Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to polyurethane your front door :)

If you live in a hot, humid place like Texas, your front door will take a beating. Our front door is 15 years old, and the finish had started to really come off-particularly in places where we had taped notes to the door, etc.

If you look closely, the finish is patchy and very dull.  So I went to my hardware store, got some 320 (very fine) grit sandpaper, some tack cloth (very sticky cloth used to remove dust after sanding), a can of clear semi-gloss exterior polyurethane and a fine bristled paintbrush and got to work!
Step one: sand the entire surface of the door with sandpaper-you don't have to go nuts here-you just want to do enough to rough up the surface of the existing poly. Step two: wipe away all the sanding dust with the tack cloth.
Step three: paint on your new coat in even strokes, running the direction of the wood grain. Step four: wait 24 hours for it to dry and then viola! Just like new. The entire project (apart from the drying time) took just over an hour. And the total cost was $32 instead of the $200 it would cost for a professional painter to do it.

The finished product (it will be less shiny once it is fully dry)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our minimalist journey

We are on a journey toward minimalism. For me, this will likely never mean bare walls and countertops and sleek, modern furniture. The minimalism I strive toward is no clutter, only owning what we actually use on a regular basis, and keeping a clean, organized house. Here are some pictures of the major rooms in our home-not stark by any means, but pared down to our favorite and most used things.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Live like you are moving :)

I have been on a months-long mission to de-clutter our house by de-owning our stuff. I have read a lot about how beneficial it is for kids to grow up in a clean, clutter-free, organized house. Here are a few of the benefits: (1) their brains are able to focus on more important things than having to process the visual (therefore cerebral) distraction of clutter everywhere; (2) they pick up good habits like cleaning up quickly and keeping things organized when they grow up in a house like that; (3) their parents are able to focus more time on them rather than having to run around looking for stuff and constantly battling junk everywhere; (4) parents also benefit from the calming effects of a clean house, which shows in the way they parent; (5) kids learn to really use and enjoy the toys they own rather than jumping from thing to thing to thing in a room or house filled with a million toys. The list goes on (and those of you who know my kids are probably laughing because my kid are little hellions a lot of the time, but imagine how cray they would be in a chaotic house!) ;)

Another benefit is that when it comes time to move (and we are all bound to move at least a time or two more in our lives), the process will be SO. MUCH. EASIER. I learned this lesson the hard way. We moved a few years ago, and we were so overwhelmed with STUFF that I had to sort through, pack up and move that I wound up straining muscles in my feet that resulted in debilitating pain for many months afterward (like, I couldn't stand up through an entire pump-it-up party or soccer game) and lingering pain that still flares up from time to time. So I decided that when we moved, we would start living like we could be ready to move any time (in terms of our stuff and the way we keep our house.)  If my husband was transferred to another city or state for his job, we could be ready to roll in a matter of days instead of the many weeks it took previously.  I try to embrace minimalism in terms of keeping only what we truly use on a regular (or at least a seasonal) basis. Clothes we outgrow or don't wear for over six months are automatically out of there. Same rule for toys. We have a "one in, one out" rule for both clothes and toys now (and gadgets, etc.)  For example, I really wanted an ice cream maker, so I had to part with the chocolate fountain that I love (but seriously have used like three times EVER). :)

I also try really hard to keep up with things like making sure to quickly paint over scuffs or stains on the walls, repairing shutters that are broken in our indoor soccer games, replacing ripped screens on windows, etc. I remember the hell that getting our house ready to show on the market was, and I never want to repeat that! I hope and expect that we will be in this house for at least the next ten years, but not only would be be showing/moving ready if the time came, but we are able to enjoy our house a lot more while we are still in it!!

I have finally pared down our seasonal decorations, mementos, sports equipment, etc. to just what remains in our garage. I also thought I would be more likely to keep up with it if I tried to think of our garage like any other room in our house by painting it and adding a little decor. It actually is the most important room in our house, because we park in there and enter our house through the garage, so I want to make sure it sets the right tone when we enter at the end of a long day! :)

In short, start small, start big, just start SOMEWHERE. Have a big old pile out on your curb each month for bulk trash and donate the stuff that is still usable! Take pictures of anything you feel sentimental about. (I mean, keep the things you feel REALLY sentimental about (i.e. your kid's first pair of ballet shoes, but be prepared to be really ruthless. You will be SO glad to be FREE of the clutter. It really does change the way you live.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Easy bathroom wall redo and bench from Amazon!

Our bathroom wall has bugged me since we moved in three years ago. The previous owners had hung a full-sized towel bar randomly way high up on the wall on the opposite side of the room from the shower--and, in total pet peevery, had hung it slightly crooked. I removed it from the wall, but they had internal anchors, so it pulled two big holes in the wall. We didn't have any of the paint to match (not sure why they went with a sage when the cabinets are blue/gray, but hey--whatever.)  So I hung some canvases over the holes, but it didn't look right. So I decided to patch the holes and paint 12-nch stripes on the wall in white to cover them.

Then I went to Michaels and got some little wooden crates that painted white and hung on the walls over the patched areas and filled them with flowers and an oil diffuser. Much better! But the wall  still looked kind of empty, and we needed a place to store a few supplies for haircutting (I cut everybody in our family's hair), so I found  great little white wooden storage bench on Amazon. I love it! It was cheap, cute, and super easy to assemble (took about 20 minutes).  Here's a link if you want one! (It would also look cute with some baskets in the bottom to hold towels (or shoes if you made it an entry way bench).

Next step is to replace the ugly can light in the ceiling with a chandelier, and then I think I'll be very happy with our bathroom--finally! :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My tiny and always-organized "wallet"

For years I had a huge wallet that took up a lot of room in my purse and was always stuffed with receipts, change and all manner of outdated cards and junk. Not to mention how hard it was to struggle my ID out of the little plastic pocket when I needed to hand it over at the airport, when buying adult beverages, etc.

So in the spirit of making life a little easier, I got a mini accordion card holder so now I only have the cards I actually need/use and no room to load it up with junk! :). It folds open so each card is very easy to get out and use!

How to organize and remember to use gift cards

I love gift cards! I love giving them because you know it's a gift that will be used and appreciated, and I love getting them! I just have a very hard time remembering to use them because we keep them in a drawer at home. Not helpful!! So in an effort to organize them and get them in a spot where we'll remember to spend them, I got a small accordion file from Target where I made the categories of cards that we have and now keep it in the (locked) glove box of the car so they are always with us!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to go plastic-free with kids!

So I'm not a total paranoid freak, I promise. I just don't love plastic. I know that a few years ago, BPA came out as a culprit in plastic that is potentially linked to cancer. I know there are many BPA-free plastic options out there. But I just prefer to avoid it for several reasons: (1) who knows what else may be in there that we just don't know is harmful yet?; (2) it's not super durable when it comes to many dishwasher sessions; (3) it eventually begins to scratch and and stain, no matter what kind it is! Sooo . . . we have been slowly eliminating plastic over the past few years. I know it seems like a tough thing to do if you have kids, as most kid-marketed things are plastic, but we've found some products we love!

First, our LunchBots stainless steel bento boxes. I love them because they are durable, affordable, and they don't require little containers within containers, so there's only one thing to throw into the dishwasher at the end of the day! They fit easily into a standard-sized zipper lunch bag with a plenty of room left for a drink. I think they're superior to the planet box bentos for several reasons: (1) they are far more affordable; (2) they are deeper so you can put larger fruit like strawberries in there without having to cut them up; (3) they have a compartment large enough for a full-sized sandwich. 
 Klean Kanteen stainless steel sports bottles with a silicone top. They make big ones--enough to hold plenty of ice and water for outdoor sports and camps. They have a sling available so you can carry them over your shoulder. They come in all sorts of great colors! They are leak-proof (truly.) My only minor knocks: they haven't yet come out with an insulated bottle that works with the sports spout. They have an insulated bottle, but the sports spout doesn't fit with it, but they swear they are working on that (I called to ask!) Also, the paint will eventually begin to chip a bit in the dishwasher, but still well worth it to be able to not have to wash them by hand! :)
I also love the Zulu glass sports bottles with the flip-top lids. No straw--yay! They lock tightly so they won't accidentally spring open, and they don't leak. They are fairly shatter-proof (Zane actually did break one in his t-ball dugout, but it came into pretty fierce contact with the metal bench.) :)  Given the fact that we broke one, I prefer to use them for my husband and myself, but would be great for older kids as well. The Zulu bottles are available at Target!
As for day-to-day drinking and eating ware for the kids, we all drink out of glass jelly jars, which you can get in the canning section of your grocery store. In the three or so years that we have all been drinking out of them (starting when my daughter was four and my son was one), we have only broken one! :) Our kids just eat on our regular ceramic plates and eat with regular metal silverware. The reason for all of this is actually twofold: (1) no plastic; (2) it teaches them to be careful and responsible with their stuff!