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Archive for Possessions

Born in the USA

It was introduced “with great fanfare” in 1936 at the Pittsburg China and Glass Show in five colours and was an immediate hit!  After 37 years of production it was retired in 1972. In 1986 it was resurrected by Bloomingdale’s and made tougher, lead free and better than ever. Chances are your mother or grandmother collected it. It is still a top choice among brides today and a leading brand in casual dinnerware. What am I referring to? Why, FIESTA, of course!

Manufactured as always by the Homer Laughlin China Company of West Virginia, this American company has produced over one half billion pieces of dinnerware since its inception 78 years ago during the Great Depression. As the leading producer of restaurant china,  Homer Laughlin uses the same ceramic glazes and durable materials for their domestic housewares as they do for the restaurant trade. In fact, the dishes are guaranteed chip-proof for five years and have proven to be reliably durable for families. You will see them in diners and restaurants or in the movies. Currently available in 16 colours, the sets of dishes are designed to be mixed and matched. And that is where the fun is! Some people like to collect one place setting of each colour for a rainbow effect. Others like to mix 3 or 4  or more colours. It is enjoyable to combine different colours according to holiday, occasion or mood.

Finally it was time for me to purchase some new dishes. The last complete set of dishes I had was from Eaton’s and they’ve been gone now for fifteen years! After some online research I ordered eight sets of Fiesta from Macy’s. Macy’s was featuring a buy one, get one free sale, with an additional 15%off. Even with duty, taxes & shipping I was pleased with the price. The eight sets arrived (only one plate broken) and I’m having a blast combining the dishes with each other and with my linens.

I chose scarlet, marigold and cobalt (the three primary colours) as my base colours. I’m collecting additional pieces in colours that coordinate with these. So far I have pieces in white, flamingo, periwinkle and sea mist. Vintage Fiesta can also be mixed with modern pieces as the sizes are consistent. Homer Laughlin has pledged to introduce one new colour each year and to retire colours. Flamingo is currently being retired and poppy is the newest addition.

When I invited my mother to see my new dishes, she laughed when she saw them! During her engagement, she collected Fiesta from the local grocery store. If you spent a certain amount on groceries you earned a stamp. Collect enough stamps and you could  trade it for dinnerware. My parents used it during the early years of their marriage.  I don’t  I probably ate off them as a baby, but don’t have a memory of them. Thanks to my friend Cindy for giving me my first FIESTA  pieces – two vintage sea mist bread and butter plates.

By the way, Lemongrass is the colour of the month!

Author’s note: Thanks to the Homer Laughlin China Company official website and Bruce Springsteen.

Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott – Book Review

by Jennifer L. Scott

Yes, another book review! The long winter was good for getting my reading up to date. Interestingly, I chose another book that reinforced what I learned from Overdressed. In Lessons from Madame Chic Jennifer Scott shares in this very readable book twenty secrets she learned while in Paris studying abroad from her native California. Jennifer covers insight she gleaned about various aspects of living while spending time with several Parisian families. She also shows how she incorporates these ideas into her life today as a young mother.

Ms. Scott wryly observes some of the differences between the French and American lifestyles – the French walk, Americans drive. The French take their meals a table, Americans eat in front of the TV. The French live in apartments without elevators, Americans work out at the gym, etc. But one of the author’s biggest surprises was that the French as a rule have very small wardrobes and no qualms about “outfit repeating”. Jennifer lugged suitcases stuffed with clothes to last her six months only to find out that a tiny free standing wardrobe was provided to store them in. Her host family (Monsieur, Madame and adult son Chic) had only a skeletal amount of clothing (roughly 12 pieces each) that they washed and wore over and over again. Their clothing all worked well together – all tops colour-coordinated with all bottoms so there was much versatility from few items. The capsule wardrobe of a dozen pieces changed with the seasons and did not include clothing for specific wear only. For instance – formal wear, exercise clothes, undergarments, layering pieces and accessories did not count toward the 12 pieces. The items were of high quality so stood up to repeated washings and wearings.


Sample Capsule Wardrobe
courtesy of Lucky Magazine

What nicely tied these two books together for me was that both authors encouraged the reader to buy (or make) fewer clothes but to choose items of higher quality. This makes good sense economically and practically and is greener for the planet, easier on the self (fewer choices to make) and more enjoyable (who doesn’t like higher quality?)

I’m a CCW (constant closet weeder) and found that I already subscribed to a capsule wardrobe. I have hanging in my closet (or ideally on a rolling rack) only items that I will be choosing my daily outfit from. I don’t  like to to see clothes that are  the wrong size, out of season or that no longer express my identity. On my last visit to Anthropologie I was pleased to see multiple copies of Ms. Scott’s book stacked high amongst their clothing. In fact, I’m planning to add this book to my own library. Jennifer has lots of other good lessons on how to live mindfully.

Keeping me busy now is planning my capsule wardrobe for Spring from my existing clothes. I’ve got a great denim jacket, some camo/flower skinny jeans with ankle zippers, tops in nautical stripes, a few items in a blushy pink and some new black moto boots. I can’t wait to put it all together! I think Jennifer and Madame Chic would approve.



Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline – Book Review


This book will change the way
you think about clothes!

I was looking for Alexa Chung’s new book, It. The public library didn’t have it. The next best bet was Indigo. They had It, but as I thumbed through the book I quickly realized I would not be buying it.  Browsing the stalls in the fashion section one book title did jump out at me – OVERDRESSED the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. I picked it up and a quick flip-through revealed not a picture in sight. A fashion book with no pictures? Hhhmm, this must be something more serious. The front cover boasts a quote by Katha Pollitt “OVERDRESSED does for T-shirts and leggings what FAST FOOD NATIONS did for burgers and fries.”  That’s quite a statement! Intrigued, I dropped a few hints and received the book as a Christmas gift.

When I finally sat down with it, I devoured the book! It was fascinating reading right from the first page, and were it not for a night’s sleep, I would have finished it in one sitting. Elizabeth Cline has done her research and knows her facts. From shamelessly opening her own closet to visiting clothing factories in China, she brings into question our values as a nation with her insights into our shopping habits.  Today’s society has been brought up to clothing shop for entertainment, purchase clothes they don’t need or wear and to amass wardrobes with hundreds if not thousands of pieces. Cline discusses the  impact that today’s disposable clothing has on the environment, how it virtually eliminated the garment industry in North America and how it is affecting the global economy.

Normally a book about economics would not interest me but I found this book easy to read and accurate in the conclusion it draws. Clothing (unlike some consumable items) has gone down drastically in price over the last hundred years. So has its perceived value. Consumers are now accustomed to buying clothes at the grocery store (thanks Joe Mimran) and seeing stores change their entire line-up of clothing every 4-6 weeks (thanks Gap). Clothing is manufactured cheaply in countries such as China, India and Bangladesh. Consumers refuse to pay higher prices for items of higher quality, content instead to purchase shoddily made clothing of inferior fibres that languish in closets unworn. Interestingly, with the ready availability of cheaply priced clothing, the price of hand made/couture/designer  or non mass-produced clothing has gone up. This has also driven up the price of vintage clothing.

People today have 3 – 10 times as many clothes as their grandparents did (just look in the closets of an 80 year old home). I find it hard to believe that my grandparents both hung their clothing on one one rail in one tiny closet. (That was before the days of California Closets!)

I am so glad that I read this book. It has made me realize that I should no longer settle for cheap clothing. Clothing is something that should be loved, worn and valued. When our wardrobes consist of cheap polyester items from H & M or Forever 21, we are not making wise and mindful choices. Armed with Ms. Cline’s knowledge I am more determined than ever to have fewer pieces of higher quality clothing. For more information buy or read the book or check out the website at



Secretly wondering if you should be on “Hoarders” ?

Hoarding shows on television have  become quite popular and have helped raise public awareness of Organizing as a profession. These programs show the worst case scenario of what can happen when you lose control of your possessions. Sadly, in real life, many people who have a problem with hoarding have experienced a trauma or life-changing event. Perhaps being organized wasn’t second nature to them, but they managed to get along in life okay. After a trauma or life-changing event this becomes much harder and/or impossible. When children are involved it becomes even more serious.

Please get professional help if you find yourself in this situation.

If you think you might be a hoarder there are quizzes you can try and a clutter scale to help you recognize where you are. Once a room or item can no longer be used for its intended purpose you know you’re getting into trouble. For example, you can no longer find a place to sit in the living room, so you sit on your bed. Or, the dining room table is piled so high with papers you eat standing over the sink. Or, you have duplicated your possessions because you can not find the originals.


Digging out (in some cases literally) from clutter can take hours, weeks and sometimes months before the desired outcome is reached. Besides, it didn’t get that way overnight. Burnout is high, decision making can be emotional and progress slow. If you have someone helping you it will be much easier and quicker. There are multiple health risks when one lives in a hoarding situation, safety being  just one of them.  Hire a Professional Organizer who has had experience with hoarding.  Don’t worry, they have seen this before and that is why they are in business.

Please don’t get discouraged.

It is darkest before the dawn, and coldest too. If you and your Organizer are working well together, you are going to get results and you will feel better. You’ll find things you forgot you had, often money and gift cards! Your sleep will be more refreshing, you will have more time in the day and performance will increase at work when you are organized and clutter free at home.

Progress not Perfection

No, you are never going to be as organized as your Professional Organizer. And he or she know that! What you are both striving  for is improvement and progress in the right direction – not perfection. Your Organizer will do what is right for you in your situation. Every individual is unique and solutions are custom.

Happy Organizing!





Mirror Mirror!

Everyone remembers those famous lines from Brothers Grimm’s Snow White “Mirror, Mirror on the wall – Who’s the fairest one of all?” Snow White’s stepmother, The Queen liked looking at herself in the mirror (mainly for confirmation – I think she was insecure!). Narcissus was another character from Greek mythology who liked his own reflection so much that he wasted away. Decorators love them! They capture light, visually expand spaces and reflect beauty. A huge, heavy framed mirror leaning against the wall is a classic and beautiful way to enhance your home’s surroundings. Ah – the mirror – who can resist them?

Courtesy of

Who can avoid them? Many of you, it seems! I consider myself fortunate that people trust me to come into their homes. I see their possessions, lives and values all around me. For that reason, most of what I see is confidential. But a common thread among the homes I’ve been in no matter what degree of organizing they need – is a lack of mirrors. I discussed this with a client and she said very insightfully, that people living without a full length mirror are not living in their bodies. It follows that an organized home (i.e. organic) should contain several mirrors at varying heights. Feng shui consultants can advise you on mirror placement in home or business for best results.

Organized closet dressing room with mirror.
Courtesy of Pottery Barn



1. Front hall – near the door – to check your hair, teeth and makeup. Smile as you go!

2. Bathroom – this room is usually small. A mirror can make it feel bigger and brighter. Mirror as much as you dare. A lit mirror with magnifier is a nice additional touch for facial closeups and shaving.

3. Bedroom or dressing room – two at least! A mirror to check your top half (accessories and hair) and VERY IMPORTANT – a full length mirror. 

4. Front hall (again!) – a full length mirror.

5. Other exit doors/additional bathrooms – a mirror please.

6. Garden – some people enjoy the addition of a mirror to a garden or patio area.

7. Anywhere – a starburst or sunburst mirror is always classic.

8. Over the mantle – antique or vintage – bevelled is nice.

9. In your purse – for a salad check after lunch.

10. Your car, locker, desk or workspace – another good place to stash a small mirror for checkups.

Why two full length mirrors? The first is so you can check your outfit as you get dressed. Its much easier to see if your top goes with your bottom if you can see the whole picture. The second one in the hall where you leave is so you can check your coat and footwear with your outfit.

Personally, I have a very hard time leaving the house if I can’t check my full reflection. I need to know there’s  no toilet paper, that my slip isn’t showing and that those pants don’t make my butt look big!

Please take care hanging your mirrors. Make sure you anchor them to the wall and use strong enough nails and wire. Enjoy the reflection!


A relaxed mind

Echo Jaipur bedding

A relaxed mind

A relaxed mind is a creative mind – who was it who said that? Was it Yogi Bhajan or just conventional teabag wisdom … well anyway s/he was right! This past month I did move – not exactly on a whim, but certainly on the fly …  to use a few idioms! Although I had been sporadically packing items not used on a daily basis, I was not ready to move only one week after making the final decision. I was still packing the morning of the move after the truck had been picked up! What was that I said about my mind again?

Right! Being relaxed. Moving involves a myriad of details – from changing utility bills, to letting friends and family know about your new contact info, new patterns to commute to work, adjustments to your new surroundings and so on. And that was only for a move within Hamilton for two adults!  Add to that some temperamental hot water resulting in freezing or scalding showers and no hot water in the kitchen. This too shall pass … However, relaxed I am not.

I’ve also been putting off the inevitable – that even though I’ve moved home and work this month and everything is still not settled and working perfectly, its time to get back to what I was doing before I moved. This includes my regular work, both social and real time networking, and blogging. I only began blogging in the past 6 months and I regularly tell anyone who is interested that this is one of my favourite parts of being a business owner. So I wondered why I’d been avoiding it. Throughout the move I’d been making mental notes to use in future blogs, such as what I did right and wrong during the move;  how most of us underestimate the physical toll of moving; that even if I’m not a “Senior” I can feel somewhat disoriented being in new surroundings and so on …

Its just today when I am too physically exhausted to do any more, its pouring rain and I’ve surfed the net shopping for new bedding for a few hours that my fingers and my thoughts have finally connected on the keyboard. No, I’m not doing nothing, I’m relaxing a bit and my brain now has enough space for some creative thoughts. Coming home from a vacation I’ve noticed the same thing … great ideas start coming forth unbidden.

Keep a notebook or two around so you can capture ideas when you relax … you never know where one will lead!



Celebrities, spring cleaning and the area under the sink

Katie Couric – Hoarder? Courtesy People Magazine March 4, 2013


Believe it or not, organizers don’t have some crazy organizing gene that makes and keeps us organized. We struggle to keep our possessions in check just like you do and celebrities are no different! The March 4 issue of People magazine featured a half page article and photos on talk show/celebrity Katie Couric. Katie recently devoted an episode of her show to decluttering her library which had become a dumping ground for many items. She found it hard to let go of many things because she is sentimental, especially condolence cards.

Although some may question my overall excessive tidyness ( i.e., is she OCD or anal-retentive? Chris Farias, you know who you are!), there are plenty of areas where I find myself challenged. My particular nemesis has been the area under the kitchen sink! It is an assorted catchall for garbage, recycling,  shoe polish, cleaning products, liquor, empties, plastic bags, leather cleaner, rubber gloves, and so on … Having been reminded by a family member several times that “there are people we could hire who could organize this kind of stuff”,  I finally tackled it.

After purchasing some clear shoe boxes at The Home Depot for $1 a piece, I discovered that one of those perfectly fit all the shoe laces, polish and rags. I got a stand up caddy that holds cleaning bottles and a dispenser on the cupboard door for plastic bags. I no longer shudder when I see the area under the sink. Family photos and old negatives – brace yourselves! And desk, watch out, you’re next!

So, if like Katie, you are sentimental and have boxes of cards to sort through -  keep the special ones, the hand written ones, the milestone birthdays, etc. but let most go. If you’ve been hanging on to wardrobes in many different sizes (fat clothes and skinny clothes), keep what fits now. If your weight changes, you’ll want clothes more reflective of the new you. And if you’re like me – they may be neatly stored, but recognize that you can’t keep every cool fashion magazine article you rip out …

Since Spring is no longer around the corner, and has officially arrived, could there be a better time to go through your worst area and see what the best outcome will be? Send me your thoughts! And your photos!




Stuff and the 80/20 rule

home is where you keep your stuff

Strange isn’t it, that humans spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and the second half of our lives disseminating the same items! We are born with nothing and we take nothing with us when we leave this world … but we seem collect a lot of stuff in between!

This spring I plan to be moving to a different home and although I’ll have more room in my new place,  I’m spending time while I’m packing now to purge un-needed items. The last thing I want to do is clutter up my new space with stuff I don’t need … and I’m beginning to see a pattern.

Early in my career in the business world I learned about the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle. We learned that 80% of our sales came from 20% of our customers. Twenty percent of our products accounted for 80% of our sales, and so on. This seems to hold true in my wardrobe – I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. And with my belongings, I use the same few items over and over while the rest sits untouched…  I’ve packed up many of my possessions, and the household seems to be functioning quite well. Better in fact!

Less stuff = less decisions = less stress.

Decide before you buy or get something new if you can afford to keep it. In addition to initial outlay of money, there are hidden costs you may not think about when you acquire an item. Don’ t forget there is also upkeep & maintenance, depreciation and storage of the item. Maybe it would be better to borrow or rent it. I’ve decided to stop buying books, DVD’s and CD’s. I just don’t want to carry them around with me anymore.  And I generally follow the “one out – one in” practice when buying new clothing. I just have one question -

Does anyone need a crockpot?