Open Letters: May

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If you haven’t already been following Julie from A Hopeful Hood, you’re seriously missing out on a pretty hilarious perspective on life (especially as a new mom). I always enjoy reading her blog and since climbing out from my rock I saw she’s hosting a new linkup in the form of open letters – I couldn’t wait to join in. I love the idea of writing posts in the form of letters (i.e. to my past self, to my dog, and even kind of to Nicole Arbour) and so here I am linking up with Julie for her monthly linkup of Open Letters.

Dear Greyson,
You seem to be growing so quickly, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t mind you beginning to get into a nighttime routine that allows Daddy and I to manage a few more hours of sleep. I love watching you grow and everyday it seems you’re noticing something new and continuing to be curious about this strange new world you find yourself in. You’re beginning to talk and babble so much these days that I know this is just the beginning…of me missing how tiny you were.

Dear Gap,
Your new spring styles are something I envy if only I could find myself getting out of my SAHM uniform of yoga pants and a nursing cami. I find my closet dwindling in terms of pre-pregnancy clothes that fit (I apparently inherited a new body after delivery), but consider it a win when I can *almost zip and button my jeans! However, if I could just win a shopping spree I’d really appreciate it.

Oh, and Baby Gap…please feel free to pick Baby G as your next brand rep in your casting call. He’s super adorable.

Dear oatmeal cookie recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats box,
You were baked on a  whim because this woman loves a good oatmeal cookie…and oatmeal is healthy right…and you were absolutely delicious. Nevermind I had to use two different kinds of sugars and chocolate chips –  I had no qualms eating you right up and counting my Weight Watcher points along the way. #worthit.

P.S. WW, you should really reconsider how many points wine is. I mean, it’s grapes and I thought fruits were 0 points.

Home Design On A TJ Maxx Budget

Today I am happy to share a few decor and organizing tips that always help me achieve that warm and welcoming look and feel for our home, cuts down on the clutter, but on a realistic budget.

One of my favorite pastimes is split between pinning a variety of interior design inspirations and doing my best to replicate what I pin by finding affordable and easy DIY pieces at my local TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, World Market, and Marshall’s. It also doesn’t help that my current favorite home renovation show is Fixer Upper (along with every other woman in America) and it does nothing but give me home design envy and the bug to go out and spend money on cute decor for our home. However, living in a rental only allows me to do so much within our home (because I’d love nothing more than to rip out our grimy sliding door shower and replace the fake granite/laminate countertops in our kitchen and bathroom…just to start) and considering I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, I have to get crafty.

Today I am happy to share a few decor and organizing tips that always help me achieve that warm and welcoming look and feel for our home, cuts down on the clutter, but on a realistic budget.

start with a plan

Living minimally, I have to get pretty practical with what I bring into our home. For the most part I have full control on the design and decoration, but it never hurts to run things by the husband prior to making any purchases or adding anything. So, making a plan for what I’d like to do is the first place I always start. How much wall space do I have? Square footage? Type of flooring or counter space? These questions help me find the potential in my home and gives me a place to start.

Another part of any plan of mine is making sure I am making the space we have useful. This goes back to the minimalistic approach we live by: everything needs to have a place and purpose. Given that we currently have limited space and can’t do any permanent renovations in our apartment, I have to see each room differently and plan a way to improve the space without leaving damage for when it’s time for us to move.

Before jumping right into decorating there are some steps that I encourage for anyone and that is what Chip & Joanna call “demo day.” I don’t mean tearing down your walls, but I do mean a total cleanse of your home. This makes room for new projects and allows you to see where you could use better organization.

step 1: de-clutter the home
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mathew 6:19-21

Holding onto things and becoming a clutter-bug is something I easily slip into. I have to remind myself that anything that comes in must be equalized with items that go out, whether we donate, sell, or just trash those things. God gives us a plan for how we should live our lives and I personally remind myself of His word and how we should keep our homes free of materialistic distractions. With that said, here are a few ways my husband and I de-clutter our home so that it doesn’t leave me feeling like the cat lady on Animal Hoarders.

DONATE/SELL
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” Luke 12:33

  • Clothes: I try to make sure that I go through our apartment and clean out the clutter every 6 months or so. This means routinely going through my closet and donating any clothing, accessories, or shoes I haven’t worn or don’t fit (ThredUp, Goodwill, and local consignment stores are great options for offering you a bit of cash or tax deductibles for donating your lightly used stuff!). Think about what you’ve worn/haven’t worn in the last 6 months/a year and separate them into piles. Pregnancy has really made this step easy considering my body has changed since welcoming Baby G so I’ve been able to pitch a lot of what doesn’t fit anymore. Plus my SAHM uniform consists of yoga pants and nursing tops…
  • Unused furniture: See if you can host a yard sale or put up unused furniture on Craigslist to clear out the larger pieces you’re not using or are just taking up space. Another great idea is lending or even giving away furniture to young couples, those who have just moved, or otherwise need to stock their homes with the basics. No need in holding onto those bookshelves or old coffee tables you have no idea what to do with them.
  • Refurbish: A great DIY project is to take your old crummy furniture and give it some elbow grease and transform it into something you’ll love. Either that or refurbish it to sell it!

TRASH

  • Magazines, junk mail, and other stacks of unused paper is worth throwing away. That Entertainment Weekly that’s four months old can get the pitch and so can all of those old pay stubs (unless you’re properly organizing it for taxes). See what you’ve accumulated over the last few months and shred/throw out all of those pesky papers you have stashed around your closets or countertops. Get in the habit of going through your mail and immediately throwing away the junk.
  • Maintain your junk drawer. I believe it’s healthy to have one drawer that is designated for those knick-knacks because we all have them. Accumulated pens, matches, knobs from random cabinets, etc. are going to end up in your home no matter how hard you try. Just keep your junk drawer to a minimum and always go through it and see what you can throw away.

step 2: create storage where there isn’t any

  • Hanging baskets, shelving, and incorporating other drawers or cabinetry is an easy and affordable way to create storage where you may be limited. In our apartment we only have a small linen closet and our bedroom closet for storage. That’s it. However, we have plenty of wall space and square footage that I try to use that to our advantage.
    Hanging baskets, shelving, and incorporating other drawers or cabinetry is an easy and affordable way to create storage where you may be limited.We get a subscription to Bon Appétit Magazine and this wall basket has been a great rustic touch to display these magazines in our kitchen. Prior to that I just had frames, now I’ve created purpose to that little wall space!
  • Our coffee bar has served more than one purpose for our little apartment. It’s not only a place where we can store all of our coffee needs, but it has really allowed us to create storage where we didn’t have it before. To create our coffee bar we simply used a rustic wall shelf with hanging hooks and purchased an affordable cabinet from Target. This bar alone has allowed us now to clear out space in our kitchen cabinets, get more organized, and pitch anything we’re not using.

use wall shelves to save space

  • I love taking pictures, making prints, and hanging our memories all around our home. When you have a plethora of prints you need frames and when you have a bunch of frames you need to hang them. But how? I actually hate hanging things because somehow two necessary holes in my wall somehow turn into thirty misplaced ones. To solve this problem I use wall shelves and simply lean my frames against the wall. Doing this I’m able to display more frames and without the hassle of trying to hang them. Another great way to display your photos is using a gallery wall. This incorporates multiple frames on one wall to create a collage of sorts.

I use wall shelves and simply lean my frames against the wall. Doing this I’m able to display more frames and without the hassle of trying to hang them.

Opt for cheaper frames to display your prints!Frames: Ikea & TJ Maxx

  • Other wall shelves are great for getting things off the counter, such as in our kitchen. In this house we love to cook and having certain spices at the ready has made cooking that much more convenient (plus it looks cute!). So, using a small wall shelf we not only display, but use the spices on our rack. Other spices we use sparingly or not as often we keep in our cabinet out of sight.

Other wall shelves are great for getting things off the counter, such as in our kitchen. In this house we love to cook and having certain spices at the ready has made cooking that much more convenient (plus it looks cute!).

step 3: giving everything a place

The key to getting organized and continuing to live that way is by giving the things you keep (or purchase) a place in your home that also has purpose. Decor is nice, but if you find yourself with more frames than you do photos or those decorative sea shells don’t have a specific place, then don’t purchase them. Here’s how I manage to organize my tiny space even with a baby:

Hide those ugly cords with simple organization solutions. I picked up a mail organizer at TJ Maxx and use it to keep our modem out of sight. We hold the mail we keep, our laundry card, and other important paperwork in the organizer so that it doesn’t get lost and makes that area useful.

Hide those ugly cords with simple organization solutions. I picked up a mail organizer at TJ Maxx and use it to keep our modem out of sight. We hold the mail we keep, our laundry card, and other important paperwork in the organizer so that it doesn’t get lost and makes that area useful.

Use a simple magazine basket to store dog toys in your living room!

I had picked up a magazine basket from Ikea years ago and had no idea what to do with it…until we had Murphy. Now I use this basket to keep his toys in one place and it’s easily accessible for him. He’s since taught himself to go up to it and get his own toys…if only we could train him to put them away 😉

Hang cards or other mail using a cute chicken wire frame with mini clothespins! Instantly keeps clutter off your countertops!

I absolutely love this rustic card display I bought on Etsy (and you can see how I use it during Christmas)! Originally I thought I would just have it up during the holidays, but there’s always an occasion we can display the cards we receive, like my first Mother’s Day cards (see photo). So, I’ve kept it up year round and now we’ve maximized that wall space facing out into our living room.

Creating a useful nursery in a one bedroom apartment can be done! See how I maximize space and get by with little baby “stuff"

 Using a bookshelf and wicker baskets from Target I’ve created a changing station that hides our overstock of diapers and wipes.

Keeping our baby stuff organized has been pretty simple considering we don’t have too much stuff to begin with – just the necessary basics. Using a bookshelf and wicker baskets from Target I’ve created a changing station that hides our overstock of diapers and wipes. The baskets are easily accessible and one holds his plain onesies, hats, and burp cloths and the other stores medicine like his Infant Tylenol, first aid kit, nasal aspirator (the Nose Frieda is the best!), etc. The rest of his baby clothes are stored in designated drawers in our bedroom and his “hamper” is a tote bag hanging in our closet!

See what his nursery area looked like before Baby G arrived.

Most recently I reorganized our nursery area to make it more functional during those many diaper changes. In doing so I found our shelf has an exposed side so I stuck two of those hooks and now his jacket (which we used quite frequently) is right there ready to go.

Command Hooks are one of my favorite things to have in the house because you never know where you can find a use for them. Most recently I reorganized our nursery area to make it more functional during those many diaper changes. In doing so I found our shelf has an exposed side so I stuck two of those hooks and now his jacket (which we used quite frequently) is right there ready to go.

Another quick way I’ve used the Command Hooks is keeping his night light cord in place and hidden within the tree decal. I also just recently clipped prints of my husband and I down the cord since Baby G loves looking at them when he’s getting changed.

Another quick way I’ve used the Command Hooks is keeping his night light cord in place and hidden within the tree decal. I also just recently clipped prints of my husband and I down the cord since Baby G loves looking at them when he’s getting changed.

Lastly, affordable storage units like this one from Target is a simple way to keep baby things (or anything!) organized and offers bins to hide everything you don’t want displayed.

Lastly, affordable storage units like this one from Target is a simple way to keep baby things (or anything!) organized and offers bins to hide everything you don’t want displayed. Also, being a teacher turned SAHM had me with a lot of my books without a proper home. So, I de-cluttered my closet and put them into Grey’s bookshelf. Now he can enjoy these stories my students did for so many years!

These are just a few ways I’ve managed the clutter in our home and I hope these solutions can help you get your space organized and begin living with a meaningfully!

How do you stay organized? Any tips or tricks to share?

Getting The Most Out Of Your Stitch Fix

Have you received a fix and thought your stylist could do better? Well, it’s happened to me and after some thought I realized I wasn’t communicating the best that I could! Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of every fix!

Stitch Fix is amongst one of the most popular styling subscriptions out there and also popular amongst bloggers alike. The company has grown since I first joined as they now include styles for both petite and maternity and just unveiled they now include shoes! I first began receiving my fixes almost two years ago when a girlfriend of mine shared her referral link and out of curiosity I began the process that would change how I purchased clothes and approached fashion in general. What I love about this service is that it makes shopping for myself super simple, convenient, and comfortable. I love how easy it is to shop and discover new brands (since a lot of their labels are Stitch Fix exclusives) and items I otherwise may not have chosen for myself.

For those of you not familiar with Stitch Fix or how it works, in a nutshell: For only an upfront $20 styling fee you receive five hand picked pieces from clothing to bags and accessories shipped right to your front door by a personal stylist. You have the convenience of trying on your fixes from the privacy of your own home and have three days to make a decision on what you’d like to keep or send back in their prepaid shipping envelope. Love everything in your fix? They have a discount for that! Plus your styling fee goes towards a credit to anything you buy – but, there’s no pressure to purchase a thing. You can even now download their free app where you can upload a photo of yourself, schedule a fix, track it, and even checkout using your smartphone.

However, not every fix is going to be a hit and you might sometimes find items that don’t fit your body type, fit too small or large, or just not your personal style. There have been a couple times where I had to send everything back because I just didn’t like anything I received. So, what went wrong? After some thought I realized that I wasn’t communicating the best that I could so that my stylist (you often get to keep the same stylist!) knew exactly what I was looking for and guaranteed perfect fixes every time moving forward.

Here are a few quick tips on how I’ve managed to get the most out of my fixes…

complete your style profile

When you first create your free account it will prompt you to fill out a style profile. This lets your future stylists know a detailed run-down of your style preferences, measurements, and things to stay away from such as certain fabrics or patterns. It’s pretty extensive, but the more information you provide the better picture you paint for your stylist.

create and link a style board on Pinterest

This step is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your stylist understands the looks that you love and are interested in receiving. At the moment you can only link up one style board at a time so be sure to link the one you use most often or the one you’d prefer your stylist to use when making selections for your fixes. For me, I’ve linked my ‘Style Inspirations’ board until I got pregnant. Then, I made sure to update my Pinterest link on my Stitch Fix profile to reflect the ‘Maternity Fashions’ board I’d created so my stylist was able to see what I was inspired by when I was expecting.

Follow Kelly Daniel’s board Style Inspirations on Pinterest.

descriptions, descriptions, descriptions!

This step does take a bit of time to do, but it’s so worth it in the end. When I’m pinning, I pin first then I go back later and write my little detailed notes to my stylist. I try to be as specific as possible in my explanation as to why I’m pinning this particular photo to my board. I try to think about what I like most about it and what I would like to receive in order to pull off a similar look. Also, I try to mention pieces I already have in my closet so that I am clear as to what I would like to receive thats represented in the pinned photo.

detailed notes are just as important

When you go to schedule your next fix there’s a box where you can write a little note to your stylist that gives them an idea of what you’re looking for next. This is where you can get really specific about what you need that month. Is there a special occasion coming up? A trip? Or that one favorite piece that’s missing from your closet? Share it and get specific!

When you go to schedule your next fix there’s a box where you can write a little note to your stylist that gives them an idea of what you’re looking for next. This is where you get really specific about what you need that month. Is there a special occasion coming up? A trip? Or that one favorite piece that’s missing from your closet? Share it and get specific!

**from this note I was able to finally find the perfect denim jacket and dresses because of how specific I was!

link to social media

Just like they tell you, share yourself with your stylist by linking up your social media accounts. This gives them an idea of who you are and what you’re looking to add to your wardrobe. Definitely include a style Pinterest board, Twitter, or even your LinkedIn account. Another great thing is their new Stitch Fix app where you can now even upload a photo of yourself, which gives your stylist an even better look at you and your personal style.

Just like they tell you, share yourself with your stylist by linking up your social media accounts. This gives them an idea of who you are and what you’re looking to add to your wardrobe.

Now that you have these helpful tips, schedule your first fix today! If you’ve found this post to be helpful and are interested in trying Stitch Fix out, I would love it if you used my referral link. This referral link helps me earn credits towards future fixes and be able to write helpful posts like these and my reviews.

Referral links are used within this post. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

 

The Only Child Debate: 7 Reasons We May Only Have One

In the life plan of mine (you know, the one I created as a pre-teen before truly understanding the complexities of this world and relationships) I had always told myself I would meet a man, get married, then have two kids. That would complete my family: just two…maybe room for one more. However, as I sit here being a newly minted mother of only just 2.5 months to my beautiful, smiley and active boy I have put some real thought into what it would mean to add another child into the mix down the road.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a new mom and much like the first year of teaching, I’m just “surviving” until I reach those milestones where my son will eventually sleep through the night (does that ever truly happen?) or he won’t need to be on my chest all.day.long (will I every truly want that to end?) and I begin to be an individual adult again and not just the life-force that is part milk machine and part comforter of all things. I love my new role as a mother as it’s definitely made me a stronger person through and through. I’ve learned a lot about myself these last couple months and pride myself (and my husband) on our parenting abilities…since there’s no perfect way to do it. We’ve managed to start getting Greyson on some kind of a schedule both with feeding and sleeping, we make for a great team, and we’re on the same page about maintaining our pre-baby life but just with some adjustments now that we have him in the picture.

In the life plan of mine (you know, the one I created as a pre-teen before truly understanding the complexities of this world and relationships) I had always told myself I would meet a man, get married, then have two kids. That would complete my family: just two...maybe room for one more. However, as I sit here being a newly minted mother of only just 2.5 months to my beautiful, smiley and active boy I have put some real thought into what it would mean to add another child into the mix down the road.

But, no matter how together we have it now we always get “the look” when we mention to others that Greyson just might be our only child. Somehow we’re crazy that we’re not “giving it some time” before we make any kind of decision. We get bombarded with questions as to “why not have another?”, “don’t you want Greyson to have a sibling to grow up with?”, or if we’re worried he’ll end up like “one of those kids.” We also get the other spectrum of unsolicited, but well meaning, advice on how only children are lonely, spoiled, and socially inept and that we should have more children so that Greyson is more well rounded or adaptable to the world. Having been a teacher I completely understand that side of the Only Child Debate as I’ve had plenty of students that have fit the bill. However, I ask that, with an open mind, you walk with us through our own thoughts on the subject:

greyson will be

Lonely
“He’s going to want someone to play with growing up.”

Being social is an inherent part of being human and having an only child means they’re growing up in a household without other children to interact or play with right there in the home. However, in today’s culture there are plenty of social opportunities for young children such as play groups, mommy and me classes, parks, preschools, and play dates with other children. Just because there’s only one child in the home doesn’t mean they’ll be missing out on play with other kids their age – it just means that the parent needs to be active about providing new opportunities for their child to be around other children much more-so than a home with multiple children.

Spoiled
“Only children are used to getting what they want and end up becoming spoiled brats.”

It’s a well known fact that when a child is given every opportunity with little challenge, struggle, or frustration they end up spoiled and little appreciation for the hard work of others. Parents of only children often have the time, money, and energy to devote themselves completely to their child and thus the seed is planted for a spoiled child later on. This all comes down to parenting and how one approaches setting boundaries, praise/consequences, and learning opportunities for their child.

My stance: it shouldn’t matter if you have only one child or ten; parenting should be equal across the board with setting examples of proper social skills (like sharing, waiting turns, and even losing in a game), setting clear boundaries and following them up with the right kind of praise or consequence. Another huge piece of successful parenting is encouraging independence in their child and not making them the center of their world (I learned a lot about this in my book study of Bringing Up Bébé). Greyson is my entire world, but he’ll never fully know it because my husband and I plan to teach him that there’s time both for him as well as us adults and other people.

Keeping our child un-spoiled also refers to how we spend our money on him or otherwise indulge him. Especially since he’s such a good kid already, I know this part will be a bit of a challenge because we all associate indulgences when our kids do something well such as good grades. But, what about the kid that always gets good grades? I will for sure be proud of Greyson for his good grades, for example, but for me this is also an expectation. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m buying him a new toy every time he does something that’s expected of children. So, rewarding/indulging, or however you’d like to look at it, is something that parents of only children just have to keep in check and always have an awareness of.

Socially Inept
“Only kids end up being weird and have difficulty making friends.”

This argument can be easily made with many adults today with our incessant need to be on our phones or use social media to have relationships with people. I ask you to recall a time when you went somewhere in public and found that everyone who is in the company of their friends or family were actually engaging with them – and no phone in sight. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen that. However…

…this combines my first two points about an only child possibly being lonely or spoiled. If the first two rungs of the parenting ladder are met then Greyson should have no problems being confident, outgoing, and equipped with social skills that will make meeting (and keeping) friends as easy as it is for other children with siblings. Exposing him to other children at a young age, teaching and modeling proper social skills, establishing rules and committing to them will help him in his social adaptability in the long run.

So, raising an only child isn’t a condemnation to a life of entitlement for Greyson, but makes for active parenting on the part of my husband and I. We have to begin to take responsibility for our role as parents and how that relates to Greyson, the child. I don’t believe we should consider having another child JUST for the sole reason of keeping Greyson busy or giving him a friend to play with at home. It should be a mutual family decision that fits with our lifestyle, budget, and overall ability to raise another tiny human.

raising one child

+ personal recovery: childbirth is no joke and the result of pushing a tiny (and in my case a not so tiny) human out of my body took a lot out of me during the actual delivery process, but also the recovery. Immediately afterwards it was difficult to do basic things like stand up, walk, or use the restroom on my own. I had to take stool softeners for weeks due to how terrified I was to poop. And from having an episiotomy, that was an entire OTHER healing process for my body. As much as childbirth is a beautiful thing I am not sure if I will be ready to do that all over again and having only one child guarantees me to heal one time only.

+ not missing the newborn stage: just as childbirth is beautiful, sleep is even more-so and it’s been a while since my husband and I have had a good nights rest. Now that Greyson is slowly moving through his newborn stages such as sleeplessness, constant neediness, no sense of routine…or wearing clothes for that matter, we are beginning to regain our sanity as new parents. With each passing day he’s learning more and more about this world and becoming more comfortable (and curious) in it. I’m not sure we are ready to begin this process all over again with Greyson as a toddler and a newborn in the house.

+ financially friendly: we’re two young adults with a dog and now a newborn living on one income due to our strong feelings of me being home to raise our son. If we were to add another child into the mix it would most likely require me to go back to work full time and miss out on everything I get to enjoy about being home with Greyson now. And we all know how much daycare costs…but, it doesn’t end there. Across the board only having one child is exponentially cheaper than having multiple children. Yes, we already have the baby things so if we were to have another it would cut most of the upfront costs. However, the cost of pregnancy (all those diagnostic tests and doctors visits), delivery (still paying off our delivery), and everything under the sun like diapers, wipes, and food just keep adding up. The thought of doubling this number is mind-numbing.

+ fostering development: again, with me being able to to be home to raise Greyson I am here to encourage his development by reading and singing to him, dancing with him, going on walks outside, playing on his floor gym with him, and preparing him for new routines like feeding and sleeping. Eventually when he’s getting ready to enter preschool, and with my education background, I am excited to begin introducing him to the alphabet, language, colors, and other skills that will better prepare him for school. Also, with me being home it allows me to have the time to involve him in social activities so he’s not, you know, lonely.

+ travel! my husband and I love to travel and that has always included our traveling companion, Murphy-dog, and this won’t change even with our little guy around. The joy of having only one child is that we get to still enjoy what we love about traveling but with less stress and stuff to tote around. Besides, Greyson will have so many more opportunities to experience the world around him with us since we’ll be financially able to travel more with only one child.

+ family bond: of the friends I have that are only children (and very well rounded I might add) they have an extraordinary bond with their families/parents. Due to being there to dedicate ourselves, within reason, to Greyson I’m hopeful that our little family will have a tight bond and that will be a positive influence in his life later as an adult.

+ no guilt: guilt is a strong thing and I would never want to feel guilty that I’m keeping Greyson from a sibling experience or the feeling of him missing out on something. With that said, I also don’t want us to be guilted into having another child for the sake of all the things we are now discussing. I know my husband and I will be amazing parents, even if our son is our only child. We entered into parenthood together and we’ll stand together as we try to ensure Greyson has the best upbringing we can provide him.

Linking up with…

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