Holiday Preparation | Christmas Decorations

Oh, the holidays! What a hectic, overwhelming, yet wonderful time!

All of the sudden, we are days away from Christmas. This post is almost 2 weeks late. The tree was just assembled. There are no holiday cookies. It’s the most relaxed holiday season we’ve had. It’s great!

This post is all about the interior decorations! Let’s get started!

Entry Way

The floral arrangement is all from Hobby Lobby. The multi-color light tree we got last year at the Post Exchange. The ornaments are the clay ornaments from the kiosk in the mall. We get one every year to represent the last 12 months. Everything else has been a gift.

Living and Dining Area

Our tree is a seven-and-a-half foot, Virginia Slim lit tree, from Target. The ornaments and placemats are all from Target, too. Santa, stockings, candies, and the table center piece are from King Soopers.  Accent pillows are from Amazon.

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In keeping with the Fall Decor, we keep it pretty simple here. Its cute and the cleanup/transition to the next season is very easy. What do your decorated areas look like?

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Holiday Preparation | Thanksgiving Decorations

Here goes Round Two!

I published this exact post a week ago today and for some reason the whole thing was deleted. I’m not sure what happened, so if you read this already…thanks for visiting again. If you missed out last week, you’re in luck!

Points to note:

Everything I have was either gifted to me from family or purchased by me.

This has taken 5 years to accumulate.

All, but one set of pillows were purchase on sale.

I like to keep things simple. This makes decor changes and transitions fast and easy!

Let’s dive right in!

Living Room

These pillows are from a hodgepodge of stores. Home Goods. Hobby Lobby. Post Exchange (Fort Gordon, GA).

The blanket is from Arhaus.

Entryway

My entry was area is another collective sight. King Soopers. Hobby Lobby. Target.

Dining Room

This center piece was very simple to put together, but screams fall and Thanksgiving to me! King Soopers. Hobby Lobby. Target (Dollar Spot).

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Baby Preparation | Maintaining Freezer Meal Organization | Part 4

One of the most challenging things I find is maintaining a system. Cleaning, cooking, starting a new habit…it doesn’t matter what it is, finding a practical way to maintain anything can be HARD!

It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally came up with a system that works for maintaining our pre-made freezer meals.

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If you have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to this Freezer Meal prep work, you can go and get caught up with these two posts–Freezer Meals Part 1 and Freezer Meals Part 2.

I had a few guidelines that I was hoping to follow. This system needed to be simple, SUPER easy to use, and easy to find the items. With parents/family visiting, I want them to be able to utilize the system with very little (or no) guidance.

The first maintenance step actually started during the cooking and bagging process. I labeled every bag/container with the following:

Meal name
Ingredient/add-in instructions
Cooking instructions.

Each bag was then placed in the freezer with a bit of order. Going from left to right, and top to bottom we have

  • Breakfast muffins, egg scrambles, fried potatoes, waffles, English muffins
  • Lasagnas, chicken bakes
  • Cookie dough
  • Kung Pao chicken, stir fry kits, teriyaki salmon
  • Chili, Chicken soup kits, chicken soap broths
  • (In the basket) Taco, pizza, and fajita kits
  • Miscellaneous extras–bread, bacon, veggies, chicken breasts, etc.

Knowing what I had and the number of containers, I set about looking for an easy maintenance system.

After some trial and error, I came up with this simple, easy to use system.

A check-off list!

Every item is accounted for and each vertical line represents a bag or container. These lists are broken up into 3 sections.

Breakfast

Meals

Miscellaneous

It’s pretty simple. These lists sit taped to the top of the freezer, in a sheet protector. A dry erase marker sits near the lists to check things off as they are removed from the freezer and brought into the house. If you want a FREE printable version click here!

It isn’t a new state of the art system, but it’s simplicity and functionality work for this chaotic time! 

Room by Room | Nursery Organization

Let me start by saying that not everyone’s organizational methods will work for all. We all have different lives, needs, and habits that need to be considered. With that being said, this is what we are starting with and sharing what I’m doing/have learned is what this space is all about!

Before we get started here are some things to note!

You’ll notice that some areas are empty and that we may not have as much in the way of clothing, compared to others. We are leaving the empty spaces, so that as he ages and his needs change we have some options for keeping things tidy.

As for the clothing, we have the basics and know that we may need to (and are planning on having to) buy more clothing once he’s here. We are going back and forth about purchasing clothing because babies don’t keep and grow quickly. Our thought? The less stuff he has, the more chances he’ll have to wear his clothes.

Lastly, if you’re interested in seeing the nursery, I posted the tour over the weekend! Needless to say, we are OBSESSED

Dresser

The dresser, as the picture shows, has 8 drawers that are surprisingly deep. Right now, we have 4 main uses for this dresser. A changing station, changing storage, multi-age clothing storage, and then general storage (bedding, accessories, etc.)

Baby's Dresser

The changing station is, quite clearly, on the top of the dresser and consists of the changing pad, some diapering needs, and 2 “accessories”. The accessories are the white noise machine and a small indoor indoor thermometer. We currently have a basket that is housing all the newborn clothes/pajamas we have. It’s a small stash because I highly doubt he’ll fit into them for very long, if at all, and it doesn’t need a dedicated drawer.

The two top left-hand small drawers house the current diaper size (right now it is a mix of newborn and size 1) and diapering/health needs (creams, wipes, over the counter medications, pacifiers, etc.).

The two right-hand small drawers are housing all his pajamas from 0-6 months and swaddling/light-weight blankets. Having these top drawers separated in this manner will allow for easy access (especially at night) and will keep it the crazy contained (when it eventually gets messier).

I also have a feeling that when we are in his room, these are the things I will tend to be reaching for regularly, so why not have them at the top, close by?!

The next row of drawers holds all of his non-hanging clothes. The left hand drawer holds everything from 0-3 and 3 months–pants, long and short sleeve onesies, socks, and so on.

The right hand drawer has everything from above 3 months through 24 months. The 3-6 months clothing has been separated from the overall pile for easier access.

Eventually, I want to get dividers into the drawers and move on to a no fold system. This will cut down on laundry time for me! Also, who on Earth has time to fold itty-bitty baby shirts, in addition to adult clothing. 

The last row of drawers is divided into bedding and burp cloths. The left hand side holds all the extra sheets for the crib, pack and play, and bassinet, and the heavier blankets. On the right hand side, we have all of his receiving blankets and burp cloths.

Closet

On the top shelf we have all of the boxed items that we do not currently need. This is everything from toys to baby gear.

The left hand side, we have all of the clothes that need to be hung up. Sweaters, winter gear, and nicer onesies. When you move from left to right, you increase in clothing size. Below the clothing is a tub holding all of the diaper bag gear. As he gets older, this tub will hold all of the clothing he’s outgrown.

On the right hand side of the closet, is all of the baby gear, the mobile we still need to hang, and extra hangers. Pretty simple!

On the right hand side of the floor, is our extra diaper and wipe storage. We were BLESSED with getting so many diapers of varying sizes. Everything from newborn to size 2 and wipes galore!

The closet is simple, but I can easily see everything we have and will know what is needed with just a quick peak!

Bookcase

The bookcase, of course, holds his books. On the top shelf are decorative items. A piggy bank, the coordinating season’s book, his name plate, and a pair of shoes. These are items we want displayed, but don’t want him (or the dogs to have access to).

To the bottom shelf, we’ve added a of storage basket to the bottom shelf to hold  toys, stuffed animals…things we don’t mind him getting into when he’s older.

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Side Table

The side table is going to be pretty simple. It is very small and is only meant to be of help while we are feeding/rocking him. The basket underneath holds nursing/feeding aids for me (or whoever ends up feeding him). Everything from nursing pads and burp cloths to snacks and a charging cable for a phone.

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The little light is for those late night feedings, so I can get situated and settled in his room, without blinding him.

Basket Organization

Finally, the empty baskets around his room are awaiting a purpose. Any time I organize, I like to leave blank space and empty storage so that has life happens things can organically have a place and stay tidy.

I have picked up 2 different style baskets and highly recommend snagging these. I waited until they went on sale to grab them at 20% off. They are 2 different sizes, easily collapsible and larger than I was expecting.

Hedgehog (square) | Snake (square) | Raccoon (round) | Fox (round)

Key Take-Aways

  1. Keep it simple! Don’t make it so complicated that you’ll forget where things are or go. If you can quickly explain to someone where an object is, you’ve organized with purpose.
  2. Think through what you use the most. These items go in an area with easy access. I call these areas my “grab and go” section.
  3. Leave empty space! I do this with everything I organize. Leaving the empty space allows for organic tidying and organization. As you live in the space, you’ll notice that you may have forgotten about a category of items or you’ll bring in different items. This empty space looks clean, when it is and is not in use.
  4. Don’t be afraid to change things. If a system or an area isn’t working for you, change it until it does! Don’t stick with something just because it makes sense for someone else–make it make sense for YOU

Let me know how you organized your kid’s space! Have you found a system that works for you or are you tweaking systems until it fits your lifestyle?!

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Room by Room | Nursery | Tour

Deciding on a nursery theme, idea, look was the easiest thing for us to do–especially once we found out it was a boy! Almost immediately, we came up with the Colorado/mountain/woodland theme. Baby animals, lumberjack plaid, natural wood (or wood-like) elements, and of course a mural or artwork depicting the mountains would all be included.

We decided on this theme early (around the 4.5 month mark) so that we could slowly buy items that we felt would work. We knew that by the end of August the room NEEDED to be completed so that we weren’t rushing last-minute to settle into the nursery. This saved our (my) sanity and protected our budget. Most importantly, thought, it helped to take the stress out of creating a nursery.

The Painting

The first thing we decided on was the mural that we (a.k.a husband) would paint. Thanks to Pinterest we had many options that we quickly narrowed down. This was also the cheapest way to go at $100 for all the supplies. Granted we had some supplies already–paint brushes, rollers, drop clothes, etc. The only things we purchased were the four paint colors (stir sticks and can openers are free at Home Depot when you buy paint), paints pans, and tape. We ended up painting last because in the grand scheme of things furniture, clothing, and lighting are more important than the mural.

Disclaimer: because some of our baby shower gifts were gift cards, we only paid about $60 out-of-pocket. 

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Furniture

As for the furniture we decided that we wanted 3 main pieces and 2 “supporting” pieces. The 3 main pieces are the crib, dresser/changing area, and rocker/glider. The crib was the first thing we bought for the nursery. Thanks to Wayfair.com sales and our patience, we were able to purchase it at almost a 70% discount!

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The second item that was purchased was the dresser that will double as a changing station and extra storage. The dresser that we chose is from Ikea’s Hemnes collection. It is an eight-drawer dresser in “Medium Brown”. There will be a post on the organization of this dresser and the rest of the room on September 19, so stay tuned! This was gifted to us and we gave the purchasers a coupon we had, taking an additional $30 off.

ikea dresser
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The final main furniture piece that we got was the rocker/glider. When looking for this piece of furniture, we decided that we would invest a little bit of money on it and eventually move it down into our living room to use for years to come. For a while, we had our hearts set on a reclining glider from Buy Buy Baby, but still could NOT fathom spending about $600 for a cloth glider. Finally, after waiting and searching, we found a reclining rocker at American Furniture Warehouse. It was a brown leather that matched our living room style and couch, for future use, AND it fit with the color scheme of the nursery. Another plus? After using gifted money, we only paid $167 out-of-pocket. Thank goodness for patience! 

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For, what we are considering, supporting furniture pieces we were okay with not spending a ton of money and finding deals from either Ikea or Target. Ultimately, we choose the bookshelf and nightstand from Ikea. Both are new to the store and were marked VERY low.

For the nightstand, I wanted something simple with either a drawer or a place to put a small basket. I figured this would make nursing and late nights easier us. For a whopping $10, we found one!

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Next up was the bookcase. We went back and forth on what we wanted. Wall shelving, an actual bookcase, a basket, or closet storage. When I found this bookcase for $20, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. It’s simple, slim, and has enough shelves to use it as a multi-purpose shelving solution.

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Misc. Items to Note

Bedding for Baby Boy’s crib was a lucky find! We were scouring through Babies R Us when we stumbled upon this bedding set called “Little Campers” for $68 (that’s a 72% savings!). Needless to say, it was adorable, inexpensive, and matched our theme perfectly!

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The lamps were a necessity, as this room’s ceiling fan is only a fan. There was no lighting in his room, which would make for a bit of a problem for those late nights. We found a large 2 light lamp and a small table lamp at Target when they had their 25% off back to school sales and scooped them up! Our Target debit card also gave us an additional 5% off the entire purchase, which was a nice perk.

The curtains we will be adding are another Target find–I swear, if you shop it right, Target can have some of the best finds! They are blackout curtains and nicely coordinate with the nursery without being too matchy-matchy.

We had so much fun planning, buying, and setting up Baby’s nursery over the last 3-ish months and I was so excited to be able to share this with you all! For parents, or parents-to-be, what did/does your nursery space look like? I’m always curious to see! If it’s on Instagram, tag me so I can sneak a peek! My Instagram handle is @thecolorfulnotebooks

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Baby Preparation |Pantry Organization | Part 3

Another day, another how-to! Today, it is all about organizing our pantry. While it was pretty easy to organize, the pantry took about two-and-a-half hours. Everything that can be linked will be linked, so that you can easily find what I’m referring to.

Full disclosure: These links do not alter the pricing of the items discussed. My linking them is simply to make it easier for you to find! I, also, had a 20% off coupon for my entire order from The Container Store making this the cheapest place for me to purchase.

Let’s get started!

The first step to ANY organization project for me is to get everything off the floor. I don’t care what it is, just elevate it. The next thing I do is quickly clean off the floor. For the pantry floor, I just did a quick dry and wet Swiffer. It took no more than 5 minutes to clean and let it air dry.

Keep in mind that we had just had our floors redone and needed to have everything up off the floors anyway. The big boxes that look ridiculous on the selves were all on the floor and under the shelving prior to these photos. 

As you can see our pantry was chock-full of many items, both food and non-food. Our kitchen area is our main hub and the pantry is servicing our family as more of a multi-purpose room. Finding a way to keep each category separated, clean/easy to see, and organized was key.

After getting everything off the floors and the floors cleaned, I went shelf by shelf throwing away items. Wrappers, old (accounted for) receipts, scrap papers, expired items, empty food containers, and things that were broken were tossed.

Once the trash was tossed, I started pulling out every item and categorizing.  Breakfast foods and bread items. Snacks. Non-refrigerated produce. Baking essentials. Beverages and mixes. Small appliances. Cooking, Tupperware, and lunch items. Household goods. Mail and paperwork. Dog items. Paper goods. You get the idea!

Every surface of the kitchen was dedicated to a different category. While categorizing, I noticed multiple open containers of the same thing. With these items, I consolidated them into one container (or ziplock bag) and then tossed those empties. You’ll be amazed by the amount of garbage and recycling you’ll find!

When the pantry was empty, I quickly wiped down the shelves with a Clorox wipe. Nothing fancy. I spent maybe 10 minutes doing this.

Translucent Bins

Once I knew exactly what I had, I started putting items into the clear containers I bought.

Before organizing the pantry, I bought a bunch of different sized clear containers. The only thing I knew for sure was the number of bulk food storage containers I would need, everything else was purchased knowing that I could return it later.

The bulk food and their coordinating containers were sorted first. This was flour, rice, and brown sugar. I buy these three items from Costco in 25 pound bags, so I purchased 3-22 pound airtight bins on wheels. The next bulk item I had designated containers for was white sugar (bought from Costco in a 10 or 15 pound bag). I used 2 five quart containers for the sugar. The remaining, smaller baking items went into other clear containers that I already had around the house. Chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, and miscellaneous baking items.

After using the airtight bins, I walked away to focus on the next most populated area–the dog items! Food, treats, cleaning supplies, toys, anything pet related. I used 4 new containers total to hold open and unopened treats, walking items and their bandanas, and then a miscellaneous bin (medications, grooming supplies, and so on). I used 2 medium bins, 1 large bin, and 1 small bin.

The next set of bins used were the extra-large translucent. One for bread and breakfast items, one for snacks and chips, and one for drinks. For the two food bins, I placed the items that weren’t in some type of orderly box. When something is sitting on a shelf in a bag, it looks messier to me than having something in a box. For the drinks, I tossed in the K-cups that were floating around.

Two more of the extra-large bins were used for baby items. For now, I just tossed all the baby items we’ll need accessible downstairs into the bins. Eventually (once cleaned and sterilized), the bins will be broken down into eating/drinking and gear (extra wipes, pacifiers, diaper bag needs, etc.).

The last extra-large bin was used for miscellaneous snacks/candies.

The last large bin now holds our household items, like batteries. This keeps them from being scattered around the shelves, drawers, and floors.

Shelving

Going from top to bottom was the trick for me to organize efficiently. The top shelves hold items that we do not need access to every day. The farther down you go, the more used the items are.

The top shelves, from left to right, holds:

  1. General housing paper goods (tissues, paper towels, etc.)
  2. Plastic for lunches or events (plates, cups, utensils)
  3. Some miscellaneous items (dog items we don’t want them seeing, unused kitchen items)
  4. Large cooking aids and appliances (bowls, woks, Keurig).

The second set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Beverages
  2. Table linens
  3. Extra pasta/pastas that are to be used with freezer meals
  4. Extra kitchen utensils (I’ve owned the clear box for some time)
  5. Small kitchen appliances and meal prep items.

The third set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
  2. Canned goods and prepackaged seasonings
  3. Nuts, oils, and cooking wines
  4. Pasta and sauces
  5. Baking goods
  6. Place mats, lids, and lunch box items
  7. Household needs (Swiffer accessories and miscellaneous items).

The fourth set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Bread and breakfast needs
  2. Non-refrigerated produce and hot sauces
  3. Baby needs
  4. Extra hand towels and aprons
  5. Household needs (large recipe cards, batteries, lightbulbs, candles and waxes, small cleaning appliances/accessories).

The five, and final, set of shelving, from left to right, holds:

  1. Snacks and lunch add-ins
  2. Extra food items
  3. Baby bibs/burp clothes
  4. Special snacks/candy
  5. Extra (empty) bins and oven accessories
  6. Dog area.

Flooring

The floors were a little tricky to decide on. I didn’t want to clutter it with a lot of items, but really wanted to keep the shelving open and easy to see the contents. After some deliberation, the floors, from left to right, hold:

  1. Extra snacks and breakfast items
  2. Extra cooking and food storage accessories (bags, foil, etc.)
  3. Extra beverages
  4. Large bulk food
  5. Small appliances (frequently used)
  6. Dog food, bowls, and cleaner
  7. Miscellaneous paper work
  8. Tupperware (this is kept in a wheeling unit to bring in and out of the pantry).

Tips and Tricks

Dry Erase Boards

In order to keep track of what we need, I have 2 magnetic dry erase boards on the side fo the fridge. The top board is for food items from either the grocery store or Costco. The bottom board is for household/non-food items. This makes preparing to shop a lot easier for me, especially if I am in a rush. As something gets low, or is gone altogether, we write it down. For the food, it doesn’t matter if it’s from the pantry, freezers, or fridge.

Give Yourself Some Space

If you can, leave some bins and shelf space empty. One, it looks cleaner. Two, you have just made it easier for you (and the entire family) to keep things organized. The extra bins can be grabbed and used without hesitation. You’ll be able to quickly sort what category the item fits. And, lastly, you’ll keeping the area clean will be easier. If you can stick to the categories you create, everything will be in its place–no matter how full it gets!

Pick a Clean Out Time

I chose to clean out the pantry once a quarter. Trust me, this isn’t as big of an undertaking as it sounds. You can choose any time frame that works for you and your family. Every month, quarter, twice a year, etc.

This dedicated time is put into our calendar and is a non-negotiable. It requires us to check expiration dates (something we should be doing regularly anyway), toss out any trash, clean bins, and see what items we need–bulk, household needs, etc.

Shelf Challenges

Sometimes after cleaning out the pantry, we will give ourselves a shelf challenge. It does not happen every quarter, but if we notice that we have items that are close to (but not yet) expired, we will create meals around those items.

Let’s say for example, we have 2 unopened pasta sauces. I’ll take one of the sauces and make a freezer meal for a later date. It might be a lasagna, chicken parmesan, anything. For the second sauce, we will do a simple pasta night. I’ll add some sausage or meatballs to the sauce, add your pasta, a veggie, and garlic bread. Simple and oh so easy.

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Let me know what you do to keep your pantry/kitchen storage area organized, or if this made you think of something! Don’t forget to share any tips and tricks you have in the comments below!

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