Archive for June 2013

Planning for a trip to the beach

With summer upon us, the beach beckons us home. Ahhhh...the beach...my happy place. As you prepare for your descent upon the Gulf of Mexico (for my Alabama peeps) or east or west coast depending on where you live, here is my practical advice for preparing and packing for that long awaited summertime fun.

Here's my advice in two parts:

1. If you have small children -

tip Utilize towels and plastic bags to catch spills and messes. Take two towels and lie them lengthwise across the backseat and then install the car seats. Take another two towels and do the same thing for the floor board. If you want to make sure that liquid doesn't seep through to the upholstery, place kitchen trash bags under the towels for extra protection. Not only does it prevent damage to the car, but allows for easy clean up after the trip by just lifting the towels up and shaking them over a trash can.

tip Develop a system for snacks, DVDs, toys, diapers, and trash that works for you. Check out this post on how to organize your car for the upcoming road trip.

tip Change a diaper every time you stop for gas.

tip Pack light and pack casual. This is the beach, not Project Runway. Leave the high heels, pack the flip flops. Read here for my thoughts on beach towels.

2. If you don't have children -

tip You are losing time reading this. Grab you toothbrush and swimsuit and head out the door. Embrace the spontaneity of life. :) I will live vicariously through you and your adventure.

Happy swimming!

Which beach are you vacationing at this summer?

Organizing your car for a road trip

Recently, my family embarked on a 15+ hour car trip to upstate New York for a family reunion and wedding. With that many hours enclosed in a rented Kia (no, I'm not joking), I learned how making good organizational choices can impact the quality of a long-distance car ride. Today, I'm sharing those tips.

My husband and I split up duties on this trip. He was in charge of driving and getting us there safely. I was in charge of maintenance and support. My duties consisted of, but were not limited to: diaper changes, passing out snacks, swapping out DVDs, distributing toys, handling and disposing of garbage, and giving baby bottles. Once we got into the thick of the car trip, I quickly realized that I needed a system to keep the car from being overtaken by trash and sippy cups, and to keep me from losing my sanity for what seemed like an eternity with some very small people who weren't ecstatic about being cooped up for that long.

Here is how I organized my workspace (I took my job seriously) in the car:
1. I emptied the glove compartment and stored DVDs in it so that I could easily access a different movie when the kids got bored with the current showing.

2. I put baby wipes, diapers and diaper rash creme in the console of the car. I changed diapers in the front seat while the driver was filling the gas tank to save time. Having those items at my fingertips made the gas station stops quick and easy without fumbling around to find much-needed items. (Even if you don't have children, baby wipes are still great for cleaning up spills and hands if you have to eat while driving)

3. I stored my purse in the backseat and kept my phone in the snack holder. I didn't need to access my purse anyway, and it gave me extra leg room which was needed for tip #4.

4. I put a small backpack of crayons, coloring books, some small toys, and snacks to the left of my feet. When someone started to get antsy in the backseat, I just tossed food back there or stickers to keep them going.

5. Finally, I put a plastic grocery bag between my seat and the passenger door to catch the trash. Each time we stopped for gas, I emptied it.

No road trip is easy, especially when traveling with children. But hopefully these tips will help make the journey more palatable and easy for you in the future.

What's your advice on staying organized while traveling?

My go-to outfit

In this busy day and age of hectic everything and frenzied paces, it's easy to get discombobulated and find yourself running errands and picking up a gallon of milk in your not-so-finest threads. By this I mean, yoga pants and your husband's college t-shirt that has the hole in the armpit and stains from the last time you got into the chalkboard paint. That's why it's important to have a uniform of sorts - your stand in outfit when you need to get dressed quickly, look presentable and still be comfortable. This requires identifying your style, your colors and coordinating something from your wardrobe that is quick and fits the bill.

Recently, a subscriber to The Chic Planner asked me what my go-to outfit is for casual wear. My "uniform" is a blazer, blouse, skinny jeans and ballet flats. It fits my classic, chic style. It's comfortable, and it's just as easy to throw on as it is an old pair of sweats.

I think as a society we have gotten away from looking our best in public places. We dress in whatever is comfortable and clean or not so clean (some of us fish things out of the dirty laundry basket) and I'm feeling a call to take that back and to put my best foot forward. We are all going to have days when the stomach bug hits and everyone looks a mess including the dog, but that's the exception.

What is your go-to outfit?

Simplifying your home thus your life - part 4. the living room

Living room, family room or den, call it what you will. It's a place of gathering for fellowship, conversation, snuggling together on the sofa for movie night, and entertaining. However, if your living room is so cluttered that is isn't recognizable for the purposes mentioned above, then it's time we de-cluttered that, too.

First up, let me clarify that I'm not against children. I have children. I am, however, in favor of spaces that don't look like a toy store blew up in them. This is my home and I want each room of it to be a peaceful sanctuary for its occupants and visitors. My home is very open, so a mess in one room affects every other room. It's important to me that the living room maintain some sense of tidiness, despite the numerous and sundry pieces of Lego's.

living room:
1. What is the look you want for this room? How do you want your guests to feel when they enter it? For me, I wanted the environment to be peaceful, and I wanted to be reminded of the beach since that's my happy place. I'm just about the last person on earth to decorate with a seashell lamp. However, I brought the beach to my living room by decorating with color. My furniture is a creamy neutral that reminds me of the sand. I have a lamp and pillows with pops of blue that mirror the water. My walls are painted a pale grey and the rest of the rooms that flow into my living room are all the same color palette.

Beyond de-cluttering the living room, maybe it's time to consider a fresh paint job, new throw pillows or even removing a couple of pieces of furniture to allow for a more open space for people to gather when entertaining.

2. I mentioned here my disdain for cluttered end tables. How many objects are on the tables in your living room? Try removing at least one item. Tim Gunn, from Project Runway, says before you leave your house, remove one accessory or piece of jewelry. That's a great reminder to keep it simple and it can be applied to decorating as well. Many times we put more work into creating an amazing display when actually the pieces you have will stand out more when given the space.

Thanks to all my readers for participating in this series on simplifying our homes. I love hearing from you.

What is the most significant change you are making in simplifying your home?

Simplifying your home thus your life - part 3. master bedroom & bath

In the last two weeks, we have de-cluttered our guest bathroom, pantry and kitchens. Today, we are going to take back our bedrooms and bathrooms. If you are interested in organizing your master closet, you can read this post I wrote a few weeks ago.

One thing to keep in mind as you continue the process of simplifying your home: this is your journey, not someone else's. It is not your job to convince all humans (small children are the exception because they have to do what you say, or at least we wish they would!) living in your household that they need to de-clutter. If you want to share what you're doing with your spouse, then great. They may be enthusiastic and jump right in, helping you toss stuff. But if they aren't, that's okay, too. This is your journey and I can tell you from experience that you set the tone for your home. The influence of what you're doing will rub off and eventually everyone will grab hold to this new way of living. It's because minimalism and detaching from things makes everyone feel good. My husband wasn't a minimalist when I met him, but I can honestly say, he is now. He maintains a capsule wardrobe and carefully considers every purchase he makes.

Remembering the tips that I posted on de-cluttering, let's start with the master bedroom.

master bedroom:
1. Put away any clothes lying on the floor, chairs or dresser. Put books in your nightstand or bookshelf. I don't have chairs or benches in my bedroom because they become clothing and clutter magnets. When you don't have a place to drop something, then you are more likely to hang it up or put it where it belongs. Is there any unnecessary furniture that can be removed?

2. Examine your nightstand. Are only the essentials gracing its surface? Alarm clock, cell phone, and lamp are just about the only necessities for sitting out. If you have the room for your favorite picture of a loved one, so be it. My bedroom is a very private place for me so I don't like to have pictures of other people in it. Let me say this in the most delicate manner I can, it doesn't encourage romance.

3. Don't let your bedroom become a dumping ground for toys. Right now, we have two huge boxes in our room that will be donated to a local charity after we finish de-cluttering our garage. Those boxes are about to drive me batty and they have some old baby toys in them that my kids keep pulling out. I keep looking at those things realizing what huge eye sores they are and how they are polluting my pristine, peaceful bedroom environment.

master bath:
1. Empty drawers and cabinets and clean them. If you have skincare products that have been opened for more than a year, toss them. Most opened products lose their potency after nine months. That set of hot rollers that you haven't used since the 90s - it's got to go.

2. Nail polish - if you haven't used a particular color in the past year or so, toss it. This is one area that as women, we tend to keep lots of old colors. Pick your favorite neutral, and one color polish for the fall, and one for the spring. Let the rest go.

3. Let's talk products for a minute. As women, we so often purchase a product and then find the next "miracle product" that will ensure an instant face lift without surgery, so we buy that product. All the while, these old skincare, haircare and make up items keep piling up in our drawers. We don't want to throw them out because they are practically brand new, we payed hard earned money for them, and there is still plenty of product left in them. I'm here to tell you that it is okay to dump them. You aren't going to use them, because if you really loved them you would be using them now instead of letting them collect dust and grow bacteria. At some point, you have to admit that it was a waste of money and that you made a mistake. Don't keep punishing yourself for it by allowing it to take up valuable space in your home and become clutter.  Be free! (this goes for all items in your home, especially clothing)

Next week, we are de-cluttering the living room.

What item/s are you evicting from your bedroom or bathroom this week?

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