Thursday, August 28, 2008

Let's Talk PROFITS!!

I'm taking a short break from the 6-part series and will get back to that this weekend or early next week.

Let's talk PROFIT!!

There's an interesting thread on Etsy right now about the percentile of sales $$'s that go to fees. I thought you might like to see how it works for both hand crafted items as well as eBooks /ePatterns that I market which are in my MKDesigner store on Etsy:

First, an eBook ...
Craft Fair Survival Guide: $ 4.00
40% Ad Budget: - $ 1.60
Base Profit: $ 2.40

Listing Fee: $ .20
Etsy Transaction Fee: $ .14
PayPal Transaction Fee: $ .42
Base Fees: $ .76

40% Ad Budget: $1.60
Less Base Fees: - $ .76
Additional Ad Budget $ .84

For each sale of 1 Craft Fair Survival Guide, I can renew it 4 times on Etsy at $.20cents per renewal. If there are special promotions going on at Etsy, I may renew more than that. At times, I've offered my Craft Fair Survival Guide as an SNS Secret (Saturday Night Special) either totally free or maybe for 50% off. Granted, I don't make as much, if any, profit on that, but usually other sales accompany or follow closely to that special.

Now for Hand Crafted items like I have in my KnitsNMore Etsy store:
Water Bottle Cozy: $5.00
25% Ad Budget: - $1.25
Gross Profit: $3.75
Materials: - $ .45 (minimum 10 out of 1 extra lg ball yarn - on sale)
Misc. Supplies & Expenses: - $ .65 (average per 1 machine knit item)
Net Profit Per Cozy: $2.65

Listing Fee: $ .20
Etsy Transaction Fee: $ .18
PayPal Transaction Fee: $ .45
Base Fees: $ .83

25% Ad Budget: $1.25
Less Base Fees: - $ .83
Additional Ad Budget: $ .42

I can renew this item 2 times per single sale. Granted, there's not as much in the ad buget for a hand crafted item since it's at 25% as opposed to the 40% for ebooks. BUT, I do more aggressively market the hand crafted items on other venues to drive traffic to either my KnitsNMore Etsy Store or my website where I have an Etsy Mini with these items in my Gift Shop.

Some might think ... "YIKES! That's an awfully small profit for all your work." Not really.

On the eBooks/ePatterns, it took me hours & hours & hours to do all those patterns up and write those ebooks. Granted. BUT, in just 2008, I've already sold 103 of my Craft Fair Survival Guide through various online venues, so that's $247.20 in profit (103 x $2.40) for that ebook alone. Sales of that eBook, which I update on a regular basis, have consistently averaged around 100-125 per year. I can live with that.

What about the Bottle Cozy? I machine knit those using my Brother 390 in Bulky Mode. I can easily knit up 8 in one hour with minimal interruptions (our cats love to watch me knit - and ~'help'~) so that would come to $21.20 per hour (8 x $2.65 profit potential each). Not bad. I can live with that, too.

I normally knit 12 with NO interruptions - 12 x $2.65 = $31.80 per hr -- I can definitely live with that!

I don't count the final sewing time since I take those along with me to appointments so I've got something to do in waiting room.

I sell my items on numerous online venues, (as well as locally/regionally) many of which do not have a listing fee nor final transaction fee. Free is good. :-) Etsy's a tremendous place, but it's not the only game in town. Expand your profit potential by exploring other venues.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Creating an Effective Online Ad - Part 3 of 6

Tags are The Key!

How many times have you wandered through the listings on Etsy or any other keyword based selling site and found totally WRONG tags?? I do just about every time I look into the items on Etsy. It's nice to have several bases covered for keyword / tag searches, just don't run amok with tags! I see that soooo often in listings and they put me right off purchasing. You've already used the description to give good, solid info on not only the item but also its uses. You don't need to slip those uses into the tags as well. It's bad form and can get your item flagged quickly.

Take a look at the tags/keywords used by successful sellers on Etsy or whichever site you are selling on. Or get into the forums and look at some of the threads that talk about over-tagging. Take a look at some of the shops for those sellers who applaud the use of proper tagging in your category. What did they use? And what was the order in which they used them? That can be very important to buyers searching for items such as yours.

Another online tool you can use is Google AdWords. No, you do NOT have to sign up with them, you can have limited use of their keyword program to help find what folks are searching for on the net. This can assist you in determining some of your keywords in your ad text as well as possibly the order in which you will be using the proper tags.

Open up one of your inactive listings and head to the tag section. First thing to remember is, the FIRST DROPDOWN MENU IS THE CATEGORY!! It is NOT a tag!! Folks get very confused with that. I wish Etsy would make that crystal clear. We've asked for it in the forums, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. Sigh. We'll keep on nattering at them.

Now, once you've chosen your primary category, take a look at the structure of subsequent tags and their sub-headings. Which one suits yours the best? When there are more than one ways to do tags for my product, I'm apt to put up one product with one way and another product another way ... keeping a close watch on views can tell me which way is best.

Is this against the rules? Certainly not! Not if I am sticking strictly to Etsy's Tagging Guidelines. If I'm not sure, I've brought up the quandary in the Critiques forum. Lots of good advice in there. Sometimes that advice is not germane to my product, but usually I can get a general feel for what I should be doing.

Along with tags, make good use of your Materials Used section. Why? As a buyer, I like to know what you used to construct your item. If it's paper, put acid free if that fits. If it's yarn, put acrylic/wool/silk, etc. I want to know that too. Sometimes the materials used gets lost in an over-enthusiastic description so having those materials noted down in that section is a big help. Having NOTHING down in the Materials Used section of your listing could tell potential buyers that you don't care enough about your product to let the world know what you used.

I keep hearing from sellers that 1. - they don't have the time, and/or 2. they simply forget. If you want the sales, TAKE the time and make it part of your routine. Surely you have already done up your ad ahead of time so all you have to do is copy/paste, right?? So add a section in your text file for tags and also for materials used.

Properly tagged items mean searches will result in increased page views.

More traffic to your other listings!
More HEARTS!
More sales!

Next time ... Pictures!

~ Marge ~

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Creating an Effective Online Ad - Part 2 of 6

Anatomy Of An Item Description

I've been lurking on not only the Etsy forums, but several other message boards for crafters / sellers around the net. It amazes me the number of artisans who claim they just can't think of anything 'neat' to put in the description and they let their pictures do their talking for them. Phooey. I feel that is wrong-wrong-wrong.

What do you do when you display at a craft fair? Slap your stuff out on the table, cross your arms and sit in your chair in the back corner of the booth, put up a sign that says:

"Don't Talk To Me, I Won't Tell You Anything Of Importance About My Craft, Just Look At My Superb Quality, My Items Speak For Themselves.
Can't You SEE THAT???"
.

THAT will not work! Either in person at a craft fair or online in an ad.

Keep it simple and FOCUSED on your item's merits! Not sterilized to the point of losing the potential customer's attention, though! You want to inform them about why they should buy your item by giving enough detail to answer possible questions the buyer may have. If one of your pictures highlights a specific feature of your item, be sure to tell them so and point them to that picture as well.

If there are multiple uses / occasions for your item, this is the place to let them know alternatives to fire up their imagination ... and maybe put a few of your items into their shopping cart! They're redundant in the title and will get you flagged if you put them in your tags.

What's crystal clear to you as the crafter, may not be at all clear to the potential buyer. Assume they don't know much about your craft and are 'thinking' about buying from you. Be concise, give details and enough information for them to make an informed decision, but don't talk down to them. That's a good way to lose a sale.

Mention the construction materials (be creative - BUT HONEST - in how you tell them about the materials.) For instance, I use some high-end chenille yarns in my wine bottle bags in my KnitsNMore Etsy store.

"These elegant bags are knit with Dutton Mills top quality Rayon Chenille yarns. The color is a deep, Matador Red and it is embellished with a thick white polyester blend cord. These beautiful bags are available in assorted colors in Rayon to give it that super-soft, slinky feeling of luxurious velvet."

See what I've done? I've painted a picture in words that tells the buyer I used top quality products, that it's Rayon, is a dark red color and it is akin to velvet in its texture.

Pretend everyone's pictures in their ads have suddenly disappeared (I know, horrid thought, but bear with me). A buyer for JUST your type of craft is online for a very short period of time and doing some serious shopping. You've created a spot-on, attention grabber title. They click on your listing. WOO HOO!! Is YOUR description sufficient to paint a picture in their mind so they'll add that item to their shopping cart?

Add complete specifications (when applicable) - sizes - length - width - weight (important for heavier items and postage determination for the buyer's budget). For my medium sized wine bottle bags, it's not enough just to say 'medium' ... you need specifics. So this is the portion of my text that deals with that:

"The MEDIUM Wine Bottle Gift Bag is suitable for a wine bottle that is up to 10" tall and approximately 10 1/2" to 11 1/2" in circumference."

If possible in your craft, give them some choices. Do you offer other colors? Perhaps alternate sizes? Do you have additional items in your store that would compliment this item? Tell them! What about custom orders? Are you 'open' to that? Do you have the parameters of your Custom Orders policy in your Profile page? Or in your Shop Policies page? Specify ANY added charges for those choices - if you don't charge extra, TELL THEM that in your ad!

One last thing ... I have cats. If you have any possible allergens in your workshop / home that may transfer to the item(s) sold, be up front with potential customers! Numerous times I've had emails / convos from buyers who thanked me for letting them know in the ad. This is what I have:

"PLEASE NOTE: We have cats. 4 beautiful, aggravating, adorable and nosey felines. If you or the person you are buying for has allergies, we strongly recommend you do not purchase."

Next up will be TAGS!

~ Marge ~

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Creating an Effective Online Ad - Part 1 of 6

An extremely successful and savvy online seller once told me years ago,
"If you want $ALE$ - DO IT RIGHT!"

The title of your ad is vital in driving traffic to your shop. Use pertinent keywords that are directly related to the item. The title you choose is the description of your item in its shortest form. You need to tantalize those potential buyers with that title.

With that said, this doesn't mean you should have 3 lines of text as your title! Pare it down to its MAP (Most Accurate Part). You can start out by writing a loooonnnng title, then go back and choose the most relevant words you really NEED to get the point across. Be sure to make that title make SENSE to the buyer. You don't need grammatically correct sentences in your title, but at least have it in long-hand, not short-hand. I saw an ad recently that had text message short-hand words! I don't have the time to translate so I moved on to another shop.

On the reverse side of titles, too FEW words can also put me, as a buyer, off. There are ads on several sites that just have something like: Pair of Earrings as the title. Well, I'm in the jewelry section and chose a sub-section of earrings. So ... DUH. A buyer wants to know more and may pass up some lovely earrings because they have this preconceived notion that a poor title may equal poor quality product.

Try to avoid the 'fluff' words if at all possible. First of all, I can probably tell by the thumbnail picture that it's cute/adorable/sensational/etc., you don't need to tell me that in your title. DON’T try to pack all of your possible categories and tags into the title – it’s sloppy and unprofessional. You can tell the potential buyer about the possible uses of your item within your description section.

Next time we'll talk about descriptions

Marge

Monday, August 18, 2008

To Swatch Or Not To Swatch!

Swatches. So many new people tell me they don't see why we need to do swatches - whether you're a hand knitter or a machine knitter. I'm a firm believer in swatching and yes, it uses up yarn, but there are numerous things you can do with that swatch after you've done your pattern testing.

What are some of the things you do with swatches?

Afghans
Pillow Tops
Doubled-Up & lined for Pot Holders or hotpads
Doll Cloths / Doll Blankets
Cut 'n' Sew Quilt Pieces
Scarves
Hats
Doll Hair (kill & ravel out for great krinkle doll hair!)
Pet Blankets / Bedding / Sweater Pieces
Placemats
Casserole Carriers (great with knitweave swatches)
Ravel out the knitting, wind it firmly into a ball, then use it for creating I-Cord.

Those are only a very few of the wonderful things you can do with your swatches. You'll notice that many of the items require certain sizing. Well, if your gauge is not going to be compromised by making that swatch wider or narrower or longer, then pre-plan to use that swatch in something else from our list above.

~ Marge ~

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Giddy-Up ~ In Style!

From a bygone era, steeped in elegance and partially for show as well as transportation, horse drawn carriages were commonly seen in cities around the country. Now you too can have a taste of that splendid time. When searching around the net for something ENTIRELY unrelated, I ran across one on Horse Drawn Carriage Rides. That one link led me to so many more and I thought I’d list some of them here for you.

In Alabama, step back in time to the era of the Southern Belle in the carriages provided by folks at Five Point Carriages. The pictures on this site are to die for and you’ll be wanting to step aboard for one of their special package offers. They have carriages for just about any occasion. Ooooh, I wanna go there!


Horse drawn carriage rides in downtown Chicago, Illinois? You bet !! With J.C. Cutter’s, Ltd. They not only do special occasions, but they have half-hour and hour tours of Chicago. What an elegant way to view that historic city! This site is very diversified and extremely educational. Do wander about. Hey, you can even BUY a carriage from them! They also do outlying areas around Chicago, so click on that button too.


If you’re planning on travel to the New England area, then you must put this place at the top of your list for a carriage ride! Wood Acres Farm in Connecticut has it all. Carriages, sleighs … oh, boy! You’ll get to wander the backroads of picturesque and historic Connecticut. What a lovely addition to any vacation plans!


In Ocala, Tennessee, you'll find a plethora of fabulous carriages for just about every occasion. Take a look at their Cinderella Carriage!! WOO HOO! At Ocala Carriage & Tours, you can take a horse-drawn trolley or carriage ride through some of Marion County's finest horse farms. See Thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walkers, Paso Finos and Quarter Horses and much more.

Step back in time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when you contact the folks at the Philadelphia Carriage Company. Ah, the City of Brotherly Love and the seat of our very freedom! This site is fabulous. They have a great list of links for their city that will help you in any travel plans. Planning to drive to Philadelphia?? They even have online maps! They offer tours of just about any length and can customize whatever you want to see. The rates are extremely reasonable. Put this down on your list of to-do’s if you’re ever in the area.

Planning to make Honolulu, Hawaii your vacation destination this summer? Well, don’t overlook their horse drawn carriage rides. Check out our link to Honolulu Horse & Carriage! An elegant way to keep the tradition alive. Click on their link of Tours and take a look at that spectacular pic they have of their Honolulu City Lights Tour. Oh, boy!




Do a Google Search for Horse Drawn Carriage Rides ... bet you'll find something very close to where you live!

~ Marge ~

Monday, August 11, 2008

Right In Your Own Back Yard!




I live in Reno, NV. Now you might think that with all of our casinos and nightclubs, we would have an endless source of amusement for out of town visitors. That was the usual fare folks wanted when they came to visit us. It was a scramble then, when friends were due in from out of town recently and they’d indicated they did not want to do the casinos this time around. (whew!) It certainly made us happy not to squire them through an endless sea of casinos. We've been known to gamble a bit, but when our $20 is done, so are we. :-)

Besides sports (which didn’t interest them), what else did we have to offer? A bit of research was called for and we delved into many resources we hadn’t previously considered. The first thing I did was call my Chamber of Commerce. They generously sent me numerous brochures, maps and information on a wide variety of events. There are 6 Museums within easy driving distance, we discovered. We’d only ventured to 2 or 3 ourselves in the 14 years we’ve been here. What else did our community have to offer that we’d missed before? The Native American Cultural Arts center, 3 upcoming flower shows, numerous art exhibits, the symphony was putting on a special program, several sporting events, Hot August Nights would still be in full swing, and so very much more jumped right out at us from the brochure pages.

Oh, we were “aware” that some of these things went on, usually after the fact when listening to a news reporter’s segment on how wonderful it was. We’d go next year. But somehow, ‘next year’ never materialized.

We’re fortunate to have a large convention center here in town and we looked their schedule of events up online. Two events would be held during our visitor’s timespan. Good! Those went on our list too. All these were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Once we found that online resource, we began delving more into the information on the web. Our local newspaper had a site with a wealth of information on upcoming events. As did the sites for local television and radio stations. Then we started looking up non-profit agencies within a 50 mile radius. Several events not mentioned through other resources began to surface. Even more goodies to put on our list.

When our guests arrived, we sat around the kitchen table pouring over all the brochures and our list which had grown to 6 pages. It was such a treat to decide on an itinerary, filling our days with spectacular, innovative activities and events from dawn ‘til dusk.

The best part of all was re-discovering our own town and the wonders it holds.

Maybe it’s time you began re-discovering what’s in your own back yard?

~ Marge ~

Friday, August 8, 2008

Online Craft Profits

With my crafted items (baskets, whatsit bags, scarves etc.), I am making a moderate amount, probably in the range of $12 - $17 per hour. Those are all machine knit and take a minimal amount of time to produce. My best place to show & sell the baskets is at Craft Fairs. I almost always sell out of them and they range in pricing from $5 to $35 for larger ones. They're no filled, I leave that up to the customer. They are decorated only. This is one example of my larger basket. It is oval in shape and measures a good 10" across, 7" deep and 6" high. Perfect for a lot of gift giving which is why I have that size. When I first started out selling my knit and starched baskets, I had tons of small ones, figuring they would be more of an impluse buy. Not so! I kept receiving custom orders for large baskets and when I started displaying that size at craft fairs, sales took off like a rocket! The larger baskets do fairly well online, but the small ones ($5) sell like crazy. Then, a repeat customer will often come back to buy the larger ones later on.


With my original designs I sell to other machine knitters, those are making a very good wage for me. They're constant sellers on my websites and I add new items all the time. They're also ePatterns, where the machine knitters download them. I'd cleared this with Lori (Thanks, Lori !!) at Etsy before listing any of them since some sites don't allow ebook stuff. I was thrilled to find a wealth of talented designers who were marketing their ePatterns on Etsy! I try to have something for each season year-round in my patterns and it has really helped to give a decent profit margin.



Over all, I'm making a fairly good wage off of my knitting machines and hand knits as well as my newest line of Cross Stitch patterns (also ePatterns). I try to target market the Cross Stitch (like the one at the left) to Renfaire folk, SCA, Historical etc. They are the most likely to consider purchasing these patterns. Some are extremely large, like the Celtic Harp and the others are much more suited to banners or an addition to clothing. But I also have Cross Stitch for the standard seasonal market such as Halloween and Christmas. This gives me a much broader range and a better profit margin.

The profits are good ... until you factor in the odd and end knitting machine I buy or when I order large amounts of yarn just 'because' I have to have it!! .

Many times, I see listings with lowered prices that don't really have much of a description and I try to have good descriptions of my items. Poor or incomplete descriptions and dark pictures are a sure way to NOT sell your items online. Especially on Etsy since there is a good deal of competition for most types of items. Buyers scan the listings and only have a small thumbnail to look at as they go down the list of items in a specific category. So if your pictures are not going to catch their eye, you're not going to catch the sale.

Pricing can also be a factor in sales, which in turn will impact your profit margin. If your prices are too high, buyers may do the 'double-blink-I'm-clutching-my-wallet' mental notation, then move on to other listings. And if your prices are too much lower than your competitors on whichever site you sell at, there is a possibility the buyers may skip over your items, thinking "Oh, nice low price, but it must be made of cheaper materials." and they go on to the next listing. Or if you're displaying at a craft fair, they go on to the next booth.

As crafters, we know that a lot of our time and effort which goes into making such lovely items is not compensated well. We know that going in to the whole crafting world. But our love for the craft keeps us plugging away and sometimes selling at a profit, sometimes selling at a loss. Each individual item you produce should be priced on its own merit. Just because you have earrings that sell fairly well at $10 a pair which have silver plating as their key element, doesn't mean the same design in earrings with STERLING silver needs to sell for the same price as PLATED silver! If you do have different components (i.e. Jewelry's Silver, Copper, Silver Plated, etc.), have different sections in your shop so those who are looking for sterling will easily find it ... and purchase!!

I do different hand-knit scarves for craft fairs as opposed to the ones I sell online in my Etsy Store. The more expensive yarns (Alpaca, mohair, etc.) are displayed at craft fairs. Not online. I make up swatches of the various yarns I use for craft fair scarves so they can do the touchy-feely thing. THAT sells scarves!! My hand-knit scarves are in plastic bags so they don't get soiled at craft fairs. And I get my pricing, too. With specialty yarns, I have a general rule of $1 per inch. So a 50" Alpaca scarf is $50.

Find some of your own 'general pricing rules' and try your best to stick to it.

~ Marge ~

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Basic Copyright Legal Info



From: http://www.copyright.gov/

©Works Originally Created on or after January 1, 1978©

"A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter."

©Works Originally Created before January 1, 1978©

"Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published with a copyright notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978 copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), making these works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years."

~ Marge ~

Monday, August 4, 2008

Unconfirmed Addresses

On a PayPal transaction, I don't ship to an unconfirmed address. I have the following in my ads, no matter which site I'm listing on:

"If you purchase through PayPal, PLEASE be sure you have your current mailing address on your account. I only ship to confirmed addresses. I value your business. This is for your protection as well as my own."

Also, when I send an email acknowledging their order, I double-check to make sure the address on PayPal is where they wish the item sent. That extra little bit of courtesy is not wasted. I've had numerous 'Thanks for checking.' types of comments from the buyers. And a few -- 'Oh, I forgot to change my address on PayPal!' Then they will very often go into their account and make the change right away, giving me a heads-up that the item(s) can now be shipped.

I realize that many feel the Etsy address is the most current and go with that. But I personally prefer to use the address that has some sort of protection for me, which PayPal does. I've had to use that protection a couple of times in the distant past on rather expensive transactions (i.e. knitting machines & supplies), hence my reasoning behind only shipping to confirmed PayPal addresses. But it's to each his own, this is just my reasoning.

~ Marge ~

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Craft Fair Tips

Go vertical in your displays as much as possible. All flat and horizontal is NOT GOOD. People will stay at your space longer if there are more levels for their vision to go to rather than a quick sweep of the eye along a long flat table neatly stacked with the items. Angle things. Add dimension. Accessorize your display. If you have all Baby items, get a baby doll and a small cradle and play up on that baby theme.

I generally do juried shows now - they can cost a bit more, but why waste my $$ on competing with the mass-merchandise crowd?

Or, I'll sign up for organizations doing fund-raisers. Schools, Non-Profits, that sort of thing. Their space fees are usually very low, we have a lot of fun and they have a huge database of folks who support their causes, so it's usually a good turn out.

At those ones, I always have lots of little things that are for sale for anywhere from $.50cents - $3. Those non-profit fund raisers usually want donations for raffle items. I always give them at least 2 items, one in the $25-$50 range and one in the $10-$15 range. That donation is tax deductible for promotional purposes.

These raffles lead to additional sales for me since I attach/include a percent-off gift certificate to the donated items for additional purchases at my booth and my mini-flyer is also included with those raffle items with ALL my contact information.

Let them see you actively involved in your craft. They will often stop and make comments on something they are currently working on if they also do a similar craft, or they will ask you questions which can lead to sales. When you’re working on bits of your craft, it can help relax customers.

[Excerpts are from my eBook: Craft Fair Survival Guide]

~ Marge ~

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dropshipping ~ Good Or Bad?

Dropship is a fabulous way to increase sales ... someone else is doing your selling for you! BUT -- It is NOT for everyone. And my first words of advice which I hope you will follow are ... "DO NOT OFFER EXCLUSIVE MARKETING RIGHTS!". Yes, I'm yelling that. It ties up your inventory with NO guarantee that they will sell all your items.

Think carefully and don't get yourself locked into a timeframe deal like 6 months or some such thing. You are in charge. You determine the parameters of the dropship agreement. NEVER sign one of those boiler-plate agreement forms you can pick up at the local copy store. They're laden with lots of language which may not be relevant to your city/state/country and could create problems.

Just be sure your contract / agreement is clearly spelled out for the shipping fees for US, Canada and overseas and that it includes delivery confirmation or insurance if you usually require those.

Your dropship agent is responsible for getting the right mailing address to you. Be sure THAT is in there somewhere! Only once have I been bitten by that and I had to send another items out -- thankfully it was a medium sized basket and I had another in stock. Now I make sure THEY are responsible to either refund the customer or re-pay me if they screw up.

Most dropship agents don't want you to put any info in or on the package so their customers can bypass them and order directly from you. If that's the case, then they need to supply you with business cards to tape to the return address place on the package and put inside as well. Some will email you an invoice to put inside the package. I make my tags for dropshipping very plain so all it has is fiber content, etc., and my copyright symbol for instance: (c) 1990 MKD. I use the initials since I've also got that registered with the state of NV as mine in my DBA.

Like I said earlier, it's not for everyone. You are the only one who can make that final decision. It can be lucrative IF the marketer knows their stuff and advertises/promotes vigorously. Think carefully, get opinions from your friends, relatives, online friends you can TRUST. Then sleep on it for a day or two before making that final decision.

~ Marge ~

Buying & Selling To Competitors


It doesn't bother me in the least to buy from crafters or to sell to them. I've been buying custom soaps and several other items from crafters for years to put into my baskets. This one is an example of some items I include that are purchased from other crafters who are not fellow knitters.

When I get inquiries on wholesale purchasing of my baskets, it depends on the quantity they're requesting. I give them a fair market discount for bulk purchasing of just the plain ones, with no ribbons or flowers, etc., so they can decorate as they wish. Do I mind if they re-sell? Nope, don't mind that at all.

And they often do the same for me. I can often get the 'brick' of soap from them and then cut to fit what I want to display with my baskets. I do advertise their soap company on my price tags and generally they do the same for me.

Cooperation and networking will not only net you more sales, but more importantly, great friends.

~ Marge ~

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Credit Cards At Craft Shows


Sometime last fall, the following question was posed in the Etsy forums. My response is below the question.

Q: Do you require a minimum purchase for credit cards at craft shows?

A: I don't. I can generally use my laptop and have PayPal available for them. Wireless is all over the place these days and my laptop's set up for it.

They don't have to have a PayPal account nor do they have to start one to use their credit card. I have a how-to on my main website. I always try my best to get a booth with electrical so I don't run down the laptop's battery.

I also have ClearWire available to me and can use that if the craft site does not have wireless in the area for free.

~ Marge ~

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If You're Considering Creating Your Own Website


My main website is my mainstay in all my crafting. It has evolved as I have evolved in my machine knitting online business. It's WELL worth the effort. I use MacroMedia's DreamWeaver web development software and it's wonderful!

You can learn HTML or other forms of programming, it depends not only on your computer skill levels, but also how much time would you be able to devote to that site. It does take a considerable amount of time when you start out, but if you're diligent in your updating and tweaking, you can get a full site's maintenance down to a few hours every week or so. Discipline is the key for that.

I learned HTML because my kids were encouraging me all the time. "You can do it, Mom, you're computer savvy." I really think (although they didn't SAY it) they were tired of answering all of Mom's questions and having to fix her 'oops!'.

It's actually quite simple to learn and do. There are also programs out there called WYSIWYGs (What You See Is What You Get) that have numerous templates, styles, themes and can get a website launched in short order. A lot of it can be simply fill-in-the-blanks. Now some of the other programming (cgi or php) are not my cup of tea. I hire someone for any of that. I have several websites I own and designed all of them. They all have a specific purpose in my online businesses.

Online courses are marvelous, as are ones at a community college. Here are some sites I pop into now and then when I need some info:
http://www.dynamicdrive.com
http://www.davesite.com/webstation/
http://www.webdiner.com
http://www.2createawebsite.com/build/html.html
http://www.pagetutor.com
http://www.htmlprimer.com
http://www.pageresource.com/html/index.html
http://www.htmlgoodies.com


~ Marge ~

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Older Than Dirt Quiz



I'd posted this in the forums on Etsy and thought I'd share it here, too:

Older Than Dirt Quiz:
Count all the ones that you remember during their original era, NOT the ones you were told about and not ones you've seen in some sort of 'retro' 'vintage' store/display! Your ratings are at the bottom.


1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles
5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Party lines
8. Newsreels before the movie
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (OLive-6933)
12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S&H Green Stamps
16. Hi-fi's
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulb
20. Packards<>
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork popguns
23. Drive-ins
24. Studebakers
25. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt !

I might be older than dirt but those memories are the best part of my life.

Marge (who ranks as Older Than Dirt with a score of 24 - didn't know what PF Flyers were until I asked hubby)

Monday, July 28, 2008

2268 Hours Left

As of right now, there are 2268 hours left before all the little ghosties and goblins will be knocking at our doors with the aged old greeting: "Trick Or Treat!" That's NOT a heck of a lot of time when you realize it's a mere 94.5 days.

I was going over my calendar and stock lists for the fall and that's when it hit me. I've been knitting up all sorts of items for Christmas & Thanksgiving and could easily handle 2-3 Craft Shows .... after November 1st. But my stock of Halloween items is .. ummm .. lacking. Lots of little things; lapel pins, coaster sets, bottle cozies and some cuffs in orange & black. But none of the more substantial items I have for Halloween. Those sold out so quickly last year.

I'd had good intentions of getting a good sized stock built up for Christmas, Thanksgiving AND Halloween. Hmmmm. Not anywhere near that. I know why, well at least it's the excuse I'm hanging onto, I've been devoting too much time to pattern development not only for my machine knitting but also cross stitch.

This is where the discipline needs to come into play. I'm now limiting my design time and expanding my crafting time for Halloween items. Wouldn't ya know it ... I've got a HUGE amount of new pattern designs ready to develop and they're NOT for Halloween. Aaarrrrgh.

Now to find the yarns in my stash, the patterns from last year ... which are 'somewhere' around here and get on with it.

How's your Halloween stock doing?

~ Marge ~

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Changes & Upgrades

I've been revamping my main website, MKDesigner today to give it a cleaner, more streamlined look. It was getting 'stale' and everything was blurring together. When the OWNER of the website has a tendency to yawn and say "That page will do. I'll get to it next update.", then it's time for a change.

Until I started updating some of the deeper interior pages (you know, the ones you don't visit very often and get shoved to the back of your mind) I'd not realized that SOME pages hadn't been 'updated' since 2006 !! Eeeek. Maybe that'll teach me to follow the site map a bit more closely when I update. When I first started doing HTML back in the mid-90's, I always printed out the site map and crossed each branch off as I updated.

Evidently I've become lazy over the years. It's probably been 3-4 years since I printed out the site map. Hmmmmm. Lesson learned.

The banner I'd made for my Etsy Shop is now on my website. It was a real personal joy making that banner and I fell in love with it. So onto the website it went. I've already received somewhere around 50 emails from fellow machine knitters that they love the new look! So gratifying to hear from them. It lets me know I'm heading in the right direction.

Several new How To's have also been added to the site under its own section. If you're a machine knitter, please do visit our website and click on the How To's button. Plus, I've started expanding my Cross Stitch designs. I love working with HobbyWare, great people and super support for their Cross Stitch Pattern Maker program.
Would love to have you visit my site and let me know what you think.

~ Marge ~

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What a Week ~ My Bank CLOSED!

Can hardly believe it's been a week since my last post. So many 'things' going on that it's been hectic to say the least.

And to top the week off (or end it may be a more accurate term) Logged into one of my bank accounts very early this a.m. and SPLAT - this notice came up on the screen:

"On July 25, 2008, First National Bank of Nevada, Reno, Nevada was closed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Subsequently the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed."

Completely caught me off guard. I was in the 1st National Bank of Nevada earlier in the week and didn't see / hear anything amiss. Wow. We only had a small amount in that bank - we were planning on closing the account anyway - and I can still get my money out so no worries there. Mutual of Omaha is buying the bank and all the funds are completely secure (FDIC). Since I don't have over $100,000 in that, or any other bank for that matter, all is well. Wish I did!!!

Makes one wonder not only about the economy as it currently stands, but where it will lead us in the future. Kinda scary thoughts fleetingly darted through my head when I first read the notice on the screen. But I have faith. Lots of faith. Now I need to get another cup of coffee.

~ Marge ~

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cross Stitch - Irish, Scottish, Welsh

I've had a wonderful day of designing. You know, those days when all seems to fall into place and you actually have TIME to do what you want? That was today.

Creating new patterns and designs is a major part of my crafting life. I'm a firm believer in letting my imagination go in all that I do. Whether it's for knitting machines or hand knitting, crochet or cross stitch. It's a real passion with me. The Irish Harp has a great meaning for me since my Mom's family was from County Armagh, Northern Ireland and they were all a very musical family with the harp playing a great role in their lives.


I've had the basic graphic designs completed for an Irish Harp, Scottish Thistle and the Welsh Red Dragon for quite some time. This was the day when I could import them into Hobbyware's Cross Stitch Pattern Maker and get them all set up. It felt so darned good to complete all three in one day. Our Welsh connection is through my Great Grandmother on Dad's side. I love that dragon!!



No interruptions, only one short 1 hour break to go up to the clubhouse for my daily swim with my hubby, son and one 6 yr old grand daughter. She's part fish! She's gotta be. Once we got back to the house, she declared the Scottish Thistle as her favorite. It's mine, too. My Dad was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland and he always wore a silver Thistle in his lapel. So that design was for him.


I thought of adding something for England, but just couldn't decide which emblem to use so those will be in a later collection. The ePatterns are now up in my Etsy store in my Cross Stitch section.

~ Marge ~

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Wanna Vacation!!

Wow! Talk about a busy week. Grandkids staying over; gr-daughter on Monday-Tuesday, 1 gr-son since my birthday last week, another gr-son (other's brother) since yesterday, 6 trips to the pool, shopping, playing all sorts of board games (cribbage, Sequence, dominoes and Jr. Scrabble), trip to the Farmer's Market yesterday evening ... laundry, laundry and more laundry. I'm pooped.

The grandsons go home this afternoon, then we have son and one of the gr-daughters for the weekend and I think there are some friends from out of town planning to descend on us. Or maybe that's next weekend. My mind is still spinning right now.

I'm ready for that vacation.

~ Marge ~

Monday, July 14, 2008

Doppleganger? Deja Vu? Coincidence?

There's a current thread on Etsy about whether it would be considered copying if two designers came up with close-to-identical items around the same time span. Interesting thread and several good ideas about what to do.

I created an abstract graphic design of a Bird of Paradise flower after I'd wandered around the mall one day and stopped in to a florist's shop. There was a distortion in a mirror they had on display and when I saw that Bird of Paradise flower reflected in that mirror, I knew what my design was going to be. This was a commission work, knit in Double Bed Jacquard on my electronic knitting machine. It ended up being the central portion of a wall hanging for their vacation home.

Other than the colors and the medium (hers was screen printed), I saw darned near the same thing on a pillow in a little boutique the following year and when I inquired, the shop owner told me it had been brought in by an artist the previous year! Coulda knocked me over with a feather. And this was right around the same time I was slaving over those graphs to get it 'just' right. No one had seen my work other than the original customer. I'd not even shared it with my online friends, which is unusual for me.

It can happen. To anyone. I like to *think* I'm unique in my crafting life, but if I can think of it, so can someone else.

~ Marge ~

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Crochet Hooks Galore!!


I've spent the better part of this morning going through a couple of boxes of sewing supplies that were my Mom's. I found a HUGE stash of metal crochet hooks among all of that. She used to do a lot of thread crochet (doilies, antimacassars, etc.) but I'd not realized she had such a great collection. That's my Mom circa 1932 - 1935 at the left.

Found several Milwards ranging from size 1 down to size 12. And one cutie that is only a tad under 3 3/4". It's a Morrall's and is size 2. No country of manufacture listed, though. Will have to see if I can research that brand online. There's even some stamped Mexico!

LOTS of Susan Bates and numerous Boye. Several of the Boye have the price stamped on them ranging from 10cents to 25cents. I wonder how old those are??

I'd given my daughter a lot of my own thread hooks when she renewed an interest into getting back into thread crochet, along with some bone ones and several bakelite that my Grandmother had used quite a bit. Her crochet work was superb ... all her daughters could do thread crochet with a great deal of expertise, including my Mom.

This forage into these boxes had been a great trip down memory lane.

~ Marge ~

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Was Kidnapped Yesterday ...

by my two sons, daughter-in-law, hubby and 2 of our grandsons. You see, yesterday was my birthday. Wasn't sure if I wanted any sort of celebration for my 60th birthday, but they wouldn't listen. I was 'forced' to go to a fabulous dinner at the Olive Garden.

Oh wow! I stuffed myself silly and wondered if I would go into a diabetic coma with that cake they ordered! And a huge bunch of the waitresses / waiters gathered around our table and sang the cutest chanting style song for me!

~ Marge ~

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Private Showings

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday, which was annoying, but necessary. So much going on and so very little time. Around 7:00 p.m. yesterday, I was wondering how I could possibly squish in another 2 hours into the day. There were 7 projects I had slated to finish that were barely started. They were knit, but nothing was put together, stuffed or sewn.

Gone are the days when I could pull an all-nighter with little effort and no side effects. Never thought I'd miss those after my life started to settle down and I got organized more, but I do. They were fun!

So bright and early this a.m. (5:30 Pacific Time), I was sewing & stuffing my little Santa Dolls for the upcoming Christmas In July local show I'm involved with for the weekend of the 19th & 20th. It's a private, in-home show hosted by a dear friend and the 4 of us always have good sales.

I've found that the invitation-only ones are by far the best for my merchandise. I'm more in control, it's not outside in the weather where I would be battling wind, dust and heat. And it's a much more relaxed event.

~ Marge in Reno ~

Monday, July 7, 2008

Portable Crafts

This is one of my favorite portable crafts since they can go just about anywhere with me. Tatted Flowers. I have a mini pair of fold up scissors and along with 2 or 3 'loaded' shuttles, they can tuck into a small zippered coin case with ease. It's great way to pass the time in waiting rooms and gets all sorts of crafty conversations started.

I love making these little tatted flowers to add to stationery, business cards, gift tags and all sorts of 'stuff'. They're just a nice touch. I'm starting to fiddle with ACEO's for relaxation, and have put 'bouquets' of these little flowers along with snippets of silk leaves onto the cards. Not ready to show them to the world, yet, but maybe someday.

When going through my 'stash' of craft odds & ends, I found a couple hundred I'd forgotten about. So I've listed some of them in my Etsy Store in the Supplies section.

Another larger, but still quite portable craft is cross stitch coasters and coffee mug inserts. They're already pre-cut and I like to use a large pin to hold the floss which is hitch-knotted over the pin's bar. Everything I need slips into a flat cosmetic bag and tucks into my purse.

Do you have a portable craft? Please tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you.

~ Marge ~

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another PIF ...


I've put up another PIF (Pay It Forward) in the Seasonal Section of my Etsy Shop. This lovely little dove pattern is 48st x 44 st and is perfect for adding to any of your holiday cross stitch.

It was created in HobbyWare's PatternMaker software and you can choose from the graph or the .pat file.

~ Marge ~

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Flickr

Well, I've finally added some more pics to my Flickr account. Recently, there was a thread on Etsy about Let's See Some More Flickr Pages. That's when I really got into my account, cleared out a lot of old stuff, revamped and then added some family pics. And it has helped traffic tremendously to my MKDesigner Etsy Store and also my Knits 'n More Etsy Store.

I'm going to be building a better profile page on Flickr since that's the only spot you can have a link to anything you sell. I didn't know that, until that thread above started. So my Flickr now meets the requirements. If anyone has some nifty tips for what makes a great Flickr profile, I'd appreciate any comments.

~ Marge ~

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On July 3rd, 1776 ...

... John Adams wrote the following to his wife, Abigail:

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. "

(The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

More information is available at: http://www.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm#Beginning

Just thought you'd like to know.

~ Marge ~

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Craft Booth With PVC Pipe

Here's one I used several years ago at a craft fair where you could not have side walls over 4' high. They wanted a more 'open' concept rather than have a bunch of Ez-ups with side walls blocking views. My hubby graphed out the display in PVC pipe and I used sheer curtains threaded onto the pipe sections.

It was very easy to put up. The second pic is a wider view, during setup. In the right corner, I set up 2 of my knitting machines and did demos. It still allowed me to hang some of my lightweight sweaters and such along the back top bar (not shown).

It wasn't my preferred way for display, but it worked quite well. The shorter side walls were very nice for most of the crafters.


~ Marge ~

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There are days ...

... when one should not even step out of the house! I've had more than my share of those lately. All the horrid California fires have created a huge amount of smoke over here in the Washoe Valley, Nevada. We actually hit Stage 2 Alert for health problems here, something we've not done in 20 years or so.

I feel so bad for everyone over there in California and the destruction they are dealing with each day as the fires spread. My son and his family live in the Sacramento area but they are currently down in Disneyland. They will be returning home very soon and so far, they have not had any major problems at their condo. I'm praying for ALL who are affected by this devastation.

Could you possibly help?? The Red Cross has put out a plea for donations. Please help them if you can. Put a link on your blog, in your email signature file, anywhere you can on the net to help this most worthy organization. If you can't give cash, perhaps you could donate blood?

Please think about it.

~ Marge ~

Monday, June 23, 2008

PIFs - PIFs & More PIFs



I've been busy putting up several PIFs in my Etsy Shop.

These are TRUE PIFs, completely free. My gift to you. You can find them under SEASONAL. They are all knitting patterns and I have them available in both hand knit graphs and machine knit .pat files using DAK (Design-A-Knit) software.
















~ M
arge ~

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Knitting For Profit - How NOT To Be Discouraged

So many times when I teach machine knitters about realizing a profit in their knitting business especially for craft fairs / shows, one of the major comments is that they get discouraged trying to build up their stock. The following is a short excerpt from my eBook, Craft Fair Survival Guide which is available in my Etsy Store ...
  • Get pieces/parts knitted / constructed. Stacks/bags/bins of items knitted, but not necessarily blocked & sewn.
  • Doing something from beginning to end can actually make you feel like you’re not getting anywhere and can put one off when the stack seems to grow at about the speed that rocks erode!
  • Plot out your yarns you’ll need and figure out how many items (say sleepers) you can get from each cone. Sit down with that cone on the machine and don’t start another cone until that one’s finished with those sleeper parts.
  • And if there’s some on the cone left over, remember my own method of knitting some quick-fix items before switching. You’d be surprised how efficient you can become when you want to get on to another color of yarn -- you get sick of that color after awhile when it sits there facing you each time you sit down to knit.
  • You’re in this for a profit, and we all have to do things we really don’t like if we really want to realize a good, solid income goal.
~ Marge ~

Friday, June 20, 2008

Budgeting Time Just For YOU!

Time is precious. It can also mean money for your crafting business. But without some time for your personal life, what good is it? 'Pay' yourself some time as well to explore your inner self, embark on a new hobby or sport, or perhaps resurrect one that’s been lying dormant in your closet for months or even years. Why? To hedge against burnout. Statistics show that people who are driven to devote every waking hour to their business often experience severe health or psychological problems and thus sabotage their own efforts or business goals in the long run. The sad part is, they often have no idea ‘why’.

By scheduling personal time, you have the opportunity to relax, set aside any business worries and discover new talents within yourself. Fitness levels or previous skills needn’t be a factor in deciding what you want to do with this time you now have available. Check with your local community college or adult education office. They have numerous non-credit courses available for reasonable fees that will help you flush the worries and stress of the business world out of your system … even if only for a few precious hours.

It only hurts for a little while to carve a few hours out of your busy schedule. C’mon, give it a try.

~ Marge ~

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blog Block

Have you ever 'run' to your computer to blog with a super idea for a post, had something distract you, then come back and can't, for the life of you, remember WHAT you were going to write about???

That's my quandary right now. Whatever BRILLIANT post I was going to make has completely flown out of my brain.

Sigh ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Know It's Only June, but ...

... I'm already gearing up for Christmas. I'm involved in a Christmas In July private show here locally as well as participating in the Etsy Christmas In July promotion that several sellers are putting together.

This little Rudy Lapel Pin is a huge seller here locally. I've already got orders for dozens and am JUST about done with the knitting. The machine knit pattern for this little cutie and several other Christmas items is available in my Etsy Shop.




And of course, little mini-stockings for ornaments or to put a luscious DOVE chocolate or Hershey's Kiss inside as a package topper. I've also rolled up money and tucked it inside for the grandkids. They love those! Always a pleaser.






The little sleeping bags are so quick to knit up on your knitting machine and kids just love them! Those shown are with a few of my grand-kids stuffed characters/animals they collect. If you have kids who collect these types of cute little characters and animals, consider making little sleeping bags or pouches for each them!

I also do up a bunch of Barbie Doll and American Doll sized sleeping bags in velvety soft Rayon Chenilles. The little girls who come to the shows really love them and often a parent will 'signal' me to put it aside and then pop back to my table without the little girl and buy it for a gift.


I've already purchased all my yarns, have cleaned and thoroughly oiled the main knitting machines I will be using and am ready to knit! If I can get my schedule to settle down, that is ... easier said than done at times.

~ Marge ~

Gas Prices & Crafting


Has the rise in gas prices affected your crafting?

I've had to curtail browsing & shopping for craft supplies not only within, but outside the Reno/Sparks area. No longer can I just get in the car and visit several stores on a whim. Any driving I do has to be planned to include craft stores while I go about my personal business. And since the craft supply stores aren't that close to my Doctor's office, or places like that, it does put me into a quandary.

Why not do all my shopping online? Well, I DO a lot more online now, but it's the personal interaction with shops that I miss. I had to be down in the south end of town not long ago and 2 of the employees at Michaels hailed me by name and asked how I was doing and why hadn't they seen me in 'forever'. The store wasn't half as busy as it usually was on a Saturday. Sad.

Sometimes I only need a few items, and I need them right away (special orders, building craft fair stock). Not everything I do in my crafting allows me to stock up with case lots of items, just from a 'Where do I put it?' standpoint.

I've also had to curtail a lot of yard saling and thrift store adventures. That bites. Maybe I'll put wheels and a little battery motor on my rocking chair!


~ Marge who is pondering what she can do about it ~

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Out Of The Closet

Monsters lurk in the darkest regions of my closets. I know they do. And if I dig in there, I know they’ll get me.

Well, that’s the excuse my kids used while growing up and I thought it was so reasonable that I used it for years to avoid cleaning out closets myself. When I say cleaning the closet, I mean right down to the carpeted floor cleaning. Not just move a bit here, move a bit there … nah, that’s not cleaning; it’s cosmetic re-arranging to make you feel better about the mess (monsters) you know are still residing in there.

I was wanting to become more adventurous in my life, and in order to do that, some of my home-front life needed some drastic changes. Number one on my list was the dreaded bedroom closet. I knew I had items nestled away in there that I would need on some adventures, but they kept burrowing deeper each time I did a cursory search. So it was time to stop procrastinating and get down to it! Tools needed …

Pith helmet, whip, chair, canteen …. oops, sorry, wrong list! Lemme see … where is that list?? Ah, here we go:

#1 Priority – GET HELP! When I clean closets, the first thing I do is coerce … er umm, bribe … find some help. STRONG help. I know that I probably put those now-two-ton boxes in there by myself when we moved here, but I sure can’t seem to lift them now! So I snag a hubby or son or son-in-law to give me help. Promises of a pan of brownies or homemade bread usually is sufficient around my house. And they have to keep their mouths shut, offering no opinions or suggestions in order to get those brownies. That is a major rule.

#2 Pull EVERYTHING out of the closet, hanging clothes and all. I don’t know about you, but when we moved into this house, I was exhausted most of the time to the point of really not caring where everything went. My only criteria was stick it away somewhere so long as it wasn’t left out for someone to trip over.

#3 Get a couple of large boxes or lawn/leaf trash bags. You’ll be filling these with items you really don’t want anymore but are in good enough shape to donate and the other will be out-and-out garbage fodder.

#4 Take a good look at the mounds of items now on your bed and covering probably every spare inch of floor space. All that came out of there ???

#5 Sort items by person. If that person doesn’t live/sleep/reside in that room, tell them to come get it, or better yet, deliver it to their room / house. Preferably if they’re not home … makes for less hassle. My favorite thing is to wrap a piece of Christmas ribbon around the stack/pile/box and tell them Merry Christmas.

#6 Now draw a quick sketch of your closet space. If there’s a deep dark corner way in the back that you don’t get to very often, how about putting seasonal items back there? Or perhaps old sentimental items such as high school yearbooks, bowling trophies, boxes of baby clothes (my youngest ‘baby’ is now 33). If you have a partner you share closet space with, eyeball how much each would need and draw a line down through your sketch. Ours is 70/30, mine being the 70%, naturally.

#7 Thoroughly clean every surface in the closet.

#8 Begin re-packing the closet with the items you have determined can go back into those dark corners. And for heavens sake, MARK the boxes you stick back there so a quick scan with the flashlight will tell you what is in the boxes a year from now.

We’re getting down to the end now … you’ve thrown away, donated, returned to owner all the extraneous stuff you had gathered in there. If you’ve done it diligently and ruthlessly enough, your pile should be drastically reduced by now and everything will fit into place like it should.

#9 Take a bubble bath with candlelight and a cup of herbal tea or perhaps even a glass of wine.

You're done.