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Gearing Up for the Holidays!

With Thanksgiving so late this year, it seems like the time between now and Christmas is going to absolutely fly by.  I’ve been really trying to get as much done ahead of time as possible and to save money wherever I can.  Right now, I feel pretty on track to celebrate the spirit of giving and to enjoy this festive time of year.

Here are a few of the things I did to keep my head from exploding and feeling in a huge rush–and to remain in the happy spirit of the holidays.

1)  Plan!  For the last few years, I have had portrait studio pictures done of my daughter this time of year to send out in our holiday cards.  This year, I was on top of it and did them in early November.  We had already purchased cards at one of the end of Christmas sales last year, and I had the printed pictures in hand.  Instead of waiting until December, I thought, what the heck!  I have time, so I addressed all of the envelopes, signed all the cards, and dropped a small photo in the majority of the envelopes.  I hit one small setback when the glue on the envelope wouldn’t seal.  To combat this, I grabbed some holiday washi tape and picked up some festive round foil seals.  My daughter was excited to help me seal the envelopes, because she was bummed she couldn’t help me with all the writing.  I just picked up my holiday stamps this week, and the envelopes are now ready to drop in the mail next.

Our pretty envelope sealing supplies!

Our pretty envelope sealing supplies!

I also make an photo book online of our favorite pictures of the kiddo from the past year and print out one for us and one for the grandparents.  I’ve used a variety of companies to do this, and I have been satisfied with the results from all of them.  I also got a jump start on these this year and took advantage of a percentage off coupon to get a discount.  The books will be here in plenty of time for Christmas.  I feel pretty on top of things so far, but I’m sure that I will get knocked back to reality at some point when I realized I forgot something obvious.

2)  Give!  We are so close to starting our 25 Days of Giving, and we have so many things we’ve collected to give.  I can’t wait to start!  The hard part is going to be only doing one per day.  We have also been planning out gifts for family–and most of that shopping is done!  Huzzah!  I started the process a little over a month ago and just kept my eyes out for deals on things I know they would love.  Did a little Black Friday shopping online and only hit one store in person after the crazy crush of shoppers.  Now we are all set with gifts for our kiddo friends (I buy books from Scholastic every year to give to my daughter’s outside of school friends–we make this an event with secret deliveries in their mailboxes), I have teacher gifts purchased, and co-worker gifts purchased (I am so excited for both of these.  They are going to be way cute.)  I don’t know about you, but I always find the act of giving so much more fun than trying to figure out a list of stuff I want.

Our teacher and co-worker gift supplies.  I saw on Pinterest little signs that said "We Wash you a Merry Christmas!"  A little dorky, but super fun.

Our teacher and co-worker gift supplies. I saw on Pinterest little signs that said “We Wash you a Merry Christmas!” A little dorky, but super fun.

4)  Enjoy!  Sometimes I have to really sit back and remember to enjoy my life.  Everything gets so hectic and busy with work and outside commitments, that sometimes I forget to slow down and enjoy the moment.  This will be the only Christmas my daughter will be five.  That thought is precious to me, and I want to make sure I experience the joy it brings.  So, we put up our Christmas decorations the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Turkey day was a week later than normal, and we wanted to be able to enjoy the holiday cheer that we spread throughout every room in our house for the full month we normally do.  In addition to the 25 Days of Giving, I have some really fun outings and craft projects to do as a family, with grandma, or just the two of us.  We will go see a gingerbread house exhibit, look at decorated store windows, visit reindeer at a local tree nursery, bake cookies for a cookie exchange, go in search of beautiful Christmas lights, and probably a little more.  I am so excited to share them with my girl.  But, I am also going to try to be very conscious of her little voice telling me that she just wants to stay home and play.  We don’t have to haul ourselves all over town for every single holiday event–that would be exhausting, but I know a few outings will make both of us smile.

The biggest of our holiday decorations.  We really do have a little bit of Christmas in every room of our house.  Not a ton, but enough to make each room feel festive.

The biggest of our holiday decorations. We really do have a little bit of Christmas in every room of our house. Not a ton, but enough to make each room feel festive.

Is there anything special you do to make sure the holidays run smoothly and that you are able to take full advantage of enjoying them?  I’d love to hear about them!

 

http://tatertotsandjello.com/2013/12/link-party-palooza-awesome-giveaways.html#more-57698

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Getting Command of Our Closets–Three problem spots get some love.

Streamlining and tackling nagging projects seems to be my theme for the past several weeks.  I’ve looked at how I track my home and work tasks—and am still loving the two apps I have been using.  The problem drawers in my life were addressed and made more thoughtful and pretty.  And, this week I attacked a few of our closets.

Again, sadly I do not have before and after pictures, because I got a bee in my bonnet and just went for it.  I am pretty sure the 10:30 PM start time for one and 5:30 AM start time for the other is what did me in on my intentions to capture what they looked like before.  My brain only had enough power to focus on the task at hand.  Apparently writing things down is what makes sense to me—which is why my mental reminders to grab more paper towels from our basement storage area (though I’ve been down there about 50 times) and to take the Halloween window clings off our sliding glass door in our kitchen (out of sight behind the blinds, definitely means out of mind)—have gone unheeded.

But, back to the task at hand.  Closets!  Again, I spent quite a bit of time last January (and the one before that) doing a speed run through of organization in the whole house.  I put a few systems in place that seem to work ok, but for whatever reason, aren’t perfect.  So, with some heavy soul searching, I re-evaluated the purpose of each closet and decided what would make more sense in the grand scheme of things.  So far, I’m happy with the changes.

This closet is home to many things, but I think we may actually be using it to it's potential now.  The plastic tubs of winter gear can stack back in a corner out of season.

This closet is home to many things, but I think we may actually be using it to it’s potential now. The plastic tubs of winter gear can stack back in a corner out of season.

Closet #1—Our coat closet, landing zone.  We have a small coat closet near the door into the house from the garage.  It is home to coats, baseball hats, gloves, scarves, backpacks, and my box of shredding—and until recently our vacuum cleaner.  I made a very small change to this closet, but it made a huge difference.  I moved the vacuum cleaner to our storage closet in the basement.  This may not seem like a big deal, but not having the vacuum handle in the way of the coats and the base taking up space on the floor has been wonderful.  I moved the two round tubs that hold our winter gear from being stacked in a back corner to the front of the closet side by side for easier access in these cold months.  We also made a purge of the coats we had stuffing this closet and have them packed away in a bag in the garage waiting for our 25 Days of Giving (and the local coat drive) to begin.  We have more room in the closet now, and we can actually get to all of the things we need.

The last two closets were tackled just in the last two days!

My new clothes closet.  Everything fits and It actually is better this way!  The other side of the closet holds my craft dresser and on the wire racks above are some of my other craft/girl scout items.

My new clothes closet. Everything fits and It actually is better this way! The other side of the closet holds my craft dresser and on the wire racks above are some of my other craft/girl scout items.

Closet(s)#2—Our bedroom clothes closets (this was my 10:30 PM project on Friday night).  Our house does not feature large walk-in closets.  We have the traditional sliding door, two sided closets you see in many homes.  Even with a dresser and some under bed storage, we seemed to be always running out of room in our closets.  In our main bedroom, one side of the closet held my work clothes and the other side my husband’s.  In our spare room, half of the closet was home to t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts (which take up a TON of room!).  Our dresser is filled with underwear, socks, and pjs/everyday clothes, so no extra room there, and the wire racks above the closet already held some other items as well.    We have functioned fine like this for as long as we’ve owned our house, but the other day I had an epiphany as I watched my husband get ready for work.  He had to go to both sets of closets–meaning two different rooms–to get everything he needed for the day.  Kind of ridiculous.

So, I proposed a change.  What if I moved the rest of his clothes (sweatshirts, exercise clothes, hanging t-shirt holder) to the main bedroom closet.  Then he would have both sides in there and could have everything at his fingertips.  My dress clothes would go live in the spare room closet.    It may sound crazy that my husband needs more room for clothes than me, but it’s really quite deceptive.  #1—my t-shirts and things like that reside in black storage boxes above the closet hang bar.  #2  I use the thin flocked hangers, while he uses bulkier wooden hangers.  #3  Hooded sweatshirts!  Seriously, if anyone knows a great way to store these so they don’t take up so much space, let me know!

In about half an hour, I had the spaces rearranged.  (It really helps that we purge somewhat frequently and are pretty good about organizing our clothes by type).  It’s amazing how that simple change gave both of us more room.  As an added bonus, when I am up before him in the mornings, I won’t accidentally wake him as I pull out my clothes for the day.  It is crazy how much difference this little swap has made so far.

IMG_5613Closet #3—Our storage closet in the basement (this was my 5:30 AM project Saturday morning).  The morning after I made our clothes closet switch, I woke up antsy.  We planned to put our Christmas decorations up that day (which is yes, prior to Thanksgiving, but to be fair turkey day is a little later this year—and we have a somewhat big project planned for the weekend after.)  These decorations are kept in our basement storage closet.  This closet is the bane of my existence.  In truth it is not that unorganized, but it easily becomes a dumping ground for stuff that belongs there but I don’t want to take the time to deal with or things I’m not sure what to do with quite yet.  As a result, I get things piled on the floor, shoved on random shelves, and things that basically just become a huge mess.  For some people, the before picture I would have taken wouldn’t seem that bad, but I HATE having things on the floor in there because the walkway is so narrow to begin with.  Also, the amount of random shelf stuffing leads to things being lost and then being found six months later during my bi-annual reorganization—like the math flashcards and small humidifier I searched for earlier this fall.  Or the finding of things you didn’t even know you lost, like a box of file folders full of important paperwork like appliance warranties and furniture purchase receipts.  GRRR.

A closeup of some of the new labels.

A closeup of some of the new labels.

After 45 minutes of sorting, purging, and putting things back where they should be, I now can easily walk through the closet without tripping over errant junk.  I also have a trunk full of donations ready to head to the Goodwill and Children’s hospital on our next trip by there, and I am pretty sure I know where everything is now.  When we were ready to get our holiday decor out, we had a clear path and I knew exactly where everything was.  Now if only I can keep the thing from getting overrun with clutter again.  To help with this, I added labels, which was one of my long-term goals this year.  I decided to go with a basic label on brightly colored paper for everything except our holiday storage.  For those areas, I used holiday themed borders.  I just found something I liked on Clipart and went from there!  Rather than label each and every box, I decided to label each shelf.  If we end up moving things at some point, I can always make new ones.  I left the holiday labels and a few others blank so we write down what was in that area or shelf.  The Christmas ones will have to wait until we pack everything back up.

Another few quick changes that will make a big difference in how we get ready in the mornings and how we locate items we need.  I am so excited to start out this holiday season with a logical place for things!

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Boxes of Creativity

We seem to have an over abundance of boxes at our house, and from time to time our little girl asks if she can make something out of one of them.  I remember hearing the question before”Why buy the toy when all they want to play with is the box?”  That seems so negative!  Why not let them play with the box and let their imaginations run wild?  I love that the box is a blank canvas for her, and she can turn it into whatever she wants.

Usually when my daughter wants to use a box, it is generally to create some a house for some sort of animal–real, imaginary, or stuffed and cuddly. Though, we did once build a rocket ship she could sit inside with plastic cup thrusters that shot construction paper flames.

Here are some of her most favorite creations and ones that are still in use in our house today. Two are well loved by our furry housemates and the other she hopes will sometime be home to some friendly fairies. Maybe the next time you see an empty box, you will see a playground for your kids imagination instead of just a cardboard shell.  Is there anything your family likes to use creatively?

This is her first creation.  We started covering it in blue duct tape and ran out.  So, we found some fun tie dye patterned tape to finish it off.  This is one of our kitty's favorite spot.

This is her first creation. We started covering it in blue duct tape and ran out. So, we found some fun tie dye patterned tape to finish it off. This is one of our kitty’s favorite spot.

Attempt #2.  This is also a kitty house, and she did all of the work by herself this time.  She decided to give it painter's tape decorative striping and added crayon pictures inside and out.

Attempt #2. This is also a kitty house, and she did all of the work by herself this time. She decided to give it painter’s tape decorative striping and added crayon pictures inside and out.

Fairy house!  She really wanted to make a fairy house after watching the movie  Fairy Tale.  I gave her an old shoe box and some random craft supplies, and this is what she came up with!  She adds to it from time to time and is waiting very impatiently for a fairy to come visit.

Fairy house! She really wanted to make a fairy house after watching the movie Fairy Tale. I gave her an old shoe box and some random craft supplies, and this is what she came up with! She adds to it from time to time and is waiting very impatiently for a fairy to come visit.

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Let’s Discuss Drawers…

Over the past few weeks, it has been incredibly busy around our house.  The fall months usher in tons of activities, work commitments, and time snuggling under blankets eating popcorn and watching movies.  This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for organizing projects.  But, I did make an effort to tackle some of the areas around our home that bug the heck out of me.  Specifically, this week, let’s talk drawers.

I am pretty sure I know exactly why the drawers needed some love and attention.  While it is pretty easy to realize you need to attack clutter when it is on the counter top, table, or top of your desk, the drawers are often out of sight out of mind.  Plus, it is way to easy to just dump something in one without really putting it away, because you won’t see the mess you just made (or the mess that will appear after you do this five to ten more times).  Last January, I made a major push and went through and organized and purged most of the spaces in our home–which included the drawers.

I did this so quickly that I didn’t really stop to think about the purpose of each space.  I just got rid of the junk and stuff that didn’t belong in that room, made it look tidy, and called it a day.  The result 9 months later is drawers that are once again a tangled mess and somewhat frustrating to use.  Without even planning it, about once a week I have tackled a drawer in a different room in our house that has absolutely been driving me nuts.  What I love about these types of projects is that they are quick (usually 20 minutes or less) and the end result is so satisfying.

One of the biggest problems with each of these spaces is I didn’t really think about what each drawer was used for before I planned out what I wanted to be in them.  My first task was to give each drawer a purpose.  Second, once again purge the junk and stuff that didn’t fit with the drawer’s new purpose.  Third, logically organize the contents that were left over (and make it look lovely if possible).  And finally, make the commitment to not dump and run ever again (or at least not very often).

So which drawers did I tackle?

1)  Drawers in our entry way table.  These drawers are in a small table just as you enter from our garage (which is our main point of entry) and the place where my purse, charging station, and hubby’s keys and mail reside.  The drawers were a mess, because they really had no function at all.  They seemed to become a catchall for electronic accessories and related items.  (I thought about where I went to search for things--Tip #2 on my top 7 Organizing tips).  So, the two drawers were given a purpose with that in mind.  One drawer is now home to our batteries and the other to accessories for cell phones and tablets.

Batteries are now easy to find and all in one place!

Batteries are now easy to find and all in one place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)  My sock and underwear drawers.  I was able to purchase some awesome divider boxes from Ikea when I was on vacation (I love Ikea and wish we had one nearer to us) that worked for a while, but again, I didn’t really think about what I had in the drawer before shoving everything in.  Mainly, I tried to fit things in compartments too small for them or had ones that were left with extra room.  This was basically a purge of the never used or old stuff and a rearrangement of what’s inside.  Below is a pic of the sock drawer (not much different from a pic I took in January).  What I realized was that I had tried to give this drawer too many purposes by adding some extra stuff where the white socks now live.  This caused all of the socks to be in a chaotic tumble.  Now this drawer has a specific purpose, I’m definitely happier!  The other drawer is a huge change, but I passed on posting pics of my undies.

After...  Not a huge difference, but has been a big one to me!

After… This is not a big change, but it really has made a difference for me in finding what I need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3)  My night table drawers.  This one was pretty fun and made me realize my night table was a huge dumping ground for stuff I didn’t know what to do with.  About half of the items in here were removed, and I left only the essential items behind.  I really thought about the purpose of my night table drawers–what I really wanted them for was to keep the clutter off of the top by the lamp.  (The only things up there are my lamp, current book I am reading, and my magazine holder).  Having that clean space just makes me feel calm.  So, most of the other items were removed and I am left with books to read, sleep masks, notebook and pens to jot down ideas, jewelry I don’t wear very much if ever but can’t part with, and various hand creams.  The bottoms of the drawers looked a  little yucky and boring, so I borrowed  a page from many other online organizers and made my first attempt at using wrapping paper as drawer liner.  It looks so cheerful and happy!  It doesn’t match anything in our bedroom, but I don’t care.  Who ever goes in those drawers but me?  I lucked out and had this pretty flowered Flavia paper I bought from my daughter’s school fundraiser, and it was even double sided.  I did use the turquoise pattern as well on the inside of a shoe box lid where the jewelry boxes and some other items now live.  YEAH!

The top drawer now houses all my sleepy time aids and my books waiting to be read.

The top drawer now houses all my sleepy time aids and my books waiting to be read.

The bottom drawer holds some other items I like to keep handy but don't need to access all the time.

The bottom drawer holds some other items I like to keep handy but don’t need to access all the time.

 

4)  Narrow drawers.  I have three narrow drawers in my life that get messy because they are so small.  At least that is my guess.  Two live in my bathroom and hold hair and tooth brushing accessories (among other things I found) and one is the “junk” drawer in our kitchen that holds pens, scissors, tape, etc.  I had previously organized each of these, but tip #7 from my top 7 was staring me in the face.  Sometimes you have to realize you may need to make changes because what was working before or what you thought would work really doesn’t anymore.  And, I thought enough ahead of time to do before and after pictures!  Yeah!  For these, I just gave each a specific purpose and removed all the excess.

Bathroom Drawer 1–Hair related items

Before...  Too much random stuff in this drawer made it hard to find anything.

Before… Too much random stuff in this drawer made it hard to find anything.

After...  Now home to only hair related items, and the basket is up front and won't slide to the back anymore.

After… Now home to only hair related items, and the basket is up front and won’t slide to the back anymore.  What you can’t see is the back end of this drawer behind the brushes.  That was home to the “mess” and now holds stretchy headbands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathroom Drawer 2–Teeth cleaning and daily medicine/vitamin storage.

Before...  This drawer was a mess!  I may add  laminated pretty paper to these bathroom drawers to help with the ick that collects.

Before… This drawer was a mess! I may add laminated pretty paper to these bathroom drawers to help with the ick that collects.

After...  Just what needs to be there.

After… Just what needs to be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen “Junk” drawer turned supply drawer!

This is the biggest mess usually.  I really dumped quite a bit out of here and kept what I seemed to seek out here most.

This is the biggest mess usually. I really dumped quite a bit out of here and kept what I seemed to seek out here most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever tackled small projects that gave you big results?  I was amazed at how happy I felt after completing each of these!

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Blog Themes…

Just a quick note to say I am test driving some blog themes this month.  While I am very frugal and reluctant to spend money on a blog theme just yet, I do still want my blog to be inviting and pretty to the eyes.  So, if you happen to stop by more than once and see that the blog theme has changed, that’s why!

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Thanks and Giving…

Last year, we decided our kiddo needed a healthy dose of thanks and thoughtfulness.  It is easy for kids to get wrapped up in the “I want” mentality of having new toys, games, etc. this time of year.  The toy ads for Target and Toys R Us have already landed in our mailbox and thankfully we can avoid commercials most of the time as we do not subscribe to cable TV.  It can be difficult for kids to really understand and appreciate what they do have and realize that giving back to others can be just as rewarding.

So, last year my daughter and I created our very own 25 days of giving.  I made a list of ways we could give back to others, and we did one every day of December leading up to and including Christmas.  I tried my best to make it cute and wrote out the activities in the form of a pine tree instead of a list and included a fun holiday border around the outside.  I then placed the list in a class fronted frame, and we were able to check off our activities every day.  Some of our items were scheduled for certain days/times and some were done randomly.  It was really rewarding for both of us, I think.  My daughter got really into some of the ideas, and some of them changed a bit throughout the month.  For example, our trip to the local Humane Society to drop off food and old towels led to us adopting a kitten the next day.  We gave an animal in need a new home!  I think that was her favorite act of giving over all.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving.  He's not really kitten sized anymore.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving. He’s not really kitten sized anymore.

This year, I wanted to go one step further.  Our kiddo is really thoughtful when it comes to other people, but she sometimes forgets to be thankful for what she already has or for the people/experiences in her life.  To help with this, I also decided we needed to do days of thanks.  The past couple of years, I have seen people post what they are thankful for on social media like Facebook each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  While that doesn’t really work so great for a young one, I love the concept.  We just needed to change the way it was shared.  My kiddo loves crafts and colorful crafts especially, so I thought we could make something festive together that would easily include our messages of thanks.

Starting November 1st, we began our 28 days of thanks.  Every day, she tells me one thing she is thankful for–and every day has to be different.  To display her items, I thought it would be fun to use a turkey and write the thankful items on its feathers.  To do so, I used a turkey cut out from brown construction paper and cut out four feathers each from seven different colors of paper.  I wrote, “I am thankful” on the turkey’s belly and each feather will say “for…”  She gets to pick the feather color and item of thanks each day, and then after I write it down and we glue it on the turkey.  I have no idea yet if all 28 will fit on our turkey, but I sure hope they do!  In a moment of inspiration I decided it would be more fun if our turkey stood up on a table or counter instead of being attached to a wall or the refrigerator.  I used two toilet paper rolls I had been about to recycle as a stand for the turkey by gluing them to the back.  We have added two feathers already, and I am in love with the items of thanks my daughter has chosen.  I cannot wait to see what she chooses every day and see our turkey proudly displayed for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is our turkey on day two!

Here is our turkey on day two!

Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, we are going to take a few days off in between the 29th and the 1st to prep ourselves for our 25 days of giving.  We adjusted our list to reflect what we are doing this year–for example we have to change preschool giving activities over to kindergarten activities.  Below is a picture of our list as it stands now, though it is a work in progress. I did ask for input on our activities from the kiddo this year.  Since they are things we do together, I want to make sure they are meaningful to her too.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  A link to the .PDF is below.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. A link to the .PDF is below.

25 Days of Giving

I am really excited about both our days of thanks and our days of giving.  Not only do they really reinforce character traits we want our daughter to have, but we are able to share such wonderful experiences together that I really believe we are given a gift too.  No matter how cheesy that sounds, I am truly happy to kick off our holiday season by acknowledging the blessings in our life and sharing kindness with others.

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