Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two of my favorite little tips

 It has been a while since I shared some easy life hacks, or simple household tips, and because this is the week of someone's 16th birthday party, I decided I wanted to share something lighthearted and quick with you.  (That way I am sure to not get overly emotional that I'm about to have a sixteen year old son! Whaa!!)  We have a big paintballing extravaganza planned for the weekend and I'm not at all ready for it since we settled my daddy in an Alzheimer's home last week, which pretty much consumed my energy.  I have no idea why, it's not like I was doing exhausting things, but it was a lot of mental exhaustion...  Today I hung a little banner and lights, so I'm getting there!
I am sharing something that I've used for years and I seldom think about it until someone remarks what a great idea it is.  I think we all do little things like that, and how cool would it be if we all shared them? (Feel free to hook me up with your great ideas in comments. I have a feeling everyone will enjoy!) Anyway...  Ever think a box of matches was attractive d├ęcor?  (Me either.) One day it occurred to me that if I were to place matches into a cute little jar or container, I'd have them handy for lighting the candles we use daily and they wouldn't be such an eyesore.

**The glass container I used here was actually a jelly container from Ikea.  Which brings me to my secondary little tip.  If you're attempting to get sticky labels off anything, I have a fool proof solution and even my children now swear by it. Pam or non stick cooking spray.  All you need to do, is peel the sticker off as much as you can, then hit the entire surface of the residue with the non stick spray.  (Olive oil spray and coconut spray do not work quite as well, FYI).  Let it sit for a moment, then take one of those green and yellow scrubbing sponges gently to it (I use the green side).  You may need to add a bit more non stick spray but it should only take a moment for it to all scrub off.  After the residue is gone, you'll be left with an oily mess from the spray so put a little dollop of dish soap on it and use the same scrubber to scrub all over, then rinse in hot water and it should be squeaky clean and shiny.**
The only problem with removing matches from their original ugly box, is that you have nothing to strike them against.  Solution: Cut a piece of the cardboard striker off the box...
 ... and adhere it to the bottom of the match vessel.  (I used a piece of rolled tape, but hot glue or glue dots also work well.)
 Done.  And considerably cuter than a box of matches.  I love setting a jar like this next to a candle that I use frequently because it's both handy and pretty. 

What are some great household tips you like to use to make life easier, prettier, or more efficient?  Share them in comments if you'd like!

And wish me luck on preparing for this weekend's paintball war.  I think I'm just watching and photographing... but I'm so tempted to join in!  I'm a tad afraid of the welts you supposedly get and these boys are pretty intense so I'm not sure I should join the fray. Ha!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Creating new spaces

I've been getting so much feedback asking me to further dive into home organization/downsizing etc, and I've been slowly working on that post and video for you.  (If you have specific questions for me don't hesitate to leave them in comments here, and I'll try and add them in before I publish that other post.)  I had planned to get that finished by today but then over the weekend we flipped our guest room into a home office, very spur-of-the-moment, and I decided that would be more fun to share anyway. 

Don't get me wrong, we so loved having a guest room.  I mean, once a year when it was used, we were in hosting heaven.  I think we always imagined that with so much family living out of town, we'd have more company.  But then nobody in our family ever stayed here so it was down to our yearly friends who pop into town for a night or two.  It was getting harder and harder to justify keeping an entire room for a once a year use.  I squeezed my beloved treadmill in there last fall and have really enjoyed having it inside rather than in the garage where the boys work out.

Over the past month, we made a family decision that tipped the scales in favor of getting rid of the guest room.  We decided that I would be quitting my part time job as an organizer to take an Office professional course with my husband's company and become his new office professional later this spring.  (I could write a post on just that topic if I had time.  I am SO excited to work for him.  He is getting busier and busier, and we feel confident that my help will free him up to see more clients and help our family financially even more than my current job, plus, I'll still be organizing... I'll just be organizing my favorite man's life.  Which I already kind of do anyway. Grin.)

That said, I'll be working from home quite a bit, especially in the summer when kiddos are around.  Also, my sweet hard working husband could use a more private space than the kitchen table for his evening work.  So one evening out of the blue, I suggested we sell the guest bed and buy an actual desk!  Then it hit me almost immediately, that I had already purchased half of a desk from Ikea.  (A while ago, I had purchased one of their narrow drawer consoles and been using it as a side table in the living room at first, then later in our master bedroom.) I quickly looked online and found the desk top, and a matching drawer console.  Adrain liked the idea, and the price, and within the weekend, we'd sold the bed to a friend on facebook and run up to Canada where our nearest Ikea is and quickly created a new home office space. 

I repurposed the giant chalkboard that had lived in our living room the past couple of years, as a calendar, and pulled the navy and gray rug in from the garage.  It worked so perfectly in this room and we spent no other money than the two desk parts!  Adrain is going to add some casters to the bottom of this thrifted chair that I'd made over last year and that was that! 

It was so nice to move our printer in here, as it had been in our master bedroom before for lack of any other spaces.  I tried to make it a bit cute and Adrain sweetly let me since we'll be sharing this workspace.  

Now the one thing I had been really apprehensive about was having a computer out of mama's eyesight.  I'm not going to like that, I'll be honest.  You do the best you can and you put as many passwords and blocks on things but ultimately you have to trust and see.  I have an entire post in my head about social media, phones, technology and such.  In my start of the year vlog I mentioned this topic and many of you responded so I know we're all seeking the best path on this.  I promise to get back to it at some point.  (For now, I just know that I can pop in and see the reflection of the screen in the window behind to check and see what's being worked on, and I've already (secretly) used that several times.) (Ha!)

I've included a little video tour vlog for you at the end of this post, because I really think it's nice to see the real deal.  (You can see that our cord management was kind of a hack job, but we did the best we could with a floating desk.) (I'm the one who wanted that. I just like to be able to look out into the street, and also not face a wall.) I think Ikea must be discontinuing these pieces because we got them both on clearance.  However, they had some really similar options in case you're looking for one. Also, we chose the larger desk top size and are very happy with it.  We debated but for homework, evening work spreading out and such, it's nice to have it.  Also we have a computer with an internal hard drive and wireless printer, and we have loved it for the past couple of years.  Fewer cords and such.  

Let me know if you have any more questions that I didn't answer here or in my video, in the comments section and if you haven't already had a chance to, you may enjoy subscribing to my youtube videos, under my name, Sasha Brodeur.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lent, and a bunch of other stuff...

Happy almost first weekend of March y'all!  I just returned from celebrating my Mama's birthday with pedicures and lunch, then baking brownies for the hungry teens that invade once school and practice is finished.  I'm so thrilled it's March.  It's always a bit crazy around here with all the birthdays and spring holidays but I adore and thrive on! Seder dinner is just around the corner, and you can be sure I'm already thinking ahead about making a pretty spring table for that, as well as the other spring traditions that I kind of let slide last year.  I wasn't feeling it with my daddy's Alzheimer's diagnosis and I gave myself a free pass.  However, my children told me the free pass was over and I needed to get back to making life fun again so that's what I'm all about.  So important to live in the now, even if your heart is grieving what used to be.  All in. 

Last night, we attended an amazing Ash Wednesday service at our new church.  (Have I mentioned that we started attending a sweet little church in late August and the first Sunday, knew we were home? Huge blessings all around with a church that is all about community- something we were craving in our very core.)  I've never been to a Lent service but it was so fun to lay down a card with the thing we were choosing to give up for Lent, then take communion and pick up a card with "God" printed on it.  Laying down something in our life, to push some extra room in, so we can accept more of God, awareness of His presence in our life and an appreciation of this precious season and the great sacrifice we celebrate at Easter.  Oh how I love it!  (We also got the ash crosses on our foreheads with a blessing and I can now check that off my bucket list.)

Lest I keep you hanging, waiting to hear what I gave up, I shall share. I actually spent a week on this subject recently because I wanted to give up whatever it was that God wanted me to give up. So I prayed and asked Him and He made it pretty clear almost immediately... complaining.  (I know right? I was surprised too, especially considering I don't think of myself as an unusually annoying complainer type... then again, does anyone?)  But, as the pre-lent weeks unfolded, I was so clearly aware that I complain (often subtly, sarcastically, or with eye rolls and humor to mask it) all too often, don't seek to see His blessings in situations I'm not enjoying, and let it affect me and seep into my surrounding relationships.  Ack!  So off to give that up these next forty days (and hopefully indefinitely).  Are you giving something up?

I feel like this is another whole post but the post title says, "a bunch of other stuff" and it's kind of related to the letting stuff go for Lent or otherwise theme.

I feel like our life is so different now than it was last fall when I "stopped blogging" (let's all giggle at that for a moment).  (And when I say so different, I mean a little different.  I like to be dramatic for effect, don't you know.)  I just realized that I've been working part-time for an organizing company for the past 3 years and I can't tell you how it's twisted my thinking and ideas on letting go of things.  I see so many homes that aren't homes, they are simply storage units for way too many unused material items... I see older parents holding onto things their adult kids are never going to want, and I see how things trap and hold people hostage in all manner of ways.  It's honestly sickening and I find myself coming home from most organizing jobs feeling a bit desperate to throw something (anything) into a donate bin and refocus!  

Years ago, Adrain and I dreamed about getting a bed and breakfast and running it in our retirement but I think the combination of seeing my parents forfeit the plans they had for later life as they go through this Alzheimer's journey, coupled with my job as an organizer, has taken Adrain and my dreams and pointed them into a whole other direction.  We now dream of simplifying our entire life, buying a small condo, in our bustling little nearby Village neighborhood where we can walk pretty much anywhere we need to go, and maybe share one car.  We dream of  taking off for occasional weekends to do things and make memories while we can.  Shaking off attachment to things  and entirely changing the look of our next stage of life.  We honestly can't wait.  God often laughs at our plans so we're holding it loosely of course, but moving forward into this new direction for the life we crave.

Of course, this has had a dramatic effect on our daily choices.  I've spent the past 3 years downsizing our things little by little.  That's an odd way to phrase it, but true. We're still thinking and dreaming and we constantly ask one another, "would we take this to our condo someday?  Why do we keep it now then?" (Throw pillows will of course go and are of great importance... Wink.) I did the Madame Chic closet challenge and have spent the entire last year going season by season, paring down my clothing to only about 22 items in any given season and it's incredibly FREEING. As in, totally life changing in every way and I so recommend it if you haven't done it. (Jennifer L. Scott is the Author and all three of her books are delights.) I don't have a linen, hall or decor closet stuffed with anything much other than some toys for tiny visitors... what we have is what's out, we love it, and it's seen and used daily. We all have one set of sheets and we wash them and put them right back on.  My kitchen holds all we need for any entertaining event and we even have an empty cupboard. When we started this process, we decided to have zero guilt about it, no matter who gave it to us or when we got it, or what we spent.  It was time for a life change and we flung ourselves into it! I even got our Christmas decorations condensed  into one large bin.  ONE. 

I figure at this rate, by the time kiddos graduate if not long before, we'll be all set and living ultra-minimally.  (And side note, sweet Ava wants us to do this when she's a senior in high school so she can be in on the adventure a little before she goes to college. Um yes. And yes please!)

Anyway, this is truly my heart these days and I daresay my passion.  Part of why I wasn't certain the direction I could take this blog, was that so often you see social media showing more things to purchase, new ideas to incorporate, extra this, better that, new trends here, etc.  I was at war with this idea and needed the space to shed actual things, and find my focus in all of it.  I will still gladly open my home to you as we continue, and share our spaces. We have a few inexpensive home tweaks possibly to come, (can you say rip off that cabinet and hang open shelving?) but I do fear that it could be a bit more boring (or perhaps refreshing?) as we have more blank, breathable walls now where we didn't before, and are working on this daily less is more mindset in literal ways of having less.  I included a few shots from around the house that make me smile since it's been quite a while since I shared any home photos and I'd like to say that I naturally gravitate to soothing, calm neutrals but even more so when the outside forces feel chaotic or stressful like this season we're in with my daddy.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Lent, and letting go, and what I've said here about being so easily trapped by our possessions and excess. As always, you are precious gems and I adore your readership and encouragement and hope this place encourages you as well.