A Tip for Avoiding Piles

Garbage can

Piles. We all have them. They start as innocuous little stacks. They might even appear neat, at first. Good intentions are nearly always behind them. But piles are a slippery slope.

Part of having a place for everything (a mantra I firmly believe in) includes having a place for the discards. Oddly enough, the discards tend to make up a substantial portion of the clutter in people’s lives—they stick around much longer than intended. Luckily, there are some really easy solutions. For example:

Add a trash can. This basic necessity is very often absent from a cluttered room. When helping a client, I often find piles of paper merely waiting to be disposed of in a trash can … in another room. Adding a small trash can to most rooms makes a significant difference in deflecting clutter—especially in the foyer, office, laundry, and mudroom areas. (Recycling this paper would be even better, but let’s take baby steps …)

Relocate the laundry hamper. The most common reason dirty laundry piles up in the wrong place is that the hamper is either inaccessible or inconvenient (or both). Think about where it would be most useful to have your hamper—the location of the pile is usually a good hint—and then put the hamper there if you can.

Designate a bag for donations. I highly recommend always having a Goodwill bag at the ready. It is more likely to be filled and prevents the piles from happening elsewhere.

Put store returns in the car. A small basket in the trunk is great for holding items to be returned. Keep the item in its original bag along with the receipt, if you can.

Set aside clothes for consignment. I keep these items on hangers all together in the back of my closet. I make a trip to the consignment store at the start of each season. With the clothes already cleaned and corralled, it doesn’t feel like a big chore. Also, by separating them, I am not dealing with them every time I open my closet.

Bag children’s outgrown clothing. I have a bag in each child’s closet to hold clothes they outgrow, and I add to it frequently. Then, once a season, I move those clothes to the attic for long-term storage (until we decide whether or not to go for #3!) .

Corral presents for others. Designate one area where gifts are stored until they are given. Might seem a little too Type A, but I can’t tell you how often I unearth gifts meant for others while helping clients clean out. They couldn’t find the original gift so had to purchase another!

All of this comes down to convenience. If something is inconvenient, most people simply won’t do it. By providing these much needed collection points, the ease of putting things in the right place outweighs the temptation to let it pile up.

While these tips might seem fairly obvious, it is just like eating right, exercising daily and going to bed at a decent hour … Advice we hear routinely and yet we still struggle to do it sometimes. So hopefully this gentle reminder will help nudge you in the right direction.

An Abundance of Extras


We will soon be moving to a new house, and with that comes a lot of planning. The new house has a fair amount of additional storage, and I was happily plotting where things would go … particularly in the closets. And that’s when I noticed a word excessively present in one area.


In a hall closet, I was planning to put extra craft supplies, extra fabric, extra artwork & frames, extra lamps, extra blankets … and more. For someone who diligently avoids clutter, I had somehow nearly filled an entire closet with only extras. Yikes.

I was humbled. And embarrassed.

What am I saving these things for? Why the extras, particularly for such superfluous categories? To be fair, some of the things were genuinely saved for when we moved to a bigger house, which is now happening … Some of them … I don’t know.

I’ve got some sorting to do. If the extras are not pretty immediately employed in the new house, out they will go. And hopefully that closet will dwindle down to much less content.

We’ve all got stuff we can get rid of—even when we might think otherwise. What extras might you be holding on to?

Getting Organized With … Ann Evans of Cypress Floral Design

Arranging flowers is one of my favorite aspects of entertaining at home, but there are many occasions when it is more appropriate to call in the pros. Lucky for Jacksonville, we have Ann Evans, owner of Cypress Floral Design. Ann is a beautiful person inside and out, and her flowers are equally stunning. I’ve worked with her on both personal and professional levels many times and she never fails to delight. In addition to designing numerous weddings throughout the South, Ann has created the floral designs for the Cummer Ball and the Art & Antiques Show. Knowing many people will be pulling out their vases during the next few weeks, I asked Ann to share her best organizing tips with us. Here she is:

Ann with a selection of her vase collection

What are the few, key vases everyone should own?
I’ll start with the vases you should not own and then suggest ones that you should.  There are a few factors  that go into choosing a great vase. The most important  is whether or not it can be easily cleaned! If the mouth of a vase is the size of a quarter and the vase is over 12″ tall, it is almost impossible to clean. Additionally, I prefer translucent or opaque vessels over clear ones because the water typically turns before the flowers. Also make sure the vessel is water-tight—you don’t want any leaky vases. To answer your question, besides water-tight translucent or opaque vessels,  I think everyone should own a set of really beautiful silver mint julep cups. They are versatile and can be dotted around the house or placed collectively on a dining room table mixed with votive candles. They are traditional and classic, but they take on the life of whatever flowers you put in them—from soft hydrangeas with mixed greenery to edgier deep red roses. Same vessel, different look.

shallow cabinets, perfect for storage vases

Do you have any tips for storing these delicate, sometimes bulky items?
You know that saying “if you can’t see it, it isn’t there”?—well, that’s how I feel about vase storage. I store my vases so that I can see nearly all of them at a glance. Some are stacked together with felt in between them for protection, but I know they are there. I also have a lot of stainless steel wire racks. I often suggest clients put these racks in their garages or utility closets for storing vases (as well as many other items). It is amazing how much they hold and everything remains visible. Another idea is to have a carpenter shorten the depth of a cabinet by putting a wood panel inside—this makes for shallow shelves and allows easy access to vases. Then you can put valuable or seasonal items behind the panel and out of the way.

In terms of vases or floral supplies, what do you see too much of in people’s home?
I see too many unused vases! If you never use it, take it to goodwill, recycle it or have a garage sale.

Are there any tools that really make life easier for you that we should consider using?
I just bought a pair of Corona snippers at Philips Garden Store and I love them! They are really tough and sharp but not bulky. They cut everything from woody hydrangea stems to soft tulips. I highly recommend them.

Ann Evans - floral 2a bridal bouquet by Ann Evans

How do you stay organized before really big events?
Lists! I have checklists for every event. Always typed and printed. I have terrible handwriting and creating lists on my phone or iPad doesn’t seem real to me. I list every piece and part of every floral creation and tablescape I design. Then I check off every supply and each completed design.

Ann Evans - floral 1table and flowers by Ann Evans

What are some simple tips for keeping more fresh flowers around the house?
Call me! Ha :) I love designing flowers for people whether it be on occasion or each week—but I completely understand if you see some beautiful blooms at the grocery store and want to brighten up your home. Go for it! Flowers are such a treat. Just be sure to give the stems a fresh cut and put them in water immediately.

Keeping It Simple: Uniforms

from everlane, a favorite store. their 2014 fall/winter line just launched—don’t miss it.

Having a smaller wardrobe, I tend to wear the same things over and over. More or less a uniform, you could say. With two young children, it just accidentally evolved this way to make my life easier. Little thought input, maximum looking good/feeling good output.

Preston often talks about a “runaround uniform” and I love that idea. A go-to look for those days where you don’t necessarily need to look extremely professional but still presentable. A perfect solution especially for stay-at-home moms.

Another way to view this is “worst case scenario” dressing. Meaning, your go-to uniform will work no matter where you go (work, errands, appointments, park) and how you feel (exhausted, bloated, rushed). A big part of this is finding and choosing clothes that fit. Once you’ve landed on those core pieces that always feel right, just keep wearing them! Invest in a few pairs of the same perfect pants, the right tops and the amazingly comfortable shoes. No need to reinvent the wheel each morning.

Variety is not the key here. Sounds boring or strange? That’s okay. You won’t care because your mornings just got a heck of a lot easier. And no one else will care either—I promise.

Everyone’s uniform will look different and of course change from season to season. I don’t aspire to be extremely fashionable—just to feel comfortable and look good enough with the ultimate goal of keeping things simple.

Are your clothes making your mornings easier or more complicated? How could you simplify? More tips for decluttering clothes here and here.

5 Tips for Keeping Out the Clutter

While cleaning out the family car recently, I said out loud to no one in particular “where did all of this stuff COME from?!?” It is shocking how quickly clutter can creep into our lives, even when we actively avoid and remove it. But just like exercising and eating a healthy diet are ongoing commitments, so is decluttering. Prevention and maintenance are both necessary. And with that, here are five ways to keep out the clutter.

garbage and recycling

Sort at the door. I go through every bag in our foyer before it gets into the rest of the house. I’m ruthless about this rule. School backpacks, swim bags, shopping bags, my purse (a black hole for the family), mail and deliveries, etc. A lot flows into a house of four people. We have a garbage can, recycling bag and usually a Goodwill bag right there just waiting to be filled, and filled they are.

Remove the temptation to shop. Unsubscribe from emails and catalogs. If we don’t know a sale is happening, we can’t be tempted. (Double bonus: less mail and email!) And by not viewing shopping as a hobby, our leisure time can be spent doing something far more enriching for our lives.

Decline freebies. An obvious tip, but noteworthy nonetheless. My trick for avoiding this trap? I ask myself “would I pay my own money to own this item?” If the answer is no, I know to decline, no matter how generous the offer.

The old “wait 30 days” rule. The idea is to wait 30 days before buying anything other than the necessities (food, toothpaste, toilet paper). Put the items on a list (I use Evernote) and if you still find you truly need it in 30 days, then maybe buy it. When I follow this advice, it is incredibly effective (but easier said than done!).

Know your Achilles heel. Amazon is/was my downfall. I realized it was a problem when I would receive boxes with no clue of what was inside (please tell me this has happened to you). Recently, I placed a moratorium on Amazon for two weeks, and it did wonders to break the habit. If one store plagues you (Target is often a culprit for my clients), then avoid it to see if you can cure the issue.