about another of my passions. Second, and this is more applicable to you, I want to share with you my strategies for organizing morning routines.

When we wake up after a night’s sleep (or day’s sleep if you work the night shift), we go through the same steps every time. For most of us, these steps include showering, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and possibly helping a small human go through similar steps. Your routine might vary a little bit, but for the majority of days you do the same things over and over and over again.

How many of the things you use during your morning routine, though, aren’t convenient to access? Are your breakfast items strewn in multiple cabinets across the kitchen, bathroom supplies in five different drawers and cabinets, and clothing kept in three different places across a bedroom?

Think about all of the things you access each and every morning, and reorganize these things to better meet your needs and make your routines more efficient. For example, if your family eats breakfast cereal, put all of your cereal boxes into a basket so that putting the boxes on the table each morning is one simple movement. If you have a shaving routine, store all of your supplies in one container that you can pull out of the drawer, set on the counter, and then return to the drawer all at once. In your bedroom, consider arranging your furniture so that your dresser is next to your closet. Store all of your coffee-making supplies together with your coffee cups, above or next to where you prepare your coffee.

Keep the things you use together, in containers that you can pull out and use in the most convenient location, and store them in the easiest place to access.

It’s also a good idea to time yourself to see how long it actually takes you to get ready in the morning. Many of us are under the delusion that we’re faster at getting ready for the day than we actually are — especially families with children. If you have difficulty getting out the door in the morning, I recommend that parents get completely ready before children (especially young children) wake up and always padding your get-ready time by 15 minutes.

The more streamlined your morning routine, the more likely you are to have a smooth, stress-free morning. And, the more time you’ll have to enjoy that beautiful, rich, amazing cup of coffee.

Transforming furniture

We’ve featured some transforming wall beds on the site before, and now we want to show you more of them in action. The New York company Resource Furniture has made a demonstration video of all of their amazing space-saving furniture:

Actually, they’ve made two videos, but the second one is produced in a way that kind of makes me motion sick. Regardless, if you live in a small home or have a room that serves multiple purposes, transforming furniture can be a wonderful way to make better use of your space.

Wall beds that have function and style

The company Bonbon Trading has some wonderful wall beds that are perfect for small spaces or guest rooms. I’m a fan of the Ulisse wall bed unit with desk:

And, I am quite fond of the Poppi Ponte single bed that unfolds to reveal storage in addition to the bed.

When space is limited, wall beds are a great way to to get multiple uses out of the same room. These designs also remind me of the lofted bedrooms by Tumidei.

Creating two bedrooms in a small space

Dwell magazine featured a “Kids’ Room Renovation” project recently on their site that shows how a small room can be transformed into two unconventional, yet spacious, bedrooms:

Rather than simply building a partition down the middle of the 140-square-foot bedroom, which would have created two constrained rooms, the architects decided to build up and within. “The idea of putting the bed on a higher level came up quite quickly in order to win space,” explains Santiard. “At the same time we decide to incorporate many ways to use the bed/partition (storage, office, climb, hide with interior windows, doors, etc).”

The bed seems to soar above the playing space, held up by bookshelf columns and a carefully angled staircase.

The result is a massive piece of what is essentially furniture, crafted out of several large sections of painted MDF and secured to the ceiling to keep it from toppling. Six-year old Eva plays and sleeps in the upper level, while small cubbies hold her toys, books, and dolls. There’s also a built-in desk for schoolwork and drawing. Jean, now almost two years old, mainly scampers around on the bottom level, where easy access to his bed and toys defines his area.

Building up provides for each child to have a designated area, without having to feel cramped and claustrophobic. The built-in storage and bookshelves also keep the rooms clutter-free and organized. I think it’s a very creative solution for a small space.

(Image from the Dwell article. View the complete slideshow.)

iPhone alarm clocks

My husband and I need a new alarm clock and, after many deliberations, we have decided to go with a unit that works in conjunction with our iPhones. Since the units are all multi-functional (they’re all iPhone chargers, and all but the first include speakers to play music from iTunes at better quality than the phone speaker), I thought I would share with you our finalists.


The Kensington K33458US Nightstand Charging Dock for iPhone and iPod Touch

The Kensington K33458US Nightstand Charging Dock for iPhone and iPod Touch

This is the most basic of all the options. It’s really only a charging dock that helps your iPhone stand on its side. It works with the Kensington Rise and Shine clock and weather app available in the app store. We found it to be a bit overpriced ($20) for just a charger but its design is simple and straightforward.


The Philips DC315/37 Speaker System for iPod/iPhone with LED clock radio

The Philips DC315/37 Speaker System for iPod/iPhone with LED clock radio

It has a futuristic and sleek design, along with a built-in FM tuner and auxiliary input. I specifically like the auxiliary input to use with even more devices. My husband likes the LED screen on this one, but I’d prefer a bolder typeface. It’s $89, which I think is a bit more than I want to spend.


The iHome iP99BR Dual Alarm Clock Radio with Dock for iPod, iPhone

The iHome iP99BR Dual Alarm Clock Radio with Dock for iPod, iPhone

This one looks like a more traditional alarm clock radio than the others, takes up a bit more space than the others, and is a lot more expensive than the others ($139). It comes with a remote for the person on the far-side of the bed. It’s okay, but neither of our favorites.


The Sony ICF-C7IP Clock Radio for iPod and iPhone with hidden sliding dock tray

The Sony ICF-C7IP Clock Radio for iPod and iPhone with hidden sliding dock tray

The dock slides in so that the unit is smaller when the iPhone isn’t attached. It also comes with a remote for the person to use on the far-side of the bed. This is my choice because it’s functional, good quality, reasonably priced ($62), and looks decent without an iPhone in it. You’ll have to guess which unit my husband prefers.


Do you have any of the units mentioned above? Another one we didn’t consider? We still haven’t made our purchase, so tell us about your alarm clock preferences in the comments.

Let go of the past from your wardrobe

Yesterday, I finally got up the nerve to say farewell to what was left of my corporate wardrobe. No longer taking up space in my closet are suits, long-sleeve collared shirts, or “business casual” sportswear. My dresser drawers are free of pantyhose, trouser socks, and sweater sets (wait, I did keep one black sweater set — but all the rest are gone).

I haven’t worked in a traditional office in 3.5 years, but I was holding onto many of my corporate clothes out of fear. What if this writing and organizing thing doesn’t catch on?

After the book went on sale Tuesday, it was like the clouds cleared and the sun came out — I could relax and let them go.

Truth be told, I didn’t own many clothes before I started this process. I’ve pretty much only been wearing the same 10 t-shirts and three pair of jeans the past six months. The rest of the stuff in my closet was just hanging there, waiting on a giant “what if.” They were a security blanket I didn’t need. Also, most of the clothes were two sizes larger than I currently wear. If I had needed to change careers, they wouldn’t have even fit me.

So, I cast them off — the Brooks Brothers suits are going to consignment and the shirts and sweaters are heading to Goodwill. I kept a very small handful of dresses and slacks for media appearances and when I do productivity training and organizing for corporate executives — but only five of those items. I weeded out my shoes, too.

I feel lighter, more comfortable.

In Unclutter Your Life in One Week, I talk about setting guidelines for your wardrobe to help you decide what can stay and what should go. The eighth item on this list is “You should have an occasion in the next year to wear it.” Thankfully, none of the clothes I’m getting rid of meet this definition.

Here are the guidelines, from page 24 of the book, that I’ve set for myself when sorting through my wardrobe:

  1. The item should represent your current style and the image you wish to project to others.
  2. The item should fit you well and complement your body type.
  3. The item should work in coordination with a minimum of two other items in your wardrobe.
  4. You should be able to wear the item with shoes you already own (for shoes, you should be able to wear them with clothing you already own).
  5. The item should be in good condition and should not need to be repaired.
  6. There should be space for the item to be properly stored.
  7. You should like how you feel when you wear the item (for shoes, they should not cause blisters).
  8. You should have an occasion in the next year to wear it.

Do you have similar guidelines? Are parts of your past lingering in your wardrobe, acting as an unnecessary security blanket? Is it time to let them go?

Tips for encouraging children’s chores

On the continued topic of inspiring children to establish organized routines, the HGTV website has a helpful article on motivating and prompting kids to clean up their rooms.

From the article “Cleaning Children’s Rooms“:

Make a cleaning map for a child’s room, showing where everything is to be stored. Include items such as compact discs, shoes, books, stuffed animals and dirty laundry. Not only is this fun and educational, but the child also has no excuse about not knowing where to put away items.

How do you inspire your children to do chores? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

(Thanks to Parenthacks for the link.)

Weekend project idea: Bed-side table cleanup

The small tables we set next to our beds that hold the alarm clock, a lamp, a book, and reading glasses acquire random objects from time to time. This weekend, give your nightstand a little attention and see if it can use some uncluttering love.

Purge the clutter, organize the items that belong, and make any repairs necessary to the piece of furniture. I picked mine up to get a good look at it and discovered three cat toys that had been trapped underneath it for months. I also found a pack of expired Tums that went straight into the trash. Honestly, I was surprised that I didn’t find more clutter, but I was glad to have gone through this easily overlooked space. Maybe a year from now, I’ll remember again.

While we’re talking about bed-side tables, I spotted a Nightstand Charging Dock for iPhones that transforms the phone into a more traditional alarm clock. Check out this review on Apartment Therapy to learn more.

Have a relaxing, uncluttering weekend!

How to fold a fitted sheet

Fitted bed sheets are notoriously difficult to fold. I used to do the folding method where you tuck corners into each other, but my sheets always ended up looking more like clouds or gigantic cotton balls than something that could be stored easily in my closet.

After buying a new pair of sheets, I decided to unfold the fitted sheet from the packaging in such a way that I might be able to determine how the manufacturer was able to get the sheet extremely small and flat. Based on this process, and a few tweaks of my own, I have found the following steps to be the least cumbersome way to fold a fitted sheet. Here’s how I do it:

1. Either lay the fitted sheet top-side down on a clean surface or, with the help of a buddy, hold the sheet in a similar manner:

2. Fold into thirds (lengthwise):

3. Fold in half (this step is only necessary for queen and king sizes):

4. Fold the long strip in half (bring short edges together):

5. Fold the strip into thirds:

I purposefully made the bed sheet a little off kilter so that you could see that you don’t have to do every step perfectly to obtain superior results.

Hinge hooks

Back when I was a home renter instead of a home owner, I spent a lot of time trying to hunt down organizing and storage solutions that didn’t force me to change my space. I haven’t forgotten that frustration, and I like to keep an eye out for products that I can recommend that renters and home owners can use.

Recently, I learned about these simple hooks that fit over the pins of door hinges. You pull out your hinge’s pins, slip the hook onto the hinge, and then slide the hinge pin back into place. When it’s time to move, you remove it as easily as you installed it. No nail holes to fill or patches to paint. Plus, the hook is behind the door and out of sight when the door is open.

Our year without a dresser

dressersAfter living in our new home for just under a year, my wife and I finally have a dresser. It has been a big adjustment to all the new storage space. The year without a dresser went by very quickly and it forced me to take stock of my clothes time and time again.

I purged unnecessary clothes from my wardrobe on numerous occasions last year because I didn’t have room for extra clothes. The first purge was our yard sale in preparation of our move. Then, I made a donation to the Vietnam Veterans. With just these two clothing purges, I easily cut my wardrobe by half.

Living without a dresser in our bedroom was a bit of a pain at times, but it did get my wife and I to live with less clothing clutter in our lives. Now, we’ll need to be mindful and remember not to let the clutter creep in just because we have more storage space than we used to.

Storage beds

Sometimes referred to as a captain bed, a storage bed can take the place of a bedroom closet or dresser. I wrote about bedroom storage a couple of weeks back, but I thought I would expand upon the storage bed as a space-saving option.

I came across this article on Furniture Today featuring new captain beds that have been introduced to the market. From the article:

Depending on the construction, the added storage can be used for anything from extra blankets and pillows to sheets or seasonal clothing such as bulky winter sweatshirts and sweaters.

The beds also tend to be more transitional or contemporary in nature, largely in response to the style preferences of younger consumers. However, some traditional beds have storage as well, making the option available to an even broader market segment.

The added storage often increases what you will pay for beds, but for small spaces it may certainly be worth it. The estimates, depending on the manufacturer, can add anywhere from $300 to $450 to the retail price. Some companies new to the captain bed market listed in the article are: