Holiday Gift Idea: Candle-Making Checklist

Homemade candles are a great gift idea, but be sure to follow these safety tips before you start melting wax. From Homemade: The Heart and Science of Handcrafts by Carol Endler Sterbenz.

• Melt wax in a double boiler.

• Replenish the water in the double boiler.

• Use a wax or candy thermometer.

• Know the wax’s melt point and pouring temperature.

• Never leave wax unattended on the stove.

• Remove smoking wax from the stove immediately!

• Read the manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing wax, molds, and wicks.

• Allow ample ventilation when making candles, especially when using fragrance oil.

• Add scent to liquid wax just before pouring, when the wax is off-heat, to avoid dissipating the fragrance through evaporation.

• Preheat molds and containers before pouring in hot wax.

• Do not flush hot liquid wax down the drain. Let unwanted wax cool and harden for proper disposal.

• Do not microwave wax.

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8 Money-Saving Ways to Organize Your Halloween Treats

Halloween organization and decorating tips to save money by Barbara Reich author of Secrets of an Organized MomBy Barbara Reich
Author of Secrets of an Organized Mom

As a child, the whole concept of Halloween seems too good to be true. You get to wear a costume, knock on strangers’ doors, and ask them for candy. Then you pretty much eat as many sweets as you want for an entire night. But as a parent, Halloween can be downright scary.

Your pre-schooler changes his mind four times about his costume, your tween wants to trick-or-treat with friends (and no parent), and your teenager’s costume seems to be exposing an awful lot of skin. And you haven’t even started thinking about the costume you’re wearing to your friend’s annual Monster Mash. So how can you enjoy the holiday keeping it fun? Here are some tips that are sure to help.

1. Take out your Halloween decorations two to three weeks before the holiday. If you’ve gone to the trouble of buying and storing the decorations, enjoy them for a few weeks as excitement for the holiday builds.

2. Begin to think about Halloween costumes as soon as the back-to-school fervor fades. If you’re going to order a costume online, leave yourself enough time for it to be shipped to you and returned if the size isn’t correct. Planning on making a costume? Start early enough so you can enjoy the process with your child.

3. Buy your Halloween candy early. The prices for candy are the highest in the two weeks before Halloween.

4. This is the perfect time to sort through your child’s dress-up clothes. Maybe you can find a costume your child wants to wear or some accessories that can be used. It’s also the perfect time to purge the costumes that no longer fit.

5. Sort Halloween candy by type and store in glass or clear plastic cylinders of different heights. You’ll be amazed at how pretty the candy looks when stored this way.

6. After trick-or-treating, invite your child’s friends over for a cake or cupcake-decorating play date. Unwrap the candy and place it in bowls in the middle of the table. Then, give them each several frosted cupcakes or one cake to decorate. The candy will stick to the icing, the children will have a great time, and you’ll be rid of the candy by the end of the afternoon.

7. November 1 isn’t too soon to take down the Halloween decorations. All things Halloween related should be put away by the weekend following the holiday. Halloween books, pumpkin carving kits, Halloween decorations, and costumes should be stored in a clear plastic box with a lid (size and number of boxes depends on the quantity you have). This should be put away, out of the way, until next year.

8. Be realistic about saving costumes. If you have a child that loves playing dress up, add it to the stash. However, if there’s little chance the costume will be worn again, donate it.

Barbara Reich is a professional organizer based in New York City. Her tough love approach turns organization and clutter from chore to lifestyle. Barbara’s book Secrets of an Organized Mom will be on shelves in February 2013. To find more tips from Barbara, please visit her personal website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

5 Steps to Decoupage Anything

5 Steps to Decoupage AnythingIf you’ve never decoupaged before, don’t be scared. It’s not as fancy as it sounds, but the end result is beautiful using this how-to guide from Tori Spelling’s CelebraTORI: Unleashing Your Inner Party Planner to Entertain Friends and Family.

If you graduated from kindergarten, you’ve got all the skills you need. You are basically just cutting out pictures and gluing them onto a surface.

1. Pick your surface. You can decoupage anything from wood, to bottles, to garbage cans, to wine bottles (which make nice candleholders).

2. Cut out the pictures you plan to use. You can choose photos, labels, postcards… anything that works for your concept.

3. Glue the pictures onto the surface.

4. Paint over the whole collage with diluted white glue. There are special decoupage glues out there, but regular school glue works just fine.

5. Let your work dry, then paint it again. About three to four layers of glue should do the trick.

Now your collage is transformed into a shiny, finished surface. So crafty!

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Laundry Tips: How to Save Time and Lighten the Load

Sort darks from delicates in a snap and put an end to the vanishing sock conundrum once and for all: Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life In One Week, shares the secret to streamlining laundry time.

Out of all the advice I’m about to give on how to do laundry efficiently, there is one principle that stands out among the others: The less you own, the less you have to clean. If you don’t have many clothes, then your laundry baskets can’t overflow with items. This principle is true for everything in your home (fewer objects to dust, fewer papers to file) and makes a significant impact when you apply it to your wardrobe.

Tips for keeping laundry under control:

For the person who doesn’t mind laundry too much:

  • Decrease the size of your hamper. It’s easy to resist doing laundry until your hamper is full, so use a smaller hamper to keep from getting overwhelmed. Alternatively, most residential washing machines only hold between twelve and eighteen pounds per load (check with your manufacturer for your model’s exact weight limit). Get out your scale, put your hamper on the scale, and note the weight. Then fill the hamper with clothes until your scale reads twelve pounds (or whatever your machine’s limit) above the weight of the hamper. Mark that clothing line on the inside of your hamper so that you know when you’ve reached your one-load limit. (Note: Most washing machines will hold more clothing than their weight limit. Just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should. Your machine will last longer if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.)
  • Organize immediately. If you sort your laundry by color and separate out the delicates and dry cleaning, do this when you take off your clothes.
  • Make it desirable. The nicer your laundry room, the more time you’ll want to spend there. Replace lightbulbs, clear the spiderwebs, and set up a table to fold clothes on. If you don’t have a washing machine in your home, keep a piggy bank for quarter collection and carry your detergent in water bottles instead of the hefty container it came in. The easier it is to get to the Laundromat, the more likely you’ll be to make a habit of going there.
  • Stay on a routine. I’ll talk about this more in detail in chapter 3.For the person who hates laundry, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” section, plus:
  • Get ready for bed at least an hour before you go to bed. If you’re someone who leaves your clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper, it’s probably because you’re exhausted and climbing into bed in the dark. Get ready for bed when you’re still alert and the lights are on to keep you from using your floor as a hamper.
  • Wash-and-wear is the way to go. Any clothing that requires special attention can clog up your laundry system. If you pay a few extra dollars in the store for wrinkle-free fabrics and wash-and-wear items, you end up saving yourself considerable time (no ironing) and money (no dry cleaning bills) over the long term.For the person who loathes laundry with the burning passion of a thousand suns, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” and “hates it” sections, plus:
  • Avoid colors that bleed. If you don’t have darks that bleed onto lights, then you can throw everything into the same load. Reds, oranges, blacks, purples, and navy blues are often bleeders, so avoid them for convenience.
  • Buy in bulk. Stop wasting time matching socks. Buy multiple pairs of the same kind of sports and dress socks. I buy six pairs of identical white sports socks and five pairs of identical dark dress socks. When they start to wear out, I turn all of them into rags and replace them at the same time. In my house, we call it the Sock Purge, and it takes place about every six to eight months.

Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life! (Copyright © 2009 by Erin Doland), is an organization consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of, a popular website that has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, House Beautiful,, and on the BBC and HGTV. She is a weekly columnist for Real Simple online, and has written for Ready Made, Women’s Day, and, among others. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband.

Energize Your Office Space

Ensure that your work environment is working for you with these tips from Jeffrey Wands, successful psychic medium and author of Knock and the Door Will Open: 6 Keys to Mastering the Art of Living.

Your office should reflect who you are in the same way your home does. To make whatever time you spend in the office as productive and positive as possible, you need to make sure that you’re working in an energizing environment.

Here are a few tips for making your office a place where you flourish:

  • Do you know who worked there before you? It’s just as important to clear negative energy from your office as it is to clear it from your home.
  • Clean out the drawers, the shelves, and the file cabinets. Pitching the previous occupant’s personal belongings (or your own leftover clutter) will eliminate negative energy.
  • Shift the energy by making the space your own. If you can’t actually move or replace the furniture, bring in a photo of a loved one or another personal belonging that has positive associations for you.
  • Bring in something you can look at that makes you feel calm and peaceful and reminds you of the greater meaning of your life.
  • Create a “success” or “fame” corner in a color associated with recognition (see page 114).
  • Bring in something metal to help you gain clarity and precision in your work.
  • If you’re moving your own things from a previous office, make certain that you leave behind anything that had a negative meaning for you.
  • If you’ve been feeling sluggish and stagnant in your job, clean out your workplace. Go in on a weekend if you have to and just be relentless — pitch, toss, get rid of all the stuff that’s been preventing the creative energy from fl owing.
  • Place your desk as far from the entrance as possible to draw chi or life force toward you rather than blocking it, and make sure that you sit facing the door so that you’re inviting in more that’s good and profitable, not turning your back on it!
  • If your office has fluorescent light, augment or replace it with a desk lamp that has full-spectrum light, which most closely simulates natural sunshine. Cool, white fluorescent light has been banned in Germany because studies have shown that it has a negative impact on health and well-being, which in turn negatively impacts productivity.
  • Bring in touches of red for increased energy, orange for concentration, purple for inspiration, and yellow to make it a happy space.

Jeffrey A. Wands, the author of Knock and the Door Will Open (Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey A. Wands), Another Door Opens (Copyright © 2007 Jeffrey A. Wands)  The Psychic in You (Copyright © 2004 Jeffrey A. Wands) appears frequently on national television, is a popular guest on radio programs across the country, and hosts his own weekly radio call-in program, “Psychic Sundays,” on WALK 97.5 FM. He has thousands of clients worldwide who wait up to a year for a reading at his Port Washington, NY, office.


6 Ways to Tame Paper Clutter

Turn those mountains of paper into manageable molehills and learn how to cut the paper trail off at the source with these tips from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

It seems that the farther we advance with technology, the more we are inundated with paper. Remember when computer gurus told us we would soon be living in a paperless society? Well, guess what — it seems that the technical revolution has generated a whole new spawn of paperwork.

The vast majority of waste in recycling sites is nothing more than ordinary paper — everything from junk mail, newspapers, magazines, and phone books to the flotsam-and-jetsam paperwork of everyday life. Controlling this particular area of clutter is key to living a less stressful and simpler life. Let’s tackle the paper chase together, shall we?

You’ve Got Mail

When you pick up your mail every day, bring it in the house to the same spot. It can be a basket in the entryway, a designated spot on the kitchen counter, or a space at your desk in the home office. Then take a few moments to go through your mail, and remember the rule to handle each piece of paper only once. Newspapers, catalogs, and magazines go to the magazine rack or a basket, where you can find them and read them at your leisure. Toss out the old catalog as you replace it with the new issue, and make sure to sort through this storage bin regularly (weekly is great) to keep it up-to-date. Toss the water, electric, or car payment into a manila folder or large envelope marked “Bills” for payment. Read personal mail, such as wedding or shower invitations, birthday cards, and the like, and enter information on your family calendar. Scan through junk mail, then toss. The big temptation here is to set down a letter, bill, or “interesting idea” from the junk mail for “later.” However, later usually doesn’t come! Teach yourself to clear out your mail daily, and clutter has that much less of a chance to congregate.

Consider how many charge accounts you have. Do you really need four major credit cards, a gasoline card, and a card for every department store in your nearby mall? Remember that all of these cards generate reams of mail in your direction from these retailers. Simplify your life by cutting down your credit cards to just a few you can use everywhere.

Chances are you’re on some mailing lists for items that no longer interest you. Take 15 minutes today to stop the accumulation of unwanted offers in the mail. You’ll need to make one phone call and write a single letter to do this. To stop unwanted credit offers, dial 1–888–5–OPT–OUT at any time of day or night. Then, write to the following: DMA Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. Include your complete name, address, zip code, and a request to “activate the preference service.” The Direct Marketing Association estimates that this one step will stop 75 percent of junk mail from reaching you for up to five years. Keep in mind this option may stop catalogs and promotions you would have liked to receive.

The Paper Tiger
And some ways to tame it:

  • Think twice before you copy that e-mail or print that delicious recipe you want to try “someday.” The great temptation of the Internet is that it makes so much information available so easily. How may times have you printed out a couple of pages to read later, and later has never come? And how many times have you printed out one page only to be flooded with six or seven? Remember: You don’t have to print everything. The information will be there, on line, the next time you need it.
  • Reuse paper in your printer to copy items for personal use; save the clean copy paper for items you need to send out or keep as a personal record.
  • Consider using electronic or on-line banking — it cuts down dramatically on paperwork.
  • Recycle or toss newspapers and magazines at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy, and a fire hazard as well.
  • Store important personal papers such as your will, birth certificate, social security card, and passport in a safe place at home (a fireproof box is best) or a safe deposit box at the bank. If you store these papers at the bank, keep a list of what is in the safe deposit box on your computer or in your home files. Go through these papers twice a year to make sure they’re in order. Keep a separate folder for each child in your family. In each, place their immunization record, report cards, birth certificates, social security card, and any other important information, such as allergies, doctors’ names and phone numbers. This will be invaluable, especially at the beginning of each school year.
  • A family calendar is a great idea. Purchase a large one and post it in an obvious place such as the kitchen. Mark down birthday parties, weddings, family parties, as invitations arrive. Keep a clothespin attached to the calendar, where you can hang the invitation or pertinent information. When the event is over, just toss.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



What’s Your Design Style?

What you like — from food to fashion to museums and movies — reveals a lot about what you’ll love to have in your home. Discover your design style with this eight-question quiz by Ty Pennington, author of Good Design Can Change Your Life and host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and learn how to infuse your personality into your home decor.

1. The places you like to shop include:
a. uncluttered contemporary stores where white, black, and a little gunmetal gray reign.
b. flea markets, garage sales, thrift shops.
c. department and specialty stores with wide ranging choices; quality antique stores.
d. stores that showcase the handcrafted wares of other cultures.
e. shops with environmentally responsible items made from natural materials.
f. all of the above.

2. The museum show you’d run to see is:
a. twenty cutting-edge London artists under twenty.
b. French advertising posters from the ’20s.
c. Rembrandt and the Dutch Masters.
d. Tibetan treasures.
e. an Ansel Adams retrospective.
f. all of the above.

3. Your clothes tend to be:
a. white or black.
b. funky — vintage pieces mixed with new.
c. buttoned-down and conservative with lots of khaki.
d. African-print shirts or Indian skirts.
e. jeans, organic cotton T-shirts, and boots.
f. all of the above.

4. The music you favor is:
a. intellectual rock like Radiohead, the White Stripes.
b. pop like John Mayer and Sheryl Crow.
c. classics like old Sinatra and new Diana Krall.
d. world music like the Gipsy Kings and Buena Vista Social Club.
e. earthy and raw-edged like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
f. all of the above.

5. Your favorite movies from another era are:
a. mod films from the ’60s like Blow-Up and Bullitt.
b. Casablanca and film noir flicks like The Maltese Falcon.
c. anything with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn.
d. Out of Africa and foreign films like the Brazilian Black Orpheus.
e. Born Free and nature documentaries.
f. all of the above.

6. Your idea of a great vacation spot is:
a. Stockholm.
b. Paris.
c. a golf resort in Hawaii.
d. the farthest reaches of Mexico.
e. the mountains of Wyoming.
f. all of the above.

7. Your favorite type of restaurant is:

a. the “it” spot everyone is talking about.
b. funky old Italian dives with checked tablecloths and red leather banquettes.
c. the classic steak house.
d. Ethiopian restaurants and ethnic food hole-in-the-walls.
e. organic eateries.
f. all of the above.

8. You like to throw parties that are:
a. evening soirées with chic cocktails and gourmet hors d’oeuvres.
b. casual buffets that let you break out all your flea market bowls.
c. sit-down dinners served on your grandmother’s china.
d. Indian or Catalonian food nights.
e. barbecues on the beach over an open campfire.
f. all of the above.

If you answered mostly a, your style is minimalist.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you probably don’t have lace curtains in your dining room, fringe on your pillows, or Grranimals in your closet. Chances are, you like a home that’s clean and modern and maybe you even stick to a palette of all white: white napkins, white towels, white sheets, white walls, white shirts. Maybe you even eat white cheeses and have a white dog. (You still, though, cling to your black leather jacket; that you’ll never give up.) You might also like vintage modern but only as long as it fits in with your minimalist scheme. You’re undoubtedly up on the latest in art, music, and design. You’re hip, you’re mod, you know what’s going on.

I’m an admirer of modern minimalism (not to mention the latest hip things). Keep in mind, though, that your home is more than a showcase for what’s new and cutting-edge; it’s also a place where you and your family and friends should be able to feel comfortable and relaxed. If everything is flawless, you may be miserable. I respect the fact that you always have a coaster handy for the person who wants to put a drink down on your one-of-a-kind industrial coffee table, but don’t be afraid to let your guard down a little. You need at least a few pieces of furniture that aren’t works of art but places to curl up or put your feet on after a long day.

You want to live in a home not a museum. Sit on your couch and wrap yourself up in that lumpy blanket your mother crocheted, maybe even put on the ugly plaid pajamas that Uncle Jerry bought you, and survey the landscape. Think about how you can make your home both a temple of minimalism and an inviting, restful place. You might try mixing in a few organic elements like plants or natural wood pieces, as well as a little color. Think about furnishing your home not only with what’s hot, but also with what gives you a warm feeling. Make it personal and you’re on your way to creating a home that, while still chic, is a place where people want to hang out.

If you answered mostly b, your style is maximalist.

Okay, it’s not really a word — I made it up — but I think it describes perfectly the kind of person who just can’t get enough of, well, stuff. Your idea of heaven is probably Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, a day when everyone breaks out all their old things and sells them in the street. In Amsterdam, it’s basically one big citywide fl ea market. Going into your house is like going into a high-end garage sale, and you’ve got collections galore: lamps, movie posters, pottery, old radios, silver spoons. When you walk into a thrift store, you get an adrenaline rush (and just a little high from sniffing the mothballs).

You probably like to stay home and nest with all your finds, but you’re also a pretty fun and enthusiastic person to be around. And if it sounds like I know you all too well, it’s because I do: I, too, collect vintage wares. I’ve got a lot of stuff . . . but I also try hard to rein it in so that my house doesn’t feel like it’s bursting at the seams. After all, sometimes “collector” is just a polite term for “pack rat.” So try to open up your home and give yourself more space. Pick the best of your old radios and arts and craft pottery; leave some empty wall space between retro posters. From experience, I can tell you that you’ll feel so much better about your place if you can actually see what you have. Concentrate your design efforts on creating rooms that are airy and well edited when it comes to showing off your finds.

If you answered mostly c, your style is traditionalist.

They just don’t make things like they used to — that thought probably pops into your mind pretty often. For that reason, you tend to keep things the same. I’m willing to bet that you’ve got lots of family heirlooms in your home and those pieces that haven’t been handed down look like they could have been. You’re probably most comfortable with elements of style that are nice but not showy. Elements like a sofa covered in a subtle paisley fabric, a quality Oriental rug, or maybe a maple four-poster bed with a white chenille spread.

There’s nothing wrong with being a traditionalist, and I’m with you on the fact that sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic. We should hang on to some things that have been around forever (like letter writing — I bet you still send letters through the mail). That said, does it have to be steak and potatoes every night? If you keep your home too traditional, you risk it feeling boring and stale after awhile. So consider spicing it up a bit. Maybe paint one wall in your house an offbeat tangerine and trade in your Oriental for a chunky sisal rug. Perhaps you could replace your chenille bedspread with an Indian print or some modern color-blocked bedding. Obviously, you’ll need to use a careful eye to blend the traditional with splashes of nontraditional, but that’s the only way to make your home seem like yours — not your parents’ or your grandparents’. Loosen up a little and look beyond the familiar to find a style that’s truly your own.

If you answered mostly d, your style is ethnologist.
Although this sounds like you administer anesthesia, what it means is that you’re into different cultures: ethnology is the comparison of cultures (so glad I have a dictionary on my computer). In other words, you like things kind of worldly. You probably love to travel (or at least take armchair journeys through the Travel Channel) to out-of-the-way places where life is extremely different from your own. And your clothing probably reflects it. Maybe you’ve got lots of cool jewelry from around the world, and you dig anything that’s handcrafted and representative of the art of an indigenous culture. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve got tapestries and African masks on the wall, Balinese furniture, rugs from the Middle East, and Chinese cooking utensils. Maybe there’s even Indian incense burning and beads hanging in your doorway (which reminds me of my mom’s ethnic phase in the ’70s, although I think the incense might have been more a necessity owing to our very bowel-troubled dogs than a nod to India).

One highlight of my own travels is to bring home beautiful things made by other cultures, so I see the appeal of ethnic chic. Where you can get into trouble, as with anything else, is by overdoing it. I personally love to see ethnic pieces mixed in with complementary modern pieces from our own culture. Again, you want to make your home a reflection of your personality so, while you may have a deep feeling for another culture — maybe that culture is even part of your ancestry — do try to mix in elements of your own life. For instance, one family I know has antique Japanese dressers and a few Japanese prints in their bedroom combined with a soft rug (rather than, say, tatami mats) and contemporary American bedding. When you walk into their room you don’t feel like you’ve been transported to Tokyo, but instead get a nice taste of Japan and a big bite of their own personal style.

If you answered mostly e, your style is naturalist.
If you’re a naturalist, you probably not only love anything having to do with nature, you’re very protective of the natural world. Maybe your home is filled with items made from recycled materials; you might even have solar energy. Perhaps you’re vegan. I’m guessing that you have plants around the house, lots of nice wood furniture (including a coffee table laden with National Geographic and Outside magazines), and that the predominant shades in your home are earth tones. You might have some souvenirs from your trips to the beach, mountains, and desert lying around: shells, pinecones, rocks. On the walls are landscape photos and maybe even a shot or two of polar bears.

To tell the truth, I’m stoked that you’re a naturalist. I’m all for bringing the outdoors in and for using renewable resources like bamboo flooring. But of course, I’ve also got a few caveats about the potential for naturalism to turn ugly. First, be aware that when you bring Mother Nature into your home — whether it’s driftwood, shells, starfish, leaves and branches, or anything else right off the land or sand — it may bring along some little friends, namely bugs that will end up all over your sheets. Before you bring some of those things home they need to be kiln dried, treated, and sealed to make sure they’re house-ready. So don’t be just a naturalist, be a realist.

The other thing is, go easy on the earth tones. Even though it’s nice to do your home in warm beiges and browns, don’t forget that nature is also a source of incredibly vibrant, gorgeous color. Think of the oranges of autumn, the new green of spring, the turquoise of the Mediterranean, the purple mountains’ majesty. Bringing in some color doesn’t compromise your devotion to what’s natural; it just gives it more life and greater depth. If you can do that — as well as quit terrorizing your friends who don’t recycle and refrain from bringing home every stray dog in the city — you’re going to have a great house and a pretty nice life.

If you answered mostly f, your style is all of the above. That is, you’re me.

That’s right, I am a minimalist, maximalist, traditionalist, ethnologist, and naturalist all rolled up into one. For instance, I love modern furniture and clean lines. There are areas in my home that are very simple and actually kind of spare. But that’s only one facet of me. I am also a collector. I collect vintage guitars, vintage furniture, and vintage fabrics among other things. I do try to organize them well and periodically reduce the number I have, but, you maximalists who have to cope with chaos? I feel your pain.

Ty Pennington, author of Good Design Can Change Your Life (Copyright © 2008 by Furniture Unlimited, Inc.), is the host of ABC’s hit series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He has won awards in graphic design and worked as a set designer and as a model before being cast as the carpenter in The Learning Channel’s series Trading Spaces. Ty has developed his own line of home products for Sears, Howard Miller, and Lumber Liquidators and has launched Ty Pennington at Home magazine.


Rid Your Home of Pet Odors and Pet Stains

Tackle tough pet cleanup problems – cat urine, dog urine, fur-covered furniture, and more — with tips from Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With The Queen of Clean.

Pet odor caused by urine or feces is one of the toughest deodorizing problems you will face. The stain from the problem is only a small part of the dilemma. Unless you completely deodorize the area where the pet accident occurred, the animal, especially cats, will return to the spot and re-soil it.

Pet odor is a protein-based problem and cannot be eliminated by normal spotting procedures. Do not be fooled into believing that you can spray on a deodorizer and the odor will magically disappear. It won’t happen, and you will have wasted time and money on a product that doesn’t work. Now let’s get to the basics of pet odor removal.

You must remove any solid waste from the area and blot up any liquid residue using a heavy pad, paper towels, or old, disposable rags. Lay this pad on the carpet and stand on it to absorb as much liquid as possible.

Pour on club soda. The carbonation will bubble the remaining soil to the surface, and the salts in the club soda will keep it from staining. Now blot firmly again with paper towels. Do this procedure 3 or 4 times, and the last time lay a thick layer of paper towels down and then stand on them to remove all the moisture you can. Continue to do this until you have removed all the moisture you possibly can. Allow to air-dry. To speed drying, use a fan.

Treat the area with your favorite carpet spotter. If you don’t have carpet spotter handy, mix a mild solution of white vinegar and water (1/3 cup white vinegar in a 1-quart bottle filled with cool water) in a spray bottle and spray onto the pet stains to help remove the discoloration. Rinse with clear water and blot.

If you still have staining, combine 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of ammonia and saturate the stained area. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and then blot. Continue to treat until all the stain is removed or the solution has removed all that can possibly be removed.

Once the area is totally dry, apply a thin layer of ODORZOUT®. Use this product dry. Allow it to sit for 24 hours and then vacuum up. Continue to apply and vacuum until the ODORZOUT® has absorbed all of the odor. ODORZOUT® is 100 percent safe and natural, so it will not harm kids or pets even if they walk through it.

Urine spots may change the carpet color. The carpet may be lightened or bleached. Many times this is not obvious until the carpet is cleaned the first time after the accident. It is more common when the stain has not been treated in an appropriate manner. If this happens, try sponging the area with a mild ammonia solution. This will sometimes return the carpet to its original color or at least make it less noticeable.

When pets have accidents on upholstered furniture, you must first be sure that the fabric can be cleaner and treated with water. Check the platform of the sofa or chair under the cushion to determine the cleaning code. It should be listed on a tag. W indicates that the piece can be cleaned with water, so it can be treated as described on page 92. Clean the area using a good-quality upholstery spotting product. If the code is an S, this means solvent must be used in the cleaning process and this must be done by a professional. Do not apply an enzyme product or spotter. Call a professional. In this instance, the foam in the cushion may require replacing after cleaning.

If a pet urinates on a mattress, use a steam extraction machine to remove all the urine you can. Continue to clean with the extraction machine, and try to get out all the moisture. Stand the mattress on edge to thoroughly dry — at least 12 hours. Once dry, if odor is present, apply ODORZOUT® to eliminate the smell.

If you have pets, you know what it’s like when your cat or dog suffers a digestive upset. You hear the problem begin and run to move the dog or cat off the carpet (which seems to be their favorite place to leave “gifts”), but you’re too late and faced with a mess to clean up.

First, resist the temptation to wipe up the mess. If there are solids that can be picked up with a paper towel, do so, but do not smear the accident into the carpet. Trying to wipe it up immediately will only make the mess worse. Instead, sprinkle a heavy coating of baking soda on the area and allow it to dry. The baking soda will absorb moisture and digestive acids. Once the area is dry, remove with paper towels or vacuum the area, removing all of the mess that will come up. Vacuum thoroughly to remove the baking soda. Then and only then should you grab the rag and the cleaner. Use your favorite carpet spotter, following the directions carefully. Remember to blot rather than rub.

If any discoloration remains after cleaning, try applying either undiluted lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore. Let it soak on the stain for 15 minutes and then blot. If the spot is still visible, apply again, watching carefully to be sure that there are no changes in carpet color. If you need a more aggressive treatment, mix lemon juice and cream of tartar into a thin paste. Apply to the spot, let dry, then vacuum up. When done with any of these procedures, rinse the carpet with cool water.

Sometimes the vacuum cleaner isn’t enough to remove pet hair from upholstered furniture. In this case, try one of the following methods:

  • Dampen a sponge and wipe over the furniture, rinsing the sponge as necessary.
  • Wipe down with your hands while wearing rubber gloves.
  • Wrap Scotch® tape around hands and wipe, changing as needed.
  • Wipe with dampened body-washing puff.
  • Wipe with a used dryer fabric-softener sheet.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With The Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



4 Steps to an Uncluttered Desk

If office space detritus is weighing you down, then it’s time for a clean sweep. Follow this four-step clutter cleanup strategy from Enough Already!, by Peter Walsh, to free up physical and psychological space for more creative and productive work flow.

Improving your work life isn’t as simple as having a clean desk. But what can I say? I do this for a living — it’s a good place to start. There’s no faster way to inspire an immediate change in attitude than with an uncluttered, clear, pristine desk. It’s a little like making your bed. A made bed anchors a room, sets the tone for the day, says, “I respect my space,” and shows a commitment to routines and organization. So you are your desk. If it’s cluttered, how are you supposed to prioritize? How can you be efficient? Think of your desk as a reflection of your head. No matter how creative and brilliant you are, I can assure you that you’ll perform better with an organized desk. Now let’s get to it. Here’s how.

Quick Desk Purge

  1. File. You shouldn’t have anything on your desk that isn’t “active,” meaning it still needs to be dealt with. Filing isn’t complex, and it isn’t high priority, which is why a “to file” pile tends to grow high. Get rid of those piles immediately, even if it takes you an hour. If you take ten minutes to file at the end of the day, you’ll always be able to keep your desk clean. Filing and tidying up at the end of the day is a good way to decompress before you go home, as well as a way to clarify and reinforce what you did today and what you need to do tomorrow.
  2. Get rid of the miniature Zen garden. After you’ve filed, clear your workspace of anything that you don’t use regularly. If you must have sentimental items and toys (really, must you?), pare them down to a bare minimum. This isn’t a high school locker. You’re a grown up and a professional. Your desk should reflect that. The same goes for the stuffed animals, Vegan souvenirs, and collectible action figures!
  3. Use a vertical file organizer for “active” files. Reserve your inbox for items that need to be dealt with pronto. For ongoing projects, create files and store them in an easily accessible desktop file organizer or a rolling file cart that slips easily under your desk and can be accessed quickly and efficiently.
  4. Create systems that work. No matter if you’re a shoe salesman, a full-time dad, or a rock star, you’ll do your job better if you have fool-proof systems in place.
  • When you listen to your phone messages, the calls you need to return should always be written down in the same place.
  • When you plan a meeting, a playdate, or a concert in Madison Square Garden, the event goes immediately into a calendar.
  • When you pay a bill, complete a sale, or finish an album, all documentation should immediately be filed away.
  • Keep a running to-do list on a notepad or electronically. Start a new page every day, copying outstanding to-dos onto the new page. When you complete a task, check it off and note the date. You’ll always know when you got something done and have a clear record in case you need to refer back to it.

And so on. Take notes. Keep a calendar. Return calls. Log important addresses and phone numbers. Be accountable. You know how there are some ultra-reliable people you trust to do what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? You can be one of those people. Your organized desk is the first step and says “I mean business” to everyone who sees it.

Peter Walsh is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part-contractor and part-therapist. He is the bestselling author of Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You (Copyright © 2009 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), It’s All Too Much, and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? He can also be heard weekly on The Peter Walsh Show on the Oprah and Friends XM radio network, is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was also the host of the hit TLC show Clean Sweep. Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.



Stylist Secrets for Decorating with Flowers

A bouquet of blossoms or a single dramatic stem can add character to any room. Weave flowers — and other natural objects — into your decor with these refreshing ideas from Flowers: Style Recipes by Samantha Moss.

Flowers have the rare power to create atmosphere. With a little clever arranging, flowers can instantly change the look and feel of a space and make you want to spend time there. Even a few blossoms can refresh a room and decorate it to suit the season or a special occasion.

When accessorizing with flowers, keep in mind that the height and size of an arrangement should be scaled to a room’s architecture — an oversize urn of snapdragons, for example, is best reserved for spaces with high ceilings. Take your cue from other items in the space: match the soft hues of a dining room with ranunculus, roses, and young bittersweet, like the bouquet at right. Gather inspiration from the paintings, fabrics, and colors in your home, and you’ll soon see how flowers and their environment work together in a stylish partnership.

Arrangements need not be confined to a table or shelf — in fact, you can be as creative with placement as you can with the flowers themselves. Use flowers and foliage to screen a fireplace, accent a windowsill, or decorate a staircase. As an alternative to a traditional arrangement, drape homemade flower garlands along an entryway or around a banister.

Experiment with the drama of single stems. Instead of one large-scale arrangement, divide a bouquet among a series of mismatched containers. Everyday objects — glass bottles, soup cans, teacups — take on surprising new character when used as vessels for flowers. Choose flowers whose color, shape, and fragrance complement the space or occasion. For added color and fragrance, incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables: asparagus, fig branches, and lemons are all versatile, long-lasting options that can anchor and accent an arrangement.

Samantha Moss, author of Flowers (Copyright © 2005 by Weldon Owen Inc. and Pottery Barn), is a writer and editor based in San Francisco.