Monday, July 31

My 6 New House Essentials

Once you've moved (and here's 7 tips for making that easier) decorating your new place is the fun part. Unfortunately, that kind of comes last, after the clean-all-the-things stage, and the get-it-functional stage. Eventually, you reach the why-are-there-still-boxes-here stage, but somewhere in there, your house becomes a home. Once again, Casper was collecting these tips, and I decided to join in.

1. Rug

It's almost a fact of life that once you move to a new place, some of your rugs will no longer fit your new rooms, or you'll have new rooms with new floors to be covered. I hate carpet with a passion, so rugs are my friends. I choose my friends with great care, which is why it seems to take me years to pick out rugs. And even then, I'm guilty of chronically picking rugs that are too small. Here's a guide for how your rugs should fit in any room, from Home Depot.

2. Artwork

Nothing personalizes your new place like artwork, and when you're ready to hang things on the wall, you know you're really settling in. Etsy is one of my favorite places to find affordable art, and also Society6, but I also like finding unique paintings at craft fairs and antique stores, and then customizing thrift store frames for cohesive gallery walls. 

But not artwork has to be purchased. In the gallery wall in the entry way, I have a blue jay painting by Brian's great-grandmother, a framed cover of a catalog, and a free print I found online of eggs, mixed in with flea market and craft store finds, and a DIY moss covered letter.

3. New mattress, sheets, and pillows

When we moved into our first house, we took the opportunity to upgrade our mattress. Because we upgraded from a full to a queen, we also had to get all new sheets and a bedspread. I think we kept the same pillows, but if you're moving, it's a great time to evaluate how those are holding up too, and consider having your pillows and your mattress both shipped to your door. 

These marble sheets from Urban Outfitters aren't cheap, but I'm seriously in love with them and trying to figure out if there's a good way to DIY them. How awesome would these look in a bedroom with rose gold accents?  

4. Cleaning Kit

When you're living in chaos, the last thing you need is to not be able to find where you packed the cleaning supplies, or lose them in the maze of boxes. One of the most useful wedding presents we received was a plastic caddy full of cleaning supplies, like this one. This has been invaluable during all of our moves, and still comes in handy for keeping cleaning supplies corralled and portable. 

5. Inexpensive Organizing Solutions

While you're unpacking and organizing your new closets and drawers is the perfect time to invest in some new containers. My favorite are clear plastic shoe bins. I use them for craft supplies, office cords of all kinds, and of course, shoes. You could also get a little fancy and try some of my painted paper Trader Joe's bags for storage. 

6. A Special Item to Mark the Transition

 When we moved into our first house, our realtor bought us a wooden cutting board shaped like the state of Arizona. Regardless of whether you're upgrading or downsizing, excited about your new place or dreading it, I think marking the transition with something special and celebratory is important. Some people frame keys or a photo of their old house, or you can have a custom portrait made of your new place. My DIY state art would be perfect if you've moved out of state. Find something that either pays tribute to where you're leaving, or celebrates your new beginnings. 

Here's a handy graphic to pin for next time you're moving:

Friday, July 28

Edison's Taco Twos-Day Birthday Party

Welcome to Edison's Taco Twos-day party! 

Edison turned two on the 21st, so last Saturday we had a little fiesta for him. My sister-in-law was able to come, and some good friends of ours. My idea was just to have a casual pool party, no stress and no work. But what fun is that? Somehow I ended up with a whole theme, decorations, and special cakes. Thanks Pinterest. 

Overall though, I was able to use a lot of things I already had, kept the purchases to a minimum with a few high impact decorations, and decorating and making those special cakes was super fun. 

In the entryway, I changed my letter board to reflect the theme, and added this very cute cactus light. Over the fireplace, I added this cactus banner. I expected it to be made out of paper, but it's actually felt! I think it will stay up year-round somewhere in my house.

This giant #2 gold balloon made a big impact everywhere we put it. Apparently, there were several size options on Amazon that I missed, and I bought the 40" one. Go big or go home!

Although he doesn't look too excited about it when I made him hold it for photos, Edison calls it "Shiny" and talked to it the whole way home from the grocery store (where they filled it up for free!) and cried when we put it inside before we went to airport to pick up my sister-in-law. It's still going strong after a week.

Outside on the porch, I brought out all of my blue metal kitchen chairs, and bought a folding table from Target. The aqua plastic tablecloth I already had, leftover from a bridal shower I threw a year ago. I decorated the table with some of my little succulents on tiny cake stands, which I already had also.

I bought an outdoor rug, something I'd wanted for awhile, and this seemed like the perfect occasion for it. I also bought the "Papel Picado" Mexican tissue paper banner and Fiesta fans, and mixed in some of the honeycomb balls from the bridal shower. I used a Mexican blanket for a table cloth on the food table.

The menu: 

  • Walking Tacos. Apparently, this is a Midwesterner thing, because no one in Arizona had heard of this. You take individual bags of Doritos or Fritos, open them, and put a scoop of taco meat and all your usual fixings inside the bag, mix it up, and eat it from the bag. These are the original Doritos Tacos - but deconstructed. I cooked the taco meat in the crock pot to make life even easier. 
  • Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa - all purchased and packaged, again, making life easy.
  • Fruit from a handy fruit tray.
  • Peanuts and M&Ms - Conley family tradition. 
  • Fanta, lemonade, and lime La Croix as well as bottled water. I wanted brightly colored, kid-friendly beverages. Although the La Croix was really all for us non-soda drinking adults.
  • Taco Cakes!!! I'm still so thrilled with how these turned out. I made two round cakes, cut them in half, and stacked them to make the taco shape. Then I frosted and decorated them to look like a taco with fillings. Here's a tutorial that I based my cake on, but instead of using crushed Oreos, I used the star shaped decorating tip and chocolate frosting for the taco meat. I didn't create the tomatoes and cheese from separate frosting either, I just used the small round tip to pipe them on.


Other Items: 

We did it! High-five!

Saturday, July 22

7 of My Favorite Tips to Make Moving Easier

No, I'm not moving, at the moment. But in the seven years we've been married, we've moved six times. The first year after moving into our house, it felt almost weird to not be scouring for boxes, busting out the packing tape and sharpies, and uprooting again.  But now we've happily lived here for over three years, moving is a distant nightmare. 

With all that relocating, I do feel like I have some expertise in making moves ... of the home kind. So when I noticed Casper (the mattress company) was sharing home moving tips, I thought I'd get involved. Sometimes it's the simplest things that make a big difference. I'm not sure moving is ever totally easy, but at least we can aim for easier.

Not moving in the near future? On the Happier podcast, best-selling author Gretchen Ruben and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, recently recommended the happiness hack of making a "virtual move." To boost happiness through decluttering, you ask yourself, "If I were moving, what would I do with this?" When we prepare for a move, we're able to make more logical decisions about what to throw out, what to sell, and what to replace. Making a "virtual move" will help you look at your home with fresh eyes, and you never know - with the average number of times a person moves in their life (eleven), you might have a real move around the corner that you'll be prepared for!

1. Store it. 

To avoid living in a brown cardboard labyrinth in the weeks or months before you move, try renting a storage compartment, or better yet, a pod that can stay in your yard until it's full, and then ship to your new place.

2. Ship it. 

Speaking of shipping - as soon as you have access to your new place or a storage location nearby, ship your stuff. Especially if it's items you're positive you won't need, like out of season clothes, old toys and baby gear, home decor items, pillows, and files. This will save room in your Uhaul for the big ticket, super heavy items like books and furniture, potentially saving you money by allowing you to get away with a smaller truck.

3. Sell it. 

A garage sale is a great option for off-loading a lot of your stuff at once, and also a great tip for the "virtual movers." But if that seems like to much work for the amount of items you have, try Craig's List or the Offer Up app (even easier than Craig's List!) to sell items. 

4. Pack it... the "essentials box," specifically.

I've also used an "essentials laundry basket," instead of an actual box, but put all the items you'll need in the next 24 hours in here. Things like paper plates and plastic silverware, hand soap, paper towels or real towels, charging cords, and toilet paper (amen) will be wonderful to have easy access to right away. You could even tape this box with red duct tape to make it stand out. 

5.  Replace it. 

Moving is a good time to take a hard look at items you might pass over in your regular decluttering purges (or am I the only one that has those on a seasonal basis?). In our last move, we took the trouble of moving our old plaid couch to the new house - but replaced it not long afterwards, thankfully, because my DIY slipcover didn't work in the new living room, since the back of the couch didn't face a wall. 

We did, however, buy a new mattress. I'm not sure how old our old mattress was - it had belonged to Brian's family before we got married - but the main reason we bought a new one was because we'd finally decided to move from a full bed to a queen. Let me tell you - that was a great idea! To make replacing your mattress even easier, you can order a mattress in a box and have it shipped to your new place.

6. Schedule it. 

It seems obvious, but make sure you've scheduled all your utility appointments BEFORE move in day. On the moving day, you'll have so much to deal with, you should not be messing with this. And if toilets aren't working when you and your crew are moving in ... not good things will happen. Plan to have your water and electricity on, and test that they're running fine, well before the big day!

7. Write it ... on the side. 

This is it - my big, life-changing tip: write on the sides of your boxes, not the top. It took me more moves than I care to admit before I figured this out. So many times, I'd pack 10 boxes, and then immediately need something I'd packed. "It's around here somewhere," I'd say, surveying the wall of identical brown cardboard boxes all nicely stacked out of the way. When you write the contents on the side, you can still read them when they're stacked on top of each other. Better yet, write on multiple sides - just to be sure. 

I also recommend writing a lot of detail - what's in the box, and where the box needs to go in the new place. For example, a box might say "sheets and pillow cases, BIG HALL CLOSET." 

A helpful graphic, with some crazy moving facts, for Pinterest: 

Bonus tips, because you scrolled to the bottom of this post: 
  • Take your dresser drawers out, but cover the contents with towels or pillowcases, and just carry them to your car or moving vehicle and stack them on top of each other. When you get to your place, it's quick and easy to pop them back in. 
  • Empty your flour, sugar, and other canisters that sit on your kitchen counter into plastic baggies, and then put the baggies back into the canisters to keep the contents from spilling in the move. 
  • And the Pinterest favorite - slide a trash bag over your hanging clothes, loop the handles around the hangers, and easily move them to their new home. Just be sure to differentiate from your "to donate" bags. 
What are your best moving tips? Share them in the comments below!