House List Update!

So, many moons ago, before I needed a break from blogging, I shared with you my House List, and how to prioritize that list. As of my most recent update about my couch, here’s what the list looked like:

Finallyfoundmy newhome! (1)

In my absence, I made some changes and now, here’s where we are:

Finallyfoundmy newhome! (2)

I’ve got some posts brewing about having made those changes, so I can explain the processes. But the real reason I wanted to give this update is because I first started talking about this a little less than a year ago and I’m not even halfway done.

That feels a little pathetic.

It also feels more than a little realistic.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of how quickly things should happen, or to compare ourselves to the work / rate of others. But, when I really think about, for as much as I love to tackle house projects and make my little apartment feel cozy, I’d rather lay out in the sunshine, or have some lemonade with my mom, or laugh with my friends.

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I don’t actually think that life is too short. I think life is incredibly long and we should get everything we can out of it. And that means that some days I want to be barefoot in the sunshine, and other days, I want to paint little flowers on a flower pot.

I make a million lists and like to check things off of them and love the feeling of accomplishing both big and small projects – that will never not be true for me.

It’s also true that I still have a hard time not feeling guilty when I pick to hang out and live rather than be task-oriented, almost like I need permission to take a break.

So, here you go: an updated house list and permission to go take a break and play in the sunshine, or the rain; permission to go have the life you want.A. Rose (1)

Valentines Day

Valentines Day is actually my favorite holiday.

I know it’s made up. I know it’s this commercialized mess. I know it puts unnecessary pressure on couples and partners. I know.

But I also really like to talk about love, in all it’s forms. And I like flowers and candy and the color red.

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The unruly little one is me.

When I think about love, D isn’t actually the first thing that comes to my mind. My family is (he gets grouped in with them). I believe that the love of the family, whatever family may look like for an individual, is the place where strength comes from, and is the central root that connects us to society in an unbreakable way.

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My friends come next. If family roots us in our community, our friends are the trunk of the tree – the steady base that lets our branches move outward, with love and careful reflection.

It’s been tricky to be in a new state with a new culture. It makes it hard to make friends, especially when most of the town grew up together. I’ve lucked out with a core group of great people who keep me grounded.

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After that, I think about romance. It tends to fall toward the bottom of my priority list, and lately I’ve been trying to do a better job of changing that. Even though I don’t think it’s the most important part of being in a relationship, I do still think it’s important.

At one point in my life, my mother told me that the most romantic thing about my father is that he knows her 2:30pm coffee is taken differently than her morning coffee. I’ve been trying to think about ways that I show care, and spaces where care is absent and bump it up.

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I hope that this Valentine’s Day gets to be about all the varied forms of love for you.

How to Prioritize a Household To Do List

Maybe it’s just me, but my house doesn’t “happen” in as systematic of a way as the rest of my life. Work and school, I make these little lists with empty boxes near them so that I can check them off as I go. My house gets tidied and fixed up when the wind blows in the right direction and the sun is out.

So I made a list. I went through photos of my house and I made a list of everything that I wanted to get done and now I have that list:

  • Find a new home for reusable bags
  • Move work space off the kitchen table
  • Reupholster dining room chairs
  • Figure out the couch situation
  • Get a rug
  • Refinish the coffee table
  • Turn the desk into an actual, workable space
  • Upgrade the trunk
  • Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s
  • Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  • Find a new home for donations
  • Revamp online selling system
  • Talk to sisters about the coffee table
  • D – wtf is with this beanbag chair??
  • Reorganize the bathroom closet
  • Lower that one super high shower shelf
  • Bedroom Art
  • Learn to hang up clothes
  • Arrange bedside table
  • Hang hooks in bedroom for towels
  • Return bed frame to my mom

This is overwhelming & I need to make some sense of it.

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Sort It Out

The way I see it, these can be broken up into the following categories:

  • Conversations
    • Talk to sisters about the coffee table
    • D – wtf is with this beanbag chair??
  • Costs Money / Craft Project
    • Reupholster dining room chairs
    • Figure out the couch situation
    • Get a rug
    • Refinish the coffee table
    • Upgrade the trunk
    • Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s
    • Window treatment for sliding glass doors
    • Bedroom Art
  • Domino Effect
    • Move work space off the kitchen table
    • Turn desk into actual, workable space
  • Habit-forming
    • Revamp online selling system
    • Learn to hang up clothes
  • Other
    • Find a new home for reusable bags
    • Find a new home for donations
    • Reorganize the bathroom closet
    • Lower that one super high shower shelf
    • Arrange bedside table
    • Hang hooks in bedroom for towels
    • Return bed frame to my mom

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Think about ease

Whenever I have a long list of things, whether it’s at home, school or work, I try to put the simple little things close to the top of the list so that I a) actually feel like I’m getting things done and b) I can clear some brain-space to figure out other things.

For me, the Conversations and Other category are usually where I start. So, when I look at these nine things:

  • Talk to sisters about the coffee table
  • D – wtf is with this beanbag chair??
  • Find a new home for reusable bags
  • Find a new home for donations
  • Reorganize the bathroom closet
  • Lower that one super high shower shelf
  • Arrange bedside table
  • Hang hooks in bedroom for towels
  • Return bed frame to my mom

it starts to get easy to see what should happen first. My family has a Facebook page, so I can easily just post a thing in there about the coffee table. D and I talk every day. I already think I know where the reusable bags should go and I’ll see my mom this weekend so I can return the bed frame to her.

  1. Talk to sisters about the coffee table
  2. D – wtf is with this bean bag chair??
  3. Find a new home for reusable bags
  4. Return bed frame to my mom

So then I think about time and effort. I think I already have hooks, the bedside table I can start now and keep working on, and the bathroom closet is really more of a purging project than anything else.

5. Hang hooks in bedroom for towels
6. Arrange bedside table
7. Reorganize bathroom closet

That leaves me with the donations and the shower shelf. I’ll set them over to the side for now.

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Be Realistic

The last three categories require a different kind of thinking. There’s budgeting of both money and time involved in that. So I know that I need to figure out the desk/kitchen table situation, but it can live at the bottom of the list because, to me, that’s a project, not an easy one, two, three process. I think the same is true about the Habit Forming category.

That leaves me with the Costs / Money piece. Let’s look at those again, with cost attached:

  • Reupholster dining room chairs – $175
  • Figure out the couch situation – $100
  • Get a rug – $45
  • Refinish the coffee table – $20
  • Upgrade the trunk – $40
  • Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s – $50
  • Window treatment for sliding glass doors – ???
  • Bedroom Art – ???

I think there’s two ways to go about things that have money tied to them: you can start with the things that cost the most/least and go down/up in price. OR, you can let price be a factor and think about time and impact.

I prefer the time/impact route more, myself.

I don’t have buckets of money (clearly I’m not willing to spend more than $100 on a couch and honestly, that’s stretching it), but I do know that if I care enough about something I’ll tuck my money away until I can have it. So I ask myself these questions:

What will take the least amount of time?
What will have the biggest impact?
What is annoying me the most?
What do I care about the least?

Anything that gets listed under the first three questions goes to the top of the list and then I sort by price. I end up with this:

  1. Figure out the couch situation
  2. Get a rug
  3. Refinish coffee table
  4. Bedroom Art
  5. Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s
  6. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  7. Upgrade the trunk
  8. Reupholster dining room chairs

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Mash your Lists

Alright. So now we have some different lists going on, with different time frames and different amounts of money.

ertificate of Completion

So, now I’ll look at my schedule and blend them together based on homework, work, paychecks, free time, all those pieces.

Here’s the end result:

Finallyfoundmy newhome!

You may have noticed that the hanging up the clothes is no longer on the list. This is something I will just have to learn over time. I only listed the prices for the first couple of projects because I’ve found that when I create a full household  budget I start to think “Yeah, I’m never going to have that much money,” and I give up and can’t do it anymore.

So that’s it. That’s my confusing process for arranging these things.

Now, I’ll  put them all into my planner and pluck away at them!

Apartment Tour & Dreams

I rent an apartment that’s in a booming part of a small town, but tucked into the trees. I’ve decided to stay here for a least a few years, which is a nice break after moving 17 times in 11 years. I’d like to make some changes to it, and figure out where to start. I thought I’d put this here to refer back to.

Here’s a little floor plan:

floor plan

This is a (very) little over 730 square foot space and takes about an hour to clean from top to bottom – which is my preferred way to live!

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I took these photos on a day when the sun was out, not a day when the space was clean. So this is a pretty accurate portrait of how things usually look.

Front Hall

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Some people call it an entry way. I call it a front hall because it’s a hallway at the front. It looks directly into the Family Room (which people here call the Living Room). To the left is the storage closet and to the right is the kitchen. That coat hook has been a life-saver. When people come over, I put the coats D I wear regularly in the coat closet part of the the storage closet so they can use the coat hook and I set a towel in front of the bi-fold doors for their boots. Easy winter solution!

Storage Closet

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This storage closet has been a life-saving space. You can see on the shelf in the coat closet part that reusable bags are above the coats. I’m trying to come up with a better spot for those because I feel like I’m losing a lot of space having them there.

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When you walk through the bi-fold doors, this make-shift pantry is to your left. It’s just a bakers rack. Having this pantry has made a huge difference in how grocery shopping happens and how the kitchen is organized.
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To the left is this cubby that stores luggage, crafting stuff, games, cat food (apparently?), and things that just generally don’t have a home.

Project #1: Find a new home for reusable bags.

Kitchen

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I love this little kitchen. It has basically no counter space, which is a pain, but it’s somehow also perfect. I try to keep the fridge decorations fairly minimal: some pictures of cousins, color projects by some of my favorite kiddos, a calendar, and some inspirational notes from family members.
The kettle is always on the stove because, as you can tell, there are only so many cupboards and I use it more than once a day.

IMG_3639There’s a lot happening on the left side of the kitchen, but truth be told, this is really what it usually looks like. I day dream about that being different, but I’m starting to come to terms with my reality.
Also, how cool is that photo above the sink? My dad took it back in the early 1980’s when he was in California. #bragging #hereallywasntahippie

Dining Nook

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I’m pretty sure this nook is my favorite spot in the whole house. I do everything here: pay bills, talk to friends, put on make up, homework, you name it! The table was scored through an online bulletin at work; the curtains just happened to go with well.
It usually looks like this in here: laptop, tea, papers, open windows. I love it.
BUT, I also want to stop. I love the windows and I think it’s fine to perch there every now and then, but I actually have a little library area that I could be using and it really is annoying to have to move all my stuff every time I want to eat dinner.

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I think I might like to reupholster the chairs someday, but I’m waiting for the fabric to wear out some more before I do.

Project #2: Move off the kitchen table.
Project #3: Reupholster Dining Room Chairs

Family Room

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From the Front Hall

There are a lot of things happening in this room. The recliner (left) is D’s pride and joy. The hurricane lamp is from my childhood bedroom. The couch was a quick-buy from craigslist when I first moved in. The rocker was my grandmothers. The iron chairs were my mothers. The painting came from a thrift store. The coffee table was a freebie from a friends Uncle… It just keeps going and there’s no cohesion and even though it feels great when I’m in it, things need to change.

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From the Dining Nook

It wants to all go together. It just doesn’t. There’s been a lot of conversation between D and me about that chair and he feels pretty passionately about it not being covered up. I don’t share his feelings about camo but I like trees, so I think I can make it work.
That back, left area by the bookshelves is just chaos. That’s it. Pure chaos. D’s hunting stuff, a Christmas Tree, extra chairs, a desk that never gets used.

Project #4: Either get a slip cover for the couch or get a new couch
Project #5: Get a rug
Project #6: Refinish coffee table
Project #7: Turn desk into an actual, workable space

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From the hallway to the bedroom and bathroom

Things look a little better from this angle. That trunk in between the two chairs is what my parents used to move their items from the United States to Saudi Arabia and back again – super cool! I gave it an upgrade when I was 12 and had a Beatrix Potter bedroom. For now, it works to hold the television/PS4, but someday I think a change will need to come.
I also hate the vertical blinds. They don’t work quite right and they make it feel like… well, like an apartment.

Project #8: Upgrade the trunk
Project #9: Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s
Project #10: Curtains?

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From behind the recliner

And then there’s the worst of it all: this weird area. That’s an extra chair, an extra coffee table, a beanbag chair, boxes of clothes to donate, clothes to sell, cat toys and a yoga mat. What. the actual. eff.
The extra chair has been working out well lately to hold my backpack when I get home. The coffee table is from the house I grew up in and so even though it’s too delicate for me to use regularly I still have it…

Project #11: Come up with a better system for donations
Project #12: Come up with a better system for selling things online
Project #13: Have that uncomfortable conversations with sisters about the coffee table needing to go
Project #14: Talk to D about finding a new home for his beanbag chair

Bathroom

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From the hallway

This bathroom is the miracle of the apartment. It holds so much. It functions so well. It isn’t a lot of space but it’s doing a lot of work. There are four deep shelves that need some reorganizing and that shelving unit needs some love. But honestly, I can’t complain too much about how this space operates.

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That’s not the all-the-time shower curtain. I pull it out at the first snow and tuck it away once the flowers come back… or when I get tired of snow and need some bright colors. Also, that shower rack shelf is way too tall. #oops

Project #15: Reorganize Bathroom shelves
Project #16: Lower shower rack shelf

Bedroom

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Honest: I said I wasn’t going to clean before taking these photos and I clearly didn’t.

I love this room. It feels really cozy when you’re in it. But I definitely need some kind of artwork above the bed and I need a much better system for clothing than using the foot board for things that need to be hung up. #imthatgirl

Project #17: Bedroom art
Project #18: Train Brain to hang up clothes

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There’s not a lot of space to walk between the bed and dresser. I keep thinking about moving the furniture in here around. It’s also a little crowded in this picture because I took it once the Christmas tree was up and had to move furniture into her in order to give the tree space. #apartmentproblems

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So, some things happening here: I don’t love the laundry basket situation, but it works really well. I am terrible at keeping my bedside table clean. And I want to find a better situation for my towel. I don’t like hanging it in the bathroom because it starts to smell yucky fast because of the humidity.

Project #19: Figure out Bedside Table arrangement
Project #20: Hang hooks for towels

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I’m thinking that spot where the bed frame is currently housed would be a good spot for towels. Or maybe behind the bedroom door?

Project #21: Return bed frame to my mom

Project Summary

So, here’s what I figured out needs to be done to make my apartment a little more functional and a little more pulled together:

  1. Find a new home for reusable bags
  2. Move work space off the kitchen table
  3. Reupholster dining room chairs
  4. Figure out the couch situation
  5. Get a rug
  6. Refinish the coffee table
  7. Turn the desk into an actual, workable space
  8. Upgrade the trunk
  9. Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVD’s
  10. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  11. Find a new home for donations
  12. Revamp online selling system
  13. Talk to sisters about the coffee table
  14. D – wtf is with this beanbag chair??
  15. Reorganize the bathroom closet
  16. Lower that one super high shower shelf
  17. Bedroom Art
  18. Learn to hang up clothes
  19. Arrange bedside table
  20. Hang hooks in bedroom for towels
  21. Return bed frame to my mom

 

Now to prioritize that list….

 

Christmas Truths

I usually start my holiday shopping in September. I start thinking of presents in July. I have my decorations out before Thanksgiving. I prep myself perfectly to just have a restful holiday and not get sucked into the overwhelming, oh-my-gosh-it’s-Christmas-and-I-didn’t-do-this-and-this-and-this.

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Instead, this year, I got super sick and had my gallbladder out, while trying to work full time and go to school. #brilliantplan

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So, here we are, six days from Christmas. One day from one sister arriving, four days from another. Five days from my brother-in-laws family being here. I still haven’t finished half my handmade presents. I haven’t even gotten the stuff to make my dads present.

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I took a walk on my lunch break today and I thought about feeling overwhelmed and I looked at the snow. I remembered the year my mother went to Chicago and broke both her feet slipping on ice on some stairs. She was there because my sister had a life-saving surgery. Three days later, my paternal grandmother died and two days after that my uncle. My mom came back to south Florida, my father went to Chicago. He and my sister were together for that Christmas in Chicago. The rest of us were in South Florida. It felt so strange.

 

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My parent’s dog is too cute for words.

I can remember in the middle of the night during that time, getting out of bed and finding my mother at the kitchen table, wringing her hands. We talked.

I am not of any organized faith, though I would say that my faith in certain things is incredibly strong. My mother is a very strongly and quietly Christian and many of our conversations are rooted in understanding the others faith. I told her that night, ‘Luke 2:19, momma. “But Mary gathered up all of these things and pondered them in her heart.”‘

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When the shepherds and wise men and angels come to the manger and praise the newborn baby Christ, Mary takes it all in. A new mother, surrounded by strangers, with her baby sleeping, away from home. She gathers it all up and feels it.

Isn’t that a lesson for all of us?

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And so inside of the rush and traffic and birthday parties and holiday parties and calls from far away friends, I’m trying to sneak moments where I gather them all up and ponder them in my heart, even the feeling of chaos. How lucky am I to love so many people that I choose to spend my time finding them the perfect gift? What fortune is in my life that I get to see my siblings during the year? How honest I have grown with myself that I can feel frustration and give it a name?

It’s easy to forgot, or to shame oneself for getting caught in the present rush. It makes it feel much less like a rush when you’re able to be grateful for the work that lets you buy the presents, despite the traffic.

Luke 2:19. It’s not just for Christmas.

What I’ve Learned about Laundry

Let me start this off by saying that I am not a laundry expert and what works for me may not work for you, but what works for me has been working for me for over a decade.
The main, life-saving thing I’ve figured out about laundry is that I don’t have to do as much of it as my mother.
Wait, what? I know, I know. But, I grew up with six people in my house. Three of us wore uniforms to school and played sports and had play clothes. The four of us girls were particularly good at trying on an outfit, discovering it was “wrong,” throwing it on the ground and a week later, assuming it was dirty. Meaning my mom did, at a minimum, eleven loads of laundry a week. When I first went to college I did seven to eight loads a week. In my mind, moms way was the right way so I needed to model what I had seen.
A few years later I realized that I don’t have four children. My cat doesn’t wear clothes and honestly, since I work in an office, if the weather is nice, a lot of times I’ll change right out of my work clothes and into something else and hang my work clothes right back up to be worn again before washing.
I kept some pieces of moms methods though. I’ve tried many different detergents (someday I’ll tell you my peanut butter story) and fabric softener/dryer sheet combos. I like Tide detergent and Downy fabric softener the best, which is what she uses. And I sort my clothes into piles on the floor, just like she did.
laundry floor piles
I don’t make a crazy amount of piles. Mostly I separate out whites/towels, sheets/pillowcases, everything else. If D has things here, I separate his out too because they tend to be covered in motor oil and don’t want to risk that getting on my clothes. I put the piles on the floor the night before I do the laundry so that they can’t be missed.
Because of the length of time it takes to wash vs. dry, I usually wash whites first. It takes 28 minutes to wash whites & over 40 for most other things, but the dryer is pretty much always an hour. So I knock out the shortest wash first.
Mixture of Whites
I was doing whites and towels separately for most of my life. Then one day I realized: whites and towels get washed at the same temperature and typically with the same intensity. So I started putting them together and made one less load because, unlike my mother, I don’t actually have 11 loads worth of laundry.
Sort sort sort
I do my laundry every week, regardless. My sisters can all tell you the laundry motto of the family: do smaller loads more often. The reason for that is actually because the laundry isn’t what’s annoying: the folding is. If you have less to fold at a time, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed.
As I fold, I sort into piles the way that they’ll go into my drawer: jammies, worker clothes, leggings, t-shirts. I make a separate pile for things that will be hung up.
Even Sort Hanging
I sort what will be hung up too. If I’m already in sorting mode, I figure I might as well. Having things already sorted down makes putting them away even easier.
 
A couple tips to make laundry easier:
  • Before I go to bed every night, I put my clothes in the laundry basket. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes I come home, do a quick change and leave again, which means clothes quickly start to pile up places. I’m also notorious for leaving a stack of cardigans on a kitchen chair because that’s where I got hot.
  • When possible, wear it again. Clothes aren’t made to be washed a bazillion times. I tend to keep a very limited closet and so I change when I get home from work and hang my work clothes to air out. If it’s hot or I walked a bunch with my puffy coat on or just generally got sweaty, I through it in the basket, but otherwise, I save myself the headache of the wash.
  • Wash the load with the shortest wash-time first. This sounds really meticulous, but I found that I wash something that took 45 minutes, then throw it in to dry for an hour while something that took 28 minutes was washing and I’d be really annoyed by the fact that my wet clothes had to sit there that long.
  • If you have kiddos, chances are your mom knows a lot about how to manage the laundry. I’m not a great resource for this. I just know that she did about two loads a day and that worked for her. If I had been a more attentive daughter, I would know when she did those loads, but I was too busy teenaging to pay attention (sorry mom!).
  • If you have a particularly small load, toss in a blanket or two. I do this all the time. I have a bunch of blankets in my family room and at the change of the season I will wash them all in one load. But between now and then, I just toss them in when I can. I don’t have small children with jammy hands and the cat is very particular about his blankets (his get washed when I wash my bedding), so the others don’t get dirty very quickly.
 
Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve figured out over the years:
  • Doing laundry once a week means I know exactly how much to budget for laundry & helps me keep my load smaller.
  • If I do the laundry every week, there’s less clutter in my house because there isn’t laundry everywhere.
  • Smaller loads means less to fold and put away.
  • My moms methods are awesome for a mom with a lot of kids. I’m not a mom with a lot of kids, so I have to adapt.