Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Done!!!

I did it! I did it! (Can you just imagine me doing the “happy dance” and singing this?) I finished organizing the girls' room! I really had my doubts that I would be able to finish, but I did! It was tedious, tiring work, but I am so pleased with the results! Here are some Before and After photos…
Remember how dreadful this area looked?
Well, here it is now!! Stuffed animals in a nice little tower from Target, shelves decluttered of some of the knick knacks, clean laundry put away, toys in a nice basket I had bought some time ago at Hobby Lobby.

Here's Rachel's toddler bed in October...

...and here is her new Big Girl bed now! She's doing a great job making it every morning by herself! And I removed all the little pictures from the wall, so it doesn't look so messy.

Here's the area between the girls' beds before...

...and after. I washed, pressed, and rehung the valances. I found a tablecloth, topper, and glass for the round table that had been used a few years ago in another room. Under the tablecloth (I should have taken a picture) are three shoe boxes the girls use for Treasures. The table top is clear of junk except for a small pretty box, a lamp, and a photo.

Here's Hannah's bed before...

...and after. She was pretty good about keeping her bed tidy to begin with, but I did remove all those little pictures on the wall, and it looks neater.
Remember the mess on the Chinese trunk?
Gone! Now you can see the beautiful carvings!

Abbie's crib before...

...and her new toddler bed now! Clean wall, too! And she can make her own bed now, too!

Messy dresser top before... tidy now!
Totally messy toy area... now neat and organized. I had the stacking drawers in other parts of the house and use them here for Barbies and their clothes, and doll house furnishings.

And I set up a little baby care center for Abbie at the foot of her bed.
I wish I had taken some "before" shots of the drawers. Here's an "after" shot, though. Everything fits, everything's in season, and there's plenty of room in the drawers again!

Another messy dresser area...
...and another tidied dresser area!

Remember those shelves I kept the girls' clothes on for the next morning?

Here's the replacement - a bookshelf I had in the basement, just waiting to be put to good use! The top shelf is for their clothes each morning, as well as their panda collection. The middle shelf holds their activity gear, as well as the PullUps Abbie wears at night. On the floor is a basket I already had, now filled with more stuffed animals.
I really didn’t think the transformation was going to be especially impressive, until I took another look at the “Before” photos. I guess since I’ve been working on the room throughout the course of a month, I had forgotten how really bad it had been. After looking at the Befores and Afters, I remember! And I have to say I’m very impressed with the difference!

Since it is so close to the Christmas Spending Frenzy, I really did all I could to keep costs to a minimum. I purchased the stuffed animal tower for about $20 at Target and got the fabric drawer for it for less than $5 (it was on sale). Everything else was brought in from other rooms (mostly the basement). We did, of course, purchase Rachel’s new bed, but that was going to happen whether I did the challenge or not – I just had new incentive to get it ordered and in place. Sometime in January, I hope to find matching quilts and bed skirts for Hannah and Rachel’s beds, preferably on sale. I still need to get new window shades that work, and a bulletin board for over the white bookcase. But this is not about decorating – it’s about organizing, right?

The thing I’m most proud of is the fact that the stuff (mainly the clothes) did not just end up being shifted into another room, to sit in stacks and just clutter up a different space. It would have been so easy to do that, but I made a conscious effort to make sure everything that came out of the room (if it wasn’t discarded or donated), was put away in its proper place. So this room makeover isn’t just for show – it’s true organization!

A few questions…
1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

The overabundance of clothes and stuffed animals! I got a few of the animals out of the room and corralled the rest in just a few places, so they are now under control again (unless they start breeding or something!). The new house rule is: “One animal in, one animal out.” As for the clothes, I got everything that was outgrown or out of season out of the room, and it has made a huge difference! I can find things, everything I pull out fits properly, and the drawers open and close with ease!

I also found it “challenging” to find the time to work on the room, especially during Thanksgiving week (I thought I’d have more time because the girls were out of school, when in reality, I had less!). And I couldn’t exactly work on it in the evenings after the girls were in bed, so that really limited my time!

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

Containing animals in baskets and on shelves. The “one animal in, one animal out” rule. Laying clothes and activity gear out for the next morning in their new designated space. And just taking a few minutes each day to keep on top of the tidying. When you start with an organized space, just 5 minutes a day can really keep things under control!

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

A few animals went to Goodwill, and several went into a temporary bin in the basement to see if they’ll be missed before I give them away as well (so far, so good). As for the clothes, a few items were donated, but the rest were put in their proper bins in the basement (clearly marked by size) to wait for the next sister to wear them. A ton of hair accessories that just didn’t “work” were also donated, and a lot of little junky toys (Happy Meal, party favors, etc.) were surreptitiously discarded!

4. Now that you have completed the challenge, do you think having and keeping your space organized will make a difference in your life?

I really do! Each evening as the girls get ready for bed, we choose and lay out their outfits for the next day, as well as activity gear (gymnastics, swimming, ballet). The mornings run so much smoother when I’m not racing around trying to find something for them to wear that’s clean, coordinated, seasonally appropriate, and fits! Not to mention the fact that I’m not risking life and limb trying to walk around the room! Also, the girls love how tidy their room is now, and they really seem to be making an effort to keep it under control on their own. They’re really taking pride in their space!

6. Why do you think you should win the challenge?
Oh, goodness, the “before” photos should answer that question! Seriously, though, I have always been a dreadfully disorganized person, and this challenge has really helped bring me a step closer to being the more organized (and more relaxed and pleasant) Mommy that I want to be! And my girls are happier and more relaxed when I am happier and more relaxed! Not to mention the fact that the entire project only cost me about $25! And I didn’t just move stuff to contribute to the clutter of another space – everything was put away properly!But really, our entire family are “winners” in the long run, because we have a lovely, uncluttered space and a whole lot less stress!

Now, I think I’ll tackle Al’s and my bedroom in January! Stay tuned for “Before” photos…

And for some real inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie to see all the entries in the 30-Day Organizational Challenge! You'll love it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Gotcha Day, Abigail!

The girls and I watched Abbie's Gotcha Day video last night. My, but she was so quiet! She just stared at me with her big eyes, watching everything I did, touching my face and my hair as if to really get a sense of who (or what) I was.

And look at her now! Three-and-a-half years old, tiny but mighty, 30 pounds of Drama (with a capital D!), and just so full of love for her family and friends. What a precious gift she is!

We love you, sweet Abigail Lihuan!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Organizational Challenge - Day 6

Slow progress is being made! I've done some brainstorming and made a list of the stuff I need to do as well as the stuff I need to get/buy. And I have cleaned out and organized 7 of 14 drawers. The big challenge was Abbie's sock and undies drawer. As each girl outgrows socks, if they're still in good shape, I just move them down to the next youngest girl's drawer. But for some reason, as Abbie outgrows socks, they just stay in her drawer. I could barely close it! So just before the girls went to bed last night, I emptied the contents into a Trader Joe's shopping bag (don'cha just love those?) and took it down to the living room. Once everyone was asleep, I spent the next hour sorting socks and tights and panties and undershirts while watching "Jon and Kate Plus 8" (I'm a huge fan of big family shows on TLC!). I found 12-month size socks (Abbie's 3 1/2 now!), dingy tights, and training panties. After pulling all those out, the drawer looks so much better now. All I have to do is go out and buy her some new tights (for some reason those just don't hand down well).

Today's plan: do the same for Hannah's and Rachel's socks and undies drawers (there are two more "Jon and Kate" episodes on tonight!), and have the girls try on a huge stack of clothes to see what fits and can be put back into the drawers. The rest goes into bins in the basement. I'll also take down and wash the valances. And I really need to get batteries in the two clocks in their rooms - neither one works right now!

Oh, and my friend Lisa has a steam cleaner for carpets that she'll let me borrow! I don't have to rent one! Thanks, Lisa!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Organizational Challenge - Day 4

We're into Day 4 of the 30-Day Organizational Challenge, and I've made a bit of progress! I've tidied up the hooks behind the bedroom door, gotten all of the outgrown and out-of-season clothes and shoes out of the closet, and done the same with three of the dresser drawers. I've also done a bit of rearranging drawers so that things make more sense (like bulky sweaters in a deeper drawer). I am also learning that things have to get/look worse before they get/look better. But progress is being made, and it's exciting!

As promised, here are the "before" pictures (YIKES!). As Laura at Organizing Junkie says, there's nothing like some photographic evidence to hold us accountable. Not only that, but a really astonishing transformation might just win me one of those nifty prizes she's giving away!

OK, deep breath... here we go...

Note the tiny closet - smaller than a phone booth - for three (count 'em!) little girls. I have two bars and a tiny shelf to work with, as well as the back of the door. Very little floor space, too.

This is the back of the bedroom door. Lots of hooks, but also lots of stuff...

This built-in bookcase is right next to the door. The rocking chair was supposed to make it a cozy reading corner - it currently holds a stack of clothes that need to be tried on. Too many toys piled up. And a laundry basket full of clean laundry that needs to be stuffed into over-full drawers.

Rachel's corner. We hope to replace the toddler bed with a "Big Girl" twin bed this month. Also, I need to figure out something to do with all the pictures she likes to tape to her wall. Hey, what's the Curious George blanket I made for her doing on the floor? (Rachel's bed-making skills need a little tweaking.)

Hannah's corner. She needs a dust ruffle. Actually, I'd like to get matching quilts and ruffles for her and Rachel. She's got under-bed boxes for extra storage - I'll do the same with Rachel's new bed. Same issue with stuff on the walls. At least the blanket I made her is neatly folded at the foot of the bed!

This table sits between Hannah's and Rachel's beds. It's one of those inexpensive ones with the screw-on legs that works well, but needs a cloth and maybe a piece of glass on top. I also need to get new window shades. The one on the right is completely broken, the one on the left only works about 50% of the time. Also gotta wash, press and rehang the valances. And maybe do some nifty storage thing under the table once the cloth is on.

There's a beautiful carved wooden trunk from China under that pile of clothes, most of which are out-of-season...

Abbie's crib, which will be replaced with the toddler bed. She, too, has under-bed storage. She, too, has a thing for taping pictures to her wall!

We keep the Barbies and doll house upstairs, along with a few baby doll items. Gotta scale down and organize what's here. The wall hanging is embroidered silk, the photos are of a panda and the Great Wall - all from Hannah's adoption trip. Those are keepers!

The little shelf over this window holds little treasures from the girls' adoption trips. And a lot of dust. But I love how you can look out into the top of one of our trees from this window. This spring a cardinal built her nest in that tree right outside the window, and the girls got to watch her feed her babies just inches away!

Dressers covered with too many knick knacks, hair pretties and outgrown clothes...

Another cluttered dresser. The stacking baskets to the left hold diapers, pull-ups, wipes and changing pads. Obviously not needed at this point! But I love having a radio/tape/CD player in their room.

More toys (sigh)!

These shelves have really come in handy, but I'd like to replace them with something less bulky. The top shelf holds their clothes for the next day (it definitely helps to make mornings run more smoothly if I don't have to search for clean, matching clothes!). The second shelf holds their activity gear - gymnastics leotards, swim suits, ballet leotards and tights, and warmups for all three. Again, it's been helpful to be able to find these things quickly without rummaging through overstuffed drawers. The bottom shelf just holds more "stuff". I like the concept, but the shelves are just too big for their purpose. I have some good ideas, though, to replace them...

This bookcase sits in the hallway just outside the girls' room, and I'm including it in this project, as it hold only their stuff.

So there we have it - our girls' overcrowded room. But I have some wonderful ideas for this space, and I'd really like to actually spend as little money as possible (with the exception of Rachel's bed, I'd like to mainly use things we already have). I'll keep you posted on the progress, but will save all the "after" pictures for December 1st (which is only 26 days away - gasp!).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time to Organize!

Alrighty, everybody! Hang on! It's gonna be a wild ride!

Laura at Organizing Junkie is hosting a 30-day organizational challenge! I've decided to join in! Oh, but where to start? I could choose either the whole-room category, or the small space (closet, etc) category. I narrowed it down to our bedroom and the girls' bedroom. Not that those were the only two spaces that need organizing, but those two rooms would have the most impact on our family if they were actually organized. I finally decided on the girls' room, because it serves so many purposes - a place to sleep, to dress, to play, to have quiet time, to entertain friends. And it serves three family members (not to mention me, when I have to do stuff in there!). So the girls' room it is!

I will post "Before" photos just as soon as I have a few minutes to download them. I'm warning you, folks, these photos are bad! It's difficult to imagine that three little girls could have so much stuff, but they do! Clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, stuffed animals, knick knacks, art work, "treasures", hair pretties, books, CDs... I think the biggest impact will be just getting every stitch of clothing that is either outgrown or out-of-season simply OUT! And we MUST scale down the toys - we don't need 70,000 stuffed animals, now do we? Not to mention enough Barbies to populate a small nation. Also, there are some big furniture moves we've been procrastinating on, so now is the time to tackle them. Rachel has long since outgrown her toddler bed and is ready for a full-size twin bed. Abbie, at 3 1/2 years old, is still perfectly content to sleep in a crib, but it's time for her to "move on up", too. I'd like to get matching bedding for Hannah and Rachel's beds. The carpet needs to be steam cleaned. We need new shades in the windows that actually work. And then there's all the fun of "containerizing" (is that a word?)!

I'll keep you all updated on the progress I make. But as I type out my list of what I want to accomplish in that room, all I can say is, "Only 30 days? Oh, I'm gonna need a few more!"

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Warning: Applesauce, as it cooks, makes little "pops". Those pops can travel great distances. And hot applesauce on bare skin really hurts!

On the other hand, it's incredibly yummy!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Won't Believe What I've Been Doing!

OK, so my friend Lisa is really into re-discovering the old homemaking skills. So she decided she was going to start canning. And so I decided to give it a try with her, especially after tasting the delicious blueberry jam she produced on her first try!

We made strawberry and peach jams on our first afternoon, and apple butter on our second. I'm hoping to make a batch of homemade applesauce this weekend. It's really incredibly easy to do, and particularly fun when you're sharing the time with a really good girlfriend. We cooked and chatted, chatted and cooked, and the time just flew by!

Our future projects include homemade bread, sewing, knitting, and cross stitch. Looks like it's gonna be a homemade Christmas this year, folks!

First, we cut up loads of fresh fruit...

...then cooked it up...

...and ladled it into jars.

After a hot-water bath to seal the jars, we set them out to cool.

Don't all those full jars look wonderful? Such abundance!

Our children kept busy playing games and dress-up.

Two tired, happy homemakers enjoying the "fruits" of their labor! (OK, go ahead and groan!)

One of my favorite parts of the afternoon was when Rachel wandered into the kitchen and announced, "Boy, it sure smells fruity in here! Yummmm!"

Abbie's First Day of School

This has been a season of "firsts" in our family! Abbie started preschool this month! My baby is growing up so fast!

Like all the teachers at Hand In Hand Christian Preschool, Mrs. Livingston is absolutely wonderful!

Abbie's ready to go!

I just love this old-fashioned dress I got her for the first day. Can you believe I got it at Kohl's? (Can you believe her pose?)

Our sweet preschooler!

Rachel, a Hand In Hand alumna, came with us to take Abbie to school. Here's a big goodbye Sister Hug!

The first thing the children do when they enter the classroom is wash their hands. Abbie's learning the routine.

Abbie shows off her new school bag, which we will decorate in "pink and purple and jewels"!