Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Organizational Snowball

Sometimes the most empowering achievements in life are the simplest, aren't they?

As you guys know, we've been doing plenty of organizing, purging and simplification around our humble abode lately. Some are big (why hello, there, basement), others are what I call "steps" (I'm attacking my side of the office a little at a time), and still others are a quick one-and-done attack.

Today, I'm sharing one that's made a big impact, although you wouldn't know it by walking around my house. I feel like playing the "colder, hotter" game with you all. No, seriously, keep looking. Not in the living room. Nope, cold, stay out of the kitchen. Dining room? Warmer. Getting warmer.


HOT! Bingo. That's our dining room sideboard. Or server. Or console. (Not really, too big for that.) Thingamajigger that holds china and other random sundries.

We fell in love with its '20s/'30s vibe when we were in Vermont on our honeymoon. We filled it with gorgeous china (the stuff we use once a year...maybe), decor stuff, and...crap. Crap, crap and, just for fun, a touch more crap.

It had reached the point where the top two drawers were so full that I'd pull them open a couple of inches, toss an item back in, then close it as quickly as possible (pushing pretty hard to jam it shut). Just. So. Cluttered. But, those were the only drawers that I used with any regularity. (Remember: extemporaneous china in the bottom drawers/cabinets.)



We'll just put you through one of the drawers' craziness.

I had a dream of purging and making one side into decor-type stuff and the other one into a kidcentric spot. Turns out, it wasn't too hard. And I need bigger dreams.

Just had to recycle a couple dozen super old magazines. That seems to be the theme with my house purging; magazines multiply.


I mean, really. Just check out that kid side. It has made our summertime projects and "lessons" (a couple of workbooks) so pleasant. Well, the workbooks are pretty fun, anyway, but being organized has made it such a simple, more enjoyable thing.


Aaaaand the other side. My grandmother's dictionary, some thank you notes, random decor stuff...and a cat toy that we've gotta keep in hiding. Ultra special, that dangly toy.


Aside from stuff that got tossed, here are things that either a) went in the basement (rafia, red and white ball garland that I LOVE using at Christmastime, homemade pennant garland, some random hardware, hardly-used trays) or b) off to Goodwill (frames!).

I utilized my good ol' tips of 1) usage: figuring out what still has a purpose (sorry, old magazines), 2) placement: what actually needs to be there, in the dining room area and 3) getting creative: using organizational tools in different ways (a silverware organizer turned into our art supply caddy). Super helpful, super simple.

Somehow, heading to the basement after seeing such an organized little space was the kickstart I needed to dig in down there. And, the rest is history. Er. Mostly done. (We're having the walls painted this weekend, then can move the stuff back to have an ultimately super organized space after that. Squeal!)

So, there you have it. The snowball that started the avalanche of purging. Here's what's up for the next few weeks:

- Finishing the basement stuff
- Office stuff (and possibly even moving ALL my stuff outta there...we'll see)
- Hadman's closet
- My clothes 


Anyone else using summer as an excuse to organize crap? Or are you just, y'know, having fun like most people? ;-) Do tell!  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Basement Organization - Home Improvement Crap

Welcome to "Basement Organization, Pt. II - Battle of the Clutter"!! I worked my belly off during the little man's nap time (seriously, I had him rubbing my aching baby bump when he got up) to organize the stuff that Dave had pulled off our shelving units over the weekend. We have one unit that's dedicated to paint (which used to house paint, but we had a "tipping over" incident) and another that has tools, electrical stuff and other odds-and-ends things for around the house.

Oh, and there was other random crap cluttering up the space.

Seriously. This is what we were dealing with when I walked into the basement:




Just lotsa wrong goin' on. Stuff got moved. Stuff got tossed. It was fun. And my tips from our first weekend organizing came in super handy. Like stuff with like stuff, FTW! 


Hey, look! An old TV. (Which will replace our current old TV when it kicks the bucket. Not kidding.)


The stuff on the TV has actually since been taken care of, and the box on the right is stuff for Dave to go through. Otherwise, tools on the bottom two shelves, odds and ends organized by "type" (electrical stuff, cleaning chemicals, sundry tapes, safety gear) on the top two. 




Since we'll be painting the rest of the floor (Dave started awhile back) and hopefully the walls, this stuff is all going to have to be pulled out and moved, but I needed to get it out from the middle of everything. They don't look it, but they're totally organized - interior, primers, Drylok, and exterior. My favorite semi-gloss trim paint lives on the shelving...because it deserves it.

So, how're we doin'? I need to turn my attention back to the clothing situation and organizing around the washer/dryer area, plus we've got a Lowe's trip to make (I'd like another shelving unit to organize kiddo stuff and maybe totes and some spray paint for a freebie I recently scored).

One thing I've realized is the tumbling dominoes of organization rule. The more space that opens up (little by little), I realize that it loosens me up mentally to purging and storing stuff from other areas. Like, I've got some stuff from the garage that I'd rather have inside than in an outside space, and our office is in dire need of decluttering. This doesn't mean shuffling crap we don't need around, but giving serious consideration to what's needed and how often it's used, then storing appropriately.

I'm super inspired by small living and mindful living websites and blogs lately, so that also helps in my mindset. Anyone else trying to live a more fulfilling life with less?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Basement Organization

We have two spaces in our house that overwhelm us with "stuff" -- our office (which I hardly use and Dave uses regularly) and our basement. Since we're up in the air as to whether or not we'll find a new house before the little one comes along, we're trying to be proactive, both by getting wicked organized in case we do sell and move OR in the case that we don't move, we'll have simplified and found more room in the process. Win-win, really.

This weekend, before I had a chance to even take "before" pictures (crappy blogger), we headed downstairs to see what we could get done. One toddler naptime turned into another and, of course, we still have lots more to work on, so I'm sure I'll be chatting about our basement a bit more as we continue our purging/organization fun. I'm hoping to get down every day this week (during naps or after bedtime)...yup, it's that bad.

On Day #1, while Dave sifted through all of our home improvement items (lots of sanding blocks!!), I turned my attention under the stairs. This is where all of our holiday stuff lives, along with gift wrap, gift bags, ribbon, etc. I didn't move everything out, but organized and sifted through and evaluated...and ended up with this:




Here are some of the strategies I used to organize the space:

Put Similar Items Together - Believe me; it wasn't easy in the beginning. Walking into a basement that has become more and more of a dumping ground over time is downright panic attack-inducing. But, my #1 organization tip is to dive in by making piles of (or simply separating into) similar items. Don't obsess about the sheer vastness of the stuff; put on your blinders and start making piles.

So, now my Christmas stuff is with, duh, the Christmas stuff. (I'm saying "duh" to myself, BTW.) Gift bags are organized specifically by birthday, characters (like, superheroes or Peter Rabbit), and new baby, then there was even a separate bag just for the generic, anytime bags.

This was the first moment (among many) that I realized, JOYOUSLY, that I don't need to buy a new gift bag for a long, long time. Same goes with tissue paper. And Christmas wrap...and tape...and ribbons...and boxes of all sizes. Holy crap. Literally all I need for Christmas is some new sticker tags to go on gifts (and maybe one wrap of "Santa paper"). Knowing that we'll have a newborn at Christmastime and realizing that I'm all set with that side of things calms me. "And knowing is half the battle!" Speak to me, Transformers.

Location, Location, Location - Doesn't it just make sense to keep the things that you use most often closest to you? In this case, it's gift bags, which we use (and reuse and reuse) with unapologetic abandon. So, keeping those behind the Christmas stuff would've been silly. Front and center they are. 

This will also apply to the totes of baby/toddler clothes (of which we have, I believe, 8...I only wish that wasn't true, and we bought very, very little of it ourselves). Why keep the 18-month stuff at the top of the stacks when we'll need newborn and 0-3 months first? It also helps direct you as to where certain items should go, as well as help you analyze whether you need the item at all. If something's automatically being shoved to the back wall, why? If it's an "once-a-year-but-need-it" thing (ahem, Christmas crap, I'm talking to you), then fine. But if it's an "I really don't know when we'll use that" thing, say ba-bye.   

Get creative with storage - Not everything needs to be perfectly packed in totes with labels typed in a label-maker. I mean, sure, that'd be great, but sometimes a tote takes up too much spaces or doesn't fit your needs. (Although, I highly suggest using them for storing kiddo and maternity clothes; they don't breathe as much as I might like, but they're the easiest solution I can think of for now. Plus, the transparent or semi-transparent ones, you can just shove a piece of paper labeled with a marker for what's inside along the side and see it - no tearing or getting messed up.)

So, aside from boxes we have been saving FUH-RE-VER, I grabbed things that either were heading for the donation pile or are hardly used. So, a random blue basket that I haven't used in years just happened to fit all the tissue paper perfectly. One large seen-better-days gift bag holds all the rest of the "can be used" ones. A cheap, heavy duty glass hurricane candleholder worked as a makeshift gift wrap holder (and if it breaks, I truly won't shed a tear). A random nail or pipe protruding from a wall or ceiling overhang is a great place to hang a string of Christmas lights.

And always, ALWAYS stack as much as possible. All those baskets you see would take up mad space if they weren't piled up. It is what it is.

Expect All the Emotions - The rush and joy I felt has made me actually excited to head back down to the dungeon, I kid you not. I'm like a purging monster. "Must. Purge. Mooooorrrre." And finding cards and gifts that kids gave me years ago while I was teaching at a different school? Heartstrings!

But, it hasn't all been a high. First of all, while I'm pretty active during pregnancy with yoga and, like, not slowing down, the baby has definitely stopped me in my path a few times. "Seriously, Mama. Too much. Go get some water, sit down, and thank me later." I can always tell that I've overdone it; not a matter of "if" but "when." It's how I roll, I guess.

At the same time, there have been frustrations and tears. Tears = finding a platter that was my grandmother's shattered. Frustrations = the sheer mass of stuff that we actually had little control over in the first place (stuff that was passed along that we didn't want or need).

It's all part of the game, though, and the best emotion that I've cultivated is RELAXATION. No, seriously! While it's definitely hard, sweaty, dirty work, I've discovered exactly the stuff we have. I've realized that THIS is when you overbuy.

How many times have you had to get a gift for someone so you bought more tissue paper, not realizing that you already have enough in storage? Or because you don't know what you have in storage from awhile back, you buy yet another pair of black work pants? In our case, I've been starting to mentally gear up about getting some cold season maternity clothes and post-maternity COOOOLD weather stuff. (The last baby was born in July.) However, after going through all the hand-me-downs and stuff I had, even in summer, I've discovered a lot of items that will work! It brought a calm to me that I haven't felt in awhile.


How many of you have a space in your house that's overrun by clutter or needs organizing? When I head down tonight, I'll probably be heading back to purging clothing (this does NOT excite me) or to organize and figure out storage for the home improvement stuff Dave sorted. That has spread out, big-time, so to get that up off the floor and truly organized will be a good feeling. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Christmas in July

My mother had a tendency to be early...for everything. I kind of agree, and get anxious when we don't leave early (or, God forbid, when we leave late!). But, one thing I remember her saying a lot over the years is that when we were kids she liked to get her Christmas shopping done by sometime in September. If she could do it before school started, all the better.

The poor woman can't do that anymore since it's like pulling teeth to get lists out of all four kids, spouses and grand kids. I get it. We're annoying. ;-)

But, this year, I'm hopping on the "the earlier, the better" bandwagon. With a second little one coming mid-November, my usual Black Friday fun with my sister will have to be skipped. Heck, a lot will probably get skipped. But, Chrismas fun? NEVAAAAHHHH!!


We actually have a stash that we add to throughout the year for monkey, anyway, so we'll be inspecting that to see what, if anything, we need to round it out. (Figuring out his size will be a challenge for clothes.) Dave and I have a tradition of taking a Saturday to shop together for a couple of special little guy gifts from Santa and getting coffee or lunch together, so we'll most likely drop him off to the grandparents and take the little one with us to do that again.

Otherwise, I'm already searching the interwebs for deals. There are a handful of things we need to buy for the baby, so my eyes keep wandering, but my focus is CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. Lots of online sources are touting Black Friday deals in July, so I'm hoping to stock up and get some stuff off my list sooner rather than later.

So, here's my strategy:

- Paring down. Since my side of the family is doing the "only buy stuff for the kiddos", that cuts back on the number of people we need to buy for. We will still always get something for all of our parents since they do SO much for us. I'm also hoping for "quality over quantity" for Dave and I, too, and will be setting a smaller limit than usual for ourselves and the kiddos. They'll still get stuff, but a reasonable amount, especially considering that our extended family will be getting them stuff, too.

- Infant gear. We're not buying a ton of stuff because, well, we have a lot. However, because Hadley was a summer newborn (and some of the stuff has worn out), we'll be in need of some new clothes. In advance, we'll be getting some new cloth dipes, a new carseat, and some cold weather essentials. However, we won't need a million outfits because that's what we'll get (and ask for) for Christmas, along with a couple of other baby items.

- Keep things flexible and open. It seems the closer to "Santa time" you get, the more the list grows, doesn't it? The week of Christmas, it's common for a kiddo to add one thing they RRREEEEEEAAAALLY want. Hadman was so all-over-the-place in the past that it didn't matter if Santa missed something here or there. This year, I'm asking early, working on the list *together*, and getting stuff early. However, this is why Dave and I have a shopping date closer to December -- just in case there's an item that we'd really like him to have or that he adds.

- Organization! Lists are the only way I sleep at night, I swear. So, I've got a Google Doc of my list and everyone who needs to be gifted. (I'm also going to have a list of the to-do's as far as pre-baby planning and when we get closer to the holiday, too.) Seriously, savior.  

- Do as much online as possible. Sure, I could schlep out with the 3-year-old to try to buy full-priced stuff in the stores...but isn't there a better way? Yep. Shopping during naptime in your sweat shorts with free shipping and pretty decent deals? I'd call that better!


Am I the only one who is planning for (and starting in on) Christmas now? Can you blame me, though, really? ;-) Honestly, if I don't start planning now, I'm going to put off any thoughts of what's to come (and, honestly, it makes the baby feel more "real" when planning for after he/she comes) and find myself completely unprepared.

And you know that I'm starting to browse Pinterest for simple ways to celebrate Christmas (along with space saving nursery ideas).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hadley's Third Birthday - Best Laid Plans

So, I was hoping to have a rundown of the decorative plans I had in mind for the little guy's birthday, along with some pictures of the whole thing for you today. Well, I have some pictures, but they don't show much of anything.

With all three of us under the weather and unsure of whether or not we'd be super contagious, we had originally decided to cancel the whole thing. Then, after talking with my mother a bit, we decided just to have the grandparents over. There are a couple of newborns in the family that we wouldn't want to get what we've got, so we cut it back. Besides, I had already bought tons of food (which there was no way we could save another week or two for a party that we weren't even sure others could attend), so it would be great to celebrate the day in a low-key way.

That said, I still worked hard (which, as a pregnant lady means that I worked until my belly ached -- the belly knows when it's time to slow down, y'know) to bake and chop and grate and assemble. As the time drew nearer and nearer, I realized I wouldn't have the time I'd hoped to do the decorating I had planned on.

No baby blue streamers. No Peter Rabbit cake topper and wall hanging. No poufs. No Pinterestworthiness.

That's not a word, but it's definitely a thing.

But, we did have time to do a thorough cleaning job, and last night at 11pm I found myself sketching chalkboard drawings to bring a little festivity. Oh, in complete honesty, this stuff finally took the place of my spring chalkboard and *ahem* Easter baskets. Seriously. I've been slacking. ;-)

So, from the things I grabbed at the local "dollar store", I used some faux greenery on vines to give a little garden feeling. And, seriously, don't fresh fruit and veggies do a great job at hitting both a) feeding partygoers and b) adding to the 'garden' theme?



 Sorry, beverages. Party was underway and, as usual, Dave took the pics while I did last-minute stuff.


So, we served a pared-down version of the original menu: loads of fruit, veggies and homemade herb dip (Ina Garten), cold cuts with fresh rolls, chips/cheese/crackers, "munchies" (Annie's chocolate bunnies and bunny snack mix...get it? Peter Rabbit??), and our family's favorite pasta salad (Mom brought). Water, lemonade and iced tea for the hot day's beverages. Oh, and chocolate-covered strawberries (Ina, again), homemade carrot cake (good ol' Good Housekeeping - very moist, but took FOREVER to grate the carrots) with cream cheese icing, and an untouched strawberry rhubarb crisp. Admittedly, everyone was stuffed, so that'll be breakfast this week. ;-)

I know it still sounds like a lot, but considering I cut the decorating down to next to nothing and we didn't have tomato pie and sausage bread and stuff...it was far less crazy and more chill than it would've been. Oh, and for the record, it's the only cold cuts I've had (I believe?!) the entire pregnancy. I cheated, but at least I didn't have a beer...right??

Considering we only had three guests (my stepdad wasn't feeling well) plus the three of us, this kid got GIFTS. Thomas stuff, clothes galore, books, a fishing game he's loved at his cousin's, some superhero stuff, a bubble mower and A SHAAAAARK! (We also saved some stuff for tomorrow since that's his actual day, but MAN I'm thinking we should save some of it for Christmas!)



When it was time to nap and he melted down, you could hear how sick he still is. Super runny nose, incredibly raspy...not as croupy as when he sleeps, but not good, poor thing. I'm just glad that his daddy and I have gotten past that "I don't feel goooooood" whiny crappy feeling so that we could focus on how awesome our special guy is.

We felt awful that we couldn't party it up with the whole family (namely, his super fun cousins, and I always love seeing my siblings), but I know we'll see everyone throughout the summer, so we're trying not to focus on it too much. Considering he's only turning 3 and he doesn't have a huge circle of friends yet, it was still a memorable, fun day meant to make him feel remembered. I'd say, snotty noses aside, it was a success!

Now, if he could just feel better. :-(

On a positive ending, we didn't realize how much Hadley has changed in the past year until Dave started putting together his annual video. Wow. A year ago, his words existed but were guttural and communication was highly emotionally-charged. A recent BabyCenter email updated me that he's probably saying 3-word sentences now, but it's sooo far from the truth. Aside from run-ons, he's incredibly verbal, and his vocabulary surprises us with its complexity. We still have our toddler meltdowns, but he's much better able to communicate his feelings.

He helps when we give him a task. He's open and welcoming to the idea of a little sibling (he insists it's a girl and today said her name is "Flamingo"). He's sweet with a tiny mischievous side, prefers running to sitting still, and is dying for us to find him more friends. Somewhere along the way, he's started coming to us with spontaneous moments of love and brief cuddles, which he was never a fan of before. Overall...the kid rocks.

Here are some of the answers to some questions I asked him:

Favorite Things - Age 3

Color - "Blue." (funny, it's usually orange)
Toy - "My firetruck." (really?!)
Stuffed animal - "My lamby."
Thing to take to bed - "My shark."
Fruit - "I like all of them."
Cereal - "Gorilla Munch."
Breakfast - "Gorilla Munch." (I blame the order of the questions on that answer)
Lunch - "Peanut butter and jelly." (had to answer for him; this is his fave)
Dessert - "Ice cream." (not really, he doesn't eat the stuff)
Beverage - "Grape juice!"
Dinner - "Nothing, nothing, nothing." (I think lunch and breakfast are his big meals; he'd prefer not eat dinner.)
Animal - "Uuummm...a lizard!"
Book - "Pajama Time."
Song - "1-2-3 sing with me...(continues singing own lyrics)"
Game - "Matthew and me used to play golf. And Aunt Mary and Lizzie and Uncle John were there...."
TV Show - "Cartoon Batman" (the 1970s cartoon version, although we know he loves "60s Batman", too.)
Movie - "The Muppets"
Thing to do outside - "Run around."
Best friend - "Cooper." (Actually, equal parts Cooper and Lizzie, so the answer varies.)
Job when he grows up - "Do Daddy's job...Lego Batman exercise!" (He wants to use Dave's old Lego Batman Wii game but knows he can't until he's big.)