Power of Pinterest: Popular website organizes, energies women's lives
How Pinterest works
Pinterest is a social network centered around images users find on the Internet to create a virtual pin board. Think of several bulletin boards, each with a different topic of interest and pinned with pictures. After creating an account, users create "boards" by topic to "pin" photos that link back to content they find on the Internet.
Users can "repin" pins from other users onto their own boards and follow other boards.
Pinterest organizes content by category, so users can click and browse or search for what they want. For example, to avoid giving your child's teacher an apple-related gift, search "gifts for teachers" to find an assortment of crafty ideas.
Pinterest is popular for planning weddings or parties, redecorating your home, creating a stylish wardrobe or making an online recipe book.
JANESVILLE Like thousands young women, Casey Dobson of Janesville went "berserk" when she discovered the addictive Pinterest.com website.
"What do I use it for? Holy crap," she said and then rattled off a long list.
The site has impacted everything from her job to her grocery shopping. It has inspired a more organized, simpler lifestyle. Her house is filled with items or projects that came from Pinterest.
"Usually, I'm only into organization Jan. 1," she said. "By Feb. 1, I'm completely done with it."
She talks with friends about what they've seen on Pinterest.
"People are getting so excited at how organized they can be," said Dobson, mother of a 2-year-old boy, with another baby expected this month.
Pinterest bills itself as a "virtual pin board" that allows people to organize and share items they find on the Internet by pinning images to their boards. It has boosted the crafting and do-it-yourself movement.
The site rose to 10 million unique U.S. visitors a month faster than any other independent site in history, according to an article on TechCrunch.com in February, when Pinterest hit 11.7 million. The site's growth has been propelled by 18- to 34-year-old, upper-income women from the American heartland, according to the article.
Users are overwhelmingly women, who use the site to plan weddings or parties; collect recipes, fashion and parenting tips; decorate their homes; and share craft and repurposing ideas.
Stephanie Elmer of Beloit started using Pinterest early this year because her friends on Facebook were raving about it. She can spend an hour a day looking for recipes and craft ideas and has found many do-it-yourself ideas for her home and office—many of them money-saving ideas, she said.
"I have this great desire to have a Better Homes & Gardens living space on a shoestring budget. DIY is a great way, and Pinterest offers lots of good ideas for repurposing things we already have or that I can pick up at local thrift stores fairly inexpensively," said Elmer, 26.
She's made Roman shades for her daughter's bedroom, crafted Halloween costumes, repurposed a bookshelf into a mudroom-type catchall, created knitting patterns, tested several recipes and found housecleaning methods and ideas, including homemade laundry detergent and cleansers.
At Carousel Consignments in downtown Janesville, owner Joni Bozart has seen more younger customers in recent years looking for specific items for projects. Often, they're working on projects from Pinterest.
"People would look at getting something just for its purpose, but now it can turn into anything," she said.
She's disappointed that she often doesn't see the end result, but she loves the cleverness. It's great for a store like hers because "people seem to come up with ideas for things that there's a lot of laying around," she said laughing.
"People will come in and make good use of it, which is really a gift to this business," she said.
Jewelry, old books, literature, postcards and sheet music are huge for repurposing, she said.
"Repurposing has become a word that is really common in here, and I never use to hear that," she said.
She often sees customers chatting about projects they're doing.
"They start to idea share right here and right now," she said.
The Great Recession helped spark a recent surge in craftiness, said Kerri Shank, owner of The Dragonfly Yarn Shop in Janesville.
"People are staying home, and they want to do things at home, so they turn to crafts," she said.
Her customers are of all ages—from college students to people in their 80s and 90s. They sometimes say they are working on projects from Pinterest, or from Ravelry.com, a site for knitters and crocheters.
Holiday planning is big on Pinterest, where Elmer has created a Christmas board for festive recipes she wants to try, decorating ideas and do-it-yourself gifts.
Dobson hosts Christmas every year, and last year "it was a solely Pinterest Christmas." Everything in the meal came from the site.
She was a new homeowner, and since joining Pinterest in summer 2011, she's repainted every room in her house some sort of color she found on the site.
She jokes how her husband won't let her start another project until she finishes "one of those Pinterest projects."
Dobson has thrown away nearly all of her store-bought cleaning products and sticks to the natural cleaning tips she's found on Pinterest using vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. She goes through a gallon of vinegar a month—"you get used to the smell."
She makes her own bread, and each Sunday goes through her food board on Pinterest to make a menu for the week—something she never did before.
"Now, I have all of these fun things I want to try," she said.