How are you liking Pinterest? If you haven’t tried it, and if you are considering any house projects at all, you will not believe how helpful Pinterest can be.

If you are interested in someday undertaking a project around the home – new flooring, an addition, painting a room, buying a lamp – but you have no idea where to start, Pinterest can help. Pinterest is basically a big filing cabinet. Only you don’t need a file anymore. You don’t need a binder, idea book, or filing cabinet. You don’t need to buy design magazines, flip through them, pull out pages and then – here’s the tough part – actually file them under some understandable system that you then need to remember you have and use.

Perhaps you’re an aberration, and you have an awesome filing system. Perhaps you are also a supermodel brain surgeon with perfect children and enough free time to do everything on your list. I hope to god I never meet you, because – like most people – I have great intentions but not as much success with actual organizing and filing. Do you have stacks of unread mags all over your house? Do you have another stack that is half-read because you stopped to rip something out or look something up, but you got distracted and now it’s just a half-read magazine? You are not alone. And Pinterest can help.

Let’s address another problem. Do you look through mags or catalogs and say Oh, nice couch. Then two years later you think to yourself, Who made that couch that I saw that one time in some catalog? Do you start to research new bathroom fixtures and get so overwhelmed by specs and choices and colors that you give up, or even worse – buy something you do not love to get the damn bathroom done? Another question, do you walk through the Container Store and get oh-so-excited by all the magazine storage containers, buy them, then not use them? Or – how about this – do you hide the magazines away in the pretty new storage and then never look at them again?

Well, Pinterest addresses all of these, ahem, habits. First, if you’re like many people, you’re doing more and more on the computer every day. Chances are, the pretty stuff you see, whether it’s a couch or a toilet, is online. If you are surfing Amazon and you see a Japanese tea kettle you would love to have, there will be a red Pin It button by the picture. Once you have set up an account on Pinterest, you hit that Pin It button next to the tea kettle and deposit the photo and pertinent info on a board you have created. (You also install a Pin It button on your own computer – a 5-second process for those sites without a built-in Pin It button. In addition, you can upload your own pictures.)

Pinterest is an electronic bulletin board all for you. You set up as many boards as you like: for bathrooms, kitchens, lighting, counter tops, wood floors, cabinet pulls. Nothing is too detailed or too focused, nor is anything too general. Now let’s say you see a pic of a bathroom you adore, but not because it’s a bathroom. You like the colors and the tiles used, so you pin it to your Color board and your Tile board. You can pin one pic to multiple boards, plus add commentary in order to remind yourself what you liked about the photo in the first place. Also, you can re-pin from the boards of others. For example, enter a search term, like Salvage and see what comes up. Maybe you will find yourself admiring the re-purposed light fixtures pinned by someone in Wyoming, or from Brazil.


After a while, when it’s time to paint a room, you go to your Color board and check out your pins. You weed out stuff that no longer appeals and make your decision. Maybe you have a Lamp board, and when you need a lamp you go to it. Then shop online, or locate stores that carry the brand, style, designer you admire. (FYI – I got the ideas for my kitchen (see pics) from mags, and pulled pages obsessively for sinks and hardware. Now, with Pinterest, I would collect all those images online.)


I still get some mags, and when I sit down with them I have my laptop close by. I pin what I want to remember and pass the magazine to friends. I try to never keep mags – they all need to get passed on. If you get your mags online, the pinning is even easier. The computer is storage – and it’s so much easier than a paper file system. Are you saving old magazines? You don’t need to – save what you want from them in the appropriate Pinterest board. (This applies to recipes, books to read, movies to watch, museums to visit – make a board for each file.) And with Pinterest, all that info is at your fingertips anytime, anywhere – at your mom’s when you’re looking for a recipe, at the store when you see a new item you like (take a pic and Pin It from your phone), or when you’re up at 2am searching for the right area rug. And one more thing – pinning is addictive. So be careful. Use the power wisely.

Portlander Nancy Ranchel is a self-described accountant, design fan, serial re-modeler, compulsive re-user and blog writer.