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What I Love About My Home

Our Porch

I love my porch in the autumn. We put up the buntings and painted the porch floor linen white, and cleared away the random assortment of toys, and I’ve been really enjoying spending time here now. Bix rides his scooter back and forth across the old, deeply ridged porch and it makes a satisfying railroad track sound as he coasts by, and I soak up the last rays of a warm early autumn. I love the trees on our street, especially now with the leaves changing against a deep blue sky. I love that all of the neighbors know Bixby.

I love our old wooden floorboards, and the way everything feels so snug at night — no one is ever far out of reach in this little place! I love the chalkboard wall we painted in Bixby’s room, and the big pompoms that look like snowballs strung across it. I love the way the heaters hiss in the winter. I love peeking out onto a snowy world and feeling utterly warm and safe in our little house. I love the hush of the first big snow.

I love our backyard, and the fact that we, with our own two four six hands have remade it from standard issue patch of lawn to chicken coop and yard, and then to ever-expanding veggie garden. I love sitting outside in the summer. I love leaving the windows open and listening to birdsong in the morning and crickets at night; even though we are officially in the “city”, there are far more creature sounds and busyness surrounding us than I ever had growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I love the moments spent curled up on our soft, velvety sofa, reading stories. I love the rows of glass canning jars filled with our homegrown pickles and dilly beans. I love the pencil marks on the kitchen doorjamb with handwritten dates recording how Bixby has grown. I love being able to walk to the farmer’s market down the street on a Saturday morning, or to the park to sit by the fountain, or on the grass with a picnic.

When we moved in here five years ago, it didn’t feel like home. It felt like it still belonged to someone else. Now, it feels like ours. Like we’ve made our mark on this little house, and it has made its own mark on us.

This post was my response to this creative assignment. Did you try it? If so, please feel free to share your own experience with it!

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Family Dinner

If you have little ones at home, you know that getting everyone to sit down at the table at the same time can feel next to impossible at times … let alone getting everyone to eat something (healthy)! I do think, however, that a bit of humor and a smidgen of extra fun at the table can make dinnertime a more pleasant experience for all involved. For example…

Fun finds for family dinner

Just about any food placed on this triceratops cake stand would make a kid smile.

Fun finds for family dinner

For picky don’t-let-my-food-touch-any-other-food kids, how about a cafeteria-style dinner tray?

Fun finds for family dinner

And when you crave a fancy dinner party, but know the good china will only get dropped and chipped, why not pull out a set of these gorgeous scalloped (unbreakable!) wood chargers, instead?

Come see the rest of my top 20 picks for the family dinner table on Houzz!

(Cake plate from the MoMA store; dinner tray from Schoolhouse Electric; wooden charger from Terrain)

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Follow Your Bliss Friday

Follow Your Bliss Friday

Happy Friday! It’s that time again — time to grab a cup of something yummy to drink, and give yourself the gift of a smidgen of time to pursue something important to you. Today’s FYBF is short and sweet, because I have an assignment to give you. It’s about finding some gratitude for things just as they are right now. I’m planning to do this for myself, too, and I will post about it next week!

Creative Assignment #1:

Spend at least 10 minutes straight examining what you love about your home right now. It could be anything from the objects in your home, to the color of a wall, the scent of blooms outside your window, or the sound of your child’s laughter echoing down the hall. If you like to write, write about it. If you are a photographer, do a photo essay. If you are an illustrator, draw your favorite room. If you like to talk, make a podcast! The point is both to tap into feelings of gratitude and rightness with your life where it is right now, and to flex your creative muscle. And have fun!

(image: Home of Jen and Mark on Apartment Therapy)

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Let’s Talk About Photo Organizing + Scrapbooking

Let me begin this by saying oy vey! I have a backlog of digital photos oh, about five years long, just sitting there, taking up all of the memory in my computer. I very rarely print photos, and aside from a few halfhearted attempts at sorting them into online albums, and the few books I have made to give family members, I have done nothing with them. And that’s sad! If you are in the same boat, read on — and if you are super organized about your photos, please just skip to the Comments section and give me some advice!

A Beautiful Mess - Scrapbooking

The thing is, I remember the time before owning a digital camera, when I would actually print all of my photos, physically sort through them, and put the good ones in albums. I loved getting to relive the moments of my life through the photographs, and reminisce with my family about big trips, and smaller, everyday moments. Without those printed photos, it’s just not the same. I want to change that, so I’ve been doing some research and I think I’ve found some good resources and ideas, which I will share here … you know, in case I am not the only one in the universe to avoid organizing and printing my photos.

First, I must point you to A Beautiful Mess, which you’ve probably already heard of, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock, this is a blog run by two delightful and supremely talented sisters named Elsie and Emma. I have featured some of their photos (of photos) in this post to hopefully inspire and motivate my self (and perhaps you, too?) to actually get off my butt and do something about my photo situation.

A Beautiful Mess - ScrapbookingA Beautiful Mess - Scrapbooking

As an organized person, the thought of a jumble of different types of albums cluttering up my shelves makes me shudder a little (laugh if you want, but it’s true), so I think it’s important for me to settle on a single type and size of book that will work for me. Now, I could just order ready made books online from iphoto or blurb, but honestly, even those just don’t have quite the same appeal as printed photos in an album. Do you know what I mean? They are nice, very nice even, but not quite as personal.

Amanda Soule, aka Soule Mama, wrote a wonderfully detailed post a while back about her system for organizing her digital photos, and then printing them and putting them in albums, which I highly recommend reading if you are looking for a system of your own. Basically, she sits down once a month to sort through the images she has taken that month and stored on an external hard drive, deletes bad shots, and tags and rates the ones she will keep using Lightroom. The rating system is genius: two stars means print! How easy is that? Then she uses an online printing service to print that month’s “best of” and puts them into identical albums.

A Beautiful Mess - Scrapbooking

Amanda, Elsie, and Emma all use mostly photos in their scrapbooks, which I love. A note here and there is a lovely touch, and I could even see using some beautiful scrapbooking paper or cute labels from time to time, but I would be wary of anything too elaborate … then I would probably just get overwhelmed and give up!

So, now it’s your turn: Do you print your photos? Make photo books? Scrap albums? What’s your method for sorting and organizing digital photos, or are you a total and complete mess in this department, like me? Spill the beans!

(all images: A Beautiful Mess)

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Decluttering Help

If you have been reading this blog, or following my work on Houzz for any amount of time, I’m sure you know I am a big believer in decluttering. There is simply no way to ever get “organized” without paring back and offloading some of the excess things you’ve been allowing to take up space in your home. But you know what is even more powerful? Learning some tools to help prevent clutter from entering your home in the first place.

Shift Interiors

After going through the same process of sorting through and purging my belongings dozens of times over the years, a few truths have begun to dawn on me. Truth no. 1: Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to take it. This was honestly the easiest one for me personally to implement. Now, whenever I am offered a “free” shirt/plastic cup/magnet/whatever, I politely decline and go on my merry way, happy I will not have to stare at said item for however many months it takes me to get the guts to chuck (or recycle or donate) it.

Shift Interiors

Truth no. 2 is quite a bit harder: If it’s not perfect for you, don’t buy it. This is the truth I am having the hardest time with. But I am learning. I’m learning not to settle for just okay. Because if my home is going to be free of clutter, what I do have I want to be just right! Right? Thinking back to some of the (many) items I have donated to charity or sold at yard sales and on Craigslist over the years, most were things that I knew right from the beginning weren’t quite right for me, but I bought them anyway. I’m learning it’s far better to wait, even if that means going without something for a while, and taking the time to save up a bit more money for the item I really want, than indulging in an impulse purchase.

Shift Interiors

And last but not least, we have truth no. 3: Just because it was a gift doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever. Your duty as the recipient of a gift is to warmly accept it with gratitude, and thank the person for being so generous with their thoughts, time, and resources. But if you don’t like the item, it is okay to let it go. I’m personally not a big fan of re-gifting (I don’t judge, it’s just not for me), but if I do not want or need something I was given, I generally keep it for a short time and then give it away. Do I feel totally okay about this? No! Of course it feels weird — but I remind myself that the gift was given with love, and was meant to make me happy. So if I know it will make me happier to give it away than to keep it, that’s what I do nine times out of ten. (Hey, I’m not perfect.)

Shift Interiors

I wrote about this topic recently on Houzz — the article is called 5 Ways to Pare Down Your Stuff — Before It Gets in the Door, and it has really struck a chord with readers. There are 200+ comments and counting! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic: do you regift? Give away things you were given? Have a problem walking past the Target decor aisle without shoving at least one unneeded item in your cart? Spill the beans!

The lovely images featured here are from Shift Interiors — their website is currently being updated, but you can view their Houzz profile here. Looking at beautiful, uncluttered spaces like these is great motivation to me to keep clutter out of my own home. :-)

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