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31 Days to Clutter Free

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For the month of October, I’m taking part in The Nester’s 31-Day Writing Challenge. I thought it would be a fun way to sort of “relaunch” this blog since I’ve been neglecting it for a while. But I’m actually tackling two different 31-day challenges (too much?) because my topic is “de-cluttering,” and I’m following Ruth Soukup’s plan for 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life. So…October, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

I chose de-cluttering as my topic because I am tired of all the stuff we so easily accumulate in our home that we don’t really want or need. When things are less cluttered, I feel like I can breathe easier. It’s easier to find things. It’s easier to relax and focus on the stuff that really matters.

We do fairly well keeping common areas clutter-free, but our storage spaces and less used areas are pretty much organizational disasters (think medicine cabinet, linen closets, office, etc.). So I’m really excited to simplify and see some results.

I’ll be following the 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life plan, focusing on a certain area of our house each day, and writing about my progress here.

My two ground rules are: 1) spend 30-60 minutes on each de-cluttering task and 2) don’t spend any money on organizing tools for this challenge. I’ll be reminding myself that my goal isn’t to create a picture-perfectly organized home to show off, but to get rid of stuff in order to live more simply.

I’d love for you to follow along with me on this journey!

I’ll be adding the links to each day’s post below.

Day 1 – Intro (this post)

Day 2 – Entryway

Day 3 – Mail

Day 4 & Day 5 – Living Room/Books & Magazines

Day 6 – DVDs and Video Games

Day 7 – Toys

Day 8 – Junk Drawer

Day 9 – Dining Area

Weekend Links & What I’m Enjoying

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged…over three months to be exact. Nothing too big has been going on, just the usual life stuff. But it’s funny how as more time goes by without doing something, it’s easier to keep bumping it down the list.

I thought I’d jump back into it with weekend links & some other random stuff we’ve been into lately.

A couple links I enjoyed last week:


Some things I’m enjoying…

Reading: I’m a little over halfway through Stephen King’s new book Mr. Mercedes, and it’s already one of my favorites from him. Fast-paced, solid writing and interesting characters. It’s a detective story, much different than his usual horror stuff.

Eating: If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed my adoration of Blue Apron. It’s a little on the pricey side (10 bucks per meal per person, with fresh ingredients for 3 meals delivered each week), but it has HUGELY improved our dinner habits. For one, we aren’t eating restaurant food nearly as often, which saves us money. And I can’t even remember the last time we had a frozen meal for dinner (which used to happen a lot). We’re learning to cook new things. And the best, most time-saving part is that the ingredients are already portioned out, so there’s no time spent on searching for everything in the store or measuring it all out at home. On Blue Apron nights, we cook together after Weston is in bed, and it almost feels like a date night. Much more fun than throwing some eggs in a skillet and calling it dinner. (Although let’s be honest, that does still happen about once a week).

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Memory-making: We went to the beach last week and got to introduce Weston to the ocean. Lots of sun and sand and seafood and reading and family time = glorious. We discovered just how different a vacation is when a baby is on board (no more hours of undisturbed beach lounging), but all the extra work was so worth seeing how much he enjoyed it all.

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Getting creative: I’ll add an update when I actually make this project, but I was so excited to find the site Pint Size Productions for making personalized baby board books. A while back, I documented Weston’s typical day in photos, and I can’t wait to make them into a cute little board book just for him. We’ll see how it turns out!

Happy Weekend (what’s left of it…:))

 

Baby Products We’re Loving (An Update)

A while back, I wrote a post about some of our favorite baby products. We’re still using most of the stuff I wrote about then, but with our growing (and more active/mobile) babe, we’ve added a few things to our favorites list. I wouldn’t say these things are our must-haves, but they’re definitely some good-to-haves that we didn’t necessarily know about pre-baby. And if they make our little one happier and our lives easier, we’re fans.

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  1. Chewbeads – I have three of these necklaces, and Weston and his little gums love them dearly. It’s nice because unlike with a typical teething toy, I don’t have to worry about him dropping this on the floor seventy billion times for me to pick up and wipe off seventy billion times. And if we’re out at a place where he doesn’t feel completely at ease, the necklace is almost like a comfort item, since it’s right there to grab and play with if I’m holding him. (Anything that keeps him from yanking and chewing on my hair). :)
  2. Relax Melodies iPhone app – We discovered this little gem while staying overnight at the beach. After realizing we left Weston’s noise machine at home, we had a minor freakout. Weston is a really good sleeper at home, with the noise machine on for naps and nighttime sleep (at a really low volume at night when there aren’t other sounds around the house to block out), and we like to stick with what works. Especially because an inconsolable, unable-to-sleep baby in a hotel room would be a less than pleasant scenario. He does take naps without it in his carseat or stroller when we’re out and about, and he doesn’t have it when he stays with my parents, so it might not even be that necessary. But using this app put us at ease knowing he was more likely to have peaceful sleep. We used the “river” setting, and he slept great. It was nice to not have to tiptoe around the room once he went to sleep. This app is definitely handy for traveling, since then the noise machine is one less thing to pack.
  3. CeraVe moisturizing cream – Weston has sensitive skin, and although we occasionally have to use prescription-strength stuff on certain places (like eczema patches he gets on his cheeks), this cream works wonders for the rest of his little body. It’s nice and thick and fragrance-free, so it doesn’t cause any irritation. We’ve used tons of different lotions and creams, but a dermatologist recommended this brand, and it’s our current fave for protecting and moisturizing his eczema-prone skin. (We also use Aquaphor on his face, which is great, too; we just prefer the CeraVe for the rest of him since it’s less serum-y and more lotion-y).
  4. Outdoor blanket – Since the weather has been nice and Springy lately (well, except for this week…what the heck), we’ve been venturing outside to get some good ol’ vitamin D during the day a lot more often. We love tossing this blanket down in the backyard. It’s big enough for spreading out lots of toys and books, and the material makes it really easy to wipe off. It also folds and zips up neatly into a rectangle with a nifty handle…although it takes approximately 75 tries to get it folded right…but eventually you get the hang of it.
  5. IKEA Antilop highchair – Obviously a highchair is handy to have around with a little one in the house, but I am absolutely in love with this one. We received a Graco one that we registered for pre-baby, but after seeing this IKEA highchair, I knew it would take up less space, be easier to clean, and require much less time and frustration to put together (you’re welcome for that last part, husband). And it’s only 25 bucks. Win.

It’s fun to see how our favorite products evolve over time as our little guy grows. We’re learning that this parenting thing is all about taking in suggestions from others, coming up with some ideas of your own, and combining all of that knowledge to discover what works best for your kid. So this list is just what’s been working for us lately with our sweet 8-month old. :)

What baby products are you loving? Anything in particular for these warmer weather months we’re getting into?

 

 

Blogs I Love

Finding a few minutes here and there to keep up with my favorite blogs is something I love to do. The ones I read are all unique in their own ways, but many of them have common threads —  homemaking, faith, living simply, motherhood. I thought I’d share the ones I read regularly, so you can enjoy their fabulousness too, if you aren’t already a fan!

(I read these through the Feedly app on my phone that updates whenever each blog has a new post. This app saves me tons of time — I used to just revisit the sites repeatedly, checking to see if there was a new post. Oftentimes there wasn’t, so I was just wasting time clicking around).

Here are some of the blogs I’m subscribed to, along with brief descriptions:

  1. Enjoying the Small Things – motherhood, slowing down & enjoying life, party planning ideas
  2. Bower Power – home improvement projects, motherhood (she’s also insanely funny)
  3. Young House Love – home improvement projects, parenthood, “green” living
  4. A Holy Experience – faith, living with gratefulness (author of the book One Thousand Giftslove her poetic writing)
  5. Momastery – motherhood, faith, living & loving bravely (also hilarious)
  6. iHeart Organizing – hence the title…tons of organizing goodness
  7. The Art of Simple – living slowly & simply, faith
  8. The Happiness Project – knowing yourself, tips for happier living

So those are verrry brief descriptions, but I love these blogs and keep up with every post these people write. Check ’em out if you get the chance!

What are your favorite blogs? I love discovering new ones to read.

 

 

Getting Organized: Kitchen Junk Drawer

Hello again!

It’s been three weeks since I’ve shown up here, whoops! Life has been full, and with Will’s new work schedule, we’ve been heading to bed earlier, so there hasn’t been much time for blogging. But I’m trying to work it into the new routines we’ve got going on.

We’ve been enjoying life the last few weeks — play dates with neighbors, Weston’s baby dedication at church, dinners with family, time with friends…and a few organizing projects around the house.

Like I mentioned here, one of my goals this year is to seriously simplify and de-clutter our home. I thought I’d start by focusing on the areas that stress me out the most when I see them every day.

The first disaster zone I’ve tackled is our kitchen “junk-drawer.” I used to cringe every time I opened this drawer (which was multiple times a day), but now I find myself wanting to open the drawer and peek at its organized yumminess whenever I walk by (I’m a weirdo, I know).

Somehow I forgot to get an actual “before” shot of the inside. I did, however, snap some photos of the overflowing junk I pulled out of the drawer and onto the counter the day I decided it needed some serious attention.

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Y’all. This drawer was so slammed full that there were papers and receipts and gum wrappers actually falling behind the drawer down into the cabinet below. Out of control. Sidenote: among the most amusing finds buried inside the drawer were extensive notes from my first “big girl” job interview 3 years ago and 8×10 photos that the previous home-owners left of their 70-something year old selves goofily giving the camera the peace sign. (After almost 3 years of living here, we are somehow still coming across little treasures they left behind).

My first plan of attack was to buy some drawer dividers. I got two medium-sized ones in the bath section of Target, and the smaller one (on the far right in the pic below) is from the dollar section of Target. The only other purchase I made was some patterned drawer liner that I found at Publix. I then emptied everything out  — a lot of it was trash, but I made piles for items that belonged in other rooms and a pile for what needed to go back into the drawer. Then I reassembled things using my handy new dividers.  It took about 20 minutes total. Here’s the “after” pic:

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This drawer is so much more functional now. I can actually find what I need without having to dig through piles of old receipts and takeout menus. I get a little jolt of happiness every time I open it since it’s no longer a crazy mess. (I’m hoping that starting with small areas like this will give me the momentum to eventually get to bigger organizing projects like our master closet, which is downright scary at the moment…as in, I pretty much always wear the same 3 shirts because I have to climb over stuff to get to the rest of my clothes. Yep, it’s that bad. Baby steps, baby steps…)

Have you done any organizing projects lately, big or small? Any certain “disaster zones” stressing you out that you can’t wait to organize?

Friday Faves

Some of my favorite things from this past week…

Fave Read: I finally finished the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (what the Game of Thrones TV show is based on), which took forever since it was a whopping 700+ pages. So this week I started something new – And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I love love loved his previous books (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), so I’m excited to dig into his latest one.

Fave TV show: We’ve been binge-watching Netflix’s House of Cards this week. And perfect timing, since season 2 premieres today. About a South Carolina congressman, this show is intriguing and addictive. And I’m a fan of pretty much anything director David Fincher touches.

Fave Treat: Since we’ve been snowed iced in for the past few days thanks to winter storm Pax, I decided we needed some kind of yummy dessert to snack on. I had some cake mix in the pantry that was about to go out of date, so I whipped up some of these cake mix cookies. I used white cake mix instead of strawberry. but a dash of red sprinkles added some sweet Valentine’s charm.

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Fave Link: This girl – always nails it. Loved her post about how single parents are awe-inspring and admirable and such warriors. Especially since having Weston, I definitely applaud those who do this parenting thing on their own. This Valentine’s holiday is a great time to remember that real love isn’t picture-perfect and tidy and easy…it’s tough and it can be exhausting. It means putting others before ourselves, which isn’t usually comfortable. And whether that love is through parenthood or marriage or family or friendship, it’s not easy, but the most important things in life usually aren’t.

Fave Instagram: Our house, during this snowstorm craziness. (Photo edited using the Waterlogue app….with which I’m obsessed).

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Here’s to warmer temps hopefully arriving soon. Wishing you a restful and happy weekend!

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

So I am trying to branch out and cook more than the same few meals over and over (my hubby is very easy to please when it comes to dinner…he’d be perfectly fine with two hot pockets every night, bless him…but even he gets tired of the same ol’ spaghetti and tacos).

My goal lately has been to cook at least one new recipe a week. That doesn’t always work out, and we still end up ordering from 256-ToGo a little too often (this company is uh-mazing and you should totally check it out if you haven’t heard of it…they deliver food from tons of restaurants around Columbia that don’t typically deliver), but we’re making progress.

Restaurant delivery and takeout can get both unhealthy and expensive, so that’s where this new dinner recipe search comes in. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all about finding recipes that are as easy as possible. The cooking gene must have skipped right over me, because my mom and grandmother are both fabulous cooks, but for the life of me I can’t even remember how many ounces are in a cup. Seriously…my lack of kitchen prowess is sad, y’all.

I came across this recipe for low-fat chicken enchiladas and modified it a bit, based on what we had in the pantry and our own personal preferences. Below is the recipe I used. These enchiladas turned out pretty yummy and are almost impossible to mess up. Hooray for adding to my slowly growing rotation of recipes.

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 8 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 can enchilada sauce

*I just recently started putting raw chicken in the crock-pot as soon as I get home from the grocery store. Cover it with water, let it cook for 4 hours on high, and then you have already cooked chicken to use in recipes later in the week!

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a medium skillet, combine chicken, cumin, oregano, chili powder, chicken broth, and tomato sauce. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Spray a 13 x 9 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place some of the chicken mixture into each tortilla, rolling each one and placing them seam side down in the dish. (I just eyeballed the amount of chicken mixture to place in each tortilla, trying to make it an even amount in each one).
  • Top the tortillas with enchilada sauce (and cheese if you’d like).
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Enjoy! :)

What’s your favorite easy dinner recipe? 

Friday Faves

(I’m writing this “Friday Faves” post even though it’s technically now Saturday and no longer Friday…oops).

Some things I’m currently loving…

1. Fave Pretty Thing – I stumbled across the etsy shop Ivy Lane Accessories this week and am so obsessed with these gorgeous post earrings. I’ll definitely be ordering some, not only because they’re so adorable, but because little baby fingers can’t grab them and inflict all kinds of pain on my earlobes. :)

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2. Fave Treat – I made this Valentine’s snack mix a couple weeks ago and am still making more batches. It’s more of a dessert than a healthy snack (peanuts, dark chocolate m&ms, and marshmallows), but it’s a perfect mix of sweet and salty and festive Valentine color…and it just makes me happy.

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3. Fave Read – I’m reading Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider and loving all of her wisdom about simple living — what it means, why it matters, and how to get there. (I wrote this post about her new book, Notes From a Blue Bike).

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4. Fave Instagram – Family selfie on the floor during play time.

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5. Fave Entertainment – We watched the movie Enough Said this past week and really enjoyed it. Since having Weston, we haven’t really watched that many movies; it’s easier to just watch TV shows since they come in smaller time segments. But we’re trying to get back into watching more movies, and this one did not disappoint…funny and sweet and sentimental of course since James Gandolfini recently passed. Worth the time to watch, for sure.

Happy Weekend!

 

 

Being Intentional & Simplifying in 2014

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour. Tsh Oxenreider (from The Art of Simple) has a new book out, Notes From a Blue Bike. As part of her book launch, she’s invited readers to share posts about their own journeys toward living slower, simpler, and with more intention.

My “theme word” for 2014 is intentional. I love making goals and resolutions, and I can go a little overboard with way too many goals at a time, so it helps to narrow my focus to one or two key words. I chose “intentional” for this year because it’s so easy to go through my days and feel like I’m just letting life happen instead of consciously making choices that match my values or actively choosing the way I want my life to be. Since Tsh’s new book is all about living more intentionally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and get some fresh inspiration.

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I thought I’d share a few areas of my life in which I’m striving to be more intentional this year…

  • Time – There are a lot of changes I want to make with how purposefully I spend my time, from little things like not wasting all of my spare minutes scrolling through various social media, to bigger things like how we spend our evening hours together as a family. With my husband’s new job, we have less time at home together (he was working from home a lot before), so we’re trying to make better choices with how we spend our time together at night. We both feed Weston dinner and give him his bath, so it’s nice to have those family rituals each evening. But we’re also working on healthier boundaries with technology — not being glued to our various devices but making the time for more conversation and more meaningful time together. For example, if we feel like watching TV, we try to choose a show we both really like and enjoy it together without other distractions instead of just leaving the TV on as background noise while we do other stuff. I also want to use the time I spend feeding my son more intentionally — I nurse Weston six times a day, so that’s a huge chunk of time that I could be using more wisely – by just slowing down and resting, or reading something I actually want to read, instead of playing around on my phone or checking email repeatedly while I’m feeding him.
  • Friendships — I want to be more intentional with putting in the effort and time to build new relationships as well as being consistent in connecting with the friends I already have. Things like regular phone dates with out-of-town friends and showing up to play dates where I can meet and get to know neighbors and other mom friends (Weston and I recently joined two play groups — one in our neighborhood and one for moms in the northeast Columbia area — which we’re really excited about :)) So often friendships get put on the back-burner when we think we’re too busy to really invest time in other people, but I want to prioritize relationships more this year.
  • Our Home — I didn’t realize how cluttered our little house had gotten until all the baby items came along and we realized we have nowhere to store it all! It’s pretty embarrassing how cluttered some areas of our home are, and a shame that we can’t even use some rooms/closets because they’re just overflowing with STUFF that we don’t even use. Areas like our office, office closet, bedroom closet, and pantry need a major overhaul. My goal is to simplify, take A LOT of stuff to Goodwill, and have room for the things in our house we actually use and love.
  • Filling my cup — Motherhood is the most rewarding and joyful experience, but it requires a constant giving of yourself and your time and your energy, and that’s not always easy. I’m learning to be less selfish with my own plans and wants, but I’ve found that I need to carve out at least some time each day to do things I love, like reading a little bit before bed each night, even if it’s only a page. Or setting aside just a few minutes here and there to be creative, like working on a digital photo book project or blogging after Weston goes to sleep at night. When I don’t make time for “filling my cup” with some of these things that reenergize me, I feel drained and not myself. And when I’m not making regular time for things just for me, I’m much more prone to getting impatient and frustrated throughout the day.

Do you have a theme word for 2014? How are you hoping to live differently this year? I’d love to hear. :)

 

IKEA Organizing Faves

IKEA trips are pretty much my favorite thing. I am like a drooling kid in a candy store when I go to this place. Like, I literally drool. Or maybe that’s just Weston’s drool all over me. The first time I went, my mom and I both could barely contain ourselves (“everything’s so cheap! and so cute!”). We spent 7 hours shopping that day. Of course, my hubs wasn’t quite as excited when I got home with a car FULL of cheap & cute stuff, most of which required hours of his manual labor to put together (sorry, babe)!

My mom is usually my IKEA shopping buddy, and we went last week. But this time, we had a new little shopper with us:

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Actually I guess Weston’s first IKEA trip was last Spring, when he looked like this:

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Anyways, he was quite the trooper. He loves being out and about in stores (Target is another one of his faves…boy after my own heart :))

I went with a few items in mind to look for, based on areas in our home that desperately need some organizing attention (pantry & master closet in particular…major disaster zones).

Here are some of the things I bought that I can’t wait to use…

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I snagged two of these boxes ($5.99 each) to store some of Weston’s toys in our office/room where we stash random junk (please tell me I’m not the only one who has a random junk room?!) We keep some of his larger toys in here, so it made sense to put at least some smaller toys too so he has other options when playing in here. These boxes are big enough to hold plenty of toys, and I like the soft fabric texture, too. We’re trying our best to keep things fairly simple and not let baby toys completely take over our home, so right now it’s working for us to have one box of toys in his nursery, one in the living room, and one in the office, in addition to a few bigger toys (like activity mats and a sit-in car) that sort of float around various rooms.

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I grabbed a couple more of these clothes storage boxes ($19.99 for a 2-pack) to put in our master closet. These pretties match our bedroom, and I love using them for out-of-season clothes or for smaller items like scarves, gloves, and hats.

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Remember that pantry organization project I mentioned here? Well, it has yet to be completed (or even begun, actually), but now I have some of these containers to make the pantry a little more streamlined. I’m thinking of using them for cereal, chips, crackers, etc., and I also got some smaller ones to use for granola, almonds, and other smaller-sized food.

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I use these boxes for office storage near my desk — they house things like extra notepads, stationery, and gift-wrapping supplies. I needed a few more for some craft supplies, and I love how they tidy up my office space.

kastanjenot-bowl__0174458_PE328385_S4I kind of broke an organizing rule with this purchase and bought this basket without an actual use for it in mind. But isn’t it just lovely? I’m sure I’ll find a home for it in the living room or florida room, since we have the whole basket/wooden texture thing going on in those two rooms especially.  It’s a pretty good size for $9.99, and I’m thinking it might be a home for remote controls, or magazines, or maybe even napkins in the kitchen. Hmmm…

samla-insert-for-box--and--gallon__79989_PE204091_S4This storage box is actually meant to be used as an insert for another box, but I bought a few to store cleaning supplies underneath our bathroom cabinets and in a hall closet. I love that the handle makes it easy to grab and go when I’m rushing around getting my clean on.

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Ok, so this last item doesn’t really have anything to do with organizing, but look at this cute deer! I was downright giddy to find so much lime green at IKEA this time around, since Weston’s nursery has some of this shade. I couldn’t resist grabbing this guy to add a splash of green on top of his navy blue bookcase. (Hoping to do a nursery tour post soon)!

So that’s my round-up of favorite IKEA organizing tools. Now I need to put this stuff to use and get some serious organizing going on ’round here.

Happy Monday! (Er, Tuesday…my night owl baby just went down for the night, so it still feels like Monday to me :))