Thoughts on Hobbies and Free Time

freetimehobbies As devoted I am to my family, I’ve found that in order for me to be the best Vera I can be, I need to have interests beyond my husband and my children. However, it’s not always possible to juggle the role of wife, daughter, mother, crafter, organizer, and all the other different hats I wear.

Over time I’ve had to find the balance of being enough. It’s also meant letting go of my own expectations. There is no one harder or more critical of me than myself!

I’ve realized that while it’s important to dedicate yourself to family, it’s just as important to make sure that you take care of yourself.

For me, this means making the time for my hobbies. It also means that I have to be selective about my time and maximize as much as I can when I can.

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Some of my hobbies include playing board games, running, reading, scrapbooking, sewing, needlework like embroidery or cross-stitch, quilting, photography, blogging/writing, thrifting/shopping, traveling, computer games, technology, house projects, and watching television/movies.

But, with only 24 hours a day, there is no way I can enjoy all my hobbies and take care of my family and be present in the “real world.” I pretty much adhere to that quote about how you can do all things, just not at once. :-)

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I’ve learned to focus my time to only a select few things at a time/season/month. Right now I’m focused on blogging/writing and house projects. There is a little bit of board games (once a week) and some reading. I try not to have too many current hobbies going on at once because then I feel like I get nothing done.

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After Daylight Savings, I’m planning to invest time in running and sewing. I’ll scale back on house projects. One week might completely differ from the previous week. But I work on one project/task at a time and it feels really balanced to me.

That’s pretty much how I approach my hobbies, especially in this season of my life with two kids ages 3 and 1. When they are off to school, it’ll be another adjustment.

How about you? Have you taken or made time to pursue your interests? I noticed my temperament is much better when I am working on something specific rather than mindlessly browsing the internet. (You know, how one click leads to another link and the next thing you know it’s 10PM!)

Simplify Paper Clutter

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Ugh, do you hate paperwork as much as I do? I really hate all clutter paper invites everywhere and when my desk starts piling up with it, I get really cranky. I blame paper as the number one reason why my desk is usually messy. I get overwhelmed.

Here’s what our office looked like at our old house back in June of last year:

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Insanity, right? (Though, to be fair, half of that is craft stuff and I was in the middle of a big sewing project!)

Our newest office space is in the middle of the house. It’s officially the formal dining room, but as we’re learning to make the space work for us, I want to keep paper clutter down as much as possible.

I’ve tried a variety of filing systems that I’ve shared before here. There have been a few minor changes since then, and one of the things I’ve incorporated this year is to simplify paperwork as I receive it, or as I’m calling it, everyday filing.

It’s really simple and it works. I use a desktop file with just a few folder categories. Keep in mind that most of our documents are paperless, but there are some that still come to the house randomly:

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It’s broadly labeled and I sort all mail/papers that come into the house in these four categories:

  • Home: insurance, mortgage papers, HOA info, anything relating back to our house
  • Financials: statements or notices from bank, financial advisers, random non-paperless bills
  • Medical: receipts, statements. I don’t break it down any further or by individual because thankfully we don’t need to make doctor visits other than regular check-ups.
  • Taxes: I save receipts from donations, print-outs to prepare for taxes, anything that we’ll need for next year.

And that’s it! Just sticking to these four categories has been wonderful and simple. I realized that we rarely need to access our papers. At the end of the year, I’m just going to stick the whole 2015 section into our filing cabinet and move onto 2016.

Does that make sense? How do you handle paperwork? I have been really aggressive about going through the mail and getting rid of it as quickly as possible. When mail builds up, I get stuck in paper hell!

Add Privacy with a Frosted Window

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This is the first house we’ve lived in where the master bathroom windows were not covered/frosted in some way to maintain privacy. It’s not exactly ideal because while I love letting the natural light into our house, I don’t necessarily want to share the ahem, view with the neighbors!
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Brian initially bought a frosted film for us to cover. He also bought a spray kit that included a squeegee and cloth. But after looking over it, we would need two film kits to cover the size of our window.

I did a little bit more research and frosted spray paint was another good alternative. I liked that we wouldn’t have to cut accurately or make sure there were no bubbles, because if putting on the screen guards on our cell phones are any indication….

We went with Valspar frosting spray:
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This is what it looked like after one coat:IMG_4248I highly recommend doing this with the fans running and windows open (if possible). I was a bit lightheaded despite all the circulation coming from our master bedroom windows. Also, make sure you cover your floors, counters, or the general area because the paint traveled and left a fine dust everywhere.

Here is after the next spray:

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And here’s what it looks like all finished:
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The total cost was around $10 for two cans of the frosted spray paint, which came in much better than the $50 we would have paid for two rolls of film and the kit.

In the future I’d love to be able to replace the window to be able to open and close it for more circulation.

Have you tried frosting a window or using the spray paint? I appreciated the ease of the nozzle and how nice it went on!

How to Clean as You Go and Other Shortcuts

cleanasyougoHave you ever wondered if you’re cleaning your house the most efficiently way possible? I am all about saving time and look for shortcuts to make my life a little easier. Today I’m going to share with you a couple of simple ideas to help your pick-up/clean-up process go a little faster.

Pick up and clean as you go. 

I think I picked up this habit from my mom, and over the years have made the effort to be more conscientious about it. Here are a couple of examples by what I mean “as you go.”

Today I made macaroni and cheese for lunch. While I put the food in the oven to bake (with timer), I washed the pot I used to cook. Then I left it on the other side of the sink to dry as I picked up stray toys and books on the dining table and the coffee table, walked down the hall and put away another book, dropped off the stray toys and the books in the playroom, dealt with a boo-boo from one of the kids, and put away the now dried pot back into the kitchen cabinet.

I find stray toys everywhere:

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Another example would be chopping vegetables and then dropping it into the pot to cook on the stove. While it starts to cook, I walk away for a minute to wash the cutting board and knife and then leave it to dry. By the time dinner is over, the cutting board, knife, and other utensils and pots would be dried and ready to be put away by the time the evening starts.

When it comes down to it, you maximize your time as you deal with things as you see it, rather than leaving it for later.

Don’t ignore it if it takes less than two minutes.

If it takes less than two minutes, I’ll deal with it. Some messes, like spills and stains, need to be dealt with immediately. But, general pick-up clutter can happen as you pass by a space.

For example, when I walk by our couch, I’ll usually spot stray socks that were discarded sometime during the day. I’ll pick it up and immediately put it in the sock owner’s bedroom, or the laundry room.

A toy sitting in the hallway can be put in the playroom, but I won’t clean up the playroom until it’s part of our bedtime routine, as evidenced below at our last  house:

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Clean/Touch it once.

This is a more recent trick I’ve learned, and I’m eye-rolling at myself because it should have been obvious!

You know how you wipe down a mirror or a counter-top? Well, you should clean a section of it only once. Basically you don’t go back and clean what you’ve already cleaned. I realized that I was wiping stuff down and then going back over it again and again instead of just cleaning it well the first time. I know, Captain Obvious, right?!

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But anyway, these simple tricks have helped me keep a tidier house and I’ve been able to maximize my time. Do you use any/all of these shortcuts? Do you do it consciously? The last two I’ve had to work on the last few years, and I’ve made the effort to be more aware of my surroundings.

How We Store Toys

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Yesterday I gave a tour of our children’s playroom. Today, I wanted to show you how I store our toys. It’s evolved a bit from my last post on organizing children’s toys because we’re in a new space and I’m all about trying new methods of staying tidy!

We store their toys in a 2×4 and a 2×2 Ikea Expedit. (Ikea sells Kallax now, which is similar.) We added boards to the backs of both of them to fill in the space.

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I use Ikea Drona baskets to contain the toys. I like that they’re inexpensive, they’re lightweight which makes it easy for little hands to access toys, and they’re pretty sturdy.

You’ll notice two spaces for books. They have more shelves in their own bedrooms for books and a basket in the family room. I love books and will support their book habit!

We keep a container of Tinker Toys along with a container of trains/cars (sandwiched between the green and pink baskets on the top row). The bottom right corner holds homemade pillow/cushions from our friends who moved away.

In the first basket we keep pieces of furniture and things that go with their dollhouse:

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This one houses puzzles. I’ve found that storing puzzles and their pieces individually in 2 gallon size bags helps to keep everything together and less scattered everywhere. Those puzzle holders I’ve seen at stores would make it all so pretty, but I know it’ll just be a big mess of constantly trying to keep it organized:

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Next is our Potato Head collection. I’ve collected them over the years from our trips to Disney:

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This basket holds 4 sets of Duplos. We don’t plan to buy any more and I think we’ll eventually transition these out and incorporate Lego:

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We keep a set of blocks in here, a stacking toy, a hammer/peg toy and a doodle toy here:

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This drawer holds a magnetic wooden doll set (there is an unopened one below it for Nagini when she is a little older), a bag of marbles, and unopened fake coins and bills from their cash register. We’ve given them real coins to play with and I’m just trying to delay the flurry of paper around the playroom as long as possible!

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The second drawer is our doctor kit. We have a mish mash of medical stuff in here, including a blood pressure cuff, dental mirror, stethoscope, along with lights and thermometers:

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The third and fourth drawers are pretty much random pieces, including costume jewelry, or scarves (to turn into capes or dress-up).

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There you have it! Each child has a basket of stuffed animals in her room. We store play food pieces in their play kitchen (there is a small basket in one of the cabinets). They also have a play tent that folds up and goes into our coat closet, a rocking horse that hangs out in the family room, and a wood cart thing that converts into a walker, a tricycle or a shopping basket. That piece usually hangs out in the hallway.

How do you store your children’s toys? I have found that keeping it all in one room definitely helps keep the big messes in one space rather than spread out all over the house!