My Coziest Spot

For the past six years or so, I have been following Mix and Match Mama’s blog and while I’ve always enjoyed reading her link ups, I’ve never participated. This year, however, she started a new monthly linkup with her friend Erika called “Let’s Look” where bloggers take a little peek at little things in your life.

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I thought this was such a fun idea! I plan to participate each month which means there will be an extra post some weeks. I hope you enjoy following along!

This month’s topic was “let’s look at the coziest spot in your house” and for me, this was a no brainer. The coziest spot in my house is right here.

This little corner of our oversized couch from Costco. Which, let’s be honest, most often looks like this. Just keeping it real around here – ha! 😉

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Our house does have a more traditional living room but when we moved in, Justin and I decided to use this little den space for our couch and TV instead of create an office or dining room. Now it’s also where we keep LJ’s toys and since we rearranged the ottoman and added a baby gate to block off the wide doorways, it’s become a playroom as well.

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This little room has become the hub of our family life at home and in this room, the chaise lounge is my spot.sheldon meme

The oversized chaise lounge means there is plenty of room for pillows and a huge cozy plush blanket. It’s the perfect place to lounge and read a book or cozy up and watch TV. It’s even big enough for Justin to have room to sit next to me when we’re watching a movie or Macie to snuggle up next to me while I’m reading.

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My spot is positioned next to a wide doorway so I can see this little table set up in our hallway where I often have a candle going. Is there anything cozier than a snuggly blanket, a book, and a candle burning?

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Actually, yes! Just add a Christmas tree. NOW it’s the coziest. 🙂 I so loved having this view all December and am just  sad I didn’t really take a picture from this spot until I had already taken most decorations down. (And the book recommendation also came from Mix and Match Mama – thanks Shay!)

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While not technically taken from the actual couch, here’s what my view often looked like this season. ❤

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Since we spend so much time in this room as a family, my spot is also home to LJ’s diaper caddy because who says a spot can’t be cozy and practical? It sure makes life easy when we’re all hanging out here.

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This spot is where I get lots of good reading done. It’s where I cry watching This is Us. It’s where I curl up when I need an afternoon nap. It’s where I get lots of snuggles when LJ isn’t feeling well. It’s even where I wrote this very blog post. It is my very favorite spot in the house and it is definitely the coziest.

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Even Macie agrees!

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What is the coziest spot in your house?

 

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#DeclutterLikeAMother Week One

What is it about January that always makes me want to clean? It’s like the Christmas decorations come down and I’m immediately ready to simplify my space and start fresh.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy listening to the podcast The Purpose Show and #DeclutterLikeAMother was created as a free, month-long challenge by the host, Allie Casazza. What I most like about this challenge is its simplicity: each week she gives you a focus area for de-cluttering and for 30 minutes each day, you zone in on whatever that area is and clear out any unneeded/unwanted/unused items. There are a few emails and live streams sent out with tips and strategies each week but it’s not overly structured. There is a big emphasis on progress, not perfection. The goal isn’t to have your house completely and perfectly de-cluttered by February 1, but to just focus on doing a little bit each day and over time these little things will add up to a big change in the way your home looks and feels.

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Week One: Bathrooms & Closets

The first week of the challenge was spent on bathrooms and closets. To be honest, I didn’t expect to get rid of much in our bathroom because it didn’t feel very cluttered to begin with. Boy, was I wrong. Once I got started, I was shocked by how much excess we had there. I really tried to focus on being ruthless with keeping the items that get used and not items that I “maybe would use someday in the future.” For example, I never felt like I had an overabundance of nail polish (I had over 20 bottles), but when I really looked at the ones I use, I realized I always end up rotating between the same 7-8 colors with maybe an oddball color thrown in every once in a while. Just eliminating the excess allowed me to store other things in that drawer and keep it nice and organized!

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Besides nail polish, some of the items I got rid of include old makeup (one cosmetic item I had bought for my high school prom – over ten years ago!), toiletry samples, teeth whitening kits from 6+ years ago, extra makeup brushes, products we bought and then never fully used up because we didn’t like them/they didn’t work/we didn’t need the whole amount, and so. many. contact. cases. (It feels like every box of contact solution now comes with a contact case and I cleared out at least 15 cases).

I have to admit, it feels good to open a drawer in the bathroom now and know it’s only going to contain items I need. I also cleaned out the linen closet in our master bath and even just the little changes, like consolidating two open band-aid boxes into one box, really did make a big difference.

When I moved on to closets, I decided not to focus on clothes this time but instead chose to clean out other closets. Our under-the-stairs utility closet got a refresh, with me tossing some old cleaning products I never use or empty bottles I kept for one reason or another. Extra gear (scarves, hats, gloves) that we don’t use anymore got taken out of the coat closet. Puzzles and games we no longer play, Christmas decor I don’t use anymore, old candles I didn’t actually like the smell of, all got put in boxes. It’s really amazing how refreshing it is to see these spaces now that they only have what we need and use.

Of course, after decluttering, there’s always the question of “what do I do with all this stuff now?” I do one of four things: donate, sell, recycle, or trash. Honestly, nothing about this system is revolutionary but it feels good to have a plan with where things are going to go.

1. Donate locally

I know sometimes large organizations get so many donations that they’re unable to keep everything, but there are many smaller local organizations to consider. I found a local non-profit that helps women and children experiencing a homeless crisis and dropped off a bag of donations yesterday – they were so happy to receive hats, scarves, gloves, contact cases, and the unused sample toiletry items I had from hotels. I’m so happy that items I wasn’t using can now be used by someone else in my community!

2. Sell items

I already sold one game on Facebook marketplace, and other items that still have good value got boxed up for our HOA yard sale. It’s always nice to get a little money for items I no longer want to hold on to!

3. Recycle when possible

Old product bottles got rinsed out and recycled. Cardboard boxes also got put in the recycle bin. Textiles, such as old sheets or worn out clothing, will to my local H&M in their textile recycling program.

4. Trash if needed

If an item can’t be donated, sold, or recycled, it likely needs to get tossed in the trash. It’s always my last resort and so far I’m pretty proud that most items I’ve cleared out during this challenge could go to one of the first three options.

I’m not perfectly following the challenge. Sometimes, I have 30 minutes to spare, some days I have more, and other days I don’t spend a single minute. Just doing what I can is enough for me and it feels good to refresh these spaces throughout my house!

Do you get the urge to purge in January? What spaces may seem little but make a big impact when they’re cleaned out?

 

 

#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

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Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!

Saying No

Today I wanted to talk about something that may seem small, but has been huge for me in simplifying life: saying no.

I used to be a people pleaser, and this led to me saying “yes” to a lot of things. Would I sit on this committee? Yes. Would I sign up to bake/make/take x,y,z? Sure. Would I like to play on this intramural sports team? Of course! Would I help with this extracurricular? This ministry at church? This community organization? Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes I really wanted to do whatever I was being asked to do and sometimes I said yes out of a sense of obligation but either way, I hardly ever said no. As you can imagine, my schedule would get quite full and overwhelming at times.

Things changed a few years ago when I read a book called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. I feel bad simplifying this book into just a sentence or two because it was full of wisdom on the topic, but since I don’t have time now for a full review, I’ll just say if you’re feeling over-obligated, you should read this book. My main takeaway was this: if I say “yes” to too many things, when something I really want to do or feel called to help with comes along, I am not able to give it my best self because I’m stretched too thin with everything else. I need to be willing to say “no” to things that aren’t a good fit for me so that I can say yes to things that are.

So simple, but so powerful! I felt such a weight lifted off my shoulders reading this. I don’t have to feel guilty for saying no to something because saying no allows me to say a big YES to something else. For example, I recently had to say no to being on a committee at church that would have required regular evenings meetings – as valuable as I know that committee is, it would have been too much for me to juggle right now with our evening routine and LJ’s bedtime. But I was able to say yes to taking a family meal over to the home of a woman in my small group who just had a baby. I had the space in my schedule to do this since my evenings weren’t already full with other obligations and I could coordinate one evening with Justin to make sure he was home from work in time to watch LJ while I delivered the food.

Now I’m not saying you should only do what you want to do. There are things in life that we sometimes have to do even though we’d rather not. I’m just saying that for things where you do have a choice, it is okay to say no to overloading yourself. It is okay, and in fact, necessary, to say no to stretching yourself too thin. I am so much happier when I have a few things that I can give my very best to rather than lots of things that I am spreading all my energy between. If I’m spread too thin, I don’t have anything left in the tank for my family and myself at the end of the day and that’s not what I want. So I need to say no sometimes (and side note: “No.” is a complete sentence. Don’t feel like you have to offer a huge explanation other than “no, sorry I can’t do that right now.”)

As we enter the holiday season, I find that it’s extra appealing to try to say yes to everything. There are so many fun, festive things happening and we don’t want to feel like we’re missing out. It’s also a time of year where nostalgia and tradition reign supreme and we want to do all the same things we’ve always done. All the sudden, in the span of time between Thanksgiving and December 25, we’re cramming in decorating our house, baking cookies, caroling, wrapping presents, moving Elf on a Shelf, creating holiday crafts, taking carriage rides, building snowmen, looking at lights, watching parades, making hot chocolate, using Advent calendars, watching Christmas plays, attending holiday parties, standing in line to take pictures with Santa, sending out holiday cards, assembling gingerbread houses, buying donations for Toys for Tots, etc. etc. etc. While each of those activities can be rewarding and enjoyable on its own, it can be absolutely exhausting to try to do everything.

I know how alluring all the holiday activities are, but I also know that I’m happier when I choose do only do the ones I’m most excited about. For example, I’ve learned that I love going to my friend’s annual cookie exchange, but I felt way too overwhelmed two years ago when I baked sugar cookies from scratch and frosted each individually. It was such a stressful day! This year, I was more than happy to use store-bought chocolate chip peanut butter cookie dough (gasp!) and feel much more relaxed the day of the party. I had a great time and no one cared (or possibly even knew!) that the cookies weren’t homemade.

Yesterday I was talking with a woman in a mom’s group I’m part of. We recently had a Favorite Things party with this group but she did not attend. She told me “you know what, I know it would have been a lot of fun and I wanted to come, but I’m in a Christmas choir and we’ve had practice every Sunday and my weekends have just seemed so busy lately. I needed some time at home with my family so something had to give and I decided to nix the party.” I thought this was such a wise decision! Squeezing in one more party might have pushed her over the edge of happily enjoying the holidays into being crazy stressed and exhausted by the holidays. It’s so important to know our limits and just say no to some things!

One other thing I’m saying “no” to is two blog posts this week. With Christmas less than one week away, I need to focus my energy on enjoying time with family and preparing for holiday travel (we’ll be gone for 10 days). So this is my only blog post this week. And I’m much happier than if I tried to squeeze in two amidst everything else.

I want to hear from you! Do you find that saying “no” to some things helps you enjoy your “yeses” more?

 

Things I love: Podcasts!

When we first brought LJ home from the hospital and I was transitioning to life as a stay-at-home mom, I quickly began to crave a little adult interaction in my days. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being LJ’s mama and was so grateful to be able to spend my days with him, but I did still want a little mental stimulation beyond baby everything. Since we couldn’t always leave the house, I started listening to podcasts while LJ napped and I picked up around the house. Then I started listening to them during drives or when we went for a walk together. It didn’t take long before I was hooked and now whenever I find myself doing a fairly mindless task like loading the dishwasher or folding laundry, I start a podcast episode.

Today I thought I would just share a list of some of my go-to favorite podcasts, as well as some honorable mentions. Enjoy!

Happier

This is the first podcast I ever listened to and to this day, it is my favorite. I’ve said it many times already, but I absolutely love Gretchen Rubin’s writing. Her books (The Four Tendencies, The Happiness Project, Better than Before, etc) have made a serious impact on my life and I find her research and work completely fascinating. This podcast is one she does with her sister Liz Craft, a TV writer and producer in LA. The podcast focuses on tips and strategies for building healthier habits and happier lives. It is just a fun podcast! They always have practical tips to try and I enjoy their sister dynamic. I highly recommend checking this out – I think people young, old, male, female, single, married, with kids or not, would take away something each episode.

The Purpose Show

This one is geared towards mamas and I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. It’s hosted by Allie Casazza and her mommin’ philosophies are pretty darn similar to my own. She is a minimalist mama who likes to keep things simple and she shares tons of tips for streamlining routines, living with less, and other random life/mama tips. She talks about having less toys (preach, girl!), decluttering, living with intention and home school (I don’t always listen to those episodes because they don’t apply to me but I’m sure they’re helpful to mamas who do). My favorite tip she gave is to do one “micro” load of laundry every day – while I don’t have quite enough laundry to do one each day, it did inspire me to not wait until the laundry mountain piles up. This is a great one for mamas looking to, eh-hem, simplify the chaos of motherhood. 😉

Rise Together

This podcast is hosted by Dave and Rachel Hollis and is centered around marriage. It’s a fairly new podcast (started in July) but already has a lot of really great content. Dave and Rachel are funny and relatable – it feels like I’m just listening in on an enjoyable conversation they’re having. They talk about everything from resolving conflict to relationship habits, to sex, to growth in your relationship and more. I enjoy listening to their tips and experiences and always feel like I take at least one great point away from each episode.

Goal Digger

If you don’t know Jenna Kutcher, you should. She is a photographer turned business guru who shares tons of tips for helping you build your dream career. I have to admit, I don’t listen to every episode but I pick and choose ones that I think apply most to me and I’ve always enjoyed them! I especially think people who are trying to get a business or side gig going would really appreciate her insights but even if you don’t, there are lots of episodes about other things. I especially appreciate that she speaks so openly about body positivity and hard topics like miscarriage (she’s had two and shares her experiences to help others). She’s relatable and easy to cheer for and I enjoy listening!

Honorable Mentions

The Dave Ramsey Show

I feel like many people have heard of Dave Ramsey, and you either love his plan to financial freedom or you don’t. I do like listening to his podcast occasionally, although I don’t listen to every episode (there are thousands of episodes) and I feel like I gain more insight into finances work and ways to “live like no one else” so our little family can meet our financial goals.

Binge Mode

This is a podcast that binges out on one thing in pop culture at a time. Right now, they’re binging on the Harry Potter franchise but they’ve previously binged Game of Thrones. I really love Harry Potter and I enjoy listening to them analyze the franchise; however, this is in the honorable mentions category because I haven’t listened to tons of episodes. This podcast is a commitment – when I say they binge, I mean they BINGE. The first episode of discussing Harry Potter was 82 minutes long and only got the the first five chapters of book ONE. So you can imagine, this is hours upon hours of intricately discussing every aspect of the books and movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I wish I had this back in the days of my long commute to work. It’s just not one I can devote tons of time to right now. But if you love Harry Potter, it’s worth checking out (and I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I’m sure their season binging that is good too!) There are spoilers though so keep that in mind if you haven’t read everything!

What other podcasts should I be listening to? I’d love to hear about what the ones you enjoy!

Macie & Scout: Our First Babies

LJ tends to steal the show around here, but today I thought I’d share a little bit about the two fur babies that complete our little family. Today is all about Macie & Scout!

Justin and I always knew that we wanted to have a dog at some point. While we didn’t expect to get one at the start of our marriage, when two of Justin’s good friends bred their two labs together and offered us one of the puppies as a wedding gift, we joyfully accepted. In July 2013, on our one-month anniversary we became parents to eight-week-old Macie.

Macie is a pure lab mix. Her dad was a huge yellow lab and her mom was a small, field bred black lab. She was a spunky whirl of energy from the beginning!

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Puppy Macie with her dad, a 90 lb yellow lab!

Macie is very smart and she picked up on her training really quickly. Honestly, she made puppy parenthood a breeze. She crate-trained easily, she learned new tricks, and while she kept her high-level puppy energy for a full two years, she was usually very obedient. We loved taking her with us everywhere and to this day her enthusiasm for everything (snow, swimming, fetch, hiking, etc) makes her such a fun dog to have around!

After about six months with Macie, we started to feel a little bad for her. She had SO much energy and we were both so busy (me with my full-time job 40 minutes away and Justin with his full-time schooling) that we started talking about getting a second dog at some point so she would have a little buddy and not be bored. Macie is so sweet and fun but she can be a little bit clingy – ha!

While a second dog was in the back of our minds as a “someday” possibility, we weren’t seriously looking into it. But in January 2014, my friend found two small puppies outside her home. She lives in a wooded area and it was clear that the two puppies had been dumped into the woods by their previous owners. Did you catch that it was January? These poor puppies had been dumped in the snow and left to fend for themselves.  My friend already had two dogs and couldn’t keep the puppies; another friend of hers had claimed one of them but the other was still in need of a safe, loving home. We drove out to Ohio “just to see” if this puppy would be the right fit for us but I think Justin and I both knew we were going to take this puppy in. One look at his sweet little brown eyes and we were all in!  Enter Scout.MS6.jpgAfter verifying that no one had called in to the shelter reporting missing puppies and that he didn’t have any collar, tracker, or identification, we took him home and he instantly became the missing piece to our little family.

Macie took to her little brother right away. I think it helped that she had only been with us for six months so she wasn’t too set in her only-dog ways. She and Scout also naturally fit the alpha and beta dog dynamics and fell into a brother-sister groove quickly. It made us so happy to see them bond from the start!

It was pretty apparent from the beginning that Scout had experienced trauma in his early life. The vet determined he was likely about 12 weeks old but it was difficult to tell exactly because he was malnourished. He had two types of worms in his belly and had frostbite on his belly and the tip of his tail. He was super skittish and fearful of new things. He resisted his crate and howled and cried when we tried to put him in it. It was heartbreaking! His training was completely different than Macie’s and our goal first and foremost was for him to be healthy and feel safe and loved.  Scout was never comfortable with crate-training and we decided not to force it for our own reasons. We eventually got to the point where both dogs could hold their bladders all day and not destroy things – since then we have let them roam the house when we’re not there. It was worked really well with very few mishaps.

Today, Scout is still skittish about loud noises (he always hides during thunderstorms) and he likes to perch on our staircase landing where he can see everything going on around him. For the most part though, he has really come out of his shell! He is a happy, lovable dog. He’s content to just snuggle and loves to have his belly rubbed. He warms up to people quickly and has the sweetest personality.

Our dogs were always our babies and we loved doing things with them. We took them on vacation, we went for long walks, we’d go swimming in a nearby river, we’d play frisbee in a park, we’d snuggle on the couch – whatever we could include them in, we did!

When I became pregnant, I worried about how the dynamic would change. Macie and Scout always did great with small children and we knew that they would be good siblings to a human baby, but I wondered if they would mind a baby that was now in their space all the time. I also worried because Scout is still naturally very skittish around new things so I worried he would be afraid of the new baby gear everywhere, the toys, the noise, the stroller, etc. We spent a lot of time letting them hang out in the nursery and sniffing LJ’s things so that when we finally brought him home, they weren’t stressed out by the new arrival.

I needn’t have worried. Macie and Scout LOVE LJ and have totally adjusted to his presence in our house. Scout was pretty quick to learn not to fear any of the baby gear and we’re able to go on family walks without him being afraid of the stroller. It has been so fun to see the three of them learn to love one another. LJ loves to watch the dogs and giggles when they do tricks. They tolerate his baby pats, they lay next to him on the floor, they love hanging out in his nursery. They always want to be near him! They are honestly just the sweetest with each other and it never fails to melt my mama heart!

If I had to pick one thing that really sealed Macie and Scout’s love for their little bro, I think it would be the high chair. Meal times are now their favorite time of day and if LJ is in his high chair they are never far away. They’re always ready to catch dropped scraps. Haha!

It has actually become a liiiiiiiittle bit of a problem because LJ loves to feed them and will often intentionally throw food down to Macie or hold food out to Scout. We’re going to have to work on that one!

While things are a little different now that we have a human baby, our dogs have always been our babies. We love them so much and are so happy as a family of five. ❤

 

The simplified cleaning routine that keeps me sane

Last Friday, I hosted a Favorite Things party for some girlfriends at my house. The party was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and around 3:00, Justin walked in to the kitchen as I was catching up on a few things on my laptop. The kitchen table had papers, books, and other random things all over it. I was still unshowered and in sweatpants. I had spent exactly zero minutes of my day up to that point preparing our house for the party. Justin took in the scene and his exact words were “I can’t believe you’re not freaking out right now.”

Let’s back up quick. For the first few years of our marriage, I became a bit of a monster whenever people were coming to our house. Have you seen that video that periodically circulates with the guy pretending to be a crazy mom preparing for company in full-on panic mode: yelling at everyone and running around in a clean-up rage? Yeah, that was me. I would get snappy, I would rush around, I would be in a frenzied state of cleaning/straightening/putting away/perfecting every single room of our house (what if people ask for a tour!?) and I was honestly not a fun person to be around. It got to the point where Justin dreaded us hosting something because I became such a crazy person beforehand. Around two years ago, he finally said “why are we even doing this? This isn’t fun anymore.”

And you know what? He was right. It wasn’t fun.

At its core, I love hosting. I love having people over and want our home to be a cozy, comfortable space where people can gather together and have good fun, great conversations, and fulfilling fellowship. It is important to me to have meaningful relationships and be able to open up our home to others.

But the preparations were killing me.

It’s not fun to panic. It’s not fun to rush around. It’s not fun to yell at your husband to pleasedothisRIGHTNOWbecausepeoplearecomingoversoon! It’s not fun to spend the four hours before a party as a stressed-out hot mess who is frantically cleaning every surface of her house. Something had to give.

When I took a good look at each situation and where the primary stress was coming from, I realized I was mostly stressed about getting our house in order. Our home isn’t even very large but it seemed to take so much time to pick up and clean before guests come over. So about 18 months ago, I came up with a system to reduce stress in this area.

My system is simple: every day I have one cleaning task.

Y’all, I’ve seen all the Pinterest checklists and charts for cleaning and staying on top of your house. To be honest, even those can overwhelm me. Working full-time as a teacher left me with a limited amount of time to keep up with our house. Even now that I stay at home, I still don’t have a ton of time during the day to devote to cleaning. I needed to create a system where I could spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes each weekday cleaning. So I assigned ONE manageable task to each day and try my best to accomplish it. This system might not work for everyone, but it has worked absolute wonders for my sanity so I thought I would take you through what I do on an average day. I even timed how long it takes me to do each task so you can see exactly how much time I need to devote to maintaining a general sense of order (spoiler alert: it’s not much time!)

My Simplified Cleaning Routine

Monday: Dust every surface.

Let’s be honest. Who likes dusting? I’m guessing no one. I could probably get away with dusting less, but with two dogs in our house, I like knowing dog hair and other dust isn’t collecting on surfaces so I start my week off with this task. It also keeps me from cluttering up my shelves because I don’t want to have to dust a lot of knick-knacks. 🙂 I use this dusting mitt to quickly wipe down all surfaces. I live in a two-story house and it took me 7 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface downstairs and 4 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface upstairs (including the guest room, which took 45 seconds on it’s own but is often a room I can skip if it hasn’t been used). Total time: 11 minutes and 6 seconds

Tuesday: Clean the bathrooms.

Bathrooms are honestly my least favorite thing to clean so I choose products that make the task as simple and enjoyable as possible. I use this window cloth and a spray bottle with water to clean all mirrors. I’m a huge fan of the Better Life cleaning brand so I use their all-purpose cleaner and kitchen and bath scrubber for various surfaces. I keep all my bathroom cleaning essentials in a large bucket so I can carry it to whichever bathroom I’m cleaning and have exactly what I need:

Bathroom Cleaning Supplies

Simple as that! We have 2.5 bathrooms but I often don’t have to clean the guest bathroom because it’s only used if we have guests. It takes me 3 minutes and 4 seconds to clean the half bath,  8 minutes and 14 seconds to clean our master bath, and 4 minutes and 48 seconds to clean our guest bath. Total (minus guest bath): 11 minutes and 18 seconds. Total (all three): 16 minutes and 6 seconds.

Wednesday: Clean the kitchen area.

When I say I’m cleaning the kitchen, I don’t mean I’m scrubbing out the oven or wiping out the refrigerator. This is most definitely not a deep clean, but a surface level cleaning just to maintain order. I wipe down all counters (again with the cleaner I love) and the stovetop and spray down and clean out the sink and microwave. The total time varies based on the state of the kitchen to begin with, because we have a combined kitchen/dinig room. The table is often a dump zone for mail and other random papers and items. So I timed how long it took me to just clean every surface of the kitchen and also how long it took if I put the extra time into clearing off the table. It took 4 minutes and 9 seconds to clean the kitchen and another 4 minutes and 47 seconds to clear off the table. Total time: 8 minutes and 57 seconds.

Oh and just for the record, I did time how long it took me if I went next-level and wiped down the front of the fridge/dishwasher/stove and it took an average of 30 seconds per appliance. I use a special stainless steel spray for those and maybe wipe them down once a month or whenever they look extra gross. Definitely not every week!

Thursday: Floors.

This task varies the most from week to week because it depends how much time I have and how the floors look. We have two dogs so you can imagine the state of our floors if we don’t regularly keep up. Honestly, once we had a baby crawling around, our standards for how clean the floors should be got much higher. For my 30th birthday, all I asked for was money towards a Roomba (if that’s not a sign of adulthood, I don’t know what is) and we were able to get a good deal on one. It has been a game changer with keeping up with dog hair throughout the week!

Even with the Roomba, I still spend time each week on the floors. Sometimes I will take our Bona across the first floor but I often don’t have time for that extra step so I will just vacuum all the floors. It takes me 14 minutes and 8 seconds to vacuum the first floor and 8 minutes and 43 seconds to vacuum the stairs and second floor. Total time: 22 minutes and 51 seconds.

Friday: Flex day to catch up on a missed day.

Guys. Life happens. One day LJ might be feeling sick or we might have a lot going on outside the home. Maybe I only had time to clean one bathroom earlier in the week or only vacuumed one floor. Each week is different but by building in this flex day, I keep from feeling guilty or overextending myself earlier in the week by knowing I can catch up on Friday. If all the cleaning got done earlier in the week, Friday becomes a day to throw in a load of laundry or clean a little deeper or just relax!

Maybe it sounds overly simplified, but honestly, this system has changed SO much in my life. By spending a tiny amount of time maintaining each day, I don’t freak out when guests come over. I wasn’t panicking last Friday before my party because I had done a little bit each day and my house was mostly clean and just was going to need a small bit of tidying. Justin and I both agree it has made a huge difference with our stress levels!

Beyond making life easier for hosting, this system has other benefits. Even if I only spent 3 minutes cleaning the half bath, I feel like I’ve accomplished something each day. If someone pops by without warning, maybe my kitchen is a mess but the bathrooms are clean! My house rarely feels like a complete disaster because at least one portion of it was addressed that day. I want my home to be a haven for our family and that doesn’t happen if it looks like a tornado came through so a little each day goes a long way towards keeping it clean and calm.

I know this post is already super long, but I have a few other small things to add:

Stay flexibleSome days I can’t get to my task. Other days I have extra time and can double up on tasks. Sometimes I can clean during LJ’s naptime. Other times he’s in his high chair eating a snack while I wipe down the kitchen.  I honestly don’t stress out about an exact system. I just do what I can and I know things will eventually get done.

Tidy up before bed. I clean up LJ’s toys every night. I know he’ll just get them out again the next day but it helps me to start fresh each day. Plus, if you read my toy post, you know it only takes about 90 seconds to clean up the playroom.

Time yourself! It wasn’t until I thought about doing this post that I timed how long it took me to do each task but honestly I was shocked by how little time each task took. I dislike cleaning bathrooms but if I know it’s only going to take 3 minutes to get the half bath done, the work seems so much easier. Now it’s even a little bit of a nerdy game for me where I try to see how fast I can get the task done (I did time a few tasks again just to see the results: dusting took 11 minutes and 26 seconds total, half+master bath took 10 minutes and 57 seconds, vacuuming upstairs took 8 minutes and 29 seconds). I even started timing other random tasks (only 2 minutes and 33 seconds to unload the dishwasher!) – it just seems so much more manageable to know I can get so much accomplished in less than 15 minutes.

Stick to one task. Unless I truly have a lot of time on a particular day, I do not stress about more than the one task. There are days when my bathrooms are sparkling but my table is still covered in random stuff. If I can get to more than one thing in one day, great! But if I can’t, I refuse to feel bad about it. We live in this house. It looks lived in, like it’s supposed to. I know I am doing what I can and I’ll get to the rest another day.

What works best for you when keeping your house clean? Do you prefer doing a little each day or having one big cleaning day each week?