Thursday, December 13, 2012

Never say "no", laundry solutions, and carrots

Happy Winter Morning!

I got my first question. So happy.

"My house has no utility room, just a walk thru hallway to the garage, with washer and dryer hook ups and one small shelf. Clothes are piled up all over. We step all over clean and dirty clothes to go to the cars. How do you handle that?"

My Aunt Ronda has THE BEST utility room back in the 70's. tons of storage, and big enough for a sewing and craft table. If I could wave a magic wand and put that room in my builder grade house, *poof*, how happy I would be. The utility room seems to have disappeared in floor plans of most new, affordable homes. This baffles me, as a builder friend once told me of a study done. He said that most women, if they enter their home through a room that is a work space for them, experience a greater degree of stress than if it is simply an entry way. I imagine that most of  these designs are done by men who don't get that, nor do the washing at home. Bless their hearts. ( That is Texan for "you idiot")
I can relate, walking past piles of clean and dirty clothes every time I come and go - stinks. Those socks and underthings taunt me with their "undoneness". Piles of clean clothes that belong to my kiddos were everywhere. The relentlessness of laundry in a house can wear you out. It sometimes feels like the socks start multiplying like Tribbles on Star Trek, except they never match each other! Still working on Christmas Tree ornaments made with orphan socks. Keep checking my Pinterest for that one. Also, immediately call  the authorities and have me committed when you see it.
As I examined my "laundry hallway", it doesn't get the dignity of being called a room, I began to see hidden potential. There was space up there. By "up" I mean that I went vertical. Most of our homes have 7 foot ceilings, yet without the floor to ceiling cabinetry that adorns the mid-century ranch counterparts many of us grew up in. Installing built-ins is not yet in my skill set, but I am working on it.  3 M to the rescue! I put those removable hooks that do not damage the wall as high as I could reach all around the space. It clearly states how much weight the hooks can bear on the package. So, using a level, I put two hooks side by side, that could hold a plastic laundry basket empty or  full of clothes. I purchased a different color basket for each of my Sweet and Precious Blessings (heretofore known as SPB's). That gave me a spot, off the floor to sort folded clothes. For an impromptu dry rack, I put smaller hooks directly over the washer, to hang unmentionables and even shoes.
When finished ( for a while) I put the children's baskets at the bottom of the stairs. They typically jump right over them and ignore them completely. Selective sight in a teenager is remarkable, especially when passing a full trash can, bleh. So I lay ( or is it lie?) in wait. When one of the SPB's asks, "Can I have a snack?", I apply the "When.........Then" principle. Back when I was a special education aid, I learned a great technique, never say no, just apply a needed condition. So my reply is "Sure! When you put your laundry away, then I will serve you hot, fresh, chocolate chip cookies". It is crucial to find out what they love more than anything and, not take it from them, but offer it at a strategic time. It's a win- win, really. Investing time in the things they love and having them around as a delayed gratification award sets a great example AND connects you to their hearts desire. Yes, with a teenage boy that can truly be a hot, fresh, chocolate chip cookie.
I have used carrots throughout the years with the SPB's. The carrots change, but investing time in knowing what they are has never been a waste. I use transitions to get small tasks done as well. The call to dinner will often have "Then....When"'s as well. "Nachos will be served when the shoes are picked up." It helps squelch the yelling if the see that a clean slate is rewarded. "A spoonful of sugar helps the nacho cheese go down?" Or something like that. Positive persistence works so well in our home.
Wow, I guess, as with most things, organizations isn't so much the clutter, but the people behind the clutter and those relationships .
Huh, maybe I this "Clutter Counselor" title is more leaning towards the "Counselor".  Should I try "Teenager Whisperer?" I don't know. Anyway, these good habits bring peace, joy, and beauty into our house. Let me know what works for you. Have any of you figured out what carrot to dangle in front of your husband? Dear Lord, that suddenly sound WAY inappropriate. Ha! Maybe inappropriate  carrots are the only solution with the men folk.

That, darlings, is another blog entry entirely.

Peace, Beauty, and Joy,

Amy Madison Designs
"Clutter Counselor"
"Teenage Whisperer"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Redesign, according to my Aunt Margie


I hope my blog finds you well.  No, that's not true.  I hope my blog finds you a hot mess.  I don't wish you any ill will. I mean quite the opposite.  I simply mean I want YOUR problems in YOUR house.  Let me explain.

I have a "fixing addiction."  Be it to organize a pantry, clean and decorate a guest room, or put your house on the market, I hope that you have found me searching for answers.  While I would love to come visit you in person, (especially if you live in Texas), I can always settle for spewing out the knowledge I have gained over the last 20 years by email, Facebook, Twitter or, of course, this blog.  If you don't have any of those needs, you can at least enjoy stories about my mother.

I decided about a year ago to employ what I have used to survive since having a family at a very young age. Most of my adult life was spent feeling "less than."  I couldn't afford the best in my home, or even the mediocre, and it depressed me.  When you are home with two babies you stare at your mismatched furniture a great deal.  Well, that and trying to decide who is the hottest Wiggle.  I was more than envious of my friends that seemed to have it all.  I was embarrassed about my humble surroundings.  Rarely did I have guests over when I was a young mommy.  Shame and helplessness filled me.

It was then that I remembered my Aunt Margie's technique.  Many often discuss making lemonade out of the lemons that life hands us.  In the Panhandle of Texas, where I grew up, folks tend to not tiptoe around a subject.  They say "shining a turd" means to make the best of a hopeless mess.  The truth is, there is rarely a perceived mess that can't be fixed.  You can just wear yourself out living with it and need a fresh perspective.  Pride, peace, and beauty can be obtained in your surroundings regardless of your budget or your capability.

My Aunt Margie is a strong willed woman, as many in West Texas are.  When her fortunes in life turned against her, did she allow dollar sign limitations to hamper the fabulousness?  NO.  She would take a picture of what she wanted, be it a blouse, a couch, a table setting, etc...and work to match it as closely as she could with what she could afford.  This meant sewing things herself, painting and thrift shopping.  It was amazing.  She would not let go of dream of having what she wanted.  She would simply "tweak" whatever she could to make it beautiful.  At times she went a bit overboard. What with the whole sewing alligators on JCPenny "Izods"  in the 80's.  But good Lord, that woman could squeeze the beauty out of anything.  She would point out popular trends and show me how to achieve them with what I had.

At this point you might be thinking, "Neat, but I don't have an Aunt Margie."

Oh, but you do.

As I worked to develop the skills I observed as a child from all of my crafty relatives, I found what I really loved.  To take a diamond in the rough and make it not just beautiful, but mine.  Using the craziest, recycled (but free!) containers to organize a closet was a revelation.  I tapped artist friends on ideas about how to cheaply cover the scratched counter tops in my rent house.  My brother, who worked as a professional painter taught me how to do wonders with the "Oops" discounted paint at hardware stores.  This is how we rolled before Pinterest, kids.  Getting the most out of an object with little-to-no budget became a passion AND a blessing.  There are hidden treasures and uses for the things all around you.

You have a place in your surroundings that needs...something.  You may not even have a clue what.  You do, however, know what bothers you about it.  So talk to me peoples.  Think of me as your "Clutter Counselor."  This applies even if the clutter is in your mind.  Just talking it through with someone can help.  Listening to your problems and questions about your home is one of the greatest pleasures in life for me.  How jazzed I am to begin this chapter in life.  I get to be a part of my clients families in a very sacred way.

I challenge you: Give me a question, and I will do my best to answer it.  If I don't have the experience to safely guide you to the solution, I know somebody who does.  Honey, I know everybody.

Send me your pictures of that closet, couch, or room. No judgement, just help.  I have spent YEARS studying the solutions for design, cleaning, organization, and staging.

I look forward to the problems!

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy Nichols Madison
The Clutter Counselor - Good Lord, I really like that!