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One very troublesome thing I have encountered during the “decor phase” (the fun decorating part that begins after you’ve painted all the walls) is matching the color. Too often, the lighting in your house versus the lighting in a store is so different that you wind up thinking it’s the same color, purchase the beautiful accent piece, and then return home to find that it’s too yellow/pink/blue/etc.

As a perfectionist (detail-oriented/OCD/whatever you want to call it!), I have devised a way to keep organized out of the home while not hauling a massive binder around or taking up too much room in my purse (thank God humongo purses are all the rage, right?). Behold, my (now not-so-)secret weapon:

In my purse, I have a small accordion folder that holds all of my necessary items for shopping trips. Places like Walmart and your grocery store sell these as “coupon folders” but you can still find them in office supply stores too. They are just the right size for holding paint chips, countertop samples, and of course, coupons (the bulky Bed Bath and Beyond ones can be folded to fit).

Each pocket is labeled for a room in my house, and the endless possible paint choices are dumped in as they catch my eye while browsing my local hardware store. For rooms that are already painted, I keep only the paint chip that is on my walls and will sometimes throw in fabric swatches or samples of metal finishes (such as a silver/pewter chip that reminds me of my nickel finish in my bathroom). In the rear pocket, I keep miscellaneous items, such as receipts, room measurements, etc.

The purpose of this (besides quelling my obvious perfectionist tendencies) is to have the exact items on hand when I need it. If the store’s lighting is different than what I have at home, it’s less of an issue if I’ve got the paint sample right there to compare. I can make sure that the fabric that’s already in the room will match the throw pillow I’m looking at. I can also make sure that if I decide to stop on my way home at a furniture store, the item will fit where it needs to go thanks to the measurements I’ve already taken.

Some of these things (such as the measurements) one can easily store on their phone to be even less of a space-hog, which is likely what I’ll be doing shortly. Regardless, I can honestly say that having these items on hand makes the decision process much easier for me when I’m looking at a gorgeous rug “that just miiiight” go in my living room – because as fun as it is to shop, returns are a huge time suck.

An additional timesaving feature of my folder is paint matching. For my living room, primary bedroom, and craft room projects, I have used Valspar paint colors but matched them to Behr paint (see this post to know why). If I were to need more paint of the same color, I would have to do color matching again. No matter how good matching software is, there is always a chance that the hue will be ever-so-slightly off. To solve this potential problem, I mark the back of the paint chip with the code I find on the label of the paint can (I tried simply peeling the label off with no success). By giving this code to the clerk, I can ensure that they are creating the same mixture as last time.
One more tip:  I’m sure most people already do something like this, but fabric stores (and Walmart) sell measuring tapes that are compact enough to fit conveniently in your purse without adding the weight of the ones you’ll find in a hardware store. They are a lifesaver when picking out furniture, or even when making sure that the baskets you like will fit on the shelves back home.

And now, I turn it over to you:  what do you do to make sure that you don’t have to return everything you just bought? What tools do you carry around with you at all times? Spill. :)

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  1. I am not nearly this organized! I wish I had some good tips, but I think I'm just going to have to steal your ideas. :) Especially the mini tape measure – that one would really come in handy!

  2. I’m the evil queen of returns, so clearly I’m not good at this, but one thing I do that never fails is that I carry measurements with me. Room measurements, appliance space measurements, whatever I’m in the market for measurements. Your comment about baskets reminded me of it – gotta know the size of your openings to compare to the size of those last 4 woven baskets on clearance at Target. When I was shopping for a sofa and a small dining room table, I knew the exact measurements that would fit in my space. When I was looking to replace 2 worn out pillows that are the perfect size, I carried the measurements with me as I shopped for new ones (“adorable, but 2″ too short – Nope.”).

    I measure both the space that is available and the existing item, if there is one, so I know whether a new one is bigger or smaller than my existing sofa, table, etc. A little page with these would fit easily in your expanding paint chip holder too!