A Little of This & That… Renovating, Decorating, DIY Projects & Family
A Little of This & That… Renovating, Decorating, DIY Projects & Family

The Tidy Up Rules

Do you have any fun ‘efficiency rules’ that you live by? I have a couple and I was chuckling to myself about them the other day as I was reading The Happiness Project (a book which I pick up every few months and flip through for inspiration). The author and I have a few quirks in common, though I have much to learn from her.

So, family and friends who are reading this post – no judging when you come over and my house is not tidy… but for the record, here’s what I try to live by:

1. Never leave a room empty handed. If I’m leaving the living room and on my way to the bedroom, I always scoop up some random pieces of miscellaneous knowing that I’ll be walking through the kitchen and by the girls’ room. Could be a pink shoe, a glass of water from the night before, a stuffed animal that needs to find its way home. Boy does it actually make a difference! Little by little a room unclutters itself.

PS I started this tradition by always picking up three things to take with me (read that somewhere) and it slowly grew into how-much-can-I-stuff-into-my-arms.

Our Efficiency Rules - Tips for Tidying Up | PepperDesignBlog.com

2. The one-minute rule. This one can be hard to follow (especially when you’re in a hurry or feeling quite lazy), but if any task takes under one minute to complete, it deserves to be done right then and there. That could mean shredding mail, filling out a permission slip or unloading a bag of groceries. This is one I’m still working on – so easy to leave that bag from the beach on the deck for a couple of days or toss shoes into the girls’ room rather than walk them over to the correct shoe bin – but I think it’s a good one to take note of.

3. Organized piles. This might be in direct contradiction to #2 in a few select cases, but I tend to save similar mundane tasks until there are several similar mundane tasks to tackle all at once. I call these my organized piles.

Papers awaiting filing are an excellent example. I have a pile going on the edge of my desk of work receipts and bills that is growing ever larger day by day – sure, I could file each one right away, but it makes more sense to me time-wise to let that little pile grow until it becomes an actual stack, and then I pull out my metal file cabinet from the first drawer on our bookshelf in the office and sort accordingly.

Girls' Room | PepperDesignBlog.com

4. Straightening up before bed. There’s something so calming about starting your day with a fresh, clean slate. I like to do a walk through of our three main living spaces – the kitchen, dining room and living room – at the end of the night to pick up what might be out of place. Even if it means just clearing and wiping down the counters in the kitchen and filling up the sink with dishes awaiting their turn in the dishwasher (loading them is an even better bonus).

Kitchen Command Center - Cork Board Tiles | PepperDesignBlog.com

Command center that’s 10% as full as it usually is. And on any normal day there’s a diaper bag, briefcase, a couple of pairs of shoes, miscellaneous toddler clothing, etc gathering at its base…

Things I don’t mind include: visual clutter (school notices, birth announcements and paintings by Liv that fill up our ‘command center’ set of cork boards in the kitchen), anything stacking up in my office (this is my free zone – the space that I’m allowed to let unfinished projects rest and to throw a bag of to-be-sorted play clothes into), stuff in my car (no food or old wrappers, promise, but I actually don’t mind a few toys on the ground or bags of unopened fishies in the pocket organizer thing that hangs on the back of my seat. Just, you know, no melted crayons on the seat).

Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, notes that “one of life’s small pleasures is to return something to it’s proper place.” I would couple that with the feeling of satisfaction when walking out of a clean roomThere’s just something so gratifying about it, no?

photo credit: middle and last by Katie Beverley

Keeping Up With the Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

We have a tomato plant over here that we’ve had to recently prop up with giant wooden stakes :). It’s so heavy that it’s shamefully falling all over the other plants and crushing them with its size. With the way things are going, I think we’ll have cherry tomatoes until December (fingers crossed).

Mmmm tomatoes all summer and fall, maybe? Some of the best foodie advice I’ve ever received is to always eat in season. It makes sense since that’s when any fruit or vegetable is probably in its sweetest, ripest, most yummiest state. I keep that in mind when I have mango cravings in October (it has had to travel how far to get to this here grocery store?) and it is so right on now that we have a garden o’ plenty.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

Having a super active garden is sweet. But because it’s no fun to eat yellow squash, cucumber and tomato every night, I often find myself stacking up our pickings until they are maybe 8-10 veggies high. That’s a high stack of cucumbers that I fear might go bad.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

Don’t worry, neighbors and family totally get some of the love, as well. (On a side note, the other vegetables and fruits – like bell peppers, string beans and even the strawberries – have not been nearly as active. It’s interesting to see what takes in our patch of sun, soil and precipitation.)

So a couple of times a week I dip into that stash and experiment with favorites! What to do when you have too much squash? Frittata. Or how about a homemade pasta sauce. Or a crock pot meal. Or bruschetta? It took me a while to come up with a list of go-tos.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

There are a few recipes that are just so easy – a frittata being first on that list. Sauteed veggies covered in a dozen eggs (beaten separately in a bowl with a little cream) and then baked at 350 for 20-25 minutes? An awesome brunch (or dinner).

What about tomato soup?

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

A crisp, sweet afternoon snack for me is a sliced cucumber all by itself. So. Good.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

But to mix it up, one of my favorite recipes from T’s birthday was to add bite-sized honey dew pieces, feta crumbles and raw onion to chopped cucumber for a delicious salad (here’s the inspiration). The dressing is a bit of olive oil or a sprinkle of honey and lemon juice.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

And our crock pot has been like a rediscovered best friend. I often remember to make dinner about 30 minutes before it should be on the table, so having the opportunity to throw several chicken breasts into a crockpot full of sliced veggies and chicken broth in the morning is like heaven come 7pm.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

Okay, I have more coming for you (I’ve been sneakily snapping photos of random meals this entire summer, forgive the delicately placed sprigs of sage – I can’t help it,) but I’ll leave you at that for now. Until then, enjoy the late summer munchies!

Dining Room Update: New Chairs

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

Our dining room is the center of the house. Literally and figuratively. It’s sort of the runway to every other room, so we’re walking through it fifty times a day as we head from front door to kitchen, living room to office, back to the girls’ room… it’s where mail is sorted and errand stuff piles up and, most importantly, where coveted nightly family meals are had. It’s a well-loved space. A well-loved space that I adore!

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

And totally a space that our guests get to see a lot of, too. Whether it’s a dinner party or a play date or just for some hanging out time, we end up doing A LOT in this here little room.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

It’s one of two rooms in the house that I really, really like to have clean if we’re expecting anyone :). Or even if we’re not, cuz having a clean ‘hub’ is sort of a nice little booster when you’re home most of the day, like me.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

We’ve been on the hunt for grown-up dining chairs for this room for a few years (years is no exaggeration, either). For a while, I was bent on saving up for a new dining table and set of chairs. I pictured something larger with more girth – something that could really fill the space below the pendant light.

Our existing table, though, is sort of awesome. It was one of our first big ticket purchases (and by big ticket, I mean maybe $500) when Kev and I first married. We bought it for the sole reason that it could be expanded to seat 10 (even 12 if you’re feeling cozy). We wanted an entertaining table. They don’t make many leafless (this guy ‘pops’ out), 10-seater collapsible tables that are within price range.

The table though doesn’t need to be replaced. She’s in good shape despite her many years, and she still regularly holds 12 person dinner gatherings (bring on the love).

Dining Room Before | PepperDesignBlog.com

But the chairs were uncomfortable and just sort of meh. They were great for almost seven years of solid use, but they were originally from Target (the x-back chairs) and World Market (the parsons chairs) I believe, and were really starting to show their use. One of the side chair legs was held together with a dowel. All six (there are usually 2 x-back chairs on either side) were crazy uncomfortable for more than a quick bite.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

(Spot a baby? :))

Kevin and I debated over wooden chairs for easy clean up or upholstered for a comfortable, let’s just hang at the dining table set. I really, really was leaning towards creating a space that everyone would just want to chill at. Lengthy dinner parties, extended family meals, that sort of thing.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

Kevin was very worried about stains and the girls, and for good reason. The compromise on upholstered chairs was that they would get a coating of scotch guard, and that they wouldn’t be such an investment that replacing a cushion (or even a chair) would be a terrible breach in our budget.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

We wanted Ikea pricing, Crate & Barrel quality and West Elm choices. Too much to ask? :)

I initially discovered Bryght when their company reached out to me with a press release. The concept is totally new and different with the idea being that traditional high-design and high-quality have resulted in high show room prices because of that expensive middleman (importers, distributors, salespeople, etc). By removing the middlemen and connecting designers and manufacturers with consumers, Bryght is able to offer all that we were hunting for at a fraction of a traditional store price. That makes so much sense. We buy so much online, why not furniture, too?

They carry minimal stock and group orders to be placed every 7-10 days from the manufacturer so there’s no need for warehousing. They sell directly to the consumer so there’s no need for a store room, they avoid the importer/distributor/wholesaler conundrum by shipping directly from the source. They ship unassembled so the cost is affordable.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

Their designs are pretty awesome – they get what the modern, mid-century-but-not-dated, practical homeowner is after. Bryght carries dining room chairs, they also feature dining tables, sofas, storage solutions (dressers, sideboards), coffee tables, desks and mirrors.

Bryght reached out to me about collaborating, and when I read about their mission and concept I thought that it was pretty brilliant.

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

They offered us a set of six chairs to try out in our own dining room. We found a set of upholstered chairs that were right in line with that I had pictured for this space: low profile, dark legs, cozy-neutral color. And they’re comfortable. Hang out all day comfortable.

The captain’s chairs can be found here, and the four side chairs here. Best yet, there’s a crazy great sale going on over there right now (but if you miss out, be sure to check back in frequently).

New Dining Room Chairs by Bryght | PepperDesignBlog.com

We have had these guys for about a month as a little test drive. I am so proud of our dining room when neighbors swing by (we have those sorts of neighbors – which I love!) and the chairs are still stain-free despite a preschooler and a toddler. Best yet, there is no arguing over who gets the end chair (previously the only padded chair – and it was Livy and I who would race to the table each night to claim it) because every seat is so comfy.

We’ve made a few other updates in this space as well, can you tell? I love my new indoor tree there in the corner, and the row of succulents that are now officially the latest (and best) centerpiece I’ve ever kept here full time. No maintenance and so perty.

Photography by the talented Katie Beverley. This post was sponsored by Bryght, a brand that we very much enjoy as a family. Thanks for supporting those companies that support this site! 

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