Category Archives: Design

Domestically Dis-Inclined

Domestically Dis-Inclined: How One Family Takes Back Their Home

I have realized for a long time that we are not all created equal when it comes to the domestic home front. Some people are just born with the desire and ability to create order out of chaos, to maintain systems and to think ahead. Others have to really work at it. And some either have no inclination, no desire or no awareness.

I have discovered over the years that I fall somewhere between the last two. I do have the desire to have a clean, organized home, but I am not naturally gifted at creating it nor am I genetically predisposed to maintain order. The good news is that there is help for people like me as long as one has the desire and remains aware of one’s surroundings.

I come from a long line of women who believe that function follows form. Homes should be beautifully decorated but less thought goes into the actual orderly running of things. I suppose this was less of an issue for my grandmother who had staff to keep things orderly and clean. My mother, who worked outside of the home much of my childhood, had to tackle this on her own. She admitted frequently that she was not a good housekeeper nor did she get any pleasure from it.

The lesson that I gleaned from my mother’s example was that as long as the pillows were plumped and there were fresh flowers, as was well with the world. Clutter was what made a home looked lived in—especially if the clutter included beautiful and/or interesting objects and books. Books were always plentiful in our home and were kept close to hand (past and future reads were equally important as current). As long as there was a surface, there was no such thing as too many photographs, too many books or too many decorative objects. I believe that I have followed this example well.

Over the years, however, my family has accumulated more than our share of stuff. Some might say that this is simply “the American way” and perhaps I believed this as well. But now I realize that this “collection” is actually the result of disorganization, laziness and paralysis.

Two months ago my family embarked on an adventure to regain control of our home through purging and organizing, rethinking our spaces and how they are used and by refurbishing our 17-year-old house. We call it “Project Take Back Our Home”.

Project Take Back Our Home

Over the next few months, I will be sharing the process and the results of our efforts in this new series. I hope to give some encouragement to those who are where I was: in a state of complete denial and immobilization due to the enormity of the job at hand. I will reveal organizing tips from the perspective of a “real person” (i.e., one who is domestically disinclined). And I will share how our complete domestic re-boot has helped my family. I hope you will join me on this adventure!

 

 

 

 

And the Winner is . . .

And the winner is...Garden Party Giveaway on amywatsonsmith.com

My first giveaway is over and the winner is . . . Anne Walpole from Charleston, South Carolina!

Thank you to all who signed up for my mailing list last week. I cannot tell you what a boost you all gave me. So many of you not only signed up but took the time to offer me sweet words of encouragement.

If you missed out on this giveaway, do not despair. I will be doing another one in June, so go ahead and sign up now so you don’t miss my next giveaway announcement!

Some of you have asked about how to purchase some of the items in this “Garden Party in a Box”. I do not have my “store” set up online quite yet but am happy to take an order if you just contact me at amywatsonsmith@gmail.com. I will have other items available in my store in the future so be sure to check back here.

Just as a reminder, here are a few of the items in the Garden Party box:

Hand-decorated glass bottles with coordinating straws - $4 each

Hand-decorated glass bottles with coordinating straws – $4 each

Hand-made Garden Party Invitations and envelopes - quantity 8 - $16

Hand-made Garden Party Invitations and envelopes – quantity 8 – $16

A Few of My Favorite Things, Part 1

A few of my favorite things, part 1 on http://amywatsonsmith.com

A few of my favorite things, part 1

This morning I have assembled a few of my favorite things to share with you. It wasn’t very hard to narrow this grouping as they were all within reach. I keep my favorite things close.

And just to be completely clear, all of these things are items that I or a family member has actually purchased. None of these have been “freebies”.

Here is what I included in the photo above.

Lots of stripes:

Books:

A few other things:

  • White and navy swiss dot cotton pjs from J. Crew (a gift from my very sweet husband who knows how much I l o v e pajamas).
  • “Oops” letterpress card by Ink Meets Paper, my favorite local letterpress studio (soon to be featured in my “Bee Smitten” series). I am a huge fan of snail mail
  • Reading glasses by Peepers. Now that I have reached a certain age, reading glasses are essential. I leave them all over the house but try to keep them somewhat ‘girly’ so my husband won’t borrow them. I have several favorite brands but the price is right for these stylish lovelies.
  • 154 Cologne by Jo Malone. This is my “go to” scent but when I want to change things up a bit, I layer it with one of their other fragrances. My favorites are grapefruit and pomegranate-noir.
  • Bright pink leather handbag with lime green interior by Sigrid Olsen. I especially love the scallops and bow. I picked this up for a steal a number of years ago at Marshalls.
  • Cream satin handmade rose brooch. This adds just a little something to anything. I purchased this several years ago from my favorite local store, Out of Hand in Mount Pleasant SC.

A few of my favorite things are missing:

peonies, gingham, red nail polish, coconut cake, seersucker, grapefruit, velvet ribbon, English breakfast tea, rick rack, colorful espadrilles, . . . .

I will continue to add posts to this series so keep coming back to see more of my other favorite things.

What are a few of your favorite things?

Our Home for the Holidays

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Whew! I have finally gotten my home decorated for Christmas. It has been a long process this year, for a number of reasons, but at least this part of the preparations is finished. I wasn’t too bothered by the delay since we will be at home for the holidays. Yaay!

This box sat in my entry hall for almost a week.

Box of Christmas Decorations (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

A “display” of Christmas decorations waiting to be placed.

I love vintage-style ornaments and decorations.

Tiny Ornaments

Tinsel

Little Tree Decorated Several of my favorite ornaments survived from my childhood like this Santa. I guess it actually is vintage.

Does that mean that I’m vintage?

Childhood Santa Ornament

Air Stream Christmas Pillow I love the idea of air stream trailers but I’m not sure living in one in the snow would be quite as cozy as this pillow suggests.

My real passion is tartan (and not just for Christmas decorations). I suppose it has something to do with my Scottish ancestry but, whatever the reason, I am mad for plaid as is evidenced here.

Tartan Bagpiper Nutcracker

Springer Spaniel with Tartan Boxes

Kilt Figurine

Tartan and Greens

Tartan Santa with Sheep

My new favorite Christmas decoration is the “Joy” banner my friend Elisabeth Hunter made for me–tartan fabric, of course. She is one of the few people who truly gets my obsession for all things tartan.

Mantle with Greens, Candles and Joys

Mantle with greens, candles and tartan joy

Joy Upclose

Joy up close

You will notice in the creche below that the baby Jesus is not included. He won’t make his debut until Christmas morning. We also don’t place the three wise men at the manger until Epiphany on January 6th. We move them around the house to symbolize their journey to the Christ child. I included them in this photo because it looked too sparse without them.

Nativity

Bowl full of ornaments

One of our most treasured items for Christmas is the Advent stockings I made for my daughter when she was two years old.

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Small additions and repairs have been made over the years.

Throughout the year I find little things to put in each stocking. I also include a Bible verse. Even at 17, my daughter still loves the tradition of opening one stocking each morning for the 24 days leading up to Christmas.

Handmade Advent stocking

Somehow I even managed to decorate the front porch this year.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Wellies with Greens Pine Cones in Galvanized Tub

Santa Please Stop Here

“Santa please stop at my house”

This wreath is made from preserved boxwood. I bought mine locally for Christmas 2012 and it is still just as lovely. Click here if you want to learn how to preserve boxwood.

Boxwood Wreath and Tartan Bow

Now that the decorating is done, I have to finish my shopping, start baking and wrap all of my presents . . . .

Oh, and maybe I will make some time for this as well.

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

What are your favorite decorations and traditions for Christmas?

Wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas!

Angels we have heard on high

G L O R I A

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas decorations?

How to Let Go of Perfectionism This Christmas

I have always been somewhat of a perfectionist. And I suppose that Christmas has always been my showcase. Every year I try to out do myself attempting to balance tradition and creativity.

I have never been over-the-top with decorations or gifts. That’s just not my style. But I always have an idea of what I think Christmas should be like and each year I spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to surpass my own standards.

This year has been no different…well, except for the fact that nothing is going as planned!

This what my living room looks like right this very moment.

Ceiling repair

This is not exactly what I had in mind for this year’s Christmas decorations.

I had to let go of perfectionism this Christmas.

The work we had planned to have done on our ceiling earlier this fall was delayed. And delayed. And delayed.

Last week as soon as we bought our Christmas tree and put it in the stand, our contractor called to say he could fit in our repair. We decided to hold off on decorating the tree or putting up any other decorations in the living room until the job was complete–three days at most we were told. We moved all of our decorative objects into the dining room for safety.

Another call. Another delay.

My teenage daughter complains that it doesn’t feel like Christmas without any decorations. I agree.

Finally yesterday work began on fixing the two holes cut in our ceiling when the hot water heater exploded several months ago (that story is for another day). It isn’t a very big job–just sheet rock and painting.

This is what my ceiling looks like now.

ceiling

I am so excited! I am hopeful that it will be finished in a few days and then we can finally decorate.

But in the meantime I will just have to be satisfied with a carload of Christmas decorations waiting to be unloaded. Where else was I going to put them?

Car decorations 1

At least my car is decorated!

Car decorations 2

 

How to Prepare for Christmas

How is it possible that even though it is only December 3rd, I am already behind on Christmas? Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly feel that way.

Joy tartan banner by Elisabeth Hunter $15

Just to be clear, this is the only decoration I have up yet!

Maybe it’s because Christmas decorations began arriving in stores before Halloween. Maybe it has something to do with my favorite radio station playing only Christmas songs by the second week in November. Maybe it’s because half of my neighborhood had Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving day.

Whatever the cause, I am beginning to panic.

December is a big month for my family as my daughter and husband both have birthdays on either side of Jesus’. It’s hard to compete with that…

In my sane moments, I try to remind myself that we aren’t actually even in the Christmas season. This is Advent. The time for preparation: preparing our hearts for the birth of our Savior.

If I allow myself to slow down, breath and think about this–Advent–the panic fades and peace returns.

This pre-Christmas season is not really about decorating my house like never before or buying presents I can’t really afford or going to as many parties as possible. When I focus on these things, that is when I feel overwhelmed, anxious and, frankly, sad.

I can never, on my own, create (or recreate) what I imagine to be the perfect Christmas.

Will I, this year, be able to resist the urge to scurry and buy and do and make merry? Will I be able to slow down long enough to prepare my heart for Jesus? I pray this for myself and I pray this for you, my friend.

Blessings and peace to you during this season of Advent.

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Handmade Advent stockings made for my daughter c. 1998

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging Christmas 2012. I have not gotten them up yet this year!

 

Bee Smitten #2: Banner Celebrations

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter

I am writing today about one of my favorite things made by one of my favorite people: celebration banners by Elisabeth Hunter (Charleston, South Carolina).

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Just in time for the holidays, these hand-made banners are perfect for gifts or for decorating your own home.

I was so excited to see the brown paper package at my doorstep yesterday afternoon!

Joy comes in brown paper packages tied up with string / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Joy comes in brown paper packages tied up with string

I suppose I should have bought this as a gift for someone else but I just couldn’t resist the tartan plaid.

Joy tartan banner / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Joy banner with English springer spaniels / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Even Hattie and Chester were filled with joy!

I asked Elisabeth to tell me a bit more about how she got started making these banners. Her story follows below.

“I grew up watching my Mom and Grandmother sew (and occasionally helping) but had never tackled a project on my own.

After [my first child] Henry was born, I was a stay-at-home Mama for the first time (I’d been a work-from-home-newlywed for the previous two years) and I found that after the newborn stage passed, I craved a creative outlet.  I got a sewing machine and for my nephew’s first birthday, I made him a birthday banner. It remains one of my favorites.  For the following year I gave birthday banners to many friends and family members.

I had put my sewing machine up (when sewing it lives on our dining room table or in the middle of our den) in early 2011, but in July we got George’s diagnosis* and I pulled it back out. I needed a distraction from Web MD and sewing provided it.  I sewed compulsively for the next 3 months while waiting to move to Boston for his birth.

I go through phases where I tire of the mess it makes in the middle of our house but it’s hard to stop myself from buying pretty fabric when I see it.  I’ve enjoyed making holiday banners this year because it gives me a little bit of focus … and selling them makes this a hobby that pays for itself and gives me money to indulge my insatiable appetite for classic children’s clothes.”

*I am saving George’s amazing story for a later post.

Happy Birthday banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Pricing for the banners is based on the banner’s length.  Short ones like “Boo!” or “JOY” are $15, longer ones “Thankful”, “Grateful”, “Give Thanks”, “Believe” are $25 and long ones “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Birthday” are $35.  Prices include shipping in a padded envelope. To add a name to a birthday banner, please add $10.

To order one of Elisabeth’s banners, email her at hunter.elisabeth@gmail.com.

All photos are by Elisabeth Hunter unless otherwise specified.