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Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

folded laundry

As I write this, a jumble of jeans, shirts, and those elusive clean socks, warm from the dryer and exuding the sort of soapy/outdoorsy smell that can only be generated in a laboratory, is piling up by my feet at the foot end of my bed. It’s been hectic around our house lately, and with my impending book launch I’ve been delegating the tasks of running loads to and from the basement to my husband and kids.

Sure, it wouldn’t be too much to ask someone else to deal with the clean clothes too, but one task I cling to – that I’m loathe to give up during all but the most desperate times – is that much-maligned chore: doing the laundry. And even when my work load makes it difficult for me to do the whole job myself, I still insist on being the one to fold all those jeans and shirts and towels.

I know that might sound crazy. As a working mom of many, I’d be more than justified in sweeping this task off my plate forever, and I’ve definitely got the workforce to take over the job. As a mother of teens, it’s even been suggested to me that I’m doing my bigger boys a disservice by washing their clothes for them.

I don’t disagree that being versed in laundry basics is a necessary life skill, and my boys definitely know how to load and start the washer, run the dryer, fold and put away. It’s just that I rarely – almost never, really – ask them to do it. [click to continue…]

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We’ve started dedicating Monday mornings to a single tip or simple idea to get your week off to a better start. This week it’s my turn! -Sarah

fresh flowers in a mason jar

I used to think that displaying fresh flowers in a vase was something other people did. Martha Stewart types, or people with more taste and style than I had, or more disposable income, or a more exciting social life. Every once in a while I would get a bouquet as a gift and enjoy it while it lasted, but the idea of buying flowers for myself seemed somehow excessive or frivolous.

But a couple of years ago, I started making fresh flowers part of my weekly grocery shopping routine. It started with daffodils at Trader Joe’s one spring – priced so low I couldn’t resist them – and at the time it felt like a special treat. At $1.99, though, it was hardly indulgent (a Starbucks coffee cost more, after all), and the cheery yellow blooms lasted a whole week.

plan a better week
Over time, it became a fun little challenge for myself: Could I find flowers for less than $5.00 and make them last all week? It turns out, I almost always could. And here are a few things I discovered in the process: [click to continue…]

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This post is by Heather Caliri, regular contributor to The Happiest Home and blogger at A Little Yes. Heather writes about saying “yes” to little things that scare us. You can read all her posts here.

I have a morning habit that grounds me and strengthens me every day. I look forward to it, and depend on it to give me some equilibrium. I manage to make it a priority, no matter what.

What is it?

It’s reading advice columns while I drink a cup of tea.

You thought I was talking about yoga, didn’t you?

My habit doesn’t sound very productive. I spend fifteen every morning reading puff pieces in the Washington Post. I shush my kids and half-answer my husband and–you know what?

It really does me good.

I’ll be honest: I have mixed feelings about this habit of mine. Mornings are precious; I want to be present for my family. I could be using those minutes to cultivate habits related to my writing, or my faith; I could prepare for my day of homeschooling. Heck, I could simply empty the dishwasher. I could be doing so much more.

The only problem? I don’t want to. [click to continue…]

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Happy Monday! Meagan is traveling today, but we’ve been loving our Monday morning focus on one simple tip to get your week off to a better start. So today we thought we’d dust off (ha!) this post from a couple of years ago in the hopes that it helps any of you who may be struggling with the practice of cleaning and organizing. -Sarah

cleaning, organizing

Hmm, I feel like we’ve tackled this topic here before. Maybe even three or four times before. But that’s OK. As I’ve written repeatedly, I believe that getting your house clean and organized is a process – and a practice – not a project.

What’s the difference? Well, projects have specific end points. When you reach your goal, the job is done.

But there is no point at which I will be able to throw my hands in the air and say “I did it! My entire life is COMPLETELY CLEAN AND ORGANIZED!” and then just move on to some new thing, like, I dunno, knitting a sweater. [click to continue…]

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Today’s post is by Kelly Raffaele of Vintage Modernista and is Part 2 in a series on vintage shopping for your home. If you missed it, Part 1 is here. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Kelly!

vintage shopping guide

In my last post I talked about how to get started shopping for vintage pieces for your home, and I went into quite a bit of detail about where to go, both in-store and online. Today I’m going to focus more on what to look for once you’re in the store, how to know whether you’re paying fair value, and how to integrate your finds into your current home decor once you get home. Let’s get started! [click to continue…]

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Last Monday Meagan shared a simple way to plan a better week: Get up 5 minutes earlier. Since many of you are looking for small, specific ways to improve your home lives, we thought we’d make a habit of it, and take turns sharing these types of tips at the start of each week. -Sarah

plan a better week

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last weekend we realized rather late in the game that we had almost no plans. A good thing, in general, because we protect our weekends pretty fiercely from over-scheduling, but this one was particularly empty. So with very little notice we invited some friends to come over Sunday afternoon to let the kids play and have a casual dinner all together.

Hosting these friends is not a “clean the entire house from top to bottom” event. We see them often and they’ve seen our house in various stages of put-togetherness and disarray. And yet, in the 20 minutes before they arrived, I busied myself with the following:

  • wiped down surfaces in the downstairs bathroom, closed the half-open shower curtain that hides the tub where I keep my stash of dirty kitchen linens until I carry them upstairs to the laundry
  • collected a stash of papers that had taken over THE ENTIRE bar counter separating the kitchen and dining room, stacked them and put them in the office, and closed the office door
  • removed the heap of dirty kids’ clothes from the bottom stair and put it in a laundry basket upstairs
  • hung up backpacks, put the throw pillows back on the couch (in the spots where I like them), and turned on the table lamps in our entryway
  • dug through some photos I’d had printed weeks ago, and put pictures into two new frames – frames that had been sitting on a shelf for weeks with the stock photos still in them, and yet in less than five minutes now sported cute photos of my kids

Was it a thorough housecleaning? Oh heck no. There was a fair amount of hasty scooping-up and stashing junk away to spots unseen. But when the doorbell rang the house was picked up, well-lit, and ready to be played in, laughed in, and eaten in by 4 adults and 6 kids. And when our friends left, there were more dishes in the sink and toys on the floor, yes, but some fruits of my quick cleanup labor remained: a paperless counter, a cleaner bathroom, and nary a dirty sock on the stairs.

And the house felt good. It felt imperfect and chaotic and lived in, but it didn’t feel sloppy and uncared for anymore. [click to continue…]

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photo (27)

This is how my spice drawer looked a few hours ago. 

Ugh, right? When we moved into this house, I immediately claimed the drawer right next to the stove for my bottled spices and seasonings. I already had those little IKEA drawer inserts, after all; and the location seemed perfect. 

The “drawer full of seasonings” method worked for a little while. Until it stopped working, for several reasons. First, I bought more spices, including a few not-so-frequently used items like turmeric and whole cloves, and tossed them right in there with the ones I use a few times a week, like cinnamon, black pepper, and cumin. 

Then I picked up some adorable vintage spice bottles at an antique store, before realizing that they were too small to transfer all of the spices from the larger bottles into. I tossed them in the drawer anyway.

The result, as you can see, was messy. But it’s not just the lack of aesthetics that have been driving me crazy.

First, I keep forgetting what I had in there, and whether I’m looking for ground oregano or chili powder, there was a good chance it would be buried way in the back under three layers of bottles.

Second, the drawer wound up over-stuffed, so about half the time it would get stuck when I tried to open it, which I do several times per day. Then I’d have to pull out a spatula and wiggle it between the bottle and the cabinet, and do all kinds of fancy jiggling to try to force the bottle back down so I can open the drawer. 

Ten or fifteen times per week. [click to continue…]

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In the spirit of the new year, this month I’ll be sharing a few successes I’ve had in beating bad habits or introducing new, healthy practices into my daily life – and how I did it. I hope my “how I did it” stories inspire you to try making your own changes in 2014 – or to share your own success stories in the comments!

housekeeping, cleaning, advice

A few months ago, my sister-in-law Jenna and I were hanging out in my living room, when she remarked, “You know, you sure are a lot cleaner than you were in college.” 

I might have been insulted by that remark except that Jenna was also my college roommate and every bit my partner in slovenliness. A massive laundry pile dominated our dorm-room floor the entire year. Mugs with dried cocoa and bowls cemented with oatmeal rolled under the bed and desk and were never seen again (until we moved out, that is.) There were probably bugs, but they were buried under so many layers of crap we never saw them.

If there was a song title that best described our living conditions that year, it would be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell.” Our dorm wasn’t just messy, it was downright gross.

I’d like to say that I grew out of my sloppy habits as soon as I moved into my first “adult” home, or even after I had children, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. It took me several years to get a handle on the mess a family of small kids could create in a small apartment. 

The first time I maintained a truly clean-enough (by my standards, anyway) home? The year or so when Jon and I were separated and divorced. Living alone (well, without another adult, anyway) taught me a lot about keeping up with a house by myself, and forced me to figure it out and take responsibility for the state of my surroundings.

And even though my home still gets messy from time to time (right now, the bedrooms could really use some help…) I no longer feel the sinking sense of panic I used to feel, like I would never get on top of it again. Because now I know that I can, and I will. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to keep a cleaner house:

1. Stop resisting. [click to continue…]

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Today’s post is by Kelly Raffaele of Vintage Modernista. We are so excited to bring Kelly on in a two-part series on how to shop for vintage pieces for your home. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Kelly!

vintage, shopping, william morris quote

As a child, my mother dragged me to every antique market, vintage shop and estate sale within a 30 mile radius. So when I left for college, you can imagine that I wanted nothing to do with “old stuff.” At the time, that’s all it was to me: old.

It wasn’t until I moved into my first adult apartment that those familiar places started calling me back. Having nothing more than a bed, a couch and a few kitchen items, I wanted to start creating my home. Sure, I could have gone to the store with the red bullseye, but what fun is that? I wanted pieces in my home that told a story, had character and would start conversations.

With a little patience, research and persistence, it is possible to create a home that reflects who you and your family are without breaking the bank! If you want to incorporate vintage collectibles and other “old stuff” into your home, here are some ideas to get you started. [click to continue…]

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This post is by Sarah Powers, Happiest Home contributor and Managing Editor, and blogger at Powers of Mine.

Easy DIY Holiday Centerpiece Hostess Gift

Remember my jar-hoarding? It came in handy this past weekend when I used a repurposed glass jar to create this quick and easy hostess gift:

DIY Holiday Centerpiece Hostess Gift5

Yes, it’s technically some store-bought Christmas floral stuff in an old glass jar, but with some pretty twine and a little artful arranging, I think it turned out pretty!

I had everything except the holly and greenery in my house already, and picked those up at the grocery store. I chose one bouquet of just holly berries (I just love the look of them, don’t you?), and another of assorted holiday evergreens and ivy. The assembly took about 15 minutes for four of the gift jar bouquets.

To dress up the glass jars I used leftover lace and some red-and-white baker’s twine, and I wrapped them both pretty haphazardly around the jar for a more shabby-chic look. A velvet ribbon, strip of burlap, or soft yarn would all be pretty too.

Fresh flowers always make a nice hostess gift, and I thought this was a fun twist on that idea for the holidays. The glass jar means your host doesn’t have to hunt around for a vase, and the look of holly and ivy together is fresh and classic. These would also make sweet little centerpieces for a Christmas party, or even a teacher gift.

[click to continue…]

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