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7 posts from October 2011


"Filling Your Room with Furniture"

Need a change and don’t know where to start? Ask yourself certain questions to help you Access your needs and the Function taking place in the space.


For example, if it is your Dining Room-

  •     Do you entertain a lot?

  •     How much seating do you need?

  •      What atmosphere do you want?

  •       More casual or formal?


 Ask Yourself

·         Do you want all new?

o   So are you starting with an empty room?

·         Are you looking to replace a piece or two filling in an empty or sparse area?

When needing to fill the whole room, you can choose to only buy the essential pieces at the best quality you can afford and acquire other pieces overtime. It gives your room an evolved and layered look. Don’t purchase complete sets. To get a designer look you must Mix it up. Introduce different accent pieces that co-ordinate with your other furniture.


                                                                            What You Need To Consider 

·         Traffic Patterns: Points of entry and exit.

o   You want to be able to move comfortably through your room making sure you have enough space between your furniture.

·         Focal Point: Every room should have one







Layout/Floor Plan 

·         Draw your room and pieces of furniture to scale.

o   The most frequent mistake made is getting furniture too large or small for the room.

o   Drawing it to scale is a must!

·         Having a floor plan allows you the flexibility of moving the pieces around to see possible or multiple configurations for your room.




The design process is very multi layered. It takes time and effort. A professional Interior Designer can make the process much easier and headache free for you.

We would love to know how you filled your room with furniture, you can contact us by stoping by our store, Unusual Designs in Newport News, VA, through our website alwaysunusuldesigns.com, or e-mail us at unusualdesigns@verizon.net. We hope our information is useful when decroating your home.

Unusual Designs


Organizing Your Holiday Event

It is not too early to plan for your special event during the holidays. Special occasions demand organization because they break into our daily routines. Here are some organizing tips to help make the holiday events less stressful and more successful.

Schedule ahead. The closer you get to the special dinner, party or gathering, the more detailed the schedule. Once you have decided on a date, send out a "save the date" invitation to those you want to come. Our schedules have become so busy that waiting until the holiday festivities begin may be too late. About 2-4 weeks ahead, send out the invitation asking for a response. Phone calls are more personal but take more time. If you have a large gathering, this may too time consuming for you. If you mail invitations, you may need to follow up on those who do not respond.

Planning the menu, decorations, etc. should be scheduled in writing on your calendar/planner. Break down each task and work backwards from the date of the event, allowing sufficient time to get it done. The week before the event should be broken down into the preparation needed for each day. The big day can be divided into tasks for each hour working backwards from the time of the event. All planning should be done on paper or a computer file so you can make notes as you go.

Be flexible. Murphy’s Law is especially enforced during the holidays. The grocery store will not have the ingredients you need and no white candles will be found to replace the one you broke. Even if no substitutes can be found or made and there is no time to wait, remember life will go on. Try to see the bigger picture, adjust your plans and move on. Be creative and try something new or out of the ordinary. It may give you surprisingly great results.

Focus on people. Don’t get so caught up in the mechanics of the event that you ignore those you invited. If you can hire help during the event, it will allow you to focus on those you attending. After all that is the purpose of the occasion. If needed, you can enlist the help of a family member that will not be offended, and do not be too proud to accept offers of assistance from those attending--just don't abuse their willingness to step in. Relationships are more important than food, gifts and decorations. Be sure to ask questions of everyone to get them involved in the occasion.

Keep a record. Take notes as you plan and prepare. Record the menu and any thoughts about it as you prepare the food and afterwards. Make note of the preparation time, the amount left over, etc. Take pictures of the decorations you used as a future reference. This will help in planning the use of permanent decorations and those you may need to add in years to come.

Keep a copy of who you invited, those who were able to come, the schedules you made and any adjustments to them, and your evaluation of the entire event. All of these will save time in planning future events or remind you never to do it again! Save all of these in a folder on the computer or place them in the file cabinet so you can refer back to them.

Holidays can be hectic but planning ahead and organizing the tasks can help make them more enjoyable. If you have comments or questions, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us through our website, OrderlyPlaces.com or by email, maryfrances@OrderlyPlaces.com.





Organizing the Attic

This is the perfect time to organize your attic. It is not so cold overnight that morning visits to the attic are too chilly to work, and the angle of the sun and cooler days keep that space from becoming unbearably hot. If you have holiday items stored there, you will need to access those decorations soon and having an orderly space will make the task easier.

There are some principles you should consider before going overhead. For convenience and safety, floor boards should be securely in place so that moving about is not a concern. Adequate lighting should be provided for the same reasons.

Extreme heat can damage most fabrics so storing those elsewhere is a good idea. If they must be placed there, you should prevent possible insect damage to them and to any books or papers you are saving by placing them in plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Heat can also affect candles, photographs, video and audio tapes and soft plastics such as found in dolls. Freezing temperatures may cause problems for some items so consideration should be given before storing them. As a general principle it is not a good idea to store upholstered furniture in the attic and any wood or metal furniture should be covered with old blankets or sheets to keep them clean.

To make the most of the space, adding permanent shelves for smaller items and rods between the rafters for hanging things is a good organizing strategy. Using similar shaped storage boxes or plastic bins makes stacking easier and utilizes the space more effectively. Although they can be expensive, home improvement stores have speciality items and systems that can be installed by the average home owner to make storage more efficient.

Just like any other space, the best way to organize an attic is by zones with similar items together. All containers should be labeled and if there are many of them an inventory list should be kept in your files. Drawing a map of the zones and container placement is a good idea if the attic is crowded and some containers are hidden.

The best organizing advice for attics is to eliminate as many items as you can from the space. Because of its location, it is not the most convenient space for storage and many times it is difficult to access. While it appears to be the most logical space for items used only once or twice a year, it should not be crowded with things that are never used or have little attachment to you. Aunt Susie's china that you inherited but is incomplete or you don't like anyway should be passed on to a family member that wants it or will use it, or it can be donated to a charity. It is not honoring to Aunt Susie to bury it in the attic and letting it go will not erase your memory of her.

Other sentimental items should be limited to those that are special. One hundred letters from your mom when you were in college can be reduced to a few that had important events documented or timely words of wisdom for you ("Don't marry that person!"). If you are saving your children's toys, furniture, etc. for your grandchildren, it is likely that most will be declared unsafe, they will not be enjoyed as much as the newer electronics, etc. or they will be forgotten when it could have been used.

Those items you are saving for your children to use when they are grown or for other family members on a temporary basis should be given to them as soon as they have a place of their own. Set a deadline for it to be claimed and stick to it. Tell them your organizer insisted it be removed. (I love being the "fall guy" in these situations.) Otherwise you may find it stays with you forever.

As with any space, an attic can become a storage space for clutter. Removing items no longer used and organizing what is left can make using that area more efficient. If you have comments or questions feel free to contact me through my website, OrderlyPlaces.com. or email, maryfrances@OrderlyPlaces.com.


Mercury in Your CFL's

                I have been telling everyone that I don’t have any incandescent lights at my house at all.  Years ago we made the switch to CFL’s and we love them.  But I recently found myself changing out a light bulb and I realized that it was an incandescent and when I replaced it I dug around in the basement and found that box of old incandescent bulbs and I replaced it with another incandescent.  Are you shocked?  Someone like me who touts saving money on my electric bills and pushes CFL’s on everyone I meet and here I am replacing a burnt out incandescent with another incandescent?

                I know it sounds crazy, but I have found a use for those old incandescent and they are doing exactly what I want, producing heat.  We raise chickens.  I have two coops full of chickens.  I don’t know if my chickens actually get cold or not, they can’t tell me.  But just to be on the safe side I install a light on a photocell in their coops so they can have a source of heat through the night. 

                As much sense as switching to CFL’s makes, I still run into people who are resistant to making the change.  One of the reasons I hear against CFL’s is the fact that they contain mercury and that could be hazardous if they should happen to break.  You can rest assured that if one of your CFL bulbs should break, your house will not turn into a superfund site.

                CFL’s do contain mercury.  In fact, according to the energystar.gov website, they contain 4mg a piece.  This number is going down and as recently as this past year one manufacturer had gotten the mercury content of their bulbs down to under 1 mg.  Advancements in the technology are increasing rapidly.  Usage of the light bulb binds the mercury to the interior of the glass of the light bulb.  So even if you did break one, the entire 4 mg isn’t going to even make it onto your floor.  There are guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL on the energystar.gov website, most of which is common sense like wear gloves and wipe with a cloth that you will not be using again.

                To help you better understand how much is 4 mg, think of the thermometers that we used when we were kids.  You know the ones without batteries.  They contained 500 mg of mercury which would be like 125 CFL bulbs.  I remember breaking one in college chem lab and chasing the little balls of mercury around the lab and I lived to tell about it.

                The single largest source of mercury in our environment is from the production of electricity.  When you burn coal, the largest source of energy in the U.S., you pump mercury into the atmosphere.  This mercury is then rained down onto the surface of the earth and will generally collect in our water bodies after the next rainstorm.  Once in our rivers and lakes, it is absorbed by the fish population which is then caught and eaten by humans.  Fish is then the largest source of mercury ingested by humans, not CFL’s.  Are you still eating fish?

                There is a great table on the energystar.gov website that compares an incandescent to a CFL.  Let’s assume that both of these two light bulbs burn for 8000 hours.  During that time period, the incandescent will use much more electricity because it takes more Watts for an incandescent to put out the same amount of lumens (measurement of light) as a CFL.  The amount of mercury released into the atmosphere from the coal burned to illuminate those two light bulbs will be 1.2 mg for the CFL and 5.5 mg for the Incandescent.  Now let’s say that you do a very bad thing after those 8000 hours and you don’t recycle your CFL, but rather throw it into the landfill, crushing it and releasing the mercury within it.  This would add another .44 mg bringing the total contamination to 1.6 mg while the incandescent bulb remains at 5.5 mg since it contains no mercury.  As you can see 5.5 mg released due to the use of the incandescent is more than 4 times the amount of mercury released by the CFL.  And you can even reduce that amount further by disposing of the bulb properly by taking it to a CFL recycling center like one of your big box hardware stores.

                So you see that using a CFL is better for you and the environment in every way.  So go ahead and change out those old light bulbs, even if they are still working and put in some CFL’s and start saving yourself some money!  You can tuck those old ones away for chickens.  That’s about all they’re good for.


Tips on Sending Holiday Cards

Since holiday cards are displayed so early and they are picked over long before it is time to mail them, now is the time to find the best selection. You will not have the discounted or sale prices for a few weeks, but the trade off is finding what works best for you. I have a few other suggestions.

1. Consider choosing one design for everyone and adding a personal note to make it special. Save one of the cards with the year written on it so you will know you have used it and when. If you keep left over cards from year to year, there is the chance you will send the same card to some of those who got it the previous year. Adding photos of the family are a good way to connect, too. These can be imprinted on the card if you plan ahead.

2. If you do not have time for personal notes in each card or if you want to add a family newsletter, make the newsletter short and sweet. The shorter the sweeter it is. While it is fine to mention you took a trip to Germany, you need not list every city you visited. If your child graduated from college, you do not need to list all of the awards and job offers. Tell the news but leave off the bragging. In addition, it will take time to read the newsletter and most people do not take the time to do that while they are opening the daily mail. One paragraph that you are alive and well on planet earth is fine. If you are not alive and well, keep the sad news brief. Creating your own newsletter allows you to insert the family photo on the page, saving the cost of having photos printed. Just remember, less is more.

3. Keep your address file up to date so cards are not returned because of incorrect address. And when you receive a card, check the return address to be sure that is the one you have on file.

4. Purchase "forever" stamps and resist the urge to buy holiday stamps unless you are sure you will use all of them. If the price of postage goes up, your "forever" stamps will still be accepted and you will not have to purchase or add those one cent stamps.

5. Consider sending short holiday greetings with your email distribution list. There are many sites that allow you to use templates, clip art and even animated scenes for your greeting. And of course, you can insert family pictures from your files. While not as personal as a hand written note, it is just as appropriate as a holiday newsletter. It uses less paper, thus reducing our use of it and it saves time and postage. More importantly, it does not create paper clutter. It can be saved to a file if especially nice or deleted.

6. If the holidays are too hectic for sending the personal greetings that you consider a priority, consider sending your greetings throughout the year. Use a checklist to be sure you include those people that are special to you and assign times throughout the year when you will write them. If it is not on the calendar chances are it will not be done.

Keeping in touch with those that are special to us reminds them of that. Connecting is an important part of maintaining any relationship. While it takes time and effort, the rewards are worth it.


My Top Ten List Item #10

            Ever thought about buying a rain barrel?  Just too nutty crunchy for you?  What would the neighbors think?  Buy one anyway.  You can get those food grade plastic barrels several places and they are very reasonable in price.  The hardware to fit them with a hose to fill your watering bucket and the overflow hose are fairly inexpensive as well and you can do all the work yourself.  Check out some step by step instructions at http://www.epa.gov/region3/p2/make-rainbarrel.pdf.  I would make one change; make sure to extend the outlet pipe at least 10 feet from your foundation.  Moist crawl spaces and wet basement walls are the devil’s handiwork.  Extending your downspouts at least 10 feet from your house will do wonders for helping keep your underside nice and dry.  Dry crawl spaces and basements make for healthier air in the living spaces above them and houses that feel more comfortable.

                If DIY projects are not your thing, there are easier ways of harvesting rainwater.  One of the best looking rain barrels I have ever seen is the Rain Hog at www.rainwaterhog.com.  They are rectangular containers that mount against your house near your downspout.  You can mount only one or several together with each one having a 50 gallon capacity.  They originally were olive green in color but they have more recently started selling them in several different colors.  They are flat and mount close to the house and are the least barrel like.

                Whichever type of barrel you choose,  you will be doing wonders for your water bill by watering with rainwater instead of tap water.  And remember, don’t forget to extend those downspouts!

Organizing Coupons--Another Opinion

Extreme couponing has come into the mainstream media and with its own television program has captured the hearts and minds of many with unbelievable savings. The world of coupons now has coupon clubs, coupon swaps, coupon blogs and websites, and couponing strategy books.

While I am not an expert couponer, I am an expert organizer. And I have taken an interest in them lately because some of my clients use them and needed a way to keep them organized. Thus began my research into the best way to that.

At this time in history, the resources for learning about coupoining and how to organize them are plentiful. Just Google "organizing coupons" and over 4 million sites come up. I checked out a few of those, talked with friends and family and eventually sat in on our local Savvy Shopper's presentation where I took pages of notes. ( http://weblogs.dailypress.com/features/shoppingblog/#start ) This basically confirmed that there are as many ways to organize coupons as there are people to do it. It is a matter of time and personal preferences.

Those who prefer individually clipping coupons often store them in divided plastic sleeves (baseball card holders) in 3 ring zippered notebooks by categories. Others prefer to use wallet style expandable containers with dividers for each category. A combination of these are used by some couponers who do not want to carry the large notebook of plastic pages on every shopping trip and will put only those coupons used for each trip in the wallet version.

For those who want to skip the task of cutting out all the individual coupons and sorting them at one time, saving the coupon inserts in newspapers, magazines and mailings is more efficient. These inserts and pages are saved in stacks, folders or large envelopes by date for access when references are made to them for those extreme saving opportunities. Updates on the matching websites and blogs are mostly done weekly to coordinate with weekly store specials.

If you are one who is new to couponing, you will have to use trial and error to determine the best organizing style for your coupons. Experience is the best teacher and knowing your own preferences will help as much as anything. Try not to purchase the most expensive organizing supplies with coupons until you have an idea of what is working for you and what is not. As you use them, you will be able to better determine what you need. Gradually you will develop your own system.

Organizing coupons requires organizing your time. To save the most and become an "extreme couponer" you must match the manufacturer's coupon with a retailer's sale price and if possible store coupons and rewards programs. This takes an organized system and time to process even using the websites and blogs that do the matching. Since different stores have different specials or may offer double coupons on given days, extreme couponers map out their strategy to take advantage of the best deals. (Somewhere in there you have to have your shopping list of items you actually need right now.)

Since this discussion is on the coupons, I will not give the professional organizer's advice on storing the abundance of items gleaned from extreme couponing. I will only remind you that the golden rule of "only having as much stuff as any space will reasonably contain" also applies to cereal and toothpaste. Any overflow in designated spaces in your home should be donated to the foodbank or local homeless shelters. Otherwise it can become extreme couponing clutter.