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diy light strand christmas tree

Today, I want to reach out to all my small-space dwellers out there that don’t have as much space to deck out for the holidays! I remember our very first apartment, which measured in at a measly 400 square feet, was so tiny that we could only manage to squeeze in a 2 foot, teeny-tiny fake Christmas tree to add some cheer. It was so small that I was able to use a scarf as the “tree skirt” and regular sized ornaments looked giant on it. Here’s a picture of it for your daily laugh:

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Hah! Every time I think of this, it just cracks me up. Obviously, we’re living in a much larger apartment now and have room for our larger, but still small 4.5 foot Christmas tree, but when it came to decorating our hallway for the holidays, I thought I’d attempt a little small-space redo. Yup, I put a Christmas tree in the hallway… well, sort of. diy light strand christmas tree How fun does that look? It took about 10 minutes to put together, no measuring, and basically no damage to the walls. I secured everything with thumbtacks!

To start, I plugged in two strands of white lights and then secured the very top “tree point” with thumbtacks. Then, I proceeded to make the outer points of the tree, starting closer in and working my way out.diy light strand christmas tree I love everything about it, but I especially love the bright, festive colors in the garland! All I did was thread a needle and string through squares cut from scrapbook paper. I will say this took a while, but set yourself up with a few shows on Netflix and it’ll fly by. It’s a great no-sew garland alternative.

diy light strand christmas tree Underneath the paper square garland, I layered another garland made from white, craft pom poms made from the same method. Just string and a needle. It kind of has a snowy feel, right?diy light strand christmas tree And at night, the whole thing just glows. It casts this warm, cozy light through the hallway and makes me smile every time. It might be the most cheery tree we’ve ever had! And it’s not even a tree!

Do you have any other methods to decorating small spaces for the holidays? Share below!

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create a command center anywhere!

I think entryway organization is the key to less hectic mornings. If you can know, without a doubt, that the everyday things you need are right by the door, you can save the scrambling and just stroll out. That being said, we apartment dwellers, usually don’t get a defined entry space to create a command center. In fact, in the three apartments I’ve lived in, you open the front door and you’re right in the living room. So, for a long time, it’s been a struggle to actually define and organize a command center. But finally we’ve tackled it. With the help of our super cool multi-level IKEA IVAR bookcase, we’ve made ourselves a mighty fine command center for not a lot of dough.

diy-command-center-organization-promoFirst, we defined the functions of the space. What did we need to organize? It came down to mail (incoming and outgoing), organizing actions items like bills and events to add to our shared calendar, and a place to stow the everyday essentials we can’t leave the house without (keys, wallets, sunglasses, etc.)

The last time we were at IKEA, we decided to swing by the Container Store to look for solutions that wouldn’t be super expensive. I know you’re probably shouting that The Container Store isn’t necessarily known for it’s outstanding value, but if you’re looking for organizing ideas that’s definitely the place to go.

diy-command-center-organization-4We ended up purchasing this Magnetic Bulletin Board Strip by Umbra! At about $17.00 it was pretty inexpensive and the size was perfect for filling the space underneath our clock. Here we pin up return receipts, pending bills, and other action items. Positioning them right by the door, means we see them several times a day and it’s harder to miss deadlines. Plus, the smaller board makes us prioritize the space. Once the board starts getting kind of crowded, it’s time to take a few minutes and go through everything up there. What can be done right now and removed?

diy-command-center-organization-9 Since our cute little bulletin board is also magnetic, we purchased a tiny magnetic ‘cup’ to put extra thumbtacks and a note pad in case we need to leave notes to each other.

diy-command-center-organization-10Two thumb tacks placed near the bottom serve as inconspicuous key hooks.

diy-command-center-organization-7We also snagged this green Stockholm Letter Sorter. It was even on sale for about 40% off so we paid $6.00 instead of $10.00. We use this to store envelopes, stamps, and our checkbooks for bills. In the back compartment, I keep any birthday/holiday cards that are waiting to go out. This way, it’s easy to grab them on the way to the mail box and they’re more likely to go out on time!

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I also found this tiny square wooden tray at a thrift shop for $0.50! It’s the perfect size to wrangle our sunglasses and Josh’s wallet. Right now, it kind of blends into the bookcase, but I’d like to do a little paint makeover soon to help it pop.

And with that, we created our very own command center from thin air for less than $25.00! It sits on our bookcase right beside the door making it easy access for those early early mornings.

How do you organize your entryway? Do you have a command center of sorts? Any tips from other apartment dwellers out there? Share below!

How To Donate Stuff (& Get That Tax Deduction)

A lot of people go all out on purging and organizing their stuff in January, but I think September is another great time to start evaluating what you need and don’t need. By tackling it this month, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up in the middle of the holidays right before your guests arrive! Think of it as “Fall Cleaning”.

Something I’m sure most everyone is familiar with is donating the used items you no longer want to reselling organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, which is great! And did you know that you can claim your donated items as a tax deduction?? Yup! Now, it’s extra great!! I mean getting something back is hardly ever the reason we donate anything, but it can be a nice little perk.

Here’s how I keep track of all my donated items to prepare and stay organized for the upcoming tax season.

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First things first. You’ve cleaned out closets and dressers and you’ve got your big pile o’ stuff. It might be tempting to just toss it in a bag and haul it away, but to make sure you get the full tax deduction you’re allowed, we’ll need to do a tiny bit more prep.

To have visual proof of my donation, I take everything and lay it out on my table to snap a picture. If you’ve got lots of stuff, like I did in this most recent haul, you can group things into similar categories such as clothing, housewares, media, etc. Your photos obviously don’t need to be styled or perfectly lit; a simple cell phone picture will do just fine!

how-to-donate-tax-deductionNext, I make a quick list of every item I’m donating and put it into a little “Donation Record” template I whipped up in Word. I include the date of donation, the location, and a list of donated items, the original purchase price and the estimated value at time of donation. It might sound like a lot of data, but it takes about five minutes, and this is the most crucial step to ensuring you get the maximum allotted deduction!

I do tend to group same items (like books, shirts, etc) and give the total original price and the total estimate. No need to list the individual names and prices for each CD or blouse.

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Lastly,  go and donate your goods! If you’re giving to a charitable organization, you should be able to request a donation receipt that says something like “Keep this receipt for tax filing purposes”. You might even be able to get one emailed to you! But make sure you grab it before you leave or it will be difficult to prove your donation. Most receipts I’ve gotten have spaces for you to fill in what you’ve donated, but now that you’ve typed up your little list before hand, all you have to do is put everything together.

I usually include the photos on the same pages as my donation list, staple the actual receipt to it, and store it in my Home Binder where it waits until tax season. One obvious, but still helpful, tip would be to always keep your tax related papers in the same place! You should just be able to grab these and go. Scrambling around tax time is a big no-no. (Yes, I’m the daughter of someone who works in accounting and have been hearing about the horrors of tax season every year since I was about 12.)

And, that’s it! This process adds just a few minutes to your donation day, but could save you some big money come tax time! Who doesn’t love that??

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The DIY Dreamer

make this: diy floating frame

This past weekend, I started brainstorming some fun art ideas for our blah-beige guest bathroom and then I remembered “Oh, hey! You’ve got two pretty gold thrift store frames that have been abandoned in a pile of clutter! Why not just use those for something?”  And, to that I answered myself (silently, so as not to freak out Josh) with a resounding “Duh!”. I scored these two gilded frames from a craft supplies reuse store in Denton a few weeks ago called Scrap. It’s like Goodwill for craft supplies and it totally rules!

When I looked at the frame sizes I knew exactly what I wanted to put in them. I’m one of those people who keeps pretty packaging from stuff I buy and I have had these ban.do and Kate Spade cards hanging on my office cork board for months. They are so cute I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, so why not turn them into art?

Anyways, this tutorial came from wanting to use this ban.do postcard so badly, but the frame being slightly too big. More internal conversation finally led me to this: Turn it into a Floating Frame!

diy-floating-frame-tutorial-promoWe actually have a few floating frames but they can be a little pricey because they usually come with two panes of glass. But this easy method can turn almost any frame into a floating frame.

So, here we go.

clean-up-thrift-shop-framesRubbing alcohol is a great cleaner for thrift store finds because it disinfects AND removes sticky, gunky stuff that always seems to be on my thrift purchases.

diy-floating-frame-tutorial-comboMake sure that you are thorough with your hot gluing. You want to make sure the glass is as secure in there as possible because there will not be anything to support it in the back. If it gets a little messy, you can take an exacto knife and carefully slice away the excess glue so you don’t see anything from the front.

diy-floating-frame-tutorial-2Then just center and secure your art with a tiny line of invisible tape. I taped at the top and bottom for extra strength.

You can see here that I also used a little washi tape to make the postcard pop against our beige (and un-paintable) walls. Surprisingly, this was my first ever project using washi tape. I know, how late am I right? No surprise though, I love it!

diy-floating-frame-tutorial-3Then all you’ve got to do is hang and enjoy! I used to tiny gold nails in the upper corners to hang from the wall. They practically blend in with the frame.

Here come my two favorite project descriptions: Easy and basically free!! Seriously, you just can’t beat that!!

And, this is just one of the many colorful art pieces that are going up on the wall in our guest bathroom. You are going to love it so stay around to see the final result!

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this isn’t your grandma’s coat

Alright, y’all. Today we’re doing the unofficial Mackelmore Thrift Shop challenge with Young House Love! (If you haven’t heard this song, you need to. It’s hilarious! You can find the cleaned up version here.) The rules are simple! Go thrift shopping, $20.00 in yo’ pocket, find something awesome, and document said awesome-ness with gratuitous photos of your ‘ghetto’ face.

So, last Saturday, I headed to “Thrift Town” which is right down the road for me and set out for greatness. Oh boy did I find it.

thrift-shopping-challenge-1For those of you who might not know, “greatness” can often come in the form of acid washed denim jackets. I know it’s not part of the song, but I really think Mackelmore himself would be proud to don this!

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Really though, I found this awesome desk lamp with a pop of bright green. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was Emily Henderson. I could totally see this beauty being worked into one of her amazing rooms. It was only $9.99 and in great shape, but I resisted the temptation. Truth be told, I don’t need another lamp and after a solid 5-7 minutes of pacing around it, carefully balancing the pros and cons of stylish lighting, I backed away slowly.

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Luckily, I was distracted by fate. My greatest find was this gorgeous, vintage pink pitcher for just $4.99!! Not a scratch, dent, or ding on it and now, it’s all mine! It’s smaller than a standard picture but I think it would be perfect for summer cocktails for two on our patio, as a vase for fresh flower, or it might even live in our bedroom to save us late nite trips to the kitchen for a glass of water. It’s the only thing I purchased with my $20 bones but I am mighty proud!thrift-shopping-challenge-3

And, I just couldn’t resist giving it a little fashion show after I got it home and cleaned up.

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A stack of books, a flower, my  pitcher, and some fun fabric all in pink just makes my day!! Plus, on this first day of February, it is quite appropriate! (PS. You’ll also be seeing this fabric come back into play with an upcoming project!!)

Did you participate in the thrift shop challenge? Or do you just have any awesome/hilariously un-awesome thrifting finds to share? Let’s hear it!!