Category Archives: Home Projects

Learning to Love Laundry Day

dresses-579998_1280

No matter how hard I try, I can never seem to catch up on laundry. My [failed] strategy  has been to pop in a load or two between other activities in an effort to be as efficient as possible. But the other projects always seem to take more of my attention or take me to another part of the house away from the laundry room. The result is that I get distracted and forget all about the clothes in the washer. Today, however, I am trying a new strategy. I am learning to love laundry day.

Due to a series of unexpected distractions, I have gotten way behind on laundry over the last few weeks. The pile I confronted this morning seemed like the size of an elephant. It finally occurred to me that my usual strategy was not going to work. Instead of running all over the house cleaning and working on projects as usual, my main focus today will be laundry.

towels

My first task was to gather and sort: lights, darks, delicates, towels and sheets. My laundry room is minuscule so I only brought down a few loads at a time. After loading the first batch into the washer and turning it on, I sat down to make a list of the projects that needed to be done in the kitchen and den–both within close proximity to the laundry room so that I could hear the buzzers and move through the process without distraction.

This list included three types of projects: those that need to be done regularly (planning menu, making grocery list, loading dishwasher); special projects (inventory pantry, purge utensil drawer, tidy laundry room); and projects from elsewhere in the house that could be relocated to this area (sort, clip and toss old magazines, update calendars, iron shirts). The key to the list is that each project can be done relatively quickly–i.e., between loads of laundry.

Tea with laundry day

I also added a few “me projects” to the list just to keep things interesting: apply a face mask, file and buff nails, catch up on email and social media, read several chapters of Clean Slate. I knew these few perks would help make the task of doing laundry less daunting.

pajamas and laundry

The final step to learning to love laundry day? Do it in your pajamas!

How do you keep up with laundry in your household? What other domestic projects overwhelm you? Have you come up with creative strategies to tackle these projects?

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

When a Break Turns Into a Sabbatical

I’m back. I took a little break from writing and blogging this summer thinking I would be back at the keyboard by late-August or early September…it is now October 13. I suppose that is more of a sabbatical than a break. I didn’t expect that I needed or could even tolerate this much time away from writing. I guess I was wrong.

I stepped away from my laptop in June for family and for personal reasons. I will be writing more about both of these in future posts. In short, I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter before she started her senior year and I needed some time to process some things privately. I was concerned that if I continued to blog I would process publicly–and prematurely. Given these few months, I know I made the right decision in both of these cases.

The time away also allowed me time to get started on some much-needed and long-overdue projects around our house. I will be posting regularly about our “Take Back Our House Project.” I have some great before and after photographs, will share some of our dirty, little secrets and the solutions we have found. We are still very much in the process of this project and will be continuing to work on it throughout the year.For a sneak preview, check out my Instagram posts.

I’d love to hear from you about your own projects: how do you get started, what keeps you motivated, how you juggle the long process with living life, etc.

So…I am glad to be back. I am determined to keep writing and to continue to share my journey and struggles, battles and blessings.

God’s peace, my friends.

Amy

 

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.