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  • From the violin workshop to the Homeland set

    Have you been watching Homeland? Whether you just drop in from time to time, or you’re a devoted fan, you may well have spotted a Tidy Books bookcase in Carrie’s New York apartment.

    Set designers for TV series like Homeland leave no detail to chance. So I was just a little bit gobsmacked to see one of my bookcases in Carrie Mathison’s daughter’s bedroom. How did the kid’s bookcase that I made in my violin workshop make its way to the set of an iconic show? I tracked down the team on the Homeland set to find out.

    In a surreal, but uplifting phone conversation with the Homeland production assistant, she told me how rigorously they pin down every detail on the film set.  She gave me a fascinating insight into the process of choosing each item for the show, including the bookcase, telling me; “You would not believe how many people it goes through before it gets agreed.”

    Franny’s bedroom, where much of the action takes place, has been painstakingly put together. The set production team begin with a brainstorm, and then the shopper researches and gathers potential items; think furniture, curtains, toys. The shopper takes hundreds of photographs to test how they will work on screen. Next, each product is scrutinised by the concept designer and the set designer until they have created exactly the right look to frame the story, right down to a vase on the windowsill or a picture on the wall. 

    I couldn’t help but be impressed; Carrie’s apartment in New York is seriously smart and Franny’s room, where Quinn and Saul talk to Franny and Carrie is a child’s dream; cute, stylish and cosy. And the bookcase fits perfectly!

    The conversation I had with the Homeland production assistant was a magical moment; the bookcase that I’d created for my daughter in my violin workshop in East London, because I couldn’t find a good kid’s bookcase, has travelled to the set of an iconic TV series which has fans all over the world. The production assistant was delighted that we’d got in touch - I think the magic resonated her too.

    It takes me back to how Tidy Books started, when I was watching my daughter Adele, then aged 3, getting frustrated with trying to find the book she wanted on a traditional book shelf. In that moment, I knew what sort of bookcase she needed. And when I couldn’t find what I needed in the shops, I set about making my own design in my violin workshop once Adele had been tucked in for the night.

    As the drama unfolds, key scenes take place in Franny’s room, with Quinn and Saul sitting on the bed to talk to Franny, and Carrie; there are plenty of opportunities to spot the Tidy Books bookcase! My favourite scene so far is where Quinn and Carrie are gathering items for Franny in her foster home, and Carrie picks out a book from the bookcase. I’ve got a little glimmer of hope that Franny’s love of books will be a comfort while she’s away from home.

    When I set up Tidy Books with a £500 investment; I couldn’t have envisaged that one real-life mother-daughter would be connected with a fictional mother-daughter in Homeland by my bookcase!

    So, next Sunday evening, if you tune into Homeland, it’s highly likely you’ll spot Franny’s Tidy Books bookcase. It’s been part of the action in most episodes so far, and as Carrie fights to bring her daughter home, it’s sure to feature again.

    You can see how the plot will unfold in this trailer. Will you be watching on Sunday?

    To celebrate its icon status, we're giving you 15% OFF the Tidy Books Bookcase in natural with letters. 

    Use code HOMELAND15 at the checkout 

  • Helping My Son Get Organized

    My son is eight years old, and he’s a really good, responsible kid. He does his homework without being asked, practices his instrument on a (somewhat!) regular basis, and even brushes his teeth for two full minutes every night without complaining. Yes, he’s pretty responsible…

    ...except for one thing. He’s just not a morning person and getting him organized and out the door for school in the morning is a constant challenge.

    In our family, we have a general rule that if the kids make a mistake, we will help them correct it the first time, but if they make the same mistake twice they have to deal with the consequences. This means the first time my son staggered out of the house without his math book, I cheerfully dropped it off at the school’s front office.

    The second time, he forgot it (only three days later!) I didn’t come to the rescue. I left the book on this desk at home and let him take the “incomplete” from his teacher. He was mortified to have forgotten the book, and I was confident he’d learned from his error.

    Unfortunately, I was wrong.

    The third time he forgot the math book (just a week after the second time!) I decided this wasn’t a problem he could completely solve on his own. Leaving him to his own devices wasn’t working! We needed to give him tools to help him get organized in the morning and set him up for success.

    So my husband and I sat down with him to discuss the issue, and together the three of us formulated a plan. My son pointed out that even though mornings in our house are a little crazy, our evenings are usually pretty relaxed after dinner time - the kids have plenty of time for reading or even a little TV watching.

    My son suggested that he take ten minutes in the evening to get his things together and put them in one place for the next morning. This would include homework in his backpack, lunch bag packed and ready, and the next day’s outfit, right down to his shoes and socks. My husband and I nodded enthusiastically at this plan and agreed to give him a reminder every night to prep.


    We also agreed to purchase an “organization station” for him, in the form of this awesome Memo Board. Candidly this was a pretty self-serving purchase, as it also has room for my two daughters’ supplies, plus space on top for car keys, papers that need to be returned to school, outgoing mail, etc.

    The Memo Board turned out to be just what he needed. After the first week of its use, his nightly organization routine became easy and second-nature. Now he fills his backpack with supplies and completed homework and hangs it on a hook. Clothes for the next morning are laid out in his bedroom, and shoes and socks carefully placed on the floor under the Memo Board, right beneath his backpack. And it really only takes him ten minutes!


    Mornings are still a bit of a scramble, but they’ve lost that frantic, chaotic feeling. Yes, we’re in a hurry, but we know our kids have their things ready to go. It’s eliminated a source of worry for all of us, and enables us to hit the ground running!
    How do you get your family organized and out the door in the morning? Have you tried the Memo Board? I’d love to hear any additional tips!

  • “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”

    Have you ever heard this phrase about giving holiday gifts to your children? I first heard it two years ago, and it’s been a total game changer for me.

    I used to be a pretty frantic holiday shopper - researching every deal, every sale, stretching my budget as much as possible so that my three kids could have more presents under the tree on Christmas morning (and more elaborate gifts for Hanukkah too - we are a mixed family and we celebrate both!).

    But a few years back, I realized this more, more, more mentality was wearing me down. I really didn’t like the message it sent to my children either. Too many of those presents they “had” to have from their wish lists ended up being quickly discarded, played with once or twice and never again. This mentality led to too little joy and closets filled with junk.

    The phrase changed all that. Now I buy them many fewer holiday presents, and I put a whole lot more thought into what those four items will be. The results have been spectacular - we end up with less clutter in our homes, and the gifts that they do receive are higher quality and get a ton of use.

    Here’s a little glimpse into how my holiday shopping is shaping up this year!

    WANT: This is usually the easiest category on the list - I pick one toy they’re dying to have. For my son it’s going to be a videogame this year, and for my middle daughter it’s an elaborate kitchen set for her dolls. The baby is still little enough not to “want” anything so I’ll find her an interesting (physically small!) toy and call it a day.

    NEED: Last year this category felt challenging, but this year it’s a no-brainer for all three kids. My son has been asking for cool new sports-themed bedding, and he really could use it. Done and done. My daughter has been asking for a desk in her bedroom so she can “work on art by myself”. This is a bit of a big ticket item, but I’ve been saving for it, and we’re going to make it happen. And the baby needs storage for all of her million books! I will be buying her this book box from Tidy Books, which is beautiful, functional, and will withstand rough handling by my 15-month-old. (Plus, Tidy Books was founded by a mom, and during the holidays I always try to support female-founded businesses and mompreneurs whenever I can.)


    WEAR: I sometimes think all three of my kids grow about an inch a week. As a result, they all need new jackets; last year’s are laughably short. The best part about this category is that I should be able to knock it out via ten minutes of online shopping.

    READ: This is, without question, my absolute favorite category. My two older children are both old enough to read for pleasure now, and introducing them to my childhood favorites like Ballet Shoes and Harry Potter has been one of my favorite parts of parenting, hands down. And the baby will sit in my lap for long periods of time while we explore board books and lift-the-flap books together. We have a LOT of books in our home, but I am always happy to add a few more to my children’s bookcases. Picking the books that will go under our tree this year is something I happily anticipate.

    The “read” category is another reason I’m so excited to give the baby her Tidy Books storage box. We are a family that values reading tremendously, and the book box is designed to encourage love of books. It’s designed to show the front of the books rather than their spines, and it’s just the right size for a toddler to use by herself. Plus it meets my test of high-quality; it will be in my home for years, used on a daily basis, and won’t end up stuffed into the junk closet.

    I am counting the days until my kids receive the items they want, need, will wear, and will read. I am looking forward to a holiday filled with joy rather than stress, and I wish the same to you and yours. If you need a high quality gift for your children, I encourage you to check out Tidy Books’ beautiful line of book storage solutions!


    Erin Matzkin is Tidy Books' US resident writer.  She writes regularly for Babble and Scary Mommy about kids, work and wine!  She is also co-founder of an app for parents and babysitters.  

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