How to Reuse Christmas Cards

One of my favorite gifts at Christmastime is all of the beautiful Christmas cards that come in the mail. Whether it’s the traditional store-bought card that is sold in bulk, or a handpicked Hallmark, or the popular photo card created online, I love seeing all of the beautiful Christmas depictions and reading the warm wishes of the season. I merrily display each one in my home.

But what do I do with them after Christmas? There are too many to keep year after year, and while I love receiving cards, I rarely hold onto but a precious few. I know it’s a bit morbid, but part of me wonders, “What on earth would my boys do with a thousand old Christmas cards after we die and they inherit every little item in our home?” So I throw them out.

This year, I decided to do something special with the Christmas cards. I wanted to give them a new life and value, after their purpose had already been fulfilled. I reused them. I turned this year’s Christmas greeting cards into next year’s homemade Christmas gift tags.

How to Reuse Christmas Cards: Homemade Christmas Gift Tags

You need:

  • Christmas cards
  • scissors
  • tape
  • card stock
  • hole punch

And then:

  1. Cut up the Christmas cards into small, usable pieces. For example, cut out Santa’s face or a Christmas tree or the snowman in the background. There is no rhyme or reason other than what appeals to you.
  2. Tape each piece onto a piece of card stock.
  3. Use the hole punch to make a hole in each gift tag.
  4. That’s it! Now you have beautiful, homemade gift tags ready to attach with a ribbon onto next year’s Christmas gifts! And your Christmas cards have been given new life.

(See photos below for an example of the process!)

Christmas cards, destined for the trash can post-Christmas.

Christmas cards, destined for the trashcan post-Christmas.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

The finished gift tag!

The finished gift tag!

 

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

What do you do with the cards you receive? It’s also worth noting that you can do this with birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, etc!


5 Easy Ideas for a (Somewhat) Organized Family

I am NOT a naturally organized person. Although I know that making To Do lists every day helps keep me on track and to feel more productive, I’m not great at it. I like the way Bill at The Authentic Life put it: highly organized people make lists, while more creative types shun them. Given that I’ve always loved to write, I’d say I’m fairly creative. At least it helps me feel better about my lack of organizational skills. Sure, you can make a list. But I’m creative.

That being said, I have always made an effort to be organized. It’s undeniable that the more efficient you are, the more productive you can be. My husband has gone to work wearing dirty jeans one too many times due to my getting wrapped up in blogging other important tasks. My choices are:

a) buy the man more jeans

b) give up things that I enjoy on a regular basis like playing with my baby boy, writing, reading a good book, or watching Parenthood on Netflix

c) find a way to get everything done around the house AND have time to do the things I enjoy

All decent options, but when in doubt during a multiple choice test, I always go with “c.” Don’t you?

To help me out, here are some of the new organizational tools that I have put into practice.

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1-Finding this household planner from The Confident Mom was the start of our newfound organization. What I love about this particular planner is that she covers it all. From vacuuming and making beds, laundry and cleaning toilets, even the small things like clipping children’s nails are covered in this planner. She plans out your days from January 1st until December 31st, and as far as I can tell, she leaves no household need unattended. The planner is divided into weekly pages, with a section for each day of the week and 3-5 chores per day. There is also a section for Daily Tasks that are the same every week with tasks that should be done every day like laundry (you’re welcome, hubby), dishes, making dinner, exercise, and even pampering yourself (relaxing in a long, hot bath, seeing what your favorite bloggers are up to, etc)! Of course, don’t feel like you need to take on all of these responsibilities yourself, stay-at-home parent or not. While I take on most of the household tasks so that my husband can have more well-deserved time to relax when he comes home from work, he does some of the tasks like taking out the trash and yard work. Our son has the responsibilty of feeding our pets, making his bed, straightening his room, helping with grocery shopping, etc. We have also implemented The Confident Mom’s “15-Minute Evening Pickup” as a family where we set a timer and go around the house putting things back in their place, throwing away trash, putting dishes in the sink, etc. Sometimes it takes only 5-10 minutes, but it makes a big difference on how the next day begins. It’s like waking up each morning to a clean slate rather than yesterday’s mess. I won’t post a close-up photo of the planner, because you should click here to see it for yourself!

2-After printing my new household planner, I wanted to create a special place to keep it, so I bought a binder from the dollar store, added a decorative cover to the front window, and put all the pages of the planner inside. I also put in the front inside pocket a monthly calendar to keep track of our family’s important dates, events, and appointments, as well as a spot for our bills. In the back, I put our address labels and stamps. This way, everything that I need to run our household on a weekly basis is tucked into one place on our desk.

I love this quote from Proverbs 31:17--"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."

I love this quote from Proverbs 31:17–“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

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3-While the binder is a great place to store the planner, I didn’t like the idea of having to open up a big old binder every time I needed to check off a daily task. I wanted it accessible to the whole family, so that we can all see what needs to be done. So I hung a clipboard (another dollar store purchase) on the wall, attached a pen, and put up the current week’s page from the planner. It’s in the kitchen where it’s seen often and easy to access. I didn’t particularly like the look of a clipboard hanging all by itself, so I took a 5×7 frame, added some colorful scrapbook paper hung it above the clipboard. I wrote a fun quote on the outside of the frame with a dry-erase marker. I wanted the option to be able to change up the quote from time to time, but I really like this one.

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4-While I was in the organizing mood, I decided to create a space to hang my boys’ artwork. I wanted somewhere other than the fridge to showcase some of the cool stuff that my son does at school or a fun art project that we made at home. I added two 3M hooks to the wall, several feet apart, and I tied one end of a ribbon to each hook. My son and I decorated some clothespins and added them to the ribbon to hold the artwork. I bought letters to spell out A-R-T at Walmart and decorated them using spray adhesive and scrapbook paper. I was very pleased with our little art wall, and now I sort through my son’s schoolwork as soon as he brings it home, swap out a couple of the pieces on the wall, put the ones I want to keep forever into his schoolwork keepsake folder and throw out the rest! Clutter doesn’t stand a chance.

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5-Finally, I know that it’s just about time to send out Christmas cards, and I am perpetually that person that has asked you twenty-four times for your address. You would think by now I would have a place to keep them all, but I don’t. I’m sure most of you already have some sort of organized address book, whether it’s in your phone, or a traditional address book, or your computer. But just in case you don’t, I bought an index card notebook from the dollar store which was already conveniently divided into three sections. I made one section for Businesses, one for Family, and one for Friends. After I ask around ONE more time for everyone’s addresses, I will finally have all of those addresses in one place!

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Having some simple household organization tools in place has created a lot of peace for me. I thought I might feel more pressure to “get things done,” but it’s just the opposite. Knowing that there is a well-organized plan eliminates the constant stress of “I should do this today. Oh, but this other thing really needs to get done too. And when will I be able to do this…” Knowing that everything is going to get covered in small, manageable steps gives me more time to BE instead always feeling like there is something I should DO. And most importantly, my husband has clean jeans. Ta-Da!

How do you keep your home organized?


Little Reminders

If I don’t write something down, I’m likely to forget it. If I go to the grocery store for anything more than two or three items, I need a list. If I don’t take a list, you can be sure that by the time I get home, I will discover that I forgot to purchase something crucial. If my huband needs me to do something for him during the day, his best bet is to remind me with a text. If there is an important event coming up, I had better write it on the calendar, or else we will probably be a no-show. I am much more effcient with my daily time management when I make a list of the Five Most Important Things. I can get things accomplished; I just need to write it down.

Lately, I have been trying to keep all of my thoughts positive. My husband and I both tend to be realists, taking things for what they are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also not always the best thing. Think of the world from the perspective of a child. A young child believes they can grow up to be an Olympic athlete. A young child believes they can go into outer space and meet an alien. A young child believes they will become the next big pop star. Or a princess. Or an inventor. None of these things are impossible. And yet as adults, we may think that they are unlikely for all but a rare few. And that rare few isn’t us. But the innocence of a child tells us otherwise. We are all born to be optimists, but the world (adults?) has a way of knocking their thoughts down to what seems to be more likely. To our version of reality.

However, I believe in the power of positive thinking. When I remember to think positive, I feel how it effects my life. I feel happier, less stressed, and my good mood tends to rub off on my husband and kids. Positive thinking is a wonderful tool to use, and the more we use it, the more it becomes a habit. With dedicated practice and by simply being conscious of our thoughts, positive thinking can turn a pessimist into an optimist. The power of positive thinking can help our ambitions, goals, and dreams become as big as they were when we were children.

But as I mentioned earlier, I am forgetful. So I left little reminders to myself throughout the house so that as I go about my busy days, I will remember to keep thinking positive.

As a bonus, my husband and son can also read them, so that maybe they will be encouraged to think positive thoughts too.

How do you remind yourself to be positive? Do you leave yourself little notes of encouragement?


Organizing Your Child’s School Work

Ever since school started in August, my son has been bringing home a small collection each week of the school work that he is accomplishing. This may be letting the inner-geek in me show a bit, but I love paperwork! I still remember how fun it was to do various worksheets at school, to get a sticker or a star or a stamp of approval from my teacher, and then tote it home to mom and dad to show off what I’d done. It was fun to me! (And yes, I was definitely a “teacher’s pet” in school and proud of it!) 🙂 Although my son doesn’t seem to be quite as excited about doing that sort of work at school (It’s more like “Here, Mom,” as he tosses over a stack of papers and runs away in search of his football), he does well in the work that he brings home, and I am proud of it. I’m proud of his accomplishments, big or small. And with this being his first year of school, it’s hard for me not to hold onto every piece of paper that he brings home.

So I began putting them in a neat little pile on our dining room table. And the pile grew. And grew. And grew. It’s amazing how big that stack grew in just one month! And it wasn’t just his stack of school papers that began accumulating. I started adding other piles to the table for insurance paperwork and paperwork from doctor’s visits. Small toys somehow started ending up on the dining table as well. A camera. Playing cards. Batteries. A broken X-Box system. It seems to be a scientific fact that if you add even the smallest amount of clutter to a space, the clutter will just keep multiplying. Our dining table quickly became a dumping ground, and my son’s schoolwork simply got lost in the clutter. I was devaluing something that I truly valued and wanted to preserve.

So this week, I’ve saved my dining table and my son’s  school work at the same time. I purchased an inexpensive expandable folder, and I started going through the pile, choosing my favorite pieces to keep and tossing the rest in the trash. As much as I love all of his little worksheets and art projects, it’s simply not practical to keep all of it. Having a set amount of space to organize his school work is important, because it keeps my paperwork hoarding tendencies at bay.

After I narrowed the paperwork down to the pieces I thought were the most meaningful, I wrote little descriptions and dates on them. Years from now, my son and I may not remember the significance of the pieces or what made us so inclined to keep them, so adding this step will help jog the memory.

I then labeled the expanding folder tabs with Preschool-5th grade.

 

And put my son’s school work in the Kindergarten slot.

Since we are only a month into the school year, and there is not an enormous amount of space in the expanding folder, I may need to look through the selection from time to time and pull out more pieces that may not be as significant to keep. Holding on to it for a while first allows me to gain some distance from each piece. For instance, when he brings a cute little cut-and-paste worksheet, it seems like something I have to keep. But as the school year goes on, and we have ten similar worksheets, I will be able to narrow it down to only a couple of worksheets within the same category. By the end of the school year, we will have a nicely organized collection of all of his accomplishments for his first year of school, and my dining table can stay clutter-free!

Do you have a place that has become a “dumping ground” in your home? How do you preserve and organize your child’s school work?


How I Make the Most of My Day

When my big boy started Kindergarten last Tuesday, I suddenly had much more free time during the day. My little one is now three months old, and while he is becoming more awake, alert, and aware of his surroundings every day, he still spends several hours during the day resting his quickly growing body and brain. With my oldest son at home this summer, I spent much of those hours playing, eating, talking, and cuddling with him. Now that I have those hours to spend as I wish, I decided I needed a tool that would keep me on task.

For those of you with the super-organized, no-amount-of-time-is-wasted, Type A personalities, you are way ahead of me on this concept. Without the presence of a full-time job or a five-year-old to determine how I spend my time, it’s almost overwhelming for me to have such freedom. And also counter-productive. I have about a hundred different projects, chores, and ideas that I could begin on any given day, but without some sort of organizational tool, I can’t seem to focus on any one task in particular, and my day ends with laundry in the washer but never dried or put away, halfway washed dishes, and the bathroom torn apart, because I started reorganizing our toiletries, but never quite finished…

Hence, I went back to a concept that I learned years when I sold Mary Kay products for extra cash. As part of the training process, my leaders taught me to use a tool that Mary Kay herself used. It’s called “The Five Most Important Things.” Every day, Mary Kay used to make a list of the five things she knew she needed to get done that day. Whether is was chores around the house, things to do for her family, tasks to push her business forward, or for her own personal development, she wrote down the top five things that she needed to accomplish that day, and she made sure that she did those five things. Because that’s the kicker. You can make plans and utilize the best organizational, task management tools that are out there, but if you don’t actually see to it that those things are accomplished, then the time you spent thinking about, writing, typing, or organizing those tasks was wasted.

So last week, I found a spare spiral notebook, made my five most important things list, and I made sure that I got those things done before it was time to pick my son up from school. Not only did this help clear up my evening and weekends to spend more quality time with my big boy and husband, but the house has been cleaner, and I have a greater sense of accomplishment. I look at those five things crossed out at the end of the day and give myself a mental pat on the back. It takes away stress, and gives me more time to focus on things that are truly important to me: my family.

A quick way to get organized. No fancy print-out needed. 🙂

Here’s a little glimpse into my weekdays:

6:30am-Wake up time for myself and my big boy. Snuggle and watch cartoons.

7:00am-Breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair.

7:30am-Leave for school.

7:40am-Drop of my big boy with a hug and a kiss.

8:00am-Mommy and Baby time. Nursing, intriguing conversations, peek-a-boo.

9:15am-Baby’s “poundings” (a treatment for his CF)

9:30am-Baby takes a nap. Mommy starts tackling that list!

11:00am-Baby wakes up! Mommy stops whatever task she is doing to nurse and play with baby.

1:00pm-Baby gets sleepy again. Mommy rocks him to sleep and gets back to her list.

3:00pm-Daddy comes home. Dog barks and wakes up baby. Mommy nurses him, and keeps him entertained while Daddy has some post-work destressing/showering time to himself.

3:35pm-Daddy is calm, cool, and collected. He takes Baby, and Mommy goes to picks up her big boy from school.

Let’s be realistic. My day doesn’t always go quite this smoothly. That two hour afternoon nap sometimes ends up only lasting thirty minutes. Sometimes I’m holding my little guy in my arms while I blog, because he’d rather sleep there than in his crib (or my bed, or the swing, or the vibrating bouncy seat.) Sometimes I play peek-a-boo with my little guy using our clean clothes as I fold them. Sometimes I may only get three or four of the things on my list done. Sometimes I get them all done by noon. It’s just as important for me to be flexible as it is for me to have a plan. Without a plan, I may start everything but finish nothing. With flexibility, any little setback can leave me frustrated or stressed. Like all things in our lives, a healthy balance is key.

Another thing that has a big impact on my day is television. I can be a TV junky at times, and having a decent amount of time to myself everyday, it is tempting to plop on the couch and start flipping channels. For that reason (and to keep my little guy exposed to the least amount of TV as possible) the TV mostly stays off during the day. I may watch The Price Is Right while sorting through worn or outgrown clothes to donate to charity, or I may watch a recorded episode of Project Runway while I eat lunch and blog, but 80% of my daytime hours are TV-free.

Last, but definitely not least, is that I make a little time for myself during the day. Things that will make me feel good about myself. Most days, this is time to read the Bible and pray or reflect during my son’s morning nap, and time to exercise in the afternoon (or vice-versa if I want to go for a run with the jogging stroller. It’s still too hot in the Midwest afternoons for me to run outdoors!) I think it’s important for our well-being and as models to our children to make time for ourselves every day. If we are constantly putting everything else in our lives first, that’s what we teach our kids to do. Our physical and mental health suffers when we don’t give them a high priority rating.

Obviously, I left out a detailed description of how I spend my time when my little one is awake. You can look forward to that later this week! We’ve been having a lot of fun. 🙂

How do you make the most of your time?