Sunday, March 24, 2013

U-Hauling it Right: How to Cope with Stuff That's Not Your Stuff

Courtesy of The Oatmeal!
I love it when people contact and ask me for organizing advice. (You can do it too!) This time, I received a Facebook message from a lucky lady who will be u-hauling into a small apartment with their significant other and will be facing the imminent doom of another person's stuff.

What is u-hauling you ask? My favorite slang term ever created.

Definition: (verb) A term used to describe the action of two lesbians moving into a singular space, often using a U-Haul or moving van to aid the process.

Example: What did one lesbian bring on the second date? (Answer: A U-Haul)

After some thinking, u-hauling doesn't just describe the quick-moving lesbian relationship, even though it frequently does the trick. U-hauling can describe any grouping of individuals in a romantic relationship and the merging of their lives into one singular space. And with this move comes all of the complications that stuff brings. Collections, accessories, make-up, clothes, art supplies, kitchen supplies--believe me I'm well aware. So here is some advice from Pea's Pod to your Pod on coping with another person's treasure (or what you might consider "trash").

Find a Middle Ground: Make an agreement list. Sounds intense, eh? This list doesn't have to be a signed contract, although if you think that might work, then do it or reconsider moving in with said person. I would suggest sitting down with your S.O. and writing down the things that you are both concerned about once you make the move. Who will be doing the dishes? Who enjoys doing laundry more? Will you both cook dinner together every night? (Let's see how long that lasts.) Get the point? Once all of these concerns are written down, whether it's on a sticky note, a cafe napkin or a chalkboard, it's easier to see and discuss upcoming concerns and divide and conquer responsibilities. This list doesn't need to be tucked away in a safe. After a while, these things will just become part of your daily routine.

While you are working out this agreement list, find what you do have in common in terms of organization. Do you like to have everything out of sight? Maybe your S.O. does, too. Do you both color code your files or planners? You could consider putting all of your things in white boxes or bins, and they could put all of their things in black boxes and bins.

Sell and Donate: BEFORE you move in together, sort through both of your stuff and decide what stays and what goes. Again, BEFORE you move in. This way, there is less clutter, less stress, and less annoyance. I would suggest first going to friends and family and see who is in need of your fine stuff. Other great sources are Craigslist for larger furniture pieces, Buffalo Exchange for in-season clothing and accessories, or the old-fashion garage sale if your neighborhood permits it. If you just want to donate everything in one go, then bring your belongings to your local thrift store, Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Go Shopping Together: I cannot stress how important it is to pick out furniture and storage solutions together. Even if one of you works at night and the other works during the day, consider taking the day off just to get this done together. Who doesn't love a good trip to IKEA? What are the benefits of shopping together? You learn a lot about what work and what doesn't work for someone. Watch out for comments like "Eh...*shrug*" or "yeah that looks really cool *walks away*" That means that your significant other doesn't like it. Purchase things that the two of you can agree on. This will save you a lot of passive aggression in the future. Consider purchasing things to put your things in, like storage ottomans, chests, coffee tables with storage underneath, bed frames with drawers in the base, etc.

Designate an Area: Whether this means top two, bottom two dresser drawers or drawing a line right in the middle of the room, everyone needs their own space. It's just a matter of respect. Figure out what works for you and what works for your S.O. This could mean a matter of alone time, or just a matter of keeping your stuff on your side.

To the Stuff-lover: Have some mercy! Come up with ways that you can still have your stuff and mess, but make it bearable for your S.O. My suggestion would be to keep a basket or bin in your home for all the stuff that floats around. If you leave a book on the coffee table, it goes in the bin. If you leave your scarf on the couch or the bed, it goes in the bin. At the end of the week, spend time relocating all the stuff that accumulates. Maybe this will work for both of you, or maybe you'll realize you should spend your time just putting your stuff away after you use it. Either way is perfect.

To the Neat Freak: Reward your stuff-lover! I don't mean literally patting them on the back for cleaning after themselves. Realize that they are coping with your ways just as much as you are coping with their stuff. Spend quality time together, get out of the house, every once in a while, put their stuff away for them.

Be patient: Ah, the best advice of all. This person is not trying to make your life hard. You might know it now, before the going gets tough, but once things pile up or once things are put in their place before you notice it, you'll get a little upset.

What is trash to you could be someone else's treasure. By getting frustrated with someone else's belongings, you're not just getting upset with their things, you're subconsciously insulting their lifestyle and their memories. Everyone has a different reason for having what they have or not having anything at all. Just accept it. I bet that middle ground is looking real nice right about now.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Painting it Grey

After a few months of the Shining, I was done. My big plan was to use the left over Oops! Paint from the bathroom of my previous apartment. It was a cool grey that made my bathroom look like a classroom. But I didn't want to cover all the red with that grey. I chose a high gloss black for all of my doors a d chalk board paint for the kitchen. Ah, the beauty of monochrome.

I took the day off and decided to do everything myself. It was a relief to be on my own for the day, with my curtains tied back and the cold sunlight beaming in.

After a quick trip to Home Depot, I was ready to paint. I bought two pint size cans of chalk board paint and a value pack of paint supplies. Once I of home I took a dusty old ladder in the hallway and poured the grey paint. It was like the red never existed. After two coats on the red walls, my Lady in Red was gone. I used about two layers of high gloss black paint on the doors. The high gloss does a great job of reflecting light so that the grey doesn't make the room too dark. I highly suggest giving it a try. It also makes a grungy space look a little classier and mature.

Once the main room was complete, it was a drastic change from the stressful atmosphere the red paint provided. Granted, I was probably high off of the paint fumes, but it felt a little calmer.

I decided to tape off half of the main wall in the kitchen. My plan was to make the top half of the wall a chalkboard and he bottom of the wall a crisp white (which I'm still picking out from Benjamin Moore's rather large paint selection). The two would be separated by a painted molding from Home Depot that will be nailed to the wall. I used one can of the chalkboard paint; which ended up being about three layers. It was a little stubborn and the first layer looked really thin, but once you keep applying layers it looks like more of a chalkboard.

Once all of the new paint went on the walls, I realized the rest of the walls looked drabby. The white plaster walls were now yellowing and poorly painted. So I'm currently in the process of picking out a white color for accent walls. Excuse the mess, there's still a lot of organizing and cleaning up to do!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lady in Red

My apartment and I did not get off to a good start. When I saw the brief yet descriptive Craigslist ad, complete with photographs reminiscent of vampire dens or torture chambers, I definitely wasn't expecting to fall madly in love. Far from. If I learned one thing from this experience, it's that people can take damn good pictures of apartments. High angles, low angles, wide lens shots, panoramic views--all of them so deceiving, much like the infamous MySpace pic. But all New York apartments have the same thing in common--they're either much smaller in person, Standing-room-only status, or they break the bank.

I approached thus apartment with the awkward first date mentality. It was only four blocks away from The Compound, where I was staying in between apartments, so I left five minutes before my appointment with the rather handsome real estate agent. We shook hands, and I followed him up the crumbled stairs of a beautifully beat down brownstone building. I did a double take. I kind of fell in loved with this building at first sight. It was definitely Victorian with original accents. I took a few pictures of the front as I noticed the realtor still trying to unlock the door. We played with the lock for fifteen minutes. It was not meant to be, I thought to myself as he continued to call his boss. Cats began to congregate at my feet as some sick sign the universe was sending to me to stay a little longer.

Finally, we managed to open the door to a stunningly grungy, BUT original staircase with side panelling and an oxidized silver mirror overseeing the entrance from the top of the staircase. 10 points, 10 points, 10 points. I kept telling myself to stop falling so fast. I didn't even see the apartment yet. We stepped to the right of the stairs and down a narrow hallway to a small door. This was it, the moment of truth. The door opened and my nostrils quickly filled with the smell of an uncleaned litter box and I was yet again greeted by two cats. As I looked up and into the apartment, or more like studio, but let's be a little more honest and say room, there she was: my Lady in Red. 

When I say Lady in Red I'm not exaggerating. I was greeted by a giant fourteen-foot fire engine red wall and then yet another red wall to my right. And once the door was closed, I realized the doors were painted red too. And the kitchen. Interior design fail to my left and to my right! This poor, poor apartment. But the harder I looked, the more I realized how amazing this place was with its original tin ceilings and borders and built-in bookshelf and tall windows and exposed pipes and a vine covered wall and tall tree right outside my window. This was something I could work with. So it was an immediate yes.

Jessy and I spent the entire day cleaning: three hours of bathroom floor scrubbing, two additional hours of bathroom purification, a lot of Beyonce and sweatpants action, and God knows how long scrubbing the fridge. The first night in my apartment, I slept on a twin-sized air mattress in a sleeping bag on the newly cleaned floor of MY apartment. Embarrassingly enough, I was too scared to sleep with the lights off, so I kept the kitchen light on and a night light on across the room. I fell onto my bed and zipped up my sleeping bag and looked around the room. Somehow, all by myself, in a little red studio in the middle of Bed-Stuy, I felt safe. I felt at peace. And I knew that at this very moment, the first night sleeping by myself in over three years, I was going to be okay. As long as I painted over these red walls!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sneaky Polecat Trading Co.

About four months ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop making a list of all the things that made me happy. Among these things were food, friends, traveling, food, wine, great music, vintage, flea markets, art, New York, organizing, antique books and trinkets, food, and women. So once I crossed out all of the food, I said, to hell with it, next summer I'm going to have a spot at a flea market.

Now, wait. How? I had nothing to sell, no interest in making anything, and no time to wake up at 5:30 AM on the weekends to set up shop. But I knew I loved vintage, I knew I loved organizing, I knew I loved art. So why not combine everything into one mashed up experience? I've always been a fan of combining all the things I love into one bunch and hoping to Jesus and Buddha that everything works out. Most of the time it doesn't, although I'd like to think it does. And I guess all the other things that make me happy will just fill their way in too...

And that's how Sneaky Polecat Trading Co. was born. I was pretty tired of being able to tell people what aisle to find things in at the Container Store, exhausted of seeing the same IKEA bookshelf in every apartment I entered, and exhausted of seeing the same wall art from Urban Outfitters. Don't get me wrong, all these places and things are great, but something had to change. After months of planning and meeting up with people and researching items, I realized that Sneaky Polecat Trading Co. had successfully become one giant ball of amazingness.

While it was in the works, I got to go on dates with friends and loved ones to flea markets, talk to pop up owners and shop owners, research items like books and jewelry that I thought I never had time for, travel to places I never thought I would go, and talk to friends who create art that may not be your avant garde gallery work, but would look stellar in your living room or on your body. It was perfect. I even threw myself into the social media schpeel and am frankly too overwhelmed for my own good. But that's the great part! I'm learning every step of the way.

At times I was anxious this wouldn't work out, and that I would have an apartment full of hoarded vintage and antique items. But with the support of so many people, it's proved to be very rewarding and a great beginning for a new chapter in my life. For now you can find Sneaky Polecat on Etsy, In the next few months, we will be creating an official website and will make appearances in flea markets in the New York City area. 

There is also a tab at the top of my blog that will bring you directly to the Etsy shop. In the next few weeks, I will be posting more items and local art by Anny Crane. 

You can also follow us on Instagram at @sneakypolecatnyc or on Twitter at @sneaky_polecat. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Appreciating Solitude

Today I passed along a shift at work, and took the day to myself. I stayed in bed for as long as I wanted, went to the grocery store to stock up my fridge, snacked and cooked, and then went back to bed with a cup of Apple Cinnamon tea and the latest Real Simple and HGTV magazines. As old jazz records played in the background, I wrapped my curtain around an old pipe, allowing the deceiving winter sunlight into my messy, homey, peaceful studio. It has become a place of refuge, and although it is not yet put together and not yet perfect, I have become extremely protective of this place. It has become my sanctuary, a place of healing and growth. A total of roughly five people have seen its inside since I moved in this past November. This space is filled with pictures of loved ones, old books, scented candles, and odds and ends that I have collected along my way. It's funny how a safe space allows you the freedom to think and say whatever is on your mind. There's something magical about being at home, under the blankets or curled up on the couch and just letting loose. It's something you can't do at a coffee shop, at the park or at a restaurant.

I've come to appreciate the time I have alone. Reflection has become precious to me, as I have come to find that I have so much to be grateful for: friends, family, trust, work, creativity, food, my own apartment, honesty, public transportation, my body, my voice, variety and people in general. It's days like this where I find myself realizing how I have grown since I moved into this apartment, and since I moved to New York. And it's days like this where I realize all the things that people say to me that are sweet lessons I don't realize in the moment. Here are just a few of those lessons, and just the ones that I can think of in this moment. I'll share them as they were worded to me. To those of you who shared these words of wisdom with me, Thank you. Your vulnerability and sincerity are the best gifts. 

On Money: "You can't take it with you when you die."

On Community: "There's something amazing happening here."

On People: "It's something rare that most people don't possess and it's refreshing."

On Friendship: "Thank you for always pushing me and always seeing in me what I finally saw in myself."

On Support: "Sometimes I know what people need better than they know themselves."

On Love: "I call her my fuckercita because she's my little fucker and I love her."  

On Sex: "When I'm frustrated, I just start dancing. It always helps."

Stay tuned for more blog posts. Coming soon.....apartment renovation pictures and posts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Revamping the Blog, y'all!

Well, a lot has happened in the past couple of months. I have not forgotten you. Stay tuned for some posts coming up in the next month as well as an entire remodel of the blog. Winter is coming.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battle Fridge: How to Stay on your Roommate's Good Side

Let's be honest, people. Fridges are the most frustrating part of a kitchen, especially if you have a room mate, or maybe five. Maybe you like to cook some steaks during the summer and your room mate is a vegan. Or maybe you have a bottle of hot sauce that is mysteriously getting lower by the day. Or just maybe, you just moved in with your significant other and realize that one of you likes white bread and the other whole grain. Oy, the disasters a fridge can cause to your relationships and to your budget. A disorganized fridge is like snipping a hole at the bottom of your pocket and letting your money pour out.

The official definition of refrigerator is an appliance or compartment that is artificially kept cool and used to store food and drink. But what the definition does NOT include is that this compartment that looks rather large, bulky and (if you are a renter) ugly on the outside, is actually quite small and very rarely customizable on the inside.

If you have a fridge that doesn't fit that particularly large bottle of wine vertically in any section of your fridge, can I get an AMEN! Or how about those of you who have a lot of perishables that won't quite fit in your crisper, can I get a HELL YEAH! Well renters, unfortunate fridge owners, those of you with too many room mates just to make the rent, I have for you some ways to keep the peace in your apartment, house, or home.

The best way to save space and money while grocery shopping is to create a joint grocery shopping list for perishables and share-ables. These items could be fruits, vegetables, salad dressing, milk, and OJ or any other sort of item that people in your household share. For example, Melissa and I share eggs, TJ Orange Peach Mango juice, tofu, vegetables, fruit, and condiments. We do NOT share bread, milk and cereal. Imagine if we bought double of those items? This is what happens when you have multiple room mates. You could have 3 egg crates and then half of the eggs go bad by the expiration date. Another big one is ketchup or mustard. Right now, I live with Melissa and another friend, but we probably have 4 bottles of mustard in our fridge. How silly. Why would I need 4 bottles of mustard? And then I'll probably complain about not having space for Woodchuck tonight in the fridge.

Another excellent point on sharing is creating family dinner nights for you and yours. You could make it pot luck, or you could even make it a night to just clear out all of your left overs or soon-to-be-expired foods.

For those of you with many room mates, this will probably be hard to instill at first, but will work wonders. Clear bins. Assign each room mate to a bin, and label the front with the room mate's name. Each room mate keeps their individual items in the bins, and every room mate knows who bought the food. So if you want to borrow something, you know who to ask. There can be a community shelf on the top or the bottom of the fridge for bread, eggs, etc. It's important to have clear bins so that way you know what is in each container and there are no funky smells or mystery meats later in the week. For bin suggestions, I would suggest Mainstays containers at Walmart. They're really cheap, come in different sizes and are made for your fridge. If you are not near a Walmart, Container Stores or Bed Bath and Beyonds have similar solutions.

Foods that are not in clear bins or for some reason do not fit in clear bins should have your initials or color coded dots. You can find colored dots at any dollar store, Walmart, Target, or any office supplies store. Assign each room mate with a color and then label accordingly. I would strongly suggest having a notecard with the colors and names on the outside of the fridge so that there is no confusion, or no "I thought that was my color" bull crap when you realize someone ate your cookies.

All condiments should be placed on the door of the fridge, unless you want to keep it in your bin. Trust me, this saves space. And if you haven't done so already, adjust the height of each shelf to fit all of your items. If you think something doesn't fit, you can make it fit.

Once a week, check foods that have expired. Expired foods are probably what take up the most clutter in someone's fridge. If you have had ketchup or any condiment in your fridge for over a year, it's probably bad--don't use it and throw it out. Reward yourself with a new bottle of ketchup. It'll probably taste better and look better. Make sure every room mate does this with their individual eats, and if you see something that's expired that belongs to them, don't just throw it out. Let them know nicely or write them a note on a white board on your fridge.

So I hate to say it, but a lot of the items that you store in the fridge really belong elsewhere. Here's a little taste of what doesn't need refrigeration. And who knows? Maybe this will make a lot more room in your fridge. Of course, you CAN refrigerate these things if you want, and if it's more practical for your kitchen space, but that's all up to you. It's not necessary.

Potatoes, honey, onions, tomatoes, peanutbutter, bread (up to you), bananas, baked goods, oils, apples, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, jicama, lemons, limes, mangoes, oranges, papayas, peppers, pineapple, pomegranates, watermelon, squash, sweet potatoes, unopened canned goods, hot sauce, jellies and jams, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, mustard.

Hope this helps!! Send pictures of your refrigerator's before and after! As for me, I'll probably do this to my fridge too.