All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

All original work © Jason W. Wong. Please ask for permission to reproduce any work.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

But in this ever changing world in which we live makes you give in and cry...Say live and let die!

This week I promised you clutter. Want to see some?

BAM! (You know this photo was taken in June and that the tree had been around since December!)

And here's the AFTER--KAPOW!

This is a new year, and so I think it's time to talk about decluttering and purging. Last year I was obsessed with the show Hoarders until I realized two things: 1) I'd seen enough dead cats after the first season and 2)  yes, it's a mental disease but it's also a slippery slope we could all fall down. I think all you need to have is a career or a family and you're part of the way there.

Two years ago one of my first posts was about decluttering someone's studio apartment (which is where these images are from.) It was tough. It was like looking into the depths of someone's soul and seeing a lot of things I didn't expect to see. I thought I'd never go back, but now I find this is part of my Retrograde work. One of my current clients has a busy family and wanted some standard "rules" she could follow to help her purge the clutter from her home.

I tried to find some cut-and-dried rules for her, but had a hard time doing so. Y'know why? Because it's not that simple. There aren't cut-and-dried rules to follow during this process. Any advice someone gives you will have to sound more holistic than anything else--because after dealing with some folks with serious hoarding tendencies, I can honestly tell you it becomes very emotional.

So if you're going to try and do some purging (a.k.a. "spring cleaning") anytime soon, take these words of advice under consideration and imagine me in the room with you, rooting you on and dishing out some tough love.

1. Always remember this--unless you live in a 200 square foot studio, you probably have more space and storage than I (or a great number of Americans) will ever have. No matter how much (or how little) space you have, no matter how big (or small) your family is, you need to make it work. Always remember this. I just read Tim Gunn's new book and "make it work" has never felt more relevant. If you can afford to move to a bigger place every year or rent another storage space to keep hold of your stuff, then you don't need my advice this week. I told my current client that even though she had more space than others (for San Francisco), she shouldn't feel compelled to hold on to more than other people. I told her that I honestly didn't think she should be wanting for more space.

2. You're all digital, tech-savvy people. You follow blogs, for crying out loud. Get rid of the old magazines you're holding on to. I know most of you are busy people and can honestly say you might never ever dig through them again to search for "that one article" from whenever. If you need a recipe or something from Sunset, you're going to go to their website and search for keywords; you're not going to dig through a stack to find that March 2009 article. This should be an easy one to follow.

3. Boarding passes and other documents/receipts--get rid of them unless you need them for work. Are you honestly going to have the time to go back and verify that information for that expense account? If you haven't recorded the information in a month, then keep this in mind: TIME is your LIFE. It's time for your family, time for yourself and your sanity, time for your work or other more important things. (If you honesly think you need to enter them into some system or save them for some particular time period, then you need to make an appointment with yourself to actually do this. If you don't, or if you miss that appointment for any reason, then you need to toss that stuff out.)

4. Any financial paperwork or tax records--save it for 7 years. Anything older, shred it.

5. Make an appointment to shred your old stuff. Tell a friend when you're going to do it. If you need help, they can try to be there to keep you honest.

6. Tackle one pile of stuff a day. I've seen people with a lot of things on the floor and on/around their desks and they wonder why they're swimming in papers and clutter. If you do one pile of papers/stuff a week, it can be more managable. Don't stop until that pile has been filed or thrown out. The goal is to see your floor and to have a clean desk by the end of the day/week/month.

7. If you ever hide stuff from others, you're hiding it from yourself--and that's not healthy. If you let your garage or basement become a dumping zone, you're creating a risk for your family and home. Remember that one stray spark in those cluttered areas can mean disaster.

8. Kids' clothing is easy. If it doesn't fit them or is pilly or worn, you need to get rid of it, right? So do it monthly. Make it a set time. As you notice things shrinking in the laundry or on a weekly basis, toss it into a bag in the garage. Once a month, post something on an online parents' group saying you have a bag of clothing to give away. And the torn or worn things--if you can't get rid of them, you need to toss them or turn them into rags. I know I'm all about recycling and stuff, but this is your life we're talking about. If throwing things out means an extra half hour of time for you, then I'm all for it.

9. Kids' brutal. If they haven't played with it in a few months, get rid of it. There's a good chance they're forgotten them. Kids are resilient and will bounce back with all the new things they get from friends and family all the time. Don't be afraid to get rid of things--I know I still resent my mother for throwing out this one comic book when I was a kid, but now as an adult I can rationalize it: I left it on the floor for days (where someone could have slipped on it), so I can understand how she threw away my mess in one clean sweep. I'm sure your kids can deal with giving away their old toys. If anything, you're teaching them not to be so precious with material things. And you're teaching them about charity and giving to others. That toy may have come from Grandma, but it's not actually Grandma or her love. I mean, if you donate that old gift, does Grandma love your kids any less? (On a related note, I had a ton of toys when I was a kid, but I had the most fun making things out of old boxes and using my imagination instead. And for some reason, I was okay with those cardboard forts and castles and action figure traps being tossed out after a week. I think it's because I always knew I could make something bigger and better later...)

10. Your toys. Get rid of your old electronics. Just send 'em to Goodwill whether they work or not. (Goodwill in California has a fantastic policy of recycling electronics for parts. Old phones can go to victims of domestic violence. Check with your cell phone carrier for details.) Set a date. Say, "Next Tuesday I'm going to delete all the info from this old phone and donate it." And then do it. Unless you think you're going to have the time to sell it or use it again...(really? Will you have the time? Be honest with yourself.)

11. Your clothing. Even if you're saving old clothes for the day when you lose some weight and can get back into them, will they feel right ever again? Will they still be in fashion? Get rid of anything pilly or worn. That includes old underwear and t-shirts. If you haven't worn it in the past year or two, then seriously consider getting rid of it. Old underwear or socks? Seriously get rid of it. When you've got more space you can treat yourself to new things--but not until you get rid of the old. Do you have a dresser? I don't--my folded stuff is either in this Ikea locker or in a couple of stacks in our modest closet. (My partner has a dresser, but that's because he only keeps his hanging clothes in our closet.)

12. If a lot of your stuff is kept out in stacks or in clear bins, is this because you need to see things? When things are put away, do you find yourself getting multiples of things you already have or might not need? Or is there a reason why things aren't put away? This is a time to assess--as well as clean and unclutter--your home. If it's easier to keep track of things you can see, you might need to rethink all the storage in your home. But if you're okay with having things filed away, then by purging and keeping track of what you actually have you should know where everything is all the time. I know kids or pets might play around and take things out and mess things up. That's life. But as you start clearing things out, it'll be easier for all of you to maintain the progress.

Okay, that's all I can think of right now. Like I said before, it's more holistic and tough love than anything else. (It's also fueled by some beer after working this weekend for Ye Olde Dayjobbe!) It's about being honest with yourself and constantly asking if holding on to the stuff is worth your time or energy. I've always been dramatic and have watched waaaaaay too many disaster movies (thanks to my partner) so I constantly ask myself what I couldn't live without. Imagine if you and your family/loved one(s) were on a desert island somewhere (where food wasn't an issue, of course.) What would you really need?

And then get yourself another drink and be thankful you have a home to keep you warm and safe.
See all the things you don't need:

And see what's important (friends and your sanity):

Out with the old:

And in with the new (or new slipcovers):

A cluttered entryway:

Or something more clean and practical?

It's a new year. It's time to make room for the things that really matter. Don't let yourself get bogged down by your "stuff" and material belonging any more. Say, "Live and let live." (Or maybe--to the clutter and chaos and all the things holding you back--say, "Live and let die.")

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Show me love...

Does anyone here read Apartment Therapy? They've got their blog award, The Homies, going on right now.

Vote for Retrograde!

You might have to create a login or become a member of the AT community, but is that such a bad thing? It's a great online community that brings together home design enthusiasts from all over. I've been an avid reader for a while and even applied to be a contributor there many years ago. To be recognized by them is always an honor, and it keeps me going--as many of you know, someday I'd just like to write about design full-time.

Sigh....keep dreamin', Jason.

Anyway, give me a shout out if you can. Show me love. Show me life. Baby show me what it's all about.

(Next week I'll post about clutter and getting control of your home.Promise!)

Robyn - Show me love
Uploaded by djoik. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

GOLD! Always believe in your soul...

Okay, I am a fan of the spray paint as most of you know. I found this little black ceramic lamp at Community Thrift a few months ago and was going to use for my client with the Oakland loft. But after I spray painted it bright white, it didn't seem to work with this tall floral shade I had. I found an alternative and decided to use the painted lamp for another client instead.

Here's how it looked when I dropped it off last week:

Not bad, but kind of lacking. The husband of the couple thought it blended into the pale blue walls, and because it was such a cold white, he was right.

So this week I painted it GOLD.

Now it has more depth. The metallic color contrasts not only the pale blue walls, but also the turned wood side table. Throw on an inexpensive linen lampshade and you've got a great piece for under $40! (I used Krylon Bright Gold, by the way.)

I'm really feeling the metallics right about now. Don't be afraid to mix them up, either. Go ahead, give your home a little shine and bling.

"You've got the power to know that you're indestructible..."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blue Monday (how does it feel...)

For the past few months I've been helping out some friends update their single family home as their needs change. Their kids are growing (toddlers now!) and they wrestle with daily demands vs. an intrinsically modern and sophisticated style (you should see their art collection!)

I think I've said it before, but paint is one of the quickest fixes around. While we take our time to strategize and prioritize over possible bathroom/entry/closet remodels, painting was the most effective way to feel like we're making progress. While that new sofa will take eight to 10 weeks (hello!), painting three rooms only took two days.

And we found that a bold color you love makes so much difference. Check out the dining room before:

And AFTER. Shazam!

Whoa! Talk about deep blue something! It's been great working with my friends, knowing their pre-kid style and incorporating their love of the dramatic (did I mention the dynamic art collection?) with something that would stimulate their kids and make their dining room pop. (The adjoining living room was painted a complementary pale blue.)

Okay, check one thing off the list. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Do YOU, do what you gotta do!

Happy New Year, everyone!

It's my first post of the new year and I'm feeling pretty good. Yesterday I went for my first run of the year and got completely soaked in the rain. But you know what? It felt good. I thought that if I could get through that cold, wet run, I'd be bulletproof for the year.

You know what else felt good? Cleaning my flat on New Year's Eve and putting up the home-related gifts that I had received for the holidays. Displaying these very thoughtful gifts not only refreshed our home, but also made us feel like the New Year was going to be filled with all sorts of new possibilities.

What's new in my entryway above? The rhino head! What a great gift--so much of everyone's artwork is rectangular or square, no matter how much we try to break it up. But this papier-mache rhino head is sculptural, and breaks up all the right angles of the pieces above. A different shaped mirror could've worked too (I really miss the round horn mirror from West Elm. I tried to use it recently, but my client was a vegetarian and had issues about a piece being essentially made from an animal.)

It's made from old book pages, which my bibliophile partner really appreciated. And it's made by native craftsmen in Haiti, which I really liked. Not only did we support a community in need, but we also found something that tied our place together, making use of our high ceilings. As my partner said, "It's so crazy, it kind of justifies all the books and clutter in our home!"

Another great gift that everyone should consider is original artwork. I keep saying it, but having something unique makes such a difference in your home. My partner commissioned local artist Kate Rado to draw a little family portrait as a holiday gift. When I opened this present, I nearly cried! She captured us in a way no photo ever could. (Etsy also has a number of craftspeople and artists who can create affordable pieces for you--but I'm sure you already knew that!)

Here's a drawing of our neighborhood, also by Kate.

What beats a custom gift? Not much, but sometimes you can find a grand piece that encapsulates the soul of your loved one(s). Yes, I received the 720-page hardbound book, 75 Years of DC Comics by Taschen. It weighs in at a hefty 15 pounds and measures an enormous 12" x16" x 3.25". With something this big, you can bet I'm going to find a way to display it. This kind of gift will definitely become a conversation piece.

Heck, I might just have to build a plinth or stand or something to display it...

So 2011 is already feeling pretty fresh for me. I hope the new year is treating you well, too. Keep doing more for yourself and your home. Remember, the two go hand in hand--the more you take care of one, the more that love and care reflects on the other.

As the Go! Team says, "Do you, do what you gotta do..."

And a bonus video from one of my favorite multi-culti bands, thanks to my friend Jeff (who used to co-own a showroom in the SF Design Center years ago):