Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 6 Apr 04 12:02
Inkwell.vue is pleased to introduce our next guests, co-authors Casey Ellis and Randall Koll, who've birthed a book many of us (including myself) clearly need -- "The Organized Home: Design Solutions for Clutter-Free Living." Casey Ellis has written design and lifestyle articles for Victoria, Woman's Day, Robb Report and House Beautiful. After seven years as a contributing writer for the HOME section of the San Francisco Chronicle, she now writes about art, food and design for the Chronicle's Sunday Magazine. She splits her time between a 1910 house in Los Altos, California, and a 1937 William Wurster-designed beach house in Aptos, California, both of which have provided considerable source material -- both comic and tragic -- for her design writing. She co-hosts the decor conference on The WELL, where the most popular topic is "Ask Randall." Randall Koll is an interior designer who writes and lectures on interior design and lifestyle-enhancing techniques. He's been featured in magazines such as Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, B For Savvy Brides, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and House Beautiful. He was the regular design columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle Home and Garden section from 1998 to 2001. His latest book project, "Vintage Kitchens: Creating Timeless Kitchen Style" (Chronicle Books), will be released in spring of 2005. Leading the discussion is Marjorie Ingall, a contributing editor at Glamour and a columnist for The Forward. Marjorie has written for many magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Food & Wine, Wired and Sassy. S he's also the author of a humor book, The Field Guide to North American Males, and the former head writer of a TV show on the Oxygen network. She left Oxygen upon realizing that her perkiness level was not up to a job in daytime talk television. She co-hosts the femx conference on The WELL. Welcome, Casey, Randall and Marjorie!
Marjor (obizuth) Thu 8 Apr 04 08:14
<scribbled by obizuth Thu 8 Apr 04 09:37>
Randall Koll (randallk) Thu 8 Apr 04 09:39
I believe that most people want to be organized. They get excited about the possibilities of a streamlined life; where their house runs smoothly, bills are paid on time, and the garbage cans are at the curb at 6am. But many, frankly, are scared of change, afraid of failure, and committed to the belief that even though the stack of mail is now a sizable mound, avoiding it means that whatever is way down there under the newspaper circular, it? It doesn't exist. But as people fear and avoid change and organization in their homes, what they are actually doing is avoiding the pleasure of enjoying their home fully. The disorganized kitchen? Not a place where you'd want to cook, so you eat out. Or worse: live by microwave cooking. The bedroom piled with laundry and clothes? A reminder of what you haven't accomplished. And you're reminded of that little fact before you go to sleep, and when you wake up - which is why you may find yourself sleeping on the family room sofa more often than not. Our book makes organization easy and approachable because it never aims to make you perfect. There is no failing. You choose the ideas you want to incorporate into your house now, and leave the others as food for thought. As we say in the introduction, (I'm paraphrasing here,) we would never dream of telling you to toss out the contents of your closet or change your collecting habits. We want you to open your eyes to problem areas in your home, and address them through the tips and advice we've provided.
snarly (obizuth) Thu 8 Apr 04 09:42
(typo, i try again.) thanks! and thanks to casey and randall. i'd like to start by assuring readers who tend to sob like a little girl and get all hostile and bare their teeth when someone mentions the word "organization" that they should not be scared of this book. perhaps i am PROJECTING, but the thought of getting organized strikes terror into so many hearts. i want to assure folks that The Organized Home is inspiring, amusing and gorgeous to look upon, and will not make you feel frightened, hopeless or inadequate. casey, you're doing a piece for the chronicle on people's reactions to the fact that you wrote a book about organization, right? what have some of the reactions been? not that i'm fishing or anything here, but here's what i'm getting at: WHY DOES THE ENTIRE SUBJECT OF ORGANIZING MAKE PEOPLE ANXIOUS AND TENSE AND FULL OF AVOIDANCE AND FREAKITUDE????? HOW CAN YOU ASSURE THEM THAT THIS BOOK MAKES THINGS EASY AND ENTICING?
snarly (obizuth) Thu 8 Apr 04 09:44
hyuk, whoops. we just did an answer and a question. it's so alex trebek. thanks, randall! hi casey!
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Thu 8 Apr 04 10:09
hi, marjorie. morning, randall. my chronicle piece is partly about the hilarity that ensued when people who know me well heard I was writing a book on organization and partly on what I learned from randall that I actually incorported it into my home. for people who'd never actually peered inside some of my drawers or experienced the heartbreak of looking for something in my attic, the reaction was almost always" "Oh, I need that book" or "My sister needs that book" or--and this one kinda surprised me: "My mother needs that book." (although that probably shouldn't have surprised me, cause it's what my own daughters would have said) as to the freakitude factor: I think there are a lot of crappy books out there about organization. of course, there are some excellent ones, too, but I'm not plugging them here. let their authors join the well and get their own inkwell slots. but too many org tomes are so damn dictatorial: you WILL throw away these things according to these guidelines, because *I* say so. I read this and immediately think: "Oh, no I won't. And you can't make me." and I suspect I'm not alone in this reaction. also, a lot of these books make organization seem so all-or-nothing. "make every room perfect NOW." I think I speak for randall if I say, hey, if you just get one small area that's been bothering you under control, that's a win. Snaps for you.
snarly (obizuth) Thu 8 Apr 04 11:00
i think you're so right about the "you can't make me" factor! i know i need to get rid of stuff, but do not make me get rid of stuff! i want to change, yet i am scared of change! and it seems so DAUNTING to actually have to go thru the crap i have. AND bien sur, i don't want to be infantalized or dictated to or forced to purchase ugly storage containers. so. we will talk more about non-ugly QUIRKY solutions, with which the book she is a-brimming. but first: The Organized Home has a nice soothing comprehensible room-by-room structure. so maybe we should start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. can you go thru some organized entryway tips? it's the first thing you see when you walk into a house, and i assume it gives you a pretty good sense of the organization (or lack thereof) to come. in our home as in many homes, you walk right in and see our pathetic disorganization. (the apt door leads into the kitchen, which means mail and newspapers stack up on teh counter, the coatrack gets so laden it looks like a homeless person, umbrellas seem to breed, etc.)
Randall Koll (randallk) Thu 8 Apr 04 11:40
Entryways see a lot of activity - and by many family members (or even a whirlwind of a cluttery single person) - so the type of clutter varies from mail to backpacks to coats and cellphones to kids toys and the dog's leashes and tennis balls (but you know this.) If your not careful, the entry becomes a loading zone. When what you really need is an expressway. The key is not to immediately change the way your family arrives, departs and drops. Look at where the piles are occurring. Chances are the mail ends up in the same place and so do the cellphones and newspapers. Certainly you can force your family to take those items to another designated zone - but reality is after a week of scowls and threats, you'll give in. Functional furniture and accessories are key. An old post office-styled hutch may make all the difference in a hallway where the cubbies can be filled with all the personal items that would have ended up on the floor. Stacked wicker file baskets on a kitchen counter could hold mail, magazines and take-out menus. Schoolhouse-styled hooks installed along a hall, would alleviate the burden on a single coat rack. I'm big on armoires in halls, and dining room buffets, too. The armoires give you a place to drop and stash behind a closed doors. Buffets give you drawers to place keys and gloves and mail - while the top can hold a neat array of pottery. The only person who will ever peek inside the armoire or the buffet drawers is your mother in law. And by now she should know better.
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Thu 8 Apr 04 12:41
If you're using a piece with drawers, I think it's essential to designate their contents. i.e. the first small drawer as you enter might be reserved for keys and gloves. nothing else. said keys and gloves don't have to be arranged neatly but they do have to dwell their in snobbish solitude, away from maps, or takeout menus, or your digital camera. in my 1910 house, there is no entryway closet, so I have an antique hatstand/coatrack in a tiny portion of hallway that originally housed the telephone. since you have to walk through this area to get to the kitchen and family room, I like to keep it looking decent--but find, as marjorie notes, that jackets, sweaters and umbrellas breed like bunnies there. once a week I go through the accumulation and return a good percentage of garments back to bedroom closets. I have decreed that it is *not* everyone's God-given right to have every jacket they've owned since junior high school hanging near the front door. you're starting to see the outlines of my organization theories here: books may not decree to me, but I may decree to the other members of my household. there's a single, small drawer in this hatstand and it used to be a little hellhole until I applied my law-of-drawer-designation to it. now, only dog leashes may reside there. (red ones for my gorgeous black and white border collies)
snarly (obizuth) Thu 8 Apr 04 13:50
casey is an Old Testament God of organization. fear her wrath! before we go on, i should say that now that we have SEEDED the topic (and not with gladioli, casey's favorite flower, which i encourage you all to send her in congratulations for the book's publication; randall prefers daisies), i'd love for people to ask casey and randall their own specific home-org questions. any organizational dilemmas, conflicts, muddles, decor clash ("i need to display my 48,000 log pattern quilts and yet i live with a minimalist dickweed who wants neither storage nor stuff, whatever shall i do," for example)? jump in at any time! we can have a bunch of questions/answers going at once. for now, continuing the room-by-room theme (and now that our entryways are all flawless and we've all run out to buy really fab dog collars even if we have no dogs, which was an unintended byproduct of my reading the book btw, it made me want to buy a sterling silver toast holder and a vintage bartender's condiment box, but hopefully we'll get to that eventually): LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM. if we have a small home and cannot lock the small people in a rec room or their postage-stamp-sized bedrooms, HOW do we create family-friendly, organized living spaces that are actually, y'know, livable? and realistic? and do lego blocks breed? nice quote from the book: "leave the perfect families to 1950s television shows. they were boring then and would be boring now." reassuring. but the beaver's mother wasn't constantly stepping on legos.
Randall Koll (randallk) Thu 8 Apr 04 19:03
I'll leave that one to Casey. My children went from womb, to boarding school, to VH1's "Where are they Now?"
lmc (lmc) Thu 8 Apr 04 22:56
welcome, casey and randall and thanks, obizuth! the book is great and i have already found so great tips for my very disorganized apartment!
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Fri 9 Apr 04 09:59
ah--the chaos of the family room. tis a challenge. two solutions here: functional furniture and the quick sweep. first: this really is a room where functional furniture can have a major impact on organization. people spend a lot of time shopping for "entertainment units" and various cabinets for coralling the tv, dvd, stereo, etc--and then blow a great storage/organizing opportunity by investing in a pretty little coffee table that can hold only three magazines and a beer can. the smaller your family living area, the more you have to make every piece of furniture work. ottomans should be storage cubes with lift-up lids, side tables should be multi-tiered, and coffee tables should be major workhorses. altho my kids are grown and gone, I am quite capable ofcreating a big mess in our small family room--even though one wall is devoted to built-in bookshelves and cabinets. I like to slouch in front of the tv (PBS only, of course. with a dash of Queer Eye)and spread out my art books and auction catalogs and back issues of Elle Decor. And when I'm deeply into a particular subject, there is no way I'm going to return the books et al to the bookshelves each night. In my B.R. (Before Randall) days, I would make an Alpine range of this reading material on the top of my slim little coffee table--and it looked like Hell. Randall took one look at this diorama and declared that I needed a new coffee table--a BIG coffee table with a tray top and a full shelf underneath. When this was delivered, he went through my collection of baskets, grabbed a rectangular one, placed in on the shelf and said: "that's for your magazines. when it's full, it's time to store some away or toss some." sounds so simple; works so well. I can pile books on the lower shelf, keep a few attractively arranged on the top, the magazines are under control and the room looks WAAAY better. what I'm getting at here is that I think you should look at the clutter and *then* look for solutions rather than just buying a storage piece and finding out it doesn't really address your room's specific problems.
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Fri 9 Apr 04 10:02
oh, and to answer the most important question: legos *will* breed unless confined to lidded containers.
snarly (obizuth) Fri 9 Apr 04 10:11
EXCELLENT coffee table solution! that genius randall! and excellent advice about looking for your specific issues rather than buying generic "storage solutions." that way metro shelving lies! (not that there's anything wrong with that. it just would not meet my living room needs. my husband thought it met our SF living room needs, but he was incorrect.) one thing i loved in the book is there are so many quirky suggestions and offbeat storage solutions and you encourage readers to be eclectic, not so matchy matchy, mixing things of different provenances. but how do you draw the line between creative and scattershot?
Randall Koll (randallk) Fri 9 Apr 04 11:13
One person's scattershot is often another person's shabby chic. Whatever you buy, whether it's wood shaker boxes to store holiday cds (freeing up space for the latest Prince or Beth Orton anthology,) or an old lidded laundry basket from France to use as blanket storage at the foot of your bed - you naturally maintain a consistency of style by what you personally select for your home. My only rule is that you buy the best quality you can afford and the best of the genre of what you are buying.
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Fri 9 Apr 04 12:45
I'm also a big believer in: try it out. And if it looks crummy and you can't return it, try it in another room for another use. one of the big pluses of using unusual containers/furniture pieces is that they so often will work in a multitude of ways and settings. those wood shaker baskets could hold rolls of socks in your closet (lids off if you roll your socks neatly and that old lidded laundry basket from France (we do love things Fronch chez Casey and Randall)could hold your bulkiest sweaters and thus free up drawer space for the things you wear more often.
Kevin Graves (titanic) Fri 9 Apr 04 13:48
Hello Marjorie, Hi Casey & Randall, This is your Texas fan club! I just wanted to hop in and say one of the main benefits we have derived from the book is this: No opening mail anywhere but at the desk, next to the waste basket. This one element has simplified our lives and was enough reason to buy the book (other than I you groupie anyway). What we are working on now is the 3 minute pick up.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 9 Apr 04 13:50
That sounds like a winning suggestion!
Cindy (loves2sing) Fri 9 Apr 04 14:36
My front door opens right into the living room. The room is rectangular, and the door is on one of the long walls, close to a corner. I'd like to create some kind of entryway space, beyond just putting down a floormat. I want everyone to take off their shoes when they we come in, without ending up with a room that looks like the shoe section of a thrift shop... Also, I want to have a place to put things that we'll need to take with us some time in the future. Right now they end up on the end table beside the sofa, which does get them near the door, but doesn't look great.
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Fri 9 Apr 04 14:48
HI, Kevin. Welcome to the WELL. "the three minute sweep" is my tribute to Jack's maternal grandmother--who always used to pick up newspapers Gramps scattered all over the living room before she retired for the night. When I asked her why she was so faithful to this ritual, she replied ( in all earnestness) "What if there was a fire in the night and the fireman saw this mess?!" 40 years later, this still cracks me up. Uh, Grandma, the newspapers would be ashes and the fireman would not be making observations about your housekeeping... but I also remember how pleasant it was to come down for breakfast at her house (and not just because she made Danish pastry from scratch) and find the living area tidy. I think the secret of making the 3-min-sweep work is not *letting* yourself spend more than 3 or 4 minutes--if you say to yourself, "I'm going to make this room look house-tour ready before I go to bed," Yourself is very like to respnd: "That's a lousy idea. Let's just go to bed." so, the SPIRIT, the ESSENCE, of the sweep is to race around and cleam up the worst of the mess (perhaps throw away the pizza boxes) every single night--and when you face the room the next morning, it'll be a lot more welcoming. and...hi to cindy. I'm going to let randall address your question.
Alan Turner (arturner) Fri 9 Apr 04 14:58
The thing I like best about the book (and I think it's your main point, correct me if I'm wrong) is that you _don't_ start with rules along the lines of "If you haven't used it in a year, throw it away", and instead focus more along the lines of making it work for what's important for you. I really like that; there are books that I need once a year, but I like having them handy, because I never know when that once a year will happen. So I keep several hundred books handy. Somebody else will have a similar intrest in cooking, and that person should keep several hundred cooking tools handy. Whatever is important to you: books, vegetable peelers, pictures of your children. Some of the pictures in the book show rooms that are bigger than a Manhattan apartment, though. I could make a lovely small dinner table for six people in a room with 6' tall windows and all that, but I don't have such a room. Too bad for me. If I looked at the photographs first, before reading the text, I'd say to myself "that's nice, but there's no way I can do something like that here." We've been re-arranging the kitchen here, and have taken some of the ideas to heart. There will be a bit more of a shakedown cruise, but we have way more of the things we use all of the time way more handy. And that makes for much easier living already.
shred everything (artlife) Fri 9 Apr 04 15:19
hi casey! hi randall! hi marjorie! the book is beautiful, and i am enjoying it amidst the pile of books and periodicals on my bed this is the clutter issue in my home and i would love to be able to contain the reading material i am slightly adhd, so i am always reading several things at once then there are the items that need action, but not today (such as park and rec sign-ups, ikea catalogue) i already know what to do with my bills - put them in a stack and wait until i can't find any activity to do instead of paying them i want the reading material close at hand, and i do not want open baskets what can you suggest?
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Fri 9 Apr 04 15:24
before randall gets here, I'm going to ask kevin--who is a devoted reader--about his under-the-bed-yet-still-accessible book storage. kev:
Kevin Graves (titanic) Fri 9 Apr 04 15:50
ah.... my underbed book storage. Actually I have a three part book storage in my bedroom. A little background. I am a voracious reader, and I have a small core group of favorite books, like my Robert Frost Poetry book that I have on my nighttable, which is large. It's a small collection I have winnowed down into 7 books. I love to read a bit from these books when I just have a moment before sleep for reading. Then I have a lined basket on the floor next to the window where I keep my "books in waiting stack". These are waiting to be read. There are also a few current shelter mags there. I instituted my own organizational rule last year about only one magazine and novel at a time on my night table, (currently being read). It's worked out well. Underbed, I have rolling boxes from Ikea which I have put a canvas topper on, and I keep my favorite magazines under there. About every six months I clean it out. It is a very handy storage, and the canvas topper (stole that from Martha Stewart (pre-felony stage) and it keeps the dust out.
Kevin Graves (titanic) Fri 9 Apr 04 16:17
I'd also like to jump in to "shred everything" on the bedroom situation with books. What led me to do something about the book situation is that we keep the bedroom as a sanctuary. I'd been doing my part, but underneath my side of the bed was a hopeless pike of magazines. My night table is an old wash stand, and the doors underneath were piled high with books. It really *DOES* disturb the calmness of that serene room by having all those books in there that way. I am a person who likes my favorites and my new books close by, so we came up with this after several heated conversations about "my side". It's worked very well.
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