Monday, November 25, 2013

A Dirty Secret

I have dirty drawers.   Simmer on that for a few seconds...

Of course I mean my cabinet drawers.  Every drawer in our house is bursting with the accumulation of daily life.  Clutter and excess "things" make me anxious so I am no stranger to disposing of junk or non-necessities but it's harder to get around to cleaning out the little nooks and crannies.  My mind becomes stressed when we have more than we need or can use - which probably explains our mostly empty refrigerator and cupboards.  I just prefer to buy as we need it, not buy in the ANTICIPATION of needing it.

Isn't is shocking how many small toys and papers enter your house?  The kids come home with at least 3 papers each - every day.  Brent and I typically admire them for a moment and then into the recycle they go.  If they are super special papers that the kids are especially proud of or worked really hard on, we have a cabinet in the living room that they get put into - and then forgotten about.  Until now.  Because it's de-cluttering day!!  Moving from room to room, we are opening ever drawer to clean it out.

We keep all of our coloring books and simply art supplies in the built in cabinet in the dining room.  It's easy for the kids to get to and are encouraged to use them whenever they wish.  Encouraging them to put the stuff away when they are done is a different story.

Here's what the inside looks like.  I know, you're wondering, what's wrong with these people??!!  What a disorganized mess!!  Just kidding, I know it isn't that bad.

Emma and Owen sat with me and together we decided which coloring books we were using and which we could recycle.  After about 30 minutes we were looking much better.  And by "we", I mean the cabinet.  I was, of course, still in my pajamas with greasy hair and my glasses on.

Full of energy and a pretty sweet caffeine buzz from 3 cups of coffee, we moved onto the dining room. You'll remember my breathtaking buffet - looking all gorgeous on the outside.  She ain't so pretty on the inside.

Please tell me you can relate to this?  Everyone's drawers end up looking like this, right?

This is the perfect example of a dumping ground.  Everything that doesn't have an immediate home ends up in these drawers.  So this was just a matter of putting the small things back where they belonged.

Lastly up here was the cabinet in the living room that they TV sets on.  I keep the kids' photo & baby albums in here so when they get important papers, I can put them right into their books before they get lost.  Unfortunately, I usually just throw it into the cabinet and it takes a looooonnnngggg time to make it into the book.

We took everything out and started loading all of the loose photos and artwork into their books.  The kids had a fun time looking at baby pictures and hearing stories about themselves as babies.  Explaining my ultrasound pictures of Owen to him was interesting.  After I told him that they were pictures of him when he was inside of my tummy, he simply said, "I don't want to get back in your tummy."

My sister and I give my mom a hard time for not finishing my baby book (I'm a middle child) and for never even purchasing one for my sister (the youngest).  This should make you feel better, mom - looks like I stopped working on Owen's when he was two months old.

Here's some scrap-booking - KRUSE STYLE.  At least the pics are IN the book.

And all done and put away.

After the main floor was done, we took a two hour break to make an amazing Shepherds Pie and a quick nap.  The energy was going to be necessary for our final leg of this de-cluttering journey.  The basement laundry/storage room.

Please don't gasp too loudly.  And no judgement.

If your eyes are burning, just look away.

This room took about 2 hours - 2 grueling hours.  Lookin' much better now.

Our friend gave us a big box of ribbon when they were moving.  It was hard to see what we had in the box, so Brent ran down to the hardware store and picked up a metal rod to create a ribbon holder.  I guess this can sort of function as a wrapping station because all of the gift bags, wrapping paper, tape and bows are in the the two large cabinets under this countertop.

I have a theory - the less stuff in your house, the less messy it can get.  If you get rid of the toys your kids no longer need or play with, there is less for them to drag out and around.  Hopefully they don't notice how much of their stuff ends up disappearing - either into the trash or donated - because it's a lot.

I remember going through this process last year - its called our Winter Cleaning - get it?  Instead of Spring's a great time to purge your home of all that extra stuff before the onslaught of Christmas gifts come rolling in.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Family Advent Tree

Every year, the holiday season screams past.  School parties, work socials, family Christmases...the calendar gets so full, so quickly.  This year, Brent and I were determined to slow things down.  Our calendar has been cleared of all non-essential activities, all that remains are church activities and work functions.  We want the month of December to be all about our little family and truly enjoying the season.  Emma and Owen are at that special age where Christmas is still so full of anticipation and magic...we want to capitalize on that to ensure the holidays are filled with memories for them.

I kept going back to something I had read on Pinterest.  It was a little diddy that said something simple..."Experiences rather than Things."  My mind began to churn out Christmas season "experiences" that I thought the kids would enjoy.  Then, as luck would have it, I was working my way through Hobby Lobby and I spotted this tree.

I thought it would be perfect to hang our "experiences" on.  As another bolt of lightning struck me, I figured if I came up with 24 "experiences", it would technically be an Advent Tree.  Figuring out 24 things wasn't as simple as I had hoped.  Some were easy and obvious, others took some extra thought and google-ing.  Emma and Owen gave us their ideas of what they would like to do as well.  A kids idea of fun is usually much simpler and easier that what an adults idea of fun is.  Their main requests were to order a pizza and play games.

Even though we could have easily done this project without actually purchasing any supplies, I decided to splurge and spend $20 to have a little fun.  The tree was half price for $8, paint was about $9 and the 2 pieces of scrapbook paper were $.50.

We didn't have any green paint for the tree, so we picked up a test pot of from Lowe's.  At the same time, we got a can of spray glitter.  As we were approaching the checkout - I had an episode of pre-buyer's remorse - and asked Brent if we needed the paint and glitter, as we could use some sort of paint from home.  Brent then said some of the most beautiful words he has ever spoken...he said, "I don't care if we get the green paint, but I definitely want to get the glitter because all that glitters is gold."  My husband wanted glitter and I wasn't about to deny him.

Putting the Advent Tree together was easy.  Emma and Owen painted it, using a Q-tip to get into the tiny holes.

This is after 2 coats.

I used the two pieces of scrapbook paper and traced 24 circles out - then cut out each one.  Emma and I used a three hole punch to put a hole through each ornament  Writing out the tags was Emma's favorite part - too bad she got bored of it after 4 of them.

Meanwhile, Brent was hitting the tree with a healthy coat of glitter.  I lied, Brent lightly dusted it with wasn't enough, so I snatched the can from him and went a little crazy on it, all while yelling "MORE GLITTER!"  The looks on little Emma and Owen's faces told me I had taken it too far.  I guess less is more when it comes to glitter.

Kind of hard to tell the tree was originally green under all that glitter.  Yeah, my fault.

You are probably smart enough to figure out how to attach paper circles to a tree, but for those of you that don't have the mental energy to figure it out or maybe you are just bored and don't care how long I babble on and on about wood trees...I used a scissor and leftover ribbon.

Thankfully the tree already had holes in it because you are supposed to poke Christmas lights thru from the back.  I just threaded my ribbon through.  That step seems easy, but you try working around a three foot tall slab of wood while trying to thread tiny ribbon through even tinier holes all while two little kids are hovering, bumping and nosing around.  

And a quick little tie in the back keeps it from slipping through.

After some focused effort, we had tied all of the ornaments on.  And the results were NOT IMPRESSIVE.  My ornaments were so large that you couldn't see the tree anymore!  

See what I mean..  Where the heck did the tree go?  Fail.  

So we cut the ornaments loose and trimmed them down.   Looks better now.

Below is a list of the experiences we came up with.  We tried to think of things that we could all do together as a family.  Many of them we would have done, regardless of the Advent Tree, but we thought if we wrote them down and tried to tackle each one with intention, it would feel more special.

1.  Read daily Advent verses - I found a website listing an applicable Bible verse to read each day of    Advent which is located here.
2.  Watch a family holiday movie with popcorn and treats - this is Emma & Owen's favorite activity to do with us.
3.  Buy an Angel Tree gift
4.  Write a letter to Santa
5.  Deliver Angel Tree gifts - Brent is on the church committee in charge of this one
6.  Put together a new puzzle
7.  Go to Xcite to bounce and then order pizza - this was Emma's suggestion
8.  Visit a living Nativity - anybody know of one that is planned???
9.  Drive around to admire Christmas lights - Dec 22nd is the Park Ridge Luminaries
10.  Build a snowman - weather permitting
11.  Wrap Christmas gifts
12.  Work on the chocolate Advent calendars from Grandma Jo
13.  Build an awesome indoor fort
14.  Make cut-out sugar cookies and decorate them
15.  Make a birthday card for Jesus - to remind the kids that Christmas isn't just about Santa
16.  Visit Santa
17.  Make puppy chow - this was Brent's request
18.  Read "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
19.  Watch the Western Mall light show
20.  Make teacher gifts
21.  Watch the movie "A Christmas Story" - somehow I've never seen this!
22.  Family board game night
23.  Make homemade marshmallows - we're hoping to do this Christmas Eve
24.  Go sledding - again, weather permitting

We know that we won't necessarily be able to do one of these each day like you would with a traditional Advent calendar.  Our intent is to do the best we can to cross each of these things off the list prior to Christmas.  With our weekends freed up, we should be able to squeeze 3 or 4 things in over the course of two days.  What sort of holiday traditions are you hoping to squeeze in?

Monday, November 18, 2013


Brent says I hit DEFCON 5 when I find out someone is coming to our house - because typically our house is in a state of complete disaster.  I had to wiki what DEFCON 5 meant.  It is a readiness level the military uses when determining what state of alertness to be in - level 5 is actually the lowest level, so he should probably start putting me at level 3.

We are a busy family that prefers to be outdoors when the weather cooperates rather than scrubbing floors, dusting and Windexing.  When I find out visitors are on the horizon, I go into a tailspin of cleaning fury...whilst commanding orders to the remainder of the family unit.  Adrenaline runs like wine during these instances, but it works because things usually look pretty put together by the time said visitor steps through our front door.  If you've been to our house and thought "hmmmm...I wonder how they keep it looking like this!" The secret is that we don't.  Just ask my mom.

So when the Argus Leader contacted us recently to do a story about Brent and I that would involve interviews, pictures and a video, we officially freaked out.  Well, I freaked out, Brent just stood back and watched while I went through my roller coaster of emotions, waiting for me to come back to Earth.  When I did, we did what any other couple would do - we made a list.  A huge list.  A list of all the little tiny 10 minute projects around our house that we've been procrastinating for far too long and the larger projects that we hoped we could get done before they arrived.

Here's a link to the article if you're interested:

I'm guessing I can safely say that most of us take on home improvement projects and only finish them somewhere between 80 - 95%.  A few tiny details always seem to linger and even though they would take mere minutes to finish, it can be hard to find the motivation to come back around and finish them once you've moved onto something new.  Sometimes you need motivation, like the local media, to kick your buns into gear and finish what you started.

You are about to witness what the Kruse's can accomplish when mama hits DEFCON 1!

The kitchen paint color was ok, but the color in the dining room was just a few shades off, so I felt like it would feel more cohesive to carry the dining room/living room paint color through to the kitchen.  Plus I thought the new paint color would flatter our kitchen cabinetry more than the old color, which seemed to make the cabinets feel a little yellow.  Project time: 3 hours





In our basement bath that we remodeled over a year ago, Brent was never able to get around to building the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  Which is super ironic because his full time job is building cabinet doors.  Project time: 8 hours

Last summer, my neighbor, the same one that gave us our shed, gave me the back door off of his house because he was putting a new one on.  I spent several weeks stripping it (the running joke became "Heidi is stripping in the driveway") and sanding it so Brent could replace our current front door with it.  Since our old front door was a left swing and needed to be a right swing, we were left with these holes in the jam from the old hinges.  Brent filled the holes with wood filler and sanded and painted them.  Project time: 1 hour

French doors lead from our dining room to the outdoor patio.  A few months ago we replaced the handle set because the old one wasn't latching properly.  I never got around to touching up the paint where the old lockset was.  While I had the trim paint out, I went around the main floor and touched up all the trim that had nicks dents and scratches in it as well.  Project time: 30 minutes

All of these projects took us a Saturday to complete.  We spent Sunday through Tuesday going through every room, decluttering and deep cleaning.  When I say "deep cleaning", I do not mean that lightly.  Fan blades were dusted, folks, and the tops of doorways and picture frames.  That's a first for me.  So is ironing a tablecloth and embarrassing to admit - but I even ironed our Christmas stockings.  Everyday I iron my clothing, but a tablecloth and Christmas stockings?  Seriously?  They were super wrinkly and I wanted it to look perfect though, so sometimes we do thinks out of the ordinary to achieve the almost extraordinary.  I probably should have been a home stager.  When you spend as much time as I do, looking at pictures of homes and ideas for projects, you start to get a sense for how things need to look to translate to good pictures.

Even though these projects weren't incredibly gratifying, it felt good to cross them off the list.  What projects have you been procrastinating?