Getting organized


January is the month for self-improvement and for getting organized.

Last January I  watched the Netflix series called “Tidying Up,” and learned all about tidying up and getting rid of items that don’t spark joy. The series was very popular last year and if you haven’t watched it you should.

On the show, Marie Kondo, who is also the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, teaches us how to use the “KonMari” method of folding clothes and organizing our homes.

She teaches people to touch their belongings and decide if they spark joy. If they don’t spark joy we are encouraged to thank the item and add it to the pile of the donate or discard pile.

After watching the show I reorganized my dresser and clothes closet. I have to say I was pleased with the results and it is so easy to maintain that it is still organized.

This fall I reorganized the bathroom closet and the junk under the bathroom sink. It looks amazing and was worth the effort.

Over the past five years or so I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff I was storing and because I have less stuff and I buy less stuff I know what I have more storage space.

For people who plan on moving or who want to downsize these cold winter months are the perfect time to get started. Choose a closet or a set of drawers. having less and having it organized makes moving much easier.

Get your snow rake today

The first snow will mark the beginning of ice dam season. One of the best ways to prevent ice dams on roofs is to remove the snow before it has a chance to melt and freeze and turn into ice. You do not have to clear the whole roof, even getting a few feet along the edge will male a big difference.

You can shovel your roof with a roof rake. They can be purchased at most building materials stores and they are not very expensive especially as compared to repairing water damage caused by water pooling on the roof because of the ice dams.

We are still looking for someone to repair some drywall that was ruined by a roof leak caused by an ice dam.

For those who like to shop online, it looks like Amazon had roof rakes too. The reason I am writing this now is because roof rakes are seasonal items and the stores seem to run out of them as soon as there is a major snowstorm.

To learn about snow and ice dams go to the University of Minnesota Extension web site and read up. Knowledge is power.

Related article Damn Ice Dams

Ice rake
roof rake

Closets can be improved

When making home improvements or when getting a house ready for sale don’t forget the closets!  If you have an old house in St. Paul your closets are


probably fairly small.

There is one closet in my house that had not been touched in 30 years. Over the weekend I emptied it out and painted the inside white, added some small wire wall mounted baskets and put shelf liner on the shelves.

As I went through everything I had in the closet I was able to move some of it to other storage areas in the house and eliminate about 25% of it. I have to say I love the end result. I borrowed some ideas from Marie Kondo.  Also, look for ideas on Pinterest and YouTube.

The closet was packed to the point where I couldn’t really see what was in it. Now it has plenty of space and the white walls make it look larger and more appealing.

Local home improvement stores offer many affordable shelving options, storage containers, paint and shelf paper.

White is the perfect color for closets unless they are lined with cedar and there are a zillion shades to choose from.


Old exterior 1980s interior

brick turret
Historic brick and stone

What is historic on the outside may look like it was built in the 1980s on the inside. There must have been a lot of condo conversions in the 80s.

The original woodwork was replaced with blond oak and the floors are carpeted. The “old world” charm can not be found on the inside. In fact, sometimes there isn’t anything charming about the interior.

There are several buildings in downtown St. Paul that were factories or warehouses that were converted into condos. The kitchens are all new but the buildings still have exposed brick and timber. They retain their historic charm.

The developers restored unique historic features rather than just gutting the building and starting over. River Park Lofts, The Great Northern, and the Rossmor in downtown St. Paul were all converted from industrial buildings to condos while retaining original walls, windows, ceilings, and flooring.

There are a few great old buildings that are disappointing on the inside because they were chopped up and made into small apartments that don’t make sense. Who wants a north facing condo with one window? The original flooring is gone and brick walls are covered with drywall.

Historic preservation districts have rules about how the outside of a building has to look but no rules about the inside.

The roof, the roof . .

Last week we had a new roof put on the house. I hated to see the old one go to the landfill but it did last 31 years. Repairs were made to it, flashing was added, vents were added but eventually, the roof just wasn’t up to the job. When it rained outside it also rained inside.

Nothing like a new roof to make a house look nice and tidy and almost newish. That is the thing about old houses, they can be retrofitted.  Making an old house more energy efficient in most cases is more environmentally friendly than building a new energy-efficient house.

Tearing an old house down just to build something newer and larger should be a crime but it isn’t.

Over the years our old house has been updated and retrofitted many times. It was built before there was indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse instead of a bathroom. It now has two bathrooms and a kitchen sink and one in the basement, a washing machine, and a hot water heater.

It was built before the telephone was invented and used to have telephones in it. At one time it had cable TV too but I won’t go into that. It has had Wifi for many years.

The house did not have electricity in it until it was at least 30 years old. It was well over 100 years old when we added central air. It would have been hard to add central air before the house had electricity.

Sure there are times when I think that a new house would be wonderful but I know they don’t build them like they used to and building a house is very expensive and not as environmentally friendly as recycling and retrofitting.

If you like old houses you will love St. Paul, Minnesota!

Plan your pollinator garden

Pollinator gardens are all the rage. It is about having a bee and butterfly friendly yard. Planting or allowing native plants to grow can help make a better and more sustainable garden. A yard doesn’t have to be mostly grass that needs a lot of water and mowing.

Why are pollinator gardens so popular? Because the bee population is declining and has declined by as much as 40% according to some news sources. Pesticides, fungicides and the way we garden are all at least partly to blame.

You may see a lot of bees in your yard or this time of year you may see a lot of them on sedum, aster, and goldenrod because those plants attract bees.

It isn’t enough to plant flowers that attract pollinators. Best practices include growing native plants and not disturbing bumblebee nests and leaving some of the flower stalks in your garden over the winter.

Gardening isn’t something that can be done once and forgotten about. There is ongoing maintenance and some plants will take a few years to establish themselves.

Monarch butterflies – on blazing star

If you are interested in making your yard more pollinator-friendly a great place to start is the University of Minnesota Extension website.  

There is a survey on the site and useful information about landscaping and gardening in Minnesota. There is information about bees and plants.

Landscaping is a good investment that will increase the value of your home. Landscaping that attracts pollinators may also attract homebuyers.

honey bee on aster

Late summer and early fall are a great time for planning a garden and some perennials can be planted.