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preparing your home for the holidays

Preparing Your Home For The Holidays: The Kids’ Rooms

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 16, 2010 · 13 comments

Mandi of Life... Your Way and I have teamed up to bring you a special series over the next two weeks called Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

We're on the final section of the house today, the kids' rooms -- yay! Since we live in a 4-bedroom house with five kids, our oldest two boys and our girls each share a room. Our youngest has his own room, albeit the very small room that I used to call my office.

Shared and small spaces both require a little creativity in keeping the clutter to a minimum, so instead of talking about cleaning their rooms, today I thought I'd share some of the fun and kid-friendly ways we've used to corral the large number of toys and such that are part of the territory when you have a large family.

Tactics we use:

  • We rotate toys in and out of the crawl space we have in our basement. This is especially effective with our older boys since they have large collections of G.I. Joe toys and Transformers.
  • We have a designated home for all of their toys that's age appropriate. For example, we expect our older children to put toys away in totes and put the totes in their closet. However, our younger children are encouraged to put their play food into a toy shopping cart next to their play kitchen.
  • Bedtime is at 9:00pm; however, we all head upstairs at 8:30pm for showers/baths and to straighten up any messes from the day. Well, ideally this is what we'd do, but we're still working on making it a nightly ritual. We're making progress though!

Creative storage ideas for kids:

This has to be one of my favorite solutions for repurposing an item we already had. When our boys outgrew their wooden train table, we were getting ready to donate it. I really wanted to get them a Lego table, but all of the ones I found online were very small and super expensive.

While walking through Toys R Us, I noticed that they had the square Lego base pieces, and it occurred to me that we could just convert their old train table into a huge Lego table. So we purchased several of the squares and screwed them down right onto the existing train table, and now it's the perfect place to spread their Legos out and build their creations.

This shelf was originally part of our starter furniture in the living room of our first apartment. It has definitely seen better days, but we sanded it lightly and painted it, and now it serves as a bookshelf in our oldest boys' room.

I found this great locker bed on Amazon for our youngest boy. The drawers are perfect for housing toys in his very tiny room, and I loved that it came with a variety of colors so that we could match them to the decor.

We got this shelf with bins for our girls at Target for a real steal. The one thing we were unhappy with is the kids were emptying the bins, stacking them up, and using them as step stools. Gotta love those creative little minds! So my husband screwed the bins directly into the base, solving that issue since they can no longer be removed, and actually it works better since they can't just pull out a whole bin and dump it at once. Now it's a great way to sort their Barbies, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and Disney Princess dolls.

Be sure to check out Mandi's printable checklist for kids' rooms for more tips on cleaning, decluttering, and keeping them organized! Thank you all so much following along with us over the past few weeks -- I greatly appreciate the encouragement you've all given.

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Preparing Your Home For The Holidays: The Master Bedroom

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 12, 2010 · 26 comments

Mandi of Life... Your Way and I have teamed up to bring you a special series over the next two weeks called Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

I love this quote from Mandi's master bedroom and guest room printable:

Your bedroom should be a haven so that you can truly rest and recharge.

Up until recently that was probably the furthest thing from what our bedroom was. Though we've lived in our house for nearly six years now, our bedroom still more closely resembled a college dorm room than a restful haven. So my husband and I have made it a priority to attempt to make our personal space inviting and cozy.

This isn't easy since we outgrew our overall living space so quickly after moving in, but we're finding ways to creatively stretch our living area until we're ready to purchase a larger home in a year or two.

Our biggest clutter challenges in the bedroom:

  • Miscellaneous clutter on dressers.
  • Laundry -- while I don't mind doing it, I'm horrible at folding, hanging, and putting it away.
  • My current magazine issues needed a home.

:: Miscellaneous Clutter

We don't have a lot of knick-knacks and such sitting out in our bedroom. They just invite dust and need frequent cleaning. However, the flip-side of this is that there's plenty of room for "stuff" to just accumulate.

I've found that trays like this help to contain the clutter and make it look a little neater. If it doesn't fit in the tray, it gets put away. And if the tray starts looking messy, then it's time to find a home for everything or put it in its proper place.

This concept also works for my husband, but I gave him a silver bowl that's a little more masculine for his use.

:: Keeping Up With The Laundry

What you don't see in these pictures is the mounds of laundry that I had to put away before I could even begin dusting and decluttering. Laundry is a big pain point in our house. Well, it's not so much the washing of the clothes that's a struggle -- it's the folding, hanging, and putting away of all of the clean clothing. The baskets always seem to migrate their way to the master bedroom, and often they'll sit there for days.

Consciously I know that this is just creating extra work -- extra work in searching for the coordinating items for an outfit, the mate to a sock, ironing the now wrinkled clothing, etc. My latest attempt to get this under control is just to sort the clothes into baskets by room and enlist the kids to put away their own clothing. This is somewhat of a battle, but it seems to be working so far. Suggestions here would be greatly appreciated!

:: A Home For The Magazines

I like to read at bedtime. Many days I don't have much "me" time, but I always know I'll have those few minutes before dozing off for the night to page through a magazine, so I tend to stack them on my nightstand. But then I often tear out interesting articles and create quite a mess.

My solution was to use a simple tote to hold all of my current unread magazine issues. I carry it up and downstairs with me every day because I get new issues pretty frequently since I've been able to sign up for so many free magazine subscriptions. I can just pull out any issues that I've read for recycling or to pass on, file any articles or notes that I've torn out, and then put any new issues in the tote.

:: Deep Cleaning

After looking over Mandi's cleaning tips, it occurred to me that it's been a good while since we cleaned our ceiling fan. It's usually on all the time to cool the upstairs, so I hadn't really noticed just how grimey it was. So we cleaned it up and also reversed the direction to help keep the upstairs an even temperature over the winter. Ceiling fans should turn clockwise in the winter and counterclockwi!se in the summer.

I feel like we still have a ways to go in "making our bedroom a haven," but I'm just thrilled that we've made some progress

You can join us in Preparing Your Home For The Holidays over the next couple of weeks by using the handy printable checklists that Mandi has created for each room of the house! And of course we'd love to hear your tips and tricks for getting your home ready for the holiday season.

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Mandi of Life... Your Way and I have teamed up to bring you a special series over the next two weeks called Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

On any given fall Saturday afternoon, you're bound to find our family tailgating in our garage, watching the Ohio State Buckeyes play football with friends and neighbors while the kids play out back. This has been an ongoing tradition, so we actually overhauled our garage back at the end of the summer.

And we really did overhaul it then. Our garage was full of miscellaneous empty boxes and just plain junk that wasn't worth donating. We considered renting a dumpster, but then I stumbled across this new service called The Bagster. It's basically a dumpster service on a smaller scale -- you just purchase a bag from Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. for about $30, and then you schedule a pickup when you have it filled!

We didn't really need a huge dumpster, and The Bagster was less than half the price we would have paid for one even including the pickup fee.

So how about a quick tour of our garage now?

This is my stockpile shelving and our extra refrigerator and deep freezer. I'm not sure how we managed without the refrigerator previously -- we probably made far too many trips to the store because these kids go through milk like crazy!

This is one of my favorite features that my handy husband built. We had a ton of unused space above our garage door, so he installed shelving for items that we don't need access to frequently, like our Christmas lights, snow blower, pressure washer, etc.

I also especially love these hooks that he installed for the kids' bikes. Five bikes can really eat up a lot of space in a garage, so this is a convenient way to keep them out of the way but still accessible for when they get the itch to ride.

Rubbermaid makes some fantastic garage organization solutions, including this track that has many different hangers. The ball storage unit is awesome, and it's great to be able to hang tools exactly where you need them.

Keeping our garage in this condition has actually been pretty easy. Once everything has a home created for it, it's just a matter of ensuring that you return it to its proper place when you use it. Just a quick sweep, and our garage was photo ready!

You can join us in Preparing Your Home For The Holidays over the next couple of weeks by using the handy printable checklists that Mandi has created for each room of the house! And of course we'd love to hear your tips and tricks for getting your home ready for the holiday season.

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Preparing Your Home For The Holidays: Tackling The Kitchen

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 6, 2010 · 25 comments

Mandi of Life... Your Way and I have teamed up to bring you a special series over the next two weeks called Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

As I'm sure it is for many of you, our kitchen is the hub of our home. It's not only where we prepare food; it's also where we do homework, eat our meals, and just hang out in general.

As such, it's an area that I struggle to keep clean. Our island seems to accumulate miscellaneous "stuff", and it feels like every time I finish doing the dishes, the sink is piled high just a short time later. Our children do help with the chores, but there are still some tasks that slide far too long, so the real challenge for this room will be the maintenance.

Areas I focused on in the kitchen:

  • The area under our sink was very cluttered with unused cleaning products.
  • The pantry was relatively clean but needed tweaking.
  • I hadn't cleaned out my spice cabinet in ages.
  • My coffee zone needed a once over.

I have to give a big thanks to my hubby who wiped down the cabinets and all of the baseboards for me while I was cleaning up my trouble zones. What a guy!

:: Under the Sink

Since we've recently moved to using more natural cleaners and microfiber cloths for the bulk of our cleaning needs, my cleaning products stockpile has become kind of unruly and the area under our sink was filled with products that we no longer use. So I took this opportunity to tidy this area up, disposing of anything that wasn't worth passing on and moving unopened products to our donate box. The storage caddy is great for organizing the small odds and ends that were otherwise just strewn about the cabinet.

:: Straightening the Pantry

My pantry was in relatively good shape since I did a big overhaul a few months ago, so all I needed to do was move things around a bit. I did find a few items that I could donate, so that freed up a little space. And we recently moved several items, like our soups, canned beans, and applesauce, out to our stockpile shelving that's in the garage to alleviate some of the crowding we were experiencing.

I discovered that one of my little monkeys has apparently been using my potato and onion bins as a step stool and cracked them, so I need to replace those ASAP.

:: Spice Cabinet Overhaul

My spice cabinet was in quite a state. As you can see, I could really use either a tiered shelf or perhaps one of those round spinning caddies to make better use of this space.

I was surprised to find a number of outdated baking ingredients and spices in the back, so this is definitely an area that I need to stay on top of more. I have an idea for using up some old pumpkin pie spices, but does anyone have a suggestion for what I can do with a very large old bottle of pure vanilla extract? I hate to just toss it out...

Lesson learned -- we'd been buying a lot of spices and baking ingredients in bulk at Sam's Club because the prices were hard to pass up, but we're not using them all at a rate that justifies the purchase. We'll be more conscientious about what we should buy in bulk and what we should buy smaller in the future.

:: Cleaning the Coffee Zone

I was pleased to see that one of Mandi's suggestions for organizing a kitchen is to create zones for areas in a way that makes sense for your needs. This is something I had already implemented in our kitchen with the coffee zone that I created. It's so handy to have everything I need right above my coffee maker, and this space is also ideally located within arm's length of our refrigerator so I can easily grab my cream!

As I mentioned earlier, the real challenge for me is going to be in the maintenance. I recognize what my hot spots are, and we'll be ensuring that these areas are cleaned up nightly before we all head to bed. Wish me luck!

You can join us in Preparing Your Home For The Holidays over the next couple of weeks by using the handy printable checklists that Mandi has created for each room of the house! And of course we'd love to hear your tips and tricks for getting your home ready for the holiday season.

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Mandi of Life... Your Way and I have teamed up to bring you a special series over the next two weeks called Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

In my quest for a saner and less hectic holiday season, I've now turned my attention on the bathrooms. Well, to be honest, I focused on our guest bathroom for this post as I only had enough time to finish that one to completion before leaving for Boston for an event, but it's the most important one as far as guests go, and I'm planning to tackle the other two this weekend.

As you can see, our guest bathroom is quite small, without a lot of storage space. My biggest challenges in this space are:

  • This is a high traffic area for us that needs maintenance cleaning multiple times per week and some deep cleaning once per week.
  • The pedestal sink, though lovely, creates storage issues for necessities.

:: Keeping the Bathroom Clean

I quickly assessed the state of the bathroom using Mandi's handy printable checklist, and right away I could see that there were some things I could toss out or find a new home. I trashed the Glade plugin that was completely used up, and found a new home for the wipes container that we no longer need on a regular basis (yay for being diaper free!!!) and also the toilet plunger which was just an eyesore and not often used.

Though relatively clean, there were some areas that I've been neglecting in this space. I pulled out my handy microfiber cloth once again to surface dust, and then again I used it damp to wipe down the baseboards, the grimey doorhandles, light switch covers, and the walls. I think I forgot to mention the other day how fantastic these are for cleaning walls! They really work well without stripping the paint like the Mr. Clean Erasers have a tendency to do.

I also noticed that my flower arrangement was extremely dusty. The microfiber cloth didn't seem to do much as far as removing the deeper dust, so I pulled out my Dyson Handheld Vacuum (pricey, yes, but I literally use this several times a day) and used it to pull the dust off each individual flower. I was surprised to find that my arrangement looked almost brand new when I was done!

And then of course I cleaned the sink, making sure to wipe down the pedestal, the toilet, and the floor around the toilet -- blech. You moms with young boys know what I'm talking about here.

:: Creative Bathroom Storage

As storage is at a premium in our guest bathroom, I've needed to get a little creative here.

I picked up this medicine chest at Target many years ago, and I love that it's both attractive and decorative, while also being functional. The drawers on the front are perfect for storing feminine needs, as well as cleaning cloths and toilet scrubber tips.

And this is my creative toilet paper storage solution. I just stick it inside of a tissue holder on the back of the toilet. We don't really use tissues in the bathroom, so this works perfectly for us.

Going forward I just need to stay on top of wiping everything down weekly, following Mandi's maintenance tips. Oh, and reminder to self, I need to purchase some new hand towels because we're down to only one, and that's just not cutting it.

You can join us in Preparing Your Home For The Holidays over the next couple of weeks by using the handy printable checklists that Mandi has created for each room of the house! And of course we'd love to hear your tips and tricks for getting your home ready for the holiday season.

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