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”

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.


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.


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Declutter Fatigue

There’s a  lot of decluttering, organizing, donating, trashing ( of stuff) going on in my world these days. Family and friends are doing their fair share of spring cleaning, moving, and clearing out the junk of life that gets in the way.

I used to love this stuff- I actually still enjoy it to a point- but it’s exhausting. Mentally, emotionally, physically- this stuff is tough. I’m not a person who gets too emotionally connected to objects, but the process of going through items, trying to organize/think of actual purposes for things, just makes me want to throw it all in a pile and walk outside.

This weekend, we reorganized my spare room/office into a bedroom for Q’s son to have for the weekends he is with us. It was something many weeks in the process, beginning with moving my old twin bed from my parent’s house and then culminating this weekend ( well really this week since I still have to make the bed and hang a few things on the walls). This room was previously the space where everything ended up landing that we weren’t sure what to do with it ( discarded closet door, random mail/papers, etc.) Cleaning it up this weekend involved a lot of “do we need this?” or “where should this live,” but honestly, it ended with a bunch of stuff getting shoved in the closet in that room or the basement to deal with later.

Part of me is happy that I’m not looking at it anymore, but the other part of me knows I’m being bad by just putting it into the closet instead of dealing with it when I had my hands on it. I have a ( not so secret) idea about what a good professional declutter/organizer I could be, but of course, that would be for other people and their stuff, so it would be easy ( the whole those who can’t, teach idea). As much as life has changed for my in the past few years, I SUCK at change that requires me to actually face decisions head on that are sort of easy ( like why do I have 7 flathead screwdrivers and can never find a Phillips one?)

The decluttering/organizing process also frustrates me that once I’ve cleaned/organized something, the pile of stuff to dispose of, donate, or sell is just as annoying to me. The trash stuff is easy and I know that trash day is only so many days away before something can go away. But the donate or sell stuff? There’s a pretty good chance that’s going to stick around for months before I get it out of the way. Part of it is because some of the donation centers/drop off times are not entirely conducive to my schedule, the other is honestly, laziness. Yes, it would take me 10 minutes to take some good photos of my wedding gown and post them online, but either it’s shiny object or couch time with a book that I find more alluring.

I know this stuff isn’t rocket science and I know the emotional attachment to stuff/things and my difficulty with change are all apart of this, but most days, I wish I had a personal assistant to take care of all this for me.

What are your decluttering/organizing woes or your go-to strategies for getting things done?

Wordless Wednesday: Office Update in Progress



With the completion of the DIY desk project, my office/reading nook/painting space is nearly complete! I’m on the hunt for an area rug and have a few options for that currently blank wall space, but overall I’m feeling great about the space which previously was a room I barely used and threw all the random stuff of life in. Instead of ignoring the room, I look forward to going into it now!


Wordless Wednesday: Finished Desk!

Finished desk


The finished product!

See the progress over here

Wordless Wednesday: DIY

A DIY Project in Progress!




Finished project soon!

Wordless Wednesday: Fall


My walkway all decked out for fall

Cutting the Cable Cord

Back in 2011, I cut cable for a purely monetary reason. I was handling a huge mortgage on my measly nonprofit salary as my divorce was going through and a lot of things were deemed ‘luxury’ and had to go. But the decision to cut the cable cord was definitely one of the best I’ve ever made.

It started as a necessity to makes ends meet, but it ended up being a decision that has changed my habits immensely. Prior to quitting cable, I more often than not spent my nights after work in front of the TV aimlessly watching whatever was on or even worse, some horrible reality show of D-list celebrities letting cameras into their lives. I rarely watched PBS and neglected reading, watching documentaries or independent movies in favor of watching The Wedding Planner or whatever random cable movie was on  for the 30th time.

Post- cable, I found much better and enjoyable alternatives for my viewing entertainment. I used an over the air antenna for local channels and upped my Netflix account to include instant viewing and 2 DVDs at a time. I started reading more and find myself now often spending an entire night without even having put the television on at all for anything. This past fall, I added basic cable again to get a few more channels than what my antenna could offer to me. My house is at the bottom of a  hill so sometimes with wind or storms the antenna didn’t work, which was most frustrating at times and being super into Downton Abbey, I wanted to insure PBS coverage on Sunday nights during the winter. The basic cable package only was $20 a month, but I found that because my habits had changed, I still wasn’t watching any of the channels still. After I was given a wonderful iPad as a Christmas present from my aunt, I spend much more time watching things in bed or on the sun porch, further eliminating the need for the cable. I kept a diary in April to see how often I was using the television for anything other than DVDs or Netflix— in the whole month ( minus the time I was in Holland), I turned it on to watch an actual TV show only twice. The decision was easy to get rid of the cable again.

And now, I’ll ever look back. A few weeks ago I babysat my friends’ son while they were at a wedding– in the eleven hours I was at their house, I watched a Red Sox game and then the Mad Men marathon on AMC. Didn’t change the channel once or even do a whole lot of channel surfing to see what their satellite TV could offer me. My entertainment preferences have shifted hugely- I am catching up on PBS and BBC miniseries ( if you haven’t seen Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, you’re missing out- I can’t believe I didn’t see it until now!), watching a lot of documentaries, and finally tackling the huge movie list I have. I’ve re installed the antenna on the television to get local news, but in the two weeks it’s been up, I haven’t even done that.

Before, I used the television as a crutch to avoid thinking and feeling. Sure, there are still days when I’m exhausted and come home to watch a few episodes of The West Wing instead of reading a book or writing, but it’s something I’m choosing to watch because I enjoy it and it is interesting to me, instead of just putting something random on to pass the time to bed. It’s entertainment, not escape.

If you’re thinking about cutting cable, it’s not as difficult as you think it will be! Try not using it even for a weekend and I think you’ll see what a difference it makes in your every day, plus on your bottom line!

Finding My Green Thumb

Prior to owning a house, I would not have described myself as a person who was good with plants. Sure, I love flowers and the feel of green grass underneath my bare feet in the summer time, but in general, I wasn’t into the keeping of plants or caring for garden. Part of that is because my dad does it so well ( and I think he liked having quiet time outside when my brother & I were kids), and I also have ridiculously bad allergies ( as in I wear a mask when outside for the months of April and May).

Since owning a house, I’ve sloooowly made my way into gardening though in full disclosure, I’ve killed a few indoor house plants in my life. Nothing makes me happier than being outside relaxing in the summer time and I’m trying to create a backyard sanctuary. My dad has coaxed me along and done a lot of the hard work ( including mowing my lawn, he’s a lifesaver), but I’ve slowly taken a liking to getting my hands in the dirt.

My dad is also helping me get my vegetable garden in gear again with a few things planted already. I’m hoping to add some flowers to my backyard. This past weekend, my dad and I worked together to remove a beast of a bush that I have wanted out for the past two years. Here’s a shot of the middle and end because the phone on my camera ‘ate’ the before!



And my lovely lilacs! After 4 years of being in the house, this is the first time I’ve seen them bloom!


My Happy Place

In my opinion, one of the biggest aspects of being happy everyday has a lot to do with the spaces one occupies, so for me that would be my office, my car (ah the life of commuting), and my house. When I was married, the house was a site of struggle and frustration, not just because that’s where disagreements took place, but because the physical space did not reflect much of who I was or wanted to be, but more what I thought my then-husband would like or some reflection of who I thought I should be as a married gal.

My house is a constant source of both pride and frustration– as I am sure is the case with so many homeowners. There are days I look around and all I see are the things to do- which was the case almost every single day while I was in the house & married. When the house became all mine, it took me a long time to get it how I wanted. Hours spent over Pinterest, decorating blogs, and so many house related magazines had me imagining the spaces I wanted for myself, and slowly, they took shape. With the exception of the office/reading room/painting space, the house is as I imagined– and even with that space it’s a matter of getting things on the walls and rearranging some furniture.

Each room of the house brings a different kind of satisfaction to me- knowing I found the style of couch I wanted, having the duvet I lusted after and serene setting of the bedroom, and a kitchen with bright colors. But the place in my house which brings endless joy is my sunroom.



Of course this would be all the better photo if it had been sunny out. Also please excuse the mats and towels on the floor- the windows leak when the rain blows against them!

The sunroom was one of the selling points of the house to me ( as well as the built in bookshelves, fireplace, cute yard, and historic details). The windows are on three sides and open into the room, and while the view is less than desirable ( commercial building next door), the breezes in the summer are unbeatable. Even on the most humid day, the room is relaxing and restorative. The couch is a hand-me-down from my parents, but is comfortable and perfect for quiet mornings in the sun with a cup of coffee or a Friday night with a book and glass of wine. It is unheated, but when those beautiful sunny winter days happen, the space is often warmer than the house– perfect for afternoon naps that make me forget it is February.

This space isn’t just perfect because of its light and coolness, but it’s the place where I unwind and feel at peace with myself. I spent hours in there journaling and meditating during the roughest days of my marriage and separation and it’s the place where I found the courage to stand up for myself and my life. Regardless of where I live after this house, this sunroom will always be remembered as a big part of who I am.


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