A Clutter Free Christmas!

As the holiday season is upon us, most of us are thinking about gift giving. I have to admit, for me this time of year is difficult. As someone who is intentional with what I bring into my home, I want to make sure any gifts I give are also intentional. I want to make sure anything that I am giving to someone that goes into their home will be used and appreciated instead of just adding to any clutter they may already have in their homes. Today I wanted to share three categories of gifts that are sure to be used and appreciated that will not cause clutter in your family or friends homes!

The first type of gift I wanted to talk about is the intentional gift. In spite of what people may think, I truly do love giving gifts to others! Some people may think since I am anti clutter I am anti gift-giving. One of the ways I like to be sure I’m giving a gift that will be used and loved is by knowing the person and paying attention to what they talk about to get clues about their interests. Purchasing a gift in line with the person’s interests is the best way to give them something intentional. Maybe your Mom likes a certain store, or your Dad collects something specific. Perhaps you can get something that is adjacent to their interests. For instance, my son was interested in the medical field when he was in high school, so I purchased some medical related wall art. My daughter loves nature and wants to visit the National Parks around the US, so I got her a coffee table type book with photos and information about the National Parks. Actively listening to and engaging with people in your everyday interactions will give you clues as to their interests!

The second type of gift that will prevent clutter is a consumable gift. Most people enjoy receiving special food or drinks for a gift that they otherwise might not purchase for themselves. Perhaps it’s a fancy bottle of wine, or a gift basket of their favorite type of food! Perhaps they don’t like to cook and you could give them a subscription to one of the dinner making kits. Another great category for consumables are special body products – like soaps, bath bombs or salts, or lotions. Be mindful if you know someone is sensitive to smells to take that into account. Lastly, another great consumable gift is a candle. Again, you will want to be mindful if the person likes scents and which type of scents they prefer. All of these items are great gifts because they will be used up over time and will not create clutter for the receiver.

The third and final category of gifts that will be useful is an experiential gift. There are such a wide variety of experiences you could give to a friend or family member – from some sort of subscription, to some fun experience you know they have wanted to have like going to a theme park. I will share a list of ideas that might be helpful as this is my favorite type of gift to give!

Gift card to their favorite restaurant

A vacation or plane tickets

We took our son to Hawaii for his graduation gift!

Passes to a theme park or museum

I took my son to Disney for a special mother and son trip!

Movie theater or live theater tickets

A tour – wine or factory, or plane or helicopter ride over the city

Adventure type experience like skydiving, bungy jumping, or ziplining

Concert tickets

A spa day package

Nail salon gift card

Coffee shop gift card

A cooking, painting, or some other sort of class of their interest

You could also get a season pass for a local venue they frequent:

The zoo

Children’s museum

Arcade

Indoor trampoline/bounce house park

Roller skating rink

You could also get them a gift card to some sort of subscription service:

Streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Disney +

Spotify

Audible

Gym membership

Yoga/spin studio membership

Lastly, you could give to a charity in their honor. There are many charities that appreciate end of the year giving. Think about what organization may be meaningful to the person you are giving the gift to. One year for Christmas, my husband purchased several livestock animals for “me” through an organization we trust, to help support an impoverished community in another part of the world. It was SO meaningful to me. I loved that I wasn’t bringing more stuff into my house, and we were able to bless someone else at the same time. Maybe you have an animal lover and you could give money in honor of them towards animal protection. Or perhaps you have someone who is into astrology and would love to have a star named after them!

As you can see there are a lot of ideas for gifts that would not clutter someone’s home and truly be meaningful and appreciated! I hope this gives you some ideas for family members or friends in your life!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

5 Things To Declutter In December

It’s December! One of the busiest months of the year for most of us! But I wanted to encourage you to spend a little bit of time decluttering this month with certain items that make sense to evaluate in December!

The first item is TOYS! It is smart to declutter toys prior to the inflow of new toys from Christmas gifts. It can be difficult to find a home for all the new toys that arrive on Christmas morning, so evaluating which toys your children no longer play with, finding broken toys or toys with missing pieces will help make room for the new items. If you purchased toys for your children, you can determine which category they fit in and see if other toys in that category can go. It’s always good to involve your children when decluttering toys at the appropriate age. Helping them understand that there is limited space for their toys and they should choose toys they no longer love to make room for the new toys that they will get for Christmas. Perhaps if the toys are gently used you could find a women’s shelter to donate to, helping your children learn to be giving – which is perfect for this time of year!

Next up is Christmas decor. This is the perfect time to evaluate which decor did not go up this year and determine if perhaps it’s time for it to go! Oftentimes if we don’t put it up this year, it is even less likely we will display it in the future. Be realistic about if it makes sense to store these items away for yet another year!

The third category of items to declutter in December is wrapping paper and wrapping accessories. When you are done wrapping all of your gifts for the season, it is a great time to determine if it is worth holding onto the scrap ends, stray tags, and extra ribbon. Certainly some of it might be worth holding onto for the next year, but really evaluate if you would actually use it a year from now.

The fourth category is winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. I know that in some parts of the country or world, you are well into the winter season with cooler weather! For me, here in Austin, the cool weather is just beginning! This is a great time to determine which coats and accessories you are wearing and which you are not. There might be a local charity for the homeless or perhaps a women’s shelter that would appreciate these items for the winter months.

The last category is kitchen items. During the holidays is probably when you are in the kitchen the most, using more of your kitchen items and gadgets than usual. Be honest with yourself if you are really using all the casserole dishes and spatulas that you own! Or perhaps you have holiday themed dishes that you had good intentions to use but never did. Now is a great time to declutter because you know if these items are actually useful to you!

Well, I hope this list of items you could easily declutter in December was helpful to you! Happy decluttering!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

6 Things To Do Before Getting Organized

Today I wanted to talk to you about the steps you should take before tackling an organizing project. It is important to prepare before organizing a space so you are efficient in getting your spaces organized.

{{ONE}} First, you need to remove everything from the space. If this is overwhelming, work section by section in a space. For instance, while organizing the kitchen, work one cabinet or one drawer at a time – removing everything from that section. Sometimes seeing everything out in the open can help you realize how much you have. It is also easier to organize things into a space that is a clean slate.

{{TWO}} Next, you need to declutter. Are you surprised?? Have I said this enough?? You must declutter prior to organizing. There is no need to organize items that are no longer needed or loved. It is also silly to buy organizing tools prior to decluttering because you will likely not need as much as you think.

{{THREE}} After you declutter, it is time to categorize. Keeping like items together usually makes the most sense when organizing a space. Once you group things together according to like items, you may be able to declutter even further if you see you have duplicates of items.

{{FOUR}} Once you have everything categorized, then you can decide how you would like to organize those items – in bins, baskets, boxes, or drawer organizers. You will then need to measure your space to determine what size of storage containers you will need. And you thought you would never use math again! Measure twice, buy once! It can take some research and shopping to find the right storage solution for your space.

{{FIVE}} Next, it’s time to purchase your storage solutions – whether it’s bins, baskets, boxes, or drawer organizers – find what works for your space. My favorite places for storage containers are The Container Store, Target, and Amazon. I know there are several other stores that have great storage solutions as well!

{{SIX}} This next step isn’t necessary, but I always like to deep clean a space before organizing it. If everything is already removed from the space, it’s the perfect time to clean it! It’s always nice to put items back into a clean space!

Well, I hope this post was helpful to you if tackling an organization project seems daunting to you. Taking these simple steps before trying to get organized will help to make your organization project go smoothly!

Here is the YouTube video I shared on my channel in conjunction with this blog post.

How To Love Your Home Now

If you’re anything like me, you can get overwhelmed and inundated by all the perfect home images out there – Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube videos. It can lead to discontent and a feeling like your home needs a total overhaul! I consider myself a creative, and the main outlet that is realized is in home decorating and home renovations. So I am especially susceptible to wanting overnight changes. The other day I was thinking about the drastic transformation my home has gone through since moving in 11 years ago {{you can read the blog post where I shared all the renovations we did to our home!}} It has certainly been a slow process, and I continually have ideas to change things up! It takes time – sometimes what feels like a turtle’s pace – because home renovations take time if you’re doing the work yourself and money! I was thinking about simple and cost effective ways you can “transform” your home, and wanted to share those with you!

The very first thing you can do is clean your home! You may think this doesn’t change much, but truly when everything is cleaned and put away your home just feels more cozy and peaceful. Making your bed daily is a habit that will help to make your home feel more inviting.

Along with cleaning in general, I wanted to mention floors specifically. Deep cleaning the grout in your tile, or polishing your wood floors can make them look new again! {{I have an inspirational YouTube video of cleaning my grout!}}

Rearrange! Move furniture around – either in the room they are in, or to another room. You can also rearrange your home decor – moving pieces to other rooms. I don’t like to own a lot of home decor and this helps to make things feel new.

Bring in fresh flowers or plants. I feel like fresh flowers and plants make a much bigger impact to a room than you would expect! I even like rearranging my plants – moving them to different rooms. If you are afraid of taking care of a plant, there are a lot of real looking faux plant options out there as well.

Use scent to enjoy your home more. Whether it’s a scented candle burning, an essential oil diffuser running, cookies baking, or a pot roast in the oven! Scent can really bring extra joy to a space.

Of course you know I can’t write a blog post without mentioning DECLUTTERING! Letting go of the things that you no longer love, or no longer serve you will make a great impact on feeling comfortable in your home. Display what you love and get rid of the rest!

Another idea is to initiate trading home decor with your friends or family members. You could even host a party where everyone brings what they no longer love for their own home. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

In addition to trading home decor, you can scour Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or local thrift stores to find new to you items on a budget to incorporate a style that reflects you. Along with finding home decor at these places, you can find some amazing deals on furniture that just need a little TLC. Flipping thrifted furniture is definitely a cost effective way to upgrade your home.

I purchased this dresser for a good deal off Facebook Marketplace then cleaned it up! Also, several of the pieces of art in this photo were thrifted!

The next thing I wanted to share is PAINT! Paint is such a cost effective way to make a dramatic impact in any room in your home. If you’re willing and have the time to put in the work of painting yourself, it is quite inexpensive. I have always used Behr Ultra primer and paint in one paint and it is $32 a gallon. Most rooms can be painted with one gallon, depending on which color you are going to and which color the room was at first. Obviously if you go from light to dark or visa versa, or if the room is large, then you will need more paint. You can also paint furniture or spray paint home decor you no longer love – a vase, picture frame, drape rods, and more!

BEFORE
AFTER

Another thing you can do is to hang drapes. Okay, I know this isn’t for everyone, but I feel like hanging drapes makes a room feel much more luxurious, taller, and more cozy. When we moved into this home, an IKEA had just opened near us and I purchased all of our drapes from there. I love their drapes because you can get really long ones (96” or 108”) for a great price. Hanging your drapes as high as possible gives the illusion that your room is taller and more luxurious!

You can also make your own artwork, use your children’s artwork, or frame family photos for inexpensive art. Another recent thing I learned about is downloading art prints that you can then print off on whatever medium you choose – like a canvas, or a print to frame. Even if you’re not super crafty, some of the art that is popular now is very simplistic and easy to replicate.

Learn a new skill!! Usually, the biggest cost of home renovations is the labor involved and potentially also paying a contractor if you don’t already have connections. If you want to do some bigger renovations like installing new flooring or a new backsplash, it might be worth it to look into learning these skills. Usually projects like this just take a weekend to complete, especially if you have a partner to help you.

Lastly, if nothing else, start a gratitude journal. When you are focused on the things you are thankful for, you are less likely to focus on the negative or on the things you want changed!

Some of these options may not be feasible for you, but I hope this gave you some ideas that you have not thought of before on how you can love your home now!

10 Spaces You May Be Forgetting To Clean

Raise your hand if there are areas in your home which you keep putting off cleaning? There are several spaces in my home that I tend to forget to clean, I put off, or it’s just not in my regular cleaning schedule. Some of these areas I have incorporated into my regular cleaning schedule, but there are other spots that I will notice how dirty it has gotten and decide I can put it off no longer! Today I wanted to share with you 10 spaces you may be forgetting to clean.

The FIRST area is ceilings. Oftentimes we neglect to clean the cobwebs from our ceilings. We may notice them right before we are ready to host a big event in our homes, then frantically clean ALL the ceilings, but typically day to day we don’t notice dirty ceilings. I struggle to clean our ceilings because most of them have popcorn texture, making it very difficult to clean without being rained on by ceiling texture!

SECOND, another common overlooked area is ceiling fans and light fixtures. I have built into my cleaning schedule cleaning these things whenever I deep clean a room, but since they are somewhat out of site (like the ceiling), it can be out of mind and you don’t realize how dusty the light fixtures and ceiling fans have become.

The THIRD item that may not get cleaned often is drape or curtain rods and the drapes/curtains themselves. I just use a multi-purpose cleaning spray and microfiber cleaning cloth to clean the drape rods off. You will definitely need to read the tags on your drapes to see the best way to clean them. I have some drapes in my home that I wash in the washing machine, and others that I just shake out the dust outside.

The FOURTH area that we may forget about is our air vents, and along with that would be changing our air filters. We are so bad about remembering or having a schedule to change our air filters. I know there are some subscription services that will send air filters to you automatically at the duration you choose, which could be a good option so you don’t have to remember. I like to vacuum our air vents and clean them with a multi-purpose cleaner every once in a while, because they certainly get dirty!

The FIFTH space that may get overlooked is the vent screens in our kitchen exhaust fan above our stove top. These can get particularly dirty because of all the grease and food particles that get pulled in through the vent. I don’t typically use Dawn dish soap, but I have it on hand to clean really greasy areas. I soak mine in hot water with the Dawn dish soap and that seems to cut through the grease. Alternatively, I have heard that you can wash them in your dishwasher as well.

Speaking of dishwashers, the SIXTH item is the drain screen at the bottom of your dishwasher. It’s important to clean these as they can get clogged causing your dishwasher to have trouble draining. The last time I cleaned mine, it actually wasn’t all that dirty, but it might be because we have had drainage problems with our dishwasher in the past, so I like to stay on top of keeping it cleaned!

The SEVENTH place we may forget to clean is under large appliances, like under the refrigerator, oven, or washer and dryer. Luckily for me I have built in ovens, but I am so bad at cleaning under my refrigerator. It gets to the point where I can see how dirty it is and then I know I need to deal with it!

The EIGHTH space we might forget to clean is our washing machine. It’s good to clean your washer every once in a while in order for it to perform at it’s best. I did a quick Google search on how to clean your washing machine with natural products and the first item that popped up suggested running a cycle with 2 cups of vinegar on hot, followed by another cycle of ½ cup of baking soda on hot. My washer actually has a “tub clean” setting. In addition to the washing machine, the dryer vent should also be cleaned out periodically. It can become a fire hazard to allow lint to build up in the dryer vent. You can access the exterior dryer vent by going to the outside of your home, and reaching up into the vent to pull out any excess lint. You can also detach the dryer hose from the inside to clean in from the inside as well. Just be sure you have some dryer hose tape or aluminum tape on hand to reattach it.

The NINTH area that may need attention is your bathroom sink drains. There are simple tools available on Amazon to remove hair from the drain. You can also clean the cap to the sink drain at this time as it also gets dirty with build up.

Lastly, the TENTH thing you may be forgetting to clean is your light switch plates. These are probably the most touched area in your home, so to prevent illness from spreading it’s good to clean these regularly with some sort of antibacterial wipe or spray. When my kids were little, I would enlist their help by giving them a container of antibacterial wipes and had them go around and wipe down all the light switches. I think they thought it was fun, so win-win!

Well, I hope this gave you some ideas of places you can get clean around your home that you might have been forgetting about! Fall is a great time to get everything clean and ready for the upcoming holiday season!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

Minimal and Cozy

When I first started pursuing the idea of becoming more minimal I thought “I could never be a minimalist” because I really enjoy decorating our home to make it more cozy and inviting. Five years later, I’m realizing that “minimalism” is not a one size fits all. There is no true definition of minimalism, or a box you can put it in. To me, it just means living with the things I use and love. With this in mind, I wanted to share with you the ways I make my home cozy and inviting while still striving towards minimalism.

I know there are several books written on Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh), which is a Danish word meaning creating a mood of coziness or comfort. I haven’t read these books, but “The Little Book of Hygge” is on my reading list! I wanted to share with you what little I’ve learned from what I know of Hygge, and just how I have organically practiced it in my home. Coziness and an inviting space doesn’t have to equate to a lot of material things.

First, I like to use throw pillows, blankets, and rugs to warm up a space. I choose pillows, blankets, and rugs of different textiles to give depth and provide interest. I like to use different colors and textiles for the seasons. I try to purchase pillow covers instead of full pillows so that they are easier to store.

Next, I like to use plants throughout my home to give a feeling of aliveness to my spaces. I admit that many of my plants are fake plants as I struggle to keep live ones living. I do have several live plants throughout my home as well. Not only does it bring that feeling of life to a room, but it also brings that texture, organic color, and dimension. 

Third, lighting choice really does change the mood of a room. Using warmer tone bulbs, especially in the evening, creates a calming atmosphere. Using lamps as opposed to overhead lights, or even displaying twinkle lights in a fireplace or around a tree in your home can create this mood. In addition to that, lighting candles can create that soft light and cozy mood in your home.

Fourth, is scent. With scented candles, you can get the coziness of the light of the candle burning and the scent. You could also use an oil difuser to create that good smelling scent throughout your home. Another way you could get the coziness of scent is through baking or cooking. The smell of freshly baked cookies or bread in the oven, or perhaps a pot roast fills your home and creates that feeling of coziness and warmth. Lastly, you can create those good scents through cleaning products, which leads into my next point…

Fifth is order. Most humans thrive in a space that has order. Chaos in our physical space can breed chaos in our minds, which does not lend to a feeling of coziness or peace. I have different practices which help keep my home tidy, which I have a blog post about and you can read that post here. When things are put away, and clean this lends to a feeling of coziness. 

Lastly, surrounding yourself with things you find beautiful – whether that’s family photos, books, or intentional home decor. In spite of what some people think, “minimalism” doesn’t have a number of certain things. It’s whatever makes YOU feel comfortable, and whatever brings YOU joy!

I hope this post inspired you to find new and creative ways to create a feeling of cozy throughout your home.

Here is the YouTube video I made with this information.

Things I Wish I Could Quit Buying, and Why I Don’t

I often will see creative content from minimalists who share a list of all the things they no longer purchase now that they are minimalist. Sometimes this type of content makes me feel bad, because I think I should not purchase some of these items, but when I think about it, I know  it’s just not practical for me and my family. I thought I would share the 15 things I wish I could quit buying and why I don’t.

Paper Towels and Paper Napkins. I do try to use cleaning cloths as much as possible, however there are times when jobs are so messy or unsanitary that I prefer to use something disposable instead of something I will need to wash. Also, we use paper towels to cover our food when we are cooking it in the microwave so it doesn’t splatter in there. As for napkins, I actually used to have cloth napkins and we used them every night at dinner. But, probably some time around the time our third child was born I gave up on keeping up with that extra laundry. To be honest, now that my kids are older, we don’t use napkins all the time. We only use them if it is a messy meal.

Disposable Plates, Cups, and Silverware. Truthfully, we RARELY use these, but I do keep them on hand for emergencies or if my kids have friends over. If we have a large gathering at our home, we will use disposable plates, cups, and silverware as well.

Plastic Bags (Ziplocks), Plastic Wrap, Tin Foil, and Parchment Paper. Again, I don’t use these items frequently. I have reusable plastic bags, and beeswax paper to replace plastic wrap. But, there are occasions when I use these items. I don’t like to use any reusable plastic bags  with raw meat. Also, I don’t have a large collection of reusable plastic bags, so if all of the reusable ones are used then we will use a disposable one. I use foil on our grill to cook our food on, and to line a baking sheet with some of the items that I cook. I use parchment paper when I bake cookies, and for some other recipes. I think there might be reusable parchment paper? I’ve never looked into that though.

Individually Wrapped Snacks. I recognize that it’s a lot of extra wrapping to purchase these types of snacks, however it is nice to have some snacks that are already portioned out. I’m not talking about chips or crackers. I’m talking about protein bars, oatmeal packets, and easy one person meals to name a few. Some things like the individual easy meals are great for teens to make on their own, and it doesn’t create leftovers.

Home Decor. I would like to be a minimalist, but there are just some areas where I enjoy having beautiful things. I don’t have an excessive amount of home decor, but I do like having it as I feel like it makes our home feel cozy and inviting. Along these same lines, is seasonal decor. I don’t keep a lot  of seasonal decor, but I do have decor for Easter, spring/summer, fall, and Christmas. I have tried to curate an intentional collection of seasonal decor.

Decorative Pillows. I have to say, it has been a while since I last purchased decorative pillows. For those of you who don’t know, in 2019 I did a “No Spend Year” with regards to clothes and home decor. I did not purchase any pillows during that year, and now we are in May of 2020 and I still have not purchased any new ones! But, I do like using throw pillows as a way to make spaces more warm and cozy. When I can, I use pillow covers to change out my pillows making it easier to store.

Fake Plants. I would REALLY like to be able to have all real plants in my home, but the reality is I’m barely keeping the four real plants that I have in my home alive! I have killed so many real plants – including cacti and succulents {{how do you do that??}} I love the look of plants, so I have included fake plants and succulents throughout my home.

Clothes. As I mentioned, in 2019 I did not purchase any clothes (with some exceptions! You can read my blog post about my reflections from my No Spend Year.) During that year, I did learn about fast fashion and how some brands do not ethically source their clothing items. I am now purchasing clothes either second hand, from small boutiques/business, or from brands that have ethical practices. I love beautiful things! I love putting together outfits, so yes I do still purchase clothes. I have been doing the one in, one out rule – if I purchase an item I remove one of a similar type of item from my wardrobe. This helps me to be more intentional with what I purchase.

Disposable Feminine Products. Okay, skip on to the next one if this is TMI for you! I did try two different brands of the period cups, both of them were $20-30, and neither one worked for me. I decided I’m probably close enough to menopause that it’s not worth it to try yet another brand!

Q-tips and Cotton Pads. I have thought about purchasing reusable Q-tips and cotton pads, but as of now I am using the disposable kind. For those of you who have reusable Q-tips and/or cotton pads, are they difficult to clean? Do you wash them in the washer? Or just in the sink?

Cleaning Products. I have to admit, lately I’ve been really pondering if I should make my own cleaning products with simple items I already have on hand (vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils), but as of now I do purchase pre-made cleaning products. I use the Grove Collaborative website to order what I need. It is a subscription based service that will send cleaning products to your door once a month! They have a lot of essential oil based {{more}} all-natural products. I do recognize that these products aren’t as natural as just making your own.

Candles and Essential Oils. There is conflicting data on the health hazards of both candles and essential oils. The data on the candles being hazardous is probably more legit, as even scented soy candles have chemicals in them to create the scent. I more often diffuse essential oils than to light candles, but either way, I do love my home to smell good! I used to use those Glade or Yankee Candle plug-ins, but I stopped using those several years ago. I may eventually give up lighting scented candles, but I would have to find some all-natural, unscented ones because I love the cozy ambiance candles create.

Books. If there is a book I would like to read, I typically buy or borrow the physical book. There is just something about holding a physical book and turning the pages. Especially now that we are quarantined, I have thought about trying out the library service where you can rent audio books, or ebooks.

Coffee at a Coffee Shop. Most of the time I make my coffee at home, but every once in a while this mama needs a treat!

Hair Dye. I’m 45 years old and that is old enough to have gray hair, but I feel like it’s young enough to cover it up to continue looking young. I know one day I will give this up, and I recognize that many people may find this vain, but that is not how I currently feel about it. I think it’s okay to take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise, and do things to make you look and feel younger!

Well, I hope this may help you to feel better about the things you continue to purchase, if you’re like me and are striving for minimalism but am not quite there yet. Let me know if you purchase these items too, or if you don’t why you don’t!

Sharing Our Home Renovations

Being quarantined over the last several weeks has given me the opportunity to slow down, giving me extra time to think and reflect. One of the things I have been pondering is regret in life. It’s easy to look back over your life and see all the ways you would have done things differently, because hindsight is 20/20. One of the things I learned is to lean into that truth: let me say it again, HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. How apropos that I would be thinking about this in 2020! I want to learn to embrace the mistakes I’ve made, realizing this is how we learn and grow as people! I want to accept, and that means first acknowledge, that I would have done things differently if I had known. Accept that I did not have a crystal ball. Accept that I cannot change the past. Accept that all I can do now is MOVE FORWARD!

Another thing that I am working on, in light of regret, is focusing on the things I did right in the past and continue to make those things a part of my life. So often the negative overcrowds the positive. We see the 10% that we could have done differently, and we forget about the 90% we did right! So, let me encourage you today to focus on the positive, and move forward with the knowledge that you will do the best in the time with what you know at that time!

One of my biggest regrets has been not starting to put myself out there sooner. Back in 2009, we moved into a fixer upper. At that time, I had a blog (before blogs were really a thing), but it was mostly to document what my kids were doing as a platform to share with our extended family members since all of our family lived far away. I was bad at keeping up with it, and eventually abandoned it all together. Looking back, I realize that I should have shared the journey of updating our home on that blog. In addition to this, about 5 or 6 years ago I began a journey of more simplistic living. I started to do serious decluttering. Again, I wish that I would have documented and shared that journey. The reality is, I felt like I was too busy at that stage in my life to take the extra time to document and share what I was doing. But, I was also held back by insecurity. Reflecting on it all, I realize that perhaps things unfold in their own best timing.

Today, I wanted to share the transformation our home has made over the past (almost) 11 years since we purchased this home. Some of the work I have done myself, and other work we hired out. I apologize for the low quality photos. At points I didn’t even take before photos! But, I wanted to share as much as I could! Let me start by saying that every area in our home has been transformed several times. Wherever there is a change in large pieces, like furniture, I have always sold our previous furniture on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to offset the cost of the new piece. I wanted to tell you about a few things I did that will not be showcased in this post. We changed all the door knobs and hinges – from random mismatched to all a dark bronze color, and light switches and plugs – from the almond/cream color to white. I also painted all of the closets and the built in shelves in the closets as well.

I’ll start with our entryway. This area has seen several transformations. I struggled to find an entryway table and mirror that I liked. I can’t even find a photo of one of them that I had purchased. I had transformed it by painting it blue and adding new hardware. I couldn’t find a photo of the entryway prior to getting the wainscoting painted, but you’ll see the transformation of the wainscoting in other areas of the home.

This photo was taken in the spring of 2010, so about 9 months after moving in. I painted the walls this neutral beige… back when that was a popular wall color! This is the first entry table/mirror combo I had. The light fixture was the one that the previous owners had chosen. I eventually replaced this light.
Here is what the second entry table looked like after I had painted it and added new hardware. I paired it with this round brass edged mirror. I always felt like this mirror was too small. Ultimately I ended up selling this entry table for more than the new one. I was just tired of the blue.
This is what the entryway looks like now. I replaced the previous table with this table. I sold the blue table on Facebook marketplace. I also got this bigger black edged mirror. You will see that brass mirror later! I also purchased a vintage runner rug to complete the look. I also ended up painting our front door. We contemplated replacing it, but the budget for other other projects took precedence over a new door.
This is the light fixture I chose to replace the old one.

Next is our front room. I think I painted this room 3, maybe 4, times trying to find a paint color I liked. I found a dark, moody grey that I really loved and it was that color for several years. In the span of the last 11 years, we have replaced all the furniture in this room, and replaced the flooring. We also had several different rugs, which kept getting ruined by the kid-dog combo!

I gave up on rugs for a period of time. I loved the way they looked and the coziness it brought to the room, but I could not steam vac or throw away another rug! I ended up going back to a light grey color on the walls in this room. We replaced our old entertainment center, which was an appropriate size for the HUGE projection TV we used to own. I found this vintage repurposed high boy at a local furniture boutique.
I recently finally took the plunge and ordered another rug from RugsUSA.com. They had a warranty plan that was reasonably priced and included dogs messing them up! And, guess what, so far the dogs have not messed this one up!
I also found this vintage coffee table at Salvation Army.

The next area is the kitchen nook. We painted the walls (a couple different times), the wainscoting, and the built in desk. The cabinets above the desk had glass doors, and ultimately I decided to remove them to have more of an open shelf look. You will also notice that we eventually replace our windows.

This is what the kitchen nook looked like when we first moved in.
This is what it looked like after the wainscoting was painted, but before the desk cabinets were painted. I eventually replace the light fixture as well.
Here you can see that I replace the light fixture. I still wanted the fan, so I connected a chandelier to a fan/light kit. I also painted the walls a light grey, and added our command center with calendars and family photos.
This is what the kitchen desk looks like now. I painted it all black and removed the glass cabinet doors.
I ended up replacing the fan/chandelier that I had put up with this mid-century chandelier as my style continued to evolve.

Next up is the kitchen. I was so proud of this transformation! I painted the cabinets myself, using a Rustoleum product called Cabinet Transformations. It took several months to complete this project as my kids were young and busy with after school activities, so I would put the paint away before picking them up from school. Five years ago, when we had the carpet replaced, we used the same contractor to replace the tile in the kitchen, which made a huge impact in my opinion! I would not have chose black granite counter tops, the previous owners chose those, but we decided to keep them since they were in good condition.

This is what the kitchen looked like when we first moved in.
Here is what it looked like after I painted the cabinets. I changed all the hardware on the cabinets as well.
This is what the kitchen looks like now!

The next room is what is supposed to be our dining room, but I made it our play/homework room when we first moved in. I thought it was a great place since it was right next to the kitchen. This space has evolved over the years as well. As our children outgrew toys, this area became the homework/computer desk area. Over time, my middle child was the only one who used this room to do homework, and it kind of organically turned into his “office.” This space had the cheap looking faux wood floors, which we decided to replace with the wood we used in the front room since those two spaces were connected.

This is what the space looked like after I transformed it into more of an adult looking office for my son for his 17th birthday. We also purchased that large table to be used as a desk.

The next space was our game room. We live in a split level home, so it is down a half set of stairs. When I saw this room, I thought no way do I want this house! But wait to see what a little paint can do to a space…

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the built in bookshelves/cabinets when the painters came to paint the wainscoting, so I had them leave those. We had all the wainscoting and trim throughout the downstairs and middle section painted white by professionals about 9 months after we moved into the home. The upstairs trim had already been painted white by the previous owners.
I got tired of the accent wall behind the shelving, and painted it all black for a more cohesive look. I also spray painted the hardware brass.
When we had the contractor here to put in the floors and kitchen back splash, his guys also scraped off the popcorn ceiling in this room. After we had the wainscoting painted white, the ceiling looked dingy. One day, I got the itch to paint, and decided to paint the ceiling the same light grey that I had used throughout the rest of my home.

Downstairs, we have a half bath and a laundry room. These spaces have seen transformations as well! If you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m a big fan of paint!

This is what our laundry room looked like when we first moved in. Orange counter tops, honey colored cabinets, and orange cabinet hardware! Full on 70’s look here!

Next, we’ll head upstairs and I will show you the bedrooms, and two full baths. All of these bedrooms have been transformed several times!

The master bedroom has had MANY makeovers. Obviously I get bored with a look and want to switch it up! I painted the bathroom cabinets, added new hardware to the cabinets (TWICE!) , and installed a barn door going into our bathroom. I also changed out the fan with a fan/chandelier combo, and later replace the chandelier with one that fit my ever-evolving style! I painted this room several times – including the trim and wood beam.

After only about a year and a half of the dark room, I had enough and I wanted light and bright! I decided to paint one wall a dark color, but everything else white. I decided also repaint all the trim, as it was in need of it! In addition to that, I also painted the once black beam in our bedroom white.

The next room was an exercise room when we first moved in, but shortly thereafter, my husband started working from home so it also became his office. After we got gym memberships, we decided to sell our exercise equipment. When my daughter went to college, my younger son moved out of the bedroom he was sharing with his older brother into his sister’s room and we put her bed in the office. I originally painted this room that same beige that I had in other areas of my home when we first moved in. After a while I got tired of that color and painted it a light grey. When my daughter moved home the first summer she decided she didn’t want to move back into her old room, but she wanted the walls white in her shared bedroom/office space – which was the last color she chose for her previous bedroom.

Next is my daughter’s room. She was almost 13 years old when we moved into this house. As you could imagine, it was tough to move at that age. I told her we could do whatever she wanted in her room. She chose to do a paint splatter accent wall, but she would quickly get tired of that and we did a couple of makeovers!

This is what her room looked like before we moved in.
We painted over the accent wall with dark brown paint to match the other three walls, and we wrote out Harry Potter quotes around the room. Thankfully her artistic best friend helped us out. This is the best photo I could find of her room with Harry Potter quotes.
Lastly, she begged me to paint her room white. She wanted a simple look with white walls and white bedding. She also had this vision to hang string lights, and get rid of her bed frame.

Another space that saw lots of change was my boys’ shared bedroom. I had this tradition that the summer before 6th grade we could redo your room. So, this room got a makeover from the cars and trucks theme to a more pre-teen look when my son Luke was going to head into middle school. We again did a makeover when my younger son, Cade was about to enter middle school. I did another small makeover when my middle son moved to college. There was a painting design that I wanted to try out where you paint the top one fourth white and the bottom three fourths another color. I thought my son wouldn’t be bothered because he doesn’t seem to care about those sorts of things, but the truth finally came out! Hahaha!

This is what the boys’ room looked like before we moved in.
The second update. We painted the walls and added new bedding, and some new artwork.
This is what the white with color paint design looks like. If you’re curious about the decor – my son is currently a pre-med major.

Another area that has seen change is our second full bathroom that our three kids share. I painted the cabinets in this bathroom black like I did in our bathroom. I also changed the hardware on the cabinets and replaced the light with a light fixture like in our other bathrooms. We had this bathroom remodeled as well, replacing the counter tops, the tub, and the tile around the tub. I painted the floor in this bathroom as well. I also ended up repainting this bathroom to the light grey color that I have throughout the rest of our home.

I painted it this bluish grey color shortly after we moved in.

The last place I will show you is the garage. This space made a transformation as well. The previous owners had left a lot of things in this garage. including shelving, a work bench, and some peg boards. Ultimately we got rid of everything they left and added hanging wall shelves at the back of the garage. I also painted all the doors black, and used a neutral greige color on the wall.

I hope this gave you inspiration to jump in on projects that you have hesitated to do. If there are areas of your home that you don’t love, you can change them with a little time, elbow grease, or… money haha! I have thoroughly enjoyed transforming this house into something that is ours, something that is cozy, and something that makes me and my family want to be here! AND, it’s still a work in progress!

10 Areas To Declutter Without Donations

In case you missed it, in my last blog post in which I made some suggestions on staying sane during quarantine, I mentioned that while you’re stuck at home it’s a great time to purge and organize. I realize that many donation centers are not accepting donations at this time, so I thought I would share with you 10 types of things you can purge that don’t need to be donated.

{{FIRST}} Physical Photos. If you are in the group of people who still have physical photos in your home, now is a great time to go through those photos and decide which to keep, which to throw away, and how you would like to store them. Some people don’t like just throwing photos in the trash, I would suggest shredding them first if you don’t want some dumpster diver finding a random photo with your likeness. The photos you do choose to keep could be stored in a storage box, placed in a photo album or scrapbook, or you could scan them before throwing the remainder away.

{{SECOND}} Digital Clutter. This could be a variety of things. It could be going through your email inbox, deleting photos you no longer need (often people will take several shots of the same setting to make sure they got the shot they wanted – you  can delete the ones that didn’t turn out), downloads you no longer need stored on your computer, social media declutter (deleting any people you no longer want to follow). This is a great time to organize your digital files in general.

{{THIRD}} Paper Clutter/Files. You could spend some time getting rid of any paperwork you no longer need or is no longer pertinent in your life. Or you could spend time scanning in files so that you can store those files digitally as opposed to having physical files taking up space in your home. There are several great apps to use to capture these files if you don’t want to scan them in. Another area where we accumulate paper clutter is through instruction manuals. Many of these can now be found easily online through the company’s website. You could check to make sure, and often you are able to download those instructions onto your computer.

{{FOURTH}} CDs/DVDs. Whether this is games or movies you no longer watch or play, or if it’s something you could convert to a digital version to get rid of the physical copy. Perhaps you could determine if you have some CDs that came with a camera or a printer which are available to download from the website now so you no longer need the physical copy.

{{FIFTH}} Kids Artwork/Crafts. Somehow these seem to pile up fast – at least they did around my house when my kids were younger! Go through and assess which ones are worth saving, and which you can throw away. You could even take a photo of the artwork before throwing it away to be able to still have that memory. If it is truly a masterpiece, you could create a scrapbook to store the artwork neatly to be able to go back and easily look through it. I created a scrapbook for each of my kids of the artwork they made when they were younger.

{{SIXTH}} Old/Broken Craft Items. Go through your craft items stash – see if you have broken pencils, worn out crayons, or items that aren’t in good enough shape anymore to be used.

{{SEVENTH}} Random/Broken Pieces. Likely you will find these items in a junk drawer and floating around the toybox. Assess if you have any items that you have no idea what they are or broken items and get rid of them!

{{EIGHTH}} Expired Food. Assess what food you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. See if there are any foods that are expired or have gone bad. This is a great time to assess what food you have to make sure you are being efficient in using what you already have!

{{NINTH}} Unused/Empty Toiletries/Make Up. Do you have an empty shampoo bottle sitting in the shower? Or maybe you have that eye shadow that you tried once three years ago and it just didn’t work. See if you have any toiletries or make up that you are no longer using.

{{TENTH}} Paint/Chemicals You No Longer Use. This one is tricky, because technically these should be safely disposed of at a chemical recycling center. However, you could grab a box and fill it with these items and store it in the garage until the lock down instructions have been lifted. Then, those items will be ready to go to the recycle center.

Obviously, you don’t have to tackle all of these areas while in quarantine. I just thought I would share with you some ideas of things that can be thrown away instead of taken to the donation center. I hope this inspired you to pick an area in your home to declutter!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post!

Surviving Quarantine

All of our lives were turned upside down just a few short weeks ago. With the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, it’s almost like we’re living in some sort of thriller type movie. With many being quarantined at home, we’re trying to find a new normal. We’re searching for ways to keep some normalcy from what our lives used to be like, but the truth is life has changed. And it has changed dramatically.

As someone who considers herself a homebody – and does a good portion of my work from home, I wanted to share some tips on how to keep sane in this time. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing that you are required to stay at home. It can be a time when you evaluate what your life looked like – how you spent your time, energy, and money, and decide if there are any changes you want to make moving forward once life “gets back to normal.”

The first thing I would suggest is to make a schedule and write it down. Make a schedule for you and for your kids. I understand that not all people “like” to live with a schedule. For you, it could be more of a loose schedule. But when we don’t have a schedule, it’s easy to waste time and get side-tracked which ultimately can lead to feelings of depression. Prior to this pandemic hitting the world, many of you had a routine which happened organically. Likely your children had the same experience, especially if they are school aged or went to daycare. Although you could fly by the seat of your pants everyday, it would benefit you to create some sort of routine.

There are several areas in life where a schedule would be beneficial. One area would be a cleaning schedule.I have found that spreading out the chores for your entire house over the course of the week, as opposed to doing it all in one day, is much less overwhelming and stressful. In addition, when you choose one or two chores to do each day, keeping the house clean seems more manageable. You don’t need to worry about the entire house every day – each day choose one or two chores to complete and those are the only chores you will need to think about that day. Typically this won’t take longer than 45 minutes. You could even break it up into a couple “cleaning sessions” in the day.

Here is my schedule for the spring semester (this was prior to the lock down instructions.)

A few more things that need to be worked into your schedule is of course work (your career), checking in with your kids and their work, exercise, and downtime. I recently heard in a news story that a good balance would be to work for 45 minutes, then check in with your kids for 15 minutes each hour (this will obviously depend on the age/independence of your children. My college-aged kids are on their own! Hahaha!) Building in time to exercise and downtime is really important in this time too.

The second thing you can do is to keep things as normal as possible. While this is difficult since many of our lives have changed dramatically, there are small things we can do to keep normalcy in our lives in this uncertain time. Keep routines that you previously had that still work. Take a shower, get dressed, put on makeup, make your bed – anything to make things feel routine. It could be easy to not keep these regular routines since you aren’t leaving the house, but it can make you feel more normal and maybe even more productive.

Something else I wanted to suggest {{OBVIOUSLY}} is to take advantage of this extra time at home by purging and organizing your spaces. Perhaps choose one room/space per week to focus on and do a little each day. It may seem counter intuitive to purge in this time where there is a worldwide crisis because the tendency in this sort of environment is to hoard, however if your space is neat and only has those items you love and use, it will be a lot easier to get work done and stick to your routines. Oftentimes (not for everyone), a cluttered external environment causes your mind to feel cluttered making it difficult to focus and get work done.  If you’re leery of getting rid of things at this time, collect items in a bin and store them in your garage or basement for 6 months to see if you can go without these items. If you do in fact need any of them, you are able to easily retrieve them. There are several places in your home that could be tackled, and I have a couple different blog posts if you need some direction, but a great place to start would be with your food – your pantry and refrigerator/freezer. Across the world, it has grown increasingly difficult to acquire the foods we want and just to go out to get it with the lock down instructions in place. It can be a great time to assess what food you already have and find creative ways to use what you have! I know many people feel emotionally drained at this time, which can also make you mentally and physically drained, making it difficult to tackle something like decluttering. Just remember, you can start small. Do one drawer or one cabinet, and that can give you momentum to declutter other spaces.

Lastly, I wanted to share that this is a great time to instill new, positive habits. They say it takes 21 days to create a true habit. Who knows how long we will be asked to stay on lock down, but you can start today to create new habits while you are forced to stay at home and potentially have more time on your hands. Some ideas are to create cleaning routines/habits, make exercise (even just walking!) a regular part of your life, or begin to spend time in prayer and/or mediation (this doesn’t even have to be “spiritual.” You can meditate on positive affirmations). This is also a great time to focus on drinking lots of water and getting enough rest. If we do contract this worldwide virus, it’s best to have healthy practices to give our bodies the best chance to fight it off.

I hope this encouraged you to see the silver lining in this time that you are stuck at home. Enjoy the slower pace of life, reevaluate what you do with your time and money, instill new positive routines and habits into your life!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.