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How to Manage the Kids Paper Avalanche

It was our last week of school this week.  One day my daughter brought home a paper grocery sack full of creations–her art portfolio for the year.  The next day, she brought home a giant paper folder (I’m talking almost as big as her) of artwork, writings, and other memorabilia from the year from her classroom.  This does not include the almost daily influx of papers we found in her folder every night.  Luckily, I learned in pre-school a few tricks to honor the wonderful work and creativity she put into everything she did while at school without letting our house become overrun by paper.  Here’s my few tips and tricks for dealing with the kids paper avalanche.

1)  Display it.  We have a metal board hanging in our kitchen on which we post current art work.  We got the board from IKEA a few years ago, but I would guess you could find something similar out there.  I’ve also seen this done with empty picture frames and clothespins on pretty string or ribbon.  Basically, anything new that comes in that you or your kiddo is excited about goes on display for a short time.

This is our magnet board.  It fits really nicely on a small wall in our kitchen.

This is our magnet board. It fits really nicely on a small wall in our kitchen.  This board also gets all of our “groovy” magnets.

Then, in our house, one of three things happens.

2)  Recycle it.  Honestly, you cannot keep every single bit of paper that comes home.  Some of it is not sacred.  You probably don’t have the room to store it, and trust my your kid will appreciate not having to go through boxes of keepsakes whenever they finally move out.  Whatever you don’t want to keep, recycle it.  If it is a piece of artwork or writing that you don’t personally want to hold onto but you think a family member would enjoy, pass it on.  I have my daughter select items to go to specific members of the family–and grandparents seem to be always happy to proudly display artwork.

3)  Take a picture and then recycle it.  Some of the items my daughter has made are really and truly adorable, but they probably won’t be hanging around our house for years, and yet I don’t want to just pitch them.  So, instead, I take a photo.  Then, this is the kicker, I do something with the photos.  I make an online photo book every year that we keep and that each of the grandparents gets at Christmas.  The artwork makes an appearance in the photo album–and it is around to enjoy for years but in a much more manageable way.  I also started making desk calendars with the artwork.  Every once in a while you can get a pretty sweet deal from places like Walgreens or Shutterfly to make photo gifts.  One of those gifts is a photo desk calendar.  Since many of the art pieces kids make in school are seasonal, they fit perfectly in a calendar.  My husband, my mom, and I all keep them on our desks at work to enjoy all year round.

Here is an example of what you can do.  This is our desk calendar with artwork from last year.

Here is an example of what you can do. This is our desk calendar with artwork from last year.

Here is how you can tie in seasonal artwork easily in a calendar.  Halloween themed items...

Here is how you can tie in seasonal artwork easily in a calendar. Halloween themed items…

4)  Keep it in a memory box.  I have a plastic file box by Rubbermaid that is my daughter’s memory box (it has the runners so you can add in hanging file folders).  In it go cards, certificates, and other precious memories like artwork or school work.  Items that are not recycled, that I or my kiddo deem special, go to live in this box.  One rule is that they have to fit!  Some of these items are also photographed and stored/shared, but some of them are not.  I have two file folders for each year of school.  One will hold cards and papers and the other is for artwork and school work.  I can tell by the amount of things I wanted to keep from this year that we will have to go back and make a purge at some point, but I just can’t do it quite yet (and we still have plenty of room for now so it’s not a big deal if we wait a little while).  We will probably go back through the folder together in a few months or a year to see what we still think is special and want to keep.   I got the idea for the memory box from Jen over at I Heart Organizing–and it has been so wonderful.  It fits perfect on the wire shelf at the top of my daughter’s closet, so it is easy to get to whenever we need to add more to the folders.

The outside of the memory box.

The outside of the memory box.

File folders inside...

File folders inside…

So far, I am pretty happy with our system.  And, I know we can still easily enjoy her creations for many, many years!  Does anyone else have any clever ways they deal with the kiddo paper clutter?


Fairy House Kids Craft

Last year, we added a small garden to our back yard as a place for my daughter.  (More about our gardens soon!)  It has a few planters and a bunch of small resin statuary that she can play with.  After attending a Fairy event at a local forest nature center, she has been pretty keen to build a fairy house for our back yard.  I thought this small garden would be the perfect place to put a fairy house.  At the forest, they used items from nature like leaves, flowers, feathers, etc to build their fairy houses.  I knew that those items would not stand up to the strong winds that frequently blow our plastic chairs across our back yard.  Instead, I thought something a bit more sturdy would be in order, because I knew she would want to play with it more than once.  I also knew she would want to use her creativity to make the house special for her fairy friends.

We started out with an unfinished wood birdhouse from Michaels.  I used a 40% off coupon, so the house was quite nicely priced.  This house looked fun because there were multiple doors, so a few fairies could share and be neighbors.  We also decided to purchase some other unfinished wood items that were on clearance for $0.48 per bag and a few other embellishments to make it fancy that were fairly inexpensive.  All in all, these items were less than $10 total.




I also had a coupon for a free tester bottle of Valspar paint from Lowe’s I found in one of my magazines.  We stopped by Lowe’s and the kiddo was able to choose which paint she wanted for the project.  She chose Berry Twist.

A few weeks went by and we finally had some time to get started on the project.  The most exciting part for her was that I told her there were no rules.  She could do whatever she wanted.  She must need to hear that more often, because she was THRILLED to be able to choose her own design.  We used the other craft paints we always have on hand to add more color and details to the house.

Here she is on Day 1 of painting...

Here she is on Day 1 of painting…

We took a week or so break in between painting, and she came back to finish up the front and add the “details.”  Check out her finished project!


Some of the little wooden pieces are loose. She wanted the fairies to be able to use them however they wanted.


Side view #1


Side View #2


This is my favorite part! I love the picture she made for the back.


She wanted to write the sign all by herself!

I am just so pleased that we decided to do this project!  She had so much fun doing it however she wanted–and I was so happy to watch her creativity at work.  Our next step is to spray it with a sealer so that it can hold up in the weather outside.  Then, we will install it in the garden!


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Quick Tip: Top Loader Washing Machine

Hello!  I am going to talk about something a little bit gross today, so just beware.  It has to do with my least favorite chore.  Laundry.  I think I hate laundry, because I know it never, ever ends.  Even if every single item of clothing in my house was clean and put away, the stuff we were wearing would eventually need washed too.  But, I digress.  We were having a few problems with our washing machine–everything else was working great except for two little things.  These things were such a problem, I considered buying a whole new washing machine.  The first problem really isn’t that bad, but the second is going to give you chills.

Problem #1:  A layer of light grey film on the agitator and the drum of the washing machine.  I have found that this is possibly caused by the baby oil I apply daily and that is later transferred to my bath towel which is then transferred to the inside of the machine and collects dirt from the clothes as they wash.

If you have this problem, I will offer you a simple solution.  Wipe down the agitator and drum with a dryer sheet (new or used).  This easily removes the film and seems to keep it from coming back for a while.

Problem #2:  Scrud.  I had no idea this was even a word before I started to investigate problem #2 on the internet.  We were having flakes of black coming off in every wash–they almost looked like crumbled up leaves.  According to the internet, people call this “scrud.”  And, scrud comes from your fabric softener dispenser.  The inside of the dispenser builds up gunk over time and (here is the gross part) since it doesn’t get to air out well–black mold grows inside.  Yes, my friends upon inspection of my washing machine FS dispenser, I not only found an unholy buildup of black “tar” inside the part where you pour the FS, but there was indeed black mold inside the part where the water comes out with the FS during the wash.  I WAS COMPLETELY GROSSED OUT!  There was not a chance I was going to wash any more laundry in that machine until the problem was solved.

This is the inside of a machine like mine. The dispenser sits on top of the agitator and is easily removed.

This is what the dispenser looks like when removed.


So, after my minor freak out, I tried to figure out how best to clean the little monster.  I tried vinegar and baking soda–a little scrud came loose, but it was still pretty gross.  I tried to fit some sort of brush or apparatus into the thing to get everything loose, but the holes on the bottom and top are not big enough to accommodate cleaning, and you can’t take the thing apart to clean it.  Even CLR didn’t work (I wouldn’t recommend trying this, it was a last ditch effort).  I knew the little monster was too far gone to save.  So, I looked into replacing the part with an online company I heard about on a YouTube video showing you how to replace the dispenser.  (Don’t bother wasting your time searching for this, because I will tell you very soon how to do it).  It was going to take  a few days to get here and would be about $20.  Not bad, but I needed it sooner.  Found it on Amazon for $12, free shipping, but not Prime so who knows when it would arrive.  Finally I searched for appliance parts stores in my area that might sell to the general public (BINGO!)  This was all a little tense as it was around 11:00 AM on a Saturday, and I had already done one load–which now would be rewashed and had about 4 more waiting in the wings.  Plus, I had no idea if a parts store would be open on Saturday.  

Eureka!  A parts store was open and had the part in stock!!!!  We zoomed over in between other errands an picked up a brand new, CLEAN, dispenser.

Some might ask, why did you bother getting a new agitator, I mean wasn’t the other one really not that bad.  Trust me folks it was beyond gross.  I shudder at the thought of it right now.  If you have a dispenser like mine, take a minute and see how much build up you have.  You might want to rush out and buy a new dispenser too.  After 12 years, ours was a science experiment gone very, very wrong.  New dispenser in hand, I raced to the basement when I got home to see if it indeed would fit our machine.  (I had already thrown out the old one.  No turning back folks).  AND IT DID FIT!!!!  Seriously, all you do is remove the old one and pop the new one in it’s place.  That is it!  I did 5 loads of laundry yesterday with NO SCRUD!

What did this peace of mind cost me?  $17 and an extra errand stop.  Totally, and completely worth it.

I also learned how to keep this from happening in the future.  First, take out the dispenser in between washes to let it air or leave the top of the washer open.  Second, about once a month put a little bit of detergent and HOT water in the dispenser.  Run it through a hot cycle to get any buildup out (I might do this and run washing machine cleaner at the same time).  Then let air dry.  We are going to give this a try.  The other option, stop using fabric softener.  I’ll keep you posted on our success.

I also found out the parts store sells dryer belts for between $15 and $30.  In a few weeks when I am SAHM, I am going to tackle our squeaky dryer.  I’ll give you an update on that too!

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