Category Archives: Organized Home

6 Festive Looks to Try this Holiday Season

By Eva-Marie Putze

The holidays are right around the corner and to ensure your closet is ready for the hustle and bustle, we’re sharing the six looks that are sure to embellish your wardrobe. From sequins to warm wool, these styling tricks will have you ready for any festivities coming your way.

1- Velvet

Take a risk with texture. The soft plush feel of velvet is the perfect way to up the dark toned holiday colors. We recommend a velvet suit or dress in moss green, burgundy or black.











2- ‘Tis the Season of Sequin

Elevate your favorite blouses or sweaters with a touch of sparkle. These festive beads are the per- fect touch of detail this holiday. Complete this look with your favorite skinny jean or velvet trouser.







3- Faux Fur

Make a statement in this season’s soft outerwear of choice. Pair a fur coat with an elegant slip dress perfect for a party or wear it casually with a T-shirt and denims.






4- Boots, Boots, Boots

Boots are a longstanding staple piece of any winter wardrobe. This seasons boot trends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From thigh- high to chunky combat to elegant bootie, there’s a style for every look.






5- Oversized Sweaters

Keep it comfortable and classy in an oversized sweater perfect for running holiday errands in or snuggling up by a replace. Wear an oversized sweater as a dress with embroidered boots and tights or combine it with a skinny pant and loafers. Don’t shy away from patterns!





6- Warm Wool

Let’s get back to the basics in a classic wool coat. Both middie coats and ponchos are a quick stylish x for cold weather. Keeping colors neutral such as beige, gray or black will allow the coat to t to almost anything in your winter closet. This classic staple piece will withstand time.

Donate What You Don’t Need

As summer comes to a close, we pack up our swimsuits and flip-flops and pull out the sweaters and boots that were just a cold distant memory a month ago. With every seasonal transition we find ourselves swapping these items in and out of our visible closets, but when do we actually sift through them and pull out the dresses and shoes we unpack and repack every year that haven’t made it out into the sun during their 6 month wearable window. Instead of packing them away for another winter of being unworn under the bed, take the time to clear out the clutter and help those in need.

When it comes to donating clothes there are usually two questions, “Where should I donate” and “Can I get money for these?”. There are plenty of places that would be more than happy to accept your donations although it’s important to check their online guidelines before dropping off anything or scheduling a pickup to make sure what you’re donating is appropriate for the charity. As a rule of thumb, while sifting through piles of old t-shirts and items that just aren’t for you; Look for clothing that still remains intact. If it’s missing buttons, ripped (but not intentionally), fray- ing, stained or just severely outdated put it in a separate pile.

There’s nothing better than a little “getting back” with your “giving back”.

While brainstorming places to take your donations there are a few “oldie-but-goodies” that may come to mind like The Salvation Army and Goodwill. Both are excellent choices. If you’re concerned about tax-deductions, The Salvation Army’s website has a comprehensive list of cloth- ing and its estimated taxable worth on their website. Goodwill on the other hand has a great drop-down list on their site that allows you to enter the belongings you wish to donate and details how those donations will positively impact lives of those they help. Regardless of which avenue you might decide upon you should always get a receipt for your donations because there’s nothing better than a little “getting back” with your “giving back”.

If you’re a woman with office attire that you won’t wear next season, you can consider donating to Dress for Success. With locations throughout Pennsylvania, Dress for Success has a goal to provide women the condense to interview for employment and remain employed. DFS Clients receive one suit for a job interview and can return for a second suit or separates when they find employment. More information can be found on their website.

It’s always best to call ahead and ensure they take used clothing donations.

If you like the idea of Dress for Success but would like a place that accepts men’s work attire, look no further than Career Wardrobe in Philadelphia. They not only give job seekers the ability to show a presentable and professional appearance at interviews; they also offer education courses to help men and women become more knowledgeable on applying for jobs and retaining employment.

Easton’s Salvation Army profits are used to supply food for feeding the homeless breakfast and lunch daily.

While you may feel inclined to donate to your local women’s and children’s or men’s shelters, it’s always best to call ahead and ensure they take used clothing donations. For example, a quick call to Third Street Alliance for Women and Children of Easton resulted in a helpful talk with a receptionist. She informed me that while they don’t accept used clothing due to storage concerns, they personally suggest donating to the Salvation Army. Easton’s Salvation Army profits are used to supply food for feeding the homeless breakfast and lunch daily.

Additionally, if you’re in the Philadelphia area and in need of a place for gently used children’s clothing consider Cradles to Crayons. They have a comprehensive list of accepted donations on their website which include other items such as diaper bags, baby carriers and bibs. Similarly, Pregnancy Resource Center of the Poconos takes baby clothing donations and gently used maternity clothing. If those aren’t near you then Life Choices in Phillipsburg, New Jersey (just outside Easton and closer to our New Jersey readers) accepts the same types of items.

Making a contribution that helps your local community may have more benefit than the risk of your good intentions being boxed and placed aside.

You may be wondering why there wasn’t mention of donating to disaster relief funds such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Multiple news reports have shown that the most useful and resourceful contributions during disasters such as these are monetary donations. Unfortunately, relief organizations end up with entire warehouses filled with clothing, blankets and toys that do not meet their specific relief needs. Those who work to organize and distribute donations are over- whelmed by the sheer amount of items received and while the gesture is undeniably appreciated, it unfortunately slows down the relief process significantly. Making a contribution that helps your local community may have more benefit than the risk of your good intentions being boxed and placed aside. All donations efforts are great but research prior to execution is a wonderful place to start and with finishing this article you’re already a step ahead!


Taming the Beast


Nothing’s ever going to make spring cleaning enjoyable. But it’s a lot less daunting when it doesn’t loom over you like one giant, weekend-sucking chore.

By Laurie Palau

Spring. (Yay!) Cleaning. (Ugh.)

The weather outside is so inviting. Yet, standing at that window, I’m filled with dread, because I know what awaits me when I turn around. The remnants of our months-long hibernation. It’s gotta be dealt with, no way around it. After all, the only thing worse than spring cleaning is summer cleaning.

My game plan is to break the house down into four zones—the kitchen, the closets, the bathrooms and the garage—and to deal with each one a weekend at a time. What?! you’re probably thinking. It’s bad enough losing one weekend to this, and now you want me to turn over a month’s worth? We’re looking at a couple of hours, tops, over each one of those weekends. Isn’t that more digestible than a 48-hour cleaning slog? And let’s be honest; most of that time was going to be spent procrastinating.

What follows is a checklist for each zone. Efficiency, baby!

Weekend No. 1 The Kitchen

Clean out the pantry and fridge. Dispose of the expired food, along with the questionable stuff. Spices, too. They’re only good for a year. Wipe down every surface, and don’t forget the crisper.

Sort through the Tupperware. Winter is prime time for collecting takeout containers. Toss any bottom that doesn’t have a matching top.

Streamline the gadget drawer. Anything that hasn’t been used in the last six months, donate. And pare down multiples (spatulas, wooden spoons, peelers) to no more than three.

And the junk drawer, while you’re at it. Everything that’s broken (dried-out pens) or serves no obvious purpose (random keys, a four-month-old receipt from Whole Foods), toss. Then group the remaining items together by like.

Weekend No. 2 The Closets

Ditch the dry cleaning bags and hang those clothes on regular hangers already. Those bags can suffocate a closet. Not to mention, they retain harsh chemicals.

Sort through all your clothing and accessories, including every last pair of shoes. This is no time to get sentimental. If it hasn’t been worn in the last six months, donate or consign it. Unless it’s torn or stained or stanky. Trash that stuff, obviously. Then organize your new pared-down wardrobe by type—casual, athletic, office-wear, formal—and color. It may seem a bit OCD, but it’ll make getting dressed so much easier.

Weekend No. 3 The Bathrooms

Streamline your medicine cabinet and under the sink. Toss all the expired medications, along with every piece of makeup and hair and cleaning product that’s over a year old.

Give your sheets and towels the same treatment you did your Tupperware. Whittle your stockpile down to two (complete) sets of cotton sheets and one flannel set and two sets of towels for each full bathroom. Donate all the loose ends and overly worn pieces. (Animal shelters are always in need of towels and blankets.)

Weekend No. 4 The Garage

Purge everything that’s expired, damaged or hasn’t been touched in over a year. (Your teenage son’s never gonna ride that scooter again.) The garage can become a dumping ground in the winter. If yours is serving as an extension of the kitchen pantry, move that stuff to your actual pantry. There should be plenty of room now.

Then, organize everything that’s left by like—yard supplies, sports gear, household tools—and arrange it by zones so that it stays organized beyond this weekend.

Consider yourself free to enjoy the great outdoors. And by that, I mean, of course, the lawn needs cutting and the flower beds are begging to be weeded.

Laurie Palau is the owner of the New Hope-based simply B organized, a home and life organization service.


How to Live Out of a Suitcase with Dignity


A Hawaiian shirt does not make the tourist. A wrinkled shirt, of any kind, does.

By Laurie Palau

You plunked down a staggering deposit this winter to make sure that you’re exactly where you want to be when the time comes: In a palatial, beachfront house at the very height of summer. Five bedrooms, more than enough to sleep immediate family and your closest friends comfortably. A commercial kitchen, which is overkill, if we’re being honest. And a sprawling deck with an unobstructed view of the sparkling ocean, less-fortunate beachgoers aside. The thought of this week sustained you when your patience with Mother Nature waned in March.

And yet, you’re living like a coddled teen about three hangovers’ deep into senior week. How else do you explain the Fiat-size suitcase in the corner of the master bedroom that looks like it threw up all over itself?

Sure, there’s an art to packing. Anyone who’s spent even a single night away from home is well aware of that. But there’s an art to unpacking too. It may seem like a small thing, but, come Day Three, rooting around for a clean outfit to wear to a restaurant is going to start to grate on you—and even the coddled teen at senior week. So, here are a few moves that’ll keep you square in the lap of luxury.

First in, first out. Whether you keep them in a makeup bag, a dopp kit or even a Ziploc freezer bag, your toiletries should be the first things you stick in your suitcase and the first you pull out upon arrival, because they’re going to get the most use. And once your bathroom’s arranged to your liking, it’ll feel a little more like home. Which you’ll immediately appreciate when you try to brush your teeth after polishing off a couple bottles of wine at dinner.

Plug in, then unplug. The electronics are the next to go. Dig out your phone and tablet—if you brought any more than that, you should be ashamed of yourself—along with their respective charging cables, and plug them into an out-of-the-way outlet. (Read: anywhere you won’t trip over them.) They’ll be there, fully charged, when you need them. But you won’t.

Five minutes, if that. In the grand scheme, hanging our clothes or organizing them in dresser drawers is the blink of an eye. Still, on vacation, we resist it with all the fervor of a five-year-old forced into cleaning his room. I’ve seen people note the impressive capacity of hotel room closets and then never open them again. Unpacking should be that much easier, too, because you packed minimally—a few tops, a couple bottoms and pairs of shoes and a handful of accessories, all of which can be mixed. Once it’s all out, toss the suitcase in the closet as well. Out of sight, out of mind.

All trips must end. Whether I wore something or not, I’m washing everything when I get home. But that’s me. It doesn’t mean, though, that I’m using my empty suitcase as a hamper. I cannot stress this enough: Once sand gets into your suitcase, you will never get it completely out. Pack a garbage bag (or two), stuff it with your dirty laundry and keep it in the closet.


Laurie Palau is the owner of the New Hope-based simply B organized, a home and life organization service.

How Deep Does this Closet Go?


An exhibit at the Michener exposes a bit more of Drexel’s legendary fashion collection. But even its curator doesn’t know exactly what she’s sitting on.

By Scott Edwards

In spite of the elite names featured among its ranks—Chanel, Dior, Givenchy—what is now known as the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection spent almost all of its 125 years locked away from the public eye. It was used as a teaching tool at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, where the collection is housed.

“It wasn’t until the late nineties that some of my colleagues here started nosing around what we had,” says Clare Sauro, who joined Drexel in 2008 and serves as the collection’s curator. “It really kind of dawned on Drexel that they had an amazing asset here, and maybe something more could be done with it.”

A.J. Drexel invested $1 million shortly after he founded the school in 1891 to start an art collection that would include textiles. His expectation was that it would eventually evolve into the school’s own museum. Aside from his seed money, Drexel also rallied his friends and family to donate. “So, we were getting donations from prominent Philadelphia area families, but really and truly, most of them lived out on the Main Line,” Sauro says.

In 2013, another million-dollar investment changed the collection’s purpose. This one came from the Meadowbrook couple after which the collection is now named, and it enabled Sauro and the university to begin thinking on a grander scale. That movement began to come to fruition last October when the collection made its public debut. “Immortal Beauty: Highlights from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection” put 75 pieces focused largely on international high fashion from the 20th century on display at Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

And in March, another exhibition, “Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion,” featuring an entirely new selection, opened at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown. (It will remain on view through June 26.)

“You’re speaking to me at a very interesting point in our history,” Sauro says during a phone interview in the midst of preparing the Michener exhibit. “Also thanks to Robert and Penny Fox, we have started planning our own dedicated galleries. I mean, we won’t be able to do grand, gorgeous exhibitions like what you’re going to see at the Michener. But small, lovely exhibitions on the regular from us would be a dream come true.”

As will actually knowing what she’s preserving. Sauro and her staff recently began cataloguing the collection—the first time its been done in its history. But that was put on hold when the funding for last year’s exhibit came through. At this point, everything from the Drexel and Michener shows has been accounted for. Which only leaves an estimated 13,900 pieces to go.

“It’s going to take a long time,” Sauro says. And there’s no way around it. “In this digital world, if you don’t have a searchable database online, you might as well just not exist.”

Maybe the Foxes’ donation wasn’t such a blessing after all.

I read that Greta Garbo is among the collection’s donors. Are there any others of her caliber?
Sauro Actually, that’s not exactly correct. We have a dress that was worn by her. We also have a dress that was worn by Joan Crawford from the same period, but it was donated by a local family. We do have some pretty big names, though. We have a fantastic coral-encrusted gown that was donated by Princess Grace of Monaco. That’s probably the biggest get that we have.

 So if I made you name a single crown jewel for the collection—and I am—you’re going with Princess Grace’s gown?
I would say that’s probably the most beloved piece in the collection. Princess Grace gave it to us in 1969. There are really only two things that people ask for. They want to see Garbo and they want to see Princess Grace.

 Are there any local ties to any of the pieces featured in the Michener exhibit?
Yes. It’s a very local exhibition. The idea was, tell the story of fashion here in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia region for a hundred years. We’re covering a period from 1895 to about 1995. And it is focused on shopping and—basically, everything in the exhibition was either worn here in Philadelphia by somebody that we can document was wearing it in this area or purchased here. We have a handful of pieces that were made here as well.

Anything with an especially exotic lineage?
I am particularly fond of a pink tulle evening gown from 1916. It is almost certainly a French design. It is from the couture house of Callot Soeurs. I think it was purchased in Paris because it required multiple fittings and things like that, although they were sometimes imported. I know it’s a very expensive dress. It’s kind of this crazy fairy-princess dress. So I feel like that may be one of the things that people are really taken with because it’s so unexpected. It’s not really an exotic show. It’s a happy show—a spring-timey, optimistic, colorful show.

The color palette, the general mood. I have a little psychological quirk that I like to do springtime items on display in the springtime. [Laughs.] No heavy furs or velvet or anything like that. Lighter materials, lighter colors, lots of flowers—yellow, and navy blue and pink.

In the context of all that you’ve come across in your career, where does this collection fall?
It’s a difficult question to answer in that we’re currently operating without a true inventory, so my sense of what we have is based on what I’ve seen and what I know. I’ve been in this field for a long time. I was at the Museum at the [Fashion Institute of Technology] before I came to Drexel, which is a fabulous collection. And while we’re not as big as that, and they certainly have us beat in the realm of modern fashion, we have exceptional examples of early-20th century high fashion. We have some really unusual designers. We have really exceptional high-quality items. We have a museum-caliber collection in a university research setting, which is an interesting thing to be the caretaker of.

Did the Drexel exhibition draw any new pieces out of the woodwork? How frequently are you receiving donations at this point?
It kind of ebbs and flows with the tax year. [Laughs.] But we have had a steady increase of donations in the last three years. We moved to a wonderful new storage space here in the URBN Center. And once people could see what we had in that space, they got excited. We started getting amazing donations. I don’t know exactly how many we’re getting a year, a couple of hundred, certainly. So we are growing at a quick pace.

Do you ever turn anything away?
Sure, sure. That is probably the worst part of my job because people hold onto things for a reason. They mean something to them—their mother’s hat, their wedding dress. But there are just certain categories we have a whole lot of. We have a lot of children’s wear and we have a lot of wedding dresses. And women’s fashion from the 1960s on, we’re fairly plentiful. So I have to be very particular because we are in an urban environment and space is not unlimited.

Is there an elusive piece that you’re holding your breath for?
Oh, there’s a whole bunch of them. I have a running list in my head of gaps that I’d like to fill. After the inventory is done, I’ll have a better sense of what we need. I know we need more of the Japanese avant-garde designers from the late seventies on. They’re just not coming to us. If someone out there is a Yohji Yamamoto collector and wants to clear out his closet, that would be great. [Laughs.] But there are holes that I have identified. Another one, and I really hope you put this is in because they might be out there, for whatever reason, we don’t have Claire McCardell in our collection, and she was a fantastic and important American designer. She wasn’t fine couture, but her cuts, her construction methods, she was very innovative and very clever.


[divider]The Fox Costume Collection by the Numbers[/divider]


14,000+  Total number of garments, accessories and textiles (estimated)


5    Gap in centuries between the collection’s oldest piece, a fragment of 16th-century Italian velvet, and its newest, a 2012 evening dress designed by Alexander Wang


125    Age (approximate) of the collection


26 million   Today’s equivalent of what A.J. Drexel invested in starting the collection


84   Total number of pieces featured in the Michener exhibit—34 full garments and 50 accessories


Photos courtesy Drexel University


You’re Due for a Bypass


The kitchen is the heart of the modern home. But we’re clogging our arteries. A simple plan to get it—and your family—ticking like new.

By Laurie Palau

It’s where dinner parties find their identities. It’s where families find safe harbor following overloaded days. It’s also where the homework’s done, the bills are paid and, of course, the meals are made.

We ask a lot of our kitchens, and we give very little in return. Drawers designed for Japanese-forged knives are handed over to flashlights without batteries and half-used lint rollers. Large chunks of granite countertop are lost to a rat’s nest of charging phones and tablets.

That kind of scene goes from cozy to suffocating overnight. Before long, your family’s bound to start avoiding it—and each other. But it’s easily remedied by streamlining a few pulse points.

The Pantry

Everything that’s expired gets tossed in the garbage, even if you believe that those dates are merely suggestions. And don’t look past the spices. They’re only good for a year. Then, approach the pantry like it’s your personal market. Labels should face forward and foodstuffs grouped by kind. Corralling the bagged things—potatoes, onions, sugar—in a bin or two like the Sterilite Ultra Basket  ($6 for the medium) will spare you shelf space and headaches.


The Pots and Pans Cabinet

Anything you haven’t used in the last year, donate. Anything that’s scratched or burned beyond recognition, trash. Nest the remaining pots and pans within each other. (Largest on the bottom, smallest on the top.) As for those always-uncooperative lids, they’ve finally met their match in the Organized Living Lid Organizer ($7). Now, start plotting what to do with all that extra real estate.


The Storage Shelf

Every container that doesn’t have a lid, and vice versa, goes. Holding out hope doesn’t make it any more likely to surface. If that really narrows the field, or if your set is less a set and more a collection of old takeout containers, invest in the Rubbermaid 40-piece Easy Find Lid set  ($21). And prepare to have your mind blown: interchangeable lids, easy-peasy stacking.


The Tool Drawer

How many meals have gone up in flames while you dug (and dug) for the peeler or the small wooden spoon? And don’t forget those supposed friends of yours who very obviously rolled their eyes while you lost your patience (and theirs) chasing a corkscrew. Cut your arsenal down to no more than three of any one tool. You’re not employing line cooks, so you’ll never miss them. Then, insert these bamboo drawer dividers by Lipper  ($20 for a set of two) to create a very basic order. As with everything else here, like with like.


The Junk Drawer

If you must have one, and I’ve come to accept that every kitchen does, at least pare it down to the useful stuff. Holding on to a Whole Foods receipt from seven months ago is hoarding. Get a drawer organizer  like this adjustable one by Lipper ($16). But what about the things that don’t fit, you ask? They probably don’t belong anyway.

Laurie Palau is the owner of the New Hope-based simply B organized, a home and life organization service.



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As if having a seemingly endless stream of recipes at your disposal (for free!) wasn’t enough (it sources from all over the webiverse), you can filter by allergies and ingredients. And that’s not even the most impressive feature. This is: Plug in what’s in your fridge, leftovers included, and Yummly will tell you what’s for dinner. Or late-night snacking. —LP