Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Around the House”

Not How I Thought My Sunday Would Go

Sunday afternoon, the commercial building next door to my house was demolished by a big fire. Thankfully, we and the house are safe. We’ve got some smoke damage ( the professional cleaning people are currently in my attic and basement where the smoke was the worst), some charred grass and lots of soot/ash on the exterior, but no major damage. We are extremely lucky and so grateful to the firefighters from our town and surrounding areas who worked hard for hours to contain the five-alarm fire.

(the white house is mine)

If you’ve had a fire in your home, my heart goes out to you because the anxiety and fear we felt on Sunday evening and into Monday morning was heartwrenching and terrifying. The fire broke out about 5ish on Sunday, just as we were about to sit down to eat. I was so sure it was a small fire they would have under control shortly that when the police told us to leave the house, I left our dinner on the table since I thought we’d be right back. 4 hours later, they let us come into the house for 5 minutes to grab clothes as the house was too smoky to stay in Sunday night.

We slept at a family friend’s house on Sunday night that was only a street away from the house so we could be close in case things changed. When we left the corner near the house, the fire was mostly contained and they were bringing in some heavy machinery to get to the heart of the blaze. The building is a total loss and the building owner, plus 3 tenants, lost everything.

Now, as we deal with the cleaning and airing out, I never thought I’d be so thankful for smoke damage. The thought of what could have been makes me sick to my stomach. As we stood on the corner watching the blaze get bigger and the winds shifting, Q and I prayed for the safety of our house, but we knew that it was only stuff inside and that we were safe and together. I’m thankful we were home and that we were able to return to our home just a day later. There are a few scorched lawn and dried leaf areas on our property– if the wind changed, our house likely would have had much worse damage. So while the stress of insurance claims and washing almost everything in the house is frustrating, we’re counting our blessings and thanking our guardian angels and firefighters for the safety of us and the house.

Springtime Inspiration with iRazoo

This time of year, despite the busy-ness of my day job, has me antsy to open the windows, clear the air in the house, and get cleaning. Q and I are homebodies so after a season spent hunkering down and spending a lot of time at home, I get pretty excited to spring clean and declutter the house. This so-called spring in New England has not brought a ton of warm, sunny days for that, but all these rainy weekends provide ample time to linger over Pinterest looking for inspiration and taking part in iRazoo’s blog offerings of various tips, techniques, and ideas for getting the house in order. They also offer paid surveys which are great for me to pass the time while Q watches a movie I’m not interested in seeing.

This spring, the biggest effort for me has been trying to get our basement in order. It’s just about a completely finished basement ( minus the laundry and utilities area), so we’re lucky to have a whole space in the house that’s pretty much a blank slate. Q claimed an area of it for his workout zone long ago, but the rest of the space had become the holding area/dumping ground for various things– furniture we didn’t want to part with, extra household supplies, off-season clothing, random Little Man toys, and of course, LOTS of dust and spiders. Despite this, I was anxious to get it more organized and clean to have another space for our family to enjoy.

These are the built ins in my basement, before we filled them up!

Q’s workout area is located over here now too. 

We have moved furniture around, putting my desk down there from Little Man’s room and moving up a chest of drawers from basement into his room instead. I made a corner of the room just for the furniture and items to be donated ( and already made an appointment for them to be picked up!). We pushed some things against the wall, utilized the built-in shelves for various games, toys, books, and more. It’s not quite there yet so no reveal shots quite yet, but we’re well on the way to have a space that fits our needs– a place for Q to work out, a quiet place for me to write, and organization for the stuff of life.

 

Low Key Christmas Decorating

In the spirit of our low key Christmas, I’m keeping the Christmas decorations around the house pretty low key this year too. Even though we won’t have a big tree or lights outside, I’m still bringing out the things that mean the most to me at Christmas time. All year long, I like to decorate and surround myself with objects of meaning or interest and Christmas is no exception. I don’t tend to decorate for other holidays, though we have a few candle holders for Halloween and Thanksgiving, so Christmas is really the only holiday where I switch up our regular house decor.

I’m super allergic to Christmas trees so we can’t have any real greens around, so our door wreath and mantel pine are all fake, but I love using Christmas greens to decorate, so I’m pretty happy that the fake versions look just as nice!

IMG_0783

At this point, with the exception of the front door, this is the only Christmas decor in the house. This weekend when we have Little Man, we’ll decorate a small tree, but won’t be putting out the big 6 footer because it involves moving a lot of furniture and making a fuss that honestly, I just don’t have in me this year. It’s not that I’m a Grinch, but I’m trying to enjoy the holiday season in the way I want, and moving around our stuff and having a large tree in our small house for only a few weeks is not my idea of a low key, relaxing holiday.

I’m very proud of our mantel decor because almost all the pieces displayed have some meaning, are heirloom/family pieces, or were gifts from loved ones. The wooden initial snowflakes on our stockings were made by my talented brother and sister in law. The sign in the plant was something my Dad loved. The ceramic nativity scene on  the top shelf of the built in bookshelves was at my grandma’s house until she moved.

IMG_0784

Even the non-Christmas items have important connections to family or moments in time. The large plant behind the nativity is something my Dad kept alive in many different forms for decades and many cuttings, all from a plant my brother brought home when he was in elementary school. The silver tool chest on the first shelf belonged to my grandfather and when we were cleaning out my Grandma’s basement, Q thought it was really cool. Even the books are chosen with care to represent our interests as a family, subjects I love, or well-loved books like Little Women. Even the “K” letter has a story– it’s an original metal letter from an old movie theater marquee sign!

As I strategically chose items from the box of decorations this year, it only saddened me a bit that some of the items will remain in the box this year because there are only a few things that are newly purchased. I chose to put out the pieces that resonated with me and our family at this moment in time, and many of them are connections to my father. Even though he often complained the most about moving his plants and furniture around to fit the large tree in the living room, he hated leaving special ornaments in the box each year, thinking they’d feel left out or like the misfit toys from the Rudolph Christmas movie. I know that some day, maybe even next year, our Christmas celebrations may not be as low key or we may live in a bigger place to accommodate more decorations. I know our stockings will change as I want to make the three of us our own embroidered or needlepoint stockings, just like my mother did for my brother and I ( it will likely take me all year to do one!) As our family and traditions grow, so will our decorations!

Whatever holiday you celebrate and however over the top or understated your decorations are, I hope you enjoy your home in a festive way that makes your heart happy.

 

Product I Love: Evercare Fabric Shaver

I love sweaters. I hate how they pill up after just one or two wears. Same with knit pants on the inner thighs. I’ve spent more hours of my life trying to remove pills with razors and all the other random remedies out there. A few years ago, I was complaining to a coworker about this and she told me to get a motorized fabric shaver.

Life changed.

I purchased the Evercare Fabric Shaver from Target for under $10 maybe a year and a half ago, and it is quite possibly one of the best investments I’ve made- and so inexpensive!

I use it on my sweaters, pants, and everything in between. Removing the pills keeps my clothes looking fresh. As I’ve cut down on my shopping and clothes buying, it’s been a lifesaver in extending the life of my clothes. I even use it to take the pills off the couches! Seriously it’s an amazing little gadget. Even Good Housekeeping agrees!

55007ae34de2f-evercare-small-fabric-shaver-mdn

 

This is an honest review, not prompted by Evercare or any other company to review the product. All opinions are my own. 

Product Love: Cleaning Supplies

I have more posts in draft form than I’d like to mention- my brain gets some great ideas, I get interrupted, then the posts sit there in a sad state until I can remember again why I thought it was such a smart idea to write about.

But I’m trying to be better about action, no matter the state of things, so with that in mind, I’m unleashing drafts into the world!

*****

I’m not a clean freak by any means. I like things tidy and generally uncluttered, but I don’t get mad at Q when he leaves shoes out of the closet because, usually, mine are sitting out at the random spot they were removed too. I don’t deep clean my house every week, but do my best to sweep up hair/crumbs, put things away, wipe down counters, and so on.

In the course of life, I’ve found that some products and tools work better for me than others, so I’m sharing my favorite ones with you! These are actually products I love and use, and I was not compensated to mention them– all opinions are my own!

 

Barkeeper’s Friend: Seriously this stuff is amazing. I originally bought it to deal with some nasty stains on my stainless steel kitchen sink, but it has saved the day so many times. Highly recommend for use with really bad burned on stains on all-clad cookware!

 

barkeepers friend

 

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: Marks on walls, cleaning grout, and everything in between. Magic indeed!

magic eraser

Lysol Wipes: I have a 6 year old little boy in my life. Sticky stuff gets everywhere. These wipes are the answer to just about anything. Plus they save a lazy bathroom cleaner like me!

lysol wipes

 

Swiffer: I have hardwood floors throughout the entire house, with the exception of the bathroom and kitchen. With my Swiffer, I can use it on all of those surfaces to grab the various crumbs and bits of grime. And, my long, dark hairs since I shed A LOT (how do I still have all this hair on my head if I shed so much?!?! Mysteries of life, right there).

swiffer

 

Clutter?

There was an article in the New York Times a few weeks again about celebrating the art of clutter. I think it’s worth a read.

It’s no secret how much I love cleaning out stuff, organizing, and the feeling that I’m surrounded by the things I love and enjoy the most. But that also doesn’t mean that I live in a clean, organized, minimalist home either.

My house is home to myself, Q, and half-time to a 6 year old little boy. Q and I work full-time and often are still working when we walk in the door. My dining room table is more often than not covered with papers from our jobs, mail, and various other items. The pile of sewing and ironing is constantly moved around to avoid doing it. Recipes, coupons, receipts, and other random items to remember are strewn about. The box of things to sell on Craigslist lingers.

I walked down into the basement the other night and there is quite the mishmash of furniture items, house decor, and other items deemed unessential at the moment, but needs to be saved. A lot of it is from my grandmother’s house that sold this past December– it’s the stuff of memories and pieces that are too good or special to get rid of, but don’t have a spot in our home yet. Many minimalists/organizers/declutter freaks would gasp at the sight of my messy basement, especially since it’s been like that for over 6 months. And frankly, I do have moments when I look at all the stuff and just want to throw it all away. God forbid there was a fire in my house tomorrow, the stuff would be gone and the memories would remain. That doesn’t make it any easier to part with those items, but someday I will make a decision to either use it or get rid of it. I’m not there yet– I think celebrating this in-between stage of holding onto good, important things, is where we all should think about a little bit more.

Even if all that stuff remained, cluttered about the house, but it would mean that we’re spending our free time not worrying about whether every single item in our house is bringing us joy. Instead we’re together doing something joy-filled, whether it be teaching the 6 year old to play checkers or having some much needed quiet time together on the sun porch to catch up with each other. My house may be filled with items destined for trash, recycle, or donation, but it’s filled with experiences, love, and memories which far outweigh any joy having less stuff could ever bring me.

Wordless Wednesday: Lilacs

0518141320a

Anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures and the blooming of the lilacs in my backyard.

Habits, Cleaning &Cohabitation

Q& I have lived together well over a year now and Little Man has been staying with us on a part-time basis for just about a year. Since Q & I waited almost a year into dating before I even met his son, we also eased into Little Man staying at the house on his weekends with his Dad. It was the right thing for us to do and I think helped build a good relationship of trust for Little Man with me.

In this time, I’m embraced the mess and sometimes grossness of having two boys around, especially a 6 year old little boy who has an endless imagination and levels of creativity that often involve leaving messes around in the form of Lego piles, cardboard boxes, and crayons all about. Don’t get this post wrong– I love every single minute of it. This recovering Type A, organizational, clean freak has embraced the wild fun of having a child in the house, though am teaching him to keep the wild somewhat tame, all the while maintaining important rules of cleanliness like making beds, washing hands, and picking up toys.

And of course, I was married before I met Q, and I have an older brother, so I’m no stranger to the messes that can come with the male gender. And frankly, I lived with 5 girls in college, who though like-minded gals like myself that were relatively clean, we did make our fair share of messes. And I’m sure if Q could chime in here, he would say I have my own peculiar habits as well, though I’m sure he would mostly complain about my long, dark brown hairs appearing just about everywhere.

But there is something about cohabitation and the weird habits of other people that amuses me, as any person who lives with a roommate or significant other can attest. Why does a person dry their hands with paper towels and then leave it on the counter when the trash is only a cabinet away? Why does a little boy leave small Lego pieces in each room like Hansel and Gretel’s crumb path? There probably is some deep psychological reason for any of these things, laziness/forgetfulness probably being one of the traits. Again, I do weird things too like leaving my glasses in the most random spots that I think are handy– and of course, 10 minutes later being baffled as to where they are and why the heck did I leave them there?

A friend frequently complains about the lack of help she gets around the house from her family when it comes to cleaning and how angry it makes her. I spent a good deal of my time when I was married trying to get my ex-husband into the same cleaning mindset I had– it was a futile effort that only made me frustrated and bitter. Sidenote: it was not the reason why we divorced, but often the bigger issues are played out in the most mundane things. The point being– I wasn’t going to change him. I could teach him better ways to be organized or clean the way I thought was best, but in the end, it left me frustrated and doing double the work anyway because my overachiever self thought that things were better my way.

One of the lessons of the divorce was that people cannot change who they essentially are. Habits can change, but human behavior on what a person believes or wants often cannot. My entire relationship with Q has been based on this idea– I take him for who he is and he takes me for what I am. Do I hate it that most of his clothes live in a pile on the bench in our room? Sure, but he’s an adult who does his own laundry and confines his mess to the spot he has designated as his own. If we have company coming over, he throws it into his side of the closet and deals with it after. I don’t pick up after him and he doesn’t pick up after me. I take it for what it is and don’t passive aggressively take it out on him or see it as a reflection of how he feels about me, our house, or family. It’s just dishes- the world won’t end if I don’t do them within an hour of using them.

The long and short of this is- don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just dust/trash/soap scum/mess. We’re human, we’re weird, and I’ll never try to understand it. I’ll just keep throwing the darn paper towels in the trash!

 

Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge

When the folks over American Recall Center contacted me about taking on the Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge, I was all over it.  I love a good cleanout challenge. I try to keep the house and closets uncluttered, organized, and well-stocked. Of course, the closets and cabinets are often the first thing to fall away from this plan as it is so easy to throw items in it and forget about them. I’m certainly guilty of this with the medicine cabinet!

I should first say that one of my first problems is that I do not have a medicine cabinet. Our tiny house has a tiny bathroom with no storage options. We have solved this issue with a small, free-standing cabinet and then using our hall closet adjacent to the bathroom for storage of all medicine, towels, toiletries, and so on. A few years ago, I purchased this clear hanging shoe door storage for organization of our medicines, makeups, and so on. Smartest thing ever for organization and finding things when you need them, but worst idea in being proactive about cleaning it out.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, I was game for the challenge not only because I’m slightly obsessed with purging/organizing, but also because I can’t recall the last time this closet and medicine organizer was looked at for anything other than grabbing the Tums. Additionally, the Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge has three important goals: Know your medications (do you take them as prescribed, including knowing the possible side effects?); Secure your medications  ( this was definitely on my mind as Little Man can definitely get into the closet, so wanted to make sure anything he shouldn’t get a hold of was way out of his reach); Dispose your medications ( what to do with expired or unused medications? Have any of them been recalled?)

Here’s what I discovered from my Clean Out Challenge:

– I have a lot of free sample sized, over the counter medication- particularly allergy, vitamin, and antacid related. All of them were still well within their good to use dates, but I took them out of the closet and put a few in my purse, others in an easy to find spot so we can actually use them.

– All of our medications were good to use, but a few of them had been separated from their packaging and the all important dosage/direction information. I’m glad I was able to reunite them, especially for some cold/allergy medication that had drowsy information and dosage requirements.

– I’d been holding on to some unopened, but long expired medicated creams, mosquito repellent, and sunscreen.

– I moved some of the lesser used OTC medications like Bonine and Pepto to a higher spot out of the reach of Little Man. We don’t use these things often, but enough in a year that we need to keep them in stock.

IMG_0105

The finished product ( well the left side anyway– don’t judge the mess on the right– it’s one of my only closets and desperately needs reorganization!)

Discovering My Green Thumb

Well, at least trying.

We often joked that my Dad was our own personal Portuguese gardener. He was always puttering in the yard, planting flowers, maintaining our vegetable gardens, and he had more house plants than he knew what to do with. He was even the sole male member of our town’s garden club!

My neighbors always compliment me on how nice the yard looked– I always told them I’d tell my father since he was the one who did all the work! Ever since my divorce, my Dad did  so much in my yard ( and helped a bunch with landscaping before that too)- more than I ever realized. Recently, Q and I spent an entire day trying to clean up and get everything looking nice- we were exhausted! I have no idea how my father did it all himself! I tried to tell him how grateful I was all the time for his efforts, especially with mowing the lawn before Q came around ( I’m ridiculously allergic to grass). Some of my favorite memories over the past few years was learning from my father as he worked around my yard, although I wish now that I’d paid more attention, asked more questions, and not taken him for granted because there is still so much I feel I need to know!

I’ve never been a huge garden/landscape person, mostly because it seems I’m allergic to the world, but also because my Dad gardened as his hobby and he liked doing it on his own time so part of me didn’t want to interfere too much with that. I killed a few houseplants which I think he thought was funny, though didn’t quite understand why I didn’t get the concept of habitual watering.

With Dad being gone, I knew I had to step it up with my gardening and plant skills. When he died, someone sent the family a gorgeous peace lily plant that I took home- it’s been one of my focused goals of the past six months to keep it alive, which I’m happy to report it still is, and is thriving. Over the past few weeks, I’ve successfully planted flowers, a vegetable garden ( cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, peppers), and done a lot of the landscaping ( with Q’s help of course).

Throughout all of this, I’ve discovered my own little Portuguese gardener inside of me ( it’s fun and therapeutic to dig in the dirt!)  I don’t think I’ll ever be as great as he was with growing things from seeds or even have the ability to mow the lawn without having trouble breathing, but I’m continuing in his spirit and enthusiasm. You’ll see below in the photo my small veggie garden in our backyard ( which is a work in progress) with a little garden gnome. My Dad had a thing about gnomes- I think he liked their whimsical sense of fantasy and maybe that they brought some garden luck. It was only right that this gnome came to my own backyard- reminds me of my father every day.

 

downsized_0610141654 (1)

Post Navigation