Monday, March 26, 2012

Project Simplify, Week 3: Closets and Countertops and Drawers, Oh My!

This past week's project was a collaboration of places that gave me a lot of choices and in the end I chose our game closet, coat closet, jewelry/make-up cabinet, the master closet and all of my clothing drawers. Sounds like a lot but Christopher and I had it tackled by Wednesday and I was very happy with the amount of items that were going to be leaving our house!

First up was the game closet. Before I show you the before and after pictures you must realize that Tim and I are both avid game players. We enjoy a variety of games from the classics, to strategic and of course the good old card games! Needless to say we both brought a lot of games into the marriage (we even had a lot on our wedding registry) and are always asking for more at Christmas, birthday's, etc. In fact I think at this moment I have about 5 on my wish list... we just can't get enough! We are also lucky enough to have families and friends that enjoy playing games so they still get a lot of use even with a 14 month only boy running around :)

After, doesn't look too different. Just wanted to go through everything and reorganize a bit. I am hoping to get a small basket to put all the decks of cards and small games up top into and we did get rid of one game.

Next in line was my jewelry/make-up cabinet in our bathroom. Again, not too messy, but I did have jewelry in there that I've had since middle/high school that I never wear! Definitely time to weed through and get rid of any plastic rainbow star bracelets :)

After, definitely a much cleaner/organized look!
Things that need to go! Already sold all of the earrings I got rid of and the most of the headbands, it was great to get organized and make some extra money :)

Christopher decided after those two areas were completely that he needed a nap and he definitely deserved one after playing with a few games, putting together puzzles, army crawling under the spare bed, organizing nail polish, sorting headbands, making some phone calls and ripping up reading Mommy's magazines all while I was going through things. This left me to tackle the master closet and dresser drawers by myself...
We have an amazing walk-in closet,which, after having limited closet space in our townhouse is amazing! When we first moved in Tim told me if it didn't fit in there it had to go. I still had to get rid of three trash bags full of clothes, whoops!
My side of the closet is still entirely too full, I just have a hard time getting rid of clothes and used to buy way too many of them.
I didn't take before/after pictures of the closet and my drawers because it doesn't look any different, besides a few less articles of clothes.
Pile of clothes/shoes I'm getting rid of.
And last, but not least... The coat closet/coat rack.
After. As I was moving all of our winter coats upstairs I realized that they were the only winter item we got out. We didn't ever need to get out thermals, boots, etc.
After, didn't want it to be completely empty!
This week's project is to pick your own adventure and I'm hoping to have it done this week. I'm keeping it a surprise and hoping that all of my hard work shows in the before and after pictures!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tax Return Fun

The only fun I ever associated with doing my tax return was seeing how much money I would get back. In high school, after I filed, the money would go into my bank account and right into savings for college or help pay for car insurance. Then, when in college, it went towards tuition and books. Right after college ended I got married and our tax return went towards paying off my school loans (notice tax returns=money for college), our car loan and saving for a house. As you can see each year the money was gratefully received and used in a productive way. I'm sure along the years I used a small portion to buy a new movie or book that I had wanted, or perhaps splurged on something like 2 movies.

This year was no different, after buying a house and having a baby I was sure that our money would go towards the mortgage, into savings (as the two things listed above can be quite costly) and into the college fund we started after Christopher was born. This didn't bother me though seeing as I had never looked at it as a big payday before and this is what would be best for our family.

I almost fell over when we originally talked about where the money would be best used and Tim said that we were fine on our mortgage and in savings and that we should both make a list of where we wanted this money to go.  Needless to say I wasted no time in day dreaming about what I could spend this money on and almost every idea I had was for Christopher (play kitchen, outdoor toys, etc.)... oh how times change when you are a mother! I find it so easy to spend money on him, but almost impossible to spend anything on myself.

One requirement that I had was to make sure that everyone got something that they would enjoy. I didn't want to be selfish and get myself, or Christopher, something bigger and have Tim sacrifice. So when making my list I made sure to include things that we would all enjoy. After Tim and I made our initial lists, and the money was in our bank account, we sat down and compared lists. We reasoned through everything and decided what could wait, wasn't needed, etc. To be honest I thought this might be a bit of a tug of war, but we agreed on everything and came up with a final list.

This is where my FUN comes in :) I have always LOVED to take pictures and can get quite aggravated when my little point and shoot doesn't keep up. Since having Christopher, who is my primary subject in shooting these days, I had been eying up DSLR cameras but knew there was no way I could justify spending that kind of money.  This was the perfect opportunity and we both agreed it would be great to have while our kids are growing up. After doing research (about two years worth) and talking with several professional photographers I decided on the Canon Rebel t2i.

Isn't it beautiful? 
We got the camera, with an 18-55mm lens kit, a camera bag and a 50 mm/1.8 lens for portrait/close-ups. I was glad we had the little bit of extra money to get another lens and already have a wish list of items that I would eventually like to add on (speedlite, extra battery possibly and a 55-250mm lens for when the kids start playing sports). Of course we'll be keeping our point and shoot as well so we aren't always lugging this around and it really has done a great job for me, for the most part. Hopefully now I won't have to be running around turning on every light in the house just to get a good picture :)

Speaking of pictures, no I haven't taken any with this bad boy yet. We just got it in the mail today and the most I've done is charge the battery and organize everything in the bag. I want to take some time to read through the manual (please nap well tomorrow, Christopher) before I play around with it, but trust me I'm itching to give it a go!

Christopher has already tested out what we got him and the stick vacuum we bought to help us for quick pick ups in the kitchen...
We had this trampoline on his Christmas list just didn't make the cut. Our little bouncer/dancer has already put in a lot of time on this!
Helping Mommy test out the stick vacuum. I was so tired of lugging out our amazing, but HEAVY, vacuum for every little mess so we got this for quick pick ups which are needed a lot with a toddler and three cats!

Tim and I are also getting ourselves bikes which have been on our "wish-lists" since we got married. The first anniversary we were going to buy them I found out I was pregnant (Dr. advised not to start since I hadn't been biking before pregnancy and since I'm a klutz, I followed that advice!). Then our second anniversary Christopher was too little to ride on a bike so we held off again. This summer is perfect though! One of Tim's co-workers gave us a bike trailer (Garbo's, you rock!!!) and Christopher loves to go for walks/be outside so I'm sure he will love it!

Of course we still saved a bunch (have to send the kid's to college somehow) but it really was refreshing to spend money on ourselves and not feel bad about it or for once not being extremely responsible and sticking it all into savings.  Hoping you all enjoy/enjoyed your tax return money!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Project Simplify, Week 2: Pantry

When I saw the list of hot spots for this year I have to admit, I was most excited about the pantry.  This is one area in our house that can easily turn into something that looks like it has been hit by a tornado, or two.  It ends up in this post tornado state when groceries are put away wherever they fit or when our little ball of energy decides to make a mess help reorganize.

So when preparing for this week I went to pinterest and typed in pantry to get ideas of how I wanted my pantry to look and easy/cheap ways to organize. What I found was not only some great ideas, but pantries that made my mouth drool!  Who knew that a walk in pantry could be so amazing! I'll save that for our dream house though because after living in a townhouse for two years, with no pantry and barely any cabinet space, I am just thankful to have a pantry :)

I found though that most of these "perfect" pantries just didn't seem practical, they had rows of matching condiments, cereals, pasta, etc.  As that looked very nice and magazine worthy it just didn't look like a pantry in a "I cook everyday and use tons of different items" household.  So here I am, with my pantry that has about 150 different items and all sorts of boxes...What to do?

Here is our pantry before:

And here is our pantry after:
Tried to group items that are alike. I know this won't last though because some weeks we have 1-2 canned items and other weeks we have 5-6 so they just go where they fit and are still an easy find.
The project I was most EXCITED about, bought 3 packs of letter stickers (99 cents a piece) and labeled the baking supplies!
Got a little carried away and labeled the cereal containers as well :)
Added three baskets for the smaller items that were always getting shuffled around

Basically I just went through everything in the pantry, reorganized and added some labels. Nothing fancy, but much needed! Here's to hoping that everything can stay in its place, at least until our next grocery trip :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Project Simplify, Week 1: Kid's Stuff

I'm not shocked that Week 1 for Project Simplify ( came and went and I did not have time to write a blog post. I was surprised that I even got the task done considering we were all hit with a nasty stomach bug that lingered for a few day and as soon as that left Christopher got a nasty cold which caused him to be very clingy, a little whiny in need of extra loving. This being said I was thankful the project for week 1 was kids stuff.

Due to only having one child, who is only a year old, I knew that this week would be easy. We haven't accumulated a ton of stuff that needed to be gone through and given away and all of his things are already pretty organized. I knew going into this task that I wanted to tackle three main areas; his nursery, his playroom and the toys that are in the living room.

1. His nursery; My goal for this room was to 1. Go through his closet and put away any clothes that were too small for him (since I already do this every few months I knew that it wouldn't be a big task, just hard to put those cute little outfits away!) and 2. Make sure that all the "infant" toys were put in the totes in his room. As he's gotten bigger we've tried to move anything baby into the nursery that way it will be stocked for our next little bundle of joy. I am thankful that we have a big enough nursery to do this and don't need to store everything in the basement with the exception of some bigger items (swing, activity gym, vibrating chair, bumbo seat, etc.). Since I really didn't do much in this room I just took pictures as I went:

Two of the toy totes in his room filled with stuffed animals, teethers, rattles, etc.
Inside our changing table (Diapers, wipes, ointments, crib sheets, mattress pads, pack n' play sheets and boppy covers).
Pile of clothes to go downstairs :(
Christopher's closet!! Up top is blankets and 24 month clothes.Hanging is 12, 12-18, 18 and 18-24 month clothes. On the shelf is some toys and portable high chair. In the drawers is onesies, pajamas, pants, socks and hats/gloves. And then his shoe rack (can you tell Mommy loves shoes?) I love that he is walking and can wear shoes more now!! I also love his huge closet. We didn't get him a dresser for his nursery because we mostly just hang everything up, some much easier!
Nursery, I would eventually like to add a tree (painted/decal) stemming from the corner and have the branches be shelves.
Nursery, yes I am the crazy mother who hang painted those letters white and then painted spots on them to make them look like cows. Hard work  but the end result looks great!
Changing table and cubbies where we keep books, burp clothes, stuffed animals, toys, etc.
His little rocker that family friends got and stained to match the furniture in his room.
2. His playroom; My goal for this room was to label the bins that hold toys so that when Christopher gets a little older he can help Daddy and Mommy clean up. Well, maybe :) Since we just finished this room a couple months ago it really didn't need anything else done at the moment. Basically I just took pictures of the toys, re-sized them on the computer, printed them out and laminated them. Then I used velcro dots to stick them on the bins.
Block center with different blocks, cars and tools.
Music Center on left and part of library on right.
Other side of library, large magnetic board and table!

Double closets! We store lots of his toys in here and then rotate them out so he doesn't get bored.
Library, the only thing we have to add is a stuffed animal hammock above the chair.

Right side of closet before
Right side of closet after, with labels
Right side of closet after, with labels.
Left side of closet, before
Left side of the closet after, with labels
Left side after, with labels
Christopher had fun helping Mommy label!
Looking through all the labels.
3. Living room; My goal for this room was to go through the toys, take any "infant" toys up to the nursery and choose a few to go up in the playroom closet to be switched out later.
Toys! Got rid of a few of the "bigger items" to switch out every other week/month. Have two cloth bins on bookshelf that hold the rest of the toys.
Wagon full of toys to take upstairs. Didn't get an "after" picture of the living room because the only time it is clean is after Christopher goes to bed :)
I was excited to get all this done and by the end even had a few things to pass on or sell on the online yardsale. I definitely love to organize and find it much easier to keep things clean around the house. Excited for week #2 to conquer the pantry/fridge!