Room by Room | What I’ve Learned

Going room by room through a house is a lot of work. Mental, emotional, physical. My favorite activity is to declutter and organize the spaces around me. Just ask my husband!

I’ve always been pretty good about removing the fringe items, but never really took a deep dive. That is until this year! I’m am slowly going through ALL of my items (the kids’, too) and removing the things that I don’t use, wear, stay in storage, like…you get the picture.

So, what am I learning doing all of this? Well, lucky you, you’ve come to the right place! Eight months into this process and I’m just getting started…

1. Slow and steady wins the race.

There is NO possible way that I could declutter and minimize my chunk of stuff in this house in one days’ time. Even one months’ time. Let’s be honest, I probably could do some of it, but I’d likely get overwhelmed and burned out pretty fast. I’ve dedicated a month to each space. Bedroom, basement, kids’ rooms, kitchen/pantry. Then, once I hit the 4th room, I go back through all the rooms again with a fine tooth comb.

2. I want this to be a lifestyle change.

I’m going slow and steady for this very reason. I’m tired of cleaning up the same few things every week, month, etc only to have to redo it shortly down the line. I want to use up and enjoy what I have. I want to be able to focus on my family instead of cleaning up. I want to limit decision fatigue as possible in my life. Why make myself/my family choose between 40 options when having 2 or 3 is more helpful and leaves room for better things.

Less stuff = less to clean = more time to focus on the things we love

3. Being organized doesn’t mean much if you have too much inventory.

I am hands-down a Type-A person. Everything needs to have a place and that place needs to be named. Sounds simple, but I’m finding that the more I hold onto the less room I have for everything. The less room I have for things, the more I store items. Storing items isn’t my goal. Organization, at this point, is very difficult.

4. Simplifying needs to be scheduled.

If it’s not on the calendar, it is not happening. Even if I only schedule 5 minutes in the day, I know that I will get something done. When it’s on a calendar or to do list, there is no longer the excuse of being too busy.

In case you are wondering what 5 minutes can look like, here are some examples. For this example we will use the kitchen. Five minute tasks can be going through a single shelf in the fridge or freezer, choosing 1 drawer or cabinet, or removing everything off the island and into the proper room. Five minutes can make a world of a difference.


Are you trying to simplify your life? What room is the hardest for you? Is your family on board or is it just you?

alaina

Room by Room | Basement | Part 1

OH, MAN, talk about a doozy of a project! This took us 2 full days of going through and clearing out and 1 full day to put together shelving and arrange furniture. Because this was such a big project, I’ll be covering this area in two parts.

We started by moving everything to the sides. We’ve been in this house for 2.5 years, but these boxes have traveled with us from Army post to Army post…The back wall of boxes had not been opened in 7 years. SEVEN! We had boxes of scrap paper and mail from when we lived in Texas.

Like we did with the master bedroom, we sorted into our 3 main piles. Toss. Sell/Donate. Keep. We added an additional pile for papers that needed to be gone through. This pile would be anything from medical documents, diplomas, contracts, manuals, etc.

We decided, before getting started, to buy a Dumpster Bag from our trash company. We had old furniture and TONS of trash that I didn’t want to slowly throw away with our regular trash. This was HANDS DOWN the best decision we made!

We started going box by box . As our piles got larger, we would move the trash to the Dumpster Bag in the garage. At one point, our piles were ALL over the floor. You couldn’t easily get from one side to the other until we were about a third of the way through the boxes.

Now, I can’t talk about our “after”, yet. We have gone through every box and know what is where, but needed to re-box the majority until we could get some organizational items down here. Like I’ve said, it’s a process! Our next, “project” for the basement is finalizing shelving units, re-box items into clear bins, and creating storage, an office, and a little guest area. For us, for now, we need this area functional and simple. Comfortable, too!

Once we finish the basement, I will hop back on here and share our after photos! In the meantime, if you have any suggestions when it comes to organization, function, or comfort–leave them in the comments!

alaina

Room by Room | Kid Bedrooms

Unlike the master bedroom clean-out, the boys’ bedrooms are MUCH simpler. I know it won’t stay like this forever, but (for both rooms) I spend no more than 30 minutes.

These 2 spaces have been the one area of the house where I am consistent. The only toys upstairs are in Michael’s room, in a single chest. Their books are put away once daily (usually at bedtime). The clothing is sorted and dispersed every quarter, instead of seasonally. This goes for both the dressers and closets.

Cleanup is super easy and Michael is even starting to truly help me every day.

Since this is such a short post, I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me maintain the bedrooms, especially during those early baby days.

First, I keep 2 bins/buckets in the closet. The closet with the easiest access is for all the clothes they outgrow. The lid is never on, and I only throw clean clothing in the bin. I don’t bother folding anything at this point. The bin that is farther away always has a lid on it and is one size up from their current size.

Second, when hanging clothes, I always hang left to right. Things on the left are items that fit him and should be worn first. Depending on the seasons and current size, this section will fluctuate in size (amount of items). The farthest items to the right are the largest size and usually smallest amount!

Third, we don’t keep a bunch of toys in his room. Right now, the philosophy we follow is that the bedrooms are for limited (if any) play, reading, and sleeping. (I’m sure that’ll change as the boys get older, but for right now, it’s working for us.)

Do you have any tips, tricks, or questions? If so, leave them in the comments below! If you want a more in depth look at their rooms, head on over to Instagram and look in the highlights tab (on my profile) for “Room by Room”.

Next up, is the basement! Keep in mind still had things in boxes that we hadn’t seen in 7+ years…

alaina

Room by Room | Master Bedroom Clean-Out

I don’t know about you, but I love a good home-purging session. Top to bottom, every nook and cranny, random box, and drawer. We have been going through the ENTIRE house and recently completed our bedroom. When I say that we touched and looked at every item in our bedroom, I do mean every. single. item. Clothes, shoes, accessories, random items that didn’t belong, trash…EVERYTHING!

We’ve lived in this house for 2 years and 4 months and hadn’t done more than contain the mess. Like you, we’re busy. At that point, we were focused on the new house, new job, and soon-to-be new baby. Then 6 months after after the first baby, we were pregnant again. So here we are. Seven months after our second was born, we are finally ready and willing to put the work in to decluttering and minimizing our space!

Our bedroom took a solid 2 days to declutter. A few hours the first day of going through every item of clothing and shoes and then about 5 hours the second day to go through bins, reorganize, and clean. We were surprisingly efficient. We had 4 areas in our room to help avoid cleaning up throughout the process. Our floor in front of the bed was the dump zone. All the items were put here so that we could go through them. The bed was the keep zone, the floor on either side of the bed was donation, and the broken hampers/hall were the toss zones. I also purchased a cheap clothing rack to place hanging items.

We took everything out of the closet, drawers, laundry room, bins, and old boxes and got to work! Donating, tossing, and keeping each had a set of rules that we both followed. Keep these few things in mind when looking at our rules. One, we live in a four season environment and need a full year to see what we’ve used/not used. Two, our “memories” included thing related to military, graduations, weddings, and children. Three, our seasonal items were kept for now knowing that if we don’t wear them during that season they’ll be donated or sold.

Donating/Selling

  • have not worn in the last year
  • have no interest in wearing again
  • change in styles, age, and size
  • never worn/still had tags, but could not return

Tossing

  • damaged beyond repair
  • donation centers did not accept it and no one we knew would want the item
  • was actual trash
  • unable/unwilling to clean before donating (ie gum stuck to something, large long-lasting stain)

Keeping

  • we wear it/will continue to wear
  • unsure about wear during an upcoming season
  • we have memories attached to items (wedding, graduation, etc)
  • uniforms and/or memorabilia (military, graduations)

We removed SO MUCH from our room! 3 garbage bags of donations, 4 Costco diaper boxes of clothing to sell, 2 full hampers to throw away (hampers included), plus one garbage bag to toss. Now, it’ll be easier for me to go through clothing/accessories and get rid of what doesn’t fit our rules as time/seasons pass.

As for the things in our room, we tossed what was used (but no longer using), donated unused items, and kept what we reached for daily.

What room do you use daily that needs to be decluttered? I was dreading clearing out this space, but it’s so much more calming when you’re not wading through chaos.

Next up, is the kids’ bedroom!

Room By Room | Entry & Nook

I asked, you answered…here it is! I haven’t done a Room By Room post in quite a while! In fact, my last Room By Room post was about the Nursery back in SEPTEMBER! Yikes, that was far too long ago!

Anyway, as the title shows, we are talking ALL about our entryway and entry nook area. This has, by far, been the hardest room to decorate and maintain functionality. Not only is this area our welcome center into our home, it also doubles as my little office space. It can, and does, get overrun with papers, baby gear, shoes, coats, and more!

Room by Room
View from our front door, beyond the foyer

All that said, this room will always be a work in progress. Our needs for this area will always change as kids get added to the family, as we all get a little older, as we entertain more (or less). There are so many factors.

Foyer

Currently, our foyer is only used to welcome guests, which allows us to keep this area pretty clean and simple. Even though it is a tight space, I still wanted this area to feel homey and inviting. I truly believe first impressions are everything.

In the little corner of our foyer I’ve set up what I call my seasonal station! Everything in this area is easily changeable. The signs get swapped out every season and for every major holiday. It sounds expensive, yes, but it’s NOT!

Room by Room
The first thing you will see when we open the door!

I get all the decor after the season ends and the stores deeply discount it. Each season/holiday has cost me, at most, $10. The key here is patience! The first 2 years may look sparse to you, but if you wait for the good sales, a coupon, or maybe even a hand-me-down you can achieve a nicely decorated space, inexpensively! Bonus points if some of your pieces can work for multiple seasons/year round!

For reference, it has taken me about 5 years (and counting) to gather all of the pieces.

Nook

Ahh, this nook. This is my little office space and love it! It can be tricky keeping it functional, but pretty. The best way, I’ve kept it pretty (and tied into the rest of the room) is by putting a few decor pieces on the wall.

My only requirement that I had for what went on the wall was that every piece be a natural wood tone. This way, it can easily tie into the rest of the space without me having to worry about or over think what was being placed.

Again, this area has taken me time, was gathered inexpensively, and is still a work in PROGRESS! The wall hangings were all under $10 each. If I did my math right, the entire wall cost about $15.

Room by Room
My work space/office tucked inside the nook!

Then there is the actual working space. This is a trouble spot for me. I use this desk to write, pay bills, plan, manage our life. Trying to keep the clutter to a minimum is highly important and an incredible challenge!

If you have any ideas or tips leave them in the comments below!

My plan is to get a filing cabinet for the basement. This will remove A LOT of the paper work that gets trapped in this area. Once that is done, I can repurpose the folder holder and computer stand to hold the stuff I actually use. I’m also thinking of getting a little self to display notebooks and planners.

Gallery Wall

These frames, and a lot of these photos, have lived in many houses! Less than half of them have lived in 4 houses, which means they’ve miraculously survived Army moves. If you are curious what our gallery wall looked like at our last house, click here!

Let’s get this out of the way! All the frames have come from either Target or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The decor pieces have come from several different clearance locations. Target, Amazon, Hobby Lobby, and even a garage sale. Because styles change so quickly, I am not willing to invest in these pieces.

Placement and Decisions

The most important part of setting up a gallery wall is to measure out the area you are using and then mark it on the floor. Know where your mid-point is and be willing to leave it and come back to it. When I did my first gallery wall in Texas, the frames stayed on the floor for an entire 3 day weekend, so that we could change things with ease!

Once our placement was decided, we started hanging. In the beginning, we left space to add more photos. Yeah, it looked a little funny for a couple of months, but I didn’t want to completely have to redo the entire wall any time we added another frame or decor item.

room by room
As you can see, I have a couple of empty spots on the wall. My frames are coming today (day this is posted). I will put an updated photo, both here and on Instagram once they arrive!

Tricks and Tips

Three tricks I’ve learned, over the last 5+ years, are to buy an equal number of frames and/or decor pieces, to hang the frames you plan to use (even without the photo), and know when to stop.

What I mean by an equal number of frames or decor pieces, is this. If you are slowly adding to your wall and you’re ready to add a frame, add two. It will balance you wall. You could add one frame and one decor piece or 2 frames and 1 decor piece. Look at the size of the bigger item and balance it out.

Secondly, if you’re wanting to add 5 frames, but only have 2 photos, add the photo-less frames to your wall. While you may notice the stock photo at every glance, your guests may not. To their eyes, the gallery wall is filled. In doing this, you can also see the photo sizes you need instead of guessing which makes your life easier!

Lastly, know when to stop. This will look different for everyone, but knowing when to stop adding pieces is important. If you’re nervous about the wall not looking fresh, remember you will change out the photos in the frames. Maybe dedicate 4 frames that get new photos every season and one frame that highlights the family every year. If you want to change out your decor pieces, take it off the wall and bring it to the store so you can compare it to new items. Or take measurements and go scour different places for new pieces.


I’m not kidding when I tell you that this takes time and some (though not a lot of ) money. We’ve been in this house for 15 months and are just now finalizing decor pieces. Oh, that gallery wall? We’ve been working on that and collecting pieces for it since we got married. In 2013!

If you have any thoughts on how we might be able to better utilize space in the entry, leave it in the comments below!

sign off!

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.

FM4

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!