Office/Nursery Progress

We’ve got LESS than a month before we welcome this new little one into our world. There’s a TON we have left to do, not gonna lie. I’m working on sub plans for my maternity leave and generally trying to get a jump on things at work while juggling the usual tasks, trying to get ahead of any writing work I’d like to accomplish pre-baby, and, well, generally getting ready for the baby — name picking, analyzing what we may still need, etc.

But, one area that we’re trying the “slow and steady wins the race” motto out is our office/nursery; our “offisery,” if you will. It doesn’t need to be done immediately since the baby will be in our room with us for the first month or two (or more), but we realize that we won’t have the time to do it after the little one arrives. Plus, ticking things off of our “to do” list is always enjoyable.

So, most nights, we’ve been doing something *small* in the space. We started with a buttload of books, which we packed up except for the ones we always like to have available. (I’m talking about YOU, two copies of “Little Women”…you!) So, after finally emptying an entire 6-foot-tall bookshelf, we dragged that sucker down to the basement. Let’s call it additional storage, although we all know the cats prefer the term “jungle gym.”

Then, after vacuuming up a lifetime’s worth of dust, it was time to assemble our version of a changing table. As you may (or may not) remember, we repainted a free dresser to use for Hadman’s changing area when he was a baby. This time, we’re using one of the more heavy duty “cube storage” units from Target. It’s definitely thicker than the usual flimsy ones, so I feel more comfortable using this to support the little one. We also grabbed some feet to attach in case the height wouldn’t work and, of course, a few of the nicer cube boxes to up the fanciness quotient. If cube storage could be called “fancy.”

So, what’s left? Well, we already moved my desk out and the crib in, tossed down a big, fluffy, natural wool rug that I got from Rugs USA (seriously, cheapest high-quality rugs ever), and purged/boxed up tons of stuff we don’t need access to. Here’s where we’re left:

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– Obviously, um, declutter more. Lots of random pieces hanging around. And an extra chair. We’re still discussing the fate of the cat tree (yes, that ratty, scratched-up thing that my husband seems as attached to as any of the cats) and whether or not he can foresake the ugly office chair for a comfy, fits-an-office-AND-nursery-decor alternative. And, yes, we’ll be saying “see you in the next house!” to much of the comic art on the walls, which Dave’s been super good about. I just want to leave him with SOMETHING of his own…that doesn’t involve violent crime-fighting. Because, y’know, babies.

– Switch out some new wall art (which will involve some touch-up painting, ugh). I’m thinking of grabbing some canvases and a gold paint pen to do some DIY art, and I already picked up a bunch of swatches that I’ve ironed and chopped into fabric tassels for a wall hanging. But, yeah. Art.

– Floating shelves to the rescue. This is one of those “if we have the time/energy” things, but the floating shelves in Hadley’s room and our bathroom (seriously, how have I never showed you guys a final reveal for that space?!) are amazing, so we may do something similar above the changing area in this room. Plus, it’ll give us some more options for combining decor styles and a little extra storage. But, again, it’s not a “must-have” right now.

– Bring in the baby stuff! (sing to the Muppet Show theme song) “It’s time to strip the diapers, it’s time to clean the clothes!” So, I’ll be utilizing under-crib storage, which I’m in love with, for the “next sizes”, but otherwise keeping the newborn and 0-3 stuff at-hand as best as possible.

What do you guys think? I know we’re fighting an uphill battle with the color, ugly as heck rug, and, well, general officity (can that be a word? It should be) of it all, but this is FAR better than we were even a month ago. 🙂

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?

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. 

Homes Away From Home

We all have a place that we visit, eventually getting high off the thought of possibly moving there. It’s usually totally ridiculous to dream about and beyond impractical, but it happens. Even Liz Lemon fell victim to it…
 



Well, we have our “favorite spots”, too. We may love a place for its natural serenity, its bustling energy, its sustainable living practices, its cultural activity, or the very important fact that dear friends live there. Here are a few (very outlandish) dream places:

– Middlebury, VT – We visit here (almost) every year since first visiting on our honeymoon. It’s a green (in more ways than one), great little college town in a state that makes it far easier to live sustainably and support local. Somehow, it provides a mix of modern with traditional “New England small town” charm, all in an adorable package. Of course, we know no one who lives in the vicinity, making a move not only implausible but incredibly alienating and lonely. Sigh.

– Ithaca, NY – Much like Middlebury, it’s a “gorge-ous” college city with abnormally eco-friendly practices (especially for NYS). With a high-quality theater scene and the most hippies-per-capita in all of “upstate”, it’s practically a miniaturized Portland, Oregon. (That’s a good thing for us.) I can’t begin to list all the reasons we’ll never move there, but it’s a nice place to visit.

– Western Mass – Dave went to school here, so he may be biased (I shouldn’t say that; I went to Oneonta and I have no intention of moving there ;-)), but he has some of the awesomest friends on Earth whom we love to visit. So, it would be worth the price of admission just to move and see them once in awhile, honestly. Add to it the fact that it’s another “like-minded” place as far as local eats, organic and sustainable practices, and more, and it’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, it’s just not worth leaving our respective families and low cost of living. *wop wop*

– Concord, MA – Okay, a few of these are my dream whereas a few are more Dave’s, so bear with me. Have you BEEN here? It’s a step back in time, with many historical homes and well-kept historical and nature preserve sites (Hello! Walden Pond much?!). I’m fascinated by the transcendentalist movement and the life of Louisa May Alcott (and American history, of course), so when I tell my students I’ve visited her home, they tend to think I’m a stalker (then ask if it’s haunted, of course). The place is just bursting with history, culture…and incredibly expensive housing. *scratches off list* 

– New York City – We’ve never said “I want to live here!” In fact, when we were in our dating stages visiting every 6 months or so, we looked in restaurant windows to see parents with kids and said, “Wow, I can’t imagine raising children here.” Between the noise and constant over-stimulation, the sheer cost is unthinkable. But, of course, not enough positive can be said about the place. So, when the time comes, we’ll allow H and any future siblings tiny doses of over-stimulation. 😉 

– The Adirondacks – Here’s another one that’s all me and pretty much 2% Dave. Maybe 0%, who knows? While we’re relatively close to the majestic Adirondack mountain range and park, we rarely ever utilize the place, going maybe once a year (like the year I went camping for a couple of days with my family or our Old Forge visits). The Adirondacks are the total opposite of NYC, with their constant barrage of peace and quiet, natural wonder, outdoor activities, and, yes, more history. (Although NY has quite a bit of history, it’s modern to the max.) Again, it’s pretty darn expensive (unless you pick a less popular lake) to get even a shabby camp, and I’m admittedly a pretty crappy swimmer to be utilizing a lake, anyway, but for the gentle calm, fun and exercise of canoeing and hiking, and animal encounters? I’d take it. Plus, what better way is there to raise a child? 

– Cooperstown, NY – This is by far the closest “home away from home” for us. Every once in awhile, we take the drive out for their Saturday (indoor!) farmers’ market, random event (like their annual Candlelight Evening I’ve mentioned several times), or just to grab a deli lunch and head down to picnic by the lake. It’s another diamond-in-the-rough: rich literary history (no, really), incredible museums (sure, baseball, but so much more), picturesque scenery and perfect “Andy Hardy old-school town” vibe, plus an incredibly active group of people working to make the place as good as it can be. If I ever make millions of dollars writing the next big American novel, we’re movin’ there. 

What’s YOUR “home away from home”? I’d love to hear your favorite spot(s)!

Coat Closet Clean-Out

You can always tell the season has changed when I start getting the (occasional) itch to clean again. Okay, okay. Of course I clean the rest of the year…but this is my “that’s driving me nuts, I’ve gotta get it CLEAN already!!!” time of year.

This is what led me to pulling out 85% of the contents of our living room coat closet to finally, FINALLY reorganize, purge a bit, and create some additional living space for a certain someone’s toys. #notDave

Here’s what we started with…


Crappy pictures to the rescue! Dun dun-dun duuuun!!

Things had just been piled up and up and added to (super generous relatives + super adorable toddler = 4+ winter coats in the same size, and various hats ‘n mittens), so it was time to pack away those items that we’ll use in the future. We didn’t actually end up getting rid of a ton, but they found new places to live. I did some major shuffling and grabbed some fabric totes and baskets from the basement to see if I could work something out. (Spoiler: I only needed one!)

Here’s how it looks today:

Not earth-shattering, but kind of a game changer for me. Those four plastic bins of toys are out of eye-shot in the living room (I’ve still got more purging to do of toys…big time) but within reach of the little guy. If I had put them high up, every time I open the door he’d inevitably notice them and demand that they come down. Sometimes making things more easily accessible actually lessens the demand. #themoreyouknow

Up top is deceptively simple, as well. I stuffed anything diaper-related into the (duh, Meg) diaper box, moved the tennis rackets to the basement, and weeded out the bin leaving behind only the items we use, both winter AND spring/summer related. (It also has our cat essential – lint brush.) On the right side up top is where we store our board games, but there was also room to toss H’s awesome Mickey Mouse sleeping bag. It’s the little things, y’know.

Here’s a close look at our toy storage:  

Legos, wooden train set, “Little People” & other figurines, and bigger Lego pieces and cars.

This is the part that I’m most excited about. We’ve got a bookcase chock full of books in the little guy’s bedroom. We also had acquired a stack of random books, magazines (“High Five”! Love it!!), and kid-friendly comic books on our ottoman. It was time to figure something out.

So, with that one fabric bin from the basement, I created our own downstairs library. I’ll switch out books here and there to create some interest, but it’s awesome to be able to pull this out and have some quiet-ish reading time on the first level of our house during the day. We’ve honestly waited to read numerous books as a family every evening in our bedroom, but this makes it more of an “anytime” occurrence.

Whatchya think? It definitely has me glancing around at the other spring cleaning activities I’ve yet to undertake! I’m just encouraged that we were able to open our windows to let some of the good, clean air in yesterday (even if it was 40 degrees – a heat wave, I tell ya!).

Purge Plans

We just took down about 95% of our Christmas decorations and said a sad goodbye to our gorgeous tree. (I’m too attached to my “wow, I did that?!” chalkboard sketch, seen on my decor breakdown, so until I’m inspired or totally done with it, it’s staying!) Paired with heading back to school today (after a super generous two weeks off with the family…I know, I’m spoiled), and I’m definitely feeling the post-holiday letdown. Who else gets hit by this every year?

Sure enough, though, this time of year also gives me a bit of a lift. I suddenly feel motivated to undertake some purging, decluttering and organizing when January hits. Nothing to do with resolutions, but maybe something about the freshness of a new year and the boredom (if it can be called that) of winter.

Add to it the fact that we’re hoping to find a new home in 2015 and what better reason than to declutter? It seems to be the #1 way to make one’s house more appealing to prospective buyers, not to mention the fact that it’s free. To avoid the emotional side of things (don’t even get me started, LOL), I remind myself that it’s for the best if we remember that it’s better to move only the things we love rather than haul everything, including junk or excessive “stuff” we don’t actually use or need.


So, I thought I’d share a list of the purging and organizing I’m planning to do before springtime. I’ve got other projects in mind, but this is just the organizational stuff. 🙂

Basement. We have an unfinished basement with lots of stuff (and, dare I say, crap). It’s orderly, but it’s easy to just dump one thing at a time that it’s gotten out-of-hand. It’s also quite dark and cold, so you have to find a day that’s relatively warm outside and bright, and most importantly that we’re motivated to work on it. Blah.

Clothes. Dude. I haven’t even switched out my summer clothes. The best I’ve done is weeded out Had’s 2T stuff for 3T {sniffle}. So, yup. About time!

Office. I’ve promised Dave that I’d help him purge the office, although the books that we own are all ones that we love and want to keep. It’s more about organization (and a little bit of purging) to make the space work best.

Closets. We’ve got some closets that are bursting at the seams and others that are housing unimportant stuff. So, yeah. Organize, organize, organize! 

Kitchen Cabinets. At least once or twice a week, I find myself reaching my boiling point over what? Being totally unable to either get a piece of cookware out of out cabinets or get one back in its rightful place. Doesn’t sound maddening, but it really can be. These things were built for people of 90 years ago (which I love), so they just don’t work, size-wise and shelf position-wise. I figure a good purging of unused or unnecessary stuff will help, along with a reorganization.

Do you guys have any clutter cutting going on lately? Does January light a flame under you to work on anything that’s fallen to the wayside? Do tell!

On that note…off to watch Downton Abbey! (It’s only a slightly less abusive to watch than Sherlock. That one takes frickin’ years to put out a new season. Worth it, all around.)

Holiday Cleaning


Things may be fully holiday decorated at our house, but things seem more disheveled than usual. I’m pretty sure it’s because we a) have a super small house, b) bring so much additional “stuff” in (like gifts, Christmas cards, wrapping, etc) this time of year, and c) didn’t plan ahead and clean before the onslaught of the holidays. So, today’s just a brain dump of all the “unfun” stuff to do so that my brain isn’t swimming by Christmas. Let’s blame my mother; she always had the house quite clean for the holidays. I always assumed it was because we were having a special guest (Santa) come; it was probably actually because of the REAL guests (family) coming. Duh, Meg.

Anyhoo, some of this I’m sure I won’t get to, but I also have T-W-O whole weeks off for the holidays, so I foresee a “New Year project” or two here…

Kitchen walls/shelves. My open shelving area is a bit of a hot mess. The dishes we use all the time are perfectly clean, but the shelves themselves have a layer of grease (which attracts more than a little dust and probably cat fur) and need a good scrubbing and reorganizing.

Kitchen cabinets. Also in the kitchen and also in need of a good scrubbing are my cabinets. The insides are also SUPER disorganized (namely the bottom ones, which hold all cookware). Truth be told, a scrub + paint job are in order. Blah.

The damn “V.” Okay. So. Over Hadman’s crib, I applied papier-mache letters that spell out “LOVE” when he was a baby. They’ve worked perfectly up until this point. One day, while he was supposed to be napping (that’s a whole other issue lately), I hear over the monitor a weird clicking noise. Come to find out, he had pulled the “V” off of the wall and started using it as a clapper — tearing the middle of the letter so that he could “clap” the two sides together. I. Was. Livid. He got pretty upset, too. He’s still asking where the V is and I have a hard time not snarkily responding that he’s responsible for the death of the V. (sigh) I don’t say that. But I want to. :-\

 Office disorganization. This is an ongoing headache. For now we’ve just gotta pick the place up and make it look presentable, but ultimately we’ve gotta figure out our storage and do a total overhaul of how we use the space.

Gifts are messy. I love giving gifts, and even kind of enjoy wrapping them. But, keeping the joint somewhat picked up is a pain. I always end up with a bag containing tags, ribbons/bows, tape, and a pen that I use for the whole shebang, and generally keep a large box of boxes, bags, tissue paper, and gift wrap nearby, but I’m not one to schlep the whole thing down to the basement when done only to drag it back up later. Maybe I’m just lazy? We also have a HUGE gift that arrived, box in shambles, that’s giving me an eye twitch.

This is all aside from the fun “responsibilities” of the holiday, of course, and the usual upkeep of the joint. Can you say floor mopping? 🙁 I was hoping to get a chore or two (along with a fun “chore” or two!) out of the way today, thanks to some inclement weather, but that didn’t turn out to be very bad. Blah.

I didn’t really do a good fall cleaning this year, so if I had I’m sure I’d be less bummed about these jobs. So, please don’t take this as complaining as much as my own mental checklist of crap I have to do — and commiserating, if you will! 🙂

What about you guys? Any chores you dread doing but that you’re sick of having hanging over your heads this time of year? 

 

4 Simple Fall Decor Ideas

I recently shared a teensy decor switcheroo to help autumn-ify the living room a bit. Since I finally had a nice day to take pictures, I thought I’d share a handful of the other super simple add-ins I used for this year’s fall decorating.

I’m not a big “spiders and skeletons” person. I’ve seen some awesome spookifications going on in the blogosphere, but this year I’m keeping it simple, stupid. Er. You’re not stupid. I’m keeping it stupid simple. Better? 🙂

While giving you guys a quick tour of our living room/dining room (I pretty much decorated the entry way from the living room into the dining room, so it hits the main living areas), I’ll give a few SUPER simple tips on bringing a little autumn inside.

This year, I took my hints from nature. The first way? Bringing in some nature, of course! See those twigs adorned with dried leaves? Free, from our backyard. Instant pops of rust, orange and yellow. You’ll also notice gourds and mini pumpkins placed throughout, along with some individual leaves strewn strategically.  

(Pay no attention to the hideous rug.)


This pretty lady has hung in this spot for years. I just can’t bring myself to switch her up. Her neutral colors and gorgeous frame, rocking sense of style, and clear adoration for books has made her a kindred spirit. So, she stays. Plus, she really fits any season or holiday, doesn’t she? I say yes.

That said, a tip here is to use stuff you LOVE. What else do we love? Stacks of books and magazines. I also love sneaking in an old script. 😉 


Going hand-in-hand with my girlfriend up there and bringing in some nature, I love using neutrals and various textures. Hence the super easy-to-make twine and linen bunting (seriously, F-R-E-E), small dollar store wreath on the window, bundle of sticks on the sidebar, and various rattan balls (I got them on clearance at Pier 1 awhile back, wish I remembered how much they were…maybe $2 each? And you know I’ll use the crap out of them). And my favorite thing during fall is white pumpkins.

Plus, what’s more fun than buntings? I think nothing. When I first hung them, Hadley assumed every day was now his birthday.

Oh, yeah. More nature. A huge vase filled with apples. Had to keep it simple since the little guy uses the dining room table for tons of pretend play. 


If you’re having a hard time freshening up your surroundings (believe me, I’m with ya), try the new-ish chalkboard trend. Think it’s too hard to find one? Too expensive? Nope. The one we have in the living room was Dave’s as a kid (free) and this small one (that reminds me of an old school tablet, which I’m searching for while antiquing) was a dollar store find. Yup, it was a BUCK. Can you believe that?!

And don’t worry about your artwork. You get graded on effort, not perfection. 😉 My favorite part of this trend is how interchangeable it is. Come Thanksgiving, this witch’s hat will probably be a turkey or a Pilgrim’s hat; come Christmas, who knows? Stocking? Elf? A snowflake? Endless options, really.

On a final irrelevant note, we may not have a black cat, but we’ve got a drama queen king gray one. He’s pretty intense. Does that count?

It just occurred to me that all these tips could also be eco-decor tips, too. Awesome!

The Ol’ Autumn Switch

Even I’m kind of surprised at how behind I am with my autumn decorating this year. It’s not like I go all-out crazy with this stuff (and I probably won’t this year, especially), but I do like to add touches here and there of the season. This is especially true when it’s autumn, which is not only my favorite season, but the Dorky Daddy‘s, as well. Craziness.

So, on a recent humid-yet-insanely-torrential afternoon, I sat down to sketch. One thing led to another, and I didn’t hate what I created. Not perfect, but who really cares?

I used some day-glow colored pencils because clearly I’m hip like that. I mean, just check out my iPhone picture. Crooked ‘n everythin’.

So, I decided to hunt for a place to sneak it. And, of course, it only worked on my living room wall (last seen, I believe, during Christmas). While I was at it, I switched out a piece or two and rearranged until I got this…

Yup, another insanely beautiful iPhone pic. Drives me nuts, too.

Since I’m lazy, I also like to use art that can kinda double for…say…a couple of months. So, you’d better know that pumpkin art will be there until the cows come home. Or Christmastime. Yeah. Probably Christmas.

I hope to return with a few more shots of autumny goodness. It’s an interesting challenge to try to add touches of beauty in the midst of toddler mayhem. Like, there’s no way I can really do much with the dining room table. It’s his “cooking” spot. But, I do have a few spots he can’t reach, so I’ll have to live it up in those spaces while I can.

What about you? Do you do fall or Halloween decorating? Do you go literal (black cats, witches, zombies) or more “figurative”? I’m hoping to go with the less in-your-face, especially using what I’ve got laying around. Fingers crossed!

So Fresh and So Clean Clean

I’m sure there are about eleventy billion blog posts with that title since, say, 2001. Make this eleventy billion…and one. 😉

So, anyhoo, cleaning sucks. The only person I can remember encountering who LOVED cleaning was…hmm…Danny Tanner. And he was fictional. Highly doubt Bob Saget’s even remotely like that in real life.

So, while my house is far from perfect, I thought I’d share a handful of simple tips that I use to keep the Monster of Filth from overtaking our lives. They definitely also act as a stress reliever, believe it or not.

Invite someone over every two weeks. (Or at least pretend like someone might stop by at some point.) You know that one big whirlwind clean that you do when company’s coming? The one that feels a bit like a workout? Y’know, before your MIL (or, in my case, mother) drops by? This is it.

Do it, then do it again in two weeks (one week if you can; my average is two, and there’s nothing wrong with that). You’ll notice that it won’t be as huge of a challenge when you do some of the other tips below; it’ll get easier as you go.

Plus, it feels nice to sit back and enjoy the cleanliness (and friendship, of course) at the start of a weekend, which is usually when we have folks over. (I clearly don’t subscribe to the “you’re my friend, I don’t have to clean before you come over” theory. I will, at the very least, pick up and vacuum for you. It’s the least I can do!) Even with a newborn in the mix, I try to hit the priority areas: bathroom surfaces/potty and main living areas.

Slow and steady wins the race. It sounds contradictory to the last point, but after that one big cleanfest, pick out the chores that you need to complete more regularly. Then assign them a frequency: daily, a couple of times a week, weekly, and monthly.

Maybe you need to dust and vacuum more often (vacuuming is a common thing for us with a toddler dropping food and playing on the floor where cats may be traipsing litter). Maybe your bathroom can use a quick once-over weekly, as well as your floors. Stretch these jobs out over the course of a week. Scrub the toilet and wipe down of all bathroom surfaces Monday, vacuum Tuesday, sweep and mop Wednesday, etc. Then when it’s time for your “company clean,” you’ll only have some of the deep-cleaning stuff to do.

Do something everyday. I’m not talking about the fact that my grandmother mopped her floors daily. (True story!) I’m saying that you can pick from that list and, depending on your mood and energy level that day, do ONE thing.

Mind you, this could include smaller, regular stuff like putting dishes away or folding a load of laundry all the way up to Old Englishing (totally a word) the woodwork or touch-up painting. Simple and small or big project, it all counts. This is essential to remind myself when the newborn exhaustion hits – do only what you can do, even if it’s one small task. Which leads me to…

Get into the habit of picking up. Every night when our older child’s in bed, we attack the main living area. Some days he hardly touches the toys, but most days (and especially on weekends, during the summer, or lately with Mommy on maternity leave), the place looks like a tornado hit. And don’t get me started on the holiday toys that have exploded into every nook and cranny of our lives.

So, we try to pick up. Our stuff, his stuff, whatever we can do. It really only takes about five minutes, depending on the day’s activities, and it makes a huge difference when we come down the stairs, bleary-eyed, the next morning to a relatively neat house. We’ll also do all the dishes in the sink and make sure there’s a load in the wash. Don’t get me started on cat toys, though. Those, I like to leave out for our boys’ mental stimulation, so I really only pick them up if company’s coming. Is that weird?
Find what works for you and stick with it. Some people prefer doing all the dusting in their entire house at one time, then doing another chore the next day. Others like getting one room done at a time, even if it involves dragging out the vacuum and all the supplies needed to clean it each day for each room. I usually do it the first way, but I can swing both ways. I’m hip like that.
And there’s no right or wrong way. Seriously, whatever you’re comfortable with, just do it. It’s kind of like how I budget. I know it’s not the way a lot of people would be comfortable handling money, but it works for me.
So, what’re your cleaning tips? Do you have any goals you’d like to make publicly to clean something more or in a more efficient way? Go ahead! We won’t make fun of you if it doesn’t happen. Promise! {Or feel free to share your least favorite chore!}