Friday, March 30, 2012

A Couple Mid-Week Finds

Tuesday I popped into The Salvation Army for a few minutes before grocery shopping. I'm still on the lookout for a shelving unit to better organize toys, games, and craft supplies in my girls' room. Came up empty there but figured I'd run up and down the knick knack ailes while I was there. I found a couple little treasures on the cheap.

First, a small ironstone pitcher. It was marked 99 cents but was the 1/2-off color of the day. So for 50 cents:

It compliments this other one I found at a thrift shop last year:

It'll join the other one on display in my dining room. Or may be used as a vase from time to time.  I also found this cool walking stick with a bird on top that is hand-carved.

For now it sits in the umbrella basket on my front porch to the right of our door that deperately needs refinishing.

My oldest daughter loves to find walking sticks anytime we got for walks/hikes in the woods. So she was super-psyched to see that I came home with this. I'm not yet sure if I'm going to ban it for decorative purposes only or actually let her use it.

Fast forward to this afternoon. The three girls and I were all walking out of the doctor's office (okay so the youngest wasn't walking, she was being carried) and in walks an old man using a walking stick. A hand carved walking stick with an eagle head for a handle. My daughter's face lit up. "Hey!! We have one of those!!!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Too Old for Smocking?

My mom gave me the heads up on a couple of yard sale signs she saw on her way home from work at the end of last week. So Saturday morning I loaded up the girls to go and check them out. One was actually a restaurant that had closed and was selling off a bunch of their supplies. I got a couple of nice heavy duty 1/2 sheet pans, a couple of equally heavy duty frying pans, and a stack of stainless steel condiment cups (great for giving kids little snacks in), all for $10.

They just need a little cleaning up.
 The next sale was right down the road and right up our alley - a moving sale put on by a family with a couple of girls a little older than mine. Bins and bins of girls' clothing, toys, and dress-up clothes among other odds and ends. I hit the clothes jack pot for my oldest. Apparently their mom liked to shop. And the dad, who was running the sale, said to name my own price. You got it dude. That means 50 cents to $1.00 per item. He paused like he knew he was getting ripped off, but then said okay because he obviously just wanted to be rid of it all. $35 total for over 40 articles of clothing, including boots, shoes, a new coat, a bunch of beautiful dresses, a light-up Little Mermaid costume and a couple of books.  I don't care a lick whether or not my kids are wearing name brands but my daughter will now be sporting a few Lilly Pulitzer pieces, among others pricey brands.

Here are a few of the dresses we came home with. Not bad for $1 each if I do say so myself. All have been "twirl-tested" and a few passed with flying colors.

My favorite

And finally, this is one of two identical green and white gingham dresses with more smocking (we gave the matching one to my daughter's friend).

How sweet is that? Gotta love the gingham and smocking combo, it's so old fashioned. I know, I know. She's six, not two. Exactly how old is too old to still dress your daughters in smocking??

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Porch This Spring

At the beginning of the week I was starting to wonder if garden shops would have early spring annuals out yet. (The ones I forgot to start indoor myself this year like I intended.) Then as I was running errands and approached one of my favorite spots - Pete's Oasis - I saw the pansy flats sitting out front. Yippee!

A couple of hours later I had filled my old wooden tool box, a free score from when my BFF's family was cleaning out a few generations worth of treasures. They had a yard sale that was more like an estate sale.  Not like the one I stopped at this past weekend, which had actually advertised old tool boxes - one of the reasons I had hoped it would be a promising sale - only to find out the tool boxes were all rusty metal.

Now these cheerful pansies are sitting on the window sill inside my porch, where we've been spending a lot of time again this past week.

I love to use these zinc garden markers in containers and outside in the garden - especially come spring when I forget what I previously planted where. I bougtht a boatload of them many moons ago at my favorite local perennial garden center that made me so so so so sad when they closed.

Another little terra cotta pot sits to the left of my front door on a little folding chair that was my dad's from his growing up years.

I would zoom out a little more in the pictures to show more of my porch if it wasn't a disaster zone. The side that's our seating area was littered with kids blocks that I was too lazy to pick up for the picture. The other side, further to the left of this little chair, is littered with just about everything else - hubby's softball equipment, yard sale treasures I haven't done anything with yet, extra kids carseats, strollers, exercise equipment. Makes my chest tighten up every time I come in and out. Not exactly the serene space that should greet me or my guests when we enter and certainly a horrid first impression. The porch is my BIG project for this spring - to clean it out and completely repaint it from ceiling to floor. (The scratched up floor in that last picture is just a little taste of why.) And get a new screen door. And refinish the wood door. And get new window boxes. And the list goes on. I'll find a way to incorporate some more treasures and do some before and after action here.

Aaahh, I LOVE how spring motivates.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Estate Sale" Jewels

Most weeks I glance at estate sale listings in my general area but I haven't actually trekked out to one all winter. Usually they are either on the farthest end of how far I'm willing to drive or nothing in the listing sounds interesting or else I just don't feel like dragging the kids out. Saturday morning I saw a listing for a sale that included some interesting items, bookshelves and other shelving. It was just a couple of towns over and I thought I might find a better storage solution than what I currently have going on at the end of my kids' bunkbed.  Since I had no other plans, I decided to pack up the kids and head out. (Gotta start warming up for yard sale season, ya know.)

I popped the address in my GPS and off we went. As soon as we pulled into the street, it looked familiar. Sure enough - we pull up to the house, which I also recognized. We'd been to their yard sale last year. Twice. The nerve of them to list their stale yard sale leftovers as an estate sale! I was not happy. But we took a look anyways.

I think they did have some new things out. I oogled over a beautiful antique cedar chest, similar to one I already have. This one still had the original ad on the inside boasting "free moth insurance" for life. :)  If I had a place to put it now I would have considered paying the $100 for it so I could eventually have a hope chest to pass along to each of my girls.

I didn't see the supposed shelving the estate sale ad mentioned so I asked about it and the lady was like "oh yeah...where are those shelves..." She proceeded to dig through her garage the entire time I was purusing through the rest of her cast-offs. She never could find the shelves. And all I took interest in was a Bombay Company wood jewelry box and a funky old bracelet. First I asked how much for the jewelry box. "$3." Deal. Then I asked how much for the bracelet. "Comes with the jewelry box!" Sweet.

Here is the jewelry box, which I gave to the girls for their ever-growing stash of trinkets and bobbles:

And here are my new baubles:

Mother-of-pearl-esque shells and gold "coins" on gold chain-link. Very vintage. Love it.

So it wasn't a complete waste of a trip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hiding Toys

In response to my last post about reorganizing my bathroom closet, I was asked how I organize the chaos of toys. My first reaction was that I had nothing to share on that subject. I too often wonder where to put it all. But on second thought, I realized I have made decent use of the practically no storage we have in our little house. (Although my #1 solution is to go on a purging spree a few times a year.)

So that I wouldn't forget, that same afternoon I started taking pictures around the house of all the various places I store "kid crap." We don't have the luxury of a designated playroom so we have toys and books tucked away throughout the house.

I'll start in my living room. When we added this on to the house a few years ago, hubby was adamant that this was adult territory - no toys allowed. However, when its the room the family hangs out in, its impossible to keep toys out. So I chose to use pieces of furniture where I could not just store toys, but literally hide them.

I swear, in real life, that shelf is level.

The wood chest above is something that belonged to my Nana and I "claimed" after she passed away. It was originally a strange speckled gray and when I refinished it about 10 years ago I painted it a cream color and distressed it. Over the years this has functioned as plant stand in our old dining room bay window, coffee table in our old living room, and toybox in our dining room but now it is used as a bench that hides toys.

One great feature is that it has a "slam-proof" hinge that locks in the upright position when it is opened so it does crush little fingers. Inside this we have mostly puzzles and a Dora dollhouse and accessories.
And just so you don't think my living room always looks as neat and tidy as the first picture, here is what the room looked like about an hour before I took the first picture - a more typical daytime state of affairs.

Notice the clear plastic bin to the right of the bench/toy box - this belongs under the girls' bed. I limit the Barbies/Ponies and all accessories to that box. If I can't shut that lid, something has to go.

The entertainment center on the other side, a hand-me-down from my sister over 5 years ago, is supposed to store DVDs in the side cabinets (which do have solid doors that shut and hide the contents, as seen in the first picture). However, since we have way more books than movies, we use the whole thing to store kids books and then just stack up our movies beside it. Here it is again with the doors swung open.

No, I don't put the baby inside - that's a reflection. :)

In the middle of the room I use two rattan cubes that multi-function as coffee "tables" / ottomans / toy storage.  I got these up at Marshall's or T.J.Maxx for $25 a piece a few years back. Even though kids are not supposed to play on them, they have taken quite a beating.

That's my daughter proudly showing off her new snapping skills
 and the other two couch potatoes flanking either side of the couch.

These cubes are light enough to be moved around easily and the kids can lift off the covers for access to toys. One cube has some random toys and the other one has more puzzles.

Under the end table to the right of the couch is a little bird-inspired trunk that a friend gave me for my birthday last year. Once I found a spot for it, I then found a use for it.

I'm itching for a new lamp, and definitely a new shade. And by new, I just mean new to me. :) 

I figured I might as well hide some toys in this little trunk as well! So the Little People campers are at home there.

Next I move on to the baby's room. Some of the toy storage in there has already been shown in a previous post about my love for decorating my kids' rooms with vintage stuff. First is another old chest I got at a yard sale for $5 AGES ago. This is a picture of it (and my kids) a year and a half ago, right before I gave it a  makeover. Caution...horrible quality photo alert...

It was in rough shape (so was my camera).
I painted the entire thing a light creamy yellow. I also changed out the hardware to this lovely piece from Anthropologie and added some vintage decals I'd bought on eBay forever and a day ago. Because the decals were so old, they didn't go on very smoothly, but I was still happy with the finished result.

I had also covered the interior with fabric that came on a roll with an adhesive backing, basically like contact paper but fabric. It was the same yellow with little pink roses. I think I'd bought this for a few bucks at Ocean State Job lot years ago, knowing that at some point I'd find a good use for it. Here is the inside, showing the removable sliding tray, right after I completed the makeover.

Now, a year and a half later, this is once again full of baby toys - mostly scored at yard sales last summer (because I was so sure we were done and gave all my baby stuff away).

This next piece is in the baby's room but it actually holds the older girls' stuff. It doesn't really hide what it corrals but it did set the inspirational theme for the toy box above. I got this little vintage metal "Doll-E-Crib" shortly after my oldest was born. It has a built-in turn-key music box. I found it for cheap at an antiques barn in Douglas that no longer exists.

This is overflowing much higher than I prefer with stuffed animals, dolls and puppets, along with a few baby blankets tossed in. I thought I made it abundantly clear to my family that we have no place to put any more stuffed animals or dolls but Christmas and birthdays came again and apparently they didn't hear me. :) Under the crib we sort of hide Mr. Potato head kits and the doctor kit.

Now onto the bedroom that my two oldest girls share.  Under the bed is where I hide several clear plastic lidded boxes that store all the Barbies and My Little Ponies, games and learning activities. I won't share a picture because...let's just say it's in desperate need of a good vac-out. There is no room under the bed for even one more little box. While its a great place to store stuff, so much of it is "out of sight-out of mind." This is great for Barbies/Ponies - they get pulled out and played with for a week, then tucked back and forgotten about for a month or so, then taken back out, etc. But at the same time there are educational and creative games and activities that I wish were more visible and easily accessible more often. Because I don't see them, I forget about them.

Their closet needs serious help. Like I can't believe I'm going to expose this clutter on the world wide web kind of help. My current storage solution in there, if you want to call it that, causes my chest to tighten up every time I open their closet door! Finding and implementing a better way is on my big list of projects.

Sitting right in the middle of the closet floor is an old unfinished end table with three drawers that I got for a few bucks at a yard sale a LONG time ago. When I first got it I had grand plans to paint it, but that never happend. I did use it as a night stand for a while in our apartment when we were first married but all I ever did to it was swap out the drawer pulls for new light green vintage glass ones. Now in the girls' closet it has some random crafty toys on top and I labeled the drawers below, all of which contain more craft/art supplies. You can tell from this photo all the clutter that is bursting out around it.

Their closet is tiny and, thanks to my mom's previous job at Sally's, the girls have way too many dress clothes. So their clothes and everything else in there are packed in like sardines. Brace yourself....

AAAAhhhhhh!!!! Quick! Shut the door!

You can barely see that to the left of the drawers hangs one of those shoe-storage solutions, which I did get at a yard sale. If the closet were wider I would use more of those for storing other toys too - they make nice little compartments. There are a couple of hidden built-in shelves in the bottom of the closet to the right of the door, but that area only extends about 10 inches behind the wall and is used to store all their extra linens (which are bursting out in the picture), including their bazillion hand-made baby/toddler blankets that loved-ones knit, crocheted, cross-stitched and quilted for them. They are all special so we take turns rotating them in and out for display, use or play.

The shelves in the top of the closet are pretty much full of books that either they are not quite old enough for yet, are part of a series we are in the middle of, or that I will use/reference for school. A previous owner installed a little wooden plaque with nails at the top of the inside of the closet door, making it a great place to hang backpacks that aren't in use.

The books that the kids are encouraged to access on a daily basis are in this shelf - which was actually a Christmas gift from my parents to my hubby one year. Of course my mom got it at The Salvation Army but it was originally from Pier 1. Ever since we moved to this house its been used in my daughter's room.

Hubby LOVES books so my mom collected enough at Sally's one year to fill all these shelves. Then she individually wrapped them all and put them on this shelf, surprising him with the shelves and books to open one by one on Christmas morning.
The top two shelves hold books and the bottom two hold baskets of toys. I got these baskets at Christmas Tree Shop almost six years ago. The top basket holds all those miscellaneous toys that don't go with anything else. When it starts to overflow, its time to chuck stuff until what's left fits. The bottom basket contains toy food and dishes or anything that can be used to pretend supermarket, restaurant or picnic.

We went though a phase where we cluttered the space on either side of these shelves with stuff like a Sit 'n Spin, doll carriages and shopping cart. But it drove me nuts that every inch of the wall had toys or furniture backe up against it so one day I just put it all in the basement. When someone asks about a toy they want to use that's down there, I get it and they use it for a few days, then back down it goes. Can't. stand. the. clutter. Which brings me to another problem area that I am hoping to change up sooner than later.

This is between the foot of the girls' bunkbeds and one of their windows. Right now there's a little secretary desk that was mine growing up. On top is a box of foam stickers and containers full of paper for art projects. This is my oldest daughter's sacred spot. At any given time she has multiple "crafty things" being worked on inside. I know better than to touch (and have learned my lesson not to toss) anything that's inside. Her younger sister also understands this. :)

Under the desk is a basket of dress up clothes. And to the left is a plastic trash bin that also holds dress up clothes. And on the wall is just my own little display of vintage toys (Raggedy Ann & Andy) and vintage kids books (Dick & Jane and other old readers). This ensemble is the worst use of this space. If the big shelving unit I recently got at Sally's fit here I would use it here and wait to find something else for the baby's room. But that furniture is 2 inches wider than this space. So I'm on the hunt for something else like it that will fit here. Even if the sentimental desk has to go into storage for a little while. 

The last thing to show in the girls' room is a recent addition that actually isn't holding anything yet. My best friend passed this along to me for free. Its four canvas pockets that hang on the back of the door. From Pottery Barn kids, its meant to hold diapers and what not in a nursery.

When she offered it to me I almost declined because I already have literally the exact same thing in my nursery. I use it to store burp clothes, extra crib sheets and mattress pads.  But then it occurred to me that I could make use of this on the older girls' door. I just put it up the other day and haven't decided what to use it for yet.

The only other place we have some toys is on our enclosed front porch, so those just don't get used in winter months. On one side we have a small toy kitchen that stores tons more toy food and dishes. On the other side of the porch, where we have our sitting area, we alsohave the big cardboard building blocks stacked against the wall. Unfortunately, there is just no where to hide these things.

So there you have it - how I manage the "kid crap" and some of the treasures they hide in. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Nothing perfect. It never is here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Inside My Bathroom Closet

Almost a year ago I promised here that, at some point, I would bare the inside of my bathroom's built-in cabinet / linen closet in a blog post.

I am often reminded, when it starts to get messy in there, that putting together that post would be a really good excuse to clean it out and reorganize it. Well then, my freak husband recently posted this pic onto his Facebook page....with the cabinet doors open behind him!! AAHHH!! (For the record, he cuts his own hair and always starts with something silly to show the girls.)

His caption - "Ever wonder what I will look like when I am old?"
Having this personal space surprisingly exposed on Facebook motivated me to get down to business in there as soon as possible. Well, that mixed with Thursday's weather that gave me the urge to get an early start on spring cleaning. It wasn't really that bad in there to begin with.

On the inside of my cabinet door I have taped up a copy of My Mother's Day Pledge for daily reminding.
For the most part, everything has its place. And for the most part, all of my baskets and containers for corralling things are from yard sales and thrift shops or repurposed gifts. I think the only items I purchased new at one time were blue photo boxes. I chose those because they were cheap, easily stackable, had built-in change-able labels, and at the time, they sort of matched my color scheme.

So that is what it looked like inside the doors. Here are what it looked like in the three drawers below:

Door Drawer #1 - Kid bathing stuff

Drawer #2 - Towels

Drawer #3 - Personal Hygiene & Beach Towels

So Thursday night, as soon as I closed the girls' bedroom door and chugged a warm mug of coffee, I set to the task of cleaning out and reorganizing...and I was determined to finish before I went to bed. I was also determined only to use what I already had in the closet or around the house. 

If I was to go and drop $$ on beautiful new organization containers I would like something along these lines...

This is a bedroom closet pic but I like the containers from The Container Store, a royal rip-off.

LOVE it all
But I'm cheap so I used what I had and I'm proud to say I completed my task in just a couple of hours. It doesn't look drastically different but it felt SOOOO GOOOD to throw out half a trash bag of crap including expired medicine, old half-used bath and body products, and threadbare washcloths. I also passed along a bunch of unopened bath and body and personal products for our church's homeless outreach.  And now I smile when I open those doors because I'm greeted by the inside of a closet that is as clean and organized. It's border-line on the tacky side of eclectic but it's as beautiful as I could make it by sticking with what I already had. Ta-daaaa...

The top left is still obviously bath towels, only I hid the blue ones since that's not the color scheme in my bathroom anymore. To the right of those I still have all my cleaning products handy. (Warning, from here on out I mostly used no flash since it was creating too many shadows. So in my poorly lit bathroom that receives no direct sunlight, everything is looking a little dim and yellow.)

Laundry Pre-Spot, Clear Power for glass, Tough & Tender for all purpose, Tub & Tile, and Sol-U-Mel for tough stains

I LOVE my Melaleuca EcoSense brand household cleaning products. All nature-based, most including tea-tree oil. No bleach. No ammonia. No harmful chemicals. Safe for my family. Safe for the environment. All concentrated for less plastic waste. I shop online so they come right to my door. And I don't pay any more than I would for grocery store brands. Interested? Ask me for more information on how you can become a Melaleuca customer and check out Melaleuca's website in the meantime.

On the next shelf I kept my basket of sun tan/block lotions and aloe gels, only I weeded out a bunch of old stuff that barely fit. I've had the basket forever and assume it was a 25 cent yard sale find or something. In front of that I moved up hubby's tray of toiletries, which don't include much other than deodorant, a few old colognes and lotion.

The tray is one of many I'd bought at a yard sale years ago. I loved the design on them. It's hard to explain what they are made of - almost like paper mache. I have a few that are in good shape hanging up in my kitchen and I use three as trays in the closet.

To the right of those are our three travel cases. The classic black L.L.Bean style fold-out hanging one, a little pink one for the girls, and an H&M floral bag my friend "Teeny" bought me years ago.

Top view since you can't see them all from the front
 I added this old metal in-box I wasn't using anymore to corral the travel cases. A yard sale find I'm sure.

To the right of those I kept another yard-sale basket I've had forever to hide things like extra razors, cotton balls, contacts, and other misc stuff we don't use often.

I also brought in two little flower dishes that were yard sale finds. The only other times these were getting used was for putting out seasonal candy on the buffet table in the kitchen. Now they keep hair elastics and barrettes in one and nail clippers and tweezers in the other.

Down another shelf and I kept hand towels and washcloths stacked on the left. The stack of each here is super low since I had mountains of laundry to fold when I took the picture. I added this old fishing basket that I got at Bernat Antiques some time within the last year. It was one of the few things I bought without a specific use in mind at the time. It had been sitting patiently on a chair just waiting for the perfect use, other than holding our Thanksgiving Tree.

Now the basket is home to hubby's hair clippers/trimmer and various attachments, cord, etc. In front of it is another one of those trays where I keep cologne and toss off jewelry onto. Baby's hygiene tools are collected in this mini galvanized tin bucket.

My comb, nail files and scissors all remain in this little green pitcher, a cheap yard sale find of years gone by. Before this was hidden towards the back, now its up front.

To the right of that I moved my tray of Melaleuca Body Satin deodorant and Melaleuca Sei Bella pharmaceutical-grade skin-care products. (What you buy at the drug store or even Mary Kay are only cosmetic-grade.) Again, if you're interested in learning more about Melaleuca's brands, let me know! I will rarely if ever discuss them on my blog again.

Behind that tray I moved my basket with my hairbrushes and flattening iron, which you can't really see well in the picture.

On to the bottom shelf, I moved over my big open basket of miscellaneous stuff and I tucked my hair dryer into the corner. This basket is another yard sale or Sally's find I've had and used for bathroom storage almost as long as we've been married.

I swapped sides with the old blue photo boxes I use for storing more stuff. One blue box keeps "Extras" of stuff like tooth brushes, toothpaste and deodorant, so when you run out, that's where you check for more. One keeps "First Aid" stuff like band aids, ointments, wrapping tape, etc. And the other one keeps "Meds" like all my kids pain relievers, cold medicine, etc.

On top of that box is my basket of make-up.  I think that basket came as part of some gift set years back. And tucked in the right corner is my hair spray. The beat-up blue boxes are the only things I would bother to maybe replace with something brand new. But they still function just fine so they haven't left yet.

Now, moving down to the drawers. The top drawer still holds kid-bathing stuff - baby towels, colored bath foam, bath crayons - you know, the fun stuff!  This is the drawer where I cleaned out the most stuff.  I'm mostly using just Melaleuca's Renew brand of body wash and lotion for all the kids. It's awesome for eczema. Almost everything else that was already opened got tossed and other brands that hadn't been opened yet got passed along to a shelter. I was able to sort of neatly organized what was left now instead of just shoving it all into a jumbled mess.

The second drawer still just holds extra towels but I now hide all the towels with blue in there.

And the bottom drawer - which an adult can reach while sitting on the toilet -still holds personal hygiene products and beach towels.  TMI alert -  The stash of yellow things are nursing-mom necessities passed along to me from a friend when didn't need them anymore. Other more personal items are tucked in the back - the drawer is only open two thirds of the way. :)

So that wraps up my bathroom closet refresher. And refreshing it is.

So tell me you're not at least a little motivated to go clean out and organize a closet now? It's never too early to start spring cleaning. :)
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