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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

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It happens every single year.  After the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and everything in between, we usually hit a nice little lull in January and February and sometimes, if we’re lucky, the beginning of March. But by St. Patrick’s Day our calender is marked up with appointments, parties, school programs, Doctor’s appointments and the like. Every single year from March until New Year’s it begins.  It always amazes me how the less we are home the greater the mess we seem to create. How is that possible? It is one of the great mysteries of life like the Bermuda triangle and missing socks.

And every day my poor husband gets to hear my redundant lamenting over how messy the house is. I try to keep some kind of order in my house, but let’s be real for a moment, shall we? There are times when three days worth of dishes are piled on the counter, the laundry is so backed up that we are turning our underwear inside out, and the carpets are so piled with pet dander that they look like shag. Who’s with me?

Just sitting here writing about it is exhausting me. Sometimes, especially when we are busy, it feels insurmountable. But I am here my friends to tell you there is hope! As someone who is easily overwhelmed, here are a few tricks I do to try to keep my brain from exploding in attempting to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean (well, or at least in some kind of order).

1. Keep your cleaning clutter to a minimum by using fewer cleaners (and do some good for the environment while you’re at it). I don’t know about you, but under my sinks can collect some serious clutter, too. I have read so many articles about how household cleaners are not only harmful to the environment but harmful more importantly to you and your kids. So, I keep it simple with three basic cleaners that do the job quite well:

*  bleach water. I use this for the really nasty stuff like the bathroom. You can use vinegar water for those jobs as well because it disinfects well, I just prefer the smell of a bleached clean bathroom.

*  white vinegar water: White vinegar is my cleaning BFF. It can clean windows and mirrors, your hardwood floors, and great to clean walls and baseboard and to dust with among other things. I use it to spray mattresses  and furniture to give it a fresh smell and eliminate odor. I even spray it in the air as an air freshner. It is a disinfectant without being harmful to breath in. It does the job without being harmful to you or your stuff. Some people say that they hate the way it smells, but honestly, I feel like the smell doesn’t linger long.

 *  baking soda. I love baking soda. It is a great abrasive for stubborn things stuck on your counter on tub, and it is a great deodorizer. I sprinkle it on carpets before I vacuum and in toilets before I scrub the bowl. When our pup has a little accident on the carpet, the first thing I do is sprinkle the spot with soda and it will absorb it before it can permeate your carpet. It’s great to put in a load of laundry to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

2. Make a (realistic) chart. When I look at my house as a whole and see what every room needs (i.e. my kitchen needs cupboards scrubbed, fridge cleaned off in and out, decluttered, cleaned in general, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming. Cleaning (especially Spring cleaning) is sort of like going on a diet. If you try to do too much at once, you get overwhelmed and end up giving up altogether. Make a list of what is realistic for your week/day.  For instance, take Monday to tackle the kitchen, but leave the living room till the next day. When it’s broken up, it’s much less intimidating.

3. Make it fun.  I don’t know if anyone is like me, but cleaning is NOT fun to me. My maternal grandmother loves to clean and could make it an Olympic sport. I, sadly, did not inherit those genes. But something that helps me is to give myself little “rewards”. For example, when I need to sort things out like that pile of paperwork that has gathered on the dining room hutch or fold laundry, I take the opportunity to make myself a cup of tea and sit down to watch that new BBC program that just came out on Netflix and do my work then while I watch. In fact, I will look forward to three loads of laundry that need folded just so I have an excuse to get caught up on Downton Abbey. It inspires me to put in those three loads of laundry throughout my morning so that when the girls are down for rest time I can do just that. Also, I have been known to have a chocolate bar on hand and once one thing is checked off my list it is time for me to have a piece of my candy bar. Chocolate is always inspiring!

4.) Set a timer. Okay. Now I know this one sounds cheesey because we aren’t all six. BUT, it really does help me! Just this morning I looked at the kitchen with crumbs everywhere, dishes in the sink, and garbage strewn about from breakfast and wanted to walk away. But, in my head I tried to ask myself how long it would realistically take me if I did everything that needed done. I set a timer for that amount of time (which was only ten minutes, by the way) and it made me work more swiftly because I wanted to be done by the time it went off. In the end, I actually had time to spare.

5). Make lists. Again, with someone who is easily overwhelmed, this helps a ton!! When I look at the house as a whole, I give up before I begin. But, if I sit down and make a list of what needs done in each room it helps me to see what my priorities need to be (the fridge can be cleaned out another day) and I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I can check one off. Am I the only one who likes to put something on the list after I have already accomplished it just so I can check it off?

6). Fill a laundry basket as you go from room to room.  This is another trick that has helped me immensely. We often get clutter at our house because there are things that I have no idea what to do with. So, I have started putting things in a laundry basket and just go from room to room filling it with things that are out of place and when I enter rooms, some things get put in the basket and some things get put back where they belong. If it is my goal to empty the basket, then I find that I really can find a place for everything and sometimes that place is the trash can or box to give away, which brings me to……

7). Keep a giveaway box. Just recently I put a box in the basement for things to give away. We are planning to have a yard sale this summer to raise money to go to our missions trip to Romania. Knowing the box is there and knowing what is going in it is for a good cause helps me to part with things a little easier than I normally would (being the pack rat that I am by nature). Keep a box to donate clothes to your local city mission or items to go to the Salvation Army or outgrown toys to go to needy kids. Having a good cause to donate to is great incentive for decluttering.

8). Involve the kids. Last summer when the kids were home all day, I nearly panicked. I didn’t know what to do with them all day without tearing my hair out! I would plan fun days (girl days or days at the park or days with friends) but I honestly found our very best days were spent…..cleaning!!! I don’t know what it was, but when we started cleaning together it was this bonding time for us. My girls are still young, but I think it was a sense of accomplishment for them. We would make a list, then I would ask who wanted to do what and they have always been eager to volunteer. Then we would put on music while we cleaned and had spontaneous dance parties or make a game of seeing if we could check something simple off our list (like putting away all the books or cleaning off a dresser) by the time a song had ended. It gives them responsibility and if you make it fun and make sure they know how appreciative you are for their efforts, it really is a great time to connect with your kids.

9). Every day, pick up as you go about your day. There is nothing more aggravating than feeling the huge sense of accomplishment of cleaning your house top to bottom only to have it messed up again in a half hour. Again, with busy schedules and little kids, it’s hard to stay on top of things, but I have found it’s easy to do a little every day, even if it’s a crazy day. Some days I find myself taking a potty break and taking 30 seconds to spray and wipe down the sink after I have washed my hands to remove toothpaste and foundation stains and stray hairs. When I am going to fetch my coat from upstairs, I pick things up that need to go upstairs and put them away as I go. I honestly feel like if I didn’t do things like that every day I would end up on one of those shows about people with the disgustingly horrible houses. If I do a little as I am going about my normal routine, it helps to keep the clutter and mess to a minimum.

 

And to help keep things in perspective, I try to remember this

 

thank heaven

 

So, those are some things I do. What tricks do you have for keeping things tidy?

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There’s No Place Like Home (A Home Tour)

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I just saw this quote on Pinterest today by Jane Austen; “There’s nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Being a homebody myself and a desperate Jane Austen fan, I fell in love and decided to make a print of it myself.

Today, as Spring days often are, is dreary, rainy, and romantically cozy. I find that my house is sprinkled with comfort and all things romantic as I walk through it. I wanted you to take a walk through it with me. DSCF1880

As I walked up the steps toward my attic office, I caught a glimpse of our cat, Picky-Picky sprawled out lazily upon our guestroom bed. I picked up this bedspread at an antique shop tucked away in a quaint little town while on vacation. The curtains draped haphazardly over this antique bed (found for a steal for $75 at a local flea market just down the street) were made from sheets found at Salvation Army.

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Next door is our girls’ room, papered with scrapbook sheets with paper stars dangling above the bed. Sometimes, when I tuck the girls away into bed at night, we pretend they are real stars and the ceiling is a night sky full of wonder and shooting stars.

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Then there is my room, painted a delicious, buttery yellow, complete with three windows that stream the sun through it. Even on a dreary day like today, it is bathed in luxurious light. The four post bed was crafted by my grandfather a quarter of a century ago and makes me feel ridiculously spoiled. It is high and soft and romantic. It is accented with bird pillows and a throw quilt, both crafted by yours truly, and is piled high with quilts acquired from different places, but my favorite being the one on top that was tucked away in my grandmother’s antique chest made by a relative long ago. As you can see, we, too, have stars above our bed. I am quite obsessed with paper stars.

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This vintage tray is one of my proudest finds, picked up at an estate sale for a few cents that sits on a shelf in our bathroom, topped with lotions and potions.

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When we first took a tour of our house when we were looking to buy, I nearly melted on the floor when I caught sight out this fireplace. It’s flanked by fluted pillars and has a built-in mirror that gives the room depth.  Do you see them? I told you I was obsessed with paper stars!

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This is our little breakfast nook, tucked into a corner of our kitchen. Can you tell I like vintage style? We got this table (that has two sides that pop out) and chairs all for $30 at an estate sale. Estate sales are my absolute favorites for the best finds!

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Seriously? Is there anything more romantic on a cold or dreary day than a hot cup of tea in a pretty tea cup? Most of these were my great grandmother’s. Aren’t they lovely?

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Along with paper stars, I am obsessed with birds (did you notice them on the pillows on my bed?). My dear, sweet mother knows this. This is Vivian, as I have fondly named her, given to me by my mom.

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….as was this one, which dangles nicely from the china cabinet in our dining room.

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Our reading nook, tucked between our stairs and living room, is papered with wallpaper I found for a dollar a roll at Micheal’s. I am quite fond of it.

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Aren’t they handsome? Perhaps one of the coziest of coziness on a dreary day are my two pals, Burton and Henry, that keep my company while the girls and Sam are away. Look at those faces!

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Lastly, this is the hope of things to come! This was taken in our backyard at the end of summer last year. This picture doesn’t do anything in it justice. Those zinnias and forget-me-nots brought me such joy! They were absolutely breath-taking. And that cute little girl in rubber boots watering flowers? Words cannot describe how cozy she is to cuddle!

So that is a glimpse into my cozy home! More to come later…….

xo

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Drab to Fab: A Desk Make Over

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This is Desk. She is from Pennsylvania and she loves sitting in the corner, holding pictures and acting as a drop-off center from time to time of loose change and keys.  In her spare time she acts as a buffet for dinner parties. She is here with us today because she needs a make-over.  She is ready to shed her dull lackluster brown facade and step into something a little more bold and lively. Let’s welcome her, shall we….?

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I love nothing more than a good makeover story. When we bought this house two months ago, I fell head-over-heels for the character it oozed from every nook and cranny. It is an old Victorian home, a restoration itself, and the people who set about restoring her to her original glory really kept true to her Victorian roots. All of the dark, mahogany woodwork has been kept untouched and the dark wood floors are spread throughout our main floor. I adore it! The only setback is, with so much dark wood things can look a little drab.  After spending months trying to paint our other home in preparation to sell it, the last thing I wanted to do was to pick up another roller and start on this one, as least not for a few months. In comes this desk. It is old and even missing a support section that connect the two legs, but I have always loved the character of this desk. She has served our family well over the years, but she has not aged well. She needed a face-lift. 

Like all of my other tutorials, this is cheap and easy. And, I got what I needed from The Dollar Tree. 

Supplies:

1.Pretty contact paper (they always have this pattern at the Dollar Tree, no matter what store I have gone to).

2.Latex paint

3.Medium sandpaper

4.Metallic spray paint

I started off by removing the hardware on the drawers and spraying them with silver metallic spray paint and set them aside to dry.  Then I cut the contact paper to fit the size of the drawer. This only took one roll of the paper to cover them all. A dollar! Score!

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Then I painted it with the latex paint. It only took about two layers of paint. Since I love the “distressed” look, I went through the process of carefully rubbing off some of the paint on the corners and edges to age it a little bit.

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And, there you have it! It took me only about and hour and a half, beginning to end. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

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Picture This

I have always loved painting murals and have often dreamed about making a career out of it. I have done enough thus far that I have an extensive portfolio, though little to show for it since most of my work has been done “for a good cause” and not for any real money.  But, it’s good experience none-the-less and it’s really therapeutic for me, so I’m probably saving money in the long run! I’m painting instead of paying someone to sit on their couch and tell them my list of woes. Anyway, I wanted to share a project I am working on now for our church nursery and I admit this is mostly for the benefit of my mom (hi mom!) who was trying to look at these via my phone and couldn’t see them very well. It’s not the Sistine Chapel….but, I hope you enjoy it just the same.

I was inspired by the “Sheep in a Jeep” books by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. She has a whole series of these books and they are some of my favorites to read to my girls, not only because they are simple and not too long, but they are clever and the illustrations are hilariously adorable! So, I had this big idea to do “sheep in a park” and have imagined all of the ways I can portray them having a tea party, playing checkers, feeding the pigeons, taking walks, kids doing hopscotch….My imagination has gone wild with all of the things I could do, considering the room I am working in is rather large. Here are two that I have started thus far:

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My goal is to always make my scenes look like snapshots of photos.

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I hope I have succeeded! There will be more to come soon….

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Rugs to Riches

When we went to look for area rugs for our girls bedroom after we laid down some laminate, we couldn’t find much within our budget, let alone one that seemed to fit in with the decor of their room. When we were first decorating their room fours years ago, I had painted simple little birds and flowers on their wall. I had made these with just circles, a straight edge, and the eraser end of a pencil for the polka dots. So I thought, why not make a rug to match?I found this one online at Target for $200.  It was my inspiration. We found this rug at Lowe’s for $18. Holla!

I started out using plates I had that were three different sizes and traced them in a line with a permanent marker. I measured the line from about a foot from the edge of the carpet for my “stem”. I repeated the process until I got to the other side of the rug.I realized a little belatedly that I didn’t take any pictures of me actually painting the flowers, but it’s a pretty simple process. I used a combination of latex and acrylic paints. In the beginning of this journey, I had planned on the flowers being vibrant, solid pinks, blues, and yellows, but because the carpet was so absorbent, it took more paint than I had originally anticipated.  When I began painting, it almost had a washed out look. In the end, however, I was please with the result because it had a blackboard/vintage wash kind of feel to it. An added bonus to only using a thin layer of paint is that it dried quicker. When I had two little girls, the dog, and even occasionally the hubby walking in on my project, this was a very good thing! I only spent a few hours and less than twenty bucks on this project in total.

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TV stand to TV Grand

We inherited this TV stand about nine years ago from my sister who upgraded to another TV stand. Though I have been so thankful to have this treasure, it has been a source of contention for some time now. It is wobbly and a little outdated, so when I found a sweet wardrobe-esque TV stand sitting across the street from our house, beckoning to me with a “For Free” sign duct taped to it, I believed providence had brought it there for me. Unfortunately,  my husband wasn’t as convinced as I was. While I begged, pleaded, (manipulated, a little), and stomped a foot, he being immune to my tantrum, the manna from heaven was scooped up by someone else within an hour.  You need to understand that the only new piece of furniture we own that we didn’t get second hand is our sleigh bed that my family all pitched in and bought us for a wedding present. We have a dresser, two wicker couches, two chairs, and about twenty windows that we picked up along the side of the road. Every year in our city, for an entire month you can set out a piece of furniture for garbage pick-up. We pack the kids in the car on garbage night and “shop” for new furniture. I kid you not, my friends. This is the best way to shop! You won’t believe the things that people throw out, and how you can turn trash into treasures with new upholstery or a coat of paint.

Anyway, since I didn’t get the other stand I wanted, I decided to make do with what I had. I dragged an old window out of the basement that had lots of character. It already had that fashionable stressed look, so I didn’t have to do much to get the look I wanted. I also dragged out a can of celery green paint I had left over from painting our bedroom and went to work. I lucked out because the window fit into the cabinet almost perfectly with very little altering needed to the original structure.  I found some pretty fabric I had as well (being a quilter by trade I have totes and totes full of lovely fabric) and went to work stapling the fabric to the back of the window. Then I went to work painting the cabinet. First, I painted it with a little red paint, just a light coat, for a primer. I did this because I wanted to sand away at the top layer of paint to give it that distressed, aged look and thought the red would be pretty showing through underneath the green.I bought these little beads at the dollar store to use for my door pull. As you can see in the after picture, I have yet to put my pull on the right side of the door. Originally I wanted to put my hinges on the other side of the window, but this side provided more room to attach the hinges. But, these were so cheap and have the look of an old, glass knob. I thought they were charming!I enlisted the hubby (isn’t he adorable?) to help me with some minor alterations. I am not good with power tools, and although the window fit almost perfectly, a few cuts were needed to be made, and he helped me pick out and attach the proper hinges. We got these ones at Lowe’s for a few dollars each.After he attached the door and she was all painted, it was pretty much ready to go! I just sanded the top layer of paint very lightly with a low grit sandpaper, and it was all ready to go! Here she is in all her glory!