Friday, May 8, 2015

Organizing with Gift Bags

Hello there! Since I'm averaging about 1 post per month (maybe less?), it feels like a good time to update. "If you don't use it, you lose it" might not be true for The 40 Year Old Virgin, but it's definitely true for right brain activity. So here we are, with the monthly(ish) right brain writing exercise!

Our closets are tiny. When I search for inspirational images of tiny closets, they are all so much bigger then ours. (I want to know what these people are used to that makes them think their closets are small.) One of the first areas of the house that I started working on when we moved in was the his and hers master closets. Close to a year later, I'm still working on them, reorganizing something every week. Do you ever feel like organizing/cleaning/living hacks are unnecessarily complicated?

So all you do is measure and cut X number of rectangles out of cardboard? Then you perfectly fit them together so they don't fall over, decorate them because cardboard is ugly (and dirty) and somehow make them strong enough to not budge when full of stuff. Voila! Easy?

Maybe I just think it's complicated because that kind of diy never works out for me. My favorite organizers are gift bags. I hang them on walls, use them in drawers, place them on shelves, and use them as hat rests. They work anywhere, and they are pretty. The easiest way to get a finished edge and reinforce the sides of a bags is to simply fold the bag in on itself.

I take one corner, measure the height of the drawer and pinch it to mark where the fold will start. Then I proceed to fold in all the sides. Don't worry about making it straight, the bag kind of lets you know when it needs adjustment. The pics are confusing to follow. Their real purpose is to show you that it looks weird and wrong in the process. I am always sure the bag will end up destroyed, but that hasn't happened yet.

I was really excited to fit 3 drawers worth of stuff into 1 drawer. This is organizing necessities btw, not organized hoarding.

Wine bags stuffed half way with paper and folded over are perfect for hats!

Now that these drawers are fitted with gift bags and organized, there is a lot more room to breathe in my closet. After organizing the storage drawers, I wanted the outside to be just as pretty. You can probably guess, all I did was modpodge wrapping paper inside the fronts. I'm really good at taking before pictures of projects, that's why there's a picture of the DHs drawers standing in as a substitute. This was a fun organizing project to do with the baby around. Sometimes he undoes everything before I can finish, this time he sat quietly with a few decoy bags. I hope you enjoyed this little organizing hack as much as baby did!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Laundry Room Makeover!

I'm attempting to follow the 14 Week Organizing Challenge from A Bowl Full of Lemons. This is from week two: The Laundry Room. Our laundry room was such a catastrophe that I couldn't even begin the challenge without a complete overhaul. Each week, we usually end up with at least one extra load to wash from clothes that touched a surface in the room. Yada yada yada...You know how makeup addicts occasionally participate in no buys (they don't spend money on makeup for a set amount of time)? I took some inspiration from that and decided to redo the laundry room with what I could find in the garage. Using up some of that junk killed 2 birds (you know, with one stone). You probably don't care much for killing birds, so I'll move on to a list of how I brought life to the laundry room.
But first, a glimpse of what I had to work with.

1.Popcorn removed!
2.The ceiling and walls were painted. There is no way to scrub stains, especially grease, out of flat paint. Semi gloss was a better choice for a room that needs to stay clean. (I used a quart of white-labeled "chairs," um yeah not the color of our chairs-mixed with the remainder of our bedroom paint.)
3.In the end, every single surface was painted: the light fixture, tile grout(Polyblend grout renew), trim, shelves, even the clothing rod...seriously, everything. was. painted.
4.Those dingy baseboards? They weren't even attached to the wall! How did we not notice that right away? Anyways, attached and painted.
5.After removing the built-ins in my closet, I used one side as an extra utility shelf. That was taken down, cut in half, evened out and rehung as 2 separate shelves. This gave me a designated space for the paint that we do want to keep.
6.The clothing rod had mildew and it wasn't coming clean with sanding, sanding, and more sanding. Whitewashing it turned out beautifully. I topped it off with a finishing wax to smooth everything out.

7.You see the rack holding the cleaning tools? My dad made that for my junior high orchestra class. Just thought you'd like to know.
8.To make more room for clothes to air dry, I used a curtain rod we had sitting in a closet to store the empty hangers.
9.In addition to painting, everything had to be re-caulked. I went through 2 tubes of caulking! (Wait...why did we have 2 whole tubes sitting around? See what I mean about using up junk.)

10.Do you see that metal piece hanging on the wall? It was part of the screen door of the house my grandma grew up in, which her dad built. Just thought you'd like to know ;) Also thought you'd like to know, I just noticed it's possibly upside down.

11.The most exciting part is the counter for folding clothes that the LO has been wanting. I made that, as well as the support braces, from a piece of mdf that was used to support a mattress in an old bed frame. (Thanks for the counter, parental units!)
12. I even painted the canvas bins...seriously, we have so much leftover paint.

After the makeover, I still had to complete the to do list from A Bowl Full of Lemons, which wasn't so bad. Not being afraid to touch anything makes it easier to clean. Having a clean space makes it easier to organize. Finally, it was time to move everything back in and teach the baby how to fold clothes on his new counter. We're both really excited about that part! There are still a few ideas floating around, such as adding moulding to the front of the shelf to finish it, but that would be breaking the no buy rules. (Confession, I did buy a level and a hand saw, but I don't think tools qualify.)

P.s. In all the tutorials I found for building the shelf, no one mentioned what to do about the water valves. All of my inspirational laundry rooms looked as if they didn't water have valves. I decided to cut a 3 inch deep niche the width of the faucets to accommodate the space. It turned out well.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Birthday Reflections

NYMags Science of Us posted an article this week about the final year of a decade. Whether you're 29, 39, 49...that last year is one of reflection and change. While some of the statistics covered are negative (I.e. higher rates of suicide), others involved pushing yourself and reassessing your life. This past year was especially tough. I thought struggling to cope was the result of becoming a parent, the newborn stages, and dealing with perinatal depression, not to forget moving in the middle of all that. I also spent the past year beating myself up over failing to accomplish any life goals.

As the year went by, the struggles brought change, good change. There's an inner peace in daily chaos, once you accept the chaos. "The meaning we ascribe to one decade ending and another beginning is another example of how much we value a “fresh start,” as the article stated, really signifies the importance of being able to let go and move forward. As you know, I've faced some demons in recent months. It wasn't a pretty year. I'm ready for the fresh start. Perhaps the events of this year really occurred because of the timing. It's the end of an era for sure. One which was anthemed by "I'm Afraid of Everyone." But it's also the beginning of a new stage. (Anthem to be determined)

Image via Design Love Fest

The hardships of 29 made it a year worth living because they allowed healing to start. Qué será, será. The only thing we truly control is our own actions. Those who chose to support me, not just in the past year, but at any point in time, are wonderful people. I might not spend as much time with some of them as I'd like, but all that matters is that they know how much their actions meant. How they inspired me to be a better person. The best thing you can do for another is accept them, even if you don't understand them. This is a lesson I hope to never forget.

So here's to 29. You sucked! And cheers to 30. I'm ready.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holiday Gift Planner

Every year, I make so many lists that I forget who gets what or even what I already bought. It gets even more confusing because there are so many November and December birthdays. Sometimes, after planning gift purchases, I realize I forgot about all the birthdays. This might contribute to me being the worst gift giver in the family. It's time for a new game plan. Starting a tradition to keep in years to come simplifies the holidays. Personally, I've always love the traditional side of stockings. Stocking stuffer staples, like a new tube of chapstick, a pack of gum, and candy are one of the things that make it feel like Christmas. I took a few notes from my mom and made a list of what will go in our family stockings every year.

You have probably seen the wish list idea floating around Pinterest where kids fill out a list of needs and wants. I decided we could do a list of 6 things and buy maybe 3 or 4 items from the list. The other 2 or 3 will serve as ideas for birthdays.

I also needed a list to track purchases for extended family members. Now that the hard part, the organizing, is done it's time for the fun part, the shopping!
Download your own planners here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites: Tater Tot Fashion

I love babies in grown up outerwear. The juxtaposition is just too cute to bear.

1. This little guy from Well Groomed is adorable!

2. This little girl from Vivi & Oli is so sweet with vintage accessories.

3. Babies in wellies!!! This look gets me every time. Surprisingly, I didn't think to buy Baby Huu newborn wellies just for the cuteness. Pinterest

4. What? Puppies are little ones too. Besides, not all dogs like the rain. Flickr

5. Where can I find this raincoat in my size? Not on the High Street

6. This image from has always been one of my fashion favorites, because of the coffee cup. It reminds me of my niece and nephew drinking their "coffee."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mommy Madness Tips for Fussiness

Have you ever seen Bobs Burgers? You know the Tina moan? This one:
Baby Huu has made a constant whining sound since 9 this morning (it's now 2:30 and he's finally sleeping). I couldn't figure out what was wrong. The only thing keeping me sane today is pretending he's going through some teenage angst and expressing it like Tina does. Maybe he's mad about his hair cut. LPT don't cut your baby's hair in the dark. It's bowl meets buzz meets shag a la Edward Scissorhands. I'd be sad too. The worst part about parenting is when you're unable to make your little one feel better. 

It helps to vent a little and write about it. I'm not the only parent with a kid who plays the game of "if my hand isn't on my mom at all times I will die immediately, therefore I must scream about it." I propose we trade survival tips. Here's what I learned to use during his Purple Crying phase, updated to help in the toddler years. Basically, you need some trusty distractions up your sleeve. 

1. The cat. She probably hates me for it, but sometimes I let him chase her down to distract him. Occasionally I even help in the hunt. 

2. The dogs water bowl. There's is nothing more enticing to a kid then exploring something they can't have. I sometimes leave a full water bowl and a towel in the kitchen entrance so that I can finish the dishes in one go. 

3. Speaking of kids wanting things they can't have: your food. It doesn't matter how much he ate, if I have food he wants it. For whatever reason, he loves picking crumbs off the barstool and out of his high chair. Some strategically placed puffs, pumpkin seeds, or fruit provides at least 3 minutes to eat before he takes over. This also helps when he's hungry but won't eat. 

4. My pillow. If he's struggling at nap time or doesn't want to be alone, and tags isn't enough, I give him my pillow. He curles up on it and crashes. It doesn't always allow me to leave the room, but he at least gets a good nap when it looked like napping was impossible. 

5. Pictures. If he's been inconsolable for hours, going to the room with a gallery wall and telling him about everyone helps. He has a favorite picture of him and his dad. Sometimes all he wants is to touch that picture. 

6. Outside. This kid loves the back yard! He will stay out there for as long as I can tolerate it when it's freezing cold. There were a few days when he was a new born that were like today. I took him out in the snow and he calmed down. I might need to invest in a few snuggies this year. 

7. Hugs. It's rare when going outside doesn't work. On those occasions, it can be that all he wanted was a long, tight hug. He's too heavy for me now, but I still have to bring out the carrier once in a while. As he grows, we've had to eliminate the hours of closeness he is used to, and he's a little resistant. 

8. The dogs. They aren't grumpy like the cat. They let him sit on them. More likely, they tolerate it as long as they can, but they are good about it. He thinks it's funny. Sometimes he laughs himself to sleep and I wonder if he's thinking about his puppies. 

9. Bath time. Even if he's already had a bath, sitting in the water helps calm him. We used this a lot when he had reflux. 

10. The list. I always start with the list to check for possible reasons he won't stop crying: hunger, needs a diaper change, cold/hot, gassy, headache, bug bites, wants different pjs, teething, fever, needs to be held upright (which means it's reflux), needs a few minutes alone. It helps distract me from the difficulty of the situation to feel like I'm making progress towards a solution. Sometimes we go through the list twice before something works.

Before settling into this routine, I cried a lot because I felt like a failure when he cried for hours or days without end. You know, like the "you had one job" kind of failure. When you have a kid with reflux, who is also a purple crier, you need ways to cope. Nothing can prepare you for that before having kids. Today, I'll cope by using the freshness of the situation to share how I deal with unending fussiness, clinging and crying. I also want to hear from you. How do you calm your baby when it seems all their basic needs are met and they can't communicate?