Category Archives: Kids

The Uncluttered Life: Kid’s Toys

Are you tired of spending your free time dusting, picking up toys or generally taking care of your possessions?  Wouldn’t you rather be reading a book, taking a walk with a friend or hanging out with your kids?  Around two ago, my husband and I decided to make a conscious effort to get rid of our ‘junk’.  Basically, we grew tired of not being able to find items when we needed them.

Fast forward six months, and I would say there is definite progress being made.  I am now a regular in the donating line at the thrift stores instead of in the purchasing line.

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I can easily find items in the kitchen, our bedroom and in every closet in the house. Progress has been made in every room, but one area that we are still really struggling with is the kid’s room!

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So, this photo was taken over a year ago, but if you really look at this picture, you will notice that our kids like to play with the laundry baskets, toy baskets, blankets and pillows.  I tried sorting toys into plastic bins and plastic shoe boxes, but the system is hard for my 5 and 3 year old kids.  I love sorted toys and the kids could care less.  I have also used pretty cloth baskets to corral toys, but they either don’t play with the toys inside or they dump the entire bag out to find what they are looking for.

In my search for a solution, I came across the book, Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home, by Joshua Becker.  I was sold from the beginning where he writes, “Living life is more enjoyable than managing and organizing stuff.”  We spend so much time trying to organize our possessions, only to have to do it again in a week or so.  If we owned less stuff, we could spend our time and money on efforts that actually bring us joy.

While the messages and tips in the book were very helpful for all aspects of downsizing, there were some great hints for making it work with kids.  One of my favorites was ‘periodic minimizing,’ where you go in every month or so and remove toys that aren’t being played with.  I’ll admit to ‘sorting’ toys into a toy basket that I then snuck out to dump into a donation bag. This eliminates excess clutter and allows kids easier access to the toys they love.

Another tip I loved was to be intentional in your buying (or not buying) of toys.  Instead of a lot of cheap toys that will likely break in 10 minutes, consider holding out for quality toys that encourage creativity and exploration.

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Legos everywhere

We have eliminated a lot of excess toys over the past year, and the kids haven’t missed any of them.  These days, our biggest (littlest?) problem with clutter is Legos!  Both of our kids love Legos, and honestly, I do too.  Aspen is incredibly creative with all of these colorful little pieces, and Landry loves the Lego duplo sets.

Yesterday, the kids and I very purposefully went through all the clothes and toys in their bedroom once again.    They spent the remainder of the day playing in their room with their favorite toys.  I call that a win/win!

Any tips for keeping Legos in check?  I am all ears!

 

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Creating a Reading Nook

Have you ever wondered what to do with that extra corner space on a stair landing, or an odd shaped bump-out in a bedroom?

My friend Stephanie had this great extra space at the top of her stairs that she wanted to make into a reading nook for her girls.  Stephanie had a few key pieces picked out, but she enlisted my help to put it all together.  After the back-and-forth texting, pinning and emailing of many images and ideas, I put together an idea board of our favorites.  Idea boards are great, because they help you envision all of the elements on one page.  

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1. Gold Paper Garland, etsy.

2. Watercolor Fox, etsy.

3. Adventurers print, etsy.  Stephanie ended up ordering Stay Clever, Little Fox, etsy, which is so sweet!

4. Rustic Arrows, etsy.  Stephanie ended up getting these arrows instead, from the same artist.

5. Executive Nod Chair, Land of Nod.

6. Blue Clamp Light, IKEA.  We eventually chose this copper one.

7. Spice Racks, IKEA. Painted Gold with Martha Stewart craft paint.

8. Squirrel Pillow, The Company Store.

9. Blue throw. We ended up using one of the girl’s blankets, made by her grandma. 🙂

We had a few key things in mind when we were gathering our ideas for the kid’s reading space:

  1. Provide a comfortable place to sit.  Whether it is a pile of pillows, a bean bag or a kid-sized chair, a cozy spot to read will encourage kids to settle in.  Stephanie chose a soft child’s chair from landofnod.com.  I have also seen little tents or teepees made into reading spots.  Think about your child’s interests and current reading habits when choosing a seating type.  Here is Miss Reese in the chair, before we worked our magic:

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2. Place books at their level.  You want to have the books very accessible so they can easily grab the one they want.  We also chose to place the books with the fronts facing out, using spice racks from IKEA.  When kids can see the covers, they are more likely to pick up the book and start reading it.  Just pay attention to what the kids are reading/looking at and rotate the selection when they get tired of the ones that are out.

We installed four shelves, using self-drilling drywall anchors and screws.

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3. Provide adequate light.  The corner at the top of the stairs was a little dark, so we attached a small led clip-on light to one of the shelves.  It can be angled easily to spotlight on the book.  Some other options are pendants or fairy lights, depending on the location and the amount of light needed.

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Those three things are really the only necessities for a reading spot, but we added some color and decorations in a self-titled ‘woodland animals and mixed metals’ theme.  The watercolor print of a fox with flowers on her hat tied right in with the tiny flowers on the chair.  We also wanted an uplifting quote, which was found in another fox print from etsy.  

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A gold paper garland, copper lamp, and gold painted shelves added a bit of metallic glam for two fun little girls.  We are still waiting on some wooden arrows, but they will compliment the wood frames and add another ‘wood’land touch.

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The girls love their special reading corner and it adds a sweet welcoming scene from several viewpoints in their home.  Thanks Stephanie and Tyson!

Kids Outdoor Activity Center

Inspired by a recent article in Family Fun Magazine and a desire to have easily accessible activities for my kids, I decided to make an outdoor activity center.

After rescuing a sturdy metal shelf from my donation pile, I decided against spray painting it for now.  I like the shiny black color, and if it starts showing signs of rust, I will clean it and use a primer and rust-resistant spray paint made for metal.

Ideally, you would place your ‘activity center’ under a covered area to protect it somewhat from the elements. For now, ours is in the little fort area because it is partially covered.  Because my cart is pretty small, I want to add wheels to the bottom to make it easy to roll into the garage when needed.

Next, I shopped my house and collected tubs and containers that won’t get ruined outdoors.  Plastic milk crates, plastic shoe boxes with lids, and metal nut or coffee cans with plastic lids were my top choices.  I also had a few plastic baskets from the dollar store for things that don’t need to be covered.  I spray painted the metal cans and the shoe box lids to make things more colorful.  Labels on everything help both kids and adults return items to their designated boxes.

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Family Fun Magazine suggested some supplies: sidewalk chalk, sand toys, bubble mix, washable paints, outdoor games and balls, kid’s gardening tools, flashlights and jump ropes.  I also added water beads, colored salt and metal trays for writing letters.  To keep things interesting, we will also have a rotating ‘nature’ box where they can collect things like rocks, leaves or whatever we happen to be observing that week.  A large plastic tub with a lid is great for storing outdoor pillows for reading, or towels and blankets for swimming and fort building.

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Add a tub of ice to keep water bottles cold, a small cooler for snacks and you have all the ingredients for several hours of outdoor fun.  Pop open a large umbrella for shade, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Curtains, Drapes and Blinds, Oh My!

*For those of you around Pocatello, I am teaching “The Organized Home: Clean Sweep” on Monday, February 9, from 6-8:30 pm!  Sign up through ISU Workforce Training!

I know I am not the only one who finds this time of year a little depressing.  One way I try to combat the short days and cold weather is to open up the shades and let the daylight in for as many hours as possible.  I am much more likely to open the window treatments if they are quick and easy to operate.  Here are a few suggestions that will help you let the sun shine in during those precious daylight hours:

1. Hang your curtains or drapes high and wide.  Hanging the fabric almost entirely outside of the window frame allows much more of the window (and daylight) to be open and visible.  Hanging the panels 6-9 inches above the window makes your room appear taller.  While I have always tried to do this, the curtains in our living room were too short to hang much above the window. IMG_6351We lived for a short time with the left curtains still lower and the right ones raised up! This photo really shows how much difference it made to raise the curtains higher.IMG_6630I recently purchased longer curtain panels, so we raised both rods to the 8-foot ceiling.  We were amazed how much taller and bigger our living room appeared!

2. Make the window treatment easy to open.  If it is tedious to pull back the drapes, it is less likely to get done.  Our living room curtain panels have grommets at the top so they slide easily on the rod, and I open them every day.  Ring clips also work well for simple fabric panels.  If you invest in heavier drapes, make sure you also get quality, smooth running pulls.  IMG_6613

3. Consider layering window treatments.  For our bedroom, we have inexpensive bamboo stick blinds layered under floor-to-ceiling curtain panels.  The curtains usually stay open all the time, and we just open and close the blinds.  IMG_6615The blinds are also hung to the ceiling, concealing the bit of wall between the ceiling and the top of the window.  Hanging blinds high allows more of the actual window to be free, making it appear larger.

4. Research your options.  Although I love the look and added softness (and color) of fabric window treatments, we chose a different route for the kids’ room.  Floor to ceiling curtain panels took up too much wall space in the already small room.  I also worried about them being pulled down accidentally.  I don’t particularly like the look of shorter curtains, so instead I purchased white blackout roller shades at IKEA. IMG_6637 They are very easy to open and close, and the wall below the window is now open for play.

IMG_6644To keep afternoon light from overpowering the kitchen, I shortened a bamboo blind originally designed for a french door.

5. Window treatments should compliment your lifestyle and the style of your home.  Proper drapes with heavier fabrics will make a room feel more formal.  A boxy valance is also formal, but can give a bedroom a luxe hotel vibe.  For a playful look, try a bold pattern or use unique accessories as a tieback (think leather belts, chains, men’s ties).  For us, washable curtain fabrics help keep living with kids a little more carefree.

How about you? Do you open your curtains first thing in the morning, or is it something that doesn’t even cross your mind?

Get This Party Started!

You Guys. Let’s start by taking a moment of silence in support of my amazingly patient and supportive husband.

You see, I am one of those people who has like 1,000 ideas in my head all at once, and I am constantly switching from one thing to another.  I call it Design ADD.  Jer is great about listening to my ramblings and occasionally adding his own crazy ideas to the mix.  He is also a fantastic accomplice when I am trying to actually materialize some of these ideas into projects.

This week for the Idaho State Journal, I wrote about Getting Started with Projects.  Oftentimes that is the hardest part of the job.  Just getting started.  I evidently took my advice to heart this week, so that is why I have a deconstructed headboard on the floor in the center of my living room, an upturned piano bench waiting for a leg repair, and I have been prying old base moldings off in the hallway.

My little helpers make each project even more interesting to complete!

I have about 50 more projects started (I wish I was joking), but those are the ones I am focusing on today. ha.

Speaking of base moldings, the reason I am excited about removing them is because we took the carpet out of our hall and living room two weekends ago!

The wood floors underneath are completely passable by our standards, and we are loving the cleaner feel.  Unfortunately, there is about an inch gap between the base moldings and the floor now.

Removing and replacing them all wasn’t really on my priority list, but we were donated a few pieces of molding from our friends after their basement remodel, and I decided to see if I liked the look and fit of the taller molding in our house.  I do.

Anyway, I hope to finish our headboard after the kids are in bed tonight, and we will likely be working on baseboard or sticky tile removal this weekend.  We also went to IKEA last weekend, so I have some shelves to install in the kitchen.  And I would like to start my countertop refinishing project.  And…and…and.   But at least I’ve got a few things started.

 

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A Growing Gallery Wall

I finally made some great progress on our living room gallery wall.  My article for ISJ (see below, at end) was what finally got me in gear.

The wall has been in the process for over a year, and I keep adding to it, or unintentionally taking away as the kids decide to remove a frame or two.  For awhile now, I have used all black frames of all sizes.  I liked black because it kept things somewhat cohesive, but it started to feel a little too neutral for my personal taste.  A few months ago, I came across a photo in Better Homes and Gardens featuring brightly colored frames, and I decided to add some color to our wall.  But first, I wanted to change all of the off-white mats to crisp white.  After trying acrylic craft paint, I discovered white spray paint worked much, much better!

But, the white spray paint also gave me the idea that it might be fun to just paint some of the mats bright colors, instead of repainting frames…and so I did.

Similar to giving a mouse a cookie is giving Becky a can of spray paint…it never stops.

On some double mats, I used a paint pen to add color to just one mat.  I also left some white, since my photos and art are also pretty colorful.

I recently added a large circular frame, because things were looking a little to squared for me. And on a recent Target trip, I came home with three fun circular gray mirrors. Since the lighting in the living room could be better, I hung a simple black wall sconce where it could be used for reading.

And another angle:

Plus, sometimes you accidentally end up with free art when you decide to randomly spray paint picture mats!

I am happy with how it is coming along, and very happy that it can be added to as we want to.  Obviously, I just hang pictures wherever I feel like it and don’t cut out templates from newspaper, like I suggest.  Nail holes are easy to patch, although I honestly didn’t have to rehang a single frame yesterday.  That sometimes isn’t the case.

How about you? Any gallery walls or new art hanging in your home?  I would love to hear all about it!

*Article I wrote for the Idaho State Journal, June 7, 2014, slightly edited for the blog.  I will link to flourishidaho.com when the link is available.

One of the things people ask me for help with most often is hanging art on a large wall.  Although one large piece of art can look fabulous taking center stage, often people either can’t afford or don’t want to commit to a large piece.  I think the ever-popular gallery wall is a great solution, especially since it typically infuses the room with your own personal style.  But, if the thought of pounding even one nail into the wall has you sweating, 10 or 15 nails might just delay your picture hanging progress indefinitely.  Here are a few tips to get you started with confidence.

 

1. Figure out the look you want to convey.  Do you like everything symmetrical and matching? Maybe you like something a little more random, but still neat and tidy? Maybe you prefer a look that is more organic and free-flowing.  Some of you will want a wall that is finished all at once, and others will want something that can be added to over time.  Take a look at gallery walls online if you aren’t sure what you prefer.

2. Decide what you want to incorporate.  Some gallery walls are made up of just family photographs, while others have a mix of photos and art pieces.  Still others have mirrors, decorative plates, text, hooks, etc. hung as a collection or mixed in with art and photos.  It is your wall, so make it personal to you and your family.

3. Choose your frames or items.  Look through the frames you already have and purchase more frames as needed. I pick up inexpensive frames at thrift stores, garage sales and discount home stores, and then I spray paint them if needed.  Many people choose all white, all black or all wood frames, but gold frames are also very popular right now.  In the past, I have used all black frames because I typically frame brightly colored photos and art and I wanted to keep the look cohesive.  I am currently enjoying the look of assorted frame colors and styles, so I am mixing things up a bit with some brightly colored frames mats. If you want a more formal look, try frames or items that are all the same size.

4. Experiment with different arrangements.  The best way to arrange your gallery wall is to gather all of your frames, art and miscellany together for the entire wall.  That way, you will be able to lay everything out and arrange it to your liking.  Another tip is to trace each frame onto an old piece of newspaper and cut it out. Then, tape each piece to the wall and get the placement correct before you start pounding in nails.  You can also mark where the nail needs to go, and then hammer it in right through the newspaper.  Consider a grid if you like symmetry, and use a level.   I typically start with the largest piece in the center, and work out from there, leaving about 3-5 inches between pieces on all sides.

5. Hang your art and enjoy the results. Consider hanging picture ledges and leaning your art and photos against the wall for a flexible and layered look.  Now, take a step back and enjoy your hard work.  Gallery walls always attract attention, so be prepared for people to linger!

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Welcome to Fort Hermance

One of many fond memories I have of growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere North Dakota is building forts and playhouses with my sister and brother.  Mom helped us turn an old shed into a very cool playhouse, with white painted shelves for our dishes, and bright red curtains for the windows.  We had many tea parties with the mail lady, and various cats and dolls stood in as extra playmates.

All winter long, my daughter has been making forts and tents out of our sofa cushions.  She and her brother spend lots of time sliding down the sides and hiding in their own little caves.  Now that much of the play day is spent outdoors, my husband and I were looking for a way to create a simple play fort for the kids in a backyard that is mostly garden, and lacking in trees.  We also wanted a space that would cost us very little money to build, and that could be adapted and personalized by the kids.

Last summer, Jer removed a never-used deck from the side of our house, and just happened to save all the wood ‘just in case’ he might need it someday.  When I started showing him pictures of playhouses and forts and talking about designing one for our kids, he mentioned that pile of wood on the side of the garage, and I could see the excited glint in his eyes.  After several discussions, we realized a 5ft x 5ft area against our fence with two additional 2ft tall sides (formerly housing our garden compost) would make a fantastic fort.  All it really needed was a roof.

My husband scavenged around for a bit and came up with two long metal fence rods and some wood fence panels.  They had all seen better times, but we knew they were just what we needed.

Several hours later, we had a slanted roof and a little fort that was reminiscent of a tiki hut.

I was thinking of using concrete squares as the flooring, because they are inexpensive and could be packed in tightly for an easily cleaned floor.  But, my husband wanted it to be even easier to clean, because we have seen several black widow spiders around our home. So, he went above and beyond and built in a plywood floor.  Now it is easier to clean out any unsavory creatures. I put two coats of primer on it, which is what the photos below show, but I bought some exterior paint today to give it some fun color.

Since a tall fence is one side of the fort, we chose to mount pegboard backdrops to give it some color and also create an interchangeable space for the kids to hang and display their things.  I had the pegboards left over from a previous time, so they need to be either repainted or touched up.  I would like to figure out a fun way to incorporate some of their art and craft projects to that wall, too.

We will paint a few surfaces to make it fun, but wanted to leave it pretty simple to encourage imaginative play.  The addition of outdoor pillows and seating make it the perfect spot to read books and daydream, or to bring in more blankets and toys to create a hideaway.

My daughter and I have plans to make a ‘beaded’ sun screen for one of the windows, and I will likely add some washable curtains across the front at some point this summer.  We added some outdoor lights and some potted plants for now.  My eventual goal is to have all of the decor able to withstand the elements.

It will be interesting to see how our fort transforms with use and age.  I anticipate some pirate ships, fairy castles, and island adventures in its near future.

The best part? Because we were able to repurpose most of our material, it cost us less than $80, including the plywood floor, paint, and twinkle lights.  Sometimes our hoarding tendencies do come in handy!

Have you been reusing materials for something new? We would love to hear all about it.