Migrating your blog feeds? Check out Feedly.

If you have been using Google Reader to collect and read blog feeds, you know that it is about to disappear (Google Reader will be unavailable after July 1st).  Wah.  (I am a fan of most of Google’s products, and this was no exception.  Are you in the same boat?)  Maybe you’ve found a new feed aggregator, or maybe you’re in denial that your favorite reader is going to its final resting place. Maybe you’re going to wait until 11:59pm on June 30th to migrate your blog feeds because it’s too hard to think about importing each blog you read one at a time to a new reader.

So… that was almost me. But after hearing about Feedly from a number of different sources, I decided to just take a look. I was won over by the seamless, 1-click migration of all my feeds from Google Reader.  Wahoo!  I also think all the layout options are nice and it is a little more user friendly as far as adding and managing content.  It all transfers over to your smartphone too, if you install the Feedly app.  So all is not lost, my blog- reading friends!

If you’re looking around for a new blog reader, you might want to give Feedly a try (no, I don’t get paid for saying that- I just like to share solutions that work for me!).

Escaping the Clutter

I struggle with clutter.  Growing up, it took me years to realize why my dresser top and my shelves didn’t look tidy even after spending an hour “cleaning” them- or more accurately, re-arranging the knick- knacks and clutter on top of them.  I did eventually learn that cleaning was more than reorganizing a mess (without putting anything out of sight) and that the best look for my dresser was “bare, with 2 or 3 attractive accessories”.

My kitchen clutter “hot spot” (ala FlyLady)

These days I feel oppressed by clutter, stifled even, but still it accumulates… doo-dads in hidden nooks and crannies, baskets full of random items longing to be put away, and even stacks of mail and broken toys that dare to loiter in plain sight on my kitchen counters.  The clutter has become so much more offensive now that I am acquainted with the freedom of shiny, clear counters and dresser tops that imply endless possibilities.

Shiny dresser… ahh!

So what is a girl to do?  If only it were as simple as just putting all the clutter away…  Is anyone with me here?  A year ago or so I really got to work organizing and busting my clutter.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still an issue and I am working on it everyday, but when I realized that we were not going to be able to sell our condo (due to the economy) and move to a bigger home, I decided I was going to do what I could to be happy for as long as we end up needing to stay here.

Are you in a similar situation?  Have you reached a point where you know Something Must Be Done (!) or have you learned to embrace the clutter and just go with it?  Or maybe you are a champion homemaker and you don’t have this problem… (?)

I can’t promise that I can solve your clutter monster problem, but I can share what I did and what is starting to work for me.

Ack!  Another hot spot (office)

Here’s where I started: I looked at my clutter problem (which had me all antsy and irate about my perfectly lovely and comfortable condo, which we seemed to grow out of at an abominably quick rate) and decided to figure out what I could do based on where the clutter problems were coming from.  I think we can classify some clutter problems as “out of our control” issues and others, well, it is up to us to “take control”.

The “out of our control” issues:

  • Apartment/ condo/ home is too small; there just isn’t a “place for everything” 
  • Babies/ Toddlers/ Kids… need I say more?
  • Budget- to a degree, you have to work with what you’ve got as far as furniture, organizing materials, etc.

 The “need to take control” issues:

  • Tendencies to hoard certain items
  • Priorities- If you can’t stand the situation and there is something that can be done to improve it, then make it more important than browsing Pinterest, right?
A little closet organization never hurt anyone.

First, I addressed the “need to take control” issues.  I am not a hoarder per se, but I love a good recycling/ upcycling project, and sometimes I tend to get a little carried away in the materials collecting process.  There came a point that I had bags and bags of empty toilet paper rolls, boxes of glass bottles that I had washed and saved from various drinks or condiments, and containers of random pieces of junk that I “might use someday”.  I just had to realize that enough is enough.  I used quite a few of those toilet paper rolls for various projects, but when those were finished, I had to just be done with them, and recycle the rest.  Same with the glass bottles.  I went through all my craft materials and recycled, donated, or otherwise disposed of several huge bags worth of junk.  New rule for myself: I will not hoard craft supplies unless I have a clear plan of what I will be doing with them.  As for my priorities, I didn’t just try to organize the whole house in one day, I have been trying to pace myself a bit and work on one area at a time- and it is working, slowly but surely!

My crafting supplies (not counting sewing stuff) all fit in these bins (at least now they do)!

As a side note, one of my clutter problems stems from junk mail… half of it I can’t throw away because I feel like it needs to be shredded, so it accumulates.  Here is one solution I have found that seems to be working: Catalog Choice.  Just save your junk mail, go to their (free) website and enter the information they ask for for each catalog, and they will opt you out of mailings and name sharing. It’s pretty cool, and no, I didn’t get paid to tell you that!

Next, I got to looking at the “out of my control” issues and wondering if there really wasn’t anything I could do.  As it turns out, there really wasn’t anything I could do about moving to a bigger home yet, but I could rent a small storage unit and fill it with as much rarely-used stuff as I could possibly squish into it.  So I did, and that made a huge difference in how spacious my home felt.  Crib?  Gone.  Changing table?  Gone.  Unused furniture?  Gone.  Boxes of baby clothes too small for my kids?  Gone.  During this whole process I had to really ask myself “Do I want to pay to store this for x number of years?” each time I put something in a box to go to storage.  Consequently, I donated or tossed a lot of stuff here too.

Cheap shelf and baskets that add storage to our guest bathroom.

As for the kids?  Yeah, nothing I can do about the constant messes they make, but I did what I could to organize their toys, and I try to hold them accountable for at least picking up all the toys in the front room before going to bed (at a minimum).  Last week I changed my routine for the morning, so that we all do some cleaning together.  I have my 2 and 3 year old sons picking up items and running around the house putting them away.  They help me clean every room in the house, put away laundry, throw garbage out, and pick up their toys.  I pay them (mostly pennies and nickels) for each task they do, and they love putting the coins in their money jars through a little slot I cut in the lid (originally a small plastic peanut butter jar).  Last weekend I was shocked to realize that every single part of my house was decently clean- not perfect- but acceptable.  Today is more of the same.  It is because of this little routine change that we have implemented.

Now the budget was a tricky one, but I got my husband on board with me and we made a list in a spreadsheet of all the items we wanted or felt like we needed to make our home more comfortable.  That list includes things like smaller furniture for certain rooms, organizational materials like storage containers, shelving, paint, and a few home improvements that would add storage space.  We save our money and try to check a couple of things off the purchase list each month.

It is working!  I think I am always going to have to be mindful of clutter and work to keep it at bay, but for the first time in my life I am starting to feel like I am going to be able to conquer it!

What have you done to combat clutter from taking over your home?  Changed routines?   Are you a pro?  Still working on it?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

I’m back…

Well, as much as I try not to be MIA here, sometimes having out- of- town- family spend a fun- filled week at your home and then coming down with the stomach flu will do that to ya.  But I’m back, doing my best to respond to emails and comments, and I’ve got a quick refashion to share… really in just moments.  So thanks for hanging in there, and stay tuned!

 

Pinteresting

A few months ago I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.  Like everyone else, I’m hooked, but what a way to surround myself with beautiful things!  Many of you are probably already using Pinterest, but for those that aren’t, and wonder what it’s all about, it is basically an online catalogue of things you like.  You bookmark, or “pin” things onto your designated pinboards, and then it is accessible from anywhere.

No more worries about that project link you bookmarked on your browser, with no way to retrieve it (and at that critical moment when you’re away from home, trying to show your crafting buddies just what you’re talking about).  You “follow” other pinners and get a picture feed of what’s most popular in any given category (fashion, DIY, sewing, decorating, photography, humor, etc.) and when you find something new and amazing, you “pin” it with the pin marklet button that you download onto your toolbar.  I’ll be honest… it’s definitely habit forming (as if anyone needed more reasons to waste time on the internet).  But if you like crafty and DIY projects, it is a mine of creative deliciousness.

Need proof?  Here’s my “Baking Lovelies” pinboard (doesn’t it just make you want to jump up and preheat the oven?)

And this is my “printables” board where I keep track of all the awesome graphics people share for free personal use.

A girl’s gotta have dreams, right?  So I’ve pinned myself a virtual luxury home under “my someday home”.

A cool feature of Pinterest is that if you want to follow only selected boards of a pinner, you can follow only those boards you’re interested in, and skip the rest.  Also, you can invite friends on Pinterest to collaborate with you on specific boards. Now, if you’re a curious sort, and wonder how many people are following your specific boards (not just your total number of followers, but how many people are following your board “Best crafting “mistakes” in the universe”), you can tell by clicking on the board and checking on the top right.  Below is an example.

“Sensational Centerpieces” is a pinboard I started a couple weeks ago when I was brainstorming for the centerpiece for the luncheon honoring women battling breast cancer which I posted about earlier this week.  As you can see on the left, Marissa and I are the contributors, and on the right, 42 people started following this particular pinboard.

So you found something you want to remember on a website?  Pin it.  Decide on the picture you want to pin to remember what the web page is.  Make sure you aren’t just on the general web or blog home page, but on the specific page for that post.

Now, here is a little optional tip that speeds things up a bit- highlight the text of the title, or some explanation that is already listed next to the picture (see below).

Click the “Pin It” button on your toolbar…

…and whatever you highlighted will show up in the description box.  You can of course skip the highlighting step and just type in whatever description you want, but this makes it go a little faster.  You choose your pinboard and click the red “Pin It” box and you’re done!

Do you have a Pinterest account?  What do you like most about it?  What drives you crazy?
(Want to follow me on Pinterest?  Click the red button on my sidebar.  Don’t have an account and would like an invite?  Email me at rochelle@homesweethomebodies.net)

Memento Pin Boxes

Here’s another of my half-finished projects that I finished recently.  It seems like we pick up little knick-knacks here and there over the years, and while some of them just end up in the garbage or are given away, others are precious reminders of achievements or events that were important in our lives.  We tend to collect pins as mementos of our travels and accomplishments, but our pins were stored rolled up in a towel, inside of a box- not a great way to keep the memories alive!

I randomly got this shadow box at the dollar store a while back, and I realized that this would work well for my pins to go in, if I could find a way to add something to the back that they could be pinned to.

My husband had a lot more pins though, so I counted my lucky stars when I found this larger shadow box on sale at Michael’s.

I pulled the backs out and measured them.  At this point, I lost steam and let them sit for a few weeks (not recommended).

I came back to it, re-measured, and pulled out some fancy fabric and some batting, and cut squares.

I just sewed the batting and the fabric together, and pinned my pins in.  Then I hot glued the top of the fabric to the top of the cardboard frame back.  It popped right in to the frame, and I decided I liked it standing on my desk shelf rather than hanging it on the wall.

At this point, I lost steam again, plus I couldn’t find my husband’s pins, so I let his frame sit under the futon in the office for 3 months (also not recommended).  A couple weeks ago, I serendipitously found the pins, so I was motivated to go digging under the futon to find the parts of the frame and put it together.  Alas, I could not find the back, until after 20 minutes of searching led me to the depths of the closet, where I found the frame back wedged between the wall and the storage bins.  Whew- disaster averted!  Ten minutes and one hot-glue-burned finger later, it was finished, and I proudly hung it on the wall.

Ta-da!

Finishing Half-Finished Projects

A while ago I talked about my procrastination problem– I mean the fact that I start tons of projects but don’t finish them.  Ever since then, I have been trying to finish up projects that I started or had the supplies for but hadn’t completed.  Here are a few:

1. Bibs. I bought a cheap pack of bibs a long time ago and intended on decorating all of them but most of them just sat in my closet for a long time… until this week!  I used scraps of fabric from past projects and vintage sheets to add some interest, and even gave a few away. 

2. Burp cloths.  I had a template at one point that I had used to make burp cloths before, but I couldn’t find it when I went to make these burp cloths out of flannel scraps, so I drew up my own template.   These were really quick to make; I just sewed them with right sides together and a little hole for turning them right side out, then I top stitched them together.

3. Marble maze game.  I first saw this idea over at Serving Pink Lemonade.  Again, I just used fleece scraps and marbles I had lying around.  This would be a good activity for preschool and school aged kids to stay busy while traveling, at church, at the dentist’s office, etc. 

4. Glass etching.  Between Marissa and I, we had everything we needed for this project months ago, but we never got around to it, and she went to Africa.  But now that she is back, we decided to give it a try. We followed this tutorial from make it and love it.  Here are a couple of things that I made.

We used the Silhouette to cut out the letters. I didn’t have any vinyl, so we just cut contact paper to an 8 1/2 x 11 size and ran it through.  It worked pretty well, although it didn’t want to stick on the carrier sheet very firmly.  Our etching cream seemed to work ok, although we had to leave it on for more like 30 minutes to get the desired effect.

5. Car seat protector pad.  I had seen the piddle pads that you can buy but I wanted something that would cover more of the seat.  I made it when I started potty training my son, but planned to continue using it after we finished potty training.  It has been really useful so far… it has kept me from having to wash the seat from potty accidents, spilled drinks, ketchup and cheese, all all sorts of other icky stuff.  It was easy to make… I just cut a slightly trapezoidal shape, put it in the car seat, and marked where to add the darts, make slits for the straps on the side, and a long button hole in the middle for the buckle.  I used flannel and part of an extra waterproof crib pad on the bottom. I am going to make another one for my other son’s car seat, and I think I will add a layer of batting to make it even more absorbent, and cushy.

I think those are enough projects for one post, but there’s more, believe me!  I will share a few other projects that I have finished in the next few days.  What projects have you all been working on?  Leave a comment with a link to your latest and greatest, and I will be sure to visit and comment on your blog too!

I have a problem….

Yes, I have a problem.  It is called “I-start-too-many-projects-and-get-overwhelmed-and-don’t-finish-them-until-many-months-later-if-ever.”  We can just call it procrastination for short.  I have so many ideas, and some of them I just don’t realize how big they are until I am in the middle, and then you know the rest.  It’s a very sad story.  I have an adorable apron pattern and project which I mostly finished- in March, like maybe 75% of the way, and then stopped.  I have been working on sewing and making a pattern for toddler training pants (for potty training) but temporarily lost steam on that too.  I have some yummy summer recipes I would love to share, I just need to write them down.  I intend on finishing all these projects, but when?  Who knows, right?  So I am telling all of you so I have some accountability.  Hopefully by stating my intentions here, I will be motivated to finish projects I have already started!  Ok, but now I feel a little insecure (haha) because it sounds like I haven’t finished any projects at all (besides what I have already blogged about).  Well, I have, but they are kind of little things, and don’t necessarily deserve a blog post all of their own.  But here are a few things I have worked on and actually finished over the past couple months:

Noah’s Ark cake for my baby!  Marissa and I did this together before she left.  We used marshmallow fondant to make the animals and cover the cake.

First pair of potty training pants- adorable, but a bit too small.  Still working on it!  I also made a car seat protector pad, but no picture.  Look for more on this!

I got to help prepare a gorgeous tea party as per tradition for my mom, aunt, sisters, and some of my cousins.

Just to prove I was there this time… (I am on the left)

I helped my mom re-cover the window seat cushions.  This was NOT a small job!  We worked on it in March when I was visiting, and finished it the last time I was there. 

The other cushion.  Yeah, I know it is pretty much the same, but you know, it has to be representative of the amount of time spent on it and all.

I bought this girly chair at a garage sale last summer for $2 and finally got around to re-covering it this year for my son’s Thomas the Tank Engine- themed 3rd birthday.

Ok, I am getting to work!

PS- If you are new to our blog, and would like to be among the first to be able to get new patterns and tutorials (once I actually finish them!) please follow or subscribe to our blog! 😀