Home Front | Neatnik's Nicole Anzia helps you get organized for fall

Aug 02, 2012

Join us in a chat with our new organizing columnist, Nicole Anzia of Neatnik. Her first column is about getting organized at the end of summer, starting with the dreaded linen closet. She'll be online with Jura Koncius on Thursday, August 2, at 11 a.m. to answer all of your organizing questions.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Did you all see the beautiful full moon yesterday? A good start to August, which is is a month that begins the countdown to school beginning and going back to fall routines. So we have the perfect guest on our chat today, Nicole Anzia, a Washington professional organizer and the byline on our new column in Local Living on organizing. Her company is called Neatnik. Nicole has a great piece today on organizing your linen closet. So ask her anything about the messiest places in your house and how to fix them.

Good morning, everyone. I'm thrilled to be chatting with you today!

I need someone to come to my house on the upper eastern shore and with ideas/remodeling a kitchen/great room and a cohesive look for the entire house. We are working on a limited but I hope reasonable budget. How do I find the right someone to do this work when it is outside of DC. I am desparate. Anyone out there is welcome to chime in.

You could try Annie Elliott of Bossy Color. She is based in NW DC, but has done a lot of work on the Eastern Shore as well!

Our older home lacks closet space in a bad way. We have a large bedroom with some unused space and were wondering of any tasteful contemporary closet/organizing set-ups that could hold both hanging clothes and socks, t-shirts? Or is there a better solution (other than building or tearing down walls) that we're missing. Many Thanks, Pat

Try IKEA. Seriously. The quality of their merchandise has improved so much over the last 5/6 years. They have a great selection of large wardrobes in all colors and designs. They're affordable and have nice clean lines.

I'm never certain what to do when furniture is delivered. Should I tip the delivery people? If so, what's the proper amount?

This is a great question. I feel like these people work really hard and deserve a little tip, especially if they put furniture where you want it and move other things around. I would think $10 a piece for two guys would do it. What do you all think?

I agree, Jura! I always consider what they're delivering too. If it's a large sectional vs a side table, I might tip a little bit more.


Hi there! Thanks for joining us, Nicole. I really enjoyed the column! My question is about books. My husband and I absolutely love books and have acquired quite a collection. The problem is, we move around a lot and they're, frankly, really heavy! We just can't bring ourselves to throw them out. Some houses have room for all of them (in which case they look gorgeous displayed) and some houses don't (in which case they sit in the basement until the next move). Are we crazy for keeping these? Is the pain not worth the gain, anymore? Curious to hear your thoughts....

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed today's column! Not surprisingly, many Washingtonians own a lot of books and have a hard time parting with them. I love seeing books on display in a house, but it can become a losing battle if you keep collecting  without ever discarding a single one. The house can go from looking orderly, to cluttered very easily.  I suggest donating paperbacks and then going through the hardcover books to see if there are any that are as not near and dear to you as much as they once were. When you're making the tough calls about what to keep and what to donate, just keep in mind that if you free up some space, you can go shopping!

Hello! I am moving into a DC apartment, and I really want to buy a stand alone bar/liquor cabinet for entertaining. Crate and Barrel is the only retailer where I've seen them, but I'm not loving their selection. Are there any stores in the DC region you suggest we check out? Thanks!

This is a great question. And I welcome others chiming in for ideas. I would check out vintage stores and thrift shops. Also places such as CB2, Bo Concept, Arhaus, Room & Board and Mitchell Gold. You will want to visit The Hour shop in Alexandria, which specializes in cocktail stuff and accessories,  at 1015 King St. www.thehourshop.com.  

Hi Nicole, I was wondering what you would do with evening "comfy clothes" (not PJs, but not work clothes either) that have been worn, but that you will wear again before you wash them. It seems wrong to put them back in the dresser, but I don't like having them out on top of the dresser or on the bed either. What would you do? Also, what to do with a pack-rat partner? Would it be insane to rent him a storage unit for all his (never-used) odds & ends? My condo is spacious, but historic and sorely lacking in storage - and you can only get so many storage containers under a bed.

This is a really great question. It's something that I struggle with too! I've installed a few hooks inside my closet where I hang those items. Or, you may consider hooks in your bathroom if there is space. Does that help?

Hi all! I just wanted to let you allll know that really liked my deck makeover. Miram did a great job. I wanted a modest makeover she was really constrained by my bugdet and the fact that I had no desire for constrction. She came up with a great design that was full of color and style. I really like the large lanterns at the steps and on the ottoman. I aksed for an inexpensive lighting solution and that is perfect. It is pretty handy the design came out now I should be able to get a lot of these items on sale now that summer is over. I am having a party in two weeks I will see what I can do by then. Thank you for picking me it was a lovely experience. Joanna

Wow. This is wonderful. Thanks so much Joanna for sharing this with us. We love feedback, right Megan? Hope you have great weather for your party! Here it is so see for yourself: Spiffing up a Herndon Deck

Hi - Jura suggests asking for advice for the messiest place in one's household. We live in an apartment (132 square meters) and the messiest room is my office (12 square meters). It fills the following functions: physical rehab exercises, headquarters for the summerhouse renovation, linen closet, winter coat storage, backpack and purse storage, finance and tax center for the household, home office, home tech center and quiet room/occasional overflow guest room. This summer it has gotten completely out of control. I'm writing from Europe where it is difficult to find a specialist, but HELP! Resources, ideas, thoughts? It's very hard for me to be productive with so much clutter!

This space does sound challenging!! I would start by dividing the room up into spaces for each activity you mentioned. Could linens and winter coats be stored in stacked bins in one corner? (Don't buy clear bins, buy a fun color that matches the paint color). I'm assuming you have an adequately-sized filing cabinet? If not, that should be on your shopping list. And make sure you're using the vertical space, either by installing hooks to hang backpacks and purses or bulletin boards for all of those notes about the summer house renovation. I hope this is helpful! Good luck!

We're finally upgrading to a king-sized bed in a few weeks, and I need to order new sheets and pillows asap, but I have no idea what kind to buy or where to buy them. What should I look for in sheets (e.g., thread count, material, etc.) and what is a good online resource for buying reasonably priced bedding basics? I don't have the time to look at a million options, so I'm hoping you can narrow it down for me. Thanks!

Congratulations on getting more space! It is a big investment both in the mattress and in the new bedding. I know my smart friend Nancy says that www.overstock.com always has fabulous buys on Italian sheets. Most people like threadcounts from 400-600 if they are looking for a luxurious night's sleep. Do you like cotton sateen or a crisper sheet? Those decisions should be made before you look. Other good online sources include Garnet Hill, Cuddledown, Company Store, Restoration Hardware. I like the Martha Stewart sheets at Macys. You can also find great discounted sheets at places such as Tuesday Morning, Homegoods, Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Anyone else have ideas?

In my linen closet, I roll up each towel into a cylinder and stack them on the shelf with the ends pointing out. This makes them easy to see, and I don't wind up with stacks of folded towels that want to tip over.

I love the look of rolled towels and have seen this work really well for some people. Thank you for the suggestion!

I think I've posted this here before, but my mom had a rule for my dad and me (both bookworms): for each book that came into the house, one had to go out. It really worked (I need to extend this rule to the rest of my possessions). Also related: two years ago, my cousin and her husband massively downsized and donated their 2,000 book collection to their local library (he's a novelist and they were both journalists so you can imagine the collection). She said it was very freeing.

I love that rule too and try to exercise it in my own house. I urge clients to follow it as well, but as you can imagine, it can be a hard one for some to follow!

I've seen a lot of black doors lately on the design shows and I have to say I like the look...that being said, I'm wondering what paint to select? Black-black or very dark gray? My walls are painted a warm cream/wheat field color (Benjamin Moore Standish White) with white trim. My style is somewhat mid-century meets Pottery Barn. What do you think? This is one of the first times I'm considering a dramatic change. The door is a dingy white right now...needs to be painted.

I love the look of a dramatic black door. I like Black Iron  by Benjamin Moore or Pitch Black by Farrow & Ball. Black Magic by Sherwin Williams is nice too. Go for it - it will make your trim pop.


Also take into account whether the delivery people have to climb a lot of stairs, etc. And be proactive. When I lived on the 4th floor of an apartment building with a chronically broken elevator and had a mattress delivered, the guys dragged a mattress up 4 flights only to find out the company had sent the wrong one. After that, I came down to the 1st floor to make sure it was the right item. And I always tipped $20.

Good point.

My answer was a coatrack.

That is a great solution too. The only advantage to the hooks in a closet is that you can close the door and not have to see the items.

Couldn't get enough of the "Yellow: Far From Mellow" story today. Thanks for brightening my day.

Agree! Megan did a really nice job and it will brighten anyone's day so click here: Yellow!

I know someone who already ordered the $10 cool yellow votive holders! from zgallerie.com.

Loved the column on decluttering the linen closet. I wondered if you or other chatters know if space bags work? I have some blankets and comforters that we occasionally use, but it would be helpful if they could take up less space in my linen closet. Thanks!

I am happy to hear that you liked today's column! Space bags DO work in terms of making large, bulky items less voluminous. I recommend them frequently for storing thing like extra blankets and comforters. The only drawback is that they don't look particularly "neat" when everything has been vacuum packed into them.

I absolutely LOVED today's column on Yellow. It was awesome and happy and helpful and great. I have been noodling bold colors to bring into my home which is dreadfully neutral (EGH, so Washington) and it inspired me to go ahead and do it. Except I'm not sure yellow is the color I need. Do you have any unexpectedly great bold colors that you just love? A friend recently passed along Hague Blue by Farrow and Ball and I've slowly become obsessed... Thanks!!

Are you looking for paint colors or accessories? The dark Hague Blue is moody and sexy, I think. If you are into blue, House Beautiful has a very helpful and fun little book called "Blue: 350 Inspiring Ways to Decorate With Blue"  $19.95, by Lisa Cregan. There are lots of paint color suggestions and accessories and tiles and furniture. Meanwhile, lots of people have also been inspired by Cooking Apple Green by Farrow & Ball. What color inspires the rest of you out there?

A friend recommended Lands' End sheets and they have good sales.I need to get new sheets, too. I only have two complete sets.


I bought a townhouse, move in August 15. Freshly pained. Bedroom is a light pink (yeah), living room a neutral white (yeah), 2nd bedroom an interesting buttercup/tan (okay), kitchen walls are yellow (boo)--my least favorite color. Repainting is not an option. I love blue and would like to incorporate it into the kitchen to detract from the yellow. Any ideas the best (cheapest) way to do this? Thanks.

If you own the townhouse and hate the yellow, why isn't repainting an option? A kitchen usually has very small wall space to paint. If you really hate it, why don't you treat yourself to a new paint color - you can con a friend who paints well into doing it in a barter deal, no? Otherwise, your options are go navy in all the accessories - towels, tea kettle, fruit bowls, etc.

I might just be a little challenged at making my bed, but I love my 800 TC cotton sheets with a subtle stripe (from Overstock). No more putting the fitted sheet on the wrong corner and having to readjust halfway through. Their duvets and duvet covers are amazing too.

Thanks for confirming Overstock is a good source.

We live in an older house with a small entryway and our mail often ends up piled on the dining room table, which is right off the entryway. We've tried a sorting rack which helps us keep bills in order until they're paid, but other mail quickly piles up and the whole set-up doesn't really look right in the dining room. Any suggestions?

This is a really common problem. I would recommend a couple of things: First, maybe just buy a couple simple boxes, with lids and space for a label. One box could be used for bills, another for magazines, and another for "pending" papers. Sort the mail each day and immediately throw away or recycle anything you don't need and put other items into their proper box/basket. This will make the dining room look less cluttered and it will be easy to pick up and move everything if guests are coming. Try not to leave anything outside of the box, if the box if full, that means it's time to pay the bills! :)

I recently purchased an antique mahogany dining room table from an estate sale. Last weekend at another tag sale I got six vintage shield back chairs. They are also a dark wood (not mahogany), but not in as good of condition as the table. I would like to somehow re-finish & re-upholster. Should I attempt to refinish in a mahogany stain or simply prime and paint? I have a natural jute rug and bamboo roman shades in the room and SW dover white walls. Would one day love to have them professionally re-finished as a set, but since the table is in such good condition, I cannot justify the expense. Any thoughts?

I think I might do the mahogany stain and reupholster the seats. Good for you for snagging such good stuff from estate sales.

rent a storage unit for your partner only if you are willing to keep paying for it until/unless you move into bigger space. Remember that the reverse of today's topic works--without the visual of the items in the storage unit, your partner will continue to collect more stuff.

So true.. and scary!

We have a funky old wooden chair in the corner of our bedroom that gets the clean but re-wearable clothes wrapped over the back of it, or folded on the seat.

A good idea.

how can I prevent a musty odor in my bed linens when stored even for as ltttle as two weeks? have tried scented soap bars.. tried storing them in drawers etc..nothing seems to work

Are you storing them in a cedar closet? Hmmmm? I wonder if putting them in a breathable, zip-up storage bag would work. You could also throw a dryer sheet in to give them a fresh scent.

We also have a lot of books. With five full-height book cases in the living/dining area and two half-height book cases, all those book spines look really cluttered. I can get IKEA solid or glass doors and maybe but fabric or art behind the glass, but I'm not sure about closing it all off. How would you minimize the visual distraction?

I am not sure how you currently have the shelves arranged, but you could try to arrange the books by size and also put all of the hardcovers in one place and the paperbooks in another. But it might be that you just need to pack away or donate a few. The prettiest book shelves I have seen have a mixture of books, art and photos.

We usually stash these under the pillows on the bed! Out of sight, even if it might not be the... um.. cleanest option.

Or the one that produces the fewest wrinkles!

We are still trying to organize and put our 'own stamp' on our condo. Can you give some ideas for a warm gray for our living room walls? They are currently a creamy gold-ish and I would like to change it out. Thanks--I always appreciate your color ideas!

Benjamin Moore's Wedgewood Gray is nice with a blueish touch. Also Stonington Gray or Boothbay Gray. Martha Stewart for Home Depot's Dolphin is nice as is her classic Bedford Gray.

What is the messiest place in your house?

Oh, you're putting me on the spot! It's probably a tie between my 6-year-old daughter's room and my husband's closet. (Just don't tell him I told you!)

I saw Allegra Hicks on a TV show and she made an fascinating choice to cope with the messy look of her many books. She covered each one with light brown paper and labeled the spine. They looked terrific in the white bookcases of her Bahamas home

Boy, that sounds like a TON of work. I bet Allegra paid someone to do it for her... but I agree, it sounds quite chic and orderly - and beachy Bahamas!

How do you prevent chaos in there?

The key here is sorting through it once a month. Often times people just throw stuff in there to get it off the counter top, whether it's trash or something they actually intend to keep. Going through and clearing it out on a regular basis will make it a much less daunting task. Drawer organizers are also a good idea for holding those items that will always be in the drawer.

We have a 11x14 home gym in our basement. The room has no windows, a mirror on one of the long walls, and we're going to be putting up a wallpaper mural of an outdoor scene on the opposing long wall. My husband wants an energizing color for the two short walls--is thinking yellow. Good idea? If so, do you have thoughts for BM colors?

I would find a yellow that will blend with some yellow shade in the mural. Benjamin Moore Golden Honey is nice. Also Moonlight or Provence Creme. Sounds like it's shaping up into a great workout space.

For under the kitchen sink organization?

Try organizing the items under your sink by type and placing each in separate bin. House cleaning supplies stored in one container, kitchen items like sponges and dishwashing detergent in another container, etc. It also helps to label the containers so others know where to put things away. When things are divided into categories, it will also make it easier to know what needs to be added to your shopping list. And, be sure that you're using the height in the cabinet by using stackable wire shelves or drawers.

Actually, the whole family worked on the books while awaiting and "riding out" a hurricane.

Now THAT is an important part of the story! Love it.

Do you have any special sources for organizing stuff that's not the usual suspects?

Can you give me an example?

Some really great tips today for organizing from Nicole Anzia. Read the transcript and you will definitely pick up something you can use in your own home to make it better.

Thanks everyone!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Nicole Anzia
Nicole Anzia is the owner of Neatnik, a professional organizing business she started in 2007. She helps her clients simplify their lives by bringing order to their homes and offices. Nicole also writes a monthly organizing column for The Washington Post. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and two daughters.
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