Garden Updates and Current Projects

It’s been a while since I posted an update with our garden remodel, so here is our winter update. :) We are approaching the end of our list of garden projects, both in the front and the back. It has been such a massive undertaking, and we have spent all of our free time in the past year working on these projects!

I’ll start with the front yard.

We recently decided to hire some guys to build us a new barn shed that we could use for storage and as a workshop area. We were in the middle of a bunch of projects in my studio, so it seemed like a great idea to hire out some of the work for once. Unfortunately, the guys we hired did an awful job and did not finish in one day as promised, so finishing the shed is another thing that got added to my husband’s to-do list. :(

Our grapevines finally lost all of their leaves recently, so I need to do my yearly pruning on those. I love using the grapevine as a photo backdrop, so I can’t wait until those leaves start to fill in again!
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We have been planning to add a dry riverbed going through the sloping areas of our front yard, including this area. We just had 12 tons of rocks and boulders delivered last night. We are excited but quite overwhelmed. :)
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A while back, we received our official certifications as a wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation! That was very exciting.  aliciainwonderlandblog
We added fencing around the lower part of our front yard and a gate which keeps our son contained when I am gardening in our front yard. We had some delays with finishing the fence in the upper part though since the posts went right along the line of some large tree roots. Finishing up that part and adding the dry riverbed up here too are on our list of things to do.aliciainwonderlandblog
My succulent fountain is filling in so nicely! Not bad for a free find!
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Most of my perennial flowers are currently pruned or dormant for winter, but I was very excited yesterday when I saw the first few blooms on my heartleaf geraniums. :) These are one of my favorites!
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Now for the back yard! Our son’s play area and his garden…not too much has changed here lately. I love that this area is adjacent to both our living room and my studio. That way, he can play outside and I can keep an eye on him while I work on other things.
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This flowers in the lower area of this planter got frost damaged at the beginning of last month, so those will have to be replaced soon. My roses are all currently pruned for winter and I can’t wait until they start blooming again!
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My husband initially thought I was coming up with crazy ideas when I told him I wanted to paint the accent pieces on our pergola the accent color that I used on the brick retaining walls. I love the pop of color on the pergola!
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My rambling roses that are I am training to climb up the pergola are unfortunately deciduous, but they are starting to get some new leaves again!aliciainwonderlandblog
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I special ordered most of my climbing roses last year, and for this gazebo, one of the roses that I was sent was an incorrect variety. I received a white rose instead of a pink rose. I was not happy about it and felt a bit nuts, like the red queen in Alice in Wonderland. I suppose that would make me the pink queen. :) Anyway, there was a delay with my reorder, and now the one leg on that gazebo is not as covered as the other two. I’m going to give that particular rose some extra TLC so hopefully it will catch up quickly this year. :)aliciainwonderlandblog
The roses on our other gazebo are doing great!
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I did a couple of photoshoots in this gazebo over the weekend for clients, and I am so excited about using it going forward. They came out pretty amazing. :)
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Here’s a sneak peek of one of the photoshoots I did in this gazebo so far!
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I also used this bridge in a session yesterday, even though this area is not actually finished yet (I did a few creative things to disguise that fact). We are going to use the rocks we ordered to build a dry pond and waterfall around this bridge. I can’t wait until that part is finished…then I plan to do “fishing” mini sessions! :)
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My nasturtiums are back and quite full already! Last year they almost overwhelmed the garden!
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My husband finished our massive cage around the vegetable beds! Now we can have our veggies without fear of them being dug up by raccoons and/or possums or whoever it was that was causing all of the destruction.
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We hope to have the rest of these projects finished soon, so I will post more updates in about a month or so!

Happy New Year, Jack Frost!

Yesterday was one of the coldest mornings I’ve ever seen here. Definitely not the coldest weather I’ve ever seen anywhere, but the coldest this close to the ocean. I started working on transitioning our garden for winter (it seems we have almost completely skipped fall, going from a very long summer straight to winter). I moved my tomatoes and peppers to the greenhouse and planted some cool season annuals in the flower beds. I was feeling quite content until I got an emergency alert last night on my phone with a frost warning.

We are in what is normally considered a frost-free zone, so that sent me into a state of panic. I quickly did a Google search to see what types of plants could die from one night of frost exposure. To my horror and dismay, I read that succulents and geraniums are very sensitive to frost. I would estimate that over 50% of our entire property is filled with succulents and geraniums. They are easy to care for, love our usual warm weather, and don’t require much water. They are in my top 5 favorite types of plants, so we have TONS. We literally have spent thousands of dollars on our gardens in the past year, and I would absolutely go nuts if everything died overnight.

Our son is normally a night-owl, refusing to go to bed at night, and sleeping in late in the morning. I usually don’t mind since that gives me some alone time in the morning if I want to garden alone, etc. Last night, I guess he was tired out from helping me in the garden all day, so he willingly went to sleep early for the first time ever. It was actually comical…the one night you’re supposed to stay up late, he knocks out early. :) We had planned to go to a New Years Eve party with our neighbors but decided against it since the little guy crashed out so early.

Since we didn’t really have anything else we needed to do with the little guy asleep for the night, I talked my husband into helping me cover all of the plants with blankets and sheets. He thought I was a bit nuts until I told him my thermometer outside was reading at 33 degrees. We covered everything with geraniums, succulents and citrus, which was literally almost our entire front yard, back yard, and both patios. I tend to collect blankets like crazy, so that came in handy. We threw shade fabric over one whole section of our front yard. We moved all of my potted tropical plants and ferns to the greenhouse and turned on a heater in there. Thankfully, everything looked in good shape this morning, except for one coleus plant that I didn’t cover.

Big apologizes to our neighbors who may have woken up and seen our house looking a bit insane this morning! Hopefully we won’t have to do that again. I just read that last night was the coldest night on record at LAX. Anyone else ever go plant lady crazy and cover their entire yard in blankets?!

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Pruning & Propagating in the Garden

Our weather this year has been unusually warm, so our plants and trees have been behind their usual fall schedule. Some of our deciduous trees and our grapevines still have leaves, and they are usually bare by now. Since the weather has been so strange, I procrastinated my usual fall pruning so we would have a bit more time with a full, colorful garden. I also didn’t want to do the pruning until it was more likely that the random heat waves were behind us.

Now that it is almost January, it is starting to get cool and some rain, so I decided it was finally time to start some pruning. About a week ago, I pruned back all of our Mexican sage. My son was crying and yelling “what you doin’?!”. I explained to him that I was giving the plants a big haircut, which he seemed to understand, and he then happily followed me around while I pruned the rest of the sage plants. :)

Today, I went through and pruned our lavender, African daisies, coleus, iresine, Persian shield, fucshias, and geraniums (I’ve been pruning my Martha Washington geraniums a little bit at a time for the past few months).

I apologize for the cell phone pictures…my wonderful husband is spending his vacation time remodeling my office/studio again, so my computer and real camera are hidden away at the moment.

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Most of the plants that I pruned today are very easy to propagate. I got a lot of new baby plants started today from my cuttings, which is always exciting. I am not a certified master gardener or anything (yet), but here I have learned a lot about propagating from trial and error over the years.

I love my coleus when it is well pruned. I try to keep it growing bushy, and not leggy by trimming the stems just above a node, where there are two offshoots, just as you would do with basil. I also pinch off the flower buds every few days.

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Once I had all of my clippings, here are the steps I follow to propagate these plants:
1. Trim stem with clean, sharp scissors, at a 45 degree angle just below a node.
2. Remove bottom 2-3 sets of leaves.
3. Pinch/trim off any flowers.
4. Discard any cuttings that look weak from insect damage.
5. Dip cut end of stem in cutting powder and insert into water or moist soil.
6. Put cuttings in water in a window with indirect light. Put cuttings in soil in greenhouse.

The following plants have worked best for me rooting in moist soil: coleus and geraniums. I also tried rooting Dusty Miller in soil for the first time today. Hoping it goes well. :)

These plants have worked best for me rooting in water: Persian shield, iresine, and fucshias. I also tried rooting some geraniums in water this time, just to try something different.

Making new plants from cuttings is one of my favorite parts of gardening. My succulent collection originally started with just two little plants from a dollar store and quickly filled up our living room just from propagating. :) This is one of my favorite collections of plants I’ve propagated, near our front door.

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Usually, spring and fall are the best times to propagate. I have successfully propagated almost year round here in Southern California (minus heat waves in the summer). If you are in SoCal, now is a great time to get out and try making your own baby plants!

Edible Garden Updates!

I haven’t posted a gardening update in a while, and we have had some interesting challenges lately! We had finally gotten our new raised vegetable beds finished, and I finally got lots of delicious summer vegetables (and some watermelon) growing. Then one morning I came out and found this:
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Sure, it looks okay in the first picture (since the watermelon vines were mostly untouched). As I came around to the other two beds, I saw that an animal had dug up and demolished everything else. All of my beautiful tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, etc. Everything was gone in one night. I literally cried my eyes out. When our son woke up and came outside with me, he walked over to look for some cherry tomatoes, like he had been doing every day for the months prior. When he saw that everything was gone, he started crying and screaming at me. It was a very sad day.
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Thankfully, we were still able to harvest all of the watermelons that I planted.
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We even were able to harvest a few watermelons that I didn’t plant but snuck into the flower garden (as a result of seeds in my homemade compost).
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We had some other interesting things grow out of the compost in the flower garden too, besides the watermelon and my giant squashes that I entered in the fair over the summer. We got this odd cucumber/melon hybrid thing growing. Apparently, plants can hybridize themselves in a compost bin! I know technically I should be upset and concerned that our compost is not heating up to the proper temperature now that we no longer have any lawn clippings to add in, but this was such a cool perk! aliciainwonderlandblog.com
It tasted like a large cucumber, with a bit of honeydew sweetness. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever accidentally made! I saved the seeds and I’m hoping I can make more next season. :)
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We also discovered that one of the previous owners here planted an Asian pear tree! We have this one small little tree that I always suspected was a fruit tree, but the garden expert we hired for a consult when we moved here told us it was not a fruit tree. She also told us that our apricot tree was not a fruit tree. :) Turns out that each of those trees just needed a bit more love (and watering and feeding), and they are capable of producing fruit!
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We came to the conclusion that it must have been raccoons digging up the vegetable beds. Our next door neighbors were having problems with the raccoon family digging up their sod, looking for grubs to eat. My husband built this giant cage around the vegetable bed area so we can keep our food safe from future invasions. It was so much work, and has taken him such a long time to build. It still needs some finishing touches (like paint in some areas), but it is functional now, which is so exciting. :)aliciainwonderlandblog.com
We have three large raised beds in this area, and I lined up a bunch of old drawers along the brick wall. In the drawers, I put more raised bed soil, and planted all of my spring bulbs. This is my cutting garden area for floral arrangements, and I definitely don’t want those bulbs getting dug up either. I can’t wait to see the drawers in the spring…there will be a whole line of pretty flowers along the side of our vegetable garden!
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Our son and I planted lots of veggies once my husband finished building the cage (you can see some of the planting in action on my photography blog here). We planted lots of cool season veggies, and a few warm season veggies too since it has not been too cold here lately. In one bed, we planted tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and asparagus. If it actually starts to get colder here consistently, I will move those to the greenhouse. In the other beds, we planted traditional cool season vegetables. We had an unusually warm autumn, with some days even reaching the mid to high 90’s, and I am hoping we won’t have too many more of those days now that we are heading into winter. In the other beds, we planted peas, beans, radishes, carrots, beets, lettuces, kale, spinach, cabbage, onions, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery. Some we purchased as starters and some we started from seed. We have had a lot of rain lately which is great, and most of our seedlings are starting to sprout! So exciting. :)
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We have another large raised bed in our downstairs garden, so that one needed its own cage. My husband wanted to tie it together to the cage upstairs. My dad came and helped him put together the frame for this one, so that helped a lot.
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There are still two more small raised beds that do not have a completed cage, but I told my husband I don’t need them right now, and that he should take a break for a few weeks. :) He has worked hard on all of this and deserves a break! We can’t wait to start harvesting some fresh veggies again!

Making Some Changes!

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Hello there! I decided that I need to make some changes to the way I manage my blogging and social media. Here’s what’s new around here:

1. I created a new blog all on it’s own with all of my posts regarding our journey with becoming parents, dealing with infertility and loss, and trying to give our son a sibling. I know some of these posts may be a bit more than some people want to read, so I wanted a dedicated space to house these very personal posts. That new blog is called Building Our Little Family, and can be found here and followed on Facebook here. If you follow me on Twitter, or are friends with me on Facebook, and want to stay informed of our journey, you will need to follow the new blog either via Facebook or WordPress. These posts will not be published via Twitter or my personal Facebook wall. I would also recommend setting the Facebook page to give you notifications when there is a new post if you are really interested, since posts probably won’t be very frequent, and Facebook has all of their awful algorithms that make it difficult for people to actually see things in their news feed.
2. Previously, when I changed the name of the photography business to be more similar to the name of this blog, I merged the two Facebook pages together. I have since come to the conclusion that some people only want to see my professional photography, and prefer the gardening and lifestyle posts. So, I have created a separate Facebook page again for this blog (found here). I apologize to anyone who may have been frustrated by the merger!
3. I have lots of posts that I have been meaning to post here on the lifestyle blog (lots of fun projects around here!), but I have been busy working on the photography business a lot lately. I have won a couple of really cool awards lately though for some of my photos, so be sure to check it out if you are interested!

Thanks so much! Hopefully this new system will work out much better!

Laundry Room/Pantry Organizing Updates

*This blog post contains affiliate links for your convenience. These are some of my absolute favorite homekeeping products!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember my previous post about our laundry room/pantry organizing project (seen here). After my beloved washing machine broke yet again, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and upgrade our washer and dryer to new, more efficient models. As much as I loved our old top-loader, I did feel a bit guilty with a non-HE washing machine here in this awful California drought. Once the new washer and dryer came in, my old organizing shelf had to go. That prompted a few reorganizing plans. I am so happy now with our ultra-organized space! It is a tiny little multi-purpose room, but it works so well now!One of the first things I updated was our pet food storage, seen in the bottom left corner of the photo below. I ordered one container for cat food, and one for dog food (and labeled each). It works great, especially since they are on wheels and can hold everything from the big huge bags of pet food.

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My husband built me this awesome organizing cupboard in the extra space for all of my cleaning/laundry supplies, and our recycle bin and garbage bin. Having those two things behind doors is great with a toddler and dogs. Next to the new cupboard (which he made out of leftover fence boards!), I have my brooms, mop, duster, and rug beater all hanging on this organizer. I also dedicated a spot on the side of the cabinet for the things my husband always seems to be looking for: a clipboard and the lint brushes. Now that they have their own designated spots, that seems to help cut down on a lot of searching and confusion! I got the clipboard and the small white bins on the top shelf at the dollar spot at Target! Every time I go to Target, I always cruise through there to check for any cool organizing supplies, or little wooden toys that would be great for toddler busy bags. It is my favorite part about going to Target. :) Above the cupboard is one of my favorite cleaning devices, my LittleGreen carpet and upholstery cleaner (so easy to use and works really well!).

I labeled all of my small bins with my LetraTag and these labels. I may go overboard labeling everything at times, but it makes such a difference in keeping things organized! On the next shelf, I have my favorite cleaning basics in clear jars, my favorite stain treatment, Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, and a basket for my wool dryer balls. Below that, I have a jar of dog treats, anti-bacterial wipes, and a basket of some of our favorite teas (my husband is more likely to grab a bag of tea instead of a soda if he sees the tea out on display and looking pretty).

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Inside the cabinet, there is a shelf above the trash/recycling cans where I store more cleaning supplies and refills, including my microfiber cloths for my Swiffer mop! I found the two cute WASH containers on clearance at TJ Maxx, and the turquoise bin was from the dollar spot at Target! In the binder, I keep all of my housekeeping and gardening checklists, and a collection of magazine articles with fun family ideas in Southern California, for great weekend day trips.
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Next to the new cupboard, I ordered an over the door shoe organizer to organize all of my cleaning products (a great Pinterest-inspired idea that I’ve been meaning to do for a while!). I also ordered some fresh cleaning cloths since our old ones were starting to fall apart. Amazon Prime is so amazing…you can find just about anything on there for a great price!
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On the inside of the other door, I got a multi-hook over the door hanger on clearance at Ross, that works great for hanging my herbs to dry, and I also use this spot to hang our calendar.aliciainwonderlandblog
The shelf that used to be in the laundry room got moved just outside it, into the kitchen for a bit of extra storage. I put a lot of work into decorating that shelf, so I made sure we were still going to use it! :)
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Originally, my husband planned to install doors over the pantry cupboards. Then we got busy with more urgent projects, and I realized that as we added a few more things in here, it would be a bit too crowded with doors. So I just covered up the ugly central heating unit with a burlap curtain. Next to that, I have our ironing board (nice because it is extra wide), and hanging organizer. I made two spray bottles that I spruced up with this contact paper, one for plain water, and one with a vinegar/water mixture (a great, natural wrinkle remover). I have one bottle from Home Depot and one from Lowe’s. The one from Home Depot wins, hands down. The one from Lowe’s barely works already.aliciainwonderlandblog

On the other side of the heater cabinet, I have my vintage washboards hung for easy access if needed for spot cleaning (and just decor too).
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On the side of the dryer, I used some magnetic clips to hang up some of my frequently used cleaning/gardening lists and stain treatment chart. I got the magnetic clips at the dollar spot at Target (pretty sure they still have some of these available). The strange looking magnet is a recycled magnet from a hard drive that my husband had since the dollar spot magnets were not strong enough to hold up multiple laminated sheets (I laminate all of my checklists that I use often using this laminator and these sheets).
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Below our Ikea fold-down table (which is never really folded down), I have our triple sorting laundry hamper. I have chalkboard signs on there for hand-wash, lights and darks (another Target dollar spot find!). Next to that (on the left) is our rolling laundry basket. This is one of my favorite things because it helps me roll the clean laundry out of the laundry room when I want to fold it all elsewhere (usually in the living room so I can watch TV while I fold). Great for days when my back hurts, or when I have had medical restrictions about lifting anything heavy. Originally, I had purchased a similar laundry basket elsewhere, and it broke within the first couple of days. This one has been amazing, and is really heavy duty.
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Previously, I had our lone socks hanging on a piece of twine, but I upgraded them to this cute little display with an antique washboard. One important thing to note…hot glue did not keep the clothespins on the washboard, but super glue did the trick.
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Still love our pull-out pantry drawers!
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My husband is notoriously bad about remembering to bring reusable bags with him to the grocery story when he makes a quick run. Even if I had him some before he leaves, somehow he still forgets them, so we end up saving a lot of paper bags. :) Thankfully, I always end up needing them in the compost bin or for kindling, etc. I gather them all up and store them in this “wasted” space, in front of the electrical panel (such an annoying location for that panel). I also keep our vacuum and attachments stored here.aliciainwonderlandblog
I have a piece of twine nailed to the wall that I use as a tiny indoor clothesline. Perfect for air-drying cloth diaper shells! Below that, between the Ikea table and the washer/dryer, I have our clothes drying rack. I have gone through many poorly made clothes drying racks in my life, and this one is so well made and holds so much!
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Previously, I had some plain burlap curtains that were actually from the laundry room at our old house. At our old house, that window was on the back door, and somehow the curtains got really dirty after we had a party one night. Burlap is really difficult to wash, so it was time for an update. I actually got these adorable vintage potato sacks for free via Craigslist, and turned them into our new curtains! They are even from a farm in our home state of California. :)
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Below the window, I hung these three little metal buckets for tossing in miscellaneous odds and ends that turn up with the laundry, such as coins, lint (I save lint for the compost bins), etc. I actually got this great idea from ABowlFullofLemons.net! I made homemade chalkboard labels for those buckets (instructions here). I originally hung those buckets up with 3M damage free hooks, but I soon realized that those hooks work fine in our entry room with the eggshell finish paint, but they do not work at all in our kitchen or laundry room, where we have semi-gloss paint on the walls. So I replaced those hooks in the laundry room with some standard, screw-in hooks.
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31 Day Clutter Purge

In October, I started the 31 Day Clutter Purge from ABowlFullofLemons.net. I actually had to spread my own purge across two months for a few reasons (my dust allergies are really bad, organizing with a toddler is pretty difficult, etc.).

While I thought our house was pretty organized before, the challenge helped me take things to the next level. Some things were previously organized, but have had trouble staying organized, such as my son’s and husband’s folded clothes. I realized that while I may know where things belong, my husband does not always know or remember my system. I spent a lot of time labeling things which has really been helping tremendously.
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My nightstand drawer was already pretty organized, but it had gotten filled up with my son’s toys and other miscellaneous items that shouldn’t have been in there. A while back, I made some little boxes for this drawer, origami style with stiff scrapbooking paper. They have worked really well for quite some time now. I also use jewelry boxes to organize my rosaries, lotion, lip balm, etc. (no actual jewelry in the jewelry boxes here).aliciainwonderlandblog

I did a massive purge on my table linens. I had a huge collection of vintage tablecloths and cloth napkins. We recently got a new dining table, so I purged out all of the tablecloths that no longer fit our table. I also went through and got rid of everything that had stains that would not come out. Since I was able to pare down so much, I was able to organize our linens in the dining hutch drawers, which was a huge accomplishment (previously they were stashed anywhere I had extra room, all over the house).
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Our kitchen is pretty small, so keeping each cabinet well organized is important. I did not actually purge much from our kitchen (I already had done that a few months ago), but I really like how I reorganized things. Some of that included setting up our beverage station, with everything we need for juicing, tea, coffee, espresso, and my soda stream (which we use with fresh lemon or lime juice from our garden).
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Previously, this was just my baking supplies in this drawer, and my knives and cutting boards were elsewhere. Once I realized I kept bringing the cutting boards over to this area (it is located next to my largest burner on the stove, the one I use most), I relocated the cutting boards and knives next to the baking area.aliciainwonderlandblog

Everything I use most when cooking all kept together: compost scrap container, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, measuring supplies, pens, chalk, and our knives.
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Previously, I had the spices in our pantry but I freed up some drawer space so they are more accessible. Most of the herbs I use come from our herb garden though. The drawer is lined with the rubber liners from Ikea to keep everything in place.
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I finally crossed an idea off my Pinterest checklist and organized my cleaning supplies with an over-the-door shoe organizer. This has been so amazing!
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I purged a TON of my old shoes and clothes. With the empty shoe boxes, I organized all of our son’s clothes that he has outgrown, hopefully having them ready for another little one at some point.
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Ignore the ugly popcorn ceiling. That is in our closet/storage room, and removing it from that room is low on our priority list. :)

I have so much more to share from my two month long organizing adventure! I will be sharing a few rooms in more detail in future posts. It feels so amazing to have gone through this whole process. I definitely recommend trying it in your home!