Decluttering Our Entertainment Stand

We took our next step toward minimalism this week. We decided it was time to clean out and off our entertainment center. It has 2 shelves and 2 cabinets with a shelf inside each one. The large top was covered! Not only was our television there but so were many things that didn’t really belong. We had a video game console and set of small speakers on top that simply needed to go onto one of the shelves. We had set them there because we didn’t want to run the cords then. They have been there for a year because once they were there we stopped thinking about it. There were also DVD and game cases that weren’t put away because the cabinets were so full of stuff that they were hard to put away. Papers that had been left there over time. We really had become clutter blind.

I started by cleaning off the top of the stand. Going through every item to decide if we still needed/wanted it. If the answer was yes, then I had to decide if it belongs in this area or elsewhere. I assigned four categories: Keep in this area, Keep in another area, Donate/Sell, and Trash. Next, I cleared off the shelves and set up our most used/loved electronics. The top shelf now holds a PlayStation, a camera docking station, and a set of 2 small speakers that I connect to my phone while cleaning. The bottom shelf now holds our cable/DVR box and a Wii.

The cabinets were stuffed full of DVDs, video games, cords, controllers, CDs, and random junk. I was a little surprised by how much stuff I pulled out! Here’s a picture taken during the process.

I really wish I would have taken a before shot but I forgot. The top shelf of the left cabinet is home to a DVD storage binder that holds kids/family movies and another full of CDs that my husband is not ready to part with. I am currently debating on buying another of these to hold the remainder of the DVDs, games, and CDs that we want to keep. On one hand they take up less space than the individual cases but I think that they allow us to feel it is acceptable to keep more because it takes up less space. I also decided to keep our daughter’s memory books on this shelf. I have been trying to find a place to keep these that they will be safe but that we have easy access to them. I will do a separate post about these books sometime soon. They are amazing! The bottom shelf of the left cabinet houses my daughter’s headphones and the cords that we needed to keep that are not in daily use. The top shelf of the right cabinet now contains DVD’s and a couple of video games. The bottom shelf is home to video games and controllers.

This area is so much easier for us to use now. We got rid of 2 boxes of stuff not including trash. A ton of this was DVDs and TV series that we no longer watch. It looks so much nicer! It gives me the boost to start working on decluttering and minimizing other areas of our home.

Here’s the finished product:

It’s Fun to be One!

It is so hard to believe that Octavia is a year old! That year really flew by. I feel like the time goes faster with each kid or maybe it just seems to go faster as I get older. We have had some great times this year! She is a wonderful little girl. She is curious, fun, and loves to eat. Her favorite thing to play is peek-a-boo. Her favorite food is avocado.

We decided on a “1st Birthday” in pink theme. Her sisters helped me decide. It is summer so we chose to serve a grilled lunch and put blankets out so the kids could picnic in the backyard. We blew up a few pink and white beach balls for the kids to enjoy. I was lucky enough to find these at the dollar store!

She was the final piece to our family puzzle. I finally feel like my family is complete. It’s a hard feeling to explain but it’s like we are finally all here. I felt like we were missing somebody before her. I began feeling like this as soon as we got home from the hospital and it has not changed over this first year.

Our Christmas Traditions

There is something about a tradition that makes even the mundane items feel special.  Traditions make a family stronger and make children feel more secure about their place within it. This is a list of our Christmas traditions and you might be surprised to find that most of the items are free or very cheap.

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree and Reminisce – Decorating the tree is a whole evening of fun. Our Christmas ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we have picked up while traveling, gifts from loved ones, representative ornaments, and things we have made over the years.  (A representative ornament is something that represents an important person or phase of your life.  My husband choose a special one to add to our tree during the first Christmas season after his father passed away.)  We spend hours discussing the memories behind every one.  It is our first Christmas night of the season and is one of the things I look forward to most.  Bonding over shared memories of snowy Chicago trips, meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or stories about family members.  It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
  2. Christmas Eve Pajamas – This started with our oldest daughter’s second Christmas. She was a year old.  We were young parents on a serious budget.  I wanted to take Christmas morning photographs of her in festive pajamas.  Fourteen years later and we still buy our children festive pajamas every year.  They get to open that one gift on Christmas eve and they really look forward to it.
  3. Christmas Movie Night – We spend a night (or two…or three) watching family Christmas movies. We trade out the normal popcorn and M&Ms for hot chocolate and candy canes or cookies.
  4. Baking Christmas Cookies – Christmas and cookies just go together. We turn on some Christmas music and hit the kitchen every year to spend an afternoon making basic sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. It’s loads of fun and is a great option for a super cold evening. It’s also a super cheap family day.
  5. Building a Gingerbread House – We let the kids pick out a kit and we spend an evening gathered around the kitchen table building a gingerbread house. This becomes the centerpiece of the table for the rest of the season.
  6. Looking at Lights in the Neighborhood – Depending on the weather, we either walk or drive around our neighborhood to look at lights. We all enjoy seeing what our neighbors have come up with. If your neighborhood is not an option, consider looking up community lighting competitions near you.
  7. A Christmas Trip or Outing – We go somewhere holiday related every year. If we have the time, we go to more than one place.  We really love Christmas lights so we often choose places with great lighting displays.  Zoos, churches, farms, museums, drive-through light shows, concerts, nativity scenes, and petting zoos have all made the list over the years.  There are posts about some of our favorites.
  8. A Visit to Santa – We visit Santa every year.  Sometimes he is at one of our bigger outings and we see him while we are there. Other years we take the girls to see the mall Santa. We have also been to a few library Christmas parties where Santa was in attendance.
  9. Thoughtful Gifts – I take the girls out one day for shopping.  We typically leave early in the day, have breakfast, and spend the day crossing off everyone on their lists. I tell them in advance so they can get their lists together. Over breakfast, I review their list and set a budget for each person on it.  They decide where to go to shop and pick out items.  This makes their gifts more special and a better reflection of their relationship with the important people in their lives. Michael takes the girls out on a separate day to get my present.
  10. Wrapping Presents – My girls love to help wrap. They work together to wrap gifts for the extended family and friends. They help me wrap each others presents. They love putting bows on the gifts. The wrapping has to get done so why not make it a fun family time. Bonus: The kids get to practice their scissor and tape skills. Our family/friends love getting a present from the girls that they know was wrapped by them too.
  11. Giving Back – I think this is important all the time but we have made it a part of our Christmas tradition.  It helps us to remember what Christmas is really about.  Volunteering and donating get us in the spirit of the season.  We have given parents in need Christmas presents for their children to open on Christmas morning.  We have donated food, toys, coats, clothing, and money.  When it comes to donating or volunteering, go with what is near to your heart.
  12. Crafts – My girls love arts and crafts. We always have something going on around here.  I’ll have to start sharing some of our projects on the site.  Making pictures of Santa, decorating/making ornaments, candle making, jewelry, and wrapping paper/bows have all made it on the list over the years.  It’s so relaxing and fun to spend the evening crafting with my girls (glass of wine in hand, of course).
  13. Decorating the Window – Every season my girls redecorate the window by our front door.  We use gel clings most of the time.  I buy them cheap at crafts stores or at Target.  I let my girls pick them out.  During Christmas time they will often decorate the other windows in the house.  The sibling bonding is nice to see.
  14. Christmas Cards –We make or buy Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family.  It helps kids to practice handwriting and makes a personal connection in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.  There is something really special about those shakey letters on a Christmas card made by a first grader that warms the heart. It is important to remember that these times go by fast and those little hands will not always be so little.
  15. Friends and Family –We spend as much time with those close to us as possible. We take a trip to Grandma’s house. We see the family that we only get to see a few times a year. We attend or throw Christmas parties.  I just love being around everybody as much as possible.
  16. Christmas Music – I love listening to Christmas music and I really love singing it! Isabella, our middle daughter, is enjoying learning all the carols this year.
  17. Advent Calendar – This is fun for the preschool and elementry age group because it helps them to count down to the fun.  They also love getting a little treat everyday.  We do ours after dinner each night instead of in the morning because they often contain sweet treats like chocolate.
  18. Reading – Last but not least, we read Christmas stories.  There are so many good ones out there.  “The Grinch”, “The night before Christmas”, and “The night before the night before Christmas” (a family favorite) are pulled back out year after year.

What does your family do to celebrate?  Do we have anything in common?

Painting Inside a Box

We had some boxes that were recently unpacked. One was pretty big so I put Isabella (4 yrs old) inside the box with paint and a few brush choices. The mess was completely contained and she had a great time for about an hour. This is a good craft idea for the little kids on a gross rainy day (which is what’s going on here today).

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