Tuesday, January 31

Double Fail

Well, this is not my best showing. First, I couldn't find one cotton picking moment to put these pictures up earlier and now I'm up much too late throwing it together (it is still technically Monday - I might regret this in the morning). But that's not biggie, we all know small boys come before blogging. The bigger fail here is what I actually have to show for my impossibilities challenge. To be fair to the challenge, I don't think my heart was really in it. I could have put more time into than I did, but chose to do other things instead. Nonetheless, I am glad to say this did give me a really good start and I've made some definite progress down there! If you need a refresher, you can check out my before pictures here to compare to my slightly less scary after pictures.

The living space, looking a little better. I think the bed will have to go because it's just too hard to store in a small basement. And that table in the corner will eventually be set up down here.

This does look better than it did. I promise. And it's really fun to see the bar stools in place!

Washer & dryer - how long have those been there?!? Jk, jk. I knew they were there, you just couldn't see them before. :)

Okay, this still look really scary, but it's not all that bad. That pile of cleaning supplies in the front are in limbo, waiting for their home upstairs to be ready. And the pile back by the wall is the yard sale pile. 

One of my favorite improvements - gift wrapping station! Sweet! Maybe I could stash some craft supplies down here too. And I'm planning to set up the big table nearby.

Scary #2. The baby swing needs to find a spot, but all those boxes behind it are actually just garbage waiting to make an exit. Most of them went out tonight so it's looking much better.

For now we have extra wood and drywall and such leaning in this corner.

I realized I don't have any before pictures of the dungeon, but I spent quite a bit of time on it. And It is looking SO much better! Plus we gained lots of shelf space just by organizing things into drawers and getting rid of a bunch of paints.

So this definitely wasn't the jaw-dropping transformation I hoped for, but I figured I might as well keep it real and fess up! Oh well, we all fall a little short of our goals sometimes, and it is okay. I gave it a go, and I made some definite progress. I can't complain about that. Although I can complain about the giant cricket I found. Good grief.

Have you tackled any organization projects lately? Can you tell a difference from my before pictures? Does my basement scare you?

Sunday, January 29

Simple Sanity

Do you ever have little things that just grate on you day, after day, after day, after day? Sometimes I'm so used to something annoying me that I don't even realize it is any more. I just grumble and move on without trying to find a way to fix it. But I've found that sometimes a really simple change can make things better.

One example was deciding to keep the diapers in the laundry basket instead of putting them in a drawer. Seriously, I got so annoyed that I had to open the drawer to get a diaper. It was so simple to decide to keep them in the basket when they come out of the dryer, and it saves a few drops of my sanity every single day.

We just recently made a few simple changes in the bathroom to save our sanity. I will say, it took us over a year of living here to realize how easy it would be fix these things. What can I say? We're just on the ball sometimes. Here are a few things we did:

1. Replace the toilet paper holder thingy ma-gig  -
When we bought this house we inherited two bad toilet paper holders. The one in the downstairs bathroom was broken so that if you pulled too hard it would fall off the wall in three separate pieces. We looked at replacements a while ago but were too stubborn to spend $30 on one. So instead I just worked on my unrolling skillz so that it worked okay most of the time, but it wasn't a foolproof technique so I was still unnecessarily frustrated on occasions. The upstairs bathroom had a holder that squealed so loud when you rolled it that it woke the baby. Literally. Enough said. That one came off the wall within a week of Baby B coming home and we just went with the super classy "toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet" approach. Then one day we stumbled across this little guy at Ikea. For $4. What?! Um, I'll take two please! Both problems solved, just like that.

2. Replace the bins by the door -
We have very little storage in the bathroom. Just a medicine cabinet, the sink cabinet, and this shelf by the door. I had put these bins there when we moved in to organize things a little, but they stuck out too far (yes, for a whole year). Not a big deal aesthetically, but if you don't push them in just right they are actually in the way of the door. The door will somehow close just fine, but they totally block it from opening back up. Which happened twice in the last week while I was outside the bathroom (we have to keep the door closed. you'll see why.) Obnoxious. But as usual I was too cheap to spring for something new so I just bided my time...

...until I found these babies in the Lowe's Clearance sections. $3 for the pack. Sold.
I actually bought two packs so I still have two baskets left over. See how much farther back the sit? Problem solved. I also like that I can organize things better with these by dividing into four smaller containers. Things just got jumbled together in the bigger bins I had before. Now I'm thinking it would be nice to tuck another shelf in between the layers so I don't have to move the top baskets to see in the bottom ones. But that's an idea for another day. :)

3. Install a permanent curtain rod -
When we moved in we took out the glass doors (best choice we've made in the bathroom) and hung a tension pole. It fell down. A lot. Sometimes when we pulled the curtain open, sometimes when we hung towels over it to dry. And when it fell, it scratched the paint off the walls. This was so easy - we just bought these metal brackets from the closet section at Lowe's and used them with the rod we already had. I think it was like $4. Problem solved.

And while were talking about the bathroom, my mom got me this for my birthday. You know you want to use it.

Note to self:  Keep the bathroom door closed. Why? For one thing, I found out Baby B can open the toilet lid. And here's his other favorite past time....

Sigh. Such a funny boy. :)

Have you done anything to make life a little easier lately? Any time saving or stress relieving tips to share?

Friday, January 27

Impossible, but it's OK

So...I planned to join the Imagine the Impossibilities Challenge this month by organizing & cleaning my basement (see my plans here). The goal is to have a useable, decent space by the end of January. Which is... MONDAY?!? Okay, first off all, the first month of 2012 is almost over. Holy cow. Second, I've made almost no progress and am wondering if I did, in fact, pick an impossible task. But I'm going to try to work hard on it the rest of this week so I at least have something to show on Monday. For now, if you want to brace yourself, I'll give you a peek at what I'm starting from. No judging. Deep breath. Here we go.

From the steps, this corner will be the living area. There is a couch under there. Yikes.

This is straight down the steps. The bar is right ahead.

To the right is the laundry area & utility sink. Yikes again.

From the other end of the basement, this is looking back toward the stairs. It's hard to tell, but there is a closet thing in the left corner that we like to call the dungeon. We keep tools in there now, but the space isn't being used very well.

This is the corner to the right of the stairs. There is a foosball table somewhere.

This is the space behind the stairs where we have all of the shelving. It's the only proof of progress I have so far!

This is the pantry area we wanted to have. A small success, but it's encouraging!

I actually worked on some more areas today while giving my newly made Mai Tei carrier a test run. I usually can't get anything done when Baby B is awake so I made a carrier I can use to hold him on my back. I think it was a success - Baby B fell asleep in it while I was working! Speaking of Baby B....

"oh, here are my pants!"

He's as cute as ever and, frankly, doesn't give a hoot what the basement looks like. As long as we have snuggles and blocks and blueberries, nothing else matters. So I may or may not get the basement done, but here's to not sweating it. After all, he's only small once and he is SO much more important!

Wednesday, January 25

Blog Bigger

"BlogBigger was started because of an idea.
The idea was that bloggers should have an easy, free way to promote their blogs. Both large and small blogs want more traffic, and bloggers know that if they had a way to get their foot in the door, readers would love what they are writing.
BlogBigger offers a solution. Bloggers all over the world exchange space on their blog for space on everyone else's blogs."
-Nathan @ Blog Bigger
Yep, that's my Mister! And this is his newest project - Blog Bigger. And it's just what he says it is - a free, easy way to get your blog out there! Here's the gist of how it works:
  • You sign up for Blog Bigger and make a 125x125 banner to advertise your blog. 
  • You put the Blog Bigger widget on your blog's sidebar to showcase 4 up and coming blogs every time someone clicks on your blog (you can see the widget on my right sidebar). 
  • In return, YOUR blog shows up on the widget of every other blog registered on Blog Bigger! 
  • To get even more face time you can refer your friends. Each friend you refer will feature your blog 24/7 for the first month, and all day every Monday after that.
To put is in my husbands words "It's just bloggers helping bloggers blog bigger." Nice, huh? I know, he's pretty much a genius. Not to mention he totally from scratch made this sweet webiste that does all of those fancy things with the click of a button!

I've been blogging for almost 2 years now and I think it's really fun! I love being able to share my ideas with the world (or at least with my mom & grandma!) and I love getting ideas from other bloggers as well. But my sweet husband wants me to be able to do more. That was the motivation behind his idea. To help small time bloggers like me get our voices heard!

So... are you a blogger? Are you ready to step it up a notch and start Blogging Bigger? It's super easy to get started. You can find all the details about the program at Once you realize how sweet this is and realize you want to be one of the first bloggers to sign up, you can go to the "join" page to get your account set up and find simple instructions about installing the Blog Bigger widget (seriously. it's easy.). Once you have everything set up, your account & blog will need to be approved (it will be done within 24 hours) to make sure everything is in good working order and then your banner will be added to widgets all around the web! Also be sure to check out the Blog Bigger Blog (and say it out loud. you'll be glad you did.) for more tips and info to help you keep Blogging Bigger!

Happy Blogging!

Friday, January 20

Getting my Act Together

I mentioned in my list of home goals for this year is to have a reasonably clean & organized home. And I decided the best way to do this is to have a plan, written down, to look at every day. So I started by doing a little research to find out what works for others. Then I started to put ideas together in a way that (I think) will work for me. I'm sure I'll tweak things as I go, but this is my starting point! Woot!

image via pinterest

I really like the idea of an organizing system like this one on pinterest. I don't have the full set together yet, but I decided a homekeeping journal was a good place to start. So I pulled out one of the white 3-ring binders I found at a yard sale last summer for $0.25 and some plastic page holders to do the job. I wanted to use the plastic pages holders because I figure I'll be using this while cooking and cleaning and I don't want anything ruined if I accidentally spill on it. Also, I will be able to mark on the pages with a wet erase marker if I want. And I love to cross things off of lists! Since I want to make home keeping as enjoyable as possible, I used some pretty cardstock to cover the binder.

Oooo, much better! I started my journal with a general homekeeping schedule to keep myself organized and make sure everything gets cleaned! I made this page pretty too, since I'll probably be looking at it every single day.

The top section shows my cleaning schedule which is broken down so I have only one large chore each day to keep the whole house clean! I based my schedule largely on the plan by The Free or Cheap Queen (and also took some tips from The Time Warp Wife's cleaning schedule). In the end this is how my cleaning schedule ended up:
  • Sunday - Day of Rest! No cleaning for me!
  • Monday - Laundry & wash the sheets, tidy the house, & sweep.
  • Tuesday - Clean the bathrooms & change the towels.
  • Wednesday - Clean all the surfaces.
  • Thursday - Organize/Clean out something.
  • Friday - Tidy they house, clean all the floors.
  • Saturday - Do something outside.
The second page of my binder is actually a printout of this plan which has more details on each task. Check it out if you want more info! I also have a list of daily tasks (make beds, dishes, 10 minute tidy x3, 10 minute junk shed, garbage, and working out), weekly tasks (sort pantry, wipe fridge & microwave, groceries & errands, and wash diapers as needed), and monthly tasks (clean inside stove, clean garage, clean basement). I think one task per day seems really doable and much less stressful than trying to do it all at once. We'll see if it actually is. :) I also plan to put cleaning tips & recipes for homemade cleaner I want to try in the binder.

The bottom of the page is dedicated to my meal blueprint (see my inspiration by The Nester here). I'm just not a hard core meal planner, but this seems doable because it is so flexible! Here is the general gist of my plan:
  • Sunday - make bread dough, make salad
  • Monday - cook dinner (chicken)
  • Tuesday - cook dinner (Mexican)
  • Wednesday - cook dinner (meat/veggies)
  • Thursday - leftovers
  • Friday - pizza
  • Saturday - make soup
I also have a list of staple foods to keep on hand. If you want more info on the meal blueprint, the Nester gives lots of detail here. And you should definitely check out the bread recipe for fresh bread in only 5 minutes a day!

That's as far as I've made it so far, but I also plan to include things like staple food recipes, phone numbers, and anything else that helps me stay on top of this homemaking thing! I'll keep you posted as my system evolves and I add things to my binder. Do you keep any kind of homekeeping journal? How do you stay organized around the house?

Wednesday, January 18

Medicine Cabinet Face Lift

Well, technically not a "face" lift because I dressed up the inside of my medicine cabinet a little! I've been seeing some pictures on pinterest of cabinets and things that are dressed up for a nice surprise when you open them, and decided my plain, boring old medicine cabinet was the perfect place to give it a try! This little project took about 10 minutes, including a good clean out and wipe down of the cabinet. So here is the before:

The first step is to clear all of that stuff out of there. This is also a great opportunity to sort through your medicines and throw away anything that's expired (which was about half of what we had...oops).

I also removed the shelves and wiped everything down. Now we have a nice clean slate to work with.

The only thing I needed for this project was a pair of scissors and some contact paper. I found this pretty green paper at a yard sale last summer for $0.25 per roll. Of course, since it was green, I couldn't pass it up. I knew I would find somewhere to use it! If you haven't been so lucky at a yard sale, you can find this paper (and several other designs) at Dollar Tree.

I measured the inside of the medicine cabinet and cut a piece of contact paper big enough to cover the back & bottom of the cabinet. Then I slowly applied it to the back of the cabinet starting at the top and peeling off the backing a couple inches at a time (to make sure it didn't stick before I was ready). I just used my hand to smooth out any bubbles, but I think next time I'll use something flat like my library card. It worked using my hand, but I think a card would be easier.

Then I put the newly cleaned shelves back in. Oooo, pretty!

And then I just piled our stuff back in, after decluttering a little and tossing anything expired.

Wasn't that easy? This makes me want to brush my teeth all the time, just so I have a reason to open the cabinet. :)

Oh, I also tidied up our medicine section a little but putting all the jars in one box. This is just the cardboard box that velveeta cheese comes in. I thought about covering it with fabric, but I liked the brown with the green background (fun fact: my wedding was green & brown. it's one of my favorite combos!). It works great for what we have now, but there isn't room to add anything new. I'm hoping to find something a little deeper to use instead, but this will do the trick for now.

So that was my little 10 minute, $0.25 project for today. I know most people will never see it, but sometimes it's good to do a little something just for ourselves. Baby B agrees. Although he'll be disappointed when he finds out he can't eat popcorn yet. :)

Have you done any quick & easy updates lately? Do you have any surprise designs hidden around your house? When was the last time you fixed something up just for you?

P.S. The winner of my travel shopping bag giveaway is Anna! Congrats, Anna, and thanks to all who entered!
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Monday, January 16

Imagine the Impossibilities

I've decided to join (a little late) the Imagine the Impossibilities Challenge. The basic idea is to think of one super daunting task, something that at first thought seems impossible, and pull it off by the end of January. You can find more details at The Space Between and see some of their examples (like sewing a bag, making homemade bread, and cleaning out the basement) and while your there go ahead an challenge yourself to embrace the impossible this month! Why not, right? :)

After Karah invited me to join the challenge, I started thinking about some of the daunting goals I have for our house. Some things unfortunately had to be eliminated - like concrete countertops (because they won't set right if pour them in the winter) and gutting the bathrooms (which still requires some serious money saving first). So I narrowed down my list to things that can be done in the frozen tundra for next to nothing. And I found my winner. Enter - my basement. While we still have a long list of projects to tackle down there, one big, super annoying, put off for far too long project to the junk. Boy oh boy. A years worth of random I-don't-know-where-to-put-this-so-I'll-throw-it-down-there stuff in unorganized piles. But besides the junk I'm going a little bit further. I want this to be a functional, liveable space that we can go ahead and use even though it's not totally finished. I want to figure out what kind of layout we want down there, get things organized where I want them, and find ways to divide up the space. And whatever we use needs to be basement friendly because it is definitely possible to get water down there during storms. Here is a rough layout of the basement:

Here's what we need down there when it's all said and done:
  • laundry area that looks nice or is hidden
  • bar & living space
  • craft/game table & storage
  • freezer
  • long term storage for baby clothes & seasonal items
  • permanent storage for tools
  • pantry area
  • space dividers to keep storage out of site from living area

I have a few ideas for how to pull all this off. I would love to do enclosed storage units (like below) to keep everything hidden, but that's not in the budget right now.

basement storage & ideas - via Young House Love

I have a few industrial type shelving units down there for now so I need to find a way to hide them from view since they are out in the open. So I'm thinking about doing some kind of space divider to section the storage off from the living space. Maybe a solid wall?

this divider won't work for our basement, but it is SO cool - via pinterest

Or maybe I'll hang curtains to separate the spaces.

curtain dividers -via pinterest 

Or hang curtains just in front of the shelves instead of blocking off a whole section.

Or use pallets to divide the space, which would be cheap and easy!

pallet wall via pinterest
I would love to dress up the laundry area like this and leave it open to the rest of the basement.

 via pinterest

And of course we want to generally spiff up the space, maybe something like this:

basement design idea - via Pinterest

So I have big goals, but for now I'm working with what I have to get things just organized and liveable. I'll keep you posted and let you know if I get it done this month! Do you have any impossibility to tackle?