Lost in the Past

When I was originally approached about being a brand ambassador for Live On I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to set up an account and start putting together the timeline of my children’s lives. I’ve been uploading photos, adding events, recording voice overs and narrating their stories. It’s almost like creating a living scrapbook for my kids, something I know they will treasure someday.

But Live On wants to do more than help you capture the present and the future. They want to help you document the past too.

Enter Live On Rewind. A service that lets you send in your non-digital media for digital conversion. They send you a box, you fill it with pictures or media, they scan and digitize it and send it all back. (Really, just pop over there and read a little about them and what they do, they explain it so well).

I’ve spent the last 4 days immersed in photo albums, picture boxes and scrapbooks. There were stacks and stacks of 4×6 prints, gobs of old Polaroids and even a handful of old black and whites.

My original intent had been to just grab a pile of pictures and fill the box to be sent off. Obviously the fact that it took me 4 days should clue you in as to how well that went.

Honestly, I just got so lost in the vast sea of memories. I spent at least one day with my college photo albums. Apparently for four years my camera only came out during parties. I laughed and laughed and sent lots of picture texts to my friends reliving our “glory” days. I relived my husband and I’s…courtship…if one could really call it that.

I went through an entire box of pictures from junior high and high school. I can’t wait to put together a montage of all of my horrendous hair and fashion choices. I’m almost ashamed of myself. I relived the horror of former boyfriends and crushes. I pulled out an envelope of tiny wallet sized photos of classmates and friends with handwritten notes on the back. (Did everyone do that? Write personalized notes on the back of the school photos you handed out to friends?)

I went through stacks of pictures of myself from infant to toddler and realized that my children DO actually look like me, more than just the blue eyes! I also realize that they get the majority of their attitude from me as well, my goodness I could scowl from quite an early age.

In all those stacks I found pictures that made me laugh and cry, I remembered things long forgotten. I whittled down my stacks and put some of my favorites into the Live On Rewind box and will send them off tomorrow. I absolutely cannot wait to be able to gaze at those pictures on my computer whenever the mood strikes me. Bonus points for all the sharing and blog fodder it will surely provide.

I can’t tell you enough how much I encourage you all to check out this company and try their services. It’s so easy, just order a package and they send you everything you need. Use the code “cgc64” to receive 30% off your order. Seriously, it’s SO worth it. Protect your memories.

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Thank you to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please LiveOn to learn more about sharing and preserving your most important memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Imperfect Picture, Perfect Memory

Random fact about me: I have a pretty bad long term memory. I remember big events and some completely random ones but I’m definitely not one of those people who actually remembers her first trip to the zoo, or that really great Halloween party in my 4th grade classroom. I have several boxes of pictures from my childhood but for the most part the pictures are of the big moments. Birthday parties, graduations, high school dances, athletics.

I wish there were more pictures of the little moments, the day to day life. I wish that I could look through a few months of pictures and know what my favorite outfit was by the number of times it appears. I want to know what toys I was constantly playing with, what food I ate every day.

I think that’s why I save almost all the pictures I take of my kids even the ones that don’t turn out so well. See the evidence below. I tried to sit my kids down and take a picture of them in their new Christmas shirts. Apparently they had ants in their pants because sitting still was just not happening. In the midst of it, I was actually getting upset because all I wanted was just one picture. ONE. I could tell by looking at the camera that every picture was blurry. They were the kind of pictures that are often deleted right there on the spot. However, when I looked at the whole sequence on my computer, with all the pictures lined up side by side I couldn’t help but laugh.

I’m not sure there is a more accurate portrayal of my kids right now. Chase was trying so hard to follow my directions, he tried to “cheese” and put his arm around his sister. Katelyn was being her typical self, unable to sit still, refusing to let her brother hug her let alone kiss her on the cheek. While I didn’t get that one perfect-to-be-framed photo, I think the compliation of photos IS perfect.

I’m so glad I saved those photos and all the other imperfect shots of my kids. Someday those pictures will be the ones that tell the story of their day to day lives.

From the day I was born until I graduated college my life, in pictures, fits into exactly 4 photo boxes. I have over 12,000 photos since I’ve had kids. I think my kids will thank me some day.

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Thank you to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please LiveOn to learn more about sharing and preserving your most important memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

!IMPORTANT OFFER!

In addition to creating a space for you to upload, store and narrate your memories LiveOn also has a service to help you convert your older pictures to digital format. Visit LiveOnRewind to learn more about the process. It’s as easy as ordering a box and sending in your pictures, they handle the rest. Use the code HOLIDAYREWIND for 30% off your order. Enjoy and Happy Holidays to you all!

Organize Your Shopping Codes

Just the other day I was cleaning out my desk and I found a pile of cards from last year’s Blogher. For those of you who aren’t familiar Blogher is a conference that I attend that also has an expo center for all their sponsors. It’s very typical to get coupons and discount codes from the vendors. The pile that I found in my desk drawer contained a slew of discount codes for various products and services. I keep my regular coupons in my car but these were coupons and codes for shopping and services I would mainly do online. I missed out on a lot of great stuff by not having the information readily accessible.

I just got back from this year’s Blogher and again I came home with a handful of really great coupons and discount codes. There are a lot of great offers sitting in this pile, trust me.

I don’t want to miss out again so I decided to organize all my codes and discounts in one place. My go-to for digital organization is Google Documents. I know a lot of people use it for sharing spreadsheets and documents online but it’s also a really great organizational tool. The best part is you can access the information from anywhere. I routinely pull up Google documents on my phone when I’m out and about. It literally took me 15 minutes to set up a basic spreadsheet and enter all the information. Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like.

I kept it really simple listing the store/vendor name, the discount amount, expiration date if applicable, the code needed, the website and then a space for any extra notes. See the pink arrow up at the top? I wanted to point out that I marked this document as a favorite. Which is important for this next point.

This is a screenshot of my Gmail inbox, I have enabled the “Google Docs previews in mail” lab so I can easily access my favorite documents. If you aren’t using Gmail you could also just bookmark your document or place a shortcut in the bookmarks bar.

I think this system is going to work really nicely for keeping track of coupons, discounts and special offers for shopping that I do online. As soon as I get a flyer, coupon or even an email code I can quickly add it to my list and then shop when I have free time. A quick look at my spreadsheet will let me know which offers are about to expire so I’m sure (or at least more likely) to not miss out on any great deals.

Kids’ Closets: More Than Just Clothes Storage

A friend recently asked me for some tips on how to organize kids’ closets. So, Kate, this one’s for you!

This is my son’s closet.

1. Hang everything. Ok, not everything obviously, but everything that can be hung. The only things I keep folded are socks (and eventually underwear), pants/shorts and pajamas.

2. I love these drawers so much. The top one holds pants and shorts, whatever season it happens to be. The second one holds socks and shoes. and I keep the third for off-season pants and bulky sweatshirts.

3. I use this hanging shelf set to store all of Chase’s pajamas. I keep them separated by weight mostly; warm footies, lightweight footies, long sleeves/pants sets and t-shirts/short sets

4. Chase no longer has a changing table in his room so I keep this little rubbermaid drawer tower for diapers and wipes. I also keep trash bag liners (old wal-mart sacks) in the bottom drawer. Just to the right of that I keep a couple of empty tubs that I use for outgrown clothes. I find that keeping a tub open right there helps me keep up with the constant size changes.

5. A recent bout of purging gave me some extra space that I didn’t really need so right now I’m keeping all of Chase’s swim attire, beach towels and toys there.

6. Down on the floor on the left side of the closet you can see two big paper boxes. That’s where I keep a bunch of toys that Chase just isn’t old enough for yet. If you have older kids you can also just store some toys and rotate to keep things “new”.

7. I use the higher shelves for storage of blankets and sheets and other odds and ends stuff.

 

This is my daughter’s closet.


1. Again, I hang as much as possible, even all the little tiny newborn onesies. I promise you that all the hanging will actually make putting away laundry quicker and easier. Promise.

2. I had originally planned to use drawers made for a closet system like in Chase’s room but overbought furniture for Katelyn’s room so I put her dresser in the closet. It works the same way, socks, shoes, pants/shorts/skirts and pajamas fill up the drawers.

3. On top of her dresser I have cute little boxes and baskets to hold all of her hats and headbands. Pro tip: use a lined basket and clip any delicate flowers to the outside. It keeps them from getting crushed and bent.

4. Again I keep a tub for outgrown clothes in Katelyn’s closet but I also keep a tub with clothes in the next size up because she is still a baby and she grows really fast. The paper bag is for clothes she’s outgrown that I know I want to donate, things I know I won’t save for the next baby (assuming there is one).

5. I also have some extra shelf space in her closet so I store odds and ends up there.

6. I had some extra space on the left side of the closet but it would have been hard to reach regular shelves over there because of the dresser so here was my solution. I bought another set of hanging shelves and used a tension rod to hang them, because it hangs sideways it’s much easier to see and reach the contents. I keep extra shees, baby blankets, slings and small accessories here.

 

The Linen Closet Minus The Linens

One of my best general organizing tips is to think outside the box and use objects and spaces in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

For example: Here is our linen closet, a tiny closet located between the guest (kids) bedrooms. Normally you would use it to store extra sheets, blankets, towels and kitchen linens. We use it for everything but.

Here’s a closer look at the shelves. I use them to store cleaning products, a few bathroom extras and a few other miscellaneous items. The bathroom extras consist of spare bathroom/cosmetic bags (we all know how I like to keep those on hand), extra soaps and shampoos (things I buy in bulk) and items that don’t get daily use like tanning lotions and sunscreen. There are only a few cleaning items here because all my bathroom and kitchen cleaners are kept under the sinks in their respective areas. The larger shelves on bottom hold my steam cleaner, a small tool kit, water softener salt and extra toilet paper. I save the very top shelf for seldom used specialized cleaners and extra paper towels (we go through those much slower than toilet paper)

On the back of the door I hung a clear pocket shoe holder. In reality it has four pockets across but because of the size of the closet I couldn’t fit the whole thing on the door so I folded it in half. It’s all about making what you have work where you need it too. I use these pockets to store all kinds of small toiletries like travel size bottles, extra toothbrushes, disposable razors and even my various gel inserts for my dress shoes.

It’s always important to me to use every bit of available space and this closet is no different. The shelves are an inch or so shorter than the depth of the closet leaving a small gap. I’ve used a combination of small nails and wire hook command hangers to hang up my feather duster, swifter duster and my small swifter sweeper.

For those of you that are curious about where we hide all our linens, I’ll tell you. We only have one set of sheets for our bed, and our guest sheets are stored in space bags in our storage room. I keep all of our towels in their respective bathrooms and honestly I don’t own dining room linens of any kind. Someday when I grow up I’ll clear out a spot in my dining room hutch or a shelf here for them.

So tell me, if you have a linen closet, are you making the best possible use of it?

A Teeny Tidy Bathroom Space


One of the questions I get asked most frequently is how to make the most of a small bathroom. In my current master bathroom the toilet and shower area is separated by a pocket door, not counting the small stall shower the room is only 4 feet by 5 feet. Considering the small size I’ve managed to make use of a lot of storage in the small space. To take this picture I actually stood as far back in the shower as I could.

1. First, I keep a large wicker basket tucked in the corner to hold all of our extra towels.  Just in front of the basket is a small trash can and a scale. On the other side of the toilet is where I keep the toilet brush and a small toilet paper rack. There is a smaller wicker basket on the back of the toilet that holds extra hand towels.

2. On the side wall I have a basic wall mount hook rack, like you would use as a coat rack, mine was about $25 at Target. Nothing revolutionary here, we just use it to hang our current towels and my robe.

3. My biggest source of storage is my wall mounted medicine cabinet. We got ours at Lowe’s for about $70, it was a little tricky to hang but totally worth it.

Inside we keep all of our pharmacy type items. To help keep things neat and organized I purchased small baskets from wal-mart for the shelves. I actually found the baskets in the kitchen aisle with the drawer organizers. I keep all our medicines sorted by type in the baskets, cold/flu, allergy, tummy fixers, etc. As you can see I rip, or cut, one end of the boxes off just to keep it neat.

The cabinet only had two existing shelves so to add a little more space I rigged up a hanging basket. I used a wire drawer organizer and hung it with tiny command hooks. You can find the command hooks in the hardware section of any wal-mart or target, just make sure to get ones with slim wire hooks.

There you have it, some ideas on making the most of your limited bathroom space.

Gaming System Overload

It used to be that gaming systems only existed in the rooms of teenagers, college dorm and bachelor pads. These days more and more families are investing in video game systems as a way to spend quality time together, this means that the consoles, games and all the accessories are finding their way into family rooms. It can quickly become a chaotic mess of controllers, cords and game boxes. A few retailers carry video game caddies or stands but these can become cumbersome and may be an eye sore if stored in your gaming area doubles as your general living/entertaining area.

Here is a closer look at my entertainment center. All told our unit houses our cable box, wireless router, internet modem, computer back-up system and all of our gaming consoles, games and accessories (Playstation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS). The cable box and game consoles do run a little hot so I don’t recommend stacking them, if you are short on space invest in a wire shelf organizer (generally made for kitchen cabinets) to keep allow for air flow. To help disguise the shelf spray paint it to match the color of your entertainment center.

As you can see I keep our Wii Board underneath our entertainment center and our collection of gaming guitars are hidden behind the unit in the corner. If you aren’t able to use space behind or underneath your entertainment center consider keeping bulky items in a nearby coat closet, hanging on the wall behind the TV, or stored in another piece of furniture like an ottoman.

For the bottom shelves I purchased small canvas bins to keep all the games and accessories together. The bins on the left hold all of the Playstation games, cords and extra controllers and the bins on the right hold games and accessories for the Wii and DS. No matter what gaming system you own I can’t recommend enough that you spring for wireless controllers and a charging stand, it helps cut down on cord clutter and you’ll save a ton on batteries.

Happy gaming!

Friday Favorites – Cosmetic Bags

Friday Favorites is where I share with you all the fabulous little things I find. It may be a product, it may just be an idea, either way I think it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you. Enjoy.

It may sound silly but one of my favorite “products” is zippered cosmetic bags, I would venture to say that I have at least 30 of them hidden all over my house.


Here are a few of the places that I use them:

  • Bathroom: My everyday make up is kept all neat and tidy in a drawer organizer but I use bags to hold my make-up that stays in my travel bag. I also use them to hold extra toiletries such as spare sample/travel size shampoos and lotions.
  • Bedroom: I keep a couple in my nightstand drawers to hold small items such as pens and pencils, extra remote batteries and my stash of mints. I also use a long flat bag (more like a pencil case) to store my jewelry (wrapped in paper towels) when I’m traveling to keep it from becoming tangled.
  • Kid’s room: I keep small bags in each of the kids’ suitcases packed with travel bath products and their medicines as well as some other small toiletry type items. I leave the bags in their suitcases so it’s one less thing we have to think about packing. Larger bags are also the perfect size for holding a few small toys or crayons to keep little hands occupied at restaurants and doctor’s offices.
  • Office: I use several large bags to hold various electronic accessories such as camera cords, spare batteries, chargers and other odds and ends such as lens covers and headphones. I also keep a bag of my daily electronics like my spare camera battery and charger, phone cord and SD card reader.
  • Car: I keep a couple small bags in my center console, one to hold some emergency beauty supplies and another to hold my various car chargers.
  • Diaper bag: Small cosmetic bags are the perfect size to organize diaper bag necessities if you are using a bag that doesn’t have enough pockets.

Cosmetic bags aren’t hard to come by and can often be found for little or no money. Most of mine have been free gifts with purchase from a cosmetic counter at a department store. I’ve also purchased them at thrift stores and garage sales. Target and Wal-mart also usually have a pretty good selection with reasonable prices.

Efficiency in the Laundry Room

In a perfect world this would be my laundry room. It would be right off my kitchen. Ample storage for all the kitchen run-over, plenty of space to prepare, wash and fold my family’s laundry.

Instead I have a tiny six by ten foot room that houses the furnace, water heater, water softener AND my washer and dryer. Despite the small space I have managed to create an organized space for laundry and a little storage to boot.

The first thing I did was paint the room a bright cheery yellow. Let’s face it laundry isn’t the most festive of chores so every little bit helps. I’m not going to lie and say that I wish I had more laundry to do because I enjoy the room so much but sometimes I do hide from my kids in there. The smell of clean laundry is far better than the smell of a bathroom after all.

The next thing I did was put up a tension rod and hang a long panel curtain to hide the heating and cooling appliances. A shower curtain would have worked just as well but I happened to find this window panel on sale. It’s also worth noting that I bought the fabric panel first then bought paint to match, much easier that way.

When we moved in there was only one shelf above the washer and dry hook-ups so I added another in order to have room for all the laundry essentials. I keep everything I might need close at hand so I’m not running all over the house when it’s time to do laundry. On the top shelf I keep a small set of drawers that holds extra buttons, safety pins and a small sewing kit. There is also a wicker basket where all the unmatched socks go, once a month or so I sort through and see if the matches have managed to find each other. On the far left is a milk crate style basket that I keep old towels and cleaning rags in.

In order to keep my various spray bottles organized I hang them by the trigger from the edge of the top shelf, this keeps them all upright and orderly as the smaller ones have a tendency to fall over on the wire shelving. The second shelf holds all my large detergent bottles and a few lint rollers. On occasion I buy large boxes of powdered detergent and in that case I store it on the floor between the washer and dryer.

Another thing you will notice is the array of empty hangers, I found that keeping them in the laundry room made it so much easier to hang clothes directly out of the dryer and yes I keep them sorted by straight, slotted, padded and child sized. It may seem overly anal but it has drastically reduced the amount of time I spend getting clean clothes put away.

To add a little additional storage I added a small wire rack to the wall beside my washer. I found a rack that attaches directly to the wall but you could also buy an over the door rack (made for a pantry door) and modify it slightly. I use it to store a lot of odds and ends little things like light bulbs, flashlights, shoe polish and vacuum bags.

Here are a few more items I recommend keeping on hand in the laundry room:

1. Laundry sorter or basket. I keep laundry baskets in each persons room for dirty clothes but I also keep a double sorter in the laundry room for items like wet towels, bedding and kitchen rags.

2. Paper towel holder. I can’t tell you how many times I spilled laundry detergent or softener before I put this up.

3. Trash can. It may seem obvious but I’ve seen a lot of laundry areas without one. Keep a small bathroom sized can for dryer lint and clothes tags, mine is in the small space between my washer and dryer

It may not be my dream laundry room but for less than $50 I was able to make a really workable space that I actually enjoy.

Friday Favorites – Contain the Trash

Friday Favorites is where I share with you all the fabulous little things I find. It may be a product, it may just be an idea, either way I think it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you. Enjoy.

I came across this little dandy on Pinterest, it’s a plastic cereal dispenser turned trash can for the car. The flip top allows you to keep it closed to prevent spills and the tiny bathroom trash bags are a perfect fit.

You can follow me on Pinterest here.

Source: bhg.com via Jen on Pinterest