Smart Packing Tips: Don’t Move What You Don’t Want

closet-clutter-monster-1412702This is the hardest part of moving, but it really pays: discard everything you can before you start packing. Here are some suggestions on how to approach this.

Take a room-by-room approach: Go through each room and get rid of the obvious things. Is it time to recognize that you will never use that mini-trampoline? Then let it sit in someone else’s garage. Be brutal. Call Goodwill or your favorite charity and get that stuff out of your house. It will give you more room for your packing process and boxes.

Don’t pack anything that you won’t look forward to unpacking in your new home: Can’t see that gift from Aunt Betty in your new family room? Let it go. There may be things that you have been living with so long that you no longer see them. Packing them up is a good opportunity to give them a second look.

Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, talks about holding things in your hand to see if they give you joy and letting go of anything that doesn’t. This is actually a smart approach. Are their kitchen utensils, cleaning tools, or other household items that you have held onto but never use? Maybe now is the time to discard them rather than bring them to your new house to never use them there.

Help your spouse and children to go through this process too: Whether it’s clothes or toys, talk about letting go of those things that you no longer use, need or want. That way you can all start fresh in your new home, and only bring those items that you truly value and want to take with you.

Smart Packing Tips: Organizing the Packing Process

file0001135644184Moving into a new home is exciting but packing and unpacking – not so much. But if you approach the process in a smart way you will save yourself a lot of headaches and frustrations. This series of blogs will help you make a smooth transition from your current home to your new one.

To begin with, you don’t want to have a pile of boxes looking like this when it’s time to move. Yes. it’s nice to know what’s fragile, but what exactly is in each of those boxes and where do they go? Before you pack your first box, you need to create a system. And that system should be based on the place you’re moving to, not where you’re moving from.

Develop a three-letter code for every room in your new home: It could be KIT for kitchen BD1 for the master bedroom, BA1 for the master bathroom, FAM for the family room, and so on for every room in the house. Buy three or four wide black magic markers and plan to mark each box on the top and all four sides. That way stacking doesn’t block the room location. Also buy a large red marker to mark all fragile boxes. Place those in a special location separate from the other boxes.

Determine the level of organization you can handle: Some people are organized enough to number and list their boxes with key contents. Don’t be hard on yourself if this is too much structure for you. However, do mark those boxes you will need to unpack first. This may include dishes and silverware, key kitchen utensils, your childrens’ favorite toys, and bedding and towels.

Pack like things together: It’s easy to get harried at the last minute and mix bedroom, bathroom and kitchen stuff in the same box. But when it is time to unpack this ends up leading to a lot of unnecessary work. It’s better to leave some boxes not quite full than to waste time shuffling things all around the house when you unpack.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about what you need to do before you actually start packing.

Use Height to Add Splash to a Buffet

food-680180_1280 - CopyYou may have noticed that when fancy restaurants host buffet brunches or dinners the food always looks splashy. One reason for that is that they display food at different heights. Take a look at this photo for one example.

The dish holders here allow food to be displayed at three different heights. This makes it easier to see the variety of food available, and makes the different types of food stand out. It also draws the eye in a number of directions.

Another thing height provides is more real estate in less space. You can display more food in a limited square footage, enabling a restaurant to add an extra table or two.

As a home entertainer you may not need to buy table holders that provide different heights for serving plates and bowls for a buffet, but you can create the same effect and add to your buffet real estate. Just gather up a selection of bowls and boxes. Turn the bowls upside down and use them as bases to raise serving dishes above the table’s surface. Just make sure they are stable so the food won’t tumble when people help themselves.

You can also use boxes to get that raised effect. Just cover them with extra table linens. With just a few items from your cabinets you can create a variety of heights on your own buffet display. Add some flowers and you will have a look to rival even the nicest restaurants in town!

Making the Most of your Walk-In Pantry

wWarner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-053 - CopyIf you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen with a walk-in pantry, you will soon wonder how you ever managed to make meals without one. It can’t be beat for helping you organize your space and make the most of your kitchen. Here are some suggestions to help your pantry really work for you.

Use a FIFO inventory system: FIFO means First In First Out. If you don’t pay close attention to this, it’s easy to let food get lost until it’s out of date. To protect against this, keep like products together and take the time to put the new purchases toward the back.

Use baskets to store small products: Packets of spice mixes or dips will quickly get lost on shelves if you don’t keep them contained. Look for small wicker or plastic bins to hold this type of item.

Store small appliances on lower shelves: It’s easy to have small appliances such as blenders and food processors absorb counter space. Instead, use your lower pantry shelves to store those appliances, keeping them out of the way yet making them easy to grab when you want them.

Use labeled clear airtight bins to store grains and staples: Oxo and other companies make great airtight bins for flour, sugar and cereals. You can use a label maker to print labels or just tape hand-written labels on the fronts of the containers. These are much more efficient in terms of space usage and will keep everything fresher than leaving things in original boxes.

Position a grocery list in your pantry: As you run low on standard pantry items, add them to your list. When you’re ready to go to the store, just add any fresh produce or meat needs and go.

With a little planning, your pantry can be the center of your well-organized and enjoyable kitchen.

Water Feature Makes a Yard Special

wBackyard-Sycamore-Warner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-057 - CopyIf you want your backyard to feel unique, consider a water feature. Take a look at this one from the Sycamore model at Warner Groves at Morrison Ranch. This water feature, and this yard, have much more going for them than the standard approach. Let’s take a look at the elements that make this space special.

Dramatic waterfall trio: By positioning the three waterfall fountains along the back of the yard, this space has a unique focal point. Living in the desert, we are naturally drawn to water, and this arrangement provides a cooling look and sound as well as a refreshing place to sit and cool off.

Pavers used in hardscaping: Pavers are versatile and attractive and hold up extremely well in Arizona’s tough weather conditions. They are also a cost-effective alternative to tile and stone.

Raised planter beds: Raised beds allow plants to stand out in a landscape and make it easy to plan a drip irrigation system. They also allow you to make the most of your water use, by planting in the richer soil that is used in raised bed gardening. They also create a sense of intimacy in a backyard.

Comfortable outdoor furniture: Thanks to the new outdoor fabrics and fillers, you can have cushioned furniture outside year-round. This arrangement invites guests to relax for an evening of conversation and fun.

Start with a significant water feature and continue adding elements until you have a backyard like this one – a place to relax, entertain and enjoy.


Color Summer With Sidewalk Chalk

child-885831_1280 - CopyWith the monsoon we may get a cloudy day that is cool enough to play outside. If so, grab a box or two of colored sidewalk chalk at your nearest dollar store for a day of fun with your kids. Here are some ideas for making the day special.

Make your own sidewalk carnival. From a target drawn on the sidewalk that you hit with beanbags to sidewalk bowling and games your kids make up, plan a row of activities for kids in the neighborhood. Add in some lemonade and cookies and you have an afternoon of fun for everyone.

Have an art contest. Choose a topic such as portraits of parents or pictures of houses in the neighborhood with simple prizes for the best execution, most colorful, most original, etc. Come up with a prize for every child.

Create a treasure hunt. Use the chalk to leave clues leading your children through the neighborhood or just your property – taking them from one place to another until they reach a treat at the end. If you have trouble thinking of clues, look online or on Pinterest for ideas.

Create a giant board game. Recreate a favorite board game on your driveway using chalk. Use toys or stuffed animals as markers and pick up some giant dice to roll for the turns.

Tell a story and use the chalk to create the setting. Little red riding hood can walk through the woods they draw or pirates can sail through the ocean blue with waves they illustrate along your sidewalk. Let your children tell the story and choose how to illustrate it.

At the end of the day you will have a colorful remembrance of a fun time. And with a shower for the kids and a hose for the concrete and you can start all over tomorrow.

Pool Party Safety

children-1246383_1280 - CopyThis time of year outside pool parties are a blast for kids and grownups alike. And while adults enjoy their pool time kids can live in the pool all day long. Here are some simple tips to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day.

Set groundrules. When kids get together it’s easy for them to forget the rules in the excitement of new faces and silliness. It’s up to you to remind them of the groundrules at the start of the day and reinforce them as needed. You want to have consequences too such as time out or time out of the pool. Some good groundrules include no running, no splashing or dunking each other and no pushing each other into the pool.

Have at least one adult on lifeguard duty at all times. This means someone at the side of the pool, undistracted, sober, with one job – to watch the children and ensure their safety. Parents can trade off on this job, or many teenagers work in the summer as trained lifeguards. You may want to see if you can hire one for your party so all of the parents can relax and have fun.

Watch the sun. Have plenty of water-resistant sunscreen. Read the directions carefully. Some sunscreen takes a certain amount of time before it is effective and all sunscreen only lasts a certain amount of time. Remember that some kids burn faster than others.

Watch their hydration. Are they drinking enough? You might want to schedule shade breaks with watermelon or popsicles or juice boxes to make sure they’re drinking plenty. And take a break to get them to eat too. Food can take second place to play with kids.

Watch for cranky. As the smaller kids start to get tired you will see more fights and fussing. It may be time to call an end to the play time for the tinier ones. Set up a quiet space with some DVDs and you may find yourself monitoring naptime.

Dog Walking Etiquette & Safety

dog-454145_1280 - CopyMost dogs love to go for walks and to meet new people and other dogs. But if you plan to have your children take your dog for walks, you may want to teach them some basic dog manners. Children who love dogs tend to assume that everyone loves dogs, but there are other children and even adults who either don’t like or are afraid of dogs. The following tips are helpful to keep everyone comfortable around your dog.

Train your dog not to jump on people: Many people are uncomfortable with dogs that jump on them, and older people have trouble keeping their balance if even a smaller dog jumps up against them. Jumping is a natural tendency for dogs because they like to see a person’s face, but they can be trained not to do it with a bit of effort.

Have your children ask if people would like to pet your dog before bringing it over: Many people will want to but some will have no interest. If you have a friendly dog who wants to say hi to everyone, it’s only polite to ask first. Most dog lovers will ask you if your dog is friendly and likes to be petted before approaching.

If your dog doesn’t like other people, keep him or her on a tight leash around others. Don’t bring your pet into a crowded area.

If your dog doesn’t get along with other dogs, keep him or her on a tight leash and far from other animals. If the dog is too much for your child to control – too big or too untrained – don’t let them take the leash in a potentially compromising situation such as around other people or dogs.

Well mannered dogs are a joy to be around and create a safe and enjoyable neighborhood.

Traveling with Kids

travel-to-mount-cook-national-park-picjumbo-com - CopyIt’s fun to take a summer road trip with your kids, but sometimes the challenges can overtake the pleasures. Careful planning makes the difference between having a great time and ending up with a disaster. Here are some things to keep in mind before you take off to make sure everyone has a good time, kids and parents both!

Pack light and smart: The more you pack the less space you have in the car. Plan for a small carry-in bag for each person, holding 3-4 pair of underwear, shorts, t-shirts and socks. Make sure everything can go in the washer and dryer together. If you’re going to be on the road for longer than a few days, it’s easier to do a load of wash at a motel or laundry facility than to carry all of the clean and dirty clothes for the whole trip. And remember laundry soap!

Bring favorite snacks: Family-favorite snacks help keep hunger at bay when you’re between stops on the road. Don’t just go for junk food. Bring a cooler with bags of chopped fruit and veggies, nuts, trail mix, and cheese and crackers. You may want to plan at least one meal a day as a picnic on the road. Pack bread, condiments, lunchmeat and cookies for a quick meal at a rest stop, or park. Lots of places have picnic tables and grassy areas.

Plan plenty of stops: Sitting in a car all day is tedious and can lead to cranky kids and parents. Look for opportunities to break up the driving by stopping at attractions and parks. Even a half-hour at a roadside playground can help get out the kinks and make another couple of hours in the car more tolerable.

Plan car activities: Check out our Pinterest board Kids in the Car or look online for ideas for games and activities to make the trip go faster. Portable DVD players, handheld games and iPads can also keep everyone entertained. Look for audiobooks that the entire family can enjoy. If you will be traveling through a number of states, you could assign each child one of them to share information as you cross the borders.

Above all, have fun. You may have goals about where you want to go or what you want to do, but it’s more important to enjoy the journey. So you may not make as many miles as you wanted, but if everyone has a good time, then the trip was a success.

Create Cozy

wWarner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-074 - Copyit’s not hard to make your family room to feel cozy and welcoming like this one. Here are some suggestions to bring the cozy into your home.

Darker Walls: You may have heard that darker walls make a room feel smaller. Not true. Instead, dark walls make you feel more secure and enclosed. The dark grey wall in the back adds warmth even though it is a cool color. It also provides a nice contrast to the bright windows.

Comfortable Upholstered Furniture: Getting comfy is an important part of feeling cozy. This plush sectional offers plenty of room to sit or stretch out. Throw pillows add comfort. You can tuck one or two under your head or at your feet on the coffee table.

Floor and Table Lamps: Ceiling light fixtures alone can’t add the ambiance that floor and table lamps can. Set your ceiling lights at a low level and turn on the lamps to create a cozy feel to any space.

Low Furniture: The television, coffee table and console are all close to the ground. This means that you can sit on the floor and still access everything. It’s an inviting space for lounging.

Carpeting: The choice of carpeting or a large rug adds softness to a room. Once again, a comfy soft flooring surface invites lounging on the floor.

Make your family room a place where friends want to linger. Create a cozy space for relaxing and fun evenings with guests or just family. Visit the models at Warner Groves at Morrison Ranch for a closer look.