It’s been awhile, but I’m back today, with a couple holiday ideas for you all. Having just survived Christmas, I have a few Nutshell tips to share.
Tip #1: Do a big toys and books purge the weeks before Christmas.
Tip #2: When it comes to seasonal decorations, only keep your very favorite ones.
It felt great to get that big black garbage bag of toys and a box of books dropped off at Goodwill the week before Christmas. I also gave some baby DVDs to a friend and donated a box of children’s books to Teddy’s preschool. Thankfully, our toy-acquisition this year at Christmas was totally manageable and with all the freed-up space on the boys’ shelves, everything fits, even with room to spare. For now.
About the decorations: remind yourself that you don’t have to keep something simply because you’ve had it since college or because one of your great aunts but you don’t remember which one gave it to you, or you made it in VBS when you were eight. It’s sweet and sentimental and I’m a total sucker for that, but there has to be a balance as well. Have your husband (or wife) take a look at it, with no sentimental strings attached. Is it ugly? It might be and you’ve never noticed. Take a picture. Throw it out or give it away. Chances are you’ll never notice it’s gone.
I have our Christmas decorations pared down to two under-the-bed bins that are packed full and stored in my in-laws’ attic. That does not include the tree stand, or the stockings, but everything else. It helps that I have boys who play hockey in the living room and have broken many Christmas ornaments.
I have one deep plastic bin in our tiny balcony storage closet that I rotate all my seasonal decorations through. All I have are some mantle decorations and small seasonal plaques for the front door. I don’t know that any of the four males I live with notice them, but I like to acknowledge the seasons in my own little ways. Very little ways.
So take a second look as you’re putting away those decorations this year. Do you really like them all? Can you live without some of them? And next year remember to do a pre-Christmas books and toys purge to avoid too much pile-up.
Happy day from our Nutshell!
Bonus holiday idea: Burn your Christmas tree in segments in your fireplace. My boys say it's their favorite Christmas tradition. First, move the stockings and open a window. :)
Today's Tip: Your bathroom is a room too. Don't be afraid to be unconventional with its space.
A decade ago, if you had told me what would make me extremely happy as a 36 year-old, I would have rolled my eyes and not believed you. But, the happiness is real. One day last spring I was in the master bathroom, which, ever since we gave it to the boys is my least favorite place in the house to be-- probably my least place in the Eastern United Sates in fact,-- and started looking at all the wasted cupboard space.
When Brian and I gave the master bedroom and bathroom to the three boys a couple years ago we just moved out, taking only the products we used regularly into the smaller, main bathroom. The boys didn't have that much to put in the bathroom, and so I didn't spend much time in the drawers and cupboard under the sink.
Then one day I had the brilliant idea to go through all the six drawers, throw out a bunch of stuff, since we had barely touched it over the course of a couple years, and use the space for art supplies! This made me ridiculously happy. I had so much fun tossing out the expired products and bathroom junk we had held onto for who-knows-why-- mostly laziness I suppose. Of the six big drawers, I consolidated our things into one of the drawers and used the rest to store art supplies. We now have all our paints, yarn, art foam, pipe cleaners, stickers, buttons, googly eyes, you name it, in our bathroom. Unconventional? Yes. Practical? Also yes. Are you jealous? You know it.
I walked around on air for a few days patting myself on the back about this new, rediscovered space. It was ridiculous how happy it made me. Who would have thought that I could have an art room in our small place? A sometimes-stinky art room is better than no art room.
Do you have space you could use differently? Things you could toss out? Dare to do it!
I spent a day catching up yesterday, after having a seizure Saturday night. It took place at an unusual time of day, I had no warning, and we're not sure of what might have induced it-- there is often a pretty clear reason. It has only been three months since my last seizure. These things all make it frustrating and scary. Fortunately, even though I had a pan of boiling water and sharp knife in front of me, I didn't get hurt other than a cut lip and big ugly bruise on my arm. Everyone was home and took care of me, and I went to bed for the night.
At times like these it is easy to get down, and I admit that I did yesterday. Sometimes I just want to cave into myself and shut down. I hate so much having to depend on others for things-- dumb things, too, like taking my kid to the doctor or buying new underwear. I have to ask for rides, I have to have help with so much. I've gotten numb to it, but sometimes I allow myself to think that just maybe I'll be able to do more for myself, that maybe I'll be able to drive sometime soon, and then I have another seizure and there is no rhyme or reason for it. It sucks. In the grand scheme of lives on Earth though, I'm no dumby and I know I am blessed beyond measure with my family and friends and financial situation, living in a safe place surrounded by so many great people. I have it good. I just have to remind myself at those moments when I feel most helpless, most dependent.
That's all today's tip is. Find the good. Find the lemonade in the lemons. It's there somewhere.
Today's Tip: Don't have a piece of furniture that is used only for your printer.
That ugly thing is clunky and a dust magnet, but we sure do need it occasionally. A couple years ago we did (yet another) book purge and put the printer on the bottom shelf of our bookcase. It took a little training to keep small hands from messing with it, but unplugging it and a couple hand-slaps did the trick. I'm not happy with the way we store paper around it right now, mostly because we have too much paper, but we'll work on that. At least it's not very visible and we don't have a piece of furniture that displays the mess and the clunkiness on top of it.
Is there a different place you could keep your printer? Maybe even spring for a smaller one? Explore that thought.
Have a great day!
Today's Tip: Keep your jewelry visible and only keep what you wear.
This is kind of a weird solution, and you can probably come up with something a little less tacky, but when I went through my jewelry last time I had these leftover canvas painting squares and decided to use them to keep my jewelry on. I painted them the same color as our bedroom walls, stuck hooks on them, and hung up my necklaces. For the earrings I just stuck them directly into the canvas. Because they're painted the same color as the walls, they don't stand out too much in our room, but I can see them all and it helps me wear them more. I'm not much of a jewelry person, but maybe now that I don't have children who eat my necklaces or strangle me when I wear things around my neck, I'll wear them more often. Another idea is using pegboard and even framing it in a cute, Pinterest-y way.
Be real as you go through your jewelry. Do you have jewelry you've never worn? Jewelry you don't even like? Goodwill 'em. Or sell them if they're worth something (I almost forgot that some people own expensive jewelry.). Or, I wouldn't blame you if you tossed them.
Happy day to you all!
One thing I've found that is true in any size home, but especially empowering in a small space, is the power of developing daily habits, no matter how small. For example, unloading the dishwasher every morning to start the day, or washing your bathroom sink every day or making your bed every morning or doing at least one load of laundry a day. None of these things takes very long, but can get out of control quickly if not kept up with.
Another challenge that those of us in small spaces face is the influx of clutter. Here is a link to The Unclutterer's post from today about some daily habits that help keep clutter from taking over. The Power of 15-30 Minutes per Day
Enjoy, and Happy Friday!
Today's Tip: Clear wall space by using an online calendar.
I think wall calendars are great. Visible to the whole family, helpful if updated regularly. I've gone through periods of having a dry erase calendar on the wall, but in our tiny dining room it just took up a lot of space and I didn't update it regularly so it was wasted space-- and space that was just busy, background clutter. I'd probably keep one and try harder to update it if we had a better space for it. But alas...well, you know.
Brian and I use Google calendar anyway, so most of our events are on there and we both look at the calendar every day as we plan appointments and activities. He has a private Google work calendar that I don't subscribe to, so I don't have to see his meetings, but we have all the boys' hockey and baseball and other activities listed, as well as all our activities. Google is so (creepily) smart that you can download activities from websites and your airline itineraries appear on the schedule when you book them. We can share the boys' sports schedules with local family by inviting them to subscribe to it. They can turn it on or off on their Google calendar.
Maybe most of you already know all this and/or use it, but I thought I'd share it as a space-saving tip in addition to a convenient tool. For us it is invaluable and keeps us from doubling up events, or forgetting to arrange a sitter or a ride.
Have a lovely day!
Today's Tip: Stop using and storing the harmful chemicals and dangerous cleaners and use natural ingredients you already keep in your house.
What I've done lately for cleaning showers is something I found via Pinterest and modified a little. It is wonderful, and you already have everything for it. I recently found out that my aunt is using the same thing that she found online too, and loves it.
1/2 cup vinegar in a glass measuring cup, heated for 45 seconds in the microwave
4TBS Baking soda, slowly added and stirred into hot vinegar in a large-ish container (mini volcanoes every time!)
1/2 cup liquid dish soap (I used Palmolive, even though everything says to use Dawn)
I mix this up and then use a paint brush to spread it on the shower walls and tub. The paint brush is my own invention, after both trying a spray bottle (it clogs up) and using a rag (it takes too long).
This recipe is plenty for cleaning both of our full shower/tubs. A little goes a long way. Let it sit for a few hours, then scrub it off with water and a sponge. This involves a lot of rinsing because of all the soap bubbles, but it cuts right through all the nasty soap scum build-up better than any bathroom cleaner I've ever tried, and you don't even have to use any elbow grease. I usually just lightly scrub and rinse it while showering.
Now I don't have to store all those scary cleaners and I can feel better about what I'm exposing myself and my kids to. There are a few other natural cleaners I use too, and will share them in subsequent posts. I also plan to try some new ones soon.
Clear space out below your sink and get rid of harmful chemicals! Win/win.
Today's Tip: Get the most compact highchair you can find, and then move the little one to a seat that attaches to a chair top as soon as possible.
That's a long tip, but important. Most highchairs on the market are SO HUGE. They have these big plastic legs that spread out and they're on wheels: perfect if you have a big kitchen or dining room. Imperfect if you have a small space.
We were given a wooden Eddie Bauer high chair like this one, that was absolutely perfect for our space. It was narrow and matched the color of our table. The tray was useful, but not gigantic. I loved it. It wasn't long before we moved the kids to seats that strap to the top of a chair and got rid of the high chair.
For the twins, Brian created foam chairs with craft foam and spray adhesive that sat on top of the dining room chairs, but could also be used around the house, particularly while watching TV. Brian's mom somehow magically figured out how to sew covers for them in fabric the boys picked out themselves, and the they used them for a couple years. With Teddy we went straight from the high chair for a few months, to a little seat that attaches to the top of a chair and can be pushed under the table like the rest of the chairs.
Explore your highchair options! It's also probably never too early to put your child in a top-of-the-chair seat and use the table as his tray.
We had a lovely break in Idaho for three weeks and we're back into the swing of things here in the Nutshell in the sweaty East. I'm ready to begin again with my tips!
Today's Tip: Only keep cookbooks you regularly use for multiple recipes-- or just copy down the ones you use onto index cards.
I'm not sure it's fair to say that I like to cook. What I like is looking at, and then watching others (and myself) eat a yummy meal that I made. I like being successful with my cooking. I like it being done. I'm not particularly fond of the process. But I do change things up and try out various recipes often.
I used to own too many cookbooks. They were cute and thematic and I used them once-in-awhile...or never. But ever since I started using Pinterest for recipe-saving I hardly ever use them. There are just a few that I've kept that I really like. I suppose you could say, Marie Kondo style, that they bring me joy. So I do have a few. But I've also copied some of them down, old-school style, into an index card box, alphabetically. Those are the ones I use a lot that aren't on Pinterest. My Grandma's chocolate cookies, Mom's pie crust, that sort of thing.
Give your ,cookbooks a thorough and honest looking-over, and use Pinterest if you don't already. I'm inspired by writing this to go through mine again.
It's nice to be back to writing here again! Have a great day!