Designing Saratoga

The Saratoga House: For the Love of Labels

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It's time to tag your way to a peaceful coexistence with your family's cluttered chaos!

When you teach 3 and 4 year olds, you tend to get a little label-happy.  The excuse is that by seeing a neatly printed identification tag on every classroom supply box and book shelf, our lovely little charges will associate certain letters and sounds, hone their pre-reading skills, and even possibly put away properly all the components that make up a busy classroom.  Of course the other little tidbit about this teacher's tool is that we teachers, most of us type A to the hilt, secretly enjoy the order and organization of a carefully labeled space.  Somehow the chaos of fingerpaint and firetrucks feels a little more manageable when a label or two is added to the mix.


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Exhibit A: Our guest room information stash.  With all of the fantastic sights to see in the Saratoga area, we needed a place to keep brochures, schedules, and maps for our out-of-ton guests, and this hand painted Saratoga-themed keepsake box from the Crafter's Gallery does the trick.

So it probably comes as no surprise that this slightly obsessive label-happy tendency might carry over to one's family home.  In the same way that the vague notion of a group of preschoolers neatly organizing their classroom warms my educator heart, so does the thought of my lovely but disorganized family  utilizing a creatively created set of ID tags to clean up after themselves and consequentially make me a very happy mom and decorator.  So how do we go about stylishly and fabulously introducing labels into our homes?  A few thoughts to consider:

1.        Try Your Best Not to Go Overboard.  Growing up, one of my brothers got a hold of my dad's office label maker and felt the need to label everything...I think at one point even the family dog had a tag, and I'm not talking about the traditional one around the collar.  There is the danger of going over the top with your markers and labels, and that ends up defeating the purpose, because a label on absolutely everything not only is annoying, but for those who did not make them, easier to ignore.  Pick and choose what you decide to organize in this manner, and it will blend into the rest of your aesthetic better and be easier for your family to conform and adhere to.


sams shelves.jpg
These labels my son helped to make on our home computer really enable him to assist with weekly room overhauls (most of the time!).  By making inexpensive printed labels, we can trade out old markers for new ones easily and economically when his interests and collectibles change.  For durability, they can be easily laminated using clear contact paper.

1.    Create a "Help Me...Help You" Scenario.  Involve your messiest inhabitants in your label-making--and that investment will help to make your new system work more effectively.  My handsome and incredibly hoarder-like 7 year old son helped me organize all of the toys and collectibles in his room, and even decided what labels went where, and I'm proud to say that a year later, he still can go in his room and clean it relatively well with the system he helped to create.  Of course if only the same logic worked with my husband and his stuff...



paper storage.jpg
Words can sometimes be overrated...in this case, a slip of decorative paper easily indicates what color cardstock can be found in what drawer among my project supplies.

1.       Apply Your Design Sensibilities to Your Utilitarian Needs.   Dad's old plastic strip label maker is not your only option when it comes to making labels and tags to compliment your home organization...the sky is really the limit when it comes to a way to mark your stuff.  Hit the scrapbooking section of your local craft store, use your computer to get fun and funky lettering for your labels, or forgo words altogether and use another form of communication when marking your materials--a particularly creative fellow teacher of mine who's students are only 2 years old (and inevitably not avid readers just yet) got out her camera and made labels using actual photos of toys and supplies in her room--and this type of classroom system would translate perfectly to your home playroom, pantry, etc.


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Sometimes guests would rather go without than bother you for a simple toiletry item...so in our hall bath, it made sense to give our guests a plainly marked drawer filled with daily essentials from the dollar store to make their stay more comfortable...

1.       Keep it Simple.  If you get too fancy with your labeling and marking, it will again not only be too easy to ignore, but also will not translate to those individuals who do not reside on a daily basis with your super-organized self.  Create a system that is simple enough for your guests to find the extra toothbrushes and your visiting aunt to empty the dishwasher independently, in a manner that you won't be searching for your favorite ladle 6 months later.  Keeping it simple and logical makes organization easier to stick to--simple as that (no pun intended...).



kitchen files.jpg
"To Do", "To File", and "Everything Else"...doesn't that cover just about anything when it comes to all of the paperwork a family of five hauls home every day??

So dare to label away--marking your territory with tags and labels can not only help you make sense of the plethora of stuff that makes a house a home for an active family, but it can also enhance your décor in the process.  Best of luck in your battle for order amongst the chaos...with the right tools, you too can conquer the clutter! 

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Kimberlee Billok
From humble beginnings redecorating my childhood bedroom every few months much to my mother’s chagrin, to years of life as a military spouse making short-term stops our own, to finding myself in Saratoga Springs in a 90-year-old home in need of lots of TLC, I have always enjoyed honing my home decorating and design skills in pursuit of making a house a home for the most important people in my world, my husband Mike and our three children. In pursuit of this goal/obsession I have put my undergraduate studio art studies to work, as well as the unofficial HGTV degree I’ve earned under the tutelage of Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder, Candace Olson, and the other pros who make us all feel as if we can create as they do. I’ve had the good fortune to have numerous colleagues, friends and family who have trusted me enough to allow me to design their spaces as well, and even redecorated the office of my children’s elementary school principal, which although intimidating, was quite a good time (think a juxtaposition of animal prints and sharpened pencils…luckily she loved it!).

Outside of the decorating/design realm I inhabit in my free time, I am fortunate to spend my days teaching 3 and 4 year old preschoolers here in Saratoga, who can’t help but inspire me to be creative on a regular basis. So since every part of life is an adventure, please join me on this one…combining form and function, design and real life, making each room feel beautiful, comfortable, classic, and personal. All wrapped up in a structure that has been in existence before the invention of spray paint (it’s true—I looked it up!). Here goes!!