Thursday, February 26, 2015

40 Bags Weekly Recap: Cupboards and The Holding Area

We have this weird/awkward/questionable peninsula of cabinetry between our kitchen and family room.  The kitchen was an add-on about 20 years ago and I think the cabinets were part of the old kitchen they decided to keep.  I'm not sure if I love it or hate it.  We're not even sure what to call it..... 

 (look at her on move-in day in all her green glory...)

Is it "the island"?  No, that would be the kitchen island with bar stools.

Then is it "the counter"?  Not nearly specific enough.

Usually I refer to it as "the big bar thingy".  And I love the big bar thingy when we're hosting people at our house.  It's the perfect place to set out food and still keep the kitchen clear for food prep and all the dirty dishes.

But it also cuts the room in half and has created way more furniture placement drama than any one person should have in their life.  How hard can it be to find a spot for the couch in such a big open space?? The answer is stupidly hard.  Anyway. I digress.

What I DO love about big bar thingy (in addition to the great serving space) is the extra storage we have in the cabinetry.  I wanted to make sure we were taking full advantage of them, so they were the first target in my 40 Bags in 40 Days purge.

Since the goal is to tackle a small area each day, I divided this up over the course of 3 days (small drawers, big drawers, and cabinets).  Truth be told I still haven't touched the cabinets on the left side that house our school and craft supplies. Because it scares me.

 Here are some of the things we ditched....

-Phone books and directories - the ones we've never opened and contain info we typically look up online.  Into the recycle bin.

-Serving dishes - I used to have a serious excess of serving dishes, but over the years I've found that I typically use the same ones whenever we entertain and they are mostly white or clear.  Dishes I haven't used in over a year went to the donate pile. 

-Table linens - just like our serving dishes, I tend to have my go-to's for table linens.  Anything I hadn't used in over a year (or ever!  Some still had their clearance steal tags) went to the donate bin.  Seasonal or holiday specific linens were pulled and store away in our holiday bins.

-Pens - when I got to the junk drawer, I realized it was a magnet for pens and markers that do not work.  Trash.  All of them.

Side note...a couple years ago I used an extra silverware tray to organize our junk drawer and it's worked swimmingly.

We also repurposed the drawers in a way that made sense.  The two small drawers on the left are dedicated to batteries and candles/flashlights.  The other two are the designated junk drawer and a drawer of miscellaneous household/hardware items.  The center drawers hold serving utensils and linens, serving dishes, and outdoor/picnic items.

I will deal with the counterspace when all is said and done but I think we could use some sort of charging station.  And binky storage?

I actually cleared off the counter space before purging the cabinets.  I didn't grab a pic, but just imagine piles.  Lots and lots of piles, merging into one counter-sized mega pile.  It felt so good to finally have that space clean and clear, but once we started going through the rest of the drawers/cabinets I found little piles started forming all over again.  #commenceeyetwitch

It made me realize that it really is helpful to have a designated holding or working area when purging like this.  I pulled several items from big bar thingy that will be relocated to other spaces.  Spaces I have not yet purged and organized.  So, they need an area to hang out until their new spot is ready.  Which means I just need to get over stuff being on the countertop.  It's never clear for long anyway.

Next up is that desk area nearby.  

It's going to become my new little home management area since I no longer have my beloved office.  It's much smaller than the area we just tackled, but there's a LOT more stuff shoved into those drawers.

This room is proving to be a challenge for me to deal with....I have a grand vision for the space that includes painting the cabinets and walls, a treatment for the fireplace and lots of fun details.  I want to do it all at once, all right now!

But this challenge is not about the pretty.  Not yet.  First the purging, then the organizing, then the finishing touches.  It's one of those spaces that is going to come together slowly, as budget and time allow.   So while I really want to run out and buy paint, I'm trying to stay focused on the dirty work.  Which really does feel great to check off the list. 

How are my fellow purgers faring?  What areas have you cleared out?  Are you staying motivated?  I've been really inconsistent.  Skipping days and then doubling up on others.  I feel like I need to get in a better routine or maybe a certain time each day when James is home to occupy the kids.  What's your approach?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The (Not So Glamorous) Newborn Days

Thank you so much for your sweet comments and congrats on the newest Crinion!  In that post, I mentioned that the past few weeks have been....hard.  I don't know how many times I've reworked this post because I don't want to complain about something so truly wonderful.  But I also feel there's a misconception of where beauty is found in those first weeks with a new baby.  Spoiler alert - it's not in strutting around in your postpartum bod, tummy miraculously flat and perfect hair and makeup.

Now be forewarned, if terms associated with childbirth and nursing make you squeamish you may want to skip this one and just scroll through for the cute baby pics. I promise you some house and organizing projects are coming up.  But first, life with a newborn....

Feeling bad for all the radio silence since Livy's birth, I finally posted this pic on Instagram

the not so glamorous newborn days

I had been waiting until I could take a shower, find clothes that disguised the postpartum everything, and actually do something with my hair.  But alas, that magical trifecta has not yet manifested.  I was taken aback at your encouraging comments on that pic and it's really what triggered the desire to write this post.

I hope this doesn't sound completely wretched, but it seems to be baby season around my social media land and all the pictures are "Yay!  Our baby is here!  We're so in love!"

And I love my baby too, but I wondered....while holding my beautiful 4th child screaming from a stubborn bubble/poop/gas conundrum, my nipples sore and cracked from the first week of nursing, my postpartum gut keeping me out of any clothes without a stretchy waistband (not exactly a complaint at this point)....and really.....was I the only one who wasn't relishing in newborn baby bliss?  I mean, this isn't my first rodeo here, so shouldn't I at least have it more together?
the not so glamorous newborn days

And friends, we are totally BLESSED.  We have big babies (all born around 9.5 lbs with the exception of my "little" guy Sully who was 8 lbs 9 oz), which means they are generally good eaters (read: holy cow are my nipples still there) but they also tend to sleep a bit longer at night.  Livy is no exception. It could be the hearty eating, the good weight, ooooor sheer exhaustion from the two hours of colicky raging during the evening hours that precede her bedtime. It's a toss up.

So, if we're getting 4-5 hr stretches at night, and nursing every 2.5-3 hrs during the day, why are we still so dang tired?!? And why am I not overwhelmed with all the feelings of "this is the best thing ever!"? 
the not so glamorous newborn days

Some days it seems like the only time she's not screaming is when she's eating or asleep.  I hate wishing she would just conk out and go back to dreamland.  I love the rare moments when she's calm and awake.  I'm looking forward to the day we have a lot more of those and less of the ear-splitting form of communication.  It's so hard to see your baby in discomfort and not be able to sooth her. 

I can still remember the days at the hospital and then home with our first baby, Mia.  After 23 hrs of labor and 1.5 hrs of pushing, I had a beautiful 9lb 8oz daughter and a nice helping of 3rd degree tearing.   I was so exhausted from hours of walking the hospital halls trying to help labor progress and was in so much discomfort from the tearing that I could barely hold Mia.  I remember crying in that hospital bed because I would feed her and then immediately need (even want) to just hand her off to James for some relief.  She also received bottled formula in the hospital, so she was not happy about my very slow let down.  Her and James actually bonded more in the hospital than her and I did.

I thought it would get better once we were home, but Mia had a "fussy hour", which was more like three, where she was simply inconsolable.  The only thing that semi-soothed her was James pacing the house with her in his arms.  Nursing was a fight (despite being a trained lactation educator) and incredibly painful at first.  My recovery was so much harder than anything I had anticipated and I hated feeling so unlike myself.

I really didn't bond with my baby until several weeks after we were home....and I felt like the worse mother on the planet. It seems silly to me now, but it was a very real feeling of disappointment and failure.

Livy is very much like Mia with a fussy time in the evening.  Her scream is LOUD and after pacing with her for two hours while she wails in my ear, I usually have a splitting headache behind my left eye that will. not. quit. Put that on repeat every day and it sucks.  For both of us.  But I also know that it will not always be this way.

She will not always scream so loud I question my own hearing loss and I'm not a terrible mother if I can't sooth her every cry.  I'm OK with admitting that this is a struggle, no matter how many babies fill the nest.  I might have a bit more perspective with baby #4, but lets be honest - this work is hard.

I find it almost humorous (and I stress almost) that some of the most selfless and exhausting work we will do is required of us when we are physically weak, mentally foggy, and riding an unpredictable hormonal emotion-coaster.  Seriously.  What was God thinking with that one?  I have asked Him this many times over the past couple weeks (in a bit of a toddleresque whine), but maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, Right out of the parenting gates, we will never have enough strength or wisdom to get through the long road of parenthood alone.  We need him from the very start and for every stage going forward. We do our best...which some days is simply showing up, and God meets us in our humanity with grace for that moment.
the not so glamorous newborn days

After a series of back to back screaming-spitup-hold-me-constantly days, I was hitting a breaking point.  I sent a lovely message to James telling him so.  He responded with words I didn't know my heart needed - Keep at it.  Don't give up. You're doing a great job and she's lucky to have you  #cuewaterworks

Even a veteran mom needs to hear that.  We need to hear it to get us through the newborn days, heck that whole first year, but also to get us through the toddler trenches...and when those toddlers turn into big kids...and tween territory...and certainly beyond.  No matter how seasoned or new you are to motherhood, we all need the reassurance that our efforts are worth it.  Because being a parent is not easy.   Our best efforts don't always feel very heroic or effective, but the simple act of staying in the fight (even when it's not very pretty) is how we love.  And love always wins.  (Right Mary?) 

The beauty of these newborn days is absolutely in the gift of your child, but it's also in your daily sacrifice.  In the way you tend to your child even when your body is screaming for rest.  In your commitment to your motherhood even when you question why and how you got there.  

So, to all the first time mamas that may be wondering why no one told them how hard this would be (or to the mom of many who sort of forgot), I'm with you.  And I promise, it does get better.  With our other kids, I remember the clouds parting and a glimmer of hope at normalcy breaking through around the 6-8 week mark. I was a truly colicky baby and my mom said it finally improved around 4 months.  Each baby is different, but it will not be this way forever. 

In the meantime, embrace the little victories.  Celebrate the day that dang umbilical stump falls off....give thanks for the day nursing doesn't hurt quite as much as it did the day before (you're on the downhill!) or the day he takes a bottle and doesn't throw it all back up when he "burps" a little happy dance when you can finally downgrade from DEF-CON diaper-size pad status for your own recovery/self-care....and just know that before long, you will be in much easier days and pants that fit.  Or better yet, just get yourself a good pair of jeans that fit you now and you'll feel a whole lot better.

I'm off to console my daughter who is refusing to nap in her crib, but will probably fall right asleep if I hold her for the next two hours. Solidarity, Sisters!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

40 Bags In 40 Days: The Plan

I couldn't be more ready to work through this 40 bags in 40 days challenge over the course of Lent.  I'm not super excited about the work itself, but I already feel a sense of relief that I'm not going to sit paralyzed by our piles any longer.

I hadn't really thought about my Lenten commitment before Ann Marie announced this year's challenge but as soon as I read it, I knew that's exactly what I needed to do.

Do you ever feel weighed down by your house?  By all the STUFF?  I literally feel out of control. Like our stuff is taking over and I can't get a grip on it.  Throw the holidays, a couple birthdays and a new baby into the mix and I feel like we're being overrun. Whenever I think I'm making progress on the chaos, I'm usually just shuffling things from one spot to the next instead of actually dealing with it.

And for me, the real issue is that all the excess somehow leads to a feeling of needing more or not having the "right" things.  I talked about a few ways to fight the Need Machine here (ironically during last Lent) and one of the most counter intuitive but effective ways is to give. stuff. away. 
tips when you feel like you don't have enough

When we're overwhelmed by the clutter and the excess, we become dissatisfied and start playing the "if only" game.  If only we had _____......if only we could fix____......if we could just____then it would be better.   I often tell my kids that if they can't maintain their rooms because they are overwhelmed by the stuff...then they have too much stuff. #blackpotcallingblackkettle

Yes, I've purged in the past, but I've never taken on our home as a whole or dedicated this much time to the task. 

My hope is to approach each room, each drawer, each cupboard, both prayerfully and intentionally.  Do I really need this?  Do I actually use it?  How often?  Is it a double or very similar to something else we have?  Does it have special meaning or significance?  Does it still reflect our style? Do I love it?  What is God calling me to do with it...with this space?

I think a key to success is to go in with a plan, but one that can flex.  And to set realistic goals for each day.  I used Ann Marie's printable to jot down a list of all the areas I feel need attention over the next 40 days.  I ended up scheduling one large room or zone (like the kitchen) each week, and I tried to balance out the days of that week with larger and smaller tasks. Hopefully it's a doable mix but that's where the flexibility comes in #usepencil

I also planned a few days for the unseen clutter that's making me my inbox and backing up/cleaning up computer files.  I would include going through our photos, but that might rate it's own 40 days. 

I have some helpful ideas on how to go through your things in this post here, but one reader mentioned that the hardest part of purging is deciding what to do with all the stuff you're getting rid of.  So true!  There are a lot of it for a yard sale in the spring, sell some items on craigslist, donate to a local charity close to your heart, or just chuck it all. 

Some stuff truly is junk and needs to head straight to the trash, but for everything else you need to weigh time and effort.  A yard sale and selling online take additional time and mean you have to store all that stuff somewhere in the meantime.  Is it worth it?  Maybe!  For something like this, I know my personality and it's usually best that I get rid of things right away.  I'm planning to make a donation run or schedule a pick up at the end of each week...and maybe sell one or two big ticket items on craigslist. 

If you're joining in for this challenge or just have the urge to clear out some closets, I know it can be overwhelming....but you can do this.  You do not need all that stuff.  Our happiness is not in our things.. The mess might get worse before it gets better, but it will be so worth it! 

I'm starting with our biggest frustration and that's our "school zone".  We started out homeschooling all the kids this year and now have one back in school.  We didn't end up using the homeschool area I set up the way I thought we would, and having a kiddo back in school has brought another set of papers/communication/routine.  There are papers and craft supplies and lots and lots of books....all piled in with stuff from my previous office and last year's school projects.  It's time to dig in!

*There's a lot of great resources and a supportive community of fellow purgers over at White House Black Shutters!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

40 Bags For Lent: Ready For Some Serious Decrapifying!

I'm at that place where I go through each day praying that no one knocks on the door....because then I would have to open it and reveal my complete wreck of a house.  Our home pretty much screams "SURVIVAL" at the moment. Or maybe even "I give up". 

And it should.  Newborn days are very much survival days, but the house crazy is starting to make all of us a little twitchy.

I managed to actually clear off a large counter yesterday that hadn't seen the light of day in months, and you would have thought I just returned from a relaxing day at the spa.  Clean surfaces....ahhhhhhhh.

A la Instagram:

As timing would have it, I also read Ann Marie's annual 40 Bags In 40 Days post which coincides with the 40 days of Lent.  I already knew that a spending freeze would be part of my Lent (after all the generous gifts from Christmas and birthdays and baby), but I think this would be the perfect compliment to that commitment.  We certainly aren't in need of more stuff, and we are in desperate need of dealing with the stuff we do have.

I've wanted to jump on this challenge in the past and have done several purges in the past few years (here and here), but I'm looking forward to tackling small areas at a time with better focus this round.  I tend to want to do it all at once or not at all.  If I can't tackle an entire area at once, then my procrastinating ways reign.  It's the same with our house projects...we tend to go on a big project kick and then go long stretches without touching a thing. 

But that approach isn't going to fly with a new babe in tow.  I have small windows throughout the day to get things done, so I need smaller doable tasks. Otherwise, the piles will continue to grow around here. 

Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.  Our dining room from my perch on the couch (an accurate depiction of the current state of our home)....

I'm using Ann Marie's printable to help keep me organized and motivated.  I filled it out in pencil - important since I ended up shifting things around.  Each week I'm focusing on one area/room of the house and slowly working my way from the main level, to the upstairs, and finally to the basement.  I'll post a weekly update here on the blog and will be sharing our progress throughout the 40 days on Facebook and the Gram.

Every time I have purged down our things to only that which we use, love, and truly need, it has been so freeing.  And brought such peace.  We've had so many changes over the past few kiddo is back in school, our new baby is here, and our schedules have drastically shifted.  We've all felt a bit out of sorts and I owe it to our family to provide a sure place to land.  We all operate better when we're in a good routine and when our home is working for us, not against us.  It's time to regain control and do some serious decrapifying.

So bring it on, Baby!  Who's with me?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, February 9, 2015

House For Six!

Well Guys....we had a baby!  And our blog name is officially outdated.  On Jan 13th we welcomed Olivia Joy to our family and are now a house for six!  She made her debut a day late at 9lb 6oz and 21 inches long. 

The jury is still out on her eye color, but she has a full head of black hair and is absolutely none more than this sweet guy here.  Screaming or sleeping, he would be happy to hold her all the live long day.

I was looking through my phone and this is the last pregnant pic I could find.  It was the day before we went to the hospital and we braved the frigid wind for a walk around the block..all in the name of get-the-dang-baby-out.  And fresh air for the minions.  My mom is looking very Greek here, no? 

Thankfully James kept a "Dad's Log" once we got to the hospital (as he's done for all our kids), which means I can cheat with his notes for all the nitty gritty birth story details and let my baby brain off the hook a bit.  It's in the works.

We're s-l-o-w-l-y emerging from the newborn fog and I think we maaay be starting to fall into a bit of a.....rhythm.  Yes that.  Schedule or routine would be a bit of a stretch.  We'll say rhythm. 

I'll be honest, these past few weeks have been hard.  It's been a huge adjustment for our family.  Much harder than I anticipated in some ways and completely amazing in ways I didn't expect.  There has been so much beauty and tears and grace filling these days.  We just feel so thankful. 

And how is this baby 4 weeks old already?!?!
I hope you all have been well!  I've missed meeting here with you and look forward to catching up!  We did manage to finish a couple of small projects before Livi joined us and I can't wait to share those and get your feedback on some upcoming plans. You know I must be feeling more like myself if house projects are on the brain again *wink wink*

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Annual Gift Giving Trackers with Free Printables

I know we are well beyond the Christmas season now, but I made a recent update to some of our holiday Home Management Binder printables and thought you might like them too.

I think we've all seen gift trackers that help keep us on budget and on schedule when it comes to holiday gifting.  I personally used Jen's this year, but the purpose for these is a little different.

We have a lot of cousins/nieces/nephews and sometimes I come across a great gift that I either want to remember to send them another year (because it won't be appropriate until they're a little older), or I can't remember if I've already gifted it to them on a previous occasion.  

So, I came up with this tracker to help me remember the gifts I've given in the past and to keep track of gift ideas for the future.  I write a different recipient's name in each of the blank spots on the top row, then I fill in the gift we sent that year.  If there's a gift I want to send when they're a little older I pencil that in the appropriate year's slot.  Tastes and interests change, so embrace the pencil! 
You can download a copy of the Christmas Gift Tracker HERE.  Print off as many sheets as you need to cover all those special peeps.

I realized this helped me remember how we gave during a given Christmas, but I could have given a gift during a birthday too.  So, I made another gift tracker for that which includes birthdays 1-18 years.  You can grab a copy of the Birthday Gift Tracker HERE(Something funky is going on with the title/header on the PDF version, so you can download the EXCEL document HERE)

Do you have a go-to gift for certain genders or ages?  How do you keep track of all those great gift ideas?  We do a lot of giving through Amazon since all of our family lives out of state, and as I was attempting to update these I was relieved to see that I could track my orders through Amazon pretty far back.  It's a start!

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Hello 2015!

Hey there!  I know for many of you today was the Monday of all Mondays as you went back to work and school after a nice Christmas break.  I hope it wasn't too painful and that you're now relaxing with some wine or beer or tea or whatever is your happy place.

About three weeks ago I called an indefinite time out on the homeschooling (hello 9th month of pregnancy).  We took our time decorating and tried not to kill ourselves making and mailing Christmas gifts. We barely succeeded in the not dying part.  Maybe that's what Sully's praying about in our family Christmas photo...

All I have to say is next year Amazon and I are going to be holiday BFF's.  I'm sure I sound like my grandmother here, but when did shipping get so pricey?!?   

I feel like we've been switching between Christmas mode and baby prep for the past few weeks and it had me completely stressed.  Of course my list of things to do was ridiculous and only a couple of items were actually necessary before the baby arrives.  But that crippling feeling of ohmygoshwehavesomuchtodoandnotimetodoit overshadowed the end of 2014 and it's not how I want to enter or operate in the new year.

The new year always feels like such a fresh mercies that are new every morning on the grandest scale.   I've spent a lot of time with blank notebooks and an empty planner reflecting, listening, and jotting notes.    

Although the ideas are still swirling, they all seem to have a common theme: simplify.  When I think about applying that to the different areas of our life everything in me just screams "YES".   I debated typing out all the ways I hope to do that in the coming year, but we're expecting this little lady any day now...

...and she sort of trumps all the plans.

Becoming a house for six is just one of the changes happening for our family this year.  I'm saving some of those updates for posts when our bambina arrives, but we'll definitely be doing some house tweaking and adapting some household systems in the coming year.

One of the big themes of this blog has always been getting creative in making your house work for you, not the other way around.  I'm excited to get back to that.  Over the past couple years we've also tried to embrace a more simple way of living - more of what we truly love and need, less of the rest.  All things that will carry over into 2015 for our House For SIX!

I guess we really do need to do something about that header....

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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