Being a professional organizer doesn’t mean I am uber-organized in my personal life.

Ask my husband, Jerry, who will tell you that when I get crazy busy, I’m a pile maker. Notes. Lots of them. Balancing precariously on top of another. One pile of them in the kitchen; another in the home office.

Ask our friend, Darryl, who with great restraint, helped me figure out why I was having trouble syncing information on my laptop and phone. The problem was my Apple IDs. Somehow, I had two. I had to call Apple only to find out that they can’t merge IDs (cue Steve Jobs rolling over in his grave). You simply have to pick the one that has the most purchases and downloads and stick with it.

Ask my friend, Tammi, who provided an “aha” moment when she made me realize I needed to corral the craziness of usernames and passwords. Make one username and password for all of your e-mail addresses, another set for shopping online, another for amusement (social media, games, etc.), and for surfing websites. Periodically update them by changing whatever number(s) you use.

Do you know what creates two sets of piles, two Apple IDs and the chaos of website info? It’s my habit of going full tilt with an idea without really thinking through the plan.

Very recently, I went headlong into an project that escalated at pretty much warp speed. As usual, these things always start simply. One of my husband’s customers sent him a half price coupon for wall paint. He showed me the certificate and mentioned that we should paint the kitchen and family room again.

I, of course, was all for it. It’s way past time to refresh the kitchen, which looks like someone had one too many air guitar jamming parties.


Guitar/broom handle mark on kitchen ceiling

Those responsible for this and all the other wall and ceiling nicks shall remain nameless. For now.

And it’s also time to rid ourselves of the sickish yellow color on the family room walls … and ceiling? I thought that if I didn’t go with a true yellow, it would look mellow. It doesn’t. It looks gaudy and nauseating. Especially on the ceiling. I can’t escape it. I can’t look around the room without seeing this distasteful disaster. Let’s not forget that the room is the brightest one in the house. Four long windows and a set of french doors. So the yellow is only exacerbated by the brightness. As my sister-in-law mentioned about her bedroom walls painted a similar shade said, “It’s not cheerful. It’s not happy. It’s just gross.” When looking at my walls, I would add “glaringly gross”.


This wonderful idea was conceived many moons ago and let’s just say it wasn’t my finest decorating moment. Which is why you should always buy a pint or quart of the color you selected, slap it on each wall and live with it for a week before buying it.

So, back to the new project. We discussed the family room revamp and realized we need a built-in for all of my husband’s stereo stuff. The turntable. The amp. The pre-amp. The AV receiver. And the over-four hundred albums we still listen to. Vinyl is forever!

With the help of our insanely talented friend, Tina, an interior design guru who can also help you if you decide to work with Lighten Up, Jerry sketched out the built-in wall unit.


As he was staring at the area where he’s going to build, Jerry realized he might have to rip up the carpet under the new structure. My next thought was that we should rip up the entire carpet and install hardwood flooring.

And, because I’ve been bemoaning the overly large furniture in the family room since we bought it (another influence of the same bad decorating moment. Darn you, menopause!), Jerry suggested we attempt to re-sell it and buy new furniture that will fit. Oh, I was so excited!

The next weekend my friend, Deb, and I went to The Dump in Blackwood, New Jersey and, of course, the store’s “five cents on the dollar sale” was an epic fail, a non-existent promotion to get customers in the door. So, we traipsed over to Raymour and Flanigan in Deptford. And then to Nehlig’s in Stratford. Shout out to this family-owned furniture store with knowledgeable, laid-back staff. Go there!

And another shout out to Howard Hill Furniture in Pennsauken, NJ.   Real deal there, folks. No canned elevator music here. Hip, public radio piping through the speakers, WXPN, my favorite station!

The thing is after all of this traveling around, I woke up from my dippy design daydream and slammed on the brakes. When I work with clients, I try to talk them out of replacing good stuff based on whims. I hope to convince them to try to make do. If it’s in good shape and not entire grotesque to them, maybe they can find a way to work around it?

Landfill concerns aside, it just makes good budgetary sense to refrain from “buying all new”. In every endeavor, there are many unforeseen expenses that crop up.

What went from a spontaneous reflex urge was brought to a reeled in, controlled sensibility when we added up the dollars and cents.

  • Paint and accessories: $100.00
  • Wainscoting: $100.00
  • Cabinetry: $500.00
  • Wood and moulding: $200.00
  • Hardwood flooring: $3,000.00
  • Furniture: $3,000.00

Grand Total: $6,900.00

All because of a couple coupons for paint?

When moving in or out of a home and I want clients to have on hand the extra funds to fix whatever they discover broken, or to buy any essentials they might have overlooked. When decluttering places, clients might need to buy shelving or cabinetry. Heck, even plastic containers can run a pretty penny. And, in the event that there are big changes to be made, some clients need to rent storage units. And storage is never cheap.

So, I realized I need to take my own advice. Why was I ready to rip up a perfectly good carpet that only needs its yearly shampoo? Seriously, this rug is still in great shape and so cozy and snuggly on our feet, especially in the winter. And the hefty dark red loveseat and sofa I insisted we buy from Bassett because they built “sturdy furniture” that will last us well into our retirement?

Sidenote: We normally keep furniture well past its expiration date. We had the same kitchen table and chairs for over twenty years. Wanna know how I know? We bought at Channel Home Center, which has been out of business since 1994. And then there was the broken leg on the former family room sofa (bought at a flash sale for $100) that needed to be shored up every so often. We’ve had our bedroom furniture for over thirty-five years. Well, you get the picture.

Yet, even the most practical of us suffer from intense cravings for spontaneity. I realized that we haven’t owned the furniture for very long. So, why would I swap it out?

The project has been downsized. Jerry is just going to paint and build the cabinetry. We’re going to shampoo the carpet and enhance the furniture with a throw pillow or two. Maybe buy a pretty throw. And some new lamps. This is a much more reasonable fix.

Please weigh in with your stories of projects gone wild. Or tell me your story of how your honey-do list remains just that, a list. Let’s get some dialog going so Lighten Up can help you improve your space without breaking the bank.

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