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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Organizing Challenge: Study (FINAL REVEAL)

Y'all. It's DONE.

I almost can't believe I pushed through the whole month and actually completed the 29 Day Organizing Challenge. Don't get me wrong, I love to organize, but I tend to get a little ADD and move onto other projects before I can finish an entire room. So THANK YOU, OrgJunkie for giving me a little motivation in the form of prizes. It was apparently just what I needed to transform our study. And you know what? As much as it pains my super-competitive self to say this, even if I don't win, I really do feel like the finished product is totally worth all the time I put into it. There, I admitted it.

If you want to check out the weekly progress posts, you can find them here:

Now onto the big reveal! For a more detailed explanation of the process, check out my challenge summary at the bottom of the post.


We got rid of the stuff between the shelf and the wall, making it possible to move the shelf flush with the wall.



This picture stresses me out.

I finally found a new home for my Broadway prints! They used to live in the hallway, but it was time for a change. This is perfect.


I love this photo collage here! I bought it awhile ago and never quite decided where to put it. Ta da!


This lamp used to be in our bedroom, but it works so much better here. I also moved the bulletin board to this wall (it was replaced by the collage on the other) and brought in a floor pillow. I sewed some fleece pillow cases to go with the room decor (I knew my fleece stash would come in handy!) and will probably sew a few more pillows soon.

1. What space did you decide to organize and why? I chose our study/office because it's at the front of our house and had become a dumping ground for "stuff" that didn't seem to belong anywhere else. I was tired of not having a desk to work at, and I was annoyed that the doors always had to be closed to hide our embarrassing mess.

2.  What steps did you take to ensure you completed the space within the 29 day timeline? I actually planned out the organizing process! I made lists and spread out the tasks over the entire month. That was SO helpful because it kept me from getting overwhelmed. The weekly check-ins helped also because it gave me some accountability to get something done each week.

3.  What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and how did you overcome it? Getting rid of books. I know that sounds silly, but I had to finally have a reality check as to which books we'd actually re-read or were worth keeping. Now that I have a Kindle, it should be a little easier to keep our overflow of books under control for the future, plus if I want to re-read a book I got rid of, I can always go to the library.

I also had a hard time staying focused! The more I worked in the study and saw how good it was looking, the more I wanted to organize other trouble spots in the house.

4. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space? Honestly, a lot of the "stuff" went in the trash. I'm kicking myself now for not taking pictures of our purge piles, but I was on such a roll getting stuff out of the room that I totally forgot.

The exercise ball was deflated and put with our other exercise equipment in the garage. The toys went to the appropriate child's closet. I'm trying to sell some books and donating the others. The box of blankets got straightened up and put in our linen closet (what a novel idea). Avery's art table is being given away in our church's annual Garage Sale Giveaway this weekend.

5.  Tell me one of your proudest moments during this challenge? Coming up with a viable solution for Avery's "office." She loved having a whole table to work on, but it was just way too big for the space and she was taking over the entire room. I was really proud of myself for coming up with the idea to create a little nook for her in the corner, complete with pillows and a lap desk. She loves it!

6.  Explain any organizing “tools” you used to help you create additional space and to establish some limits and boundaries? We didn't have a lot of money to put into this room, so it took a lot of creativity and scavenging our own containers to find solutions to some of our clutter problems. The biggest tool we used to create space was to trade out the huge table for a lap desk. It cost a whopping $4 and created a much cleaner look in the room. It also fits perfectly in the bottom of Avery's art shelf.

I also bought three baskets at the Dollar Tree to keep our lesser used items on the very top of our wall shelves. Containers are the key to me being able to establish limits and boundaries. If an item doesn't fit into the basket where it belongs, it makes me rethink how necessary that item is.

And labels are my best friend! By putting them on everything I'm ensuring that the room doesn't start looking like the before pictures again.

7.  What is ONE piece of advice you’d give to someone else to encourage them on their organizational journey? Make a plan, get started and stay focused! Actually STARTING is so intimidating, but if you can just force yourself to take baby steps, you'll start to pick up momentum. Once you really get going, keep the end result in mind so you don't lose steam. It's also super helpful to make a list of things that still need to be done in a room. And lastly, you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a BIG change. Our entire room transformation cost $7.50.

I love that we have an actual workspace in our home again. I keep going in there just to look at it. That's pathetic, I know. Now it's time to focus on the next project: the master bedroom. My sewing corner is taking it over! It's time to rein it all in, so I'm gonna try and apply the method I used with our study, and hopefully we'll see similar results! Thanks for stopping by to see the finished product; happy organizing!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spa Day and Talent Show

Our ladies ministry at church put together a super fun spa retreat, and I'm so glad I decided to go!

I wasn't really looking forward to the sessions because the topic was personalities/relationships, and quite honestly I've heard and read about the four personality types a kajillion times. It was really good though, and I even learned a few things. :)

We had such a fun table! Including Meagan and Kari...

...Crystal and Amy...

...and Janice and Teresa (with Micah!).

They had a paraffin wax station, a nail station, facials, sugar scrubs, and comfy chairs all set up. Some people signed up for chair massages, but I'm holding out for my next visit to my personal massage therapist, aka my cousin Amy. :) I also had forgotten how much I love having painted nails! I move my hands all prettily and everything. It's so girly.

Iris and Cindy testing out the chocolate facial

Carolyn is the best pastor's wife EVER. Love her!!!

The craft session was making felt flowers; they were so cute! They're similar to some fabric ones I make, but now I have another method to add to my repertoire. Oops, and I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.

Rhonda and Mimi are two of my very favorite ladies at our church. They always crack me up, and they're always dressed so cute!

There were so many thoughtful details that the ladies put into this event. They even made some really funny videos to go along with the sessions. It was well worth giving up my day and putting aside my to do list (melancholy personality, anyone?) to be reminded of the blessing of varying personality types and how God uses all of them to work together for His good. Oh, and I'm sorry I'm so bossy and critical. I really am learning to embrace the positive aspects of my (sometimes too strong) choleric melancholy self and rein in those downfalls. God is constantly working on us!

I missed my sweet family while I was gone all day! Avery wanted in on the painted nail action.  And apparently while Landon was napping, Avery and Matt made a "dinosaur train" out of tunnels, tents, and sheets while I was gone, so I came home to a disaster zone. I think they had fun though, haha. And this video pretty much sums up life in this house right now: Avery being loud, Landon army crawling everywhere, and our living room being messy.

I decided to take the kids to Matt's school last night so we could all be together a little longer while he was working at the talent show. Avery had a BLAST running up and down the ramps in the sound booth before it started, and she sat so attentively during the first act of the show. We left at intermission because it was beyond bedtime for two sleepy kids.

Hey there, handsome.

This picture is a blur because I could not get her to stop moving long enough to smile!

Oh, he is such a mama's boy right now and I am NOT complaining. I love those sweet cheeks!

I just adore this picture. She was so fascinated with the sound board.

Anyway, I'm tired. It's been a packed weekend and now I've gotta get our menu planned so I can go grocery shopping after the prayer gathering at church tonight. It's naptime around here now; wish us luck!

Friday, February 24, 2012

An Uneventful Day

Today was such a sweet day. There wasn't anything really exciting about it, but Avery was extra loving, Landon was extra snuggly, and it was just low key and nice.

We had to take Nutmeg to a new vet today because hers is (hopefully temporarily) not practicing anymore because of health problems. Besides looking like a traveling circus trying to get an excited dog, a big stroller, and a toddler who manages to walk in front of said dog and stroller at every opportunity, the visit went better than I expected. Meggie even acted like an angel compared to the other dogs that were barking like crazy. She was so good and obedient and sweet. I think she might've just been nervous, but I was a proud doggie mama. The office was much different than Dr. Mike's clinic, but the staff was very nice and helpful, and I really liked the vet. I think we'll continue to go there if Dr. Mike doesn't reopen, so it was a relief to find a backup just in case.

We got home in time for Avery to catch some Sesame Street (we're taking her to Sesame Street Live next weekend; she's gonna flip out!!) while I put together some lunch. I was feeling some comfort food, so I made (don't judge) macaroni and cheese and popcorn shrimp (or "strimp," according to Avery). Hey, at least the mac was Annie's and we also ate carrots and tomatoes.

Avery only fussed at nap time for like fifteen minutes and then she was out. Compared to her hour-long tantrums as of late, I was ecstatic with only fifteen minutes of whining. Unfortunately, Landon didn't get the nap memo and slept for a whopping thirty minutes. In his defense, he's 1) a terrible afternoon napper when he doesn't get a morning snooze and 2) he's either teething or getting a little sick because he hasn't slept well at ALL for the whole week, nap or nighttime.

So we had a little bonding time in my bathroom, where he could make as much noise as he wanted and be entertained by waving at mirrors. At least he was happy.

After Avery woke up we had a little jam session at the piano. That girl loves to sing, so I played some of her Wee Sing Bible songs while she alternated instruments from her collection (including the "harp" and tambourine she made at school). She was so stinkin' cute. After we played through every song that I could stand, I even gave her her first piano lesson. Haha, kidding. I did help her play the melodies of some of her favorites by moving her finger along the keys. Landon just jumped happily away in his doorway jumper while he listened to the music (or piano banging when it was A's turn).

Since both kids were content to play in the recently cleaned out study, I was able to get a head start on a craft/organizing project that I've had on my list for awhile. I'm a card hoarder. I have a really hard time throwing away notes from people. I still have a few notes dating back to junior high that I just can't bear to part with. Anyway, I have stacks of thank you, birthday, and Christmas cards that needed to be reassessed. They were just organized in Ziploc bags, so I decided to pretty them up a little. I had already made Avery's baby and birthday cards into booklets using ribbon, but I saw an idea on Pinterest (go figure) that used binder rings, which is SO much neater. I love the way it turned out. I even have a little basket for them in the study so I'm not creating more clutter with my pack rat sentimental ways.

Matt came home for about an hour, which was just enough time for him to eat and help load up Avery's futon we just sold on Craigslist. He had to go back to school to run sound for their talent show fundraiser, so I had bedtime on my own again. Avery was loving all the newly acquired space in her room, so I got Landon to sleep while she read books to her friends (hey, she's not lacking in imagination). She was absolutely precious when it was time for her to go to bed, and I love those nights that we snuggle in her bed to read a book, pray, and tell a story about "Schmavery." I hope those little moments mean as much to her as they do to me.

I have the rest of the evening to start on some pillows for Avery's little coloring nook in the study, but I'm determined to be in bed before midnight for the first time all week.

I'll be at our ladies spa retreat at church tomorrow, so Matt gets some much-needed time with the young 'uns before having talent show round two. And after this weekend, his horrible work month will be over. Hopefully then we can actually hang out again!

Happy (early) birthday to my awesome mother-in-law on Sunday, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Organizing Challenge: Study (Week 4)

We're getting down to the wire! There's less than a week until the February 29 deadline for OrgJunkie's 29 Day Organizational challenge, and this was a super productive week for me.

Check out my previous progress posts here:

I'll save the detailed pictures and explanations for Wednesday's big reveal (haha!), but some highlights of this week were
  • getting Matt's sheet music and guitar tabs organized into SIX notebooks,
  • coming up with a solution for Avery's "office" (aka her coloring books, stickers, papers, crayons, etc.),
  • finally putting some pictures in a bulletin board/frame collage that I've had for at least two years.
Here are some comparisons from week 1 to now:

Between now and Wednesday, I still need to
  • put pictures in a collage frame that found its new home in the study,
  • finish a sewing project for Avery's art nook,
  • finish a couple of other decorative details, and 
  • get rid of the last remnants of "stuff" (my old laptop that needs to just be recycled at this point, my basket of unused office supplies, and some electronics that Matt needs to try to sell).

We're getting there though, and I'm loving how much better it looks already. Check back on Wednesday when it will be FINISHED!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meal planning, grocery shopping, and other fun domestic things.

Lately I've been asked a lot about how I do our menu planning and grocery shopping. It's no secret that we're on a very tight budget around here, and we manage to keep our grocery budget to $250 a month. Truthfully, we're able to keep it that low because we have to. Keep in mind that I only consider food items part of our grocery bill; toiletries and detergent and that stuff are in another category altogether, and the way we save money in those areas is another post altogether!

Nothing that I do is truly original; I've just taken lots of different shopping/planning methods (methods? Can I even call them that?) and made them work for us.

We've tried E-mealz. I was too much of a control freak to let someone else choose what we were going to eat. And I have an aversion to companies that substitute Zs for Ss.

We've tried shopping every two weeks. We didn't eat enough produce by the end of the second week because it had gone bad. Plus I ended up going back to the store at some point anyway.

We've tried cutting coupons. Sheesh, talk about taking a lot of time! And really, most coupons are for items that I don't want to buy (processed junk food, anyone?). Sure I'll flip through the coupons in the Sunday paper, but I don't very use many of them anymore.

So take what you want and leave what you don't, but here's what works in this house:
  • Menu planning: I sit down on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and plan out our menu for the week. I'm super fancy and usually just use a piece of notebook paper. 
    • Before I even start thinking about what we're going to eat, I sketch out our calendar for the week so I know how much time I'll have to be in the kitchen each day. That helps a TON because then I know which days I need Crock Pot meals, which days Matt can cook (he's better at it than I am!), and which days are good to try something new.
    • Then I start brainstorming to figure out what sounds good. I usually ask Matt if he has any requests, and I flip through my Pinterest board of Recipes We've Tried and Loved.
    • My last step before setting the menu is to glance through the grocery ads for my usual stores (more on that later) and looking through the pantry and fridge to see what we have that needs to be used. 
    • Then we just assign a main and side dish to each day. Menu set!
  • After the menu is set, I write out the grocery list. I usually hit three stores each week: Sprouts, Kroger, and Costco.
    • Sprouts: I love Sprouts for their produce sales. Most of our side dishes are determined by which veggies are on sale that week. We get most of our produce here.
    • Kroger: This is where we get our miscellaneous stuff like cereal, butter, eggs, baking supplies, whatever. Oh, and Blue Bell when it's on sale and I remember to print my coupon. That's an important one!
    • Costco: You have to be careful with Costco because it's easy to buy unnecessary stuff just because it seems like a good deal. Our usual purchases at Costco are bananas, spinach, carrots (haha, we made it through the 10 lb bag!), cheese (we buy the blocks and shred it ourselves because it's way cheaper and tastes better), milk, meat (ground beef and chicken breasts), tortilla chips, veggie stix, and some type of snack (like granola bars or the Annie's snack bags). We also buy paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, dog food, and other stuff that doesn't count toward grocery money. I digress.
    • If at all possible, I grocery shop on Sunday afternoon while the kids are napping or at night once they've gone to bed. It's SO much easier to shop (especially at 2-3 stores) when I'm by myself.
  •  Just a few miscellaneous items:
    • We try to limit our snack purchases. Those little boogers add up quickly! 
    • We try to skip convenience items like cooking soups and taco seasoning (thanks to Pinterest we make our own!).
    • I do still clip coupons for items that we purchase on a regular basis. I don't always use them right away because I usually try to wait and combine it with a sale. 
    • We don't buy specific lunch food because we just eat leftovers. 
    • We make most of Landon's baby food. I can't even tell you how much cheaper this is. We buy some jars for when we're out at mealtimes, but when we eat at home, we just thaw out our frozen cubes.
    • I take out our $250 in cash after payday because then I can literally see how much we have left for the month.
    • Price books are handy! But really once I paid attention to prices for long enough, I was able to easily recognize what was actually a good deal.
I am not an expert by any means, and I'll probably edit this post a few more times when I'm hit with a moment of grocery shopping brilliance. At the very least, now I have an answer for those of you who've asked how we do our grocery shopping around here.

Congratulations on making it this far. The end.

Wordless Wednesday

I really don't see what the fuss is all about.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five

1. I am a shorn sheep.

I've always wanted to donate my hair to Locks of Love, and I finally grew it out long enough to do it! It's been awhile since I had short hair, so I'm gonna have to get used to it. When I got home, Avery kept telling me I looked beautiful, so I think it'll be okay, haha!

2. I am not making any more baby food ever. Ugh, I'm mostly kidding, but Matt and I made SO much food for Landon last night! Matt cooked sweet potatoes, chicken breast, and carrots while I was at a meeting, and then when I got home I made peas and green beans and started making all kinda of combinations to puree and freeze. We ran out of ice cube trays, so I'll have to finish freezing a couple batches today. I know it's worth it because it's so much cheaper and better for Landon, but this girl is TIRED. And seriously, we probably made enough to last until he's totally on table food.

3. Last month I lost my car key. Yes, just one key. I was switching cars with my mom so I could go to soccer practice, and somewhere between the door and the car it just disappeared. And we still haven't found it. So annoying. Now I can't find my camera charger (hence the webcam pic above). I lost my planner for about a day, and thankfully my head is attached to my body otherwise I'd lose it, too! For those of you who were worried (ha!), I did find my planner, ironically enough, under a pile in the study that I'm in the middle of organizing. Whew.

4. In order to prevent said head loss, I've adopted a new brain. I wish I were kidding. I now have my incredible Post-It/Journal/To Do system in place (thanks to my friend Jamie and a great Pinterest find) and I finally have a good place to brain dump! I'll post the method and the madness soon. You'll just have to be patient. I know, this blog is just full of too much suspense.

5. Someone remind me never to buy 10 lbs of carrots again. You know, unless I'm planning on feeding a gajillion bunnies or something. Costco has some ridiculous mind warp on me and I convinced myself that yes I could, in fact, figure out a way for our family of four to go through TEN POUNDS OF CARROTS. (In my defense, they're whole organic carrots and were only a dollar more than the 5 lb bag of baby carrots.) I'm surprised we haven't turned orange yet. We've sauteed it as a side on multiple occasions this week, I gave a bag full to my parents, I added carrots to practically every one of the baby food purees, and Landon even used them as chew toys. While the plethora does give me another excuse to make this amazing broccoli cheese soup tonight, I have learned my lesson.

It's a low-key weekend around here; I hope yours is great!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Organizing Challenge: Study (Week 3)

Is it week 3 already? If you're just now joining me, I'm participating in OrgJunkie's 29 Day Organizational Challenge, and I'm attacking our study.

I was pretty productive at the beginning of the week and got rid of a bunch of junk. I didn't get a picture of the piles that have now left the room, but I feel better already! The progression pictures aren't that drastic today, but since I only have a week and a half left, they should start looking more complete at the next check in!

Last week was the major bookshelf overhaul, so the only thing I really changed in the bookshelf this week was to add the magazine files on the top shelf. I still have some wayward items on said top shelf, but it's already looking way better than it started.

Ugh, not much has changed here this week.

This was where I spent the majority of time this week. I bought some green baskets at Dollar Tree to put on the top shelf to hold our rarely-used-but-still-sometimes-needed items. I also found better homes for the magazine files and sorted through a lot of junk on the desk surface.

Three of the big to dos left in this room are 1) to organize Matt's sheet music, 2) to sort through (and purge) the three stacks of CDs that contain who knows what, and 3) to organize Avery's "office" (I have some ideas, but it's what I'm dreading the most since I know it'll be harder to keep orderly because, well, she's only 2). Sounds like I'll be busy this weekend. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekend Recap and Pajama Day!

I hate February. Not only is it the month of obnoxious, commercially-driven forced affection via cheesy cards and overpriced flowers, but it's Matt's busiest work month.

He had the musical the first week/weekend, TMEA (crazy huge music teachers convention) last week/weekend, solo and ensemble this weekend, and the last weekend is the local talent show that, for some reason, takes three full days. (p.s. I am very thankful he has a job.)

Anyway, with him gone from Wednesday morning until Saturday night, I was flying solo. Avery and Landon were really sweet though, and we managed to make it through!

The kids and I went to Avery's Mother's Day Out in the morning because I had volunteered to babysit for teachers' kids while they had their little in-service thing. Hey, it's an easy tuition credit. I was so fried from two days of solo parenting (I know, I'm a wimp) that we went to McDonald's for lunch with Whitney and her two kids. Whitney's so much fun to talk to, plus Avery just loves her daughter Pearson, and I know that our baby boys will be friends when they get a little older.

And then my cousin Amy came over for the evening! I made cilantro lime chicken in the Crock Pot, and we ate it over rice with spinach salad. So yummy! We got the kiddos bathed and in bed, and then it was time to PARTY!! Or stuff our faces with molten chocolate cake while watching a Bridezillas marathon on Netflix. Sounds like my kind of party anyway, haha.

We weren't completely lazy though. I did our taxes, whew! Um, holy huge refund, Batman! We had to pay last year, so I wasn't expecting anything back, but I guess the fact that I made practically nothing this year meant a little break for us. I'm just glad that they're done. 

And Amy was quite the crafty little kindergarten teacher and whipped out these adorable valentines for her sweet students! Aren't they cute?!?

I turned into little Suzy Homemaker on Saturday morning, making blueberry muffins (okay, I cheated and used a mix), cleaning, and doing laundry. Avery was soaking up all of Amy's attention and loving it.

Amy stayed at the house while Landon napped, and I took Avery to a birthday party for her friend Jacob. It was a cute little Veggie Tales party, and Avery played with her Bob and Larry favors for like an hour when we got home. 

After lunch I took the kids to nap at my parents' while I met my friend Iris at church to prep the kids rooms for the Valentine Banquet that night. We set up the dinner, craft, game, and movie rooms so it would be more than just babysitting.

The banquet was cute, and the kids' wing was problem free! We seriously have the best church family. To make it even better, Matt showed up before it was over, and I was SO glad to see him!

I have made it to Sunday School TWO weeks in a row! I'm usually running around the kids' hall making sure everything's okay, but I'm trying to make it a priority to get my butt in Sunday School.

We went to Sam's Pizza for lunch with some of our Life Group, and when we got home we ALL took glorious naps. I'm talking 2.5 hours. Ahhh. That also meant that I didn't get to go grocery shopping until 9:30 pm, but I didn't care. Sleep trumps making a grocery list.

Since winter decided to finally make an appearance in Texas, we spent the entire day at home in our pajamas. I feel like we're always going somewhere, so it was a fun change of pace to just chill. The house was completely destroyed with toys by the time Matt got home, but that just means the kids had fun, right?

I threw together some quesadillas for dinner and have already tested out our {not so} new Keurig since the kids have been asleep. I may have also eaten way too many Samoas Caramel Delights. That's the stupidest name ever. Why do even the Girl Scouts have to be politically correct?!?

Now I'm off to organize the pile of sheet music that has accumulated in our study over the past two years. The big organizing project is coming along; I'll have another update on Friday!

And now you know more than you ever wanted to know about our weekend. Congratulations on making it this far. The end.