5 Apartment Therapy Tips I Use All the Time (and 5 I’ve Had Bookmarked for Years That I’m Just Never Going to Do)

updated Mar 11, 2020
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I’m in my fourth year of writing for Apartment Therapy, and I’ve been an Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn reader for even longer. Like all of you longtime folks, I’ve definitely found many tips from our sites that have changed the way I operate, while others that I was so gung-ho on—projects and tips that I was sure I’d get right to work on—have been languishing on the island of I’m-never-going-to-actually-do-this for years. Here are five of mine, and I’d love to hear yours!

5 Apartment Therapy Tips I Use All the Time

(Image credit: Chris Perez)
  1. Make My Bed Every Day. This simple tip came to me four years ago via the mega hit article 10 Simple Things That Will Make You Happier at Home. Technically, it first came to me via my mom when I was five, but somewhere between the teen years and this post, I forgot to keep it up. After reading this article, I realized there was no reason to not make my bed every morning (it takes about a minute), and you know, there is some small magic in this simple practice. I feel more pulled together at the start of my day and even when the rest of my day has gone completely sideways, I can still salute my nicely made bed, like at least I got that right. Plus, I find that it just feels nice to slip into a made bed every night.
  2. Buy Fresh Flowers Regularly. I’m takin’ it way back here. Anyone else remember this video from the 2011 20/20 Cure series? (This tip also pops up every year in the January Cure, and we’re just very pro-fresh flowers in general around here.) I’ve gotten into the habit of picking up flowers on the fly over the last few years, and $5-$10 in grocery store flowers goes a long way in terms of brightening a room and cheering me up. The flowers also have a superpower, which is they cause me to want to keep the surrounding areas neater (there’s something sad about looking at beautiful flowers sitting in a mess), which leads me to the next tip…
  3. The Surface Sweep. I started doing the surface sweep in the evenings, and it’s a nice and easy way to keep clutter from building up. It’s like, oh right, it really is a lot easier and faster to do something such as open and sort through five pieces of mail at the end of one day than twenty pieces of mail at the end of five days. Eureka. Ok, more like, duh. Sometimes the best answers really are the easiest answers.
  4. Fay Wolf’s One Minute Tip: How To Organize T-Shirts. Oh boy, this was a real game changer for my drawers (apologies for how inappropriate that sounds). I first tried this when I did the January Cure two years ago, and my eyes were opened to a new and better lifestyle: the shirt-filing lifestyle. I’ve diligently kept up this practice and I am in it to win it. Gone are the days of digging through drawers trying to find a certain shirt, tearing apart folded clothes looking for one item. It was utter chaos in there until Fay showed us all how to get our drawers cookin’. Shirt filing: learn it, live it, love it.
  5. Viking Chicken: Speaking of cooking, bless this chicken recipe. Maxwell posted his Viking Chicken a few years ago, and it is, quite frankly, the bee’s knees. And by knees I mean chicken roasted over a bed of fruits and vegetables, creating the perfect mix of savory, sweet, and succulent paired with a rich pan sauce. I was not a roast chicken newbie when I tried this recipe, and it won me over. Viking Chicken is now and will forever be on heavy rotation in my kitchen.

5 Things I’ve Had Bookmarked For Years …That I’m Just Never Going to Do

(Image credit: Laura Moss for HGTV)
  1. Have an Impressive Kitchen Like This Picture. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a few kitchen organization articles, like 10 Inspiring Pantries Organized with Glass Jars, or 15 Beautifully Organized Kitchen Cabinets and then there’s 9 Steps to Arranging a Well-Organized Kitchen. I, um, could go on. And on. The general theme of these roundups is pretty, pretty, pretty jars and canisters arranged by size, lovely labels, and the frequent appearance of chalk paint. I’ve gone through many of the steps that should, theoretically, result in something like what’s shown above, but the result I get is just, you know, stuff in jars on shelves. Not pretty. I will always love to look at pretty kitchen storage, but if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I’ll likely never nail down anything more impressive than the functional stuff-in-jars scenario.
  2. Keep a Journal. I bookmarked a DIY calendar journal five blasted years ago because I was really going to do it that time…and then again after reading 10 Simple Things That Will Make You Happier at Home (I was really going to do it that time, too). I’m always so strong out of the gate on this one, but I never seem to last longer than a week or two and, like most things, journaling needs to become habit if one is to really benefit from it. Looking at my track record objectively, I haven’t kept a steady journal since I was about 13, and that was a lot of “Ricky N. looked at me in the hall today!”, so it’s not looking real promising. I’m going to call it: I’m not going to keep a journal. I feel better admitting that. I do, however, spend exorbitant amounts of time staring out of windows, and I’m always writing down random musings on scraps of paper then squirreling them away in my bag or pockets, and then months later I find gems like, “She is. But why?” or “other people’s kids…” and I try to remember what in the world I meant. Anyone else do this? We should probably keep journals instead. But we won’t, will we.
  3. Use Recipes I Hoard from Kitchn. Ok, I’m including this because I wonder if any of you do this, too: hoard very specific recipes (eg., 50 brownie recipes or 50 salmon recipes) that you never make? I, for instance, am a hoarder of Kitchn’s smoothie recipes and crock pot recipes. I think I want to be a complicated smoothie/crock pot person—so this would be aspirational hoarding—which I’m pretty sure is not a real thing. All I know is that I’m like a puppy: “A morning smoothie with young coconut, frozen segments of clementine, fresh tumeric, and maca powder? Done and done!” or “Orange souffle in the crock pot?! Oh hell yeah!” But do I make them? That would be a giant nope. I should either start actually using these recipes or give up the ghost and stop hoarding new recipes. (Oh, and speaking of smoothie recipes, any of you check out Gwyneth’s morning moon dust smoothie? Sure, just pick up some Spirit Dust at your local fruit market, and I hear Costco has a big sale on mushroom protein powder right now. I mean, for the love of complicated smoothies, maybe give it a rest, Gwyneth?)
  4. Use Washi Tape. Oh, heyyyyy bunches of washi tape that I’ve had stuffed in baskets and boxes in a storage closet for the last three years, how’s it goin’? I know, I’ve never used you, washi tape, not even once—I didn’t even try to use you. There was a period from 2013-2015 when I had big plans and even bigger plans for you; I was so excited about you. But I’ve really cooled on the whole idea of you and, frankly, I, um, don’t see anything happening between us… ever… so, yeaaaaa. I’m just gonna move you to my four-year-old’s art box and let her go nuts with you. Sorry, man, it just isn’t going to happen for us.
  5. Pinterest. I know. Please don’t yell at me on this one. Here’s the thing, oddball that I am, I’ve tried embracing Pinterest for years and just can’t get into it—but it’s not Pinterest, it’s me. Many of my friends call it their favorite way to organize ideas and inspiration, but I find it overwhelming and, to be completely honest (because we’re all friends here), so many images of perfection gathered in one place become grating to me after a few minutes. It’s like, I get it. Everything’s flawless. The style boards. The workout boards. The DIY boards. The recipe boards. Every image is… perfect. Part of me always wants to reach into the screen and tussle up the collections of perfect DIYs or perfect kids’ rooms with color-coordinated everything and three symmetrically arranged eco-friendly toys. It feels like too much of a good thing. I guess I just need more salty with my sweet (see: ode to Viking Chicken, above).

So there were are. A few Apartment Therapy and Kitchn faves—and a few not-gonna-happens.

Your turn: What are your favorite Apartment Therapy or Kitchn tips, and what tips or projects are you ready to jump ship on? Please share in the comments!

Re-edited from a post originally published 3.28.16-NT