1 September 2014

2014 Books - August

First Grave on the Right - Darynda Jones

First book in the Charley Davidson series. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

A Dangerous Dress - Julia Hoden

This book had somehow a different tone to it than usual books of its kind, which I really enjoyed. Would recommend it.

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In My Day ... - Richard Wolfe

A book featuring photographs and information about times gone past in New Zealand. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Best Kept Secret (Clifton Chronicles) - Jeffrey Archer

The third book of the Clifton chronicles. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Second Grave on the Left - Darynda Jones

Second book in the Charley Davidson series. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

Family Skeletons: Exploring the Lives of Our Disreputable Ancestors - Ruth Paley and Simon Fowler

This book was okay. Would recommend if you're into that sort of thing.

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31 August 2014

Getting the motivation to make changes

I recently received a lovely email from a reader. In it she asked, "Now to ask you a heartfelt question: What first inspired you to get moving again and get focused on your health and eating well?  I know you were really sick.  I need help finding the spark that ignites it all.  Most people who have begun losing weight start to feel so great that they forget what the initial force was that drove them to begin and to persevere.  I am so knowledgeable that I could probably be a nutritionist or  fitness trainer.  But I don't apply it!  And I'm not sure why -- too tired? too busy? Well, that's most people anyway and many people overcome those excuses.  I realize your fix or your inspiration may not work for me but I'm desperate.  And since you're the one who has always been so honest in your blog, I'm hoping you may remember what triggered your change and that you may offer some advice to one of your biggest 'fans'."

What a great question! It's such a tricky one to answer, though. I'm sure many of us can relate to what she's said.

The thing is, I'm just like anyone else. I've struggled long and hard with exactly the same things. I've complained vociferously about how hard it is to make diet or lifestyle changes unless that "switch flips" in my brain - and how it feels impossible to make that switch flip.

As I thought about it more, I realised that there are things that you can do to give the switch a nudge. When all the planets align and you feel compelled to make the changes, rather than just wanting to, it's a beautiful thing. But rather than just waiting for that to happen, it's possible to help things along. Here are a few things that I have found helpful.

Value yourself
I know, start out with a biggie. I feel like this is a common problem among women. We give, give, give of our time, love and energy to everyone else, but put ourselves last. It is SO important to value ourselves. If you don't value something you don't look after it. You don't prioritise it. You don't want to do anything to take care of it. You don't want to spend time, energy or money on it. 

Is this the way you see yourself? Not worth the time, energy or money that it will take to look after yourself? Take some time to explore why this is. Choose a different mindset. Fight against the feelings of guilt. You are NOT being selfish when you look after yourself well. You cannot give out of an empty bucket, and you will end up burning out if you don't do something towards self-care.

Once you begin to value yourself you are more likely to feel motivated to make the healthy changes that you want to. It will become important to you - important enough that you won't be able to stop yourself.

Change how you talk to yourself
This goes hand in hand with valuing yourself. We all have an inner dialogue, whether or not we're aware of it. Make sure yours is positive and affirming. Nobody needs to know how cheesy you sound in your own head, so just go for it. Tell yourself you're worth it, you deserve it, give yourself credit for any tiny step in the right direction, and be kind to yourself when you don't do as well as you'd like.

If a friend had a blow-out day when she's on a healthy eating plan, what would you say to her? You'd encourage her to try again tomorrow. You'd reassure her that it's okay, we all slip up, just keep on going. You'd tell her you're proud of her for her efforts and believe in her, that you know she can do it.

Why can't we say these things to ourselves? I know from past experience that having a blow-out day when on a healthy eating plan can lead to self-flagellation. "I can't believe I did that, what a loser, I'm such a failure, I might as well give up on the whole plan, I obviously can't do it, I'm disgusted with myself, I feel ashamed and worthless." How is that helpful?? It's NOT.

"Well, it seems I've slipped up. Let me figure out why that happened so I can prevent it happening again. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start. I'm a winner for carrying on even though I've had a setback. I know I can do this - I'm just going to keep trying. I deserve it and I'm worth the effort." How is that helpful? It's creating a positive mindset and allowing room for mistakes. It's expecting good things from yourself. It's a step towards success. And it all happens inside your own head.

When you are talking to yourself positively it's easier to be motivated to make changes. Even if you don't believe the words at first, you will start to feel the difference. Just try it.

The same reader who emailed me the original question on this topic also sent this a few days later: "I heard the best quote yesterday on the radio from Dr. Oz. He was talking about how addictive sugar is. Then he went on to say that people don't do things (ie. make changes) based on what they know, they do things based on how they feel."

I got to thinking that maybe that is why it's difficult to make that switch flip - because it's difficult to change how you feel. But one of the ways you can change how you feel about something is with your internal dialogue.

Allow yourself to hit rock bottom
Okay, not exactly a sterling tip this one, and not one I'd encourage, but I'm trying to be honest here. Sometimes my motivation to eat healthily has come in the wake of appalling eating, for example around Christmas time when anything goes. I eventually reach a point where I just do not want any more sugar / crap and I am so motivated to eat right.

I'm NOT saying go on a binge to feel motivated; I'm saying sometimes I've felt motivated when I've been on a binge. Just how it is and I'm trying to keep it real.

Same goes for my health problems. I had to hit rock bottom and feel so ill for so long that I was just done with it. I was ready to do anything it took to feel better. I was motivated to start exercising and make dietary changes because the alternative was no longer acceptable.

They say that for an addict to be ready for rehab they have to reach a point where the pain of recovery is outweighed by the pain of the addiction. As long as they feel like the pain of recovery is worse than the pain of the addiction they are not likely to seek it out. Sometimes motivation to change to a healthy lifestyle can be like that.

I think back to the very first time I went to Weight Watchers and began losing weight. I had been unhappy with my size for a while, but not done anything about it. What motivated me to begin making changes was: I was so tired of being tired all the time. I wanted to be a better mom and not feel exhausted all the time. I felt motivated to make changes because whatever changes I had to make were not as daunting as continuing to feel the way I did.

So, while I wouldn't encourage you to seek out "rock bottom", I"m just saying that hitting it can sometimes help.

Give yourself credit
When my kids were little and they would misbehave I would feel like I was a bad mom. I should have taught them better! I'd obviously gone wrong somewhere! It was all my fault!

But when someone at church complimented me on how reverently they sat, and said how impressed they were with their good behaviour, did I take any credit? Nope! They were just good kids! What lovely, sweet boys I am lucky enough to have!

Why do I do this? Take all the blame but none of the credit? I remind myself that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Take credit where credit is due. Let's say you started your day with a healthy breakfast. Then you get to work and someone has brought in cake. So you have some. A friend rings you up and asks to meet for lunch, so you end up eating something deliciously naughty at a restaurant. You are exhausted when you get home so you get a take-away and eat it while slobbing on the couch.

Now, are you going to spend all of your energy berating yourself for your poor choices? Or are you going to give yourself a break and take some credit for the positive start that you made to your day? It still counts, even if the rest of the day didn't go according to plan.

Beating ourselves up does not encourage change. Praising ourselves for each step in the right direction makes a difference.

Immerse yourself
I remember when I was in Biology class in high school and we were studying something about water. I recall not being especially thirsty but all I wanted was to drink water, because that was what we'd been talking about for an hour. Water, water, water - and it was all I wanted.

This power of suggestion works with motivation too. If I really can't get motivated to clean my house I spend a little time reading blogs about cleaning routines, or watching YouTube videos on cleaning. I know it sounds silly, but it genuinely puts me in the mood and I want to clean.

I've used the same tactic to get motivated with healthy eating and exercise. For healthy eating and weight loss it's inspiring to watch other people's journeys and see people cooking healthy food, for example on YouTube:
- marissaandmommy
- Allison's Journey (search for Week and number to find the weight loss vlogs)
- jwacqui
- trulyjess
- Sexy Paleo Food

- Summer Tomato (here is her story, and I enjoyed this, this, and this post in particular, oh and I loved this flowchart)
- Skinnytaste
- Emily Bites
- Renee's Kitchen Adventures
- Roni's Weigh (go way back in the archives to the beginning for Weight Watchers posts)

Another way to get motivated by immersion is to be around people whose lifestyle reflects your desired one. If you hang out with active people you will become more active. If you attend Weight Watchers meetings you will find it easier to stay on plan. If you spend a lot of time with a friend who is passionate about healthy eating you are more likely to adopt some of her habits and recipes.

Make yourself do it
The last method I want to talk about is just making yourself do it, whether you are motivated or not. Set a goal of one day of healthy eating, or two walks in a week, or three healthy home-cooked dinners in a week. Whatever is a small, manageable goal. And then just do it. Expect it of yourself. You only have to "suffer" for that small amount that you have agreed on. Plan ahead and make it happen. Write those walks into your calendar at specific times on specific days and don't cancel. Plan your day of healthy eating with specific menues and shop ahead for the ingredients and then actually use them. Just DO IT, whether you want to or not. Just for that short time.

I guarantee you that the success of doing it will be motivating, and you can build on it and begin to form a positive spiral. You'll begin to move closer to your goal. Just be sure to make the first step small and manageable enough that you find yourself saying, "Well sure, I can do that."

I hope these tips have helped! I'd love to hear from you in the comments - how do you get motivated? If you've made healthy lifestyle changes, what was the thing that flipped that switch for you? Please share, so we can help and inspire each other!

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29 August 2014

What I wore to church

When I walked into a local opp shop (thrift store / charity shop) and saw this beautiful floral curtain for $2 I fell in love with it and immediately knew I had to make a skirt out of it. So I did! It's a decor weight fabric (with thermal backing) so it stands out a little bit, which I love. I have plenty of shoes, tops and cardigans in olive green, grey, deep pink, and brown, so I can mix and match a variety of outfits, but here's how I styled it the first time I wore it. I call it my skirtain (curtain skirt), ha!

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Cardigan: BHS
Skirt: made by me from a thrifted curtain
Necklace: Clarks outlet store
Bracelets: thrifted
Earrings: gift from my friend Leith
Shoes: thrifted

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25 August 2014

DIY bath shelf tutorial

This is a super quick and easy project. All you need is a shelf of some sort and a small piece of wood.

First, lay your shelf across your bathtub. Make sure it butts up against the wall. My shelf was quite a bit wider than the bath but I couldn't be bothered to cut it.

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Then use a pencil to mark along where the bath edge is, underneath the shelf. Try to hold the pencil along the bath, rather than push it all the way into the groove. To be even more accurate, hold your small piece of wood underneath the shelf, pressed up against the side of the bath, and mark along it.

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Next you need to screw the small piece of wood onto the underside of the shelf like this.

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Voila, a bath shelf! The small piece of wood keeps the shelf from shifting. You can slide it forwards and backwards but it won't slide sideways and fall into the bath. Just load it up with your book, candles, chocolate, or whatever else you need for a relaxing bath. (Pretend the tub is full of water and bubbles, okay? Wasn't going to run a bath just for some blog photos, sorry.)

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When it's not in use you can store it upright in a closet, behind a door, or underneath a piece of furniture.

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23 August 2014

My sons' bedrooms through the years

Ages ago my friend Rhonda asked if I'd do a post about Daniel and Noah's bedrooms through the years, and how I decorated and organised them. I'm finally getting around to it!

Before Daniel was born I had planned on what kind of room he'd have. Although we were renting and couldn't really decorate his nursery when he was born, my vision of what it would eventually be like influenced our choice of furniture (white) and had me creating little decorative touches in preparation. In fact, I was cross-stitching long before I even fell pregnant. It was only once we'd moved into our own house and Daniel was two years old that I finally got to put his room together the way I'd imagined it.

The "theme" was dark red, denim, light and dark blue, gingham, white, teddies, with a country feel. He had a white bed from Ikea, and a white chest of drawers which held most of his clothes. He also had a white wardrobe (not pictured). We didn't store toys in his room; they were downstairs. The white chair was a thrift store find, as was the denim cushion on it that I sewed red gingham ribbon to. His bed linen was plain navy on one side and a lighter blue on the other side. We painted the walls an oatmeal colour. (The photos below are scans of prints (I had a film camera then, not a digital one), so please excuse the quality.) This was before we ripped out that old striped carpet.

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I painted and distressed this little red frame. The clock was from Woolworths (one of the first purchases I made way back when we first arrived in England) and the navy blue frame was very inexpensive - the insert was a gift.

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These frames were from a clearance store and I found the sketches on the internet.

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I stitched these two cross stitch pictures and framed them in dark blue frames from Ikea.

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I also made a Roman blind - my first time making one. It was lined with blackout fabric and had a denim band at the hem and wooden buttons.

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I painted this wooden mirror from Ikea, and these little wooden letters that went on the door.

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When Noah came along I moved the country decor to his room. The boys shared for a while and we used Daniel's old room as a guest room.

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I bought a baby mobile on eBay, pulled off the toys and replaced them with teddy bears. I bought the striped rug at Ikea. I added little wooden hearts that I'd painted red to the gingham frames.

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I added some navy blue ric-rac to a plain white bed skirt. We left the built-in shelves empty as Daniel just used to pull everything off them.

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Here's a closer shot of the layout I created and framed in an Ikea frame. The quote says, "I loved you too much to just be friends so God made us brothers."

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The chest of drawers held clothes and blankets; the basket held burp cloths.

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I moved the blind to this room and switched out the white chair for a rocking chair (eBay).

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The cross stitched pictures went onto picture ledges from Ikea, with a couple of little accessories.

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Before too long Daniel went back into his own room. By this time we'd repainted the walls sage green and replaced the carpet with laminate flooring. There were black and red accents. The red and white striped ticking duvet cover was from Ikea, as were the white curtains.

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I added ribbons to the baskets, which contained socks, gloves and hats. The files on the bottom shelf are scrapbooks - they were too heavy for him to pull out.

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I created digital collages of some of Daniel's baby photos and framed them in black frames.

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The end of his bed extended into a little nook, in which I hung a dinosaur poster framed in an inexpensive Ikea frame that I painted black.

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Here's the rest of the nook, which contained his wardrobe. We removed the handles on the drawers because they contained things that weren't Daniel's - this stopped him getting into them (he was into everything!)

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The shelf above his bed was from TK Maxx.

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I can't remember where the mirror was from (probably Ikea) but it was super cheap.

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We then moved into a different house. Daniel's room kept similar colours but there was more of a dinosaur theme going on - he was obsessed with dinosaurs! We painted the walls the same sage green as in the previous house, and installed laminate flooring. The dinosaur duvet cover was from Asda and I added a black bed-skirt (really just a piece of fabric) to hide the spare mattress under his bed. I made the dinosaur pictures - I found a font that was dinosaurs instead of text, coloured them in Photoshop and had them printed, then framed them in Ikea frames.

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I painted the radiator the same colour as the wall so it would blend in.

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Ikea picture ledges came in handy for storing and displaying Daniel's dinosaur collection.

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Huge Ikea wardrobes provided tons of storage. If you want to see inside click on over to this post. The left hand wardrobe had hanging space for spare clothes and shelves for spare pillows and bedding.

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I made the knobs out of wooden shapes that I painted black and attached with a spacer - a stack of washers, I think. I painted the screws black so they'd blend. Unfortunately, Noah used to toddle over and spin the dinosaurs so they'd sit wonky and drive Daniel and me crazy.

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I scanned a drawing Daniel had made of our family and printed it big and framed it in an Ikea frame.

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Noah's room was a teeny tiny box room. Here are some photos taken after I painted the walls a lovely clear aqua, replaced the carpet with laminate flooring and replaced the window (obviously we hadn't finished off the wall around the window yet, or replaced the windowsill.) I made the Roman blind (lined with blackout fabric) and a matching skirt for the cot (crib). The rocking chair got a white cushion to blend in better.

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I painted a mirror frame white and we screwed it to the wall above the cot so Noah couldn't pull it off. A couple of photos of Noah matted on scrapbooking paper, in cheap Ikea frames painted white, added some colour.

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The shelf above the rocking chair: The footprints are Noah's when he was 3 weeks old.

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The only real storage in his room was this bookcase (Ikea, of course.) We stored his clothes in drawers in our bedroom (click here to see - his drawers were in the bay window). The baskets on the bookcase contained things like bibs and burp cloths; the plastic tub contained spare blankets.

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On top of the bookcase - I painted this little wooden container (which I got as a gift filled with bath goodies) and added a little metal tag that said "Sweetheart" on it. This contained his dummies (pacifiers). I added the paper dots to the lamp shade to match his blind and cot skirt.

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By the time we moved out Noah was in a big boy bed - he inherited Daniel's old bed and duvet cover. We also replaced the bookcase with a little cabinet. (See, we did repair the wall and windowsill around the window):

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Daniel's room was de-dinosaured somewhat in preparation to market the house (we removed the ledges and patched the holes), and he got a queen sized bed that had been passed on to us.

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Onto the next house! The boys shared a room.

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The bunk beds were from eBay, wardrobes and chest of drawers were from Ikea, and the duvet cover sets were from Asda.

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I found three mismatched frames at TK Maxx and painted them with acrylic paint. They contained pictures of the grandparents with Daniel and Noah.

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I switched out one of the photos of Noah for a picture of Daniel in a dinosaur costume.

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If you want to see how I organised their chest of drawers and all of that wardrobe space, click on over here.

The next bedrooms that they had were in our first house in New Zealand. Daniel had a double bed - I traced his drawings onto a plain white duvet cover (click here for details).

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We later added a white desk that a friend was throwing away, so it was quite a snug fit in his room.
Noah's room had the bunk beds in it. This was handy when we had guests - Daniel could sleep on one of the bunks, freeing up the double bed and room for our visitors. I made the fire engine bed tent (click here for details).

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If you'd like to see how I organised their closets you can see Daniel's here and Noah's here.

We were forced to move when the landlord sold the house, so the last photos are from our current home. The boys started out sharing a teeny tiny bedroom and using a bigger one as their playroom.

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Their hoodies were stored on hooks at the end of the bunks, their clothes were in the closet and the chest of drawers, and the built-in cupboard above the chest of drawers stored miscellaneous things like my photography equipment, spare bedding, etc.

After a while we moved their bunks into the playroom, freeing up the small room so I could have a craft room.

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The drawers (all nightstands from Ikea) held toys.

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The closets and chest of drawers held clothes.

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Daniel is 12 now, and at the age where he wants a bit of space to himself. I wasn't using my craft room as often as I'd like, so it was a no-brainer to move Daniel in there. They boys are enjoying having their own rooms again. Here's how they look now (I've used a wide angle lens so you can see the rooms a bit better). The rooms aren't really decorated, but I have a few ideas that I'm hoping to put in place over time to make the spaces more exciting and personalised.

Daniel's room:

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Noah's room:

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Here are a few tips I have when organising or decorating kids' bedrooms:

1) This may not appeal to everyone but in my home almost all of our furniture is white. This means that when we move to a new house (which seems to happen often for us - click here to see why) we can shuffle furniture from room to room and repurpose items and they all still go together, no matter which room they end up in. It also enables us to be flexible as the kids grow and their needs change - they can swap furniture between their rooms.

2) Although I did buy Daniel a dinosaur duvet cover (he was obsessed with dinosaurs for years) and Noah has a couple of car themed duvet covers (he has always been obsessed with vehicles and still is) I tend not to buy character sets or anything themed on a topic that might be a passing phase (for example, Daniel went through a Pokemon phase but no longer likes them). By sticking to duvet covers in plain colours or stripes I can add items that support a theme without having to replace all of the linens when a phase is over.

3) Get your child's input when organising their clothes and toys. If the system makes sense to them (even if it doesn't make sense to you) they are more likely to keep their rooms tidy.

4) Make putting things away super easy for your children. For example, in Daniel's closet he has big plastic tubs holding his shorts, pyjamas, etc. He isn't fussy about folding and tends to just chuck his clean clothes into the tubs but the closet still looks neat and he can easily access what he needs.

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When the boys shared a room and had bunk beds I hung some over-door hooks to the end of the bed for them to hang their hoodies on.

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Do whatever makes it super easy for them to keep their room tidy!

I hope you're enjoyed this look into my kids' rooms over the years (is anyone even still reading??) I welcome any questions if you'd like to know more :)

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