DIY Gold Foil Prints

I’ve been in the process of creating a gallery wall for my new bedroom, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate some typography designs in a gold foil finish. Since my printer does not print with gold ink (alas!), I had to find a way to get that shiny, metallic finish on the designs I wanted. A few google searches later, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the solution was!

How I Did It

There are several DIY gold foil techniques, many of which use some form of adhesive to adhere the foil to your project. The technique I followed, however, uses heat.

Step 1: Find or create your design
I selected a couple of typography designs as well as some patterns that I really liked on Pinterest. I then enlisted the help of my brother, who is currently studying graphic design, to recreate a printable version of what I envisioned on Adobe InDesign.

Step 2: Print your design with a laser printer
It is important that you use black toner to print your design. You will not get the same results if you print your design using other toner colors or if you use an ink-jet printer.

Step 3: Apply the foil to your design using heat
I purchased some gold Deco Foil from Amazon for $5.49. It comes with five 6″ x 12″ sheets of foil.Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 4.58.53 PM

I cut the gold foil to the size of my design and placed it gold side up.

Cover the foil with a piece of parchment paper. Using medium heat and firm pressure, iron over your design on top of the parchment paper for 30 seconds. The heat from the iron will cause the foil to adhere to the toner. I had to play around with the settings on the iron to find the heat level that worked the best without melting or burning everything.

After I removed the iron, I could see the areas of my design that reacted with the heat and adhered to the gold foil.
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Step 4: Allow the foil to completely cool

Step 5: Carefully peel off the remaining foil
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If you look closely, there are some parts of the design where the gold foil did not completely adhere to the toner. This was most likely due to inconsistent heating with the iron. To avoid this in the future, you could use a laminator instead of an iron. Other than that, I love the way it turned out!

Step 6: Frame and enjoy!
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Lofted Living

During my first year living in San Francisco, I shared a 110 square foot bedroom with one of my classmates. While I have since moved out this very cozy abode, I still wanted to share my thought process with you all in regards to my attempt at maximizing my space!

I’ve had to share a bedroom with at least another person for most of my life, and so living in this small space was not too big of a deal for me. The real challenge lay in utilizing the little space I did have in a way that would not only maximize its functionality, but also maintain a simple, clean, and happy aesthetic.

Inspiration

Since I had sold or donated all of my furniture in Los Angeles prior to my move, I was working with more or less of a blank slate. Although having to purchase almost all of my furniture could cost some money, it could work to my advantage because I needed the flexibility to adapt my furniture to the limitations of my new space.

I definitely wanted to loft my bed to take advantage of what would otherwise be dead, vertical space and so I browsed online for a few ideas:


Source: http://www.planete-deco.fr/2014/01/23/petit-mais-non/

This super space efficient apartment in Sweden (of course, haha) turned an oddly positioned nook into a bedroom/office space. I love the clean aesthetic of the lofted system; the white finish of the bed frame blends with the walls, uniting the area with a streamlined look. I also like that the trestles serve double duty both as support for the desk top and extra storage.


Source: http://www.designbuildideas.eu/ideas-to-decorate-a-small-room/

As I would also have limited closet space, I liked the idea of storing my clothes under my bed. I didn’t, however, want to reserve the entire space solely for clothing as shown above for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve been in the process of paring down my belongings to keep only what I really need, and so limiting my allocated space for clothing storage would help with that initiative; 2) I needed some place to study when coffee shops are closed, and so I wanted to put a desk there as well.

The Final Product

After browsing online and measuring my half of the room a dozen times, I decided to purchase the following pieces of furniture:

  1. IKEA SVARTA Loft Bed Frame
    SVARTA
  2. IKEA RIGGA Clothes Rack
    RIGGA
  3. LINNMON Table Top + ADLIS Legs
  4. ClosetMaid 6-Cube Organizer
    Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 6.45.34 PM

Behold, the final product below! (Apologies for the single picture. I snapped this one image just before packing up all of my belongings to move out.)

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My lofted bed granted me ample space beneath it to play with. At the bottom left of my living space, I used the ClosetMaid 3×2 Organizer as a bookshelf, jewelry display and dressing table, and for clothing storage. At the bottom right, my business professional clothing that I wear practically every day for school hangs on a clothes rack. The center of the area features my desk and work station. Not pictured is a small closet that I shared with my roommate, where I kept my large coats, shoes, and other articles of clothing.

One thing that I did not anticipate, but greatly appreciated was the fact that my bed frame was open, allowing the natural light from my window to flood the room. Natural lighting is always the best, and in gloomy San Francisco I need to catch every ray of sunlight that I can get!

Ideally, I wanted the bed frame to be white instead of silver, but IKEA did not have another color option and I did not feel like it was worth it to spray paint the entire frame. I therefore decided to leave it as is. Having a white bed frame, however, would dramatically enhance the airy feel of the space and better blend in with the other furniture.

Ultimately I was able to fit practically everything I owned into my small room, while maintaining functionality and a cozy atmosphere. Is this a Happy Space? I think so!

What are your thoughts? How would you have set up this bedroom?

New Beginnings

I apologize that Happy Spaces has been on hiatus due to my entrance into dental school. While I have not been able to indulge myself in organizing and maximizing my tiny, city apartment to its full functionality as much as I would like, I have gained a new appreciation for what it means to create a happy space.

Before deciding on dentistry as a career path, I struggled with who I was and who I wanted to be.

Growing up, I had always been a little obsessive-compulsive. Everything had to be in its place. Every line had to be straight, every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. I would get upset over a scuff mark on my shoe, and there would be an internal volcanic explosion every time I noticed something that was not right or not in its proper place. (Think Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out.) While my martial arts training helped ameliorate my temper, my tick remained.

In fact, some people very close to my heart often discouraged my detail-oriented tendencies. “Paying too much attention to little things,” they would say. Although there was some merit and loving intent in their chiding, it only resulted in self-doubt of my idiosyncrasies, my quirks, and ultimately my identity. Little did I know that there was career and a community out there that would not only embrace my oddity, but also cultivate it into a skill that could help others.

I stumbled onto dentistry as a career option by chance. I had initially planned to be a family physician, but that decision did not feel quite right. After an evening of Google searches for “health-related occupations”, I made a list of options and cross referenced them with career resources that I had available at UCLA, my undergraduate institution. My plan was to narrow the list down to careers with viable and accessible resources, and from there explore each option individually until I found one I liked enough to pursue. At this point, I was hoping to make a decision quickly: I was graduating in one year. As fate would have it, I got accepted into dental school soon after and decided to attend the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific located in San Francisco.

Fast forward a couple years and I’ve just finished my first year of dental school. Looking back, the transition was initially difficult. I had taken a gap year to work at a dental insurance start-up, and so not only did I need to re-acquaint myself with the rigors of an academic schedule, but I had also grown to love so many people and places during my time in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that it was almost unbearable to have to leave and start over in San Francisco.

In spite of all that, I still managed to have the time of my life during my first year. I was fortunate to meet many like-minded individuals at UOP who not only kept me sane, but also challenged me to expand my horizons and venture out of my comfort zone. My aunt calls me crazy for saying this, but never before have I had this much fun at school. Yes, dental school is tough; yes, I spend an average of 14 hours a day on campus; yes, I was at school on weekends, but every single moment I am there, my heart is filled with a sated joy. Whether I am learning about dentistry, doing dentistry, or sharing dentistry as a career path with others, being surrounded by so many others with the same goals makes me utterly happy. Your career should allow you to fully explore your passions. It should facilitate a celebration of you and your talents–not stifle them.

As I begin my second year of dental school, I’m pleased to say that I’ve found my calling as a dentist and that my family has only gotten bigger.

So here’s to change, to loving yourself for who you are, and to new friendships–because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that any place has the potential to be your happy space.

Cheers!

An Upcycled Closet Organizer

One day after driving home from work, I decided to stop by my apartment’s dumpster to salvage some cardboard for my closet update. I was able to find a few large and clean pieces of cardboard, but I also found one a 3×3 ClosetMaid storage cube!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t believe you took that from a dumpster!” But do not fear, for there is a method to my madness. Before I adopt a gently used item, I always go through this mental checklist in my head:

  1. Is it in good condition? (Is it still usable and without smells or questionable stains?)
  2. Is it useful? (Does it have potential? Can I repurpose this somewhere in my living space without adding clutter?)
  3. Is it newly discarded? (The longer it has been left outside, the more I question its structural integrity. Plus, I don’t want any surprises from spiders, cockroaches, or any other legged creatures after I’ve brought the furniture into my home!)

This lovely organizer was a bit dusty and scratched up, but otherwise in good condition. In terms of use, I wanted to place it in my closet, since I had a large empty space that was being underutilized. If it did not fit in my closet, then I could also place this guy in my living room, where it would serve as a bookshelf or for shoe storage. Lastly, when I discovered the closet organizer, it was sitting just in front of the dumpster and therefore appeared to be newly discarded. With my three criteria satisfied, I then set out to adopt the organizer and bring him back to life.

With the help of my roommate, I lugged this guy up to my apartment, where I left it on my balcony for a day to allow for any odors (and potential bugs!) to dissipate. The following day, I gave the shelf a thorough wipe down, checked for little critters one last time, and brought it into my room. It turns out that the organizer fit perfectly in my closet.

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The first owner of the closet did not assemble it correctly, which explains why you can see particle board innards in this picture. While the closet functioned well, it did not look very nice. What better way to spruce it up than with paint and contact paper?

How I Did It

Step 1: Apply primer

I wanted to paint the organizer white because white can brighten up any space, especially in my confined closet. First, however, I needed to prime the laminate. If I used normal paint without primer, then the paint would not adhere well and would result in bubbles. After doing some research, I decided to use the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer & Sealer.

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I used a foam roller to paint the majority of the closet and filled in the holes with a foam craft brush. I didn’t use a bristle brush because it was easier to achieve a more uniform and smooth distribution of paint using the foam roller. (Some sources recommend sanding down the particle board laminate prior to priming to enhance adhesion, but I found that the primer I used stuck just fine without sanding.)

Here’s what the closet organizer looked like before coat #2:

It took a few hours between coats, and once I finished the second coat I left the organizer outside for a couple of days to cure and allow for the odors to dissipate. Normally, I would have painted over the primer, but decided against it because 1) the primer did a pretty good job at covering the dark laminate, 2) did not seem to come off too easily, and 3) I will be moving to a new place once I start dental school and am unsure whether I’d be able to take this closet with me.

Step 2: Cut and apply the contact paper

I had purchased this contact paper from the Macbeth Collection a couple of years ago. I love the happy turquiose color and the chevron pattern, and thought it would look great in my newly painted organizer.

After I measured and cut the paper in squares, I peeled off the adhesive backing and applied it to the closet. It is super easy to apply if you peel off the sheet and smooth down as you go.

I repeated this for the five cubbies that had a laminate backing. I love the way the paper pops out against the white!

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Doesn’t he look happy in his new home?

2015-03-15 14.25.55Step 4: Organize and decorate

Since this organizer will be living in my closet, I wanted it to store my clothing and accessories in a way that would maximize my morning routine. I placed my jeans and heavy sweaters at the bottom, while cardigans and cotton shirts lived in the top shelves. The blue cube in the top-right cubby contains my undergarments, while my travel toiletries live in the center cubby.

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I always like to fold my clothes in a consistent fashion. This not only minimizes the amount of space each article of clothing takes up, but it also allows for easy stacking. I also sort each clothing type according to color, usually from light to dark. This way, I know exactly where to look if I want to wear a green shirt. Arranging the items according to color also helps to keep things visually organized.

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On the top of my closet, I keep a small tray to corral my hair clips and watches, a scented candle, earrings, and my current handbag. (I store the rest of my purses in another closet.)

I also keep a framed Chinese papercutting that I purchased on a recent trip to China. I love the intricate and delicate details! This was one of the first purchases I made in Asia, and so it has some sentimental value.

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Cost-Benefit Analysis

Here is a breakdown of the costs (both time and money) I spent on this project:

Closet organizer = $0
Primer = $9
Foam roller = $5
Craft brush = $0
Contact paper = $0

Grand Total: $14 & 3 days

Why it Makes Me Happy

I’m thankful that I was able to adopt this closet organizer and give it a new life with just a few coats of primer and some contact paper. Every time I open my closet and see that bright organizer, I can feel a smile forming—and I know that my happy space has done its job!

Organizing Your To-Dos

Someone had once asked me about how I organize my to-dos and keep them in check (see what I did there?), and I thought it would be useful if I also shared my thoughts with you all, whether you are a techie or more old-fashioned!

For the technologically-inclined folks out there, there are a plethora of options available for you to take advantage of. Some of the (free!) smart phone applications I’ve test driven include:

  1. Handle
  2. Wunderlist
  3. Any.Do
  4. Todoist
  5. Reminders (Native to iOS)

Why to-do apps make me happy:

  • You can take your lists everywhere with you
  • Your lists can sync across your devices
  • Editing and rearranging tasks is easy — no white out or erasing necessary!
  • Scheduling reminders for specific tasks is super easy

Some perceivable drawbacks, however, would include:

  • Potential crashing or other technological difficulties
  • Some apps can get a bit complicated
  • There is no tangible joy of being able to physically cross of a completed item on your list (Or am I the only one who experiences this?)

If you’re like me and are more of a hand-written list kind of person, I would suggest putting all of your to-dos in one (preferably bound) notebook. That way, you can take your notebook with you everywhere you go, instead of having to keep track of loose Post-Its or random pieces of scrap paper.

To prevent having a huge master list of all of your tasks, it might help to categorize your to-dos. You can separate them according to person (i.e. Mom, Dad, Me) or functional area (i.e. School, Work, Home, Personal). Or, you can sort tasks according to when you want to have them done by. I sort my tasks by date, because that makes the most sense to me.

Why hand-written to-do lists make me happy:

  • Writing down a task gets it out of your mind, but also solidifies it in your memory
  • You don’t have to worry about technological difficulties
  • It is more appropriate in a professional setting
  • You can achieve the ultimate personalization: your organizational system can be as simple or as complicated as you want

Drawbacks for hand-written lists may include:

  • Less portable
  • Can’t schedule reminders for time sensitive tasks

For my personal to-dos (and academic to-dos while I was still in school), I use a combination of apps and hand-written lists: I write down tasks into my planner according to the date I want them done by, but if the task is time-sensitive, I will input a reminder for that to-do into my phone the week before. If I don’t finish a task by the end of the week that I had written on my planner, then the task gets rolled over to the following week.

Because I am very date-oriented, I combine my to-do list with my daily planner. I purchased these super cute planner pages from iHeartOrganizing’s Etsy store, and I absolutely love them! They’re a digital download, and so you would need to print these pages out on your own. I still love it though, because I’m not restricted to the traditional planners where I cannot add or replace pages wherever I want.

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For larger projects or way-in-the-distant-future tasks, I write those down on a separate page that I reference a couple times a month. If I think I will have the chance to complete one of those items, then I will write it in the perspective week.

Once in a while, I like to try new productivity/to-do list apps that come out, but in the end I always come back to my trusty planner. What you ultimately end up doing is up to you and your personal preferences!

How do you organize your to-do lists?

Now that you have a great to-do list, how can you ensure that every item gets crossed off? Stay tuned!

Making Tough Decisions

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Apologies! I’ve been out and about on dental school interviews throughout California as well as in New York and Michigan. Acceptances went out last December, and the dust is finally settling because I’ve made a decision to accept an offer from UOP (aka the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry)!

Choosing a dental school was not an easy task, as there were many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. I was debating between attending UOP or UCSF (aka the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry).

UOP vs. UCSF2I was eventually able to come to a decision and would like to share my thought process with you in hopes that it may be useful in tackling your future tough decisions.

How I Did It

I created a simple decision matrix using Google Spreadsheets to examine several factors I felt were important to me in choosing a dental school. I always use this method when I’m trying to make as rational of a decision as possible, and nothing is more objective than data!

I’ve attached a copy of my decision matrix below for you all:

UOP vs. UCSF

Unlike a pros and cons list, I find that decision matrices allow me to weigh each contributing factor individually based on their level of importance to me.

You can find a Google Template of my decision matrix here. Or, if you’d prefer a downloadable version, you can access that here.

Here’s how I used the matrix to help me make my decision!

Step 1: List the factors that are important to you in making your decision.

For simplicity’s sake, I generally try to limit these to the 10 most important factors.

Step 2: List out your options.

You will be weighing your factors from Step 1 against your options. Since I was debating between two schools, I listed those two in their individual columns. You can definitely have more than two options!

Step 3: Weigh each factor according to their importance to you. This number will be listed in the “Maximum Points” column.

The curriculum and my gut feeling during my interview experience were the two most important factors to me in terms of choosing a dental school, with proximity to loved ones coming in a close second. This is why I ranked the former two factors as a 10 and the latter ones as an 8.

Step 4: Rate each factor in relation to your options.

For example, since the overall cost of attendance at UCSF is slightly less than the overall cost of attendance at UOP, I gave UCSF a total of 8 points out of 8. UOP, being the more expensive and therefore less favorable option with respect to that factor, received a score of 7.

You can play with the numbers and change your factors if needed, but try to limit yourself to a maximum of 3 changes–otherwise you’re only making it harder to come to a decision!

Step 5: Sum up the scores for each option.

This is easily done by utilizing the SUM function.

Step 6: Logically make your choice based upon the total score. This will be your final answer.

I used the MAX and nested IF functions to automatically let me know which option’s score was higher, UOP or UCSF. After plugging in all of my numbers, UOP turned out to be my final answer!

Of course, just because the matrix spits out an answer does not mean that you have to stick with it. The matrix is simply meant to be used as a tool to assist with the decision making process. I’ve been using this method for years and it has always worked for me!

I hope these tips were helpful in organizing your thoughts when it comes to making those tough choices! How do you tackle making big decisions?

A Closet Refresh

Even with all of my cleaning and organization, sometimes there are things that I cannot put into any particular category. All of these miscellaneous items are dumped into my “Other Things” closet.

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Behold my closet of junk. (In my excitement to reorganize this closet, I had already unscrewed off the doors. Apologies! I will try to remember to stop and snap some photos for future projects!) I think that part of the reason why this closet even exists is because of those pesky doors: they allowed me to conceal the mess and the ugly hiding inside. Every time I opened those doors, I would cringe and shut them again. I don’t want to be feeling guilty in my own room, and so I decided to clean everything out and give the closet an easy, renter-friendly refresh.

Inspiration

I got my inspiration from these built-in shelves. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “built-in”, it basically refers to anything that was factored into the design and architecture of a space, making it look like it was literally built into the area.

Source: Lolly Jane

Polka-Dot-Wrapping-Paper-Backed-BookcaseSource: Oh My Dear

I love how built-ins are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing. I especially like that you can either paint or wallpaper the backs of the shelves to give a pop of color. Since everything in the closet would now be out in the open, I would be forced to get rid of the things I don’t need and figure out a way to store everything in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

wall-of-bookcases-cgSource: Censational Girl

As much as I loved the cute patterns and textures in those first two pictures, the space that I am working with is small and in the corner of my room. Also, while the minimalistic decor balanced out the busy patterns in the first two pictures, there are a lot more books and knick knacks featured with a less chaotic background in this last picture.

I wanted to emulate the streamlined look of this last inspirational picture, but still maintain the happy and playful feel of the first two.

How I Did It

Step 1: Remove the Doors

Since I wanted to recreate a built-in look as much as I could with this closet, the first step would require removing the doors. That was easily done with a screwdriver. (Since this is an apartment, I kept the screws in a Ziploc bag taped to the doors and stored the doors elsewhere. I will put them back up when it’s time to move out!)

The landlord had painted over the door hinges, which left unsightly patches of unpainted wood underneath. I had a white paint pen handy, and used that to touch up and color in the necessary areas. I painted several coats.

The paint pen I had didn’t entirely match up with the existing paint; however, since I was only painting a small area and since I’m not going to stay in this apartment long-term, I was okay with it not being perfect.

Step 2: Empty the closet and start with a clean slate

Now that I had my inspiration, the next step was to start fresh and take everything out of the closet. The closet contained items ranging from extra linens to cake pop ingredients to vitamins.

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I left all of these items on the side until I was finished with Step 3.

Step 3: Add some color

I knew that I wanted to have a vibrant pinkish coral color lining the back of my closet. Being a renter, painting the walls was not an option, and so I decided to look for coral colored wrapping paper, wall paper, or contact paper. Once I got the paper, I would just measure, cut it to size, and then adhere it to the wall.

Unfortunately, finding coral colored paper in a size large enough to line the closet was much more difficult than I had anticipated. The stores I looked in either had papers with tons of elaborate designs, did not have the right shade of coral, or were way out of my price range. I didn’t want to spend all of my time looking for coral paper, and so I decided to compromise with gold wrapping paper instead. Seeing as Christmas season is just around the corner, I rationalized that I would be able to use the extra wrapping paper for presents.

Excited to finally add some color to my closet, I measured and cut the wrapping paper and then temporarily adhered it to the back of the closet with Scotch tape. I stepped back to take a look at it, but I didn’t like what I saw.

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Apart from the fact that the paper was stubborn as heck and wouldn’t stay on the wall, the color was also a bit off. I imagine it is probably because my walls (not pictured) are a light yellow/cream: since the wrapping paper was gold, it made the space look too yellow. Additionally, because that closet is in an awkward corner space away from the bedroom window, that area tends to be a bit darker than the rest of the room. I didn’t like it at all.

So it was back to the drawing board. I decided that I did not want to compromise with my original pinkish coral after all; this meant that I needed to find a way to color the back of the closet without actually coloring it. It was not until I found some large leftover cardboard boxes at work that my light bulb went off. Instead of painting the back of my closet, I would paint the cardboard piece and then use that to line my closet!

That day after work, I went straight to Home Depot to grab myself a sample size of coral paint. (8 oz. for only $2.94!)

As soon as I got home, I opened the container and painted a small section of cardboard and put it in the closet to see if I liked it. And I loved it!

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Now that I knew I loved the color in the space, I measured and cut the large cardboard pieces to fit into the six closet cubbies. (Only the closet doors were removable, otherwise I would have taken out the shelves so that I would only have to measure and cut two large pieces.) Of course, each cubby was also a different size, and so I measured every shelf space separately.

Once all of the pieces were cut, I set out to paint them all. I used a foam craft brush from Michaels that I already owned. I did the painting over several nights, as I mainly resumed this project after coming home from work.

I only painted one coat and was careful not to slather on too much paint, otherwise the cardboard would become soggy and then warp upon drying.

After allowing the cardboard pieces to dry overnight, I inserted them into their corresponding shelves using some heavy duty packaging tape to secure them in place. I completely love the way they turned out!

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Step 4: Organize and decorate

This was my favorite part of the project. I gathered the items that I no longer used on the side so that I could donate them to Goodwill.  For those items that were remaining, I determined which ones could also multitask as decorations. Using storage I already had (fabric-covered boxes and extra mason jars), I was able to consolidate and arrange accordingly. Take a look at my finished project below! (This picture was taken at night, and so I apologize for the odd lighting. I really wanted to wait until the weekend, when I could snap some photos when the sun was out, but the weather forecast predicted gloomy skies and I honestly just couldn’t wait to share this with you all!)

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Let’s go through what’s in each shelf, starting from top to bottom.

Shelf 1: Portable fan, memory box, extra storage jars, Christmas decorations, spray paint cans
Shelf 2: Cake pop supplies (candy melts, pieces of foam, cake decorating supplies)
Shelf 3: Notecards, washi tape, labels, chalk pens, chalkboard easel
Shelf 4 & 5: Handbag displays for purses currently not being used
Shelf 6: Extra blankets and throws

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Here is a breakdown of the costs (both time and money) I spent on this project:

Paint = $2.94
Cardboard = $0
Foam brushes = $0
Storage = $0

Grand Total: $2.94 & 2 weeks (evenings only; no weekends)

Why it Makes Me Happy

I love that this project: 1) cost me less than my favorite latte; 2) gave me something productive to do after I got home from work; and 3) beautified my little corner with items I already owned!

I know that for some people, all of this work that I went through seems superfluous and unnecessary, but this closet makes me smile every time I look at it–and to me, that makes all of the difference.

Organizing Your Receipts

I used to stuff all of my receipts into a side pocket of my wallet, any empty space in my purse, or in my pockets, depending on whatever was most convenient at the time. When I got home, I would dump everything into a small pile on my desk. As you can imagine, there was a high possibility of me losing things or wasting five to ten minutes trying to find a particular receipt for an item I needed to return.

Enter the accordion organizer! I found this cute little guy at Target’s $1/$3 Spot a while back for $1. It’s just a bit smaller than my checkbook.

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What I love about this guy is that he has just enough sections for me to organize my receipts according to credit card, with an extra section for returns. To label each section, I used some Washi tape that I had on hand (originally purchased from Michael’s) and a black Sharpie. (I love that both the labels and the organizer have a chevron pattern!) Using Washi tape allows me to easily remove the labels without damaging the organizer if I decide to change things up in the future.

Now, instead of dumping all of my receipts in a pile somewhere at the end of the week, I spend a few minutes filing them into my lovely little organizer. This small investment pays dividends when it comes time to pay my bills and those pesky slips of paper are easily accessible. Plus, the coral and yellow chevron make me smile every time I open it, which keeps me motivated to maintain my system!

What do you do with your receipts? How do you stay financially organized?

10 Steps to a Happy Space

Tackling an organizing project may not be the easiest thing to do, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. My personal approach to combating this distressing feeling is to take a deep breath and take a few baby steps–10 to be exact. Below, I’ve listed the 10 baby steps I follow every time I clean a space. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me!

1. Determine it’s purpose.
Determining the function of a space can be difficult and does not always happen immediately. If you’re not sure what you want to do with the space, take a couple of days to think about it. Go about your life as you normally would and allow your daily routine to tell you what the function should be. If you constantly keep your keys on your bedroom vanity when you wish you could leave them closer to the door, then maybe it’s time to clear off the side table in the foyer and create a new home for your keys. Once you establish the function of a particular area, it will make it easier to categorize the things that do and don’t belong.

1Source: IHeartOrganizing

2. Start fresh.
Doing this allows you to reevaluate the things that you truly need in that space. It also helps you see everything that you had stuffed in there (“There’s my bracelet! What are you doing, hanging out with the paper clips and thumbtacks?”).

3. Find inspiration.
Like many of you, I love Pinterest for its endless supply of ideas. A simple search can bring up so many results and may even give you an idea you hadn’t even considered! It may also show you how others have chosen to approach a project similar to your current undertaking. Whatever you choose to take inspiration from, however, don’t get lost in the creative flurry: your project is ultimately about you and what you like. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine!

4. Let it go. (cue sing songy voice)
Admit it: we have all been guilty of this at some point. You hold onto those rusted pots and pans because you feel it might come in handy some day. Or you’re keeping the broken vacuum because someone will get around to fixing it eventually. Or even that hideous sweater you got as a gift that you’ll never be caught dead wearing but can’t give away because it was from your best friend.

My rule of thumb? If I haven’t used it for over two years or if I’ve forgotten I even had it, then maybe it’s time to say goodbye. You don’t always have to toss them in the trash; donating your items will give them the opportunity to be loved and appreciated to their full potential. Alternatively, you can sell them for some extra cash, and who doesn’t like that?

5. Group similar things together.
If you’ve ever taken a course in organic chemistry, then you know that in terms of molecules, “like attracts like”. This concept also applies to cleaning and organizing. Putting things that belong together in the same area will help maximize the overall functionality of the space. Categorizing items according to size and color can also help as well–especially in terms of aesthetics.

Source: Arianna Belle

6. Secure some storage.
Storage is not always necessary and can cost quite a lot, but sometimes, having containers can make it easy to keep things neat and in one place. Before you run out to grab some pretty boxes, be sure to do a sweep of your living space for any unused containers that can be repurposed for your current project. Sometimes, a quick wiping down and a label is all it takes! If you don’t have and cannot recreate the storage you are looking for, then go ahead and treat yourself to a quick trip to your favorite store for some new boxes! (My favorite places to find storage are Target, Ross, and IKEA. I also love The Container Store, but it isn’t always friendly with my college budget. It is, however, still a great place for inspiration!)

7. Label everything.
This is especially important if you are not the only person using a space. Labeling things will tell your roommates or family members what goes where without you having to constantly remind them. Even if it’s just you, labeling can help you remember where items belong. I find that the best labels are uniform in appearance with a personal flourish.

2Source: Arianna Belle

8. Add the finishing touch.
I don’t know about you, but seeing a bright and happy pattern always manages to make me grin from ear to ear. Others enjoy seeing family photos, sentimental items, or decorative trinkets on display. Regardless of the specific item, incorporating these things that make your day into your living spaces will allow you to enjoy them more–and hopefully keep them cleaner longer!

9. Maintain your system.
This is perhaps one of the most important steps in keeping a space clean. If you stop eating healthily and in moderation after successfully finishing a weight-loss program, what are the odds that you will maintain that figure you worked so hard for? The same goes for maintaining a clean space. Make sure you don’t fall back into your old habits by following the rules you had established before.
If your keys now have a new home, be sure to place them there. Once you start making exceptions to your rules, it will only be a matter of time before your beautifully organized space reverts to its unruly state.

10. Enjoy your new happy space.
Go ahead, open that drawer and smile. You deserve it!

My Happy Place

Those of you who know me personally are very well aware that I absolutely LOVE to clean and organize. (Think Monica Geller from Friends.)

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Give me a messy garage, pantry, or closet, and I would happily spend an entire day cleaning it out and making it look pretty. Most people wouldn’t find tasks like these enjoyable, but they really take me to my happy place!

Creating a blog to share my organizing projects with others is a project that has been in the works for quite a while. Now that I am out of school (at the moment), I have found myself with ample time and no excuse but to get my creative juices flowing and my butt finally moving on crossing this item off my bucketlist.

And from that, Happy Spaces was born. I believe that with enough love, any area can be transformed into a space that makes you smile. This blog is meant to record my trials and tribulations on my journey to create happy places, one space at a time. I sincerely hope you enjoy your time here, and will do my best to post any organizing projects I embark upon, big or small. Feel free to leave suggestions on what you would like to read about in the comments below. I look forward to meeting you!